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April 2011

March 26, 2021

Canada's new cell phone towers not what they seem

There is a great contradiction underway now in the nation’s cottage countries.

Up north, or on the lakes, or wherever Canadians go to get away, many go to do just that: get away. They don’t want email, they don’t want text messages and, most importantly, they don’t want phone calls.

Yet clearly, since this is 2012 and all, phone companies aren’t going to allow its customer base to just up and leave for weeks or weekends at a time, so they adapt, erecting cell phone towers in rural areas where phone reception has been nothing more than a pipe dream.

Though, these aren’t normal towers they’re putting up …

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April 29, 2021

Keep your coffee hot with magic thermal beans

We don’t like to pimp too many products in this space, but every once in a while a new item comes out that must be discussed.

For coffee drinkers in Canada (read: everyone in Canada), what’s your biggest obstacle, other than finding the nearest Tim Hortons outlet to order from and the nearest Starbucks customer to sneer at?

It’s gotta be temperature, right? Too hot, you burn yourself. Too cold, your coffee tastes like Howard Dean sounds. Yet one new company, Coffee Joulies, is offering a solution. Meet the magical coffee beans.

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April 28, 2021

Got $50M for a vacation? If so, try outer space

When he started talking about commercial space travel 20 years ago, Richard Branson must’ve gotten the same derisive look that Dean Kamen guy did when he tried to mass sell the Segway.

1328265_moon “Yeah, alright buddy. Move it along.”

Think about that: 1991! That was nearly half a decade before the Internet, and a year when we first learned the name Jeffrey Dahmer and “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You” was the calendar’s top song. Who has foresight like that?

Apparently, Branson, the British billionaire that registered his Virgin Galactic outfit that year, placing him at the forefront of space tourism, which amazingly is coming soon.

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Is the chequebook quickly being consigned to history?

More and more, banking and personal financial transactions are moving farther from brick, mortar and piles of paper, and closer to being totally digital.

Cheque Everyday brings a new financial app or program focused on engaging consumers electronically, often through their mobile phones.

Starting next month, anyone applying for U.S. government benefits or pensions will automatically receive their payments electronically, while those already receiving paper cheques will need to switch to direct deposit by 2013.

And the state of Georgia is mailing debit cards instead to tax-refund cheques to select residents under a pilot program.

This is all bad news if you’re the company that prints those paper cheques, however. So, it’s not that surprising that Deluxe Corp, one of the largest cheque manufacturers in North America, is fighting back.

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April 27, 2021

Should buyers of counterfeit goods face jail, fines if caught?

Everyone looks at counterfeit goods the same.

Istockphoto_5591533-purses-for-sale “God, ew, that’s despicable. Who would ever buy something like this? … (examining product, under breath) … Unless …”

It’s the same progression. “What am I, scum?” turns into “Actually, this isn’t so bad” which ends up as “Why did I ever pay for the real thing?” That’s how fake items suck you in, and that’s why knockoff products like shoes, purses and sunglasses form such a major market.

But while we know it’s illegal to sell counterfeit goods, what if it was against the law to buy  them, too? One New York City councilwoman is trying to make that so.

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Why women need to save more than men for retirement

It's no secret that women have more trouble than men in successfully securing their retirement, largely due to smaller salaries, less time in the workforce, lower lifetime earnings and inconsistent retirement savings.

Generally speaking, the woman in the family is usually younger than her partner and is more likely to have more gaps in her employment history since women's careers are frequently interrupted to raise children.

So it may not be that great a surprise to hear that one area where men seem to be winning out is retirement confidence, the Employee Benefit Research Institute reports.

According to EBRI’s research, men are more likely than women to say they’re very confident that they will have saved enough to live comfortably throughout retirement and are equally sure about having enough money to take care of basic expenses and medical costs.

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April 26, 2021

The royal wedding may grind your office to a halt

While you may not be sick of royal wedding coverage just yet … okay, you’re probably sick of royal wedding coverage.

439528_westminster_abbey_3 But what can we say? Whether we dig the romance or not, Prince William and Kate Middleton’s union may just be the most talked-about event of this decade when the 2010s are through.

And while there are plenty of business links to the wedding – the U.K. was granted an extra three-day weekend for the ceremony, for instance, a move that may cost the British economy a reported $9.9 million in lost productivity – here’s one that hits closer to home: this Friday, Kate Middleton may grind your office to a halt.

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Are online coupons soon to replace weekend flyers?

The days of clipping coupons from newspapers and flyers may be over.

Coupon Another new digital coupon service launched last week. Unlike group buying sites, however, it’s not designed to offer deals on spa treatments or restaurants.

Instead, the service from SavingStar will work with the loyalty cards handed out at large U.S. grocery chains to give extra discounts on everyday items such as juice, paper towels, and diapers.

Although online coupons account for only one percent of all coupons distributed, they account for about 10 percent of all coupons redeemed, said Susan Gear, group vice president for digital at Catalina which provides a similar service.

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April 25, 2021

Taco Bell demands lawsuit apology in full-page ad

Contrary to popular sentiment, revenge may be a dish best served in a warm flour tortilla.

You no doubt heard of January’s lawsuit against Taco Bell, which alleged the fast food giant’s “seasoned beef” wasn’t really beef at all, rather a “meat filling” that contained less than 50 per cent beef. Of course you did, it was all over the newspapers, blogs and late-night talk shows.

But what you might not have heard was the far lesser-reported dropping of the lawsuit last week, after Taco Bell stood its ground for months and waged a pricey marketing campaign aimed at defending itself. And now, damnit, the Mexican food chain wants an apology.

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Mortgage brokers just want a little respect

The Canadian mortgage market has changed substantially in the past 20 years. Trust companies have been taken over by banks; small virtual banks have introduced new mortgage products; and brokers now play an important and much larger role in matching borrowers and lenders.

Mort In other words, things are a lot more competitive that they once were.

Mortgage brokers, many of whom start out as lenders with larger financial institutions, fight against platoons of mortgage specialists deployed by the banks to retain or snatch business away from them.

It's a tough business so it's no wonder that the constant slagging we view daily during the current federal election campaign seems to becoming contagious.

At issue is a flyer a maverick RBC mortgage specialist has been circulating that "grossly mischaracterizes mortgage brokers in relation to bank specialists," says Rob McLister on his CanadianMortgageTrends blog. "It’s a document that demonstrates a stunning lack of knowledge, professionalism and discretion," he adds, taking it apart point by point.

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April 21, 2021

How are you capitalizing on the sky-high loonie?

Like we do news of Michael Ignatieff, Charlie Sheen and the PlayBook, most Canadians tune out stories on the rising loonie.

Istockphoto_600141-coins-16 Sure, we care when it reaches and nears parity, but for all the raging headlines about closing at 97 cents or 98 cents or $1.01 – for the most part, that’s for day traders and investors, not John Q. Cornergas.

When it gets this high, however, our heads start to turn. The loonie surged above $1.05 U.S. yesterday for the first time since 2007 (it closed at $1.049) and suddenly we begin to think: what are we doing to capitalize on the high dollar?

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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...