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Nelson Smith

Freelance writer. Contrarian investor. Watcher of baseball. Owner of financialuproar.com. At least my mom thinks I'm funny and/or handsome.

Mar 042015
 
"We've told you a million times. DON'T. WIPE. WITH. THE. BOOK.

“We’ve told you a million times. DON’T. WIPE. WITH. THE. BOOK.

You ever meet one of those guys who claims they’re all about reading, when they’re really just about the size of their book collection? I hate those guys more than a vegan hates delicious. Plus, they’re doing it all wrong. They should be renting books, not buying them.

Books are the absolute perfect thing to rent. The vast majority of the time, you’ll buy a book, read it, and then it’ll never be heard from again. It’ll go on your bookshelf, acting as a constant reminder that you have indeed conquered that book, and retained a full 4% of the information held within. It’s also there because you may feel compelled one day to either read it again, or look up some obscure passage. But most of the time, you’ll just read it and it’ll sit there, collecting dust.

(Aside: have you ever noticed that the people with the largest book collections ALWAYS hate e-books? Because of course they do.)

Although e-books don’t take up any physical space, buying them is almost as bad. At least a regular book sits on your bookshelf, silently congratulating you on the accomplishment of finishing it when you glance at it. You walk by and the spine catches your eye, causing you to think “hey, maybe I should read that book again.” As an e-book gets buried to the 5th page deep on your Kindle, it becomes less of a thing than the sharks during the Superbowl half-time show. Remember those? No? That’s because they stopped being a thing as soon as they started being a thing.

If the whole point of reading is to educate yourself, then owning the book is meaningless. As long as the good stuff ends up in your noggin, then you’re good to go. Renting the book again is easy if you ever feel the need to read it again and brush up on the topic. If you find it’s such as amazing book after reading it again, then feel free to purchase it.

Now when it comes to renting books, there are 3 options. Let’s take a look at each of them, starting with the blindingly obvious, and getting a little spicy after that.

The library

It’s pronounced li-brary, not li-beree you simpletons.

Anyway, this one is pretty obvious. As a fun bonus, if your local library branch is in a large Canadian city, you may meet a crazy homeless guy! (fingers crossed)

I mention the library because you need a library card to take advantage of this next thing.

Overdrive

That’s a real badass name for an app that lets you download e-books.

So here’s the deal. In a desperate attempt to prove they’re “up” with the “times”, your local library has gotten permission to lend out e-books. I’m not sure exactly how it works, but I think they just buy an e-book copy of whatever physical books they get, and allow one person at a time to take out the e-book copy. Pretty old school, but whatever. It’s cute they’re trying.

The way you do that is through a service called Overdrive. You:

  • Download the app for your iOS or Android device, phones and tablets are the obvious choices
  • Hook up the app to your library account
  • Download up to 50(!) free e-books at one time, at least if you’re part of the Calgary library
  • After 3 weeks, they automatically get deleted from your device

There are some downfalls to Overdrive though. The selection of books is pretty terrible, and popular titles are always on hold. You do get a decent amount of time to read the book (and you can renew if no one else wants it), but I couldn’t figure out how to return stuff early. There is a process to download the book and put it onto your Kindle or Kobo (non-tablet version), but it looks to have quite a few steps. And you have to register with Overdrive and make an account, as well as linking your library card to your account.

Still, it’s free with your library card, which itself is practically free depending on where you live.

Downloading

Oh, uh… well… uh… (pulls collar) the thing is… our, uh, lawyer is a little nervous about this section.

Unless you’re over 65 years old, you’re not surprised by all the e-books out there just waiting to be downloaded. It happened with music, porn, games, and that thing that unlocked your iPhones, so why not e-books too? And as e-books have surged in popularity, so has the selection online.

I personally don’t see a whole lot of difference between me reading a book from the library and downloading it. The difference in payment to the author in those two situations is a fraction of a penny. These things do add up I realize, but it’s a reality of being in the business these days. Notice how many authors are now going the self-published route, which allows them a bigger cut of the profits? If you have your own following online, a book deal isn’t as important as it used to be.

But there’s also an equally persuasive argument I could make the other way as well. There are probably 1,000 authors who are doing really well, while the rest of the industry barely scrapes by. One guy downloading an e-book might not be much, but a few thousand of them can really make a dent in an author’s bottom line. And so on. Really, it comes down to justifying it to yourself.

My, uh, friend uses a couple of different services. The most obvious is one of the major torrenting sites, like The Pirate Bay. It has a decent selection, but anything obscure probably won’t be found. The other one is called Library Genesis, which by the looks of the URL isn’t closely associated with ‘Murica. It has a better selection than the Pirate themed site, so feel free to have a gander for Rick Moranis’s unauthorized biography from 1989. More like Honey! I Shrunk My Own Career, amirite?!?!

