Do you work on contract or part time, or are you self-employed? If so, you face unique challenges when it comes to saving for retirement, since there's no company pension to help pad your income later in life. In the long run, it pays off to make an extra effort now – here are a few ways to do just that. • Contribute to a registered retirement savings plan (RRSP): An RRSP reduces the amount of income tax you pay, and any money you sock away will benefit from years of tax-deferred compounded growth. Start early and contribute regularly – even modest contributions can build into a significant nest egg. Contribute $500 a year for 40 years and you'll save $77,381. But if you double your contribution and save $1,000 a year for just 20 years, you'll have only $36,786 (based on a six per cent rate of return).
• Pay it forward: If you're not on a regular payroll (that is, you're a freelancer, contractor, occasional or seasonal worker, part-time employee without benefits or are self-employed) your income probably fluctuates from year to year. You can carry forward your RRSP tax deduction and claim it during a higher-income year to get a better return. "If the first two years were really lean for your company, but you still put money in your RRSP, you can claim those tax deductions in the third year when you start making better money," says Judith Cane, a fee-for-service financial adviser with Antara Financial Group in Ottawa.
• Set up a tax-free savings account (TFSA): Lower-wage earners are at a disadvantage in terms of RRSP investments, since the limit is 18 per cent of earnings. So if you make $15,000 a year, you can only save a maximum of $2,700 and your tax savings would be $600. Figure out your tax savings. A TFSA allows you to set aside another $5,000 a year.
• Count on Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and Old Age Security: Canada Pension Plan contributions are based on your salary and benefits are determined by how much and how long you've contributed. Some parts of your contributory period can be dropped out of the calculation, such as periods when you stopped working. The maximum monthly benefit is currently $934. The maximum Old Age Security benefit is $521 a month.
• Watch your deductions: If you're self-employed, they can affect your retirement income. "The more you deduct off your income, the less you can contribute to RRSPs and CPP," says Cane.
• Relax – you may need less than you think: "The banks like to scare us and say everybody needs $1 million in their RRSP to retire, but if you are living a frugal lifestyle now, you probably aren't going to change that in the future," says Sheila Walkington, co-founder of Money Coaches Canada in Vancouver. Page 1 of 1
Anne Bokma is a self-employed writer and editor who writes frequently on financial issues. She socks away money every year in her RRSP but hopes to keep writing well into old age.
Heart disease and stroke are one of the leading causes of death for Canadian women—and risk factors, symptoms and even treatment might vary by age. Here's what you need to know.
It was Dec. 13, 2014. I was getting ready to go out for dinner when suddenly everything went wrong. I lost coordination, almost like I was drunk. I went numb, as if the local anesthetic that dentists use had been applied to half of my body. My arm went limp, I could barely walk and, out of the blue, I got a raging migraine. At 31 years old, I was in the midst of a transient ischemic attack, often called a ministroke, but I had no idea.
It wasn't until the next day, when I was feeling only slightly better, that I realized something was really wrong. I didn't want to wait for an appointment with my family doctor, so I called Telehealth Ontario, the provincial service that connects callers to a registered nurse via telephone. In the very back of my mind, I wondered if I'd had a stroke—but I was too young, or so I thought. But when I described my symptoms, it became clear that I wasn't too young. In fact, the nurse who took my call was worried enough to send paramedics to my house. Soon, I was in the back of an ambulance, rushing through Toronto's busy streets on the way to the hospital.
The statistics Luckily, my stroke was mild, and, in July 2015, I underwent surgery to have a patent foramen ovale closure device inserted to close the hole in my heart. But, to this day, I'm still shocked at how little I knew about the risks associated with stroke and heart disease, or just how common they are. As I soon learned, about 1.6 million Canadians—557,000 of them women over the age of 24—report having cardiovascular disease. And, according to a study looking at factors and behaviours affecting cardiovascular health published in 2013 in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, fewer than one in 10 adult Canadians were in ideal cardiovascular health from 2003 to 2011, which means 90 percent of us are making choices that are increasing our risk for a cardiovascular event. In fact, heart disease and stroke is one of the leading causes of death for Canadian women, and most of us have at least one risk factor.
It's a club that I didn't particularly want to be a part of, but having joined, I began wondering what other women's experiences had been like.
