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Advice to tips and advice to improve your finances and long term goals

Why having a budget and sticking to it really does matter

 Wednesday, January 8, 2020     Laurence Mongeau     Financial Health

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A budget is the foundation of financial well-being. And with good reason. It’s a simple but highly effective way to make sure you live within your means, and it allows you to have control over your finances. 

Research backs this up. The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada has found that when people start using a budget, they make better financial decisions and improve their financial well-being. They are better at keeping up with their financial commitments and reducing their spending when money is tight.

Today, only about half of Canadians report having some type of a budget. Some use traditional methods, such as handwritten lists, or even savings jars and cash envelopes. Others use digital tools such as spreadsheets, mobile apps or financial software.

Whichever method you use, a good budget must clearly show your sources of income and monthly expenses. This will help you achieve your financial goals, including finding ways to get rid of your debt and saving more money for things that are important to you, such as retirement or your kids’ education.

A budget is especially important if you have trouble paying your bills and do not know where your money is going every month. 

If you don’t know where to start, there are plenty of free online tools to help you get your finances under control, including a new budget planner from FCAC.

This interactive tool has many features to help you better identify your priorities, needs versus wants and how to save money. It also lets you compare your spending habits with other Canadians in similar life situations. You can save and update your budget online at anytime, or simply download an interactive spreadsheet.

Fair warning: this can be a sobering exercise, especially when you are face-to-face with how much you spend at the local coffee shop every week. But the time and effort that goes into making a budget is well worth it.

With a good budget in hand, you will not only find yourself doing a better job of taking charge of your finances, but you’ll also be closer to achieving your life goals and dreams. (NC)

Why telling people to rent rather than buy is bad advice

 Friday, October 6, 2017     Laurence Mongeau     Financial Health Real Estate Market

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Almost exactly three years ago, I bought a house in downtown Toronto. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

I’d been saving the down payment for 20 years, but prices were ridiculously high and bidding wars common. After viewing more than 30 homes, we put a bid on our dream house, only to be outbid by a measly two grand. Determined not to lose dream house No. 2, we turned to our agent for advice. As we huddled in a coffee shop down the street, she told us to raise our bid by $10,000 times the date of my birthday—and God help us, we did. It was a foolhardy thing to do, but we actually got the house.

I should have been elated—but I was overwhelmed by buyer’s remorse. I feared I had just made the biggest mistake of my life. House prices seemed inflated and unstable, and I was sure we were in for a sickening crash. I hardly slept for a week. But the market didn’t crash—instead, the housing gods stepped on the gas. Even with the recent cooling in Toronto, my cozy townhouse is almost certainly worth 40% more today than when I bought it.

In the October issue of Report on Business magazine, you’ll find an addictively good read that delves into the absolute madness we call the Toronto housing market, which hit an unhinged new high this past spring. You’ll meet a couple from Australia who dropped nearly $1.5 million on a home right at the giddy peak, paying 46% over asking. It’s possible they had some buyer’s remorse as well.

In hindsight, buying my house was the right thing to do, but not because the market happened to catch fire after I did. It was the right thing to do because, after years of renting, I wanted a place of my own that I could pay off before I retire. And besides, I could afford it. Now that I’m a homeowner, I realize that the value of your house is a pretty abstract number. If you’re not planning to sell, and you can make your mortgage payments, it doesn’t matter all that much where the market is going.

If I’d twigged to that sooner, I would have bought years ago, and I’d have a smaller mortgage today. But I was a personal finance editor at the time and, like most of my colleagues, I had been preaching against buying into Canada’s frothy real estate market for years. Far better to rent, I counselled our readers, because if you rent rather than buy, your monthly payments will be lower, and you can invest the difference. You’ll take on less risk, and you can build your net worth just as fast as you would by buying real estate, as your money compounds over time.

That argument sounded convincing to me, but over the past 10 years, it simply hasn’t been true. Not only has Toronto housing vastly outperformed the stock market—average house prices are up by 130%, versus about 10% for the S&P/TSX Composite—but I now realize that real people, as opposed to soulless money robots, generally don’t invest the difference; they spend it on Vitamixes and trips to Cancún. Even if they do sock away the money, most are terrible investors. According to a study by Dalbar, the average annual return in the real world over the past 20 years has been less than 3%.

My financial situation today is much healthier than it was just three years ago because I ignored my own advice, and that’s pretty humbling. The crash I’ve been predicting for years hasn’t happened, and even if prices plunged by 25% tomorrow, I’d still come out ahead. It bothers me that some pundits still insist that people should rent rather than buy. It was bad advice 10 years ago, and who knows? Even in this unbelievable market, it could be bad advice today.

