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Welcome to the Globe and Mail Personal Finance Reader. I'm Rob Carrick, personal finance columnist at The Globe, and each week I compile a list of articles, blog postings, videos and websites that represent the best of what the online world has to offer on money-related subjects.

I know for a fact that real estate is a hot topic because people keep asking me about it. A Globe reader I recently ran into in the lobby of my office building asked about it. Dozens of people tossed in questions for an online discussion I recently did on mortgages and housing. A TV host who interviewed me recently went on and on about real estate as an investment.

So let's start this week's Reader off with a package of the latest analysis on housing and mortgages. You'll find some thoughts on whether it's best to go with a variable-rate or fixed-rate mortgage, comments from people in the mortgage business about whether there's a bubble in home prices and a close-up look at the Vancouver and Toronto markets.

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This edition of the reader also contains a list of sneaky tricks retailers use, and plenty of useful information aimed at investors. For your amusement, there's also a video economics tutorial spoken in rap.

Found something on the Internet that your fellow investors might enjoy? Talk to me at

From The Globe and Mail and Globe Investor

How to turn your home into an income property Home Cents blogger Chaya Cooperberg shares tips from Income Property's Scott McGillivray

The case for dividend stocks in uncertain times Get out of cash and buy some. Many dividend-paying companies have actually increased the amount of cash they pay each quarter, says Rob Carrick

Canadians lack basic financial know-how Global survey finds that just 13% of Canadians could answer three questions about financial risk and even fewer are taking steps to educate themselves

Unemployed? Avoid dipping into your RRSP A financial adviser helps an unemployed Guelph worker to chart a new course without harming her retirement funds

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RRSP Report 2010 If you have not done so, check out the globe investor personal finance RRSP hub, launched last week, featuring everything you need to know to get through this year's season

Must Reads From Around the Web

The Real Estate File The Canadian Mortgage Trends blog parses a recent analysis by Bank of Montreal and detects a tilt away from variable-rate mortgages to a fixed rate. Must read if you're buying a home or renewing a mortgage.

Check out what people in the mortgage business think about the question of whether there's a bubble in the housing market (don't be shocked, but they see no bubble).

Focus on the Toronto market: Up 87 per cent in January.

Focus on the Vancouver market: hot but not too hot, the Conference Board of Canada says.

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Focus on the U.S. market: Let's just say there's no reason to rush if you're looking to buy property south of the border. The reason: the housing market could be headed for a double dip.

A real estate agent's take on why homebuyers should use a mortgage broker as opposed to their usual bank. Robert McLister, a broker himself and the proprietor of the afore-mentioned Canadian Mortgage Trends blog, tells me that about 34 per cent of Canadians now use a mortgage broker.

Here's that online discussion I did on mortgages and housing.

Tricks Of the Trade A list of 10 things retailers won't tell you. Be sure to read about how gift cards often go unused, and how outlet stores sometimes sell cheapo versions of products rather than the prime stuff marked down.

For Investors The ultimate roundup of predictions and forecasts for the markets in 2010.

TSX-listed stocks most likely to raise dividends. Hey, where are the big banks on this list?

A list of 10 investing mistakes to avoid from Daniel Solin, author of a no-nonsense book called The Smartest Investing Book You'll Ever Read.

The new gold? It could be platinum, which you can now invest in through a new exchange-traded fund listed on the NYSE under the symbol PPLT.

Attention, Aspiring Millionaires The CBC TV show Marketplace checks out the seminars that have been spun off from the Rich Dad, Poor Dad books and finds some complaints that they're about selling expensive advanced courses.

Boring But Safe Paul Krugman, the Nobel prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist, is the latest to laud Canada's banking system for its stability amid the global financial crisis. Yes, you'll find the obligatory reference to how boring Canada is thought to be.

The Keynes-Hayek Smackdown A fun rap video in which the economic theories of John Maynard Keynes and Friedrich Hayek are debated. Seriously.

Protecting Investors The Small Investor Protection Association is a group that looks out for the interests of individuals in their dealings with the financial industry. SIPA pointed out to me this week that there is now a national online database of investment advisers who have been disciplined by regulators. Here are SIPA's comments on the list (not complete enough), along with a link to the list itself.

If you're up for feeling shocked and appalled, check out the SIPA review of last year's developments in the field of protecting individuals from bad financial advice and products. "Consumer/investors were exposed to a wide range of financial assaults," the review says in conclusion.

Follow me on Facebook. I'm at Rob Carrick - Personal Finance.

Editor's note: If you don't receive Rob Carrick's personal finance newsletter each week by email, you can sign up to receive it free by registering at The Globe and Mail . All you need to do is register for the site, or if you've already registered, login and go to your profile at the top of the homepage. Once you're in your profile, look under Alerts and look for the Personal Finance Reader and other newsletters. Other financial newsletters include:

- Business Ticker, a summary of the top business stories of the day

- Berman's Market Update, a summary of the markets at the open, noon and close

- Globe Investor Magazine, a biweekly collection of smart investment idea and portfolio management stories

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