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Questions to Ask Before Buying Your Next Smartphone

Posted on 09 October 2014 by admin

The leading smartphone companies recently launched new models, which typically receive a great deal of attention and reviews — both positive and negative. Businesses professionals are excited but also confused and overwhelmed because they want the best phone that satisfies their checklist of needs at work and at home. How does one make sense of the plethora of features in new smartphone models?

Instead of focusing on the details, a better approach is to take a high level view by answering a few questions to determine which type of phones satisfy your needs. Some useful questions relate to operating systems, the biggest and best selection of apps, phone security and the smartest voice activated personal assistant.

The four choices are iOS, Android, Windows Phone and BlackBerry, each with pros and cons. All phones support tasks like email, calendaring, web browsing and talking but they differ in how easy and simply they do them. The research firm, IDC, reports that the 2014 global market share in the second quarter of 2014 is 85 per cent for Android, 11.7 per cent for iOS, 9.4 per cent for Windows and less than 1 per cent for BlackBerry.

Android Operating System
Google’s Android works with HTC, LG, Motorola, and Samsung manufacturers. It is popular for customers who enjoy tinkering and customizing using widgets and fine-tuning settings about the look and feel of the phone. Widgets are used to customize a single screen view of contacts, calendar, appointments and other important information. The interface and features from one Android phone to another can vary dramatically especially after an OS update. So it is important to test Android on a particular phone and manufacturer to see if you like the experience.



Apple’s iOS works only with Apple’s phones and devices. When a new operating system becomes available, it has the advantage of updating all Apple devices at the same time. iOS has the most integrated ecosystem and marketplace of apps and is linked to a customer’s iTunes account. For those owning other Apple products (e.g. MacBook, iPad, iPod), the compatibility and user interface experience is easy and consistent across devices. Accessing content like music, videos, podcasts or games is simple. Unlike Android, Apple allows users limited ability to customize the interface — about how apps look and feel on the screen.

Windows Phone

Microsoft is a newer entrant in the smartphone market. Windows phone works with a limited number of phones for HTC, Nokia, and Samsung. The interface is simple and Windows Phone 8.1 offers more features and customization, although it is still does not match the degree of customization available on Android phones. The Windows store has fewer apps, music, games and videos.


The BlackBerry operating system is designed for smartphone handheld devices that are made by the company, also called BlackBerry. BlackBerry phones are targeted to business customers who are focussed on productivity and multitasking. The BlackBerry is best known for having the best touch screen and physical keyboard for speed and accuracy. The user interface supports 8 applications that can be run simultaneously or paused and minimized. The BlackBerry features a messaging centre that can be accessed from anywhere in the OS where all notifications (e.g. email, social networking, text messages, etc.) are displayed and actionable.

Which store has the best selection of apps?

Business professionals use a range of productivity, information and lifestyle apps to improve their quality of life. Android and Apple both have over one million apps while Microsoft and BlackBerry have a much smaller number. Before buying a phone, check if your ‘must have’ apps are available on the operating system of the phone you are interested in.

Is your phone secure?

The phone manufacturers all have enhanced security for their phones provided users allow their devices to be managed by a third-party mobile device management solution on a company’s network. This includes employees who want to use their own device at work. In general, higher security means more complexity for IT departments. Android is the most susceptible to malware and malicious apps because it has the most market share and is frequently targeted. iOS, Windows Phone and BlackBerry phones are less susceptible to malware. According to a bulletin issued by Kaspersky Lab, 99% of all mobile threats in 2012 targeted Android devices. One suggestion to follow is to never install an app from any suspicious website.

Why mobile personal digital assistants make life easier?

Intelligent personal digital assistants are not new but they have become smarter in completing tasks via voice commands. They offer a new way of interacting with our devices. Google has Now, Apple has Siri, Microsoft has Cortana and BlackBerry has BlackBerry Assistant. Each assistant allows you to search information using your voice. Examples include finding places, giving directions, local weather, calling people and performing web searches.

