Straight Talk on Your Money

A friend of this web site is Doug Hoyes (CA, CPA) and he gave me a copy of his book Straight Talk on Your Money to review. As most folks who have given me their books know, I am atrocious at reading and following up on books, however, Mr. Hoyes had an ace in the hole, he has published an Audiobook. I subscribe to Audible, so I used one of my credits to purchase the book and was pleasantly surprised.

Straight Talk on Your Money

Amazon Link

Mr. Hoyes’ presence and narration of the book is excellent. Many times authors fool themselves into thinking that only they can bring their story to life, but Mr. Hoyes’ experience with his podcast has served him well.

This is a book for anyone wanting to learn about how your financial plans can go awry. The stories told are of ordinary folks, who had some very bad luck, or things just got out of control. If you think you have everything under control, read the book you will feel less confident and see where your plan might need tweaking.

If you think you have your life insurance story in place, please read the There is More to Death than Life Insurance section. I did like the section about Never Loan Money to Family or Friends as well. I won’t ruin it for you, but it really does make sense to me.

The book is an excellent read and the audio book is really great to listen to while commuting or on long car trips too. Mr. Hoyes’ delivery on the audiobook is top rate (and his son engineered the book as well, and the sound balance was very good). This is not a classic How To financial book but it gives concrete examples about how life is variable and things can go wrong.

Straight Talk on Your Money is an excellent financial read.

Open Disclosure

I do like Mr. Hoyes, I have only met him a few times, however we have spoken many times on-line, and I have been a guest on his podcast twice. Mr. Hoyes  is a bankruptcy trustee (and an accountant), and he seems to genuinely care about his customers as well. Mr. Hoyes did give me a copy of his book, however, I bought the audiobook version myself. I am not receiving any payment for this review. If you click on the Amazon link I will make a small commission. Please keep this in mind reading my review.

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Rrsps: The Definitive Book on Registered Retirement Savings Plans

No, I haven’t started working on my stack of books I promised to review. I did, however, find Preet’s book in the Ottawa Public Library and had a quick read through it. This is a great book for folks who want to learn about RRSPs.

Rrsps: The Definitive Book on Registered Retirement Savings Plans
Link to Amazon for Rrsps: The Definitive Book on Registered Retirement Savings Plans

The book has short punchy chapters, which is great for folks like me with short attention spans. Many are simple recaps of previous articles Preet has written. Many of the later chapters capture the more intricate topics of RRSPs like:

  • RRIFs and how they fit into the RRSP solution.
  • Locked in Retirement accounts, and their possible uses (including ways to unlock them).
  • Spousal RRSPs, a topic near and dear to my heart.
  • Life Long Learning Plans and The Home Buyer’s Plan the two ways to get money out of an RRSP “early”.
  • Holding your mortgage in your RRSP.
  • RRSP meltdowns, or using your RRSP the wrong way

I also like that Preet’s introduction mentions the now infamous doubling penny saving plan. A fun arithmetic trick, that will surprise some folk.

Recommendation

I would recommend this book, however, I took it out of the library. It is a quick read, and also a good reference book to have. You need to understand the power of an RRSP, although this book doesn’t really touch on TFSAs and how they have changed the retirement game. The book misses the TFSA because it was published in 2008.

I am also a friend of the author (for full disclosure).

ISBN 978-1-4357-0758-0
Title: Rrsps: The Definitive Book on Registered Retirement Savings Plans
Author: Preet Banerjee

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If You Can: How Millenials Can Get Rich Slowly (A review)

Michael James told me about a booklet entitled If You Can How Millenials Can Get Rich Slowly by William J. Bernstein (ASIN: B00JCC5JKI) (Publisher: Efficient Frontier Publications ) (the Amazon Kindle link is included as well), and I am very impressed by the writing style of Mr. Bernstein and the message he is sending with this inexpensive booklet.

If You Can booklet from Amazon

If You Can booklet from Amazon

Amazon Link for Booklet to help Millenials with Money

I usually shy away from reading books on investing and such (I have a large pile of books I have promised to review, but have not quite got around to doing anything about them), so this booklet took only about 3 months for me, to get around to reading. It takes about an hour to read, but it does have a lot of homework assignments in it that could make it longer, if you want to do the homework (the homework is reading some of the books that you should have read already, if you think of yourself as an investor).

The booklet is a how to save enough money to retire, with a strong how-to theme. The booklet is U.S. based, however it is still very applicable and topical for Canadians, if you simply:

  • Think of a 401k and IRA as being similar to RRSPs, and LIRAs (I do realize there are significant differences ).
  • The distribution of Index Funds in your retirement fund could just as easily be:
    • TSE Index Fund
    • Canadian Bond Fund
    • International Index Fund
    • There are many similar “couch potato” portfolios you could use
  • Social Security is like our Canada Pension Plan

The advice given in this very short essay mimics many of the points I have made over the past ten years, and I have no problem listing them here:

  1. If you can’t save you’ll die poor
  2. You must understand how finances work, or you are doomed to fail
  3. If you ignore the past financially you will fail as well
  4. You can be your own worst enemy when it comes to money
  5. “The financial services industry wants to make you poor and stupid” (that is a direct quote)

Yes (5) sounds remarkably like me, but my guess is Mr. Bernstein is much more qualified to make that statement, so I will be quoting him in the future.

