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8 tips to lower your hydro bill and increase your home’s efficiency this winter

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Photos: James Bombales

Canadian winters are long and hard on our homes and our pocketbooks. We all know that with dipping temperatures comes higher heating costs, so with several months of winter ahead of us, there’s no better time to ensure your home is in tip top shape and running at its most efficient.

For advice on how to increase your home’s efficiency while decreasing your monthly hydro bill, we turned to Paula Doyle, District Sales Manager at Enercare Inc. Here she shares her top 8 energy-saving tips.



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1. Use a programmable thermostat

Running your home’s heater all day is both inefficient and unnecessary. By using a programmable thermostat, homeowners can set the temperature for different times of the day to ensure that the heater isn’t operating while nobody’s home or while you’re asleep. Smart thermostats add the ability to control your home’s entire HVAC system right from the palm of your hands via a smartphone app.

“As the cold weather hits, homeowners naturally begin to turn on their furnaces, which becomes the top energy user in the home during winter months,” says Doyle. “A lower temperature at night and after you leave for work can save up to 10 percent on your heating bill.”



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2. Furnace maintenance saves energy

Ensuring your furnace is running at top efficiency can save you money on your next hydro bill. “A tune-up from a licensed technician can save you 3-10 percent in heating costs,” says Doyle. “Your furnace filter also affects the air quality of your home so a good rule of thumb is to clean or replace it every three months, all year-round.”



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3. Install a humidifier

One of the biggest benefits of proper humidification in the home is a financial one. Using a humidifier allows you to turn the thermostat down one or two degrees while still maintaining a comfortable feeling, thus lowering your heating bills.

“If the air inside your home contains the proper amount of moisture, you can comfortably turn the furnace down a notch without noticing,” explains Doyle. “As an added bonus, a humidifier helps eliminate dry air that can cause damage to your home and health.”



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4. Take advantage of free heat!

There are easy, low-budget ways homeowners can conserve energy without having to make any major modifications to their homes. “Open drapes during the day to let the sun’s rays warm your space,” says Doyle. Hosting family or friends for dinner? “When entertaining or when the house is full, turn down the thermostat as body heat will help warm the space.”



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5. Manage light usage

Remember when your parents would nag you to turn the lights off when leaving a room? They were onto something. “It costs about $2.55 per year to light one room for one hour,” says Doyle. “Switch off the lights when you leave a room and install automatic timers, motion sensors, dimmers and solar cells to help you conserve energy.”

Switching from traditional bulbs to energy efficient ones like LEDs can help you use up to 40 percent less energy indoors and out.



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6. Find and seal leaks

“Up to 30 percent of the heating and cooling costs in a home can be lost through poorly fitted windows and doors,” explains Doyle. “Caulking and weather stripping around existing openings or installing new energy-efficient windows can save home owners about $150 a year on their energy bills.”

How can you detect air leaks? “Place your hand against doors/windows from the inside. If it feels cooler than the inside walls, install a door/window that’s better insulated,” says Doyle.



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7. Use your ceiling fans year around

In the summertime your ceiling fan rotates in the counterclockwise direction pushing cool air down to help chill a room, but it can also be used in the winter. “Having your ceiling fan spin clockwise at a low speed will move air around to improve airflow but will not push cold air throughout the room,” says Doyle. “The gentle updraft created will bring warm air near the ceiling down into the room.”



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8. Don’t forget about the fireplace

If you have a fireplace there are several things you can do to ensure that it’s running efficiently whether it’s wood burning, gas or electric.

“Split wood into pieces that are 10-15cm (4-6 inches) in diameter so that it burns more cleanly due to the larger surface area exposed to the flame,” says Doyle. “Homeowners with a gas or electric fireplace should consider installing a fireplace thermostat to help control the room temperature.”

If you have a fireplace damper, make sure it remains closed when not in use and check that the seal on the flue damper is as snug as possible. Doyle also suggests to not use the fireplace when the outside temperature is below -7°C (19°F). “The cold air coming into your house through the open flue wastes more heat than is gained.”

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Is getting an MBA worth it? How to make a decision

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Obtaining an MBA degree requires a significant amount of investment. You’re not only spending money but investing a large amount of time and effort into it.

While preparing for your MBA, it is important to critically access if the benefits of enrolling in a graduate business school outweigh the costs, according to experts. Your current financial capabilities and commitments are key factors to consider before determining whether applying for an MBA is the right choice for you.

