Ten Years of Self-Employment and Few Random Thoughts

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Ten years ago I’ve started my own business

As some of you might now, I am self employed. It’s a weird thing to say because it always needs more explaining – self employment these days can mean a variety of things. You can be self employed by pimping yourself out to larger companies as a consultant, you can be a self-employed sales person, or even a blogger/Youtuber/Instagrammer. Or you can run white powder type of goods across the border.

In my case it’s neither one of those scenarios though I heard profit margins in the last one are very appealing. Life expectancy is much shorter though and there is always a chance of ending up in jail with unwanted sexual advances of some guy named Chuck.

In my case, I run a contracting company. It’s a very traditional and boring but at the same time real business that makes things happen for our clients. This isn’t a sexy startup, it’s nothing flashy or cutting edge. Sometimes it’d downright dirty. But it has a number of customers, and it puts food on our table and pays bills for a number of people that work for me.

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Is financial education really the key to financial success?

Financial education is the key? 10

Here’s something that really upsets me sometimes – people saying that education is the key to financial success.

 

“- How come basic financial education isn’t offered in high school? So many problems could have been avoided for us average people if teachers showed us how to budget our money and avoid high interest debt of credit cards. Everybody would be responsible with money, nobody would go into debt, and payday loan outfits would go out of business! Right?”

Financial education is the key?

Financial education is the key?

 

Wrong.

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Financial OCD or simply keeping things in order?

Financial OCD

You know what really grinds my gears?

 

It’s when people start accusing me of having OCD while I think it’s just tidiness and punctuality.  And it doesn’t have to be something related to financial matters. Lately, people have been accusing me of having OCD over silliest things.

It usually goes along these lines:

 

– Hey, how come your car is so clean and tidy?

– Cause I clean it regularly. And keep it tidy.

– Whoa, it’s like you have OCD or something.

 

And in financial matters it’s even worse:

 

– Darn, my bank charged me interest again because I was late with my Visa payment. I have worst luck ever with money. Don’t you hate when it happens to you?

– No, I pay all of my bills on time.

– Dude, you must be suffering from OCD.

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Not everybody needs to own a home

Real estate is sizzling hot these days.

 

You know it’s a hot topic when you go to Starbucks on the corner hoping to get some coffee in peace and quiet but end up listening to people having conversation how investing in real estate is a sure way to make money. Then on the front page of Financial Post you’ll see an article how prices of real estate in Vancouver are more expensive than London and Hong Kong combined. On TV you’ll see yet another real estate investing show. Your cab driver will inform you he’s thinking about investing into rentals. Your friends will ponder about becoming real estate moguls while consuming copious amounts of pizza on Friday night.

Seems like everybody is talking about it, prices are going nowhere but up, and today is your last chance to buy it; otherwise you risk spending the rest of your pointless life in misery while paying rent. Paying rent is now a synonym for throwing your money away because you simply pay someone else’s mortgage and have nothing to show for it at the end of the month.

But what everybody fails to mention while praising real estate as an excellent investment opportunity is that owning your own home is not for everybody. You can go on living your life without having your name on the property title. In fact, some people should be prohibited from even thinking about buying real estate yet thanks to the media frenzy they go down this road and in most cases it ends very badly.

 

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List of 2016 predictions

Feels like just few weeks ago we had to get used to dating things with “2015”, but the year 2015 is already over. It’s a new year upon us, 2016. What marvelous events will take place? What future trends we’ll discover?

Here are some of my predictions for the next year. You heard them here first, y’all!

 

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Personal Finance and Little Money:

 

– More and more people will go into debt. Because we never learn.

– Real estate prices in major Canadian metros will continue to go up. While technically prohibited, lifelong mortgages loophole will be invented to allow young people to experience the joy of home ownership by buying a moderately used garden shed for just under $1M. Real estate agents will continue pressuring young people into buying by using “BUY NOW OR BE FOREVER LEFT BEHIND” bullying tactic. It will continue to work wonders.

– Student debt will go even higher allowing anybody to pursue higher education without thinking too much whether or not they’ll have a good return on investment in a form of well-paying career later on. Your next Starbucks coffee might be made by somebody with PhD in History of Animal Advocacy.

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How Going Green Can Help You Save Money

 

When someone tells you to “up your green game,” what do you think of? Do you imagine roofs lined with solar paneling? Do you think of a house that is completely off the grid? Do you start to panic, imagining how much turning your home into a “green” home will cost? Before you freak all the way out, here is some good news: going green doesn’t necessarily mean making huge costly improvements to your home.

For the most part, going green means making small changes, all of which save you money in the long run. Here are just a few examples:

 

Switch to Green Energy

 

It’s true: in many markets, switching to an entirely green energy plan may actually cost you more money, but that increase in cost is relatively small. Typically, if you live in a regulated market, upgrading to renewable power adds about $10 to your monthly bill–less if you watch your energy consumption (we’ll talk about that in a minute).

