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:


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!

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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.

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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?

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Feb 062016


Ok this gravy train of travel posts is over. It’s back to money stuff! But before that lets tally up the cost of travelling through Asia for one month! First, here are the pre-departure expenses, as seen in my previous post.


Pre-departure Expense Cost (CAD)
Flight – Chicago to Istanbul $796
Flight – Istanbul to Bishkek $180
Flight – Bishkek to Urumqi $358
Flight – Beijing to Chicago $730
Hotel – Istanbul, 4 nights $80
Hostel deposits, Urumqi/Beijing $15
Train – Lanzhou to Beijing $73
Chinese Visa $106
Travel backpack $144
Travel clothing $265
TOTAL $2,891

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Jan 102016

I flew directly from to Urumqi from Kyrgyzstan and spent 11 days travelling Xinjiang and Gansu province in north west China. Xinjiang is known for being part of the silk road and nowadays it’s known mainly for natural resources and ethnic minorities.

Am I on Tatooine? Also, someone doesn’t know how to make a level foundation

Urumqi has 1.7 million people, of which 1.5 million are Han Chinese. The Uyghur people are the largest minority and a source of conflict in Xinjiang. Both the Uyghur and Han claim they got to Xinjiang first and are the indigenous people. The Uyghur have protested in the past over political injustices and a push for separation from China movements. In 2009 the protests turned violent and to this day Urumqi is full of riot vans and military! Continue reading »

Dec 102015


Kyrgyzstan is a country in central Asia formerly part of the USSR. The people are semi-nomadic and speak Russian and Kyrgyz. I speak neither of these languages.

In my six days I visited Bishkek, Cholpon Ata, and Ala Archa. I stayed with a Canadian friend (Lynelle) who is teaching at an international school.

Click to jump ahead:


The capital of Kyrgyzstan. The city itself is flat but it has mountains to the south. The people are predominantly Muslim, although the religious majority is less apparent compared to countries like Turkey.

A mosque with background mountains. Just like I said!

A mosque with some good looking background mountains.

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Nov 062015


I wasn’t in London long enough for it to actually sink in that I was in London. Nevertheless I was able to at least walk by/through Westminster, Buckingham palace, London eye, Trafalgar square, Churchill war rooms, and the tower bridge. Here are three of my favorite things from London.

Winston Churchill's onesie! From the Churchill war rooms

Winston Churchill’s onesie! From the Churchill war rooms

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Oct 282015

Instead of letting this site sit and rot while I’m away travelling I’ve decided to document my trip right here. I’ll be tracking all my expenses to hopefully inspire some of you chumps and chumpettes to get out and travel more. There are so many easy ways to make travelling cheaper and they often simultaneously make the trip more fulfilling.


Where, when and why I’m going


I need to start by coming clean. This website is predominantly for Canadians, of which I am one, but I’m living in America right now on a 10 month work exchange. Thus my trip begins and ends in Chicago.

This map doesn’t include all the cities that I’ll visit, only the major ones that I’ve financially committed to in some way. As far as timeframes go I’ll be leaving Chicago for London on October 30th and as for the rest:

  • London – 24 hours.
  • Istanbul – 4 days
  • Bishkek/Kyrgyzstan – 1 week
  • Urumqi/Lanzhou/Beijing – 2 weeks

I’ve been actively learning Mandarin the better part of 5 years now but I’m a long long…. long… way from fluent. Luckily there is no better place to practice Mandarin than in China! Oh and they got 5,000 years of culture and some other cool stuff to see….

China alone wasn’t enough for this trip and the true deciding factor was having an old friend living in Kyrgyzstan. I’ve wanted to visit northwest China in past trips but never had time, but since Kyrgyzstan borders China I decided that I could easily visit both places in one trip.

The next question was how to get to Kyrgyzstan? Kyrgyzstan is basically on the opposite side of the world so flying east or west works. My friend suggested we meet somewhere in Europe and since I’ve never been it became an easy decision. We settled on Istanbul, although Moscow was a strong contender.

Visiting London was not part of the original plan, but the cheapest flight to Istanbul happened to be with British airways and they offered a 24 hour stopover. And the cherry on the London cake was another good friend living just north of London!

The whole trip will last about 4 weeks.

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Oct 182015


Most people realize that companies are in the business of making money. They like using marketing that targets loopholes in our seemingly rational psychology. Lots of self proclaimed “savvy consumers” think they are smart enough to avoid clever sales tactics. WRONG. Like it or not everyone succumbs to marketing! Education and abstinence are your best tools.

Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely describes these psychological loopholes that often end up with us buying more stuff. Lets take a look at some:

1 – Relativity – Making decisions based on bogus comparisons

Given the choice between A, the slightly inferior A-, and B, most people will choose A

Given the choice between A, the slightly inferior A-, and B, most people will choose A

Imagine you are buying wine and there are three choices. You don’t know much about wine so you base your decision on price. The prices are $10, $25, and $30. You don’t want to appear cheap to your hot date so you axe the cheap one, and you are conscious of saving money so you axe the $30 one and go with $25.

Little do you know the $25 wine is exactly what the restaurant wanted you to pick. They understand that most people won’t buy the most expensive item, but they will buy the second most expensive. The priciest item is a decoy. Here is an example right from Predictably Irrational:

You want to subscribe to the Economist magazine. The choices are:

  • subscription – $59
  • Print subscription – $125
  • Print + web subscription – $125

Wait what? Why is the print + web the same price as print? does that mean the web is actually free? Well if that’s true then it’s a great deal and you buy the print + web for $125.

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