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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Now on Sale

Posted by Tim Stobbs on October 17, 2014

I was recently out of town for work and I happen to look up at TV in the lobby the other day and saw the headline “Stock market Plunges” with a big red number and a negative sign in front of it.  I typically don’ t follow the market day to day so I was sort of obvious to the fact this had been a several day event of dropping values.  But in my head I translated the headline to “Stocks Now on Sale.”

I’m amused that the panic that seems to seep into people when a market takes a correction, they all consider it a bad event but I’m nearly jumping up and down at the thought of picking up some quality companies on discount.  So when I got home my wife and I put together three trades in our accounts for about $13,000 and proceeded to become the proud owners of some Royal Bank shares, and Canadian Index ETFs.  Ironically the market rebounded yesterday after we put in the trades so the Royal Bank shares alone were already up $154 in value.

I really do believe all the negative media coverage on these corrections tend to fog people’s head about “Oh, I’m losing money I should do something.”  This of course results in panic selling and losing money.  The issue is on an emotional side we fear losses more than we enjoy gains, so at the time this feels like a good idea to stop the loses.  Yet we tend to ignore the somewhat obvious point of the stock market…you never lose or gain anything until we sell.  At that point you lock in what you sell for and determine your gain or loss.  Up until that point the stock market is nothing more than a overly excited neighbour trying to buy your kids swing set and offering you a new price every single day.  So like any reasonable person you should relax and ignore your overly excited neighbour most of the time…that is until they offer a huge price where you can sell the old one and take the profit to buy a new one and still pocket some extra money.

Another issue people tend to forgot is when you get overly emotional you don’t think straight.  Your logic is impaired and you really shouldn’t be making any big decisions at that point.  So for my family we tend have a rough plan for our investing laid out in advance for the year.  It isn’t hugely detailed, but just an idea of how much we want to save, to which accounts and what investments we are interested in getting (often just sectors rather that a specific company).  That way when the market goes nuts, I tend to think about how can I use this to help the plan proceed rather than run around like Henny Penny thinking the sky is falling.

So how did you react to the market this week?  Buy anything or just ignoring it all?

Using the Information

Posted by Dave on October 14, 2014

I was talking to a couple of guys at work over the past week – they knew that my wife and I had paid off our mortgage earlier this year and had a lot of questions about spending. Both guys seem to be living paycheque to paycheque, and have trouble making it through all of their bills by the end of the month. I explained how my wife and I set up our finances and how we prioritize our spending on a month-to-month and annual basis.

One thing that I told them might help them find “holes” in their finances would be to use an app and track every dollar they spend for a month or two. There are a ton of free apps, and a lot more for under $5 that have easy tracking of expenses along with weekly and monthly reports and comparisons. From the standpoint of someone “not knowing where the money is going”, this kind of thing would be really helpful.

Personally, I’ve never used budgeting software – almost every cent I spend in a month is on my credit card, so I can easily look at a statement and see where my paycheques have been spent. What I have used in the past is diet tracking apps on my phone. I’m 6 feet tall and weigh somewhere between 175 and 180 lbs at about 15% bodyfat (based on the handheld tool I own). I have this goal of getting my bodyfat percentage down under 10% to demonstrate that I have abdominal muscles.

I used the calorie tracking app consistently for a few weeks – tracking each and every thing I was eating….until I didn’t feel like doing that anymore. There was a weekend where I knew I wasn’t going to hit the caloric goals that I was supposed to, in order to achieve the lofty goal I had set for myself. So, I didn’t count calories that weekend, and then went back to tracking during the week when my diet is much healthier and stable.

What makes this kind of tracking stuff work, is actually using it. If I had a day where I was supposed to eat 2,000 calories and basically ate a whole pig instead, tracking anything isn’t really all that beneficial. Similarly, tracking expenses doesn’t really do anything if you aren’t willing to give up spending on things that you find are causing you to run out of money at the end of the month. The tracking doesn’t really work if you don’t use it.

Do you track anything on a daily basis? How do you stick with the tools?

