Most of us have experienced money stress to some degree, but left unchecked, it can put you in a state of fear which can prevent you from facing your situation and moving forward. Financial worries can have an adverse effect on both your psychological and physical health.
Taking measurable action to improve your economic situation can help you overcome financial stress. These are unprecedented times we are living in as rising prices are putting even more pressure on fragile finances.
Francyne Myers, Licensed Insolvency Trustee, talks about the financial stress most Canadians are dealing with. She covers:
- How conventional wisdom does not apply anymore
- Mortgage renewal advice and negotiating with your bank
- Tracking your expenditures – even the small ones
- Government savings programs for homebuyers
- Money saving tips
If you are struggling with debt and can’t seem to find a way out, contact a Licensed Insolvency Trustee where you live. They are licensed and regulated by the Canadian government and adhere to strict ethical guidelines.
Read the Transcript
Wayne Kay 00:00
Welcome to the Debt Matters Podcast where we help Canadians find solutions to their debt with Licensed Insolvency Trustees from across Canada. I’m Wayne Kay, and in today’s show we’re going to be talking about how to cope with all the financial stress that we’re dealing with. Gas prices, mortgages, just generally how to make ends meet. It’s hard to even save any money. What do you do?
My guest today, Francyne Myers from Allan Marshall & Associates Licensed Insolvency Trustee with offices in Alberta, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and BC. She’ll have some ideas.
Francyne, thanks for being on the show today.
Francyne Myers 00:47
Oh, you’re welcome Wayne. Nice to be here.
Wayne Kay 00:49
Well, we got an interesting discussion about financial stress and what are you seeing right now through your office and through, I guess, research? How are Canadians doing when it comes to financial stress?
Francyne Myers 01:04
So this is a very different time that I’ve ever seen. And I’ve been doing this for a long time. I went through the recession in the late eighties and the early nineties. This is very different.
We’re seeing people who have a good income who aren’t even making ends meet and having to go to the food bank to supplement their grocery bill. We’re seeing people putting their utilities on a credit card because they can’t pay the power bill. We’ve seen such an increase in prices for things that we all have to use gas and groceries and what have you, that I think it’s caught us all off guard. I know it caught me off guard.
The last six months have been a bit of a whirlwind. And with the rise in interest rates, which means that payments on debt are rising as well. I think everybody’s pretty much squeezed and at their ropes end.
Wayne Kay 02:05
It’s not good. It’s not good. What we’re seeing as a country and you can see well, you can kind of see how things keep going up. We get these different taxes that are added in, our gas price goes up, gas price affects the grocery stores.
It’s just this vicious circle. And then we all have to have – there’s a lot of cost of living raises that are going on as people are trying, companies are trying to retain people because they can’t find workers. And so with everything that’s going up and up, it’s this upward spiral that we are seeing from everywhere, right? From taxes to the gas to having to pay people more, which means then we have to charge more. And it’s like, how is this going to end? How are we going to stop it?
Francyne Myers 02:54
And it’s funny because that’s what I was kind of thinking the other day. I was like, where is this going? When is this going to end? When are we going to have a little bit of relief?
And honestly Wayne, I don’t know. I have no idea.
Wayne Kay 03:11
It’s a scary time. And that’s for sure. I don’t even know where to even start with this.
Francyne Myers 03:21
Well, here’s what I thought we might want to kind of discuss – because it’s to kind of give little ideas for people for the things they’re kind of facing these days. Ideas of how they can really buckle down and save a bit of money, make ends meet, deal with the poor folk who have these mortgages renewing now.
Wayne Kay 03:51
Yeah, let’s start with that. How is that? That’s unbelievable.
Francyne Myers 03:56
And it’s funny because the conventional wisdom, how to save, how to do this, how to do that, I don’t think that works anymore now.
Wayne Kay 04:04
Francyne Myers 04:05
I think it’s very different. Well, let’s start with mortgages because there’s a lot of folks who are going to be facing renewals in the next little while.
All those five year mortgages are coming due when the interest rates were so low five years ago. And even over the next three years there’s going to be a lot of sticker shock when you go back to the bank, right? I’ll have to go eventually as well. So here’s how I’m kind of kind of approaching and here’s how I would advise someone.
