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Weekend Reading: Back From Vacation Edition

We spent 10 days on vacation in the Okanagan Valley. The trip was fantastic – our kids loved everything, from visits to Kangaroo Creek Farm and Atlantis Waterslides, to the lazy days on the beach and in the pool, and my wife and I enjoyed several wine tours and one awesome child-free day (thanks to my mom). You can check out the pictures on my Twitter feed.

Kelowna vacation

It started out a little rocky, though, because when we arrived in Kelowna we found out the condo we rented wasn’t available (the rental company told us the previous tenants had completely trashed the unit) and that we had been moved to another unit in the building.

What was passed off to us as an “upgrade” due to unforeseen circumstances wasn’t at all what we wanted when we booked this place six months ago. Other than being on a higher floor, everything else about the new unit was a downgrade. We went from a king to a queen bed, the kids room went from a beautiful lake view to having no windows at all, the decor went from new and modern to a beat-up frat house, and the place was dirty when we checked in.

Long story short, we weren’t happy and so I asked the rental company if there was anything else they could do for us. It turns out there was nothing wrong with the original unit – another guest would be checking into it the next day and staying a week. Rather than calling to tell us about this “upgrade” in advance the company lied to us and tried to pass it off as a good deal.

We decided to stay – frankly our options were limited in the busy summer tourist season – but I wanted answers and pressed the company for some compensation for the ordeal. The finally agreed to refund us $500, which we used to help supplement our date night and wine excursions. I never found out why they moved us – maybe I’d feel a bit better if it was for the Queen or some celebrity.

Next year we’ll go back to using VRBO or Airbnb to book accommodations for our summer vacation. I prefer dealing with the owner directly, rather than going through a management company.

This week’s recap:

On Monday I explained how pairing a fee-only advisor with a robo-advisor can save money and set you on a path to financial prosperity.

On Wednesday Marie wrote about target-date mutual funds and if they’re right for you.

And on Friday Marie shared some challenges that boomer women will face as they prepare for retirement.

Over on the Modern Advisor blog I explained the benefits of getting started early with an RESP.

RateHub shared my story about how I earned over $1500 in credit card rewards last year.

Weekend Reading:

For the past two years MoneySense Magazine has hosted a directory of fee-only planners that was widely popular in the media as the place to start searching for an independent, objective, and conflict-free financial advisor.

But MoneySense recently removed this free listing for advisors from its website and is set to replace it with a “MoneySense Approved” paid directory that will cost advisors $2,499 plus tax annually (plus a one-time application fee of $499 plus tax) to be listed.

John Ryan, who blogs at Money Time, says this move makes him more suspicious of content and information he receives from MoneySense in the future:

“A financial advisor being willing to pay $2,500 to be on a list doesn’t give me any reason to want to hire him.”

Rob Carrick interviewed Colin Monteith, a 43-year veteran of the investment industry, about what he looked for in a financial advisor. This article is a must-read.

Big Cajun Man reminds us all that the new enhanced UCCB is a taxable benefit – the income is taxed in the hands of the lower-income spouse.

Investors have enjoyed a six-year bull market and many feel the markets are overvalued. What should you do? Nothing, says Michael James, who plans on ignoring the noise and sticking with his plan.

Moving to things you can control – the amount you save – and how your contributions affect your rate of return.

The former chief actuary of the Employment Insurance program says the current EI system is broken, unbalanced, and failing Canadians.

Financial Uproar argues that the real reason investors need to hold bonds is to act as a cash substitute for when the stock market sells off.

Time Magazine lists 10 reasons why you’re not rich yet.

Finally, the Canadian Travel Hacking blog shares the complete list of Aeroplan carriers with small or no fuel surcharges.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

