Apr 012017
 

Tired of paying for things? You’ve come to the right place. Here I’ll present a perfectly sound and reasonable plan for you to live for free. That’s right FREE. Let’s tackle the most common expenses:

FOOD

Food is expensive. A decent meal at Mcdonalds is going to cost us upwards of $10, three times a day, that’s $30/day! UNACCEPTABLE! Let’s start by never eating out ever again. That should reduce food expenses by around 2/3 according to my other food post (SAVING HACKS: COOKING). We can make better food than the disgusting poison they serve in restaurants anyway.

BUT COOKING IS ALSO EXPENSIVE. Yea I know. First let’s cut down on luxuries like condiments, spices, salt, sugar, meat, dairy, anything imported, and anything that absolutely requires heat. We can’t be bothered spending precious electricity on heating up food.

All we really need to not die is calories and vitamins. We can get calories from rice and vitamins from vitamin pills.

  • We can buy a ton (literally) of rice through Alibaba for $650. To get to 2000 calories per day we’ll need to eat 13 servings of rice. That’s 585g of dry rice per day and thus our ton of rice will last around 51 months, or 4 years. Thanks Alibaba!
  • Here’s a place that will sell 12,000 vitamin pills for $450. At one pill per day that’ll last us 32 years! Only $0.03 per day!

We’ve successfully gotten our food budget down to $176.50/year:

Rice and Vitamins

Fun and exciting animal shaped pills for intellectual stimulation!

BUT THAT’S NOT GOOD ENOUGH

The title of this post is how to live FOR FREE, not how to live for $0.48/day. Forget everything I just taught you about rice and multivitamins. It’s time to get free food!

We could grow food, but that takes too long and we’ll be dead before harvest time.

We could steal food, but people these days put locks on their doors.

We could live off sunlight, but we’d get too hungry when it’s cloudy.

The solution? GARBAGE. There’s literally tons of food thrown away every year! You only need to find a trash can and get digging!

trash-can-clip-art

Delicious

SHELTER

Houses are expensive. Rent is expensive. But how expensive is it really? A quick search of Kijiji shows the cheapest rentals go for about $300/month. Clearly that’s too much. We can get almost two years worth of food for that! Continue reading »

Mar 212017
 

I’ve been getting a lot of similar questions lately. What are bonds? Why should I care? Why are you wasting your time on this silly moose website?

I’ll answer some of those questions. Turn on the thinking part of your brain…. now… and here we go with bonds!

Not that kind of bond

Not that kind of bond

What is a bond?

A debt issued to some entity where YOU act as the issuer and collect interest. (You loan money and they eventually give it back plus some extra)

 

Wait what?

You give the government or a corporation some money, say $1000, and they promise to pay you interest, say 6%, over a specified time frame, say two years. At the end of the two years you’ll get your $1000 back plus $60 interest for a total of $1060.

Bonds are issued by governments and corporations to gain access to cold hard cash for various long term projects like World War II. Corporations prefer bonds over direct bank loans because bonds offer more flexibility. Banks are strict on what you spend their money on and won’t give you anything more till you pay back the first loan.

Governments typically don’t take loans from banks and thus will normally issue bonds to raise cash or cover a deficit. Alternatively the government can just print more money but that’ll weaken the currency on the open market and thus weaken the country.

 

How is this different from a GIC? Also, what’s a GIC?

A Guaranteed Investment Certificate(GIC) is an investment sold by a bank that provides a guaranteed return over a specified time frame.

GICs are normally issued by banks, not corporations or governments, and as the name implies is guaranteed. The word guarantee is a strong statement, but these banks have been pretty reliable these past few centuries. Bond values can change over time(more on that later) and thus their value is not guaranteed. A bond can also be SOLD at any time whereas a GIC is completely locked up for its duration.

 

Why should I buy bonds?

You’ve probably heard that people need 30% bonds and 70% stocks. There are reasons for that:

  1. Diversification – During wild market fluctuations bonds will normally do the opposite of stocks and owning both will make your portfolio less volatile. Some bond funds during the 2008 crash gained 11% while stocks fell 20%
  2. Stability – Bond prices may rise and fall slightly but they are seriously more stable than stocks. Check out the graph below.
  3. Income – Cash payouts from bonds remain fairly constant even if the bond price dances all over the place. Most bonds payout twice a year and can be used as a reliable source of passive retirement income.
Stocks vs Bonds

Stocks in Red vs Bonds in Blue. Bonds are low risk low reward which is a good thing

Ok I’m convinced, how do I buy bonds?

