March 2014


Everyone loves chicken wings

By Marcia Barhydt

How could there be a football game on TV without chicken wings? Or a poker night for the guys? Or any impromptu party for either guys or girls?

This year, however, this culinary treat was severely threatened for the Super Bowl, possibly the ultimate wing event of the year.

According to WSB-TV, “Two storage workers in Georgia are accused of stealing $65,000 worth of frozen chicken wings amid a high nationwide demand for the delicious Super Bowl snack. Dewayne Patterson, 35, and Renaldo Jackson, 26, allegedly used a rental truck on Jan. 12 to steal 10 warehouse pallets of frozen wings from Nordic Cold Storage.”

Ten pallets? I have no idea how many wings a pallet holds, but 10 pallets certainly seems to be a plethora of wings to me.

Don’t you have to wonder just how these two stored those 10 pallets to keep them frozen and in top black market condition? I think this may have been more wings than would fit into my little kitchen freezer. Did they borrow freezers from their pals? Maybe they rented freezers the way you can rent tables and chairs for a banquet. I just think that 10 pallets of wings would be a hefty amount to secretly store and I’m not sure that DeWayne and Renaldo would have been up to the task.

And there’s another question here. Wings come, of course, coated with various sauces: zesty, hot, super-hot, blow-your-head-off hot. Were the stolen wings pre-coated in their pallets of storage boxes? That just seems unlikely to me. So did these two bright bulb thieves also steal the sauces? How did they decide which strength of sauce would be the most popular for their…clients? Do purchasers of stolen wings even have a preference or are they just delighted to have a huge stash of these chicken delights?

How much would you pay for a box of heisted wings? Or a pallet of them, for that matter? Would you buy wings out of the trunk of someone’s car parked at the side of the road advertising “Wings – Cheap”?

Maybe I need to stop laughing at this ridiculous heist, because the brazen theft took place on January 12 and the date of the news article is January 28, so there was some wiggle time there for the sticky-fingered thieves to dispose of their wings in the most profitable manner before this year’s Super Bowl Sunday.

These two innovative thieves did the nasty deed in broad daylight with little concern of being caught – so caught they were. They were later released on $2,950 bond.

The wings, however, were never found. Pass the napkins please.


What keeps poor people poor? This description will change your views on poverty

It can be easy to think that all poor people need to do to be less poor is work harder or save more money, but the truth is a lot more complex. There are a million factors that keep the poorest of us from getting out of their situation, and Reddit user Rebris explains it perfectly in his description of what keeps poor people in poverty. If you thought it was easy to step out of poverty, you won’t after reading this.


In response to The Atlantic’s It’s expensive to be poor:

This is something very few “well to do” people realize. Being poor isn’t just a temporary inconvenience, it’s utterly lifecrushing. The smallest things can turn into the worst disasters.

Even if you’re decently smart, have no kids and live by yourself, things can quickly get out of hand. Say you work 30 hours a week at $8 (and that’s generous), that’s 960 dollars a month to live on before taxes. Let’s make it an even 1000.

  • Rent costs you anywhere between 300-500 USD. Let’s assume the cheapest apartment in the worst part of town for 400. We’ll even include the utilities.
  • If you want to get from and to work reliably, you need a car. Public transit outside of major US cities is unreliable and nobody will hire you if you depend on the bus to get to work since service is often delayed or canceled. Car requires insurance and gas after the initial cost, which we’ll ballpark at an ultra-low 150 a month.
  • You try to eat responsibly; no instant junk, instead lots of eggs, cheese, meat and veggies, and make sure never to let food spoil. Since you’re by yourself you can eat for $200 a month; it’s not fancy food but a slow cooker goes a long way. Add another $50 per month for things like shampoo, dish soap, paper towels etc.

We’re at $800 now. Say you use public library internet (so no monthly costs), have no TV, never go out to eat or to the bar with friends. This leaves you with $200 to put away every single month, which you do for 3 months. Note that your job doesn’t provide you health insurance, so we’re opting for none (currently).

