Friday, December 31, 2010

Sad News

We received some sad news this morning.

A colleague of D's died last night at age 40. He had been battling cancer for the last few years and had been given a clean bill of health.

Unfortunately it came back with a vengeance and things moved back too quickly. He is survived by his wife and 2 kids, both under the age of 10.

I haven't made it to my 40th birthday yet and when you hear of news like this, it really makes you think about how you are spending your time and how you are treating others along the way.

We will make it home in time for the funeral and visitation.

This is a reminder for all of us to live while we still can. Wishing you all a joyful and prosperous 2011.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Just a Guess

It's just a hypothesis but I'm beginning to believe people show a lot of their personas on the ski hill, especially after getting off a ski lift.

We have been able to identify a number of personality types. I would venture as far as to postulate those traits may be similar in the way they handle money.

Here is my not so scientific take on things:

Persona A: The skier/boarder who quickly scrambles off to one side after falling. This person shows awareness and consideration. I would have more confidence this person would be considerate and careful in the other aspects of their lives. They appear to recognize that there is something to lose should an injury occur and also do not want to be a cause of one.

Persona B: The skier/boarder who stays where they are after falling, not look around and expect others to go around. No care or consideration for others or self. The world revolves around me. Huge ego. Nothing could possibly go wrong. I could see someone like this be adamant about being right. Not performing due diligence. Pride getting in the way of common sense.

Persona C: The skier/boarder who is lying down or kneeled right in the middle of a run where people are known to be approaching fast. Inviting danger. Extreme risk taker and gambler. D witnessed an accident the other day where someone got slammed hard and the results were pretty bloody. I'm thinking this type of person would be reckless with money. Easy come, easy go attitude. Believing they are stronger than they are and that they will always land on their feet.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Getting Organized

I don't really have anything to wrap up for 2010 that I've not said already. We'll be flying home in a few days and my 2011 work year will start soon enough.

Am I ready? Am I ever really ready is probably a better question! I'm not convinced I'm ever really ready to jump back into work. I just do it.

The 2011 travel plans are a much more interesting topic. The trips are not spread out as evenly as I'd like due to availability of deals and low season timing. I'm lucky I do not prefer scorching hot weather. The budget goes further this way.

This is the first time I ended one year with travel plans the following year sorted out and 90% paid for as well. Never have I been this organized.

Since my new office started, I've found I needed to be more efficient in my personal life because there isn't as much time anymore for casual searching.

My goal is to maintain a high work concentration next year and know that at certain points of the year, I'll get to see some cool new places and all I have to do is pack and get to the airport. The details are all set.

A whole lot of peace comes along with that.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Shocking Behaviours

D and I overheard 2 separate conversations by kids in the 8 - 9 yrs old range. (remember we are still out west skiing)

My snippet went like this:

(to their mom screaming) "Why are you so slow!!!" and "Why are you not getting my stuff in first!!!" (as they we walking down the hallway to their condo)

D's snippet went like this:

"My family only stays at 5 star hotels when we travel" , "My father owns 3% of a private plane company" and "The first time I got to fly on a private jet was when I got my money at age 1" (all during a ride up on a chair lift)

I would ashamed to have kids like the ones above.

The first one doesn't get how lucky they are just be able to spend Christmas skiing nor do they appreciate that mom isn't synonymous with slave.

The second one needs to learn that basic social conversational skills shouldn't include bragging.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Credit Card Expiry

I have 3 credit cards. A Visa, MC and an Amex. At one point in my life, I was down to one and got caught not having a pin for it in Europe about 10 yrs ago (before Cdn cards became pin cards) and Visa wouldn't give me one over the phone.

That's how I ended up getting the MC and Amex because they would. Because you never know when you'll be needing back up.

I'm in the midst of finalizing my last trip of 2011 when I noticed 2 of my 3 cards are expiring in Mar 2011. The last one (MC) in May 2011. That presents a bit of a pickle when you are hoping to take advantage of sales and make reservations later on the year.

I know my Visa company will not issue the new card until 2 weeks before. I cannot remember what MC does. Amex sends replacement cards the earliest, about 1 month before.

Making the situation more complicated than it ought to be, it would be nice to get some reward points for this trip which mean ideally, I'd like to use the Visa.

