A Money Coach in Canada

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In my cri de coer last Tuesday I committed to picking up the slack in my own financial life.

I used to love investing. Stocks. Bonds. Dividends. p/e ratios. Yield. Acid tests (they’re not what you think). These are words more women need to know, love and own!

If you know my personal story (see vid on sidebar), part of the joy included building up my investments in tandem with getting out of debt and managing my day-to-day use of money.

But I’ve back-slidden.

Here’s what happened: When I started my biz, YMbD, I stopped investing in the market because I was investing in my business instead. Most of the time I worked part-time as well, and at least had a bit of work pension building up. For the past two years I’ve enjoyed building up an (ahem) public servant pension. And so I got lazy. It’s been too long since I’ve socked away money in a dead serious manner, nor have I been on top of the business world the way I believe I should be — and any woman, dare I say, should be.

I don’t feel good about this.

So I’ve made the first moves to get myself back in the investing saddle.

*** DISCLAIMER DISCLAIMER DISCLAIMER DISCLAIMER DISCLAIMER DISCLAIMER DISCLAIMER ***

I am not a financial planner. I am not a financial advisor. Do not take any of what I’m about to say as advice. I am simply an average-joe-ette who learned how to make her own investing decisions because I’m nerdy and a control freak on these things (and want to save the commissions) and I genuinely like reading financial pages and annual reports. I’m also fun at a party.

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So here’s what I’ve done.

1. I’ve re-joined a women’s investment club which I’d actually co-founded 10 years ago. I withdrew 5 years ago, but it’s still going strong and they kindly accepted me back in. This is fertile ground for intel about which businesses are up-and-coming (but not penny stocks! We look for at least a 5 year track record). We each pay $40/month, and come to monthly meetings prepared with research on various companies. We pool the funds, and once we have a chunk of change, we debate the various companies and select one in which to invest. The person who recommended the selected company then keeps us informed each month on how it’s been doing.

2. I’ve also rejigged my budget so that a chunk of my monthly salary will start going automatically into my self-directed RRSPs. Truth be told, I’m not confident these days about buying stocks. I’m way more jaded then I was pre-2008 now that we know the extent to which markets (us investors large and small) were duped by corrupt employees and CEOs. Beyond that, I’m not seeing much in the macro picture that gives me confidence my investments will pay off for me over the next 20 years. But … I’m not about to put my money under my mattress either. So, I’ll hunt and peck until I find some companies I like and think will perform, larger picture notwithstanding.

That’s it for now. I’m quietly excited. Skepticism notwithstanding, there’s a real thrill from investing in companies, and at least in the past, I had a kick-ass success rate that beat that pants off the vast majority of mutual fund returns. Anyone care to join me online Saturday mornings, lattes in hand, and share good business / economics articles for an hour or so?

Work with me here.

Here’s the situation. Based on a true story.

You run a well established bank – let’s say, a Canadian bank called CanadaBank.

You borrow $Millions from Canadians by issuing Citizens Savings Bonds and offer them decent interest.

You take that money you’ve raised and lend it out at higher rate to another country, ’cause that’s what bankers do, and you’re a banker.  Let’s call it the country of Perezo.

Perezo.  Oh, Perezo.  Perezo is run by a Military General (MG) who keeps law and order, true, but at dear cost to the citizens.

Western Democracy it’s not.

You hear rumours that MG, who promised he’d use the money to build infrastructure for water and transportation, instead siphons off most of it to his relatives and friends and also uses a lot of it to bribe judges. But it’s not really any of your business and  you are getting the loan payments back on time, with interest, which you then give back to your Cdn. citizen Bond holders, keeping the profit.

But then the citizens of Perezo revolt successfully.

Overnight, MG is gone. In his place is a revolutionary, beloved by the people, named Juan. He pledges to end corruption, fire the bribed judges, and free the people MG had imprisoned. He is also contemplating kicking out all foreign businesses.

Your phone rings.  It’s Juan. He wants a meeting with you.  In Perezo. You fly down to meet him, keenly aware that Juan could give a rats ass about you or your bank.

The meeting goes worse than you anticipated. Juan notes how your bank’s money had enabled MG to purchase the guns that had mowed down citizens in the streets. How it paid off judges who imprisoned some of the country’s best thinkers who had dared speak out against MG and his henchmen. And he shrugs off your rebuttals that you had lent it to be used to build infrastructure, asking you, “where is it? Do you see water towers? Do you see good streets?”.

