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Childless employees say their work-life balance is overlooked

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Professionals without children may get the short end of the stick when it comes to work-life balance policies, new research has found. 

The study from York University’s School of Human Resources Management found that employees without children feel less welcome to attend to non-work aspects of their lives than colleagues who are parents.

As a result, they’re less likely to ask for things like flextime or telecommuting privileges, or even just to feel like they can leave promptly at the end of the day, said Galina Boiarintseva, a human resources course instructor who authored the study for her PhD dissertation.

When HR departments craft policies geared to promoting work-life balance, they’re usually aimed at making it easier for parents to fulfil their child-rearing obligations, she said. “You can work from home a couple days a week, telecommute, share work — but only if you have a justification,” said Boiarintseva. “We don’t do the same for the non-parents.”

That’s a miss in a low-unemployment economy where workers are inclined to leave if they get a better offer. Previous research has found that employees who look favourably on their boss’s efforts to support work-life balance show greater pride in their workplace, have higher job satisfaction and are more likely to recommend the organization as a place to work, the study notes.

Boiarintseva’s paper, which focuses on child-free dual career couples, points out that work-life balance policies haven’t kept up with social trends, including that more couples forego parenting today. 

Removing family status from the equation

“Despite the increasing diversity in family structure and personal responsibilities of employees, most organizations’ work-life balance policies cater to the needs of employees with children, while inadvertently paying less attention to the work-life balance needs of those without,” the study said.

Until two years ago, Boiarintseva also acted as human resources lead for Shulman Law, the family law firm founded by her husband. Although she’s a parent herself, Boiarintseva said work-life balance accommodations must offer something for everyone. 

“In my mind, the family status has to be taken out of the policy. Any policy that is offered in the workplace has to apply to everyone regardless of whether they’re married or whether they have children.”

Boiarintseva​ said she favours an a la carte approach to work-life balance policies that allows employees to pick and choose what’s valuable to them. Childless workers who can’t take advantage of a parental leave top-up may love flex hours to avoid rush-hour traffic, for example.

Galina Boiarintseva, a human resources instructor and researcher at York University, found that childless, dual-career couples are often under-served in the workplace. Flexible arrangements and accommodations for employees’ lives outside of the office tend to be geared towards parents. (Galina Boiarintseva photo)

A common theme that came up in her research was that child-free folks had less access to preferential shifts or holiday time. One physician she interviewed had the nickname “Dr. Long Weekend,” said Boiarintseva. “It seemed like a joke but he said, ‘I haven’t had a long weekend in the last four years.'”

Family status could even affect advancement, she found.

“Some men mentioned that their colleagues with children were promoted faster.”

More common, however, was a sense that they didn’t enjoy the same freedoms as their parent colleagues. 

I continuously find myself raising my hand a little bit more because I feel as though I have to.-Leviana Coccia, childless communications officer

“Most would say, ‘I have to use my niece or nephews as an excuse to get time off. I have to sometimes lie about an excuse. My colleagues with kids leave at 4 because they have to get kids at 5, but I can’t do so.'”

Pressure to do more

Leviana Coccia said she’s experienced some of those workplace dynamics, both in her current job in communications for a financial institution in Toronto, but also in her previous role at a small event agency.

“You can definitely feel the pressure to do more and give more of yourself because you understand that other folks may not be able to do so because they are required to be with their families, which at the end of the day is most important,” says Coccia.

“I continuously find myself raising my hand a little bit more because I feel as though I have to, and also because I feel that it’s not only expected of me, but if I don’t than people might assume that I’m not giving my all to a position.”

Her current employer has a policy that allows everyone to work from home once a week, which is a welcome opportunity to subtract travel time and use it toward the things that matter to her outside of work.

Passion projects are reason enough

Coccia volunteers for the Period Purse, a non-profit that provides menstrual hygiene products to people experiencing homelessness, runs a blog for young professionals and writes poetry.

Human resources consultant Hilda Gan of Markham, Ont., said some employers fail to see that millennial staffers may want access to things like flextime and telecommuting for good reason.