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19 Comments

  1. Jeff on July 26, 2015 at 6:31 am

    I was surprised to read about your condo rental experience in Canada; so similar to ours in the Yucatan four years ago. We rented a casa on the beach months in advance at a great rate but 24 hours before we were to arrive, when we were already in Seattle to catch our flight to Merida, we received an email saying it was no longer available and we would be moved to an even nicer place. It could have been a legitimate, last minute snafu but I had taken a look at the occupancy calendar for our casa a few weeks before we left and noticed that it had suddenly filled in completely. Every day before and after our month long stay, a five month block, was taken and that struck me as odd. You’d think there would have been at least a few transitional days or gaps between renters. We were eventually told that the owners had chosen to use their casa that winter and that made sense but I believe the rental operator knew weeks before our arrival that this was the case and chose not to tell us until we were literally getting on the plane to Mexico.
    When we arrived we were taken to our upgrade, a townhouse, instead of a lone casa on the beach, that was dirty and smaller. We had the choice to accept or walk away and be left somewhere near Progresso, in a country neither of us had visited before, with no place to stay so, with misgivings, we accepted it. Rather than a month of care-free vacationing, we spent the first week cataloguing the sins of our townhouse and insisting we be moved to something more like our original casa. We finally were moved but had to pay extra. We’ve since used small Mexican hotels on our winter vacations but, if we were to rent a condo or casa again I also would deal directly with the owner through one of the outfits you named.

    • Echo on July 26, 2015 at 8:46 am

      Hi John, thanks for sharing your experience. Sounds awfully familiar – a convenient “upgrade” from the rental company that was no upgrade at all for you and your family. And once you’re there you can’t do much other than grudgingly accept what they gave you or be out on the street.

      I think that in our case it was the owners choosing to come back, or they wanted it for one of their friends or family members, and so we were bumped out.

  2. John Ryan on July 26, 2015 at 7:39 am

    @Robb: Thanks for the link!

    That’s so weird that they bumped you from the room you booked (and lied to you about it). How did you find out someone else had gotten the room you reserved?

    @Jeff: That sounds like a rotten experience – ugh!

    Both of you show more restraint than I would. I’d be naming the place I stayed (with as much detail as possible) and warning people off if I’d had the experience either of you did.

    • Echo on July 26, 2015 at 8:53 am

      Hi John, I found out about someone staying in our original room when I went up to visit the booking manager. He had his entire reservation list open on his computer – I saw us in our “upgraded” room for 10 nights and below that I saw the room we were supposed to be in was vacant that night and then someone was checking in for seven nights starting the next day.

      I asked if he could take me to see that unit – remember, the front desk agent said it was completely trashed – and he agreed. As we were walking towards it he gets a phone call saying that he can’t show me the room and that someone else would indeed be staying there as of the next day.

      Very shady process, although I’ll admit that the booking manager was okay to deal with and he did follow through on the $500 refund.

      The company was Kelowna Resort Accommodations and I would not go back there – instead I’d rent similar suites directly from the owners through VRBO.

  3. Alan W. (BCM) on July 26, 2015 at 8:45 am

    Pay to be listed on Moneysense? Hmm… Yeh, I am not sure that makes me respect them any more, if anything, it makes me suspicious as well. Thanks for the inclusion this week.

    • Echo on July 26, 2015 at 8:57 am

      Hi Alan, yes it’s a strange move from MoneySense. I’m sure someone will seize the opportunity to replicate their free listing.

      • Be'en on July 27, 2015 at 11:48 pm

        While reading the last issue of the magazine I did sense a change in the overall content of the magazine and the line up of the contributors. There seemed to be a move away from advocating investing in cheaper ETFs and index funds, and towards costlier mutual funds and wealth-management service.

        I wonder if that is a result of the chief editor (Duncon Hood?) resigning or vice-versa.

        • Ian Portsmouth on July 28, 2015 at 6:29 am

          Hi Be’en, the most recent issue of the magazine (“Summer 2015”) was published with Duncan Hood at the helm. Nothing about our editorial mandate has changed. We continue with our mission to help Canadians improve their financial situations in part by paying lower fees.

  4. Liz on July 26, 2015 at 9:23 am

    Also some owners list their condos on Ebay( some through a third party) and a few years ago I got a very good deal on a one week stay near Disneyworld at the resort of our choice. Regular online booking price for the week was 1600 and I paid $650 for a lovely 1250 sq foot condo! We just unplugged the room phone so they would not call us to come to the timeshare talk!

    • Echo on July 26, 2015 at 9:34 am

      Hi Liz, thanks for the tip. And good call on unplugging the phone!

