Financial guru sheds light into the pit of debt

CanWest News Service
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Gail Vaz-Oxlade has written 10 books on personal finance and one time was writing 27 newspaper and magazine columns a month, but she felt frustrated.

Gail Vaz-Oxlade has written 10 books on personal finance and one time was writing 27 newspaper and magazine columns a month, but she felt frustrated.

That has changed since she started hosting her own television program on the Life Network, called Til Debt Do U$ Part, which is starting its third season and has been renewed for a total of eight.

One of the things that the show has done is it has given people who traditionally show no interest in money a reason to watch a money show, said Vaz-Oxlade, during a tour of presentations for Credential Financial.

I wrote about money forever and was always frustrated by two things. I seemed to be preaching to the converted, because the only people who read a money column were those interested in money.

All the people I needed to reach I couldnt reach because they werent interested in money and it didnt matter how many times I told them Dont buy that pair of shoes, put it in an RRSP, nobody was listening to me.

She said that given the information boom, people no longer explain what a registered retirement savings plan is. Yet, she says, there are still many people who think an RRSP is an investment vehicle, unaware that it is an umbrella of individual investments.

Others say they have those mutual fund things, with no idea what type of funds they have.

Having written books on personal finance for young people, she says they remain greatly uneducated about handling money.

You would think with all the attention paid to making sure kids dont get pregnant, making sure kids dont do drugs; that we would also make sure kids knew how money worked. When kids go to university, they get inundated with credit card applications, they get approved for financial assistance for their student loans. They are never taught how much debt they can afford so that when they get out of school that debt becomes a manageable repayment plan. We say debt shouldnt be more than 15 per cent of your income, but we dont tell them what that is in dollars.

Theres an inclination for parents to constantly bail their children out of debt.

Thats guilt, often by parents who dont spend the time with their children. My daughter asked how much money she had in her RESP. I said, Thats my money; the love is unconditional, the money is not.

They will not get a free ride through university because I was smart enough to put aside some money.

Vaz-Oxlade says people often make a priority of paying down their mortgage, meanwhile forcing their debt on to credit cards or a line of credit, at much higher interest rates.

And we are doing young couples no favour by letting them get into houses with zero per cent down and extending their amortization to 35 or 40 years. We are creating the same mindset that is so pervasive in the U.S., where nobody builds equity, theyre always pulling equity out to buy the next new car or the big screen TV.

If you have a $50,000 RRSP and you have a $50,000 line of credit, you have nothing.

Vaz-Oxlade is particularly concerned that American credit cards charging up to 36 per cent in fees are coming into Canada, that people keep pulling equity out of their homes, and that they use bank machines like wallets, taking out $20 at a time and paying $1.50 in fees.

Geographic location: U.S., Canada

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