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Random Thoughts: Let’s all skate!

Now that the Rideau Canal Skateway has opened for it’s 40th year of operation, I think we can say that Winter has come to Ottawa. The canal is one of those things that you just assume is there and when it is not, you wonder why not. Will I skate on it this year? I don’t think so, but it is still a possibility (how ever slim that might be) that I may.

Given the horrible sites we are seeing on TV from the Haitian earthquake I urge my readers to find Aid Groups (the Red Cross, or your Church) and give what you can to help out. For those who are going there to help, you have my respect and my hope that your good works help those in need.

Birthday Blogs

Given it was someone’s birthday this week, what was new in the Personal Finance blogosphere? Let’s just poke around and see:

  • Michael James points out that not all Hospital User Fees have anything to do with the care you receive at your hospital. Luckily he didn’t try to buy something in the cafeteria!
  • Larry MacDonald continues this discussion with his post about the Inner workings of walk-in clinics and the other fees you can incur if you simply want a wart removed!
  • Million Dollar Journey is most definitely putting their money where their keyboard is, with My Financial Goals for 2010, I am astounded by his (her?) intestinal fortitude to write that kind of challenge for themselves.
  • Preet at points out that January’s Returns Predict Rest of Year’s Performance 74% of the time, which is an interesting idea. I have found that the team that scores the most points in most NFL games, win, but I can’t be sure.
  • Gene (a frequent commenter on this blog) asked the Canadian Capitalist about Opening a US Dollar Self-Directed RRSP account with Qtrade and the Capitalist (as usual) brings up some important points to consider. Glad to see Gene knows who(m) to ask these kind of questions to (i.e. not ME).
  • Gail Vaz-Oxlade comments on the problems with a prominent golfer with her article Out of the Woods?, OK, it has nothing to do with that, but still an interesting article about the CDIC.
  • Ellen Roseman asks Who has seen the wind? asking if anyone has started dealing with Wind Mobility, I await to see someone say “Yes it works for me”, before I change my carrier.
  • Can Skinner Conditioning be used for aversion therapy to stop folks from buying into Ponzi schemes? Canadian Financial DIY wants to know.
  • The Four Pillars tries the daunting task of explaining how a Metropolitan Mass Transit system thinks with The TTC’s Idiotic Approach to Fare Increases hopefully they won’t look at Ottawa’s OC Chancepo, or they may go off the deep end

Enjoy the winter!


DeCluttering Never Bad Even Financially

My wife, a while ago, took on the daunting task of creating a space for a gas fitter to come in and work on a new project in our house. Our back room in our basement was very cluttered and there was no way anyone could get anywhere safely. My wife took on the task of attempt to declutter the chaos.

I came home and was very impressed with the work done and the amount that was being thrown out. The area was swept and cleared so that the work could be done .

My wife was not impressed when the workman finally showed up and was able to do all the work needed on the main floor of our house and went nowhere near the basement.

Was this a waste of time? NO! That kind of de-cluttering is a good thing for many reasons:

  • Safety: that mess was going to injure someone. It was a fire hazard, so it needed to be cleaned up.
  • DeClutter: the amount of crap that we were never going to use again is now reduced by 9.75% now. This means we only have 90% of it still to clean up (but still a good start)
  • Security issues: although it might be possible for an Al-Qaeda cell to hide out in that mess, I did not mean that exactly. We found a whole set of banking records for an organization my wife no longer works for, and those records have now been destroyed. That kind of security is very important.

Do you have a lot of old financial records hidden in the clutter of your “secret stash” (be it in your basement or in that closet you just never open)? Maybe it’s time to at least find all the old credit cards, banking cards, pass books, cheque books and bank agreements that you no longer need and destroy them. Leaving that kind of stuff around is just asking for problems later in life.

What To Do ?

If you destroy it now, you know it no longer exists, if you simply “leave it”, do you know if there are records hanging around that can easily be used for identity theft? Maybe it’s time to go clean up a bit? Before you destroy those credit cards, make sure the accounts aren’t still active, as well.

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Personal Finance Resolutions for the New Year?

Did you hastily make some New Year’s personal finance 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.

Personal Finance 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 personal finance 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.