Often when they want time off it’s to do something that’s their passion …  It’s not because they want to go out and have beers after work.– HR consultant Hilda Gan on millennial workers

“They have this sense of balance and of social justice, so often when they want time off it’s to do something that’s their passion,” said Gan. “Their passion might be being a Big Sister or Big Brother. It’s not because they want to go out and have beers after work.”

But when the boss asks for help on a project that’s going to extend after business hours, “people look around the room and the person without kids feels they have to step up to the plate,” she said.

Family responsibilities beyond caring for kids

It’s also a mistake to assume that child-free employees don’t have other family responsibilities.

Now manager of a conference centre in Vancouver, Rhonda McDowell said she was given less understanding while caring for her very ill mother in a previous job in the U.K. than colleagues who needed flexibility to attend to their kids.

“All of my vacation days were spent going to appointments and hospitals. If I had to occasionally take time off for my mom’s appointments, or we had an emergency, I would make up time over and above that taken off because of the inconvenience caused.”

Her relationship with her boss soured after she applied for a program designed to provide flextime for caregivers.

Boiarintseva said employees without kids are only going to get only more resentful if policies don’t catch up to family diversity. That could lead to costly turnover, particularly while the job market is so strong. “Organizations need to wake up. People without children are amazing workers; they’re very dedicated. But they also have a life outside of work.”

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Real Estate

5 ways to reduce your mortgage amortization

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Since the pandemic hit, a lot of Canadians have been affected financially and if you’re on a mortgage, reducing your amortization period can be of great help.

A mortgage amortization period is the amount of time it would take a homeowner to completely pay off their mortgage. The amortization is typically an estimate based on what the interest rate for your current term is. Calculating your amortization is done easily using a loan amortization calculator which shows you the different payment schedules within your amortization period.

 In Canada, if you made a down payment that is less than the recommended 20 per cent of the total cost of your home, then the longest amortization period you’re allowed to have is 25 years. The mortgage amortization period not only affects the length of time it would take to completely repay the loan, but also the amount of interest paid over the lifecycle of the mortgage.

Typically, longer amortization periods involve making smaller monthly payments and having a much higher total interest cost over the duration of the mortgage. While on the other hand, shorter amortization periods entails making larger monthly payments and having lower total interest costs.

It’s the dream of every homeowner to become mortgage-free. A general rule of thumb would be to try and keep your monthly mortgage costs as low as possible—preferably below 30 per cent of your monthly income. Over time, you may become more financially stable by either getting a tax return, a bonus or an additional source of income and want to channel that towards your principal.

There are several ways to keep your monthly mortgage payments low and reduce your amortization. Here are a few ways to achieve that goal:

1. Make a larger down payment

Once you’ve decided to buy a home, always consider putting asides some significant amount of money that would act as a down payment to reduce your monthly mortgage. While the recommended amount to put aside as a down payment is 20 per cent,  if you aren’t in a hurry to purchase the property or are more financial buoyant, you can even pay more.

Essentially, the larger your down payment, the lower your mortgage would be as it means you’re borrowing less money from your lender. However, if you pay at least 20 per cent upfront, there would be no need for you to cover the additional cost of private mortgage insurance which would save you some money.

2. Make bi-weekly payments

Most homeowners make monthly payments which amount to 12 payments every year. But if your bank or lender offers the option of accelerated bi-weekly payment, you will be making an equivalent of one more payment annually. Doing this will further reduce your amortization period by allowing you to pay off your mortgage much faster.

3. Have a fixed renewal payment

It is normal for lenders to offer discounts on interest rate during your amortization period. However, as you continuously renew your mortgage at a lower rate, always keep a fixed repayment sum.

Rather than just making lower payments, you can keep your payments static, since the more money applied to your principal, the faster you can clear your mortgage.

4. Increase your payment amount

Many mortgages give homeowners the option to increase their payment amount at least once a year. Now, this is very ideal for those who have the financial capacity to do so because the extra money would be added to your principal.

