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The Best Online Budgeting Tools

July 28th, 2015
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For many Canadians, trying to budget for bills, short-term investments, retirement savings and life in general can be mind boggling and frustrating at times. Proper budgeting requires an ongoing process of fact-finding, setting goals and monitoring progress.

There is a lot for the average Canadian to keep up with when it comes to their personal finances. Luckily, there are online budgeting websites and tools that can help you cut the stress of budgeting down to a minimum.

Here's our list of a few solid tools to get you started:

 

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The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada's Tools Section 

This Financial Consumer Agency of Canada website offers a suite of basic financial planning tools for Canadians to use. Their Budget Calculator gives users a snapshot of where their finance are going. 

To use the online budget calculator you just have to enter information about your income, savings and expenses.

The tool will summarize your data, and let you know if you have money left over for investments.

The government website also hosts a Credit Card Selector tool, Credit Card Payment Calculator and Mortgage Calculator tools. 


 

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Blonde on a Budget's Mindful Budgeting Program

This website details the journey of the blog founder, Cait Flanders, and how she paid off $30,000 in debt, created a minimalist lifestyle by giving away 65% of her possessions and went on a shopping ban for one-year.

On her blog, she offers strategies and actionable tips on how to do what she did. She has also created a paid tool, the Mindful Budgeting Program, which consists of 2 PDF files packed with 30-pages of content including many useful templates.

The course includes detailed instructions on how to use the weekly and monthly budget templates.

At $17(USD), the program is reasonably priced for everything you get. This tool has much more to offer than many personal finance books out there, at a similar price point.

Blonde on a Budget's program is perfect for anyone who wants to gain clarity about their personal finances and ultimately save more money.


 

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Mint For Canada

Mint for Canada is a free online budget program, with a phone app, that lets you keep all your financial accounts together and create budgets. It organizes and categorizes your spending and supports all major banks and accounts in Canada - from savings and chequing to retirement accounts.

One really good feature is that it is automated and can tell you how much money you have left for savings after your budget is created.

Since the Mint program knows the scoop about your money, it also gives tips to you save money. It has the ability to analyze financial data and make personal recommendations based on your goals and lifestyle.

It’s important to note that the Mint Canada software is free, but they make money from the financial institutions it recommends. For example if they recommend a certain CIBC product and you buy it, they get a commission.

This does not mean their suggestions are not good, just that you have to take them with a grain of salt.

Mint Canada is a great tool for people just starting a budget. It might not be a great fit for experienced budgeteers looking for a new solution, since the software can only obtain up to three months historical data from your financial accounts.


Other Tools

When it comes to online budgeting tools, the majority do the same thing – it just boils down to personal preference. Below is a list of other popular tools you can check out.

Quicken Intuit: Is a paid program that you download that also gives you a free credit report.
Money Strands: Is a free American public financial management website created after the recession started in 2007.
Budget Pulse: Is a free online program that offers simple budgeting and tracking features.

Financial freedom is not just about creating a brilliant budget, it also involves lifestyle changes and sticking to them. Albeit, these kinds of life changes may seem confining, they actually bring a certain sense of freedom that is hard to achieve when you don not have spending under control.

If you want to take control of your money, the above list of the best online budgeting tools in Canada can help you start. Try them to see which one you like best. Please feel free to let us know if there are any other good tools worth mentioning in the comments below.

Weekly Personal Finance Roundup For July 24th 2015

July 24th, 2015
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Happy Friday Folks! Check out our Weekly Roundup below:

This week on the LSM Insurance blog we published an infographic on illnesses that are covered under most critical illness insurance policies.

Yesterday, we posted a fun piece showcasing 11 people who defied death in fatal scenarios.

The entire team at LSM was grateful to be selected as the #8 managing general agent (MGA) in Life Health Pro Magazine's list of Top 10 MGAs in Canada.

We rounded up other recent articles below, featuring insights and advice from the brightest minds in Canadian personal finance:

Sheryl Smolkin explains why Long-Term Care insurance rates are increasing across Canada.

