Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Don’t be SAD – Spring is around the corner!

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that usually takes place during the winter time. Symptoms often include mood change, irritability, anxiety, nervousness, decreased concentration, weight loss/weight gain, social withdrawal and fatigue. SAD is often confused with moodiness, however, it is an actual form of depression affected by seasonal change (decreased temperature, exposure to natural daylight, etc.). Ultimately, this hormonal state is a total reflection of the body’s production of the chemical melatonin.

E_shutterstock_188393915Many people are affected by seasonal emotional changes, patterns of sleep, eating habits and general wellness. The “winter blues” is not uncommon; however, when changes in mood become extreme to the degree that it actually becomes a form of depression, that is likely not just the “winter blues”. About 2 to 6% of Canadians will experience SAD in their lifetime. Another 15% experience a milder form of SAD. People who reside in northern countries are more likely to experience SAD than those who live closer to the equator[1].

What can you do to combat SAD?
  • Light Therapy
    • There are products on the market that are said to produce natural light. Light therapy lamps can range in type and brightness. Light produces vitamin D which exhibits “happy chemicals”. Doctors would be able to provide insight into which type would be best suited for you.
  • Antidepressants
    • In certain circumstances, antidepressants can be described to help control anxiety and mood. If a medication is the most efficient and appropriate option, a doctor or psychiatrist will be able to provide guidance.
  • Exercise
    • Exercise can aid in depression reduction and produce endorphins. Endorphins are “happy chemicals” that can provide you with feelings of fulfillment and contentment.
  • Plan a trip down South
    • If you can swing it, a getaway can really help restore some vitamin D and melatonin back in your body. A week in the warm weather and sunlight can work wonders and having something to look forward to can be of help in itself.
  • Embrace the Outdoors
    • If you are an early riser for work and a late worker, it is likely that you are not seeing much daylight during the months of December to February. Try to take your lunch hour to get outside – go for a quick walk. If you really are not inclined to spend time in cold weather, eat your lunch near a window. It may be cold, but the sun could be shining. Sun in itself can make a big difference!
Even though the cold and snowy days have you wanting to stay in, curl up in a ball and hibernate, it is important to recognize that SAD can be a true form of depression which requires some work. Do not just chalk it up to a “winter thing”. When symptoms hit and get in the way of regular day-to-day living, take charge and experiment with different techniques that can help combat SAD…and rest assured – Spring is right around the corner!

[1] Mood Disorder Association of Ontario

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Financial Planning Tips for 2015

The start of a New Year is usually accompanied with New Year resolutions – physical, emotional, professional and financial. As 2014 comes to an end, we sit and reminisce about “what we should have done”. There are many people who wish they would have done things differently in 2014 – wishing they would have saved more money, paid off more of their debts or invested more in their personal financial plans. Despite the many “should of” or “would of” situations you may find yourself in, there are various efficient ways to plan going forward and manage your finances for the year ahead. Look at it as a blank slate.

The following are our 5 tips for proper financial planning in 2015:

1. Budget and stick by it!!!

This is a very important starting point. Take a look at your bank account and payments made over the last quarter of the year (6 months should be a sufficient analysis). Track your expenses and analyse what you are bringing in and what you are spending. You want to make sure that your spending is not exceeding your income. If it so happens that you are spending more than you have coming in, you can consider budgeting going forward. Even the smaller items make a difference and add up. Perhaps you can cut back on buying lunches or your daily Starbucks coffee run.

2. Pay Yourself First!!!

David Chilton, the author of the Wealthy Barber is a strong believer of this being one of the most important financial planning strategies to help you obtain financial independence.
Paying yourself means that with every single paycheck that you receive a percentage should be going into some form of long terms savings. According to David, if you are able to, 10% of your income should go to long term savings out of every paycheck. By doing this you will make sure not to over spend as once it has been taken out of your bank account you don’t have access to it, “Out of sight out of mind.” Both an RRSP and TFSA’s are great savings vehicles for this strategy.

3. Create an emergency fund

In life, there will be times where you will come across financial “emergencies”. Your car breaks down, you get let go of your job, something in your house breaks down etc. An emergency fund can be put in place to help and protect you in situations of unforeseen events. Setting up a savings account for your living expenses for a term of between 3 to 5 months should be a sufficient amount for the year in case you endure any unexpected financial struggles.

