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Friday, August 29, 2014

Family Saving: RESPs

With back to school just around the corner, it's a fitting time to discuss saving for college & university. There are a variety of ways to save for your child's education, but RESPs remain the most common option. To help you understand this popular savings method, I spoke with Kevin Parton, a Certified Financial Planner with Investor's Group. 


Contributed by Kevin Parton, Investor's Group

An RESP is simply an education savings account that is registered with the Government of Canada. It allows for you, your family, and your friends to save for your child's future education.

When you open your RESP, you become entitled to two Government of Canada programs: the Canada Education Savings Grant and the Canada Learning Bond (if you qualify). Also, all of your savings grow tax-deferred, so there are no tax implications while you are taking advantage of the Government incentives.


- Your savings grow tax-deferred
- If your child doesn't pursue a post-secondary education, you may have the option to roll-over your RESP into your RRSP
- Opening an RESP makes you eligible to collect the Canada Learning Bond (if you qualify) and the Canada Education Savings Grant
- You may also be eligible for the Alberta Centennial Education Savings Grant (ACES) or the Quebec Education Savings Incentive (QESI), depending on where you reside
- There are many different types of RESPs that are available for your family - speak with an RESP Specialist to help you to determine which plan is of the most value for your family

Investing outside of an RESP in a Non Registered account means that you won’t get any grants/government money AND you will pay taxes on the growth every year. This dramatically limits the long term compounding growth.
Investing outside of an RESP in a TFSA means you won’t get any grants/government money. You avoid paying tax in the previous scenario however you don’t get the free government money or the growth you would get on those additional funds.


When you are ready to withdraw from your RESP savings, how you take out the money (referred to as Educational Assistance Payments or EAPs) can make a difference. EAPs consist of the Canada Education Savings Grant (CESG), the Canadian Learning Bond (CLB), and the income/ growth earned from the funds you have invested in the RESP. Here is an exert from Off to College- Get the Most from that RESP published by Investor's Group:

Withdraw EAPs before withdrawing contributions. As the subscriber of your student’s plan, you can elect to withdraw the income, grant, and bonds as EAPs, which will be taxable in the hands of your student whose low income, and personal credits and deductions (including the tuition credit, education credit, moving expenses deduction, and so on) should offset some or all of the income inclusion of the EAP.

Withdraw contributions after your student starts school. Early withdrawal will trigger a CESG repayment.

Spread out the EAPs over the length of your student’s educational program. Taking a lump sum in the first year may burden your student with a high taxable income. Spreading out the EAPs over a number of years takes advantage of your student’s (usually) lower marginal tax rates.

Avoid potential CESG clawbacks by withdrawing EAPs when you can. If there is any CESG or CLB remaining in your investments held within a RESP after your student completes (or leaves) their post-secondary program, you may be required to refund this “excess” CESG grant money.

Get proof of enrolment right away so you’ll have money when you need it. Before releasing an EAP, your RESP carrier will require proof of enrollment.

Use leftovers wisely. Any contributions remaining in the plan after your student finishes college or university are yours to use as you wish – transfer them to another child’s plan or withdraw them for personal use.

Speaking with a Financial Planner or Advisor can help you determine the best ways to withdraw the funds from your RESPs.

A big thank you to Kevin Parton for contributing this post to TPB.

About Kevin: Kevin Parton is a Certified Financial Planner with Investor's Group & one of our financial contributors.
You can reach Kevin at 604 805- 4642 or via email at kevin.parton@investorsgroup.com

For more great financial info, check out TPB's $avvy Family page.

Image Sources:
My University Money
RESP Chart courtesy of Kevin Parton
Great Info About RESP

August posts sponsored by Cutie Pie Boutique

Monday, August 25, 2014

Yummy Mummy Monday: Pavlova with Fresh Berries

It's been a little while since I've posted a sweet treat, so I thought I'd offer up a treat perfect to go with some late Summer berries (blackberries anyone?). Pavlova is a giant meringue and is super easy to make. My best friend gave me this recipe for my bridal shower, and it's a huge hit with everyone who has it. A fun twist is to make personal- sized meringues for a dinner party. Everyone will be asking for seconds! ;)

Yummy Mummy Recipe: Pavlova with Fresh Berries

Serves 12
4 egg whites
1 cup white sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp vinegar
2 cups whipped cream
Fresh fruit & berries of your choice

1. Preheat oven to 275 degrees & line cookie sheet with parchment paper.
2. Beat egg whites until soft peaks form; continue beating & add sugar slowly, approx. 1 tbsp at a time.
3. Add vanilla & vinegar; beat until fluffy.
4.Spread mixture in a circle, slightly smaller than desired size & bake for 1 hour. Turn off oven & leave meringue in oven overnight to dry.
5. Remove from paper & place on serving dish. Top with whipped cream & fresh berries.