Irrespective of how small the increase might be, in the long run, it would make a huge difference. For example, if your monthly mortgage payment is about $2,752 per month. It would be in your best interest to round it up to $2,800 every month. That way, you are much closer to reducing your mortgage amortization period.

5. Leverage on prepayment privileges

The ability for homeowners to make any form of prepayment solely depends on what mortgage features are provided by their lender.

With an open mortgage, you can easily make additional payments at any given time. However, if you have a closed mortgage—which makes up the larger percentage of existing mortgages—you will need to check if you have the option of prepayments which would allow you to make extra lump sum payments.

Additionally, there may also be the option to make extra lump sum payments at the end of your existing mortgage term before its time for renewal.

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Real Estate

Mortgage insurance vs. life insurance: What you need to know

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Your home is likely the biggest asset you’ll ever own. So how can you protect it in case something were to happen to you? To start, homeowners have a few options to choose from. You can either:

  • ensure you have mortgage protection with a life insurance policy from an insurance company or
  • get mortgage insurance from a bank or mortgage lender.

Mortgage insurance vs. life insurance: How do they each work?  

The first thing to know is that life insurance can be a great way to make sure you and your family have mortgage protection.

The money from a life insurance policy usually goes right into the hands of your beneficiaries – not the bank or mortgage lender. Your beneficiaries are whoever you choose to receive the benefit or money from your policy after you die.

Life insurance policies, like term life insurance, come with a death benefit. A death benefit is the amount of money given to your beneficiaries after you die. The exact amount they’ll receive depends on the policy you buy.

With term life insurance, you’re covered for a set period, such as 10, 15, 20 or 30 years. The premium – that’s the monthly or annual fee you pay for insurance – is usually low for the first term.

If you die while you’re coved by your life insurance policy, your beneficiaries will receive a tax-free death benefit. They can then use this money to help pay off the mortgage or for any other reason. So not only is your mortgage protected, but your family will also have funds to cover other expenses that they relied on you to pay.

Mortgage insurance works by paying off the outstanding principal balance of your mortgage, up to a certain amount, if you die.

With mortgage insurance, the money goes directly to the bank or lender to pay off the mortgage – and that’s it. There’s no extra money to cover other expenses, and you don’t get to leave any cash behind to your beneficiaries.

What’s the difference between mortgage insurance and life insurance?

The main difference is that mortgage insurance covers only your outstanding mortgage balance. And, that money goes directly to the bank or mortgage lender, not your beneficiary. This means that there’s no cash, payout or benefit given to your beneficiary. 

With life insurance, however, you get mortgage protection and more. Here’s how it works: every life insurance policy provides a tax-free amount of money (the death benefit) to the beneficiary. The payment can cover more than just the mortgage. The beneficiary may then use the money for any purpose. For example, apart from paying off the mortgage, they can also use the funds from the death benefit to cover:

  • any of your remaining debts,
  • the cost of child care,
  • funeral costs,
  • the cost of child care, and
  • any other living expenses. 

But before you decide between life insurance and mortgage insurance, here are some other important differences to keep in mind:

Who gets the money?

With life insurance, the money goes to whomever you name as your beneficiary.

With mortgage insurance, the money goes entirely to the bank.

Can you move your policy?

With life insurance, your policy stays with you even if you transfer your mortgage to another company. There’s no need to re-apply or prove your health is good enough to be insured.

With mortgage insurance, however, your policy doesn’t automatically move with you if you change mortgage providers. If you move your mortgage to another bank, you’ll have to prove that your health is still good.

Which offers more flexibility, life insurance or mortgage insurance?

With life insurance, your beneficiaries have the flexibility to cover the mortgage balance and more after you die. As the policy owner, you can choose how much insurance coverage you want and how long you need it. And, the coverage doesn’t decline unless you want it to.

With mortgage insurance through a bank, you don’t have the flexibility to change your coverage. In this case, you’re only protecting the outstanding balance on your mortgage.

