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New Zealand moves to three days a week mail service

Times are changing with postal services around the world thanks to people's reliance on smart phones and email. New Zealand recently agreed to cut its mail delivery to three days a week in urban areas and five days a week in rural areas, since they're more reliant on mail, by 2015. Normally, mail is delivered six days a week. The New Zealand Post fought for the change since it currently barely breaks even. If the normal delivery schedule continue, the service would be put it in the red, according to the Telegraph. During the last 10 years, the amount of mail sent has dropped by a quarter and it's expected to continue rapidly dropping. The nation continues to lose another eight per cent each year, the communications minister told the Telegraph. Anyone looking for daily mail deliveries can sign up for a premium courier-type service, but it will be interesting to see how businesses and newspapers adjust to this change. Meanwhile, Canada Post looks like it is in a boat that is steadily sinking. The Crown Corporation saw a $104-million loss in Q2 of this year and it expects a huge loss in 2013. As if that was not enough, they are expected to face a yearly loss of $1 billion by 2020, according to a report produced by the Conference Board of Canada. It's important to point out that its letter delivery dropped by 51 million pieces since Q2 of 2012, while parcel packages have grown thanks to more online shopping. Unfortunately, the letters, otherwise known as transaction mail, which includes bills and statements, account for 50 percent of the company's revenue. Tough times are ahead, especially with companies pushing paperless billing. At least there is some hope for Canada Post's parcel delivery. Canada Post recently announced a partnership with Walmart, Best Buy and Indigo to try same-day delivery. Anyone who orders items by midday can expect to receive it in the evening. A pilot program is being tested in Toronto. Some of the cost-cutting options floated around include getting rid of door-to-door delivery mail in urban areas, which is available to one-third of Canadians, which could cut the bleeding by about half, the Conference Board told the CBC. Canada Post is also looking into consolidating mail processing, implementing new technology for sorting and shortening hours at slower retail locations. While residential owners might not mind a shift in the number of deliveries a week, apparently it will be a bigger issue for small business owners who are more reliant on the regular postal service. But let's face it, drops in mail service are being felt around the world. The U.S. Postal Service planned to cut Saturday mail service, but it faced resistance, while Britain recently privatized its mail service, Royal Mail. Who knows if other countries' mail services will follow New Zealand's route. Would you mindless frequent mail

E-bikes can prove costly when it comes to insurance claims

Although both motorists and cyclists don't seem to crazy about them, electronic bicycles (e-bikes) are flying off the shelves these days. They're cheap to buy, cheap to run and don't leave much of a carbon footprint. They are, however, subject to provincial traffic laws; that is, they can ride in traffic with motor vehicles, like scooters, and their operators mustn’t drive recklessly or under the influence of alcohol. Here's a good summary of the existing rules. More importantly, they also don't need a license or insurance, according to a recent Ontario Court of Justice ruling. But taking that latter option at face value might be shortsighted, warns My Insurance Shopper. Like any motorized vehicle, there is a liability risk attached with owning this type of vehicle. If you're an owner of this type of motorized vehicle you need to know that you may have no liability coverage if you get into an accident, and you could find yourself without coverage if you cause property damage or worse, injure another person. Normal car insurance contains liability coverage but homeowners policies are structured a bit differently and generally exclude motorized vehicles except for lawn mowers, other gardening equipment, snow blowers, wheelchairs and motorized golf carts on the golf premises. But a good number of policies exclude e-bikes as well. No insurance required doesn't mean you're not at risk. It’s important to educate yourself on your policy and exercise caution when purchasing and using these types of vehicles, MIS warns. Do you drive an e-bike? Do you worry about what might happen in an