Anyway, the point is this. Renting books is the way to go. So if you have a bookshelf of books, sell them for $2 a pop and use the money on a library card. You’ll have more of it and an equal amount of smarts.

Mar 032015
 

So you’ve chosen to study finance – but where? Universities, colleges and institutes in cities all over the world offer qualifications in the subject, but some are more prestigious and just plain useful than others.

Here, we weigh up what’s on offer in a selection of global cities:

London, England

London is the financial capital of Europe, with a particularly big emphasis on currency trading – making it a pretty good place to start. There are plenty of well-respected institutions like LSBF and LSE where students can learn from experienced veterans of the finance industry. If they decide to stay on for work there’s no shortage of banks, including HSBC, Lloyds and Barclays, who are headquartered in London.

Frankfurt, Germany

The home of the renowned Frankfurt School of Finance & Management, as well as the headquarters of Deutsche Bank and numerous global businesses, Frankfurt has a lot going for it for anybody who wants to pursue a career in finance. Unusually for a financial centre, it’s also a pretty beautiful part of the world to live in – always a bonus.

Hong Kong, China

One of the most exciting cities in the world for any aspiring financial guru, Hong Kong is known for its free trade and vast business networks, as well as serving as the main trade hub between China and the rest of the world. Hong Kong has a number of respected higher education universities with excellent business and economics departments, with the University of Hong Kong probably the most prestigious.

New York, USA

Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch: the Big Apple’s the only financial centre that can rival London on the world stage, with a particularly big focus on investment banking. Top finance schools include Zicklin School of Business at CUNY, the Gabelli School of Business at Fordham University and the New York Institute of Finance. Even if you don’t end up on Wall Street, there is no end of businesses in New York in need of financial expertise.

Zurich, Switzerland

As one of the world’s most expensive cities to live in, you’ll need a sizeable investment just to study here: but it’s also one of the world’s leading centres for private banking and wealth management. The Swiss Business School and University of Zurich are two of the most highly-regarded European centres of learning for finance courses and the quality of life is second to none, so – if you can afford it – Zurich might just be the place for your degree.

Mar 022015
 
"How did this wall clock end up on my wrist?"

“How did this wall clock end up on my wrist?”

Congratulations, procrastinator. You’ve officially slacked it enough that you have exactly 7 hours to make a RRSP contribution, and on the industry’s busiest day of the year to boot. That’s like waiting until Christmas Eve to buy your kid the hot new toy. Not that your kid deserves it, I’ve seen her on the playground. (NOT IN THAT WAY GEEZ) Still, not your smartest move.

It’s important to make the deadline because of the tax implications. If you get your contribution in by the end of the day today, that’s less tax you’re paying. If you contribute $5,000 and you’re in the 33% tax bracket, that gets you an extra refund of $1666.66, which can then be used next year to get even more of a refund, and so on, until you maximize your contribution room. I show you the importance of doing that with this post.

The problem with waiting until the deadline is now your options are limited. You can’t make an electronic transfer from your bank account to your online broker because those take a few days, and you’ll miss the deadline. You might not even be able to get an appointment with someone at your bank to set something up there. Are you more screwed than an oil guy in Alberta?

Nah. You’ll have to be a little innovative, but you’ve got options. Here’s how to make that last minute RRSP contribution.

Transfer in kind

This one works best for those of us who already have stocks outside of our RRSP. All you need to do is tell your broker to transfer a stock you already own from a cash account to a registered account. It’s easy, and as long as you have the official request submitted today, they should be able to get it done for you.

The only thing you have to worry about is the tax implications. When you transfer something like that the CRA treats it like a sale. So if you bought Apple in 2001 at 4¢ per share, you can’t just transfer it over and keep your cost base intact. The CRA assume you sold it, and you’ll owe the corresponding tax on it next year.

The easy way to get around this is to transfer something at a loss. Chances are your portfolio has a couple of dogs in it, so just transfer them over. Easy peasy.

Transfer cash

This is for people who have cash sitting in their margin account because they’re procrastinating in a different way. Either that or they just can’t find any value in the market because they insist on being stock pickers. Know anybody like that?

Anyway, this is even easier than transferring stock. One call or email to customer support and it’s done. I suggest email, that way you won’t have to hear them say “I’d be happy to help you with that Mr. Smith” even though their tone of voice says “please smother me with a pillow it would be better than talking to guys like you all day.”

