We’ve all got pet peeves, you know those little things that drive you crazy in life. I have a few. Lately I started thinking about some of my financial pet peeves. These are my top three.

1. Sales tax on used items

When someone buys a new car they pay sales tax on it. It often works out to thousands of dollars. If that same car is sold a year or two later, the next buyer also has to pay sales tax. In fact every time that car is sold, the person buying it has to pay sales tax even though the tax was paid in full at the time of the first purchase.

One of the reasons I like shopping on Kijiji or Craigslist is so I can avoid paying sales tax. It doesn’t work when it comes to car buying but it’s a great way to buy other things without having to pay tax. The government shouldn’t be double dipping. Used items, including cars, clothing, furniture and other items should be free from sales tax.

Don’t even get me started on the proposed HST for Ontarians. Lets just say, if we ever do get a dog we’re seriously considering the names Dalton or McGuinty.

2. Bank fees

People should not have to pay to keep their money in a bank. Having an account should be free. Basic cheques shouldn’t cost you anything. By placing your money with a bank, you are letting them borrow your money and lend it out to others for a profit. Most banks charge a fee between $9.95-$13.95 per month for an unlimited chequing account. You do not have to pay this fee. Many of the banks have a minimum balance, often as high as $3000 where they will waive the fee. Other banks have a mulit-product rebate where you can get reimbursed on your bank fees by having a certain number of products with the bank.

If you pay bank fees, ask your bank how you can get them removed. If they won’t, there is always PC Financial. I’ve been banking with them for 10 years and I’ve never paid a bank fee, my cheques are free to order and I have unlimited chequing and debits.

At $13.95 a month for unlimited transactions, it may not seem like much but that’s $167.40 a year and $1674.00 over ten years. All for just keeping your money in the bank.

3. Items as ‘investments’

Have you noticed recently there is a trend that people are calling things ‘investments’ that clearly aren’t? I heard someone say the other day, “I couldn’t decide between the two sweaters so I decided to invest in the more expensive one.” A sweater is not an investment! You may have chosen to pay more for a quality item but it’s not about to start increasing in value. I hear this all the time. A car is not an investment unless it’s an antique that’s going up in value. Some items are questionable. I had a friend who collected comic books and swore they were a huge investment. They were probably worth thousands of dollars if he ever sold them. They are technically going up in value. Yet, they still sit in boxes in his basement. I once asked him if he had any insurance on his investment. He didn’t.

We all have pet peeves that drive us crazy. What are some of your financial pet peeves?

Kathryn works in public relations and training for a non profit. In her off hours, she volunteers as a financial coach helping ordinary Canadians with the basics of money management. Her passions include personal finance and adult education. Kathryn, along with her husband and two children live in Ontario.

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My girlfriend always calls something an “investment” when she wants me to buy something…and it works! Also, at Royal Bank, I have a credit card and a chequing account and they waived the monthly fee for me (so its not just PC Financial that you can get free banking).

Incompetent financial “sales people”. This is my pet peeve. These people are not financial professionals (whom I respect), these are the “car sales people of the financial industry”. They sell what they received in a memo, brochure or staff meeting. They try to offer you products instead of recommendations/advices the lead to products.

Example 1: France – My mother in law against my advice listened to her branch bank representative and purchase a specific stock that was trendy. In the news and an nice brochures. 2 months later the stock is worthless and most of the clients of the small town purchased the specific stock because they trusted the bank.

Example 2: Canada – When it comes to mortgages banks are fast to offer their products and make them look very complex and exceptional. I gave it a try as we are looking to refinance at a lower rate or purchase. The bank asks you to fill in an application and off you go. My broker gave me advices and a few days later sent me an email recommending to hold a little as rates are going down.

I could go on and on, but you get the idea.

ZeFrench : Couldn’t agree more, these “car salespeople” make the whole industry look bad.

