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Financial Lessons from the Departed

One of my favorite movies is The Departed which is a very violent story about Police and the Mob in Boston, and there is one very good line (delivered by Jack Nicholson) where the mob leader (Frank Costello) states (not exactly and it is actually prefaced by some fairly nasty racist commentary):

“No one gives it to you. You have to take it.”

Which is actually a very true statement about wealth, and most financial opportunities that arise  in your life, you will rarely (if ever) have it handed to you, but I am also not espousing that you should act like Frank Costello either. I like to think Frank is metaphorically speaking of seizing financial opportunities when they arise (although I am pretty sure Frank was talking about taking money by force).

The Departed

In the movie itself (which I highly recommend) there are many twists and changes and such, but the point that nothing is given to you is driven home many times, and I wish to make that point with you good reader as well.

How do you know when financial opportunity is knocking on your door (so you can know to open it), first financial opportunity rarely if ever knocks on your front door. The things that knock on your front door are the opposite of financial opportunity, they are financial burdens looking for somewhere to land.

Opportunity sometimes appears at the oddest of times (it has in my life), but don’t worry about where opportunity arose from, worry about whether it is a financial opportunity you feel comfortable trying to capitalize on. You may have to think about it, you may have to walk away from it, but just work on identifying opportunities when you see them, and you might surprise yourself (by being able to capitalize on one of them).

Opportunity does not knock on the door, but it might knock on your window, or maybe even your forehead, learn to recognize financial opportunities and you’ll be able to take advantage.  If it doesn’t feel comfortable or it just doesn’t feel right, walk away, you’ll sleep better (and you will most likely be right too).

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What you Need

What you need is what you have. Life is just that simple for most of us. I know many folks that are working incredibly hard, and making lots of money, some saving it, others spending it, but at the end of it, do you need all of the things you want, or do you already have what you need?

Another way of putting this that Michael James asks is, “How many yachts do you need to water ski behind?”, and it’s a very good question. Is that what you need ?

what you need

Want vs. Need ? Seems a little out of kilter here…

When I was younger, I kept thinking I needed so many things, but how many of those things did I really need? Many of them are clutter in my house now, others have been simply thrown out, while others I just decided I didn’t need (or they became so pricey I gave up on them).

What do you Need?

So what do you need? What you have? Maybe, but it depends on what you have, doesn’t it?

  • Do you have your health? If you do, keep it, fight to keep it, stay in shape, stay healthy, and live a long life. What do I mean? Violet Large donated (most of) $11 Million that she won on the lottery and died yesterday, all that money couldn’t buy her health back, but she did the next best thing (in my opinion).  Health, if you don’t have it, get it, and if you do keep it, simple? Health is what you need.
  • Do you have a group of family and friends around you that you are happy with? If you don’t, work on that, and if you do, treasure this and move on. Remember as my Dad said, “… you are born with your family, there you have no choice that is why you choose your friends very carefully…” (I hoped he implied you had to love your Family no matter what in that statement as well). Friends are what you need.
  • Do you know how much money you need to live on for a year? A month? A week? A day? If you can’t answer that question, you are in trouble. You must know how much money you need (not want, not for all the crap you covet, the money you need to live) to live each day, week, month and year (and if possible the rest of your planned life). Figure this one out, or you will always need more (and you’ll never have enough). Money is what you want.

Is This Hard ?

Yes, but if life was easy, there wouldn’t be idiots like me telling you how to live it, now would there?

What do you need to live? How are you going to get it (that is the next hard question to ask), and can you do it (the meaning of life really)? (I should really stop watching so much Gordon Ramsay, my inner hard ass comes out a bit too much at times).

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Job Hunting Hints: Dress for a Job Fair

Not a Day at The Beach! For a while I was thinking that I might actually start a blog about the job hunting tips I learned whilst I was unemployed, but it never really got off the ground, and I have a hard enough time making sure I have new(ish) content for this blog, so it died a quiet death, but I do feel I have a few useful hints (IMHO) for folks, so I will be sprinkling these tips in over the next little while.

This current post triggered from another blogger posting 6 Tips for Working a Career Fair, which is one of the places you should be frequenting, if you are looking for a job. These events are effectively cattle calls, and don’t expect to get a job when attending this kind of event, but you might make a contact or meet someone you know who may help you out later, so I think attending these are not a complete waste of time.

I have worked these events from both sides (candidate and hiring company), and I can assure you of a few things that will quickly get your resume and contact information, moved to file 13 very quickly (look this up, it’s an old Mainframe term):

  • Simply dumping your resume on the desk or table and walking away. I don’t care if you are not a “people person”, you need to at least introduce yourself, say hello and attempt to have at least a 1 minute talk with who(m)ever is working the booth. If they give you the brush off, that is fine, maybe don’t leave your resume, but YOU are looking for the job, not them.
  • Arrogance, that is not well founded, is a killer for me. If you are good at what you do, but act like you don’t want my job, and you pretty much tell me that, I’ll grant your wish (i.e. I will lose your resume). You can be confident, you can be sure of yourself, but it is a fine line between that and arrogance.
  • Simply show up and start taking the “swag” from the table before talking to anyone. Yes, it is supposed to be free stuff, but come on, you need a free pen that bad?
  • Dress like you are going to the beach.

