Thursday, June 26, 2014

Passed CFP Course 1

I managed to pass the Retirement Planning CFP course by passing the final exam, now on to the next course on Risk Management and Estate Planning.  This new course seems like a real page turner...

Monday, June 23, 2014

Free Harvard and MIT Education

While waiting for my CFP exam mark, I am experimenting with EdX.  EdX is a free online learning service (MOOC) from Harvard and MIT.  I am currently signed up for intro to Computers and programming in Python.  My last programming in earnest was done in the 80's and things have changed a lot since then, so why not start at the beginning with an intro class?  Luckily, the lectures have this neat "speed-up" mode where the lecture runs at 1.5 or 2X speed but is still completely intelligible.

The course itself is well done, with good videos, learning features, good pace, and good exercises.  Python seems to be the modern equivalent of BASIC - an easy to learn interpreted language.  So far, we have coded "Hello World" but I went crazy and printed "I am Retired".

This seems a lot more constructive than playing Candy Crush, doing Facebook, or watching Youtube videos of Russian Car Crashes.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Crime in the US and Canada

Just returned from Canada and we had another "its different in the USA" moment.

A house up the street in our quiet Northern Virginia suburb was burgled on Tuesday.  This is unusual, there is hardly any crime of any kind: burglary, vandalism, car theft, ..  You never hear about anything except maybe once a year someone left their car unlocked at the strip mall and some Abba and Michael Jackson CDs were stolen.

Anyway, we arrived back Thursday night, here is what happened:
  1. We get an email alert while we are traveling back from the Sheriff's department reporting the burglary and asking for help and to watch out.
  2. We get visited twice today by plainclothes and uniformed officers looking for information and giving us advice.  They take detailed notes on where we were, etc.  They recommend turning on the burglar alarm.
In our old suburb of Ottawa, if you had a burglary in late June and something like your VCR or TV was stolen:
  1. The police would come and fill out a report for your insurance company.  They would say sorry a lot.
  2. The police would always tell you that "it is probably some kids, school is out and they get bored".  They would recommend putting bars on your basement windows.
  3. You would never hear from them again.
  4. Your house would often get targeted again because the burglars knew you had a newer VCR and stereo to steal.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Guns: Real Versus Paintball

Visiting Canada, you usually see something that shows how it is different from the US.

I thought this widely reported news piece was interesting.  Man and wife defend their Canadian home against repeated burglaries with paintball guns, and the police say not to take the law into your own hands.  The news piece treats it like they are taking a big chance shooting paintballs at thieves.  Maybe someone's T shirt will be ruined?

In the US, particularly in places like Texas, you could kill the thieves with a real gun and not be too worried about being charged because of  "castle laws", peoples attitudes towards crime, and gun laws.


Sunday, June 15, 2014

CFP Exam - a Humbling Experience

After taking the retirement planning exam, you realize that you are mentally out of shape.  This was my first real academic test in 30 years - 100 questions in 3 hours closed book.  By the way, technology has not advanced since my first exam in 1972, you use an HB pencil to blacken a little square on a form with your answer.  This was advanced in 1972, today it feels like getting up and rotating a dial on your 20 inch black and white TV.

The classroom was up to date with power plugs at every desk and wireless LAN.  The campus at the community college seemed to be a vast parking lot with nondescript buildings in the middle, a shopping center of learning. It was next to a real shopping center with a vast parking lot.

Anyway, it was a tough test and we will see how I did. I imagine I will get a punch card in the mail with my score.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Government Benefits are Job #1 for Canadian CFP

The studying for the Canadian CFP Retirement and Education Planning exam has reinforced the concept of "get the most from the government" as job #1 for the CFP.  Most of the course seems to revolve around all the social programs and how to get the most out of them:

  1. There are 4 retirement social pensions, 3 of them are income based.  You can take advantage of the system if you are smart and maximize benefits, legally I might add.
  2. There are about at least 4 good ways to save for education with government help, again, if you are smart, you can maximize the benefit.
  3. There are around 5 retirement tax credits and deductions and income-splitting programs that can be managed for benefit.
  4. There are around 4 education tax programs to be managed.
  5. There are important benefits for the disabled for almost every one of the programs above.  I might add that I have no problem with taking care of those who are disabled, I think this is an important role of government.