I’m surprised you list the proposed HST as a bad thing. I really don’t see the problem with a simplified value-added tax system. In fact you are contradicting your previous complaint about the government double-dipping. The value-added HST ensures that the same item is not tax multiple times as it moves through the supply chain, from factory to wholesaler to retailer to the consumer.

oh and add to that the 10 days (only!) that American Express gives me to pay my CC balance.

Oliver: It’s not so much that I’m opposed to the HST. I just wish they had harmonized the tax at a lower rate. If it saves billions of dollars for small businesses, great. Just pass along some of those savings to us. I would have preferred an HST at a flat rate of 10%. I should have clarified that point.

Kathryn, I think that you will see some savings due to the HST. They may not be immediate but it will allow businesses to offer more competitive pricing, especially those with longer supply chains.

The bank fee thing is probably my number one pet peeve as well. The complexity of most basic banking products is ridiculous. I have enough to keep track of without wondering if one more transaction at the bank will put me over my limit. I have been a happy PC customer for many years, but I have recently moved my savings elsewhere as the interest rates they pay are not competitive with Canadian Tire, Ally, or ING.


I agree with your list (and I really detest the used car taxation – just what value did the govt add?).

Along the line of ‘investing’ is “look how much money I saved” when buying goods that meet wants not needs. Especially if after discounting it has moved from very overpriced to only slightly overpriced.

How about companies that charge you to ship a defective item back for warranty repair or replacement when it arrived that way. “So what you’re telling me is that someone who receives a perfect product pays less than someone who receives a faulty one. ” Does that make any sense?

My pet peeve about the HST is the rebate system. $1000 for married couples, but only $300 for individuals? (That’s a difference of $200 a person). And families with kids get the same amount as DINKs? Seriously?

I like that the HST is saving money throughout the supply chain, but I’m not optimistic that those savings will be passed on to customers. Look how long it took for companies to reduce prices when the Canadian dollar went up. Travel service providers didn’t lower their fares and fees when gas prices went down, even though that was part of the justification for raising them.

I had a furniture salesman tell me recently my new loveseat was an “investment”. At just 3% appreciation, I expect it will be worth 75% more in 20 years!

I like the “investment” term. I remember watching an HGTV show a long time ago – can’t remember the name. 2 designers go in and do a makeover type thing (ring a bell anyone?).

Anyway, I remember they did one woman’s apartment – a pretty good job except for the couch which apparently was very expensive. One of the designers called it an “investment couch”. :)

A pet peeve of mine is any advantage given to married couples through the tax system. As far as I can tell married couples provide no more to society than individuals except for the economic activity generated in the legal industry through divorce proceedings.

Now that there are same sex marriages, I should marry a friend of mine just to get the perks.

My pet peeve not on the list yet – overpriced goods with a feel-good charity or fundraising benefit attached. “5% of profits to charity” does not justify buying more expensive cookies. Asking me to buy expensive frozen M&M meat I don’t need to support a family friend’s daughter’s high school band is more objectionable than asking me to make a contribution outright.

On the other hand, I actually have no difficulties with some of the pet peeves you list:

Sales tax on used items is not “double dipping” – it’s a transaction tax, and our tax system is a blend of taxes on consumption, transactions (e.g. land transfer tax), and income. By and large, I think the mix is about right. Similarly, am not fussed about the HST – experience shows harmonization is more efficient in the long run, and the net tax increase had to happen somewhere somehow anyway.

In current (and recent) financial conditions, the interest rate spread (adjusted for risk) that banks receive on our deposited money is by and large not enough to cover the servicing costs of bank accounts. We take our choice – free PCF chequing with its limitations or various fee packages in the major banks.

I do share your annoyance about a misuse of the term “investments” (in fact, when I was growing up, my parents actually mislabelled the category “capital expenditures” as “investments” in their budgeting – real investments were called “savings”). However, since the resulting impact on encouraging consumer spending is a key part of the corporate profit engine that those of us who genuinely invest are betting on, it would be hypocritical for me to be too upset about it!

