Sunday, 29 April 2012

50 Travel Tips for Travellers with kids.

50 top tips for travelling with kids

With a bit of know-how, travelling with small children needn't be a hassle. Author of the new Rough Guide to Travel with Babies & Young Children, Fawzia Rasheed de Francisco offers an essential checklist for parents
Child in swimming pool
Keep your cool when holidaying with babies and toddlers. Photograph: Jan Greune/Getty
Planning your trip
1 If this is your first trip with your children, plan for a slower pace than you might usually attempt. If you want to see more than one place, be realistic about what you can cover with little ones in tow. The less you feel you have to pack in, the more enjoyable and stress-free the holiday - and you'll be better able to take the odd day indoors in your stride if the weather is bad or the kids need to rest.
2 If you are travelling with another family, or adults, before you go, discuss what each person wants to do, agree how to split chores or take turns minding the children, and talk about the balance of spending time together and apart. Come to an agreement about the way you'll split the bills (taking into account the smaller share of expenditures for the children).
3 If your children have special needs, it can be helpful talking to parents whose children have similar conditions, and who may have useful travel tips - try or Getting an identity bracelet that has details of your child's medical condition, treatment and their doctor's name is useful in case of emergencies (
4 Similarly if anyone has serious allergies, you might want them to travel with a card that specifies, in the language of your destination, what they're allergic to and how serious the condition is. Allergy UK produces cards in 27 different languages (
5 If you are looking to keep costs down, consider a home exchange. If you swap with another family you can end up with a child-proofed home, toys to play with and insider information on things to do and healthcare services. The following websites may be useful: (house-swap organisation with over 13,000 homes in 69 countries); (house swaps for families with special needs).
Other low-cost options include farm stays and university accommodation (; these have potential pluses such as animals to look at, sports facilities and wide open spaces.
6 If you're going down the hotel route, always check for special family deals, from discounted rates to free meals for children; many international chains offer these. Most hotels and guesthouses provide breakfast, but unless it's included in the room rate, it's often a waste of money for children, particularly if they only eat a piece of bread or a bowl of cereal. If breakfast isn't included, try asking for 'complimentary' ones for the children. Alternatively, you could take along something to snack on for the first day, and buy in a simple breakfast to eat in your room thereafter.
7 Supervised childcare such as a kids' club sounds good, but can mean little more than a bunch of children lumped together in front of a TV while an attendant keeps an eye on them. Ask how many children are cared for, whether groups are split according to age, and what specific activities might be - and be prepared to check it out yourself when you arrive. If anything seems amiss, be prepared to cancel your plans and start looking for alternatives.
8 Finding accommodation when you arrive can be challenging with children in tow. So even if you do want to keep things flexible, it's worth pre-booking for your first few nights: this will allow you to look for other places in a more leisurely way.
9 If you're going overseas, see your doctor at least two months before you leave to discuss your plans. When making the appointment, mention the ages of your children and ask if they need to come to the appointment; when you go, bring everyone's vaccination records, and ask the doctor to note down their blood groups for you. If any of your children has a pre-existing medical condition, ask for help in identifying a doctor in your destination who specialises in the same condition. Children under 18 months won't be given any travel-related jabs.
10 If you're travelling to a country in which malaria is endemic (check the list of affected countries at, you need specialist advice on the appropriate antimalarial medication. You'll also need to make sure you take ample supplies of insect repellent, clothes to cover everyone up in the evenings and, if the place you're staying in doesn't have them, bed-nets impregnated with insecticide.
11 You can get antimalarials in syrup form, though tablets are much more common. As children are usually prescribed smaller amounts of the same antimalarials as adults, this means breaking tablets into pieces, so it's a good idea to buy a pill-cutter; these are widely available and cost next to nothing.
12 If you're going to need visas for your destination, don't be surprised if they're a requirement for children as well as adults, and that their fee is the same as for yours. As many countries require visas to be collected in person by applicants (including children), you may have to make a trip to the main embassy in your country, although it's often possible to apply in writing first to avoid two trips.
