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Christmas CPI Data Ho Ho Ho

No, I am not commenting about the Supreme Court striking down parts of the new Anti-Prostitution laws (ok, another cheap pop), no our Amigos at Stats Canada had a festive gift for Canadians on Friday publishing the Consumer Price Index numbers for November 2013.

To quote our good friends exactly:

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose 0.9% in the 12 months to November, following a 0.7% increase in October. November marked the 7th time in the last 13 months in which the CPI increased less than 1.0% on a year-over-year basis.

That number looks pretty darn low doesn’t it? Many pensions have a “COLA” that only kicks in if the CPI is over 2.0%, so this might mean no increase this year. It doesn’t feel like things are not getting more expensive quickly, but then again, I am a paranoid loony when it comes to Inflation.

 

Inflation since 2008, seems low for now, don’t it?

A more telling quote from the survey said:

The energy component of the CPI, which includes electricity, natural gas, fuel oil and gasoline, increased 2.3% on a year-over-year basis in November, after decreasing 1.6% in October. The CPI excluding energy rose 0.8% in November compared with the same month last year, following a 0.9% rise in October.

So again Energy is actually flying high, and in Ontario with Electrical costs ready to sky rocket over the next couple of years, that could change these numbers a great deal. Makes you want to investigate Solar panels more closely, doesn’t it?

Seasonally Adjusted CPI since 2008

The Big Table

As usual I include one of the many tables supplied by Stats Canada, have a look and note that Alcohol continues to increase in cost too (how Grinchy for this holiday season).

Consumer Price Index and major components, Canada – Not seasonally adjusted

 

Relative importance1

November 2012

October 2013

Nov 2013

October to
Nov 2013

Nov 2012
to Nov 2013

 

%

(2002=100)

% change

All-items Consumer Price Index (CPI)

100.002

121.9

123.0

123.0

0.0

0.9

Food

16.60

131.4

131.7

132.8

0.8

1.1

Shelter

26.26

127.5

129.2

129.8

0.5

1.8

Household operations, furnishings and equipment

12.66

113.7

114.7

114.8

0.1

1.0

Clothing and footwear

5.82

92.5

94.0

92.1

-2.0

-0.4

Transportation

19.98

127.3

128.5

128.0

-0.4

0.5

Health and personal care

4.93

118.7

117.9

118.0

0.1

-0.6

Recreation, education and reading

10.96

106.1

106.9

106.2

-0.7

0.1

Alcoholic beverages and tobacco products

2.79

138.3

141.0

141.1

0.1

2.0

Special aggregates
Core CPI3

84.91

120.2

121.6

121.5

-0.1

1.1

All-items CPI excluding energy

91.44

119.3

120.3

120.3

0.0

0.8

Energy4

8.56

153.8

157.0

157.4

0.3

2.3

Gasoline

4.62

175.9

178.6

176.6

-1.1

0.4

All-items CPI excluding food and energy

74.85

116.7

117.8

117.5

-0.3

0.7

Goods

48.18

113.8

114.3

114.3

0.0

0.4

Services

51.82

129.9

131.8

131.8

0.0

1.5

1. 2011 CPI basket weights at January 2013 prices, Canada, effective February 2013. Detailed weights are available under the Documentation section of survey 2301 (www.statcan.gc.ca/imdb-bmdi/2301-eng.htm).

2. Figures may not add up to 100% as a result of rounding.

3. The Bank of Canada’s core index excludes eight of the CPI’s most volatile components (fruit, fruit preparations and nuts; vegetables and vegetable preparations; mortgage interest cost; natural gas; fuel oil and other fuels; gasoline; inter-city transportation; and tobacco products and smokers’ supplies) as well as the effects of changes in indirect taxes on the remaining components. For additional information on the core CPI, consult the Bank of Canada website .

4. The special aggregate “Energy” includes: electricity; natural gas; fuel oil and other fuels; gasoline; and fuel, parts and supplies for recreational vehicles.

 

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CPP Reform, Snow, Christmas, Boxing day and #FreeFormFriday

So the finance ministers met and there was a thought that they might make changes to CPP, however the Feds quashed that fearing that higher CPP rates might derail any kind of recovery that might be going on in Canada. I am not sure where I stand on this, but my Civil Libertarian leanings keeps grumbling in my ear about the Government safety net getting a bit too big and comfy. Do we all need protecting in our old age? Yes, but at what cost?

Merry Christmas

An early blooming Amaryllis

Whoever wished for a White Christmas in Ottawa, can stop now, OK? Enough is enough! More snow this weekend is the word, oh joy! Global warming or whatever you want to call it, can stop please!