Financial Post's Drew Hasselback interviewed a chief economist for the Bank of Montreal on what consumers should expect from the sliding Canadian Dollar.

Boomer and Echo published a great piece on the challenges women face in retirement.

Hollie Pollard shared 5 things to know when looking for car insurance.

Lowest Rates' Nelson Smith discusses why he doesn't want to take on a mortgage.

For the students out there, GreedyRates.ca put together a list of the top 4 student credit cards available in Canada.

To close off the roundup, we have to share Big Cajun Man's witty and informative coverage on the new UCCB (universal child care benefit)

Have a fantastic weekend everyone!

11 People Who Barely Escaped the Grim Reaper

July 23rd, 2015
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Falling out of a flying plane, having nails wedged into one's head, or getting struck by lightning seem like surefire ways to die, but the people in our list of death-cheaters have done all of the above and lived to tell the tale.

Here is our countdown of the 11 most amazing stories who have danced with death and luckily made it out alive:

11. Reshma Begum

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Reshma Begum recovering in a Bangladeshi hospital. (Image source: AP)

Coming in at number 11, is Reshma Begum. In April 2013, 17 days after the collapse of a garment factory in Bangladesh, which killed over 1,100 workers, rescuers heard a banging sound from under the rumble.

Upon digging they were amazed to find the 19-year-old woman alive. Reshma Begum had found some dried food and some water to sustain herself during those 17 days underground.

10. Ann Hodges

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Ann Hodges, after she was struck by a meteorite. (Image source: Jay Leviton)

Number 10 on our list is Alabama’s Anne Hodges. This lady has made the record for being the world’s only known meteoroid victim.

One afternoon in 1954, Ann Hodges was enjoying a nap on her living room couch, when a meteoroid rudely crashed through her roof, bounced off a radio, and hit her on her arm and hip. Remarkably, apart from a large pineapple shaped bruise Mrs. Hodges was left perfectly unscathed.

What’s most remarkable about this event is the just how rare this incident is. According to astronomers, one has a better chance of getting hit by a tornado and a bolt of lightning and a hurricane all at the same time than getting hit by a meteoroid.

Hodges, later donated the meteoroid to the Alabama Museum of Natural History, where is can be found today.

9. The Meng brothers

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Meng Xianchen and Meng Xianyou, the brothers who dug themselves out of a Chinese coal mine. (Image Source: Reuters)

Number 9 on our list is the tale of the Meng Brother survival in China’s coal mines-the world’s deadliest, where an average of 13 workers are killed each day.

Meng Xianchen and Meng Xianyou were working hard in a coal mine when the tunnel they were working in collapsed, burying them alive. A small rescue mission did take place, but their efforts were limited and ended very quickly.

Trapped underground with no food or water, the brothers ate coal and drank their own urine to survive. After 6 days they finally managed to dig through nearly 66 feet of coal and rock.

Amazingly, they only suffered from slight kidney damage, from a lack of water and perhaps the coal they ingested.

8. Isidro Mejia

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"With injuries like that, he should be dead.” -Mejia’s Neurosurgeon

Number 8 on our list, is a very lucky construction worker who avoided death by a pinch, when he fell from the roof of a house while using a nail gun in 2004. While the fall might not have been so deadly, the six 3-½ inch nails that were lodged in his head and neck certainly should have been.

The surgeons, who took 5 days to perform Mejia’s s operation, could not believe he was still alive, as four of the nails were embedded in his skull and another was found near his spinal cord. If even one of the nails were projected a few millimeters closer to his brain matter or spinal cord he would have died.

Luckily Mejia not only survived, but also sustained only nominal brain injuries.


7. Lincoln Hall

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Mountaineer, Lincoln Hall. (Image Source: AAP)

Coming in at number is 7 is the legendary Lincoln Hall, a mountaineer who seems to have died and come back to life.

In 2006, after climbing to the summit of Mount Everest, Hall began facing severe altitude sickness on the decent. Eventually, he stopped showing signs of life and could not be resurrected by his guides. Soon his guides were forced to leave him due to their dwindling oxygen supplies. They planned to come back to retrieve his corpse the next day.