13 There are a number of instances where you might need to carry extra documentation when travelling with children. If you have an adopted child, you must take their adoption papers; and if you're the only parent travelling - regardless of your marital status - you might be asked for proof of consent from the other parent for your child to travel. This is more likely in countries where overseas adoption and/or child trafficking is common. If the name on your child's passport is not the same as yours, or if your child bears little resemblance to you, the chances of this being an issue increase.
The standard requirements for authorisation to travel are your child's birth certificate, your marriage certificate (if applicable) and a signed and attested consent letter from the other parent confirming you can travel with your child. If the other parent is no longer alive, you may need proof.
14 Getting your children started on a few holiday-related projects before you leave is a great way to prepare them for what's to come. You could explore maps, or the history, geography, animal and plant life of your destination, or read books or watch a film that's set there. If the food is likely to be radically different, research dishes that they might enjoy, and try rustling up something similar before you go.
On the move
15 If it looks like you're going to be weighed down with mountains of bags, you may want to send on suitcases and bulky items such as prams via a baggage delivery company. You'll pay around £70 to send up to 30kg of luggage one way between European countries, and £110 between the UK and US, but prices per kilo come down the more you send, and you'll get better rates if you send things a few weeks rather than a few days before you travel. Try or for a quotation.
There are also companies that specialise in delivering baby products such as formula, baby food and nappies - try
16 Hand-held carrycots are superb for babies small enough to carry when on the move, and can double up as a bed, too. Although some hotels offer beds for babies, they're often pretty poor, with saggy mattresses and no shields to prevent babies from falling out. It's better to play safe and bring your own. Most carrycots come with a detachable cover for the body and a shade for the head, and some have a built-in net screen as well. Apart from the obvious protection against the sun and bugs, these are useful for blocking out glaring ceiling lights - such as in airports - which tend to bother babies. Travel cots that break down into several pieces and pack away into their own bag are useful for babies and toddlers too large for carrycots. Carrying babies in a sling strapped to the body is a popular option; both hands remain free and you can detect changes immediately, sensing the moment your child wakes, sneezes, or has a stomach cramp. Slings are the perfect travel aid: they're comfortable, practical, and fold away into no space at all. They're suitable for babies over a week old, measuring at least 53cm tall and weighing more than 3.5kg, and the best ones have wide straps that distribute weight, are machine-washable and have a back or neck support for the baby.
17 A pram or buggy can be useful on holiday even if your child is walking, serving as a place for them to rest during day trips, a makeshift bed when out in restaurants and something to help with carrying the bags. If your destination is unlikely to have paved paths, it may be worth investing in an all-terrain version.
18 In each new place, don't forget to designate a meeting point in case anyone gets separated from the group. If it's likely you'll be in really dense crowds, promising a reward for staying together works as a good incentive.
19 Child monitors can be a real help to keep an eye on young children in crowded places such as airports and shopping malls. The parent carries a tracking device - about the size of a TV remote control - while the child wears a watch-like contraption. Should the distance between the child and the tracker exceed the user-defined range, or if the bracelet is removed, an alarm sounds. Furthermore, once the tracker sounds the alarm, you can push a button to set off a bleeper on your child's bracelet to help you track them down.
20 If your children still crawl around on the floor, one way of keeping them reasonably clean is to take a plastic sheet that you can put down anywhere for them to play on.
21 If you have to sterilise things regularly, consider taking a portable steam steriliser; they work well and with minimum fuss. For sterilising small items on the move - for example dummies or teething toys - you can use sterilising tablets in a watertight screw-top container.
22 If your child is on bottles, bring what you need to make up fresh ones along the way; to save space, fill spare bottles with water, then add milk powder and top up with boiling water when you need them.
23 Breastfeeding in an unfamiliar destination can be a worry, and it is worth doing some research into local attitudes towards feeding in public before you go. If in doubt, try finding some female company, perhaps in a women's clothing shop. Another idea is to head for the ladies' toilets of a posh hotel; these are usually spacious, with seats and pleasant surroundings.
Air travel
24 If you'd like to be met at check-in and helped with the children and the bags all the way to your plane, ask for 'meet and assist' services when booking your flight. This is generally provided by the airport and not the airline, and whether or not you get it depends on the availability of staff - but if you're travelling as a single parent with more than one child, you'll be given priority.