Definitely have your goals in mind as to what you’re going to be doing with your property if you’re looking to renew. If you’re going to be retiring in a few years, well, don’t get a five year mortgage. Get your three year mortgage because you don’t want to be hit with big penalties.
If you’re going to be in your home for a long time, then try and lock in if you can for as long as you can at as low of a rate you can and just be very careful.
Now the thing is don’t just take as well the renewal rate that your bank sends you that email. I’m sure we all get it, hey, click here and you can renew your mortgage. Always go back to your bank and ask them to do something better than that because they can. They absolutely can.
Speaker C 05:13
Francyne Myers 05:16
If you want to start thinking about it a little earlier on, you can start kind of shopping around at the different lenders and see what there is. Keep in mind though, you will have to start to do that fairly early because a mortgage application can be fairly complicated. The new lender will need information to do credit checks and if your credit isn’t good, you might be pretty much stuck with the lender you have. So I just kind of throw it out there. You have to be very careful when it comes to your credit score. You can also go see a mortgage broker.
Keep in mind as well, mortgage brokers only have access to certain lenders. They’re not like someone who can just look at everything and help you with all the different lenders. They’re only tied into certain lenders. So you might want to speak with different brokers to see what different brokers can do for you. The key is really shopping around.
So here’s the kind of takeaway with that. Think of how long you’re going to have the property, how long you’re going to be in there, what your goals are with the property. Think of how much you could afford your mortgage going up. There’s a lot of good mortgage calculators online, so just see what your wiggle room is. Don’t forget to put in or factor in any property taxes.
And make sure that when you’re renegotiating the mortgage, you find out if the mortgage, the lender also includes property taxes because more and more, they’re not. So, big shock, you think you’re paying this and all of sudden, you’re not. And then you get to hit your property tax bill. So you are also going to have to save up for that.
The other thing that I’ve run into lately, Wayne, and this is kind of related to mortgage, but it’s not. But it’s a good heads up. At least one bank I know reports a mortgage out of a line of credit on your credit report.
Wayne Kay 07:01
Francyne Myers 07:03
Yes, not as a mortgage. So it looks like you got this huge credit card that’s maxed out.
Wayne Kay 07:10
Why would they do that? I’ve never heard of that.
Francyne Myers 07:13
The Bank of Montreal does it. There it is. I don’t know if other ones do it, but I know for a fact the Bank of Montreal does it. They put it on your credit report as a line of credit, which is your unsecured revolving debt is what we call it in my world. And it will drop your credit score continually, every month, because the credit reporting agency, either Equifax or TransUnion thinks that it’s a big credit card, essentially that’s maxed out almost.
Wayne Kay 07:47
Francyne Myers 07:48
So keep that in mind. Make sure you ask questions because that can be an indirect effect which will affect you in the future. Make sure they actually report it as a mortgage. Under the installment section is where things like car loans should be. So that’s just kind of a tip when you’re renegotiating mortgages, because I’ve seen banks doing that.
I know specifically Bank Montreal has done it. I think some other banks are doing it as well. There are actually mortgages that are lines of credit. They’re like a bank account line of credit. They will probably, and I’m not 100% on this, but our listeners should check, they may report as a line of credit as well, which will not help your credit score.
So you just have to keep an eye on everything there.
Wayne Kay 08:33
And I’m a shopper, I shop around for everything. I will do everything I can to save a dollar. And so to me, this is just common, that I would always be investigating and checking out different options so that when I go back to my bank to renew, I can say, here’s what’s going on.
Here’s the great offers I’ve had from other places so that it can help the competitive market.
Francyne Myers 08:57
Absolutely. And if they want your business, then they need to be competitive. So never agree to the first number that a bank gives you. Like you said, Wayne, shop around, see what somebody else can do for you.
Wayne Kay 09:09
Now there’s families that are having a tough time with just making ends meet. What do they do? Especially when you have mortgages and food costs, et cetera. Let’s talk about the families.
