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Thursday, April 2, 2020

COVID19 User Guide




I thought I would compile a user guide based on my experiences in Ottawa during the pandemic, feel free to add comments, as long as they slavishly praise me Trump-style.

New Things I Tried and they Work

  • PCExpress grocery delivery and pickup from Massine YIG on Bank Street.  You can even talk to a real person about your order by calling the store.
  • Doordash restaurant delivery for Colonnade pizza. It comes from the restaurant in Carlingview, but its cheaper than Ubereats.
  • Foodora delivery from the LCBO on Isabella.  A limited selection of wine, beer, and spirits but in a pandemic, we recreational drug users should not be too picky.  Use the smartphone app as the website is temperamental.  It will not accept your address unless the postal code exactly matches the Google maps postal code (which is wrong for our building).
  • You can make your own hand sanitizer with rubbing alcohol and aloe vera gel from Amazon.ca.  3/4 alcohol, 1/4 gel.
  • The New York Times is offering free coverage of covid19.  Their competitor WSJ does not.
  • Nespresso online ordering is working.
  • Workouts using Facetime with our personal trainer Jamie Kelly.  An Ipad works best as the video is good, screen is large, and you can move it around as you exercise.
    • Workout videos from Youtube are also good.  Lots of variety for different ages and abilities.  I use a 6 minute workout from the NYT as my base exercises.
  • The instant pot is a great way to make soup with leftover meat, vegetables, broth, pasta.  
  • Farm Boy on Metcalfe is open from 7 to 8am for vulnerable shoppers (seniors etc.).  It is well stocked and there are only a few shoppers.

Things that Don't Work

  • Instacart Loblaws delivery is down.  Website won't even give you a delivery slot and the help lines are overloaded.
  • USA social security office in Ogdensburg is closed
  • BMO sends checks to our old address in Virginia from 3 years ago but sends statements to our correct address.  You have to go to a branch to fix this.
  • The QPP have blocked the bridges into Quebec from Ontario.  The police are better used to stop gatherings.  

Things That Work, but have Problems

  • Amazon canada is running low on stock and delivery times are long now.
  • Massine YIG grocery store makes people line up on Somerset at 2 meter intervals and lets them in slowly during peak demand.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Date Questions for Senior Citizens


We were having a conversation with some friends the other night, discussing all the senior women we know who are widows, but looking for a new mate.  Lots of talk about how hard it is to find someone as great as me and my friend (we are modest husbands), and what they should talk about on the first date.

There are lots of websites that cover what questions a woman should ask on a first date, things like:

  • What was your favorite vacation?
  • What hobbies do you have?
  • Do you like cats or dogs?
These are all relevant for women 15 to 50 years old, but what are the questions to ask if you and your date are 70 or older?

We came up with some good questions:
  • Do you drive, or has your family confiscated your license?
  • Are you wearing diapers yet?
  • What time does your family want you back at the home?
We all laughed but then realized we will all get old soon and will suffer the indignities of old age.  Still, there is some humor in it.

photo credit: flickr

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

US Economy Excellent Rest of World Not So Much

I took a few economics courses in my university days: micro, macro, etc.  However I am not an economist.  But I've been thinking...

Why is the US economy doing so well and the rest of the world struggling?

Looking at the present, the US is doing well - low unemployment (3.7%), stock markets at record highs, GDP growth (2.2%) and low inflation (1.7%).  Meanwhile, the rest of the world is struggling.  The Euro area has 7.5% unemployment, GDP growth of 1.3%.  Why this divergence?

My theory is that the USA is doing well because it is running up a huge national debt - borrowing from the rest of the world and spending on cars, houses, and Iphones.

  1. The US has a natural advantage that it is the world's reserve currency.  Every business and every country needs US dollars to buy and sell and invest.  Therefore, no one will stop lending to the USA unless there is a financial catastrophe.  The US can continue to run up debt.
  2. The US is running up debt at the rate of 4.7% of GDP.  This is stimulative - it increases growth.  The Euro area is increasing debt at 1.1%, a quarter of the rate of the USA.
    1. I think of it this way.  For every $1,000 an American earns, they actually get $1,047 = $1000 + (4.7% * 1000)
    2. The European gets $1,011
    3. The extra spending based on extra earnings by the American drives growth.
  3. The US economy is 70% driven by consumers due to its low taxes and low level of government services (no health insurance, little infrastructure spending, little welfare).  This means that 70% of the national debt increase is going into people's pockets and being spent.

