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June 2010

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

Starbucks unveils free Wi-Fi, but is that wise?

Much of the culture surrounding Starbucks, whether acceptable or infuriating, has been the guy in the ExtraCoffeewithCaramel_898_2432 corner on his laptop, sipping a latté for the world to see.

To stereotype: he might be wearing a tweed blazer and the style of jeans fitting a man ten years his junior. Chances are, he also doesn’t mind spending $5.25 on a coffee, so long as he can show the world that he’s almost finished a screenplay that “Bradley Cooper would just be perfect for.”

For better or worse, this is Starbucks personified. But sure as these bozos are out there, there’s likely a share of the coffee chain’s customers who just want to pop in to visit their local barista, maybe sit and check out the paper for 15 minutes and vamoose. They don’t want to plop down and take up a table for three-and-a-half hours.

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Just how safe is your money?

The Taiwanese government is debating whether or not to renew its deposit guarantee scheme after the recently instituted protection expires at the end of the year. Could the same thing happen here?

Highly unlikely. In fact, the coverage offered in Canada on 'safe' investments is really the gold standard around the world.

The Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation (CDIC) is a federal Crown corporation that insures Canadians’ savings in case their bank or other CDIC member institution fails or goes bankrupt.

CDIC, however, isn’t itself a bank nor is it a private insurance company. Premiums from member firms finance the fund, backed up by available monies from the federal government.

Right now, the maximum CDIC protection for eligible deposits in Canada is $100,000 per person (prior to 2005, it was just $60,000 however).

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June 29, 2021

Mobile site shows Ontarians just how HST gouges them

Say what you will about Ontario’s change to HST, but at least they’re doing their best to be up front about it.

No, not up front about the bit that any new business tax breaks may come at the cost of the consumer, or that the government has allegedly been bribing Ontarians with their own money in the form of HST rebate cheques. No, not that.

Instead, against all else, the Ontario government has done at least a fair job of letting us know what consumer goods will be subject to the new Harmonized Sales Tax. And now they’ve gone mobile.

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Should financial literacy be mandatory?

Let’s all be frank: when it comes to financial speak, we don’t know half of what we lead people to believe.

Before this whole economy began to rot, we’d never heard of terms like “futures markets,” “cost of debt ratio” and “net present value.” They were part of a vernacular reserved for derided Wall Street traders, and that’s where they ought to stay.

But if there’s to be one lasting casualty from the latest recession, it’s that the world – Canadians included – could greatly benefit from a lesson in Economics 101.

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Watch out for door-to-door scammers

Door-to-door salespeople are the scourge of the earth, says consumer advocate Ellen Roseman. In her view, allowing an army of pushy salespeople to trick people into signing contracts adds no value and should be outlawed.

Amen to that.

Her latest crusade? Shady vendors who offer to upgrade the hot water tanks of those foolish enough to answer the door. The biggest offender in her mind is National Home Services, an outfit many consumers mistakenly confuse with Direct Energy or Enbridge Gas, the companies that look after the bulk of Ontario’s natural gas delivery.

Read these horror stories and you'll see how people get stuck with things they don't want and often don't need.

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June 28, 2021

Ottawa offers relief to unsuspecting TFSA holders

Some 70,000 Canadians who recently received surprise tax bills for putting too much money into their new TFSAs may be getting a break.

The offending investors inadvertently exceeded the $5,000 contribution limit because they made frequent deposits and withdrawals or transferred sums among TFSAs at different institutions.

They didn’t realize that you can’t withdraw your savings and tax-free profits, then later put the same amount of money back into the account, or to another account, during the same calendar year.

And now they're very sorry.

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June 24, 2021

iPad sales trends suggest tablet is the real deal

Like anything that comes attached with insatiable hype, the smart consumer waits and sees.

Time weeds out the weak products (the Segway) and reaffirms the strong ones (Stephen Strasburg).

And the iPad, which arrived on Canadian store shelves last month with the reputation it could both change the PC market and cure diseases, continues to look more and more like it belongs in that second group.

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What's the grossest thing you've done to save money?

It used to be that doing gross, desperate, unthinkable things to save a buck was reserved only for penny-pinching students.

Squeezing ketchup packets into a bottle. Using paper towels as coffee filters. That kind of thing.

But come on, this is 2010. Not only have we just endured the greatest financial pullback of the last 80 years, but the Internet age has made making or saving cash a common – and often anonymous – enterprise.

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Why frugality is making a comeback

If the economy has gotten you down and you’re looking to make some changes, maybe it’s time to join frugal living movement, says Jonni McCoy, author of Miserly Moms: Living Well on Less in a Tough Economy.

Rather than looking for ways to increase the family income, McCoy is convinced that reducing the family budget is still the smartest way for families to ease their financial burden. This is particularly true for those who’ve been laid off and are suddenly living on severance pay or unemployment, she notes.

To stretch your newly limited income to pay the bills, start with food, she suggests:

* Keep track of food prices and shop comparatively

* Prepare meals and eat at home more often

* Avoid convenient mixes and ready made food

* Plan your meals according to grocery sales

* Watch for coupons and rebates

* Cut back on meat

Sounds a bit like my grandmother, but good advice indeed.

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Time to catch up on pension splitting tax savings

Up until a few years ago, households where one retiree’s income was greater than their partner’s ended up paying significantly more tax than a household with a similar total income, but split evenly.

Now, however, pensioners are able to split their corporate pension plan income with their spouse or common law partner. Previously, they were unable to split any pension income, except in the case of the Canada Pension Plan.

To be eligible to split pension income, your spouse or common-law partner must be resident in Canada and you must be living together at the end of the year.

If you’ve been missing out on this somehow, here’s the good news: The election to split pension income can be made for up to three years after the election due date, notes tax planner Evelyn Jacks. Therefore, if you qualify, you’re still eligible to make the election for the past three tax years by filing the T1032 form with CRA.

By Gordon Powers, MSN Money


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...