Should your student loans and your spouse’s get hitched?

By Ryan Lane Of Nerdwallet

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Multiple studies have shown that student debt can cause borrowers to delay getting married. For some borrowers, though, marriage could actually be a gateway to paying less.

You can save money by refinancing student loans, but not everyone qualifies. If your better half has a better financial profile, you can share the benefits of refinancing in two ways:

_ REFINANCE TOGETHER. You combine your student loans with your partner’s into one spousal loan with a lower interest rate.

_ CO-SIGN FOR YOU. Your spouse co-signs a loan refinancing your debt, getting you a lower rate on the back of his or her finances.

If you’re considering getting hitched to your partner’s loans, here’s how to decide if you should.

REFINANCING `FOR BETTER’

Refinancing makes the most sense to save money on higher-interest private and graduate school loans.

For example, by refinancing a $60,000 loan from 7% interest to 5%, you’d save roughly $7,200 over a 10-year term.

Typically, you’ll need robust finances and a good credit score to qualify and get the best rate.

Spouses may “increase (their) chances at getting a better rate together,” says Andrew Zoeller, digital program director for Purefy, which refinances loans for Pentagon Federal Credit Union, or PenFed.

For joint spousal loans and loans that spouses co-sign, PenFed evaluates the couple based on their combined income and counts shared debts, like mortgages, only once. This allows more individuals such as stay-at-home parents with good credit to meet PenFed’s lending criteria.

Other lenders may evaluate spouses separately. Ask a lender about its policy before applying.

In 2019, 67% of co-signed PenFed student loan refinances were spousal loans, according to Zoeller.

“It’s something our program is known for,” he says.

REFINANCING `FOR WORSE’

If you co-sign a refinancing loan or combine debts with your spouse, you’re equally responsible for repaying the balance _ even after a divorce.

“There is no exit ramp,” says Joshua R.I. Cohen, a lawyer in West Dover, Vermont, who operates TheStudentLoanLawyer.com.

For example, Cohen says a divorce decree could outline who’s responsible for repayment, but both names remain legally on the debt. That means if one spouse doesn’t pay, the other still suffers the consequences of missed payments, like damaged credit and collection calls.

Divorcees could refinance the loan or portions of it into their individual names to get around this, but only by meeting a lender’s income and credit qualifications on their own.

SHOULD YOU SAY `I DO’?

Still have cold feet about refinancing with your spouse? These steps may help protect you:

_ TRY CO-SIGNING FIRST. Co-signing may have a valuable option that spousal loans lack: programs that eventually remove your spouse from the loan. Co-signer release policies vary by lender; PenFed, for example, doesn’t release spouse co-signers.

_ GET EXTRA LIFE INSURANCE. Cover yourself if your partner dies and you have to pay a hefty spousal loan on your own. You may owe the balance on a co-signed loan as well, depending on a lender’s policies.

_ KNOW WHAT YOU’RE GIVING UP. Once you refinance loans, you can’t get your original loans back. If you want or need federal loan benefits, like alternate repayment plans and forgiveness programs, don’t refinance them.

Cohen also says to make sure the savings are worth it.

“I would rather pay 2% more in interest and know I’m not tied to this idiot for the rest of my life,” he says.

DON’T GET STUCK

Kathy Snell, 55, of Eugene, Oregon, would love to undo her spousal loan. But it has nothing to do with her marriage.

“We’ve managed even through all the financial stuff to stay happily married,” Snell says.

That  “stuff” includes a joint student loan that’s grown to almost $420,000.

Snell and her husband combined their loans via a federal program that ended in 2006. Their loan isn’t eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness, which forgives the federal loans of borrowers working for qualifying employers like the University of Oregon, where Snell is an attending veterinarian.

Other federal borrowers can consolidate existing loans to eventually qualify for this program. But federal spousal loans can’t be reconsolidated. Legislation to let spouses unbundle these loans is part of the College Affordability Act, which is under consideration by Congress.

While Snell’s circumstances don’t apply to private loans, she still cautions couples about the flexibility they lose by combining loans.

