Feb 232017
 

Several years ago I read a book called Millionaire Teacher by Andrew Hallam. The book explains 9 rules that allow someone on a teacher’s salary to become a millionaire by saving and investing. After purchasing the book I was pumped to find out how he did it. Afterall, if the author managed to pull it off then so could I. 🙂 So here are the 9 rules he outlined in the book.

  1. Don’t spend like you want to appear or feel rich. Instead, spend like you want to grow rich.
  2. Start investing right away to take advantage of time. Compounding interest is the 8th wonder of the world, says Einstein.
  3. Keep your investment fees low. A mutual fund with 1.5% annual fee will eat up a quarter of your investment returns every year given an 6% expected rate of return. That 1/4 return you could have made will stack up to huge missed opportunities in the future.
  4. Learn to control your emotions. Most people get worried and think about selling when the market goes down. But that’s often when stocks go on sale and valuations become more favourable so if anything, that’s the best time to buy. Don’t be emotional. Be rational.
  5. Balance stocks and bonds using the age rule. This basically means keep your age in bonds, and the rest in stocks. So for a 25 year old, his asset allocation would be 75% stocks and 25% bonds.
  6. Many investors have a home country bias. But it’s important to diversify globally.
  7. Many financial advisors and brokers have a strong incentive for you to stay in actively managed funds or other financial products. Understand that they are sales people, and don’t fall for their tactics.
  8. Don’t be seduced by the next hot stock or tempting investment opportunities that seem too good to be true. Stick to index funds.
  9. If you really must pick and choose individual stocks, limit your exposure to 10% of your total portfolio.

The author is one of the most frugal person I’ve know of. He house-sits for vacationers so he could live in their homes for free. He never turns on the heat in the winter and walks around the house wearing layers of clothing. He even catches his own food sometimes.

I generally agree with all 9 of his rules. I don’t follow rule #5 very closely as my asset allocation changes based on economic indicators and not just age. But for the most part I’ve been using Andrew’s advice for many years now, and my finances are in pretty good shape so I guess it’s working. 🙂 I would say the book is a great read for personal finance beginners. It explains lots of fundamental principles about money management. But I don’t think someone with an intermediate level of financial knowledge will learn anything new and substantial from the book.

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Random Useless Fact:

The US Postal Service moves mail using planes, trains, trucks, cars, boats, ferries, helicopters, subways, float planes, hovercraft, mules, bicycles and feet.

Jan 092017
 

Chaos theory can make the world very unpredictable. Who knows what the markets will do over the next 12 months? Maybe there are some individuals who are really good at predicting the future.

But I’m not one of them. Nevertheless, it doesn’t hurt to make some predictions just for fun. 😀 Below, not in any particular order, is a list of things that I think might happen this year. It’s all pure speculation of course. 😉

  • The Dow Jones Industrial Average will rise to 20,000 points for the first time in history. It will probably happen this week.
  • The S&P 500 will only return 5% due to continuously low earnings yield.
  • The Nasdaq will see a 11% gain thanks to strong earnings from technology companies like Alphabet and eBay.
  • The S&P/TSX Composite index in Canada will gain by 8% for the year thanks to higher commodity prices.
  • The FTSE TMX Canada Universe Bond Index will return 3%. The popular iShares ETF, XBB, tracks this bond index.
  • Canada GDP grows by 0.9%
  • United States GDP grows by 2.0% helped by tax cuts and fiscal stimulus from a Trump administration.
  • The United Kingdom’s GDP grows 1.2%.
  • Germany’s GDP will crawl along at 0.3%.
  • Canada’s population will grow to 36.7 million people by the end of 2017, largely thanks to new immigrants.
  • Bank of Canada leaves the benchmark lending rate at 0.50%
  • The U.S. Federal Reserve will increase its interest rate only once by 0.25% in the last quarter of the year.
  • The Canadian dollar will weaken against the U.S. dollar to end 2017 at $0.74.
  • Conservative candidate Francois Fillon will win the 2017 presidential election in France.
  • Gold will be worth more at US $1260 by the end of the year.
  • CPI inflation in Canada will be 1.3%.
  • Inflation in the U.S. will be 1.8%.
  • Amazon Go will partner with a grocery chain like Whole Foods so customers can skip the checkout.
  • Apple will announce a new hardware product.
  • The first self-driving car model to be sold publicly will be announced, along with the year it will be available.
  • Canadian real estate prices will be 5% higher compared to 2016 thanks to continuously cheap mortgage rates.
  • Someone will try to shoot Donald Trump
  • Bitcoin will drop 15% in value this year, against the $USD.
  • A new form of cryptocurrency will try to replace bitcoin.
  • Higher interest rates in the U.S. will cause its average real estate price to fall 3%.
  • The 3 largest Canadian banks will return at least 10% to their shareholders.
  • Canadian unemployment rate will fall by 0.2% to 6.7% as Vancouver and Toronto lead the country in job creation.
  • U.S. unemployment rate will tick up from 4.7% in December 2016 to 5.2% by the end of this year.
  • Oil will end the year higher at US $56 per barrel.
  • The Netherlands will hold a referendum to leave the European Union similar to Great Britain last year.
  • A large European bank will need a bailout.

