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By Rob Carrick
Valentine's Day is coming up on Sunday. Men, that reminder is for you. Don't blow it by forgetting. Now, onto business inspired by this annual rite of love and devotion. New research suggests that the higher your credit score when you start a serious relationship, the less your chances of breaking up after the first few years. Mismatched credit scores suggest a breakup within five years. How do you find your date's credit score? I'm open to ideas.
Credit ratings are a record of how good you are at repaying what you borrow and have a big effect on the rates lenders will give you on hefty debt like mortgages and lines of credit. Here's a primer on credit ratings and how to find out your personal score.
A while back, I wrote a column on why couples should have a joint bank account – it's convenient and allows for full disclosure. But according to this article, a lot of spouses have secret bank accounts and credit cards they're hiding from a partner. My advice: Have a separate account, but don't keep it secret.
What successful money habits do you and your significant other have? Tell us on the ROB Facebook page.
Rob's top web links
> We're way too passive about ensuring we're getting the best possible return on our savings. But the process of shopping around for the best rates is complicated by the wide use of temporary "teaser" rates. To help simplify the process of rate shopping, RateHub.ca has introduced a new comparative tool that highlights which rates are temporary. There's also a listing of account fees – I was surprised how many of them cropped up.
> Vancouver's housing market stuns even me, a veteran observer of financial market antics. Read here for some arguments that Vancouver is experiencing a bubble that will end badly.
> Now to the Calgary market, which is struggling. Here's a CBC story about the return of "jingle mail," where people mail their house keys to the bank and walk away.
> The biggest personal finance challenge of 2016 is the weak dollar and its impact on the cost of goods like fresh produce at the grocery store. Here are some great tips from dietitian and Globe writer Leslie Beck for staying on a healthy diet while on a tight food budget.
>Here's some help in understanding how hotel rooms are priced, including a discussion of how the "rack rate" works. That's the exorbitantly high price often posted in rooms. It's about as relevant as the posted rate for mortgages, or the suggested retail price of a car.
>Ten ways a smaller home will make you happier. I'm conflicted here. On one hand, housing bought at today's prices can strangle household budgets. Smaller houses lighten the load. On the other, my wife and I sold a small house in Ottawa to buy a larger one 16 years ago and it was the right move for our family.
> Are you running a hedge fund without knowing it? A portfolio manager asks this question in a blog post about how investing through a few big bets on particular sectors or stocks is just what many risky hedge funds do.
Today's featured investment tool
Here's a nifty TFSA calculator that tells you how much your account might be worth in the future, and how the gains would compare to a non-registered account. It's produced by the educational wing of the Ontario Securities Commission.
The question: "Hi Rob, I read your article Currency hedging could protect your portfolio against volatile loonie, and I'm just starting to get involved in managing my own investments and looking at investing in ETFs. Can you clarify what you mean by hedging vs. non-hedging?"
My reply: Hedging means using financial instruments called derivatives so that returns from a portfolio of U.S. or international stocks reflects changes in the price of the underlying securities and not moves by the Canadian dollar against foreign currencies. If our dollar drops against the U.S. dollar, for example, a portfolio of U.S. stocks would rise in value in Canadian-dollar terms. When our dollar surges, the opposite happens. With hedging, you don't worry about what the dollar does, only what your investments are doing.
Do you have a question for me? Send it my way. Questions and answers are edited for length.
Given the high interest level in the housing market in this country, it's not surprising that this video on putting real estate in an RRSP has been a hit so far on the Globe website.
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