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March 2009

January 24, 2022

Starbucks to serve beer and wine at some U.S. stores

Let’s brainstorm together: if there is one place on earth where people linger too long, where is it?


Indeed, there are few social meeting spots as cliché as the coffee chain, yet still it persists, Starbucks being the  place you want to be if your desire is to be seen in public typing on your laptop, studying for an exam or wearing a cashmere scarf with glasses absent prescription frames.

Business-wise, having people spend incredible stretches of time in your outlets is a big money maker for Starbucks, though in the U.S. the franchise has found a way to lure customers in for even longer.

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March 30, 2021

What did we gain from Earth Hour? Not much ... yet

By Jason Buckland, Sympatico / MSN Finance

You’re probably in one of two camps this morning if Earth Hour talk has come up around the office.

You’ve either patted yourself on the back for turning your lights off for an hour this weekend, or you’ve lied right in someone’s face by telling them you did.

Regardless, this isn’t where division in the Earth Hour discussion ends. Saturday night’s global environmental movement was surely well-intentioned but, looking back, what have we learned?

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Peer-to-peer loans finally coming to Canada?

By Gordon Powers, Sympatico / MSN Finance

As the global credit squeeze continues to cast a pall on lending, small players are vying to become the eBay of consumer loans: Welcome to peer-to-peer lending.

With P2P arrangements, individuals, some of them with little or no collateral, try to hook up with those with a bit of extra cash that are looking to lend. In some instances, lenders compete with each other to make loans, possibly even resulting in lower rates for borrowers than are available on credit card debt.

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March 29, 2021

The best way for small businesses to advertise online

By Jason Buckland, Sympatico / MSN Finance

I have a few friends on Facebook who keep trying the same infuriating trick.

Every week I’m swallowed up by chain interactions from those friends who fancy themselves young real estate agents or aspiring photographers, prodding me to check out their listings website, online gallery or Facebook group.

That group is usually highlighted by a cheesy, arms-crossed promo headshot or pseudo-artistic photo that’s really just anything I could take but, whoa, have you gone and turned it black-and-white and played with the sepia slider in your downloaded version of Photoshop? Somebody call the CMCP!

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March 28, 2021

The rise of the 'underground economy'

By Jason Buckland, Sympatico / MSN Finance

Of all the people I know who got laid-off these past eight months or so, the running joke has always been, “Well, I guess it’s cash jobs only from this point!” – a playful nod to collecting your maximum employment insurance benefits while still making a little under-the-table money without the government knowing.

As it turns out, while they may not necessarily be avoiding the EI task forces, not everyone is kidding.

An Austrian professor has generated a series of estimates for how big “underground” economies – defined as “the legal production of goods and services, but withholding tax and social security payments” – have become in eight of the world’s richest nations. And surprise, surprise, the numbers are growing.

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March 27, 2021

The dangers of buying that model home

By Gordon Powers, Sympatico / MSN Finance

New-home buyers who lack the time or money to decorate are often tempted by the move-right-in appeal of model homes. Rather than struggle with floor plans, you know exactly what’s included and also have the advantage of settling into a neighbourhood that’s not totally barren.

Builders sometimes sell their model houses and lease them back from buyers for a few months or more.  That way, when your builder-tenant is done, you can move in or perhaps rent it to someone else.

Tread carefully though if you go the model-home route, warns Big Cajun Man on his Canadian Personal Finance blog.

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March 25, 2021

My bank has me seeing red

By Errol Muirhead, Sympatico / MSN Finance

Talk about toxic debt. If ever you have some time on your hands, you should because you can’t afford to do much else when you're too busy padding the mattress with the pennies you save.

Take a look at the color of the transactions when you get your bank statement or when you go online.  If each transaction is red and the red continues down the page or pages, then you have a serious problem that needs some attention.

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Buying a house still beats paying rent

By Gordon Powers, Sympatico / MSN Finance

There’s been lots of message board talk about whether you should buy or rent a house, particularly now that interest rates have tumbled so much. 

To many people, the psychological benefits of buying are almost impossible to overcome. Confusing the pride and price of ownership — economists call this the control premium — is a very real phenomenon that drives a lot of people to pester their real estate agent. Plus, owning a property gives you the secure sense that, if nothing else, you have a solid asset to fall back on when things get messy — as they have over the past 18 months. 

Of course, all this depends on when you buy, and how long you own. Buy at the wrong time — like during the kind of stampede that overtook much of the U.S. recently — and you could well end up wishing you had rented instead.

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Economy putting chokehold on luxury highrises, too

By Jason Buckland, Sympatico / MSN Finance

If you live in a major Canadian city these days, chances are there’s a prime piece of downtown real estate ensconced in scaffolding and ready for construction.

Only, look a bit closer next time. There’s probably not much going on. What you’re seeing is the illusion of development.

It’s become fairly well-documented now just how the economy’s freefall has stalled construction on big-ticket highrises and luxury skyscrapers across the country. What’s interesting is just how bad the problem has gotten.

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March 24, 2021

Twentysomething overcomes mountain of debt

By Dawn Cuthbertson, Sympatico / MSN Finance

He may still live with his momma, but Adam Goodman has come a long way.

A year-and-a-half ago, Goodman was up to his eyeballs in debt - $60,000 of which was accumulated going back to school for his MBA.

But that would be considered “good debt” compared to the amount he racked up thanks to his love of new cars.

Between the ages of 19 and 24, Goodman bought eight or nine of them.

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World's Cheapest Car could be future of auto biz

By Jason Buckland, Sympatico / MSN Finance

Not long ago, whether people will admit it or not, we snickered at the unveiling of the Smart car, the tiny, hyper-fuel friendly compact that was and still remains a little – well – dorky.

Of course, we were the same group as a whole that cried Armageddon when gas prices shot up around $1.50 and we could no longer afford to fill our conventional vehicles. And then, ah crap, the economy stinks. Now being a car owner really sucks.

So in 2009, as more pop up around Canada, not many people bat an eyelash at the Smart car anymore. For every snide “I wouldn’t be caught dead in one of those!” barb, three or four “You idiot, do you know much that guy probably saves each month?” replies now follow.

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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...