BlueNote's Journal

Where are you and where are you going?
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BlueNote
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Location: Toronto, Canada

Post by BlueNote » Sun Jun 16, 2013 4:35 pm

Sunday, June 16, 2013
I wanted to start this journal in order to track my goals and have a forum to discuss them with other members. I have broken my goals into three important areas: Health, Financial and Other. The other category might get broken down further into sub categories but three simple categories works well for me.
First my back story:
Age: 34:

Sex: Male

Marital Status: Married

MBTI Type: INTP

Education: Computer Programming, business administration, accounting/finance
Health Facts:
Height: 5 feet 11 inches (180.34 cm)

Weight: 230 lbs (104.3 kg)

BMI: 32.1 (obese :-()

Activity level: low ( I walk to the bus stop and back, I take occasional walks through the park)
Financial Facts:
Net Worth: 23k (no debt)

Monthly Gross income: $5k

Monthly “take home” pay after deductions: $3.8k (about 76% of Gross)
My first goal is to come up with worthy goals for my health and financial areas. I will save the other stuff for after this is done.
I think the health goals should take precedence because if given the choice between poor health/great wealth and great health/poor wealth I would take the latter. I will post my health goals within the next couple of days and then my financial goals. I will keep a record of how I am doing through this journal.


DutchGirl
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Post by DutchGirl » Sun Jun 16, 2013 6:52 pm

A small change in health status could be: walking not to the closest, but to the next busstop... Or getting off one bus stop too soon... Those will guarantee maybe 2 x ten-minute-walks per day, which could already make a difference in how fit you feel. (Don't treat yourself to an extra candy bar for walking ten minutes though).
Good luck, I'll be back to check on your goals and progress etc.


HappyGarret
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Post by HappyGarret » Sun Jun 16, 2013 7:29 pm

If your job is less than 10 miles (~16 km) away, you might consider purchasing a good road bike. Although the initial price of the bike will sting, the recurrent costs are low, and it's a good combination to strap the bike on the bus for longer trips, and ride the bike the rest of the way.
It'll help your wallet if you have a car & definitely your health.
That said, there's no substitute for a quality diet, and you might consider replacing all of the sugary, %$#@ food in your home with vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, and healthy oils (and lean meats & healthful animal derivatives if you like that stuff).
Good luck, a change in diet and transportation can be very enjoyable; sometimes I give make myself excuses just to ride somewhere.


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Dragline
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Post by Dragline » Sun Jun 16, 2013 8:18 pm

I agree that your health goals should take precedence. I was at your state of health in my late thirties and it took a concentrated effort to get my weight back down to healthy levels. But once it was done, I never went back and success built upon itself in that and other areas.
I lost over 40 pounds in about a year and I am sure you can do it, too. But once you get to mid-thirties it has more to do with what you eat than anything else. The good news is that you are likely to see early success on almost any kind of diet that reduces the intake of fried and processed foods (especially sugar) and involves drinking a lot more water and/or tea.


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BlueNote
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Post by BlueNote » Sun Jun 16, 2013 11:14 pm

@ dutch girl, walking to further bus stops has definitely crossed my mind. However I am thinking of biking it to work when possible.
@ Happy Garrett. You are right and I am going to acquire a bicycle for this purpose. There is a lovely bike trail that leads from my location almost directly to my office building (4.8 km from home to work). I can park my bike in the offices underground car park at no cost and I can shower off and change at the gym (also located in the office building) if I sweat like crazy. My gym membership is subsidized almost 100% by my employer so it's almost no extra cost to have it.
@ Dragline. Thanks for the voice of experience. I agree, and I have been here before. I was once up to this weight before and got down to 180lbs through a combination of diet and exercise. I was teaching english in Japan at the time and I think the local diet along with a jogging routine and lots of dancing and games with the students really helped.


