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These 17 Tips Will Help Turn Your Job Interview Into a Job Offer



The job hunt can be a long and arduous process.

Sometimes it takes hundreds of applications before you hear back from any employers. And when you do, your work isn’t over. That was stage one. Now, you have to prepare for the (sometimes) dreaded job interview.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. We’re here to help. With the right preparation, you can turn that interview anxiety into excitement.

17 Essential Job Interview Tips

We’ve compiled the top tips from industry experts. We’ll walk you through exactly what to do before, during and after the interview. It doesn’t matter if this is your first job interview or your 40th, following these steps will help you leave a positive impression on your soon-to-be employer.

What to Do Before an Interview

Great, your interview is set for Tuesday at 1:30 p.m. Congratulations!

Use the time before then wisely. Unfortunately, you can’t just cruise in and claim your job. You’ll have to do some legwork to distinguish yourself from other applicants. Here’s what you need to do before your big day. 

1. Research the Company

Having a solid understanding of the company is crucial. You don’t want to be caught fumbling basic information during the job interview. 

You should spend some time on the company’s website to acquaint yourself with its mission statement, top clients, leadership and history. 

Adequate preparation can help you feel better, too, according to Michelle Armer, chief human resources officer at CareerBuilder.

“To help curb pre-interview jitters, interviewees should give themselves time in advance to prepare and build their confidence,” she says.

And if you’re still feeling anxious, Armer recommends giving yourself a pep talk, rehearsing your answers and listening to energetic music to keep your spirits high.

2. Reach Out to Alumni

To form a well-rounded opinion about an organization, it’s important to hear what its employees are saying. Yes, the company website is a good start, but that’s only one perspective.

Vipula Gandhi, managing partner at Gallup, says feedback from alumni is crucial to understanding a company’s culture before an interview. (Gandhi says her tips are based on more than a decade of experience interviewing candidates and not on Gallup’s research.)

One way to get unfiltered employee opinion is by checking the company’s Glassdoor reviews. Glassdoor is a job-search engine that aggregates anonymous employee opinions and rates companies from one to five stars based on the employees’ ratings. But don’t stop there.

Gandhi recommended using LinkedIn to get in direct contact with current and former employees. That way, you’ll have a clear understanding of the employee experience.

3. Clean Up Your Social Media

What you put on your LinkedIn profile is obviously fair game for HR. 

But what about your Facebook and Instagram? Well, if you didn’t submit the social media accounts voluntarily, that could be a legal gray area. But some employers and recruiting agencies use them anyway to screen applicants.

Ben Brooks, CEO of Pilot, a career-coaching startup, says to make sure there aren’t any embarrassing photos of you that are publicly searchable.

“What does your social media say about you?” Brooks asks. “If someone looked at your profile for 10 seconds, what’s the interpretation? What are the three words they’re gonna say?”

Hopefully: You are hired.

4. Conduct a Dry Run and Mock Interview

Doing a complete dry run will make everything easier when the day of the interview comes.

And by dry run I mean driving to the site of the interview to figure out logistics like parking and traffic (or testing your webcam if it’s a virtual job interview) and enlisting a friend to do a mock interview with you.

We’ve compiled a list of the 20 most common interview questions, from the infamous “What are your weaknesses?” to softballs like “What are your hobbies?”

Having articulate responses to common questions will allow you to focus on being in the moment instead of feeling put on the spot.

5. Prepare Your Documents

Depending on your industry and the instructions of the application, documents you may need to prepare could include your resume, portfolio samples or any pre-tests the company may have assigned you.

Regardless of industry, you should bring a few extra resumes with you, just in case. You never know if all the people included in the interview had time to review your application thoroughly. Even if they did, having extra resumes on hand helps you look prepared. 

It’s best to have these documents printed out and ready to go the night before. If you don’t have a printer or are having technical problems, stores like UPS, Office Depot and FedEx will allow you to print copies cheaply. There’s always your trusty local library, too.

6. Plan What to Wear

How you look in the interview is almost as important as your qualifications. Planning an outfit can be a delicate balancing act and yet another source of stress for some people. 

You want to look sharp — but not pretentious or underdressed.

