Spring Financial Cleaning

I spent a busy weekend taking care of many small tasks that have piled up over the long cold winter here in Ottawa. One of the most important that I have procrastinated about is cleaning up my Quicken data files, as they have been neglected for a while. I have updated the files with new data, but there was a lot of information that just never got cleaned up.

To make a tool like Quicken, or whatever tool you use to track your finances, useful it needs to be up to date and reflect your current financial standing, and I was not happy to see that I had left around:

  • The mortgage to my previous house was hanging around as a “hidden” account, with basically the balance from when I bought that house. Not sure how it got to that state, but cleaning that up, suddenly made my balance sheet look a lot less lopsided.
  • There were at least 2 RRSP, and two mutual fund savings accounts that were hanging around as well, that have been long since closed, that added a little too much optimism to my retirement planning as well.
  • All of the RESP accounts and pretty much all the remaining active RRSP accounts did not reflect the actual investment levels in them, due to me simply dumping money into the account without actually completing the task by “purchasing” the investment vehicles used.
  • Most of the accumulation from DRIPs and mutual fund reinvestment were also not reflected in the savings accounts as well.

Needless to say this took a very long time (some very quiet swearing) and a few huge mistakes that had to be undone, to fix up most of these issues, but now I think I have most of it straightened out.

The biggest issue I have with Quicken as a tool is that it seems to work very nicely with day-to-day banking things, however, as soon as you enter into investing too many things become far too manual, and then far too easy to procrastinate about.

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I was very sad to hear of the untimely passing of Jim Flaherty, our former finance minister. I have poked jabs at Mr. F. but as I said when he stepped down from cabinet, I think he did as good a job as anyone could during a really scary financial period in Canadian history. My humblest of condolences to his family during this sad time.

Jim Flaherty

The Late Jim Flaherty former Finance Minister

“goodnight, sweet prince/and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest”

How bad will the Heartbleed Bug end up being? Pretty darn bad by the looks of things. The latest information seems to imply pretty much every major site on the web has been compromised, so you are going to be spending a lot of time thinking up new passwords for each of them. The hard part is figuring out which sites are fixed and when you should change your passwords. Given the CRA web site is down for Netfile’ing (might be back soon), does that mean they are going to extend the deadline for Tax Return submissions? It is not like it is our fault that their system was hacked, I would assume they may give us a small extension in this case (if not, the backlash might be quite interesting).

The Quebec Elections showed that no matter how sure any politician can be at the start of a campaign, it only matters what happens at the end of the campaign. Mme. Marois ran a very interesting campaign, and somehow managed to go from a clear majority forecast to losing the election outright. Quebec Politics are the reason I still watch TV for this kind of stuff, it’s the best reality TV you can watch.

 

My Writings for Week Ending April 12th

Rest in Peace Ultimate Warrior

Young Folk Finding Jobs in Canada in March 2014

Some better news from Stats Canada about the job situations for younger folks in Canada. Let us hope the economy can keep this growth up.

Bell Ringing Banks and Frank Costanza

Serenity NOW, was what I wish I’d yelled as I left my TD Branch after ringing the bell, showing my thanks for the ATM machine and its good works.

Smaug and Wealth Protection

Even the super rich and super chaotic need to think about their financial well-being and future.

Heartbleed Bug ? Should You Care ?

Yes, you should care. You should change your passwords too, but only after you are sure the sight you are accessing has been patched against this problem.

TigerDirect (CA)

Cornucopia Section

Lots of interesting stuff not just about the holes in the Internet:

  • Scientific American says that E-Cigarettes’s Effect on Cells Similar to That of Tobacco Smoke, I have been having a Twitter conversation with a few folks about E-cigs, I say they should be treated the same as cigarettes in all ways (e.g. socially, insurance, etc.,).
  • Kerry at Squawkfox shows she has a great deal of “experience” with old technology ideas with Should You Buy It? A flowchart for smart consumers , flowchart? Wow, next time use Step-wise refinement.
  • Phys.org’s medical side points out that In US, vaccine denial goes mainstream, this means comebacks for those old favorites: Measles, Mumps, Chicken Pocks and maybe even Polio! Seriously folks, WTF?
  • Jim Flaherty’s death really does drive home my message to those planning for retirement, that no matter how much money you have, and no matter how much you plan, you may not get to enjoy your retirement, due to health issues. Get healthy as well as wealthy if you want to enjoy your retirement.
  • Mark from the Blunt Bean Counter continues on with his auto-biographical post Confessions of a Tax Accountant -2014- Week 2 never knew accountants were that exciting.
  • Do you have a  Booze Budget ?  Debt Debs does, it seems pretty high too, not to be too judgemental (but wow that is a lot of money for BOOZE).
  • Barry from Money we Have brings us 6 things we need to know about credit cards, they shouldn’t be used to try to jimmy door locks either.
  • Michael James gave us some Bad Advice on Retirement , not that he wants you to follow, just that he has heard.
  • Mark from My Own Advisor writes about an interesting book with My takeaways from Thinking Fast and Slow I have talked about being a slow thinker, and needing to remember that (don’t act on my first impression or decisions is always a good thing for me (unless it is whether to put out my trousers that have caught fire)).
  • Mark (my brother for those that haven’t figured that one out) from 2nd Career Search is having a fresh dose of hell and he writes about it with Bermuda Triangle of Real Estate - TORONTO, I am not sure how anyone actually lives in Toronto these days.
  • Preet wonders Do you need balance protection insurance for your credit card? I think we can guess the answer on this one.