In the end, I will likely just use the MC as the trip I'm working on is at the end of April just so I can finalize things before the new year.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Month / Year Wrap Up

D handles all of our monthly bills. They are deducted automatically from the checking account. He has just told me that the account has more money in it than it needs. Of course I stop in my tracks and give him a long look.

We could use the money in our savings accounts. And I like to end each month and year accurately. In the end, when he crunches out our January bills, that amount left over may be well under $1000 but money is money and we have use for it.

2010 has been a crazy environmental year. From the volcano eruption to earthquakes to the current flooding and mudslides in California. I watched an interview with a lady whose house is 1/3rd buried in mud after being flooded. She mentioned that she didn't have flood insurance so she has literally lost her home.

I know some homes are not eligible for flood insurance because the insurance company are not willing to take a risk in a known flood zone. Hopefully you find that out before you buy. For our cottage, because a stream sits in front of it, we were not able to buy flood insurance.

We weighted the risk with the size of the stream, first hand accounts of flooding from long time neighbours and decided we were willing to take the risk of purchasing the property. There is a crawlspace instead of basement.

I want to take this opportunity to wish Each and Everyone of you a Wonderful Holiday Season. Thank you for being Valued Readers and Contributors!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Looking Back and Ahead

I've been slightly under the weather the past few days so there was plenty to time available for me to work on my yearly spreadsheet. In fact I have the next 2 years kind of mapped out.

The reason being, 2012 is a pretty important year for us. It is the year my mortgage prepayments end and both mortgages get to coast to their term ends. We will then get to own both places after just 5 years. It may sound great but...

Would I recommend doing this? Not really. Just like I wouldn't necessarily recommend completing grade 10 level of piano. The sacrifices are great and there are plenty of opportunity to build an unhealthy level of resentment. I guess you need to know what you are getting into and have a spouse (if applicable) who is on board and can balance out views.

I finished my piano levels because that was part of the deal I made with my parents for them buying me a piano. I struck that deal as a 7 yr old and I felt obligated to stick with it.

I cannot say I am passionate about the instrument. I am good at it. Through the whole process, I did develop a love for learning and teaching music history as well as having the opportunity to nurture students over the period of the 7 yrs I taught. And it is the reason I have been able to have the post secondary education I do. For that I am eternally grateful.

The deal I made with myself and D regarding the quick mortgage payoff, was that I would do my best to use our pooled financial resources to achieve this goal. We first decided that it would be a worthy goal to achieve. That if I got too carried away (ie. too frugal or depriving), he would do his best to rein me in. (There wasn't a worry on his end). And I identified which years due to various circumstances would be tougher than others and why (mainly due to ambitious savings goals).

2009 was our most difficult year. It was the year where we needed to put in place emergency funds for all our properties and cars ($20000) alongside the prepayments ($23000). We cancelled a number to trips in order to reach our goals. I leaned heavily on this blog and all of you out there for support. Looking back, it wasn't very balanced. I had named this blog deliberately to remind myself to balance...

2010 has been much better. Without needing to put as much money into savings, we had opportunities to dust off some of our personal ambitions. We got to see great new places and D replaced his vehicle. We are still behind in the savings department but I'm not worried as the light at the end of tunnel is getting brighter and I know I would be able to catch up quickly.

2011 will be a hybrid sort of year. If everything falls into place, it will be an epic travel year as well as the final full year of prepayments. That means my income will be mostly savings after that. Originally I though I had half of 2012 ahead of me still. I had forgotten about D's yearly bonus (paid Jan 2012) which we are expecting to be able to pay for the remainder of prepayment needed as well as my 40th birthday trip. All of a sudden my timeline is a year. That is the best Christmas present ever!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Man vs Mother Nature

I've been following the numerous airport delays and closures. It is amazing just how disrupted this holiday travel season has been for many countries in Europe. The scale is mind boggling.

I'm sure many of you have heard the comments on the daily news. Most of the comments are frustrated in nature.

For D and I, should we ever find ourselves in the same predicament, we'd abort the trip altogether. Airlines will offer a refund or the ability to rebook for later.

It is easy for us to make this decision because we are not hung up on "the day". We would just visit another time.