Francyne Myers 09:21
You know what’s interesting about that? I mean, it’s probably one of the most common things that people say – I can’t make ends meet. But when we sit down and actually start talking about their income and their expenses, most people, I’m going to say nine out of ten people don’t really know where their money is going. They don’t know really how much they’re spending on gas. They don’t know how much you spend on coffee. They don’t know how much you spend on groceries.
They really do not have a really good handle on it. And some of the numbers we come up with, which is really interesting, at the end of working on their budget, they’re showing like a $300 surplus. Surplus.
Wayne Kay 10:05
Francyne Myers 10:06
I know. And this can’t be – nobody has extra money at the end of the month. They don’t know where things are going. They have no idea.
So I can’t stress enough right now to actually sit down, go through a bank statement, see where your money is going. You will probably find there’s those sneaky little expenses that you’re not thinking about that maybe you may not need either or you could cut back on, which are really making it hard to live.
Things like some streaming services. You signed up for something. Or I’ll go through people’s bank statements with them and we’ll try and work on their budgets again. And I say, well, what’s that? And they’re like, Jeez, I don’t know.
Wayne Kay 10:52
Oh, I’ve heard of that. Yes, that’s amazing.
Francyne Myers 10:54
Yes, I don’t know what that might have been. Did I sign up for that?
Speaker C 10:58
Francyne Myers 10:59
And they’re not sure where it’s going. And when they go back, it’s reoccurring. Let’s say $10 payment and then you have another recurring $10 payment, and then you have something else for $20 that you may not even use anymore. These old subscriptions that you have.
So I always say if you make sure you go through a payment audit, see what’s going out, right. See if it’s reasonable, see if it’s realistic, and then go down and kind of decide what you want to keep, what you don’t want to keep.
You’re probably going to find at least $200 a month of things that you’re spending on that you shouldn’t be well, shouldn’t be don’t even care about anymore that’s going out, that you could be in your pocket for something else.
It’s like when you have power hydroelectricity in your home, and it’s like that white electricity, they call it that. There’s a little light that’s always on. That is twenty five cents a day. Well, you multiply that ten times over, and then you multiply that through the whole month, and you’re like, gee, I could just unplug this and I wouldn’t have that cost. So that’s what it is.
It’s not necessarily the large items that people are having problems with these days. It’s all these other little spending that we’re not paying attention to that we could actually pair out, and it would really help a lot. So 100% go through, see where your money is going.
Wayne Kay 12:25
Probably like, my wife and I love to go for lunch. Well, you can’t go for lunch now for less than $50. It’s $50 for the two of us to go for lunch, and that’s having water.
Francyne Myers 12:35
Wayne Kay 12:35
So I go out for lunch five times. That’s $250 out of my account. And so there you go.
There’s your challenge. You look at how many times you’ve gone out for lunch or brought in takeout, because everybody’s busy, busy.
Francyne Myers 12:49
And here’s the hard thing, too, right? You can’t make those little things going out with your wife. It’s a pleasure, right?
It’s a time where the both of you go out, you spend time together, but it’s getting to the point where you have to start making decisions and priorities. And maybe it’s not every week. Maybe it’s every second week, right? Or maybe you just go out for a nice, long, lingering coffee and stare at each other’s eyes, right?
Wayne Kay 13:17
We just did it as a challenge just this last month. We just said, no takeout, no restaurants for one month. There’s a couple of times where we felt like, oh, I kind of feel like we should go out. But we didn’t. It’s a little challenge that we like to do every once in a while. But that was a big one.
I couldn’t believe how much money I was spending by doing what you’re saying, following along, tracking it down, and how much money I was eating out. So that’s one way to save money. Are there other ideas that you have? People are having tough times making ends meet. They just can never seem to save money. What do they do?
Francyne Myers 13:56
Okay, so you know what? There’s another good question, right? Little things like and these things you wouldn’t even think of. All right, so here’s one tip that I’ve heard about thinking about how people are saving money.
You know how they have all these different series these days, and of course, they put them all on the different subscriptions. So if you want to watch something, you have to have Paramount. If you want to watch something else, you have to have Crave. You’ve got to watch something else. You got to have Netflix.
