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Re: BlueNote's Journal

Posted: Sun Aug 10, 2014 9:40 am
by spoonman
Exxon is definitely a juggernaut, it is its own country. I've been a happy shareholder since 2010.

Is it possible for you to change positions where you work? That was one of the nice things about my job (I'm using the past tense already), it allowed me to switch teams and projects every year or so, which kept things somewhat fresh.

Re: BlueNote's Journal

Posted: Sun Aug 10, 2014 7:38 pm
by BlueNote
spoonman wrote:Exxon is definitely a juggernaut, it is its own country. I've been a happy shareholder since 2010.

Is it possible for you to change positions where you work? That was one of the nice things about my job (I'm using the past tense already), it allowed me to switch teams and projects every year or so, which kept things somewhat fresh.
I think Exxon is probably fair value right now, but it's so well followed that it would only rarely become excessively undervalued. Something like the valdez oil spill would probably have to happen before a significant discount to fair value occurred. It certainly wouldn't hurt to have it in my portfolio right now and I may buy some in the coming days. Even if the stock market plunged or they had to shut it down for years I would be pretty comfortable owning Exxon Stock.

It's possible to change positions which is something I am looking at. In fact a colleague of mine quit recently and someone who worked with him was trying to get me to apply because he was worried they'd put in someone with less experience which would suck for him.

Re: BlueNote's Journal

Posted: Mon Sep 01, 2014 2:22 am
by BlueNote

I bought some stock in HCP a while back, I bought it on the assumption I would have to pay about 15% in withholding taxes on the dividend. However I didn't know for sure if I would have to pay them. Turns out I got the whole dividend , no taxes in my RRSP so that's a nice little bonus.

Not sure what my next buy will be, Exxon probably, but I am still holding a large proportion of cash.

Statistics and probabilities

I have always been decent at math, but it doesn't stick in my mind like other subjects. Therefore much of the match I learned in formal education (algebra, Trig, calculus etc.) is totally rusty. I have gotten interested in statistics and probabilities because of some of the things I am doing at work and the fact that much of the world just works according to statistics and probabilities. I think it behooves me to have a sharp stats and probability mental model available at all times.

I have been doing the free Khan Academy courses on statistics and probabilities. I wish this was available when I was younger in high school. I would vastly prefer doing a Khan lecture over any other type of lecture I have ever received (high school, University etc). If I have children I will probably enroll them in Khan Academy and become their coach, Khan is so good at lecturing that he is probably in the top 1% of lecturers ever. Plus I can pause, rewind etc. I am about 1/3 the way through the whole stats and probabilities course load offered through Khan. I am already using what I learned from Khan at work, I am shocked at the lack of applied stats and probabilities where I work. My boss was lauding me at work because I did some really basic probability work on our sales pipeline. I need more Khan course work to make sure I am not screwing anything up or missing other low hanging fruit.

Re: BlueNote's Journal

Posted: Tue Sep 02, 2014 3:01 pm
by George the original one
There are some "statistics using spreadsheets" books out there... even the old ones are useful.

Re: BlueNote's Journal

Posted: Fri Sep 12, 2014 4:52 pm
by BlueNote
@GTOO: There are some really good online sources as well. They even have cool simulations. Two sites of note:

Statistics and human psychology

I have been dabbling in applied statistics. I have noticed that when I show people some oversimpified results like the average time to close a deal is about 25 months they are like well that's good information. Then when I show them the confidence interval , it is confusing and I think they want to move on to something else because I am not 100% sure about the sample mean.

I re-learned a lot of the central limit theorem as it applies to making a decent statistical estimate from a sample. I re-learned (but never forgot) that with enough sample trials and a high enough number of samples per trial that I can construct a secondary normal distribution from a population distribution regardless of the nature of the population distribution (doesn't have to be normal). This is a great thing because a normal distribution lends itself to all sorts of elegant math and probabilities. Also it is near impossible to determine the population distribution in many cases, therefore all we have is sampling. I also re-learned about the t-distribution which I used to show my boss how crappy our statistics were because of the very low sample counts. Basically I showed that most of the sample means we gathered were too uncertain to be useful except in extreme cases. I am talking about a sample size of 6 with 1 trial in a particular case.

Savings Rate on 50% auto-pilot

It appears my savings rate is on a 50% auto-pilot. I haven't even been paying attention to it all last month and I have 50% of my take home from that month left over. I guess a lot of the savings habits I have formed have become habitual.