12 hours later, a team of climbers were amazed to find a confused and frostbitten Hall, sitting up and very much alive. At 8700 meters, Hall was able to survive the night on the ridge without an oxygen mask. Although, Hall lost a toe and a few fingertips, he lived to tell and write about his remarkable tale.

6. Richard Blass

They say cats have 9 lives, and this certainly does seem to hold true for gangster Richard Blass. He was given the nickname, “Le Chat” meaning the cat, because of his luck in evading death.

In 1968, two gunmen were hired to kill Blass; although he was shot at multiple times he was able to escape. Not even two weeks later, the mafia tracked down Blass and the motel he was staying in was set on fire. Although three others died, Blass managed to escape again.
A few months later ‘Le Chat’ was ambushed and shot in the head and back. Again, he managed to drive off, avoiding certain death.

Not only was Richard Blass able to avoid death, but, this sly cat also was also able to escape from jail, not once, not twice, but three times!

Richard Blass’s luck ended on January 24, 1975, at one of Canada’s largest manhunt operations when police located and shot him 27 times, finally killing him.

5. Phineas Gage

Going back in time to the 1848, we find Number 5 on our list of death-cheaters, Phineas Gage.

Gage, a railroad construction foreman, miraculously survived an accident where a large iron rod was driven completely through his head. One minute he was packing a hole with gunpowder, pushing it down with a large iron bar, the next the iron bar shot through his left cheek bone and exited through the top of his head. Shockingly, Phineas Gage not only avoided death, but was up and walking within minutes.

Today his skull and the iron bar that shot through it are on display at Boston’s Warren Anatomical Museum.


4. Vesna Vulovic

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, making it to number 4, on our list of the worlds most amazing death cheaters is Vesna Vulovic.

This wonder woman holds the Guinness World Record for surviving the highest fall without a parachute. On 26 January 1972, an explosion on JAT Flight 367 caused the plane to break apart, causing flight attendant, Vesna Vulovic, to hurl down towards the ground from 33,000 feet in the air, without a parachute.

Although Vulovic broke her legs, fractured her skull, broke three vertebrae, and was temporarily paralyzed, she survived. What might be even more shocking is the fact that even after such a traumatic event she continued to fly periodically.

3. Harrison Okene

The 3rd most remarkable death-cheater is our deep-sea survivor, Harrison Okene. He was trapped at the bottom of the ocean for three days after the tugboat he was onboard had capsized. Unlike his crewmates who were stuck in their cabins, Okene who had gotten up to go to the bathroom was lucky enough to swim around until he found a miraculous pocket of air and a can of soda to live off.

Rescue teams scouring the waters on a body recovery operation were shocked to hear faint hammering and then Okene’s waving hand.

Our deep-sea survivor braved the freezing cold temperatures and a dwindling oxygen supply and luckily made it out alive.

You can find the footage from the rescue mission here.


2. Juliane Koepcke

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Juliane Koepcke, right, after her rescue. (Image source: AP)

Stealing the second spot for most remarkable near death aversion is 17-year-old, Juliane Koepcke. In 1971, after a plane crash, she fell from the sky (about 10,000 feet) and into an Amazonian mountain, still in her strapped to her seat.

Luckily, the canopy of the dense forest slowed down her fall. Juliane only sustained minimal injuries and trekked through the crocodile-infested jungle for 10-days before she was finally found by a group of Peruvian lumberjacks.


1. Roy C. Sullivan

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It is said lightning never strikes the same place twice, but what about the same person?

The spot for the number one death-cheater goes to the world record holder, Roy C. Sullivan, for being hit by lightning seven times and surviving them all!

Now known as, “The Human Lightning Rod”, Sullivan was first struck in 1942, causing him to lose a toe.

In 1969, lighting stuck twice, knocking him unconscious and burning off his eyebrows. In 1970, 1972, 1973 and 1977 he was hit again and again, repeatedly setting his hair on fire. The 7th time lightning struck, Sullivan was fishing. The lightning caused him burns, which caused him to be hospitalized.

All seven strikes were documented and verified by doctors. Roy C. Sullivan died at the age of 71, not from the injuries sustained by the multiple lightning strikes, but from a self-inflicted gunshot.