Richard South, corporate partnership program manager at Georgia Tech, coaches thousands of university students on best interview practices. He says to consider industry trends when choosing your outfit.

Pro Tip

Ideally, you’ve already reached out to alumni and talked about company culture. Asking them about attire is a great way to ensure your outfit is appropriate.

Interviewing at a business firm?

“Put on a suit,” South advises, noting that suits may be overkill for other industries. 

Computer science or advertising fields might be more casual. The important part is not to guess. 

Once you’ve decided what to wear, set it out before you go to bed — pressed and wrinkle-free. It will save you the hassle in the morning.

7. Get a Good Night’s Sleep

Research? Check. Documents? Check. Outfit? Check. 

Ticking all those boxes the night before will ease your mind and help you sleep. Try to get at least seven to nine hours of shut-eye to be on your A-game the next day. 

And make sure that time frame is actual sleep time, not just time you spend lying in bed. It’s likely that you’ll be a little nervous, so give yourself an extra hour to fall asleep. 

What to Do During an Interview

Now is the time all that preparation and good sleep pays off. Try to stay mindful and relaxed. Don’t worry about rehearsing your answers. You’ve done that already. Be in the moment and you’ll come across more genuine and likeable.

8. Arrive Early — and Alone

General rule of thumb: 10 minutes early is considered on time, and on time is considered late.

Ten minutes is the sweet spot because you want to be early but not so early that they’re not yet expecting you.

And please, don’t bring your parent.

In a somewhat recent phenomenon, helicopter parents have started intervening in their kids’ job hunt.  

A recent survey from Robert Half showed that 69% of hiring managers either would not recommend or are annoyed at parental involvement during job interviews — from explicative phone calls that urge companies to hire their kid, to baked goods used to coax hiring managers.

9. Treat All Staff Respectfully

It doesn’t matter if you took the wrong exit off the interstate and then spilled coffee on your freshly pressed oxford that morning.

Do not get snarky or rude with anyone in or around the company — whether that’s the security guard in the lobby or someone you passed in the street.

For all you know, that could be Jen in accounting. 

She doesn’t realize your stomach has possible second-degree burns; she just knows that you bumped into her and scoffed on your way into the office. 

And guess who she’s going to tell after you leave? Your hiring manager.

10. Turn Your Job Experience into a Story

When the interviewer asks something along the lines of “So, tell me about yourself,” that’s your time to shine. 

Nailing an interview isn’t about regurgitating your resume.

“It’s all about the stories and narrative you have,” Brooks says.

This is also a good opportunity to incorporate experience that wasn’t directly relevant to the job application but could pertain to your soft skills or personality.

Maybe you did an au pair program or studied abroad during college. If so, talk about your international experience

Dr. Christine Farrugia was the deputy head of research for the Institute of International Education, where she led a study that examined the employability of alumni who studied abroad. She’s now the director of research initiatives at Columbia University’s School of Professional Studies.

According to Farrugia, the key is having an anecdote ready.

“The person interviewing you may not ask about it directly,” she says.

11. Ask the Right Questions

Interviews are two-way conversations, says Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer at Spins, a retail-industry consulting firm.

“You also want to learn from the company if it will be a good fit for you,” she says. “Come prepared with questions that help you determine if you will get all that you need to be successful, not just a paycheck.”

This guide walks you through exactly what questions to ask during a job interview and why they’re useful.

Ask, “Beyond the core job duties, what are the things you really want to accomplish and achieve with this role?”

Pro Tip

Make a good impression by staying positive with your questions — avoid criticism of the business model, strategy, brand or product.

Questions like that will not only impress the hiring manager, but will also give you a better understanding of how you’ll have an impact at the company.

There are plenty of areas to avoid asking about, too — like vacation time or basic information about the company. 

“How smart your question is would define how the interviewer sees you,” Gandhi says.

12. Mind Your Body Language

Hiring managers pay keen attention to body language.

According to research from Robert Half, unspoken signals, such as eye contact, facial expressions, posture, handshake and fidgeting play an extremely important role into how you’re perceived during an interview.

Many of these cues aren’t intentional. They’re physical responses to how you’re feeling. So internally obsessing about your posture and facial expressions isn’t going to help much, either. 

The point is, you should feel confident and relaxed — and those things stem from adequate preparation.

