Saturday, March 24, 2012


I am super pumped because I just found out one of my flight segments was upgraded to First Class courtesy of Skymiles!

Not all of my flights are eligible as some classes of planes do not have a first/business class cabin. I place this perk in the "getting free stuff" category. I paid for economy.

The other segment of this westbound leg has been upgraded to economy comfort. Normally you would have to pay $100 for this. And I'm not even going to bother checking what it would have cost to fly first class because it is likely in the $1000s.

Not bad at all for a free program.

I'm off for the next couple of weeks. Happy Easter Everyone!!!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Pre Vacation Busyness

You know what the sure fire way for me to get even busier at work is?

Book a vacation.

Then referrals and clients start coming out of the woodwork. I only have time to see one new client before I go and have just referred the 3rd one yesterday.

Sometimes the missed business bothers me but if I focus on it, I would never go away and that's not an option.

The flip side is the extra craziness leading up to my departure which does a more than adequate job of exhausting me and making a vacation sudden necessity.

I can empathize with those who feel dread at vacation time in anticipation of the amount of work they will come back to.

Sunday, March 18, 2012


D and I finally made it up to the cottage to face the potential mess of the bag of shrimp left by mistake last fall.

I was worried it would have exploded from bacterial gases and bears would have broken in, lured by the smell of rotting seafood. We were fortunate it had just expanded with no explosion.

Now I hope there isn't a glitch with our weekly garbage pickup as it is quite warm in Ontario and it has for sure melted by now.

I'm happy to report the cottage made it through another winter with no major glitches.

We also had to stop by the airport Nexus office on the way home to get my new passport scanned into their system.

Warning to fellow Nexus users, there has been incidences where passport updates done online hasn't gotten through both systems. And I was one of them despite being assured everything was good when I called the US office.

D brought along his passport and card so we could inquire about the automatic enrollment into Global Entry available now. We were shocked to find his Nexus application hadn't shown up in the Canadian side and we had been using it for the last year...

Anyways, they took care of it and he can use Global Entry and doesn't have to got through the rigmarole I experienced at the JFK office last summer. Despite the administrative inconveniences, these programs are worth it to us.

Thursday, March 15, 2012


I fielded an amusing call earlier today from the new district account manager of a supplier I've used for 14 years. For some reason, there is a high turnover, 3 in the last 2 years.

There is probably some sort of sales commission structure in place on top of a base salary I'm guessing. This fellow sounds and talks like he is really young and has a good amount of ego.

I would say I'm an above average user for the product he represents and as far as I'm concerned, I feel he ought to know that before calling to try and drum up some business.

The best he could do was "Would you like to do more business?". Unfortunately for him, my answer was that business was at a good enough pace for me for the hours I work.

When he finally pulled up my numbers and realized the account did not involve multiple users, he agreed I was doing good...

A bit of homework would have garnered greater respect from me. It's a good thing he has inherited an established account. He will need to improve his business skills to build future successful accounts.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Walking Away

I've been banging my head against the wall trying to schedule a couple of out of town courses as well as ceasing delivery of local free newspapers (been working on this one since Feb).

The pieces are just not falling together well. I've got D working on it now because I need to let it go before it drives me even more bonkers. Maybe I'm not meant to be taking those courses this year.

On a healthier note, I've been working out on my exercise bike again. It is nice to feel the blood pumping. Work has been at a low moderate pace and I like that it doesn't tax me too much. It's looking like a pretty ideal level for me.

Apologies to those well versed in Hawaiian but I am having a heck of a time keeping all the cities and islands straight and what there is to see there. All the different mountains and town names are getting mushed together in my brain.

I'm behind in my trip planning. Don't even have my airport transfers sorted or booked yet and I'm scheduled to leave in a couple of weeks.

Friday, March 9, 2012

WMW 2012 -- Money in Your 20s/30s/40s/50s/Retirement

Money in my 20s, specifically late 20s was plentiful. I graduated at 26 with a professional degree and I was lucky enough to get employed in a company that was just starting up and it took off and took me with it.

I didn't respect money much then. I assumed it would continue to flow to me and made no effort to save anything. It wasn't until I was 2 hairs away from maxing out my $25K line of credit (only took 1 1/2 yr of living it up) did I stop and smartened up.

The only wise thing I did do back then was go back to school (Masters) full time (academics was easy for me) in order to take advantage of a government program which allowed me to pay off my loans interest free. I managed to pay off my loans in the same time frame it took me to rack up my line of credit.

Never did I grumble about it because I was and still am so grateful for the loan. Otherwise there would have been no way I could have gone on to grad school. My family couldn't afford to help me out with educational costs.

Money in my 30s got harder. Somewhere near the middle of them, I burned out from working like a fiend. The funny thing was that I didn't know I was burning out or even could burn out. I just felt tired and angry and depressed. I thought I just needed to get in better shape. Never did it dawn on me it could be mental/emotional.

I still made a lot of money and I would say I peaked in my mid 30s in terms of income but I was unhappy. Those early years where I was in the invincible honeymoon phase were a distance memory. Almost everything was starting to or already was bothering me. I no longer wanted what I had.