Now your car breaks down. You take it to a shop everyone tells you is reliable, and they say it’s a $500 repair. This is okay, because you have $600 saved up, and this still leaves you with $100. After all, you need a car to get to work.

On your way to work with your repaired car you get pulled over because your taillight is out. You get a ticket for $200. Shit.

What do you do? Ask work for a pay advance? Most minimum wage places don’t do that. You don’t have credit and don’t own a credit card, cash advance places are a scam. You can ask relatives but you will still owe them the money and shatter what little self esteem you have left.

Keep in mind these are minimum numbers. Next to no minimum wage job will give you 30 hours a week, fines and unexpected expenses can easily be double that, and if you manage to live with no internet, TV and miscellaneous costs for 3 whole months, MAYBE you’ll end up having those initial $600 saved up. Then in an instant, it’s all gone and you’re back to square zero.

Now think about going to college to better your education (while still going to work to survive). This adds more expenses on top of the $0 you already have left in your margin, even if you get financial aid and a scholarship. Not to mention your job will have to accommodate your school hours, and they won’t like that one bit, putting you on the shit list super fast.

This can go on for hours, but it’s not always as simple as “spending too much and saving too little”. This is a hole that is very, very hard to get out of once you’re stuck in it, twice so in US states that have high unemployment rates.

Banks will fuck you over with fees and fines, people look down on you, nobody will give you credit and the worst of interest rates, purchases are more expensive, trivial odds turn to huge issues. This simply doesn’t happen to people who earn a “living” wage; these are things they never have to think or worry about. Once you have a reasonable amount of money, it opens so many doors for you and erases so many worries that it’s absolutely absurd how condescending society acts toward people living in these situations on a day to day basis.

Girl Crush: Mindy Kaling

I’ll admit it: I was late getting into The Office. I had seen an episode here and there, and knew I had a giant crush on John Krasinski, but until two weeks ago never sat down and watched the series as a whole.

I’m here to tell you that I watched eight seasons in two weeks and I’m not sure if I’m happy with that statistic yet or not. What I am happy about is how The Office introduced me to my new favourite lady: Mindy Kaling.

On The Office, Kaling plays Kelly Kapoor, the lovable office chatterbox, but she also holds the title of producer, writer and she made her directorial debut in season 6 with the episode “Body Language.” Now Kaling is the creator of the show The Mindy Project, which she also stars in, writes for and produces. The Mindy Project is a fun show that takes place in an Ob/Gyn clinic, and is the perfect show to fix your post-Office withdrawal. (This is coming from someone who is almost done with The Office and quickly needs to find her next television obsession.)

As if Mindy Kaling doesn’t already seem like the busiest woman in show business, she wrote a book called Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) which I finished in just over a day and then promptly lent out to all my friends. Kaling covers a wide variety of topics including chest hair, one night stands, punching your best friend in the nose, and her own funeral wish list.

Kaling’s book left me in hysterics; it felt like I was reading the diary of my best friend. Her cheek-in-tongue humour perfectly captures the tone you would use while out for lunch with your girlfriends, and her brutally honest tales of Hollywood fame are refreshing.

The reason why I love Kaling is because she has worked hard her entire life to get to where she needs to be. When she couldn’t find roles that suited her, she wrote her own. She produced her own work until someone noticed her, and then she became the only female on the writing staff at The Office. She works 16+ hours a day. She is not afraid to be completely herself and show herself at her most unfiltered and unflattering.

Mindy Kaling is warm, personable, talented and very, very funny.

And once I finish making her a friendship bracelet, she will officially be my best friend.

Follow Andrea on Twitter @andreeahluscu.

Follow Women’s Post on Twitter at @WomensPost.