13. Vet Your Potential Manager

When you go into your interview, treat it like a date.

See if you are clicking with your manager. Think to yourself, “If I get this job, I’m going to spend much of my waking life with this person.”

Pro Tip

Are they funny? Laid back? Knowledgeable? It’s crucial to understand what makes a good manager because a bad one can ruin a great job, and vice versa.

So don’t let the deciding factor be the salary or the prestige of the company.

“It’s all about the manager,” Gandhi says.

14. Don’t Speak Negatively About Past Employers

Inevitably, you will get a question along the lines of, “Why did you leave your past job?”

Your mind might flash back to all the times you were wronged, and you might be tempted to air some of those grievances. Just don’t.

It comes across as unprofessional. And the new company might think that if they hire you, it will someday be in one of your negative stories.

Instead, focus on talking about the challenges and opportunities of a new job — not the time your old boss took credit for the data you pulled at 2 a.m. to make deadline. 

What to Do After an Interview

Before you bust out of the office to celebrate for a job well done, there are a few other things you should do to increase your chances of getting hired.

15. Ask to Tour the Office

Touring the office works in your favor for a couple of reasons.

First, it increases face time with your hiring manager and allows for some less formal banter as you make your rounds and introduce yourself to potential colleagues.

Beyond that, it allows you to see what’s really happening on the ground floor. As you walk through different pods or workspaces, take note of the office morale. Does everyone look stressed or excited? 

If it’s around lunchtime, see if a lot of employees are eating at their desks. That could be a sign of being overworked.

If they say no to the tour, it’s not a deal-breaker. It’s possible that there isn’t enough time built into the interview to accommodate an office tour, but it never hurts to ask.

16. Establish Next Steps

Before you say your goodbyes, make sure to have a clear time frame of when you will hear back.

Nothing can be more frustrating than completing an interview and then feeling everything goes silent,” Haefner says.  “Ask the company where they are in the recruiting process… and who is best for you to follow up with for status updates.”

Asking about this outright saves you some guesswork, and you won’t be left pacing back and forth in your living room thinking, “It’s been one day. Why haven’t I heard anything? Shouldn’t they have sent an email? I’m going to call them. They probably hired someone else!”

When in reality, they likely have internal processes that you’re unaware of. 

17. Send a Thank-You Note

Thank-you notes are a surefire way to distinguish yourself from other candidates. Hiring managers love them, and applicants often forget to send them.

In our Jobs Hunting 101 ecourse, we recommend sending them regardless of how the interview goes.

An email should suffice. Try to send it out within 24 hours of your interview, and make sure to separately thank everyone who interviewed you. 

In your messages you should include:

  1. A recap of the value you bring to the role.
  2. Any small clarifications or points you didn’t mention during the interview.
  3. Sincere gratitude and enthusiasm.

Avoid the temptation to copy and paste the same scripted message to everyone. That could backfire. Where possible, personalize it as best you can. Give it a little flair. 

And if you really want brownie points, don’t send an email. Send a handwritten thank-you note.

Adam Hardy is a staff writer on the Make Money team at The Penny Hoarder. He lives off a diet of stale puns and iced coffee. Read his ​full bio here​, or say hi on Twitter @hardyjournalism.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

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PenFed Checking And Savings Review: Full Service And Solid Rates



If you’ve been looking to join a credit union instead of a bank or want to add a credit union account for your checking and savings, PenFed is worth checking out. 

While they don’t have the highest checking and savings APYs, they are reasonable and competitive for a full-service credit union. In fact, PenFed made our list of the top 5 credit unions nationwide of 2020.

PenFed’s mobile app allows you to do all of your banking online or on the go through their mobile app, no matter where you are in the U.S. and even some locations outside of the U.S. In this article, we’ll review PenFed’s checking and savings products.

PenFed Logo

Quick Summary

  • Competive interest rates
  • Large nationwide ATM network
  • Minimum balance required to avoid checking account fees

PenFed Checking And Savings Details

Product Name

PenFed Credit Union

Account Types

Checking, Savings, Money Market, Certificates


0.05% to 0.90% APY

Min Deposit




Who Is PenFed?