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BlueNote
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Post by BlueNote » Tue Jun 18, 2013 10:34 pm

Tuesday, June 18, 2013
Health Goals
1. Normal BMI (http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/guidelines/obesity/bmi_tbl.htm) which apparently starts at around 172 lbs for me. So 172 lbs is my goal weight. I would like to be there by this time next year
2. 3 30-45 min sessions of “cardio” workout per week along with 3 sessions of strength building stuff (push ups , sit ups, etc.). I will have to gradually increase the resistance for the strength building
3. Take out most of the bad carbohydrates from my diet and stick with brown rice, vegetables and fruits for most of my carbs. I will eat whatever is lying around if I go to a friend or family’s home as this will give me a needed break from eating the food I do now
4. I am going to get a bicycle and use that to get to work, this actually satisfies my financial goal of saving money, provides transportation and give me a bit of cardio so it should be the first item on the list. I am already searching Craigslist for the new bike. It think I will go with a well made mountain bike that is around $200 CAD used or less.


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My_Brain_Gets_Itchy
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Post by My_Brain_Gets_Itchy » Wed Jun 19, 2013 6:06 pm

@BlueNote:
Just started bike commuting in T.O. as well.
There are a lot of used biked stores in downtown Toronto that sell good bikes quite cheap but their origins are always suspect, ie. most likely stolen.
I have a Canadian tire bike (ie. cheap and heavy) I bought new a few years back after a nicer one was stolen, but it ensures that it doesn't get stolen and actually cycling on it is a much harder workout.
Sometimes it sucks when guys are whizzing by on their super duper carbon fibre racing bikes or hybrids, but other times it's kind of nice that my bike only reaches a certain top speed, which forces me to go slow.


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BlueNote
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Post by BlueNote » Sat Jun 22, 2013 6:42 pm

Saturday, June 22, 2013
Weight update: down to 228 lbs.
I have gout and it has been acting up a little lately making walking difficult. I went swimming yesterday at a family members pool and will do so again today (as long as it isn't storming). When I get my bicycle it should make it easier to get around for me because the gout always goes to my right toe which doesn't get much wear and tear on a bike.
I am in the process of reading all of the Berkshire Hathaway annual reports from 1977 forward. I have read 13 reports so far and am in the middle of year 1990. Only 22 more to go, they are very educational and I would highly recommend them to anyone interested in investing or business in general. People often quote warren Buffett but I think you have to go to the original source documents to really get an appreciation for his thinking. He writes in a character that, I believe, partially obfuscates who he really is. I think he is probably more calculating, aggressive and ambitious then he comes across in the letters to share holders. Nonetheless he lays out in detail, with examples, a great deal of the thinking he uses to value companies and make investment decisions in his letters to shareholders.
@My_Brain_Gets_Itchy:
I might check out a used bike shop, I am planning on picking up a bike at some point in the next 7 days. I agree that having a nice bike in this city is difficult due to threat of theft. From what I understand bike thieves in Toronto can be pretty brazen and the police don't really care too much about the problem.


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BlueNote
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Post by BlueNote » Wed Jun 26, 2013 4:11 am

Tuesday, June 25, 2013
I went to look at some bikes today at a place called “Play it again sports”, a used sporting equipment shop. The used bikes they had (2 of them) were very cheap (~$80). However they sucked, brakes not working, rusted, brake cables slipping, wheels warped, loose spokes etc.
I did however learn , first hand, how specialized my knowledge has become as I was totally at a loss on how to fix almost all these bike problems. After some research the fixes are fairly straight forward but require time and some experience to do them well and efficiently. I gave a guy an offer of $150 for a nice old Raleigh mountain bike: http://toronto.en.craigslist.ca/yrk/bik/3842383575.html. He/She hasn't responded but I might just offer full price with the condition that I fully inspect it first. Either that or I get a new one from a store, either way it’ll pay for itself with public transit passes, and car money.
My gout is gone
I am still working on finishing the Berkshire Hathaway annual reports. Buffett’s entire fortune is built on the Berkshire system which essentially takes all the capital generated by his underlying businesses and allocates it where the best risk adjusted return is. Sometimes that means buying more companies (whole or in part), other times it means investing in something like reinsurance (which they can do on a very large scale). The people running the sub businesses are almost always the original owners, or owners family and they are generally allowed to run the business as they see fit. Buffett just let’s them do their thing, he sets up appropriate compensation arrangements, and he allocates their excess capital.


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Post by freebooks » Wed Jun 26, 2013 4:44 am

Good summary of the Berkshire Hathaway method!


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BlueNote
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Post by BlueNote » Wed Jun 26, 2013 11:40 pm

@ freebooks : Thanks!


