The Financial Zen of Roger Sterling

Yes, my new favorite TV character is Roger Sterling® of Mad Men™ (interpreted and played by John Slattery), the writing for this character is astoundingly funny and at times poignant (but not often) and Mr. Slattery oozes a combination of charm and sleaze at the same time. What could a Narcissistic, Aloof, Somewhat Racist Madison Avenue Advertising Exec with a horrible Drinking and Smoking habit have to say about money (aside from the fact that he carries around over $400 cash (in the 1960’s when $400 is like $4000 now))? Not much but let’s see if we can match some of his finest commentary to money and issues financial.

“We know there’s a black spot on the X-ray – you don’t have to keep tapping your finger on it.”

I think Roger is actually making an accusatory comment at we financial bloggers, who always speak of gloom and doom, and maybe we should just keep that to ourselves, or better still give some  tangible advice on how to make things better.

Roger Sterling Modern Day Poet

Photo Courtesy Rolling Stone Magazine

“My mother always said, ‘Be careful what you wish for because you’ll get it. And then people get jealous and try and take it away from you.'”

Very true as well, more of a lament on the current Tax System in Canada, where once you get what you wished for, you are heavily taxed for having it, or in the case of your house, and how much other folks want it.

“I’m just acknowledging that life, unlike this analysis, will eventually end and somebody else will get the bill.”

Of course Roger is commenting about the importance of having your Will and Power of Attorney documentation in order because you never know when you might actually pass away.

“I bet there were people walking around in the Bible complaining about kids today.”

I believe the quotation “Jesus wept“, is actually Jesus commenting about how young folks today really don’t know enough about finances or money. Certainly it is a lament most financial bloggers have about the younger generation (and other folks in general).

“I have an announcement to make. It’s going to be a beautiful day.”

Remembering that this was after Roger had “dropped acid”, we’ll just assume that he is commenting about no matter how bad things get financially, they can always get better.


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Personal Finance Resolutions for the New Year?

Did you hastily make some New Year’s resolutions this past December 31st, determined that this will be the year that you “get it done” (to paraphrase Larry the Cable Guy). Are you confident that you have chosen something that you can achieve and is it something you really want to do? If the answer is yes, I wish you luck and hope you have the “self control” to keep to the resolution, as I have rarely (if ever) been able to stick with my “promises to myself” in the New Year.

Financial Resolutions

Not sure what the New Year does to folks, I think it might have to do with the fact that they mortgaged their homes to pay for Christmas, but New Year Financial Resolutions seem to be particularly difficult to live up to (especially if you have already put yourself in the hole, with Christmas).

Some examples of financial resolutions might be the following:

  • I resolve to not spend as much next Christmas: this one sounds great and wonderful, however, how can you decide if you have succeeded? First, you need to figure out how much you spent on the past Christmas, which is not as easy as you might think, but it’s not impossible (especially if you kept your receipts). Then you need to figure out how much you still owe, and figure out how you are paying that off (say pay off all of it by April?). Then you need to make a plan on how to save enough money to pay for your cheaper Christmas this coming year and how you might do it. This is a very complicated resolution, maybe you should resolve to Pay off Christmas by March?
  • I resolve to pay down my Credit Cards: Wow, this one is a really good one at face value, but then again, maybe a STRETCH resolution for many. The folks that have Credit Card debt, usually don’t live the correct lifestyle to be able to pay down this debt (sort of a cyclical problem), so maybe you should change the resolution to: I resolve to get no further into Credit Card Debt?
  • I resolve to save more this year: Again, a noble resolution financially, however, can you afford to save? Are you carrying a staggering debt load, in which case, why are you saving, you should be paying off debt! Maybe a better version of this would be, I resolve to increase my Net Value, and you can then either lower your debt or increase your savings.
  • I resolve to spend less this year: an excellent resolution but a little vague and kind of hard to measure of succeed with. Maybe be more specific in your goal and you might be a little more successful? I resolve to buy 1 less coffee a day is a great one, I resolve to pay less for my banking, is another very good one,I resolve to not shred $20 bills or light my cigars with them might be the best one (if you are doing that).
  • I resolve to get my financial life back in shape: wow, that is a huge one, again, maybe look at this and break it down to something simpler like, I resolve to make or update my Will is a very good thing, I resolve to cancel 2 credit cards is an interesting one as well. You may as well be resolving to solve World Hunger on this one, way too general and way too hard!
  • I resolve to read more financial blogs and especially Canadian Personal Finance Blog: that is an excellent resolution, which I hope you all add to your list.

Remember the great movie “What About Bob”, and the Dr. Leo Marvin method of “Baby Steps”, make your resolutions achievable and you will succeed. If you are burning or mutilating money, please remember that is against the law as well.

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What Cost a Good Night Sleep? (or how I learned to love Water-Beds )

More and more data is coming out about how important a good night sleep is to your health, and I think I tend to agree with this data. The subject of why you can’t sleep I cover in why are there so many interesting things to worry about at 2 AM. My wife and I slept on a water-bed for a very long time. The first water-bed we had was a full motion bed (i.e. a bag of water), then we moved to a motionless water-bed (we had two of those), but a few years ago we went back to a regular king size bed.

Water Bed

What is a Water-Bed ?

