Wednesday 13 July 2011

Picking a High School for DS1

The NSW selective high school entry test results came out last week, and DS1 had scored well enough to be offered a place at his second choice selective high school. That selective school has very good academic results (in the top 10 HSC results for the state last year - comparable to his first selective HS choice, and also Sydney Grammar private school, which he'd also applied to). As the school he got into is only a short direct school bus trip from where we live and has good facilities, we've decided to enrol DS1 there. Sydney Grammar had phoned late last week to offer DS1 an "interview" for a place (based on his entry and scholarship test scores), but as he wasn't being offered a scholarship ("at this stage" - whatever that means), I decided it wasn't worth him even going for an interview. We can't really afford to send him to Sydney Grammar paying full fees for six years. Especially as DS2 would also be likely qualify for entry later on. Paying 12 lots of $25K annual school fees (plus incidental expenses), doesn't seem great value compared to the "free" education available from the local selective high school. Even if money was no object (or if DS1 had been offered a half-scholarship), the extra couple of hours travel time required every day would make the selective high school an attractive alternative to Sydney Grammar. The $25K pa not spent on school fees will mean I can continue making salary sacrifice contributions into my superannuation account, and so I'll be in a much better position to fund post-graduate studies overseas by DS1 and DS2 in ten years time. Or else the money could provide a home deposit for each of the boys, or provide them with start-up funds if they want to go into business for themselves.

I'm now trying to strike the right balance between letting DS1 relax and enjoy the rest of Yr6 (now that the entry tests are all out of the way), and getting him to still do a little bit of extracurricular study so he still has good study habits when he starts high school...

I ordered a copy of 'How to Be a High School Superstar' by Cal Newport, as I've found all his blog posts about uni study techniques and time management very practical. Hopefully DS1 will read through this book and find some tips on how to better organise his study time in High School. The one thing his primary school teachers keep reporting is that he could be better organised.

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Tuesday 12 July 2011

Another Term, Another D

Uni results for Semester 1 came out last week and I managed to get another Distinction in my MAstron coursework. I was hoping I might finally get an HD, but didn't realistically expect it as for two of my tutorial assignments I only scored 6/10 and 7/10, and the final exam included a few questions where I wasn't confident I had the correct answer. As the exam paper took about 14 hours to complete, I didn't have enough time to double check all the calculation questions, and some of my essay-style answers could have done with further consideration and a re-write.
Also, as there were only about a dozen students taking this subject, the university's policy on grade distribution made it tough to score an HD. With only one HD probably given out, you have to top the course to get one. My GPA of 6.0 is still pretty good, but not good enough for a university medal (which requires at least a 6.5 GPA, meaning I'd have to get an HD for ALL of the remaining three subjects - two of which are a literature review and a small "research" project, where the chances of getting an HD may be affected by what research project topic I am allocated).

The course is certainly interesting and fun though, so hopefully I can manage at least D's for all the remaining subjects, which hopefully will be sufficient to get accepted into the Doctor of Astronomy course in 2014.

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Monday 11 July 2011

Someone hijacked my old email account and sent spam!


I noticed some odd spam email I received that seemed to be coming from one of my old, unused email accounts (an account I just keep open in case I want to refer to an old email from years ago). I logged into that account to check what was going on, and, sure enough, the "sent" folder has a record of spam emails being sent out. Fortunately it appears there were only a few spams sent every day or so, and the account is so old that most of the addresses in contacts list are probably no longer active.

Anyhow, I've changed the password so hopefully that will prevent any further use of the account by the mystery spammer. I suppose I was lucky that the account had security questions set up, which may have prevented the account password being changed by whoever/whatever was using the account to sent spam.

Anyone else had this problem with one of their public email accounts being hacked?

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Net Worth Update: June 2011

Unfortunately June turned out to be as dismal as May. So, if you want any more detailed commentary, just read last months entry again ;(

Another bad month for my stock portfolio, with my geared stock portfolio dropping further into negative equity. However, this was due to annual interest pre-payments being capitalised more than the valuations of the stock investments changing much.

Our SMSF also had a bad month, as it is mostly invested in the Vanguard High Growth Fund and some ASX200 CFDs (IQ) which are back down to our entry price.

In addition, this month the valuations for our Sydney properties dropped slightly, finally getting in step with the national property market which has been dropping over the past year.

Overall my net worth is below the level it was at the start of 2011, despite saving over $2,000 each month (mostly into my superannuation account via salary sacrifice). It's not much fun paying interest on real estate mortgages and margin loans when valuations are dropping each month.

The only little ray of sunshine was that the combination of large amounts of tax-deductible interest on my property and stock market investment loans to offset rental income and dividends, and still having net capital losses from the GFC period to offset any small capital gains I made when selling some shares, meant that I got nearly all of the PAYG tax I paid last year refunded#. At least I have enough spare cash sitting in my credit union account to pay the monthly investment loan interest that hasn't been prepaid for the coming year.

(# before anyone comments that I should apply for a tax variation to avoid paying income tax which I simply get back without any interest at the end of the financial year, the reason I don't do so is because I'm never entirely sure if I'll liquidate some assets during the year which result in a capital gains tax liability. I don't want to end up paying penalty tax for having underestimated my taxable income when I apply for a variation).

Assets___________$ Amount______$ Diff_____% Diff 
Stocks_*_________-$31,293_____-$9,633______n/a % 
Retirement_______$369,293_____-$6,881____-1.83 % 
Properties_______$983,780_____-$3,751____-0.38 % 

Debts____________$ Amount_____$ Diff_____% Diff 
Home Mortgage(s)_$360,171______ -$88_____-0.02 % 

Net Worth________$961,609____-$20,176____-2.01 %
* the Stocks figure is portfolio value - margin loans. As my portfolio value (and margin loan debt) is around $500,000 relatively small movements in the stock market produce huge percentage swings in the net value of my stock portfolio each month.

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