Eating Your Own Dog Food?

Interesting turn of phrase I have seen used to mean a few different ideas in the software development world and in a few other places as well.

The Interpretation I got for this phrase from the person who sent me was:

Eating your own dog food

Coined by a Microsoft manager, to use the products you develop in your office as your customers would (with the same software quality), to make sure you understand your product and understand your customers needs as well.

It seems to be an extension on the concept of “Practicing what your preach” or “Walk to the walk, don’t just talk the talk…”, but finding a company that actually uses their own product can be a good thing, I have found in my travels in the world of high-tech.

Financially Eating Your Own Dog Food

Investing and Financial Institutions are a little harder to figure out if they “Eat their own dog food“, I think it would be amusing to find out that the CEO of my bank didn’t use the bank for his finances (if not very disconcerting).

Much Younger Me
Shylo ate his Dog Food Happily

I would be very interested to see if the following might be happening:

  • The President of the insurance company that espouses “Freedom 55” actually uses that program him or herself? I kind of doubt that one, but I’ll gladly retract that statement if it is not true.
  • Does the CEO of BMO  use their “Mortgage Insurance” facility, or does he or she simply buy term insurance as others do? My guess is No, they don’t use that either (they may not have a Mortgage mind you either).
  • All those insurance sales folk who want to sell me “Whole Life” insurance, do they buy the product? My guess is some do, but maybe at a cheaper rate than we do.
  • Does the President of TD use their Stepper GIC product? I think no is the answer on that one too.
  • Do the CEO’s of the Mutual Fund companies that have MER‘s of 4 and 5%, buy their own mutual funds? My guess would be not likely.
  • Did Mr. Madoff buy into his own Ponzi scheme? Don’t answer that, it’s rhetorical, by the by, he got 150 years, given he is 72, he’ll be spending the rest of his life in prison (is that enough).

Am I Missing Any ?

Any other examples of “Eating their dog food” in the financial world I have missed, please chime in the Comments section.


Random Thoughts: Summer is in the Air

With Summer coming very soon (on Sunday in fact), and Father’s Day on the same day this weekend looks to be an eventful one for us all.

Financially the week has seen the Nortel CEO Mike Z. standing in front of a group of Canadian politicians and saying, “It simply wasn’t feasible to pay severance,” , you have to respect his chutzpah, but when he started saying he might not get his sweetheart pension, I think he lost all credibility. With the CPI at 0.1% we are in interesting areas where allegedly our prices are not rising, yet the price of food is up 7.1% over 12 months, so the numbers are actually hiding a big issue (i.e. the poor and fixed income folks dealing with huge food price increases). ¬†Evidently this means our interest rates may stay as low as they are for a while longer, which is just wild (IMHO).

Financial Blogging Views

Some interesting posts from my regular reads on the Financial blogging front:

  • Techcrunch talks about the new Apple iPhone 3GS which is out today, will this entice more Canadians to sign up with Fido and Rogers (and their ridiculously expensive data plans)? I’m sticking with my iPod touch, thanks.
  • Ellen Roseman has a little Fun and Games with her students at U of T’s continuing ed program, with Ellen Degenerates Share Club, she wins the funniest one liner of the week.
  • Michael James points out that the CRA No Longer Taxing Loyalty Programs, with a few caveats added on. I wonder if my PC Points fit this new rule?
  • The Canadian Capitalist points out that ‘Simply Save’ with TD Bank might be a no-brainer to sign up for, for someone like me who already does his banking with TD.
  • Preet from WhereDoesAllMyMoneyGo points out that the Ultimate W Expert Challenge (which he is a part of) starts this weekend on Sunday! Worthwhile just to see and hear what Preet sounds like (since you aren’t likely to see me on the big screen any time soon).
  • Larry MacDonald points out that Ontario Savings Bonds are on Sale (for a few days more), but wonders if it might be better just to go with high yield bank accounts?
  • Riscario muses about The Three Major Obstacles to Growth according to Brian Tracy, which is a very interesting read.

Stay tuned this weekend, there may not be a video interlude, but there might be something even more interesting. Enjoy the start of summer and remember to call your Dad on Father’s Day!


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