GIC “trick”

I put trick in quotation marks because it is literally the lamest trick in the history of ever. It makes your grandpa’s quarter trick look like Houdini in comparison.

You go to the bank, and contribute into a GIC for your RRSP, leaving it in for the minimum amount of time. Right when it comes due, transfer it to wherever you’d like. You’ll forfeit potential returns for the year, but a) we’re mostly concerned with the tax refund at this point, not the returns and b) you can just view it as the fixed income part of your portfolio.

You could do the same thing with bank mutual funds, in theory. If you can even talk to someone today, you can invest in a bank fund with a relatively cheap MER (most big bank balanced funds have an MER with a 1 handle, which isn’t ideal but also isn’t the worst thing in the world), hold it for a year or two, and then cash it out and transfer it to an online broker. This isn’t a higher recommendation because many people who do it will just leave their money with the bank, too lazy to take it out. At least a GIC at 0.04% interest gives you some incentive to transfer it to equities.

Bonus! A few last minute RRSP investment ideas

Making the contribution is just half the battle. Now you have to invest the cash. Assuming you’re not just blindly buying 3 or 4 ETFs, here are some ideas I’ve been looking at for my own cash.

Extendicare — I wrote about Extendicare at my other blog, Canadian Value Investing. I think shares could double in the next 1-2 years, depending on what management does with the mountain of cash they’re about to get from the sale of the U.S. operations.

Energy — There are dozens of cheap energy stocks out there. I’m waiting because I think oil pulls back into the $40s again, but keep in mind that trying to predict oil is a suckers game. You could just buy the energy ETF, or you could look at individual companies. Stocks on my watch list are Penn West, Athabasca Oil, Gran Tierra, Pacific Rubiales, and Petrobras.

Cominar/Dream Office REIT — I think most Canadian REITs are overvalued, thanks to baby boomers and their lust for yield. These two are reasonably valued and have a good chance of maintaining their payout.

Russia — If it can go wrong, it’s going wrong in Russia right now. Oil is really hurting that country, and if there was a Russia ex-oil ETF I’d probably be buying it right now. You can look at individual companies or just buy one of several Russia ETFs.

Disclosure: I own Dream Office REIT, Penn West, and Extendicare. As always, if you buy a stock just because I’m buying it, you deserve to lose money. Do your own research before buying anything, including donuts and delicious beef bowls from Yoshinoya, where I’m going right now.

Mar 012015
 

Like some of you reading this, I waited with some anticipation for Warren Buffett’s annual letter to shareholders. Time zones worked out nicely for me this year; I was able to read it at 10PM in Korea, making it the perfect end to an otherwise productive day of playing Command and Conquer Red Alert against some random guys from Finland. Here’s the letter if you’re interested and haven’t gotten around to reading it yet.

Maybe it’s because I recently re-read The Snowball, but I didn’t find Buffett’s wisdom all that groundbreaking this year. That’s not to say there isn’t value in it, because there’s a hell of a lot of good stuff there. But it’s the same good stuff he says every year. If you’re a Buffett observer, you already know his acquisition criteria, his bullishness on the U.S. economy, how compound interest makes his mistakes really add up, and so on. It’s slightly repackaged, but it’s essentially the same stuff he says every year.

This really shouldn’t bug me, and the Buffett part of it doesn’t. You know how your dad has the same 14 stories that he cycles over and over again because he knows they get laughs? Buffett is exactly like that. The dude is 84 years old, he’s pretty set in the way he’s going to think about investing.

But what kills me is everyone who reads Buffett and clogs up my Twitter feed with a mixture of awe, wonder, and downright glee in getting to read His words. These are people who have been serious about the investing business for 10, 20, or even 30 years, and they get downright giddy about how the man treats his shareholders so well. Yeah, we know. He’s been doing it for 50 years. I’m not sure it’s remarkable anymore.

Have you watched any of Buffett’s interviews in the past few years? It’s like watching a more entertaining sports interview — he literally doesn’t say anything. It’s the same old stuff he’s said for years, just repackaged with slightly different jokes. We lap it all up because he’s the Oracle, and he’s entertaining.

Remember, studying the masters doesn’t end with Buffett. Your chances of replicating his success are virtually zero. Your chances of replicating some of his contemporaries is higher. Learn from everyone, not just the guy with the best personalty.

Song I like and therefore you should too

I’m currently sitting in a ferry terminal, waiting for a boat to show up. In the spirit of that…

I put in the uncensored version because I’m a certified official m***erf***er bad***. Don’t listen to this one in front of your grandma, unless she’s into cursing and/or boats.