According to experts, one great way to weigh the short-term financial benefits of an MBA is to research the average salary of recent graduates of business schools and compare that figure with the average number of student loan debt.

Of all the ranked business schools that provided salary figures in the U.S. News Best Business Schools ranking, the average starting salary among 2018 graduates from full-time MBA programs was $87,683.88. While for 2018 graduates of full-time MBA program at the ranked business schools, the average debt burden was $51,671.90.

For schools that provided both salary and debt figures, the average salary for MBA graduates was $86,253.72—167% higher than the average debt burden at those schools.

Mike Catania, the founder of the coupon website PromotionCode.org and a student in the executive MBA program at the University of California—Los Angeles Anderson School of Management, noted that one of the major reasons he chose to attend business school was a strong desire to expand his network.

“I got exactly what I wanted – access to brilliant classmates and faculty that I would never have encountered on my own,” he noted. “It’s difficult to ascribe a value to that, but I look at it as only temporarily intangible – the relationships forged over the next few years will positively affect my opportunities as an entrepreneur moving forward.”

According to a financial ROI report on MBA published by Quacquarelli Symonds—a higher education data, consulting and research company—within 10 years of earning an MBA degree, the average MBA graduates from either a U.S. or international business school had an estimated ROI of $390,751—even after deducting tuition and opportunity costs of attending an MBA program. The report also went further to show that the average decade-long ROI of an MBA graduate from the Stanford University Graduate School of Business is higher than $1 million.

While the financial benefit of an MBA degree is a huge factor to consider, experts also note that there are other non-financial factors to consider, such as if getting the degree would either facilitate career change or accelerate career advancement.

“Often candidates have a career progression in mind – ask whether people who have followed that path have been helped by an MBA,” said Mark W. Nelson, the dean of Cornell University’s Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management. “Also, consider your personal opportunities for growth. What do you want to work on? Consider how an MBA would help you develop those capabilities.”

For example, with the future of data analyticslooking bright for data scientists, getting an MBA might be what you need to boost your chances of landing a great job.

Another important thing to consider when deciding to pursue an MBA degree is your current lifestyle. It is a venture that requires serious commitments, said Catania.

“It’s just going to eat up so much of your time, and all of the (business) schools make it abundantly clear that this is on par with a job,” he adds.

Also, Nelson noted that an MBA is best suited for individuals who want to begin a major change in their career path. “An MBA is a good path when candidates are looking for a career switch or a significant career advancement,” he said.

However, Elissa Sangster, CEO of the Forté Foundation—a non-profit organization with a mission to increase the representation of women in business schools and corporate leadership positions—warns that an MBA is not necessary for every type of business career.

“You could trick yourself into thinking you need to go and pursue an MBA because, if you’re going to run a yoga studio or you’re going to … open up a car wash or run a food truck, those are all businesses,” she said.

“Getting an expensive MBA degree may not be a smart financial decision for someone who wants to run a small local business, while it could be a strategic move for someone who hopes to start or manage a large, influential corporation.”

According to Phil Strazzulla, an entrepreneur and the founder of two companies in the software sector – Select Software Reviews and NextWave Hire – who earned an MBA from Harvard Business School, he noted that while it is a chance worth taking, it is one that needs to be carefully analysed.

“Chances are, if you’re thinking about getting an MBA, you are an analytically rigorous person who’s done the analysis on whether it makes sense to pay now for future gains in salary,” he said. “And, if you go to a top school, it undoubtedly is. However, the other way I’d recommend thinking about your decision is how it’ll impact your overall happiness.”

Furthermore, SiqiMou, the co-founder and CEO of the tech-driven beauty company HelloAva who earned an MBA degree from Stanford, notes that one of the key advantages of attending a high-quality business school is that it provides exposure to a wide array of career opportunities.

“I would say the advantage of coming to one of these relatively prestigious business schools is that you have a lot of options that are open to you,” she said. “You can go back into finance or consulting types of jobs, or you can also start something yourself.”

Bachenheimer, a clinical professor of management at Pace University’s Lubin School of Business in New York City, added that an MBA provides project-based learning activities that allow students to practice solving real business problems.

“An MBA can be much more than the knowledge and skills acquired through coursework; it can truly expand you and your world,” he said.

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Comment se protéger des risques associés à l’utilisation des outils bancaires

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La technologie financière est en constante évolution. L’introduction continuelle de nouvelles options bancaires en est la preuve.