Source: or on Twitter @robmagca

Save money AND pay down your mortgage faster

 Sunday, July 9, 2017     Laurence Mongeau     Financial Health

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Even homeowners who do all their homework before buying are occasionally surprised by how quickly the many expenses of home ownership add up each and every month. But rest assured; if you stick to your budget and make a few sacrifices here and there, it is possible to save money and maybe even pay off your mortgage a few years early!

Mortgages are compounded with hundreds of payments to slowly reduce both your principle loan as well as interest charges, so you can expect interest-heavy payments for the first five to seven years as your bank makes lending you all that money worth their while. But there are ways to pay down your mortgage faster and save money in the long run!

Bi-weekly is best - Opting for an accelerated biweekly payment schedule will not only allow you to make 26 payments a year, it will also reduce both your interest rates and principle amount faster. Lenders may charge you an additional fee, but this is money well spent.

Round it up – Did you know that a hypothetical increased payment of $1,000 instead of $830 could save up to $48,000 over the course of the mortgage? That’s nearly eight years of payments! Ask your lender if this is an option for you.

Make a lump payment – If you get an annual bonus or consistently receive a substantial income tax return, consider using the windfall as a lump payment at the time of your mortgage renewal or sooner if your lender allows it.

When it comes to saving money, it’s common to have difficulty during your first few years of homeownership as you adjust to the added expenses. But it can be done. Here are a few simple ideas to help you cut back:

  • Online grocery shopping. How many times do you walk into a grocery store with nine or ten items on your list and leave with a cart full? Instead, do your shopping online and simply drive to the store to pick up your order – no more impulse buying! Check your local retailers to see if the service is offered
  • Make your own lunch and coffee every day
  • Use public transportation if available
  • Install a programmable thermostat to save on energy bills

Have you been considering Real Estate Investments to grow your wealth but don't know where to start?

 Wednesday, December 7, 2016     Laurence Mongeau     Community News and Events Financial Health Real Estate Market