The Office quote

Ryan: Did this happen on company property?
Michael: It was on company property, with company property. So, double jeopardy, we’re fine.
Ryan: I don’t think– I don’t think you understand how jeopardy works.
Michael: Oh, I’m sorry. What is, ‘we’re fine’?

What you might have missed

Since the beginning of personal finance blog time, two truths have been evident. Dave Ramsey is YOUR GOD, and the road to hell is paved with payday loans. But what if I told you payday loans are priced pretty much just right? It’s true, go read it.

Nelson’s so funny

I can’t believe any of you didn’t retweet this. This is the greatest joke I’ve told since the pantily clad crack of 2014.

The more you know

Instead of doing the Wikipedia thing, let me show you a delightfully awkward speech of Andy Samberg speaking at Harvard’s graduation in 2012.

People are laughing, but they’re offended at the same time. That’s pretty much what I go for here, so I enjoyed it.

Kevin O’Leary’s stock pick

kevin-olearyEach week current BNN personality and Shark Tank investor Kevin O’Leary is kind enough to give us his favorite stock pick. 

Nelson, this week my stock pick is going to be Hudson’s Bay Company, a stock I understand you own in some portfolio and that you picked for a stock picking contest. Why wasn’t I invited to take part in this? Was it because you knew I’d dominate you physically even though I’m 11 inches shorter than you?

Did I ever tell you about the first man I ever fired from The Learning Company, Jeff Bezos? Great guy, did terrific work, was even a visionary. But one day I sent him out on a sales call and he came back without the deal. How dare he! I fired his ass and he vowed to change the way people bought things. Pfft, what a dreamer. I wonder whatever happened to that guy.

Babe loosely related to finance

This is Scarlett Johansson, who for some reason has never been featured in this category. This is an unspeakable crime.

scarlett-johansson

Although in my defense, I’m pretty sure her and Katherine Heigl are the same person. Have they ever been in a movie together? EXACTLY.

Time for links

Many people won’t go for the variable rate mortgage because they’re too afraid of rising payments if prime goes up. Wusses. Anyhoo, I tackle the topic at LowestRates.ca to let you know it’s not quite that simple. You can get a variable rate loan with a little flexibility.

You all know I like to throw cold water on uplifting financial stories, like when Grace Groner turned 3 shares of Abbott Laboratories into $47 billion. Don’t Quit Your Day Job wanted in on some of that dream killin’ action, so he crapped all over the rich 92-year old janitor. The janitor’s ghost cleaned it up out of habit.

I wrote about how Calgary’s real estate market could be the first shoe to drop in a nationwide housing collapse. I can’t even sugarcoat it, it’s a pretty bearish piece.

You know how every value investor is looking for a sustainable competitive advantage (i.e. a moat) because Warren Buffett told them to? I throw some cold water on that over at Canadian Value Investing, which amazingly has actually cracked 100 views per day a couple times.

Save. Spend. Splurge. did an ask me anything dealie, which I’m a little bummed out that I missed. My questions would have included “what gives you the right?” and “is this a boil or a pimple on my back?”. I’d steal the idea, but I’m afraid I’d only get questions from my mom after I taught her how to use the internet.

There’s probably more good stuff out there, but I’m sleepy.

Have a good week everyone.

Feb 252015
 

Even in 2015, just about every newscast, online story, or random mutterings (my favorite kind of mutterings) about the general stock market always starts off with the Dow Jones Industrial Average, usually followed up by the S&P 500, and then the Nasdaq Composite. Although the S&P 500 index fund (NYSE:SPY) dwarfs the size of the equivalent Dow Jones product (NYSE:DIA) to the tune of a $194 billion market cap to $12 billion, the Dow is still the goto index.

People still talk about the Dogs of the Dow as a thing, and I wrote about it back in 2010(!) when this blog was the internet version of a toddler. Sticking around for 5 years makes me the internet version of a dirty old man, which is actually pretty close to the truth. So I’ve got that going for me.

Back to the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Unlike the S&P 500, which is a market cap weighted index, the Dow just adds up the value of each stock and divides it by 30. It’s a little more complex than that, but not much. It arbitrarily picks stocks to have in the index as well, which leads to a pretty interesting mishmash of an index.

Quiz time! Guess what is the stock with the highest weighting in the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Is it:

a) Exxon Mobil
b) Apple
c) Visa
d) General Electric
e) YOUR MOM

The answer is Visa, because of course it is. Visa has a market cap of $167 billion, which makes it the smallest company out of those four by about $100 billion. The second largest company in the Dow is Goldman Sachs, and the third biggest is 3M. Here’s a fun list of the whole top 10:

Screen Shot 2015-02-25 at 12.57.54 AM

Visa is a nearly 10% weight in the index, followed by Goldman Sachs at 6.74%. Between those two companies control nearly 20% of the moves of the Dow Jones. While both of those companies are fine, they’re hardly representative of the overall U.S. market.