Know any other miraculous people who have narrowly escaped death? Let us know about them in the comments below.

INFOGRAPHIC: Diseases Covered By Critical Illness Insurance Policies

July 21st, 2015

Many Canadians are unaware of how Critical Illness (CI) Insurance should fit into their financial plan. Hopefully our latest infographic helps shed some light on the diseases that are typically covered under a CI policy:

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Weekly Personal Finance Roundup For July 17th 2015

July 17th, 2015
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Thank Goodness, Friday is finally here!

To kick things off on the LSM blog this week, we updated our coverage of Canadian marketplace lenders to include new B2B player Lending Loop.

Later in the week, I discussed recent findings that people age at different rates and how this could eventually affect life insurance pricing.

We collaborated with our online partners at Insureye.com, to help create an infographic detailing the life insurance options available to applicants with pre-exisiting medical conditions

We rounded up the best articles from the past week below, featuring insights and advice from Canada's smartest minds in personal finance:

Kevin O'Leary called out the Bank of Canada on their latest interest rate cut, saying the move "signals to the rest of the world that we have a weak economy, that we’re worried about it and our dollar is devalued".

Dan Hallet of The Globe And Mail, explains his thoughts on why robo-advisors are likely here to stay.

Krystal Yee gave her blog readers a great analysis of renting a home versus buying one.

Money After Grad's Bridget Casey wrote an amazing article on the need for borrowers to understand the inverse relationship between debt and freedom.

Mark Seed from My Own Advisor, published a post with loads of actionable tips on how not to sabotage your investment portfolio.

Catherine at PlungedInDebt.com, shared how she now saves a significant amount of money per month by sacrificing these 3 purchases.

RateHub.ca Founder, Alyssa Furtado gave readers 5 important things to look out for when selecting a new savings account.

The Frugal Trader shared his ultimate list of the top premium cash back credit cards available in Canada.

Happy reading and have an awesome weekend!

People Age At Different Rates, So Why Do We All Pay The Same Price For Life Insurance?

July 15th, 2015
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What does a 33-year-old look like? After using Microsoft’s free age-guessing tool, I was shocked to find out that looks can be deceiving. I recently ran the tool using a photo of myself in my mid-20’s, amidst an unhealthy phase in my life. The tool guessed age 30. So sad.

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The Old Syed Raza

Then I ran the tool using a photo from last year when I was 32 years old and much more physically fit than I was in my 20's. The tool guessed age 29. Less sad.

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The Less Old Looking Syed Raza

Microsoft’s fun little tool was on to something. My conclusion from this test was that you cannot accurately determine the rate at which a person ages, just by factoring in their basic bio-data.

You’ve got to look deeper than what a person's obvious characteristics are telling you. Recently, scientists have also confirmed that birth age and biological ageing occur at very different rates.

Study Proves We All Age At Different Rates

Earlier this month, The BBC reported on a survey by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which confirmed that people of the same biological age have vastly different physical and mental ages.

The survey followed a group of 954 people from the same town in New Zealand, born in 1972-73.

At the age of 26, 32 and 38 the scientists looked at 18 different ageing-related traits, including the integrity of their cardiovascular, metabolic, and immune systems, their kidneys, livers, gums, and lungs, and how their DNA had deteriorated, to see how they were ageing.

The results indicated that there was a huge difference in how people had aged. At the age of 38, some people’s biological age had barely changed and ranged since their late-20s.

However, others were not as fortunate, as their biological age was found to be nearly 60 years old.

Study members who had an older biological age had scored lower on tests of balance, strength, and motor coordination. These people also reported more physical limitations, had an elevated risk for stroke and dementia. As well, their IQ scores had fallen dramatically from when they were 26.

What This Has To Do With Life Insurance

Thus, as two 38-year olds can have a biological age difference of 40-years, should they be paying similar life insurance rates? The rate of a life insurance premium is based on age, gender and smoking status. But, if people age so differently, is this enough to fairly gauge how likely a life insured is to die?