And I can tell you, those kind of feelings eat up a lot of energy. And because I am a professional, I never let it show and as I used up my extra stores of energy to keep going, I slid further and further down in mood. I didn't care about how much money I made anymore. I wanted to quit and take time for myself.

It was in my 30s my current lifestyle plans came to be. I got serious about designing my life and taking steps to make it happen. I slashed my work hours so I had a chance to slow down to hear myself think.

As I start my 40th year, I'm working part time and slowly starting to appreciate what all those mortgage payments and prepayments have allowed me to do. All that hiking, swimming, skiing, travelling etc I wanted as part of my life is now available. I just need the energy to do it all.

Money from my mid 40s to 50s to retirement will be mostly on autopilot. Savings will be fairly easy as we intend to be mortgage free soon, hopefully making up for lost time. And if I continue to work, what I describe now will be "my retirement". D plans to work until his mid 50s and at that point consider contract work.

This post is a part of Women's Money Week 2012. For more posts about Money in Your 20s/30s/40s/50s/Retirement, see

I would like to Thank Elizabeth Sanberg, Wise Bread writer and co-founder of and Jackie Beck, for the invitation to participate in WMW 2012.

This is my last post in the series but the week is not over. There are 2 more days of great topics so head on over to read more.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

WMW 2012 -- Budgeting

My husband D and I have differing styles of money management. He is more a "live for today" type of person favoring small luxuries whereas I prefer delayed larger goals such as overseas travel and real estate.

In order to reach our goals of multiple home ownership and quick mortgage pay down, we were pretty brutal to ourselves for a number of years -- ie. $20 a month allowance etc.

I manage the money for our household. My husband knows about everything and would be able to take over but he prefers I deal with things on a day to day basis.

Of course there is a cost to him for handing over the reigns like that. I'm more extreme than he is with respect to money management.

It was I who decided to go for a short amortization on our mortgages (12 yr or less). It was I who slashed and cut out vacations for a few years. And it was I who decided to max out our yearly allowable mortgage pre-payments.

I would be lying if I said this was an easy job. Who enjoys being "the bad guy"? I've warped it into a full time job as I am a control freak and like to account for every penny and (still) hate it when monetary surprises crop up.

Neither of us wish to live those uber tight days again as I still (and I'm sure D does too) have some mental scars from the whole ordeal. However by adopting some lean behaviours, we were able to have 9 yr or less in our various property mortgage amortizations.

Don't get me wrong. Every penny is still accounted for. The difference now is half my income can afford to be spending money. This was in part made possible when D started a job with a defined benefit pension plan as well as being at the tail end of mortgage debt.

Over the years we've been together I've learned to enjoy the lattes and D has experienced the feeling of having large goals actualized -- Something he had never bothered to strive for as he thought them too reachable.

I wouldn't necessarily recommend people follow our extreme ways. It was at many times a very unhealthy way to reach our goal of a healthy, sustainable and balanced life. I lost sight of forest while getting all caught up in the "pay things down in the fastest time" game.

This post is a part of Women's Money Week 2012. For more posts about Budgeting, see

This was supposed to be my last post in the series but I found time to participate once more tomorrow! The topic will be Money in Your 20s/30/40s/50s/Retirement.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

WMW 2012 -- Saving & Investing

Savings for my husband D and I have always meant more than just money in an account. First and foremost it is about building a sustainable lifestyle encouraging health and balance.

I am not an expert investor or day trader. We diversify our holdings with my working with an investment advisor investing in more aggressive stocks, D self managing his own value based investments and we have low fee ETFs and tax free saving accounts with ING.

The largest portion of our net worth is real estate related. We own 3 properties without any family help, lottery winnings, or rental income. And are within 3 yrs of having everything paid off.

The main reason this was possible is due to where we live. In our area of Ontario it is possible to own a spacious home for $285000, a true cottage 3 hrs away for $83000 and a ski condo (not timeshare or fractional) in British Columbia the size of a tiny hotel room for $78500.

So for the price of a moderate house in a major city center, we get to enjoy a lifestyle that a lot of people think belongs to the rich and famous and we are neither of those. It is a bonus our cottage has almost doubled in value in the last 10 yr.

I just turned 40 and D is 44. We are fortunate that D will receive a defined benefit pension. Our monthly costs aren't as much as you may think as we are pretty good with conservation. Since D can work remote, we can be up at the cottage or out west without him having to take too many days off.

Because we are able to scale our expectations we found options that are manageable financially.

If anyone out there dreams of an additional property, it is worth spending the time searching the mls and driving around new areas that aren't shown in the dramatic makeover section of the newspaper.

There are lower cost options. And if anyone is considering a move, really consider this: The less a house costs, the more money you have left over to live with. There are opportunity costs associated with each major financial decision.

It is also worth researching job opportunities in a smaller city or town center. The key is the amount of money you are left with. Don't just focus on the salary. High monthly carrying costs can eat up everything.

We still have ways to go in the retirement savings department because of the money we've imparted into real estate. We feel by doing so, we are really investing in us. A great life now and along the way versus later.