For comparison’s sake, let’s look at the S&P 500.

Screen Shot 2015-02-25 at 1.00.51 AM

You’ll notice there’s exactly zero overlap, even though those are the 10 biggest companies in the U.S. There’s plenty of overlap in the Dow 30 and those stocks, but none in the top 10. Johnson and Johnson is the first one to show up, and it’s only the 12th biggest name in the index. Hilariously, Apple, Berkshire, Wells Fargo, and Pfizer don’t even make it onto the Dow, even though they’re all in the top 10 largest companies in America.

The composition of the Dow is changing though, since Visa announced it was splitting its stock 4-for-1, bringing the price down from $272 to the $70 range. This will reduce Visa’s weighting in the Dow from nearly 10% to just under 3%, paving the way for Goldman Sachs to become the largest Dow component. General Electric will continue to bring up the rear, even though it’s the 7th most valuable company in America (and interestingly, the only original member of the Dow Jones Industrial Average to stay in the index for the whole life of it, dating back to the 1800s).

Remember when Apple split its stock last summer? Speculation at the time wondered if the company did it to get into the Dow. Remember, at $700 per share, Apple would have dominated the index more than your overbearing wife before you say the safe word, so there was no way it could be added. But as a $100 per share company, it would be in the middle of the pack.

It’s almost a year later, and we’re still waiting for Apple to finally make it into the Dow. Maybe the guys in charge are BlackBerry fans.

Most people just assume the Dow Jones Industrial Average is a smaller version of the S&P 500. As you can see, that’s not even remotely true. So remember, the next time you look at it, you’re really just checking out the performance of Visa, Goldman Sachs, and other large companies that happen to have high prices. What a joke of an index.

Feb 232015
 
"Okay, but only if you save me a bite."

“Okay, but only if you save me a bite.”

Allow me to start off this post with a sweeping statement on gender equality politics, something that has never been a bad idea in the history of ever.

The only reason why Men’s Rights is a thing is because Feminism has become a parody of itself. Feminism ran out of real issues years ago, so now they focus on stupid crap like manspreading, “mansplaining”, and pushing campus rape statistics that don’t even hold up to rational thought, let alone any empirical research. And while we’re at it, LOL at the whole women make 23% less than men thing.

While we’re at it, the “patriarchy” is particularly laughable. Look at the average guy and explain to me how he’s suppressing women. He’s just as suppressed as she is, just in a slightly different way. The life of the average guy in North America in 2015 is about the same as it is for the average woman. There’s an argument to be made for the rich oppressing everyone in the lower and middle classes, but there is no movement actually looking to suppress women.

Like with Feminism, Men’s Rights is almost equally laughable. The movement does touch on some legitimate issues — like domestic violence hardly being a one-way street, default child custody going to the mother, and maybe circumcison — but quickly devolves into nonsense about stuff like Gamergate and declaring false rape allegations as some sort of huge problem. Like with Feminism, the crazy fringes of the movement give the whole thing a bad name.

There are certain problems that people encounter when being alive in 2015. Some of these issues are gender specific, but most aren’t. Young women are struggling to get ahead, date safely, and so on. But so are young men. Both genders are struggling with finding careers after earning ill-advised degrees. Both genders are trying to figure out how to invest for retirement, while being able to afford a decent house and a tropical vacation each year. Even people who aren’t reading this blog are worried about that stuff, just not as much as you or I are.

And yet, I see countless pieces in the PF-o-sphere like the one I encountered the other day, over at Makin (sic) The Bacon, titled Women Into Investing Part II: PF Bloggers. Essentially, Ms. Bacon asked a bunch of women personal finance bloggers why women are scared to invest, and what the gender can specifically do to become better investors. I have yet to see one that gives men-specific tips on the same issues.

Which reminded me of this tweet I sent out a couple of years ago.

This isn’t some sort of rant against Ms. Bacon. She’s just doing with thousands before her have done, by asking all the other PF ladies (who will hopefully promote said post on Twitter or their own blogs) what to do with the problem of women’s lack of investing. But why in the actual hell would investing ever be a gender issue? Just like with last minute tax tips, investing tips are THE EXACT SAME for dudes and ladies.

