A Money Coach in Canada

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So like any Canadian with a penchant for shiny, bright objects, I’m considering the Kindle as a Christmas present for, well, myself.

I divested myself of a household full of books a few years ago (yes, it hurt) in favour of Audible.com. But I miss reading.

It’s available from the States for $259USD (approx $275 Cdn) plus duty, and we need to purchase all the books from the US amazon site in $USD.    (side factoid:  apparently the average book takes 60 seconds to download).   We can download over a cel wireless connection, however, unlike its US counterpart we won’t have browsers on the Cdn Kindles so we can’t surf the net.

Three questions I’m curious about are:

  1. Which wireless company will provide the wireless connection – Bell?  Telus?  Rogers?  (he he – I wonder if they even know amongst themselves who got the contract!)
  2. Will apple produce a kindle-killer tablet in 2010, as rumoured?
  3. Can my eyes bear to look at an lcd screen any more than they already do?

Photo Credit: goXunu

3493128907_d4e4fc08b9Photo Credit: kanegen

Massive DISCLAIMER – see masthead – I am not a financial planner.  I want to post a wee bit in the coming days on the topic of ethical investing.  But these posts should in no way be construed as advice or recommendations.  Do your own homework, or contact a licensed financial advisor/planner.  These posts are simply my thoughts as a citizen who is hoping to invest ethically and make money at it.

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In an earlier post, I mused about general expectations I have for ethical investments.   In short, I’m not looking for perfect purity.  I’m looking for things which are better than the current status quo.  And things I can influence as a shareholder.

Over the next couple years, I’ll be scanning for green energy businesses. It’s a bit iffy, I know, and does not conform to my usual investment principle of looking for companies that have been money makers for several years already.  But I’m pretty convinced that Green Energy remains the Next Big Thing.

Here’s why.

My hunch is that indeed we’ve reached peak oil – ie., we’ve maxed out how much can be produced, and from now on production is going to decline.

BP’s Review of World Energy states: The amount of proven oil reserves awaiting to be exploited fell last year for the first time in a decade. The amount of crude left in the ground was 1.258trn barrels – 3bn less than last year.    Speaking of Canada specifically (the 2nd largest producer in the world), according to the National Energy Board (NEB), gas production in Canada peaked at 17.5 billion cubic feet per day (bcf/d) in 2001, and has been decreasing since then. 

While this may be contested, the uncertainty is of grave concern to business – how can you do business when you don’t know what price you’ll be paying any given year for your energy?  Even the US Military, the biggest consumer of energy in the world, has clearly indicated they want out of traditional energy sources and want green alternatives.  Not only is it a price concern, it is also a death concern – fuel convoys are popular targets and account for half the American deaths.

So if there’s business incentive to move off of traditional energy, and military interest as well, I’m guessing I will live to see a fundamental shift in energy sources.

Please God, let it be towards energy sources that mitigate climate change!  (as opposed to euphemistically named ‘unconventional gas‘ – or, as I like to call it ‘I know!  Let’s do the same old, same old, but worse!’)

So.

I’ll be exploring:

Which companies build wind turbines?

Which companies build solar cells?

Who builds geo thermal heat pumps?


Readers:   any companies you recommend I investigate?

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Photo Credit: mysza

One of my girlfriends dreads gift shopping events – birthdays, weddings, and above all else, Christmas. She feels like whatever she purchases just won’t cut it with the recipient. Similarly, a former client of mine deliberately traveled out of town on any occasions involving gifts, holding the firm view that she’d rather choose what she wanted for herself rather than accept whatever someone chose. Fair enough. (No, they weren’t sisters!).

Me? I enjoy the process of selecting gifts, for the most part. Most of the time, I’m reasonably confident that the recipient will enjoy what I’ve purchased, at least enough to have made the effort. And usually once per season, I find That Perfect Gift which goes over particularly well. For instance, when cds were just coming out (yes, I’m That Old), I found a christmas album (The Hollywood Bowl Christmas Album, recorded in 1957) which had been a christmas staple in our family, but the vinyl version had long since been all scratched up. It wasn’t spendy, but it was quite a hit. And usually once per season something I was less confident about ends up being a surprise hit. Perhaps I have particularly polite friends and family, but on the whole, selecting gifts is pleasurable.

I’m curious: do you enjoy selecting gifts, or hate it? Do you have any awesome “find” stories to share? Or any disasters?

I’ve been a bit glum recently.
Bono summed things up for me with the query:

When you look at the world
What is it that you see?
People find all kinds of things
That bring them to their knees.

What I’m seeing up here in the north, increasingly, is just how complicated is the relationship between Canada and First Nations peoples. And it’s bringing me to my knees, frankly. It’s pretty damn dark. And that’s probably all I can say about it.

Reminders that sometimes Big Ideas that Change the World actually do get realized and really do start to change the world provide welcome cheer to me on this rainy Saturday in Yellowknife.