25 If you're a member of an airline's frequent-flyer club, you may be entitled to use a private departure lounge. Facilities such as a supervised place to leave hand luggage, comfortable chairs, free drinks and snacks, TVs and spacious toilet facilities are especially welcome when travelling with children. If you're not a member, you can often use the lounges if you buy a day pass.
26 Check the latest restrictions on hand luggage before travelling. The more stringent regulations relate to carrying liquids, gels and creams, which includes baby foods, drinks and nappy cream. The standard instructions are not to carry over 100ml of any single item, although exceptions are usually made for essential medicines or supplies for children under two. You can also get away with more (up to 400ml) in the way of milk and drinks so long as these are decanted into bottles and no-spill cups; if you carry the same in the original cartons or bottles, you'll be asked to leave them behind. There are also discretionary limits for baby food - these are generally kept vague, but as long as you don't have more than what security staff deem to be a reasonable amount for the flight, you'll usually be fine.
The best way around the restrictions is to decant creams into small bottles, and bring just powdered milk; you can get hot water to make feeds on most flights, and as soon as you pass security, you can buy bottled water too.
27 Some airlines let you check in online, which allows you to book preferred seats from home and cuts out queuing. When you get to the airport, you usually join a fast-track queue to hand over your checked luggage. Similarly, train stations which feed airports occasionally have check-in facilities, meaning you're then free to board the train with the children but without the bags. Some airlines allow you to check in luggage in advance, sometimes as much as a day before you fly. Though you have to make an advance trip to the airport to do this, the advantages are that you get to turn up a little later than usual on the day, and will have your hands free to tend to your children.
28 The low humidity of cabin air can cause mild dehydration as well as dry and irritated nostrils, so it's important to get kids to drink regularly. If anyone gets a streaming nose (also a factor of low humidity), wet the insides of their nostrils with a finger dipped in water - this often works like magic. Flying can also prompt air expansion in the middle ear and sinuses, which can be painful for babies and infants because of their smaller ear passages. To prevent discomfort, massage your child's ears from behind and give the earlobes a few gentle tugs from time to time. Toddlers also find it helpful to suck on something or have a drink during take-off and landing.
Rail and bus travel
29 When booking tickets, make a point of asking for deals for families and young people. In many instances, a family travelcard reduces the cost of ordinary tickets by so much that it's worth buying one even for a single trip. Such deals are usually restricted to travel outside rush hours. To buy a railcard, you usually need to show identification for one or both parents, and have photographs with you.
30 If you're travelling with more than one child and you want space for them to play, it's a good idea to buy more tickets than you need, or book out an entire compartment. This might sound elitist, but sharing a packed carriage can be overwhelming when you're with small children.
31 When you're boarding a bus or train, decide who is going to get on first, who will go last and who is stowing the luggage so as to be sure nothing and no one gets left behind. If you're on a train, establish limits in terms of how far older children can stray and how long they can be away for, emphasising that they always need to come back to you when the train slows down to stop.
32 Regardless of the regulations in your destination, always use children's car seats whenever driving with your kids. If you're going to use the seat in several different cars - taxis, say - go for a universal model which works with all kinds of seatbelts. For general guidelines and information on some of the common errors when fitting child's car and booster seats, go to
33 Extra rear-view mirrors trained on the back seats will allow you to keep an eye on the children without having to turn around, and are particularly useful if you're driving without another adult. They are easy to get hold of in car accessory shops or online.
34 Accessories for entertainment such as tape decks or portable CD/DVD players fitted for use in cars (via the cigarette lighter) help to ensure the right mix of entertainment for children. And if you don't want their fun to bother the driver, bring headphones as well.
Staying healthy
35 If you're heading for the heat, choose clothes made from natural fibres - sweat irritates delicate skins and can lead to prickly heat or sweat rash. Expect to change your baby up to three times a day - particularly if they're not used to the heat and will sweat a lot. Children will need two sets of clothes per day, and sunhats with wide brims and neck flaps are worthwhile when playing outdoors. Equally, don't overlook the fact that children's eyes are more vulnerable to glare than yours; get them sunglasses, or goggles with elasticated straps, which stay on better.
36 If the tap water isn't safe to drink, you'll need to boil, filter or sterilise your own, or buy bottled water. If you plan to use bottled water to make up formula feeds, aim to get the lowest mineral content you can. Make sure the children don't drink from taps, including when brushing teeth. Keeping a bottle of drinking water by the sink is a helpful reminder.
