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Buying new cars and trucks is killing our finances

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Personal finance blogger Robb Engen wonders how many families have two brand new vehicles worth $40,000 each or more sitting in the driveway that are leased or financed over five-plus years. Me, too.

I'm a car guy who has owned vehicles ever since I was 16. Where other people notice houses as they drive through neighborhoods, I take in the cars parked in driveways. I keep asking myself: Where do people get the money to buy these really cool cars and SUVs, many of them from luxury carmakers?

In a column written a while back, I argued that people aren't paying enough attention to the way car ownership undermines their personal finances. Two rules to follow to contain car costs are, first, to be making payments on one car at a time per household and, two, to stretch car loans out no more than five years. Here's some tough advice on how much to spend on a vehicle – 20 to 25 per cent of your yearly income.

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A stealth cost in retirement
It's spending on grandchildren. We talk a lot in personal finance these days about the bank of mom and dad, but grandma and granddad are in there, too.

How to understand your investment return
An adviser explains the two main ways of measuring how your investments are performing, and how they produce differing numbers. This is important stuff because new disclosure requirements for the investment industry mean you'll likely be seeing one of these measurements in your account statements, and not the other.

Why housing prices keep soaring in Toronto and Vancouver
In the real estate biz, they often say it's a supply issue. More buyers, not enough construction of new homes in cities. But the chief economist at Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. says the real reason is speculation more than economic fundamentals.

Where you'll see inflation in 2017
A credit counselling agency's blog offers some thoughts on how much living costs are likely to rise this year.

I'll sleep on it
During a money-laundering bust in the United States, the authorities found $20-million (U.S.) hidden under a mattress. Here's a picture here so you can see what that kind of cash looks like.

Costco's crazy return policy
A blogger on how he has exploited Costco's very liberal policy on the return of goods purchased at the store.

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Today's featured financial tool
Budget travel expert Barry Choi sent me this list of travel deal websites – NextDeparture, Daily Trip Hack and SkyScanner, which he contributes to as a writer.

If you're looking for a robo-adviser, check out this detailed list of the players and their particulars.

Ask Rob
The question: "My wife and I are at different poles when it comes to our finances. We're always at odds. I try to save and she has no clue of how a mortgage or a secured line of credit works. Help. I'm sure I'm not alone."

My reply: "Here's a thought – make an appointment with a fee-only financial planner and get a neutral third party to explain to your spouse the long-term implications of not saving. Basically, you need someone to say that spending excessively today means no money to spend in retirement. Note: Fee-only planners charge hourly or flat fees and don't sell products. Try a google search to find a fee-only planner in your city."

Do you have a question for me? Send it my way. Sorry I can't answer every one personally. Questions and answers are edited for length.

What I've been writing about lately

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