February 23, 2022

Does turning down the furnace at night actually pay off?

Energy conservation is not only good for the planet, it’s also good for your pocket.

Therm For instance, “is it more energy-efficient to maintain your thermostat setting at a constant temperature 24/7 during the winter at, say, 20 degrees, or to lower it at night to 18 degrees when you go to bed, but then have to heat up the house each morning back to 20?” a puzzled reader asks the Globe and Mail’s popular “Collected Wisdom” column.

The answer is a definite yes, of course: Heating the house in the morning from 18 to 20 degrees takes the same amount of energy as was saved the previous evening by not having the furnace operating while the temperature slowly dropped. In other words, heating the house upon waking is a free ride.

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February 14, 2022

Handling cash offers some relief from pain: study

Physically handling money works like a painkilling drug, maintains University of Minnesota researcher Kathleen Vohs.

Cash In her study, Vohs had one group of subjects count cash and another slips of paper, ostensibly to test their dexterity in handling the notes.

Soon after, she asked all the subjects to dip their hands in very hot water and rate the pain they felt. Those who had just counted cash claimed that their pain was significantly less than those who counted the paper.

In a related study, cash counters who were later shunned by others while playing a computer game felt less excluded than those who counted the greenbacks.

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January 10, 2022

How to make your own luck

Over the past eight years, Ric Wallace has won thousands of dollars in various lotteries, as well as a dream home. You, too, can do the same, he believes.

Shoe And, for a price, he’ll tell you how through his Lotterysquirrel site, where you’ll find a host of betting schemes and talismans to help you score a big payday.

Bunk? I certainly think so.

What about the idea of creating your own luck though? Do some of us think and behave in ways that create good fortune in our lives?

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December 13, 2021

Desperate Canadian couples turn to foreign surrogate mothers

For infertile couples, miracle babies are the joy of a lifetime, but they often come with a hefty price tag. More affordable surrogate mother candidates are beginning to be found overseas, however.

Hansha At Kaival Hospital in Ananad, India, women are lining up to carry babies for Canadian couples at a fraction of the cost, skirting Canadian laws at the same time.

Six years after Canada outlawed the buying and selling of human eggs and sperm and the "renting" of women's wombs, a new international baby-making business is flourishing.

While Canada's assisted human reproduction act prohibits payment for surrogacy, it doesn't prohibit couples from going to foreign countries for surrogacy or other fertility-related services.

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October 05, 2021

Men more likely to cheat if they earn less than partner: study

Do men who cheat really outnumber their female counterparts? Is infidelity in marriage more natural to them?

It’s hard to say. Researchers suggest that men generally inflate their number of relationships and sexual partners, while women tend to be more reticent about the extent of any extramarital affairs.

But, if the polls are to be believed, men do stray more than women, and have affairs to avoid intimacy, recover their lost youth, or escape an unhappy marriage.

But a recent item goes one further, suggesting that it’s men who are economically dependent on their female partners that are more likely to wander outside the relationship. What's more, the results proved to be quite the opposite when gender and breadwinner roles were reversed.

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October 04, 2021

Hello, hello? Turning the tables on telemarketers

I’m pretty sure there’s a special corner of hell reserved for telemarketers.

Thanks to computerized dialers, cheap long distance rates and even cheaper third-world call centres, Canadians are getting more and more intrusive calls than ever before.

If eerie silence follows your greeting, it’s likely the caller is using “predictive dialing” technology, in which a computer dials multiple phone numbers over a short period in order to get a hit.

When you answer, you’re supposed to be quickly transferred to an available rep, but if all of them are occupied with other calls, you hear nothing – your first clue. Your last chance will be the annoying buzz of disembodied voices that precedes some garbled version of your name.

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September 29, 2021

Attention travelers: The top 10 pickpocket cities

Nothing can ruin a vacation faster than having your pocket picked, warns Smarter Travel’s Carl Unger.

Unfortunately, in some European countries in particular, pick pocketing seems to be the second oldest profession, with several cities popular with North American tourists garnering a reputation as a place where dollar-heavy wallets go to be snatched.

Those spots include …

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August 05, 2021

Does financial decision making decline with age?

We often read or hear stories about seniors being conned out of their life savings, but are older people really more susceptible to fraud than younger adults?

Apparently so.

After peaking in middle age, the ability to make effective financial decisions begins to decline, suggests a recent study. Where’s the sweet spot? About 53 years old — which seems odd to me since people have garnered a fair amount of financial experience by then and generally still have most of their faculties.

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August 04, 2021

Achieve aims and ambitions in less than a minute

Richard Wiseman, in his recent book, "59 Seconds: Think a little, Change a lot," suggests that we are far more like somebody watching ourselves than somebody in charge of ourselves.

As a result, much of the book seems to be based on the idea that you can trick yourself into being happier and more successful. And effective change doesn’t have to be particularly time consuming, he maintains.

In fact, it can take less than a minute and is often simply a question of knowing exactly where to start.

A simple touch on someone’s upper arm makes them more responsive to requests, for example; forcing your face into a smile and holding the expression for 20 seconds will trick your brain into being happier.

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June 15, 2021

Paying people to take their medicine

Mary Poppins notwithstanding, sometimes nothing helps the medicine go down. And when patients simply won't take their medication, it's a serious problem – not just for them, but for the health care system as well.

One-third to one-half of all patients do not take medication as prescribed, and up to one-quarter never fill prescriptions at all, reports the New York Times. And all that forgetfulness translates into a staggering toll on  already strained health care budgets.

That’s why doctors in Pennsylvania are exploring a new approach to try to improve compliance. The premise: Offering a bonus to help patients choke down their pills.

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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...