Book Review and Giveaway: The Value of Simple

(Plus links. Stay tuned for them at the bottom.)

Friend of the blog John Robertson (author at Holy Potato, AKA one of the blogs I link to every week) wrote a small little e-book a couple of years ago, called Potato’s  I reviewed it here. It was a nice little guide explaining the basics of RRSPs, TFSAs, and all that jazz. I’m sure my shout-out led to him selling thousands of books.

Well, apparently that wasn’t good enough for him. Like some sort of ambitious guy, he basically scrapped it and started over, creating a much more in depth volume, calling it The Value of Simple. Like the first book, it’s aimed at beginning Canadian investors, going through all the steps needed to go from schmoe who can’t invest or even tie his own shoelaces to Captain Handsome who knows his way around a balance sheet, if the ladies know what I mean.*

*Your results may vary.

Included are step-by-step guides to:

  • The basics of investing, including asset classes, and the different types of accounts
  • An extremely detailed guide to opening TD E-Series accounts, Tangerine Streetwise mutual fund accounts, and Questrade accounts.
  • Even more detailed guides to trading ETFs or funds for each type of account. There are pictures.
  • Figuring out when to invest in a RRSP or a TFSA.
  • Transferring funds between brokers
  • Asset allocation
  • Rebalancing
  • And so on

Like The Wealthy Barber, The Value of Simple is a great book to give to your brother, kid, friend, co-worker, or mistress who knows nothing about investing. It lays out the basics without going into the painstaking detail that makes people throw up their hands and not want to bother.

The only thing I didn’t like (and I fully admit this is nitpicking a little) is the section on something called Norbit’s Gambit. That’s when you buy the U.S. version of a stock or ETF on the Toronto Stock Exchange and then sell the Canadian version, which should give the investor a cheap and easy way to exchange U.S. Dollars to Canadian ones.

There’s nothing wrong with the advice, except I don’t think it belongs in a book that’s called The Value of Simple. But really, that’s the only thing I’d change. It’s a good enough read, and it makes a good gift for someone you know who’s just getting started with this stuff. Getting them to read it might be a different challenge. I suggest holding their eyes open with toothpicks. Hey, it works in cartoons.

The book isn’t officially out until December 1st, but I’m pretty sure John is happy to take your money beforehand.

Or, if you’re a cheap-ass like me, John has graciously offered a copy to give away. So, if you’re in the market for a free book (and a free gift from Nelson), just go ahead and leave a comment. We’ll leave the contest open for a week, so get crackin’, yo.

Time for links

Sandi Martin decided to blog again, after approximately 8.4 years of doing other things (it says she’s a fee-only financial planner. Whatever that is.) like clouding up my Facebook feed with pictures of her children. Anyway, she has some thoughts about the new bunch of robo-advisors, which I am only just realizing aren’t Robocop.

Over at Earn. Save. Grow. (AKA the crappy cousin of Boomer and Echo), our homey Robb asks who is to blame for your financial woes. I blame the patriarchy, and cute squirrels, in that order.

Don’t Quit Your Day Job has some pretty shocking stories about asset forfeiture, which is a pretty boring term that really means “when the government steals crap from you because they feel like it.” The story about the guys who beat Las Vegas video poker is especially good. Land of the free my ass, America.

I wrote more words about Penn West Energy over at Motley Fool. I picked up some shares at $4.72 at the beginning of last week. They are now at $5.00. I am a jenius.

I also wrote about Fairfax Financial, which is a lot like Berkshire Hathaway. Prem Watsa is the guy in charge, and he’s pretty interesting. Plus, he owns Reitmans, BlackBerry, and Penn West. Just like me! We’re practically besties.

A few weeks ago, a guy by the name of Anton Ivanov was making headlines on prominent finance sites for being a 27-year old “self-made” millionaire. It turns out he was lying about the self-made part. Check out this story for all the cringe-inducing details.

(Budgets are Sexy also wrote about this guy)

Earlier in the week I wrote about a tiny micro cap called Jaguar Financial. I am now the proud owner of 58,000 (Edit: 54,000, not 58,000) shares. So yes, I just bought more BlackBerry.

And finally, here’s a story about a vasectomy going horribly wrong. Lots of fun mental pictures there.

Have a good weekend everyone.