The easiest way to buy individual bonds is through your brokerage. Questrade offers zero commissions on bond trades. You will normally call the bond department of the brokerage to place an order. Government bonds can be purchased through the Government of Canada website. They’ll even mail you a fancy bond certificate! (Update: Canada Savings Bonds are being discontinued in November 2017. Dangit)

 

How else do I buy bonds?

ETFs – You guessed it, bonds also come in ETFs! With a bond ETF you can buy a small fraction of 1000 different bonds at once rather than a single bond. You can buy them just like a stock through your brokerage and can easily target a bond market, like government or corporate.

Vanguard’s Canadian Aggregate Bond ETF holds 770 different bonds, mostly government, it has an annual dividend (or distribution as they call it with bonds) of 3.3% which is paid monthly.

 

What else should I know?

  • Relationship between bonds and interest rates – Maybe you’ve heard that such a relationship exists. Well it does. And to put it simply, if the government reduces interest rates, bond prices go up, and vice versa. It’s an INVERSE relationship and one of the main reasons bond prices fluctuate.
  • Relationship between bonds and stocks – You should know this already, typically bonds will fall (slightly) when stocks rise and vice versa. Another INVERSE relationship.
  • Bond strategy – Infiltrate the Russian compound and steal the intel without alerting the guards…. wait…. wrong Bond again.
  • Bond strategy – Bonds are your safety net. A conservative profile will be mostly bonds. If you’re under 30 you should hold about 15% in bonds, gradually increasing that to at least 60% at the start of retirement. Thus if the market crashes you’ll at least retain some of your capital within the bonds.

 

Why would interest rates matter?

It will make sense with an example. Let’s say you buy a bond at $1000 paying 5%. You will eventually get back a total of $1050. But the next day interest rates rise to 10%. You decide to sell your first bond and buy a new one that gives 10%. Unfortunately you can’t find a chump to buy your sissy 5% bond when they can just as easily walk across the street and get 10%. The only solution is to lower your selling price to artificially give a 10% return.

You manage to sell your $1000 bond for $954.55. Had you kept it you would have earned $50, but the new owner will earn $95.45 ($50 plus your discount of $45.45) which is 10% of $954.55. Summarized below:

5% interest 10% interest (new owner) Difference
Value at purchase $1000 $954.55  -$45.45
Value at maturity $1050 $1050
Total interest $50 $95.45 +$45.45

 

Whoever issued the bond pays the exact same no matter who owns it. But as you can see the $45 was transferred between owners because of the interest rate change.

There! You’re now smarter! You can smugly talk about interest rates affecting your investments!

 

Feb 252017
 

In the game of building wealth you either earn more or spend less. Not everyone can easily earn more, but anyone can spend less. I’d wager that if you are reading this right now you eat food. Did you know you can make your own food? If you want to get serious about building wealth you’d better start. It might be the easiest and most effective way to save money.

20160130_102608

Gourmet homemade breakfast: Two fried eggs with onion and spinach, everything bagel with peanut butter and jam, and tomato juice. Total cost ~$1.50 Estimated restaurant cost $5

“But Mr ProfitMoose, I’m a terrible cook, I burn spaghetti!” Ignorance is a terrible reason to not do something. What you are saying is “I can’t follow basic instructions”. Whatever you want to cook, just type it into google with “recipe” and you’ll be inundated with cooking instructions. Other reasons NOT to cook:

  • Don’t know what to cook? – Cook what you normally get from restaurants, or search google for “easy recipes”
  • Don’t know what spices to add to make it good? – Follow the recipe
  • Always missing ingredients? – Go to the grocery store with a shopping list
  • Don’t have time? – You have time to read finance blogs
  • Don’t like washing dishes? – Get a dishwasher (the machine not a person). Or suck it up and just do them. You’re an adult (presumably)
  • Constantly burn food? – Set a timer on your phone
  • Scared of burning your house down? – Get a fire extinguisher and smoke detector
  • Someone does your cooking for you? – Well lah dee dah. But is this person going to be with you at every meal time your whole life?

“Whatever Mr ProfitMoose, I choose to ignore your fancy logic and reasons. I still don’t like cooking” You need someone to hold your hand. What about getting everything delivered right to you? The latest trend are companies like Chef’s Plate that will deliver everything you need to cook a specific meal in a refrigerated box right to your door(although it can be expensive). Why not learn how to make a few of these meals then buy the ingredients yourself?