“Knowing now what I know, I would recommend against it,” Snell says.  “Keep those student loans in your individual pot.”

________________________________________________

This article was provided to The Associated Press by the personal finance website NerdWallet. Ryan Lane is a writer at NerdWallet.

In loyalty programs, Canadians happiest with small rewards over big dreams

When it comes to loyalty programs, Canadians seem happiest with providers of small rewards such as free movies and groceries rather than those who promise dream vacations, according to an independent national study released today.

According to the Argyle Public Relationships Index™, the annual study by Leger Research and Argyle Public Relationships, Canadians’ satisfaction, trust and overall relationships are strongest with the Scotiabank/Cineplex Scene program and the new PC Optimum program, rather than those focusing their rewards on travel. The survey has no affiliation with any company offering a loyalty program.

In general, Canadians have strong relationships with their preferred loyalty program:

  • 79 per cent are very or somewhat satisfied with the program they use the most;
  • 76 per cent trust their loyalty program;
  • 73 per cent believe the loyalty program takes care of people likely to use it;
  • 70 per cent believe the loyalty program is committed to meeting their expectations;
  • 60 per cent see the loyalty program as concerned about “people like me;” and
  • 41 per cent believe they can influence the decisions or direction of their main loyalty program.

“While Canadians are loyal to their loyalty programs, the ready reward of the free movie or groceries seems to be winning our hearts more than the elusive dream vacation,” says Argyle CEO Daniel Tisch, a leading international expert on public relationships and reputation management. “The recent controversies about the future of Air Miles points, and about Aeroplan’s future, may also be factors in the slight edge gained by those offering smaller, simpler rewards.”

Public relations research suggests there are six dimensions of relationships between brands and their publics: trust; satisfaction; perceived commitment to meet expectations; caring for customers (“exchange relationship”); concern for people like me (“communal relationship”); and people’s perception of their ability to influence the brand. The Argyle Public Relationships Index™ averages public ratings of how the brand they know best in each sector performs on the six dimensions.

Among loyalty programs, the survey reveals average-to-strong relationships between most major programs and the public:

Loyalty program

Public Relationships Index™

(out of 100)

Scotiabank Scene

70

PC Optimum

69

Air Miles

67

RBC Avion

67

TD Rewards

66

Aeroplan

64

Relationships with brands drive business, recommendations

The survey also shows that just over two-thirds of Canadians (67 per cent) are interested in having relationships with the brands they buy and the service providers with which they do business, down from 73 per cent a year ago. Seventy-nine per cent are more likely to do business with a brand that builds a relationship with them, and 80 per cent are more likely to recommend the brand to their friends.

“In two years of working with Argyle on this research, it’s clear that the health of a company’s relationships with the public correlates strongly to the health of its brand,” says Lisa Covens, Leger’s Vice President of Communications and Public Affairs. “Whether it’s their products, their communications, or both, the loyalty programs offering these simple, everyday rewards are earning stronger relationships with the Canadian public.”

About the study

This loyalty study of the Argyle Public Relationships Index™ is based on a survey of 1,591 Canadians, completed between January 22-25, 2018, using Leger’s online panel, LegerWeb. The margin of error for the study was +/-2.5%, 19 times out of 20. Leger’s online panel has approximately 400,000 members nationally and has a retention rate of 90%. Argyle expresses its appreciation to Dr. Alex Sevigny, Director of McMaster University’s Master of Communications Management (MCM) program, for his counsel in the development of the study.

About Argyle Public Relationships™ (www.argylepr.com)

Argyle helps major brands and respected organizations build and strengthen their relationships with the stakeholders who drive their reputations, brands and business success – across Canada and beyond. For more than 35 years, Argyle has been chosen by some of the world’s biggest brands, put big ideas onto the public agenda, and become one of Canada’s largest independent communications firms.

Argyle is a Canadian leader in industry awards for its work in consumer marketing, corporate communications, health communications, public affairs, digital communications, branding and design. In both 2015 and 2016, Argyle was named by PROFIT 500 as one of Canada’s fastest-growing companies.

