Friday, February 23, 2018

How much should you save for retirement?

In 2018, many of you are one step closer to retirement. Many of you are now starting to think about retirement. I really did not think about retirement until about 10 years before I retired. My first thought was, will I have enough money to fund a reasonable retirement? That thought or this thought “how much should I be saving – and have banked already – for my retirement” may be taking over your thoughts as it did mine.

If you listen to the financial industry, the answer is an awful lot more than you probably have. According to one financial journalist, and the industry, by the time you are 30 you should have at least the equivalent of your annual income saved for retirement. By 40 it should be three times your annual income; by 50, six times; by 60, eight times and by retirement 10 times. This advice is not meant for the young who are burdened by student debt, high housing costs and stagnant real wages, any of them can ever dare to dream of saving at this kind of level.

These benchmarks are really fairly arbitrary. The industry is designed to sell and uses the greed- and fear sales pitches as everyone else to flog product (the more we save, the more they earn). But in real life it is impossible to project 40 years into the future in this super-tidy way.

I am like most people, in that I could not afford to save 15% of my income every year (most of it into the stock market) from the age of 25 onwards. Because I had small children and I bought a house.

I retired at 60 but I kept working albeit part time for another 9 years. Many of my cohorts (early boomers) will work past retirement if they can and will end up un-retiring, even when we do retire. The idea that we must save a set amount of cash and live on that cash and only that cash for ever seems old-fashioned. Very few of us will rely on nothing but specific retirement savings from the age of 60 on.

The good news is that almost everyone is now saving something. If you have a defined benefit pension with your employer (if you work in the public sector for instance), you are doing just fine. If you are in an auto-enrolment scheme you won’t be saving 15% of your salary, but you will have made a start, and by 2019, you will be saving 8% of your total income automatically. Here is one idea, if you take your next few pay rises and ask to have them immediately recycled into your pension, you will be close to retirement clover before you know it.

Life is a constant balance between the needs of the present and the needs of the future. When I was young, the present was a lot more important. It was hard to think about saving. And with money tight, and expenses high, it was even harder to save. In Canada we have three pillars to help us as we prepare for retirement. We have
·       Government programs, Old Age Security, Guaranteed Income Supplement, Registered Retirement Savings Programs, Tax Free Savings Accounts and the Canada Pension Plan
·       Employer programs such as Defined Contribution or Defined Benefits retirement programs
·       Personal Savings in non-registered savings and investment programs.

We are all savings toward retirement if we are working in Canada through the Canada Pension Plan, if you decide you want to save on your own, start when you have the ability to put money into your savings program, and don’t be pressured by the industry that is intent on scaring you that you will not have enough when you retire.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

8 Gardening Blunders and the Ways to Fix Them

We often see fashion blunders on TV. We may even hear ourselves giving opinions about them. But do you actually realize that blunders can even happen right in your front yard? Whether you think that your garden looks good or not, it really doesn't matter. If everything doesn't work, your whole garden will not work. So, here as our last post on gardening for a while, we enumerate some gardening blunders and the ways to fix them:
1.    Grass is not greener. This ranks number 1. Why? Most gardens have lawn, but one may be slightly greener than the other. If your lawn looks more than the soil underneath, it is time to reassess your watering, fertilizing and mowing schedule. Think where you have gone wrong and make the necessary adjustments on the areas mentioned. If nothing happens, replacing your entire lawn is a better alternative. Consider other ground covers such as periwinkle and thyme. Ask your local nursery for a possible option.
2.    Tools and clutter are everywhere. They may be useful objects, but if they are stacked in your garage because you think they are not worth the storage, they don't just look like junk, they are junk. Go over them one by one and determine whether you want to keep them or not. Your criteria when deciding if they deserve the trip to dump or not is simple: Ask yourself, do you specific plans for them?
3.    Your home and garden can be seen from the road. There are several short- and long-term solutions to create some privacy. One quick-fix solution is to build a concrete wall that would separate your garden from the side walk. For a longer, much appealing look, planting fast-growing shrubs is a good idea.
4.    Weeds invasion. Weeds problem can be solved by keeping your lawn regularly maintained. Check for weeds as often as you can. Dig the weeds out by hand and keep the weed from re-growing by seeding the empty areas of your lawn.
5.    Limited space. If your problem is space, then here's one idea that can definitely help you maximize every square inch of your garden: think vertical. Create a sense of lush greenery by using wall space, arbors and trellises to allow plants to climb upwards.
6.    Where's your home? If shrubs have swallowed your home, then a hedge clipper comes in handy. Cut everything that is blocking your way. Seriously, you want a garden, not a house in the middle of the forest. Also, shrubs swallowing your home is a security problem and just invites the bad guys to help themselves.
7.    Dry spell in winter. Most garden plants do not survive the winter temperature. Hence, they die. When planning for a garden, think of the plants that can grow year-round. Or you can always include evergreens and plants with winter interests.

8.    Fences are falling apart. Fences are not just to separate your property from your neighbor's. They also add to the overall look of your garden. Make sure that you maintain the looks of your fences like the way you keep your plants.

Mulching for Free

I’m sure that if you are reading this, you have used some form of mulch during your gardening career. However, you probably didn’t know that there are many other options for organic mulching that you can explore. These days, many gardeners are discovering new sources of free mulch that has been there all along; an untapped resource. These include clippings from a lawn, or woody pruning’s from other plants in your yard. You will be surprised by how beneficial all these things can be, and how often the opportunity arises to use them.