37 When eating out in countries with poor standards of sanitation and hygiene, always eat at busy places where the turnover of food will be fast, and avoid buffets: they're notorious for harbouring the bugs that cause diarrhoea.
38 When eating in restaurants, if the crockery or cutlery is wet, giving it a dry wipe with a clean tissue will lower any potential dose of bugs. Check that bottles and cans are unopened before handing these to the children (and use straws or clean the can or bottle before they drink), and get them to avoid ice and salads.
39 Carry some non-prescription antihistamine such as Piriton, for symptoms such as sneezing, streaming noses or itchy eyes. For skin allergies, try applying over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream; natural alternatives include drinking honey and apple cider mixed with warm water, a spoonful of honey or, particularly for hayfever, nettle tea.
40 Children are particularly prone to dehydration, mostly because they don't drink unless they feel thirsty. If your baby is exclusively breastfed, you should drink more whenever it's hot so that you produce slightly diluted milk; but if temperatures are particularly high and you don't have enough milk, give them some water to drink, too. Also check all your children's urine from time to time; if it's darker than usual, cloudy or strong-smelling, insist that they drink more.
41 Constipation can be caused by dehydration or changes in diet. Give babies water to drink, use a light oil to massage their tummies, and bring their knees up to their chests a few times. You can also gently rub a button of Vaseline over their anus. Give older children water and a few teaspoons of a light vegetable oil to drink, as well as trying the Vaseline and abdominal massage.
42 Most hotels do not provide mosquito nets for baby cots so you'll need to take your own. The easiest way to protect babies from insect bites (apart from mosquito nets), is to put them in a light cotton fabric sleeping bag, with a long-sleeved top, and slather a healthy dose of insect repellent on the fabric.
Being there
43 Most tourist accommodation isn't particularly child-friendly, so once you've checked in you'll probably need to make some adaptations yourself. Start off by checking locks on doors and windows to make sure the room is secure. Check the sturdiness of the fittings - wobbly balconies and railings are unsafe and mean you should change your accommodation straight away. Point out things such as loose towel-rails or curtain rails to the staff and either agree that you can't be responsible should they fall down, or ask for them to be fixed or removed. Use insulating tape to cover exposed wires or sockets or block them off with furniture that's too heavy for your children to move. It's also a good idea to check the temperature of the hot water; it's often scalding, so you may need to warn your children.
44 Once you've researched your destination, prepare a list of possible activities that take various lengths of time and suit different weather conditions. If you've more than one child, give each a turn to make choices from the activities list.
45 If you're travelling with more than one adult, try splitting up from time to time, either having time with the children, or heading off without them to do something on your own.
46 If you plan on walking or cycling, remember that young children won't want to focus on getting from A to B, but on following their interests, so allow time for exploring. Plan your route around the capacity of your youngest child and your ability to carry them. Try to choose a route where the scenery will change frequently. Good choices for walks or rides include following a river or canal towpath; there are no hills to negotiate, and there's the possible bonus of water to play in and birds to feed. It's also a good idea to combine walks or rides with an activity such as swimming or taking a short train ride.
47 Children might get more exposure to sunshine than adults if carried in backpacks or on a child seat at the front of a bike; and if they're not walking or cycling themselves, they'll get colder than everyone else as they won't be warmed up with exercise - protect them accordingly and have layers to pull on and take off.
48 Apart from taking photographs, there are lots of ways to help your children preserve memories of your trip. You could buy a postcard for each destination and help them to note a single memory on the back, alongside the date or their age. You could also get them started on collections of things that can be found in most places, such as badges, paperweights, model cars and boats or toy animals.
49 If your children are keeping a journal, encourage them to draw and list things they see and eat; they could also collect autographs and doodles from people they meet as well as ticket stubs and labels to stick in. If free mini-maps of places you visit are available, get extras for the children to stick into their books, and help them circle the places you've seen. If you're encountering different languages, put in lists of new words and add more as they learn one set.
50 Local toys are often worth seeking out, and make great gifts to take home. Apart from the novelty value, kids tend to like playing with the same things that local children have, and it can help with making friends.

