Financial Literacy Month is here
Planning a budget, saving for retirement, paying down a mortgage—no matter what our stage of life, we all have to manage our money. Unfortunately, far too many Canadians are not well equipped to do so. That’s where Financial Literacy Month comes in each November. Dedicated to advancing financial awareness and education in Canada, it’s a great time for Canadians to brush up on the ABCs of money.
Oaken is a strong supporter of financial literacy. We encourage all our customers to review and upgrade their knowledge regularly, and like to think we also contribute to this in various ways, including our monthly Oaken Update and our regular Oaken Blog. In addition to that, we wanted to provide you with a few other valuable online resources that may help you along.
Your first stop should be the Financial Literacy Month website. This site is dedicated exclusively to Financial Literacy Month, and it hosts links to the seven organizations that make up the Financial Literacy Action Group, from Junior Achievement to Credit Canada Debt Solutions. All of the links found here will lead you to a wealth of information, including self-teaching modules that can help you sharpen your skills.
Another great site is the Government of Canada’s Financial Consumer Agency of Canada. It hosts a lot of finance-related resources, from a calendar of events to useful calculators and a financial literacy blog.
It’s not a bad idea to check out your credit rating periodically, just to make sure that your credit information is correct, and that you haven’t been a victim of identity theft. You can also learn what goes into a credit score, and what you can do to make yours better. Two examples of sites which provide credit checks and other credit-related services for Canadians are Equifax and TransUnion.
We know that Financial Literacy Month is nearly at an end, but don’t let that deter you! Keeping on top of financial knowledge is a year-round endeavour, and these links will be available to you well after the last leaves have fallen from the trees.
Listen up: hearing matters!
You might think that hearing loss is something that only occurs late in life, but recent studies have revealed that it can actually occur much earlier than people suppose. In the United States, for example, approximately 5.2 million children aged 6 to 19 have permanent damage to the hair cells of the inner ear. Much of that can be attributed to prolonged exposure to loud noises (think of those earbuds that teenagers wear to listen to music), and the elevated volume of modern life. It’s a serious problem, and one that only gets worse with age. Like our other senses, hearing declines as we get older.
The negative effects of hearing loss are attracting increased attention. In part, this is because of its growing prevalence. But it’s also because poor hearing can have a significant impact on other conditions. Alzheimer’s disease, for example, may be partially induced or exacerbated by hearing loss. In individuals with poor hearing, the brain has to devote more resources to processing sounds than it does in those with excellent hearing. And this increased “cognitive load” can deplete the brain of resources that would otherwise be devoted to functions like language and memory.
In addition, poor hearing can lead to emotional withdrawal and detachment from social networks. That’s never a good thing, because social isolation is correlated with a host of negative health effects, including cognitive decline.
Be proactive and take care of your hearing
You don’t have to resign yourself to poor hearing as you age, however. There are several steps you can take to protect your hearing, and they’re the usual ones which are regularly cited in relation to overall health. Specifically:
- Exercise regularly, as a good cardiovascular system is an important element in keeping those inner ear hair cells alive and healthy
- Eat well, as low fat and vegetable-based diets may help to stave off Alzheimer’s, and keep your brain in top shape
- Stay in touch, as being around family and friends is a defense against depression, which is also linked to overall poor health, so it’s important to address any hearing loss early in order to keep up your social network
- Learn something new, as activities like taking up a new language or learning an instrument can stimulate the mind, exercise mental functions at risk of decline, and build new pathways in your brain
Using a GIC ladder to overcome a low interest environment
Everybody knows that high inflation can wreak havoc with savings, because it eats away at what those savings can buy. But inflation today is at historic lows. So do we really have to worry about it?
Sadly, the answer is yes. And that’s because, just like inflation, interest rates are also at historic lows. Having dropped steadily over the past 20 years, the Bank of Canada benchmark overnight rate is now at 0.5%. That translates into very low returns on things like bonds, making it hard for retirees and people on fixed incomes to protect their savings from inflation (even if it is low).
As explained in a recent post on our Oaken Blog, one way savers can protect themselves is by “laddering” GICs. Laddering involves splitting your savings up into several equal amounts that are invested into GICs with different maturities. By doing that, you achieve a mix of short-term and long-term maturities that will provide different returns. As a GIC matures, you then buy a new one with a maturity date that lets you keep your mix. The beauty of this approach is that you are hedging your savings against changes in interest rates. If rates decline, then you have some longer-term GICs that will continue to deliver a higher return. And if rates rise, then you have some short-term GICs that you’ll soon be able to reinvest at the higher rate.
For more on protecting your savings with a GIC ladder, see the full blog post here.
More winning ways
We’ve just completed another run of shows in the past few months. In late October we were at the ZoomerShow, and then earlier in November we participated in the National Women’s Show, followed by the Gentlemen’s Expo—all of which were in Toronto. Throw in the Kerby Expo in Calgary from the beginning of last month, and you can see that we’ve been busy!
All of these events provided us with a great venue at which to renew old relationships as well as create new ones. We’d like to thank everyone who came out to say hi, and we hope to see more of our customers and friends at coming events in 2017.
Of course it wouldn’t be an Oaken event if we didn’t have a prize or two, and we’re delighted to announce the winners from our latest shows. So congratulations to Diana Thompson of Calgary, AB, who won a $500 Oaken GIC. Diana dropped by our booth at the Kerby Expo in Calgary and filled out an entry—that’s all you have to do! And congratulations also go out to Josh Gautreau of Toronto, ON, who entered at the Gentlemen’s Expo and was the lucky winner of a bottle of The Macallan Ruby, one of the great premium single malt scotches of the world. Bottoms up, Josh!
We’re committed to your brain health—and here’s our reading list to prove it…
- Take this financial literacy quiz from the Government of Canada—eight minutes to figure out whether or not you need to get back to money bootcamp.
- Advice from the prestigious Mayo Clinic on taking care of your hearing.
- After bonds lost $1 trillion in value in the aftermath of the U.S. election, this article gives a good insight into how even a “safe haven” isn’t always safe.