An example of the kind of management is for one of the retirement pensions "The monthly Allowance benefit of $1,025.73 is equivalent to the maximum monthly GIS benefit plus the maximum monthly OAS benefit calculated as ($485.61 + $540.12).

The clawback is $3 per month for every $4 of a couple's base income, up to 4/3 of the amount of the Old Age Security pension. Above that amount, the clawback is $1 for every $4 of the couple's base income.

Assume for the given quarter, the maximum annual OAS benefit is $6,481.44, calculated as ($540.12 x 12). The income level cut-off for the allowance benefit is $31,951, calculated as [(maximum annual OAS benefit x 4/3) + ((maximum annual Allowance benefit - maximum annual OAS benefit) x 4]" Whew, this is complicated!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Pinball Wizard Becomes Quadcopter Pilot


Still studying for my CFP exam but had to find a substitute for pinball.  You see when I last studied for exams, it was 1983 and I was living in Toronto near the University of Toronto and Yonge Street.  Whenever I got tired of studying, I would go to the pinball arcade on Yonge Street and play pinball for about an hour, then walk back to my apartment and continue studying.

Well, Pinball has gone the way of the rotary telephone and Northern Virginia suburbs likely never had divey pinball arcades like Yonge Street so I had to find a substitute.  So I am taking breaks flying a little quadcopter in the basement.  It lacks the organic tactile feel of pinball or all the bells and clanking, but it seems to work.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Top Ten Good Things About Retirement



I get a lot of questions about being (semi) retired.  Here are the top ten good things about being in that state.
  1. No one comes into your office and asks for a Powerpoint deck on project "Wiggly Wombat" with updates from our subsidiary in Elbonia and make sure you use the new company template
  2. Don't have to wear socks in the Summer
  3. No sitting in traffic on Highway 7 looking at Right Wing bumper stickers on cars like "Obozo Sucks" or "If you come for mine, you better bring yours"
  4. If you fart in your office, you don't have to worry about some poor employee walking in and being asphyxiated.
  5. Never have to wait at the printer while a colleague prints out 200 pages of their Mortgage Refinance application
  6. Your admin assistant always shows up, likes Doggie Biscuits, but needs a walk every few hours
  7. Can stay up late to watch that weird cable channel with the Swedish art films filled with naked blondes.
  8. Always up to date on latest Youtube viral videos like that one with the guy dressed like Superman in a rocket powered grocery cart with skis racing the snowmobile driven by a person in a gorilla suit with a squirrel passenger in front of the police station with a moose...
  9. No conference calls, no video meetings
  10. Can surf sites like "Girls in Yoga Pants" without getting blocked by the company policy server.

Monday, June 2, 2014

More Interested in Second Career?

Just found out that my old company is layoffing off more people this Summer, so there may be more people interested in a second career perhaps?  I run a group for ex-employees of NII Holdings at this link.  We seem to be getting more activity on the group, which is understandable.

In the meantime, I am studying for my upcoming Canadian Financial Planner exam on retirement planning, employing successful methods that I used when Jimmy Carter was President and most telephones had rotary dials and they all had wires.  We will see if these methods still work in 2014 with a 57 year old brain.  The New York Times in this article seems to agree that writing notes (part of my methodology) improves memory.

In an effort to keep busy, I have also:

  • Flown my quadcopter drone, which resulted in the inevitable crash.  New parts are on order.
  • Upgraded my Windows PC with a new motherboard and Haswell CPU.  More problems than I expected, but it works.
  • Converted an old computer to a Freenas server (pain in the ass), then to an Ubuntu computer (what's the point, I have two other desktops), then to a NAS4FREE server (works so far).  I am blogging this project.
  • Sold all the old computer parts on Ebay for more money than you would think.  Who buys all these old motherboards, CPU, memory??
  • Planted lots of flowers.