Want to pick actual stocks? Be prepared to read your face off. Sorry, you can’t just skim through an article on Seeking Alpha and decide to buy a stock. Well, you can, but be prepared to be laughed at by serious investors.

Want to do well at work? Then be a great employee, dammit. Take a critical look at how hard you work (like with driving and sex, just about everyone overestimates how good they are at work), and increase your productivity along with decreasing the amount of office crap you either start or contribute to. Happily do the jobs nobody else wants to and I guarantee you will get ahead. Stop worrying about crap like how making the office coffee or treats is somehow sexist.

Want to save more money? Then actually save more money. Either pick up some extra income or cut your spending. The internet is filled with stuff to help you out with that.

And so on. It doesn’t matter what your financial problem is, the solution is you taking action and fixing it. It has very little — if anything — to do with your genitals.

But by making it a gender issue, suddenly both sexes can use their ingrained beliefs to blame someone or something else for their problems. Ladies aren’t getting ahead as fast as they’d like? It can’t be an issue with their work ethic or a lack of patience, it’s the patriarchy’s fault! Damn rich guys, always striving to keep women down! I’m going to go on Twitter and retweet some stuff on sexism, which is easier than acting!

It’s the same thing for dudes. Yeah, having money that you’re paying to your ex for child support would be nice, but it’s time to stop complaining about that and focus on optimizing the future. It’s the same with with alimony, or being stuck in a marriage where your wife spends all your money. Ultimately, they’re all just excuses.

Sometimes, when somebody wants to discredit something I’ve come up with, I’ll get a remark about my lack of formalized education. Nobody should listen to Nelson, see, because he never went to college. I’ve never let that slow me down because I know it’s a terrible comeback. Which is exactly the attitude a woman investor should have when some troll tries to refute her investment research with a quip about how women are bad at math.

There’s plenty of ingrained sexism that both genders have to deal with. Yes, it goes both ways. Talk to a male kindergarden teacher or nurse if you don’t believe me. That’s bad, and it’s something we should look at improving. But when it comes to money, investing, frugality, or anything else to do with your finances, there’s no reason to make anything about gender. The same rules apply to everyone.

Feb 232015
 

If you are seeking to invest in Paris real estate, now is the time to do so. While interest rates for New York real estate are lower than they have been in the past, a recent report in December 25, 2014 indicates that Parisian mortgage brokers are offering the best rates worldwide.

In fact, rates on mortgage loans fell hard in Paris in November 2014 causing speculators to anticipate they could not dip any lower. However, the world real estate market is a enigmatic fellow as December saw another drop in the loan rate in France’s capital. Mortgage brokers worldwide exclaimed that the best interest rates for mortgages could be obtained in Paris.

Real Estate Investments: Comparing Paris to New York – Paris Offers Very Low Rates of Interest

As currently as December 2014, a fixed interest loan that spanned 20 years was being offered at 2.3% for investors with a very good financial profile. However, you could also find mortgage lenders who would offer mortgages as low as 2.15% for the same time period. Fifteen year rates for loans were available for under 2% as well. Even investors who showed a standard profile could obtain a loan in Paris at just over 2.5%.

Past interest reports placed buying a Paris property at just over 3% in December 2013. Still, that figure has continued to fall, even at that almost-too-good-to-be-true interest rate.

Not only that, current research shows that Paris enjoys second place among all the European cities for the demand for commercial property. The city ranks just behind London in this respect. The ranking moves Paris up from its 3rd place rating, according to E-REGI or the European Regional Growth Index. E-REGI is noted for identifying the top performing European areas for the demand of commercial real estate.

Real Estate Investments: Comparing Paris to New York – Prospects for Economic Growth

In addition, the E-REGI report indicated that the prospects are looking bright for European economic growth. The best performers show a strong performance in economic categories such as urbanization, demographics and technology.

As a result, Paris has earned the reputation as being the second of all European cities to capture investor interest. Asian and Middle Eastern real estate connoisseurs find Paris an attractive place to invest in properties.

Real Estate Investments: Comparing Paris to New York – Interest Rates in New York, while Higher, are Still Reasonable

Compare the aforementioned information with the real estate in New York, whose interest rates, while low, are still not as low as Paris. Interest rates for New York run at around 4% for qualified investors, which is still good too. Therefore, when comparing the two cities, your choice is contingent on the lifestyle as well as the purpose for the real estate.

Paris real estate and New York properties are both high-priced because of their location. So, if you are looking to gain holdings in either of the two cities, the interest rate you pay may be the deciding factor. If not, you may want to look at New York as the city to choose if you wish to rent residences. After all, most of the people in New York City rent their living space. So, from an investment standpoint, buying rental properties in New York offers a great deal of security.