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BlueNote
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Re: BlueNote's Journal

Post by BlueNote » Sat Jun 29, 2013 7:47 am

Saturday, June 29, 2013


Going to pickup my used bike today. It is an Opus Classico. I got it for $350 including lock, front and rear “cat eye” lights, repair kit and pump. The bike costs around $500 new alone, I am glad I found this deal on craigslist, really good value I think.

I will save about $120 a month in public transit passes, but will still use public transit when the weather totally sucks so maybe $12 a month, so a 90% public transit savings.

I am going to have to go all the way downtown to pick it up and then take it on the subway to where I work and then ride it home from there. That way I will get a rough idea of how long it will take me to get to work on it this Tuesday.

Liking the new forum software :mrgreen: :geek: :ugeek:

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BlueNote
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Re: BlueNote's Journal

Post by BlueNote » Sat Jun 29, 2013 12:34 pm

When I was a boy I would ride my bike everywhere and I totally forgot how much I enjoyed that.

So I picked up my used bike and the first thing I noticed was how light it was (aluminium frame). There are two very minor issues with the bike, the guy I bought it from hit a car door and it is missing the chain guard and there is some cosmetic damage to the right grip. The bike is also dirty , but I will clean it up today. A picture tells a thousand words so here you go:

The bike:

Image

The accessories that came as part of the deal:

Image

I am going to have to figure out how some of the little tools work and clean up the bike this weekend.

I rode it around liberty village and downtown Toronto and then rode it from my work home. The trail home is really nice, I was an idiot to take the bus to work when there is this beautiful bike trail that takes me right to my works door step.

Taxes:

I had a small tax issue based on the timing of some education subsidies my employer paid out. I had to pay another $600 as a result so this month my networth will only climb as much as my RRSP (like a 401k) and pension from work.

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BlueNote
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Re: BlueNote's Journal

Post by BlueNote » Thu Jul 04, 2013 10:10 pm

The Bike

I cleaned up the bike. I had to use a degreaser to get some of the stuff clean, otherwise a little hot water and a rag seemed to do the trick. I would not trust that lock if I had to leave the bike locked in a busy open area so I am looking for a good secure lock (ulock, or thick chain lock).



I also need a back pack, I am using a gym bag now and it sucks for biking. This is a perfect opportunity to try out Jacobs ERE procurement stack. I believe it goes something like:

1. try to get it free (free cycle, craigs list etc.)
2. try to get it used at the lowest price possible (consignment, thrift stores, craigs list)
3. Buy it new (research best prices , most value for money),

or at least that is my bastardized version of his procurement stack. I read a library copy of the book so I can't look it up easily right now.

I will post my progress on getting these items.

ERE family savings tactic

On the larger ERE front I realize that a free backpack and bike lock aren't going to get me to ERE Valhalla anytime soon. I also realize that I need to convert my wife to an ERE friendly lifestyle. My wife is incredibly good at getting by with next to nothing if the situation arises. Therefore I am going to force the situation to arise by getting us both to voluntarily move 50% of our take home pay to our retirement accounts immediately upon getting paid. Although the way I see it is that if we can live off of 50% of what we make now and save the rest then our wage inflation , bonuses etc. should get us to 70-75% savings rate in no time.

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My_Brain_Gets_Itchy
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Re: BlueNote's Journal

Post by My_Brain_Gets_Itchy » Fri Jul 05, 2013 6:33 am

@BlueNote: Is it just me of has there been rain forecasted every day in Toronto?

Your bike looks really nice. From your photo it looks like you have a pannier!

I posted in another bike thread about this but as a newbie, I found riding with a backpack makes you sweat like crazy and leaves a huge sweat spot.

I ended up buying a pannier and strapping a bag to it. After a while now, the only sweat comes from wearing a helmet, even on a day like today (super humid).

I have a milk crate at home so I am thinking of bolting it onto the pannier this weekend. I found cable ties and metal fasteners at the dollar store. (Its a little cumbersome tying my bag up to my bike every commute, so having the crate or some basket would make it much easier).

The milk crate looks a clunky, but having storage space directly on the bike makes it much more useful.