Pentagon Federal Credit Union is a full-service credit union. They were created in 1935 and have $25 billion in assets. PenFed is headquartered in McLean, Virginia. They used to restrict membership to a relationship with the military or federal government but have recently opened up to everyone. 

PenFed services all 50 states, including the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and Okinawa (Japan). They are federally insured by NCUA and are an Equal Opportunity Lender. In addition to PenFed checking and savings accounts, members can also access home, car, credit card, and student loan products.

See our review of PendFed’s student loan refinancing product.

What Do They Offer?

PenFed has one checking account and four savings products. They have a network of 68,000+ ATMs. You can bank online or through their mobile app. PenFed has nearly 50 branches across 16 states and the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and Okinawa.

The PenFed website shows its accounts earn interest (APY) and dividends. The terminology can make it sound as though you get the APY plus dividends. That isn’t the case. Dividends are simply being used interchangeably with interest (APY).

Access America Checking Account

You’ll need to deposit $25 to open a checking account with PenFed. PenFed checking accounts do earn a little interest — 0.20% to 0.50% depending on account size as shown below.

  • 0.20% APY on a daily balance of less than $20K
  • 0.50% APY on a daily balance of $20K or more up to $50K

In addition to the listed APYs, you can also earn dividends with a monthly direct deposit of $500 or more. As well, to avoid the $10 monthly fee, you’ll need a daily balance or monthly direct deposit of $500 or more. Overdraft protection is available but is subject to approval.

Premium Online Savings Account

The Premium Online Savings Account pays 0.90% APY on balances up to $250,000 and only requires a $5 deposit. There are no monthly fees. However, there also is no ATM access.

Be aware that savings accounts have more restrictions than checking accounts. Due to federal law, you can only withdraw money from your account up to six times per month. You’re allowed up to $10,000 per day in deposits and a total of $50,000 for the month.

Regular Savings Account

The Regular Savings Account pays only 0.05% APY on all balances. But in exchange for giving up that interest, you gain ATM access. However, if you can get by with transferring money to your checking account before making a withdrawal, the Premium Savings Account is clearly the way to go.

Money Market Savings Account

The Money Market Savings Account requires $25 to open and doesn’t lose ATM access. There are no monthly fees and you get free checks upon request. The account pays interest through several tiers that are dependent on your balance:

  • 0.05% APY — $10,000 or less
  • 0.10% APY — between $10,000 and $99,999
  • 0.15% APY — $100,000 or more

See how this compares to the top money market accounts here >>

Money Market Certificates

You’ve probably heard of a certificate of deposit (CD). Credit unions call these simply “certificates,” but they are basically the same. 

PenFed has several certificates to choose from. All require a $1,000 deposit to open. Just like a CD, your money must remain in the certificate until maturity or you’ll pay an early withdrawal penalty. Dividends are compounded daily and paid monthly.

The following certificates are available:

  • 6 Month — 0.40%
  • 12 Month — 0.70%
  • 15 Month — 0.70%
  • 18 Month — 0.70%
  • 2 Year — 0.75%
  • 3 Year — 0.80%
  • 4 Year — 0.85%
  • 5 Year — 1.00%
  • 7 Year — 1.05%

Mobile App

The mobile app for PenFed checking and savings includes all of the features you’d expect from full-service credit unions. You get instant check deposits, bill pay, ability to send money to almost anyone, account management, and the ability to transfer funds between your PenFed accounts.

Are There Any Fees?

The majority of PenFed’s accounts don’t come with fees. However, its Access America Checking Account has a $10 month fee if certain minimums are not met. To avoid the fee, you’ll need to keep a minimum balance of $500 or set up a $500 monthly direct deposit.

How Do I Open An Account?

You can visit or a local branch if you have one near you to apply for membership. If approved, you’ll need to deposit at least $5 to open an account.

Is My Money Safe?

Yes, money deposited with PenFed is federally insured by the NCUA. Like FDIC insurance for banks, NCAU insurance protects up to $250,000 of credit union member deposits per account.

Is It Worth It?

If you’re looking to open a checking or savings account with a credit union, PenFed is a full-service credit union that pays up to 0.50% on checking account deposits and up to 1.00% on savings. It has about 50 branches in 13 states, plus a few outside of the U.S. and includes NCUA protection. For those reasons, PenFed checking and savings is certainly worth considering.