Re: BlueNote's Journal

Posted: Tue Oct 28, 2014 7:45 pm
by BlueNote
Stock Buys

On the recent dip I increased my families stake in BHP Billiton. The investment thesis is pretty simple, they have some of the lowest cost mines in the world for a diverse range of materials, particularly iron. That gives them a moat to withstand a cyclical downturn in the sector and they have a shareholder friendly management. The price appears to be excellent although I could be totally wrong.

Bought some more Baxter, not much more room to add to that stake now.

Bought some Exxon Mobil as well. I could see it going lower if the Saudi's keep dumping oil on the market and the Americans keep producing faster then expected. However I do expected the cartel and general difficulty in finding new reserves to buoy the company in the long term. I think I paid a fair price on this one

Finally Unilever. Almost all brands are number one or number two in their category. The price seemed about fair or slightly discounted. The combination of food and cosmetic brands is nice as well as they have some extra diversification there. I have wanted to get my hands on some Unilever for a while.

Hopefully we can get some more downturns soon because the US market is probably overvalued considering that , eventually, interest rates will need to go up making bonds appealing to more investors and stocks less appealing on a risk adjusted basis.

The UK market seems easier to find deals in right now with over all valuations still generally below US counterparts. It's a lot easier to justify UL over PG right now despite them being very similar.

Yearly Vacation

I am on my yearly vacation right now. We drove to Florida and had a good time. On the way back to Canada my wife is doing sales calls so I am staying in hotels and eating on her company's dime in Tennessee and Illinois over the next week. Just had some fantastic BBQ here in Tennessee.

I tried to buy some beer from Wal-Mart and they told me they didn't accept foreign ID at Wal-Mart and that I'd need to get a green card in order to buy booze there. We were told this by a manager in a Wal-Mart near Nashville. He also seemed to think that either Florida was a different country or, more likely, that Canada was some sort of state in the USA. Needless to say I think Tennessee may have some problems with their educational system. Other then that I love America!

Re: BlueNote's Journal

Posted: Mon Nov 17, 2014 7:02 pm
by BlueNote

My wife and I have decided to try to make a baby at some point soon, likely in the first half of 2015.

I know that this will make financial independence more challenging however I enjoy kids. I used to work with kids of all ages as an ESL teacher in Japan and I seemed to have a knack with them.


I installed some Mr. Tuffy on my bike and it seems to increase rolling resistance, not much but just enough to notice. However I did roll through the remnants of a car accident the other day and the tires are still fully inflated. I think the trade off is worth it for me, I hate fixing flats.

The holiday season is coming, I have to buy presents for people. However I always get one cash gift that seems to pay for all my spending and I come out whole.

My dividends are starting to get significant. I think I'll make around $700 in dividends this year. That may not seem like much but to me, getting $700 for doing nothing but socking away some money I wouldn't know what to spend on otherwise is an interesting thing.

I should have bought more Exxon Mobil, I bought my shares at $89.90, hopefully we'll see those types of valuations again.

Re: BlueNote's Journal

Posted: Wed Dec 31, 2014 2:59 pm
by BlueNote
Re-Reading Early Retirement Extreme

I am reading ERE for the second time, I bought the book via Amazon this time, I am about half way through. Of all the books on personal finance I have read this one is my favourite. It probably could have been made into 3 or 4 books, with examples , case studies, etc. The book is very distilled, so that the essence of the ideas are clearly articulated with a few examples to help with understanding. Now that I am heading towards early retirement, the second reading is almost like reading a whole new book because things I had ignored or forgotten before now stand out. New ideas are introduced and united into a larger lattice of ideas rapidly in the book. Therefore I think that as my lattice of ideas matures I can use more of the book, theory and practice are self-reinforcing.

Personal Finance Tools

Personal finance tools are processes, software, and devices that allow one to carry out their personal finance process in a quicker, better and/or cheaper manner. In order to achieve all three goals I place a premium on reliability and usefulness. Reliability meaning that you retain control over the tool in almost all conditions and the tool won't break down or provide bad output. In addition the tool needs to provide relevant and timely information that can easily be compared to results in the past and between similar entities. These principles are very similar to how accounting rules are applied to publicly traded companies.

When I look at the personal finance "Apps" available today I see a couple that are worth having for me, the rest being of poorer quality then I could get with something free like a free spreadsheet app (I use google sheets) and Mint. If Mint didn't exist then I could still do what I needed to without it, but it does save a lot of time by aggregating my transactions in one place.

