A Money Coach in Canada

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For a time as a kid, our family had barely middle class income. Oh, we never went without shoes or anything, but things were tight.

During those difficult few years, there were a sprinkling of glorious moments when something so wonderful happened it felt like a miracle. One occurred when I was in grade 2. I’d just learned how to tell time and I wanted a watch for Christmas. Desperately. But I didn’t expect one, that’s for sure.

On Christmas Eve (we followed the northern European tradition of opening presents Christmas Eve), there was a special box for me. It was an unforgettable moment, unwrapping that gift. Not only did that box contain a watch, but it had six different coloured straps which could be interchanged, and three different casings which could be interchanged. The permutations and combinations were infinite to my 7 year old mind. Not only did I receive a beautiful watch, I received an infinite number of watches!

And I wore a new one every week for that year, and I bet the year after that, and the year after that.

Anyway, that’s one of my most magical, glorious moments of Christmas that I can recall.

How ’bout you? Did you have any particularly thrilling gift-moments that you can recall?

TSG Police Officer in Riot gear in front of Big Ben / Parliament, London

Did you see Children of Men? The images of the Tuition Fee Hike protest in London seem eerily like the movie.

The base fee would rise to £6,000 (about $9,400 Cdn, at today’s exchange rate).

There are some “worth 1000 words” photos over on the Boston Globe site. It ain’t pretty. Dystopia?

Opening my first (and so far only) macbook is one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences. (David, remember me asking you if buying future macbooks was as thrilling? or if it was only the first purchase that was so amazing?). I got home at about 4pm and I stayed up til nearly 3am – unheard of for me – enthralled.

That was in 2005, when iPods were starting to take off, but Mac users were still the outsiders — the cool, truly geeky outsiders who inhabited design firms making beautiful things. I wasn’t one of them, but dammit, I now had the same computer! And a money coach with a mac was cooler than a money coach with a pc, non?

Yes, it’s been a love affair, undiminished by my iPod touch, then my iPhone and most recently my iPad. My macbook is my first and true one.

But it’s been hard used: across the country and back, hauled through -40C regularly, dropped a few times, and rarely turned off over the past 5 years.

And now, routinely, this:

Spinning Beach Ball Of Death

My macbook’s had its day and it’s time to buy a new one.

For the past month, I’ve been keeping a close eye on the Apple Rumour site which advises:

Product MacBook
Recommendation: Don’t Buy – Updates soon
Last Release May 18, 2010
Days Since Update 212 (Avg = 195)

But I need one sooner rather than later. I can’t imagine that Apple will release anything new in January – who would buy that soon after Christmas? – and February seems unlikely as well. All I know is that they will release OS X Lion in the summer.

If I buy a macbook now, I can still upgrade to Lion from Snow Leopard when it’s released, right? And it’s a fairly easy process?

ps – and have you bought more than one mac? Was it as thrilling after the initial purchase?



Just when I was getting sleepily comfortable with my worldviews, Harvard’s Michael Sandel had to mess with my head.

I’ve been cool with taxes for quite some time now. I wasn’t always. As a teen and into my twenties, I saw no reason why my hard-earned money should fund other people’s issues. I vividly recall being thrown back when my boss at the time, whom I admired greatly, was completely at ease with taxes.

Over the years, I’ve become at ease with paying taxes too. Now, when I hear “tax cuts”, I warily wonder which services we are going to lose. And beyond paying for items I use myself – universities, health, safety via police – I also want to live in a society where the hungry are fed and the homeless are housed. That society just feels better to me.

Until I considered it from another point of view. This other point of view forces a clash between my deep-seated sense of independence (I’m nothing if not “my own person”) and my commitment to fundamental rights and freedoms versus my desire for a kind, compassionate society and .

The reasoning goes like this:

1. Taxation = the taking of our earnings.

2. Taking of earnings = forced labour

3. Forced labour = slavery

ERGO: Taxes are a form of slavery.

If I don’t have the sole right to the fruits of my labour, that’s like saying the state is a part owner of me.

Readers. Agree? Disagree? Is this way of posing the issue a red herring?

Paul – I bet you have something to say 🙂
And maybe you, Canajun Finance?

If you have time and inclination, here’s the lecture:

Never use easy-to-guess PINs...

Guest Post by Harriet Fancott

My debit card was compromised a few days ago. My cell phone rang before 9 am, which seemed odd, so I grabbed it only to hear a recorded message indicating my ATM card had been cancelled. It said I should check my account to see if there was any unusual activity and then go to my branch in person with two pieces of ID to get my account sorted out and obtain a new debit card.

I immediately fired up my netbook to check my bank account while my toddler took it upon himself to tear the place apart by climbing on the table, grabbing pens and attempting to get at my keyboard – not ideal when engaging in online banking. I sat him in his highchair with a bowl of applesauce so I could take care of business.

A quick review of my account revealed a $360 withdrawal from an ATM in Surrey, a suburb about 45 minutes from Vancouver. I haven’t been to Surrey since I worked there about seven years ago so I knew it wasn’t me. Cue a minor panic attack. I then remembered that my card had been cancelled so I had no reason to worry about further charges. Still I had a paycheque to deposit and I was worried about getting back the $360. I needed to go to the bank pronto.

One slight problem: my son is at the age where he cannot go to a bank. At 16-months-old, he’s a nonverbal whirlwind of activity simultaneously charming and dangerous. I told my neighbor the situation, and she graciously took him off my hands for an hour while I hightailed it to the bank.

Clearly compromised cards are so common the bank doesn’t even flinch when you tell them you didn’t withdraw $360 charge from your account. The bank teller casually asked me if any other charges weren’t mine. I briefly considered adding a few but didn’t want to be ushered out of the bank in handcuffs. I asked her how they knew my card was caught in this compromising position with a shady ATM machine in the burbs, and she mumbled something about the police and security and switched the subject. Pressing on, I asked her what I could do to avoid this happening again and she said, “Pay cash.”

I had to fill out some forms, sign that I had not withdrawn the $360, and the teller set a reimbursement to my account in motion. She then set me up with a new debit card. The process was straightforward and took about half an hour.

Money coaches comment: Drawing on my time in the banking industry, this is a common experience. Naturally people want to know which merchant had a compromised machine. Usually the bankers themselves don’t know; the police don’t tell them. For one thing, often the merchant is a victim too (in that they had no clue their machines had been tampered with) and also, sometimes the police still want to catch the criminals so don’t want to give any indication that they’re onto the situation.
Regarding how to prevent it, I never use my card at a machine that is unattended, eg. at the gas pump. Unattended machines give opportunity for the criminals to insert their readers into the machine.

Harriet Fancott is an Associate at Limelite PR and blogs about her family at seetheorun.com

Readers, my understanding is that all (Cdn) banks will reimburse you if money is taken from your account, provided that a) you have never disclosed your PIN to anyone and that b) you sign affidavits. Have you ever heard of anyone not being refunded?