But if you won’t be able to meet the requirements for waiving PenFed’s monthly checking account fees, you might want to look at these free checking accounts instead. And if you’re comfortable with managing your checking or savings accounts with minimal support, you might be able to earn higher rates with an online bank. These are our favorite online banks for 2020.

PenFed Checking And Savings Features

Account Types

Checking, Savings, Money Market, Certificates

Minimum Deposit

  • Checking: $25
  • Savings: $5
  • Money Market: $25



  • 0.20% APY on a daily balance of less than $20K
  • 0.50% APY on a daily balance of $20K or more up to $50K

Regular Savings: 0.05% APY

Premium Online Savings: 1.00% APY

Money Market Savings

  • 0.05% APY — $10,000 or less
  • 0.10% APY — between $10,000 and $99,999
  • 0.15% APY — $100,000 or more


  • 6 Month — 0.40%
  • 12 Month — 0.70%
  • 15 Month — 0.70%
  • 18 Month — 0.70%
  • 2 Year — 0.75%
  • 3 Year — 0.80%
  • 4 Year — 0.85%
  • 5 Year — 1.00%
  • 7 Year — 1.05%

Maintenance Fees

  • Checking: $10 (waived with $500 minimum balance or $500 monthly direct deposit
  • Savings: None
  • Money market: None
  • Certificates: None


~50 across 13 states

ATM Availability

68,000+ fee-free ATM network

Customer Service Number


Customer Service Hours

  • Mon-Fri: 7:00 am-11:00 pm (EST)
  • Saturday: 8:00 am-1:00 pm (EST) Saturday
  • Sunday: 9:00 am-5:30 pm (EST)

Mobile App Availability

iOS and Android

Bill Pay


NCUA Charter Number




The post PenFed Checking And Savings Review: Full Service And Solid Rates appeared first on The College Investor.

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Continue Reading


The Sweet Spot



“Success can get you to the top of a beautiful cliff,

but then propel you right over the edge of it.”

As a Mustachian, there’s a good chance that you are a bit of an overachiever. 

Maybe you fought hard to get exceptional grades in school, or perhaps you have always dominated in your career or your Ultramarathon habit or your hobbies - or maybe all of the above. 

In the big picture, this usually leads to having a “successful” life, because of this basic math:

Traditional Success
How much work you do
How much society happens to value your work

The Nitty Gritty of Traditional Success

Now, lest the Internet Privilege Police head straight to Twitter to start writing out citations, Traditional Success is not a measure of your worthiness as a human being. We’re just talking about the old-fashioned, Smiling 1950s Man definition of success.

 And since we’re all scientists here, we could break the “Work” side of it down a bit further:

And thus, you could say that on average, doing more stuff produces more traditional success. 

But then what?

This is the point where a lot of  smart, driven, born-lucky people drive themselves up the Winding Road of Challenge and then right off the edge of the Cliff of Success. 

If you’re still on the way up, or stuck at the bottom, it is difficult to even imagine the idea of “too much success”. But it’s a real thing, and it happens much more quickly than the modern overachiever would like to admit. Observe the following cautionary tale:

Diana is the director of engineering in a Silicon Valley tech startup. The work is intense, but they are almost over the hump - the company went public last month, and she owns shares that are worth over $10 million at today’s share price. They will vest over the next five years, so she just needs to grind this out and then she will be set for life.

Sounds great, right?

Except this is Diana’s third smashing success. She was already set for life after the second company was acquired, and even before that, her first decade as a rising star at a large company had already left her with over $2 million of investments and a paid-off house in hella expensive Cupertino, California. She had more than enough to retire, twenty years ago!

To many people who are less fortunate, the present situation would still sound like great fortune, and in some ways, it is. Becoming a Director of Engineering is (usually) far better than a punch in the face.

But Diana is now 52 years old, with a collection of increasingly severe back and neck problems and a few medical prescriptions piling up. She has two grown children in their twenties, but wishes she had been able to spend more time with them as they grew up. She has all the money in the world, but still almost no free time, and this next five years is starting to look like an eternity.

What happened here?

