Margaret H Johnson

Welcome! My name is Margaret, and I’m an Insolvency Counsellor registered by Industry Canada.

My philosophy is simple: “Your credit rating is not a reflection of your personal worth, it is merely a credit industry tool”.

After spending 25 years in the financial industry in both lending and collecting, I launched Solutions Credit Counselling Service Inc™ and Women and Money Inc. to help those burdened with debt regain their financial independence. Since then I’ve helped countless individuals become financially literate, and put them on the path to financial health recovery. I have also served many terms as President of the Canadian Association of Independent Credit Counselling Agencies (CAICCA). Continue reading

Budgeting has long been thwarted by pre-existing creditor obligations. I say pre-existing because the debt spiral begins early in life with the first car loan or student loans. Many young people get enticed into using student credit cards which are carried forward after graduation. Budgeting for many only begins after debt. Even worse, budgeting for many only begins after some kind of crisis develops.

Like dieting, budgeting is useful at any age and under any situation. However, it is very difficult for many to organize a retirement plan when they have significant consumer debt. It is also difficult to purchase a home, which is another central objective of financial planning.

Another obstacle to successful budgeting is the avoidance of debt or the dependency upon credit. Many people subsidize their income and budgets with credit cards and lines of credit. Often they have noble intentions – an RRSP loan as they rush to get the $500 rebate for their maximum contribution to RESPs*. Tax reduction is high on a financial planner’s to-do list.

*No matter what your family income is, HRSDC pays a basic CESG of 20% of annual contributions you make to all eligible RESPs for a qualifying beneficiary to a maximum CESG of $500 in respect of each beneficiary ($1,000 in CESG if there is unused grant room from a previous year), and a lifetime limit of $7,200.

If people put too much into RRSP’s or RESPs they will top up their family budgets with increased debt obligations. This inevitably leads to an early cash out and for RRSP’s this means yet another debt obligation in the form of a tax liability. If you cash in the RRSP early, this defeats the whole purpose of retirement planning. So, we must remember that retirement planning is very different from the short term high of increasing your tax return. Retirement planning is long term. We need to be modest and certain we can afford the contributions over the span of our working careers.

Budgeting must be realistic. I have developed this budget worksheet based on my 36 year banking and credit counselling experience, which you can dowload for free:

There are many ways to translate budgets into practice. More on this later. If you have any questions regarding my approach to budgeting don’t hesitate to contact me.

This does not quite fit the definition of an impulse buyer because they have known for a week or more that V day was coming. Why did they wait ‘till the last minute? I hate to say it, but I think many of these people fall into the category of the uncertain. Maybe their hearts are no longer beating as one with their spouses or partners. They’re definitely not the committed.

According to recent studies as reported in the Vancouver Sun, the average Canadian spends $135. on their sweethearts. If you add lingerie and chocolates to the price of roses you would be getting up to there.

Another interesting element to Valentine’s day is how many people want to prove themselves in public of their love by sending the dozen or more roses to the office for all to see. Not sure what that means, but there is an ostentatious quality to it. The recipient as much as the sender seem to want to prove beyond any doubt that their love is, well, you know, better than those who don’t get the roses at the office.

It appears that the majority of Canadian women prefer a restaurant dinner (according to Ipsos, 58%) over any other gift. Going to a movie ranks third at 33% . Meanwhile chocolates and flowers level off at 20 -25%.

What I like about Valentine ’s Day is how we stop the world for a few minutes and recognize our loved one in a romantic way. We say thank you in a grateful and amorous way. We remember that our spouses and partners really are our most significant other. For a few moments, we embrace love itself – caring and giving for the special people in our lives.

Cooking a wonderful supper at home qualifies as an act of love, too. So, Happy Valentine’s Day to everyone’s special person of love.