Escape Everything

Posted by Tim Stobbs on October 13, 2014

 The following is a guest post from Robert Wringham from the wonderful publication of New Escapologist.

Hello. My name’s Robert. At the astonishingly impudent age of 26 I decided that the conventional world of work, mortgages and pension plans wasn’t something I was very interested in.

More interesting to me was finding a way to live without all that bother and to move to Canada, a country to which I’ve always had an admittedly vague emotional connection. I’m now 32, a resident of Canada and living fairly independently of the rat race.

What do I do with my time? I rise late; read library books; go for walks; drink beer; cook; spend time with my partner; and further my personal projects, which largely consist of writing words in an increasingly competent fashion and convincing people to read them.

To many, this is a ridiculous way to spend a human life. How can you possibly earn enough to live on? Why would you turn your back on a tried-and-tested, perfectly safe lifestyle? Aren’t you grateful for the affluence afforded to you by your parents and your education? What gets you out of bed in the morning? What does Canada have that Britain doesn’t?

These aren’t unreasonable questions, especially when they come from the indentured slaves most people have allowed themselves to become.

To me, freedom is of paramount importance. I daresay most of the paycheck people would agree, but their definition of freedom differs to mine. To them, freedom is the ability to report to a job every morning, to serve a grateful employer, to be rewarded by a wage or salary, and to spend that wage or salary on “maximum consumption”: on buying property or leisure experiences, or on debts accrued through a lusty impatience for the same. To me, freedom is the ability to wake up in the morning with a clear 15 hours ahead of me, which I can spend however I like.

As a reader of “Canadian Dream: Free at 45″, you’re more likely to think as I do than as the paycheck people do. You’re likely to share my fondness for Canada if nothing else. Many of you have already found a way to live comfortably without work; and many more of you are on your way to doing so, or are at least curious about such a lifestyle. It’ll come as no surprise to you that the escape route from slave to freeman is a radical but immaterial adjustment of life priorities.

In 2007, I set up a small-press magazine called New Escapologist. It’s still going strong, not because I had any kind of clever business plan or an injection of capital or a radical publishing model that would take the world by storm. It still goes, quite simply, because I enjoy producing it and because there’s a growing body of people out there—people like you and me—who question the conventional rate race model of existence.

Eleven magazine issues later (two a year, no more required), I’ve accumulated a body of research and large number of personal escape stories. I’ve spoken to people who’ve used perfectly conventional but seldom employed investment techniques to make a bundle and retire early. I’ve spoken to people who sold their part-paid-for house in favour of living in a camper van or a small home. I’ve spoken to people who became bottom feeders and garbage pickers because even that is preferable to working a zero-hours contract in some godawful office or call centre. I’ve spoken to people who threw in the towel and caution to the wind to become artists or writers instead of working for unethical insurance companies. There are hundreds of ways—some radical, some relatively conservative—out of the rat race.

What makes us—you and me—different is that we’ve assessed our priorities, learned what’s important in life, and had the courage to adjust course instead of staying on the straight and narrow.

For the past year, I’ve been piping all of this thought and research and experience into a book. The book is called Escape Everything! and aims to be a comprehensive (and witty and joyful) guide to the various ways in which one might escape the soul-crushing drudgery of the rat race.

My aim with the book is to encourage more people to take the plunge in escaping the rat race or to at least to change a few minds about what’s possible when you throw caution to the wind and cease worshiping the baubles offered by consumer economy.

Alas, I need your help to get it properly published. I’m using a publisher called Unbound (set up by good people from the Idler and QI, two of my favourite things). Their past books include Letters of Note and titles by Monty Python’s Terry Jones and Red Dwarf’s Robert Llewellyn. My guide to escape and the good life will only join this crowd if we can raise enough money through crowdfunding. So please, without hesitation go and buy Escape Everything! today and together we’ll get this book out.

In the meantime, I’d be delighted to answer any questions about the book or about escape in general in the comments thread beneath this post or over at the New Escapologist blog. But don’t prevaricate! Pledge towards the book to help make this happen.

Thanks everyone,
Robert Wringham