The Anti-Virus Shell Game

I continue to be tormented by the Anti-Virus shell game.

Anti-virus software in stores (or on Amazon for that matter) is always on sale. Norton continues to do this, and when you “register” you are asked for a Credit Card. You can’t get updates without giving them a credit card, and that means they have got you. You must keep getting updates to keep the software working to specification.

In a year when your “subscription” is to be renewed, the renewal price is at least twice as much as you paid the previous year.

You do have a way out, you can go on line, and turn off Auto-Renew on your subscription. This is where it gets interesting.

  1. You click the Auto-Renew to “No
  2. Suddenly it asks for a reason why? I answered, “Too expensive
  3. Next the web site says, “What if we give you an Amazon $30 Gift Card?”
    • Where was this perk? This kind of bate and switch silliness I expect from Rogers or Bell. with this “perk” suddenly the cost of renewing isn’t as bad.
  4. If you just don’t like this, keep saying No, maybe you’ll get other “perks”? A set of Ginsu Knives?

I really despise this kind of product silliness, but it looks like the Anti-Virus world is becoming like other Tech Firms (e.g. Internet Provider, Cell Phone Provider, etc.,).

Conclusions

Is the Anti-Virus worth having? Maybe, I am sure folks will argue you don’t need it, or worse, they don’t work, but I will continue to play along (for now).

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Who are these Robo Advisors that you keep hearing about?

A new Guest Post about Robo Advisors. The author is a newer face, but has some interesting opinions, well worth reading. All opinions are his.

You may have seen the ads from Wealthsimple. Here’s their youtube channel if you want a refresher. They are Canada’s most famous ‘robo advisor’ as they spend a lot of time and money attempting to reach Canadians. And when you hear about Wealthsimple you’ll often hear the phrase ‘Robo Advisor’.

So what is a Robo Advisor? It’s an investment company that helps you invest with the aid of technology. And because they make the best use of new technologies they can allow you to invest at a fraction of the costs that Canadians will typically pay. And that’s why the Robo’s are here – Canadians pay the highest mutual fund investment fees in the developed world. Those high fees can eat up a significant portion of your investment returns over time – even more than half. Those high fees are destroying the wealth of Canadians. But thankfully, there’s a better way for those that want a managed investment portfolio.

A Robo Advisor can help you invest with fees that are in the range of 50% to 80% cheaper. That can be life changing; potentially it might allow you to retire with a portfolio that is almost twice as generous, or you might be able to retire several years earlier. Those lower fees will usually allow you to better reach any investment goal, even saving for a house, or your child’s education.

And don’t let that word ‘Robo’ scare you. There are no robot advisors. In fact, while popularized, the moniker Robo Advisor is not all that accurate. At all of these investment companies there are many human advisors and customer service representatives ready to help. You can usually communicate by way of online chat or email as well.

As the CEO of Wealthsimple likes to offer …

“Humans when you want them, technology when you don’t.”

These companies simply use technology to manage the investments in an efficient and cost-effective manner. If you seek the ultimate in convenience you can certainly do everything online from your account set up (it might just take a few minutes) to the completion of an online investor questionnaire that will offer you the most appropriate comprehensive investment portfolio designed to help you reach your goals while you invest within your risk comfort level.

But once again, if you ever want that human touch, just pick up the phone.

All of these ‘Digital Wealth Managers’ offer the same style of sensible low fee investment portfolios. You’ll have a well diversified portfolio that includes large baskets of Canadian companies, US and International companies, and bonds are often present to manage the risk of the portfolio. The stock (companies) are there for growth, the bonds are present to reduce the risk or volatility. You’ll be offered a portfolio in line with your risk tolerance level.

And the portfolios are watched and professionally managed on a regular schedule. They are also re-balanced automatically to keep everything ‘in check’. There’s nothing for you to do but sit back and add monies on a regular schedule. You can view your progress online, you can call in to chat if you have questions or concerns.

You can do and get everything you would normally need; you’ll simply do it in a much more cost-effective manner. You will keep considerably more monies in your portfolio pocket.

And all of these investment companies have their unique characteristics and offerings. You can visit my Robo Advisor page for a list of the Canadian companies, and you’ll find reviews on many of these companies (I am still completing that writing process).

They also cover a wide spectrum. Questwealth and Nest Wealth offer the lowest fees; Questwealth for those with smaller to modest portfolios, while Nest Wealth is the most cost-effective for portfolios in the range of $300,000 and above. On any investment portfolio above $150,000 Nest Wealth will charge just $80 per month, capped. The savings on fees can be thousands upon thousands of dollars every year, depending on the size of your investment portfolio.

If you have a more complicated tax situation or are in need of a full financial plan you might consider Justwealth. Once again, that advice is included in the low annual fees.

Please have a look at the list of companies on my site, read some reviews and if you have any questions, please send a note to cutthecrapinvesting@gmail.com. If you are interested in this low fee approach I can direct you to the companies that might best suit your needs.

The key is to not pay those wealth-destroying high fees when you invest. Those monies belong in your pocket.

Dale Roberts is the Chief Disruptor at Cut The Crap Investing. A former advisor on low fee index portfolios, Dale now helps Canadians find the many sensible low fee options available. 

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Tech Infiltration, NAFTA/USMCA, WiFi, Tornadoes and #MoneyTalk

A story of tech infiltration broke about how a server manufacturer was compromised by the Chinese security folks (allegedly). The Big Hack: How China Used a Tiny Chip to Infiltrate U.S. Companies, outlines how many US firms use the technology that was compromised. Why am I talking about this here? This is a game changer for technology. Most of your technology is assembled by small companies in the far east, and now that it has been proven that they are compromised, how the manufacturing chain works will have to change.