Friday, 30 March 2012

The Ontario Budget 2012 ... PC what they are saying! Go Blue Jays!

With eight provinces and the federal government in deficit, political leaders across the country are faced with a similar challenge: How do we encourage job creation while regaining control of spending? The responses vary. Some have taken immediate action, while others, like Ontario, have moved at a glacial pace.
In the province that has long been an economic leader, 600,000 men and women are now unemployed. Yet, this week’s provincial budget will neither stimulate the economy nor aggressively attack the deficit. In the next year, the deficit will remain constant, leaving a staggering $15.2-billion gap between revenue and spending. Job creation is forecast to decline.
In New York this month, I met financial experts to discuss Ontario’s debt. Their advice is consistent with the way I would have approached the problem. For starters, I would not have accepted anemic private-sector growth or a slow response to a looming $30-billion deficit.
Businesses can invest anywhere in the world. If they’re going to come to Canada, they’ll look for a few basic things. They want a credible plan to eliminate deficits and get debt under control, and they want a competitive tax environment. Businesses realize that governments burdened with debt won’t be able to create a competitive tax climate and build and sustain infrastructure – two key things that attract investment, expansion and new jobs.
They need low tax rates, so they can retain more of their earnings to expand and hire. They want certainty about government tax policy, too, so the rules don’t change partway through the game. In Ontario, for example, this week’s budget would abandon a promised business tax cut. That’s not how you build an economy. A recent estimate by a leading economist said this measure alone could result in a loss of 30,000 jobs over 10 years. A higher tax burden than businesses had planned for amounts to a tax increase.
Affordable energy is another cornerstone of growth. The provinces that have taken steps to assure a steady supply of power at fair rates are well positioned for growth. Those like Ontario, where power rates are being driven up by subsidies that pay wind and solar producers between two and 10 times the going rate for energy from conventional sources, are not.
We need to pay attention to what’s happening in the world. One of the key factors in Germany’s success, for example, has been a strong apprenticeship system. I have advocated an aggressive apprenticeship plan for Ontario. The failure to act on this has left good skilled trades jobs unfilled.
Growth won’t happen unless government gets the fundamentals right. Our priority must be policies that create the conditions for growth, and that has to be accomplished while making significant structural changes. We can’t cut our way to prosperity; we need to grow our economy, too.
Every day that government puts off difficult decisions adds to debt and narrows our room to manoeuvre in the event of a sudden economic shock. This has been Greece’s sad experience.
The challenges facing Canadian governments may vary, but the underlying principles are the same. When governments control spending, ensure responsive regulation and keep business taxes low, labour markets flexible and energy affordable, jobs and growth will follow. Some provinces realize this, and will pull out of deficit sooner than Ontario. Their next challenge will be to tackle accumulated debt.
As Canadians, we need to reframe the deficit and debt issue. This is not just about government. It’s about the economy, jobs and prosperity.
Tim Hudak is the leader of Ontario’s Progressive Conservative Party.

Mariner motel's advice just start saving early
cause retirement age is going to keep on increasing ...
Eat right, live a healthy balance life and
pay off that debt as soon as you can ... 
Take a vacation once in a while
Follow your bliss
Have an attitude of gratitude always!

For all our clients past and present.
THank You to all our suppliers, workers and family
who have made the Mariner Motel successful for so
many years.  THANK YOU!