Diana is in good company, because many of our hardest-working people fall into this same trap. They have the talent and the great work habits figured out, but they are still missing one last concept - the idea of the sweet spot.

Fig. 1: What is the ideal length of a high-end career?

Diana could have stopped after the first company, or the second, but her career success took on a momentum of its own, so she kept doubling down without stopping to consider why she was doing it - and what she was giving up in exchange.

Once you learn to see the phenomenon of the sweet spot, you will start noticing it everywhere. And it is an amazingly useful thing to start watching and fine-tuning to get the most out of your own life.

Fig.2: What is the ideal amount of Anything?

The Sweet Spot of Physical Training

When a non-runner starts running, they will see immediate benefits. In the process of going from being unable to jog across a parking lot, to being able to easily jog a brisk mile, your entire body will transform for the better. Muscles and bones get stronger, heart and lungs expand and reach out to give your body a healthy embrace, brain functioning and mood and hormones smooth out and normalize. 

Training your way up to become a two mile runner still brings great benefits - just slightly smaller. The fifth through twentieth mile turn you into a hyper efficient machine, but some people start seeing joint injuries as they rise through the ranks.

And by the time you reach the fringe world of 100-mile runners, serious injuries and surgeries are completely normal - as well as unexpected organ failures in otherwise young, healthy people. The sweet spot for daily running for maximum health is somewhere the middle.

All around us, seemingly unrelated things follow this same pattern, from career work to physical exertion to parenting strategy.

Fame and Fortune - be careful what you wish for

Fame definitely has a sweet spot. Building up a good reputation in your community can open the door to better friendships, jobs, relationships, and more fun in general.

But as that reputation expands outwards to become fame, you get the “reward” of constant coverage in gossip magazines and waking up to find photographers and news reporters on your front lawn. At the extreme end, you need to mobilize a team of armored vehicles and line your route with snipers every time you leave your well-guarded compound.

Even money, our humble and ever-willing servant is subject to this phenomenon. It certainly helps us meet our basic needs, but there is a certain point at which Mo Money can become Mo Problems. 

The first bit of monetary surplus can be fun as you can afford a nice house and good food. Then the next chunk seems fun but also causes distractions as you rack up second and third houses and ever-more elaborate possessions and vacations that take a lot of energy to keep track of.

And from there it goes downhill as tabloids start keeping track of your wealth and scrutinizing your choices, hundreds of people mail in pleas for your generosity, and you end up with a full-time job just making sure that the surplus goes to good use. This life arrangement can still be enjoyable for some people, but I would definitely not wish it upon myself.

On and on this pattern goes. A curve with a sweet spot in the middle. The optimal amount of calories to consume in a day. The volume at which you will enjoy your music most. The right brightness of light to illuminate a room. The number of friends with whom you can have a meaningful relationship.

 Why does it occur in so many places? I believe it is because this is how our brains are wired in the first place

Humans are a ridiculously adaptable creature, but we do still come with limits.

And when you respect those limits and fine-tune your life within the sweet spot for all of the main pillars for happy living, you end up with the best possible chance at living a happy, prosperous life.

A Mid-Roll Advertisement:

Interest rates are still at WTF-low levels, so if you haven’t already done so, I recommend checking your current home mortgage and student loan rates. Either at your local credit union, or online via a service like Credible.

Click Here to open that up in a new tab, and keep reading.

Note: This is an affiliate link, to learn why I use these even when I am supposedly retired, read this.

The Curse Of the Overachievers - Revisited

So now you see the problem - overachievers like us tend to get really good at a few things like a career or an athletic pursuit often specializing so much that we neglect other things like overall health or personal relationships.

And our society notices and rewards us for the success, which just reinforces the behavior, so we take things to even higher extremes, often without stopping to think about the reason behind it.

Okay, So What Now?

Once you see the pattern of the sweet spot,  it is impossible to un-see it. So it becomes pretty easy to float up and look at your entire life from above, like an outside observer.

And from up there, you can see the areas where you have enough, and places where you may have already gone overboard, and the corresponding things that you have left neglected as the price of that success. 

Over the past year I’ve been looking at my own life from this perspective, coming up with quite a few of my own diagnoses:

Money: enough. Additional windfalls don’t seem to bring me any lasting joy, but I also don’t have so much money that it makes me nervous. It’s enough to feel safe and empowered, and that’s all I need. Meanwhile, giving away money has brought me lasting happiness, without creating a feeling of shortage or regret.

