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March 2012

March 29, 2021

Apple cracking down big on scalpers in China

If there are any laws in life less clear than those on scalping, please, share them now.

Indeed, the confounding legal complexity of the second-hand game must be most prevalent among sports and concert tickets, the selling of which we know must be against the rules – some kind of rules, at least – yet here they are, being sold out front of stadiums and arenas with cops in plain sight.

Are there not enough police resources to crack down? Are scalpers not a priority? Is scalping totally legal, so long as tickets aren’t sold for more than face value?

Whatever. It probably doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things, but one major company isn’t taking such a passive attitude to scalping. In China, where it once cost the tech maker plenty, Apple has cracked down big on street sellers of its goods.

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Are sports camps and clinics for kids worthwhile?

Minor hockey is over and, although summer and soccer are still a few months away, weary parents have to decide soon which sports camps their kids are going to sign up for -- and for how long.

The cost of sending your son or daughter away for a week or more can be daunting. Some parents simply need a babysitter but, for many, it’s all about helping talented kids realize their potential. And the sky is the limit in that case.

"Camps have cost me my retirement," one worried parent told the Deseret News. "It's cost me not only financially, as an investment, but emotionally, physically, and a lot of time." But he's not talking about pulling junior out, of course.

That "we're on our way to the show" attitude may seem a bit extreme to some but young teenagers looking to play AAA hockey or making the travelling soccer team for their area often don't see it that way. And things are even crazier across the border when it comes to football.

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March 28, 2021

Canada's banking biz soars, America's flounders: report

For the longest time Canadians have heard about the fiscal restraint of their national banks, and how thanks to even-keeled regulation and good, old-fashioned Canuck sense, we were able to weather the recession far greater than much of the world.

Well, to most of us that’s a great sentiment, but when unemployment and real estate prices stay high, hearing as much no longer makes us sleep better at night.

Though perhaps the fruits of Canada’s conservative banking biz are finally starting to show.

According to a recent report from Bloomberg data, Canada’s banking sector is booming – in both profits and employment – while its American counterpart flounders.

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CMHC insurance approaches important ceiling

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. expects to be issuing substantially less increase mortgage insurance over the next few years.

The change comes because the federal government has set $600 billion as the upper limit for the amount of mortgage insurance CMHC can have on its books.

CMHC’s insurance portfolio has soared by hundreds of billions of dollars in recent years, and is expected to be well beyond $500-billion in 2012.

What difference does it make to you? Well, Canadian taxpayers are ultimately on the hook for this insurance, which is used to reimburse banks when borrowers default on their mortgages.

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March 27, 2021

How to trick your bartender into pouring a taller drink

There is nothing, in this economy, like a tall, stiff drink at the end of a work day.

Though once more, there’s that disclaimer: in this economy. With many belts still tightened since the downturn, drinking at a bar isn’t exactly an exercise in reserved spending.

There may be one way, however, you can nudge your way to a little free booze at a bar, even if you don’t have the musk of Jon Hamm or the body of Betty White. 

All it takes is a little behavioural economics.

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Are tax discounters worth the money you pay?

Many Canadians look forward to a tax refund with eager anticipation. They consider it a tax-free windfall that they can spend without feeling guilty.

We’re so anxious to do so that close to 1 million of us choose to receive our tax refund on the spot, generally paying anywhere from 10 to 15 cents on the dollar for the privilege of having the money loaded on a debit card from places like H&R Block or Money Mart.

Tax discounters are allowed to charge no more than 15 per cent on the first $300 of the refund and five per cent of anything above that.

Most advisors decry the practice, arguing that an instant refund is a dumb way to pay to access your own money and that getting a refund in the first place means you've already provided the government with an interest-free loan.

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March 26, 2021

Canada's new cell phone towers not what they seem

There is a great contradiction underway now in the nation’s cottage countries.

Up north, or on the lakes, or wherever Canadians go to get away, many go to do just that: get away. They don’t want email, they don’t want text messages and, most importantly, they don’t want phone calls.

Yet clearly, since this is 2012 and all, phone companies aren’t going to allow its customer base to just up and leave for weeks or weekends at a time, so they adapt, erecting cell phone towers in rural areas where phone reception has been nothing more than a pipe dream.

Though, these aren’t normal towers they’re putting up …

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March 22, 2022

Hong Kong housing comes cheap -- if it's haunted

You know, it was 2009, during one of the worst stretches of the recession, but we got some interesting results to a hypothetical on housing we posed here at the time.

The question: would you live in a haunted house if it came cheaper?

A quick browse through the comments from ’09 and they’re about two parts “ghosts aren’t real, of course I would” to one part “no, no, a million times no.” Though don’t tell this to residents of Hong Kong.

In one of the world’s most expensive real estate markets, housing can be had on quite the discount in Hong Kong if you’re willing to shack up with a ghost or two.

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March 21, 2022

Some bosses now asking for workers' Facebook passwords: report

In the breakneck world of consumer tech, common sense is often a few years behind.

For instance, Facebook began in 2004, but only around 2006, 2007, you’d say, did it become widely-known that it wasn’t a good idea to friend your boss or upload photos of you wielding a samurai sword.

Yet it’s 2012 now, and a disturbing trend has begun on the social network we really don’t know what to do with just yet.

We very well may in a few years, but for now many consumers are bewildered when the unthinkable happens: their bosses asking for their Facebook login and password.

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Can supporting your favourite charity actually make you healthier?

We’ve all heard the expression, “give ’til it hurts.” Now, some researchers are talking about “give ‘til it heals.” Can giving money to charity improve your health and physical well-being, too?

Yes, according to the Institute of Noetic Sciences  which recently highlighted some research that suggests that giving is good for you – for your health, your happiness and your sense of purpose.

The IONS report identifies three aspects of gifting – altruism, interconnectedness and compassion – that have been positively linked to physical health by various researchers.

One study found that a correlation exists between the degree of generosity and patients’ descriptions of better health, more positive emotional well-being, higher self-esteem, and a sense of personal control in their lives.

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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...