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

2012 tax filing season: 5 triggers that could lead to an audit

2012 tax filing season: 5 triggers that could lead to an audit

A Canada Revenue Agency employee at the CRA tax return storage facility in Ottawa.
A Canada Revenue Agency employee at the CRA tax return storage facility in Ottawa.
Canada Revenue Agency photo
The dreaded brown envelope arrived just after Christmas. Instant fear! Would it be a full-blown tax take down (called a field audit) or just an inquiry? I’ve experienced the former and a colonoscopy is preferable.
“Our records indicate that you have received income that appears to be partially reported, or not reported on your income tax return,” the Canada Revenue Agency form letter stated. At least the CRA was kind enough to enclose a preaddressed mailing label.
I had been nailed by the T-slip matching program that ferrets out income reported by employers as paid out but not noted as income by the likes of me. The offending amount was $537.83 earned from CBC. The cheque should have been issued to my company not me personally. I deposited in my personal account, transferred it to my company and listed it as revenue, thus compounding the error.
Needless to say the very best way to avoid the beady eye of the CRA is to ensure all T-slips are reported, including those you haven’t received. T3 and T5 slips which detail investment income from interest, capital gains, dividends and mutual funds are notoriously late arrivals.
Related: 11 questions you were afraid to ask the taxman
Because T-slips can easily be misplaced, forgotten or occasionally not arrive at all, a great defensive strategy is to compile a list of expected slips. Keep it handy on your computer’s desktop and add to it as money comes your way, rather than trying to re-create all income sources while completing your tax return.
With roughly 1.3 million returns reviewed annually, chances are you will receive one of those brown envelopes more than once during your working life. An audit is rarer, only 200,000 Canadians suffer this fate. Still, dealing promptly with any CRA request lessens the chances that the agency will dig deeper into your return.
Usually you will have 30 days to respond to a query. In my case, I slogged away unsuccessfully trying to get the CBC to re-issue the T-slip. Despite numerous calls to the CRA to explain that I was working on the problem, time ran out and my personal return was re-assessed. I owed $116.61 and the CRA levied $4.73 in arrears interest. Not the end of the world but annoying and if I don’t cough up the money by March 15, I risk a more extensive review or audit.

Related: How to avoid these 8 tax-filing  mistakes 
Here are three more common signals that might trigger a second look at your return by the CRA.
1. Double dipping: It’s bad enough when a marriage or common-law relationship breaks down. Even worse is the fact that separated spouses often receive special CRA scrutiny. Check with your ex to ensure only one of you claims things such as the children’s fitness credit (line 365), tuition transfer (line 324) or the amount for an eligible dependent (line 305).
2. Change: If your deduction history deviates from the norm, the CRA might come calling. Say you normally have $500 or so in charitable donations annually, then one of those heart-tugging disasters, such as the recent Somali famine, encourages you to hand over a couple of thousand to help out. The increase in your charitable claim, though laudable, is a red flag.
The lesson here is to keep documentation and receipts close at hand especially when there is a big change in your deduction pattern.
3. Self-employment: According to Industry Canada the number of self-employed grew 12 per cent in the first decade of this century. And this is a gold mine for CRA reviewers, as small business owners and the self-employed are audited more often than the general population. Tax software can lead do-it-yourselfers through the process of listing business expenses. Still, it may be worth spending the money to consult an accountant to ensure you are minimizing the chances of an audit.
Related: What’s new for the 2012 tax filing season
Here are five specific deductions at the top of the CRA’s second look list.
1. Other deductions (Line 232). The CRA loves to zero in on this category as Canadians try to deduct funeral expenses, wedding costs, loss on the sale of a home and divorce or separation legal fees.
2. Caregiver amount (Line 315) — You can claim the caregiver amount for an eligible dependent over age 18 with a net income of less than $18,906 and who has a mental or physical infirmity. But don’t try it if that person isn’t living with you. And if your 22-year-old broke her ankle skiing, that doesn’t count either.
3. Medical expenses (Lines 330 and 331) — Medical expenses are one of the most confusing categories for tax filers and, according to the CRA, often riddled with mistakes. Guide RC4064 isn’t perfectly comprehensible, (the CRA scores a C in my book for plain English) but it will clear up some confusion for individuals and families.
4. Student loan interest (Line 319) — You may be groaning under the load of student debt but the CRA won’t let you deduct interest paid for a line of credit or family loan.
5. Education and textbook amounts (Lines 321 and 322) — If the number of months you are claiming doesn’t match the number of months you were a student the red flag will be raised. Students often make the mistake of claiming for the academic year, rather than the calendar year.
One caution, there is no way to be completely safe as the CRA randomly selects an unknown number of returns for review each year. However, you can increase the odds of keeping a CRA inquiry or audit at bay by checking the Common Adjustments web page. Be especially vigilant in maintaining records and receipts for the red flag areas.
Related: Where to get free tax advice

Mariner Motel
Thank you!