TigerDirect (CA)

For MMA Fans

Possibly the greatest MMA fighters of all time:

The Ultimate Warrior’s Debut

So many years ago

TeamBuy: Your Golf Destination!

Remember my RSS feed is available too, and I have added an RSS Comment Feed as well. Have a look at my micro-blog on Twitter, where you can see a whole plethora of good articles and pithy comments by me as well. Twitter feed where I re-tweet many great articles by some of my featured writers (and make the occasional odd or off colour commentary on life (in 140 characters or less)). I am also on reddit, Tumblr, Pinterest and other Social Media sites (look for the BigCajunMan userid) as well. If you have social media accounts, don’t forget to vote for my posts (see the nifty dashboard on the bottom of each article, where you can cast your votes).As they say in Quebec, vote early and vote often! This site is iPhone Friendly (and Android , iPod Touch and iPad Friendly), enjoy it on the go, in a readable format for the device. If you are reading with an iPhone or Android device, drop me a comment and tell me if this needs any improvements. This site is also in the Kindle Blog list, if you are interested.

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Heartbleed Bug ? Should You Care ?

Yes you should care about this large hole in an allegedly secure internet world. Can you do something about it? That remains to be seen.

Someone either wrote bad code, or built in their own back door in the OpenSSL product which is the basis for many (read LOTS) of “secure internet” applications that are used on the Web and elsewhere, and created the Heartbleed Bug with this change. This is so interesting, there is a Heartbleed Bug web site! Do you really want a detailed explanation, read Bruce Schneier’s explanation (he says on a scale of 1 to 10 in terms of bad, this is an 11).

OpenSSL HeartBleed BugHow serious is this problem? Well the CRA  closed down Netfile’ing for now, because they weren’t sure if they were victims of this problem. My bank didn’t shut down their Web Banking, so they either don’t think this is a big issue, or they know they did not use that code.

What should you do about it? I have seen lots of folks screaming that we should all be changing our passwords right away, which might be a good idea, except if you then use it on a site that has not been “fixed” yet, your new password is now available to Evil Hackers as well.

It might be best to find out which sites you use that might have this “software flaw” in it, and once the site declares it is safe, then change your password there. If you have a common password which you use everywhere, you might want to change it everywhere as well. You can test a site here, but I also am not sure if that site’s findings are (1)believable (2) to be trusted.

The good news is that this bug has been around since 2011? Does that mean no one noticed this before, or it has been exploited for a long time and now it is becoming well-known? I have no idea, but this is another argument about why you should regularly change ALL of your passwords, especially for on-line banking and such.

 

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Smaug and Wealth Protection

One of my favorite Tolkien characters from his books is Smaug the Dragon from the Hobbit. “Smaug the Tremendous” (as he is referenced in the book), lived in the Lonely Mountain (after he evicted some annoying Dwarves), and amassed a tremendous hoard of gold and spoils from his plundering and epic destruction of Dale and other places (also from those greedy evicted Dwarves as well).

A conversation with Smaug as drawn by Tolkien

A Conversation with Smaug, as drawn Originally by JRR Tolkien

Smaug is a typical dragon, he amassed a vast wealth but really didn’t plan for his future and how he might enjoy  it in his later years. Smaug lived for today, because he believed himself indestructible. If you read the book (the Hobbit) you know he did actually plan for his future, in that he armored his belly (in the book Dragons have notoriously softer bellies) with gold and diamonds from his hoard, making him virtually indestructible (that really isn’t mentioned in the movie, or it is written a little differently).

Smaug had riches beyond the imagination of the greediest Orc, Dwarf, Elf or Halfling (or Hedge Fund Manager)  in Middle Earth, but in the end because he did not have a strong financial plan, he never really got to enjoy the fruits of his labors (or plundering, if you wish to think of it that way).

Forbes estimated Smaug was worth approximately $62 Billion at the time of his demise (read the Forbes Fictional 15 for more details), you would have thought someone with that much wealth would have a retirement plan or at least a “Plan B” if something went wrong, but, unfortunately he did not, so his Wealth then ended up being the center of an ugly disagreement between many different folk (read the book, or watch the movies if you need more explanations).

All this is to say, that no matter how good “Smaug the Stupendous” was at amassing his fortune, he only got to sleep on it, and look at it, he never really got to enjoy it (especially in his non-existent older years). Even in Fantasy Fiction it is important to plan for your future, and hopefully your retirement. The least you should do is write a Will (which I believe Smaug forgot to do as well), to ensure no wars break out over your wealth.

 

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Bell Ringing Banks and Frank Costanza

One of my favourite Seinfeld episode (if I can have just one) is the episode where Frank Costanza (played by Jerry Stiller) starts a PC Sales company out of his garage, and every time someone made a sale (not George, but that Lloyd Braun!) they  rang a table bell, needless to say things get a little out of control and “SERENITY NOW!!!” (something I also yell a lot) was in great usage in that episode.

Why would I bring up such an obtuse TV reference, maybe I had nothing better to write (did I just hear a bell ring), or maybe it was because I was in my local TD Canada Trust branch and saw the following sign:

“… if you like the job we did ring our bell to show your satisfaction…”

(Or something like that). My wife dutifully rang the bell after visiting with the young teller she was at, but as I left, I rang the bell as well and pronounced loudly:

“That was for the banking machine it did a GREAT JOB as well!”

I just wish I’d yelled, SERENITY NOW! right after that .

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