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December 2011

January 31, 2022

Is there a better way to handle student loans?

Students and workers seeking retraining are borrowing extraordinary amounts of money through federal loan programs, potentially putting a huge burden on the backs of young people trying to kick start careers.

The government-issued loan program's costs to taxpayers, including provisions for interest relief for unemployed graduates and a default rate of more than one dollar in eight, is somewhere near the $20 billion mark, according to various estimates. 

Clearly, graduating in the weak job markets of 2012 is going to be challenging for a student carrying, say, $40,000 in debt.

Is there a better way? Well, things are certainly different in Australia, for instance.

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December 30, 2021

Which website has the worst customer service?

When it comes to business relations, few methods alienate consumers more than poor customer service.

827556_signStores can have lousy selection, sky-high prices, whatever. That, we will complain about but with an even temperament. Though feature a snotty sales clerk or pestering telemarketer, and consumers will never forgive. Or forget.

Want proof? Read some of the comments on our post two summers ago wondering who has Canada’s worst customer service.

As a spin on that, at a time when online shopping is the perfect antidote for chaotic holiday crowds, we ask: which websites and online retailers have the worst customer service?

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Boomerang kids continue to fill up parents' nests

It's no secret that today's young adults study longer, marry later, and earn their own keep more slowly than the previous generation. And when they do eventually leave, they come back -- sometimes more than once -- after university, between jobs, or after a divorce.

AdStill, it’s a bit surprising to hear that almost two thirds of parents are providing support to their adult children, ranging in age from 18 to 39, according to a National Endowment for Financial Education study.

Not wanting to see their children struggle, the bulk of parental assistance extends to housing, living expenses and transportation costs. Although some concerned parents are also offering assistance for insurance coverage and medical bills.

According to NEFE, here’s how the family wealth transfer breaks down:

  • 50 per cent are providing housing
  • 48 per cent are helping with living expenses
  • 41 per cent are aiding with transportation costs
  • 35 per cent are providing insurance coverage
  • 29 per cent are handing out spending money
  • 28 per cent are helping with medical bills

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December 29, 2021

EI and CPP premium hikes kick in next week

Thanks to increases in employment insurance and Canada Pension Plan deductions your paycheque is going to shrink starting Jan. 1.

AdThe EI rate rises from 1.78 per cent to 1.83 per cent for employees, who will also see maximum insurable earnings rise to $45,900 from $44,200, the federation says.

Meanwhile, the maximum pensionable earnings rise to $50,100 from $48,300, bringing the total individual payroll tax hit to $142 for those workers who qualify for the maximum over the year.

For employers, the EI rate will increase to 2.56 per cent from 2.46 per cent, which, along with the corresponding increases in maximum EI and CPP amounts, will bring contributions up by further $164 per employee.

Click here for a detailed breakdown. The numbers vary slightly, depending on how provinces factor in inflation.

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Crooks watching for TV boxes put by the curb to know which houses to rob

By law, any and all holiday crime stories must be linked to Home Alone  and a requisite YouTube clip.

Stock-photo-18579229-burglarBut, wait! This one really compares!

Much like the Wet Bandits casing upscale Chicago neighbourhoods, real-life crooks are reportedly doing the same in the U.S., scoping out homes not for suitcases by the door but what’s waiting at the curb instead.

Your garbage, cops say, may just be an invitation for burglars to come on in these holidays.

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December 28, 2021

Cruise recreating Titanic's fated voyage sells out

Right now, near Prypiat, Ukraine, chances are a group of nervous tourists are navigating the site of history’s most damning nuclear disaster.

RMS_Titanic_3That site, of course, is Chernobyl, which was not only where fatal catastrophe struck 25 years ago, but now where voyeuristic visitors come to tour the grounds, too.

It’s called “extreme tourism,” and people love this stuff. They consume tragedy as their own way of tribute to the dead, but also, I imagine, in part for the same macabre reasons serial killer memorabilia has become a real thing.

In any case, extreme tourists – or simply history buffs, however you want to label things – will have another chance to tempt fate next April. That's when they’re recreating the Titanic.

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December 23, 2021

When in doubt, Canadians turn to credit cards during the holidays

Things in Canada aren’t so great right now.

210703_shopping_bliss__presents_no_Oh, they’re pretty good for Canada. Our national economy is growing faster than analysts could predict, and production capacity is beginning to finally approach pre-recession levels.

Yet on the ground, where the economy’s performance is really felt, consumers have puckered up tight. We discussed Canada’s plummeting consumer confidence in this space just yesterday.

But as a new report details, we can throw all that aside during the holidays. Thanks to credit cards, today’s debt concerns will be January’s problem.

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Kevin O’Leary’s four reasons to cut holiday spending: keep more by giving less

An old holiday adage says that it is better to give than to receive. I disagree. Giving is costly. This holiday season, give your kids the lasting gift of common sense instead of the short-term satisfaction of their entire wish list. Read my four reasons for why you should cut down on the time and money you spend at the mall during the holidays.

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December 22, 2021

Poor product design a threat to children: report

Here's a 'don't run with scissors' story that your mother would love. It seems the latest household hazard isn’t dropped cigarettes or kids playing with matches. It's actually lunch.

AdStill have a fondness for those cheap instant noodles that got you through school? Well, you better get over it. They could land you in the hospital with serious burns, thanks to the cups' designs.

Brands vary but most cups are tall, lightweight, and have an unstable base, according to NPR's Planet Money blog, making them more likely to tip over and do some sertious damage.

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Why is Canada's consumer confidence so low?

Look, we get it. The recession was awful, particularly nasty for millions of Canadians.

Stock-photo-17885595-mmmmhhhBut even with an expectation that a recovery would not be 100 per cent smooth sailing, more than two years since the Bank of Canada officially declared the downturn dead we should be back on our feet, at the very least.

Though the latest Index of Consumer Confidence shows not only are Canadians worried about our economy, their confidence is at its lowest level in more than two and a half years.

In other words, we feel the same about Canada’s economy today than we did smack dab in the recession’s darkest days.

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December 21, 2021

The car rental fees you didn't know about

Heading south sometime this winter? Maybe you should bring your own car this time.

AdIf not, remember that the advertised price for a rental car bears no relationship to the price you will actually pay, especially at big city airports, reports Consumer Traveller. And those costs are likely to go up.

In the U.S, Arizona, Texas and Florida seem to add some of the highest mandatory extra fees but the additional charges are pretty significant everwhere you go.

While these extra charges usually show up in the estimated total shown on the screen, you won't find them in the base rate, largely to drive profits, CT explains. Here's what to watch for, warns Independent Traveler. 

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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...