  5. Richard on July 26, 2015 at 10:14 am

    That’s a pretty high fee for the MoneySense directory! I can see how the extra process might make these advisors more appealing to people who have a lot of assets or a high income. It sounds like it’s going to be limiting for a lot of others.

    Maybe we’re at a point where fee-only advisors would benefit from getting together and creating their own directory (and maybe some kind of certification process)…

    • Echo on July 28, 2015 at 6:55 am

      Hi Richard, I think that’s exactly what needs to happen.

  6. Michael James on July 26, 2015 at 10:48 am

    That $2499+$499+tax charge for advisors to get listed at MoneysSense reminds me of a former employer getting product awards. Every time we “won” an award I’d ask the marketing director how much that cost. I assume MoneySense uses very strict criteria for listing only the best of advisors. “Did you pay? OK, you’re in.” Thanks for the mention.

    • Ian Portsmouth on July 27, 2015 at 5:21 pm

      Michael, you assume correctly. Please see my post below for more info about MoneySense Approved.

  7. Jon R on July 27, 2015 at 1:02 pm

    Robb,

    Glad you made the most of your 10 days despite the shitty accommodation experience. We used Airbnb last year to book a week on the oregon coast and the process was perfect. We are using them again this year and just booked a week house rental in Tofino through Airbnb.

    My wife has also has positive experiences with VRBO.

    Welcome back to the grind!

    JR

    • Echo on July 28, 2015 at 6:54 am

      Hi Jon, I’ve had great experience with VRBO and Airbnb in the past. For some reason we could not find the a place we really liked in the Okanagan using those channels and so we took a chance and used this management company.

      Have you heard of FlipKey (owned by TripAdvisor)? It looks like another good option.

  8. Ian Portsmouth on July 27, 2015 at 2:01 pm

    Robb, I hope I help the conversation around MoneySense Approved by clarifying what the program is.

    Yes, we are no longer operating the MoneySense Directory of Fee-Only Planners. That list was creating some value for the consumer, but not a lot, because it simply listed planners with a certain fee model. It was not a testament to their quality as advisors, and it received almost no promotion by MoneySense.

    MoneySense Approved is way, way different, and comprises a seal of approval, a searchable online directory and a massive consumer marketing campaign.

    The seal of approval goes only to advisors who meet not only our minimum eligibility criteria, but also exceed our additional qualification criteria and receive a certain satisfaction rating from their customers.

    The large majority of advisors out there WON’T make the cut.

    The searchable online directory will allow consumers to quickly find advisors who meet their specific needs and generate *qualified* leads for advisors; you won’t have to waste time taking calls from people who don’t already know that you offer the services they need or who don’t already match your minimum client account size, etc.

    Finally, the marketing campaign: it will reach up to five million Canadians every month, in print and online, through brands such as Maclean’s, Canadian Business and Chatelaine, and targeted Web advertising. Compared to the old directory, it will receive exponentially more visits, and not just journalists looking for planners to interview!

    We know MoneySense Approved is likely not an investment every planner can or would want to make. But we believe it will address two great needs in the marketplace: better ways to good advisors to distinguish themselves, and a tool allowing average Canadians to find good advisors.

    Ian Portsmouth
    Publisher, MoneySense

    • Echo on July 28, 2015 at 6:48 am

      Hi Ian, thank you for stopping by and providing clarification on the new MoneySense Approved list. It appears that MoneySense has learned what the financial services industry has already known for years: there is more money to be made in the traditional assets-under-management model then there is from a fee-only model that simply looks out for the best interest of its clients.

      • Ian Portsmouth on July 28, 2015 at 11:54 am

        Hi Robb,

        MoneySense remains a staunch proponent of fee-for-service planning, and thinks everyone should obtain a financial plan from someone who’s both highly qualified and puts your interests before their own.

        But the facts are: most people end up buying product from someone; there are tens of thousands of “advisors” out there who can sell you product; and some of those advisors are better — way better — than others. So, unless one denies the premise that consumers need a better way to find advisors, MoneySense Approved addresses a huge consumer need.

        It might not be for every advisor or planner, or perhaps it’s just not at the right price point for every advisor or planner. But we’re confident it’s a good idea that’s been a very long time coming.

        That’s not to say we won’t adjust and innovate moving forward. So stay tuned.

        Ian

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