I can understand for some people, there may not be the opportunity to move a holiday. But what can we do when mother nature doesn't behave in a way that coincides with our human plans? We are so small in comparison.

In other news, we are really enjoying the Knowledge Network this year. I've learned a lot from their great programming.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Ungrateful People

It hardly seems possible that I've been off for 5 days already. The journey to get here involved a flight cancellation but we were put up at a really nice hotel courtesy of the airline. I have no complaints but I sure heard a lot of complaints from fellow air passengers.

Having experienced flight cancellations before due to weather, I know that airlines are not obliged to provide anything to you. However, we got food and hotel vouchers.

D and I both agreed that travelling during a major holiday brings one in contact with a lot of people who are not accustomed to travelling. So you end up needing extra time to deal with the sheer volume of people as well as getting through security because inevitably there are still many who do not realize there are liquid and gels restrictions.

One lady stood out because of loudness. I was checking D and I in at the complementary hotel when she (standing beside me) really laid into the fellow at the front desk for no reason. She was livid because she felt the airline didn't do enough for her. I turned and gave her a "what do you have to complain about" look.

The hotel even kept the otherwise closed restaurant open for the 9 of us who were involved in the flight delay. She even complained about how early she would have to get up for the free breakfast the next morning so that she could make it to her flight. Unbelievable.

Meanwhile D has his own rude adventure outside of the hotel by the shuttle that brought us from the airport to the hotel. Our luggage was the first to come off the bus and he witness everyone else just standing there while the really nice van driver climbed into the back of the van to push luggage out. No one came forward to pull their luggage off. They just stood there.

D ended up shuttling luggage out to people and did not hear one word of thanks nor did he witness anyone give the driver a tip. What is going on with people?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Savings & Cash Flow

D has been officially done probation since mid Nov. What that means is he is now allowed to participate in a whole host of savings plans which serve to augment his pension.

We have decided he is going to start with 2 of those -- The pension top up plan and the employee ownership plan. Basically it is taking advantage of the company's free money when you make a contribution.

I am still working on next year's cash flow projections based on my work numbers. To be conservative, I will likely make my income projections slimmer than what I've seen since starting on my own just in case.

The rental income I am getting from renting out my office space has increased our cash flow and should it continue for next year (I don't foresee an issue with this), we will be seeing more disposable income.

D is enthused about the idea of having more fun money whereas I am slightly concerned I will fall off the wagon with my spending. It is far too easy for me to spend money.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Getting Ready

It has been a time of numbers, numbers and more numbers in our household. Cash flow at the end of each year tend to be tighter than usual due to my finishing work early when our regular bills are still the same.

There are an assortment of one time bills due the first of Jan in the tune of a few thousand mostly for my work (I refuse to pay the penalty associated with making a couple of payments instead of one lump sum).

And despite not having more a couple of people to buy for Christmas, the Visa statement always seems more inflated than usual. I'm probably in denial over a few line items.

I have one more busy work day left and my holidays will start. The weekend consisted of some light packing and cleaning. I like coming home to a clean house and most if not all of our ski gear is already out there so we travel pretty light.

We've already done our last minute grocery shop for canned goods to bring out west with us so I can avoid grimacing at the thought of paying $2.95 for a simple can of chicken noodle soup.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Long View

The last Bank of Canada announcement kept the interest rate the same. I've already put next year's announcement dates in my day timer. I know...nerd!

I am forever amazed at people/couples who are able to take the long view on things. For example, D just toured the kitchen of a couple who finally got it re-vamped after living there for 8 years.

They have lived through one reno after another. It's amazing to watch. Their personalities make it work. That's not to say they haven't had their moments where they wished they had bought a new house but they got their house at a good time, paid a reasonable amount for it and saw the potential.

They also have no intentions of moving which in my mind, automatically makes them good candidates for building wealth.

Projecting myself onto this scene and D and I would likely never have gotten married in the first place much less have an opportunity to get divorced. I have patience for a lot of things but I would not willingly tolerate living in a construction zone for years. Living somewhere else while the construction was going on, OK.

I suppose it would be a more balanced approach to build something together over time. It is easier on cash flow and the budget. A more honest way of living perhaps? Compared to those of us who would buy everything so it can be set from day one?