This post is a part of Women's Money Week 2012. For more posts about Saving & Investing, see Savings & Investing Round Up.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

WMW 2012 -- Relationships & Money

My husband D and I have what we believe to be a fairly rare financial understanding compared to other couples we know.

It is our goal to be equal financial partners. What that means for us is equal contribution to assets as well as debt repayment. For some this philosophy can mean buy a home based on the lower salary. Personally I believe this to be a pretty smart move.

We both came into our relationship with homes and assets. I had a higher amount. When we made the commitment as a couple, D sold his house and we lived in my house until we found our home. In our case my husband needed to catch up. Neither of us had any consumer debt.

As we are both self made, it doesn't surprise me that D truly wants to own half. So he is currently paying what is left of our mortgage and car as well as an "annuity" to me equal to the amount I've overpaid.

I overpaid because we wanted to be debt free faster. If I could have done another year of mortgage pre-payments we would have been done in another year or so. But I had had enough of it mentally and emotionally.

We also believe in being each other's "back up". We make roughly the same now, so should one of us suffer an emergency and cannot work, the other can carry things without too much of a hiccup.

I am quite conservative with respect to monetary risk and surprises. And we're wise enough to know stuff happens anyways despite the best preparation. So we do what we can to mitigate risk.

We have accounts that cover the future cost of roofs, appliances, home improvement, cars as well as a year's worth of expenses. There is a small life insurance policy equivalent to the amount outstanding as we have no dependents.

This post is a part of Women's Money Week 2012. For more posts about Relationships & Money, see

Monday, March 5, 2012

WMW 2012 -- Entrepreneurship / Making Money

My goal for this series of posts is to describe my life the way we are living it as a basis of comparison with the many other ways out there you'll get to read about over the week.

There are no right or wrong ways to design your life. Couples like us without children tend to lead lives that look different than those who do. Those who live in larger city centers have completely different numbers to work with than those of us in smaller cities or towns.

I believe there is huge value in reading and experiencing other ways to live because inevitably I learn something new and end up incorporating or modifying it to work for us. This is one reason why I love to travel so much. You see what is possible.

I am a one person part time entrepreneur in the health care field which means I do everything from answer phones to bookkeeping on top of working with clients. Full control can be a double edge sword.

My career took a drastic change a couple of years ago when my prior office, where everything was done for me, raised the rent to a point where it no longer made sense to stay. It forced me to step up and truly go out on my own.

My goal has been to work the least amount of hours I can while making the amount of money I would like. I realize not every one's job or career can be scalable like mine.

It goes against entrepreneurship to consider working less and making less money. My goal has never been to be the richest person. I don't have enough desire to work that much to make a goal like that happen.

My goal is to have an interesting life packed with world travel along the way. As time went on, my hours got trimmed and trimmed reaching where I am currently -- 12 hr direct client time, 8 hr admin, making a third of what I was at my peak. This has taken the last 14 yr to evolve.

I cannot see this schedule becoming leaner. Any smaller would mean retirement. It is no coincidence my decreased hours have coincided with better money management. The more adept I became at handling costs, the less I needed to work.

There are a lot of pros with being self employed. The most obvious are tax benefits. In my case, the ability to create office hours that jive well with my energy level is priceless. I do my 12 hr of client time over 2 afternoons and the my 8 hr admin is split over 4 mornings.

Lifestyle balance is something I work towards and am consistently pursuing. The route to what I describe today was not without major potholes. There have been many years where it was literally trial by fire. I've suffered severe depression and professional burnout. Effects of both I am still managing today.

This post is a part of Women's Money Week 2012. For more posts about Entrepreneurship / Making Money, see Entrepreneurship / Making Money Roundup.

Tomorrow I will give you our take on Relationships & Money.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Home Stuff

Our home insurance renewal has arrived and this year it comes to around $1700/yr for all our properties. I don't know if that is considered high or not. We chose a high deductible $1000 - $2000 to keep rates low.

I go through fits and starts but I'm currently into reading and have devoured 3 books. The latest read is "Quiet The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking" by Susan Cain. It's good.

I'm a closet introvert. I make my living being an extrovert and the discrepancy can be exhausting.

D and I researched potential future careers for me should I decide to do something different. We've looked air traffic controllers and technical writer. Both careers would suit an introvert.

In other news, Women's Money Week is starting on Monday. I have been invited to participate and write about one or all of the daily topics from a personal viewpoint. Next Mon - Thurs, I will be devoting my posts to this group effort.

Women's Money Week 2012 Participant

Thursday, March 1, 2012


I'm pretty pleased with how my business procedures are right now. It's quite efficient. Over the last 3 months I've managed to shave off another couple of hours from the admin section, making it 6 hours/week.

Over 95% of people make their appointment online which cuts my phone time way back. When it comes time to renew my cell phone plan, I'm choosing a much smaller one for sure which will help reduce my business costs.

As much as some people like to complain about the inefficiencies of our government departments, I must say, those comments do not seem to apply to the passport division. My new passport came back today! That was fast (under 2 weeks!).

Next I will be updating my Nexus card info and supplying it to the airlines for my various upcoming trips. It seems like everyone needs your info in advance nowadays.