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Random Thoughts on Gettin’ Old

Livin’ Longer and Weather Bombs!

This past week I crossed the half century line in my life, and as usual I took time to reflect on the amazing thing that has been my life. Lots of other interesting stuff happened this week as well, but as usual, I ended up mostly thinking about my life instead, but that is to be expected once you cross the Half Century mark.  The New Year continued on, financially, with the markets not to sure which way to go, so they mostly just hovered for now.

Given the astoundingly bad weather most of the world is living through, let’s hope this does not translate into Financial Storms as well. The amount of snow falling elsewhere almost makes me jealous it is not falling in Ottawa, however, that feeling passes after a while.

Most of this week was a bit introspective, however there were some posts that were not completely about me:

  • On Turning 50 points out that 50 years may have passed, but not a whole lot of much has really happened during that time.
  • The Financial Time Machine List is another look to the past to learn from my mistakes post, where I lament the mistakes of my youth, but if I hadn’t made those mistakes, would I be who I am now?
  • A casual comment by a co-worker was what got me to write Read Financial Documents Before Signing Them, and you shouldn’t sign anything until you have read it, it’s just good sense. I borrowed that Bible reference as well.
  • There was some good news this week with Employment Up a Little in December, and those jobs were mostly full time ones.

The weather bombs of the week were not the only thing folks were writing about luckily, but these kind of storms usually have an economic impact somewhere along the way:

Other Bookkeeping

Weather Bomb

Weather Bomb!

Remember that I also micro-blog on Twitter, where you can see a whole plethora of good articles and pithy comments by me as well. Twitter feed where I re-tweet many great articles by some of my featured writers (and make the occasional odd or off colour commentary on life (in 140 characters or less)). I am also on Digg as Big Cajun Man, on reddit , Tumblr, and other Social Media sites (look for the BigCajunMan userid) as well.

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Remember

“If you don’t like the weather in Halifax, wait five minutes, it will get worse…”

Author: Anonymous

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Personal Finance: Snow Day!

Yes the forecast “weather bomb” has appeared and dumped a bunch of snow on Ottawa, thus causing all drivers to lose their brains, forget how to drive in snow and the added excitement that even those who own snow tires most likely do not have them on their cars yet, so today will be a day for accidents and arriving very late at work, if at all (thus causing significant economic hardship for a lot of folks (ok, not really but I needed to connect it back to Finance somehow)).

This kind of weather excitement will cause the CAA to take hours to respond, due to their towing service being overtaxed pulling folks out of ditches, cause the police to answer hundreds of calls about accidents and will have Hydro crews out restoring power to lots of folks, so maybe it would be a good day to be Calm, and pleasant with everyone? Just an idea folks, we are all in it together!

It Snowed In Ottawa

Caution for Ontario Drivers

Put on your snow tires if you live around Ottawa is the first caution, because we really DO need snow tires up here (I don’t think I can convince folks from Toronto that, and if you live in Windsor or Niagara, yes, you can live with all seasons, I guess).

For those of us who can drive across a bridge to Quebec, here is an interesting quandary: Quebec has mandatory snow tire laws, are they going to enforce those laws for out of province vehicles? I would guess they might not, but you never know.

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Stock Market Bottom Today

My regular readers will remember last week I asked, “What is the Bottom in Stocks” and I pointed out we just will not know what the bottom is until six months afterwards, and I was proven right again yesterday, when I (eternal pessimist) thought there was no way things could drop any lower, yet they did. Canadian financial stocks (banks and financial folks) took a hell of a pounding again, and now I am not even sure why, but TD and BMO both took hits again. 

TD’s drop actually had a minuscule basis in fact as their Ameritrade division announced some fairly neutral numbers, but the whole TSX went “Financial Apocalypse” for the last 45 minutes of trading and a great deal of losses were incurred in that sure time frame (stock value losses I mean).

I keep wondering is this the bottom, but as I have said, we will only know in six months time.

Financial Impact on Me

My RRSP’s continue to drop in value (I haven’t looked really, but am glad it is Dividend time since my DRIPs (Dividend Reinvestment Plan) on most of my stocks will be kicking in and I will be buying some very cheap stock with it). I also continue to collect up old investment vehicles into a single set of investment devices, which are now fairly heavy in cash, which is a good thing, now the only question is when and what to buy, and I continue to “waffle” on what that decision might be.