Unlike me, when Victoria resident Carolyn Thomas started having a range of symptoms— crushing chest pain, nausea, weakness, sweating and a persistent ache down her left arm—on her 58th birthday, she immediately thought it could be a heart attack and went straight to the ER. But when she got there and told the doctor on duty about her symptoms, he said it was just acid reflux. "I remember exactly what he said," she recalls. " 'You're in the right demographic for acid reflux. Go home and call your family doctor for a prescription for antacids.' " Embarrassed and apologetic, she did just that. But her symptoms persisted for two more weeks. She eventually went back to the hospital, and this time, she was told she was suffering from what was actually one of the most serious types of heart attacks—a complete blockage of her left anterior descending artery, which is often referred to as the widow-maker.
Since then, she has recovered, but it's far from full—she had to retire early and continues to see a specialist at her regional pain clinic.
Irmine MacKenzie also went to the hospital immediately. It's been 35 years since the New Waterford, N.S., resident lost the use of her left arm and leg after suffering a stroke caused by carotid artery stenosis, narrowing of the arteries that carry blood from the heart to the brain. She was 61 years old and, having just finished eating breakfast with her husband, John, she headed to the kitchen to tackle the dishes. Suddenly, plates started dropping from her hands, shattering as they hit the floor.
After a six-week hospital stay and a three-month stint in a rehabilitation program in Halifax, she eventually learned to walk again. Her ability to manage quite well over the past three decades is clearly a testament to her grit— and maybe some kind words from a stranger. "I won't ever forget the ambulance driver who took me to the rehabilitation centre," she says. "He told me, 'We're taking you by stretcher now, but you'll be walking out of there with a cane.' " Sure enough, that's exactly what she did.
A better understanding It has now been two years since I suffered my transient ischemic attack, and I feel like I'm still learning about heart health. I now understand the importance of cardiac rehabilitation, for one thing. When I had my stroke, I didn't know this kind of program existed—my cardiologist didn't refer me to one, but having access to dedicated professionals in a safe, encouraging environment could have helped me navigate the health-care system and guided me toward healthier choices.
One thing I found myself, Carolyn and Irmine echoing is how, as women, we must advocate for ourselves in the health-care system, ensuring that our voices are heard and our health is looked after. We need to put ourselves first, without shame or guilt. As Dr. Paula Harvey, director of the cardiovascular research program at Women's College Hospital in Toronto, says, "It comes back to education and partnership with your health provider. Don't be afraid to ask questions and be informed."
Heart health by the decade Nearly two-thirds of all heart attacks and strokes occur in Canadians 65 or older, but younger Canadians are increasingly at risk. Here's what you need to know at every age.
In your 20s and 30s: Young people with heart-health issues are part of a growing minority. A study published in 2012 out of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine found that, over a period of 12 years, strokes among people aged 20 to 54 made up an increasingly greater proportion of strokes across all age groups, growing from about 13 percent in 1993–94 to 19 percent in 2005.
Closer to home, the Heart and Stroke Foundation says several studies predict that the rate of strokes among younger adults will double in the next 15 years. The main reason? According to Dr. Tara Sedlak, a cardiologist at Vancouver General Hospital and clinical assistant professor at The University of British Columbia, it comes down to lifestyle—high stress levels, poor eating habits, lack of exercise and smoking. Research bears this out: The University of Cincinnati study suggested that a rise in lifestyle-related risk factors (such as diabetes, obesity and high cholesterol) may contribute to a higher incidence of stroke.
But there is a way to turn the tide: As with other age groups, simple changes such as exercising regularly, quitting smoking and eating healthily could see the rates of cardiovascular disease—and, more specifically, stroke—decrease, says Dr. Paula Harvey, director of the cardiovascular research program at Women's College Hospital in Toronto.
In your 40s and 50s: Cardiovascular disease is less common among younger women, in part because of their higher estrogen levels; the hormone offers some protection to the arteries. But as women approach menopause and their estrogen levels drop, the incidence of stroke and heart attack increases.
Unfortunately, broad knowledge of their increased risk may not protect perimenopausal women from misdiagnosis. According to research by the Canadian Medical Protective Association, which provides advice, legal assistance and risk-management education to 95,000 Canadian physicians, doctors are missing the signs of stroke in patients nearly 10 percent of the time, largely because symptoms are often nonspecific—patients often complained of headache, dizziness, nausea and vomiting.