@DividendMan: The only tax benefits are things you’d expect married people to get as they’re legally considered to share their assets. Things like claiming the spouse’s personal exemption if they have no income, claiming their tuition costs, things like that.

A married couple is treated somewhat better than two individuals, but somewhat less than if they were considered one person (as in the US). Canada has the rough equivalent of the US “married filing separately” – but nothing like the “married filing jointly”

My financial pet peeve is the flat out robbery that Canadian investors are subject too through the mutual fund industry. Paying 2.5 – 2.9 percent in MER fees on an equity based mutual fund is absolutely outlandish. Not to mention that the mutual fund dealers are more than happy to hawk them on you. Most people just go with the flow too, which is even more aggrivating, because they don’t know any better.

My pet peeve is that the Canadian tax system discriminates against single income families.

For example, If my spouse and I each make $50k per year the taxes we pay at source are lower (and therefore our take-home pay is higher) than if one of us works and earns $100,000 per year. This is the reality in our family and it really makes me angry! Why discriminate against stay-at-home parents?

I also get frustrated when people say that their car is an “asset”. Cars depreciate every year, have a limited life and cost money to maintain – that is NOT an asset, it is a liability (unless it is has some collectible significance).

Dana, I think anything that has value (ie you can sell it for $$) should be considered an asset.

Are you are talking about “investment”? as in a car is (obviously) not an investment.

I’m not sure about the single income issue – I’m in that boat as well so I’d love to get a tax break although I’m not sure I deserve one.

If a spouse stays home – isn’t that their choice? Also how do you differentiate between a couple with 1 income and a single person with 1 income. Why shouldn’t the single person get a break?

My biggest peeve are companies (and individuals) who say or think “the more you buy, the more you SAVE”.

No, you are spending more. That’s what the ads want you to do. Believing you are getting a bargain is my biggest peeve

(in additional to all the above listed)

Four Pillars, I meant to say…”I also get frustrated when people say that their car is an “investment”. The word asset was a typo. My bad.

As for the graduated income tax issue, though families may have a stay-at-home spouse by choice, I don’t think they should be financially penalized for it. I don’t think child-free or single people should be penalized either. But, since I am in a single-income-family-with-kids situation the impact of graduated income tax on us is my primary concern and our current tax system isn’t very family friendly. I could go on and on and on about the shortcomings of our tax system, but I don’t want to change the subject.

This would make a good topic for a blog post though, dontcha think?

I can’t stand paying for parking. I realize you’re paying for a service but sometimes parking rates can be high to have a car just sit there.

Having to pay to park if I want to walk around in a public park doesn’t seem right.

Paying for parking when going to buy something and then not finding what you wanted to buy just seems like a waste.

Cars are definitely not investments. They are however assets that depreciate (a lot) over time and that is an expense of owning the car. However, because you can list that car at any time on Kijiji and sell it for cash, then it is an asset with some sort of value on anyone’s personal balance sheet.

I agree with many things on this list. Bank fees are huge for me – why pay $14 per month when you can get the same services elsewhere for free with no min. balance required. I am also not an HST fan (in BC). Also, discount brokerage fees annoy me as I still think it is much cheaper to trade stocks in the US than Canada (unless you are a very active trader). And if you try to buy a US stock in a Canadian cash account, be prepared for extremely high transaction fees.

Cell phone company “system access” fees drive me nuts too.

i see the asset issue was addressed long ago – oops.

My Gripes:
1. Investment advisor transaction fees. Saw that my wife’s investment advisor charges $120 to buy and the same to sell a stock–WTF?? I’m still trying to get her to see that I can do the same for 1/20 of the cost–and I’ll buy her an “investment” (kidding) of shoes to boot!
2. Having to mail in for rebates. I know why they do it (b/c most won’t send it in/forget/lose what they need/too complicated), and it’s underhanded. If you want to discount it, do it in a fair way.
3. Air Miles flights; still charging a fuel tax? Makes their $50 admin fee seem reasonable…Seeing time as an asset as well, the time it takes on hold and settling a flight can be a long commitment/”high cost (in terms of time value)”…

My pet peeves are tax related. Why is our tax system so complex that so many (the majority?) of Canadians don’t feel comfortable completing their own tax forms? On a related note paying house taxes with after tax income doesn’t seem right. Why are house taxes not a deduction from your income tax? Why can we not deduct the GST and PST we pay from our incomes yet a corporation can?

