Saving and retirement tips, personal finance advice, and other money-related content.

November 01, 2013

New Zealand moves to three days a week mail service

Times are changing with postal services around the world thanks to people's reliance on smartphones and email.

New Zealand recently agreed to cut its mail delivery to three days a week in urban areas and five days a week in rural areas, since they're more reliant on mail, by 2015. Normally, mail is delivered six days a week.

The New Zealand Post fought for the change since it currently barely breaks even. If the normal delivery schedule continue, the service would be put it in the red, according to the Telegraph.

During the last 10 years, the amount of mail sent has dropped by a quarter and it's expected to continue rapidly dropping. The nation continues to lose another eight per cent each year, the communications minister told the Telegraph.

Anyone looking for daily mail deliveries can sign up for a premium courier-type service, but it will be interesting to see how businesses and newspapers adjust to this change.

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October 31, 2013

E-bikes can prove costly when it comes to insurance claims

Although both motorists and cyclists don't seem to crazy about them, electronic bicycles (e-bikes) are flying off the shelves these days. They're cheap to buy, cheap to run and don't leave much of a carbon footprint.

They are, however, subject to provincial traffic laws; that is, they can ride in traffic with motor vehicles, like scooters, and their operators mustn’t drive recklessly or under the influence of alcohol. Here's a good summary of the existing rules.

More importantly, they also don't need a license or insurance, according to a recent Ontario Court of Justice ruling. But taking that latter option at face value might be shortsighted, warns My Insurance Shopper

"Like any motorized vehicle, there is a liability risk attached with owning this type of vehicle. If you're an owner of this type of motorized vehicle you need to know that you may have no liability coverage if you get into an accident, and you could find yourself without coverage if you cause property damage or worse, injure another person."

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October 30, 2013

Canada's pension system is simply not doing the job, authors say

Political issues deemed too important or sensitive to be tampered with are often referred to as the 'third rail' after the electrically-charged third rail in subway systems ... like Canada's pension system, for instance. 

9780771046636“Many Canadians will be surprised by how much they will need to save to fund their desired income in retirement and that their income is going to plummet,” says Jim Leech, co-author of The Third Rail: Confronting our Pension Failures

“It’s clear that existing pension structures are not allowing people to reach their saving goals. Political leadership is urgently required to bring a more flexible approach to retirement planning, one that can withstand the pressures of more retirees and longer life expectancy.”

The easiest and most efficient way to close this shortfall is to enhance the Canada Pension Plan, he maintains. But that's not likely to happen anytime soon, since most workers and their employers are simply too short sighted. 

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Half of travel points customers frustrated with redemption process, says survey

Every person loves the idea that they could earn points while spending money that they would any way and eventually, they would be treated to a free trip. Unfortunately, about 68 per cent of people surveyed faced irksome situations when it came to cashing in their points, according to a recent survey conducted by Capital One Canada.

Some of the major issues include hidden fees, blackout dates and the lack of flight availability.

But there is one ray of sunshine within this survey, apparently credit card companies and airlines are changing their ways since customers aren't afraid to walk away and switch card providers, says the survey.

With many travel reward cards to choose from there's lots to consider including annual fees, extra benefits, such as car rental or travel insurance, interest rates, where you can collect points and how quickly you can accumulate points. Most importantly, you should consider any details about the redemption process, such as if there's an expiry date on using your points, and how many points you'll need to redeem for a flight to wherever you want to go.

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October 29, 2013

That's why it's so tough to save money!

Budgeting is tough, particularly when you're trying to actually set some money aside for the future.

Like losing weight or battling any addiction, saving money resides in the realm of behaviour that sometimes seems immune to rational solutions, says one ex-banker turned blogger. But it's often tough to get out of the gate without some help.

"My guess is that the best person to help you figure out how to save money is somebody who has suffered from living beyond their means in the past, and who has developed effective strategies for overcoming this problem," he says. 