Enjoy with a glass of white wine for an extra treat! <3 TPB

Image Source: A Hungry African

August posts sponsored by Cutie Pie Boutique

Friday, August 22, 2014

B2S: A Fun Guide for All Ages

I used to love Back to School shopping. New clothes, binders, pencils, pens... and with each step up in school came new items I'd never bought before (what the heck is a protractor???)

In honour of going back to school I thought I'd put together some fun & unique finds for this Fall. For a fresh take on B2S, check out some of my favourite picks for kids of all ages- from their first day of kindergarten to their first day of college! 

Elementary School

Carry those Caryolas in style!
Mini Crayon Wallet $7.87 paperfromheaven on Etsy

Whether passing notes or taking them, a cool notebook is a must!
Notebook: $3.99 Hilroy, available at Target Canada

How about a modern alternative to the boxy option?
Chevron Pencil Case $20 paperfromheaven on Etsy

For the girls: Carry those books in style!
Backpack $24.99 Target Canada
For the guys: Make school fun with a cool backpack
Backpack $10 Target Canada

High School & College

Keeping organized never looked so good!
Agendas: $30 each Kate Spade

Technology can be in style too! 
iPhone 5 Case $18 

Make a statement with your book bag
Vintage Military Satchel Messenger Bag $26 USD The Fox Cartel on Etsy 

Combine style & comfort for late- night homework sessions
Unisex Tank $26.26 The Hive Printing Co

Dorm Life
Never be late for class again!
Clock: $50 Kate Spade

Start your day off right!
Coffee Cup $16 BlushFace Papergoods on Etsy

Make lectures comfy & stylish
Lotus Capri $76.95 My Inner Fire

... don't let exams stress you out- don't worry, be comfy!
Be a Warrior Sweatshirt $54.95 My Inner Fire

Have a great start to the school year!
<3 TPB

August posts sponsored by Cutie Pie Boutique

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

$avvy Family Tip #2

In our second instalment of TPB's $avvy Family Tips, our contributor, Dan Olson from Sunlife Financial challenges your family to put the plastic away. What do you think of this idea?

Tip # 2: What's Your Weekly Allowance?

Remember when you received your weekly allowance? The plans you’d make on what to spend it on, the joy of having coins in your pocket, and the disappointment when you couldn’t do something because your wallet was empty?

You had limited resources and a built- in spending limit. Technology has stripped us of these basic money management tools, credit and debit cards don’t display balances and are rarely “empty”.

How much do you allow yourself for the little things?  For a month put that amount in your wallet each Sunday in cash. Will you spend less this way?

Dan Olson is a Sun Life Financial Advisor. An experienced Dad with three children, now young adults. With everyone under one roof for the Summer, his home is feeling really, really small.

If you have some questions for Dan, or would like some help with your family's savings, here's how you can contact him: 

604 308 9502

Monday, August 18, 2014

Yummy Mummy Monday: Salmon Burgers

To celebrate the sockeye salmon run we have here in BC in late Summer, I'm featuring some delicious & nutrient- packed salmon recipes to inspire you to try this delicious fish. My hubby's family still fishes commercially and my father- in- law gave me his recipe for salmon burgers (they're a huge hit in the family!). A delicious meal for a hot Summer evening.

Yummy Mummy Recipe: Salmon Burgers

Makes 4- 6 burgers
2 lb Fresh or canned salmon 
1 bunch kale, pureed in food processor
2 tbsp fresh dill
2 tsbp dijon mustard
1 onion, finely diced
pinch salt
1 tsp pepper
1 egg for binding (optional)

1. Preheat bbq or grill to a medium heat. If using fresh salmon, de- bone the meat. If using canned, drain the juices.
2. In a bowl, combine all ingredients ( if using fresh salmon, you may need to use a food processor to shred the meat). Add extra seasoning to taste. 
3. Shape patties into desired size (these won't shrink the way beef patties will)
4. Place patties on grill & cook for 5- 10 minutes (for fresh fish, make sure patties are cooked through)

Serve with your choice of fixings on a whole wheat bun ( or pick your fave gluten free option). 
I love coleslaw or tartar sauce, avocado & lettuce- I think keeping it simple with these burgers is best.

