Monday, 23 May 2016

Diet & Exercise update - Week 12

Quite a good week, meeting my calorie and step targets most days, and ending up with reasonable averages for the week. My average weight for the week was the lowest this year, and I ended the week at my lowest weight since 2012. I still haven't got into a regular habit of doing 5BX, so that's the next thing to work on. The new Milo activity band has been working OK, although it does record a few 'phantom' steps (when moving my arm rapidly), which the Aldi tracker didn't do. And the Milo app is rather useless (it takes ages to 'sync' despite the app only displaying daily total step, and not a graph of five minute totals which the Aldi device/app did).

.             Fibre      Carbs    Fat     Protein    kCals     Wt       Steps
              g/dy       %        %       g/dy       /dy       kg       /dy
Week 10       31.3       59.6     24.1     98.4      2436      94.7     11,811
Week 11       39.2       65.6     18.4    102.9      2752      95.0     9,196
Week 12       38.6       65.2     17.1    106.5      2570      94.2     11,751 

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Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Diet & Exercise: Every step counts

An alternative title for this post would be "Every step is in the right direction when it comes to health benefits" - but that doesn't scan as well ;) I must admit that aside from being overweight (OK, obese) since my undergraduate days, and always hating getting sweaty due to my eczema, I had also had the preconception that to be of any real benefit you had to do do substantial amounts of vigorous exercise, otherwise it wasn't worthwhile. For many years this meant I'd alternate between periods of gym membership (when I'd do more than an hour of weight training and brisk aerobic conditioning using a mix of stationary bike, rowing machine and treadmill, three times a week) lasting from several months to a couple of years before 'dropping off' and becoming almost completely sedentary again.

However, a recent online course I did on EdX ('The Body Matters') helped convince me that while it might be best to be of ideal weight/BMI and doing the recommended minimum of 3x30 min sessions of vigorous exercise a week, it is still important to do regular exercise when overweight. Indeed, according to Dr Steven  Blair, being 'fat and fit' you can be as healthy as being 'lean and fit' (although personally I think it would be easier in the long term to maintain a high level of fitness if you are in the 'normal' weight/BMI range than if you are overweight/obese). This encouraged me to pursue a daily walking regime immediately, rather than postpone 'getting serious' about my fitness until after I'd shed my excess weight.

However, I still thought that simply walking, while being 'better than nothing' was a poor substitute for real exercise - such as going jogging or running. But with my weight, history of knee and foot problems, and tendency to get heat rash and eczema problems when jogging or running, I thought I'd just have to 'make do' with walking at least 10,000 steps/day.

But apparently walking can be JUST AS GOOD as running in terms of health benefits! This article reported research results (studies of 33,000 runners and almost 16,000 walkers) that found that walking had essentially the same risk reduction effects as running for Hypertension, Cholesterol, and Diabetes Mellitus. To quote the abstract:

"The risk reductions were not significantly different for running than walking for diabetes mellitus (P=0.94), hypercholesterolemia (P=0.06), or CHD (P=0.26), and only marginally greater for walking than running for hypercholesterolemia (P=0.04)."

One proviso is that this was the case when adjusted for equivalent energy expenditure - so you'd have to spend more time walking than running to gain the same health benefit (for example, the MET (metabolic equivalent) rating for brisk walking at 4.8 km/h is 3.3, whereas the MET value for running is around 8.0 - so walking 10,000 steps in around 90 mins would only be as beneficial as running for 40 minutes or so.

So, while it is nice to supplement my daily walking regime with a weekly hour of squash and the occasional kayaking trip, I no longer feel that walking isn't 'real' exercise. And my focus is now to increase my weekly average for daily step count, and to increase the pace of my walking as I get fitter. Of course I'd also like to get into the habit of doing an 11 minute '5BX' session every evening if I can manage it.

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Monday, 16 May 2016

Diet & Exercise update - Week 11

I was going reasonably well until Friday afternoon, when I bought some confectionery and also didn't go for my evening walk. My eczema was really bad as we had been rearranging office cubicle allocations at work and with all the 'tidying', packing, unpacking, and vacuuming being done at work my allergies were really kicking in. I've noticed that when I'm really sick and sorry for myself I tend to over eat. I also ate junk food and didn't get enough walking done on Saturday, but by Sunday I was feeling better and got a lot of walking done, in addition to playing squash for an hour with the boys and even doing my 5BX on Sunday night. Overall my average daily calories for the week were too high, and my activity (walking) too low, but it wasn't too bad.