I can get very specific results from my spreadsheet system. The system is made specifically for my needs , works well with my brokers reporting and Mint. It provides me with just the details I want to see about my savings rate,net worth and investment results. It doesn't have a lot of internal slack like a costly off the shelf app would. If you buy something like Quicken you end up with a whole bunch of functionality you'll never use , or may use in the future but not now. Personal finance software vendors typically try to lock you into their product by imposing switching costs. For example you may not be able export all of your data to another application. They may make it so that you can't export your data at all. They may move certain functionality from a free version to a "premium" version in the future. They may buy a rival you use and eliminate the offering, or make the rivals offering too expensive. Luckily Quicken didn't do this with after they bought it, however it's impossible to know what features from would have been included if Mint stayed independent. If you have a bit of time you can easily learn to use a spreadsheet as your only personal finance software tool, albeit something like adds value from a time saving perspective.


I usually provide a bit of commentary on stocks. I have been interested in the super majors and energy in general lately because of the drop in oil prices. I don't think that the oil price drop is permanent , however I have no idea when the prices will go back up, it's complicated. I do know that this has happened in the past and prices could go a lot lower until they go back up. I like the super majors (Exxon, Chevron, RDS etc.) because they have integrated operations, scale, strong balance sheets and a long history of rising dividend payouts.

It's important to realize that a companys "fair value" is the present value of all the future cash flows (net present value or NPV) it will generate. The market often does a good job of pricing a company around its NPV, however sometimes it estimates too high or low for irrational reasons (systematic market forces, fear, greed etc.). The types of investments I am looking for allow the owner to get some of a company's fair value (cash flows) at regular intervals in a fairly predictable fashion forever. In order to achieve this I practise something that closely resembles dividend growth investing, but is better described as investing in high quality company's that have the dividend payout characteristics I desire for income needs.

Re: BlueNote's Journal

Posted: Fri Jan 02, 2015 11:29 am
by jacob
BlueNote wrote: I am reading ERE for the second time, I bought the book via Amazon this time, I am about half way through. Of all the books on personal finance I have read this one is my favourite. It probably could have been made into 3 or 4 books, with examples , case studies, etc. The book is very distilled, so that the essence of the ideas are clearly articulated with a few examples to help with understanding. Now that I am heading towards early retirement, the second reading is almost like reading a whole new book because things I had ignored or forgotten before now stand out. New ideas are introduced and united into a larger lattice of ideas rapidly in the book. Therefore I think that as my lattice of ideas matures I can use more of the book, theory and practice are self-reinforcing.
Glad to hear it! This kind of fractal depth from rereading was exactly the kind of effect I was looking for when I wrote the book. The only book I have ever read that seemed to change with rereading was the Book of Five Rings and that was my inspiration (although I admit to a significantly stronger academic twist). The first time I read the BOFR, my reaction was the typical dumbass "I don't get it at all, this is useless"-feeling. Yet after rereading it 3-4 times over about a decade, I've realized how deep BOFR is compared to any other manual I know. Every time I read it, I see something in a new way. It's the onion-approach to teaching. It's very very hard to do in writing but statements like this suggest that I have at least partially succeeded. ... lking.html

Re: BlueNote's Journal

Posted: Fri Jan 02, 2015 3:52 pm
by henrik
jacob wrote:It's the onion-approach to teaching. It's very very hard to do in writing but statements like this suggest that I have at least partially succeeded.
Yes. I've read the book three times over 4 years and found a new layer to chew on every time. I can't recall any other books that have achieved the same effect with me.

Re: BlueNote's Journal

Posted: Sun Mar 15, 2015 11:45 pm
by BlueNote
Auto Pilot Savings Rate

My savings rate has been on auto pilot, currently I am averaging a 55% savings rate, although last month I hit 63%. I make no special effort to achieve this rate of savings other then continuing to live the relatively lavish lifestyle which I have become accustomed over the last 5 years or so.

Recent temporary food bonus

I get 100% subsidized breakfast and lunch 4 days out of the week. I was recruited into a large ERP project at work that takes place at a location where our breakfast and lunch is catered. The lunches are particularly ostentatious with Indian, Hot Western, Cold Western and Sushi style options served daily. Yes I partake in bacon all the time. Somehow I have managed to lose 20 pounds with all this food bounty available.

This has increased my savings rate accordingly, with no extra effort on my part.