Real life real estate

I’m a sucker for real estate reality television. Property Virgins, House Hunters, and 2 a.m. reruns of the Property Shop – I live for these shows, and always love watching couples and families go through the highest of highs, the lowest of lows, all to finally find the property of their dreams, and right on budget too.

As a real estate agent though, sometimes I have to giggle at how easy it seems. House showings to key pickup, all wrapped up in a 22 minute time slot. Of course, with the time limitations, there isn’t enough time to get into the intricacies of a normal, average real estate transaction, but I imagine that most viewers who haven’t actually been through the process might romanticize the experience with the information provided on these shows.

In the real world, the process can take months. Buyers have to talk to financial professionals to apply and qualify for financing or a mortgage, and then find the right agent with knowledge of their circumstances, their needs, and the area that they’re looking to purchase in. Then there are the house showings. On television, they show three houses and decide between the given options. I’ve had clients go on as many as 15 showings before deciding on a property, and rightly so. This is not a pair of shoes, this is a home, for families with children, dogs named Rover and cats named Meow. While timing can be of the essence when it comes to getting your home once you’ve decided on a property, finding the right home for you is a process that in my opinion shouldn’t be rushed or double-guessed.

Even after getting an approved offer, we’re often not ready to pick up the keys just yet. Accepted offers are usually “conditional”, meaning we now have to deal with home inspectors, appraisals, and final steps for financing. Your dream home might end up being a nightmare property if an inspector turns up foundation issues or termites, so there’s usually a period of time when a buyer can walk away from a property.

But I’ve seen firsthand how these shows have affected the real estate market in a very real way. Buyers and sellers are more educated now, and real estate professionals have been forced to step up their game. Sellers understand the value of “curb appeal” and not having animals or dirty laundry in the home during showings. Buyers are learning to see past superficial things like bad paint colours and minor improvements to see how a home can be made to fit them. Knowledge is power, and in the real estate game it can be the difference between a make or break deal.

All in all, these shows, by necessity due to timing and probably in large part entertainment, are condensed versions of what to expect when you’re purchasing a property. I take whatever lessons I can from real estate powerhouses like Tatiana Londono, but in the end, I really just take it for what it is: entertainment. Good, clean, funny, exciting, licorice and white cheddar popcorn on a Thursday night entertainment, and I love every second.

Parental seal of approval

Last Friday I finally made the parental introduction. Mr. Unexpected and I joined my mum and her husband for dinner on King West.

As we walked from my condo to the restaurant I could feel my heart pounding; I’ve never wanted my mum to like someone so much in my life and I honestly didn’t know how it would go. But when we arrived at the restaurant all of my nerves and fear melted away as Boyfriend fell into an easy rhythm and immediately got along with both my mum and her husband.

At one point Boyfriend looked at me and just said, “Get over it,” in reference to something silly. It made my mum howl because according to her if my brother ever told me to just, “Get over it” I would probably deck him. This is mostly true except that my little brother is about 9 inches taller than me and a rugby player and I’m about 100% sure I’d lose that fight.

A lot of our dinner conversation revolved around a new job that I’ve recently accepted and the support coming from both my mum, her husband and Boyfriend made me feel like I’ve finally got the family I’ve always wanted. Because my mum only remarried last year we don’t refer to her husband as our stepdad, but he’s more loving and supportive that my birth father ever was and I think that stems from his deep love for my mother. Their relationship is the kind I want for myself. I never once looked at my parents and thought “I want that,” because things were never that good, but looking at my mum and how happy she is now I finally understand what people with happy parents were saying – I want what they have.

But the best part of the whole dinner was the email that came from my mum a few days later letting me know how happy she was, how proud of me she was and how nice it was to see me with someone who is good for me and good to me. Boyfriend and I complement each other but because I’m in it sometimes I forget that, so it’s nice to hear from someone on the outside that we work well together.

I was nervous for nothing, I was afraid for nothing; I was a complete spaz for nothing because in the end introducing someone I love to my mum felt good and right. I wanted her to love him and she does – because according to her he’s lovely, kind and charming none of that was relayed to him though; I don’t want him to get a big head.

