New personal finance books jostling for your attention

December 26 2012 by Ellen Roseman

My book, Fight Back, is finally published. You can buy the ebook at Amazon or Kobo. Of if you prefer to get the softcover version, you can order it from Amazon or Indigo or pick it up in bookstores in early January.

Mine is one of the few Canadian books focusing on consumer issues, such as telecommunications, travel and retailing. It has a fabulous foreword from David Chilton, author of The Wealthy Barber Returns and newest member of CBC Dragons’ Den.

Two well-known TV personal finance personalities are weighing in with new volumes, Gail Vaz-Oxlade with Money Rules (at almost 500 pages) and Kevin O’Leary with The Cold Hard Truth about Men, Women and Money.

Two books I’ve read and liked are Gordon Pape’s revised guide to the tax-free savings account (TFSA) and The Real Retirement by Fred Vettese and Bill Morneau, chief actuary and executive chairman (respectively) of retirement consulting firm Morneau Shepell.

Unlike the gloomy retirement books written by some authors, The Real Retirement tries to make you feel better about not having saved a nest egg equal to 70 per cent of your working income.

“You likely will not need as much money in your retirement years as many experts have suggested,” they say. “Yes, you will require more health care and other attention, especially as your age advances, but their costs will not threaten your financial security.

“Given some basic planing (a paid-off mortgage, zero major debts, no dependents at home), you should be able to live fairly comfortably with retirement income representing 50 per cent of your pre-retirement earnings.”

Back to my book, Fight Back, I will give away several free copies to readers who post comments (below) about how they recognized and resisted corporate trickery.

So, please send your personal stories and best tips. I’ll contact you if you win a prize.

9 comments

  1. Alya

    Dec 26 2012

    My father and I had issues with one of our computers and got nowhere with HP.

    We googled about the issue and found a site that offered to ‘send us’ what we needed – a copy of the software to re-format the computer. They even had a 1-800 number.

    It looked iffy to me and I didn’t want us to give any information away. My dad called their number after blocking ours — and one of the first comments we got when they answered the phone was that our number was blocked.

    That was a warning sign. I felt this site (and company) was not legit. We tried getting more information, but were hit with roadblocks along the way.

    After experiencing credit card fraud on one of my own credit cards, I was very hesitant to have my dad give his credit card information out to a site that we didn’t know much about.

    My dad was about to order when I got a notification on my computer that there was a virus stopped on the computer – it was from their site. After seeing this, I knew it was best that we did NOT go with them.

    Why would a company not give any information to potential customers if they are there to help the customer and get a sale?

    So my advice is this: While Google MAY have all the answers to your problems and questions, it is also best to go with your gut.

    Going with your gut will never lead you astray, whether it’s making a purchase, seeking financial advice or something else.

  2. Dexter

    Dec 27 2012

    Bad experience with BELL.

    1. When they offer you product, you can get it from one representative (bundle, phone, internet, tv). But if you have to cancel it, you have to cancel it one by one.

    2. Bell and Rogers would only accept 30 days’ notice. They would not accept notice that is more than 30 days, but will ask you to call back.

    3. One time, a Bell representative on the phone gave me an offer and when the bill came, I had to pay more than the agreed on offer. Luckily, I was able to write down all the details of our call (name, time, date and package) and have them cancel the service.

  3. CW

    Dec 27 2012

    Hello Ellen, I got a scam company to give me a refund of more than $95 U.S. of the money they took from me back in August.

    My credit card company (BMO) wouldn’t do anything to help me, so I sent another email to GrantApp explaining why I signed up with them.

    After I filled out their refund form within 7 days, they credited my BMO Mastercard.

    Here’s the background:

    On Aug. 16, 2012, I applied for a Canadian grant to start up my own business through a website on the internet. It sounded legitimate but I have since found out, it isn’t.

    I paid $2.97 U.S. on my credit card that day. I didn’t find out until a few days later that they took out another $57.61 U.S. the same day (I don’t check my credit card online every day).

    They took out another $57.61 U.S. on Sept. 16.

    The website promised a cheque from the Canadian government within 2 weeks, but some of the posts said it might take longer, so I waited.

