Oaken Update – March, 2017

Zoning in on the budget

The latest federal budget was unveiled on March 22, and as many commentators remarked, it was mainly notable for not being particularly notable. No big changes to spending or taxes, and no major policy announcements. In particular, there was no increase in the capital gains tax, which some people had speculated might happen. So all in all, there wasn’t very much to get excited about.

However, that doesn’t mean the budget doesn’t affect you. In fact, there were a few new items that you should be aware of, even if they won’t have a large impact.

Bye-bye Canada Savings Bonds

A favourite savings vehicle for Canadians since 1946, Canada Savings Bonds are now being phased out. All existing bonds will still be redeemable at their maturity dates, of course, but you’ll no longer be able to buy new ones. The bonds lost much of their popularity because of the rise of alternative savings vehicles that are often government-insured (up to a maximum amount), such as Oaken GICs.

No more transit rebate

Starting this year, you’ll no longer be able to claim a deduction for the cost of a transit pass on your tax return. The eligible amount was only 15% of the pass, but in some places that amounted to more than just spare change. On the plus side, though, with the removal of this deduction, you’ll no longer have to keep future transit passes as part of your records.

Taxes on Uber, alcohol and tobacco

To level the playing field with taxicabs, the government will be requiring ride-sharing companies like Uber to charge GST and HST on rides. Which, depending on where you live in the country, could add up to an additional 15% on your bill. The government is also increasing excise taxes on cigarettes, beer, wine and liquor.

And just as a reminder, the deadline for filing your income taxes this year is April 30, which is now little more than a month away!

Zipping around the world

We recently completed a survey of Oaken customers, which you may have taken part in. (And thanks so much if you did! The draw has since been made, and the lucky winners received their prizes last month.) The results from this survey revealed some interesting insights, especially in response to one of our favourite questions: “What life events are you anticipating for you or your family in the next 6 to 12 months?” The top answer to this question—by a wide margin—was travel.

We’re big fans of travel too. From children to retirees, travel offers something for everyone, and is one of life’s most enriching experiences. One of the best aspects of travel is that it can be tailored to every imaginable taste and lifestyle, and can even enhance your social life—and that’s where travel clubs come in. Whether you’re a single traveller or a couple of retirees, travel clubs provide an easy avenue to meeting like-minded people when travelling abroad.

Start with the basics

There are lots of travel clubs to choose from, and not all offer the same experience. To find the one that’s right for you, start by answering some basic questions.

  • What do you want to do? Is the destination important, or is it an activity you’re looking for, like sailing, birdwatching or hiking?
  • What’s your activity level? Some clubs cater to sports, outdoor activities and rugged adventure. Others focus more on things like restaurants, museums and city tours.
  • Free time, or planned itinerary? We all like the idea of being footloose and fancy-free when on vacation, but that’s not always possible. If you’re going off the beaten track, or are visiting a country with language barriers and weak tourism infrastructure, you may want a club that takes care of everything for you.
  • What’s your travel style? Are you looking for luxury, or something more ordinary? Do you want to hit the road on a motorcycle, or is a cruise ship the way to go? Clubs cater to different styles, which attract different kinds of fellow travellers.

Then find your club

Once you’ve figured out what kind of travel you want to do, start looking for clubs that cater to your needs. The best way is to ask friends, inquire in your social circle (book club, church, fitness group, etc.), or just look online. A simple search for “travel clubs” in your location will turn up an array of sites, like single-traveller groups, women-only groups, or organizations that combine travel with volunteering. There are even associations that provide learning adventures for grandparents and their grandchildren, such as Road Scholar.

Or start your own 

Of course, if you don’t find what you’re looking for, you can always start your own group. Technology makes it easier than ever these days, and you can begin by inviting friends and family to join you, and then broaden this out on a social media platform like Facebook. Many cities have local websites that let you start up your own subgroup for like-minded people who live nearby. Information about flights, destinations, local customs, and even hotel and restaurant reviews are all at your fingertips. So there’s more than enough to keep you busy, as you plan your adventure and make new friends. And if you don’t watch out, this could become quite an addictive hobby!

Zesting up your house value

Housing is a topic that’s on all our minds. With everyone from the Minister of Finance to your corner grocer weighing in on whether or not Canada is facing a bubble, rising house prices seem to be everybody’s concern—even if you don’t live in one of the country’s hottest markets, like Toronto or Vancouver.

We generally don’t dispense opinions on market conditions, but we do offer some thoughts on related aspects from time to time. So with current conditions in both the housing and rental markets in mind, our Oaken Blog recently posted two articles that provide some timely advice.

The first is a post about getting your house ready for selling. Your home can be a very important financial asset, especially as there are no additional tax obligations on any profit you make from a sale. So when the time does come to move elsewhere, you want to do as much as possible to get the very best price for it. Things like decluttering your living space, taking care of those pesky small repairs and sprucing up the outside of your home can make a bigger difference than you may think. And just a little effort can go a long way towards increasing the value your property.

The second post is all about becoming an Airbnb host, which is based on the popular online short-term rental site. Many property owners are using Airbnb to rent out their homes or apartments, to earn extra cash or a steady income. The site certainly offers great flexibility to landlords, but there are also potential pitfalls you should be aware of. For example, local bylaws may not favour this type of renting, so you’d need to check into those first. As well, insurance rules governing Airbnb aren’t necessarily the same as they would be for a regular rental, so make sure you know what they are before opening up your property to strangers. Our post also contains tips on other important factors, such as creating your online profile and pricing.

Zooming on the west coast

A big thank you to everyone who stopped by the Oaken booth to say hello during the Vancouver ZoomerShow on March 11 & 12. We had a great turnout on both days, even though the show straddled the jump to Daylight Savings Time on Sunday. But then, what better way to “spring forward” than a leisurely few hours at one of Canada’s favourite lifestyle shows?

We’ll be back in Vancouver again next year, and will soon be getting set for the Toronto ZoomerShow in October. If you’re interested in travel, money, health, fitness, retirement or reinvention—and we’re guessing that covers just about everyone—this event is definitely for you.

It’s also a great opportunity to reconnect with us, have a chat about your savings, or even win a prize! That’s exactly what JD Shiu did. He dropped by our booth at the Vancouver Convention Centre, entered our contest, and ended up being to be our lucky winner. JD is now the proud owner of a shiny new $500 Oaken GIC, to cap his visit in the best way possible. We hope to see many more of you at the Toronto show in the fall, or at some of other events throughout the year, when you could be a winner too.

Reading corner

Spring is officially here, and that means a reading selection to nudge your plans along, whatever they might be…


The information, materials and opinions contained in this Blog are provided for your information only. This Blog does not constitute legal, financial or other professional advice and you should not rely on it as an alternative to specific advice based on your particular circumstance.

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