Christmas is coming so darn fast we now all look like deer in a Semi’s headlights. Hope you are ready for it, and the ensuing orgy of Boxing Day/Week/Month/Quarter sales too. Will you be out spending those Gift Cards you got, or better still some kind person who gave you some lovely cold hard cash? If it’s cash, you know you are allowed to put that in the bank too, and think about what you really need, there is no rule that you must squander all Christmas money gifts the day after you get it.

My Weekly Recap

My Writings for Week Ending December 20th

Christmas is Coming, the Goose is Getting Fat

How Much is $1 Earned Worth ?

The easy answer is not nearly as much as you wish it was.

Should I have “The Talk” With My Kids

A lewd and lascivious discussion about talking about money with your kids.

Trader Terminator

My Mutual Fund is actually being run by Skynet? Oh dear.

Updated Tip: Scan those Bills

Why? I thought we were living in the paperless society?

 

Swiss Army Knife Section

You do realize that a Swiss Army Knife is actually an excellent gift (especially one with a cork screw in it):

  • Cliff Stohl (author of one of my favorite Tech Book the Cuckoo’s Egg) wrote a very amusing (now) article about Why the Web Won’t Be Nirvana, he kind of missed the target on this one.
  • Merry Christmas to the 40 Million Target Credit Card owners, all your account info and such has been stolen, ho ho ho.
  • Mark from the Blunt Bean Counter gets down to my level with Financial Statement Reports for Dummies , and you should be reading those if you invest in specific companies (or work for a company that puts out Financial Statements). It is all there in black and white (it just may be hard to parse).
  • Matt from a newly revamped One Million and Beyond points out Bitcoin loses half its value overnight! So that still means it’s a better investment than Blackberry.
  • Ever wonder why I choose some topics? All you need to remember is that my marketing plan is purely based on wrestling concepts, hence The Power of a Cheap Pop.
  • Gail Vaz-Oxlade talks about Sunk Costs and how we deal with them, it’s a bit depressing really.
  • Jane (a frequent commenter) from Solving the Money Puzzle brings us Top Ten Personal Finance Moves (Good And Bad) I Made In 2013 , I love folks who testify about their own mistakes.
  • Michael James gives his take on the pension “crisis” with The Third Rail, can the existing pension systems (public and private) currently in place survive? Guess we’ll find out in a while.
  • Mark from My Own Advisor goes to a popular topic with me and that is End of Year Financial Planning, which everyone should do to at least figure out whether they are getting ahead or falling behind.
  • Still out shopping? Popular Science gives us 10 Smart Science Gifts for Kids (or geeks for that matter).
  • I wanted to embed’s Preet’s latest video with Global TV Money Tips for 2014, however the Global web site sucks at letting you do that, so you’ll have to click over to watch it. Oh and there will be an ad you can’t avoid before it as well, Merry Christmas!

Festive Ideas to Help You Out

You had me at, Doritos wrapping paper.

 

Non Financial Bird Video

A Russian crow seems to enjoy snowboarding?

Non Financial Sports Video

How could we not be talking about an end of year best of video for sports now? It includes the actual Auburn Field Goal return too.

The 50 Best Sports Plays Of 2013 by worldwideinterweb

Other Bookkeeping

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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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Updated Tip: Scan those Bills

From 2013 back when bills were not sent via e-mail.

So one of the first useful tips I wrote about was To Scan All Your Bills. If you do, you didn’t necessarily need to keep paper copies of them.

I still to do this. I do keep paper copies as well, for these type of bills:

  • Tuition receipts for University and my son’s schooling
  • Utilities bills, as I do claim part of those as business expenses
  • etc.,

I no longer only save these images on my computer at home (which is being backed up). There are now many different services that offer free off-site backup of files such as:

  • Google drive, which comes with your Gmail account
  • Dropbox which is an app that runs on many devices
  • Outlook has file space for you
  • iCloud from Apple
  • Even Ubuntu One offers some free disk space

I am leery to use “the cloud” for this kind of storage. You need to encrypt them if you use these services. You never know who the heck might look at your files from elsewhere. Also be aware that clouds are not in Canada, so they have different “seizure” rules.

The interesting part about the scanning of my bills was that I did exactly that when I was asked for receipts from the CRA, and I sent them scans of the documents in question, and they seemed happy enough with that. My guess is if it was an actual audit, they would want to see the originals, but for a “request for receipts” the government seems happy enough with a scanned image now as well.