Craig: I hear you. For years I hated doing my taxes because they seemed way too complicated. Since I have done Ufile online it has been so much better. I am blessed that I am single and have one job. This makes my tax forms relatively a breeze for now, but if my circumstances ever change I know I will stress over the tax forms.

Dana: My parents have always complained about the single income issue. They live in Quebec and always have to do two tax forms as their lovely government requires. My father’s single income was more than my brother and his wife’s combined income for several years. Yet because my brother and his wife have clear separate earnings they received numerous tax breaks that my parents never did. I listened one evening years ago to my father arguing with some government official about the need to allow single income couples to split the income and file separately. He didn’t win the argument. He felt better telling the tax guy that essentially the government does not value stay at home parents and the work they do in the home. This was followed by the slamming of the phone.

I agree with all of these pet peeves. The sales tax on used items is basically penalizing people for reusing and helping the environment. We’re also getting the HST here in BC. Despite about 85% of the people being against it, the government is pushing it through.

As for the bank fees, those are ridiculous too. They try to charge for every little thing regardless of what work they actually have to do. Certain industries like banks and cell phone companies simply have a tradition of trying to rip off their customers through extra fees.

The problem with the HST is businesses are unlikely to pass on savings, so Ontarians will pay more for fuel, natural gas, electricity, food, condo fees, house/car repair labour, etc. These directly impact many peoples budgets.

Also, the Ontario government is only sending cheques to lower income families as a ‘please-don’t-vote-us-out-bribe’. All middle class and higher incomes get zero.

A car is an asset, anything with a market value, especially something than can be solid quickly is an asset. It just happens to be an capital asset subject to depreciation.

Regarding single income situations. A single income persion is not treated the same as a single income couple. The single income couple gets to claim the spouse as a dependent. There IS a significant tax benefit there. It’s nowhere near income splitting, but it’s NOT the same as a single-income single person.

My pet peeve is wife related ;) (I love my wife!)

She reconciles our credit card bills against receipts every month. If one is missing, whether its a $500 camera-related expense, a $50 gas-up, or $1.39 at Timmy’s !!!

I’ve gotten more than my share of earfuls because I’ve lost a receipt here or there but can still guarantee and confirm the purchase.

Oh, that and sales people in the financial industry (or any sales people for that matter).

My biggest pet peeve is government considering considering households as a joint entity when it benefits them and considering each taxpayer as an individual when it would hurt them.

Example: While I was a university student I used to be eligible for the GST credit. Once my wife (then girlfriend) moved in, I was no longer eligible and lost a tax break of almost $200 per year.

Now, despite the fact that my wife is staying home with our little one, we cannot income-split and I get taxed on one income of $130,000 rather than two incomes of $65,000.

I can respect that the country thinks it needs to encourage full participation in the labour force and does not want to facilitate stay-at-home parenting, even if I disagree wholeheartedly. What I cannot respect is that the same reasoning is not applied to other tax breaks given by the government. There should be some consistency.

Peeve’s comment made me think of another pet peeve: how Canadian caregivers are getting screwed over by the government and employers. Parents are given a lot of tax breaks and advantages by these institutions, yet people who elect to stay home to care for a disabled or ill adult don’t get the same advantages. It doesn’t make sense to me.

I am skeptical that businesses will pass the HST savings to consumers through lower prices. If I was a shareholder in such a business, I would rather have them use the money to grow the business rather than cut prices.

Caleb: I’m sure that the temptation for many companies will be to keep prices the same. However, it will give some companies the opportunity to become more competitive by lowering their prices, and other companies will follow.