Canada’s pension system is simply not doing the job, authors say

Political issues deemed too important or sensitive to be tampered with are often referred to as the 'third rail' after the electrically-charged third rail in subway systems ... like Canada's pension system, for instance. “Many Canadians will be surprised by how much they will need to save to fund their desired income in retirement and that their income is going to plummet,” says Jim Leech, co-author of The Third Rail: Confronting our Pension Failures. “It’s clear that existing pension structures are not allowing people to reach their saving goals. Political leadership is urgently required to bring a more flexible approach to retirement planning, one that can withstand the pressures of more retirees and longer life expectancy.” The easiest and most efficient way to close this shortfall is to enhance the Canada Pension Plan, he maintains. But that's not likely to happen anytime soon since most workers and their employers are simply too short sighted. As employers and employees each contribute roughly 5% of their pay straight into the CPP, an increase in the rate would mean that employees would have to get a raise larger than the CPP hike to ensure their take-home doesn’t drop. They would, however, see an offset with a larger CPP pension down the road. Many critics have voiced strong opposition to any boost in CPP contributions, however, labelling it another job-killing payroll tax on businesses. Nonetheless, Ontario is considering launching its own pension plan if it cannot obtain reforms to CPP. Leech and co-author Jacquie McNish would also like to see some action taken to stem the decline of defined benefit plans -- the least expensive way to provide a pension to workers, they argue. The authors cite Rhode Island and New Brunswick as examples of jurisdictions that have taken drastic measures to address pension shortfalls, including major cuts to municipal jobs and services. But both are cautionary tales. And they will remain so as long as a government continues to ignore the root cause of the retirement meltdown, they maintain. Record numbers of workers are retiring and living longer than anyone expected; pension funds have not built in sufficient surpluses to cope with market and demographic stresses, and employers are unwilling to shoulder these steadily increasing costs. Failure to address these issues immediately will soon lead to disaster, the authors predict. Would you like to set more money aside using the CPP? If you're lucky enough to have one, are you concerned about the stability of the plan you're involved

That’s why it’s so tough to save money!

Budgeting is tough, particularly when you're trying to actually set some money aside for the future. Like losing weight or battling any addiction, saving money resides in the realm of behaviour that sometimes seems immune to rational solutions, says one ex-banker turned blogger. But it's often tough to get out of the gate without some help. My guess is that the best person to help you figure out how to save money is somebody who has suffered from living beyond their means in the past, and who has developed effective strategies for overcoming this problem, he says. But if that person isn't readily available to you, you still need to figure out what's holding you back. That means tricking that rational mind and helping it get with the programme, he suggests, including developing a better sense of just what's going on upstairs. Here are a few things to consider: 1. The Hawthorne effect: Just as scientists acknowledge that observing something inevitably alters it, the longer and more closely you begin to observe your spending patterns, the more likely you are to shift them in a more positive direction. That skew that frustrates scientists will nudge you to better choices. 2. Radical transparency: Everybody like a pat on the back but not when it comes to dealing with money troubles. Don't flash the cash and pretend that everything is ok. If you can steer your mind away from keeping your spending patterns secret, you may be able to tap into positive peer pressure from partners or friends. This could boost your determination when it comes to making difficult money-saving decisions. 3. Out of sight, out of mind: If you don’t have money in your hand, or don't spend a lot of time checking your bank balance, it’s much easier to forget that you ever had the money in the first place. Which, naturally, means you’re more likely to save rather than spend. Each of these techniques operates on the subconscious in a way that doesn’t make perfect sense. But because that’s often where the problem lies in saving money so perhaps the solution resides there as well. Do you find it tough to save? How have you managed to break those poor spending

Man discovers dead body in newly purchased France apartment

It's a surprise that we hope never happens to us. The new owner of an apartment walked in to find the hanged body of the previous owner behind the front door when the locksmith opened up his newly purchased property. While it's odd that the body wasn't found earlier, you think the buyer would have visited the property before signing any papers, apparently the body was undisturbed for eight years, according to a local France newspaper. Thomas Ngin, a security guard, had been fired from his previous job, dealing with court proceedings with his employer in legal court and facing debt issues. The bank seized his property and sold it at an auction where it was bought for 415,000 euros (about $598,889) in early October. It explains why the owner never saw the property in advance, but he's likely regretting that decision now. Meanwhile, police are conducting an autopsy to determine a specific date of death. As for the unfortunate new owner, his properly value will likely drop since no one wants to live in a house that someone died in. There's a negative stigma that you just can't shake off and you're better off demolishing and rebuilding the place. You would think that disclosing a death in the property would be required, but in provinces other than Quebec, this isn't the case. While real estate agents and sellers don't have to tell a potential buyer this information, Ontario real estate agents are required to “discover and verify the pertinent facts relating to the property and the transaction” as a part of the rules by the Real Estate Council of Ontario, Toronto Star. It likely isn't their fault that a death happened in their homes, but it seems wrong that they wouldn't let potential buyers know all the information about a place. There are a few court cases where a buyer purchased the property and discovered the house's history later, neighbors do talk. If you want to avoid all this trouble, there's a simple solution: do a quick Internet search before purchasing the property. You'll likely conduct one to figure out about the crime rate or education in the area and this should be an extra precaution you should take to ensure your future property's value. Once you've signed the dotted line, the place becomes yours and it's your problem to deal with. In the United States, DiedInHouse.com will tell you who died in your home, if anyone, for $11.99 U.S. While this service isn't available in Canada, hopefully it'll become available soon or real estate agents and sellers will be required to disclose this information. Do you think sellers should be required to disclose a death that happened on the