Many gardeners have taken to spreading out their excess grass clippings across the rest of their yard. You may think this will look tacky, with big piles of grass just sitting in your yard as if you were too lazy to rake them up. However, if you spread them out enough then you won’t even be able to tell that there is an excess amount. Leaving the extra grass in the yard acts as a sort of mulch by preventing evaporation and weed growth. With this extra water, you won’t have to water nearly as much to keep your grass green. When I started leaving my grass clippings, I had to adjust the frequency of my sprinkler system because I was worried my yard was getting too much water!

If your garden is in more need of mulching than your yard, it is not unheard of to rake up all the grass and transport it to your garden. By making a small layer in the vicinity of the plant, you’ll apply all the same benefits from leaving it in your yard. My yard is rather green on its own, but I often have trouble with my plants staying green and healthy. So, rather than leave the grass clipping in my yard, I move them all around my plants. It is just a matter of choosing what your highest mulching priority is.

Sometimes, our pruning activities will lead us to have an amazing number of branches and twigs. If this is the case, you should consider renting a wood chipper to put all of those branches to use. After one day of intense pruning, you would be surprised at just how many branches you end up with. Rather than throw these away, you can turn them into a huge amount of mulch for your plants. However, if your pruning has not left you with that big of an amount, you should bundle it all up and save it to add to the next batch. This is because the chipping machines can be slightly expensive to rent, and you want it to be absolutely worth it!

Over time, all organic mulches need to be replenished. This is because they will naturally decompose in the conditions of your yard. Usually, you can tell for yourself just by looking at it, but sometimes it can look perfectly regular but still have problems. If you start to notice any poor plant growth whatsoever, you should replace your mulch. Always keep in mind that during the process of decomposition, your mulch will use up the valuable nitrogen in the soil. Without this, the plants will be missing a key nutrient. There are several types of fertilizers available on the market that are specifically designed to deal with this problem.

The use of mulches in the yard and garden is something everyone should try. Not only can it save lots of time by reducing the amount of garbage you have to transport out, but it increases the healthiness and integrity of your plants by putting that so-called garbage to good use. So, if you think you would be able to save a good amount of branches and twigs for chipping, or if you think that you are ready to stop raking up all your grass clippings, then I think that mulching is for you.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Using Gardening to Get in Shape

While gardening is usually thought of as a productive way to grow beautiful plants and obtain tasty fruits and vegetables, few gardeners have ever considered the immense amounts of exercise one can get in the process of gardening. While you can get almost as much muscle (if not more) exercise as you do working out, it is very productive at the same time.

A recent study found that gardening and maintenance activities may increase fitness level and muscle strength because they require some form of physical exertion such as carrying equipment for repair works, lawn mowing, shovelling, digging holes and carrying soil. Previous studies have also stressed the health benefits of gardening for older adults; such benefits include physical health, psychological health, cognitive ability, and low risk of depression. The study recently reported that gardening has a positive effect on the blood lipid profiles, blood pressure and level of inflammatory markers in blood.
You may wonder how gardening could possibly give as much exercise as working out. Just think about all the various facets of preparing a garden. There are holes to be dug, bags and pots to be carried, and weeds to be pulled. Doing all of these things help to work out almost every group of muscles in your body.
My best friend is a fanatic about working out. Almost every time I call his house, I end up interrupting some muscle toning activity. I’ve never really enjoyed working out, though, as it seems that the constant lifting of heavy things just puts a strain on my body with no immediate positive results. But while he is into working out, I am almost equally enthusiastic about gardening. I work outside improving my garden almost every day. I think I definitely surprised my friend when he realized that I am almost as muscular as he is, but I have never lifted a single dumbbell!
Before you go out into your garden, you should always stretch out. Even if your goal isn’t to work out and get exercise, it’s still a good idea. Often gardeners spend long periods of time hunched over or bent over. This can be bad for your back. So not only should you stretch out beforehand, but you should always take frequent breaks if you’re spending long amounts of time in these positions.
Weeding and pruning are some of the best workouts a gardener can get. With the constant crouching and standing, the legs get a great workout. If your weeds are particularly resistant, your arms will become particularly toned just from the effort required to remove them from the ground. If you plan on taking the whole workout think very seriously, you should always be switching arms and positions to spread out the work between different areas of your body.
One of the most obvious ways to get exercise is in the transporting and lifting of bags and pots. Between the nursery and your house, you will have to move the bags multiple times (to the checkout, to your car, to your garden, and then spreading them out accordingly). As long as you remember to lift with your legs and not your back, transporting bags and pots can give you a fairly big workout, even though you probably don’t make those purchases very often.
Mowing your grass can also be a great exercise. If you’ve got an older mower that isn’t self-propelled, just the act of pushing it through the grass will give you more of a workout than going to the gym for a few hours. During the course of mowing the grass, you use your chest, arms, back, and shoulder to keep the mower ahead of you. Your thighs and butt also get worked a lot to propel the mower. Not only do you get an all-around muscle work out, but it can improve your heart’s health. It’s good for you as a cardiovascular activity, as well as a great way to lose weight due to the increased heart rate and heavy breathing.
If you plan on using gardening as a way to get in shape or lose some weight, you can hardly go wrong. Just be sure to stretch out, drink plenty of water, and apply sunscreen. As long as you take steps to prevent the few negative effects such as pulled muscles, dehydration, and sunburn, I think you’ll have a great time and end up being a healthier person because of it.