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September 2011

January 24, 2022

Lower-income workers should join workplace pension plans: report

Economists frequently assume that employees “pay for” employer-provided fringe benefits, such as contributions to retirement plans, in the form of reduced wages.

Wages and fringe benefits are generally perfect substitutes, so that an additional dollar of wages should substitute for an additional dollar of fringe benefits and vice versa.

But that's not necessarily true, says tax analyst Eric Toder in a recent brief.

While higher-income workers clearly benefit from such programs -- they face higher tax rates than low earners during their working years, so the tax deferral is more valuable, and are more likely to drop into a lower tax bracket at retirement than low earners who are already there -- that doesn't mean lower-income workers shouldn't sneer at such plans.

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September 30, 2021

Do those 'rent to own' housing deals ever pay off?

If you've been in the U.S. recently, you've seen the signs, generally at large intersections: “Rent To Own! No Financing Necessary! Call Now!”

Ad While these offerings are nowhere near as common on this side of the border, several small Canadian companies are using them to entice prospective homebuyers into the market.

Ottawa-based Rent 2 Own Canada, for instance, claims to help first-time buyers to work towards ownership without a huge investment. Same with Calgary's Rent Faster. And then there's a stack of offers on Craigslist as well.

But is this really the way to go if you're strapped for cash or have a shaky credit history? Or are the deals simply too lopsided?

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Hallmark debuts greeting cards for the laid-off

The recession, to be sure, never cared about timing, so why should post-downturn pleasantries arrive with any greater sense of punctuality?

Indeed, that appears to the issue surrounding Hallmark’s new line of greeting cards, the ones that offer support and condolence to the laid-off.

No, really, it’s all right here. Look. Hallmark’s just unveiled a series of cards for the unemployed, ranging from sympathetic to humorous to everything in between.

One of them reads, “Don’t think of it as losing your job.” Then, on the inside flap: “Think of it as a time out between stupid bosses.”

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September 29, 2021

U.S. town nets $3,916.49 from saggy-pants fines

When it comes to fines and taxes – and we saw this Tuesday in the Dalton McGuinty point-off, er, Ontario Leaders Debate – we only discuss the negative.

Sagging_pants_xlarge Forget that such money builds schools or fills pot holes or runs an afterschool program for Junior, it’s coming out of our  pockets. This is unacceptable.

Well, here’s a story where anyone that reads it’s gotta say, “You know what? Those are public funds well-earned.”

According to the Albany Herald out of Georgia, the city’s new saggy-pants ordinance (once again: saggy-pants ordinance) has netted the town nearly $4,000 over the past ten months.

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September 28, 2021

Psst: Want to earn a sure 50% on your money?

While "Earn 50% On Your Money!" may be a tag line you'd expect to see in the back pages of magazines your mother told you not to read, it actually has a ring of truth.

Ad At least it does for those who take part in pension or RRSP contribution matching programs set up by their employers.

Many employers offer a subsidized RRSP program, meaning they will match employee contributions up to a certain dollar or percentage limit, ranging anywhere from 25% to 100%, depending on how long you've worked there.

Talk about free money. Not signing up is akin to simply leaving some of your salary on the table every month. Nonetheless, industry figures suggest that roughly 40% of eligible employees simply never get around to participating.

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September 27, 2021

Travelers beware the camera lens pickpocket

Think you’ve heard every tourist scam?

Indeed, the Canadian traveler likes to believe it’s prepared for fraudsters and pickpockets of all kinds when they vacation across the world. I mean, after all, nylon waist wallets are practically Fort Knox around your hips.

But thieves, not unlike juicing sluggers during a certain era of baseball, are always a step ahead of the game.

And here’s a scam that comes as news to us at least – swiping not your entire camera, but the expensive lens hanging off the end.

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Divorce decree: Both parents responsible for child's financial welfare

75 per cent of children of divorce live with their mother and more than a third of them ended up in households with incomes below the poverty line, according to recent U.S. data. And the Canadian numbers really aren't much better.

D What's sad about this statistic is that children didn't ask to be put in this situation, says Lee Block, a post-divorce consultant and author of The Post-Divorce Chronicles.

Hers is a controversial take: Instead of focusing on where the money is being spent each month, focus on the lifestyle of your children. Is it fair for them to go without because the child support is not enough, she asks. 

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September 26, 2021

Economy forcing consumers to make risky health tradeoffs: report

In times of economic dread, it’s no stretch that we’d compromise.

1160103_perscription_drugs_2 We’d compromise our wardrobes (when consumers stopped buying $300 premium jeans, for instance), we’d compromise our leisure time (when we had to kick pay porn out of the rotation) and we’d compromise our private jetting (when rich people had to, ick, learn to “jetpool”).

But one thing we wouldn’t compromise, darnit, was ourselves. Our health, above all, would be immune to the recession.

Make that “should.” According to a new poll from Consumer Reports, that’s just what we’ve been doing: stretching our health care dollars and making risky tradeoffs.

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When servers are lucky enough to get a tip, it's not all theirs

Do you ever wonder what really happens to a server’s tip?

Tip Often, tips are placed in a pool and allocated proportionately to each staff member at end of the shift.

In larger restaurants, servers' total sales are tracked electronically. The shop owes the server credit card tips, while the server owes the house the total of what customers paid in cash, plus a percentage ranging from 3 to 5% to split with backroom staff.

At other places, servers kick in a generally agreed upon portion of their tips to share among the kitchen, bar, bus and shosts staff – and, often, salaried floor managers.

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September 23, 2021

More people underwater in rental agreements: report

As the economy continues to sag like a braless Jane Fonda, there’s at least been one silver lining about housing.

Stock-photo-12222101-for-rent-california-real-estate-sign-and-house Namely, that we don’t have to buy it. If there’s been any solace to the downturn, it’s that many more have taken comfort in renting. Not the finest investment, sure, but it’s (generally) less expensive than buying a home and about fourteen thousand times less responsibility.

Of course, the “renting is safer in times of turmoil” theory only works when our incomes stay flat. Which, at least in some places, they’re not.

According to a new report out of the U.S., rent has stayed flat but incomes have shrunk – meaning, quite literally, people are drowning under their rental agreements now, too.

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September 22, 2021

Macy's unveils iPad vending machine

Back in 2006, Macy’s made headlines for installing iPod-dispensing vending machines in its stores.

Since, of course, this has become a non-story – there are even vending machines that spit out gold now, for crying out loud.

Still, among all the tech-feeding vending machines out there, all the ones that give consumers quick access to digital cameras, USB sticks and everything else, it’s still a bit odd to see ones distributing iPads.

‘Cause that’s what Macy’s has just unveiled in New York City.

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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...