Rather than downsize, retiring boomers hope to stay put

If you read the headlines, just about every urban boomer is leaving the suburbs behind and moving into condos or lofts in a trendy downtown area. Yet there's little evidence that most Canadians are actually that open to the idea of moving into a smaller residence as they grow older. A majority of Canadians aged 50 and over – 83 percent – said staying in their own homes and paying for home care is the most appealing option for them, according to Royal Bank research. Even then, while the majority of us want to ''age-in-place'', this doesn't necessarily mean that we expect to stay in the same house. Most people are attached less to a particular pile of bricks and mortar than to a local area – to a network of friends, services and familiar places. Among those who were already retired, a decision to move out of their home was most often due to a change in their health – 66 per cent – rather than to cash in on their home equity or get closer to restaurants. Remaining in familiar surroundings – in a home of their own, in their current neighbourhood and close to family and friends – is definitely how Canadian Boomers wish to live when future health changes occur,” says RBC head of retirement and aging strategies Amalia Costa. Then there's the emotional pain of scaling back. Many empty nesters find they lack the stomach or stamina to dismantle their lives. They'd rather hang on. They struggle with sorting through all those boxes in the basement or dread listening to adult children who want to keep the house where they grew up.And isn't always the financial bonanza they expect. With fewer square feet to heat, low and pay property taxes on, many downsizers assume they'll slash their monthly expenses. But unless you're willing to move to a part of the country with a lower cost of living, the savings may prove fairly modest.Do you plan on downsizing in the future or have you already made the move? How are things working out so

Should live kidney donors receive $10,000 for an organ donation?

If governments and hospitals want to attract more kidney donors, they might want to consider paying living donors $10,000, according a recent study released by the University of Calgary. This would raise the number of transplant surgeries by five per cent and it would help save an overall $340, since the patient would no longer be on dialysis while adding an extra 0.11 years to a patient's lifetime compared to our current donor system. If kidney donations were to go up by 10 per cent, patients would save $1,640 and add 0.21 years to their lifetime. And if rates improved to 20 per cent, we can always hope for the best, patients would save $4,030 and add 0.39 years to their lifetime. Time is money and in this case, patients could gain time and spend less money. There would be wins all around. Canada faces an unfortunate shortage in organ transplants. It leaves some patients on waiting lists for years as they undergo treatment and hope that they will be next in line for a donor organ, but it also contributes to a demand for black market organs overseas. Unfortunately, the number of donors hasn't changed over the last decade, which means it leaves many people out of luck. In 2011, there were 4,500 Canadians waiting for an organ to save their lives, while about 250 people died while waiting, according to the Canadian Health Institute for Health Information. There's a lot of debate surrounding the use of financial incentives to attract more donations. While we expect that they'd likely bring in more donations, the idea brings up many moral and ethical issues. Naysayers say this could exploit the poor since many people in poverty could see selling their organs as another income stream. Of course, that would only work if they were healthy and didn't run out or organs to sell. It's understandable that it can be tricky to encourage donors because it's not as simple as giving away money and walking away. If you were to donate an organ, there'd likely be a recovery period, which not everyone can afford, but also, how would the financial incentive apply to someone who died and donated their organs? Meanwhile, instead of financial incentives, another idea that's been floated around is an opt-out plan. This means that any Canadian resident could be automatically registered to donate their organs, unless they choose to opt-out of the program. Prince Edward Island considered this option and countries such as Greece, Spain and Luxembourg currently practice this idea. But that doesn't solve everything. The Economist attributes Spain's high deceased donor rates to the smooth organ donation process, along with the country's marketing of the importance of organ donations. Donating an organ isn't like donating blood and because of that there are many more issues to consider before someone goes ahead and makes that choice. But there's one thing we know for sure, Canada needs to improve its system, not only to save more lives but to relieve some of the burden on our healthcare

