Jan 282019
 

“One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” This time-honored quip can no better be applied to any other profession than the venerable American “junkyard.” Here in America, we all grew up within relative proximity to an auto junkyard. The auto parts heaven has always been a great source of certain, simple, or even critical components for any make or model in production. It’s a natural choice to make when money is tight, or even when it is not. It simply makes good sense to visit your local auto graveyard to find that part you need, and most of us have done just that.

The quintessential junkyard has indeed evolved. Today, technology and innovation have resulted in the modern parts powerhouses of today. The junk yards in Utah are no exception. Whether it is as simple as a lug nut, or as critical as a transmission, the auto parts yards of today have made it a simple task to find that elusive part, which would otherwise be a large expense.

Taking advantage of the junkyard has always proven to be a wise decision, otherwise, they wouldn’t even be around. The value of this classic business model has and will continue to stand the test of time.

The history of the junkyard can be traced back to the very early days of the advent of the horseless carriage. One of the more famous instances includes Henry Ford and his exploration of auto graveyards in his day. The observations concluded that some parts survive the life of the car itself and can be reused. The famous “Kingpin” story may be the beginning of the modern junkyard business model. Whatever the case may be, we all enjoy the availability of important car parts at a very affordable price thanks to our local junkyards.

These days, the make and model, no matter how exotic and/or rare, can be found in the auto-parts boneyard. The top yards no longer simply let autos sit and deteriorate in a large field. Every auto is thoroughly inspected. Every bolt of value is recovered and provided to the customer. The process has become very efficient, and more of everything for your car is becoming readily available. It’s a win-win scenario for everyone.

The used auto parts business model is not just an American phenomenon. It is, of course, worldwide. Millions of cars, trucks and other vehicles such as motorcycles, tractors, heavy equipment and other exotic and rare machines find their way to their ultimate demise, and they leave their precious internal parts to those who need them. It’s the equivalent of an organ donor. Many partnerships have been struck between junkyards and other businesses related to the automotive industry. It’s a natural progression, of course, and such relationships benefit everyone. It is a wonderful thing to see such evolution in business, and the success of such symbiotic pairings is a blessing to all, more often than not.

With more and more businesses pairing up and growing the used auto parts industry, more great benefits become available. It sometimes seems that cars are becoming almost disposable. Many people will choose to buy new cars rather than fix what they have. Or, some simply wish to keep getting the new models when there is nothing wrong with the old. There are many instances where perfectly fine cars wind up in the hands of the auto parts dealer. This makes higher quality parts available. Again, another benefit to us all! And now, with the wonderful Internet, finding what we need or want has never been easier. The digital revolution has not left the junkyard behind. Used auto parts businesses have embraced modern technology; naturally and efficiently.

When the need arises, and it will, your first and the wisest step is the mighty junkyard. There is no indication that the phrase “Junk Yard” will ever go away. That is another topic altogether. However, when that radio knob pops off for no reason, you now know where to go first. It stands to reason that there is no part you can’t find at your local auto graveyard. It may seem obvious to some, but you and I are but a few amongst billions, and some people may not be aware of the junkyard option. Avail yourself of it.

Jan 072019
 

Changes in the Financial Markets in 2018

  • Currencies:
  • Canadian dollar weaken from 0.80 to 0.73 USD.
    (Less purchasing power and more expensive imports, such as food from the U.S.)
  • U.S. dollar index up to 96 from 92.
    (Non Americans pay a higher premium to buy U.S. investments.)
  • Stock Markets:
  • Most markets around the world dropped in 2018, especially Emerging and Asian markets.
  • Canadian S&P/TSX stock index fell about 12%
  • U.S. stock market fell about 6%
  • Canadian Aggregate bond index ETF (ZAG) total return = 1.8%

It wasn’t a great way to end the year but on the whole I’m pretty happy with my situation. The last quarter has been the worst for my net worth performance so far. But the good news is I’ve still gained $96K overall in 2018 thanks to a great first half of the year. 🙂 Below is my net worth update for December.

