These are the five-alarm personal finance stories of 2017

Globe and Mail readers and I agree that housing is possibly the most important personal finance topic of recent years. Seven of my 15 most-read columns and newsletters this past year were about housing, and I’m sure much the same would be true of previous years.

My most popular column in 2017 was titled “Sorry to burst your bubble, but owning a home won’t fund your retirement.” This column looks at how it can be misguided to think that selling your house will generate enough money to ensure you have a financially comfortable retirement.

The edition of this newsletter that was most popular online was titled “Here’s a way renting beats owning by a mile.” It’s about a personal finance blogger who experienced a family financial setback and found that being a renter, as opposed to a homeowner, made it easier to cope.

The Toronto real estate market, in all its technicolour glory, was covered in a column that examined six outrageous statistics showing just how unaffordable the city is.

Another popular column took a fresh look at the question of how to tell if you have saved enough for retirement. A gauge called the Living-Standard Replacement Ratio is introduced, and there are instructions on how to use it yourself.

When I look back on 2017, one of the dominant themes is how much anxiety people are feeling about their personal finances. In this column, I looked at how stagnant income growth has been a big factor in shaping people’s finances.

Loyalty programs like Air Miles and Aeroplan are always a popular topic with readers. A lot of people participate in these programs, and they get angry when rules change for the worse. In the past year, the big story in loyalty programs was news that Air Canada will pull out of Aeroplan in 2020. I advised readers to prepare for all-out war between loyalty programs to scoop up disgruntled Aeroplan members.

Globe readers devour almost everything we write about tax-free savings accounts. That explains the popularity of a calculator that helps your figure out how much your TFSA could be worth in the future.

For about five years or so, I’ve been paying close attention to the financial challenges of the young adults who make up Generation Y. Readers seem to agree this is an important topic. One of my top 15 columns of the year looked at how tough the job market is for Gen Y, and it was closely followed by a column looking at a $20,000 mistake parents and students risk making when they choose the wrong program at college or university.

Finally, there’s the Canada Pension Plan. Anyone doubting the importance of this program should check out how many people read the stories we publish abpit the CPP. I looked at how reluctant Canadians are to delay their CPP benefits, even if doing so would earn them higher payments. Actuary Fred Vettese looked at the benefits of delaying CPP to age 70, while Dalhousie University’s Bonnie-Jeanne MacDonald looked at how delaying CPP is especially relevant to women.

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On alternating Saturdays, I write an investing column called Portfolio Strategy. One of the most popular of these columns from the past year tried to answer a question from a Toronto-area boomer couple who sold a home, moved to a cheaper housing market in Ottawa and wanted to know how to invest their leftover money.

Another popular investing column looked at the case for taking CPP retirement benefits early. Call it a contrarian take on the many columns we’ve presented on the benefits of delaying CPP.

One of my missions as a personal finance columnist is to help readers cut through the clutter of investment products available today. The 2017 ETF Buyers’ Guide was popular with readers, as was the 2017 Robo Adviser Guide. The ETF guide will be updated early in the new year, and the robo guide next fall. On Jan. 20, the next Online Brokerage ranking will be published.

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