And women, who have historically been less inclined to advocate for themselves, are particularly at risk. Research out of the University of Leeds in England showed that, between April 2004 and March 2013, 198,534 heart attack patients at National Health Service hospitals in England and Wales were initially misdiagnosed—and most of them were women. During that time, women suffering a heart attack were 50 percent more likely to be misdiagnosed compared to men.
It might be difficult to challenge doctors who tell you nothing's wrong, but Dr. Sedlak encourages women to listen to their bodies and to be firm with health-care providers about what they're experiencing. "If you feel there is a real problem, be persistent," she says.
In your 60s and beyond: Women over 65 have the most strokes of all age groups, but they still have fewer strokes than men the same age. However, a Danish study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association in 2015 found that, after 60, women tend to have more serious strokes than men—and they're more likely to survive, which can have serious repercussions on quality of life.
John Sawdon, the public education and special projects director of the Cardiac Health Foundation of Canada, explains that cardiac rehabilitation programs, which are free with a referral from your doctor, are the perfect next step for recovering cardiac patients of all ages, but they're particularly important for older Canadians, who tend to live more sedentary lives. These programs are supervised by a cardiologist and, after an assessment, are tailored by your cardiac rehab team, which usually includes nurses, physical therapists, kinesiologists and social workers. They can provide exercise training, education on heart-healthy living and stress counselling—all of which can contribute to the health and well-being of people who have heart problems. And they're effective, too: "Research has shown that those completing cardiac rehab live seven years longer than control groups," says Sawdon. It also "reduces incidence of another heart attack by 50 percent."
What's your risk? Ninety percent of adult Canadians have at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease. But while factors such as obesity, hypertension, alcohol abuse, family history and ethnicity increase everyone's risk, regardless of gender, the following three are particularly relevant to women.
Smoking: While we all know that smoking is seriously unhealthy, it can be especially damaging to women's cardiovascular health. Smoking when taking the oral contraceptive pill can drastically increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. But quitting can cut your risk within a year.
Diabetes: According to the Canadian Diabetes Association, people with diabetes are at a very high risk of developing cardiovascular disease. In fact, "they may develop heart disease 10 to 15 years earlier than individuals without diabetes."
Mental illness and stress: "Women have a higher frequency of stress-induced heart disease, and women's hearts are affected by stress and depression more than men's," says Dr. David Fitchett, a cardiologist at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto and associate professor of medicine at the University of Toronto.
Heart health dictionary
Atherosclerosis: When arteries narrow and harden due to plaque buildup.
Cardiomyopathhy: Diseases of the heart muscle, which cause it to become enlarged, thick or rigid.
Cardiovascular disease: A broad term for problems with the heart and blood vessels, often due to atherosclerosis. These conditions can lead to heart attack, angina or stroke.
Heart attack: Also known as a myocardial infarction, these attacks happen when the flow of blood to a section of the heart is blocked, preventing the muscle from getting oxygen.
High blood pressure: Also called hypertension, this is when the long-term force of blood against artery walls is elevated, requiring the heart to work harder, which may eventually lead to heart disease.
Microvascular angina: A disease of the small coronary artery blood vessels. Many angiograms do not view the small blood vessels, so this can be difficult to diagnose.
Spontaneous coronary artery dissection: A tear in the coronary artery wall. Physical or emotional stress appears to play a role. Most cases (around 70 percent) occur in women under 50—and a third of those are pregnant or postpartum women.
Stroke: When the blood supply to a portion of the brain is interrupted. This can happen when a blood vessel carrying oxygen and nutrients to the brain either bursts or is blocked.
We lift the veil on the world of nonsurgical anti-aging procedures—what they can do, whether they'll hurt and how much of a dent they'll put in your wallet.
We all get older; it's a fact of life. But do we need to look older? The answer is no. Nonsurgical cosmetic procedures such as laser treatments and Botox injections can minimize wrinkles, remove excess fat and plump up and tighten skin. But they're also a bit taboo, because isn't it frivolous to want to "fix" your hard-won lines and sun-darkened brown spots? Our advice: Do what makes you feel good—you're the only one who gets to have a say about your appearance. We offer a breakdown of your treatment options, just in case your curiosity (or your frown lines) gets the better of you.
SLEEPLESS BEAUTY ("I LOOK TIRED")
If you see an exhausted face looking back in the mirror every single day, the culprit is probably your peepers. "The eyes are the very earliest place affected as we age," says Toronto-based plastic surgeon Dr. Jerome Edelstein. In order to brighten your appearance, you'll need to minimize dark circles, frown lines and crow's-feet.