Argyle TACT Public Affairs, a partnership between Argyle and TACT Intelligence-Conseil, is based in Ottawa and offers public affairs services across the country.

About Leger (www.leger360.com)

Leger is the largest Canadian-owned polling, research, and strategic marketing firm with 600 employees in MontrealQuebec CityTorontoEdmonton, and Calgary in Canada, and Philadelphia in the United States. Leger is part of the WIN network partners in more than 100 countries, making Leger not only the largest Canadian-owned company in its sector, but also an internationally recognized brand.

Leger provides its clients with unique expertise in market research and information technology, in addition to business consulting and strategies in the fields of customer satisfaction, positioning, brand management, communication efficiency, corporate reputation, social acceptability, crisis management and customer experience.

SOURCE Argyle Public Relationships

Extended warranties may be unnecessary but offer peace of mind: experts

By Ross Marowits

THE CANADIAN PRESS

MONTREAL _ Sears Canada’s decision to close down and stop honouring extended warranties has highlighted the risk for consumers seeking peace of mind.

Charene Juraski, a real estate agent in Maple Ridge, B.C., said she was pressured by salespeople to buy the protection agreement even after she questioned what happens if Sears folds.

Fearing the retailer’s demise, she returned a fridge and stove for which she paid almost $700 for extra protection.

“I’m so glad now that I did. I felt really bad about it because I really wanted Sears to make it,” she said in an interview.

The troubled retailer, which started a liquidation process last month, said it won’t honour extended warranties and will only issue full refunds for protection agreements purchased between Sept. 18 and Oct. 18. The company has said most merchandise it sells comes with a one-year manufacturer’s warranty, which is available to customers directly from the manufacturers.

The experience of many distressed Sears policyholders should be a wake-up call for Canadians and could affect purchases heading into the busy Christmas shopping season, said Kerry K. Taylor, author of the money blog Squawkfox.com.

“If you know someone who got burned by an extended warranty … you’re going to be very wary about going into that product purchase.”

For retailers, extended warranties prove extremely profitable, allowing them to subsidize consumers who don’t make the commitment., said Pranav Jindal, a University of North Carolina assistant marketing professor who authored a study on extended warranties.

Whereas retailers can earn 15- to 25-per cent profit on the sale of an appliance, the margin for extended warranties can run at 250- to 300-per cent, he said.

Extended warranties are popular with risk-averse consumers but the extra cost may be totally unnecessary, said David Soberman, a marketing professor at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto.

“From a purely financial point of view they’re not a good idea, but what we do is we buy many things in life for peace of mind,” he said.

Uncertainty is such a big issue for some consumers that they’re willing to fork over hundreds or thousands of dollars at the checkout, often without researching the fine print in the insurance policy, he said.

What started as a service offered decades ago when people owned just a few appliances has now become an important source of revenue for many retailers.

American consumers spent about US$17 billion on vehicle service contracts last year and roughly US$23 billion on protection plans for appliances, electronics, computers and mobile phones, says the trade publication Warranty Week.

Canadians are estimated to spend $3.5 billion to $4 billion a year on extended warranties, according to Michael Bailey of Superior Warranty Consulting Services in Vancouver.

Warranties come with a hefty price, estimated to range between 15 and 40 per cent of the price of the product itself.

Consumer Reports says extended warranties are not worth the cost.

“Chances are that what you spend will be money down the drain,” the U.S. publication wrote in a 2016 report.

It said many products these days are highly reliable and unlikely to need repairs before being replaced.

Instead, it suggests consumers self-insure by setting aside some money monthly with each purchase to cover future repair or replacement costs.

Consumer Reports said a manufacturer’s warranty offers protection in the first year of ownership and many credit cards extend that time when the item is charged.

Online videos can also offer tips that allow consumers to make the repairs themselves.

Soberman said there is little need for an extended warranty for electronics, as any problems will likely surface quickly. Products such as washers, dryers and cars are better suited for warranties, as they have moving parts that will eventually wear or malfunction.