4. Pay down high-interest debt and protect credit

This tip can go a long way. If you are one of the many people who have high interest debts, it would be extremely beneficial to pay down these debts before any others. You will save more in the long run. If you can refinance your interest rates and make payments towards the remainder of the debts, you will be able to knock down those high-interest debts. Equally as important is maintaining good credit – this means make your payments on time and avoid taking on too much credit. Stay apprised of your credit score and make sure it is valid and up to date.

5. Insurance review

Over time your circumstances change and your insurance should also change accordingly. Take the time to review the insurance coverage you have in place and make sure to ask yourself if it is sufficient for your circumstance. You might have purchased a new house, had a child, got a new job or even started a business. It makes sense to review the coverage to insure that your family’s livelihood does not drastically changed in case of unforeseen events occur.
Financial planning can be fun and advantageous! These are just five of many tips that can help you manage your money. Start your year off on a good note by trying out these 5 tips – you will be able to reduce spending, maximize saving, budget effectively, offset risk and introduce yourself to new financial habits that will work in your favour. By the time next year rolls around, you will be able to reassess and redefine techniques for the following year!!

For more information visit or call one of our financial advisors today at 416-849-1653 to see how we can help!

Friday, 12 December 2014

The Real Cost of Critical Illness. How "Critical" is Critical Illness

One of the toughest and most challenging things to deal with in life, is facing a critical illness and all that comes with it. There are so many contributing factors that make critical illnesses challenging to deal with – coping with the emotional, physical or financial struggles, the unexpected but necessary care and of course fear of potential consequences.
It is unfortunate that these life-altering diseases can strike at any time and in most cases, cannot be prevented, predicted or anticipated. Here are some facts to consider:
1. Cancer is the leading cause of death with one in three Canadians developing Cancer each year[1].
2. 50,000 Canadians will suffer a stroke each year[2].
3. Cystic fibrosis is the most common, incurable, fatal genetic disease affecting young adults[3].
The financial impact a critical illness brings affects you and your family. Taking time off from your regular work schedule, funding transportation to and from a medical facility, making arrangements for other family members(i.e. babysitter for young children) etc, can take a big toll on your finances.
Most of these expenses are not covered under the Ontario health insurance plan. Further, these are expenses that may not even be covered under employment benefit packages through your employer. If your employer provides you with some form of group coverage, it is recommended that you look into your plan and understand your living benefits portion.
Critical illness insurance ultimately pays you a lump-sum of money if you are diagnosed and survive a critical illness as defined in your policy. This lump sum is designed to help support you in times of need and reduce any financial stress you may experience. This lump sum can serve to relieve debts, pay for that expensive alternative treatment/medication not covered by Ontario health plans and/or modify your living routines to maintain you and your family’s standard of living.
If you do not already own a personally owned critical illness insurance policy, speak to your licensed insurance advisor who will be able to provide insights into the various policies available based on your individual needs and requirements. Or for more information, please contact Independent Financial Concepts Group Ltd. today at (416) 849-1653 or visit
[1] Canadian Cancer Society
[2] Heart and Stroke Foundation
[3] Cystic Fibrosis Canada

Friday, 28 November 2014

The Importance Of Travel Insurance When Taking A Trip

December holidays are around the corner which means the holiday season is quickly approaching! This is a very busy time for vacationing. Children are off of school, parents have time off work, and you are looking forward to escaping the winter blues! Will you be celebrating Christmas in the heat and sunshine? Sit back, relax, soak up the sun and do it all stress-free!
Just like tenants and car-owners require insurance for protection, it is really important to have a good travel insurance policy in place when travelling. You can do all of the right things – plan accordingly and effectively, pack in the best way possible, take all of your vitamins leading up to the departure date in attempt to avoid the winter cold, but there are other factors that are beyond anyone’s control which can unfortunately affect your travel plans. Being unprepared can be extremely damaging and risky.
It is true that there are certain credit cards that cover travel insurance and so, if you booked your travels through your credit card, you may be well-covered. It is important to take the time to read over, evaluate and know what exactly your credit card covers. A full comprehensive travel insurance policy will include emergency medical coverage, trip cancellation and trip interruption, theft and/or loss of baggage/valuable and 24 hour access to a representative which will allow for adequate medical attention should you require it.
Now, is your entire family covered? This may be something you want to look in to as well. Does your son and daughter live at different addresses? Your travel insurance, whether purchased separately or included in your credit card purchases, may have clauses within it about family members who do not share the same address. Are your pre-existing conditions covered? There are certain travel insurance policies that may not cover pre-existing conditions and it is important to be apprised and knowledgeable about what exactly is included in your travel insurance.
It may be a good idea to rely on the experts in the field – insurance brokers can help determine what type of travel insurance is right for you, your family and your specific travel plans. You should know the exact inclusions, the maximum coverage, deductibles, etc. Further, insurance brokers can provide you with options that may be advantageous to you and your family members.
Travel insurance is put in place for protection. Just like automobile insurance is put in place to protect you should anything happen on the road at your own fault or not, travel insurance is meant to protect you. Weather, accidents, losses, emergencies, sickness, etc., can all happen at no fault of your own and beyond your control and if you do not have the proper coverage needed, the expenses will be out-of-pocket. If you have an adequate travel insurance policy, you can rest assured that you and/or your family are protected from the time that you secure the booking of your top, to the moment you land back at home.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