Google Now
Google Now is more advanced in that it builds an “anticipation engine” of your requests. It is able to anticipate what information may be useful and provides it “just in time”. For example, if you have a scheduled appointment, Google Now will suggest directions ahead of time.

Apple’s Siri
Apple’s Siri does not anticipate tasks and answers questions when asked. It is more conversational and has a large database of humorous responses. Siri is effective at performing simple tasks. It is less advanced than Google Now and Cortana because it cannot anticipate what information you may need.

Microsoft’s Cortana
Microsoft’s Cortana is a combination of Siri and Google Now and built into Windows 8.1. Cortana asks you for your name and how to pronounce it. It asks permission for access to your email, contacts, location and social media accounts like Facebook. You can also add interests like movies, food preferences, news, travel and weather.

BlackBerry Assistant
BlackBerry Assistant was the last major smartphone manufacturer to offer a digital assistant. It is accurate at voice commands to perform simple tasks like sending an email, asking for unread email, setting reminders, searching email and calendar. The more you use it, the more it learns and adapts.

Other questions you might ask about smartphones are:

Based on how you use the phone, which phones have a longer battery?

How important is the batter life of a phone before you have to charge it again?

Will having a larger screen improve viewing photos or videos?

Which phones are more durable and do not easily break when dropped? This video and this video show recent drop tests of the new iPhone 5 , iPhone 6 plus and a Samsung Galaxy Note 3. Regardless of your next phone, be sure to get a sturdy case that can absorb a fall.

Do you prefer a virtual screen or a physical touch keyboard? BlackBerry smartphones with a physical screen are still considered the fastest and most accurate.

One way to plan your next smartphone purchase is to make a list of your ‘must haves’ versus your ‘nice to haves’. Then create a shortlist of smartphones based on your budget. Visit the retailers, test them out and ask customers about their experience with their smartphone.

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Universities loading extra fees on top of tuition: ‘They are unfair’

Posted on 17 September 2014 by admin

With university costs projected to increase over the next four years, students are being hit with newly created or rising fees on top of tuition, including those to use facilities and even to graduate, according to a new report.

These fees — such as athletic fees and student association fees — amounted to $817 on average last year, with Alberta having the highest ($1,025) and Newfoundland the lowest ($222), says the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

“They are unfair,” says Anna Goldfinch, Ontario representative for the Canadian Federation of Students. “Institutions are using ancillary fees as a way to make up revenue and they’re passing the buck along to students to have to pay for these shortfalls in [funding]. Students are hit with these extra costs, things like graduation fees, deferral fees, flat fees.”

In Ontario, for example, if you want to graduate, you may have to pay a fee to make sure your degree is conferred. If you want to pay your tuition fee per term versus paying the full-year in one lump sum, you’ll be charged a deferral fee. If you only take three courses in a term, you might still have to pay for a full-course load or five courses through a flat fee. The Canadian Federal of Students in Ontario has successfully lobbied to have some of these ancillary fees phased out, Ms. Goldfinch says.

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives found that annual fees at Canadian universities are projected to rise 13% on average to $7,755 in 2017 to 2018, having at least tripled since 1990 to 1991. This rise is partly fueled by these compulsory fees levied on top of tuition which are not often subject to restrictions.

 “Universities are having to get a little bit more creative about how they’re increasing their revenues and taking them out of students,” says Erika Shaker, director of the think-tank’s education project. The report says that provincial funding for universities is inadequate.

In 2010, the University of Calgary introduced a $450 student services fee, replacing fees for student transcripts, fees for counseling through University Health Services and registration and thesis fees for graduate students.

“These ancillary fees vary across the country,” says Jessica McCormick, national chairwoman of the Canadian Federation of Students. “There are building access fees — I guess it’s a charge to access the building, if you take it literally — clicker fees, these are for instruments you’d use.”