So the US is expanding more than other countries due to its increasing borrowing.  This money is being spent on short term consumption by consumers, not long term government investments like infrastructure or R&D.  This expansion drives employment, growth in company revenues and profits, and the stock market.  Don't ask me why inflation is so low, that one I cannot answer.

What are the implications for the future?  Again, I don't know.  There could be a catastrophe that causes the world not to lend to the USA anymore?  There could be a change in borrowing by other countries to match the USA?  There could be inflation?  Stay tuned.

All statistics from the The Economist Sept 17, 2019.  Excerpt below.


Wednesday, September 4, 2019

These Jobs I Had No Longer Exist


I realized that quite a few jobs that I had during my career no longer exist.

  1. I was a paper delivery boy.  I walked or rode my bike through the neighborhood, delivering newspapers, and collected the money from the customers.  Most people now read newspapers online and delivery is done by men driving cars, bills are paid online.
  2. Delivering telephone books.  Before you had the internet, the only ways to find a telephone number were using a telephone book about 6 inches thick or calling directory assistance.  Telephone books are almost non-existent now.
  3. Mainframe computer operator.  I collected programs on punch cards from students, ran them through the terminal to run on a remote IBM mainframe, then gave the students the printout from their program.
  4. Gas station attendant.  I pumped gas into people's cars.  Other than states like New Jersey, almost all gas stations are self service.
  5. Supervisor of drawing library.  Engineering departments used to generate lots of huge blueprint drawings that were kept in a physical library or on microfilm.  Now everything is stored online.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Time to Rebalance Your Portfolio

5 Year Stock Price Chart for Vanguard Total Stock ETF (VTI)

The stock markets in the USA are hitting new records again. It means your stocks, ETFs, Equity Mutual Funds are probably at all time highs as well.  See the above graph of VTI - The Vanguard Total Stock ETF which covers virtually all publicly traded stocks in the USA.

You probably have a desired portfolio allocation for stocks, bonds, international stocks, cash, etc. Check your holdings and you will likely find you are over-weighted in stocks because of the market's performance.  I found I was 3% over on US stocks, and under weight on international stocks and bonds.

So now is a good time to rebalance your portfolio if your allocation is out of balance by more than a few percent. Sell some of those winning domestic equity holdings, buy bonds or international stocks or whatever you are underweight. This means "take some of your winnings off the table."

This technique of keeping a balanced portfolio is recommended by Warren Buffet, Vanguard, Fidelity, and most other respected investment authorities.

Disclaimer: this is not professional investment advice and should be used at your own risk. The author is not a licensed financial advisor. You should not believe everything on the Internet including this blog and should check multiple sources possibly including a professional financial advisor before making decisions.

Friday, April 12, 2019

It is Impossible to Drink Coffee at Starbucks

Another day, another rant.

Starbucks and their free wifi have made it impossible to drink a coffee at Starbucks.  You can certainly buy coffee and take it out, but finding a seat and table to actually drink it is nearly impossible these days.  Almost every seat in any Starbucks we visit is full of students, people holding business meetings, budding authors, job interviews, people tutoring students (very popular in Florida), and people just browsing the web.

Obviously their business model is built on take-out, as they are not making money on people sitting for hours, using their wifi, and nursing a small blonde roast coffee.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Saver to Spender Transition


I recently saw an article on Moneywatch about a dedicated retirement saver who was having trouble changing to a spender after retiring.  This is understandable: if you spent 40 years saving for retirement, you need to change to a spender after retirement.  Changing behaviour can be difficult.  I experienced this difficulty myself.

How did my spouse and I handle it?  At first, I kept worrying about the money and underspending our budget.  We had always lived on a monthly budget.  To fix my frugal ways, we ran our financial plan including budget by a Financial Planner, who said the plan was good.  For the next year, we spent according to this budget, making sure to spend all the money in the budget.  Then we checked our financial plan and budget with a Planner again, who said we were fine.  Having spent all the money, seen that the budget was fine, and having two checkups, we (I) made the transition from saver to spender.

photo credit: flickr

Disclaimer: this is not professional investment or retirement advice and should be used at your own risk. The author is not a licensed financial advisor. You should not believe everything on the Internet including this blog and should check multiple sources possibly including a professional financial advisor before making decisions.