Money management

May 16, 2021

The lives of the rich and sad

Ever wonder what it might be like to be really rich? Not going to happen? Well, have a look at the most recent issue of The Atlantic and you may feel a bit better.

Mag “The Secret Fears of the Super Rich” delves into the results of revealing study of the very rich (in this instance, folks with a net worth of more than $25 million) from Boston College’s Center on Wealth and Philanthropy.

Paul Schervish, a sociology professor and the college's director, has been studying the lives and philanthropic habits of the super-wealthy for some time now.

And, guess what, they’re just like that nervous guy next door, exhibiting a surprising litany of anxieties including their sense of isolation, their worries about work and love, and most of all, their fears for their children.

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May 05, 2021

Mom, do you make more money than daddy?

The question of how much – and how – to talk to kids about family finances often stymies even the most dedicated parents.

Ad While kids don’t necessarily need to know exactly how much money you make, they do need to know how the world works. Children, as they grow, need to learn what money means, how much it costs to buy things, and how the money to buy things is earned.

But what if they seem to be trying to figure out who’s the primary breadwinner?

It’s a tricky question, and as with most such money queries, you should probably begin by trying to figure out why the child is asking. Why would it matter which parent makes more money?

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May 04, 2021

How to identify and build your investor identity

There’s lots of evidence to suggest that most of us have innate irrational biases that lead to poor decision-making. Worse still, in times of crisis the reasoning part of our brain actually shuts down a bit, increasing our likelihood of making poor decisions.

Psy “There is nothing more emotional and irrational than the relationship people have with their money,” Frank Murtha, head of Market Psych, told a group of advisors last week in Toronto.

Fear and greed, always at odds, are the two strongest emotions at play in investing, says Murtha whose firm often works with advisors to help them incorporate investor psychology concepts into their businesses.

“Fear crushes greed; it’s not a fair fight because the pain of loss and its emotional imprint is two-and-a-half times greater than the joy of any gain,” Murtha explains.

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May 03, 2021

Is cross border shopping getting easier?

The wave of virtual shoppers doing regular business with sites south of the Canadian border continues to rise. Buying from U.S.-based merchants is easier than it once was and, given the current strength of the loonie, more affordable than ever.

Cross Yet unspoken costs, from tariffs to shipping fees, can change that equation in a hurry. On top of this, credit card companies charge heavily for currency conversion.

Canadians commonly encounter two potential roadblocks that prevent them from ordering online or by phone from U.S. retailers, warns the Crossbodershopping site:

Some U.S. companies aren’t interested in shipping to Canada and those that do often have prohibitively expensive shipping fees. Many shipping tables don't include Canadian addresses, so you won't know the total cost of each order until checkout.

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May 02, 2021

Controversial website highlights financial advisors, warts and all

Finding an advisor is often a hit-and-miss process driven by word-of-mouth referrals. It's not easy to sort through the alphabet soup of credentials and find an advisor who fits your needs.

Ad That’s why Brightscope, which offers online performance measurement tools for 401(k) and other pension plans in the U.S., recently launched a free service to help people research and shop for financial advisors.

BrightScope Advisor Pages pulls together a variety of public data that most consumers would have trouble finding into a single view, and allows users to search and compare advisors based on qualifications, amount and types of assets under management and area of specialty.

It also lets you see red flags such as legal disputes, customer complaints and regulator actions as well.

BrightScope says its aim isn't to punish unscrupulous advisers. The company hopes that once its directory pages become more popular, advisors will embrace them as a marketing tool and upload extras such as pictures, information about their practices and perhaps even performance data.

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April 26, 2021

Are online coupons soon to replace weekend flyers?

The days of clipping coupons from newspapers and flyers may be over.

Coupon Another new digital coupon service launched last week. Unlike group buying sites, however, it’s not designed to offer deals on spa treatments or restaurants.

Instead, the service from SavingStar will work with the loyalty cards handed out at large U.S. grocery chains to give extra discounts on everyday items such as juice, paper towels, and diapers.

Although online coupons account for only one percent of all coupons distributed, they account for about 10 percent of all coupons redeemed, said Susan Gear, group vice president for digital at Catalina which provides a similar service.

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April 25, 2021

Mortgage brokers just want a little respect

The Canadian mortgage market has changed substantially in the past 20 years. Trust companies have been taken over by banks; small virtual banks have introduced new mortgage products; and brokers now play an important and much larger role in matching borrowers and lenders.

Mort In other words, things are a lot more competitive that they once were.

Mortgage brokers, many of whom start out as lenders with larger financial institutions, fight against platoons of mortgage specialists deployed by the banks to retain or snatch business away from them.

It's a tough business so it's no wonder that the constant slagging we view daily during the current federal election campaign seems to becoming contagious.

At issue is a flyer a maverick RBC mortgage specialist has been circulating that "grossly mischaracterizes mortgage brokers in relation to bank specialists," says Rob McLister on his CanadianMortgageTrends blog. "It’s a document that demonstrates a stunning lack of knowledge, professionalism and discretion," he adds, taking it apart point by point.

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April 21, 2021

Is it time to ditch your landline?

Although costs are now pretty steady, many people are deciding the traditional phone that has been their lifeline for years is no longer worth the expense, especially if they spend most of their time reaching for their cell phone to make or receive calls.

Phone Thanks to better competition and lower pricing south of the border, the rate at which Canadians are going wireless is considerably behind the United States, which is at about 25 per cent of households, according to the Centres for Disease Control.

In Canada, roughly one out of every six families has now cut the cord on their landline. But that number is clearly growing, particularly as Skype and its competitors beome more popular. Most offer free calling within their systems — assuming both people on the call are members — and are fairly inexpensive otherewise.

If you’re thinking of ditching your landline, here are a few considerations, courtesy of GeckoBeach.

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April 20, 2021

Is now the time to trim that whopping cable bill?

Looking for a strategy to talk your way to lower cable or satellite bills? Just ask, says John Ogilvie, a professor of management at the University of Hartford.

Cable "Many things are negotiable," he says. “But people just assume they don't have that possibility.”

If you notice that Rogers is offering a special promotion to new subscribers, for instance, see if you, as a loyal customer, can get the same deal.

Find out what new competitors like Netflix and Hulu (still blocked here for the moment) are charging and get your provider to justify its prices. Media companies here are feeling threatened and want these new entrants to be subject to the same rules as Canada-based companies.

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April 18, 2021

Does ‘extreme couponing’ give savvy shoppers a bad name?

If you’ve ever seen TLC’s Extreme Couponing show, then you know that some people take coupon clipping very, very seriously. So much so, that’s it’s a bit hard to believe just how they spend their time. 

Coup Hard-core couponers are in it for the long haul. They load up three or four shopping carts at a time, all the while testing the patience of overwhelmed cashiers and fellow shoppers. 

Unfortunately, watching someone snag a hundred boxes of pasta and a truckload of soup leaves a bad taste in some people’s mouths – you know, those only buying the things they need and leaving products on the shelf for other consumers.

“Nutjob hoarders!” they shout.

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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...