Modified Kraft Dinner dinner: Kraft Dinner + Extra Macaroni + Italian Sausage + Frozen Mixed Vegetables + 2 Avocados + Pineapple + 1 can of Black Beans + Mustard Greens + Garlic + Random Spices = Delicious. Estimated cost per meal for 5-6 meals ~$3. Estimated restaurant equivalent cost ~$10

“Well Mr ProfitMoose, I’d rather put cooking time into things that make me MORE money” Cooking has so many benefits beyond saving money:

  • Learn a practical skill
  • Impress the opposite (and/or same) sex
  • Social bonding time with a cooking partner (see above point)
  • Know exactly what you’re eating (compared to more mysterious restaurant ingredients)
  • Custom flavours (add as much garlic as you want!)
  • Custom portion sizes
  • Supercharge your healthy eating
  • Personal satisfaction through creation

I see too many friends and colleagues eating out for every meal yet saying they don’t have time to cook. What if you spend 2-3 hours cooking meals for the next 6 days? (including buying groceries, cooking, and cleaning). Spread out over 6 days that’s about 25 minutes per day, and I’d guess that the time spent in a restaurant (including travel time) is more than 25 minutes (unless you only get delivery).

FINANCIALS OF COOKING

Lets make up some rough numbers for cooking and eating out, starting with eating out:

  • $9  – Breakfast sandwich + coffee/tea
  • $12 – Lunch
  • $3  – Afternoon snack
  • $15 – Dinner
  • $3  – Evening snack
  • $42  –  DAILY TOTAL

The average employers budgets a daily food allowance of $50 for travelling employees, so I’d say my estimate is good. What about cooking yourself? I’ll make up some numbers based on my typical meals:

  • $0.15/cup – home brewed coffee or tea
  • $1  – bagel with creamcheese and 2 eggs
  • $4  – two sandwiches (from $3 loaf of bread, $5 meat, $0.50 tomatoes, $1 lettuce that makes roughly seven sandwiches)
  • $1.50 – yogurt, fruit
  • $4  – dinner ($3 spaghetti, $3 sauce, $3 ground beef, $7 assorted vegetables and potatoes on the side that lasts four meals or more)
  • $2  – mixed nuts or toast/fruit
  • $12.65 DAILY TOTAL

DIFFERENCE: $29.35

So based on my estimates you can save an average of $30 per day by cooking everything yourself. Let’s be conservative and cut that in half to $15/day, or roughly $100/week. That’s $5,200 per year. That alone will nearly fill your TFSA! Now lets invest it at 7% return for 30 years:

  • $100/week
  • 7% return
  • 30 years
  • Result: ~$510,000

Half a million seems like a good enough reason as any to start cooking. And you’ll live longer to enjoy it if you are eating healthy.

 Posted by at 7:17 am
Oct 152016
 

 

Be sure to read Part 1 before continuing

What to hold in a frozen investment account:

Remember that in your frozen account there is no rebalancing, no buying, no selling, no withdraw. You can take no action until you return to Canada and unfreeze. Good thing you are read this before you leave Canada and it’s not too late! Your ideal frozen funds should have these characteristics:

  • No dividends
  • No re-balancing required
  • Steady, reliable growth
  • Low fees
  • Allocations: 15% Canadian equity, 40% US equity,  25% International equity, and 20% bonds

If you are under thirty I’d normally suggest 10% in bonds, but since you can’t re-balance it’s best to give your slower growing bonds a head start. In a few years your entire portfolio will be higher(probably), but the bonds will have grown at a slower pace, reducing their share of the total. Ideally that 20% will be closer to 10% or 15% where it belongs. (and yes that will keep shrinking, but there’s really nothing we can do about it if your account is frozen for ten years or longer).

I’ve come up with two options: One single balanced fund, or a set of three or four stable ETFs. Amix of both will also work well:

Continue reading »

Sep 152016
 

So you’ve finally decided it’s too cold here, or you’re sick of Tim Hortons coffee, or some beautiful person has stolen your heart and keeping it hostage in another country. Whatever the circumstance you’re exiting Canada for an unspecified amount of time. But what do you do with your massive swollen nest egg all tucked away in the Toronto Stock Exchange?

Option 1: Don’t Change Anything, Freeze Your Account

If your brokerage allows it you can keep your investment accounts as-is after you leave and potentially avoid:

  • Transaction fees
  • Account closing fees
  • Wire transfer fees
  • Currency conversion fees
  • Realized gains/loses from selling your investments
  • Lost growth during the lag time between selling in Canada and re-investing in your new country

That’s a lot of fees that can be avoided. But they might be pennies compared to the financial disadvantages. Normally if you leave your account it will become FROZEN, meaning you can’t do anything except watch what happens. Some of the implications of a frozen account include:

  • No rebalancing
  • Dividends sit as cash
  • Complex cross-border taxes
  • No access to funds if they’re needed

What about selling everything and closing the account?