 

Some simple tips to avoid email scams

Some simple tips to avoid email scams

Pattie Lovett-Reid | CTV News

Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation might be forcing Canadian businesses to stop sending unsolicited emails, but nothing will discourage a scam artist. Below are a few tips for protecting yourself from fraudsters, and recognizing the difference between a scam artist and simple unsolicited spam.

Spammer or scammer?

Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation has serious fines for Canadian businesses that don’t follow the rules, but scammers are much less likely to even bother making their emails look CASL compliant. Check to see:

  • Does it contain an unsubscribe button and company name as well as a physical address?
  • Do you recall subscribing to an email list of the sender?

If the answer to any of these is no, the email is likely a spammer or a scammer. Either way, you don’t want to click on it.

Take Your Time:

Never respond to a suspicious email immediately, and don’t click on any links until you can verify the sender is legitimate. Phishing emails and scammers are getting smarter about reaching your inbox and making themselves look like a legitimate business. Red flags include:

  • Look at the sender’s email address. If the email address doesn’t match the domain of the company (easy to check quickly online) don’t open it!
  • Fraudsters emails are created to drive an emotional response. Pleas for help or legal threats are likely a scam.
  • Vague emails apparently from a friend with links, with wording like “thought you’d enjoy this” or “have you seen this?” It’s likely your friends email address was hacked. Don’t click on the link until you’ve talked to them.

Never, never, never give personal or financial information in an email:

This should go without saying but some scammers can make a very convincing case. But no legitimate business or government agency will ever ask for you to send financial information, passwords, social insurance numbers, etc. by email.

  • When in doubt, call the company, it may take time but it’s a small price to pay for your valuable data/information.
  • Real businesses have many alternative communication channels to reach out to in order to question an email that you received from them.
  • Always be cautious and risk averse.

If you receive a phishing or fraudulent email – report it!

  • If you use a service provider such as Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo, be sure to report any phishing or fraudulent emails you receive to them. This helps to identify criminal activity and eliminates other people from receiving the same type of message
  • Email service providers largely react based upon a volume of consumer complaints so it is important that everyone raises the issues when they appear.

You should also report phishing scams to the RCMP fraud squad.

Carelessness abounds

However, not all are scams and according to a new poll, carelessness in Canada’s Anti Spam Legislation (CASL) compliance may be a ticking time-bomb for Canadian businesses.

Companies need to carefully review customer communications ensuring they are compliant with CASL or they run a serious risk of lawsuits.

The poll revealed Canadians may be far more litigious than expected, with more than half reporting that they would consider joining class action lawsuits for spam violations.

The poll was conducted for itracMARKETER, a Toronto-based email marketing, automation, and CASL compliance software-as-a-service application provider which regularly counsels Canadian companies on their communications strategies and CASL compliance.

A little history on civic holidays across Canada


Across Canada, the first Monday in August is celebrated in many ways.

For a lot of us across this fine nation, the first Monday in August means a long weekend. But what are we celebrating and why does this ‘holiday’ exist? Well, in true Canadian fashion, it’s wonderfully eccentric. There really is no gallant or noble reason for the holiday other than to fill a holiday gap between Canada Day on July 1st, and Labor Day on the first Monday of September. And unlike most holidays, this one varies in name and status across the country.

BC: British Columbia Day (stat)
Alberta: Heritage Day (optional civic holiday)
Saskatchewan: Saskatchewan Day (stat)
Manitoba: Civic Holiday (not a stat)
New Brunswick: New Brunswick Day (stat)
Newfoundland & Labrador:  (not generally observed but is celebrated in St. John’s)
Nova Scotia: Natal Day (not a stat)
Nunavut: Civic Holiday (stat)
NW Territories: Civic Holiday (stat)
Ontario: (stat for federal/municipal governments, but not officially recognized by provincial gov.)
Toronto: Simcoe Day: Named after John Graves Simcoe, the first Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada from 1791 to 1796
Ottawa: Colonel By Day: Named after Lieutenant Colonel John By, who supervised the construction of the
Rideau Canal;  basically founding the city of Ottawa
Prince Edward Island: Natal Day (not a stat)
Quebec: (not generally observed)
Yukon: (not generally observed)

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