You can obtain further information about global real estate investments from Prestige International. Check out the situation worldwide for all your real estate investment needs through the company.

 

Feb 232015
 

If you’re a small business owner, you probably already have a POS system installed in your shop. Cash registers are yesterday’s news and no longer the lynchpin behind the counter holding all your money. Most POS systems installed in retail shops and restaurants across the country are what we call “legacy systems” that come complete with all the hardware and software a business needs to operate.

It’s called “legacy” because the whole system is pretty old; the hardware is old and bulky while the software running it has remained virtually unchanged for the past 20 years or so. Why fix something that isn’t broken? That’s where the guerillas come in.

Small, Fast and Mobile

There’s a movement nowadays in the POS universe. A lot of small business owners are using iPads and Android tablets as POS systems and have reportedly been doing quite well. They say that aside from being more competitive on the price front, these smaller systems are easy to use and deploy.

Since a majority of the staff knows how to use touch screen devices, training is a breeze and the learning curve not as steep when compared to old POS systems. If you have a restaurant or other customer-centric endeavor, equipping your staff with tablet POS technology will help streamline your operations and improve service speed. Having a POS terminal for iPad or Android can provide these benefits to your business:

  • Your staff can take and enter orders tableside and in real-time, avoiding delays experienced when waiting to enter orders at a legacy (stationary) POS terminal.
  • Sending orders straight from the tablet to the kitchen wirelessly streamlines food preparation.
  • If you run a quick service restaurant or QSR, your employees can take orders from people waiting in line, getting the ball rolling in the kitchen and reducing wait times.

Endless Possibilities

With mobile POS systems, the possibilities are endless. If you want to extend your services and provide outdoor seating, no problem: having the POS system handy gives you the flexibility and speed to handle multiple orders, wherever the location. The kitchen still receives the order in real time. If you want to set up shop at a remote event for a concert, no problem: you have your entire POS system in your hands. What this means is: more revenue streams for you!

With tablet POS systems, you’re giving your front liners and your customer service staff the tools to be better at their jobs. By putting valuable data at their fingertips, they can be empowered to answer all your customer’s questions involving their order: ingredient info, cooking time, delivery costs and even inventory. No need to look for a supervisor, they can answer questions right then and there.

Another great thing about a tablet based POS system is that front line staff can be prompted by the system to suggest an up-sell, cross-sell or offer any discounts and incentives because they’ll know which products these are instantly. With these suggestions, your staff can engage your customers better and complete the sale right on the floor or by the table. This will boost your sales and improve your customer service, winning you more customers.

Final Word

POS systems don’t have to be big, old and bulky. You don’t have to be oldschool to run a successful business. Guerilla warfare is successful because the guerillas are small and mobile, able to dart in and out of the battlefield undetected but the larger, lumbering army. POS systems are the same way. Smaller, lightweight systems that are mobile can benefit your business in more ways than you can imagine. Plus, everything is in the cloud, so you can access all your sales and data anywhere you are in the world.

Feb 222015
 

If urban living is your cup of tea, then hunting for a condo should be your top priority. Searching for a wonderful new castle in the clouds could be a tough ordeal though. Many buyers have been kicking themselves for purchasing a particular unit without due diligence, and they’re stuck with it. Problem units are hard to re-sell. So do your homework first before committing. You’ll be using your hidden talents as a sleuth – so always come prepared and make a list using the main points in this article.

Location, Location

This is probably the most important factor when considering a condo. Urban living is all about being in the center of it all, and most condo developments are right smack in the middle of things. Check if the location is next to restaurants, cafes and other shops. Canvas the immediate vicinity for grocery stores, pharmacies and hospitals. If the condo you’re looking at is next to a park or recreational facility, that’s a major plus. Some developments, like these condos in Montreal, are situated brilliantly. And, if there’s a cinema or theatre nearby, you’re golden.

Amenities

Some condo developments have amenities that can rival those of a hotel. Some have gyms, outdoor recreational areas, swimming pools, party rooms and a roof deck. Others may also have space on the roof for hanging your laundry, but with most units having provisions for driers and the placement of the swimming pool on the roof deck, this has become a rarity. Plus, it’s unsightly. Another thing you should be on the lookout for is available extra storage space. Some condos have locker-type storage facilities for your extra stuff, like sleds, bikes, curtains or boxes of old toys. Lastly, inquire about available parking space for your unit and extra parking for guests should you have visitors.