To deal with wrinkling in the upper part of the face, try injections of botulinum toxin (a.k.a. Botox or Dysport), which relaxes the muscles that allow wrinkles to form and reduces the appearance of lines. It's possible to customize the number of units and injections so that your upper face will be completely frozen, be able to move slightly or be fully capable of movement, though more movement means less overall improvement.
Next, try a dermal filler to restore volume in your tear troughs, the areas under your eyes, which can appear dark and hollow. Dr. Andrea Herschorn, who works with Dr. Edelstein, recommends starting with half a syringe of soft, fluid Emervel, or Teoxane's Teosyal or PureSense Redensity II.
Pain and downtime: Injections of botulinum toxin feel like minor pinpricks. You might have a slight headache for a few house or days.
$$$: $12 per unit of Botox or Dysport. Forehead treatment costs between $300 and $600.
Lasting effects: Three to four months.
WEIGHTY MATTERS (SAGGING SKIN AND JOWLS)
There are two main reasons for jowls and sagging in the lower part of the face: skin laxity (due to loss of collagen and elastin) and decreased volume in the cheeks (caused by fat atrophy and thinning of the cheekbones). All of these changes are a natural part of getting older.
Usually, a two-pronged approach is best for treatment. The first step is dermal filler being injected into the cheeks. "I call it building a foundation," says VIctoria-based dermatologist Dr. Mark Lupin. "You start deep and work toward the surface." Adding volume back to the cheeks with one to six syringes of filler will lift the skin in the lower part of the face.
Then, your doctor or medical esthetician will likely recommend a skin-tightening treatment that uses radio-frequency technology. Thermage and ReFirme, for example, heat the collagen deep in the skin, prompting it to contract and tighten and kick-starting the skin's natural renewal process.
Pain and downtime: Pain is minimal, though some patients will take an oral analgesic.
$$$: $1,500 to $2,100 for one Thermage treatment. Most people require one treatment, but some may opt for a second treatment three months later. Meanwhile, each ReFirme treatment costs $250 to $500. Six treatments, each one or two weeks apart, are required.
Lasting effects: Up to two years for Thermage, and about a year for ReFirme.
YOU MISSED A SPOT (THE NECK)
Most of us spend so much time focusing on our mugs that we forget another important area: the neck. Your neck requires just as much love as your face, and many of the aforementioned treatments can be used to make it look slender and elegant. Botulinum toxin injections can correct vertical lines (also known as vertical banding or turkey neck) and create a more defined jaw line, and radio-frequency technology can tighten sagging skin. Meanwhile Fraxel laser treatments can smooth fine lines and correct papery texture.
One procedure that's exclusive to the region between your chin and your collarbone is Belkyra, a brand-new injection that uses deoxycholic acid (a bile acid that emulsifies fats for absorption in the intestine) to destroy fat cells responsible for the look of a double chin.
Pain and downtime: Belkyra is relatively painful. It will feel like burning in the neck for five to 10 minutes. There will be swelling and slight bruising that typically last for about a week but can last as long as a month, so winter is a great time to try this treatment (hello, scarves and turtlenecks).
$$$: Approximately $1,200 to $1,500 per treatment. Two to four treatments, each eight weeks apart, are required.
Lasting effects: Belkyra's effects will last forever; fat will never deposit in your double-chin region again—even if you gain weight. Can we get some of that for our thighs? Health Canada says no...for now.
PEAKS AND VALLEYS (DEEP-SET LINES)
"As we age, volume loss makes us look older, and most of that volume loss happens as a result of fat atrophy," says Dr. Cory Torgerson, a facial plastic surgeon based in Toronto. The loss of fat, in addition to increased skin laxity and repetitive muscle movements, can cause defined lines in certain areas of the face—especially above the lips (known as smoker's lines), along the sides of the nose to the corners of the mouth (nasolabial folds), and from the corners of the mouth down the sides of the chin (marionette lines).
For plumping up, all deep lines will need dermal filler injections, though each type of wrinkle requires a slightly different treatment process. There are several brands (for example, Juvéderm, Restylane, Emervel and Teosyal) that use the go-to ingredient hyaluronic acid. Doctors will have their preferred brands, depending on their personal experience, but each line has a full range of density options, such as a thicker, more structured filler for cheekbones and a thinner, fluid one for under the eyes. And if you don't like the results of your injections, don't worry; the hyaluronic acid fillers can be broken down with an injection of the enzyme hyaluronidase.