Now that he has every possible approval necessary, my best friend, my mum and boy bestie I think it’s time that I start calling him Boyfriend here officially instead of Mr. Unexpected. He was unexpected in October, he was a complete surprise, but now he’s earned the Boyfriend title. And while he still surprises me daily mostly I just realize exactly how lucky I am to have found someone who isn’t perfect but is perfect for me.

Group investments: matching and vesting

by Andre Domise

“Welcome to the plan!” says the cover of your group investments package, a Bible-thick assemblage of loose flyers, tax forms, and mutual fund descriptions.  Among the blizzard of Balanced Growth portfolios and T-2033 forms, there has to be some simple explanation of how this whole thing works.  You flip from 3% base and 50% matched contributions to flex benefits spillover, and by the time any comprehension finally starts to sink in, the phone is ringing, your co-worker is tapping you on the shoulder to ask if you got his e-mail, and the weighty package gets stashed in a drawer (probably never to be seen again).  It makes you wonder why the people in all the promo flyers were smiling, and not ripping their hair out.

It’s okay. Everybody knows they’re supposed to read these things through, but it’s rare that anyone actually does.

If you’re working, and have a group pension/investments plan of any kind, consider yourself lucky.  Only 38.6-percent of Canadians participate in a Registered Pension Plan (RPP), most of them women.  44-percent say they are unprepared for retirement; and, just over 50-percent have any plan for retirement at all.  By no means should a group investment plan be your only nest egg, but they do give you a great head-start.  In my next few columns I’ll explain the ins and outs of group investment plans, but I highly recommend you contact your benefits provider to be crystal-clear before you sign your name to anything.

Most group investment plans operate with a matching principle. That is, if you contribute to the investment plan, your employer will pitch in as well.  There’s no rule as to how much they’re required to put in. Depending on how generous your employer is, they may even contribute a base amount, usually between 2% to 5% of your salary, without you having to pitch in at all. Most of the time, you’ll need to kick in a portion of your salary in order to get a match from your employer. That match is usually capped at a certain percentage of your salary. For example, if your salary and bonuses average $55,000 per year, and you receive a 50% match up to 5% of your gross salary, the formula will probably look something like this:

Your contribution: $55,000 x 5% = $2750, divided by 26 bi-weekly paycheques = $105.77 per paycheque

Employer’s contribution: $105.77 x 50% = $52.88 per paycheque

So, you would see roughly $158.65 contributed to your group investment plan every other week. Consider that, with every payment into your nest egg boosted by 50% in this scenario, it makes far more sense to make regular payments into a group plan, than your personal RRSP.  A smart investing strategy would be to max out contributions into the group plan, before putting money into your personal plan.

If you’re thinking of leaving your plan, or moving to a different company, what happens to the money your employer put in?  To find the answer, you definitely want to ask your benefits provider about the “vesting” period.  In most provinces, as long as you’re in the group savings plan for two years, you get to keep all of the money.  Each company is different, and may choose a shorter vesting period, say one year, or even immediate vesting.  In Québec, however, vesting happens immediately.

Next time, I’ll look at different types of savings plans, and which ones may be the most appropriate for you.

Defined contribution pension plans explained

by Andre Domise

I understand that sussing out the differences between workplace-sponsored retirement plans can feel like a pain.  I’ve been in the financial industry for the better part of 10 years, and even I get my definitions crossed at times. However, the effort is worthwhile, as some of these plans can be used to build a hefty nest-egg and even help you buy a home or retire early.

The Defined Contribution Pension Plan (DCPP) is the most common plan for private-sector, non-union employers. It’s called “defined contribution,” because the amount of money you’ll deposit into the plan is known ahead of time. Contained somewhere in the acres of paperwork and informational material, you should be able to find out the contribution and matching formula that determines how much you’ll pitch in, and how much your employer will match.  If this is difficult to locate or understand, just call your benefits provider and have a customer service representative explain it to you. They’re often very helpful – they want your business, after all.