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What Clients Say…

Laurence is an absolute joy to work with; she is extremely knowledgeable, pleasant, full of energy, and dedicated to getting the job done. She managed to make everything to do with selling our home seemed almost effortless. I can't imagine selling our home without her! — Shelley M.
Laurence worked diligently at following up with each person who viewed the property... always available to let me know what kind of feedback she was receiving. — Stephanie B.
You always were there, available, and kept in contact with us when needed. You were self-motivated with an unbelievable amount of drive. — John & Rose-Anne P.
You are at the top of your class. I don't know of anyone that works as diligently at selling a property as you do! You have such an admirable work ethic and I have seen first hand how dedicated you are to your clients. — Dianna D.
The process of selling our house and purchasing another was made painless and exciting by you. Your tactful negotiation skills were invaluable in purchasing our dream home. — Maria & Jean-Michel B.
You were prompt, energetic, thorough and always had our best interest in mind. Selling our home for full asking price in just 19 days and finding a new one in less than a week is a true testament to your relentless commitment to excellence. — Angelo M.
I still think about it, it went so fast, I have a challenging work schedule, I needed a place fast and you came through and I trusted you. — Joseph D.
We are still amazed that it all happened so quickly and smoothly. You are an excellent listener, honest, reliable and caring. — Pina F & James A.
Just want to say thank you for your hard work and dedication in getting my home sold. You were very organized, professional and honest. It was a pleasure to work with you. — Gail A.
The best part of working with Laurence, besides her great skill of staging, was the fact that she made us feel like we were her only client even though we knew she was extremely busy. Overall, it was a very pleasant experience. — Greg & Lindsey W.
The staging job that Laurence did was fantastic! We barely recognized the house when it was done. Laurence was bursting with energy and enthusiasm and remained positive, reassuring and confident throughout the whole process. We listed our home Tuesday morning and by Tuesday night it was sold!!! — Shelley M.
Laurence, did an amazing job of representing us and selling our home. She is a hard-working, dedicated, knowledgeable, highly professional, and passionate - Real Estate Agent! We highly recommend Laurence as an agent, home stager, and negotiator to anyone considering buying or selling a home. Jim & Judy N. — Jim N.
Laurence did a phenomenal job representing us both for the sale of our property and the purchase of our new home. She took the time to work closely with us to make sure she understood all of our needs and wants for both the sale and purchase. We were also very impressed with her detail-oriented focus, knowledge of the market, and the effort she put into making sure things went smoothly. Right from the start Laurence took the reins and we knew that we were in good hands. Thanks for everything Laurence! — Ron and Leslie Quinsay
We worked with Laurence when it was clearly a Sellers Market. Laurence was persistent and helped us find a home in an area unknown to us. Thanks to Laurence's expertise and proactive approach we were able to avoid a bidding war and we got a great home for our family. We enjoyed working with Laurence, every step of the way. — Andrea B & Stephen M
Nous avons fait affaire avec Laurence alors que le marché était nettement favorable aux vendeurs. Laurence a été persistante et nous a aidés à trouver un domicile à notre goût dans un secteur qui ne nous était pas familier. Grâce à l’expertise et l’approche proactive de Laurence, nous avons pu éviter une guerre d’enchères et devenir propriétaires d’une maison exceptionnelle pour notre famille. Ce fut un plaisir de faire affaire avec Laurence du début à la fin du processus. — Andrea B & Stephen M
When my wife and I bought our first home together, Laurence was instrumental in finding the right home of us. Laurence will take the time to listen to your needs, and understand your situation. She works tirelessly to comb though your desired area, finding gems that best suit YOU, your budget, needs, and wishes. She is very professional, organized, and well connected within the community, all of which is very much to the client's benefit. Above all, she is a really easy person to get along with and will make the often stressful and overwhelming process of home buying, painless and exciting! I highly recommend Laurence Mongeau for your real estate needs! — Alex & Teresa H
Nous recherchions un courtier immobilier afin d’acheter une maison en Ontario. Une amie nous a donc recommandé de contacter Laurence Mongeau. Très rapidement, il y a eu un premier contact par courriel et ensuite par Skype. Nous avons vite constaté que Laurence possédait les qualités professionnelles que nous recherchions. En effet, Laurence : - Offre un excellent service à la clientèle; - Apprend à connaître ses clients et repère vite leur besoin réel; - Est parfaitement bien organisée; - Met un point d’honneur à obtenir le meilleur rapport qualité/prix pour ses clients; - Assure une totale transparence et donc priorise la communication avec ses clients; - Maîtrise bien le français et la culture francophone; - Offre une très large disponibilité pour ses clients; - Possède un réseau de contacts professionnels (inspecteurs, collaborateurs courtiers, etc) très compétents dans leur domaine; - Est très à l’aise avec les nouvelles technologies. C’est donc pour toutes ces raisons qu’à notre tour, nous vous recommandons très chaudement d’utiliser les services de Laurence Mongeau. Nous sommes certains que vous bénéficierez d’un service de haute qualité! Merci beaucoup Laurence pour l’excellent service que nous avons reçu! — Hélène P & Sébastien T
Laurence Mongeau treated us like family, guiding us to make this, the biggest purchase of our lives, the smartest move we ever made. We happened to be buying our first home during this crazy real estate boom, where list prices were only starting points in major bidding wars, and the inventory of homes available within our budget was limited. But Laurence handled these challenges with grace and professionalism, and kept us feeling positive throughout our search. We always felt we had options, and whatever house, whenever we asked, she got us a private showing. She accompanied us through every visit, and went in ALL the basements (even the scary ones!). She asked the tough questions, and got us the answers we needed. She warned us about potential problems, sharing her experience and knowledge with us, while pointing out the positives of each property without pressure. She always made us feel important, and that our search for the perfect home was her top priority. In the end, it was a very happy outcome. We purchased the perfect home for us, and we owe it all to Laurence. She was the one who found us our dream first home and it was her experience and strategy that helped us "win" it! And we truly feel like we did win, because we had the best agent in the biz on our side. Thanks, Laurence, you're number 1! Karina and Andrew J — Karina
Laurence is a real estate professional who truly cares about her clients and will always put their interests first. She gets results! I wouldn't hesitate to refer Laurence to anyone looking to buy or sell their home. — Lisa Pellerin
Laurence is personable, professional, and super organized. Her advice and support was invaluable throughout all the steps involved in selling my dad’s home as he transitioned into a retirement residence. In addition to prepping, and selling his home, there was a lifetime of belongings to deal with. Laurence provided assistance with all of it. She was prompt to respond to all inquiries and made it seem as though we were her only clients, although I know that was not the case. The house needed freshening up and she quickly was in touch with trades people and vendors to get tasks completed in short order - this level of assistance made all the difference at this challenging and sometimes overwhelming time in our lives.
Updated and staged the house resulting in a quick sale for well over list price. I can’t imagine accomplishing all this without Laurence. — Ellen D
It has been my sincere pleasure working with Laurence to successfully purchase my new home. She is totally dedicated to her clients with customer service skills second to none. Her knowledge of the industry and market conditions were always spot on throughout the process. I would not hesitate in recommending Laurence for all of your real estate needs. She is Excellence personified. — Nick S

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