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January 09, 2022

$2 billion in gift card value to go unredeemed this year

Over the holidays, I was fortunate to receive a $25 gift card to Chapters.

Stock-photo-14022945-gift-card-greenSo, I went out and bought Michael Lewis’ latest book, Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World. Even at 30 per cent off, it still went for something like $22, after taxes.

Is that more than it costs on Amazon, even with shipping? Of course it is, but what was I supposed to do? It was a gift card, and it had to be used.

Perhaps, though, my use-even-if-it’s-not-the-best-deal approach to gift cards puts me in sparse company.

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Is Ontario's recent tuition fee subsidy a good idea?

At around $6,500 a year, Ontario has the highest average university tuition in the country. However, it looks like the Liberal government is going to make good on its promise to do something about that.

AdUniversity students can save as much as $800 per term if their parents' annual income is $160,000 or less although those enrolled in college-level certificate or diploma programs will see only about half ($365) that.

This new grant is based on the average undergraduate arts and science university and college tuition in Ontario -- which translates to roughly a 30-per-cent reduction for about 310,000 Ontario college and university students.

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January 06, 2022

New car seat scans your butt to prevent auto theft

Today, cars are getting pretty cool.

Stock-photo-12377817-crimeNo, no ‘cause of Internet-ready entertainment consoles or iPod integration systems, but because of safety technology right out of the future.

Earlier this year, Ford, first, and then Toyota, debuted two separate cars with sensors that will be able to detect if a driver is having a heart attack. Ford’s car has sensors in the seat, Toyota’s on the steering wheel.

Neat stuff, but now foreign engineers are behind a new kind of sensor-based ride, one that can read a driver’s rear-end to prevent unauthorized drivers from stealing their car.

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January 05, 2022

2011 was the safest year to fly ever: report

Less than a week into last September, a flight took off near the city of Yaroslavl, along the Volgar River northeast of Moscow.

1192087_airplaneThe weather was clear; sunny skies. The conditions were enviable.

But then, shortly after the plane’s wheels left the tarmac, the jet listed to the side and crashed into a fiery blaze. On board, 44 people were killed, including 36 players, coaches and staff of Russia’s Lokomotiv Yaroslavl hockey team.

The wreck was a giant scar on 2011, and a hex on the perceived safety of air travel. Though perhaps it shouldn’t have been. According to a new report, 2011 was the safest year to fly … ever.

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Are blended families becoming the new normal?

The makeup of today's Canadian household has morphed into a web of relationships, changing the way families handle their money, particularly if such blended arrangements come equipped with kids.

AdPulling together a family with your new spouse, your spouse's children, and your own can lead to certain issues on the financial front, warns Jean-Rémy Deschênes, a wealth manager with the Desjardin Group.

The issues with blended families are never simple but are easier to handle when everyone is still alive and the documents can be amended.

And while children of any blended family can struggle with stepparents, the feuds between children and their parents’ spouses can be more intense when money is at stake.

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January 04, 2022

Do tough times lead to increased employee pilferage?

Shoplifting and employee pilferage seems to be rising at many retail chains, and experts are pointing at a prime cause: the sputtering economy.

AdShoplifting, employee or supplier fraud, organized retail crime and administrative errors cost the retail industry $119 billion in 2011 or 1.45% of sales.

This global shrink rate is 6.6% worldwide higher than the previous year, according to the Global Retail Theft Barometer, and represents the highest percentage recorded by the survey since it began in 2007.

Since direct theft makes up roughly 80% of shrink, retailers need to step up their vigilance, warns John Fice, COO of LP Innovations, the largest loss prevention solution provider in the United States.

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Will women keep the traditional shopping mall experience afloat?

Stereotypes are a funny a thing.

Stock-photo-17362847-shopping-activityOften, they’re wildly unfair, prefacing how we perceive a person or group before, you know, actually perceiving them.

Yet they endure, and even within the realm of economics, they are allowed.

Which is why, after a recent media report wondered if Amazon would kill the traditional shopping experience – move most commerce away from the real world to the online realm – a Forbes writer can come back and say, “No, no, women love  shopping, they’ll keep it afloat,” and we all shrug and move on.

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January 03, 2022

Is Canada's real estate bubble about to burst?

Canadian home prices are now showing many of the signs of a classic bubble, according to a recent report from Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

AdFactoring in record low mortgage rates, the housing market nationwide is at least 10% overvalued, say Merril economists. More importantly, under more normalized interest rates, home prices would actually look about 25% overvalued based on current prices, they estimate.

“In our view, the housing market is one of the most vulnerable sectors to this weakening economic environment, showing classic signs of over valuation, speculation and over supply,” says the report. “We are not calling for an all out rout in the market — but caution is now decidedly warranted.”

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Today marks the first day of "Black January" for fitness biz

If you made a New Year’s weight loss resolution, how un excited were you for Tuesday’s lunch?

1272846_dumb-bellWhat was it, celery and quinoa? Maybe an acai berry smoothie? Dare we say … flaxseed?

Indeed, for holiday gluttons, the first work day of the New Year is just the pits, but not so for those in the fitness biz.

Because, much as “Black Friday” in November gives retailers a major spike toward their year-end bottom lines, gyms and health clubs may well enjoy their own “Black January” the first month of the year.

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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...