In these plans, there is usually a base contribution you’re expected to make (ie. 2% of your gross salary), and your employer will likely match that amount dollar-for-dollar. Then, you might be able to kick in an optional amount that will also be matched (ie. up to 3% more of your gross salary, matched at 50% by the employer). Using the formula for a company I deal with fairly regularly, here is an example of how DCPP contributions work:

Employee gross salary: $75,000
Employer base contribution: 4% of gross salary
Employee base contribution: 2% of gross salary
Employee optional contribution: Up to 10%
Employer matched contribution: 100% of optional employee contributions
matched, up to 3%

Given that an amount equal to 6% of this employee’s salary is already being deposited into the DCPP (4% from the employer, 2% from the employee), she’s off to a good start. That’s $4,500 in the bank each year (or approximately $173 per paycheque – about $58 from the employee and $115 from the employer). If she decides to bump up her contributions by another 3% (because it’s matched by the employer), that’s an additional 6%, or $9000 per year and only $144 per paycheque coming from the employee.

Let’s say our employee is 40 years old, and plans on retiring at 65. Let’s also assume she made some smart investment choices, and averaged 6% growth per year. Her pension account would be worth over $520,000 by the time she’s ready to retire. Not bad!

When you’re ready to retire or leave your company, DCPP assets are usually moved into an account called a Locked-In Retirement Account, or LIRA (some provinces use a Locked-In RRSP or LRRSP, but they’re not much different). At this point, no more money can be added to the plan, and nothing can be withdrawn. You can choose the investments in the plan, but it’s otherwise off-limits. When you’re ready to collect an income from these locked-in accounts, they’re usually converted into a Life Income Fund, or LIF (Locked-In RRSPs are converted to Locked-In Retirement Income Funds, or LRIFs.  Again, not much different). The only downside for these pension plans is that pension varies by province.  For example, each province has a different retirement age (e.g. age 50 in Alberta, age 55 in Ontario), and different rules as to what can be done with this money at retirement. For
example, in Ontario, when you convert your LIRA into a LIF, 50% of those assets can be moved into a registered, non-locked-in account (ie. RRSP, RRIF) to be used as you wish, while in British Columbia, all of the DCPP assets stay locked-in (even if you are experiencing financial hardship).

That said, the downside of locking-in provisions is far exceeded by the upside of the tax deduction you receive for making the contributions, as well as the fact that employer money helping you grow your nest egg is free money. And by the way, only yourcontributions can be deducted; your employer’s contributions didn’t come out of your pocket, hence no deduction.

Next time around, we’ll look at Deferred Profit Sharing Plans.

When it comes to discounts, ask and you shall receive

By Doreen Binder

Most people love to get a deal.

Several weeks ago on a Wednesday morning I was in Banana Republic and I could not believe how busy it was. The fitting rooms were filled with people who were queued up waiting to try things on and the lineup for the cash snaked around through the store. It all made sense when I realized that people who received Banana Republic’s promotional emails had received a 40 per cent off coupon to be used that day.

It is great when we discover the price has been slashed on a much coveted accessory or piece of clothing we have been eyeing for several weeks or when we are privy to one day sales. But what about when we buy something and then discover that if we had only waited a few days, we could have gotten it cheaper.

These days several chain stores offer price adjustments. The rules and regulations vary from retailer to retailer, so it is best to ask. I was recently in The Gap and noticed that a cowl scarf I had purchased the previous week was reduced by thirty per cent. I asked a sales associate the time limit on price adjustments and was told it was seven days. It was the last day that I could get a price adjustment on the scarf. I did not have my receipt with me and I was not sure if I could make it home in time to pick up the scarf and the receipt and return to the store before closing. I was surprised when the sales associate asked the method of payment I had used for my purchase. He was able to track it through my bank card and within minutes I had the discount accredited to my bank account. I love it when everything comes together — store policies, customer service and technology — and it results in a deal.

