Nov 102016
 

What Canadians Need to Know About America’s Next President

People from all around the world were anxious going into the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Sometimes it felt like the two frontrunners were throwing more shade at each other than discussing real issues that actually matter.

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Some pundits warned that if Donald Trump becomes the next president, there will be hell toupee. 😄 In the end, Trump won and will become the 45th U.S. president. And since he is replacing Barack Obama, I guess you can say that orange is the new black. 😀

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But before anyone freaks out, I don’t think Donald Trump will ruin the economy like some critics say he will. It’s important to put things into perspective. So here are some things to consider for Canadians about our finances and investments in the short to medium term. 🙂

Donald Trump on Canada/U.S. Trade

We know that Donald is willing to be protectionist in order to create more jobs for Americans. He also wants to renegotiate NAFTA. But this shouldn’t have any large impact on trade between our 2 countries. Scott Sinclair, a senior researcher with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives says that “most of Canada’s free trade with the United States is locked in through World Trade Organization (WTO) rules, and doesn’t apply to NAFTA. Furthermore, anti-trade policies will also hurt the U.S. economy. Just compare the living standards of insular versus free-trade countries around the world. Since Donald will be judged, at least in part, by the performance of the economy, I don’t expect any drastic changes to Canada/US trade agreements. I also think programs like NEXUS aren’t going anywhere. Cross border shopping has way more benefits than drawbacks for the U.S.

Donald’s anti free-trade position seems to be more about an anti-Mexico sentiment, so I don’t think he’s out to purposefully tarnish the relationship between Americans and Canucks. But if he does impose new tariffs on goods moving across our border, then the impact to Canadians will depend on where we live. About 50% of trade in British Columbia is now done with countries other than the U.S. It has been a deliberate effort of the provincial government over the past 12 years to divest away from Canada’s largest trading partner. However, 80% of Ontario’s trade is with the U.S. so people in Ontario will be hit harder. Alberta’s trade is nearly all dependent on the U.S. The province has diversified its economy over time, but it’s still heavily dependent on oil and gas today. Donald wants to ramp up fossil fuel production in the U.S. which would likely keep energy prices lower for longer. Trade is only a part of the much larger economy. But it would be prudent for Albertans to prepare for an extended recession just in case. 🙁

Currencies and Interest Rates

Our loonie will likely stay lower for longer if the U.S. doesn’t import as much Canadian goods anymore. The value of a country’s currency depends on how productive its people are. Less trade with the U.S. means slower economic growth for Canada. This is also why the Mexican Peso dropped 10% after the election. But a lower Canadian dollar may actually help us gain back some manufacturing jobs, and make it more profitable for exporters to sell their goods. This boost in tourism and exports could make up some losses from any negative anti-trade effects. The FED in the U.S. may also take longer to increase its country’s interest rates.

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Oct 242016
 

 What $300,000,000,000,000 Look Like

All $ amount in today’s post is in US dollars.

What would you buy if you had all the money in the world? According to British news site The Independent, the total amount of financial assets in the world is around $300 trillion. This is the total value for all the equities and fixed income, including company shares and both private and government bonds, plus all the other securities we can invest in. This $300 trillion does not include real estate or any derivatives.

If we had $300 trillion all in $5 bills and laid them out on the ground in a single layer, they would take up about as much space as all of Alberta.

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If we had a way to stack all these $5 bills one on top of another, the stack would measure 1.6 million km or 1 million miles high! Wow. That’s literally out of this world. 😀 That’s enough distance to cover a round trip to the moon and back, twice! By the way, have you guys heard about the new restaurant on the moon? The food isn’t bad. But there’s no atmosphere. 😄

Anyway, let’s take a look at how the allocation of financial assets in the world has changed over time. According to the MarketWatch chart below, it appears every type of asset class has become more valuable since 10 years ago.

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As we can see, the stock market is the most volatile. Stocks lost nearly half of their global value during the financial crisis of 2008. However the graph also shows that equities do recover over time. This is why we should not sell our stocks in a bear market. In fact, lower asset prices may present an opportunity to average down and buy more stocks. 🙂

We can also see that the allocations haven’t changed much over time, with the exception of public debt securities. A lot of demand for public debt comes from Central Banks as they attempt to stimulate the economy. The act of quantitative easing creates trillions of dollars of wealth, but disproportionately benefits investors. That’s why the value of financial assets since 2008 has increased tremendously, but average income in the U.S. has not. Instead of working hard to get ahead, many investors like myself have increased our wealth by simply riding on the backs of central bank policies.