E.I. Not For You

Got a call yesterday from a lady at the Employment Insurance office asking me a bunch of questions about my severance package and how it had been implemented. She was new on her job, so she and I fumbled around a few questions and I think it has been straightened out for now, but this did bring up an interesting point, which is that you MUST apply for E.I. when you are laid off, not when you think you need it. If you don’t apply right away, you may be disallowed your claim for taking too long to fill in the correct documentation.

At the end of the conversation the nice lady mentioned that I will not be eligible to get E.I. for about a year (the length of my severance package in their calculations). This didn’t surprise me, but I know for sure now that someone at the E.I. office has said it to me out loud.

Weather Bomb

Evidently Ottawa will be the victim of a Weather Bomb in the next day or so. Before you start thinking that the folks at Environment Canada have created a Weapon of Mass Destruction that will cause huge storms, that is not what the term means, it is a real Weather Forecaster term to describe a quick and large drop in the Barometric Pressure which is usually part of a severe storm system.

What does this have to do with Personal Finance? Everything!

  • With 15-30 centimeters of snow coming Do You Have Your Snow Tires On? I don’t! If you live in Quebec, remember you need to have them on, it is the law now.
  • Do you have enough food at home in case it is hard to get out in the next day or so?
  • Is your furnace in good working order?
  • What if the power goes off, have any wood in for your fireplace?
  • Does your snow-blower work? Does it have any gas?

All of those points either cost money, or are going to cost you money if they aren’t dealt with, so keep this in mind, with the coming of “Old Man Winter”.

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Snow Tires Off

One of the things I have learned over the years is that if you drive on your snow tires for too long in the spring (or say over an entire summer), your snow tires degrade very quickly during that time, and they soon become useless if you are not careful. It is a hard balance to figure out when you should remove your snow tires in the spring (in Ottawa, in the Sault or places north, I am sure this isn’t even being discussed yet). I called my mechanic and he is inundated with folks wanting their snow tires off and their summer tires back on, so I know that I am at least part of the crowd.

When I was younger one year, I figured I’d save myself some money because I needed to get NEW summer tires but my winter tires were relatively new, so I decided to stay on the winter tires all summer, for my troubles I ended up with:

  1. Bad gas mileage
  2. Badly worn snow tires (that had 1 season left in them after that summer, and they didn’t really do that well that 1 season either)
  3. A noisy car all summer (snow tires on clear pavement are noisier)

Time to take off the snow tires and see if you can save some money on the ever increasing price of gasoline here in Ottawa.

You can drive your winter tires all summer, however, next winter they will no longer be effective. You can run your all weather tires all year, but that means you are never really using the right tire, are you?

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Larry O’Brien is in my pocket again?

In Ottawa we have a very flamboyant Mayor who came in to power with the statement that he was not going to raise taxes. This statement (I won’t call it a promise) seems to have disappeared and the latest levy he is talking about is a $50.00 surcharge per tax payer and business due to the high amount of snow in Ottawa this year (the snow clearing budget is over budget at least $23 M so far).

Last year we didn’t have a lot of snow, and this same fund ran a surplus, but I never saw a nickel back in my taxes. In fact this fund has run surpluses for the past N years, yet whenever that happened, no money came back to me directly, but now that Mother Nature has stepped in, I must now find more money to pay for bad planning? If I make the bad plan, I am the one that has to live with it, and I must live with the consequences (yes I still complain), but now I must fork out more money, due to there being no emergency fund for excessive snow? Larry, drop by my house and see if you can convince me I should pay this tax, because I don’t think you’ll get me on side with this one.

Easter Charity

I was very impressed to see John Chow campaigning for donations to a soup kitchen in the Vancouver area. John actually matched all donations, and managed to raise over $7,000 for that charity, and I applaud him for that.

For local Ottawa readers, the Shepherds of Good Hope is a mission that I support when I can, given I used to work up the road from them, and I have seen first hand the good works that they do. Remember Easter is a time of renewal and a time of giving.

Scary Statement for the Day

After the U.S. Fed lowered yet another of their key rates by 3/4% one analyst was actually heard to say, “I wouldn’t be surprised to see a rate of 0%…”, I almost fell out of my chair when I heard that one. I think this constant dropping of interest rate may help in the short run, but it is not resolving the main issues which is massive DEBT problems in North America. People are living outside of their financial capabilities, and it is eventually going to cause something very bad to happen.

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