Friday, 23 June 2017

Ouch, That hurt my wallet (and my mouth

Had a 'fun' day off work yesterday - got some fasting blood tests done in the morning (covered by Medicare), in preparation for my visit to the eczema/immunology specialist in two weeks time. And then had an after lunch session with the dentist to get a premolar tooth extracted (it had two previously rounds of expensive root canal therapy by two different dentists, which didn't fix the problem).

I was told the extraction would take about an hour, but I ended up being in the 'chair' for almost two hours. Aside from some small pricks getting the initial local anesthetic injections, the whole proceed was quite painless, although uncomfortably. It involved the tooth extraction, 'grafting', a few stiches, and then an x-ray to check the final result. I'll be going back for a short visit in a couple of weeks to get the few stitches removed. This two hour marathon session cost just under A$1000, but at least there was a lot of time, effort and materials involved. A large proportion of the bill was covered by my employer-funded health plan, so my 'out of pocket' was under A$200.

There was somewhat greater pain involved when the local wore off. I'm on soft/liquid foods only for a couple of days, and taking some pain-killers today. Hopefully it will have 'settled down' by tomorrow morning.

Later in the year I'll need to have some more expensive work done to insert a 'prosthetic' tooth in the gap. Makes me wish I'd done a bit more cleaning and flossing of my teeth during the past forty years!

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Monday, 19 June 2017

Diet & Exercise update - 2017 Weeks 7-24

Well, 2017 has so far been a diet disaster ;(

We had a very hot and humid summer, and my eczema got quite bad due to a heat rash, so I've been feeling unwell, lethargic and irritable. I'm not sure if being unwell was the main cause, but I found it impossible to stick to my diet, and I had been buying confectionery whenever I went grocery shopping, and then eating lollies in the evenings as 'comfort food'. The heat rash and eczema also reduced the amount of walking I was doing (at least until the weather cooled down in May), and I haven't been doing my weekly game of squash due to my skin.

Overall, my weight increased from 97kg at the start of the year, up to 105kg last week! Considering I had got my weight down to 89kg this time last year, it is a really bad result.

A recent course of antibiotics and prednisone seems to have finally gotten my skin back under control, and I've been walking a bit more since the weather cooled down in May. I managed to stick to my diet plan last weekend, so I intend to stick fully to my diet starting from.... NOW! Hopefully doing a weekly blog post might also help motivate/embarrass me into sticking to my plan.

I won't bother listing all the weekly stats for 2017, but the overall figures from weeks 1-24 and the past week are below:

.             Fibre      Carbs    Fat     Protein    kCals     Avg Wt   Steps
              g/dy       %        %       g/dy       /dy       kg       /dy
2017
Weeks 1-24    37.5       64.1     18.3    118.9      3,019    102.1      6,025
Week 24       32.8       64.5     17.7    116.2      2,803    105.2      7,258

Goes to show what a few hundred extra calories every day, and a lack of exercise will achieve ;(

I'll start reporting weekly figures again from now on. Wish me luck.

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Making money Bitcoin 'mining' is harder than it looks

Well, for one thing I'm not really 'mining' Bitcoin -- I haven't bought the hardware normally used to 'mine' new Bitcoin (apparently you have to have access to really cheap electricity to make it worthwhile - hence the big mining 'farms' are located close to cheap sources of hydro or geothermal power) and are only running a mining app on my home laptop that works as part of a cloud-based 'pool'. At least it is generating a few thousand Satoshi each day (unfortunatey a Satoshi is only 1/100,000,000th of a Bitcoin!) and every time the modest threshold is reached some Satoshi actually get transferred into my CoPay 'wallet'. So far I've had 22 transfers of around 5000 Satoshi, with my total Bitcoin balance reaching 0.00113797 BTC (worth around A$3.57 at today's rate). And I'm pretty sure the cost of the electricity used leaving my laptop turned on overnight is more than that amount ;(

And my other attempt to 'earn' Bitcoin via an app on my phone was a total rip-off. Having wasted time clicking on ads (which I'm sure earned the app developer some money), the 'payment' of the first 400,000 Satoshi I'd earned never arrived in my Bitcoin wallet. And all attempts to get 'help' were ignored by the developer.