Noise

Check the condo for soundproofing issues. Drop by the place at different times of the day to see if the noise levels from units next to (and above) the one you’re looking at would be noticeable. If you can hear the TV next door, it’s time to look elsewhere. Also, while there, you can check out what type of people live there. Are they noisy and raucous on the lobby and elevator or are they polite and quiet?

Professional Administration & Building Management

Head to the Administration Office and try to speak with the person in charge. Ask about maintenance schedules, the community, garbage disposal and anything that comes to mind. Prepare a list of questions. If they know what they’re talking about and are professional in dealing with you, then the building is properly run and administered. But if the person in charge doesn’t have a clue, walk away.

A Competent HOA

The Home Owner’s Association of any community is a huge factor. If the unit owners are on the same page and are fair in the rates and collection of dues, it can only help the community. Ask them about the emergency fund for major unexpected repairs. Usually, when something big comes up, everybody will have to fork out more to fund the project. Also check the rules and regulations set forth by the HOA and the board of directors. This covers pets, painting or construction in the unit, kids, noise, parties, garbage disposal and a host of other important things. They usually hand out fines for offenders, so check with them what these are and if they’re reasonable.

The Community

Your sanity will be tested if you live in a condo because you will be living in close proximity with your neighbors. This can be viewed as a good thing because you have a wealth of opportunities to make new friends and meet other people of varying backgrounds. It’ll be like a giant, vertical social network. So, before taking the plunge, talk to your future neighbors and scope out the neighborhood. Are they warm and hospitable? Is everyone working professionals or are there a lot of retirees? Are there kids around? Look at your own situation. If you’re single, maybe a condo full of single people would be awesome; it’ll be just like college. If you have kids, look for condos that cater more to families. Remember your preferences and the preferences of those who’ll be coming with you before making a decision.

Conclusion

Condos are great, especially if you’re a first time home buyer. They’re priced lower than houses and are virtually maintenance free. There are association dues, parking and storage space issues that come with the territory, but when you factor in the convenience of being 10 minutes or less away from everything the city has to offer, living in a condo is a damn fine idea.

Feb 202015
 

Oh, what a portfolio it was.

When I completed the Financial Uproar borrowing to invest portfolio, it was literally the greatest thing in the history of mankind. Angels sang in the heavens. Republicans and Democrats stopped fighting to collectively praise it. Jim Cramer FELL TO HIS KNEES and praised Allah. He’s Muslim, who knew?

I promised quarterly updates on the thing, so here it is. Yeah, I know it hasn’t been exactly a quarter yet, but I was looking for something to write about today and it seemed like a good idea. Regular readers learned to stop expecting quality a long time ago.

Anyhoo, enough teasing. Here are the results.

Screen Shot 2015-02-20 at 7.46.59 AM

Some notes:

  • The portfolio is up approximately 3%, excluding dividends. We’re flirting with 4% if you include dividends, which is lagging the TSX a bit. The TSX Composite is up 5.1% over that time.
  • U.S. stocks really helped, mostly thanks to the currency conversion back to Canadian Dollars. Hopefully the dollar stays weak so I can collect some sweet virtual dividends.
  • Both Extendicare and GM were up more than 10%. I continue to like Extendicare, and I recommended family members buy it as a yield play. I’ll write more about it at Canadian Value Investing in the coming days.
  • The Bank of Canada lowering rates helped me too. That gave Calloway and Pizza Pizza a nice boost.
  • The big dog was Bombardier. Someone suggested in the comments that I should have gone with the preferred shares, which was the better move in hindsight. Now that the Bomber has cut its dividend to go along with the bad news baked into the stock, I have $2,940 plus $361 I didn’t spend in the first place.

Which will be the new Uproar Borrow (KINDA RHYMES) stock?

There are a few stocks I like in Canada. Extendicare is one, but I don’t really want to buy more. Too many eggs, not enough baskets. I like Dream Office REIT (disclosure: I own it), but there are already enough REIT/interest rate sensitive stocks in the portfolio. I also like Manitoba Telecom, but I think it’s only a matter of time until it cuts the dividend.

But saying all that, I’ve just spent the last 10 minutes thinking about a stock to add that pays a dividend and isn’t a small-cap, and I can’t think of a thing. So Manitoba Telecom it is. I bought 120 shares at $24.52, which is expected to throw off $204 in dividends annually. I think this gets cut soon, but I’m okay with that. It’ll likely yield about 4% going forward, which I’ll gladly take.

And that’s about it. I”m happy with the performance considering how Bombardier blew up. That shouldn’t happen each quarter. And by the time I update this post again, I’ll have earned enough in dividends to easily cover the first year’s interest. That means I can start paying off my imaginary loan, which I’m sure will make my imaginary banker happy.