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July 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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July 31, 2021

Would you pay a little extra for home draught beer kegs?

By Jason Buckland, Sympatico / MSN Finance

Everyone knows white trash when they see it.

They can be spotted at weddings in short-sleeve dress shirts and sneakers, in the trailer giving their kids a lesson in household adhesives, or in feet-deep mud holes showing off a glowing affection for pick-up trucks and the Confederacy.

Of course, one of the finer white trash delicacies is sipping a fine merlot. From a box. Tacky? That’s your opinion, but it looks like we all might have the chance to get our booze from a carton soon, redneck or not.

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Test your financial IQ

By Gordon Powers, Sympatico / MSN Finance

It’s no secret that people have widely varying tolerances for risk, and different levels of patience. Unfortunately, particularly when it comes to investing, most of us only figure this out after the bottom falls out of our plans.  

Thankfully though, Yale professor Shane Frederick has come up with a simple way of predicting our taste for risk-taking. He calls it the Cognitive Reflection Test. Try it before you continue on …

(1) A bat and a ball cost $1.10 in total. The bat costs $1.00 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost? _____ cents

(2) If it takes 5 machines 5 minutes to make 5 widgets, how long would it take 100 machines to make 100 widgets? _____ minutes

(3) In a lake, there is a patch of lily pads. Every day, the patch doubles in size. If it takes 48 days for the patch to cover the entire lake, how long would it take for the patch to cover half of the lake? _____ days

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July 30, 2021

Has the bum economy forced you to ditch your A/C?

By Jason Buckland, Sympatico / MSN Finance

Living a summer in Canada without air conditioning brings two things to mind.

One, of course, is the unwelcome Dick Vitale sweat you get going after  a shower, yet the other is a kinder revelation that pops up in your bank account every 60 days or so.

Keeping the A/C off or low in the warmer months surely keeps the hydro bill down, as we all know. But, quite honestly, it’s likely the people without the option of climate control in the first place making the move to open windows and oscillating fans.

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July 29, 2021

Back-to-school spending expected to dip big this season

By Jason Buckland, Sympatico / MSN Finance

Where once there were automobiles, insurance companies and stock brokers, now there are protractors, binders and the Big Erase.

Following in the recession-ravaged footsteps of our humbled auto and finance industries, it seems the economy’s slump is looking primed to take a swipe at back-to-school shopping now, too.

A new survey from New York-based Deloitte LLP suggests spending in the U.S. back-to-school season will drop “as more consumers, concerned about job losses, (continue to) set money aside,” according to Bloomberg.

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Are you doing better or worse than other families?

By Gordon Powers, Sympatico / MSN Finance

The effects of the current economic downturn will be felt around the kitchen table for years to come, predicts the latest Vanier Institute report on the state of families in Canada.

It warns that household spending and debt are rising faster than incomes; that overall debt loads are dangerously high; and that unattached adults are rapidly becoming the country's forgotten poor.

The Vanier report estimates that Canadians’ average debt has risen six times faster than average incomes since 1990, and now stands at a whopping 140% of household disposable income. And, despite the Bank of Canada’s sudden optimism, it seems things are likely to get a lot worse for many families.

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July 28, 2021

Can your hobbies make you some extra dough?

By Jason Buckland, Sympatico / MSN Finance

I often think my hobbies should warrant some financial return.

After all, what employer wouldn’t want a guy who nurtures his fantasy baseball team as if it were a Nano Baby and I were my little sister in 1998? Or what about meticulously organizing your DVD collection by title and theme so that literally no one will notice? What’s that worth on the old open market?

Um, maybe nothing, yet even if I have trouble making cash from what I like to do, ABC Action News doesn’t think you should, too.

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July 27, 2021

Court case means big GST refund for investors

By Gordon Powers, Sympatico / MSN Finance

Canadian investors who been paying for discretionary investment management, where the manager makes all the buying and selling decisions on their behalf, may be entitled to a refund on Goods and Services Tax (GST) that has been incorrectly charged to their accounts.

In a recent ruling, the recent Federal Court of Appeal concluded that fees paid by the Canadian Medical Protective Association to its investment managers were in fact ‘exempt’ financial services. As a result, the CMPA is now entitled to recover the GST it paid on such management fees.

And so are you.

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How to hunt down free airport Wi-Fi

By Jason Buckland, Sympatico / MSN Finance

If you’ve ever bummed it in Europe, your Visa takes some incredible hits.

My own recent trip provided some noteworthy examples of misspending, like staying in Venice for more than 45 minutes and splurging for undercooked Santorini swordfish that would later evacuate my entire body faster than a fire drill at Usain Bolt’s house.

But of all the unnecessary charges I levied upon myself, few compared to the bucks I was laying down for airport Wi-Fi.

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July 24, 2021

Are the iPod's days numbered?

By Jason Buckland, Sympatico / MSN Finance

There’s a certain level of arrogance we’ve come to accept with Apple.

Their prices are insane, their ads are snarky and their products are often exasperating. (Seriously, why shouldn’t I be able to copy songs from an iPod to my computer?)

Remember David Chase, The Sopranos’  creator, who got so sure of himself he kept shoving those awful Tony dream sequences down our throats no matter how unwatchable they were? That’s Apple right now.

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Delayed gratification key to financial success

By Gordon Powers, Sympatico / MSN Finance

One of the nice things about having kids in university is that they start to appreciate some of the things you taught them way back when – like the advantages of delayed gratification and not rushing out to spend every single cent you make.

Consider the Stanford Marshmallow test.

Years ago, psychologist Walter Mischel conducted an experiment on a group of four-year olds. He offered each child a marshmallow, telling them they could have it now, or if they could wait several minutes, they could have two. Some children gobbled the marshmallow on the spot but many of them were able to hold off as instructed.

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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...