When was the last time you looked at your work’s Group Benefits plan?

If you are an employee of a small, medium or large company, you are probably a part of a group benefits plan through your place of work. Many people seem to think they have proper insurance coverage through their workplace, only to find out they are severely underinsured at a time they need it the most.
Group benefit plans or group insurance plans are a great way for an employer to reward their employees and make sure they stay loyal to the company. It is a way of saying thank you and to help provide the employee with additional benefits that go beyond the classic paycheck or bonus.

When it comes to the life insurance and disability insurance components, many employees are not well versed with their local group benefit plans which in most cases contains very limited amounts of insurance. Because there is no medical underwriting required for group members to be insured, the maximum insurance amounts are often fairly low as the insurance company can't offer large amounts without individually underwriting the members.

Its extremely important to check your group insurance policy and understand what type of insurance coverage you are eligible for. Some group insurance plans offer an “top-up” where employees can individually apply for additional insurance although in most cases that will require the employee to go through underwriting which in some cases (depending on the amount) may require a full medical exam.

Another important factor to consider when thinking about your group insurance plan is the fact that it only covers you while you are actively employed with your company. This factor is extremely important to consider when going through your finances and insurance planning. If you are between jobs and something happens to you, you will not be eligible for any coverage.

Group insurance should always be considered as an extra benefit and not as a solid part of your insurance planning. As you are going through your financial and insurance plan, make sure to keep your group insurance plan out of your overall insurance coverage.

The best way to make sure you are properly covered is by going through a proper needs analysis with a licensed insurance advisor and purchase a personally owned insurance policy that will stay in effect regardless of your employment status.

For more information please contact Independent Financial Concepts Group today at 1-416-849-1653 or visit

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Insurance is just another part of responsible financial planning

We get it… Insurance is not the best subject to bring up on your next dinner party.. although it is a crucial part of any financial plan. Proper insurance planning can help you, your family and your business in places where traditional assets cannot.

Most people start thinking about Insurance when they have their first child, get married, start a business partnership etc. Some people start thinking about insurance when they experience a life altering event or witness a loved one or a friend go through a tragedy. The problem for a lot of people is with the fact that Insurance is an intangible. Unlike a new car, a new watch or a new pool, Insurance is not something you’ll benefit from in the immediate term. Sometimes you might not benefit from it at all, but your beneficiaries will.

Public perception about Insurance needs to be looked at as an integral part of your family or business financial plan. When sitting down with your advisor its important to discuss and plan for life’s unseen circumstances. Life is full of surprises and sometimes not so positive surprises. A responsible individual needs to take these life events into consideration as a part of their financial discussion. You do not want to be short of money or resources if god forbid you were to deal with a life altering event.

Business owners need to factor in the possibility of losing their business partner and making sure that the business continues to function without interruption. Insurance policies that protect the partners can save the business in the event of losing one of the owners. If you’re in a business partnership you should make sure you and your partner have taken the proper measures to take care of the continuity of your business by looking at a Buy-Sell Insurance and Key-Man Insurance.

Wealthy individuals have been using Insurance for decades to make sure their estate is properly protected and transitioned to their beneficiaries in an efficient manner. Insurance can be a great tool in the process of Estate Planning and Wealth preservation.

Granted there are many types of Insurance policies out there that are aimed to solve different scenarios. Have a conversation with your Insurance Advisor today and learn how you, your partners and your loved ones can protect yourselves and actually benefit from having proper Insurance setup.

For more information please contact Independent Financial Concepts Group today at 1-416-849-1653 or visit