I recently invested $2.5K USD in Diageo (DEO on the NYSE). I stuck it in my TFSA as the dividends wouldn't be subject to witholding taxes because it is a UK ADR traded through the NYSE.

This is one of those investments where I bought a piece of a great business at a fair price. I think there is a very low probability that Diageo will ever go to zero and a rather high probability that it will do very well over long stretches of time. These are the types of investments give me the best nights sleep. They have large difficult to replicate structural advantages in the form of brand loyalty and scale. They have the scale to simply buyout any upstart that has a great product and the business to distribute and market it much more effectively then a smaller competitor. I cannot imagine a future where people will have given up Guiness, crown royal, Johnnie Walker et al. The product they make (spirits) will probably never be substituted in any significant way. The inputs (materials, labour , overhead) are plentiful and diffuse. They compound at a very high rate. The operation is so non-capital intensive that they have to cut dividend checks (regularly increasing) and buy back shares all the time because they simply cannot find enough good projects to reinvest all the cash. The only real downside, they aren't the holy grail unfortunately, is the debt. They are leveraged higher then I normally like but I think the business can deal with it and I am expecting them to reduce their leverage over the next 5-10 years.

Oil is another area I am watching carefully. As the US is producing more and more, the marginal buyers are becoming more fickle driving the market price down. This is bad for the high cost producers in particular. I think Exxon is still the best investment in this area and the price right now is good for the long term (10 years or longer) dividend growth investor. However one may also want to consider a diversified approach and buy a basket of all the super majors, or something along those lines.

Re: BlueNote's Journal

Posted: Sun Mar 15, 2015 11:45 pm
by BlueNote
deleted, duplicate post

Re: BlueNote's Journal

Posted: Fri May 08, 2015 11:26 pm
by BlueNote
Brief Update

Continue to save a lot. $3K tax return for 2014, will invest all of it.

Savings on auto pilot, should probably pay more attention to spending, savings rate still around 50% or more.

No real investment updates, hard to find good investments, everything seems overpriced. Canadian real estate never crashed like US real estate, if it does I will likely allocate to a downpayment and buy a house but that's just pie in the sky right now.

Took a health test at work and my numbers (glucose, cholesterol, blood pressure) were great. In fact they said I had somewhat low blood pressure compared to the norm for someone my age. However I was told to lose weight and get a better body fat % score.

Work project still provides catered breakfast and lunch. We are implementing Oracle which is way better then the ancient custom mainframe solution we run off of now.

Considering making some major life changes.... not ready to discuss in more detail but will if changes take place.

Re: BlueNote's Journal

Posted: Mon May 18, 2015 10:42 pm
by BlueNote
Internet mini-experiment

I am going to run a mini experiment.

I have observed that I spend a lot of time on the Internet. I tend to go into a time warp researching things on the net, hours can pass and I don't even notice. I think the Internet is great but sometimes you can have too much of a good thing.

Seeing as how I appear to have little in the way of discipline when it comes to moderating my own Internet usage I am going to try some strong self-regulation. To that end I am going to leave my personal computer locked up at work until end of day Friday. I am going to turn off Internet access on my cell phone, keeping voice and SMS access. I will only have Internet access at work which I am usually quite responsible with.

My educated guess is that there is a goldilocks amount of Internet access for me that is probably about 1-2 hours a day max. Anything more then that and other parts of my life will suffer to such an extant that it outweighs any advantage I would get by spending more time surfing the net.

Wish me luck!


BHP Billiton had a mini crash today as it spun off a company called South32. I continue to be a long term shareholder of BBL. I will hold any ADR's BBL spins off as long the witholding tax rate matches what I get on BBL (0% in my Canadian TFSA).

I continue to find it difficult to allocate money into the stock market and am actually contemplating other options. However it seems that in my area all options are bad. Bonds seem overprices, real estate seems overprices, stocks seem overpriced but with some rational pockets. So I continue to look for those rational pockets.I like Diageo, JNJ, Berkshire hathaway and a few others. Some of the Canadian banks look somewhat attractive for a long term investment as well, CWB is quite interesting.

Re: BlueNote's Journal

Posted: Tue May 19, 2015 7:21 am
by cmonkey
Good luck with the Internet starve! I identified the same problem in myself a few years ago and I managed to reduce my time online (while away from work) significantly to maybe an hour each day combined. The wife still has the problem, I always find her scrolling through facebook or pinterest or something. :(

I honestly think it is part of something deeper in our culture that causes people to just zone out looking at little screens all day, looking for meaning because most of us have nothing in our lives with real substance. John Michael Greer recently talked about this and I agree with him that its all a massive effort to distract ourselves from our miserable realities.