If you are lucky enough to live in a deregulated market, however, (like Texas, Illinois, Alberta, etc) you can shop around using sites like LocalElectricityCompanies.com for green power plans that will fit your budget. You might even be able to find a green power plan that costs less than what you’re currently paying for.

 

Use Less Power

 

Duh, right? Obviously one of the quickest and easiest ways to “green up” your home is to power it down as much as possible. Most families do this via simple habit switches like turning off the lights when they leave a room, adjusting their thermostats by a few degrees, etc. Here are some other things you can do to reduce your power consumption:

Switch to LED bulbs as your CFLs burn out. LED bulbs do cost more at the outset (at the time of this article’s writing, they are about $20 per bulb) but they are the most energy efficient bulb currently available. They use less power and last longer than incandescents, fluorescents, and even CFLs (and you don’t have to wait for them to “warm up” like you do CFLs). Over the course of a bulbs lifetime it can drastically reduce the amount of power you consume, thereby saving you hundreds of dollars in energy bills.

Invest in a Solar Charger or two. Solar chargers are primarily the purview of outdoorsy types; they’re a great way to keep devices charged without requiring heavy backup batteries, etc. They’re also quite popular with travelers who don’t want to worry about finding an outlet at the airport. You can also use them in your home to reduce your power consumption. Small chargers work great for cell phones and tablets. You’ll want a larger charger if you want to charge laptops or multiple devices at the same time.

 

Grow Your Own

 

Yes, we know: not everybody has the yard space for a large fruit, veggie, or herb garden. Some of you live in tiny spaces with no yards at all. Guess what: even if you live in a tiny apartment, you can still grow a few things. Herb gardens, in particular, work well on window sills and in small containers. Growing your own herbs and, if you have the space for it, produce saves you tons of money at the grocery store. It reduces the number of trips to the store you have to make. It can also, if you’re growing your herbs and produce inside, improve the air quality of your home. This improvement reduces the burden on your air filters and HVAC system, making it cheaper and easier to maintain.

PRO TIP: Set up a compost pile or under-sink worm bin so that you can fertilize your plants organically with your own compost instead of spending lots of money on compost or fertilizer from your local nursery.

 

Water Harvesting

 

Yes, you already know how to take a military styled shower and are already doing that in an effort to reduce your water consumption. You also only wash full loads of dishes and laundry. Guess what: there’s more you can do. Saving your gray water (the water that collects in the tub while you’re rinsing off, and that flows through your gutters when it rains) and pure rainwater is a great way to reduce the amount of water you access via the municipal supply, which reduces your monthly water bill. Setting up rain barrels is relatively simple and cost effective and while you shouldn’t use gray water for cooking, it does have many other uses around the house.

It might sound silly, but the greener you can make your home, the less you will spend on everything from utilities to grocery costs. Use these tips to help you green up your life!

 

Back with a vengeance

Well, hello there!

 

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Have you heard the good news?

Honey Boo Boo is back, and now she sings. Also, I think I’m finally getting to the point where I have free time to amuse you and two other readers with my thoughts about life, money, bagels, and things that annoy me.

It was inevitable like your friends starting to have babies. It was unavoidable like a conversation about Breaking Bad at a party. It’s fall, it’s here, and summer is finally over! Hello, spare time!

1. The summer was extremely busy in terms of work, which feels fantastic. I haven’t crunched the numbers, but I feel like it was our busiest year to date. Some projects were fun, some projects were a complete nightmare, but overall I think we did well. Hooray, we actually might be in black!

2. After several years of studying, Mrs. Financial Underdog finally finished school. Just few weeks ago she’s received her professional designation as a Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA). She’s been on the road to this for a number of years ever since she’s immigrated to Canada. Hey, it’s nice to have somebody in our household who actually graduated from school.

3.  Good god, I need to finally organize my blog. It makes amateur bloggers look professional.

4. I haven’t been paying attention to investment news for quite some time, but we’ve been behaving ourselves and staying within our budgets and diligently putting away 35% of our income away towards future investing just like we’ve planned for this year.

5. I’m very much looking forward to reconnecting with personal finance community on Interwebz, blogging on a regular basis, and yet again completely astounding you with my wisdom and expertise.  I know my expertise mostly revolves around “Have you ever noticed …” jokes and fun facts about food, but nonetheless!

So, what’s new with all of yous? Hit me with some news of your own!

In case you’re wondering if I got hit by a bus …

… Don’t worry, I’m perfectly fine. I’m just taking a little break

1. Things are getting crazy at work. Summer is a money-making season for small businesses such as mine, so we have to soak in as much as we can get. Strike the iron when pretty girls are looking at you … I mean when it’s hot.

