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Understanding market volatility: it's a part of investing!

You may have heard the terms “bull market” and “bear market” batted around. What do these terms really mean, and do they affect your investments?


A bull market is a period of time when stock prices are on the rise. These are the times when the markets give a 20 per cent return for a number of years in a row. A bear market is when stock prices fall for a sustained period of time. The fear and uncertainty of a bear market is what makes most people nervous about investing in market-based products. Bear and bull markets, along with in-between periods of less dramatic ups and downs, are a normal part of investing.

The markets have seen some pretty dramatic fluctuations over the past few decades. Market volatility is not an unusual experience. In fact, severe short-term volatility happens regularly - about every two years or so.

While there is no way to completely protect your money from this volatility, you can put a plan in place to moderate the impact. Think back to when you put your savings plan into place. Your advisor helped you to create your plan based on your long-term goals and expectations. You considered your hopes for the future, your comfort with investing and even market volatility.


No one can predict what the markets will do tomorrow, but remember to keep a few points in mind.

Asset allocation

Your advisor may have walked you through the asset allocation process to build your plan. This process includes selecting a mix of investments to diversify your portfolio and help minimize risk and maximize return. It's designed to help cope with market volatility.


Dollar cost averaging

Investing a set amount of money on a regular basis, such as through a monthly savings plan, can offer you more buying power. When the markets are down, your regular contributions purchase more units when prices are low. When prices rise, you'll purchase fewer units at the higher price. The result—the average cost per unit could end up being lower.

Before you make any decisions about your investments, talk to your Sun Life Financial advisor.

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Home Based Business

Do you operate a business from your home? Does your insurance company know about it?

Many small businesses are run from a home. As important as it is for a company operating out of a commercial location to have insurance, it is just as important to have your home business properly insured. If you’re running a business form your home and the insurance company is not aware, you could be running the chance of having a claim denied. Home business endorsements are not costly and provide protection for your office equipment, inventory, some tools of the trade, receivables, liability, advertising injury liability, and even business interruption. You will also have coverage for equipment such as laptop computers when used off premises.

Most insurance companies will allow an insured to add an endorsement (additional option) to be added to a policy to allow an insured to operate a home business. There are several restrictions to this kind of endorsement including maximum revenue and types of business that qualify. Most companies will only allow for only one company to be run from the home and have a limit of the number of employees not including family members. The principal use of the home must be residential. If your business will involve customers or clients coming to your home for any reason, the insurance company must be aware.

So if you have a home office where you see clients, or if you have a home based business make sure that you discuss it with your insurance professional.


Mark Carruthers is a Registered Insurance Broker with Pioneer Insurance Brokers in Kitchener, Ontario.

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Using Your RRSPs To Buy A Home - The Home Buyers' Plan (HBP)

The Home Buyers' Plan (HBP) is a program that allows you to withdraw funds from your registered retirement savings plans (RRSPs) to buy or build a qualifying home for yourself or for a related person with a disability. You can withdraw up to $25,000 in a calendar year.

Your RRSP contributions must remain in the RRSP for at least 90 days before you can withdraw them under the HBP, or they may not be deductible for any year.

Generally, you have to repay all withdrawals to your RRSPs within a period of no more than 15 years. You will have to repay an amount to your RRSPs each year until your HBP balance is zero. If you do not repay the amount due for a year, it will have to be included in your income for that year.


Before applying to withdraw funds under the HBP you must meet the following conditions (as quoted on CRA site):

•You have to enter into a written agreement to buy or build a qualifying home for yourself, for a related person with a disability, or to help a related person with a disability buy or build a qualifying home. Obtaining a pre-approved mortgage does not satisfy this condition.
•You have to intend to occupy the qualifying home as your principal place of residence no later than one year after buying or building it. If you buy or build a qualifying home for a related person with a disability, or help a related person with a disability buy or build a qualifying home, you must intend that that person occupy the qualifying home as his or her principal place of residence.
•You have to be considered a first-time home buyer.
•In all cases, your repayable HBP balance on January 1 of the year of the withdrawal has to be zero.


Repaying your withdrawals:

Over a repayment period of no more than 15 years, you have to repay to your RRSPs the amounts you withdrew under the HBP. Generally, for each year of your repayment period, you have to repay 1/15 of the total amount you withdrew, until the full amount is repaid to your RRSPs or PRPPs. Your repayment period starts the second year following the year you made your withdrawals.

To make a repayment under the HBP, you have to make contributions to your RRSPs or PRPPs in the year the repayment is due or in the first 60 days of the following year. Once your contribution is made, you can designate all or part of the contribution as a repayment under the HBP.