Pain and downtime: Dermal fillers are one of the more painful nonsurgical treatments available. However, most offices order syringes that also contain lidocaine, which numbs the tissue and minimizes pain.
$$$: $600 to $800 per syringe. As a ballpark, one to four syringes can usually treat the nasolabial folds in a single appointment, with each syringe containing only one cubic centrimetre, or one-fifth of a teaspoon, of product.
Lasting effects: Six to 18 months.
Before considering a visit to the doctor's office, try these recommendations for a better at-home regimen.
Eye spy: Look for an eye-care profuct that contains a vitamin-A derivative, such as tretinoin or retinol, which will stimulate collagen production and target skin laxity. Olay Pro-Retinol Eye Treatment, $40, well.ca.
Here comes the sun: Protect your skin by applying a sunscreen with SPF30 or higher to ensure the results from your procedures last. SkinCeuticals Physical Matte UV Defense SPF50, $44, skinceuticals.ca.
Bright idea: Look for a serum or oil packed with vitamin C. The antioxidant helps brighten, repair and protect from free radicals. Ole Henriksen Pure Truth Vitamin C Youth Activating Oil, $56, sephora.ca.
In the neck of time: What did we say about taking care of your neck? That means moisturizing! StriVectin TL Advanced Light Tightening Neck Cream, $99, shoppersdrugmart.ca.
Q: I really like the look of hardwood flooring, but I've been warned against using it in the kitchen. â€¨I don't want to settle for laminate. Are there any other options? — R.S., Brantford, ON
A: Many people love the warmth and elegance of wood floors in a kitchen, but durability is a concern. Water can damage any type of flooring, so humidity levels must be controlled in kitchen and bath environments.
Your best bet is engineered wood flooring: a thin veneer of real wood adhered to a composite wood plank. This option offers the thickness of a solid wood plank at a considerably lower price tag. The planks are sold sanded, stained and protected—often with up to 15 coats of UV-protectant varnish, making them scratch- and fade-resistant. As easy to install as laminate planks, they're a good option to use all over the house, even in the kitchen. Expect to pay $8 to $20 per square foot for the product, and an â€¨additional $4 to $8 per square foot for professional installation.
For more solutions to your design dilemmas, read what Karl Lohnes has to say about picking a couch.
This story was originally titled "Design Dilemma" in the June 2014 issue.
Want to transform the look of your bedroom? Inspired by board-and-batten siding, this headboard looks like a million bucks—on a way smaller budget. It's super simple to build and you can easily customize the size to fit your bed.
- Tape measure
- Table saw or handsaw
- 1/2-inch sheet of MDF
- 1- by 5-inch MDF board
- 1- by 3-inch MDF board
- Several 1- by 4-inch MDF boards
- Wood glue
- Clamps for drying (optional)
- Nail gun and nails
- Caulking gun and caulk
- Paint tray
- Paint roller and paintbrush
- Paint (We used Behr Ultra Pure White 1850)
- Screwdriver and screws
- Wood filler
Measure the width of your bed. Using the saw, cut the sheet (A) so it's 4 inches wider than the bed— this was 57 inches for us—and 66 inches long. (We had ours cut to size at The Home Depot.) Cut the 1- by 5-inch board (B) the same width as the sheet. Cut the 1- by 3-inch board (C) 4 inches longer than the width of the sheet, which was 61 inches for us.
Place the boards horizontally on top of the sheet so they're flush.
Measure from the bottom of the 1- by 5-inch board (B) to the bottom of the sheet. Cut four 1- by 4-inch boards (D) to the same length. Place them vertically equidistant on the sheet.
Create a grid by cutting remaining 1- by 4-inch boards (E) to fit horizontally between the vertical boards.
Glue each board in place on the sheet; let dry. Using the nail gun, secure each board in place. Caulk any edges (if you see gaps); let dry.
Paint the headboard. To make it easier to paint the sides, elevate the sheet on scrap pieces of wood.
To hang the headboard on the wall just above the baseboard, use the level, then screw it in place. Cover screw and nail holes with wood filler; let dry. Sand; touch up with paint.