the message is the Message

My wife reminds me all the time- language is important. The exact words you use in business or in social contexts can be as important as the content you are attempting to convey. Let me give you this example. I go to a certain unnamed Toronto bank’s website interested in opening a new savings account. At the top of page I see this:

Apply?  As in I need to seek out your permission, as in you might reject my application? As in you don’t want to take my money?  Ok maybe I am being a bit sensitive but hey let’s look at the competition.

Stock and… Cheese?

BNN is traditionally a channel for day traders- the what is hot today conversations often litter the broadcast. If you have been a reader of my blog it is needless to say this channel therefore doesn’t normally interest me. While flipping around the TV the other night I accidentally landed on BNN which was showing an episode of the series Stock and Awe as it differs from their normal format of stock “experts” and speculation I paused to give it a watch.

Finding a Financial Advisor

“Thanks for coming in today. I should let you know, the only reason I am taking this meeting is because you are good friends with Jim who is one of our most valued customers.”

I reached over the table shook her hand, thanked her for her time and left immediately.  This was an encounter I had with a financial adviser about 8 years ago when I was just finishing University. I wouldn’t then, and still won’t, ever do business with someone who opens this way. The message she was trying to send was, I am very good at my job, and normally handle portfolios much larger than yours.  Unfortunately, what I heard was:

Successful Investing

investing moneyIf you want to be successful with investing you have to have some money to invest- sorry, no way around it. Logically there are only two ways to solve that problem either increase your top line and bring in more income or decrease your bottom line and find some ways to squeeze dollars out.

The first place I look at when it comes to the bottom line are fees. I hate fees. Think about it, we gets fees for having a bank account (so you hold my money and I pay you?), fees for your brokerage account, fees for your credit card, fees, fees fees! It is incredible how much money can seep out paying a tiny fee here a tiny fee here. I’ve done some research, here is what I recommend.

Where to start with investing

1 investmentAn investment policy statement (IPS) is the number one most important piece of paper to have before you start investing, or before you continue investing.  Having this one piece of paper and referring to it often will avoid many of the pitfalls that even the most seasoned investors make.

An investment policy statement is simply a document that describes what your goals are for your money, how long you can part with the funds, what your selection philosophy is, and what sort of risks you are willing to accept.

Back at it

investor yawnAfter a hiatus it is time to start posting again. We are going to be retooling, and setting a new direction for the site. This site is going to get away from posting stock analysis, there are loads of other sites that do this quite well. Instead we are going to talk about things that interest me that have to do with finance and investing. Not sure what it will be but hope it will appeal to you too! Let’s see where we get to.

Investing in Bp after the Oil Spill

bpI bought BP shares this past month. In some ways the decision was dead easy, in other ways I must admit that I am still questioning my choice- but not for the regular reasons. Let me explain to you first why it was an easy decision (my rational side) and then lets talk about why it was a tough decision (let’s call it my emotional side).

Waiting for Great Companies

I always have a running list of great companies I would buy if they were priced a whole lot differently- my wish list you might say. Being value investors we all spend a lot of time trying to differentiate between garbage and gold. Usually when I am looking at a company it has hit my screens because it is suddenly cheap – my job is to find out if there is a good reason or a bad reason for this, and invest accordingly. This activity can take some time, days, sometimes even weeks. Some opportunities simply don’t last that long though, they can dry up in a matter of a day, an hour or even mere minutes.

Actively Managed ETFs, ETFs, and Mutual Funds

etfsA few years back the SEC licensed a new class of ETFs called actively managed ETFs. Being a big fan of the ETF area I thought it would be worth saying a few words about this new class.

ETFs are usually passive investments, some of my favorites are those that model an entire market like the S&P 500 or the S&P TSX. These funds emulate the components of the S&P 500/TSX allowing an investor to gain a diversified exposure to the market at a very very low cost or MER. In these traditional ETFs there isn’t a fund manager making a decision about which stocks to select- which is the chief reason for the low MER.

Interesting Links

For your reading pleasure a few interesting articles from around the globe about dividends, stocks, the market and other just plain interesting finance or economic oriented articles- enjoy!

Is Now the Time for US REITS

investREIT-main_FullEvery industry faces periods of rise and periods of decay. The last few years have, not surprisingly, been a period of decay in the REIT Area. But like nuclear stocks after 3 mile island, or banks after the savings and loan scandal, or bonds after the junk bond era, after a sector has been decimated what is often left are the high quality well managed companies that will rise to dominate the sector in the future. Is now the time for REITs?

Interesting Links


For your reading pleasure a few interesting articles from around the globe about dividends, stocks, the market and other just plain interesting finance or economic oriented articles- enjoy!

Anticipating Dividend Increases

parachuteI am a big fan of companies that make it a regular habit of dialing up a dividend. This is why I have been such a proponent of the dividend aristocrat group. Nothing perturbs me more though than to buy into a 2% dividend stock that I believe will crank up its rate only to be forced to wait multiple years before seeing that increase. To counteract this here is a simple parachute that can increase your confidence that a rate will increase.

Microsoft Pirates Arrr

microsoft-logo1I had a fellow investor tell me one day that they would never buy shares in Microsoft (MSFT) as their software is so widely pirated. I’m not a big fan of Microsoft stock but I’ve heard that reason given before and it is just silly- let me tell you how it works.

Microsoft widely subsidizes licensing for high schools, universities and colleges. They also provide university bookstores with deeply discounted licenses for their products to sell to students. This puts the product front and center and forces students to learn it or face failing their courses. After four or more years working with the product students in all ranges of study become proficient users. This indoctrinates users into Windows’ users. The cost of retraining these people would be tremendous, so the net effect is that it forces future employers to buy Microsoft products.


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Reading Links


For your reading pleasure a few interesting articles from around the globe about dividends, stocks, the economy, the market and other just plain interesting finance or economic oriented articles.


Dell- a Dud

dell-jpgBefore any investment in a company I try to do business as a consumer with that company. Balance sheets can only tell you so much about the “true” story of a business. When the option came up to buy a new laptop for my wife I thought, Dell (NASDAQ:DELL) stock has been interesting to me for some time, let’s give them a go.

Let me tell you, it wasn’t pretty. After going through far too many pages and a number of strange web errors on the dell site my order was lodged. Content to write off these bizarre website errors I went over to the track order page. To my surprise I discovered my estimated delivery date for an off the shelf, uncustomized, mass manufactured, laptop was over a month away.

The Effects of Layoffs on a Business

pink slipA recent mass layoff at my company has given me a fresh perspective on layoffs. Normally, as an investor, we see layoffs as a courageous way to drive profits forward by shaking off some areas of weakness. I have personally invested in companies shortly after a mass layoff if I believe that such changes will benefit the profitability of the business. From a purely financial perspective viewing a company as a machine is an easy thing to catch one’s self doing. However there are some soft costs involved in layoffs to a company culture that I wasn’t really aware of until the week after I witnessed fellow employees walking out the door for the last time:

Check your Sources

filmIt has become formulaic that when a movie comes out one of the advertisements will feature reviewers comments like “riveting”, or “one of the must see movies of the year” and of course my favorite “an instant classic”. The point, obviously, of these reviews is to convince you, based on some other expert’s testimony, that you need to see this movie.


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