No gifts? Yes, really; it’s a good idea.

If you have elderly parents who may be struggling financially, now’s the time to suggest they don’t buy gifts for the grandchildren this holiday season. Sound radical? We think not.

Here’s why:

First, consider the reality of many older Canadians. In 2013, Statistics Canada found that about one-third of retirees have debt. Among those 55 and over who are not yet retired, two-thirds are in debt. While half of retirees with debt owe less than $25,000, Stats Can found that about one-sixth of them say they’re in hock to the tune of more than $100,000.

Blake Elyea, a senior vice-president with our team in Vancouver, says he sees a growing number of seniors as clients; those 65 and older made up 9.5% of all insolvency filings in 2013 (up from 9.2% in 2012 and 9.1% in 2011), according to Industry Canada. This trend is seen across Canada.

“The common thing that I see is either poor planning or no planning for retirement and maintaining your pre-retirement lifestyle. Then when your income changes, the shortfall is being backstopped with credit cards and a line of credit,” Mr. Elyea says.

Consider too that many seniors live on fixed incomes; they lack the means to aggressively address debt repayment. The knock-on effect can be that adult children have to pitch in and help their parents financially. That’s often a recipe for stress for both generations.

Secondly, do our children really need more video games or designer duds – and are the grandparents the ones that should be buying these expensive gifts?  We believe there are many more quality gifts we can give this year, the gift of time being the most valuable!

What we all crave over the holidays (including the kids) is rest and less stress. So, tell the grandparents they are off the hook for gifts. Their wallets will get a break and they can skip the shopping hassle. Instead, suggest some ‘old fashioned’ fun together as a family. Game nights, cookie-making or gingerbread house building together; share stories and family reminisces. Maybe start a family tree project together.

The holiday season at its heart is intended to be a time of togetherness and appreciation, and yes, even your kids – could be the happier for it.

http://business.financialpost.com/2014/12/06/indebted-seniors-need-to-discover-their-inner-scrooge/



Not our parents’ generation when it comes to personal debt

It’s been said before:  In a number of ways, we are not like our parents’ generation. Things will always change. Bottom line, we often think and act differently from our parents.

Perhaps new technology and the digital revolution spring to mind first?  It’s true. From the fax and laptop to smart phones and wearable technology, the world looks and works in many new, and evolving, ways.

What’s also true is our change in attitude and actions when it comes to personal debt. In 2012, the Globe and Mail reported on a poll conducted by a firm of bankruptcy trustees. The results show that most Canadians are quite comfortable with using debt as a financial strategy. Yet, this was a time when debt loads had risen to alarming new highs. The survey found that nine out of 10 respondents would consider borrowing money to cover an unexpected expense that was not an emergency.

By contrast, in the 1960s, families frequently lived a ‘middle class’ lifestyle and managed to own a home on one income (usually the Dad’s). The mindset was typically to save for needed things—rather than to borrow. And, this lifestyle rarely included the additional luxuries we see fairly common in our lives today: second cars, cable TV, eating out, vacations and plane travel, smart phones and tablets, pricey gym or golf memberships, designer duds etc.

The downside to our view of what constitutes the appropriate lifestyle of the 21st century is that to acquire and maintain this level of consumerism we may spend more than we earn (a concept that would rarely be considered acceptable in the 1960s)! In our work at Grant Thornton, we often see where this can lead:  Consistently living beyond ones means, borrowing, excessive purchasing and maximizing high-interest credit cards can put individuals and families into highly stressful situations with increasing debt loads (whether we believe we can afford it or not).

Our role is to help people address their debt problems and find ways to rebuild a solid financial future. We can help with tips and reminders so that you may not need our assistance again in the future, including: disaster proof your life (get your life insurance and an emergency fund in place), spend less than you earn, aggressively pay down high interest debt, read the fine print on any purchase agreements (you may be liable for significant interest payments if you miss the eventual payment due date) and delay consumption (save for that vacation rather than charge it).
If you are facing financial struggles or would like some help with managing your debt—one of our professionals is available to discuss your situation. There are many options available, ask us about a consumer proposal.  Contact us for a confidential, no-obligation, complimentary consultation. Call us toll free at 310 8888.

BC: www.gtdebthelp.com

AB: www.GT.Alger.com

Sometimes bankruptcy really is the best option

We know from experience that debt problems are typically not a sign of weakness or bad decisions. Often circumstances beyond a person’s control such as divorce, illness, inherited debt or unemployment can make debts unmanageable.

So, our role is to help people explore every possible way to resolve their debt problems. There are options and we frequently help people implement solutions that avoid bankruptcy. We understand people may feel there is a stigma or a sense of failure attached the idea of going bankrupt.

However, there are times when bankruptcy is absolutely the best (or only) course of action.

Keep in mind that sometimes efforts to avoid bankruptcy can actually make things worse. An individual may use a line of credit or take on a new loan to deal with debt. These may help in the short term but ultimately can increase debt problems. We know people want to avoid bankruptcy because of the impact on their credit rating. While it’s true your credit rating ‘takes a hit’ when you go bankrupt—it is also negatively impacted when payments continue to be missed.

The positive outcome of going bankrupt is that you are finally able to have a ‘fresh start’ after years of trying to cope with excessive debt and feeling like you are not getting ahead. And, many people don’t realize that tax debt to Revenue Canada is a dischargeable debt in bankruptcy too.

When you declare bankruptcy you are allowed to keep your RRSP’s and you may be able to keep your home, car and your ‘tools of the trade’ (exemption amounts apply), so realistically you can be in a good position to ‘start over’ and rebuild your financial situation. Keep in mind that during a bankruptcy you will be making regular payments towards your estate and once you’re discharged from bankruptcy, with the habit of making these payments, you could consider taking this same amount each month and placing it in an emergency fund,  savings for retirement or a down payment.

Bottom line: there are situations where declaring bankruptcy is the responsible choice and the quickest way to a new, stronger future.

To learn more about bankruptcy and whether it is the best course of action to address your debt issues, contact us for a confidential, no-obligation, complimentary consultation. Call us toll free from anywhere in Alberta 310 8888 for a free consultation or visit our website at www.gt.alger.ca for more information on your debt options.