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

OAS at 67? OMG!

By Fred Vettese
In spite of some vehement opposition, the government will probably announce in the next budget the raising of the retirement age for OAS pension to 67. We have already been assured it won’t happen at least until 2020 so it will not affect Canadians over 57. The big question is whether this change will increase poverty among seniors.  The answer depends largely on how the increase in retirement age is implemented.
First, anyone nearing retirement should find it encouraging that Canada’s retirees are currently doing better financially than most of us realize. If we use Statistics Canada’s low-income cutoffs as the poverty threshold, just 5.2% of seniors would be classified as poor. By comparison, the poverty rate for Canadians age 18-64 is 10.5%, more than double. Similarly, seniors are faring much better than their counterparts in other developed countries. Based on OECD statistics, the poverty rate for seniors is 22.4% in the U.S., 22% in Japan and 17.6% in Switzerland, all roughly three to four times the rate in Canada.

Much of the credit for this happy result is the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) which is payable to low-income Canadians who are eligible for OAS. What will become of the GIS if the OAS retirement age rises to 67?  I see three scenarios. One is a decoupling in which the GIS will still be available at 65 and the amount will be increased to make up for the loss of OAS. If so, low-income Canadians will be virtually unaffected by the change in OAS retirement age and the government will still garner some savings to the extent less OAS is paid to middle income seniors. This is the most benign outcome.
Under a second scenario, GIS will continue to be payable from 65 but with no change in the maximum amount. In that case, future low-income retirees will lose $540 a month of OAS pension until age 67.  The middle-aged who are caught by the change in retirement age will find this a hardship though that can be mitigated by a slower phase-in that extends beyond 2020.
The most draconian scenario would see GIS eligibility increased to age 67 to align with OAS. For a single person, this means the loss of up to $1,272 a month in pension for two years. It is unlikely something this drastic could be fully phased in as early as 2020.  It took over thirty years to reduce poverty among the elderly to the low levels we now enjoy and it would be a tragedy to unravel what has generally been a very positive result.
The other possibility is that OAS and GIS will be made available over a range of ages with actuarial reductions or increases, the same as CPP which can be taken any time between 60 and 70. Making this work presents an interesting actuarial problem given that the GIS is subject to an income test.
In the longer run, Canadians will accommodate to a higher retirement age, but that will take time. We first need to change how we think about work and retirement. Age 65 was an arbitrary choice as the normal retirement age in the first place, the same as it was an arbitrary age for mandatory retirement, which has since been abolished. The retirement age could just as easily have been 70, which in fact is what it was when the Old Age Security Act was first introduced in 1952. Since then, life expectancy has increased by about six years so even if OAS starts at age 67, we are still enjoying OAS payments for about nine years more on average than was the case in 1952. Unfortunately, this is small comfort to middle-aged, low-income Canadians who were counting on OAS at 65.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Is Google Adwords Good or Bad and Will it Work for My Small Business?

Welcome to Small Business Blogging, Video Marketing, Website Design, and Hubspot Tips by Biz Buffs!

Is Google Adwords Good or Bad and Will it Work for My Small Business?

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Is Google Adwords Good or Bad and Will it Work for my Small Business?

does adwords work for businessThis article was sparked by a conversation I had with a friend recently. His dilemma is pretty cut and dry:
His business(he installs swimming pools) is not getting enough leads, his suppliers are not sending him enough leads, and his website stinks in terms of lead generation…. and SEO(free search visits).
So what was his proposed solution to the problem? Well in his mind, he needs to get leads right away. He also knows the old methods of advertising (radio, print, TV,etc) are no longer the answer. But with a website garnering zero visitors via organic/free search, his last line of relief is Google Adwords (aka Pay Per Click). And frankly, he’s right—at least for now.
In terms of Google Adwords  (AW for short)supplying quick, qualified leads for businesses, it is a viable solution-- but with it comes the potential of some major problems, which are as follows:
  • Spending money faster than you can burn it on a camp fire
  • Reaching a small percentage of your customer base
  • Adwords Dependency Syndrome (ADS)

How Much will Adwords Costs my Business?