Life insurance companies use mortality tables, also known as life tables, to calculate when a person is most likely to die. Using these tables, they are able to get an idea about how much a person should pay, depending on how likely they are to die within the policy term.

Most insurance companies will also consider the insured’s medical assessment to get a sound estimate of their life expectancy. Most companies offer lower rates called ‘preferred’ or ‘preferred plus’ rates to those who have above average health. 

On the flip side, those with below average health must pay higher premiums, sometimes up to 300% more than those with average health, or their application for life insurance may even be declined. The catch is, that as people age, insurance companies readjust premiums according to their morality tables, and will increase the rates a customer must pay every new term.

Carriers could use a more in-depth reward system for healthy applicants, rather than just the two broad categories of preferred and preferred plus. By including questions on their applications about the insured's positive lifestyle choices and habits, insurers could get better idea of their client's true life expectancy.

Insurance Companies Could Adjust Pricing Methods

Further, insurance underwriters and actuaries could consider factors that slow down ageing, such as a healthy lifestyle, including good eating habits and regular exercise, as well as low-stress lifestyles and conservative spending habits- when renewing one's life insurance policy, in order to get a more fair morality rate assessment.

As an alternative to renewing a term policy, policyholders will sometimes re-apply for a new policy and must get reassessed by completing medical tests again. The risk here is that if one's health has taken a turn for the worse, one will face far higher premiums and may even be considered uninsurable. To prevent this, remember never to cancel an old policy until you have a new one in place first.

For all of you that are growing old, but young at heart- keep up a healthy lifestyle to stay biologically young, and hopefully one day you will be able to save yourself from paying much higher life insurance premiums.

Weekly Personal Finance Roundup For July 10th 2015

July 10th, 2015
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Happy Friday everyone, hopefully your week is going great!

This week at LSMInsurance.ca we launched a giveaway for a free ticket to the 2015 Canadian Personal Finance Conference, which takes place on October 17-18 in Toronto.

Check out the best Canadian personal finance articles from the past week:

Tax & Estate Planning specialist Jamie Golombek was quoted in the Toronto Star discussing how annuities can resolve the fear of outliving your resources.

This interesting piece at the Financial Post goes into the financial risks of combining households with relatives.

Tim Cestnick at The Globe And Mail shares three ways to reduce your tax liability when passing on the family cottage to your kids.

Canadian Pension Plan (CPP) and retirement planning expert Doug Runchey explains how the CPP Post Retirement Benefit works.

Minimalist and personal finance expert Cait Flanders gives her Blonde On A Budget readers an in-depth look into her One Year Shopping Ban.

Marissa Anwar of ThirtySixMonths.com explains when a variable rate home loan could be worth it for you.

Freedom Thirty Five Blog breaks down the tax efficiency of holding various financial instruments in different account types (RRSPs, TFSAs, Non-Reg).

We hope you enjoy the Weekly Roundup articles. Wishing everyone a great weekend!

Ticket Giveaway: Canadian Personal Finance Conference 2015

July 7th, 2015
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The Canadian Personal Finance Conference returns to Toronto in the fall of 2015.

The Canadian Personal Finance Conference (CPFC), organized by personal finance blogger Krystal Yee and RateHub.ca’s Kerri-Lynn McAllister, is returning to Toronto this year on October 17th & 18th (Saturday & Sunday). 

The idea behind the conference is to bring the best Canadian personal finance minds together in one place. They've achieved that goal in previous years, hosting speakers such as Som Seif, Jonathan Chevreau, Bruce Sellery, Mark Goodfield, Big Cajun Man, Kerry K. Taylor and several other personal finance experts.

Below is the list of featured speakers scheduled for CPFC15 so far:

David Chilton, author of best-selling book The Wealthy Barber and former “Dragon” on CBC TV’s Dragons’ Den, will be the event's Keynote Speaker.

Dan Bortolotti, dubbed the Canadian Couch Potato, is a veteran personal finance journalist who has written for MoneySense, Canadian MoneySaver and Financial Post.

Consumer rights advocate and personal finance expert Ellen Roseman.

Erin Bury, Managing Director of 88 Creative and Financial Post columnist, will be speaking about personal branding.