It pays to ask about price adjustments.



Follow Women’s Post on Twitter at @WomensPost.

RECIPE: Chicken pot pies

Makes 6 main-course servings

  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
  • 1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and caps thinly sliced
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 3 thin carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • Leaves from 1 bunch tarragon
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • Two 1-pound packages all-butter puff pastry, thawed overnight in the refrigerator if frozen
  • 1 egg, beaten with 1 teaspoon salt

Divide the chicken evenly among six 1-cup ramekins. Sprinkle the mushrooms evenly over the chicken, dividing them evenly. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the carrots over the top and finally the tarragon. Press down on the filling in each ramekin so none of the ingredients rise above the rim. (If the ingredients touch the pastry, the pastry will tear.) Pour 1/3 cup of the broth and 21/2 tablespoons of the cream evenly over each filled ramekin. Season again with salt and pepper.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the pastry about 1/8 inch thick. Cut out 6 rounds about 2 inches larger in diameter than the rim of the ramekins. Using a sharp paring knife, and working from the center to the edge, make a series of arcs, like spokes, on the surface of each round, being careful not to cut through the dough. Flip each round, brush with the beaten egg, then invert a round over each ramekin (the scored side will be facing up). Press the dough firmly against the sides with your palms until it adheres securely. Brush the pastry with the beaten egg. Place the pies on a sheet pan.

Slide the pan into the oven and bake the pies for about 35 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and has puffed. Serve at once.


Reprinted with permission from Meat: A Kitchen Education by James Peterson


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Moving past Ford: What’s even left to support?

Moving past Rob Ford

We are officially at a point where there is simply no valid reason left to support Rob Ford as a candidate for Mayor of Toronto. Barring any surprises there will not be any further high profile candidate entering the race for Toronto’s Mayor. With the entrance of Olivia Chow, the former New Democratic Party (NDP) Member of Parliament (MP), Toronto’s socialists have their standard bearer. Moreover, with Karen Stintz, the former Chair of the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), David Soknacki, David Miller’s former Budget Chief, and John Tory, the former Ontario Progressive Conservative (PC) Party leader, in the race there are simply too many options available to rationalize any support of Rob Ford going forward. I will go far enough as to suggest that doing so is deserving of ridicule.

Rob Ford has proven himself wholly inadequate at fulfilling the job of Mayor. This is not merely because he has engaged in recreational experimentation of crack cocaine while in one of his now infamous ‘drunken stupors’. This is not even because he refused to seek assistance for what is clearly a problem with alcohol and narcotic drug use. Rather, Rob Ford has proven him to be and uninformed, belligerent, childish, thuggish liar.

The fact of the matter is Toronto deserves better. Toronto deserves a Mayor who can work with across the aisle with their fellow Council members to achieve their promised goals. Rob Ford and Doug, his brother and campaign manager, assert that personal life is separate from public life. Look past the crack smoking to see the penny pinching. But here is the thing; the younger Ford does not have the record of success that he proclaims. Spending at City Hall has risen during the Fords’ tenure. Property taxes have gone up; including the largest increase in the City’s history. Despite this, services are being cut year after year, including at the TTC; which Rob Ford used to refer to as ‘essential’.

If this is a fiscal record one can support, Stintz has endorsed the ‘Ford fiscal plan’. Tory, Chow, and Soknacki: not so much. All four opposition candidates will offer varying platforms, all valid in their own rights. Torontonians are encouraged to carefully consider these plans, because at this point in time (even if I have my own personal preference) anyone would be better than Rob Ford.

I can already hear the Ford supporters firing back that I am just afraid of a Ford victory. To them I say, “You are damn right I am.” Nothing scares me more, as a citizen of Toronto, than ‘Ford more years’.