2. I’m currently dealing with some health issues and looking for treatment options. While it’s nothing life threatening, but it’s still time consuming to visit doctors, do my own research because I don’t trust most doctors, and then agree with doctors since they were right all along. Hopefully this gets settled some time soon, so I can move on with my life.

3. I’m currently brewing a post on how childhood affected me as a consumer. Does anybody have any personal insight into this? Would be great if somebody could share some info on how their childhood shaped them into a minimalist or the other way around.

I’ll be back shortly, and I hope everybody is enjoying summer while kicking ass at work. Or school. Or just kicking ass in life.

Yours Truly,

Financial Underdog.

Paying off mortgage like a boss!

As I’ve mentioned previously, we just went through a process of refinancing our home. Now, to a normal person this is a rather joyless occasion because it doesn’t really change anything. But to a financial nerd like me, this is just another excuse to crunch the numbers and play with scenarios.

Think about these scenarios as traveling through time. What will our lives be like when we’re completely debt-free?

 

Great news about paying off mortgage!

 

… is the fact that we’re finally making a dent in this mortgage of ours. Yes, I know mortgage in French means “thing you have till you die” or may be “herpes”, but after 5 years of making payments we’re seeing the difference and perhaps a glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel. Now we just have to make sure that the light isn’t an oncoming train.

When we first got our mortgage, it came with a bi-weekly payment of $495. Every year or so, we’d increase the payment by 10% till the payment increased to $658. The extra payments would go towards the principal and slightly speed up the process of paying off mortgage. Extra payments coupled with a healthy downpayment made a nice dent in the mortgage by the time we had to refinance 5 years later. The amount of money we still owe is $195,000 (price of our home – $285,000)

Another great news is seeing how much of our new payment will be going towards the principal. On original payment of $450, huge chunk of it was interest. By the time the payment grew to $658, it was a bit less than a half. New payments consist of roughly 30% interest and 70% principal repayment. And that means more and more of our money going towards principal and less towards banks’ profit margins and their nice furniture. Take that, banks!

 

Paying off mortgage

Paying off mortgage

 

Bad news!

 

Paying off mortgage is hard. We’re still not even half way towards repaying it. We’ve paid $285,000 for our home, and the mortgage is barely under $200,000 right now. It’s a bit depressing to think how much we still have to pay towards it. I want us to be debt free yesterday! I want us to keep the money we’re throwing at the mortgage in our bank account to enjoy it, not hand it over to some big corporate bank! Trust me, the quality of life for me and my wife comes first before that of banks and banks’ shareholders (sorry, dividend investing bloggers).

So, I’ve said to my wife: “- I hate our mortgage!”

And she said”:  “- Hey, so do I!”

And then I said: “- Hey, I’m glad we finally have something in common!”

Then she gave me THAT look, and I’ve decided to proceed with our options:

 

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Canadian Exempt Market Investments – Friend or Foe?

Exempt Market Investments 2

Note to reader: This started as a short blurb on the subject but I just kept adding and adding more information to the point of this becoming one of the longest posts I’ve published to date. I get excited like this sometimes 🙂 Overall, I think this provides everything one would need to start their research on Canadian exempt market investments. Here are the key things you’ll learn in this post:

– What are exempt market investments?

– Examples of typical exempt market investments

– How you can become an investor

– What are the risks associated with alternative investing

– What are the benefits 

– Some exempt market investments I’ve put my personal money towards.

Hopefully it will give you something to think about. Feel free to ask me questions by commenting! 

 

What are exempt market investments?

 

If you ask a person next to you about investing, they’ll mention public stock markets like NASDAQ or NYSE. They might mention mutual funds or index funds at the same time. More advanced investors will mention hedge funds or initial public offerings. If you happen to be talking to me, I might talk about stockpiling pretzels for the upcoming food crisis caused by zombie outbreak as a form of investing – but that’s what you get for talking to me.

If you’re somebody who is interested in investing your hard-earned money and live in Canada, sooner or later you’ll run into an interesting world of exempt market investments. Exempt market investments considered to be an alternative type of investing as opposed to traditional public stock markets.

Years and years ago, alternative investments were not accessible by everyday investors and average people. They were specifically reserved for institutional investors (corporations, pension funds, financial institutions, etc.) and individuals with high net worth and connections to the right people. But just like investing on the stock market became extremely accessible to everyday folks, exempt market investments are accessible now to “regular people” like you and me.

Exempt market investments are not a small niche market. In fact it’s huge and worth billions of dollars in Canada alone. More money is raised through private equity investments than through traditional stock exchanges. The question is – should you even consider touching these investments?

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