I somehow managed to misplace my Aldi activity tracker on Saturday evening,  and couldn't find it on Sunday morning despite looking everywhere for an hour or so. In the end I decided to buy another 'Milo Champion Band' activity tracker from Woolworths for $30, and I used an 'Exacto' hobby knife to slice a window into the black Aldi wrist band as it was the right size to fit the Milo device. It looks quite cool (just like a proper FitBit) and the 'band' works quite well, although the Milo app is nothing flash. I managed to clock up 14,644 steps on Sunday, and my weight was down to 94.1 kg this morning, so this week is off to a good start.

.             Fibre      Carbs    Fat     Protein    kCals     Wt       Steps
              g/dy       %        %       g/dy       /dy       kg       /dy
Week 7 (STD)  28.9       67.2     16.4    108.5      3121      96.3     3,973
Week 8 (STD)  32.1       65.2     16.0    128.4      2884      96.3     8,378
Week 9 (STD)  37.8       61.8     22.2    106.5      2748      96.2     8,560
Week 10       31.3       59.6     24.1     98.4      2436      94.7     11,811
Week 11       39.2       65.6     18.4    102.9      2752      95.0     9,196 

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Friday, 13 May 2016

Windfall profit on RBS early wind-up of ETSBRK

Having previously bought US shares directly via Comsec, I had been unhappy with the costs (an annual fee from the US broker that was holding the stock certificates, plus a hefty fee for each international trade due to both Comsec and their US agent charging a large fee). So when I wanted to invest in Berkshire Hathaway in 2011 I decided the ETS (Exchange Traded Security) issued by RBS (Royal Bank of Scotland) on the ASX was the way to go. I bought 113 ETSBRK at a price of A$75.19 (total cost $8,496.47 + $10 payment transfer fee). RBS recently had a special meeting to seek to have unit holders pass a resolution to close down the various RBS ETS offerings early (the normal termination date was May 2021), as they have never been very popular and obviously were a significant cost to RBS to maintain - RBS decided to cease their equity derivatives business in 2014. In order to get the unit holders to agree to the early termination date RBS proposed a 25% premium to the normal pricing for these units. The resolution was passed on 2 May, and yesterday I received a nice cheque from RBS for the sale of my 113 ETSBRK for $27,223.79. This represents a very nice profit (capital gain) of $18,712.32, or a return of 220% over five years.

To mitigate some of the capital gains tax implications I've decided to fix $75,000 of my Comsec margin loan balance for 12 months at 6.49% (the current variable loan interest rate is 7.13%), which will allow me to claim a tax deduction for the $4,867.50 prepaid interest this financial year.

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Thursday, 12 May 2016

Diet & Exercise: Milo Activity Tracker for Kids at Woolworths

Woolworths started stocking 'Milo Champions Band' activity Tracker pack (includes a Fitbit style watch/tracker and a 450g tin of Milo) for $39.99 a few weeks ago, around the time that I bought my cheap activity tracker from Aldi for $37. The Milo tracker actually looks a bit better than mine, as it is similar to a Fitbit Charge (having an OLED display to display the time, step count, calories etc.) whereas mine is more like a Fitbit Flex and only has a row of five LED dots to indicate the mode, or your progress towards the daily stepcount target. I had thought about getting one of the Milo trackers for myself, but the band is much too small, I prefer a shirt clip instead of a wrist band, and the Milo App is geared towards children aged 6-12.



DS2 was very keen to get a Milo Champions Band when he first saw it, but I told him we'd wait and see if the price came down a bit. After two weeks Woolies still had a shelf full of unsold Milo Champions Bands, and the price was lowered to $35 last week, and then to $29.99 yesterday. I decided to buy one for DS2 as a reward for getting an 'A' in his recent AMEB Grade 1 piano exam, and he tried it out last night and was very keen to wear it to school today. We downloaded the Milo Champions App this morning and managed to get it 'paired' to the device (which automatically set it to the correct time), and I setup a child account for DS2 with his age, gender, height and weight details. It didn't seem to automatically download the step count data from yesterday, so I'll have to play around with getting it to 'sync' tonight. So far the Milo Band and the app seem to be good quality and excellent value. The school teacher usually doesn't let kids wear watches in class (the kids apparently find looking at the time more entertaining that the lesson!), so I wrote a permission note for DS2 to wear his Milo band during class time (as long as he doesn't look at it), as he might lose it if he has to take it off and on several times each school day (the band latches on very securely when done up properly, but the studs are a little bit difficult to press fully in).