In 2011, Robert withdrew $6,000 from his RRSPs to participate in the HBP. Robert's repayment for 2013 is $400 ($6,000 ÷ 15).

In 2013, Robert contributes $8,200 to his RRSPs. Robert could deduct the full amount as an RRSP contribution on line 208 of his 2013 income tax and benefit return because his notice of assessment for 2012, shows that he has an RRSP deduction limit of $11,000 for 2013. However, he knows an HBP repayment is required.

Therefore, Robert files Schedule 7 with his 2013 income tax and benefit return and records his $8,200 RRSP contribution on line 245. He designates $400 of this amount as an HBP repayment on line 246 of Schedule 7. Robert deducts the remaining $7,800 as an RRSP contribution on line 208 of his 2013 income tax and benefit return.


The HBP can be an effective way to own your own home. Please ensure to speak to a financial advisor for assistance and consult a licensed account when filing your repayments.



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Home renovations & Home Insurance

Planning on renovating your home? Or, buying a new home and planning extensive renovations before moving in? Well here are some important points to consider concerning your home insurance.

Home renovations can increase the value of your home, help keep it in good shape or provide you with that extra living space you want. No matter the reason for your renovation, you need to let your insurance broker or agent know about your reno. Some renovations can even create a discount in your insurance. Quite often an endorsement for renovations will be added to your policy during the period of construction. Make sure to discuss the possible exclusions or limitations with your broker so that you understand the changes in coverage during the process.

Most homeowner policies include replacement cost for the home itself. If you increase the value by doing renovations you may find yourself with inadequate coverage.

If your home is going to be vacant for any period during renovations, even if the workers are going to be there on a daily basis, it’s very important that your broker be informed. A vacancy permit from the insurance company may be required.

Don’t be shy about asking your contractors for proof of insurance and find out who will be responsible for getting the building permits. Tell them that you require a certificate of insurance before you agree to sign the contract. If the contractor is not properly insured, you could find yourself liable for the cost of damages and injuries.

So the best renovation plans include talking with your insurance advisor about the changes that plan to make sure that your home is properly covered. Wouldn’t you hate to have something catastrophic happen to the house after you’ve spent a lot of money on getting it just the way you want it just to find out that those changes may not be covered because you didn’t inform the insurance company?


Mark Carruthers is a Registered Insurance Broker with Pioneer Insurance Brokers in Kitchener, Ontario.

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Heating With Wood

With the kind of winter we’ve been having this year; more and more people are looking into having a woodstove or pellet stove installed. Here are a few things to consider:

If you are purchasing a house with a fireplace or woodstove, you can expect to have your insurance company request a WETT inspection to ensure that the appliance was installed within the manufacturer’s specifications and that the chimney is in good repair. The cost of a WETT inspection will fall on the homebuyer and will cost anywhere from $150 - $300 depending on the unit.

Insurance is concerned about good wood heat safety, and making your system safer ensures you the best possible premium for your insurance. Call your insurance representative to review your coverage and inform him or her when you make any changes. This includes adding or changing a wood stove, modifying a chimney – anything that may influence the safety of your system. Your insurance representative will want to know if your unit is certified by Underwriters' Laboratories of Canada (ULC) or the Canadian Standard Association (CSA). Many insurance companies will refuse to insure your home if the stove is not certified.

Insurance companies will want to make sure that you keep your wood burning system in top shape by having a qualified, preferably WETT certified professional clean and inspect your system each year. Not only will it keep your insurance company satisfied, it will ensure the safety of your system and your family.

Mark Carruthers is a Registered Insurance Broker with Pioneer Insurance Brokers in Kitchener, Ontario.

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Watch Your Steps...

So you’re always careful and maintain your house in good order to avoid potential insurance claims. Have you considered the fact that if you don’t properly maintain your sidewalks and steps that you could be inviting a claim?
Slip and falls make up one of the biggest reasons for liability insurance claims. Did you know that if someone slips and falls on a sidewalk in front of your house they could sue you for negligence? Injuries could include: fractures, internal injuries, concussions and dislocations, not to mention brain injuries. Damages can be awarded not only for pain and suffering, but could also include negligence and lost wages.

The good news is that your insurance company will defend you against a suit. Most homeowner policies include coverage from one million to two million dollars coverage for liability.