$1,392,538 Worth Of Prizes To Give Away

Because hey, I realize I have to bribe you guys to keep you around. Why else would you come here? The content is crap, the author is clearly not funny, and absolutely none of the cool kids are around. There are more spelling and grammar mistakes than a Mexican ESL class. At least there’s a picture of a hot chick every week.

So now, rather than try to give you guys some good content, I’m just going to turn into Krusty the Klown:

Krusty: All right, here’s the deal. Every time you watch my show, I will send you (holds up a cheque) FORTY DOLLARS!

Voiceover: Cheques will not be honored.

I’m not going to admit how much time I spent trying to find that video clip. I’m sure Einstein came up with the theory of relativity in less time.

All right, that’s enough preamble. Let’s get to the good stuff. THAT’S RIGHT KIDS, HERE’S PICTURES OF NELSON IN A THONG!

(I actually just Googled “man thong” and I am, well, traumatized. Also, can somebody come over and clean up my vomit?)

Let’s look at the prizes.

Two (2) $25 Future Shop Gift Cards

They sell lots of electronics that can be used to access porn

I’ve actually been kicked out of all Future Shops forever because I used a video camera for a sex tape and then didn’t delete the sex tape when I returned the camera. The camera also, uh, had some stains on it.

Hopefully you haven’t gotten kicked out of the store so you can use one of the two gift cards to buy someone special a little something nice for Christmas. Or, if you really hate someone, I’m pretty sure they sell Britney Spears CDs.

But wait, some of you are saying, I’m an American, and have little use for your crappy Canadian retailers. My country is better than yours in every way. Well, except the health care. And obesity rates. Plus the education system sucks and crime is kind of rampant. But besides all that, America is awesome.

Don’t fret American, you also get some gift cards.

Two (2) $25 Amazon Gift Cards

That doesn't look like a forest. Or a river.

If you win one you can buy whatever you want with it. Hell, you can even flush it down the toilet for all I care.

Here’s the way the draw is going to work. I’m going to draw 4 names and then divvy up the prizes based on your nationalities. If I draw 3/4 American readers then I’ll just pony up the extra $25 and give away 3 Amazon gift cards, leaving me 1 remaining Future Shop card. Do you guys think a stripper would take a gift card?

Oh wait kids, there’s more.

Nelson’s Plunger and Underpants

Yes, that's my actual bathroom

Don’t worry, I totally washed the underpants. I cannot promise the same for the plunger.

5 Free Slurpees

Not pictured: your dental bills

Yeah, it’s kinda the wrong season for Slurpees, but screw it. They’re awesome. If you don’t like it, hang onto them until summer. You won’t make it to February.

A Copy of Too Big To Fail

Honestly, this is probably the best prize of the whole lot. All those gift cards? THEY’RE CRAP.

I read this book on the way back from Las Vegas in February, so this book is WORLDLY. It is a terrific look at the financial crisis of 2008-09, with a focus on the bigwigs who worked for the big banks. It is 550 pages of the most riveting material you’ll ever read about banking crises, I promise.

A Copy of Your Money Ratios

I have no idea what this book is about. My internet girlfriend Young and Thrifty sent it out to me, and I don’t even think I cracked it open. So it’s a surprise!

Here’s what Amazon has to say about it:

A troubled economy calls for answers. People need sound, easy-to-follow financial advice that can be implemented immediately. For the first time, a leading financial adviser has developed a remarkable set of guidelines to give individuals the same kind of objective insight into their personal finances that successful businesses have. Your Money Ratios will help readers effectively manage debt, invest prudently, and develop a realistic and effective savings plan to ensure both financial success and security. Readers need only plug their income and age into Farrell’s ratios to get an instant picture of their savings status and overall financial health, as well as a road map for the important choices for the future.

That might be fun.

Hey Nelson, how do I enter?

GREAT QUESTION. You have a few options:

1. Leave a comment (1 entry)

2. Tweet about the contest. (1 entry) Make sure to mention me (@financialuproar) or else I’ll never know that you mentioned it.

3. Link to the contest from your blog (2 entries) Let me know if you do, since the trackback may get caught in spam hell.

I ain’t shipping anything overseas. So if you live in Estonia you’re out of luck.

I’ll announce the winners on Sunday, December 9th. Good luck everyone.

Book Review And Giveaway: Millionaire Teacher

Finally, after getting a copy from the author himself about 6 months ago, I’m finally getting around to reviewing Millionaire Teacher. You’d all be disappointed and whatnot, but my laziness is well maintained at this point. The book sat for months right beside my bed, where it witnessed some horrific events that neither of us want to talk about. There were a lot of tears. Let’s move on.

