Teaching kids about money

Here is a quick intro to how I have taught my own kids about money. Over the past year, I’ve taught two teenagers (not mine) about investing in stocks…and they are loving it! Investing is not taught in schools – even in business programs at university. It’s so easy to get started and to learn by doing…

How I taught my daughter about money

My top 3 investing books

I teach investing at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies and I am always looking for great resources to recommend to my students. Depending on where you are on your investment journey, one of these three books may be just the ticket to get your investments on the best track.

Preet Banerjee: Stop Over-Thinking Your Money!: The Five Simple Rules of Financial Success


Stop Over-Thinking Your Money

If you are early in your career and  you are looking to get onto a sustainable budgeting and savings path, this book is an excellent guide. It’s a great introduction to budgeting and investing. It’s a quick read with easy-to-follow advice for Canadian investors.


John Robertson: The Value of Simple


The Value of Simple

If you are tired of paying high investment fees and you want to switch to do-it-yourself index investing, this is a fantastic guide. One of the key messages of the book is that getting everything perfect shouldn’t be the goal, but rather getting invested at a low cost in a diversified portfolio. Getting over the hurdle of getting started is made easy with this clear guide. Whether you are considering a discount broker and exchange-traded funds, a robo-adviser or low-cost index mutual funds, this book is designed to get Canadian investors on the right track.

Frederick Vettese: Retirement Income for Life: Getting More Without Saving More


Retirement Income For Life

If you are thinking ahead about retirement, or in the midst of it, the best investment you can make is to get your hands on this book: Retirement Income for Life, by Frederick Vettese. Not only is is an excellent guide to the network of pension and retirement plans in Canada, it provides great investment advice. What I like most about this book is the step-by-step approach of how to make your investment money go further in retirement.

Happy reading!



What to expect when you are investing

Yet again Yogi Berra has sage investing advice for us: “If you don’t know where you are going, you might not get there.”

What does this have to do with investing? Having at least a basic plan for our investments allows us to see how much progress we are making each year. Taking the longer-term view about what a reasonable rate of return would be helps us to weather market corrections (like the one we are mired in right now) much better.

Read on for my take on expected portfolio returns…

Expected Investment Returns

Get 2018 off to a good start

Many of us start each new year with some grand plans. For 2018, mine include learning to code (perhaps too ambitious) and de-cluttering (necessary!). In terms of priorities, though, these take a back seat to the big 3:

  1. Write/update your wills
  2. Make sure asset allocation matches your goals
  3. Get fit

For more on these, check out my latest article on Golden Girl Finance:

Resolutions for 2018


FOMO on the housing boom?

In major cities such as Toronto, where house prices have risen over time, every generation feels FOMO – fear of missing out – on getting into the housing market. It appears that this generation of 20- and 30-somethings does have grounds for this fear, however.  Average house prices in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) now top $775,000, which would require a $155,000 downpayment (of 20%) and monthly carrying costs for a 25-year mortgage of roughly $3,000.
When we look at mortgage rates, there is no doubt that the sharp drop in interest rates over the past few decades has encouraged more borrowing and allowed more buyers to enter the housing market. The question is: are those with high debt loads at risk? Most economists predict that interest rates and mortgage rates will stay quite low over the next decade or so, but even an increase of 1 or 2 percentage points would be difficult for borrowers who are overextended. Affordability in major cities is at lows not seen since 1990, but that was at a time of high interest rates. With interest rates so low currently, one could argue that home affordability is actually much worse than in 1990.


My perspective on affordability is that we are seeing a shift in the city of Toronto as it becomes a world-class city. Just as in other world-class cities, owning a home for the young wage earner is becoming increasingly out of reach. Instead of thinking of a detached home as the goal in the city, I think we should embrace a much wider range of options. Look to cities such as Paris and Barcelona, where families live in apartment buildings instead of detached homes. I think that new housing options such as family-oriented condominiums and rentals, as well as low-rise/walk-up style buildings should be a priority for city planners. Toronto has tended to have a fairly high rate of home ownership relative to other global cities, but with recent declines in affordability, Toronto is likely to lose some ground in the coming decade.
My take on the housing situation is that before buying a house in a hot housing market such as Toronto’s, young families should weigh the pros and cons of home ownership versus renting. There are many costs that need to be factored in with home ownership, such as property taxes, maintenance and repairs, and over the long term, renovations. Renting has the advantage of being more flexible in case of sudden changes in work or family situations. Being house-poor (having little money left over after paying mortgage and other house costs) would be a hard pill to swallow in the event of a correction in the housing market.
The other key challenge that the younger generation faces is how to save for the future. Fewer and fewer employees have company-sponsored pension plans, and among those that do provide pensions, many are defined-contribution rather than defined-benefit plans. This means that the onus has shifted more onto the employee to take care of their retirement, both in terms of setting money aside, and in figuring out how to invest their retirement savings.
For many young people, whether or not they plan on home-ownership, a great first start is to set aside funds in their tax-free savings account (TFSA). When they decide in future years whether to buy a house or continue to rent, they can either withdraw their TFSA funds for a downpayment or they can continue to invest these funds for the long term. At a young age, the TFSA is a better place to start investing than the Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) for two reasons. First, their income tax rates are generally lower now than they will be in the future, making it advantageous to defer RRSP contributions, and second, the TFSA is more versatile than the RRSP.
When we look at intergenerational issues, we should note that some of the baby boomers who have benefitted from the housing market boom will have children who will be looking to get into the housing market over the next decade or two. Perhaps the older generation will downsize to free up some equity for the younger generation.  It would be interesting to see to what extent the current generation of new homebuyers is getting help from their families for the downpayment, and how this has changed and will change over time.
One thing to keep in mind is the innovation of the young. We are likely to see new, trendy communities springing up well away from the traditional, expensive city core. With workplaces less bricks and mortar and more virtual, the real estate mantra of “location, location, location” may evolve.  Just as the tech-savvy younger generation changed the music industry, they may disrupt the traditional housing market. Interesting times ahead, indeed!
Teri Courchene, Toronto

Quest Math

Canadian children are lagging behind in math and we need to solve this problem. My goal is to make math learning easier and more fun by introducing games and activities for young children. I am excited about sharing my ideas with teachers and parents.
I have developed the Quest math program and kit that includes:
  • Quest Math book: My own guide to key skills, games and activities from the early years to grade 4
  • Pack of cards for the activities/games
  • Specialty math dice for the math activities/games
For a school’s Math Night, I would prepare a PowerPoint presentation with ideas, research, games and some video to get the ideas across. The evening would include interactive activities and showing parents how to play the games in the kit.
Pricing is very reasonable for the kit and will depend on sourcing of items.
I do not charge a speaker fee for these presentations. This is a way for me to give back to the community. My main work is as a math tutor, consultant and investing instructor. My background includes more than a decade as a Bay Street economist, and more than a decade as an teacher/tutor. I have Masters degrees in both Economics and Education.
Please get in touch to find out more…