Do you need a medical exam to qualify? 

With a term life insurance policy from Sun Life, you may have to answer some medical questions or take a medical exam before you’re approved for coverage. Once you’re approved, Sun Life won’t ask for any additional medical information later on.

With mortgage insurance, a bank or mortgage lender may ask some medical questions when you apply. However, if you make a claim after you’re approved, your bank may ask for additional medical information.* At that point, they may discover some conditions that disqualify you from receiving payment on a claim.

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Real Estate

5 common mistakes Canadians make with their mortgages

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This article was created by MoneyWise. Postmedia and MoneyWise may earn an affiliate commission through links on this page.

Since COVID-19 dragged interest rates to historic lows last year, Canadians have been diving into the real estate market with unprecedented verve.

During a time of extraordinary financial disruption, more than 551,000 properties sold last year — a new annual record, according to the Canadian Real Estate Association. Those sales provided a desperately needed dose of oxygen for the country’s gasping economy.

Given the slew of new mortgages taken out in 2020, there were bound to be slip-ups. So, MoneyWise asked four of the country’s sharpest mortgage minds to share what they feel are the mistakes Canadians most frequently make when securing a home loan.

Mistake 1: Not having your documents ready

One of your mortgage broker’s primary functions is to provide lenders with paperwork confirming your income, assets, source of down payment and overall reliability as a borrower. Without complete and accurate documentation, no reputable lender will be able to process your loan.

But “borrowers often don’t have these documents on hand,” says John Vo of Spicer Vo Mortgages in Halifax, Nova Scotia. “And even when they do provide these documents, they may not be the correct documentation required.”

Some of the most frequent mistakes Vo sees when borrowers send in their paperwork include:

  • Not including a name or other relevant details on key pieces of information.
  • Providing old bank or pay statements instead of those dated within the last 30 days.
  • Sending only a partial document package. If a lender asks for six pages to support your loan, don’t send two. If you’re asked for four months’ worth of bank statements, don’t provide only one.
  • Thinking low-quality or blurry files sent by email or text will be good enough. Lenders need to be able to read what you send them.

If you send your broker an incomplete documents package, the result is inevitable: Your mortgage application will be delayed as long as it takes for you to find the required materials, and your house shopping could be sidetracked for months.

Mistake 2: Blinded by the rate

Ask any mortgage broker and they’ll tell you that the question they’re asked most frequently is: “What’s your lowest rate?”

The interest rate you’ll pay on your mortgage is a massive consideration, so comparing the rates lenders are offering is a good habit once you’ve slipped on your house-hunter hat.

Rates have been on the rise lately given government actions to stimulate the Canadian economy. You may want to lock a low rate now, so you can hold onto it for up to 120 days.

But Chris Kolinski, broker at Saskatoon, Saskatchewan-based iSask Mortgages, says too many borrowers get obsessed with finding the lowest rate and ignore the other aspects of a mortgage that can greatly impact its overall cost.

“I always ask my clients ‘Do you want to get the best rate, or do you want to save the most money?’ because those two things are not always synonymous,” Kolinski says. “That opens a conversation about needs and wants.”

Many of the rock-bottom interest rates on offer from Canadian lenders can be hard to qualify for, come with limited features, or cost borrowers “a ton” of money if they break their terms, Kolinski points out.

Mistake 3: Not reading the fine print

Dalia Barsoum of Streetwise Mortgages in Woodbridge, Ontario, shares a universal message: “Read the fine print. Understand what you’re signing up for.”

Most borrowers don’t expect they’ll ever break their mortgages, but data collected by TD Bank shows that 7 in 10 homeowners move on from their properties earlier than they expect.

It’s critical to understand your loan’s prepayment privileges and the rules around an early departure. “If you exit the mortgage, how much are you going to pay? It’s really, really important,” Barsoum says.

She has seen too borrowers come to her hoping to refinance a mortgage they received from a private or specialty lender, only to find that what they were attempting was impossible.

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