You develop a cold sweat because you realize you may well not see a penny of that money back. And your bank owes it to the people of Canada.

Readers – over to you. Dig deep into that inner armchair economist in you. What would you say to Juan to convince him to honour MG’s commitment to repay the loan?

ps – This is a real situation faced by a top banker. I have a book he recently wrote about his banking adventures, called “Banker to the World“. Chapter One describes how he handled it.  You get the book (maybe) if you take a shot at responding in the comments!  (one book to give away.  if more than one brave soul answers, it will be by random draw)

Photo Credit: UberZombie

1. Steve Jobs is dead. A light went out folks.  A light went out.

2. #OccupyWallStreet If you’re not keeping informed about what’s going down in the heart of the financial district, you probably should be. You won’t find much about it in mainstream media (any guesses why) but I’m pretty sure this is history in the making. While there is no one “key message” (which would be a contradiction in terms for the protesters), they do coalesce around these common themes:

  • citizens should be at the heart of public policy, not money
  • corporate money should not have nearly the influence it has
  • a call for society to re-order itself to close the gap between the rich and poor

This protester spoke eloquently to Fox News (and the interview was never aired):

3. And the IMF had some things to say about Canada’s real estate market as had Mark Carney (Governor, Bank of Canada) housing market back in June. Worth the read.

Don’t flame or tase me: I have some praise for the Conservatives. Yes, I’m still Green – I think business, particularly small business, can save the world if given every opportunity, with the imperative caveat that we (businesses small and large) must incontrovertibly demonstrate the way we do our business is of benefit to people and the planet in addition to being profitable. How anyone can argue with this beats me.
So am I a lefty? Progressive? Conservative? I like to believe I defy right | left categories.

Certainly I’ve been known, though, to publicly protest actions of Canada’s conservatives and my most popular blog post is one in which I went ape-shit about how we in Vancouver used to treat our homeless (arresting them for sleeping outside, for god’s sake). My point? I’m not typically an apologist for the Conservatives.

But.

After my month in England and concentrated doses of BBC reporting and the immediacy of what’s gong on in Greece, I have a deepened respect for policies which get and keep us out of national debt. National debt, just like personal debt, gets a stranglehold on a country, and then takes them down.

Consider this: Greece funded its many worthy social objectives with debt for years. Now, it has to pay nearly 20% (at time of this writing – July) on its bonds. Canada only has to pay 0.65% because of our relatively sane debt levels. Yes, I know much of that should be attributed to Paul Martin under the Liberals. But it also is attributable to Michael Wilson (Finance Min. under Mulroney) and also attributable to the perception that the Conservative Gov’t will keep the debt in check.

What does this mean? It means the same sort of thing that it means for individuals. Because we are (relatively) in good shape on our debt to earnings ratio, we are considered a good risk and just like individuals who have handled their debt well and can get the best interest rates on their credit cards and their mortgages, so Canada can borrow money from other countries and its own citizens at the best rates. This translates to more of our taxes going to programs and less of our money going to dealing with our debt.

I’m good with that. If I’m going to be taxed (and I don’t inherently object to being taxed at all; I want to live in a society that funds the arts and takes care of the vulnerable and funds higher education) I don’t want it to be paying off debt, or worse, simply paying the interest. And if the Conservative Gov’t helps us on that, measured props to them.

Photo credit: British PMO office (somewhat ironic, eh? no photos avail from the Cdn PMO)

Well for one thing, Wall Street is being occupied by kids and hoodlums and professors and average joes AND the founder of AdBusters (where I used to volunteer — don’t tase me bro!).  The cause?  Putting people at the centre of politics and policy instead of corporate interests.  Psssst – you won’t hear much about this on mainstream media, but you can get live-action coverage here and here:

Keith Olbermann Covers Occupy Wall Street Protests Media Blackout from Blind Mice News on Vimeo.

Meg Whitman, as in Made E-Bay What It Is Was Meg Whitman, yes that one, is now head of HP No offence gentleman but big WOOHOOOOO for a woman being at the top of a tech company.

Netflix pissed off its customer base (as in, 1,000,000 cancelled their subscriptions level of pissed off) more by their apology than their original offence. Funny side story – their new spinoff company, christened Qwikster, failed to account for the pot-smokin’, foul-mouthed, wanna-get-laid dude who has the Qwikster twitter handle. Poor guy woke up to find he had 12,000 followers instead of 69.

oh. and our stocks have gone to hell.

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