Who is compromised? Every firm that matters: Apple, Amazon, NASA, Banks, Government Agencies, etc., etc.,. Expect statements soon from all of them, attempting to downplay the scope of this hack (however it is very big).

The current U.S. regime is already xenophobic, there will now be a push to “Buy BUILT in America ONLY”, especially in the tech area (and absolutely on Government contracts).

Tech Infiltration

Dunrobin after the Tornado (courtesy Global News)

This leads to the other big news this week the completion of NAFTA USMCA. The new agreement has changes that will screw affect farmers, but it seems to be better than nothing. It did not remedy the “buy America” policy the U.S. governments currently have, thus Canadian firms still cannot easily penetrate the lucrative U.S. government contract world.

The tech infiltration will not help with this lack of access to the U.S. Government contracts. If anything rules will get tighter in this area.

Are you feeling paranoid about your own tech security? You should, since Wired just told us, How Russian Spies Infiltrated Hotel WI-FI to hack victims up close. Remember if you are using any kind of public WiFi, don’t use your banking app, better still, just don’t connect to it. Your phone will tell you it is not secure, believe your phone. If you get a VPN (virtual Private Network) you might be safer, but never completely.

Hell of a Wind

We were lucky that all that happened to our house, during the Ottawa Tornadoes, was we lost power for about 49 hours. This meant all food in all of our freezers and refrigerators had to be thrown out (about $1000 worth is my guess). Given my home insurance deductible, it is not worth claiming. We have friends that were much worse off, and my wife and I actually were in Burlington the weekend (visiting my Grandson).

My daughter got to enjoy Barrhaven in the Dark for the weekend, and did an excellent job taking care of the house. Our City Councillor and Provincial MP did a great job helping folks out as well.

I will be putting together a better power outage plan, as the current one wasn’t very good. A generator is an idea, but would entail a great deal of work on our house wiring too. Maybe Solar or a Tesla house battery system?

My Recent Writings

Keeping with my technology theme here, I did write, FinTech’s Foundations COBOL. I loved COBOL at school, it was so easy to comprehend, and maybe I can retire and get some contracts programming in it? Maybe my skills are a bit too rusty though.

Wonder what kind of Tech Infiltration there is on the COBOL side of things?

Deep Money Thought

“Fortune aids the audacious” -Virgil

“What Fortune has made yours is not your own.” -Seneca

A stoic thought about money, what Fortune gives you, you must be wary of, and plan for when it is not there. Virgil’s comment is the more popularly quoted, but Seneca’s view is important to remember as well.

🎱 For more personal finance stories click here 🎱

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FinTech’s Foundations COBOL

A very interesting article from the Wall Street Journal confirmed to me what I had always suspected, in terms of the technology all banking is still based on, COBOL (at least on the banking side of things).

The world of banking is very risk averse when it comes to technology. There are backups to all systems, multiple power sources every system must live up to “5 9’s” availability. This means the system is up 99.99999 % of the time. As the Canadian Feds found out changing out an old system and replacing it with new code and technology is problematic (aka Phoenix), thus most Banks are reluctant to do whole sale changes just to update technology. Old systems get replaced typically if they are broken, not if they are still working.

At the core of the banking system in terms of technology is a language older than me (and I am old). COBOL (COmmon Business-Oriented Language) was written in 1959 based on the works of Admiral Grace Hopper. I worked in it, at school and on the job as well (at school I used WATBOL), so I have a passing understanding of the language. It does, what it does, well.

FinTech continues to crow about it being new and exciting, and parts of it might be (the user interface is my guess), however the heavy lifting (i.e. account creation, asset moves, etc.,) is all still being done capably by COBOL.

FinTech COBOL
A COBOL Punched Card

Fear and Loathing

Is it time to fear FinTech? You should be skeptical of all the claims, but if the system works (for you), that is the major decision point. If someone tells you how it is the future of banking, ask them about how they interface to the banking COBOL interface (see if they have an answer for you).

I am glad to see that old technology still keeps the world humming.


EQ Bank Savings Plus Account

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Phishing Phor Phun and Prophit

Have you received an email about an overdue parking ticket or a delivery from UPS lately? Have you blindly clicked on the link in that email? Odds are you are now a victim of phishing, and you had better change all your passwords and turn on lots of security settings on all of your accounts.

As I saw with my daughter and her experience with Phishing, the Phishers are getting much more clever and are relying on your false sense of security. If the email looks official most folks will readily click to easily track or fix a simple problem.

Phishing

What kind of emails do they send?

  • Overdue parking ticket reminder. By the way, how did they get your email address for a parking ticket?
  • Income Tax related notices, and no the CRA still doesn’t take iTunes cards to pay your taxes (I checked). Again, how does the CRA know your email address?
  • Your bank or other financial institution has found a problem with your bank account or credit card and you just need to click here to fix it. Worse, they have a new App you can run on your phone, just click here to download it.
  • Fed Ex or UPS has a package that they couldn’t deliver, so you need to reschedule the delivery.

All of these seem straight forward and far too easy to bamboozle you.

What should you do when you receive one of these phishing hooks?

  • Don’t open it, surprisingly, depending on how your email reader is set up, that alone can be lethal (make sure you don’t allow auto-execute scripts on your email reader)
  • If you have opened the email CLICK ON NOTHING.
  • If you are on GMAIL you can contact Google here about the email
  • Delete the email (and then empty your recycle bin)

As we become better at not falling for these tricks, the tricks just get trickier, or as Roddy Piper used to say, “Just when they think they got the answers, I change the questions!”.

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