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BlueNote
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Re: BlueNote's Journal

Post by BlueNote » Fri Jul 05, 2013 5:31 pm

@ My_Brain_Gets_Itchy

Yes it has a pannier, I guess I should look for a pannier bag (used or free) or perhaps a milk crate would work too. Unfortunately I got euchred on riding the bike today because of the rain, I wasn't expecting it this morning or I would have left earlier in a rain suit and changed at the gym.

Health Stats update:

Weight: 268.8lbs (down 2.2 lbs from about a week ago)

BMI: 31.6

Activities: more walking and riding bike to work instead of taking bus.

I am right on track on my weight loss, I want to lose it slowly over time. Quick weight loss can trigger an episode of gout if you are prone to it.

Financial Status Update

I have taken a break from the Berkshire annual reports. They are good but the same patterns keep emerging which is boring, but it shows that they have a system for running the organization that works very reliably. At the current prices berkshire is probably a good deal when comparing book value to share price, I don't see how someone wouldn't do well in the next 15-20 years with it ,barring some sort of calamitous event like a nuclear war. Once Warren dies I think they will start paying a dividend soon after, I don't see how anyone would be able to get the same deals on great businesses as Warren without his personal reputation. I have been invested in berkshire for about a year now and I feel very comfortable with it.

Some people aren't meant for stocks, I personally love them as investment vehicles. However I don't feel comfortable at all with things like gold and am somewhat uncomfortable with bonds although at the right price and terms I could be quite comfortable with them. Real estate is fine for me if invested passively (through a REIT), I have no interest in being an active investor renting or flipping properties due to my INTP personality which doesn't do well with tenant relations or dealing with subordinates. I would rather think up something good and then delegate the execution almost to the point of abandonment, but structure it in such as way that I can earn the best risk adjusted stream of income for life on it.

I think the dividend growth investing strategy would be a very good fit for me as my main source of retirement income. Although it would mean trading off potentially better long term opportunities in non-dividend paying companies, it would allow me to collect reliable , growing piles of money until I die. If there was a depression I would still be able to collect dividend cheques in companies like McDonald's, or Coca Cola as they would be unlikely to fold, although some companies may cut the dividend which is the biggest risk from a probability and expected value standpoint. I could use the principle to pay for my old age costs and leave a nice estate for my heirs and/or charity with the left overs.

I am going to read What Works on Wall Street and Beating the street soon.

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BlueNote
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Re: BlueNote's Journal

Post by BlueNote » Sat Jul 06, 2013 11:06 am

Pannier bag

I went to sleep last night with the pannier bag problem in my head. I needed a pannier bag or something like that and I needed it without exchanging my money for something else. I woke up with the right idea and worked it out to a tangible solution through a bit of trial and error. Some substitution mixed with a bit of construction solved this problem as per the ERE buying process

I happen to have a saddleback leather bag (a gift from my wife). They are pretty expensive but they come with a 100 year warrantyand are made of full grain leather lined with pig skin so the lifetime cost is probably lower then just buying new bags every decade. You can feed them leather fat and not have to worry too much about water damage, just like a pair of those Hanwag welted sole boots Jacob is always talking about.

Here is the solution I came up with in pictures (click the links to see the pictures).

Resources Gathered


Bungee Cord hook up on Pannier


Beautiful, functional and zero extra cost to me

@My_Brain_Gets_Itchy

Thanks for the advice on sweat avoidance!

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Re: BlueNote's Journal

Post by KevinW » Sat Jul 06, 2013 5:12 pm

Nice!

I don't think I'd use that setup in the wet, though. The thought of gutter water splashing against that fine leather makes me sad.

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BlueNote
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Re: BlueNote's Journal

Post by BlueNote » Sun Jul 07, 2013 12:31 am

@ Toska: I don't think I would drive around in a downpour with that setup. I will take the bus to work if it is raining in the morning. If it happens to be raining on my way home the hand bag turns into a backpack which will almost guarantee to prevent splashy sideways entry of water. I have used the bag in the rain and snow and it was fine, although I was walking then.

@KevinW

You would be surprised at how wet it has gotten and it hasn't really phased it. It seemed to work well for the original bovine owner and as long as I keep it conditioned it should be resilient against water damage.

