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September 2012

September 27, 2021

Canadians smuggling cheap cheese across the border, cops say

With respect to superior variety and selection, there really is just one reason Canadians flock across the border to shop: money.

750248_cheese_is_goodIndeed, there’s little question many goods today, especially with the loonie near par with the greenback, are much cheaper on the American side of the border.

But while Canadian bureaucrats and retailers wring their hands over lost business to the U.S., regulations that are keeping the price of Canadian goods high just might be fuelling the goofiest of black markets.

Like this, the so-called “mozzarella mafia”: a cross-border cheese smuggling operation Canadian cops are fighting to snuff out.

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Would you set up a joint account with one of your adult kids?

As parents age, it's not unusual for them to open a joint bank account with one or more of their adult children.

In some cases, this is simply to allow someone else to do the banking and pay the bills, with no thought of that child receiving the money upon the parent's death. Others do it to avoid provincial probate taxes, fully intending that the child on the joint account gets the money directly.

Too often though, the parent's intentions are unclear. Confused parents may say one thing to one child and give a conflicting story to another. And then the fighting starts.

Worse still, joint bank accounts are increasingly being used as a vehicle to defraud older Canadians, warn estate planning experts. In the wrong hands, a joint account is the perfect method for unscrupulous adult children looking to bleed an estate.

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September 26, 2021

Inside the peculiar second-hand market for Lululemon apparel

Most times trends are just that, wispy fads that rocket onto the scene, penetrate public discourse and fade off, unmistakably, like the path “Gangnam Style” is soon sure to take.

But then there are trends that aren’t left alone, that are managed and massaged by some of the business world’s top minds. Suddenly, these trends manufacture staying power by adapting, learning and growing.

Want an example? How about Lululemon, which only opened 12 years ago and is now one of the most profitable retailers in the world?

Certainly, Lululemon arrived on the scene thanks to its signature yoga pants, but how it’s remained is thanks to a unique strategy but also a return policy that might be driving customers nuts.

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Given the chance, would you consider working a little less?

How would you feel if your company asked whether you’d like to take every Friday off?

You would, of course, give up 20% of your salary but everything else about your working life would continue as normal. No loss of status and no kink in your career progression. 

Sounds far-fetched? Not in the least, argues Judith Woods in the Daily Telegraph, who maintains that more and more white-collar workers are actually looking to cut back a bit, trading less money for a balanced lifestyle.

'Sounds great, but it would never work for me,' is the quick reaction. And those that don't have a decent job to begin with aren't likely to get too excited. But there are those willing to cut back, Woods argues, highlighting a newly-opened temp service for executives.  

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September 25, 2021

Starting salaries for young workers not what they once were

The recession has slammed no shortage of demographics since it took hold four years ago, though who’s had it worst?

Certainly, the effects of the down economy on men, as an example, are well covered, but perhaps it’s the world’s youths that have gotten the rawest deal.

In Canada, youth unemployment is still through the roof, yet even getting a job may not mean what it once was.

A recent look at the starting salaries of young workers shows a damning nosedive from where they sat even 12 years ago.

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When it comes to money, are you smarter than average?

Just like their driving, most Canadian consumers think their own level of knowledge about finances is far above that of the "average Canadian", according to a recent RBC study.

Most (70%) describe their own financial smarts as "excellent/good", but only 30% are inclined to say the same about their neighbours.

Another example of Lake Wobegon effect? Probably, particularly when you consider it's pretty tough for the majority of people to be above average when it comes to money issues -- or anything else for that matter.

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September 24, 2021

How long until Walmart takes over the world?

Walmart first entered the Canadian space in 1994. Since, of course, it has offered as much controversy as it has savings.

The mega-chain, which Maclean’s  notes has been depicted as a “corporate killer of mom-and-pop stores, the scourge of unions and a destroyer of urban landscapes,” has been both revered and reviled. Killer, scourge and destroyer, maybe, but Walmart is also a place for great deals, a purveyor of solar energy and a community leader.

But then, this is Canada, a first-world power that can, despite Walmart’s best alleged efforts, survive even when the superstore wipes clean everything in its path.

Can the same be said about other countries Walmart has in its crosshairs?

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Have you heard enough from daily deal sites?

Drowning in daily deals that pour into your inbox? Well, you're not alone. 

Not only have the slew of deals lost their shine for consumers, but participating businesses are losing interest as well.

Groupon and other deals programs have been criticized by many merchants who felt the one-off deals weren't necessarily a good strategy because buyers didn't necessarily become regular customers.

They often overwhelmed the businesses, spent the bare minimum and then left. And there have been problems with vendors who fail to make good on their coupons or simply disappear.

But the real issue is 'deal fatigue,' say marketers -- a malady that's expected to affect more and more consumers, killing Groupon's share price at the same time.

The company's stock fell to an all-time low recently as analysts slashed price targets and ratings after it reported that it was collecting less money from customers.

Might you be one of them?

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September 21, 2021

Today's economic casualty: upscale steakhouses

You know, for all a media member’s job is to do – tell a story and make it simple – it really must be maddening to read today’s headlines.

Indeed, nothing is as it seems, and what’s this one day is that the other. Want an example? How about this: on Wednesday afternoon, a Huffington Post  headline read, “Obama up 8 points nationally in latest Pew poll.” The next day, from the Daily Mail, “All tied up! Mitt Romney draws level with Barack Obama in latest Gallup poll.”

Obviously, two different polls on two different days yielded two different results. But the point remains. Nobody really knows what to believe anymore.

And such confusion doesn’t just cause eyes to roll and readers to turn. As the economic recovery continues, consumers are still a fragile bunch, sensitive to headlines that either forecast doom or tell them everything will be okay.

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September 20, 2021

Fake gold bars popping up in New York City

Back in March, a little-read report came out of the U.K. detailing a particularly clever caper.

After the buyer of a gold bar became suspicious, he drilled into it, only to find what he thought was 1 kg of pure gold was anything but. Much of the gold had been hollowed from the centre and replaced with tungsten, a much less precious metal that shares a similar weight to gold.

At the time, and for months after, it was a real Whodunit, if an isolated one.

But things just got a whole lot more interesting. Bogus gold bars with the same tungsten core have popped up in New York City now, too.

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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...