Flip Flops

Great for Squashing Bugs, not so much for Job Fairs

That last one is my personal pet peeve. I have had other recruiters tell me that it doesn’t matter to them if potential candidates are dressed extremely casually, but it does to me. If you show up wearing “flip-flops” (or thongs to my Australian friends), jean shorts and an unbuttoned shirt, what am I to think? I am most likely standing their in a “business casual” outfit, and you are saying to me, “I am this good that I don’t need to dress up to get this job”, or worse “your job is so unimportant to me that I can’t find a descent outfit and some shoes to find out about it”.

I did have one young woman walk in dressed like this, and I asked her, “… were you off to the beach today?”, and when she gave me a blank stare back, I explained my point of view, to which she walked away without leaving her resume (oh well).

What Should You Do ?

Go to the Job Fairs, make connections, collect cards from folks, talk to other folks to find out how they are searching for jobs (but remember don’t spend too much time talking to other unemployed folks, they don’t have jobs, you should be talking to folks who DO have jobs). Please dress like you want a job (not want to go to the beach).

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Living Without Water

It is important to remember the rule of 3: you can last 3 minutes without air, 3 days without water and 3 weeks without food, but no, it is not that dramatic in my part of Ottawa, we are simply banned from watering our lawns, or gardens (or filling pools). A major water main that feeds our area broke, and the fear is that if everyone watered (i.e. wasted) water outside the way they normally do we would either:

  • Cause a pressure drop which would then cause us to have to boil our water, for a good period of time until pressure is returned and the water is safe again.
  • The water pressure drops during a sudden crisis demand time like fighting fires or such.

This ban has caused a great deal of consternation for lots of folks who have great pride in their gardens and how their house appears  (I don’t really care), and there have been countless irate letters to the local papers complaining and whining. Still others have complained that our property taxes should be lowered because of this huge inconvenience.

Sprinkler

Big No No! Don’t Sprikle!

Let me be clear, this is no problem for me, I don’t wash my car, and we got a water barrel (which we will get a rebate for buying (from the City)) so we are fine (and with all the rain, the grass looks fine too). The folks who normally water their lawns every day, will most likely have much lower water bills (this summer), and the folks who have pools are actually getting free refills from a fleet of Water Tanker trucks that patrol our streets (I am not kidding there seems to be one on every corner). So these poor folks will have brown grass, but more cash in their pockets (I’d take that every time).

Unquenchable Thirsts

Boy that really sounds dramatic doesn’t it?

This ban will evidently be lifted very soon (mid-July) due to the City of Ottawa paying bonuses to the contractors fixing the water main, and allowing them to pay overtime on the contract as well. There have been Police crews near the construction sites ensuring no one is speeding in the areas and everyone is obeying all the correct vehicular laws in construction areas (more likely a bigger expense for the City as well).

Wonder if this period of rationing will cause folks to change their water usage patterns? My guess is, not really, since a lot of folks already have built in water sprinklers and such, and others simply think that wasting water is their right, hope they enjoy their water bills in the future. I’ll continue to let the grass deal with lack of water (by going dormant), and water the gardens from the rain barrel (actually my wife will do this, I am not that interested in gardening either).

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You Need a New Set of Golf Clubs

Every golf pro (that sells golf equipment) tells me that to improve my golf game I need two things:

  1. Expensive lessons from the Pro
  2. a new set of golf clubs (sold to me by the pro).

The implication of the statements made are simple, it is not that I simply have no aptitude for Golf (nor much athletic talent), just that all I need to do is throw money at the problem and it will all be fixed (at least the Pro will be a little richer).

The other odd assumption in that advice is that if something is expensive (i.e. the Golf Clubs), the better it must be for me. I actually believed that for a while, until I watched a friend who is a very good golfer play with a set of rented clubs and shoot an 80, with clubs he hadn’t ever seen before. His statement was he might have shot a bit better with his own clubs, but that the equipment can only do so much to improve things.

What does this have to do with Money and Investing? Well remember my first theory of Golf and Money (i.e. you need to go back to when you were 10 and start playing Golf , and you should go back to when you are twenty and invest in your retirement).

The case for paying for a premium financial service in most cases is a fallacy:

  • By paying premium rates for your trades at a brokerage house,  are you getting any better service in terms of trades?
  • Does paying premium service fees for your banking, mean you are not being ripped off?
  • If your “financial advisor” charges you a lot, this does not guarantee that you are getting quality advice (just as those who say they charge you nothing might well be ripping you off ).
  • Your Mutual Fund company might argue that their funds need an MER at 4.5% because they do such a great job investing for you. Pure hokum or bunk (in my opinion).

You need to figure out whether you are getting value for your money yourself, and also understand your own talents (and limitations) in terms of managing your money.

I will likely never break 100 playing golf, thus I don’t give out Golf advice (other than you should start at age 10, and not wait until you are 23 to take up the game). The same is true when it comes to investing, and personal finances, I can tell you what I have done wrong, and what seems to have worked for me ( so far ), however none of this may work for you.  Collect advice from folks, but at the end of it, you will need to decide whether you view it as valuable or not.

Who Profits From This

If you don’t feel comfortable investing, then yes, talk to someone, but figure out whether they are simply selling you things to make THEM money, or make YOU money. The other option is just use passive investing tools like Index Funds based on solid indexes and be done with it.

When it comes to Money, like with Golf: Know your talents, but know your limitations as well.

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