Option 2: Liquidate Accounts and Re-invest in Your New Country

Depending on your brokerage, selling might be your only option (Questrade, for example, does not allow non-residents to hold a margin account). Taking your money with you has some benefits:

  • Lower taxes (maybe)
  • Access to better investments
  • Simplified tax reporting
  • Avoidance of jail time and/or $10,000+ fines (your Canadian investments might be considered offshore tax evasion)

Of course the tax benefit won’t matter if Canada is still taxing your worldwide income, and that’s the first thing you need to check:

Continue reading »

Jun 192016
 

Before You Continue Reading – Are Mutual Funds For You?

Are you lacking time to learn basic investment skills? Do you trust other people managing your money? Are you okay with paying high fees for mediocre returns? Then mutual funds might be for you.

Or maybe you already have them, or maybe your employer’s group RRSP only offers mutual funds like mine does with RBC. However you ended up with mutual funds, don’t use ignorance as an excuse to keep them. Do your research on what they are and how they work and why you should avoid them:

Why You Should Avoid Mutual Funds

Unjustified high fees. When I say high fees I mean tens of thousands of dollars over your lifetime. You’ll never see a line item of FEES: $15,000, you’ll see MER: 3% which will equate to $15,000 PER YEAR on your nest egg of $500,000.

The truth is that passively managed index fund will nearly always give better returns over the long run. I go into more detail here and here.

Managed funds must consistently outperform the market by 2-3% for their 2-3% fees to be worthwhile. This almost never happens. Here is a comparison of an index fund and mutual fund from one of my previous posts:

VCN-IGI

You can see that the passively managed ETF VCN is basically 20% higher than the actively managed IGI489 after only 2 years!

Okay Whatever, I’m Still Buying Mutual Funds

So you’re still going for it despite the evidence. Ok then let’s get into it. For the analysis I’ve separated TD’s funds by colour according to their category:

TD Fund Legend

I’m reviewing them based on 3 criteria:

  1. Best Return Since Inception (long term gains)
  2. Best 5 Year Return (short term gains)
  3. Best Return During the 2008 Crash (options for conservative funds)

Now KEEP IN MIND that I’m analyzing past returns which are no guarantee of future returns. Who knows, maybe my #1 recommendation will lose 50% of it’s value the day you buy into it. Invest at your own risk.

CLICK HERE for an image of all funds for reference.

And awayyyyyyyyyy we go!

Continue reading »

May 242016
 

People (mostly bloggers) write and talk about how mutual funds are basically scams but they rarely show proof. Well I finally found some. I present to you the story of TD Global Asset Allocation Fund, TBD158.

Part 1 – Fund Inception

TD Global Asset Allocation Fund was created on January 13, 1998 as noted on this snapshot of the TD website from Nov 1, 2001. The fund’s objective was to maximize long term capital growth by actively trading futures contracts in the global market. If you wanted in on this groundbreaking fund you paid heavily with a MER of 2.95%. The fund also had the power to enter and exit geographic regions at the manager’s discretion, thereby giving him a lot of power over the $210 million worth of assets in the fund. That’s a lot control for one guy and clearly it didn’t go well in the early years:

1999 did okay, but massive losses followed in the two subsequent years. Blame the Y2K bug! Source

The managers blamed the latest losses partly on global uncertainty after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. That might explain losing 9% in 3 months but what about the other -7% that year? and -5% in 2000? Ok the dot com crash had started in 2001 but the fund was still below its benchmark.

Continue reading »

Apr 082016
 

Before upsetting anyone let’s define cheap:

CHEAP — Buying inexpensive or low quality despite being able to pay for the higher quality item.

Cheapness can be good or evil. The latter can damage reputations, friendships, the economy, and/or personal health. Good cheapness can lead to financial freedom.

Examples of evil cheapness:

  • Postponing preventative medical care
  • Eating low quality food
  • Wearing poor-fitting clothes
  • Bailing on social situations
  • Foregoing international travel

Examples of good cheapness:

  • Fixing things that break
  • Bringing bag lunches
  • Biking/walking instead of driving
  • Drinking water (instead of sugar drinks)
  • Using the library

You’ll notice that all the good cheapness examples have secondary benefits related mostly to health and/or personal satisfaction.  Now that we’ve defined cheapness let’s call it frugality. But why bother with it?

Continue reading »