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August 2010

August 24, 2021

When boomers ruled the earth

Christopher Buckley’s satirical novel ‘Boomsday’ takes place in a not-so-distant future in which the U.S. is facing a multi-trillion-dollar deficit and massive tax hikes to pay for the retirement of all those resource-hogging baby boomers.

Fed up with shouldering the burden of this pampered group of ‘wrinklies,’ Buckley’s 29-year-old protagonist devises a plan: Pass a law urging and handsomely rewarding boomers to kill themselves — suicide is to be known as “voluntary transitioning — at the ripe old age of 70.

Of course, he was just kidding around. But those worried about aging boomers’ effect on the welfare state aren’t — not by a long shot. Predictions for the nation’s health care system have been nothing short of apocalyptic.

Here’s the latest: Four in every five Canadians believe that the demands placed on the health system by aging boomers will result in reduced access and lower quality care, according to a recent study by the Canadian Medical Association.

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August 23, 2021

Cottage industries sprouting from China's nine-day traffic jam

Perhaps you’ve read already about China’s absurd nine-day, 100 km traffic jam – a monstrosity of infrastructural ineptitude that’s culminated in many Canadian papers running headlines like, “And you thought (Notoriously Bottlenecked Local Highway) was bad!”

Still, international mockery or not, this traffic situation near Beijing is unbelievably bad. Today marked the ninth day that thousands of vehicles bound for China’s capital have, well, hardly moved an inch.

What’s causing the jam – massive construction mixed with fender benders, broken-down cars and merging vehicles – isn’t so much newsworthy as what’s come of it.

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The search for Canada's worst cell phone bill

If you've ever opened your 40-page cell-phone statement only to stare, stunned, at an outrageously high charge, you aren't alone. One Alberta man recently got hit for close to $8,000 in unexpected roaming charges following a trip to Europe.

Earlier this summer, CBC’s Marketplace talked to several weary Canadians who had really been put through the wringer by their mobile phone company. Their conclusion: It happens all the time.

And things aren’t much better across the border. Although the U.S. market offers many more mature vendors to choose from, the Federal Trade Commission estimates that one in six cell-phone users regularly experience "bill shock" after unwittingly exceeding the preset minutes in their mobile plan.

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August 20, 2021

GM's IPO shares to be $110-$130 each -- you interested?

For weeks now on MSN, we’ve been mulling around the question: what will be the reaction of investors when General Motors once again becomes a public stock?

It all started when insiders speculated the troubled automaker would begin issuing – or is it “reissuing”? – its IPO later this year, and now such details have been confirmed.

While a date isn’t entirely certain (the latest guess is October), GM will indeed make its shares public on the Toronto Stock Exchange in 2010. Will Canadian investors, then, see a buy-low bargain when GM stock becomes available, or a red flashing “Stay Away!” sign instead?

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August 19, 2021

Your salary set to increase in 2011: report

Guessssssssssss what!

Yes, after an endless loop of terrible economic news – stocks retreating in reaction to a gloomy U.S. outlook, a sagging housing market and the looming double-dip recession – we’re here today with a positive report: your long-suffering wallet might soon get a boost.

According to a new survey of Canadian employers, Canuck workers can expect to see their salaries grow by almost three per cent next year.

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Airlines offer seats up front for extra fee

Last week, we talked about how airlines are always looking for ways to squeeze out more revenue — without scaring off customers by actually raising fares.

Now, even the cheap seats are getting more costly. Yesterday, American Airlines announced an add-on fee for the front rows in coach class.

Fees for the so-called “Express” seats, which allow passengers to enter and exit the plane in the first group, are based on distance – $19 for shorter distances up to $39 for a cross-country trip.

Travelers can buy the Express Seat option at airport check-in kiosks only, from 24 hours before their trips up to 50 minutes prior to scheduled departure.

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Vending machines might (again) be the future of shopping

Every time a friend of mine returns from a Eurotrip, it’s not the culture, not the architecture, not the history they’re head over heels for.

Usually, it’s something like this: “Man, did you know you can get burgers in vending machines over there?!”

Apparently, yes, you can do just this in Euro destinations such as Amsterdam; order hamburgers and other hot food items in vending machines.

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August 18, 2021

Friends the key to a healthy future: report

Although there’s lots of research to suggest that being affluent is good for your health, having friends could serve you better in the long run.

In fact, maintaining strong social relationships — friends, marriage or children — may be every bit as helpful in living longer as quitting smoking, losing weight or taking required medications, say researchers at Brigham Young University in Utah.

Pooling data from research papers involving more than 300,000 men and women across the developed world, the research team found that those with poor social connections had on average 50% higher odds of death in the study's follow-up period (an average of 7.5 years) than people with more robust social ties.

Having low levels of social interaction was equivalent to smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day, being an alcoholic, more harmful than not exercising, and twice as harmful as being obese.

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August 17, 2021

At what age should kids move out on their own?

I guess it’s tough to paint everyone with such a brush, but I was always under the impression that parents of college or university students wanted two things: 1) them to graduate, and 2) them to move the hell out.

This is not to sound crude. There’s little correlation, at least in how I was raised, in a parent’s love and their desire to see you out supporting yourself – which, in effect, means finding your own digs, mode of transportation and grocery bill.

But, then, that’s another debate now, isn’t it? At what point, after the age of 18, should parents (lovingly) shoo their kids out the door?

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Investment plans should factor in life expectancy

Although you might think life expectancy is the one number you’d try hard to get right, most of us tend to underestimate how long we’ll live, routinely making investment decisions that are at odds with our future needs.

According to recent Statistics Canada data, the median life expectancy at birth for Canadian men is approximately 76 years; for women it's closer to 82.

Don't forget, though, that by the time you're comfortably retired, many of your peers will have already died, thus increasing your personal odds of living longer.

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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...