Image Source: Real Simple

August posts sponsored by Cutie Pie Boutique

Friday, August 15, 2014

Back to Work Mom: Returning to Work After Kids & $ Tips for Familes

In the past few months I've watched many of my friends return to work after the end of their mat leave. With a variety of mixed emotions, it's been an interesting transition for all of us. One of the things I have reflected on a lot since having Ari is the choice and/ or ability to stay home and be a full time Mom. I know this isn't for everyone- whether by choice or necessity- but I was curious what life looks like for those ladies (and yes, men too) who dedicate several years of their life to raising their families before re- entering the workforce. I was also curious about how liveable a single income really is.

One Mom I spoke to admitted she wished she had pursued training when her kids were in high school so she could have had a job to return to when her kids had grown. Another had a similar experience, with her previous job no longer in existence since the evolution of the Internet, causing her to re- evaluate her job options. Both really caused me to take a minute and think about what my life might look like in 15+ years. This inspired me to interview a Mom who is now returning to the workforce full time for the first time since her kids were born. I found her story interesting, comforting, and informative (see her 5 tips to help stretch the family budget). I hope you will too. See my interview with Laura Olson below.

TPB: What helped you as a stay- at- home Mom?
Laura: I had my husband's support and respect. He recognized that everything I did was a job in itself and he treated what I did as a full time job. He would come home from work and help in whatever way he could to give me a break.

TPB: What are some tricks you learned to stretch the family budget?
Laura: For our family, travel with kids wasn't a priority. We didn't take our kids on a vacation until our youngest was 6, we would just visit local places like Osoyoos. We didn't look at travel as the best way to spend money, especially since our kids would be too young to remember the trips. We felt we had better ways to use that money.

We didn't buy new cars; the vehicles we dove were reliable but used. We knew that not spending that money as a young family would mean that we would be able to use it for other things when our kids were older- such as college. We started saving in RESPs when our kids were young.

TPB: What were some good tips/ rules that helped your family?
Laura: We had a few...
1. Think needs vs. wants
We would take a look at our income and make choices and decisions based on what we had to work with. We would think in term of 'needs vs wants'; was it something that we really needed, or just wanted? It can start to feel like 'keeping up with the Jones's'; we would ask ourselves, do we really need this stuff to be happy?

2: Have a weekly allowance
We would give ourselves a weekly allowance of $60/ week to spend however we chose. This would cover things like coffee and eating out; things like that.

3. Treat credit like cash
We never spent money we didn't have. If we needed to purchase something on credit, we made sure to have the money in the bank to pay it off in full. If we didn't have the money, we didn't buy it. If you're bad with credit cards, don't use them at all. Teach yourself to work with what you've got.

4. Put money aside throughout the year for big bills
We would put money aside for big bills such as property taxes, etc. Each month we wold put x amount aside towards those bills and would not spend it. We would allocate a certain amount for monthly bills such as groceries, and used only that amount. We didn't dip into money that was being saved for other expenses.

5. Think about what your 'bonuses' are
If we were able to put money aside for a trip, we would do local trips until the kids were older. New clothes for the kids were a bonus; they got hand- me- downs most of the time and didn't miss out on anything because of it.

TPB: What are some challenges you think families face today?
Laura: Like I mentioned, people get too caught up with stuff. It can be stressful to try and afford things that you really don't need. Kids also seem to be overscheduled; I read an article recently about young teens and anxiety. These kids are suffering because they want instant gratification and don't know how to deal with things, with life. Too much screen time also seems to be a big issue for causing anxiety in kids. It's important for kids to learn to entertain themselves. Some of our best family memories are of having all the kids home and they were just playing together.