Overall Review

Read this booklet, it would be the best $0.99 (US) you have spent this year. I have bought copies and sent them to my kids to read, with a few comments added to it, and you should read it as well. This is a well written, concise and to the point explanation on how to retire with money, and how to save, just read it, it will take a 1/2 an hour tops (if you do the homework, it will take a lot longer, but that would even be better).

Mr. Bernstein has written a bunch of other books, that I may take out of the library and peruse as well.

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Book Review: Tackling the Taxman

This is an unsolicited review of an interesting book that I took out of the Ottawa Public Library. If you live in Ottawa you should support this valuable community resource (the Library that is). Tackling the Taxman and other great financial books can be found at your library.

Tackling the tax man

The Book at Amazon

Tackling the Taxman: How to Keep the CRA from Controlling Your Investments and Your Life, A Tax Empowerment Guide by Alex Doulis (ISBN: 1550227343) , is an interesting set of stories and some advice on how to deal with the CRA.

The book is not an advice book on tax tips, or what you should or should not do, to avoid having the CRA take an interest in your finances. It does outline many different cases of where the author feels the CRA over steps their bounds as the collection agency for the Canadian Federal Government.

In spots the book is a little cliché (if I read another chapter about how Income Tax was a temporary/emergency measure that was not supposed to be permanent, I am going to mutter quietly to myself (oh I did)), but mostly the stories that are told are quite chilling. While the CRA does not have the all encompassing power that the IRS does in the United States (their ability to collect and prosecute effectively makes them their own government), it does point out that the CRA can make your life quite miserable if they use their resources for collection of taxes.

The author points out that the Income Tax act has 4 major parts that he dubs the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: Audits, Investigations, Confidentiality and Collection. The collection part is what most folks worry the most about, but the book in its entirety points out that in fact you should worry about all 4 of these powers, because they can all affect your life in a very negative way.

The one really important point that the Author brings forward is about confidentiality and writes about cases where confidentiality was breeched by the CRA, or even worse Confidentiality of others is invaded because of an investigation of you (i.e. CRA goes fishing through your life to find out more about others close to you, or those you have worked with). This is a big no-no, and something to watch for if you are audited or investigated by the CRA.

Overall Review

All in all a scary, but fun read as well. The author’s writing style is quite good for me, very direct, and does not get lost in the nomenclature of the tax act, and tries to give readers a more tangible understanding of what can and cannot (or should not) happen if you are investigated or audited by the CRA. I enjoyed reading this book, but I didn’t buy it, I only borrowed it from the Library.

I also like the Beaver on the cover page.

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Video Review: Madoff and the Scamming of America

Ripped Off: Madoff and the Scamming of America from the History Channel, is an entertaining video about the Madoff Affair. I borrowed it from the Ottawa Public Library (which I strongly suggest you support if you live in Ottawa).

The video’s content is no more in depth than most of the Magazine articles I have seen on this topic, however, it does do a very good job of putting a face on the victims of this crime, and that is what makes this video intriguing to me.

Madoff and the Scamming of America

The DVD from Amazon

Bernie Madoff was not just a Wall Street insider, he was the Wall Street insider, and because of his positions on the NASDAQ board, and his investment house, he was the last person to be suspected to be running a Ponzi scheme, however, as we have learned, it is always the least likely ones that seem to be the biggest perpetrators  of this kind of scheme.

The video outlines Madoff’s rise to legitimacy, and gives some useful background on the Ponzi Scheme and about the man who was first caught running this kind of scam Charles Ponzi . The main allure of these kind of schemes seems to be at a few social levels:

  • Exclusivity is a good lure, if the scheme does not allow just anyone in, more people want to join it. To quote Groucho Marx, “… I would never join a club that would allow me to be a member…”.
  • The person who runs the scheme is typically a Sociopath, or has an inate ability to manipulate family and friends into investing. These schemes start with family, friends and then goes after communities (fellow church goers, as an example).

The video does a very good job outlining how regular intelligent (and in this case very rich) people and institutions (many hedge funds were highly invested in Madoff’s scheme) were duped by this man.

At times I found myself feeling very little sympathy for the investors who lost their money (which is an awful thing, and I feel ashamed that I do), but at times you keep asking, “How did you fall for this?”. I then remember how much money I lost on Nortel and feel even more ashamed, for reveling in these people’s plight (i.e. everyone can be fooled at some time, by a slick operator).

In the words of Gordon Gecko… greed is good…” is every one’s credo, when it comes to money (OK, most people).

My Opinion

I found this video entertaining, a little insightful, but I didn’t pay any  money for it, and I am not sure I would buy it, but getting it from the library made it a fun 50 minute watch.

There is also another documentary about how we are heading for the next great depression, which I didn’t watch.

This was an unsolicited review (for disclosure sake).

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