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Central planners around the world will likely continue to print money for the foreseeable future. As the global population ages we can expect even more demand for fixed income securities. Dividend paying stocks will also be popular as investors look for higher yielding alternatives to bonds. The total value of financial assets in the world should continue to increase going forward.

$300 trillion divided by 7.5 billion people who are alive today means each person’s fair share is $40,000. This means accumulating $400,000 of financial assets would give us 10 times what the average person has. This is a respectable level of financial stability that can cover years of living expenses in case of long term unemployment or disability. Having $800,000 in financial assets represents 20 times the average. This would be enough for one person to claim financial independence, assuming the person knows how to manage his or her finances properly. 😉

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Random Useless Fact:

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Aug 252016
 

Many entrepreneurs choose to go into the restaurant industry these days, and for good reason: it’s attractive, people always need to eat, and the prestige of having a reserved table can sway more than you think. So for all those restaurant entrepreneurs: you’re running a successful business, and have enjoyed a steady stream of loyal clientele, but when was the last time you implemented specific strategies to improve your profitability? Consider the following tips to make sure your restaurant excels and profits rise in the coming months!

  1. Boost Alcohol Sales

Profits made from alcohol sales make up a bulk of restaurant revenue, and if you’re not currently offering alcohol on the menu, or only offering wine and beer, you may be missing out on a huge stream of income. If you are looking to capitalize on alcohol sales, make sure you have a license that will allow you to serve exactly what guests are looking for. If you currently have a limited permit, check out LicenseLocators.com determine whether the investment in a full license may be worth the expanded inventory you can offer to alcohol-drinking patrons. If you already serve a bevy of liquors, spirits, beer, and wine, train your staff to upsell alcohol sales. It could be suggesting wine-by-the-bottle sales instead of by the glass through too-good-to-pass-up bottle discounts.

  1. Improve Weekday Sales

Most restaurant sales occur during the weekend—just two days out of a seven-day week. If you want to make your restaurant more profitable, attracting a weekday crowd is essential. There are a variety of ways you can draw in after-work patrons depending on your neighborhood and target demographic. If you’re looking to attract young professionals, host events like trivia and singles nights where neighbors can come in and meet new people. Drink specials can do wonders for drawing a boisterous happy hour crowd, and offering daily food specials can see guests clamoring to get in and try the new recipe before it’s gone tomorrow. Also be sure to ramp up your social media efforts; offer daily discounts for fans, and see more patrons come flowing in—it’s truly as simple as a few dollars off on Tuesdays.

  1. Offering Events

As aforementioned, hosting events in your restaurant is sure to bring in more customers, and see you finding your profits exponentially increased within a few weeks’ time. Many restaurants have gotten into the trend of trivia nights, during which locals can come out and prove their wit and knowledge with some fun, often themed questions. There are numerous local companies in almost every major city that will come in and host the night for you; they take a portion of the profits and you find a packed restaurant on a night when you might have otherwise only see a slow trickle of guests. You might also choose to take advantage of a company that will host painting sessions. Guests come in, follow an instructor’s painting lesson, and can choose to order food and drinks from a menu during the multiple hours they practice their brushstroke—rest assured nine times out of 10 a guest will take advantage of grabbing at least an appetizer and a glass of wine. Now multiply that by say, 30 guests, and you’ve got yourself a handsome profit.

  1. Excel at Customer Service

Dining out is about more than the food, it’s about the experience. The huge make-or-break factor behind an experience? The customer service. You may serve an excellent menu, but if your wait staff is underperforming, the food is getting delivered to tables late, and guests consistently complain about wait times, you’ll find your profits taking a nosedive immediately. Make sure you always have enough staff on hand to reduce waiting time, train new staff extensively to ensure their performance is up to par with your and your customers’ expectations, and always be sure to take customer complaints seriously.

  1. Offer Delivery

We’re a nation of convenience, and takeout these days is appealing to busy individuals and families who don’t want to spend the time grocery shopping and cooking after a long day of work. Offering delivery sets you apart from competitors, and will endear your restaurant to patrons to secure better customer retention. Prepare a separate takeout menu if you won’t be able to offer all of your menu items, be sure to schedule the right workers appropriately, make sure you’re covered with the right liability insurance, and be sure to work with great POS software like that from NCRSilver.com.