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My_Brain_Gets_Itchy
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Re: BlueNote's Journal

Post by My_Brain_Gets_Itchy » Sun Jul 07, 2013 8:47 pm

Sweet setup @bluenote! The pannier rack that you have looks to be of very high quality.

I ended installing my milk crate on my rack this weekend. I was a little hesitant at first since it's bulkier than a small bike basket, but now that it is on, I like it very much. Very handy and convenient and it can fit quite a lot. It can take a load of groceries no problem. I figure it's a bit of a theft deterrent as well, because it makes my bike look even lesser desirable than it already is.

I think the other thing about riding a bike without the backpack, is the rather obvious, it makes the ride/commute a ton more enjoyable/comfortable. At least for me it has.

For weather proofing for your bag, what I am doing is packing two heavy duty garbage bags in my bag in case it rains, I can just wrap it up. Since I have more space now for a bigger bag, I am also packing a rain jacket and basic bike tools.

Oh BTW, I also got caught in the downpour Friday afternoon as well. It was actually kind of liberating because previously I was always planning around the weather to avoid riding days forecasted for rain, but after that ride, after I I got completely drenched, I realized, hey, it's not that bad. The worse part of it was the shoes getting wet, but it was actually kind of refreshing. I say that now because I am a newbie, but I am sure after a while, the novelty of riding in the rain will wear off.

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Re: BlueNote's Journal

Post by C40 » Sun Jul 07, 2013 9:18 pm

Riding in the rain really isn't that bad. Having fenders helps a lot. The biggest potential issue is probably if it rains while cold out - this can make your body very cold very fast. Hands, feet, and head are most at risk.
The annoyance things are:
- your clothes getting all wet (Especially shoes). It's not so bad if you're on the way home, or if you're wearing good rain gear
- road spray stain on the back of your pants / shirt (if you don't have fenders)
- needing to clean your bike and re-lube the chain afterwords

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bigato
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Re: BlueNote's Journal

Post by bigato » Mon Jul 08, 2013 5:36 am

To me, good rain gear is an indispensable part of riding a bike around year-round.

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BlueNote
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Re: BlueNote's Journal

Post by BlueNote » Mon Jul 08, 2013 4:39 pm

I rode the bike to work today with my make shift pannier bag, it worked great. However when it was time to go home the biggest storm of the year was going at peak rage outside. I left the bike in the nice , security watched parking garage in my office building locked to a bike rack and my wife drove me home.

Proper rain gear is probably a good idea. With rain gear I could have easily waited out the dangerous part of the storm and then biked home. I already have a rain suit and I could use a heavy duty garbage bag to cover up my leather bag. I will have to remember this for next time.

I picked up "One Up on Wall Street" by Peter Lynch and "What Works on Wall Street" by James P OShaughnessy, from the library of course. The former is a straight forward soft cover the latter a text book sized hard cover laden with stats and data. I will post a little book review when I am done with them.

Here is a nice little freebie that most people in Toronto overlook. If you have a Toronto Public Library card you get free online access to Value line (stock, bond type reports), with a ton of extras, 100% subsidized by the tax payer. Normally this costs hundreds or thousands of dollars a year but it's free just for being a Torontonian. You don't have to go to the library to use it you just login to the library website and access it through a proxy server.

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BlueNote
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Re: BlueNote's Journal

Post by BlueNote » Sun Jul 14, 2013 8:12 pm

Personal Financial Ratio's

I was thinking of a good way to represent personal financial data. I think ratio's are great, they seem to work great in business. I use ratios all the time as a financial professional to convey information quickly.

I have some ideas for this that I am going to test out and will report back on.

RRSP's

An RRSP is roughly equivalent to an American 401k. Money in it is considered pre-tax and isn't taxed until withdrawn.

I have been researching the tax implications of extreme early retirement for Canadians. I like that I can use my RRSP to avoid dividend witholding taxes on US stocks due to a special provision in the US/Canada tax treaty. However if I own US stocks outside of an RRSP taxes will be witheld and I will not be eligible for special tax treatment that Canadian dividends get. Even inside of the RRSP the US dividends are taxed at my marginal rate when I withdraw them from the tax sheltered account.