Unfortunately you need to keep your paper records for a while before you can safely dispose of them (i.e. shred and/or burn), but maybe we are finally getting away from paper copies of things?

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Trader Terminator

Open the Pod Bay Doors HAL

The lovers of Science Fiction already know the perils of allowing machines to do too much in our world (i.e. Skynet and the Terminator series). Given these concerns, I continue to hear more and more cool ways that automated systems are making our lives better (and will improve overall lifestyle). Beware the concept of the Trader Terminator.

Currently many trading systems have automated heuristics out there to deal with situations on the Equities markets. A lot of these are simple rules like, if BCM (a strong equity) goes below $12/share sell or if BCM trends upwards buy (as bad examples). Thanks to very smart programmers, these rules and systems have (luckily) become much more complex, and with complexity comes opportunities. I have worked on early “artificial intelligence” systems, but the heuristics these days are extraordinary (in my simple understanding of them).

Trader Terminator

Eniac was the greatest piece of technology of its era, now my digital watch has more computing power than this marvel of technology. Technology always evolves.

The interesting question is, even with really advanced “thinking” systems, will it make things better for me (the individual investor), us (the collective that holds a mutual fund) or we (all investors in general)?

What if I design an automated trading system (call it the XROB2013 (or by its nickname the Trader Terminator) ) which uses as many cool and exciting algorithms and ideas as possible? The Trader Terminator could be an exciting and new way of doing things, if (as the designer) I chose the right algorithms and heuristics. It would be easy to test the Trader Terminator against all the old data from the market to see how the trading system might do. The problem is this is only a test environment.

XROB2013 The Next Big Fund ?

I launch my XROB2013 Mutual Fund (with a spiffy ad campaign about the Trader Terminator being the last mutual fund you might need), and it uses these algorithms to buy and sell the best stocks to hold (at the time) and for argument sake, we’ll say the axis we worry about is growth (i.e. we’ll ignore dividends and such). If my XROB2013 is successful, suddenly  many folks want to buy shares in the Mutual Fund and the Fund Maxes out and might be declared “best in show” for a while (is best in show a real investing fund award?).

What happens next? Looking into my technology history books, there is no such thing as a secret and since Patent’ing a trading heuristic isn’t likely, there will be “rip offs” of XROB2013 that might appear (that maybe have lower MERs or such, to make them more attractive (it would be cheaper because there was no R&D, it was simply a rip off)). Suddenly XROB2013 loses its lustre for a lot of investors. Worse, the algorithms now are working against each other creating an orthogonal change in trading ideas, so the XROB2013 “smarts” would have to be changed or there might be further erosion of the value of the Mutual Fund.

Technology for the Sake of Technology ?

All of this to say, that no matter how great an automated trading/investing system anyone puts together, the market ends up finding ways to lower the impact of any new idea in a very short time and going back to a relative level of stasis. Don’t be enticed by claims of “the next big thing” in market trading, unless you are sure it’s going to work.

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Should I have “The Talk” With My Kids

The answer to that for every parent is YES! You should have “the talk” about money as soon as your kids understand what money is and start asking for it (or treating you like a never-ending golden stream of money). Making sure your child has a mature and caring understanding about money is a very important part of parenting.

My parents never had “the Talk” with me, and I had to learn a lot of what I initially knew from magazines and on the street, or worse from the school of hard knocks. If you think you are a Subject Expert then by all means have that conversation. If you know someone who is more skilled at the financial arts, bring them in and discuss things frankly and with an open mind with your kids.

Point out that there are many ways to save money, and there are even people who go with Alternate (financial) lifestyles, and even put their money in Dividend Paying stocks (on purpose), not that there is anything wrong with that. As I have always said, “To each his or her own”, who am I to dictate how people should save, as long as they are happy doing it, and aren’t harming anyone.

With no understanding of how money works, the real danger for your child is (naturally) debt.  Without “the talk” kids might think you could only get into debt from having the wrong purse, from begin victims of identity theft, from using public ATMs, or other uninformed ideas. Without a good understanding kids are much more likely to end up in debt, and once that happens, will they be able to get out of it?

Am I being facetious and mocking Sex Education? No, I am just pointing out that most parents worry a great deal about their kids learning about procreation, sex and such, but not many seem to spend much time teaching their kids about money (nor do they seem to care if the education system does either). Without any financial education your kids are almost as likely to bring home a bundle for you to help take care of, a large debt! 

Talk about Sex but Not Money?

Most parents will make sure their son has a condom when they go out on a date, but don’t seem to worry when they get a credit card and go out for the night? Think about it, it might keep them from moving into your basement, permanently.

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