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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Goodbye Jim

Posted by Tim Stobbs on April 14, 2014

Out of all the characters in the federal government as the federal Finance minister I spent the most time following what Jim Flaherty did since it was most relevant to this blog.  So I was a bit shocked to find out he was dead after just a few short weeks from leaving his job.

On the whole I have to say from my personal point of view his record on the job was a mixed bag.  On the one hand he created the 40 year mortgage and created the huge surge in housing prices in this country, which has totally screwed over anyone who didn’t already own a home.  Yet later on this was undone and we reverted back towards 25 year mortgages as he did the hardest thing to do in life and admit you were wrong and fix something after the fact.   Yet for the average person his biggest legacy is the creation of the Tax Free Savings Account (TFSA) which allows all Canadians to save money in an account that doesn’t trigger tax on investments.  While it hasn’t been well used by the average person (since the majority of people just keep their money in a savings account, sigh), it was a good step in the right direction to help encourage saving.

Yet Jim’s last lesson is likely the most notable to me.  Life is short, so don’t spend all your time working.  It doesn’t do you any good to spend you life building a retirement fund if you drop dead shortly after leaving your job.  Stress can be a killer and you have to take care of yourself now and in the future.  So I will try to recall this lesson and not spend all my time working in life.  You have to sit back and enjoy life as well.

So goodbye Jim.  Thanks for trying to make life better for people, while I don’t always agree with what you did I do appreciate you tried.  My condolences to his family in their time of grief, while I didn’t know him personally I respected his actions.

Standing Up, Again

Posted by Tim Stobbs on April 10, 2014

Yesterday I had a second opportunity to vote  for myself in an election, which trust me that doesn’t get any less weird doing it more than once.  This time I was picked by our local engineering association (APEGS)’s nomination committee to be nominated for their council.  The council is the governing body for the association and it would be for a three year term.

I really don’t even know how my name came up to that committee, but never the less I understand that our engineering association exist because we are self governing body.  So in my mind that means some members have to help run it or we end up with getting run directly by the provincial government which could be unpleasant.  So I agreed to let my name stand for this year’s election and I will serve if elected.

Besides I’m hardly a shoe in for the job.  Actually the other nomination ironically taught me when I took my engineering degree.  So yes I’m running against my old professor, which I think provides a nice contrast in choices.

It might seem odd that I’m volunteering for more work , when I fully admit I’m obsessed with not having a day job.  Yet the reality is I want more time to do other things like this, I enjoy contributing my time and skills to organizations which I believe can help improve people’s lives.  Being free from having to work for salary doesn’t mean I want to stop being involved.  Instead it means choosing the work I do based on interest and not the salary.

Do you stand up to support organizations you believe in?  If so, how do you contribute?  If you had more time to get involved, would you do more?

Constant Vigilence

Posted by Dave on April 8, 2014

I like the phrase “Constant Vigilance”. I think I picked it up reading Harry Potter – one of the teachers named Alastor “Mad-Eye” Moody says it all the time, and is essentially paranoid of everything that happens in the world. Well I’m not paranoid, I have to constantly look out for someone who is out to get me and foil most of my long-term plans when it comes to things about my personal finance plan, my health, or other goals…Me.

I was reading an article titled “The 12 cognitive biases that prevent you from being rational” which clarified the necessity of Constant Vigilance to me, specifically, the section around “Current Moment Bias”. Current Moment Bias is my nemesis. This way of thinking puts the onus of all problems onto the shoulders of “Future Dave”, to the benefit of current Dave. Current Moment Bias is the level of thinking that talks me into eating Ben and Jerry’s ice cream (Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough), because “Future Dave” will be able to easily lose the added weight associated with the 560 calorie snack (yes, I looked it up after the fact).

Rationally, I know that I would prefer to not have eaten the ice cream a couple of days later when I step on the scale. The ice cream (or whatever other unhealthy food I ram into my face) is something that makes me feel like crap, and takes me further away from achieving the level of fitness I would prefer to have, and closer to not having the ability to leave the couch.

When it comes to my plan to retire early, Current Moment Bias could really inhibit my ability to meet the goals I’ve set out. I generally limit my impulse buys to minor things such as books or meals out – say 10 or 15 dollars a purchase, maybe once a week or so. These kind of things aren’t really going to matter too much in the long run. Spending erratically too often though, could add months or years to length of time I would have to work, which in the long-run isn’t what I want at all.

So, I attempt to stay “Constantly Vigilant”, while still having some fun. I don’t fret over the minor dalliances I have with bad food, or bad spending. I just try to have my current self pull its own weight in my long-term plans – it removes a level of unnecessary stress from my life. I don’t like checking my bank balance and being $100 poorer than I thought I was with no real enjoyment to show for it, the same way I don’t like to have to work to lose 5 pounds gained eating three times as much ice-cream or pizza or Chinese food as I actually needed to have.

I’m all for solving my own problems when it comes to money or health, but I would rather they didn’t arise because of decisions that my rational self wouldn’t have made.