Water-Bed ?

The advantages of the water bed to us were that it was always warm and it was a bigger bed typically. The disadvantages were more unfortunately:

  1. Cats + Water Bed = You better have a repair kit handy (and enjoy waking up very wet).
  2. Back aches due to lack of support (not as important when you are younger).
  3. Sloshing yourself to sleep (you need to burp your bed often).
  4. Once you put a bed in place, it does not move!

This post is not a slagging of water beds, I enjoyed having one, but as I got older it didn’t make as much sense.

Price of Regular Bed

When we bought our conventional bed, it was BLOODY expensive, however I view it as an investment (and we have had that same bed for 7 or 8 years). The bed has served us well.

The problem we have run into is that the sheets we have and the pad underneath have not aged well and for the past little while, I have woken up many nights with the bed in disarray (I blame that on the sheets, I don’t know if they woke me up, but I hated the sensation).

My wife and I went out and spent about $120 on new sheets and a bed pad, and I had no quandary about spending that money. If these new sheets DO help me sleep it is worth as much, if not more than what we spent.

Sleep to me, is as important as exercise and eating well, I hope this helps me sleep.

Finance Carnivals

The Carnival of Twenty Something DC Edition is hosted by Your Money Relationship where they link to my Advice to New Grads.

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Valentine’s Day Financial Massacre

For those of the male persuasion you have learned the joys of St. Valentine’s Day , and while Saint Valentine (Valentine of Rome (Valentinus presb. m. Romae) ) may have been martyr’ed in the first century his memory has caused a great deal of Financial Martyrdom for those “in love” or wishing to show love.

I realized what a huge industry Saint Valentine’s day was when I first became entwined in a romance and attempted to buy roses (the traditional thing) and found out just how expensive these plants can be at this time of year. It used to be that the prices could quadruple for long stem roses, but thanks to the open market place, the prices really only double, but are still an exorbitant cost. 

Laura Secord chocolates is a nice place to visit, but giving someone you love, rich dark and sweet chocolates these days seems to be frowned on (trying to make them fat or worse drive up their blood sugar level). I like chocolate and the endorphins released eating it is wonderful for a short while too.

Blowing upwards of $200 on flowers and chocolates and then blowing $2-300 on a meal out (try to find a reservation at a restaurant on Saturday night, I dare you (no Swiss Chalet and MacDonald’s do not count)), just seems irresponsible in these hard economic times.

What to do instead?

  • Do something for the “apple of your eye”: let them sleep in, clean up the house, take the kids out and give them some peace and quiet.
  • Buy them a nice Toblerone Valentine’s chocolate (less than $10 I think).
  • Buy a card if you want (but don’t go wild) better still write your own card with your own words or a quote like:

    The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart.

    -Helen Keller

  • Go give blood, the Red Cross needs that Red Stuff in your veins, that is a good metaphor for Valentine of Rome. That shows love to someone you don’t even know.
  • Spend time together at a movie (I hear the new Friday the 13th movie is coming out), or just go for a walk.

Bankrupting yourself financially is not a sign of love (it is a sign of a feeble financial mind).

What does Valentine’s Day Mean to Me?

To me Valentine’s Day has always meant love, but in a different way. It is my parents’ anniversary on that day (they have been married for 56 years), so I celebrate their lives together on that day as much as the love I have for my wife and her saintly patience.

RRSP deadline is March 2nd. Complete your taxes with QuickTax before the deadline.

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Job Hunting Update

Part of the log I kept during my year of unemployment after being laid off from Nortel.

For those following on with my saga of looking for a new job, this week is my last pay cheque from my former employer. As of September 30th I will receive my severance and officially be unemployed, which is starting to cause a little bit of apprehension on my part, the entire looking for a new career thing is frustratingly slow at times, and it is very easy to get into a “funk” thinking things are just not going to happen, but I have learned a few important things.

Networking is Key

Very few people find and land new jobs simply by applying to jobs on job boards, or in newspapers. Unless you have a killer resume, which somehow slides through every screening program, you are going to find your next job through contacts, friends, former co-workers or people you meet through those contacts.  No, you should not be walking up and down your street with a sandwich sign saying, “Looking for work!”, however, you should be talking to people in your Network about jobs and where they think there might be jobs, and who they know.

From my network, I have already got an interview at one of the companies I have targeted as a good place to work, and others are going to follow. I have also been given other contacts from these friends, so my network is expanding with new people that are going to help me find that new job.

Don’t Panic

That is good advice for many reasons right now. The whole economic condition seems to be going into the toilet these days, with stocks and such, but just like in the stock market, in job hunting, you can’t panic either. It’s good to appear interested and a little nervous at an interview, but if you show up and can’t string two sentences together without sounding like a blithering idiot, that is not going to help much.

Fear is a good motivator, but it cannot take over your thinking processes. Selling all your stock right now may not be the best thing to do (unless you are holding some very dubious stocks), suddenly making a career change, simply because you haven’t had any interviews, is also maybe not the best thing in the job hunting world.

Big decisions like changing your career need to be thought out and not simply jumped at because you think your old skill set is unusable or is not going to get you a job.

Relax, take it easy and keep a positive attitude, is all I can advise, for both your finances and for job hunters.

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