    When I didn’t get the cheque by Sept. 20, I called the 1-800 number on the website and spoke to a woman named Gracie. I told her that I hadn’t received anything yet and Gracie told me to apply for a refund through a website tjhat she emailed to me. She also cancelled my account.

    I tried accessing the website with the username and password given to me but I couldn’t, so I don’t even know what the website looks like.

    I emailed them twice to ask for a refund, but they ignored my requests.

    To: grants.refunds@gmail.com
    Subject: RE: Cancelled and Refund request
    Date: Sat, 29 Sep 2012

    Hello Ann,

    I had a friend go into the same website I did and fill out the application. Nowhere does it say that you will be billed monthly after the initial $2.97 processing fee, nor does it say it is only active for 24 hours. This is VERY misleading!!!

    I applied on this CANADIAN website for a grant to start up a business. Everyone who posted on the website made it sound like the government would send me money to start up my own business. YOUR COMPANY is based in CALIFORNIA??????

    I waited almost a month for this so-called cheque and that’s why I didn’t call the toll-free number to find out why I hadn’t received my cheque yet. Again, this is very misleading!!!

    I do not wish to take advantage of your offer of 2 free months as this website is useless to me. You have $115.22 of my money, not including the $2.97 processing fee, and I have nothing to show for it.

    Thank you,
    CW

    To: CW
    Subject: Cancelled and Refund request
    Date: Fri, 21 Sep 2012
    From: grants.refunds@gmail.com

    Dear CW,

    Your email has been received by our department. Upon checking, the records it shows that your subscription to http://grantapp.net is already cancelled and you will no longer be billed.

    Please note that the subscription remained active past the 24-hour trial period. Thus, the reason why it automatically converted to a full month subscription.

    Also, the website owners allow qualified individuals a 24-hour access to review the site for only $2.97 processing fee.

    Should you not wish to keep the Trial and have it not converted into a Full-Month subscription, the Trial needed to be cancelled.

    Instead of a refund, we are offering you 2 months FREE access on the site. Should you wish to avail of this offer, feel free to email us back so we can set up the access for you.

    Best Regards,

    Ann
    Refund Department

  4. Potato

    Dec 27 2012

    A quick quibble: “The Real Retirement tries to make you feel better about not having saved a nest egg equal to 70 per cent of your working income.” Should likely say “…not having saved a nest egg large enough to draw funds equal to 70 percent of your working income…”

    As for corporate trickery? The example that comes to mind first is Bell’s Usage Based Billing, sending a written submission to the CRTC committee against it.

    In a more personal and direct anecdote, I got my dad a Rogers rocketstick a few years ago so he could have internet access at the cottage. It works on the cell networks, and though it is not actually a cell phone, for technical reasons it has a phone number associated with it (so to some part of the system, it appears to be a phone). That means that people can send text messages to it, even though there’s no phone to receive them.

    Now of course, my dad doesn’t know what that number is (and I’d have to dig through some documentation to find it), so no one is legitimately sending text messages to this device. Yet every month, Rogers would try to bill us for 45 or 60 cents for a few spam messages that were “received” (and the scare quotes are there because again, it’s not actually a cell phone).

    I would call to complain, they would reverse the silly charges, promise to put on text message blocking, and yet again the next month I’d find a charge to receive what was obviously spam or texts to a wrong number.

    It took 8 months for the block to finally stick — after several reps noted that the messages kept coming, despite seeing in their systems that a block was in place, and me pointing out that it must be costing them way more than a few cents for them to have a rep manually fix the error every month.

  5. DS

    Dec 28 2012

    Hello Ellen, here is something that people should be aware of when it comes to bills.

    A couple weeks after supposedly receiving my “final bill” for returning my Reliance Home Comfort rented tank, I received another bill.

    When I called and questioned it, they removed the charge and apologized for the inconvenience.

    The reason I am emailing you is because I imagine many elderly or less capable people would simply pay the bill, especially if they were on pre-approved payment, while others, like me, who question it and receive a satisfactory result would simply hang up the phone and forget about it.

    Here are the details of my story.

    On Dec. 11, 2012, I arranged for Home Depot to install a brand new water heater. The same day, I also arranged for Reliance Home Comfort to pick up my fully functional rental tank.