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Thursday, 15 June 2017

Electricity costs going through the roof

Electricity has been in the news quite a lot this year in Australia. South Australia had power blackouts during the Summer when an unusual weather pattern produced lots of cloud cover and no wind -- making their high reliance on wind/solar 'renewal' power supplies problematic. Normally they'd have managed using 'surplus' power from neighboring states (Victoria and NSW), but some issues with the instate load-sharing system apparently meant this wasn't possible, so some 'planned outages' were required. A lot of unhappy South Australians, and a lot of media discussion regarding whether the problem was due to over-reliance on 'renewal' power supplies, without adequate base-load supply or a means to store power (Elon Musk got in the act by offering to sell some 'cheap' battery storage to Australia), or whether it was just due to a problem with the interstate transmission system...

Anyhow, aside from supply issues, the cost of electricity to consumers has already been increasing faster than inflation for many years, and some even larger increases will soon bite. A just received an email from my electricity supplier showing my 'old' rates and the 'new' rates that will apply from next month. The head-line 'peak' rate is rising from ~54c per kWh to ~59.2c per kWh (an increase of 9.6%!). However, the reality is even worse, as the 'shoulder' and 'off-peak' rates will be increasing much more - 'shoulder' period electricity is increasing by 24.4% (!!) from ~21.6c per kWh to ~24.4c per kWh, and the 'off-peak' rate (used to heat up our hot water tank at 1-2am) is increasing by an eye-watering 36.5% (!!!!) from ~12c per kWh to ~16.4c per kWh.

Overall, based on last quarter's electricity bill, our mix of off-peak/shoulder/peak electricity use, and the total amount used, our overall bill will be increasing by around 18.8% from next month unless we take some drastic energy-saving measures. We've already time-shifted our normal electricity use as much as possible from peak period to shoulder (by not using the washing machine during the evening 'peak' hours), so now we'll have to look at reducing the amount of power used. Looking at our hour-by-hour energy use (fortunately the data is readily available online these days), it appears that when we were running the pool filter it uses around 0.5 kWh, so I definitely have to only run it for a couple of hours daily rather than non-stop. It was also noticeable that when the family was away during the school holidays, the household 'baseline' electricity use was around 0.25 kWh each hour (probably due to leaving the refrigerator running, a few 'security' lights on, and the various TVs and computers left in 'standby' mode. And the water-bed heater) When the family is at home the 'baseline' power use is around 0.25-0.5 kWh per hour higher, probably due to leaving some lights on during the day, and having more laptops/tablets etc. left plugged in to charge up etc.

I'll have to start actively checking that computers, TVs etc. are turned off rather than left in stand-bye mode during the day, and checking that no lights are left on during the day or when everyone goes to bed. We'll see how much of the hike in electricity prices can be off-set by being more frugal with our electricity usage...

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Lost and Found

When I went shopping on Saturday I found that I'd misplaced my daily-use credit card. Aside from having to use another credit card (that I normally use only for online purchases) that I didn't know the PIN number for (so I had to show my driver's license as ID) I was left scratching my head wondering what had happened to my credit card.

My last clear recollection of using it was taking it out of my wallet and putting it into my shirt pocket to walk downstairs and get a snack from a vending machine at work on Friday afternoon, so I had to look around the house to see if I'd taken it out of my pocket on Friday evening and left it lying around the house (no), then look in the washing hamper to try to find the shirt I'd worn on Friday and check if it was still in the shirt pocket (no), then look in the car to check if I'd put it in with the parking lot pass on Friday evening (no). By this time I suspected I might have put it on my desk at work and not put it back into my wallet, so I checked my work desk this morning - no luck. I thought it might 'turn up' in the next couple of days, so I went online and put a 'hold' on the card, rather than marking it as 'lost' (which would have meant waiting a week or two for a new card, with a new CC number).

Luckily DW phoned me a few hours later to say that she'd found my card in a shirt pocket - somehow I'd dropped my shirt in the towel hamper by mistake! I've now taken the CC off 'hold' and learned my lesson - from now on I'll take my wallet with me and put the CC straight back after using it, not put in 'loose' in my shirt pocket.

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Thursday, 1 June 2017

Net Worth: May 2017

My net worth decreased during May, mostly due to weakness in the stock market and my share portfolio holding of bank and oil/energy stocks doing particularly badly. The estimated valuation for our house only increased slightly, as the Sydney real estate market has definitely come off the boil. As usual I have used the 'book value' for my rural property, with only a slight increase due to some capital expenditure (materials for a retaining wall so we can add a car port to the side of the existing shed). My retirement account increased slightly, due to contributions rather than any gain in the investments.