Liquid’s Financial Update

*Side Incomes: = $3,400

  • Part time job =$1100
  • Freelance = $800
  • Dividends =$1000
  • Interest = $600

*Discretionary Spending: = $2,000

  • Food = $300
  • Miscellaneous = $800
  • Interest expense = $1300

*Net Worth: (ΔMoM)

  • Assets: = $1,211,300 total (-14,300)
  • Cash = $20,400 (+600)
  • Canadian stocks = $155,800 (-6800)
  • U.S. stocks = $112,700 (-4700)
  • U.K. stocks = $19,400 (-1000)
  • Retirement = $114,900 (-2500)
  • Mortgage Funds = $34,500 (-200)
  • P2P Lending = $33,600 (+300)
  • Home = $275,000
  • Farms = $445,000
  • Debts: = $418,800 total (-1400)
  • Mortgage = $189,900 (-400)
  • Farm Loans = $180,000 (-400)
  • Margin Loans = $48,900 (-600)

*Total Net Worth = $792,500 (-$12,900 / -1.6%)
All numbers are in $CDN at 0.74/USD

At the end of 2018 my net worth has grown to $792,500. This is a $95,900 increase from the previous year’s end when I had $696,600. It’s not a smooth progression, but I’m grateful to be going in the right direction overall. 🙂

2018 was a bit of a strange year. I lost my job, stocks entered into a bear market, and interest rates climbed 3 times. This series of events has never happened to me before so it’s been fun trying to navigate the new economic landscape.

In terms of what I want to do for 2019, I will be changing my financial strategy a bit. Here are some themes I plan to focus on.

  • Preparing for higher interest rates. Should the Bank of Canada continue to increase rates this year I will be drastically reducing my debt.
  • Buying more bonds. It wasn’t until the recent stock market correction that I truly realize how fixed income investments can keep volatility at bay. Investment grade bonds rated A and BBB currently pay over 4% coupon. It’s not a bad alternative to equities these days.
  • Reassess how I calculate the value of my primary residence. My initial method of using my purchase price + inflation isn’t keeping up with reality anymore. How do you guys value your real estate when calculating your net worth? Do you use the government assessed value, or get someone to come appraise the property?

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Random Useless Fact:

Jan 022019
 

Happy new year, everyone. 1999 was already 20 years ago. That was the year when The Matrix and Star Wars Episode 1 movies came out. Darn, I feel old. 😐

I think the financial markets are in for a very eventful year in 2019 as issues in the economy may expand and bleed into the real estate and bond markets. Here are a few things to consider as we kick off January.

  • According to hedge fund manager Stanley Druckenmiller, since 2010 actual corporate earnings have only climbed 27%. Yet somehow the S&P 500 index has doubled in price. If stock prices are meant to reflect corporate profits then something doesn’t add up. Druckenmiller attributes the gap to buybacks and mergers financed by corporate non-financial debt, which climbed 60% to $9.6 trillion from 2010 to the end of 2018.
  • High yield and leveraged loans are growing. In late 2018 Sen. Elizabeth Warren warned the Federal Reserve’s vice chair that leveraged loans pose an economic threat on scale with subprime loans from a decade ago. “The Fed dropped the ball before the 2008 crisis by ignoring the risks in the subprime mortgage market,” Warren said. Simon Macadam, global economist at Capital Economics, also said leveraged loans, which generally are issued to lower-quality borrowers that already have a substantial debt load on their balance sheets, pose a danger. This has not become a crisis just yet, but I would keep an eye on it.
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Dec 212018
 

Stock markets are down around the world in December. The Nasdaq Composite which is a barometer for tech companies has fallen 15% so far this month. Top economists and investors have been sounding the alarm for months on an economic recession. A New York Times survey discovered that 48% of business leaders at the Yale CEO Summit expected a recession to strike by the end of 2019. It said this finding was the “direst yet,” and shows just how worried companies are about an imminent recession. 😮

The S&P/500 is already in a bear market, which means it has dropped at least 20% from the last highest point. The Canadian S&P/TSX Composite index is only down 18% since its high point in July. But it could very easily enter bear market territory by next week.

Recently 82% of corporate CFOs surveyed in the Duke Global Business Outlook saw a recession starting before the end of 2020. But nearly half of them believe it will actually occur by the end of 2019.

A little pullback once in awhile is normal. When you have nearly 10 years of financial growth it shouldn’t be a surprise when growth finally decelerates. That’s why it’s necessary to always maintain a recession resistant financial plan. 🙂

The writing has been on the wall for a long time. About a year ago I explained how we are near the end of an economic cycle, and by using some charts, I predicted that the next financial downturn will probably happen sometime between 2019 and 2021. So I’m in agreement with most of the business people surveyed above.