Firstly, a little background on the author. Andrew writes at the predictably titled, a blog that I’ve subscribed to for years now. I’ve dubbed him the “nicest guy on the entire internet” because I don’t think I’ve ever seen him be even remotely mean to anyone, especially to guys like me who deserve it. He’s a teacher who lives and works in Singapore, after living in Canada for many years.

As the title of the book alludes, Andrew has managed to accumulate an impressive net worth on just a teacher’s salary. How did he do it? Did he sell his body? Did he consistently hit up his students for their lunch money to supercharge his savings? Nah. He’s too nice for that. Luckily for all of us, he decided to write a book that’s half memoir and half how-to guide. And you’re going to get a chance to win it. You’ll see how soon enough Sparky.


Andrew’s Path

Luckily for Andrew, he figured out the miracle of compound interest early in his life, as he started investing at 19 years old. While the rest of you were throwing your money at booze and the other sex, Andrew was pouring all his excess cash into the market.

Once he graduated from university, he lived incredibly frugally in order to have more money to invest. He ate potatoes, pasta and clams HE CAUGHT AT THE BEACH. This guy was not screwing around with frugality. He also rode his bike 35 miles each way to his first teaching job. All this was done with one goal in mind – to maximize his contributions to his investment accounts. You didn’t think getting rich on a teacher’s salary was going to be without some sacrifice, did you? Because if you did, that would make you a moron.

The book is a how-to guide all about how to get where Andrew is today. The meat of the book are the methods he recommends for the average investor. Like any good plan, it’s simple and takes emotion out of the equation.

How To Invest – The Millionaire Teacher Way

Andrew started an investment club with other teachers back in 1999. After some initial stumbles, the club ended up handily beating the S&P 500 over the next decade, mostly because the club make a specific effort to copy the investing mantra of Warren Buffett, buying companies with strong competitive advantages. They took large positions in Coke, Schering Plough and Fastenal, among other companies. Yet, in 2011, Andrew sold most of his individual stocks (some $700,000 worth) and exchanged them for index funds.

Andrew’s reasoning is simple. He believes, over time, buying the index will beat just about every active mutual fund and stock picking strategy out there. Buying the index also means an investor can save easily 1-2% a year in costs, costs that can add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars over your investing lifetime, especially if you start young.

The meat of the book is spent on the merits of index investing, as Andrew lays out a convincing case as to why the average investor should avoid actively managed mutual funds all together. He lists the objections your financial advisor will have and easily throws those objections into the trash.

He also gets into the psychology of investing, outlining a simple strategy to avoid the common pitfalls that plague investors. Andrew also has all sorts of sample portfolios in the book, complete with the simple steps you’ll need to take to rebalance those portfolios once a year. He knows investing can be scary for someone who isn’t into it, so he makes the process easy.

Enough Talking, You Want a Copy

Millionaire Teacher takes the world of investing and not only shows you how to do it better than all your friends, but also presents these lessons in easy to understand language and as a series of simple steps. It’s a good book for both beginners and intermediates, and I’m giving you a chance to win the copy I once had in my very hands. I promise, there will be no strange stains on this one.

How can you win? There’s approximately 28592 ways you could enter, including sending me letters professing your love for me (ladies only) or sending me large amounts of cash. Considering the off chance that neither of those things happen, you have one of two ways to enter:

1. Leave a comment on this post.

2. Like Financial Uproar on Facebook for a bonus entry. (If you’ve already liked my Facebook page, just mention it in the comments and I’ll credit you with the bonus entry)

That’s it. Oh, and don’t enter if you’re from anywhere except in North America. Cause I’m not shipping this thing all over the damn place. Also, if you wrote the book, you cannot enter. Sorry about that, but not really. The contest ends on Friday at midnight MST, so you’re probably going to want to get at the plan and enter. I’ll announce the winner during next week’s link dump.

Book Review And Giveaway- The Wealthy Barber Returns

This book has come with so much hype that I feel like it doesn’t even need a preamble. David Chilton is back with a sequel to his massively successful 1989 best seller The Wealthy Barber, making it officially the longest anyone has ever had to wait for a sequel ever. I’m willing to forgive this since, like so many other Canadians, I was introduced to the world of finance by Chilton.