Re: BlueNote's Journal

Posted: Sun May 24, 2015 2:19 am
by BlueNote
Observations from mini Internet

Instead of doing introverted stuff on the Internet I started doing introverted stuff in real life like:

1. Learning some bread recipes
2. Spending more time talking to my wife
3. Reading books, magazines and other literature.

Now the bread recipes I am learning are from cookbooks, but the Internet is the ultimate library and probably has better recipes with a larger variety. However the Internet is so distracting that I may not have even followed a bread recipe if I had full access.

I think there is definitely an argument for 1-2 hours a day max of Internet access for personal use. For myself the Internet has low marginal utility per hour and has negative marginal utility after about 2 hours of continuous use per day.


I did a back of the envelope valuation on Canadian Western Bank. They aren't fantastically efficient, in that their cost of deposits is rather high compared to other banks. However they do make decent margins on their deposits. They have also raised the dividend every year for decades showing a strong shareholder friendly stance. Canadian banks have strong competitive advantages due to regional and legal structural advantages. The banking system is quite conservative in Canada with many older banks paying dividends continuously since the late 1800's. I figure the banking part of their business is, conservatively, worth about $30 per share. Given that they are trading under that price now it seems like a decent long term hold. Also they are involved in wealth management, trusts, and insurance (to be sold off) which i didn't value so it's like buying a bank and getting the other smaller components for free. The main reason the price is so good is that CWB is very Alberta centric. Alberta is very much an oil/tar sands driven economy and with the oil price shock happening the bank has been beaten down on worries they won't be able to perform well. I will likely initiate a position soon which will become part of my small financial allocation in my portfolio. So far this allocation is strictly Canadian Banks which have tax advantages for me also. Banks are inherently risky due to high leverage so I like to keep this part of my portfolio small.

@cmonkey: I agree that many online activities particularly "social media" are mostly a waste of time. My main problem is that it's too easy to get caught up with online activities and ignore more relevant real life activities.

Re: BlueNote's Journal

Posted: Thu May 28, 2015 8:26 pm
by BlueNote
Investing Burnout

I am seriously considering becoming an index investor.

Actively investing in stocks is difficult, takes a lot of time and reminds me of work ( I am a professional accountant). I don't mind work but I like to mix up my mental time between different activities or I burn out.

Unfortunately I am not the type of investor who is comfortable investing soley on financial ratios. I like to read the whole annual report, do an intrinsic valuation, analyze ratios and do a thorough qualitative analysis. I think that you need to have about 30-40 stocks to maximize the benefits of diversification (with full sector coverage). I simply don't have the time or mental energy to follow that many stocks using my methods. On top of that I don't even know if I am good at picking stocks because it would take 5-10 years before I would know for sure that I was executing on my strategy.

I am seriously considering moving to a passive asset allocation strategy using low cost index funds or ETF's and rebalancing on a regular basis. It's just so much easier then personally managing a portfolio and I am comforted by the statistics, empirical data and math behind the method. Dividend growth investing also has a lot of solid research to support it, particularly when combined with value investing, low payout ratios and reasonable debt/equity factors. Add to that high ROI/ROE and over weighting to things like health care, energy and consumer non-cyclicals and you're right in my DGI strike zone.

I have already tried the permanent portfolio and I liked the simplicity but didn't like all that gold exposure. So I am considering going down a similar road but with greater diversification and focus on academically proven (but simple to implement) models like the fama french 3 factor model.

Luckily if I switch the cost will be very minimal because I have a very cheap broker ($5 trades on stocks $2.50 for ETF's).

Re: BlueNote's Journal

Posted: Fri May 29, 2015 4:21 am
by Scrubby
"There is a Wall Street aphorism that says a bull market misleads the average investor to mistake himself for a financial genius.

This wisdom also applies to the recent period of reflation and central bank intervention, where the abundant liquidity lifted nearly all boats.

However, there is vast empirical evidence that equity (and bond) markets can indeed fall too. Herb Stein’s Law applies: If something cannot go on forever, it will stop."

-Virtus Investment Partners

It's impossible to know if you're actually doing a good job or if you're unknowingly benefiting from taking a higher risk than you think.