Heck, even my friend mentioned how one of his buddies in the pool industry had spent $120,000 on PPC last year just to sell 30 pools. Although such might sound like a good trade off to some, the amount this person was spending in advertising dollars(to Google alone) just for one sale was roughly $4,000. Considering the average sale price was about 35k for one of the gentleman’s, the numbers were eating him alive.
My business used to be no different. Because our swimming pool website stunk for so long in terms of its SEO, we were forced to give the Mother Ship(aka Google) way too much of our money. But like every business in this dilemma, we needed leads from somewhere, somehow, and fast. Over  2 years ago, we were getting roughly 85% of our traffic from AW/PPC. Literally, every 2-3 days we were having $500 kicks to the groin by the Mother Ship. Although many leads were coming in, we knew there was still room for improvement, and AW was quickly becoming a blessing and a curse.

Do Consumers Click on Adwords?

Although the studies vary, the general rule of thumb is that 60-70% of ALL surfers on the internet will not click the right side of the page—AKA Sponsored Links. There are a variety of explanations for this but it really just comes down to, as the old adage states, ‘People don’t want to be sold, they want to buy.’ And because of this paradigm, the majority of internet users never even bother with AW advertisers. So as you can see, if you have a business that is relying solely on Pay Per Click campaigns to drive traffic to your website, they you’re likely missing out on over half of your potential clients.
Adwords Dependency Syndrome (ADS)
I’ve seen many businesses suffer from ADS. And why is this such a deadly disease? Because the fact is most businesses are now finally waking up to reality that if they don’t have a powerful internet presence, they are up a creek without a paddle. Old school advertising will soon be as extinct as the dinosaur simply because of the poor return on investment (It’s too freaking expensive). But at the same time, because businesses are now fully understanding just how consumers shop and research, and because so many of these businesses have not bothered to properly optimize their website, their only means for lead generation is Pay Per Click—the same dilemma my friend had. This leads us to a whole new problem, which is the fact that so many businesses are advertising on the Mother Ship and using AW that the cost/competition to advertise on Pay Per Click and actually showing up on the first page is becoming outrageously expensive and unaffordable for many important industry keywords.
So this is the catch-22 that so many businesses are now enveloped in. And what’s the solution? Although there are hundreds of ways to deal with small business marketing in 2010 and beyond, here are my top 5 solutions for anyone who hasn’t yet gotten on the train or not read some of my previous posts on this subject:
1.       Change your paradigm: Embrace the internet and everything about it. See yourself as an internet/web expert (If you’re not already, you will be someday, so your essentially just stating a fact before it has actually happened.)
2.       Take charge of your website: You no longer have to be a web designer to design and manage your business’ website. With so many incredible CMS (content management systems) out there, any dummy (I should know) can now produce great websites.
3.       Along with #2, take the time to study your website. Develop it. Learn analytics. Because they had such a profound impact on my life and my business, I suggest you start with Hubspot. They money you’ll spend on their monthly service is more than worth it.
4.       Start Blogging: I can’t talk about the power and impact of this medium enough. It does not matter what type of business you have, you need start integrating blogging into the everyday life of your business. Only 1-2 articles a week and you will see major organic (free) search results in no time.
5.       Continue with AW: As I mentioned earlier, PPC used to generate over 80% of my business’ web traffic. Today, after blogging and working on SEO for less than one year, PPC brings in roughly 12% of all traffic. Despite the fact that 12% is a low number and many people would say that because my organic search traffic is so good I don’t have to worry any longer about Adwords, I still like leveraging both mediums. And although only 20-40% of all internet users actually click on AW, these same shoppers have a much higher conversion rate in many cases because they are so serious about finding a certain product. Also, when it comes to PPC , don’t feel like you have to rank #1 just to get clicks. What matter is that you’re on the first page. The difference between the two can literally be thousands of dollars over the course of the year.

Is Google Adwords bad for business?

No, of course not. But like every other information technology we pay for, it requires a balance, oversight, and hard work. So that’s the task for most business in today’s world. And to sum it all up, I’ll leave you with this most simple guideline to follow.

Mariner Motel has tried free google adwords and it is working out well.  Give it a try increase the traffic to your site and get it listed at the top when people search for your type of business.