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February 2009

February 24, 2022

No-name is the new brand-name

By Jason Buckland, Sympatico / MSN Finance

There are few things more depressing than the contrast between name-brand grocery items and the store-brand products they usually sit next to on shelves. One is bright, familiar and welcoming, the other is usually dressed in dim, orangeish-yellow packaging that can best be described as looking like a cross between vomit and the upholstery at my nan’s house.

Yet no-name brands have been the more consumer-conscientious alternative for years, so it’s no surprise – in this economic pinch – sales are now way up compared to their big-name, higher-priced counterparts.

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February 23, 2022

International regulation: the next financial markets threat

By Deirdre McMurdy, Sympatico / MSN Finance

It was only a matter of time: now that the horse is well down the road, it's time to bolt the barn door.

Whenever there is a crisis - especially one in financial markets that causes acute political pressure - the most common reaction is to throw all manner of reactive regulation at the situation. Well after the fact, of course, and regardless of the new problems that myriad new rules may cause those who are trying to operate their way out of a tight spot.

So it is with the European Union's decision to collaborate on a tough new regulatory regime for global financial markets. That pre-emptive strike is designed to force the hand of the U.S. and Canada, countries that favor a lighter hand on the wheel, in part because of the lessons learned from the damaging fallout from the Sarbanes-Oxley legislation.

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Your finances and that dream car

Genesis2 By Errol Muirhead, Sympatico / MSN Finance

I saw my dream cars this weekend at the Toronto auto show. I had the chance to see them up close and imagined myself behind the wheel of each and every one. I was in car heaven.

But there was one distinct aspect of all these dream cars that rudely awoke me from my blissful day slumber: the price tag. It was a rude awakening. They all cost a great portion of my mortgage and few wanted my first-born child and a part of my anatomy as down payment just so that I could make decent monthly payments.

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Should you borrow to make RRSP deadline?

By Gordon Powers, Sympatico / MSN Finance

With interest rates low and likely headed lower, does it make sense to borrow for RRSP purposes? Maybe. It certainly gets more attractive as your tax bracket increases – here’s a simplified scenario.

Suppose, for example, that you’ve got about $62,000 in taxable income and you’re managing to put away $500 each month towards your RRSP. For the year, you can expect to get a RRSP receipt for that $6,000, which will trigger about a $2,000 tax refund, depending on the province you live in.  

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Your HD bill is probably killing you

By Jason Buckland, Sympatico / MSN Finance

If you’re like me, the first whiff you got of in-home HD TV was the last straw for you and your standard definition television. For people who never aspired to watch HD or go out of their way to experience the difference, you likely couldn’t care less about the fuss and hype surrounding the service. You can watch re-runs of Quincy M.E. and Jack Klugman will look just as unappealing on your 32-inch Magnavox as he will on a Samsung plasma.

But for the rest of us, once you’ve gone HD, you can’t go back. And your bill is probably roughing you up each month as a result.

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February 20, 2022

Are winter getaways a good way to splurge?

Vacation By Dawn Cuthbertson, Sympatico / MSN Finance

Now that I have a better handle on my finances, I've enjoyed watching my savings account grow. Turns out I don't have to be a hermit to save money, as long as I pay myself first and am very selective with my "fun funds."

My new basic motto: I have to deem it a “10 out of 10” to spend.

I had not planned to take a trip south this winter. For the sake of my savings account, I was determined to face winter like a trooper and pray for an early spring without complaining too much. Even when I was soaked with dirty slush (head to toe) waiting for the bus a few weeks ago. Even when that pesky groundhog called for six more weeks of winter.

Then curiosity got the better of me.

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Wanna make an easy $5,000? Tattoo your face.

By Jason Buckland, Sympatico / MSN Finance

Interesting story on the New York Times website about a group of 30 Kiwis from New Zealand shaving their heads and getting temporary tattoos to promote a local airline.

For a round-trip airline ticket or $777 in cash (a nod to the Boeing airplane model), participants – who were men and women – lost their locks and plastered an Air New Zealand slogan across the backs of their skulls:

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Employers match workers' RRSP contributions

By Gordon Powers, Sympatico / MSN Finance

If your employer offers any kind of RRSP at work, be sure to get on board. While not as attractive as the guaranteed pension plans found in the public sector, they’re still generally a good deal.

Many employers support their employees’ retirement savings by matching their RRSP contributions – either up to a certain percentage of salary or as a flat amount – to an RRSP of their choice or to a company-sponsored group RRSP. And, if you're not taking advantage of that match, you’re losing out on free money.

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February 19, 2022

Misery index seems set to rise

By Gordon Powers, Sympatico / MSN Finance

The misery index, as the name suggests, is designed to measure the level of wretchedness felt by ordinary people in the economy. Created by Yale economist Arthur Okun some years ago, it’s calculated by adding the U.S. unemployment rate to the prevailing inflation rate.

Since fear of job loss and shrinking purchasing power through inflation have pervasive effects on the lives of most workers, the index is considered to be a good snapshot of the real economy.

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Tim Hortons: Recession-proof?

By Jason Buckland, Sympatico / MSN Finance

The local auto plant is boarded up, you’re telling your car dealer you can’t afford the lease and no one’s renewing that tennis club membership.

Sure signs of a recession, right? We may be mostly out of the soup lines, but people just aren’t spending anymore.


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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...