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July 2009

July 22, 2021

Fraud through the roof during recession

By Jason Buckland, Sympatico / MSN Finance

About four-fifths of the way into Boogie Nights, Dirk Diggler officially bottoms out.

Derailed by a nasty coke habit, the former (fictional) porn star tries to rip off a drug dealer and ends up getting chased down the street by that same junkie, who’s now wielding a shotgun.

It’s at this moment you think back to the start of the movie, when Marky Mark was just a good-natured kid from the L.A. ‘burbs with a larger-than-normal appendage. But when he snorted up all his money, he had to turn to crime as a matter of necessity. It was the only place he could go.

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The right asset mix for retirement

By Gordon Powers, Sympatico / MSN Finance

The theory that you should ratchet back on risk as you age is generally a good one. A popular rule of thumb was to subtract your age from 100, the difference being the percentage of stocks you should keep in your portfolio. Then people started living longer, and the target number to subtract from became 110. For example, if you’re age 40, 70 per cent (110 minus 40) of your portfolio should consist of stocks when you're building towards retirement.

Even when you're done working, you'll still likely need to have at least some of your retirement portfolio in stocks to provide inflation-beating growth, however. In fact, some advisors believe the stock allocation shouldn't drop below 50% for many retirees.

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July 21, 2021

Who will you pick in Coffee War 2009?

By Jason Buckland, Sympatico / MSN Finance

Back in April, we wondered if a McDonald’s free coffee campaign could do anything to put a dent in the iPod-esque java market share held by Tim Hortons and Starbucks.

Based on reader comments, the response was an overwhelming ‘No,’ but maybe this thing isn’t over just yet.

According to numerous sources, the battle for coffee sales is still brewing across North America as McDonald’s continues its push and Starbucks retools its image.

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July 20, 2021

The reason for all that spam and junk mail

By Jason Buckland, Sympatico / MSN Finance

Some things in this world are beyond me.

Like, how did no one watch The Wire? Why hasn’t XM radio developed one of those Pardon the Interruption-esque ‘What’s on next’ playlist line-up things yet? And how did Tom Watson’s bladder not explode in about 500 pieces on the back nine during any round of this weekend’s British Open?

But no matter what’s floating around in my rudimentary mind, everyone – and I mean, everyone – wonders how exactly there can be so much spam and junk mail on this earth.

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Are mortgage rates headed even lower?

By Gordon Powers, Sympatico / MSN Finance

With interest rates so low and the housing market stabilizing, anxious homeowners are worrying about whether or not to lock in their mortgage payments.

The rate-watching game has been a little more uncertain lately as rates seem to have reached a point where they seem to have little room left to fall. So, given current bargain basement borrowing costs, should you go with a variable or fixed rate mortgage?

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July 17, 2021

Can deck season survive the downturn?

By Jason Buckland, Sympatico / MSN Finance

As Canadians, we’re pretty complex people.

Despite the cultural parallels, we do NOT want to be confused for Americans, we somehow consider Molson Dry a choice beverage and, no matter how much it’s shoved down our throats, most of us think Corner Gas  sucks.

There is, however, one thing we’re fairly set on. Give us the simplicity of a patio, summertime and some sizzlin’ grub and we’re good to go.

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Are public sector workers overpaid?

By Gordon Powers, Sympatico / MSN Finance

As the economy continues to crumble, the debate surrounding provincial and municipal governments’ ability to set wages at an appropriate level is really heating up. And one of the really hot issues is the growing compensation gap between public- and private-sector jobs. 

According to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, public-sector workers across Canada earn 8 per cent to 17 per cent more than people with similar jobs in the private sector. When shorter work weeks and other benefits are taken into account, the number rises to more than 30 per cent.

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July 16, 2021

Why is striking on the rise during a recession?

By Jason Buckland, Sympatico / MSN Finance

The recession, for better or worse, seems to have formed two philosophies amongst the working world.

The most common belief is what you might expect – that is, the stakes of the world economy have forced most Canadians, by consequence, into a newfound appreciation for jobs they may have once taken for granted.

Yet the second attitude toward the downturn is perhaps still taking shape before us. And if you’ve wandered the streets of Toronto lately, you can quite literally smell it.

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July 15, 2021

Estate-planning lessons from the King of Pop

By Jason Buckland, Sympatico / MSN Finance

What if I told you a man, already millions in debt, decided it was a good idea to wire $150,000 to a voodoo chief in Mali to allegedly ensure 25 of his enemies – a list that included Steven Spielberg – would soon die?

You’d tell me, That guy’s crazy and, under no circumstances, do I want his advice on my own finances, right?

Well, not so fast. Surely, Michael Jackson had his problems with money, but Kiplinger.com sees a financial lesson to be learned from his tragic death late last month.

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Should you spend more than you earn?

By Gordon Powers, Sympatico / MSN Finance

How much money will flow through your hands during your lifetime? It’s probably a lot more than you think. 

First, get a figure in your mind for your current annual household income. Let’s say that’s $60,000. Now multiply that by 40. $240,000 becomes $2.4 million, a rough estimate of your income over a lifetime of wage earning, not including taxes.

Sure, you may not have earned $60,000 every year since you’ve been working and you won’t stay at $60,000 down the road either. But it’s a quick and easy way to come up with a big picture number, which could be larger still if you’re a two-income family.

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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...