A background story: I was 14 years old and in the basement of my parents house. (I would continue to live there for another 11 years! Yikes.) I had to go to the bathroom, and being too lazy to go upstairs to mine, I stayed downstairs and used the purple one that my sister used. It had a purple toilet AND carpet. That’s just pure class right there. So I sit down and see a copy of the Wealthy Barber sitting on the floor, a bookmark in about 9 pages. Literally with nothing better to do, I pick it up and start reading.

And the rest, as they say, is history. I was instantly hooked. I read the book cover to cover. I loved the story. I was anxious to go out and get a job so I could invest my money and watch it compound. I was ready to buy a rental house like one of the characters did. I continue to recommend it to people just starting out on their financial journey. Real life friends can attest I’ve bought the book as a wedding gift. (I also stuck a gift card inside of the book, since I’m not THAT mean.)

Plus, it continues to rank high on the Uproar Reads list, which I’m pretty sure is the ultimate compliment.

Knowing the background story, you can imagine I was pretty excited to hear about the Return of the Wealthy Barber. Let’s look at a picture of the cover.

More than 2 million of the original sold? That’s quite impressive, considering the average best seller in Canada sells approximately 842 copies. I read somewhere the original was the best selling book in Canadian history. But wait, I think I see something odd on the cover of the book. Can we see another shot of that, blog fairies that magically do this stuff?


The Actual Review

There aren’t many personal finance books that I find myself laughing as I read them, but this one was definitely an exception. This book is legitimately funny, not just finance funny. By the way, finance funny is kind of like hot chick funny. As long as a hot chick isn’t miserable, guys will believe she’s funny. It’s the same principle with finance books.

It’s not a story like the first one. In fact, it reads a lot like a blog. Each chapter is only a few pages long. It explores a topic, makes a couple of jokes and moves on to the next one. Considering how short my attention span is, I enjoyed the setup.

The book doesn’t delve too deep into the topics it covers. And, in a refreshing turn, Chilton readily admits at times he really has no idea what the right answer to certain financial topics that the blogosphere has wrestled with for years. He makes convincing arguments in favor of index investing, as well as not having tens of thousands of dollars tied up in emergency funds. Chilton also rallies against the large debt load that afflicts a large number of Canadians.

There’s all sorts of other great things in The Wealthy Barber Returns as well. But you don’t care. You just want to know how you can win one. You’re so impatient.

How To Win A Copy

Great news everyone! I’m going to be giving away the actual copy of the book that I read. This book spent some time in bed with me, meaning it’s the closest many of you will get to sleeping with me. It’s probably the closest you’ll want to get to sleeping with me.

Usually giveaways go a little something like this. You get x entries if you follow on Twitter, x more if you RT, and so on. Aside: you definitely should be following my Twitter feed, because it’s filled with stupid jokes all sorts of relevant information. And while I’d appreciate you spreading the word to your followers at least 31 times, it’s not a necessity for this contest. I’m going to do something a little different this time around. This is a skill testing contest. But don’t worry, it’s not that hard.

As you can see by just scrolling up a little, I have a slogan for my blog right under the title. For those of you reading via your RSS feeds, the slogan is “I can’t hear you. I’ve created too big of an uproar.” It’s a solid slogan, but it could be better. That’s where you come in.

In the comments section, I’m going to give each and every one of you two shots to come up with my new slogan. All you have to do is leave just one comment with your two new slogan attempts underneath this post, and that’s it. You’re entered. Let me show you an example:

1. Financial Uproar: Making all of your non-sexual dreams come true.

2. Financial Uproar: Bad attempts at jokes since 2010

And so on. That’s how easy it is to enter.

And so you can’t accuse me of bias, I will be getting a independent third party to choose the winner. The winner will get the satisfaction of seeing their slogan at the top of this very blog, until I get bored with it and go with another. Oh, and they’ll get a copy of the book. The contest will run for almost 2 weeks, I’ll announce the winner during the Saturday link dump on October 22nd. Americans are free to enter, but be advised this book probably won’t be too applicable to you. Overseas entrants should probably just go away now.

That’s it. Enter now dammit.

Book Review And Giveaway: MoneySense Guide To Retiring Wealthy

So there I was a few weeks ago, just playing around on my laptop a few weeks ago in my living room and minding my own business, when I see a tweet from MoneySense magazine. All I had to do is be one of the first two to reply to the tweet, and I’d have my very own copy of MoneySense’s Real Estate Guide. I was quick on the draw, and totally won, signifying the first time I’d ever won anything.