A crowd favourite from CPFC13, personal finance columnist for The Globe and Mail Rob Carrick will be returning this year to speak again.

To get more information on the conference you can visit their website, facebook page, follow the #CPFC15 Twitter hashtag or sign up for their newsletter.

As advocates for financial literacy among all Canadians, we are giving away a free ticket to the conference. Enter the raffle by using the tool below. The contest ends on August 31st, 2015 at 12:00am so enter now!

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Good luck to all the entrants and hope to see you there!

Weekly Personal Finance Roundup For July 3rd 2015

July 3rd, 2015
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We hope everyone had a fun Canada Day on Wednesday!

This week on the LSM blog we discussed consumers hitting record debt levels in Canada and how this could impact life insurance companies and policyholders.

LSM broker and certified financial planner, Saeed Ally, was featured in The Toronto Star talking about coaching the less fortunate to build a financial safety net

Our director of marketing, Syed Raza, was quoted in the Life Health Professional magazine discussing the classification of marijuana users as smokers by all Canadian insurance carriers.

Marie Engen at BoomerandEcho.com discusses how baby boomers can protect their assets in retirement.

Big Cajun Man put together this ode to Personal Finance in Canada for our enjoyment.

Mo Money Mo Houses' Jessica Moorhouse spoke with DIY investing expert Barry Choi on her weekly personal finance podcast.

The Golden Girl Finance shares 3 lessons in trading from millennials in an upbeat and fun article.

If you are planning a trip this summer, make sure to check out Stephen Weyman's ultimate guide to finding the cheapest flights online.

Wishing everyone a great weekend and to our readers south of the border, Happy Fourth of July!

Record Debt Levels and Their Impact on Life Insurance Companies

June 30th, 2015
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You’ve probably heard about how we’re dealing with record debt levels in Canada, but how does this impact life insurance companies and you as an individual or family?

To help answer this question, we’ll take a look at how the debt level is calculated, how it affects Canadians, and how it impacts life insurance companies.

How Debt Level is Calculated

The two factors used in the debt level equation are household credit and disposable income.

• Household credit: Credit such as mortgages, credit cards and other loans
• Disposable income: The money left over each month to either spend or save

It’s important to note that the percentage of disposable income is used by governments and economists to measure the state of an economy, overall. Debt imbalances are chiefly measured by the ratio of total household credit compared to disposable income - and in the fourth quarter of 2014 that ratio hit 163.3%.

Another factor considered is the rate that debt and income grows. In the last quarter, debt moderated to 1.1%, but disposable income only grew 0.5%. Which is partially being blamed on the effects of lower oil prices.

The good news is that experts think Canadians will be able to handle their debt, in part because of lower interest rates and a surge in real estate. As well, household savings (in broad terms) has grown – net financial assets, have almost doubled to $3.7-trillion. This sum is calculated by taking household debt and subtracting all cash, deposits, bonds, stocks, pension assets and life insurance.

Record Debt Levels and Their Impact on Life Insurance Companies – the Solution

The solution to the issue of slow income growth that also saves Canadians money each month, is to purchase individual life insurance instead of paying for mortgage, or line of credit insurance. As you will see below, there are many benefits to buying individual life insurance instead of mortgage insurance.

Purchasing Mortgage Insurance vs. Individual Life Insurance

• The bank owns the mortgage insurance policy; but with individual life insurance, you own the policy and can choose your beneficiary.
• With the bank’s life insurance policy you pay for declining insurance – because as you pay off your mortgage the amount owing decreases, and so does the insurance payout. With your own policy you have a level benefit for the life of your term.
• With a mortgage insurance policy most of the underwriting is done at the time of the claim; which essentially means that they will decide if they will payout the policy when the claim is made. With individual life insurance policies, the underwriting is done in advance.
• If you change lenders you lose your mortgage insurance with them, but you can keep your individual life insurance policy, because it isn’t tied to your lending institution.

As you can see, the impact of record debt levels on life insurance companies is beneficial to Canadians - individuals and families. Which directly effects our economy in a positive manner.

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