TPB: How has the transition back to work been for you?
Laura: It's been good and interesting. Good in the sense that I have worked part time since 2006 and have just moved in to a full time position. The company I work for as also family- oriented, which helps. Interesting in the sense that I need to make sure things are still getting done at home. I'm writing chore lists, which helps. Working part time helped with the transition, but my maternal instinct still kicks in. It would definitely be harder to return to work full time with a younger family. It's sad to think that families can't afford t have 1 parent stay home.

TPB: Any final advice?
Laura: Raising 3 kids taught me to let go. You have to. I learned to let go and not stress out over things I couldn't control. Just do the best you can and go with the flow.

A big thank you to Laura for taking the time to speak with TPB and her honest & heartfelt answers.

Image Sources:
Working Moms Against Guilt
Free Vintage Digi Stamps

August posts sponsored by Cutie Pie Boutique


Monday, August 11, 2014

Yummy Mummy Monday: Grilled Salmon with Avocado Salsa

We're due for an epic sockeye salmon run in BC this Summer. To tempt your taste buds and help you prepare for this delicious local bounty, I thought I'd toss a recipe your way that does justice to this amazing fish. It's so versatile and a perfect candidate for the grill! Packed with nutrients, it's delicious served hot or cold.

Yummy Mummy Recipe: Grilled Salmon with Avocado Salsa

For the salmon:
1 side of salmon
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp each ground coriander & cumin
2 tsp dill (for the best flavour, use several stems of fresh dill)
1/2 white onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1tsp pepper

For the avocado salsa:
1 avocado, sliced
1 red onion, thinly sliced
2 limes, juiced
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp cilantro, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 jalapeno, finely chopped (use as much or as little as you like, to taste)
salt to taste
Optional: 1- 2 tomatoes, finely chopped

1. Mix the ingredients for the salmon rub in a bowl; in a separate bowl whip up the avocado salsa. Refrigerate both for 30+ minutes to let flavours combine
2. Pre- heat the grill/ bbq to a medium heat
3. Rub the mix on the salmon & place on grill. Cook until light pink/ flaky
4. Serve the salmon topped with the avocado salsa

Delicious served over rice.

What is your favourite salmon recipe? Sockeye is the popular choice and perfect when you can get it fresh. Spring/ king/ chinook salmon is a less pricey option and also delish (and my favourite!).

Image Source: Laylita

August posts sponsored by Cutie Pie Boutique

Friday, August 8, 2014

What the Heck is the Raw Food Diet?

Have you heard of the raw food diet? It's become a popular trend in the foodie world and has taken hold with health buffs. As people are beginning to recognize the health benefits it's gaining more mainstream attention. We spoke with Audrey Wong, a raw foods expert from Living Lotus and had her explain what a raw food diet really means and the associated health benefits. She even gave us a delicious recipe to try- a natural & homemade alternative to chocolate milk!

Understanding the Raw Food Diet
Contributed by Audrey Wong

Let’s talk about raw.  When you hear the words  “raw food” what comes to mind?  What should come to mind is clean, unprocessed, nutrient dense, efficient eating.
Raw food consists of unprocessed plant based foods that have not been heated above 115 degrees Fahrenheit (46 degrees Celsius).  Plant based foods are vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds.
There is no cooking in the traditional sense in raw food.  The food dehydrator, blender, juicer, food processor, fridge and freezer are used to make delicious meals t fit for the whole family.
Raw food is not raw meat, raw milk, raw seafood, a cult or just salad.
So why would one want to only eat plants?

Here are 5 benefits of incorporating more raw food into your diet:

·      Weight loss
     Free of cholesterol & trans fats, the fats that are consumed are all   healthy fats.  Coconut oil, which is used in many recipes, speeds up your metabolism.

·      High in antioxidants, fibre, and phytochemicals
    Antioxidants neutralize free radicals – this helps you look younger, fight off disease and improve blood flow. Phytochemicals are the plant's immune system, when consumed they aid in supporting optimal health.                                                

·      Better results through process of elimination
    Eating this way cuts out anything processed. You are avoiding refined sugar, empty calories and refined carbohydrates to name a few. The five most acid forming foods are eliminated.
·     Gluten
·     Dairy
·     Sugar
·     Meat
·     Alcohol

·      As a result, this aids your digestive system. This is beneficial because your digestive system is directly related to your immune system.
      Lowers Insilin Growth Factor 1
IGF-1 is a growth hormone that promotes the growth of cells. Our bodies need a lot of this hormone while we are growing. Once we’re done growing, this growth hormone will keep dividing cells                                in the body. It facilitates the change of normal cells into cancer cells and also helps angiogenesis (blood flow to tumors). Due to the low essential amino acid content of plant-based proteins, this decreases                      IGF-1 activity and halts cancer induction.