Then a few days later, much to my surprise, MoneySense emailed me, with some crazy good news. They had screwed up and sent the above pictured retirement guide instead of the real estate guide. Not to worry they told me, the real estate guide would also be sent. Two free books? What a great screw up!

So today I’m passing along my good fortune to you kids. I’ve spent some time reading the Guide To Retiring Wealthy, and it’s a pretty solid read. With a little luck, you could win the very copy I read with potato chip stained fingers. But before I give it away, let me tell you a little about what the book is about.

The book is divided into chapters that cover a decade in financial planning, your 20s, 30s, etc. Each chapter also includes a look into the life of a fictional couple John and Mary, and what they’re worrying about at a certain stage in their lives. No word on whether Mary is hot or not though.Finally, at the end, there’s a self test, so you can see whether you’re on track. Like every other test in my life, I’m probably going to fail this one too.

Your 20s

The book starts off with some tips for 20 somethings, focusing on getting the other parts of your financial life in order- like student loan and credit card debt taken care of. It also dispenses advice on how to start saving, touches on RRSPs and TFSAs, and gives tips on how to buy a car and also tackles the debate of whether a person in their 20s should buy or rent a house. John and Mary also show up, get married, and by the time they turn 30, Mary is pregnant! Let’s hope John is the Dad…

Your 30s

Naturally, someone in their 30s usually has more money related stress in their lives. They’ve just bought a house and maybe have become new parents. Staying afloat while paying a mortgage and raising kids can be tough, adding retirement savings to the mix almost seems impossible. The chapter also touches on insurance needs and whether a new parent can afford to stay at home with the kids or go back to work. There’s also the only RESP article in the whole world not written by Mike at MoneySmartsBlog.  Seriously, if you’re looking for RESP advice, Mike is the man. I’m going to harass him on almost a daily basis with RESP questions once I convince some sucker lucky woman to have my babies.

One thing I don’t like about the book is the acceptance of having a car payment. All sorts of experts share their opinions in the topics covered, and they all imply that a car payment is a given. There is no rule you have to buy a new or next to new car. A car bought for $5,000 or $10,000 will not spontaneously combust, I promise.

John and Mary are back, and they’re not doing especially well. They bought a house using a 35 year amortization. They owed money on their credit cards and a car loan. They have a positive net worth, but almost all of it is just equity in their house. I smell a midlife crisis coming up soon…

Your 40s

My favorite chapter in the book so far talks about just how much you’re looking at to retire, along with some basic investment strategies to get there. It also touches on pensions, whether or not buying a rental property should be part of the plan, how to recover financially from a divorce, and tips on how to take a year’s sabbatical. John and Mary are chugging along nicely, no word on whether he’s cheated on her with that hot divorcee who works in accounting.

Your 50s

Even if someone hasn’t saved a significant amount by the time they turn 50, the guide explains they’re hardly screwed. Once the mortgage is paid off, savings can really be supercharged. The chapter also covers adult children moving back in, as well as retirement withdrawal rates, and avoiding debt going into retirement. John and Mary- ah, screw it. They’re boring.

Your 60s and 70s

Oh yeah! You’re finally retired. The final chapters in the book talk about estate planning, adjusting asset allocation of your investments once you retire, and tips on how to get a job that both boosts income and is fun. Easily the best part for me was the section of retiring abroad in places like Mexico or Costa Rica. I’m not sure why more retirees don’t look at this option.

A Chance To Win The Book

Overall, the guide was a pretty solid read. It’s packed full of great tips for people of any age who are interested in getting their retirement savings on track. Now I bet you want a chance to win the book, huh? Well, you’re in luck. I’m giving you all sorts of ways to win! Just do one (or all if you’re so inclined) of the following to get a chance to get the book.

1. Leave a comment (1 entry)

2. Mention this giveaway on the Twitter (1 entry) Make sure you @ me when you do, or I’ll have no way of figuring out if you did. If you become a new Twitter follower or you already follow me, I’ll give you a bonus entry.

3. Link to this contest on your blog (3 entries)

So there you have it. You could easily get 6 entries to this contest, easily the greatest to happen to anyone. And since I fully expect to get about 9 total entries, you’ve gotta like your chances! I’ll draw for the winner on Friday June 3rd, and announce the winner in the link dump the next day. Oh, and you’ve gotta live in Canada or the U.S. to win. I’m not shipping this thing all the way to Timbuktu.