Speaker C 14:24
Francyne Myers 14:24
So they never put them on the same – or Prime or whatever it is, these great shows. They never put them on the same subscription. They put them on all different subscriptions so that you have to get them.
Speaker C 14:36
Francyne Myers 14:36
So one thing that I’ve heard, especially young people are doing this, which I think is brilliant. They get Crave, let’s say for a month, they binge that series and then they cancel Crave, I kid you not.
Wayne Kay 14:49
Francyne Myers 14:50
And then let’s say there’s something on Paramount they want to watch. So they get Paramount for a month, they binge that series, and then it’s gone.
Speaker C 15:00
Francyne Myers 15:01
Yes. And they are starting to do that. So if you’re looking at some of these, they are fairly pricey.
Wayne Kay 15:06
Francyne Myers 15:07
The other way to sometimes reduce costs, like Disney. Parents want Disney and they’re not going to binge that for a month and let it go because the kids want Disney and it’s a great subscription. There’s lots of things you can watch on it. Sometimes if you pay yearly rather than by the month, you save money.
Speaker C 15:28
Francyne Myers 15:29
That happens as well. Here’s another thing. Don’t drive as fast.
Wayne Kay 15:37
Francyne Myers 15:37
There you go.
Wayne Kay 15:39
Francyne Myers 15:41
Wayne not talking to you.
Speaker C 15:42
Francyne Myers 15:43
But really? No, I’m totally on the highway. I’ve started doing this to try and save gas, because gas is crazy. I’m on the highway, I’m going the speed limit. Or I have to confess, sometimes under the speed limit.
Speaker C 15:57
Francyne Myers 15:58
And I got to tell you, people are blowing by me in SUVs and pickups, and I’m thinking, oh my God.
Wayne Kay 16:05
Francyne Myers 16:06
How much gas is that? So you know, what going down to – just actually driving the speed limit, which is probably hard for a lot of us because a lot of us are usually ten above.
Speaker C 16:16
Francyne Myers 16:18
Just going the speed limit or a little bit under. You would be absolutely amazed as well how much money is going to save. The same thing with a very simple thing is, don’t take off like a bat out of you know what, after your light turns green.
Wayne Kay 16:32
Francyne Myers 16:33
Don’t accelerate. That takes an awful lot of gas.
Speaker C 16:37
Francyne Myers 16:37
Just be very careful. Don’t walk on your brakes and then start quickly.
These are things that are bringing down your gas bill. So it’s not, again, the big things that are really hurting people these days, everything costs more.
Speaker C 16:52
Francyne Myers 16:52
So what we’re going to have to do, I think, is just little savings here and there that are going to add up. So instead of death by 1,000 cuts, it really does come back to a penny saved is a penny earned.
Wayne Kay 17:05
Francyne Myers 17:06
A lot of people as well are not using or getting out of cable because they can do just the streaming services either, using the Apple sticks, the Fire sticks, the Roku, whatever else there is.
I’m not sure you buy those one time you’ve got access to this, you get a few of the channels you enjoy, and all of a sudden, just using your Internet, your prices have gone down quite a bit. So there’s a lot of ways that people kind of shave that as well.
Wayne Kay 17:37
Yes, I know. Also, look at the phone that you have not used. A lot of people have a house phone that they have not touched forever because everybody has a cell phone.
So there’s another quick little idea, and as you keep adding all these things on, for all the people who are listening, who are like, okay, this all makes perfect sense and I would like to buy a home one day. Is there any hope?
Francyne Myers 18:04
There is, but it is getting much harder, I must say.
Speaker C 18:07
Francyne Myers 18:08
So the first thing I always say to people is to work it out. I hear a lot of people saying as well, oh, yeah, I want to buy a house one day, but nobody seems to actually sit down and make that a priority, because houses – that’s like saying, I want to lose 10 pounds but still eating donuts. It doesn’t work, Wayne. I tried it, it doesn’t work.
Speaker C 18:27
Wayne Kay 18:27
Francyne Myers 18:28
So you’ve got to sit down again, see where your money is going. If this is a priority, then you have to agree it’s a priority and you have to work towards it.