Career Success (blog): It Varies. When I was really working on this MMM job in the mid-2010s, it started to take over too much of my life. Emails, opportunities, travel and public attention all reached levels where I actually started to have less fun. So I tried dialing it back, as any long-term readers will have noticed. And sure enough, life improved. But then I went too far and started feeling a loss from letting this valued hobby slip away. I’ve been trying to get back into the groove, which revealed another problem - detailed at the end of this list.

Friendships: Not Enough. I have found myself not being able to keep up with close friends, and had difficulty making or keeping plans, partly out of  feeling overwhelmed with life details in general. Still, the opportunities abound here in my local community, and the people are wonderful. So I have the opportunity to keep working at this.

Health and Fitness: Enough. Since I was about fourteen years old, eating well and getting a lot of varied exercise has always been a kind of non-negotiable pillar for me. Nothing extreme, but just very consistent. I think this has been paying off as I feel healthy every day and have never had any physical or health problems in these 30+ years since.

Parenting and Kids: Enough (an A+!) Since 2005 I made “being a Dad” my primary goal in life, quitting my career to do so. It’s the only thing I can truly say I have done the best I could at, and I’m really proud of that. But part of this success came from only having one kid - both of us parents knew we couldn’t handle any more, given the overall conditions of life back then. So for us, the sweet spot was One Child - and absolutely no regrets in that department.

Personal Projects and Daily Habits: Not Enough. I get great satisfaction from working on challenging things and making progress. But far too often, I just can’t get it together and I squander entire days on accidental distractions. Planning to go out for a day of work can lead to searching for lost sunglasses which can lead to finding a lost to-do list which can lead to opening the computer to look something up and several hours disappearing. On and on these tangents can go, often leading to me not getting my primary, happiness-creating goals for the day accomplished. 

I discovered that I have a pretty severe and textbook case of Adult Attention Deficit Disorder, which gets magnified if there are any sources of stress in my life. So I’m working on that (keeping stress down and also targeting habits, diet, exercise and even trying some medication), which will hopefully improve all other areas of life as well.

What am I missing? I’m still working on thinking it all through, so this list will surely grow.

Your Turn

Your life surely has a completely different array of surpluses, shortages and sweet spots than mine. Your assignment is therefore to write them all out tonight, and see where you stand in each area, and decide what to change. Many of the changes are quite easy to make, and yet the results are nothing short of life-changing.

In the comments: what are your own areas of surplus and shortage? And what’s your plan to help restore balance to your life?

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Woman in TFSA overcontribution fight with CRA has penalties cut from $17,000 to just $300



While most of us use our TFSAs as general purpose, tax-free savings or investment vehicles, the

Canada Revenue Agency has been cracking down

on perceived misuse of the accounts by assessing some taxpayers with an overcontribution tax, and others

for falling afoul of the “advantage rules” for registered plans

. Two separate tax cases, out last month, dealt with TFSA penalty taxes.

Non-resident TFSA contributions

The first case involved TFSA overcontributions. If you overcontribute, the penalty tax is one per cent per month for each month your TFSA is in an overcontribution position. But there’s a separate, additional penalty tax of one per cent per month if a non-resident contributes to their TFSA, which is what happened in the first case.

In August 2006, the taxpayer left Canada to begin her medical studies in the U.K. While in the U.K. as a student, and, on the advice her Canadian investment adviser, she made contributions to her TFSA in 2009 ($5,000), 2010 ($1,500) and 2012 ($494). She completed her studies in June 2011 and then commenced two years of residency training in family medicine. In November 2012, she registered with the Canadian Residency Matching Service as a fully licensed U.K. doctor, to obtain a residency position in Canada. Finally, in April 2016, she obtained a residency position at a Vancouver hospital and in June 2016, returned back to Canada.

Much to her surprise, in 2018 the taxpayer received Notices of Reassessment from the CRA for 2009 to 2016, assessing her a total of $17,006 of TFSA penalty tax and arrears interest, asserting that she was a non-resident of Canada when she contributed to her TFSA. Indeed, to be able to contribute to a TFSA (and to accumulate the annual TFSA contribution room), you must be a resident of Canada for tax purposes.

