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July 2011

July 13, 2021

That's right, some purchases are just plain stupid

Ever wonder how much money you could have saved if you had hung on to it somehow instead of blowing it on another tchotchke?

Book If you want to feel a bit better about your silly situation, check out Spendster. Run by the National Endowment for Financial Education, it’s a fun place to share videos and stories about some of the really dumb purchases we’ve all made.

Entrants who've created a video showing their regretful purchases qualified themselves to win one of several prizes, ranging from $100 to $1,000.

It’s all in good fun, of course, much like the late Speaker's Corner.

In addition to video and photo uploads, you’ll also find a calculator that determines the actual cost of unnecessary and poorly used credit card purchases and how much these expenditures could have generated in savings.

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July 12, 2021

Is $120,000-plus too much for a charity worker salary?

There are several reasons Canadians are hesitant to donate to charity. Here’s a pretty bad one, and here’s another that doesn’t feature the words “cancer faker.”

Istockphoto_14218389-charity-sign Yet we like to believe – we’re Canucks, after all – the good in people. We want to give, and we want to help.

And then, a story like this comes out and, on the surface, at least, our faith in local charities flies out the window.

According to a Canadian Press study, thousands of charity workers across the country receive salaries over six figures – some even topping the $350,000 annual mark.

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The changing shape of retirement around the world

A new era in retirement is dawning as the West’s golden age of pensions comes to an end and the first generation of ‘prosperous pensioners’ appears in the world’s emerging economies, according to a new report from HSBC.

Re In both Europe and North America, people have enjoyed generous state and company pensions, job stability and rising stock and property markets for many years.

But with people living longer and governments and companies unable to support the costs of expensive pension schemes, individuals are being forced to take much greater personal responsibility for their retirement planning.

And while Canadians as a group seem a bit better prepared for all this than those across the border, they’re still worried. 39% of us associate retirement with financial hardship, and this concern is highest amongst 50-59 year olds (45%), women (42%) and divorcees (53%).

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July 11, 2021

The rich steal more than the poor, new book says

Really, what the heck is going on with shoplifting these days?

Only a week after we discussed that, oddly, a recent uptick in thievery meant the economy was back on track (stealing is an inside job, the thinking goes, and more thefts mean workers are no longer crippled by fear of losing their employ), news comes out that once again throws the idea of shoplifting on its head.

According to a new study on the five-finger discount, the rich steal much more than the poor, suggesting that for every starving mother trying to feed her kids, there may be more than a few Winona Ryders in the fold.

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Paying in cash may help keep you healthy

It’s no secret that people spend more money when using credit cards compared to cash purchases, or that consumers also spend less when they look at their expenses in detail.

Dol This just in: Shoppers who pay with plastic are also more likely to make impulsive junk food purchases than those using cash, according to a recent study from the Journal of Consumer Research.

In one experiment, participants — who thought they part of a market research study for a large retail chain — were asked to evaluate a series of 20 items, which unknown to them had been independently evaluated as either a “vice” (e.g., cookies, donuts) or a “virtue” (oatmeal, granola bars).

After viewing each item, participants had to decide whether to toss it into their shopping cart or continue on to the next item. The result: Those who’d been told that they could use any of four popular credit cards were more likely to buy the unhealthier products.

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July 08, 2021

Would you buy a GM if a year's worth of car insurance was thrown in?

Car makers – well, North American car makers – will do anything to get you in one of their rides these days.

GM-Logo-Nov2010 You’d think, with the devastating Japan ‘quake/tsunami having crippled production from giants like Toyota and Honda, domestic manufacturers would hold all the cards – except, of course, when you remember the decades of lousy models, greed and mismanagement that kind of turned us off local vehicles in the first place.

But, wait! What about this? Would your views on buying a domestic car change if a year’s worth of auto insurance was thrown in the deal?

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July 07, 2021

'Zookeeper' ad found in 2007 episode of 'How I Met Your Mother'

Ads, officially now, are everywhere.

As consumers, we’ve come to both expect and understand why marketing is all around us. We know Times Square, for instance, is full of billboards because, well, it’s Times Square damnit! There’s too many people, too much disposable income floating around, for advertisers to not try and separate our cash from our pockets.

So it’s under that cat-and-mouse guise that we’re okay with ads being even in our bathrooms: on our stalls, in our urinals, even on our restroom mirrors.

Yet at least we live in a world where ads are in the present day. What we see: now. Yet, my oh my, what’s this? On a rerun of a How I Met Your Mother  episode the other day, several viewers saw something fishy. There, on a shelf from the 2007 clip, was an ad for Zookeeper, the Kevin James movie in theatres tomorrow.

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Are full-service realtors on the way out?

Will most of the country’s 100,000 real estate agents soon be replaced by U.S.-style budget operations, in the same way that upstart online brokers muscled their way into the financial industry a decade ago? 

Dis Probably not, but things are certainly heating up in the discounting market.

As technology and deregulation lower the barriers to entry here in Canada, upstarts flat-fee discounters and even general purpose sites like Kijiji have been capturing a bigger piece of the listings pie.

Now, in the hope that they may be able to steal a bit more market share, two of the industry’s biggest discounters are joining forces, the Globe and Mail reports.

Propertyguys, a company that helps people sell their own homes, will merge with flat-fee brokerage Realtysellers Real Estate later this month. 

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July 06, 2021

Sign of the times? Coney Island forced to ration toilet paper

Talk about a crappy economy.

1165923_solitary_roll We have every index to measure the world’s finances – the Unclaimed Bodies Index, the Men’s Underwear Index, the Hot Waitresses Index, etc. – but perhaps, in order to properly gauge economic well-being, we need only to turn our heads slightly while sitting on a public toilet.

Yes, maybe we need the Toilet Paper Index. Because, if you buy a story being reported now by the New York Post, the Big Apple is “so hard up” for cash that it’s having to ration bum wipe in public restrooms.

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Condo fees: undisclosed costs can really add up

When it comes to condos, buyers need to balance getting in early — which sometimes means a better price — and plunking down a deposit on a building plagued by poor construction, shaky financing or hiddden fees.

Book It’s hard to think of any contract where the price on the front page is not the full purchase price, where additional charges are unlimited, and where the seller has no legal obligation to make full disclosure of extra charges to the buyer at the time of sale, says Toronto real estate lawyer Bob Aaron.

When he added up all the extra charges buried in the disclosure statement but not even hinted at in his client’s purchase agreement, the total came to just shy of a staggering $70,000, he reports on the Move Smartly blog.

For instance, it’s become common practice in Toronto and other major cities for some developers to require condominium purchasers in each building to contribute to the costs of guest suites, superintendent’s units, carwash bays, car share units and similar amenities.

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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...