Speaker C 18:38
Francyne Myers 18:41
I guess there’s no other way I can say it.
Speaker C 18:42
Francyne Myers 18:43
You’ve got to make a plan. Home ownership these days is not going to fall into your lap right now. There are actually a couple of government programs. One has been around for a long time, the other one’s just starting on Monday.
Wayne Kay 18:59
Right, okay. Really?
Francyne Myers 19:01
All right, so you heard it here first. Well, not really, but they announced it last year at Budget, so it’s just coming in now, which is great. \
The first one that people know about is your home buyer’s plan through an RSP. Where you can put money into an RSP, get a tax break on your taxes, obviously, and then use that money, you take out a fair chunk of it towards a house and slowly repay that money back in RSP over ten years, not get hit with a big tax debt.
So that has helped a lot of people with a down payment, because they can take money out of the RRSP without getting this big ding of a tax burden in one year and slowly pay it back. And frankly, some people don’t even pay it back. And the only thing that happens is you take whatever you would pay as taxes and you spread it out over ten years. So either way, it’s win win.
Wayne Kay 19:57
Francyne Myers 19:58
It really does help. This new program is kind of a hybrid between an RRSP and a TFSA, okay? It’s called TFFHSA. A tax free first home savings account.
Wayne Kay 20:16
Francyne Myers 20:18
It’s coming into force on Monday.
Speaker C 20:21
Francyne Myers 20:21
And what you do, it is actually like a TFSA, but the money you put into it for a house. So it’s not just a TFSA. It is a specific new registered plan, right. Savings plan. The money you put into it, you put in tax free. Yes.
Speaker C 20:41
Francyne Myers 20:43
So it’s like an RSP that way.
Wayne Kay 20:45
Really? Oh, I love that idea. Another great one.
Francyne Myers 20:49
Speaker C 20:50
Francyne Myers 20:51
So it is a savings account, right? And you can put in up to $40,000, and you still get this tax break. It’s tax free over a five year period with a maximum of $8,000 a year.
Now, $8,000 a year is still a lot of money, so I think most people would be like, okay, $8,000 is a lot. So, I mean, if you only put in $4,000, well, you’ve still got you can save up to $40,000 if you want.
Speaker C 21:20
Wayne Kay 21:21
Francyne Myers 21:26
Let me get the acronym – Tax Free First Home Savings Account. And it’s meant for first time homeowners. But you know what? If you haven’t owned a home in four years, you can start using this as well.
Wayne Kay 21:42
Francyne, I don’t know where you come up with all this great information. We’ve run out of time yet again. We could just talk for like an hour without any problem at all. I love what you had to share. Give us your final advice for the people who are feeling just so stressed out on how to cope, they’re anxious about everything, what’s your final words of advice for us?
Francyne Myers 22:02
You’re not alone. Reach out to people. Even though on social media everybody’s doing great, or everybody looks like they’re doing great, listen, there’s anxiety, people, there’s loneliness. You’re not alone. Reach out to friends, reach out to family. Have a cup of coffee with someone, put your phone down and actually talk.
Wayne Kay 22:24
It’s the best advice you could share. Francyne, always a pleasure. Thank you so much for your time and being on the show.
Francyne Myers 22:31
You’re welcome. Thanks Wayne.
Wayne Kay 22:33
My guest today, Francyne Myers. You can learn more or schedule a free consultation with Allan Marshall & Associates Licensed Insolvency Trustee, through their website wecanhelp.ca. So if you’re struggling, don’t know what to do in financial trouble and you’ve got questions, it is a free consultation wecanhelp.ca.
And that is it for today’s Debt Matters podcast. Make sure you subscribe wherever you get your favorite podcast from. And of course, for more information, you can always check out debtmatters.ca. Thanks for listening.
About Francyne Myers
In 2012, Francyne left her 23 year public service career and joined Allan Marshall & Associates where she completed her education and became a Licensed Insolvency Trustee in 2013. Alongside with her work she is actively involved in her local Trustee Association. In her spare time Francyne can be found fishing and spending time with her family.