But if that person isn't readily available to you, you still need to figure out what's holding you back. That means tricking that rational mind and helping it get with the program, he suggests, including developing a better sense of just what's going on upstairs. 

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Man discovers dead body in newly purchased France apartment

It's a surprise that we hope never happens to us.

The new owner of an apartment walked in to find the hanged body of the previous owner behind the front door when the locksmith opened up his newly purchased property. While it's odd that the body wasn't found earlier, you think the buyer would have visited the property before signing any papers, apparently the body was undisturbed for eight years, according to a local France newspaper.

Thomas Ngin, a security guard, had been fired from his previous job, dealing with court proceedings with his employer in legal court and facing debt issues.

The bank seized his property and sold it at an auction where it was bought for 415,000 euros (about $598,889) in early October. It explains why the owner never saw the property in advance, but he's likely regretting that decision now.

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October 28, 2013

Rather than downsize, retiring boomers hope to stay put

If you read the headlines, just about every urban boomer is leaving the suburbs behind and moving into condos or lofts in a trendy downtown area

Yet there's little evidence that most Canadians are actually that open to the idea of moving into a smaller residence as they grow older.

A majority of Canadians aged 50 and over – 83 per cent – said staying in their own homes and paying for home care is the most appealing option for them, accordsing to Royal Bank research.

Even then, while the majority of us want to ''age-in-place'', this doesn't necessarily mean that we expect to stay in the same house. Most people are attached less to a particular pile of bricks and mortar than to a local area – to a network of friends, services and familiar places.

Among those who were already retired, a decision to move out of their home was most often due to a change in their health – 66 per cent – rather than to cash in on their home equity or get closer to restaurants.

"Remaining in familiar surroundings – in a home of their own, in their current neighbourhood and close to family and friends – is definitely how Canadian Boomers wish to live when future health changes occur,” says RBC head of retirement and aging strategies Amalia Costa.

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Should live kidney donors receive $10,000 for an organ donation?

If governments and hospitals want to attract more kidney donors, they might want to consider paying living donors $10,000, according a recent study released by the University of Calgary.

This would raise the number of transplant surgeries by five per cent and it would help save an overall $340, since the patient would no longer be on dialysis, while adding an extra 0.11 years to a patient's lifetime compared to our current donor system.

If kidney donations were to go up by 10 per cent, patients would save $1,640 and add 0.21 years to their lifetime. And if rates improved to 20 per cent, we can always hope for the best, patients would save $4,030 and add 0.39 years to their lifetime. Time is money and in this case, patients could gain time and spend less money. There would be wins all around.

Canada faces an unfortunate shortage in organ transplants. It leaves some patients on waiting lists for years as they undergo treatment and hope that they will be next in line for a donor organ, but it also contributes to a demand for black market organs overseas. Unfortunately, the number of donors hasn't changed over the last decade, which means it leaves many people out of luck.

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October 25, 2013

How far would you go to land a job?

When you start job hunting, it usually involves shopping around your resume to your past or present work contacts, along with networking and applying for online postings.

U.K. resident Dan Conway took job hunting to a whole new level and it finally paid off when he landed a job as a marketing executive in the U.S., according to the Daily Mail.

The 28-year-old advertising graduate lost his job as a project worker at a youth center in June of 2012. He took on other odd jobs, but then decided to focus on breaking into the industry. He branded himself as the "extreme job hunter" and the young father of two put his skills to work for his most important challenge: marketing himself. He put up videos of crazy stunts he did, such as selling himself on eBay and even taking part in a gravy fight, all in an attempt to create a viral campaign. Well, it looks like he caught the attention of the right people.

This isn't the first time that people have pushed against the typical route to land a job. Another unemployed U.K. worker put up a billboard that was a part of his campaign to land a job in the media. After a month, he received 60 job offers in various positions, job hunter Adam Pacitti told AOL Jobs. His last 500 pounds (about $770 U.S.) was spent on that billboard it was well worth it.

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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...