Fintech (abréviation de technologie financière) est un terme qui désigne tout type d’innovation technologique utilisée pour soutenir ou fournir des services financiers. Une telle innovation entraîne des changements importants dans le secteur financier, et donne naissance à une gamme de nouveaux modèles d’affaires, d’applications, de processus et de produits.

Si les applications financières vous permettent d’accéder facilement à vos finances personnelles, elles peuvent aussi comporter des risques allant du vol de vos renseignements bancaires, tels que votre numéro de carte de débit ou de crédit, votre nom d’utilisateur et votre numéro d’identification personnel.

C’est pourquoi il est important d’être très vigilent en partageant vos informations personnelles et bancaires en ligne. Saviez-vous qu’en fournissant vos informations bancaires ou de carte de crédit à une application financière, vous pourriez risquer de violer l’accord d’utilisation de votre institution financière?

Ce qui veut dire que, quelles que soient les caractéristiques de sécurité mises en place par une application financière, votre institution financière peut vous tenir responsable en cas de vol et d’utilisation de vos renseignements personnels à votre insu ou sans votre approbation.

Voici quelques conseils pour vous aider à protéger vos informations personnelles et bancaires, ou celles de votre carte de crédit lorsque vous utilisez les applications financières :

  • Vérifiez l’accord d’utilisation de votre banque avant de partager vos informations personnelles et bancaires, ou de carte de crédit à travers les applications financières.
  • Consultez la politique de protection contre la fraude de votre institution financière pour savoir qui est responsable de toute transaction non autorisée par vous-même .
  • Cherchez à comprendre quelles mesures de sécurité sont en place et comment vos renseignements personnels pourraient être utilisés.
  • Vérifiez régulièrement votre dossier de crédit pour voir s’il n’y a pas de demande de crédit que vous n’avez pas faite ou encore une transaction que vous n’avez pas effectuée.

Si vous soupçonnez que vos informations ont été compromises, changez immédiatement vos mots de passe. Examinez vos relevés de compte et de carte de crédit pour y détecter toutes anomalies, et signalez toute transaction suspecte à votre institution financière.

Vous pourriez aussi commander et vérifier votre dossier de crédit.

Visitez le site web de l’Agence de la consommation en matière financière du Canada pour de plus amples renseignements sur les risques associés au partage de renseignements bancaires sur des applications financières à canada.ca/argent.

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Comment agir efficacement en cas de fraude

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Chaque année, des milliers de Canadiens perdent des millions de dollars à cause de fraudeurs. Adolescents, aînés, gens d’affaires, tout le monde peut en être victime. Pourtant, seulement 5% des fraudes sont signalées aux autorités.

Si vous avez été victime de fraude, la meilleure chose à faire est de le signaler aux autorités concernées, et peu importe son ampleur. Ne vous sentez surtout pas honteux d’avoir été piégé car vous n’êtes pas seul à être tombé dans le panneau. En rapportant cette fraude, vous allez aider d’autres personnes à ne pas en être victime. De plus, dans la plupart des cas, l’institution financière ouvrira une enquête et vous remboursera l’argent perdu.

Gardez en tête que protéger vos renseignements personnels est essentiel pour éviter la fraude. Voici comment agir si vous suspectez une transaction inhabituelle dans vos comptes :

  • Changez immédiatement votre NIP et signalez la fraude à votre institution financière et au Centre antifraude du Canada. Informez-les également de toute correspondance suspecte que vous recevez au sujet de vos comptes.
  • Lorsque vous communiquez avec votre institution financière, assurez-vous d’utiliser le numéro de téléphone figurant sur votre relevé de compte ou au verso de votre carte de crédit ou de débit.
  • Si vous recevez des courriels trompeurs, vous pouvez envoyer une plainte au Centre de signalement des pourriels. Les escroqueries financières comprennent souvent des offres de vente ou des promotions de produits et services financiers, comme les régimes de retraite, les fonds de placement gérés, les conseils financiers, l’assurance et les comptes de crédit et de dépôt.

Le Bureau de la concurrence du Canada dispose d’un excellent guide appelé le Petit Livre noir de la fraude, et fournit beaucoup d’autres renseignements utiles par l’entremise du Centre antifraude du Canada.

Pour plus d’information, visitez le site web de l’Agence de la consommation en matière financière du Canada qui offre également une foule de renseignements et d’outils pour vous aider à vous protéger contre les fraudes et les escroqueries à canada.ca/argent.

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