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April 2009

April 23, 2021

Pets-only airline coming this summer

By Jason Buckland, Sympatico / MSN Finance

Imagine I told you I had something legitimate for you to read today but it included the term “pawsengers.” You’d tell me I was an idiot, right?

It turns out there’s a new pets-only airline starting in the U.S. this summer, offering cats and dogs “safe and comfortable transportation” in the plane’s main cabin, free from its frightening and ominous cargo hold.

Pet Airways is to begin the pets-only flights this July and will connect between five cities (New York, Washington, Chicago, Denver and L.A.) to start. While there’s no word on Canadian stops yet, the company says it hopes to expand to 25 continental destinations within the next few years.

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April 22, 2021

Most Canadians too complacent about housing prices

Bubbl-bursts By John Calverley, guest blogger for Sympatico/MSN Finance

Most Canadians are far too complacent about the outlook for housing prices. U.S. prices continue to fall like a stone, down 29% from the peak so far on the Case-Shiller index. Industry voices in Canada insist we will not see anything like that here, but the reality is that housing prices are already falling fast, almost everywhere in Canada. 

In my new book When Bubbles Burst: Surviving the Financial Fallout, I look at the world-wide housing boom and its consequences – a major world recession and a financial crisis. The book is a sequel to a book I published in 2004, which warned about the U.S. housing bubble. At that time I still hoped that a crisis could be avoided but what has unfolded is my worst case scenario.

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'Fatties cause global warming,' U.K. report says

By Jason Buckland, Sympatico / MSN Finance

And you thought United Airlines was insensitive.

A new report out of London suggests the rising number of the world’s obese is, at least in part, to blame for global warming.

You can check out the original article on the U.K.’s Sun website – fittingly titled “Fatties cause global warming” – but all you’ll find is pictures of overweight people shot from behind or the neck down, so I’ll give you scoop here instead.

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April 21, 2021

Can a free cup lure coffee drinkers from Tim's to McDonald's?

By Jason Buckland, Sympatico / MSN Finance

Say what you want about McDonald’s, but there’s a reason they’ve served over 99 billion, or approximately half the people convinced Paula Abdul is a raging alcoholic.

Mickey D’s is again proving why it might be the savviest restaurant chain around, offering free coffee for the next two weeks in a bid to nab about the only market share in fast food they don’t already have.

That’s right, every morning until May 3rd, you can walk into any of McDonald’s 1,400 Canadian locations and they’ll give you a small coffee absolutely free.

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April 20, 2021

Help! My student debt is killing me.

By Gordon Powers, Sympatico / MSN Finance

It’s April. Students across the country are graduating this month, which means the meter will soon be running on their student loans, adding to a collective debt that now exceeds $13-billion.

Estimates vary, but something like 20% of that amount seems to in arrears, lost in a sea of underemployment, bankruptcy, flight to other countries, and general indifference. In short, Canada’s student loan program is in trouble.

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Most "green" products not all they're made out to be

By Jason Buckland, Sympatico / MSN Finance

Even the Dharma Initiative is more regulated than this.

As you continue to hear sarcastic coughs at the gas station by the guy in a hemp blazer filling up his Prius next to you, it turns out – not with total surprise – that not all those “green” products endorsed by such self-proclaimed environmentalists are all they’re cracked up to be.

A startling 98% of so-called green items in the consumer market commit at least one of the Seven Sins of Greenwashing, a list constructed by a product survey group to mark just how supposed eco-friendly goods can deceive the public.

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April 17, 2021

How to get a refund of EI premiums

By Gordon Powers, Sympatico / MSN Finance

You’ve probably seen the ads warning that many small businesses are unnecessarily paying EI premiums on family members who work in the business since they won’t ever be able to collect benefits.

The rule is that if a family employee is paid about the same and works roughly the same hours as other workers with similar jobs, then EI premiums should be deducted and the person is eligible to claim EI benefits. Sometimes though, ineligible relatives end up paying for something they’ll never enjoy.

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The collapse of the middle class

By Errol Muirhead, Sympatico / MSN Finance

According to Elizabeth Warren, renowned U.S. law lecturer and speaker, the collapse of the middle class in America is a systematic degradation of family values.  She argues that the risk factors of both parents in the workforce have led to the collapse of the middle class due to higher risks, lower rewards and a shrinking safety net.

In a generation, approximately 30 to 35 years, there are millions more mothers in the workforce today than in 1970. Warren argues that with more mothers in the workforce, families should be very wealthy; more secured, have more disposable income, able to take more vacations, have more savings, and so on.

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Dump your cable subscription for YouTube ... soon, that is

By Jason Buckland, Sympatico / MSN Finance

In this space last month, we wondered – with online video continuing to make leaps and bounds – if it might be possible to free yourself from that costly cable or satellite TV subscription sometime soon.

Don’t go telling Rogers to eat it just yet, but you might want to start warming to the idea.

YouTube has now cannonballed into the pool of mainstream online video, opting to splash the waters that other streaming video sites could only tread before.

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April 16, 2021

Mortgage refinancing carries stiff penalties

By Gordon Powers, Sympatico / MSN Finance

Interest rates are down sharply – maybe even as low as they’re going to get – which means your existing mortgage rate is likely higher than prevailing rates. Is this then a good time to renegotiate?


With a five-year fixed rate now lower than 4% in some spots, the savings can be significant – particularly if you’re still far away from paying things off. But while the improved interest rate you might get is tempting, it's important to calculate how much you'd pay in penalties and how long it will take to recoup the cost of refinancing.

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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...