Do you have any predictions for this year? It could be anything you want. Whatever flips your pancake! 🙂 Let’s revisit these at the end of 2017.

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Random Useless Fact:

 

Mar 072016
 

Canada Says Farewell to Gold

One upon a time most currencies were backed by gold. But in 1971 president Richard Nixon took the U.S. off the gold standard switching to a floating currency instead so its Central Bank can exert more influence over the currency, and other countries followed suit. Today, everyone uses fiat currency and gold is no longer relevant on the world’s financial stage.

Canada use to have more than 1,000 tons of gold in the 1960’s as part of our foreign exchange reserves. But Ottawa has long forsaken the notion that gold can be a useful diversification tool for a country’s monetary interest. For decades Canada has been slowly selling off its gold reserves, and according to the Finance Department, it only has 77 ounces of gold coins remaining today, which is worth about US $100,000. That’s nothing more than a rounding error compared to the US $80,000,000,000 of total foreign exchange reserves we have.

As Canada gets out of the gold game, others are buying more. According to the World Gold Council, central banks around the world added a net of 336 tons to their reserves in the second half of 2015, representing a 25% increase from the previous year. Russia and India have increased their holdings. And since the start of this century China has bolstered its gold reserves by 350% from 400 tons in 2000 to nearly 1,800 tons today. Even individual investors have helped take gold off the Bank of Canada’s hands. A couple years ago I blogged about buying a 1 ounce limited edition gold coin for CAD $1,389. It’s easily worth 20% more today given the current spot price of gold. 🙂

Here’s a look at the biggest holders of gold by country. (source)

16-03-gold-reserve-by-country

Based on the chart above, we can see that the U.S. central bank holds the most gold by a wide margin. The 8,133 tons of gold held by the U.S. make up 72% of its foreign exchange reserves. The next 3 countries in the list, Germany, Italy, and France also holds more than half of their reserves in gold.

It’s interesting how other central banks seem to be holding or even increasing their gold reserves while Canada has done the exact opposite, lol. I’ll write about the possible reasoning behind these two diverging ideologies around gold in a future post, but it has to do with the nature and purpose of Foreign Exchange Reserves, which requires a rather lengthy explanation.

Continue reading »

Nov 122015
 

15-11-minimalist-parenting

Minimalist living is the idea of getting rid of things we don’t use or need to live a simple and uncluttered life. It’s about giving up the material possessions and lifestyle activities that bring us more stress than happiness. 🙂 There isn’t a conclusive definition of what a minimalist lifestyle should be, but many self-proclaimed minimalists describe it as the pursuit of living a simple lifestyle by making choices important to the individual “rather than adopting the consumerist mindset that most people have.” Since there’s no clear definition of what minimalism is, the term is as subjective as the idea of frugality. 😕

I’m not a minimalist myself. But I wonder how parents who practice minimalism raise their children without depriving them of a proper childhood.