Saint Mary’s University charges a student taking 10 half-credit courses: a campus renewal fee of $340, a recreation facilities fee of $50 and a copyright fee of $30. Dalhousie University levies an $81.90 facilities renewal fee and a $72.93 student union fee to full-time students. The University of Toronto charges a $110 application fee to music students applying to graduate studies and a $75 audition fee for performing students.

The arts have never been intended for anyone serious about an occupation, save God and law, and certainly not meant for large swathes of the population

It makes it very difficult for students to predict how much they’ll have to pay in the coming year, Ms. McCormick says.

“Our parents used to be able to work over the summer and cover the costs of school the following year,” she says. “Now we can work over the summer and not even come close to saving up enough and continue to work throughout the year, not only to cover the cost of post-secondary education but the cost of living.”

Students are also expected to pay “vastly different” tuition based on where they live and where they want to study, which undermines the universality of post-secondary education, Ms. Shaker says.

Some provinces — such as Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island Saskatchewan and Ontario — have a two-tier fee structure, providing more financial breaks to in-province students than those from outside the province, she said.

“Some of our mindsets are changing towards whose responsibility is it to ensure that post-secondary education is accessible and affordable to families and who benefits from it,” Ms. Shaker says. “Certainly there is individual benefit but there is a huge society benefit as well. When we start moving away from public financing and more towards individualized financing, it obscures that.”

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Buy and renovate for the perfect abode with a mortgage for fixer uppers

Posted on 10 July 2013 by admin

Nitesh Kumar


Many homebuyers looking at older properties find themselves in a common predicament: they’ve found a property that suits them, but it needs some costly and immediate upgrades.

Many buyers add the costs of those immediate renovations into their mortgage, instead of racking up credit card bills or selling investments to pay for the upgrades. Known as a “purchase plus improvements” mortgage, this type of mortgage covers the sale price of the home, plus any renovations that would increase the value of the property, with as little as 5 per cent down.

If you’re buying a home but want to add a second storey, finish a basement or redo a kitchen, it can make a lot of sense to add those costs to your mortgage. That way you can spread your payments over the life of the mortgage and have a cost-effective way to get your dream home. You can also use your pre-payment privileges to pay the renovation off faster. The process is quite simple:

Obtain cost estimates for the upgrades

Once you have found a home, you need to get detailed written quotes from licensed contractors on the renovations you plan, outlining the scope and all costs.

 Get your appraisal

An appraisal with two separate values will be required: first the value of the property “as is” and the estimated value of the property once the improvements are completed.

Renovation costs are included in your mortgage

Your lender will add the estimated costs of the renovation into your mortgage. For example, with a 5% down payment, your mortgage broker would apply for 95% of the “as improved” market value, which will be higher than the actual purchase price. The committed amount of the mortgage will be advanced to your solicitor, who will be instructed to hold back the renovation funds until the work has been completed and inspected.

Complete your upgrades; funds are released upon completion

Once an inspection from an appraiser confirms all work is complete and a copy of the building permit (if applicable) has been received, the balance of the mortgage funds will be released to you to pay for the renovations. There are a few options for carrying your expenditures until the funds can be released. Some major home improvement retailers offer “no payment” options for up to six months. Larger contractors may also be willing to finance the project short-term if they see the documentation for purchase plus improvements financing.


Purchase price: $400,000
Improvements: $40,000
Total mortgage: $418,000 (95% of $440,000)
$378,000 will be released on closing date. $40,000 will be released upon completion of improvements i.e. improvements are 100% complete and a final inspection has taken place.

Be sure to consult with a mortgage professional to learn about the full range of options available to you when purchasing a fixer upper.

Nitesh Kumar is a Mortgage Broker with Mortgage Intelligence. He can be reached via phone at 416-419-2566. FSCO lic. M08001411. 

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RBC celebrates grand opening of Brampton store with $10,000 donation to William Osler Health System Foundation

Posted on 05 July 2013 by admin

Mayor Susan Fennell and Vicky Dhillon, City Councillor with the City of Brampton, helped support children’s mental health initiatives at the grand opening of the new RBC Mountainash and Bovaird store in Brampton, ON.

