The RESP Book, by Mike Holman @MoneySmartsBlog

Back in November the Young And Thrifty blog had a review of The RESP Book, by Mike Holman and a contest to win a copy. And I WON!!!

And now, thanks to the reality that my car is dead (well almost, sometimes it’s feeling a bit better, but really it’s quite ill) I’m commuting by train so I have lots of time to read and I finished the book within a few days. I’ve also come away with a page full of to-do’s to make sure my kid’s RESP is done right!

The RESP Book is subtitled The Complete Guide to Registered Education Savings Plans for Canadians and I think this book will remain the RESP bible for quite some time to come, probably until there are major changes in the RESP rules since it is such a complete and thorough review of RESP’s.

There’s two things I love about this book: it contains all the information you need to set up and maintain an RESP; and it was self-published (i.e.: when you order the book they print you a copy, that’s got major geek appeal).

The book goes through the process of opening an RESP, buying investments, maintaining the investments, withdrawing from the RESP to fund your childern’s education, and collapsing the RESP.  It also covers all the possible federal and provincial grants that can help you maximise your RESP’s return; and reinforces some basic principals of investing (like keeping your costs down and diversifying) but gives concrete examples in an RESP.

In particular I recommend everyone make a copy of page 110 and keep it on the front of their RESP folder/binder.

I also really appreciated the chapter summaries at the end of each chapter, so if I’m looking for something I don’t have re-read the whole chapter only to realise it’s not there – I can just check the summary to find the right chapter.

I do think that giving each of the provincial programs (Alberta’s and Quebec’s) their own chapters was a bit overkill – they probably could have been merged into one chapter since they’re only a couple pages long.

In an interview with Kevin Rose for Sun Life Financial, Mike explains a bit about how the self-publishing works:

There’s a company called Lightning Source that I used; they’re the main printing press for most self-publishers. They’re connected to Amazon. Once you get a book set up there, they automatically send the information to Amazon and people can order it…The way print-on-demand works is that they will literally print one book. Once somebody buys a book from Amazon the order goes to Lightning Source. Because they work with Amazon, they’ve got their packaging technology. The package is mailed off, and away it goes.

I think it’s really cool that not only as a writer you can concentrate on the writing and then just upload your manuscript (well, set-up your account, etc. but only the first time) and for a small fee they take care of the rest.  But also as a buyer it’s pretty cool to know that the book I’m holding in my hands was printed specifically for me!

The only downside is that the book is only available from Amazon.ca – you won’t find it in your local corner book store or even a Chapters store.  There’s also no Kindle version (sorry Steve) or audio version (sorry Johnny) available, yet!

You can read the first chapter of The RESP Book over at the Globe and Mail.

You can read more about RESP’s on Mike’s Money Smarts blog and follow him on Twitter.

When you do read this book, and if you have an RESP you must read this book, make sure to keep a pen & paper handy (or your iPad) because you’re going to want to take notes and follow-up on what you’ve learned.

Cross-posted on 2FatDads at The RESP Book, by Mike Holman @MoneySmartsBlog

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Official Google Blog: Introducing Google Message Continuity, powered by Postini

Official Google Blog: Introducing Google Message Continuity, powered by Postini This sounds to me like step one of a three step process:

One – get people to integrate their Microsoft Exchange servers, which represent the overwhelming majority of corporate e-mail/calendar/contact servers in use (I arrive at this scientific conclusion because every company I have ever worked for has used Microsoft Exchange).

Two – get the employees to see how easy and fun it is to access all their e-mails and appointments via Gmail in web browser from any computer, tablet, or mobile phone rather than firing up their laptop, connecting to the VPN, and opening Outlook just to find your co-worker’s phone number or confirm if a meeting was 9am or 11am. Employees will even start doing this when they’re in the office since even Internet Explorer loads faster than Outlook these days.

Three – get the companies to switch over entirely to Google Apps, at least for their e-mail, now that no one is bothering to open Outlook at all ever!

Of course the selling point is the money the company will save by mitigating outages from maintenance and failures. And it’s oh so magnanimous of Google to be taking the continuity of our business to heart. But lets be realistic, the real objective here is to squish the king of e-mail – Microsoft Exchange/Outlook – like a bug hitting the wind shield of a Bugatti going 200 MPH!

Cross-posted on 2FatDads at Official Google Blog: Introducing Google Message Continuity, powered by Postini

Mint comes to Canada, will Canada come to Mint?

Mint has been a favourite destination for people trying to manage their finances; and it’s now available to Canadians!  Well, if you didn’t mind getting American ads you could always use the original Mint site as a lot of Canadian institutions were available.  If you haven’t tried Mint already then it’s definitely worth investing the time to try it out and see how much it can do for you.

On the other hand, if you’re a Canuck who’s already tried Mint then try to pretend that Canada Mint doesn’t exist!  It will save you a lot of pain and frustration (and time spent on Mint’s Get Satisfaction forum).

There’s two major issues: you can’t migrate your Mint account to a Canada Mint account; and you can’t delete your Mint account and re-use the same e-mail address to create a Canada Mint account.

The first problem means you can’t transfer all the history and categorization you’ve done in your original Mint account to a Canada Mint account.  So if you have years of data and trends built-up then it’s stuck in the original Mint  database!  From Intuit’s point of view this makes very little sense, since Mint makes their money by suggesting ways for you to save money from partners and get’s a cut of the referral.  Since Canadians can’t (in most cases) benefit from American offers there’s no value in keeping those customer’s stuck in Mint USA.  If they could transfer to Canada Mint then there would be a lot of built-up data from which to offer these people deals that could interest them.
The other problem affects all those people who’ve signed for the original Mint out of curiousity but now want to actually use it since there’s an official Canadian version.  They can’t!  They can delete their Mint account but when they try to create a new Canada Mint account they’ll be told their e-mail address is still in use.  And it gets worse, they can’t post the issue to the Get Satisfaction forum since they deleted their account!
The other problem I have with Mint Canada, but I don’t know the answer to is where your data is stored. The question has been asked, but there’s no answer. Of course if your data is stored in the USA then it’s subject to, among other things, the Patriot Act, that could allow US authorities access to all your financial information!
So far now I’m not sure I’m going to use Canada Mint.  I deleted my original Mint account and I don’t feel like creating an e-mail address just so I can open a Canada Mint account.  And since since RBC Royal Bank has recently added a budgeting feature that lets me categorize transactions, and they can display transactions from the other financial institutions I deal with I’m not sure I really need Canada Mint as much as their advertising would have me believe.

UPDATE December 6th, 2010: If you use Gmail there’s a couple tricks you can take advantage of if Mint says your e-mail address is already in use after you delete your original Mint account.  First off, Gmail doesn’t consider periods so first.last@gmail.com and firstlast@gmail.com and f.i.r.s.t.l.a.s.t@gmail.com are all the same!  Second, you can put a plus symbol (+) into your address and Gmail will strip it and everything afterwards so firstlast@gmail.com and firstlast+mintca@gmail.com are the same Gmail address!  Happy Minting!!!