RED

The RED campaign initiated by Bono is one such Big Idea. Yeah, it can appear commercial. Yeah, it probably lets us all too easily off the hook. But as Raincoaster once pointed out (kicking my ass all over town, as only she can do! -I say with gratitude and affection), small starts can lead to deeper thinking about the underlying causes of injustice. So I say, YES! to RED!

What is RED? It simply offers each of us a choice as consumers, with several iconic brands, to select the RED brand item to purchase. A percentage of each sale then goes to a their global fund, and every penny goes directly to Africa, especially towards AIDS relief.

Products you can choose include:

Starbucks – RED card/mugs

Apple – RED ipod

Dell – RED computers

GAP – RED scarves, t-shirts

AMEX – RED card (UK Only?)

Hallmark – RED cards.

Sometimes when it all seems to overwhelming, and when I just can’t see how I can possibly be of any help to anyone, it’s nice to know other people with a whole lot more influence than me have done some serious legwork. The RED campaign has already raised millions of dollars, a scale I can barely comprehend.

Me? Sure, I’m in. I’ll buy RED when I can. That’s easy. The hard work for me is to find a way to serve (I am a civil *servant* after all) and not impose upon, the original peoples of the NWT – if it’s even possible.

Well now, this is an interesting development.  Visa Canada is partnering with a very savvy company in the States called Borderlinx. It provides Canadians with a US shipping address, so that we can order at any online store in the States and ship it to the Borderlinx address.  Borderlinx will then ship it up to us in Canada.

Living in Yellowknife, this holds very promising possibilities!  In fact, it holds possibilities for anyone without easy access to the likes of Banana Republic (my clothing store of choice),  Restoration Hardware, Zappos shoes and a whole lot of other shops.  These are just two of the stores which only ship to US addresses via online shopping.

If it wasn’t for Visa’s involvement I would have assumed this was a fly-by-night operation – I pay for the goods, they collect them, and resell them or something.  So I contacted Visa’s eCommerce rep and got the following responses from Stephanie Wallat:

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Q:  Does VISA have any estimate of how many Canadian online shoppers want to purchase from US online vendors, but can’t because the vendor doesn’t ship to Canada?  (ie. how big of a problem is borderlinx solving for us)?

According to research by Burak Jacobs on on behalf of Visa in October 2008, the main barrier to shopping at US sites is “Sites that do not ship to Canada” -(38%) . The next reason was shipping costs at 25%.

The same research showed that 62% of respondents indicated they are shopping at US sites – what we don’t know, however, is how many more would, if the sites they targeted would ship to Canada.

With that many shoppers facing the barrier of shipping, this gap presented an opportunity for Visa to provide more value to its cardholders by offering a solution like Borderlinx .

Q: If I had discovered Borderlinx on my own, my guard would be up.  I’ve always assumed there was Some Reason the US Vendor didn’t ship, other than their inconvenience, such as international trade agreements/tariffs etc.   The fact that VISA is partnering gives Borderlinx credibility to me – enough so that I’ll personally try using it if the price/exchange rate is favourable enough to compensate for the shipping/taxes etc.  Can VISA confirm that US online vendors don’t ship to Canada purely for their own logistical reasons, rather than because doing so violates anything per above?

We can’t speak on behalf of retailers, but from what we understand in talking to US retailers, it is more a case of logistics than compliance (although in some cases,  it may be that the merchant’s goods are not accepted in Canada   – the Borderlinx website provides some examples of prohibited goods).

Shipping outside of the US can involve considerable effort, especially for the smaller retailers. To be successful, retailers need to understand the new market, have the internal resources and organizational structure to support cross border, be able to handle the fulfillment/logistics, know the government/regulatory/legal requirements of each market, etc.

Visa is working with third parties like Borderlinx to fill the cross border gap and enable its cardholders to shop anywhere in the world.

Q: Do Visa guarantees about damages of goods purchased apply to items that go through Borderlinx?  (I’m actually unclear about those guarantees, but I think VISA replaces items that break or get damaged, if purchased by visa?)

In general, if a Visa cardholder makes an online purchase that arrives damaged, the first step is to contact the merchant.  The Visa E-promise acts as another avenue for dispute resolution should attempts to deal directly with the merchant fail.

Borderlinx inspects packages and will alert a customer if the package is damaged (details below).
Carriers selected by Borderlinx insure deliveries  against damage up to $100. Borderlinx is working to provide its customers with additional coverage, and will be able to provide more information about that soon.

From the Borderlinx site:
If your goods are damaged when they are received by Borderlinx, the email advising you of a new delivery to your Borderlinx address will explain that goods were received damaged and – as far as possible – describe the damage. You should then contact the retailer directly to arrange an exchange/refund and let us know what you wish to do through the Customer Service page.

If you see a ‘Damaged’ icon against your delivery, you will not be able to have it shipped (ensuring that you don’t choose to receive damaged goods inadvertently). If you still want to receive your goods, please contact Borderlinx Customer Service so that we can arrange shipment.”

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This money coach plans to test this out in the fall, and I’ll let you know how it goes.  It will take some careful calculations, factoring in the exchange rate, the tarrifs, and the shop prices but I’m really pleased to have at least the option available to me.

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