 To mark the occasion, Sue Teti, RBC Regional Vice President, presented a $10,000 RBC Children’s Mental Health Grant to Ken Mayhew, President & CEO, William Osler Health System Foundation. The funds will be used to support the Child and Adolescent Unit at Brampton Civic Hospital, to which RBC Foundation has contributed more than $1 million since 2004. Through the funding the Hospital will provide murals, art, and games to enhance the patient experience.

 “I’m thrilled that we are able to continue our longstanding support of the William Osler Health System Foundation” said Teti. “Mental illness can take an enormous toll on children and their families, but resources like the Child and Adolescent unit here in Brampton can help them go on to lead normal and productive lives.”

 The new RBC Mountainash and Bovaird Store is located at 51 Mountainash Rd Unit #1 in Brampton. It is open six days a week and offers a fresh take on the branch banking experience where clients can ask questions or gather information on their own, and state of the art interactive technology to help clients explore financial questions that are important to them.

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RRSP or TFSA: Which One is Right for You?

Posted on 20 February 2013 by admin

February 29th is the final day to make a contribution to your Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP). Like most Canadians you probably scramble at the last minute to find some extra cash, or even consider taking out an RRSP loan. You probably don’t even give much consideration to your overall investment plan – other than the nice tax refund! But do you really need to contribute to Your RRSP? Would the TFSA be a better option? Let’s look at the pros and cons of each plan before you rush to your bank for a RRSP Loan.

 Not only can you contribute to your RRSP, but you can also take advantage of the Tax Free Savings Account (TFSA) introduced by the government in 2009. Many Canadians are still unfamiliar with the TFSA and how it works, continuing to contribute to their RRSP. Both plans shelter your income tax-free, both plans have benefits, and both the TFSA and RRSP work in different ways. The biggest difference is the treatment of taxes in each plan. Let’s look at the basics!


The RRSP (Registered Retirement Savings Plan) is what most Canadians are familiar with. This is a powerful investment and savings tool, which provides tax-free compounding growth, in addition to lowering your taxes. When you contribute to your RRSP, the contribution is deducted from your income. For most people this usually results in a tax refund. The higher your income the higher your refund! Sounds like a winning plan, doesn’t it?

However, a RRSP contribution is nothing more than a tax-deferral plan and this is the way you really need to view it. The string attached most people forget, is that you get taxed when you make withdrawals from your RRSP. That’s because RRSP withdrawals become taxable income. So the tax man cometh back for the refund he gave you! There’s no way around this – it’s about as absolute as gravity.

 RRSP withdrawals become taxable income.

Think of the tax refund from your RRSP contribution, as a loan from the government that you have to pay back. So when you make contributions to your RRSP think for the long term. Where will you be when you retire – will your income be higher or lower? Does an RRSP contribution really help you lower your taxes? Can you use the refund for investing or to help pay down your mortgage or consumer debts?

Here are the RRSP basics:

  • A RRSP is not an investment. It is a registered plan for sheltering taxable income.
  • A RRSP is not just for savings, you can hold mutual funds, stocks, or bonds in a RRSP.
  • You can contribute a higher amount to an RRSP than a TFSA (see your tax assessment).
  • You can carry forward any unused contributions.
  • You get a tax deduction for contributing. For most Canadians this results in a tax refund.
  • You pay taxes when you withdraw money from an RRSP.
  • You cannot use your RRSP investments as collateral for a loan.
  • You cannot write off the interest for an RRSP loan.
  • You cannot hold your RRSP after age 71. It must be converted into a RRIF, an Annuity, or even worse withdrawn and declared as taxable income. That’s a bad thing!