Re: BlueNote's Journal

Posted: Fri May 29, 2015 6:53 am
by BlueNote
Scrubby wrote: It's impossible to know if you're actually doing a good job or if you're unknowingly benefiting from taking a higher risk than you think.
I think that for the vast majority of investors this is the case. However there are a handful, I am not one of them, who have consistently turned in excellent long term results. Depending on how risk is defined I suspect they had a very good idea of the real risks (bankruptcy, business model, management etc.) as well. If you haven't already read it I recommend a small write up entitled The Super Investors of Graham and Doddsville by Warren Buffett. Buffett provides a good set of counter evdidence and arguments against the EMH and passive investing dogma.

I think passive investing is great but sometimes I find the folks that are really good at math and stats get too serious about it. I think this is referred to as "physics envy", some factors of good investing just don't lend themselves well to our current mathematical abilities, that doesn't mean they can be ignored.

Re: BlueNote's Journal

Posted: Wed Jul 01, 2015 4:59 pm
by BlueNote
Messed up hand

My right hand experienced a sudden onset of swelling, pain, and stiffness where my thumb joins my wrist about 3 weeks ago. At first I thought it was gout because it felt like gout but in my wrist instead of my foot. After a couple of doctors visits they diagnosed De Quervains Tenosynovitis and prescribed a splint. Then the symptoms changed and I couldn't bend my hand backwards and could hardly bend it forwards without a lot of pain. I go to the doctor again and he says to get rid of the splint because he is afraid I will develop RSD. He also forcefully bent my hand back and much to my chagrin it was extremely painful but the hand went backwards without snapping off and falling to the floor. He advised me to forecfully bend my own hand within my pain limits to help prevent the onset of RSD. He also scheduled me for a bone scan where I will be injected with a radioactive substance and subsequently scanned for any problems.


I think my DGI days are over. It's a good strategy but I don't like all the research I have to do to feel comfortable with it. I don't want to read all those 10K's etc. I am probably going to switch to a broad investment strategy that utilizes broad diversification, factors (value, small cap, momentum), trending and low costs. I am thinking I could implement the IVY timing portfolio that Meb Faber wrote about pretty easily with a Canadian flavour. However there are some, seemingly, better methods to implement the principles behind that portfolio. For example the aggressive global tactical asset portfolio's on this website have very good risk to reward profiles. However they are difficult to implement in a Canadian flavour without incurring extra taxes and currency risk. This is because Canada doesn't have decent Canadian versions of some of the ETF's that are used in the US. In fact very few, if any, counties outside the U.S. would have all 13 types of securities that this strategy recommends in their local markets and currencies.

Therefore my future portfolio will probably be some sort of hybrid, I am working on developing something and will post my results here eventually.


I deposited 66% of my take home pay (including pension benefits) in H1 2015. I managed to spend 45% of my take home pay (including pension benefits) in H1 2015, for a savings rate of 55%. The difference is because some of my retirement account deposits for 2015 were taken from amounts saved from 2014.

Head Hunter

A head hunter was in touch with me about a job with a Canadian telecom. This particular telecom has recruited several people from my company over the years. I am not sure I would even want to go to this place and work but I am willing to check out the opportunity.

The thing that gets me about head hunters is that they seem like a mix of sales person and HR specialist. They get paid to place people and they know what to say to get people to go to interviews and make lowish offers in order to be "competitive". The book freakonomics documented how real estate agents would have almost no problems dropping the price of an offer 5-10% because the effect on their commission was mild compared to the effect of no sale at all. Head Hunters do the same thing with salary expectations in order to close the deal. I know about how much I could get in the market place because I hold an accounting designation (CPA, CMA) and my professional society does in depth surveys that tell me what market salary is for someone my age, in this city doing this sort of job with my experience etc.. My employer simply will not give me, or almost anyone else, a raise because they think they can get away with it. They have been getting away with it for about 5 years now with almost nobody getting a raise. However new hires don't count, they get paid what the market dictates. Head hunters will say just take the low ball and ask for a raise in a year when you're established. That's BS. All big companies employ a form of grade/range salary scales that prevent anything but modest raises for most people. Otherwise you'd have jealous workers, overpaid workers etc. Unless you're in a commissionable type job there's almost no way around it. If there weren't a grade/range system in place then some managers would go to town and their employee's would be way over paid, after all the managers would be spending the company's money not their own.

Therefore with this job I am going for the throat on salary, bonus and benefits. I am not going to budge on that stuff. I am going to ask for at least the same number of vacation days, same level or better pension benefits and a much higher salary and bonus(median salary). I'll treat this as a learning experience on negotiation.