Hopefully the Milo Band will encourage DS2 to come along with me for my evening walk each day, as he will need to get used to long walks if he is going to complete the City2Surf (walking) with me in August.

If Woolworths doesn't sell too many of the devices at the currently reduced price they might cut prices even further - in which case I'll probably buy another one for DS1 if it only costs $20 or so.

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Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Adding to my share portfolio - AFI and ARG

I decided to buy some listed investment company (LIC) shares today. I bought 5,000 shares of Australian Foundation Investments at $7.26 $5.642 (total cost with brokerage: $28,185.73) and 4,000 shares of Argo Investments at $5.642 $7.26 (total cost $29,036.75). The share purchase was funded using my Comsec margin loan, currently costing 7.13% pa interest, and I transferred $20,000 from my St George portfolio loan account (costing 4.99% pa interest) which will reduce the amount funded using my margin loan to $37,222.48. Annual tax deductible interest cost for this investment will therefore be around $3,651.96 (or an average interest rate of 6.382% pa), The AFI shares paid a dividend of 23 cps in 2015, and the ARG shares paid a dividend of 29.5 cps in 2015, the the annual dividend from the investment will be around $2,330, leaving a net negative cashflow (and net reduction in taxable income) of $1,322 or so, plus some franking credits (a tax credit available to Australian investors for the company tax paid on dividends from Australian companies, based on the amount of company tax paid).

In the long term (ie. when I retire in 10-15 years time) the 'plan' is to sell off these shares for more than they cost, making a capital gain (which would be taxed at half my marginal tax rate at that time), hopefully more than the cumulative cost of the net cost of holding these investments.

AFI had a total return (dividends and share price appreciation) of 8.4% pa over the past 5 year period, and ARG had a total return of 9.0% pa over the past 5 years. The ten year average annual total return figures are a lot less impressive, but as that period include the impact of the GFC I expect the next 10-15 years average annual total return to be more like the past five year period than the past ten year period. Only time will tell.

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Monday, 9 May 2016

Diet & Exercise update - Week 10

A reasonable week overall. I gave up on the third day of my five-day 'fasting mimicking diet' schedule at the start of last week, as I hadn't been feeling 100% on Tuesday evening and went to bed early with a runny nose and slight cough. And just didn't feel like sticking to the FMD for the remainder of the five day stint. Then over the weekend I bought and ate some confectionery, so although my average daily calorie intake for the week was OK, it could have been a lot better. On a more positive note I did manage to exceed my daily step count target on average, despite not reaching 10,000 steps on a couple of days. The plan for this week is to keep up the daily walking routine while being a bit more disciplined about what I eat, and avoid any unplanned 'snacks'.

.             Fibre      Carbs    Fat     Protein    kCals     Wt       Steps
              g/dy       %        %       g/dy       /dy       kg       /dy
Week 7 (STD)  28.9       67.2     16.4    108.5      3121      96.3     3,973
Week 8 (STD)  32.1       65.2     16.0    128.4      2884      96.3     8,378
Week 9 (STD)  37.8       61.8     22.2    106.5      2748      96.2     8,560
Week 10       31.3       59.6     24.1     98.4      2436      94.7     11,811

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Sunday, 8 May 2016

Diet & Exercise: Lost, bought and undercounting

My parent's asked me to buy a flat pack bed at Aldi for them, so I then had to man-handle it through the shopping center to 'borrow' a shopping trolley from Coles supermarket to get it to my car, and struggle to squeeze it into the lift and then into the back of my car. Somewhere along the way my activity tracker had been dislodged from my shirt pocket, and after a fruitless search retracing my steps through the shopping center I had to buy a replacement one at Aldi. Oh well, at least it was a $37 Aldi version, and not a more expensive Fitbit flex.