Many people haven’t utilized the full benefit of the TFSA (Tax Free Savings Account), which in many ways is a much better deal than the RRSP. The bottom line is, when you contribute to a TFSA you do not get a tax-deduction or a refund. But you can withdraw money from the TFSA tax free! This makes the TFSA an ideal investment plan to save for retirement. You can save tax-free, withdraw tax-free, and reduce the amount of taxes you pay at retirement. It won’t affect your government benefits in retirement, which income from your RRSP can. The only catch is that you are limited to $5K per year, and any withdrawals reduce your current annual contribution room. However you can contribute that amount back in the following year.

Here are the basics:

  • The TFSA is not an investment. It is a registered plan for sheltering taxable income.
  • A TFSA is not just for savings, you can hold mutual funds, stocks, or bonds in a TFSA.
  • For 2012 your maximum contribution room is $20,000 (4 years x $5000 per year)
  • You can carry forward any unused contributions.
  • You do NOT get a tax deduction for contributing.
  • You do NOT pay taxes when you withdraw money from a TFSA.
  • You can use your TFSA investments as collateral for a loan or line of credit.
  • You cannot write off the interest for a TFSA loan.
  • There are NO age restrictions on the plan – you can hold it until your 99 (or 103 if you want)

 Which One is Right for you?

 For some Canadians the $5K per year limit on the TFSA is a drop in the bucket, and for most Canadians finding an extra 5K per year is virtually If you find yourself under the 50K to 60K salary mark, and have to choose one or the other, consider the TFSA over the RRSP. You won’t get that nice refund every year. But when you withdraw money from your TFSA, you won’t be paying any taxes either. You won’t owe the government anything! How sweet is that?

  Maximize The TFSA, and Forget The RRSP.

If you’re a higher income earner, you will benefit from RRSP contributions because the refund amount will be higher, as you are in a higher tax bracket. That leaves you two options. First, you can maximize your RRSP contributions and get the largest refund possible. That refund then can be reinvested again into the RRSP, a TFSA, or even used to pay down the mortgage.

 The second option is to optimize your RRSP. This means you only contribute to your RRSP what is necessary to reduce any taxes payable. You then maximize your TFSA contributions. Anything left over then goes into your RRSP.

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Beware of Bundle Packages

Posted on 23 May 2012 by admin

By Rubina Haq Ahmed


Bring up the topic of cable, internet or phone companies and you’ll inevitably have hours of conversations that range from, how someone got the best deal to how a customer feels totally ripped off by the high fees.

In my case I went from feeling totally valued by my communication provider, to completely duped in a matter of four months.

Here is My Story

On several occasions in December 2011 my Internet connection failed. Once, I was told, because of an area outage, another because of construction near by that knocked down a pole and a few more incidents that my Internet provider could not explain. After one lengthy outage, that lasted more than 24-hours, I was getting particularly frustrated because I work from home and having an Internet connection is key to my business.

I don’t believe in calling your Internet and cable provider to ask for a discount just because you want it, but I did want to be compensated for my inconvenience. I deserve to have the internet connection I’ve paid for, with no interruptions.

The Discount I Couldn’t Turn Down

At the time Customer Service at Rogers was great. As a way to say sorry, Rogers offered me a deep 70 per cent discount on my internet service with a guarantee that I would keep my internet service with them for two years. The kind representative went a step further to credit me back the days that I had no service. Really how could I say no. I was told how much my total bill would cost, including cable for the next 24 months.

I was over the moon at the rate I was getting. I tweeted about it, sent kudos to Rogers Help desk and made it known I was a happy customer.

When the Honeymoon Ended

Then in March 2012 I noticed my bill had gone up by $5. How could this be?! I had struck a 24 month deal with my provider in December. When I called to ask them why, they told me my cable package would now cost $5 dollar more every month and there was nothing I could do to change that. I then learned the deep discount I had on my internet service came with a stipulation, that I had to pay the cable TV service at the regular rate even if it went up. They added they could theoretically raise my cable TV rates and I could not negotiate or complain. I can’t leave and go to another cable provider either, if I did I would have to “pay back” the internet discount I was getting and pay an early cancellation fee. Even though I have been a Rogers’ customer for more than 10 years.

