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August 2011

January 31, 2022

Watch for the Valentine's Day scam that'll empty your wallet

We all know Valentine’s Day is a nonsense holiday, a venture in commercialism more egregious than even what Christmas has become by 2012.

Of course, it’s also a terrible punch in the gut for singles and widows each year, which is why this story is just that much nastier.

As if Valentine’s Day wasn’t rough enough, now the lonely have to watch out for scams designed to tug on both their heartstrings and purse strings.

And if you’re not careful, the prospect of romance might just leave you swindled this year.

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August 31, 2021

Posh NY hotel jacks rates for those looking for Irene shelter

In the annals of bad business history, how do we tell the worse from the worst?

7194218-7194218-hotel How do we say, definitely, that BP leaking 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, then wringing its hands over who was at fault, is worse than, say, Walmart, which has faced every allegation from sexual discrimination to the idea it sets fire to every community it touches?

Indeed, perhaps ranking poor business behaviour isn’t for us to say. But one thing’s for sure: we know it when we see it.

And this, we’re seeing with eyes wide open.

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How much does the family dog really cost?

A lot of people I know (but not me) have a dog, so they really can't cost that much, right?

Dog Of course they do, even if most pet owners view those dollars as nothing compared to the joy their charges bring.

According to the ASPCA, the estimated expenses for the first year of dog ownership range from $1,314 to $1,843, which includes food, health insurance and other things like beds, dishes and crates.  Recent reports from the Ontario Veterinary Association peg the numbers even higher in Canada ($1,840 annually for a 40-pound dog).

Actually, that’s really on the low end since it doesn’t include the cost of adopting or buying the dog, which can range from a couple of hundred dollars to ten times that for some purebred breeds.

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August 30, 2021

Is your mortgage broker being upfront with you?

It’s amazing what you can learn from industry publications where participants talk candidly about issues that most consumers never really hear about.

Aa Here’s one from the mortgage lending side of the street, an incredibly competitive business if there ever was one.

Clients are entitled to know when they’re being charged a higher interest rate so brokers can bank the difference to pass it on to other customers, argues Paul Mangion, a veteran broker with The Mortgage Centre in Mississauga.

“When we hear ‘Disclosure! Disclosure! Disclosure!’ we don’t hear about the points that some lenders give brokers for specifically and intentionally offering one client a ceiling rate in order to hold onto to the basis points and then buy down the rate for a subsequent client – without having to give up any commission on that subsequent deal,” he told MortgageBrokerNews.

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August 29, 2021

Good idea to allow customers to raise credit card limits at ATMs?

After the recession, we all agreed, I thought, to take it a little easier with our borrowing.

468733_yes_no_help We joined in an unwritten pact to ease our credit card spending, enter mortgages we’re better suited for and generally just stop trying to screw this whole economy thing up.

Weren’t we all in this together? Hey, banks, we’re talking to you here!

Indeed, even as the downturn’s effects still linger, many of Canada’s major banks are now offering a sneaky option to get you borrowing more at your local ATM.

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Will sweet talk get you a bigger discount?

True bargain hunters seize every chance they can in the search for a better deal. However, for many people, bargaining is still an issue.

Save A couple of years ago, San Diego-based blogger Roxy Popescu embarked on a simple experiment.

At least once a day for a year, she politely asked shopkeepers, waiters, service reps … in truth, just about any vendor she came in contact with … if they would consider giving her a discount, upgrade, or any other sort of perk.

She’d bargained at farmers markets and asked for free samples before. But now she was trying to learn and improve the outcome with every attempt.

It worked, better than she expected in fact.

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August 26, 2021

Warren Buffett makes $280M in one day

As is the gloom and doom of the media, an outfit that loves to pound the negative unless someone as beloved as Jack Layton passes, the world’s writers jumped all over one story earlier in the month.

282926_the_stack Carlos Slim, the world’s richest man, had lost $8 billion in just four days as his Mexican stocks plummeted. It was just a paper loss, sure, but it was interesting as hell. Perhaps you read about it.

In any case, here’s a story that proves it’s not just downbeat stories that make the news.

Because anytime Warren Buffett makes nearly $300 million in one day – hey, that’s something worth clicking on.

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August 25, 2021

Signs you're about to be laid-off

There are few professional experiences as dignity-sapping as being laid-off.

8533724-8533724-unemployment-concept Myself, I was laid-off from a previous employer as the recession began, only the job cutting didn’t happen right away. I was handed a notice saying my days were numbered, and then, along with dozens of fellow slashed workers, continued to show up each day until our termination date – three months down the road.

We mockingly nicknamed our section of the office “the Green Mile.” We all felt like dead men walking.

Of course, the lay-off wasn’t a huge surprise – rumours had swirled for months, and the downturn was turning employed work into a bona fide privilege at the time – but are there sure-fire signs your job is in jeopardy? Under normal economic circumstances, can you tell in advance you’re about to be laid-off?

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North Americans lacking when it comes to self control: Study

From a coterie of self-sufficient farmers and thrifty merchants, the United States has evolved into a country where people not only want more than they have but generally want more than is good for them.

Book So says Daniel Akst, in his new book We Have Met the Enemy: Self-Control in an Age of Excess.

It's an interesting treatise on how Americans (don’t gloat; Canadians fare almost as poorly) have slowly become consumers who simply don't know when to stop — even though their habits are bad for their health, finances, and the planet they live on.

Akst estimates that overeating, smoking, unprotected sex, drinking too much alcohol and similar excesses contribute to close to half of the deaths every year in the U.S.

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August 24, 2021

What's the most infuriating part of cross-border shopping?

These days, Canadian shoppers have their cardigans and chinos in a bunch.

3355521-3355521-shopping-bags Yes, now that U.S. retailer J. Crew has opened its first Canadian store and – gasp! – it’s charging more than it does in its U.S. locations, consumers north of the border are pissed.

But all preppy needling aside, the J. Crew kerfuffle is just the latest in a long line of injustices against the Canadian cross-border shopper.

That would be the cross-border shopper that, compared to his American counterpart, continues to get royally screwed.

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Is it ok to use your old student ID to save a buck?

Last week, the Globe and Mail shared a list of tips on how to get student discounts long after you’ve graduated.

Stu As long as their face continues to resemble the photo on their student ID, many recent grads or drop outs seem anxious to take advantage of any possibility of a student discount.

Who really checks? And what's the harm, after all? 

First off, there are clear ethical issues with asking for a price break when you’re no longer in school. It’s actually dishonest or at least a bit sneaky, depending on your point of view. 

But is it any worse than asking for a senior’s discount when you look older but don’t actually fall into the correct age range?

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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...