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As goes the pandemic, so goes the flow of Amazon orders at our home.

Our order frequency and size went up in March and April and way down during the summer as pandemic restrictions eased. Based on how things are going with the pandemic now, I’m anticipating an Amazon upswing this fall and winter for us and a lot of others.

Amazon’s a clear win for convenience, but are its customers getting a deal? The CreditcardGenius website has put some serious work into providing answers. Amazon’s prices were compared against six other major retailers’ – Best Buy, Canadian Tire, Costco, eBay, Indigo and Walmart.

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The findings are encouraging because they suggest you can get convenience and a competitive price at Amazon, with some exceptions. Amazon was actually a bit cheaper than Walmart for home-related products such as batteries and a coffee-maker, mildly cheaper than Best Buy for electronics and pretty much even with Canadian Tire for outdoor equipment and tools, and with Indigo for gifts.

An area where Amazon fell behind was groceries – Costco offered a significantly lower price for a list of items that included Kraft Dinner and Alcan cooking pans. Also, Amazon got smoked in the comparison to eBay, which focused on a selection of household goods and tools.

The brilliance of Amazon is that it will drop almost anything you need at your front door. The cost is surprisingly competitive, but better deals are out there in some cases.


Podcast callout: We want to hear from you

Stress Test, the millennial and Gen Z podcast I’m recording with Globe personal finance editor Roma Luciw, is gearing up for a second season. Are you under 40? Have you recently left Toronto or Vancouver or another large Canadian city and bought a less expensive home in a smaller town? To share your story, email us. You can subscribe to Stress Test on iTunes or Spotify.


Subscribe to Carrick on Money

Are you reading this newsletter on the web or did someone forward the e-mail version to you? If so, you can sign up for Carrick on Money here.


Rob’s personal finance reading list

Retired and ready to spend

A retired American on why he and his wife are spending up a storm these days. “…We’re going to make sure we enjoy the rest of our life as best we can. If that means spending down our retirement savings, so be it.”

How the winter is shaping up for snowbirds

CBC find some snowbirds are staying put here at home during the pandemic, but some are planning to head south as usual. SnowbirdAdvisor.ca has created a list of factors people should consider before travelling south for the winter.

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How globalization destroyed the middle class

Steve Paikin of The Agenda interviews Jeff Rubin, author of the new book, The Expendables: How the Middle Class Got Screwed. Worth a listen if you feel that growth in middle class

Be wary of borrowing to invest

The Investor Protection Clinic reports an uptick in the number of cases involving leveraging, which is the investment industry’s term for borrowing to invest. What I found interesting is that one of the cases cited involves a young couple who lost much of their savings. I know stocks have soared since spring, but investing is a lot harder than it looks. Borrowing to invest adds a huge additional layer of risk, and most people should avoid it.


Guest Q&A

Our guest today is Wallace Howick, a Chartered Professional Accountant with over 30 years of experience and author of the book Love And Money: Conversations To Have Before You Get Married.

Q: After how many dates should a couple start talking about money?

A: A first conversation might be early and simple: How are we paying the bill for this dinner? For most, substantial “talks” arise around events, for example moving in together or, if not living together, talking about getting married. Whatever the timing, to be successful, couples need to understand how to talk about money.

Q: How do you handle costs when one partner in a couple makes more money than other?

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A: The goal is to find a solution which together you believe is “fair.” What we believe is fair is a function of our personal values and the context in which we apply them. If one partner tries to impose “the” solution on the other, that solution will not hold; indeed, it may generate resentment and anger.

Q: Should couples keep it simple and just share a chequing account?

A: Certainly, that is one way to proceed. It ensures funds are on deposit to meet recurring monthly household costs. Each could have an automatic transfer to an individual account for savings and the agreed “no explanation needed or expected” expenditures. An alternative is for each partner to have their pay deposited in their own individual account, followed by automatic transfers in agreed amounts to the household chequing account. What matters most is for the couple to discuss the alternatives and agree on a process that works for them.

Q: What are your thoughts on co-habitation agreements?

A: Co-habitation agreements are legal arrangements between people who intend to or are living together, but are not married. My experience is few couples consider them, let alone implement them, because to do so feels incongruous and inconsistent with love. Yet significantly, they provide a tailored and predictable outcome around such things as support and division of property in the event of separation or death. A lawyer can help evaluate the need for an agreement and explain the key requirements (e.g. full financial disclosure) and the limitations of such agreements (e.g. custody of and access to children).

Q: How has pandemic changed conversations couples are having?

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A: For those having difficulty around how to talk about money, the stress of the pandemic has either made the situation worse or may a have triggered the realization ‘we need to do better’ and the need for help.

Do you have a question for me? Send it my way. Sorry I can’t answer every one personally. Questions and answers are edited for length and clarity.


Upcoming financial events

  • The Canadian Financial Summit is an online event featuring more than 25 personal-finance experts that runs Oct. 15-17. Free tickets offering limited viewing are available.
  • John Stapleton, in my view the country’s top expert on retiring with a low income, is offering a seminar for the Toronto Public Library on Oct. 21.

The money-free zone

My favourite song of the moment: Homemade Disaster by Sugaray Rayford. Prime rocking blues.


ICYMI

What I’ve been writing about
  • Cheques are COVID-catchers – how to get comfortable using e-transfers instead
  • How the pandemic will shake up retirement, and what you can do now to get ready
  • Rob Carrick: Answering your questions about the new retirement ETF paying 4% income (for Globe Unlimited subscribers)

More Rob Carrick and money coverage

Subscribe to Stress Test on Apple podcasts or Spotify. For more money stories, follow me on Instagram and Twitter, and join the discussion on my Facebook page. Millennial readers, join our Gen Y Money Facebook group.

Even more coverage from Rob Carrick:

Are you reading this newsletter on the web or did someone forward the e-mail version to you? If so, you can sign up for Carrick on Money here.

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