My Negotiating Skills are now Zero

I investigated what Bell was offering and found they had the same package for $35 dollars less, but Rogers told me they would not match it and I could do nothing about it. I’m still trying to leave the cable portion of my Rogers package, because it was never explained to me that the deal was so restrictive.

How can they Break a Promise with no Repercussion?!

This is the problem I have with Rogers, they made me a deal in December that I would get a certain rate on my internet for 24 months but never explained that it included me paying the full rate for cable and that they could raise that rate when they needed too. They also never explained that the two services were tied at the hip and I could not leave or negotiate the cable without affecting my internet deal.

I’ve never asked to break my internet deal, the one they were saying sorry for, I only want a fair price on my cable that other competitors are advertising or at the very least don’t raise the price if I don’t have the power to leave.

Lessons Learned

What I learned from this experience is keep your cell phone at one carrier, cable at another, Internet at a third and landline at a forth. There are enough service providers out there to make this happen.

The only service I have ever been able to negotiate effectively is my cell phone, which I have through Telus. It’s because it’s the only business I give them.

My main message is NEVER EVER bundle your Internet, cable, wireless and phone into one bill, keep the power of negotiation in your hands


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Your mortgage could be a goldmine of potential savings

Posted on 11 April 2012 by admin

Nitesh Kumar

“A penny saved is a penny earned”… or so the old proverb goes. Of course, the value of a penny has changed somewhat from the time when your mother offered her wisdom on the value of keeping what you earn. Today, you could save thousands of dollars by simply making the right mortgage decision. If you’re like most Canadian homeowners, your mortgage is a goldmine of potential savings.

In the past few articles, we’ve talked about the importance of your mortgage as one of your most significant financial decisions. We’ve explored the value of seeking the advice of a mortgage professional – whether you’re buying a home or renewing an existing mortgage. Today, let’s take a look at the bottom line: the savings you can enjoy by making the right mortgage decisions.

It is the primary role of a mortgage broker to find you the right product for your personal situation. A mortgage broker is a financial professional and – like your investment advisor – he or she will want to understand your personal situation and payment preferences. Your mortgage broker has access to a broad spectrum of lending institutions, so you can do some valuable comparison shopping for the right combination of features, rates and mortgage options.

All these choices offer you substantial opportunities to save money over the life of your mortgage.

If you are like most homeowners, you are focused – for good reason – on finding the best possible rate for your mortgage. Your mortgage broker can offer you the best range of rate options and terms. If a mortgage broker can get you one per cent off the posted rate, that could translate into more than $13,000 in interest per $100,000 borrowed over a 25-year amortization schedule. If, however, you believe that most mortgage rates are basically the same from one institution to the next, then consider the fact that even an eighth of a point difference in the rate can offer significant savings over the duration of your mortgage.

But it’s also important to look beyond the rate. There are other ways to find savings in your mortgage. Your mortgage broker is up-to-date on market trends and new opportunities… as well as some of the tried-and-true ways to save money in a mortgage.

Do you get an annual bonus in your job? You may want to use that bonus to pay down the principal of your mortgage. If you pursue this strategy consistently over the life of your mortgage, you could save thousands of dollars in interest by paying your mortgage off sooner.

Are you paid bi-weekly or bi-monthly? Consider a change from the usual monthly mortgage payment. Set up your mortgage payment schedule to coincide with your pay period. Again, you can shave years off your mortgage, and enjoy thousands of dollars in savings.

In the coming weeks, we’ll look at some of these savings opportunities in more detail. In the meantime, consider the old penny proverb again. How much is your time worth? Time savings is one of the key, unexpected benefits that clients say they have enjoyed when they choose to work with a mortgage broker. Above all, a mortgage broker is an expert in customer service, and that means that your broker looks after every detail of your mortgage research and negotiations on your behalf.


Nitesh Kumar is a Mortgage Broker (FSCO lic.M08001411) with Mortgage Intelligence (FSCO lic. 10428). He can be reached be at 416-419-2566.

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