It's an interesting mental debate because I am one of those who likes to be able to have everything set right off the bat. Because of that I drove myself crazy when we moved into our current house, having landscapers, masons and hvac guys all running around at the same time.

From a budget point of view, because I tend to those tendencies, I make sure I have the money for all that beforehand. So in that sense, we are similar to the couple above. The only difference being our money beforehand has to be a bigger amount so that it can cover all the work at the same time.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


I've been really interested in reading about business lately and would recommend a couple of books you may find fascinating.
  • What They Teach You At Harvard Business School -- Philip Delves Broughton
  • Rigged: The true story of an Ivy league kid who changed the world of oil, from Wall Street to Dubai -- by Ben Mezrich

The amounts of money spoken about in the above books can be staggering. It' s a whole new world for me.

My income and life is small peanuts compared to what goes on in Big Business NYC. It's fun to get a partial glimpse into such a different world.

By the way, just saw the new Harry Potter movie and loved it. Thought it was the most beautifully made of all of them.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Long and Short Planning

The 2011 travel season is shaping up nicely. Not sure if the airlines are hurting or what but the number of good seat sales for next summer and fall are already being offered.

Even I feel pushed with considering something that far away. Needless to say there is always the issue of travel cash flow, locking away monies for long haul flights 8 - 9 months in advance.

D and I have been interviewing individuals and companies for office and home snow removal when when we are away. We've found someone nice who is well experienced in what we need to have done at a reasonable price.

This is my last full week of work. Next week will consist of only a couple of days and my holidays will begin. I have to put effort into keeping my head in the game for just a little while longer.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Mini Wrap Up

Even though we are still the month to go before the new year, I am already thinking about it. You see, I gage the end of the "year" relative to my last working day which is 1 1/2 weeks from now. And we fly out west the next day. So, I've been wrapping up my 2010 spreadsheet and going through what happened financially this year.

Each year I end it by declaring to D that we will not have any huge capital expenses next year and each year there is something. So this year as I am a creature of habit, I shall declare the same thing and hope for the best.

No I don't regret buying my laptop and the pipes at the cottage needed help and part of being a condo owner is that you may be called upon to pay extra levies for capital projects. Of course the biggies were D and I both needing to change our jobs. 2010 has shaped itself into one upheaval kind of year.

On the other hand, I made it to Europe 4 times in 2010, saw some absolutely fantastic places and I'm hoping the momentum of it all will carry me into 2011 to further new adventures as I slowly plug along the mortgage payment road. There has to be something to balance out the boring.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Getting a Deal

Do you ask for discounts? If so under what circumstances? For what services would you not ask for a discount?

For me, I would ask for a discount if I was in the market for a new or used car etc. I would not think to ask for a discount at a restaurant or if I was at the movies. I wouldn't think of it either if I was at my optometrist or massage therapist.

So what would compel some people to ask for discounts for everything? I know how if you don't ask, you won't get but isn't there a limit to that before you come across like someone without much dignity?

If I cannot afford to eat out, I just won't eat out. Same goes for new shoes. I'd just look for a used pair. I wouldn't feel like it was my right to get a facial therefore the spa will have to give me a discount.

What got me going was someone who was randomly sitting beside me waiting for an appointment. They told me they are trying to get some form of disability credit from the government because they would get episode of back pain whereby they cannot walk well.

This person is still able to work full time in a job where they are required to lift things and be on their feet a long time. Not someone who you'd label disabled.

Then they go on about how broke they are but just isn't able to quit smoking. How terrible it was because they found it difficult to put food on the table for their family. And with the 2nd half of the same breath talked about all the expensive sports their kids are into.

Why was it stores that sell sports equipment were not sympathetic to their cause? Why wasn't their therapist able to give them a discount when it was obvious they needed help?

They were called into the appt before me so I watched as they leapt off the chair and walked just fine with the nurse.

I doubt they will qualify for whatever disability credit they are looking for. If they did, so should the rest of us who occasionally get really sore and stiff after a weekend of gardening or snow shovelling.

That's not considered a disability. Nor is an inability to manage money reason for businesses to reward by give discounts.