New life insurance products tailored to 2017 tax rules

Photographer: Helloquence

Photographer: Helloquence

“Since October, myriad new permanent life insurance products have surfaced, tailored to the 2017 tax rules. Insurers are also tweaking existing products to conform to these rules.

The era of policies with generous tax advantages closed when the changes to the federal Income Tax Act took effect on Jan. 1. The possibility of accumulating funds without affecting a policy’s exempt status evaporated for permanent life insurance. The tax-free savings capacity of universal life was also hard hit. Effects are being felt mainly among insured with high net worth.

The accumulation of tax-free funds in universal life has been slashed to one-sixth of the original amount, depending on the age of the insured and the duration of the policy. For company shareholders, the portion of the death benefit of their policy that may be credited to the capital dividend account has shrunk. Now, the estate will receive less tax-free funds,” wrote Alain Theriault for The Insurance & Investment Journal on March 22, 2017.

Theriault continued, “Tax laws sparked changes

Insurers had to revamp several products or replace them with new ones. A table compiled by the life insurance product intelligence centre InsuranceINTEL shows that product launches have mushroomed since October 2016. The new tax laws have largely sparked this hyperactivity, which lingered into January.

Some ousted products were not replaced. For example, Empire Life announced in its 2016 results that it would no longer sell universal life insurance. The insurer acted quickly, pulling its universal life products Trilogy and Trilogy Plus on Oct. 15. At the same time, participating whole life Optimax Wealth replaced Optimax. On Jan. 1, the insurer added an eight-premium payment option to Optimax Wealth and to another participating product, EstateMax.”

Read the full article here.


Study indicates high-intensity exercise has benefits

Photographer: Arek Adeoye

Photographer: Arek Adeoye

“Any exercise is usually considered better than no exercise, but a new study indicates interval training — interspersing high and low speed levels during activities such as biking — is best at reversing age-related declines in muscle cells.

It has long been determined that the health benefits of exercise can include increased metabolism (the rate at which what we eat is converted to energy), a boosted immune system, and brain and heart health. But researchers in the U.S. recently set out to determine why exercise and which forms of it bring those benefits and how,” wrote Amina Zafar for CBC News on March 9, 2017.

Zafar continued, “The researchers studied 72 men and women — half of them aged 18 to 30, and the other half 65 to 80. The volunteers had no chronic illnesses and were assigned to three different exercise programs:

  • High-intensity intervals of four-minute sprints on a bike, interspersed with light pedalling for three minutes.
  • Strength training with weights.
  • A combination of interval training and strength training.

Participants in the combination group were also sedentary for three months as a control.

In this week’s online issue of the journal Cell Metabolism, Matthew Robinson, an assistant professor of kinesiology at Oregon State University, and his colleagues at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., report that high-intensity interval training showed the biggest benefits at the cellular level, especially in the older adults.”

Read the full article here.

Fertility treatment tax credit expansion for many Canadians

Photographer: Carlo Navarro

Photographer: Carlo Navarro

“Many Canadians who have turned to assisted reproductive technologies over the past 10 years are now eligible for a tax break as a result of Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s new budget.

Getting medical help to conceive a child can cost thousands of dollars, a cost that isn’t covered by most provincial health plans,” wrote Elizabeth Thompson for CBC News on March 23, 2017.

Thompson continued, “The government estimates that one in eight Canadian couples experience infertility and “an increasing number of Canadians, including single parents and same-sex couples, are turning to assisted human reproduction procedures to help build their families.”

Until now, Canadians had to be diagnosed as medically infertile to be able to claim the cost of reproductive technologies as part of their medical expense tax credit.

The change in Wednesday’s budget opens the tax credit to those who aren’t infertile, such as single women who want to have a child or a same-sex couple who want to start a family.”

Read the full article here.

Post-secondary graduates not guaranteed stable employment

Photographer: Faustin Tuyambaze

Photographer: Faustin Tuyambaze

“Twenty-one-year old Christian McCrave feels like he did his part.

He got good grades in high school and completed a four-year degree at the University of Guelph in southwestern Ontario. He studied mechanical engineering, in part because he thought it would land him a job.

It hasn’t.

“I actually thought that coming out of school that I would be a commodity and someone would want me,” McCrave said. “But instead, I got hit with a wall of being not wanted whatsoever in the industry.”

McCrave says he believed in the unwritten promise of a post-secondary education: work hard at school, and you’ll end up with a good and stable job,” wrote Nick Purdon and Leonardo Palleja for CBC News on March 12, 2017.

Purdon and Leonardo continued, “Now, he’s not so sure.

“Being unemployed while having a degree is kind of a kick in the face,” McCrave said. “If anything, it’s a setback. You have all this debt and this degree, and everyone has one, but it doesn’t get you further in life sometimes.”

Since graduating last year, McCrave has applied for 250 engineering jobs, but he’s only had four interviews and no job offer.

McCrave isn’t alone. More than 12 per cent of Canadians between the ages of 15 and 24 are unemployed and more than a quarter are underemployed, meaning they have degrees but end up in jobs that don’t require them.”

Read the full article here.

FINTRAC quietly monitoring Facebook and other social media sites

Photographer: Wilfred Iven

Photographer: Wilfred Iven

“Canadians who make large cash transactions, international wire transfers or win big at the casino could end up with a federal agency scrutinizing their Facebook pages and other social media posts, CBC News has learned.

The Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre (FINTRAC), the federal government body charged with monitoring financial transactions to detect money laundering and terrorist financing, has been quietly scrutinizing the social media posts of Canadians whose transactions attract its attention.,” wrote Elizabeth Thompson for CBC News on Sunday March 12, 2017.

Thompson continued, “FINTRAC defends the practice, saying the rules that govern it allow it to collect a variety of information.

“FINTRAC’s mandate is to detect, deter and prevent money laundering and terrorist financing activity,” spokesperson Renée Bercier wrote in response to questions from CBC News.

“It is important to remember that the perpetrators of these crimes oftentimes have an online presence and actively use the web, including social media, to connect with associates, facilitate their activities and, in the case of terrorism financing, even raise funds.”

Privacy concerns raised

However, privacy advocates and NDP MP Daniel Blaikie say that just because something is publicly available doesn’t mean that it’s fair game for government bodies to scrutinize or monitor.”

Read the full article here.

Snowbirds may be extended to stay up to 8 months in the U.S.

Photographer: Frank Mckenna

Photographer: Frank Mckenna

“There is one group of foreigners who are being embraced by American lawmakers with open arms: Canadian snowbirds.

Despite heightened tensions around the U.S. border, a bipartisan bill currently before Congress would allow Canadians — and Canadians only — over the age of 55 to stay south of the border for up to eight months of the year, provided they own a home or have signed a rental agreement for the duration of their stay,” wrote John Paul Tasker for CBC News on March 6, 2017.

Tasker continued, “The legislation, if passed, would exempt these Canadian residents from filing U.S. taxes despite the longer stay, as they would still be considered “nonresident aliens” by the Internal Revenue Service.

Current limit is 182 days

Currently, if a snowbird spends more than 182 days in the U.S. they are considered a resident and are subject to U.S. taxes on their worldwide income. Even worse, prolonged, unauthorized stays beyond six months could result in an outright travel ban for up to 10 years.

However, while the U.S. could be prepared to allow older Canucks to stay longer — and in turn spend more of their money while vacationing in Arizona, California, Florida or the like — some provinces still have restrictions on how long a person can be out of the province and retain their health insurance, a key consideration for any senior.”

Read the full article here.

World Health Organization focus on antibiotic resistance problem



“The World Health Organization has released its first list of the world’s most dangerous superbugs — 12 families of bacterial supervillains considered the most serious threats to human health.

The WHO calls it a list of  “priority pathogens” because the bacteria have developed resistance to key antibiotic drugs. And that is making health care more complicated, as doctors are forced to try one drug after another to treat hospital-acquired infections.

A study in The Lancet warns superbugs are already causing many post surgical infections which is making routine surgery more dangerous,” wrote Kelly Crowe for CBC News on February 27, 2017.

Crowe continued, “There are predictions that without effective antibiotics, much of modern health care would be in jeopardy, including cancer chemotherapy, births by cesarean section, and organ transplantation.

With this list, the WHO is again raising the alarm over the growing health threat created by the rise of bacteria resistant to multiple drugs. The list is intended to help guide research and development by identifying the most serious threats, the ones that most urgently need new drugs.”

Read the full article here.

TD Bank employees open up about pressure to reach targets



“Three TD Bank Group employees are speaking out about what they say is “incredible pressure” to squeeze profits from customers by signing them up for products and services they don’t need.

The longtime employees say their jobs have become similar to that of the stereotypical used car salesman, as they’re pushed to upsell customers to reach rising sales revenue targets,” wrote Erica Johnson for CBC News on Monday March 6, 2017.

Johnson continued, “They say there has always been a sales component to the job, but the demand to meet “unrealistic” quarterly goals has intensified in recent years as profits from low interest rates have dropped and banks became required — after the financial meltdown of 2008 — to keep more capital on hand to protect against a downturn in the market. 

“I’m in survival mode now,” says a teller who has worked at TD for more than 15 years, “because it’s a choice between keeping my job and feeding my family … or doing what’s right for the customer.” 

She and the two managers who contacted Go Public have worked more than 50 years combined at the bank. CBC has agreed to conceal their identities and location because they are worried about being fired.”

Read the full article here.


Canadian doctors fight stress through military training

Photographer: Luis Llerena

Photographer: Luis Llerena

“When Sean Wilson needed to make his first life-or-death decision as a doctor, it wasn’t his medical school training he called upon. It was his time spent in Canada’s infantry that helped him. 

Originally from northern Ontario, Wilson had just moved his family to Montreal to start work as a resident family doctor, a junior physician learning the ins and outs of a specific medical discipline,” wrote Blair Bigham for CBC News on Sunday February 26, 2017.

Bigham continued, “But most new doctors don’t have a military background that comes with special training in resiliency, and many are overwhelmed by the responsibility of caring for sick patients in busy hospitals. That stress leads to burnout and depression. 

A 2015 review in the Journal of the American Medical Association found one in three residents is depressed, and that physicians experience higher-than-average rates of suicide.

That looks set to change, however, as many Canadian hospitals and medical schools adapt psychological training originally developed by the U.S. Navy SEALs to help soldiers stay calm under fire, similar to training Wilson received during his time in the Canadian Forces.”

Read the full article here.

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