DW is still looking for a new job, and the hours of her casual employment as a 'nanny' have been substantially reduced.



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Thursday, 4 May 2017

Free courses on Financial Literacy and Financial Planning

For a bit of fun and revision I'm doing a couple of free courses currently available from open2study.com that may be of interest to my readers.

One course teaches the basics of financial planning #O2SFinPlan , and another free course covers the basics of financial literacy #O2SFinLitrc .

Both courses started last week, but you can enrol at any time before the course ends and should be able to easily catch up. Each week covers a module via a series of ten short video presentations, and a short multiple-choice assessment quiz at the each of each week. If you complete the course and achieve at least 60%, you will get a statement of completion to print out.

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Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Net Worth: April 2017

A buoyant stock market and Sydney real estate market boosted my net worth again last month - my geared stock portfolio was up 5.79% ($13K), my retirement savings up 2.54% ($21K), and the estimated valuation for our home rose another 4.23% ($34K) despite Sydney real estate prices levelling off during April. Local factors (the announcement of 'NorthConnex', and the pending completion of the Northern Beaches Hospital) meant our suburb showed continued appreciation in real estate prices last month. Overall, my NW increased 3.15% ($67K) during March, which is comparable to my annual after-tax salary! Last time things were going so well was just before the GFC, and my NW chart is starting to look a bit like a 'bubble'.

Last month I toyed with the idea of purchasing a commercial (office) property in Forster (near our lakeside 'hobby' farm) as an investment, with potential to use to office for my own financial planning business when I 'retire' to the countryside. However, although the rental yield was quite good (~5.5%) on the two offices I was considering, the 'outgoings' (strata levy, rates, sinking fund) were considerable (of a similar magnitude to the rent). So, while the rental income would have been sufficient to pay the mortgage interest, and the tenant would be paying 75% or 100% of the 'outgoings', during any periods of vacancy it would have been a money pit. And an office in a country town can be very hard to let if there is a recession... So, in the end I decided to forget about investing in an office, and instead I'll use any spare cashflow to slowly paydown my existing investment loans.

Last month I added some Tesla share CFDs to my CFD account, as it seems to have considerable potential as a speculative investment. My total CFD account only has ~$1000 invested, so it is basically just a 'plaything' I can dabble with when I get bored. I want to leave my share portfolio and superannuation investments generally unchanged, as trading costs can be a huge drag on overall investment portfolio performance.

DW is still looking for a full-time position, and in the meantime is earning a few hundred dollars each week working a few hours each day as a 'nanny' for a local professional couple.


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Monday, 3 April 2017

Net Worth: March 2017

A buoyant stock market and Sydney real estate market boosted my net worth again last month - my geared stock portfolio was up 7.67% ($15K), my retirement savings up 2.43% ($19K), and the estimated valuation for our home rose another 2.33% ($18K). DW used part of her redundancy payment to pre-pay the next 15 months of her monthly interest-only home loan payments, so our mortgage balance showed a one-off reduction that will be slowly 'redrawn' over the next 15 months. Overall, my NW increased 2.72% ($56K) during March. DW is still looking for a new job, with no luck so far.


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Tuesday, 14 March 2017

1,000 Velocity Frequent Flyer bonus points

In case any readers are interested in joining the Velocity Frequent Flyer program, using this link will get you 1,000 bonus points when you open your new account. I joined up when I saw a promotional flyer while skiing last July, and got some bonus points for buying fuel at BP service stations when they were running promotions. As there's no annual or joining fee it's an easy way to get some additional 'frequent flyer' points. When I buy fuel at BP I 'double dip' by swiping the Velocity card to earn points for the fuel purchase (and sometimes quality for 'bonus points' offers) and then pay using my NAB credit card (which earns FlyBuys. points). As I only buy fuel at BP when I see that the price is as good or better than the price I'll get at Shell (with my Coles shopping docket discount) or Caltex (with my Woolworths rewards shopping discount), it is a rare example of really getting 'something for nothing'.

ps. Disclosure: If you join Velocity FF using the link both you and I will get 1,000 bonus points. ;)

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