October 22, 2021

Is it smart to lend your parents money?

Although you hear lots of stories about parents supporting their grown offspring, sometimes positions are reversed and it's the kids that have to carry the load. 

We're not talking here about parents who fallen on hard times because of disability or ill health.

No, this is more about dealing with those who've simply made a mess of their financial lives, leaving their grown children to pick up the tab for their irresponsibility -- whether through addiction, divorce, or simply poor money skills. 

What do you do when your parents ask for money? Just say no, advises money guide Dave Ramsey, otherwise you could end up subsidizing them forever. 


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October 18, 2021

Empty-nest syndrome may be a thing of the past

Once that last child is gone, parents often struggle with a profound sense of loss, not just because they miss the kids, but because their very identities have been significantly impacted, suggests psychologist Guy Winch.

But, rather than haunting their children's now uninhabited rooms, empty nesters are enjoying better social lives, traveling more frequently and have more financial freedom, a recent survey suggests.

As a whole, nine out of 10 empty nesters — defined as those whose children have permanently moved out of the home — indicated they're happy and look forward to more social and personal time now that the kids are gone. 

So much for the proverbial empty-nest syndrome. Other recent research indicates that, once that early sense of loneliness passes, parents tend to adjust quite nicely to a child-free household.

Rather than pining for soccer practice, empty nesters said they enjoy having more personal time (95%); lower grocery bills (91%); spending more time with their significant other or dating (85%); socializing with friends (80%); and no longer attending school-related functions (68%).

And they'd like this to be a permanent arrangement, it seems.

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October 09, 2021

Cheap flavoured tobacco is turning out to be a big money maker

An explosion of cheap, flavoured cigars in recent years has delivered a nice boost to cigar sales in North America and may be changing the demographics of cigar smoking.

Despite a four-year-old ban on flavoured cigarettes, more than half of Canadian high school students admit they’ve tried smoking some sort of flavoured tobacco within the past month, according to a new study.

Fruit- and candy-flavoured tobacco packaged in bright colours aimed at children-- flavours available include chocolate, mint, cherry, peach, and strawberry -- makes it easier for youth to become addicted to tobacco, warns Rob Cunningham, a senior policy analyst with the Canadian Cancer Society.

Cheap, flavoured, small cigars are marketed aggressively to young people and have resulted in high school kids being twice as likely as their older counterparts to pick up the habit, according to some estimates.

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October 08, 2021

Should parents pay their kids to get good grades?

Should parents pay their kids to bring home better marks? It's a question many are struggling with now that school is entering its second month and test results are starting to trickle in.

While incentives do sometimes produce a change of behaviour, it's limited at best, researchers suggest. In fact, says Penn State professor Barbara Marinak, the research on putting forth monetary rewards is quite clear: They don’t work.

"Any type of 'extrinsic' reward, by and large, undermines motivation," she told National Public Radio.

Similarly, Alfie Kohn, the author of Punished By Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’s and Other Bribes, says the bigger the reward, the bigger the damage done. 

People who are rewarded tend to pick the easiest possible task, he says. When the rewards are removed, however, they tend to prefer more challenging things to do.

"If some perverse foundation had hired me to try to devise a plan that would destroy what's left of students' interest in learning, it would look very much like this," he maintains.

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October 01, 2021

How much would you spend to have a child?

How much would you spend for the chance to have a child?

Fertility treatments are an often expensive gamble but one that a growing number of would-be parents are willing to take -- in some cases, spending as much on family building as most people drop on a cruise or a car.

A single course of in vitro fertilization costs $4,500 to $8,000, plus $2,000 to $7,000 for required medication, the Financial Post reports. Donor sperm costs $3,000 to $4,500 for six inseminations.

A portion of the fees may be covered by medical insurance at work or provincial health care plans but, for the most part, you're on your own.

One Toronto couple recently spent $13,500 for one cycle of IVF, including drug costs; but the treatment  wasn't successful and they decided not to repeat it. Happily, after shelling out for six intrauterine insemination treatments at a total cost of $2,400, they're now pregnant.

Many others, of course, aren't so fortunate. For them, the struggle to have children can lead to strained relationships, depression, anxiety and very real financial hardship.

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September 19, 2021

Unpaid child support from deadbeat parents continues to swell

Unpaid child support is a huge financial problem for custodial parents, as well as the public purse which must supply assistance to children with little or no support and try to prosecute those failing to pay.

Unpaid child and spousal support in Ontario, for instance,  now tops $2 billion, according to recent government data. That figure has grown by $500 million in the past three years alone, with some 135,000 support payment cases now in arrears.

A few years ago, Ontario's Family Responsibility Office (FRO), which enforces child-support payment collections, started a website designed to shame parents into paying up. But it's had limited success.

The FRO's Good Parents Pay website has only managed to collect something like $470,000 over the past seven years from just 62 parents, according to recent reports. But private sites like CrappyDads lay claim to better results ... although it's not clear just who is auditing their results.

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August 08, 2021

The secret behind a best-selling product

Cabbage Patch Kids, Tickle me Elmo, Furby, Sophie the Giraffe.

What do these toys all have in common?

Well, they were all highly sought-after toys that stores just couldn't keep on their shelves.

And even though Sophie the Giraffe -- a baby teether -- originated in France in 1961 it is still a hit today with parents and babies alike across the globe.

In fact, more Sophie's are sold each year in France (816,000 in 2010) than babies are born (796,000).

But what is it that makes a tiny teething toy like Sophie so popular?

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August 06, 2021

Bad behaviour costs in pro sports

Adored by millions, Cheered by thousands. Fame and fortune.

Then, in a blink of an eye, it all falls apart.

Endorsements are lost. Cheers turn to jeers. All respect is lost.

Sadly, it happens over and over again in the world of professional sports.

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August 02, 2021

The pros and cons of being a stay-at-home parent

According to the Child Care Advocacy Association of Canada (CCAAC), child care fees are typically the second highest cost to families next to housing.

Not only that, over 70 per cent of mothers are in the work force and yet there are only enough child care spaces for about 20 per cent of the families who need them.

Consider a single parent working at a job with minimum wage. The cost of child care far outweighs the income earned.

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July 17, 2021

Do your charitable donations kick back to society?

Ever wonder if your charitable donations make a difference?

Well, according to a new study by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), few charitable investments equal a donation like those to the Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) of Canada organization.

To come to this conclusion, the research compared the life outcomes of 500 former Little Brothers and Little Sisters with a control group of individuals from similar family and economic backgrounds who did not belong to the charitable organization as children.

The study revealed that, over their working lives, the former "Littles" will earn on average $315,000 more than those in the control group.

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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...