Instead of choosing stocks that are largely recession proof, the best way to protect ourselves from a falling stock market is to own other types of investments such as bonds or prime real estate. Continuing to earn a steady stream of income also helps bolster one’s financial situation. Only 1/3rd of my assets are in stocks. So despite the double digit stock market pullback, my net worth is only down about 1% compared to July.

It is hard to know whether this current trend will continue to push stocks further down, or if we will see a bounce back soon. If I had to guess, I think there is still some time to prepare before things start to look really bad. Here’s a chart that shows the change in corporate income tax the U.S. government earned over the last 50 years. ~Notice how just about every time the line drops below the 0 point and reverses direction we see a vertical grey bar? Well those bars represent times of recession (or shrinking GDP.)

corporate income tax

At this moment the U.S. could already be in the beginning of a recession. We won’t know for sure until the economic data is released many months later. But what we can determine right now is that the line has crossed below 0, and it hasn’t reversed direction yet. That’s why I think the next financial downturn will not be this year. 🙂

But in the meanwhile I am being weary and staying away from buying new stocks. It’s not a good idea to catch a falling knife, as a stock market in decline is most likely to continue falling in the immediate future. So I will be enjoying the holidays sitting on the sidelines. At the same time I am also not selling any of my stocks. And lastly I am continuing to pay down debts, saving up cash, and looking at bonds. 🙂

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Random Useless Fact:

Aug 152018
 

The idea that higher minimum wage helps the working poor is utterly ridiculous. It’s a lie spread by liberal politicians and their supporters so they can take more tax money from individuals.

According to the Calgary Herald, rising minimum wage was the cause of 25,700 jobs disappearing in the city. But things will likely get worse as Alberta’s minimum wage will soon grow to $15 an hour. The Bank of Canada warned that minimum wage hikes could cost the country up to 136,000 jobs by 2019. Ouch. That’s some hard cheese. 🙁

Minimum Wage is a violation of basic human rights

Instead of protecting our life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness the government actually violates our rights by creating a minimum wage law, which prevents mutually beneficial, voluntary labour contracts between two parties from taking place. It’s absurd that some government official can think they have the right to prevent others from offering their personal services for pay.

You have to be an egotistical control freak to believe that you somehow know the magic amount of what a minimum wage should be. You also have to believe that this one arbitrary number can be fairly applied to millions of agreements and transactions between people living in different cities, with different costs of living. That kind of patronizing thinking is pure buffoonery to me.

What gives them the right to decide how much my service is worth? Apparently these politicians think it doesn’t matter if the work is shoveling snow, teaching calculus, or giving CPR, because everyone’s time and labour is magically of equal value! But anyone who reads this blog regularly is smart enough to realize this is simply not true in the real world.

When I worked at a warehouse earlier this year I was making about $14/hr. My coworkers and I were pleased with our pay. Nobody talked about unionizing because we were all treated fairly. But if minimum wage were to increase then some of us would lose our jobs for sure. Even if we want to come back the law would make it illegal for the company to hire us at $14/hr. It would be very difficult for laid off workers to find a similar job that pays better. Raising the minimum wage displaces workers and increases the incentive to leave the job market altogether to live on social assistance. This is very damaging to the lives of low income workers.

 

How Minimum Wage hurts the poor the most

There is a myth being spread that governments can somehow mandate employers to pay all their minimum wage workers more money. And therefore, an increase in the minimum wage will benefit those workers.

Unfortunately the reality is not that simple. The actual fact is that governments can only give employers the choice of either paying their workers more or employing fewer workers – both scenarios are bad news for low income earners.

  • If the owner employs fewer workers, the least skilled employees are the first to get canned.
  • If workers are paid more, the least productive employees will lose their jobs and be replaced by other people who are more qualified and can provide more value to customers in the marketplace.

If an employee only creates $12/hr of value then it wouldn’t be sustainable for a business to pay him $15/hr for his labour. Either that worker’s productivity/ skills/ efficiency have to improve, or he will be laid off. Companies can also invest in new technology to bypass human workers altogether.

When minimum wage is forced onto employers it's the busines sowners that hurt the most.

Furthermore increasing the minimum wage across the board will create inflation and raise the price of goods and services. The people who are most disadvantaged by rising minimum wage are the working poor because their cost of living will increase disproportionately to everyone else. The dollar is devalued and the affordability gap widens between the rich and poor.

So if the idea is to help low income workers, then increasing the minimum wage is the antithesis of what we need to be doing. If you are making around minimum wage, then logically speaking you should be the most against raising it because you are most at risk of losing your job.

 

Why the Minimum Wage is Racist

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