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June 2011

June 23, 2021

Are prepaid services ever worth the money?

Although not nearly as popular here as in the litigious United States, a few Canadian companies offer prepaid legal plans as an employee benefit

Legal Much like medical insurance, you pay a set amount each month and have access to the plan’s pool of lawyers. Members can prepare certain documents for you, such as draft a will, and you can have consultations (on the phone at least) a few times a year.

It's a hard-won perk for unions like the Canadian Auto Workers but is it worth the expense? Maybe, depending on your needs, but I’d prefer to go the 'a la carte' route, calling in the professionals when I need them and then taking my chances.

In fact, I’m hard pressed to come up with many services that I’d be willing to pay for before I really need them.

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June 22, 2021

New pension rules on marriage breakdown offer relief

With the value of a pension representing the largest store of wealth for many families, Ontario’s new rules for dividing pension assets when marriages fail are welcome news.

Pen Despite separation agreements or court orders, the current rules don’t allow money to be transferred to the ex-spouse unless the member has already left the plan, through termination, death or retirement.

Now, once the rules kick in, the value of the pension can be settled immediately even though the plan member is still working.

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June 21, 2021

Service now officially offers employers Facebook background checks

So you know that, in many modern workplaces, employers run background checks on prospective staff.

Istockphoto_16586024-upset-african-american-man-with-laptop Today, that means, first and foremost, doing a quick Facebook scrub. What are his/her profile pictures like? What kind of groups are they part of? What were they up to last weekend?

Yet for all the cat-and-mouse elements to this system, it’s largely existed in the shadows of the hiring process. Most job applicants are fully aware it’s happening, but most employers won’t come out and admit it. Now, though, an online reputation company appears to be blowing the lid off the whole thing.

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Time to settle up: IRS targets Americans living in Canada

Close to one million Americans living in Canada could be in trouble with the IRS, even though they’ve been keeping their taxes up top date on this side of the border.  

Tax Americans have long been required to file an annual tax return based on their worldwide income, regardless where they actually earned their money. That’s nothing new.

But, starting in 2013, foreign financial institutions will have to hand over information to the IRS about any current and former U.S. citizens they have accounts with.

For many expats, the result could be filing years of U.S. tax returns, including potential penalties unless they take advantage of a limited amnesty which ends this summer.

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June 20, 2021

Julyna, the female answer to Movember, is just what you're thinking

Movember, when the campaign was first dreamt up around a campfire back in 1999, wasn’t much.

Istockphoto_15971745-small-tree Yet since a group of Adelaide, Australia boys launched the ‘stache-for-cash charity movement more than a decade ago, it has developed into a global phenomenon, growing one Tom Selleck at a time. Last year alone, Canadian Mo Bros. raised $22 million for prostate cancer research.

Women? They understandably feel left out. For the most part, they can’t grow moustaches, and to the best of my knowledge, they don’t suffer from prostate cancer, Movember’s biggest nemesis. So, hmm, how could they take part in a similarly ladylike crusade?

What … uh … hair … could … they … also … grow … for … a … month … ?

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Are you sure that's the best you can do?

To lots of people, haggling is awkward, uncomfortable and inappropriate – unless it pays off.

Hag A recent poll by Consumer Reports found that more than two thirds of those who tried to negotiate for a better deal were successful.

Among those who haggled, 83 per cent negotiated better deals on hotel rates, 81 per cent reduced their cell phone bills, and 81 percent went home paying less for clothing.

It's all about being willing to hear the word no, says Fred Gleeck, author of Negotiate Everything: How to Get the Absolute Best Deal on Any Product or Service You Buy.

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June 17, 2021

Rebecca Black and the pay-for-music quandary, revisited

It’s Friday, and like millions confused about the path of the weekly calendar, you’ve probably mosied on over to YouTube to suss out a certain video.

Istockphoto_13524134-friday-pinned-on-bulletin-cork-board You’ve typed “R” and then you’ve typed “E” and you’ve realized that’s all you need to press. ENTER and one click, thanks to the video site’s suggested search option, should get you rocking out to Rebecca Black’s “Friday” as fast as possible.

Only, wait a second. The video, like the Stanley Cup to Canada, is gone. Left us.

Turns out, the video’s removal is part of a nasty dispute over royalties and an attempt to institute a pay-per-listen model, yet the Rebecca Black vanishing has remarkably sparked the latest instalment of a classic (well, since about 2001) Internet debate: will anyone out there actually pay for music they get online?

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June 16, 2021

Many corporate jets used for personal CEO travel: report

I’ve never owned corporate stock, nor have I certainly owned shares in a company with a notoriously spendthrift CEO – Conrad Black, Dennis Kozlowski, whoever.

704884_jet So what I’m getting at is, I’ve never really had a stake in how, and on what, a public company spends its dough. Because I can imagine that’d be maddening.

According to a new report from the Wall Street Journal, about 30 per cent of trips made by private jets owned by publicly-traded corporations between 2007 and 2010 were to resort destinations, suggesting that executives routinely use company planes for pleasure instead of business.

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5 myths debunked in defence of couponing

Extreme couponing has become quite the craze but most people still shy away from what seems to border on hoarding.

Coup But detractors are losing sight of the real purpose of couponing, say the folks at Savebrite, a mega-couponing site. And that's simply to save a few bucks. Here then are a few myths they'd like to see set aside

* Collecting coupons is too time consuming

Not true. When coupons were only available in your local Sunday paper … perhaps. But now you actually have to go out of your way to avoid them. No longer confined to a once-a-week paper, you’ll find coupons online, on manufacturer websites, on the back of receipts and on your cell phone.

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June 15, 2021

What's the best financial advice you've been given?

Whatever your politics, you have to love Barack Obama for his ability to say more with less.

866606_piggy_bank_2 For instance, we’ll concede that – again, aside from how you feel he’s performed as President – he’s probably the smartest guy in the room more often than not. So that’s why I got such a kick out of the advice he gave at a conference for money writers this week.

When asked, at a time when homes are still underwater and consumers are starting to lose their confidence again, what the best financial advice he’d ever received was, Obama said, simply: “Don’t spend all your money.”

A genuine principle. But you could almost sense the Democrat’s urge to reach out and grab every American living off unemployment but still paying for an iPhone 4 by the throat and yell, “You hear me, dummy?! Do you see what you idiots are doing? Stop! Stop spending everything! For the love of God!”

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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...