    The Home Depot contractor removed the rental tank to my garage and Reliance picked up the tank.

    Two days later, I received an email linking me to my “final bill,” which had the agreed upon $40 account closing fee and $65 tank pick-up fee plus HST, minus a refund on the remaining rental period. All seemed to be in order and I was happy to be out of that contract.

    On Dec. 25th, 2012, I received another bill for $65, HST included, for a “Vent Replacement Charge.”

    I called Reliance billing department at 9 am on Thursday, Dec. 27th, for an explanation.

    At first, the CSR said it was a vent replacement charge related to a service call I made. But she paused before finishing her sentence and then finished by saying it was my tank pick-up fee.

    When I told her that I was already changed the tank pick-up fee on my previous “final” bill, she looked it up, agreed with me and then said she had cancelled the charge and I now had a $0 balance on my account.

    She apologized for the inconvenience. I wanted that in writing, but she said there would be a fee for doing it and offered me a confirmation number. I recorded that, along with her name and the time I called.

    Now I have to monitor the situation. I will call them the day before the bill is due to confirm that my account balance is indeed $0 in order to make sure that they don’t try to reinstate the charges.

    I hope this can serve as a reminder for everyone to review their bills carefully, especially when altering or closing an account.

    Thank you for your time and for your commitment to bringing attention to consumer issues.

  6. MS

    Dec 28 2012

    I thought you would a few good stories to read on customer DISASTERS! I saved them up for you.

    Hot water scam: A few days ago, some guy came to my door to upsell a new hot water tank! He states, though that he is here to “inspect” the furnace and ensure that gas is not leaking.

    Very odd considering I do not own a gas furnace (it’s HI VELOCITY and it runs on hot water, not gas). In fact, it’s not called a furnace anymore. They call them air handlers. Shocked at this, I say, well, that’s odd.

    He continues on his speech, saying he is here to inspect. He does not know this semi is brand new and is fully covered under the builder and Tarion new home warranty.

    I invite him in and show him the “furnace.” He looks at the huge pipe from the furnace and says, “oh, this should be replaced.” I then go after him like a tiger in the grass.

    I say, this is a high velocity unit. It does not run on gas. See those pipes? Those are not gas. (Gas is always clearly labelled and never painted.)

    I say this is hot water, which comes from that boiler. You see, this is a new house, and they do not use traditional furnaces any more. They use air handlers and hot water units.

    And I point out that this is a new development and everything is fine. So thanks for trying to scam me. Now get out of my house!

    See how untrained these people are? See how easy it would be to get someone in a 40-year contract when they don’t know anything? Wow, is all I can say. This guy was slick, and I was a tiger ready to set him straight.

    Collection Agency: A week ago, I got a call from CBV Collections. They were claiming to collect on a debt from when I was in college and not too smart. That was in 2000!

    I have stellar credit now and a credit score of close to 790! So this call took me by surprise, to say the least.

    They said they were collecting for CashMoney from 2001. But I know all about credit, so the first thing I said was, “When was the account written off?”

    He says August 2001. When will YOU be making payments?

    I said, “I have never heard of that account, I have stellar credit and if something was on bad terms, I think I would have known about it a long time ago and taken action before it would ever be listed as late or missed. I protect my credit more than anything.

    “I obtain my credit report yearly and have credit monitoring products. I would know if something was wrong. So I have no idea what you are talking about.

    “I also just purchased my third home, so trust me I would have known about this years ago.”

    I asked for “proof of debt.” He sends me a letterhead email that just states an account number and a total of $435.09.

    I call him back and say this is not what I asked for. I asked for a signed loan document that shows my name and social insurance number. He says he cannot provide that.

    I say that if CashMoney lent out money without proper credit checks to ensure they are dealing with the right person, that’s not my issue.

    And let me remind you, this debt is over 12 years old. Under the Collection Act in Ontario, you are not allowed to be doing what you’re doing.

    I then find out that CBV collections has a legal order from Alberta and other provinces, which says they are not legally allowed to contact anyone about debts older than six years. It’s against the law for many reasons. It is banned in Ontario as well.

    After seven years, you cannot report it on anyone’s credit report or take any action. This is because it’s recognized that people made mistakes and rebuild their credit.