An individual’s residency status is determined on a case-by-case basis, taking into account many factors. The most important consideration is whether or not the individual maintains residential ties with Canada. Significant residential ties to Canada include: a home in Canada, a spouse or common-law partner in Canada and dependants in Canada. Secondary residential ties include: personal property, such as a car or furniture, in Canada; social ties in Canada, such as memberships in Canadian recreational or religious organizations; economic ties in Canada, such as Canadian bank accounts or credit cards; a Canadian driver’s license, a Canadian passport, and provincial health insurance.

The taxpayer argued that during the period that she was in the UK, she maintained a room in her parents’ home and always regarded the space in her parents’ home as her permanent home. She kept many of her possessions there until August 2016, when she moved to Vancouver.

While studying in the U.K., she kept strong secondary ties to Canada, including funding her medical school fees and expenses with annual loans from a student line of credit from a Canadian bank, as well as through various federal and Ontario student loan programs. She retained and renewed her Canadian passport, and obtained Canadian citizenship for her two daughters who were born abroad. She kept and renewed her Ontario Driver’s licence, her Canadian bank accounts and credit cards, and maintained her Ontario Health Insurance as an overseas student. She continued to be listed as an occasional driver on her parents’ vehicle insurance and returned to Canada nearly every year from 2006 to 2012 to maintain her ties to Canada. Lastly, she filed Canadian income-tax returns as a resident of Canada that were always assessed as filed.

In other words, although the taxpayer was physically absent from Canada during her years abroad, she argued that she maintained significant ties to Canada during her period of her absence and “intended to return to Canada upon completion of her medical studies and has, in fact, returned to Canada.”

In a consent to judgment issued last month, the CRA conceded that the taxpayer was a resident of Canada until June 30, 2020. This was a negotiated date that was selected by the CRA, as it was the date the taxpayer had completed her medical degree and could have returned to Canada, in theory, to complete her residency/licensing training. The taxpayer became a non-resident on July 1, 2020 and resumed Canadian residence on June 6, 2020, when she began her medical residency position in Canada.

The result, therefore, was that only the 2012 TFSA contribution of $494 was subject to non-resident penalty tax and interest, which totalled approximately $300, a far cry from the initial TFSA reassessments totaling over $17,000.


Advantage rules 100 per cent penalty tax

The second recent case involving TFSA penalty tax was at the Federal Court of Appeal and concerned the

“advantage rules,” which are a series of anti-avoidance rules

in the

Income Tax Act

designed to prevent abuse and manipulation of all registered plans, including TFSAs. If you find yourself offside these rules, you could face a 100 per cent penalty tax on the fair market value of any “advantage” that you receive that is related to a registered plan.

The taxpayer was appealing a 2018 decision of the Tax Court in which he was reassessed nearly $125,000 in penalty tax applicable to the advantage the CRA says he received in connection with the transfer of private company shares to his TFSA.

The taxpayer went to court to challenge the constitutionality of the 100 per cent advantage tax. He argued that since the CRA has the discretion to reduce the 100 per cent advantage tax to zero, Parliament “improperly delegated the rate-setting element of (tax) … to the (CRA)” in contravention of the Constitution Act.”

Not surprisingly, the Tax Court, and now, the appellate court, dismissed the taxpayer’s appeal, concluding that Parliament, via the explicit wording found in the Income Tax Act, “has prescribed the liability for the tax, the persons on whom it is imposed, the conditions on which a person becomes liable for it, and criteria by which the amount of tax can be determined. (It) delegates nothing to the (CRA).”

The Court did find that there was a wider issue to be considered as to whether the CRA’s power granted under the Income Tax Act to reduce or cancel the tax constitutes “an invalid delegation of taxation power to the (CRA).” But, due to a “lack (of) adequate submissions and fully developed reasons from the Tax Court,” the appellate court refused to weigh in, concluding: “We should leave the broader issue for another day.”

[email protected]

Jamie Golombek, CPA, CA, CFP, CLU, TEP is the Managing Director, Tax & Estate Planning with CIBC Private Wealth Management in Toronto.

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