After DS2 had finished his Judo lesson I went for a half hour walk while DS2 was doing his Judo lesson, and I took the boys ten-pin bowling as part of his DS2's celebrations. I had expected that two games of bowling would record a few steps - maybe 24x2x3 = 150 paces - but after downloading the chart shows total inactivity during the hour we were bowling. So apparently the few steps taken at a time are insufficient to trigger to pedometer counter. I'll look up the METS and work out a 'step equivalent' value for a couple of games of bowling. My total step count for the day was a bit low as I was feeling a bit sick when I got home in the evening and didn't go for my evening walk.

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Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Budget 2016: A personal viewpoint

While most commentators seem to feel that the 2016-17 Australian Federal Budget was a fairly 'boring' affair, with not many winners and the only losers being very high income Australians, from my point of view it doesn't appear nearly so harmless. As a wage earner, the cuts to company tax rates will have no impact on me. And despite having a salary package just over $100,000 the raising of the threshold for the 37.5% tax bracket from $80,000 to $87,000 won't be of any benefit as my taxable income is less than $80,000 due to making salary sacrifice contributions into my superannuation, and having a small net tax deduction from my geared share portfolio. On the other hand, the cut in the cap on concessional contributions into superannuation from $35,000 (for over 55s) to only $25,000 will mean paying an extra $1,750 or so in income tax each year (32.5% income tax on the extra $10,000 taxable salary, rather than paying 15% tax on it as a salary sacrifice contribution into my retirement savings). To maintain my current level of taxable income I could increase my portfolio loans substantially (to reduce my taxable income by $10,000 via negative gearing into additional shares, I'd have to borrow around $350,000, as the tax deductible loan interest cost is around 6% pa, but this is partially offset by taxable dividend income). However, post-GFC I'm not keen on increasing my gearing beyond it's current levels, so I'll probably just end up paying the extra $1,750 in income tax.

Fortunately the other major changes to superannuation seem to be targeted more accurately at the 'rich', with a sensible lifetime cap on non-concessional (after tax) contributions into superannuation of $500,000, rather than the previous annual cap of $180,000 (which could allow large sums to be poured into the 15% taxed environment of superannuation over time, for those that amount of spare cash flow or investible funds). So far DW and myself have only contributed a few thousand dollars worth of 'after tax' contributions (in order to get the government co-contribution back in the days when it was still available), and we are never likely to have more than $1m of 'spare' cash to pour into our superannuation accounts.

The $1.6m cap on the amount of superannuation that can be moved from 'accumulation' to 'pension' mode is also quite unlikely to ever become an issue for me, even if my superannuation investments do very well. With a current account balance just under $800,000 I would have to be very lucky to reach $1.6m by the time I retire, especially given the reduction in the amount I can 'salary sacrifice' from now on. And if I did manage to accumulate more than $1.6m in retirement savings, earnings would still only be taxed at 15%, rather than the normal marginal income tax rates.

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Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Diet & Exercise: Activity Tracker

I'm pretty happy with the $37 Aldi Activity Tracker after using it for a third day. This was a normal work day, and the total step count was again within 3% of my estimate based on the activity I'd done and a spreadsheet I have of manually counted steps for each 'standard' activity. After downloading the data from the device to my tablet, the activity chart clearly shows each bout of activity being recorded during the day, as shown in the annotated chart below. The chart shows that my job is essentially sedentary, so if I didn't make a point to get up and go for a short walk every hour while at work I'd end up sitting in my office chair all day. The other thing that is obvious from the chart is that walking alone won't improve my aerobic fitness much - only the few minutes of jogging on the spot during my 5BX session were at a sufficient pace to be deemed 'active' time according to my device. While I loath getting hot and sweaty (it's really bad for my eczema), I'll probably have to add a fifteen minute jog around the block to my evening routine when I've shed a bit more weight.
The chart also shows that my normal walking pace is around 100 steps/minute, which, with a stride length of ~80cm, means that my normal walking speed (gait speed) is around 1.33 m/sec (4.8 km/hr), which is fairly average (comfortable gait speeds range from around 1.46 m/sec for men in their forties, to around 1.27 cm/sec for women in their seventies according to one study). Other research (summarised here ) suggests that a person's preferred (natural) gait speed is remarkably stable, and that a natural gait speed of 1m/sec or above is correlated with above average survival rates for elderly people (average gait speed for a sample of 34,485 community-dwelling adults 65+ years old was 0.8m/sec). So one early indicator of incipient health issues might be a decreasing trend in one's natural gait speed over time.

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