    So after another call, I set them straight. Are you aware of the Collection Act? That it is clearly against the law to do what you just did? That was the end of those calls.

    I checked both credit reports and like always, it’s clean as a whistle.

    They are debt repurchasers, who buy charged off debt for pennies and try to make money on it. Charged off means the company has got a tax writeoff for it.

    If it’s six years from the date of charge off and you make harassing phone calls like I got, you’re in big trouble. You cannot legally do any of it.

    I wonder how many people who were bad in college end up getting calls like this? And not knowing the law, end up paying thousands or having their credit ruined for even acknowledging the debt>?

    Once you do that, it sets the clock back and your perfect score is ruined.

    After 6 years of no activity, you cannot repost that debt on a credit report either. Doing so is illegal. So you cannot re-age debts like this company tried to do.

    What you did in college is not meant to follow you 12 years later. That is why it’s written that way. It gives honest people a new start once.

    Rogers: I have a BlackBerry 9900. I lost it in Miami prior to my flight departure.

    I turned off data, so I could not use Blackberry Protect to locate it. And when I got home, I got a new one. I paid $35, plus a $50 upgrade fee. Not bad.

    THEN I get a call two weeks later from Rogers, saying we now offer “Protection Plans!” I sign up. It’s $7.99 per month.

    Great deal, you think? I feel good now. Then, I do some research and find this.

    It is $7.99 a month, BUT there is a deductible. And it’s not cheap! For my BlackBerry 9900, that fee is $120! Plus tax!

    WOW! $120 plus tax and add up the $7.99 a month and you’re now for three years at over $287! Plus the replacement fee, and you’re now close to $500!

    So, Rogers, you’re BUSTED for not telling people on the phone about the deductible fee! That service is CANCELLED!

  7. Bogdan@bankowe

    Jan 5 2013

    The Real Retirement looks like an interesting read, defying the conventional wisdom we might have been bullied to embrace.

    We are told to save, save, save for retirement and smacked on our heads with standard calculations, but most people would be better off thinking hard about how they want to live and what other values than money will play a part.

  8. canadianmaple007@gmail.com

    Jan 7 2013

    I was charged a $300 deductible amount by Budget Car Rental for no reason by their collision and repair department.

    1) The damage (small scratches) was already there before renting the
    car. Because of bad weather (rain) and our hurry the day before,
    we did not inspect and sign off on the damage while renting the vehicle.

    2) We were not told about $300 deductible. The agents at Avis-
    Budget said that the full insurance covers just about everything, so we
    didn’t bother to inspect the vehicle before renting.

    3) After returning the rental vehicle, we were asked to fill out the incident report. We were told to write down anything like “hit the curb” even though it was not our mistake.

    Aince it was my very first rental after immigrating to Canada from the USA, I did not question them. They said you are fully covered with Budget insurance & they’ll take care of the scratches.

    Somebody in the office even wrote down the $300 amount on the form without our knowledge (it can be proved it was written by someone
    else and was not our handwriting).

    I wouldn’t have agreed to fill out the incident report form if they
    had written $300 in my presence.

    4) The repair cost (around $700) seems unreasonable for such a
    small scratch. I would like Budget to send us the photographs of damage and proof that it has been fixed for the cost stated as $700. I would also like to talk to the body shop where the repairs were done.

    5) While searching on Internet, I came across disturbingly similar incidents reported against Budget car rental in Canada, just last month, where customers were charged without any reason and were equally frustrated.

    http://www.autoguide.com/auto-news/2012/11/budget-rent-a-car-accused-of-cheating-customers.html

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/story/2012/11/02/bc-budgetrepairs.html

    My request to them was to fully reimburse the $300 charges to
    amicably resolve my nightmare experience with Budget and maintain
    good relationship in the future.

    When I asked for photographs of the damage, they provided a “doctored” photo with scratched paint on the rear left side of bumper.

    On the other hand, the drawing I had provided in the report was having
    two marks:

    1) a small mark on the front right side bumper and
    2) a small mark on the middle of the rear bumper.

    They have provided a false photo. which is the upside down version of my
    markings in the report. I found this disturbing and unprofessional
    as well and wanted to bring it to your attention.

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