Financial news and advice — December 2015

Millionaires may be more generous than we think, according to new research. Plus, a "programming error" leads Verizon Wireless to charge millions to an unsuspecting customer.


Millionaires more generous than we thought

The rich may be more like Santa than Scrooge, new research suggests. In a study published in PNAS, Dutch millionaires who received €100 ($152) to give to low-income individuals or keep for themselves donated an average of €71.40, with 45.6% handing over the full €100. In comparison, a meta-analysis of more than 100 similar studies on students and CEOs reveals a much lower average donation of €28.40, with just 5.4% giving it all away. Interestingly, when the recipients could choose whether to receive the funds (if they refused, both parties got nothing), the millionaires offered less: an average of €63.90. The conclusion? Millionaires are less generous when confronted with a counteroffer, meaning charities would do well to scrap minimum donation amounts.


The cost of doing biz

Business partners 

Want to open your own business? You may need more cash than you think, a BMO survey suggests. In a poll of 500 Canadian entrepreneurs, 80% said one of the biggest challenges when starting out was earning enough money to support both their business and family. Business owners with 10 employees or fewer spent an average of $120,000 to get started, while those with 11 to 49 employees needed an average of $345,000.


Prairies lack plans

Three in 10 Canadians have never created a budget for themselves or their household, according to an Ipsos poll for Interac. Prairie dwellers seem to be particularly averse to financial planning — 40% of residents in Saskatchewan and Manitoba admitted they’ve never set up a budget, compared with just 22% of survey respondents in Quebec.


Technology: priceless...

Speaking of budgets, the vast majority of Canadian workers (87%) say they have cut expenses to make ends meet, a survey by job site finds. The most common sacrifices are eating out (45%) and leisure activities (44%). But there are some things Canadians simply refuse to give up. More than half (56%) said their most valued expense was an Internet connection, followed by a smartphone or mobile device (38%) and driving (36%).


...unless it's a $2 million cellphone bill

Nearly a year after an Oregon man cancelled the mobile phone service he had for just one month, he was still in dispute with service provider Verizon Wireless over hundreds of dollars in erroneous billings. That’s when things got weird. As Ken Slusher told news outlets in October, he was shocked to discover the balance on his Verizon account had somehow ballooned to US$2,156,593.64. Verizon blamed the mix up on a “programming error” and apologized to Slusher.