Property owners have a responsibility to ensure their premises, including their sidewalks are well maintained and clear of any slip and fall hazards. City bylaws require that sidewalks are cleared of snow and ice within 24hrs of a snowfall; however the law requires that you provide a “reasonable” standard of care considering the circumstances and conditions. Which basically means that if most of the street has their sidewalks cleared and you don’t you could be opening yourself up to a claim.


Mark Carruthers is a Registered Insurance Broker with Pioneer Insurance Brokers in Kitchener, Ontario.

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Going away for the Holidays?

Going away for the Holidays?


Here are a few things that you should keep in mind if you’re planning on being away for the Holidays.

1. Arrange for a relative or neighbour to come into your house every 24hrs in the winter


2. Have the person checking your house run the water and flush the toilets


3. If you plan on being away for more than a week in the winter, it is recommended that turn off your main water supply. This doesn’t take the place of someone checking on the house, and don’t forget to let them know that you have shut the water off so that they don’t suspect a pipe-freeze


4. Ask a neighbour to put some garbage out in front of your house on garbage day


5. Have someone bring in flyers, newspaper and mail, or have your mail held for the time you’ll be away


6. Set timers to activate lamps in several rooms, especially those that can be seen from the front and back of the house


7. Arrange for someone to shovel your sidewalk and driveway if it snows


8. Offer your driveway to neighbours to park visiting cars

Remember anything you can do to make your house look occupied will be a deterrent to criminals and offer you peace of mind while you are away.


Mark Carruthers is a Registered Insurance Broker with Pioneer Insurance Brokers in Kitchener, Ontario.

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Prepare your house for winter

So you’re ready for winter…


     You’ve got your snow tires on and you’ve cleaned up and put all your patio furniture away, but what have you done to winterize and prepare your house? Your house is probably your biggest investment and therefore deserves a little of your attention. I’ve compiled 10 easy tips for you to help make sure your house is ready for Jack Frost and Old Man Winter.

     1. Clean out the gutters. Blocked gutter can cause ice to build up in you gutters and push them away from the house. Blocked gutters also cause something called ice-damming. This is a condition on your roof where snow melts on nice sunny days but has nowhere to drain and starts to back up under the shingles and can cause interior leaks and damage. Check the eaves troughs for leaks and holes and repair as needed. Holes can lead to large and dangerous icicles.

     2. Adjust and replace damaged downspouts. Downspouts can get damaged over the summer by children, pets and wayward lawnmowers. Make sure they are in good shape and are directed well away from your foundation. Water that is allowed to drain beside the foundation can cause water to freeze and apply pressure against your foundation and potentially cause cracks.

     3. Clean out your window wells. Leaves and newspapers that get blown around in the fall can accumulate in window wells and block the drain that is located just below the gravel. A blocked drain can cause water to leak through your windows into your basement.

     4. Turn off the outdoor water facet. You probably have a hose in your yard or garage. In very cold weather the water in the line supplying your hose can freeze and cause a pipe to burst inside the house. Make sure you shut the valve (usually located in your basement) that supplies any faucet that may be subjected to extreme cold. Don't forget to remove the hose and store it inside and leave the valve open.

     5. Check the attic. It’s a good idea especially in older homes to check to make sure your insulation has not be blown away in areas near the edge where the vents are. Bare spots of insulation will cause heat loss and hot-spots on the roof which will cause snow to melt and possibly backup under your shingles as well as cause icicles to form inside your attic.

     6. Do a visual inspection of your roof shingles from the ground. If you see any curled shingles, don’t wait to contact a roofing contractor to investigate immediately. Warn shingles can become loose and blow off in wind storms. Missing shingles can be very costly or impossible to replace in the middle of winter.

     7. Get your furnace inspected. It’s always a good idea to have your furnace serviced each year to ensure your family’s safety as well as to make sure that it is working as efficiently as possible. Make sure to change your furnace filter every 30 days during the heating months.

     8. Check windows and doors for air leaks. On a windy day, take an incense stick and hold it up to the edge of windows and door frames. Any air leaks should be corrected with caulking, or replacing doorsweeps.

     9. Fireplaces and woodstoves. If you have any woodburning stove or fireplace including pellets stoves, an annual inspection and professional cleaning are required by insurance companies. Even if you never use your fireplace it’s still a good idea to have the chimney inspected every year or two to make sure that it could potentially be used in case of an extended power outage in the middle of a winter storm.

     10. Check smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. Make sure that the batteries are changed in spring and fall. Carbon monoxide detectors have an expiration date and must be replaced from time to time. Check your carbon monoxide detector for its best before date today.

     Mark Carruthers is a Registered Insurance Broker with Pioneer Insurance Brokers located in Kitchener, Ontario.

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