Simplicity may be the ultimate sophistication, but is that true for kids? Many studies show children under the age of 12 learn the fastest. Important skills such as pattern recognition and reasoning start to develop during this crucial time of brain development. Minimalists value experiences over material possessions. But what if toys, television, birthday parties, skateboards, presents and other types of stimulation are all important things that children need to experience for healthy mental development?

Continue reading »

Nov 132014
 

The following is by staff writer, Peter.

Buying a new house can be an exciting and a stressful time for anyone. There are a number of different factors and circumstances that must be accounted for and considered. Whether you’re looking to buy a new home for you and your family, or looking to invest in residential property for financial gain, you need to do some research and be smart about your decisions. Buying for your family and investing for purely financial gain are two wildly different circumstances. While purchasing a house to live in is still an investment, there are additional points that need consideration in regards to your family and their needs. This article will focus solely on investment in residential property for financial gain. So if you need advice on house hunting for living quarters, you should go elsewhere. The following tips are not meant to be a foolproof guide to buying property, but if you keep them in mind and go about things intelligently, you’ll come out on top financially.

Type of Property, Location, and the Market

14-11-residential-propertyThe first thing you need to reach a decision on is the type of property you wish to buy. Condos, apartments, and houses all have their own unique advantages and disadvantages when you invest in them. All three can provide you with significant capital appreciation and rental profits, but other factors, like maintenance and documentation can differ.

Once you’ve decided on what type of property you’d like to invest in, you need to find a good location. According to NDTV, there are six cities that are leading the way in residential market recovery and appreciation; Mumbai, Bangalore, Pune, Hyderabad,Chennai, and NCR have all shown growth over 2014 and are likely to continue growing. However, before you jump into buying property in one of those locations, it is still highly recommended that you do some research into the local residential property market. According to Money Crashers, researching local housing markets can help you discover whether the area you want to buy into is likely to continuing growing, or if a housing bubble is going to pop and drop prices and growth drastically.

Monitoring the market on a regular basis is a necessity if you intend to keep your investment for a prolonged period of time. Business Today states that keeping an eye on the fluctuations of the market can give you the necessary information, such as if the market has matured and limited growth is occurring, to decide whether to sell and exit that particular market before prices drop.

A good route to take when looking for a property is to look for residential projects by Unitech Group or other real estate agencies that will have a lot of the necessary information you’re looking for.

Investment Length and ROI

ROI, or Return on Investment, is the ratio of profit earned versus original investment cost. Investopedia describes ROI as a way to measure the efficiency of your investments through comparison and calculation. The usual formula for calculating the ROI on your investments is to take the gain you’ve earned and subtract the cost. The result of that is then divided by the cost, giving you a result that can be changed to a percentage displaying your ROI.

One of the major factors defining whether you get a good ROI is how long you hold on to the property. Business Today suggests holding a property for a minimum of three years (three years is also the period of time differentiating between a short-term and long-term investment for tax reasons). However, they state that the best returns are usually generated somewhere between five and seven years.

Buying a property in the hopes of selling it soon for short-term financial gain is a possibility, but not recommended. Not only are those profits taxed at a higher rate, but you will also miss out on the potential for the serious capital appreciation you can expect to see over a long-term investment.

Finances and Income Stability

Investing in residential property is not cheap. One route you can take to help keep your costs relatively low is to buy into under-construction projects, preferably just as they launch. Doing this is a good way to find investments for long-term capital gains. Regardless of where and when you buy a property, chances are you will need to talk to a bank to get a loan. Dealing with a bank can be stressful, but as long as you’ve done your research and have made sure all necessary documentation and clearances are present, you shouldn’t have any issues.

A reliable, stable source of income is a necessity before deciding to invest. If you don’t have a reliable source of income, getting a loan and investing in a pricey piece of property is liable to land you in some serious financial problems. While a property investment can provide you with a good deal of financial gain, it’s not going to pay off for a number of years, especially if you want to maximize your ROI. Regardless, Jago Investor states property investment is an excellent way to diversify your financial portfolio.