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July 2011

July 20, 2021

Health insurance makes you more attractive to co-eds: survey

When wooing a potential mate, especially in their formative years, men and women will do some wild things.

Istockphoto_3709313-close-up-of-a-female-doctor-smiling They’ll spray tan. They’ll buy expensive cars. They’ll wear skimpy outfits. Totally sex-ay.

Really, though, a new survey may suggest college kids are going about things all wrong. For all the primping and plucking and Jheri curling (alright, maybe no longer Jheri curling), one variable really gets the fellas and ladies going.

Health insurance!

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Would you consider going on a volunteer vacation?

After spending an unpaid week in Costa Rica building a school, a friend of mine can’t wait to do something similar next year. And he’s not alone.

Book Volunteer vacations are becoming increasingly popular with those who’d like to do a bit more than sit on the beach for a few days but don’t have the time to join the Peace Corps.  

In exchange for your work and dedication to their project and cause, sponsors like Global Volunteers will take you on an unbelievable journey – at a fairly reasonable cost.

In fact, it seems that just about every travel organization — from tour companies to luxury resorts — has a volunteer component, although prices rise proportionately.

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July 19, 2021

Remembering Violet Large, the lotto winner that gave away $11.2M

In my time here at MSN, almost two and a half years now, I’ve had a chance to research some great stories.

And no tale has been more memorable than that of Allen and Violet Large, the elderly Nova Scotia couple I wrote about two months ago in a piece entitled, “Real-life Robin Hoods.”

The pair had not robbed the rich, but give they did. After winning $11.2 million in a Lotto 649 draw last July, they decided to give away 98 per cent of their jackpot.

Last year, the story received heaps of international attention. Yesterday, Violet Large, 79-years-young, passed away after losing her fight with ovarian cancer.

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Are low interest rates making you poorer?

Despite the temptation to jump right in, those record low interest rates may be making you poorer.

Canadian households will have a tough time growing their net worth given high household debt, according to a recent report from TD Economics.

Rates Although household borrowing has slowed significantly over the last several months, household credit is still growing faster than income and asset growth, which leaves the household balance sheet “highly leveraged when compared to historical experience.”

Moreover, the level of debt has become a constraint to net worth growth. Net worth is now growing more than three percentage points slower than the average annual rate of 9.7% recorded in the 2004-2007 period, TD says.

But is debt always a drag on net worth?

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July 18, 2021

Pay obese Canadians to get healthy, new book says

Obesity and the cost of health care, like bad TV and Charlie Sheen, are inextricable.

1352387_pink_donuts_series In Canada, at least, with our public medical coverage, they are direct rivals. So we experiment, most notably with “sin taxes": charge obese people more for choosing  to be obese, because the whole country has to pay for their future health care expenses.

And so it’s gone, rather unsuccessfully, the decades-long fight to curb obesity. We’ve tried large-scale cultural movements – public education campaigns, for instance – but never have we taken healthy living awareness directly to the individual.

So, meet the obesity voucher.

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Is growing a front-yard vegetable garden really a crime?

Like many health-minded consumers, Julie Bass planted a vegetable garden on her property last year. So what? 

Images Well, she chose to take the unusual step of installing neatly arranged raised beds of vegetables in her front, rather than back, yard.

And now she faces fines and jail time thanks to local authorities who quote municipal codes that require front yards to have only “suitable” live plant material.

It comes down to property values, of course. The public display of tomatoes on the front lawn makes a home—and by extension, the surrounding residential development, neighborhood, and town—appear somehow shabby. Or so the thinking goes.

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July 15, 2021

GM, Chevy putting cafes, beauty salons in dealerships

Last week, when we picked up a news story that GM was offering a year’s worth of free car insurance to anyone that bought or leased a new car, few were thrilled.

Istockphoto_750486-line-of-cars Would this entice you to buy a new GM, we asked? “No way!” said John S. Added reader Steve, “Whatever it takes to sell junk!!!!”

Well, then. Yet domestic car dealers, after the great humbling of the recession, are desperate, and they’re not going to stop trying to get you into their vehicles.

They’ll try promos like free car insurance, and they’ll try anything else. Like, as the Detroit News reports they are now, spending millions to spruce up their dealerships.

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July 14, 2021

Cdn. credit card debt shrinking at fastest pace since '90s: CIBC

Hey, Canadians … give yourself a round of applause!

534981_credit_card_chip Alright, well, maybe the above headline shouldn’t be cause for celebration, but in these times, I’m sorry, it kind of is.

At the same time we continue hearing about how $14.3 trillion over budget isn’t enough for the U.S. to run itself, a bit of intriguing news comes from Canada.

According to a new report, consumer credit debt among Canucks is no longer outpacing income.

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How much would you pay for a pair of jeans?

Why do some jeans retail for hundreds of dollars when a typical pair can be had at your favourite department store for 30 bucks?

Jeans That’s the focus of a recent Wall Street Journal story wondering: “How Can Jeans Cost $300?”

Buying a “premium” product means paying extra for American materials and labour, custom embroidery on the pockets and waistbands, and, of course, a brand logo.

But the purchaser of $300 jeans is paying far more for markups, storefronts and marketing than the fashionable article of clothing itself. After all, denim is one of the most ubiquitous products going with over 100 brands available in the U.S.

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July 13, 2021

City to fine students up to $500 for cutting class

When I was in high school and, um, mismanaged my course schedule, there was a robocaller that dialled home just as my family sat for dinner.

The idea: rat me out. The attendance system at school noticed my absence, and placed an automatic call to home so my parents would be well aware of my truancy.

Of course, this led to what every student should master, the Three-Pronged “Deny, Deny, Deny” Defence, but the point is, stiffer penalties could be had for kids skipping class.

Like, maybe, this.

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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...