·      Good fat
Fats and oils are very important to our health.  Our brain is 60% fat. It is needed for the cells that make up the myelin sheath (protective layer around the communicating neurons in our body). Some good fats sources from a raw food diet are:
·    Avocado
·   Coconut oil
·   Nuts
·   Seeds
You don’t have to be a raw foodist to enjoy all the benefits. Changing your eating habits is about the individual. It’s important to define your goals according to your comfort level. It may be adding one raw meal a day, for others it may be one raw meal a month. What matters is that you do the best for your situation.

Here's a great recipe that's fast & simple to try. It's a great alternative to the chocolate milk you find in stores that's full of sugar & chemicals

 Chocolate Hemp Milk 

Makes 2 glasses

1/3 Cup hemp seeds
2 ¾ Cup Water
¼ Cup Date soak water (see directions below)
3 medjool Dates
2 Tbsp Cacao powder (raw, unheated)
1/4 Tsp Vanilla bean powder
Pinch Himalayan crystal salt
1Tbsp coconut oil

1. Cut open the dates to de pit and check for mold growing inside (this is very important).
2. Presoak your dates in 1/4 cup warm filtered water for 30 minutes. Reserve the water to use in this recipe
3. Place hemp seeds, water, dates, date soak water, cacao powder, vanilla bean powder, and salt in blender and blend until smooth.
4. Taste test and add more ingredients to taste. If you like it a little sweeter, add one date at a time to taste.
4. Slowly stream in coconut oil while blender is running.

You can also experiment with other flavours you like by by omitting the cacao and adding any fruit (think strawberry or blueberry, tis the season)

This will keep in the fridge for 3 days.
Some settling will occur after you store it in the fridge so give it a stir or a shake before drinking.

A note about the ingredients- Be sure to buy the raw hemp seeds (as opposed to the roasted), you will get a lot more nutrition from them. Same goes for the cacao powder. You want raw, unroasted. 

Health Benefits:

Hemp- High in plant based, easily assimilated protein and a good source of Omega 3 essential fatty acids.
Dates – High in beta d glucan fibre - it slows the release of sugar & cholesterol into your blood stream – no sugar spikes here!
Cacao – Raw cacao powder - High in antioxidants
Vanilla bean powder – Trace amounts of minerals in the whole bean
Himalayan crystal salt – Contains 82 minerals.

About Audrey: Audrey is the founder of Living Lotus, a nutrition and food company committed to providing plant- based desserts that are free from gluten, dairy, refined sugar, and soy. The company also offers food workshops and information for anyone interested in making their lives healthier through diet.

A huge thank you to Audrey for contributing this article & recipe! 
To find out more about Audrey and her passion about raw food, visit the Living Lotus website.
You can also find Living Lotus on Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram  

If you re interested in learning more about raw foods, check out these upcoming workshops offered by Living Lotus.
This workshop series will teach you how to make delicious raw, plant based food free of gluten, dairy and refined sugar and also teach you about the nutritional properties of each in ingredient in order to make health sweet.

September 13 Desserts The Right Way - Learn 5 recipes & try them too.
In this 3 hour lecture style workshop, you will learn 5 recipes, tips and tricks to preparing raw desserts.
Registration closes September 7th

September 27 Superlicious Superfoods - Boost Your Energy
Quick and easy ways to boost your nutrition. Learn about 6 super foods and how to incorporate them into your daily life. 6 yummy recipes.
Registration closes September 21

November 1 No Nuts, Just Yum: Decadent Desserts Without Nuts
Very much like desserts the right way, but the nut free version.  Gluten free, dairy-free, no refined sugar. Don’t worry, it’s still yum. 
Registration closes October 26

November 15 Nut Milk and Nut Cheese: Dairy Doesn’t Live Here
Delicious dairy alternatives to incorporate into you life. 
Registration closes November 9

Logo & chocolate hemp milk photo courtesy of Audrey Wong, Living Lotus
Top Image Source: Good Food Clinic

August posts sponsored by Cutie Pie Boutique