There is a process where Canadian dividend income is taxed very favourably: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-in ... le4085748/

Due to this dividend tax credit and the built in tax breaks on low income earners in Canada I could pay a very low tax rate on an income of 40k ( a very high ERE income) in dividends. Here is a tool you can run some scenarios of your own: http://www.knowledgebureau.com/index.ph ... estimator/

Since I want my main source of retirement income to be stock dividends I think that my portfolio should be 60-70% Canadian content and 30% US and global content. The global content will be almost exclusively American to take advantage of the withholding tax exception. I have an RRSP/Pension matching system through my work that is more heavily weighted to non North American stocks but I can't really touch it until I am 55 so I just used a simple allocate and index strategy with it. If history rhymes I should get a nice raise in a couple of decades.

Net Worth Update

I have increased my networth to 27k this month. I was able to save about 700 bucks from last month despite my $350 bike purchase and $600 one time tax bill. This month should be a good one. The monthly expense forecast is as follows:


chequing account: 4,148.30
transfer one half of pay check to retirement account: -1,804
transfer $700 of last months savings to retirement account: -500

Balance in Chequing account: 1844

Expenses

Rent 625
Groceries / household 300
Gas 92.25
Car insurance 91.17
Home insurance 13.23
TTC 20
Mobile Phone 54
Vacay (preplanned with my wife for October) 357
clothing / other 42
personal items 0
gifts 67
car maintenance 50
entertainment


Total Expenses 1,712

Forecasted balance in account at end of month: $132

Around $150 of pre tax income is automatically placed in an account which will be matched at around 60% by my employer.

54% savings rate, not too bad for a rookie. I am working on ways to bring that up. As you can see my expenses are ripe for improvements.

I need to set up a nice spreadsheet with my personal balance sheet (networth), profit and loss statement, years to early retirement etc. but it's not a critical thing right now, my main objective is getting the savings rate higher and higher.

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BlueNote
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Re: BlueNote's Journal

Post by BlueNote » Sat Jul 20, 2013 11:47 pm

21/07/2013

ER Status updates

Weight down to 225 lbs.

Riding bike to work is great

I am taking more vitamin D and B and it seems to help elevate my moods and ease my stress.

I invested 1k into McDonalds for the dividend and dividend growth potential. I also think it is fairly valued , has a wide ‘moat’ and a strong balance sheet. I am building a portfolio of stocks in various industries based on a personal value/dividend growth style of investing that I am comfortable with. I put the MCD into my RRSP so I could avoid the US withholding tax on dividends.


???Switching Company???

I could get a 25-35% a year raise by switching companies right now. I have a new head hunter contact me at least once a month offering a 40% bump to switch which I assume is the teaser rate and after negotiations it will come down to the afformentioned 25-35% rate. I am at a point in my career where people at my level (lets call it senior financial analyst) are rare and valuable and there are always lots of positions to fill. When I move higher up the ladder (finance manager, controller etc.) there is a lot more competition but right now I am in the sweet spot for an easy switch.

Switching almost always means working in downtown Toronto or Mississauga which would mean a much longer commute.

Pros and Cons

Pros

- More money
- Possible bonus (usually 10% of salary based on company and personal performance)
- Shake up the routine , less boredom
- Keep the resume from getting stale
- Learn about a new industry
- Subway commute opens up more time for reading
- Better information management systems (current company runs off of IBM mainframe Cobol programming form the 70’s and 80’s)

Cons

- difficult to impossible to bike to the downtown core from where I am
- Wife doesn’t want to move, works in Northern part of greater Toronto area
- Have to pay back $5k in subsidies that haven’t vested yet due to return on service agreement in exchange for accounting education
- Going south on the subway in the morning and North after work is very busy, almost reminds me of Osaka rush hour with everyone crammed in the subway like sardines
- Would lose RRSP matching and pension vesting at original company


It’s something that is constantly on my mind because right around when I forget about switching companies a head hunter calls my desk and throws a nice opportunity out.

I have gone for one interview about a year ago at a liquor manufacture (Beam) and got called back to another interview but turned it down for personal reasons. It would have been a plum job compared to the s@!t I deal with now vs the what they pay me.

I am kind of planning on switching next year after some of the education subsidy is vested but with the relatively huge salary figures being thrown at me the switching advantages are hard to ignore.

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