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House poor, fixing CPP & gaming Aeroplan: BUSINESS WEEK WRAP

05/29/2015 06:00 EDT | Updated 05/29/2016 05:59 EDT
House prices keep rising, incomes are basically staying the same, yet home ownership rates continue to tick higher. Considering those three facts, it should not come as a surprise that more and more Canadian's now describe themselves as "house poor."

If you haven't heard of the phrase yet, you will. It's the term used to describe people who've managed to save and borrow enough to buy a home, but soon find themselves with not enough left to pay for anything else.

On paper, they're doing fine as the value of their home goes up every month. But after the mortgage and other fees are paid, they don't have enough cash left over to put food on the table — let alone have a little fun.

We spoke to one family this week who reckons they spend 43 per cent of their income on housing. That's way above the 25-30 per cent level that financial professionals recommend, and leaves them more vulnerable to economic shocks like job loss.

"If interest rates increase to any degree, those individuals are not going to be able to continue to finance their homes and we could have an influx of houses on the market," Laurie Campbell, the CEO of Credit Canada Debt Solutions told us this week.

Could CPP solve pension problems?

Speaking of building nest eggs, Canada's national pension plan was in the news this week, being used as a political football. Last week we told you about the fund's impressive returns, up almost 19 per cent this year to $264 billion. With a record like that, there's a growing chorus of voices starting to say the answer to Canada's pension problems might be right under our noses.

The NDP and Liberals both say they back a plan that would expand CPP benefits and premiums for all. The governing Conservatives are cool to any sort of mandatory plan, but they now say they are open to a plan that would see CPP expand, but only on a voluntary basis.

It's a complex issue to be sure, Don Pittis wrote in one of our most-read stories this week. And one that's certain to become murkier further into an election year as politicians will rush to tell Canadians they have it all figured out.

At the end of the day, we like the way politican consultant Goldy Hyder described the issue on The Exchange with Amanda Lang this week.

"Who's responsibility is it to save for your retirement, is it exclusively the job of the government, is it the job of your employer who's already paying you to have a job, or do you have some skin in this game yourself?"

That's the $264-billion question that all Canadians need to be asking themselves.

Winning the reward points game

If you've ever tried to book a trip on travel points it may have felt more like a punishment than a reward.

Fees, blackout periods, and a general lack of availability are some of the top complaints out there. It's a frustration for hopeful travellers, but a business opportunity for others. A growing number of websites offer to do the tedious work for you — for a fee, of course. 

One enterprising person we spoke to this week can walk you through his system, one which allowed him to rack up a million points through a process known as "churning" where you sign up for a credit card, pocket the sign-up bonus points and then cancel and get a new one.

If you missed it, Aaron's Saltzman's story on the issue is well worth your time.

Three, two — done

Well, it's official: starting next week three-year cellphone contracts are a thing of the past.

Canadians had gotten used to them over the years, but thanks to some CRTC regulations signed years ago and finally coming into effect starting June 3, Canadian telecom carriers are no longer allowed to lock in customers for more than two years. 

As of that date, anyone on a three-year contract will face no penalty for cancelling, as long as they've been on it for at least two years. And if you're signing a new one, it also won't be for more than two years.

It's an idea that's long overdue in this country, occasional CBC columnist Peter Nowak wrote for us this week, urging consumers to pay attention for the looming once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for deals, as the Big 3 telecoms fight to keep their share of the so-called "double cohort" of people coming off contracts and able to leave.

Other stuff

Those were just a few of our most read stories this week. For more business news be sure to check out our website often, and don't forget to follow us on Twitter here. In the meantime here's a day-by-day list of some of our best stuff this week.

Monday

Tuesday 

Wednesday

- MAP: What are the most popular jobs in every province?

Thursday

- DON PITTIS: CPP expansion plan does little for ants and won't help grasshoppers either

Friday

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