I feel torn on income spitting. Four Pillars has some good points and yet, I can see how it has so many benefits to families where one spouse is the main bread winner and the other works part time or stays at home. But is it fair? That, I’m not sure.

I agree with observer about overpriced fundraisers. We stopped buying and selling things for the school and instead write them a tax deductible cheque every year. They get their money. We get a receipt. And no one has to sell or own overpriced anything.

Great tips, and I really appreciated #2…I am sick and tired of playing the bank fees game. And it seems to turn around pop up just about any time randomly on my account. I am really going to have to check in to your pc financial. Is there any other suggestions?

Which sound better? The price of the car is $400 a month. Or, your total investment in the car is only $400 a month? Wake up people, you are being sold on the term investment.

The marketers convincing us to pay for things which were once free. To paraphrase Chris Rock, why are we paying for the following?

1. Water
2. Ringtones

Why do we have to pay a 911 access fee on a cell phone? Should this not be free?

@Thicken My Wallet — add local TV to the list! This whole “TV Tax” debate is annoying me. I honestly don’t know what to make of it.

Observer: I think that is one of my biggest financial pet peeves as well…5% goes to charity? That’s not nearly large enough for me to consider buying the product. I’d rather just donate directly in that case.

My Peeve is anything labeled a “Documentation Fee”. I have been charged over $300 bucks in the past to simply have a few forms filled out.

I guess my general peeve is anyone who increases margin through fees.

I think your ideal of free banking is short sighted. Just look at the USA, a purely market economy for banking services. Yes they have free banking but the offset is significant fees for using a courtesy overdraft, making late payments, etc. The people that pay these fees tend to be the poor and disadvanatged. With all the technology, bricks and mortar and salaries the banks have to contend with, a typical Canadian bank account balance offers a zero or negative rate of return. Why can PC and Canadian Tire offer free banking? Its the same reason why you can get a car loan from a car manufacturer for 0.00%. The offset is they sell more Groceries or sell more Tires through client loyalty and have reduced transaction/cash expenses.

MIB: It seems to me your explanation of why PC and Canadian Tire can offer free banking is a win/win for customers and the store owners. The disadvantaged that you mentioned do not suffer. I am happy to be loyal to a grocery store which offers me great banking value. But, to be honest I don’t only shop at PC stores. Sometimes the convenience of my Soeby’s wins out as it is 24 hr and closer.

One of my financial pet peeves relates somewhat. I hate poor customer service. I don’t agree with an upset customer lashing out at an employee, but I do expect that if I spend in your store and the product is faulty you will do your best to satisfy me, the customer. I will return to your store if I am treated with that respect, even if in the end I don’t entirely get the product I wanted. PC is one of those virtual banks whom whenever I have spoken to a representative he/she has treated me with great respect and a desire to serve my needs. RBC, on the other hand, was always rude and seemed to care less if I continued with them or not.

One more pet peeve. Telemarketers who somehow get ahold of my spending habits and/or my salary figure. The assumption that because I am in a particular pay bracket I will gladly spend on endless products is insulting. I use to average two telemarketer calls a day. After signing up online I was able to reduce that number, but I still get harassed too often. I am the type of person who buys when I need something and I don’t like a business company (with making a profit being on their mind) telling me what I think I need.

Regarding HST: Actually history has shown that when one tax is removed and there is the opportunity to reduce prices, it is rarely done.

The GST replaced a hidden 13.5% Manufacturers’ Sales Tax (MST); however, (based on what I have read anyway) the hidden tax was simply reclaimed by those companies as profit and then they added the 7% GST on top.

HST appears to me to be a cash grab pure and simple. The argument that will simplify things is already being shown to be untrue as the government is creating a gazillion and one (slight hyperbole) exceptions.

Bank Fees? Oh, please, don’t get me started. My favorite was when I transferred money from one account into another within my financial institution and then they charged me. Huh? An internal transfer being charged?