RRSP season is nothing to sneeze at

Enough about flu season – it’s time to stop sniffling and start seriously thinking about RRSP season. The deadline date for making contributions to the Registered Retirement Savings Plan for the 2012 taxation year is just around the corner on March 1. An RRSP is a plan that helps you save for retirement while offering you some other great tax benefits. For instance, deductible RRSP contributions can reduce the amount you owe on your income tax or even give you a bigger refund (depending on your income). And, as long as the funds remain in the plan they are exempt from tax as it grows. You don’t have to make one annual lump sum to contribute to an RRSP either. RRSPs can be made easier to carry through monthly payments that suit your budget needs. However, if you are considering making a lump sum contribution before the March 1 deadline but don’t have the on-hand cash, another option is to talk to your financial advisor about an RRSP loan. There is a maximum amount you can contribute to an RRSP based on your income and how much you previously contributed. You can contribute 18 per cent of your previous year’s income, up to a maximum of $23,820 in 2013. But keep in mind, if you didn’t contribute the maximum in previous years your deduction limit will be higher. Also, if you contribute to a workplace pension plan your deduction limit will be lower.You can set up a RRSP through your financial institution such as a bank, credit union, trust company or insurance company. You may also want to consider setting up a spousal or common-law partner RRSP. The bonus to this plan is that if the higher-income spouse or common-law partner contributes to the RRSP for the lower- income spouse/common-law partner then the contributor gets the short-term benefit of the tax deduction while the spouse or common-law partner receives the income and reports it on his or her income tax return. While we’re on the topic of income tax, the deadline for personal income tax is April 30, 2013 while those who are self-employed have until June 15 unless there is a balance owed and then the deadline is April 30, 2013. As with everything in life, make sure you do your research and find out more about Registered Retirement Savings Plans and the benefits. Click on the Canada Revenue Agency link for some helpful information on RRSPs. Will you be considering contributing to an RRSP this

Are extended warranties ever worth the money?

You buy some high-end television or smartphone after mulling it over for weeks, and then you have about 15 seconds to consider buying what amounts to an overpriced insurance policy on it. When prompted, do you usually sign up for an extended warranty? Many do, of course, even though consumer experts have long recommended against buying extended warranties, a high-margin profit centre for retailers. Most products don't break down within the warranty period and even when they do, repair fees generally end up costing the same as money you shelled out, they maintain. As well, sales staff regularly mislead customers when they sell extended warranties, according to a recent BBC report. And, if these folks are to be believed, the same thing happens on this side of the ocean. Truth is, buying a warranty his isn't really a financial decision at all -- it's about regret, which is a very uncomfortable feeling that we all try to avoid, says Dan Ariely, author of Predictably Irrational. And because we want to prevent that feeling, we're all too willing to do something that's actually not that financially wise. Most of us simply want to know that we won't have to worry about this down the road.  And as a consequence, we often pay too much money for that solace, he maintains. If you're the type that might sleep easier thanks to the additional peace of mind an extended warranty might offer, go right ahead. But at least understand why, he suggests. Do you generally buy extended warranties? Using what criteria? How have things worked

How are you going to save in 2013?

If you’re like me it isn’t always easy trying to save money. It seems whenever I put a little money away into a savings account or a secret stash at home some unexpected expense always seems to arise. Car repairs, home repairs and uncovered medical expenses can pop up at any time. Begrudgingly, I am forced to dig into what little savings I have or choose to add onto my already pumped up credit cards. But I am optimistic. According to a new report from BMO Bank of Montreal, Canadians are planning to save on average about $9,859 this year. That’s an increase of $600 over the previous year. And how do they intend to save? Well, the majority are using a Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP), 63 per cent; chequing account, 57 per cent; Tax Free Savings Account (TFSA), 49 per cent; high-interest savings account, 29 per cent; and Guaranteed Investment Certificates (GICs), 25 per cent. Ernie Johannson, Senior Vice President, Personal Banking, BMO, says it’s encouraging to see Canadians increasing their savings this year. While it's important to pay down debt - particularly high-interest debt - it's essential that households build themselves a financial cushion as well, whether it be for retirement or other goals. And just what are Canadians saving for? Well, the report, conducted by Pollara, indicates the majority are saving for vacations and for purchasing luxury items, entertainment and hobbies. Retirement and emergency savings tied for second spot. Other top things Canadians are saving for include home renovations (29 per cent); new vehicle (20 per cent); education (19 per cent); and a new home (15 per cent). The report also found that men plan on saving a little bit more than their counterparts by hoping to stash away $11,631 compared to the ladies with $8,091. And by province it appears that Albertans plan on saving the most with $18,035; followed by British Columbia, $11,109; Ontario, $10,465; Manitoba and Saskatchewan, $9702; Atlantic provinces, $6,698; and Quebec, $5,477. It’s always nice to be able to put a little away for a rainy day however, the study found that only half of Canadians polled feel they are saving enough to meet their goals. Some of the barriers to increased savings include high expenses (71 per cent); low income (65 per cent); and debt repayment (52 per cent). Now I can relate to that! Check out the full report here.Will you be saving money this