Oaken Update – March, 2018

Time to get that garden ready!

With the winter weather now almost behind us, gardening season is just around the corner again. So for enthusiasts who can’t wait to get a jump on greening the back (or front) yard, here are four tips for early preparation:

1. Inspect your property. In some parts of the country, snowfall has been heavier than usual, and there may have been a lot of ice build-up on plants and trees. That can cause tears in bark, especially where a branch joins the trunk, providing an entry point for pests and diseases. The sooner you deal with that damaged branch, the better.

2. Watch where you walk. If you’ve had a lot of snow, your garden will likely be quite damp. By treading on the ground when it’s wet, you compact it. That doesn’t produce ideal conditions for your soil, so try to reduce activity in your garden until things have dried out a bit.

3. Nurture your perennials. Perennials can be tricky. When the ground freezes and thaws, the centre of a perennial can get pushed up from beneath the soil. Winds can then dry it out, which leads to less than optimal results in the summer. In addition, perennials can end up sitting in cold water if a garden floods in the spring thaw, and that can lead them to rot. To defend against these threats, think about adding mulch around perennials to protect them at this early stage.

4. Start out small. Gardening can be daunting if you don’t have much experience. A good way to get your feet wet is to try container gardening. By starting out with a few plants in containers, you won’t get overwhelmed with everything you have to do. This is especially rewarding if you’re growing herbs or vegetables for your own kitchen. By growing plants that you can eat, you’ll be rewarding yourself every time you enjoy that fresh salad or mint julep. That will be all the motivation you need to branch out next year, and take on something more ambitious.

Tax code changes for 2017

A different type of season—tax season—is already upon us. Monday, April 30 is the deadline for filing your 2017 return without incurring a late-filing penalty, although if you’re self-employed and run your own business you have until Friday, June 15.

Every year there are changes to the tax code that affect your return, and we’ve summarized the most important ones for individual filers below: 

Canada caregiver credit: In previous years, there were multiple credits that a taxpayer could claim for taking care of someone—the caregiver credit, the family caregiver credit, and the credit for infirm dependants aged 18 or over. There were different rules for each, which complicated things when you filled out your tax return. Fortunately, they’ve all been replaced by a single item called the Canada caregiver credit. This now makes it much easier to claim a credit for providing care to a spouse or dependant who is physically or mentally impaired. 

Expenses for fertility treatment: Previously, a taxpayer had to be diagnosed with a medical condition to claim certain expenses related to conceiving a child with medical intervention. However, in 2017 the tax code was changed to allow claims by anyone who availed themselves of medical assistance. Furthermore, this change applies retroactively to returns filed within the last 10 years.

Tuition, education and textbook credits: The education and textbook credits have been eliminated for 2017. However, unused amounts from previous years can still be carried forward, and the definition of accepted tuition credits related to occupational skills courses has been widened.

Children’s arts and fitness credits: These credits were eliminated at the end of 2016 and can no longer be claimed on your 2017 return.

Public transit tax credit: This credit was eliminated effective July 1, 2017, which means that you can still claim eligible public transit expenses for the first half of the year.

Back to school for mature students

School’s in for a lot more people than just kids nowadays. The number of mature students in Canada is growing, fueled in great part by a need to upgrade skills in a rapidly changing work landscape. More and more jobs are being affected by evolving technologies, and the people who hold those jobs are being driven to acquire new knowledge.

If you’re in the workforce, you’ve probably experienced this yourself. In fact, you may well have considered returning to school to upgrade your skills so that you’re better-positioned to advance your career. There are a lot of things that go into that kind of decision, but one of the most important is money.

Deciding whether to study full-time or part-time is often a financial one, because it involves foregoing all or part of your income for a significant period of time. In addition, you have to consider where you’re going to get the money to fund your studies. Your employer might help out. You could also dip into your RSP for tuition without affecting your deductions, provided you meet certain criteria. There’s also the option of taking out a loan.

It’s an interesting and multifaceted topic, and you can read a more detailed discussion of it by visiting the full blog post here.

It’s almost event season again too!

As is usually the case, our first event of the year will again take place on the west coast, at the Vancouver ZoomerShow. It’s all happening on the weekend of April 14 and 15, and is once again being held at the Vancouver Convention Centre, which is right at Canada Place (East Building, Hall B & C).

To recap for those who don’t know about the ZoomerShow, it’s Canada’s leading lifestyle expo for those aged 45 and up. There are hundreds of exhibitors, in categories that include Health & Vitality, Lifestyle, Money and Travel, and a great range of performers and entertainers throughout the day. There is also a food pavilion, seminars, product demonstrations, and of course our own Oaken booth. So as always, you have every reason to expect a great time, and maybe learn a thing or two along the way.

Click here for free tickets to this event, compliments of Oaken. We look forward to seeing you there!

Reading corner

Spring into better weather with our reading list for March…


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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