Just want to add my $0.02 worth on people who describe the purchase of things as investments. Sometimes there’s a case to be made for that notion. For example, if you buy a cheap sofa. In XX years (depending on your use) that couch will either be worn out or so out of style you won’t want it anymore. You’ll likely throw it out. Buy a better one and it will likely last longer (more solid frame) or it will be made in such a way that you can have it recovered. Talk to furniture people, and they talk about the “bones” of a piece. Most low price stuff simply has no bones. The same actually goes for clothes. Buy a cheap “cashmere” sweater and after a couple of seasons, it’s ready for recycling. Buy a better one and keep it a lifetime. Of course none of this matters if you like new things and won’t hold on to anything for long anyway.

make it easy on yourselves and don’t use a financial institution if they charge a fee for any regular banking. never, ever, ever take a deal at a bank or financial institution if you can get a better deal elsewhere [ie. brand loyalty] unless the deal is virtually the same [a couple dollars more will not offset the opportunity cost and hassle of changing institutions]. if you have even a 0.25% difference in rates on your mortgage, change institutions [on $100K mortgage that will save you over $2000]. be absolutely cutthroat when dealing with financial institutions…it is YOUR money. don’t tell them you will go elsewhere, but bring it back to them after you do. use a mortgage broker.

when i buy used cars from anyone but a dealer [ie. private transaction] i never pay sales tax; you must be speaking of provincial sales tax, because GST is not applicable, and i cannot speak of provincial sales tax because Alberta doesn’t have one [yet…]

pay the $1.00 per month and unlist your phone number, it will greatly reduce the phone calls. then use call blocker, it also works. never, ever, ever reveal your SIN, or what you make to anyone that does not require it [your financial institution, credit applications]… not for surveys, travel agents, coupon distributors…no one. i give a wrong postal code when asked at a retailer.

never use a car dealer to service your car…private industry does equal if not better work for less money. ie. my recent private ‘winterizing’ of my vehicle cost me $69+GST…’my’ dealer wanted…wait for it….$154.95+GST. nice. not going to happen.

mutual funds of any ilk are for suckers. there are much better places to put your money. never, ever, ever use a bank ‘investment’ advisor…inherent and blatant conflict of interest. use a fee for service CFP or investment strategist. you will get better service and much better returns. if you pay more than $9.95 for each transaction, you are getting fleeced.

cell phones…always pay as you go.

one last one: we SHOULD pay much much more for water, then we would value it more.

interesting topic.

Number one would be HST. That just adds to the misery, especially in Ontario. While I agree in principle that the manufacturers should see increased savings due to this, I don’t believe that they will pass on the savings to the consumer. Also, there are indirect costs associated with the HST like increase in cost of heating or gas which affects every business’s bottom line (and of course, the hapless consumer too). So, even if we assume (a biiiiig assumption) that the companies will pass on the savings, their cost base is going to increase causing them to increase the cost on their products. Add to that their innate greed and what are we left with — less money in our pockets.

Businesses in Canada don’t compete with each other; they behave like oligopolies and work with each other. Bell, Rogers, Telus …. the banks … there are several examples. See what’s happening when there was a semblance of real competition showing up in the telecom landscape (Globalive)

So, let’s not delude ourselves. There is no competition here.

Here are mine:

1. Delays with bank transactions are fundamentally wrong. We live in a computer era! All transactions must be instantaneous, plain and simple, not 5 to 10 business days or so.

2. Impossibility to easily transfer money between banks is very annoying. Same reasons.

Fees? I do not understand why people pay them. PC Financial is great.

Sales tax really gets me fired up… and the HST? now that is absolute nonsense.

That’s why eBay, Kijijji, Craigslist, and my office buy and sell pages will always be the first places I check for things I need.

Fees are a close second!

Yeah it is pretty absurd that the government has us pay taxes on used cards, when the person who first bought a car had already paid taxes on it, might you bigger tax bill then us who are buying the used car. My biggest financial pet peeve is the fact that the government forces us to pay taxes, so that they can redistribute our wealth around, because its “fair”.

Till then,