Personal finance

December 15, 2021

Would you consider being a human guinea pig?

Live near a hospital or university? Have you ever thought of signing up for an experiment or research study?

AdThere are many good reasons to volunteer to participate in such experiments: the advancement of science, help with personal medical issues, the opportunity to help future generations and, it seems, the chance to pick up a bit of cash.

Often, research facilities will post studies where participants can earn anywhere from $25 to $250, more if the trial is ongoing. At the very least, sponsors will cover travel and parking and recruiters often pay for referrals, generally in the form of a gift card.

And there's no shortage of activity, in both Toronto and Montreal, at least. And recruiters seem to track the entire country.

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December 13, 2021

Just how far are you willing to drive for cheaper gas?

Just how far are you willing to drive for cheaper gas? About 3 to 5 kilometres, say most MSN readers in a recent poll. Although a few would range as much as 10 kilometres. Ad

Although gas prices are expensive everywhere, some stations do sell it for a bit less than others. But does it really pay to shop around a bit?

In a big city, with a variety of prices available at stations within a few miles and even blocks of each other, maybe. But that takes time, although sites like GasBuddy and Ontariogasprices can at least help you avoid driving around checking out signs. 

Obviously, at some point the price of driving outweighs the savings. Here’s a quick calculator (in gallons, however) that can help you figure things out. And then, of course, there’s the cost of waiting.

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November 08, 2021

MSN readers are feeling pressured by inflation: Poll

Three quarters of MSN readers admit to feeling the pinch of rising prices. And the older you are, the higher the apprehension.

InflationAt least retirees' government retirement benefits and (if they’re lucky) pension plans will keep their purchasing power intact over time though. 

However, warn many financial advisors, this isn’t necessarily the case.

“Many of my clients keep needing extra infusions of income, even though their private pension, Canada Pension Plan and old-age security income is indexed to inflation,” advisor Christine Butchart told Investment Executive.  

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November 03, 2021

Canadians all over the map on retirement withdrawal rates

It's no secret that most Canadians are unsure how much they should be saving for retirement.

AdBut a new study by investment firm Edward Jones suggests we may be equally clueless about how much we can safely spend once we get there.

When asked what percentage of their savings they think they can afford to withdraw every year, only one-third (32%) appeared to have any realistic spending expectations.

According to the poll, almost half (49%) of respondents thought they would need to withdraw 6% to 20% of their savings each year, a number most planners would describe as "a bit high."

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October 31, 2021

Why several small pleasures beat a few large ones

Researchers have found that the types of purchases we make, their size and frequency, and even the timing of that spending all affect long-term happiness.

AaaOne major finding is that spending money for an experience — like concert tickets, Spanish lessons, white water rafting — produces longer-lasting satisfaction than spending money on plain old stuff.

There are situations where having cash to spend helps, of course, including for those who become sick or disabled, another study found; for them, money matters. But that's a different kind of spending.

The enemy of happiness is adaptation, says Psyblog. Unfortunately we get used to things and they give us less pleasure; after a while we start taking them for granted.

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October 20, 2021

Canadians' sense of well-being? Depends on who you ask

A couple of week ago, we talked about the Misery Index, a measure of how Americans feel about their bleak economic prospects.

Now, however, Canadians have their own index and it's much broader than the U.S. version -- but not really any less gloomy.

The measure is based on 64 indicators from eight separate areas: living standards, community vitality, democratic engagement, education, healthy populations, environment, time use, leisure and culture.

Overall, the index suggests the quality of life in Canada has actually decreased since 1994, the starting point for the new measure which is based out of the University of Waterloo.

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October 17, 2021

People without significant assets less likely to marry: study

It’s no secret that Canadians have been getting married later in life and are becoming more likely to forego marriage altogether.

AdThose with at least some level of post-secondary education are more likely to tie the knot, so perhaps as more people become more educated, they’re simply delaying marriage until they’re more established in their careers.

Or, according to a recent Princeton University study, maybe it really has more to do with money.

People who lack personal wealth in the form of a car or financial assets are significantly less likely to enter into a marriage, says Princeton's Daniel Schneider.

Several studies have found that having a steady job and a good income are important factors in determining whether someone gets married. But income only explains a part of these gaps, he says.

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October 12, 2021

Is your pension fund likely to come up short?

Just like everbody else, Canada’s biggest pension plans are struggling to cope after they took another beating over the past few months. And, when you look at future payouts, they continue to come up short, according to a recent Mercer study.

2011-Q3_img-1_eng The Mercer Pension Health Index now stands at 60% down from 71% at the end of the second quarter -- not to say that's anything unusual. The index, showing the ratio of assets to liabilities, has been on a steady downward trend for several years.

And things don't seem to improving.

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October 11, 2021

Should you bail out those spendthrift parents of yours?

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 lived too high on the hog, leaving their grown children to pick up the tab for their irresponsibility -- whether through addiction or poor money skills. 

What do you do when your parents ask for money? Just say no, advises Dave Ramsay, a syndicated radio show host who's known for his black and white views.

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October 10, 2021

Do you expect to be debt free by the time you retire?

Coming off a spectacular long weekend, it's tempting to think about what life might be like if you didn't have to head back to work tomorrow.

But, for some boomers at least, taking more than a few days off is a very scary thought.

On average, Canadians plan to retire at about the age of 63, according to recent CIBC research. But only 21% of those who're getting close feel they'll have saved enough money to be able to retire on the date of their choosing.

What's worse, the older they get, the less certain they are that their savings can carry them through the retirement of their dreams. In fact, after the recent market gyrations, 31% are sure they're still going to be carrying some debt once they get there.

Does that surprise you? 

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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...