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June 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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June 30, 2021

Financial tips new parents need to know

By Jason Buckland, Sympatico / MSN Finance

Whenever I visit back home with my parents, they like to put me to work.

And, of course, when I gripe about having to take out the recycling or mow the lawn, they can always fall back on the ‘We forked over the $$$ to raise you, it’s the least you could do’ defence.

They’re right, but that doesn’t stop me from joking that I’ll put ‘em in a home before they know it if the chores keep coming. Somehow, I’m the only one that finds this funny.

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June 29, 2021

Laid off? Protect your severance package

By Gordon Powers, Sympatico / MSN Finance

The worst recession in decades is not choosing favourites, hammering Canadian workers across the country. Among the hardest hit are the 1,300 Nortel employees who got axed last fall only to find their severance payments gobbled by the company’s bankruptcy filing

Legal, sure, but it hardly seems fair. And even those firms that don't bail out this way are still able to get away with some pretty modest settlements.

In Ontario, for instance, someone who has worked for the same employer for five or more years is entitled to one week per year up to a maximum of 26 weeks, providing the employer has an annual payroll of $2.5 million or more. Employees of smaller employers are out of luck, however.

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Bell, Telus look to finally get in bed with the iPhone

By Jason Buckland, Sympatico / MSN Finance

If the current Canadian cell phone market was like the first 90 minutes of A Few Good Men, Rogers – the sole nationwide provider of the mega-popular iPhone – would definitely be Jack Nicholson. Respect-demandin’. Trash talkin’. Large, and in charge.

Of course, that would make Bell and Telus like Tom Cruise. Good-looking and sharp alternatives, but certainly not reaching their potential and absolutely (to this point) in awe of the big man on campus.

But as we all know, Cruise eventually gets the best of Nicholson, and a similar equalizing parallel could be taking place on Canada’s wireless scene that might allow Bell and Telus to finally knock Rogers off its damn happy pedestal.

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June 26, 2021

How reliable is your retirement income?

By Gordon Powers, Sympatico / MSN Finance

Just about everyone who’s looking to retire has the same objective: to have enough income to live on for the rest of their lives. You may have saved for many years and invested your money carefully. But when the money has to flow in the reverse direction, suddenly you’re faced with a whole new set of challenges.

It’s all a series of tradeoffs, says Paul Merriman, author of Live It Up Without Outliving Your Money. Unless you have more money than you think you'll ever possibly need, you have to make some difficult decisions, the outcome of which will depend largely on future developments beyond your control.

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Brand loyalty -- on the way out

By Jason Buckland, Sympatico / MSN Finance

“I’ve done commercials for Coke and Pepsi … If you wanna know the truth, can’t even taste the difference. Surprise! All I know is Pepsi paid me most recently, so … tastes better. That’s pretty much how it goes.” – Dave Chappelle, For What It’s Worth

I can remember, not long ago, grocery shopping at various supermarkets and watching the no-name products all but collect dust on the shelves.

Yeah, they had their market share, but for the masses doing their food runs at any store other than Price Chopper, no-name products – whether we’ll admit it or not – often felt the mighty swat of Lipton, Ruffles, General Mills or whoever.

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June 25, 2021

How your laziness costs you money

By Jason Buckland, Sympatico / MSN Finance

Since the dawn of time, laziness has been the ultimate no-no.

In Christian mythology, sloth was one of the seven deadly sins, its transgressors fed to the hissing snake pits of Hell. Benjamin Franklin once famously derided the sluggish by saying, “The sleeping fox catches no poultry.” Indolence was also the premise for the positively awful Slackers, a movie so bad it singlehandedly delayed Jason Segel’s rise to fame by five years.

But for all my self-admitted lethargy, I never took the time to properly evaluate how much cash it might be costing me. Why, you ask? Because I’m lazy. (I thought we just covered that.)

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June 24, 2021

Incomes rise more sharply here than in U.S.

By Gordon Powers, Sympatico / MSN Finance

The average Canadian’s income has grown much faster than that of U.S. workers over the past four years, according to a recent study from CIBC World Markets.

That explains the big line-ups at the Dairy Queen.

Disposable income – the money left over after paying the bills – here has grown at twice the pace south of the border, rising $2,600 Cdn. versus $1,300 U.S. after adjusting for inflation, says Benjamin Tal, the author of the study.

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Ocean's Eleven-like ATM scam coming our way soon

By Jason Buckland, Sympatico / MSN Finance

After I sifted through the sigh-inducing “No, dude! Stock up on ur Grey Goose bottles cuz da LCBO’s strikin!!!!!” status updates last night, a few more concerning messages stood out on my Facebook news feed.

Updates from three different people complained they had just been ripped off by ATM fraud in and around the GTA, one friend having lost $1,200 after his info was cloned when he used his card to pay for lunch at a local deli.

Now, I’ve had my Visa compromised recently but, thankfully, they took the initiative and cancelled my card before anything could happen. To my knowledge, as well, most of the victims of the debit rip-offs had their cash reimbursed by their banks which – for whatever reason – all happened to be TD.

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June 23, 2021

Success seems to favour the tall, good-looking

By Jason Buckland, Sympatico / MSN Finance

Because it is largely immeasurable, it’s been tough to pin down once and for all that beauty is a prerequisite for success.

Sure, there’s been sentiment that society favours the good-looking, but rarely has a quantifiable analysis popped up to defend the notion beyond simple speculation and water-cooler talk.

While, granted, this Financial Post article isn’t exactly irrefutable, I’ve yet to find a better attempt to prove the merits of looks (and height) in the corporate world.

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June 22, 2021

Should you use ATMs when travelling abroad?

By Gordon Powers, Sympatico / MSN Finance

A friend of mine preparing for a recent holiday in Europe was surprised when told just how much he'd likely be charged for withdrawing his own money from an overseas bank machine.

The major advantage of exchanging money with your ATM card is that all cash withdrawals are exchanged based on a wholesale exchange rate, usually reserved for large interbank exchanges, according to Ambassador Travel. This rate is often a few percentage points better than what you can get from exchanging traveler's checks locally.

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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...