 

Aug 012016
 

Stock Markets Reach Record Highs… Again 

Both the Dow Jones and the S&P 500 indexes have climbed to all time highs in late July. 🙂 But corporate earnings have been stagnant and economic growth remains weak. Restaurant sales have slowed. The U.S. economy only grew a disappointing 1.2% in the second quarter, well below expectations. 😕

So what’s producing so much excitement in the stock market? In short, I believe it’s largely caused by Negative Interest Rate Policies (NIRP). For example, in Europe the benchmark lending rate is negative 0.4%. Usually the bond issuer pays interest to the investor. But with negative rates, the investor pays the issuer. Currently about 1/3rd of the world’s government bonds are producing negative yields. Investors can’t get rich by holding these securities anymore. So in this kind of environment bonds really hold people down.?

As a result of NIRP, more investment capital has moved from the bond market to relatively stable stocks. These tend to be companies that operate gas pipelines, railways, utilities, telecommunication services, and other infrastructure that are recession resistant. Last year I wrote about how to easily make $75 of annual income without using any of my own savings by using leverage to buy shares of TransCanada Corp (TRP.)

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I purchased TRP stocks for $42 per share. I mentioned at the time that analysts had an average price target of $57.50 per share. This doesn’t always happen, but sure enough TRP is trading at roughly $60 per share today. 😀 So not only am I making $75 a year in dividends, but I’ve also made $1,800 in unclaimed capital gains so far. 😉

In normal circumstances this kind of price movement in a large cap, blue-chip company wouldn’t happen. But due to a lack of viable investment alternatives, an influx of additional buyers has pushed up TRP and many other relatively safe stocks.

Increasing Valuations and Risk

Unfortunately, NIRP produces asset bubbles and may cause the markets to behave precariously. The chief executive of DoubleLine Capital, who oversees more than $100 billion in assets, recently said that many asset classes look frothy and his firm continues to hold gold, which has also climbed due to NIRP.  At the end of July gold reached $1,350 per ounce, the highest monthly close in years! Stock investors have entered a “world of uber complacency,” said Jeffrey to the media. “The stock markets should be down massively but investors seem to have been hypnotized that nothing can go wrong. Continue reading »

Jul 252016
 

Apparently people who use online dating websites are richer, taller, thinner, and better looking than the average person. At least, that’s what they write about themselves. 😛 Hey, who would’ve guessed? But how honest are people really when it comes to sharing their personal information on dating sites?

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Some women approaching 30 seek a man-date to get married. But they have to be careful about who they choose. Maybe dating a tennis player would be a ball, but it could also turn out to just be a racquet. Besides, tennis players aren’t even romantic because Love means nothing to them. 😀 Since we live in a digital world, online dating can be a legitimate way for people to meet each other. So let’s see what the landscape looks like.

The Economics of Online Dating

A study focusing on over 20,000 active users of dating sites in the United States is outlined in the book Freakonomics. About 4 out of 100 users (4%) reported they earned over $200,000 a year. But only about 1% of the U.S. general population is making that much so either government statistics are wrong or 3 out of the 4 users were inflating their earnings.

Both men and women tend to report as being an inch taller than the national average for their genders. But in terms of weight, men were in line with the national average while women apparently weighed 20 pounds less than the national average.

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Online dating users are typically really good looking. About 70% called themselves “above average.” 30% chose “average.” Roughly 1% said their looks were “less than average.” How humble. So either most people with online dating profiles are genuinely more attractive than average or they have an overinflated view of their appearances. Of course make up and Instagram filters can alter the way we look.

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28% of women said they are blond, which is a number much higher than the national average, which indicates either dyeing or lying. A man who does not include a photo gets 40% less attention than a man who does. Meanwhile, a woman who doesn’t include her photo gets 76% less attention. Even a low income, poorly educated, unhappily employed, not very attractive, slightly overweight, and balding man but who includes a photo with his profile stands a better chance of receiving messages from women than a man who says he makes $200,000 a year and is deadly handsome but does not have a photo. I guess people just want to see the goods. Just like posting an ad to sell a car, if there’s no picture then potential buyers will think there might be something wrong with the car.

How To Get Results with Online Dating

This is why economics is so cool. We can take all the data collected and come up with a winning formula to give us the best odds to achieve our goals. Below are step by step things you can do to increase your chances of getting a date. 🙂

For men, looking for a woman. 

  1. Be white
  2. Be tall
  3. Be rich
  4. Be ready to commit
  5. Be a doctor, lawyer, or go join the military

That’s all there is to it guys! 😀 You can exaggerate your height and income to appear tall and rich, and use whitening cream or makeup to look white if you aren’t already, lol. Asian, black and Latino men receive fewer messages in general than white men. White women in particular reply to white men twice as much as they reply to black and Latino men. Asian men receive fewer than 25% as many messages from white women as white men with the same levels of income and education. Men who say they want a long term relationship do much better than men looking for an occasional lover.

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Continue reading »