Monday, 17 September 2018

Weight loss : week 38

I managed to stick to my diet plan on all but one day last week (37), and did a reasonable amount of walking (>5,000 steps) on all but two days. Still haven't started my regular 5BX sessions, so that is still on my 'to do' list. We are moving offices next week, so I'll sign up with Crunch Gym early next week and go to the gym for some weights and rowing machine exercise 2-3 times per week on the way home.

I've started having some chocolate flavoured whey protein on my morning porridge, as whey is supposed to be good for helping to reduce LDL and triglyceride levels. My cholesterol levels are OK, but my LDL and triglycerides need to come down a bit. Losing weight and doing more regular exercise should help. I tend to have red meat with my evening meal too many times a week, so I'm also aiming to have grilled chicken or turkey breast fillet a few more times a week instead of steak, lean mince, or GF sausages (which have way too much fat content).
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Sunday, 16 September 2018

Glad I didn't buy a new Jag

The major upside of having bought a third-hand S-type Jag for $7,900 rather than a new one (the S-type I've bought originally sold for $123,000) is that I don't worry too much about scratches and minor dings. Just as well, as I already side-swiped the Jag when I was reversing out of our carport last week. There was room enough to fit both cars under the carport (the garage is full of junk, so that wasn't an option unfortunately), but it was a tight fit. Last Friday I had a bad migraine when I left work, which probably explains why I ended up parking the Ford Escape *very* close to the Jag. The next morning when I started reversing out, I thought I'd better move a little further away as I backed up, but unfortunately I forgot that turning while reversing would make the front end swing *towards* the Jag. D'Oh! So, of course, the Ford's front mudguard (which protrudes a few cm more than I remembered) jammed against the side of the Jag as I reversed, and I had to go forward again to be able to reverse out past the Jag on the second attempt. Fortunately the paint-job and metal  of the Jag door-panel is tougher than the paint and plastic mudguard of the Ford, so the most visible damage was a bit of paint scraped off the Ford mudguard. Washing the Jag removed most of the Silver marks that had transferred from the Ford, leaving just a small deformation and some scratches. Giving it a polish with a buffing car wax made the scratches a lot less noticeable, so unless you get close up it looks OK. As I said, I'm glad this wasn't a new Jaguar that had cost me a hundred grand...

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Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Diet 2018: Week 37

I had a better week sticking to my diet plan last week (36). I walked more than 5,000 steps on two of the days, and my daily average for last week was almost 5,000 steps/day. I'll now try to do at least 5,000 steps every day, and slowly increase towards my goal of doing 10,000+ steps every day.

I still only managed to do my 5BX exercises on one evening last week, so that still needs improving. At this stage I want to do 5BX every second day. We will be moving to a new office in a couple of weeks, and it doesn't have any free/cheap car parking nearby, so I'll be catching train/bus to and from work. That will add a few extra steps walking to/from the bus stop from home, and also allow me to read some of my MFP textbook etc. on the bus/train. The fares work out to be around the same as I am currently paying for fuel and subsidized car parking, so it won't cost any more and will free up the two hours I currently spend driving in peak hour traffic every day.

There is a Crunch Gym near the train station en route, which only charges ~$11 per week for month-by-month membership, so I'll probably join up again and stop in for some weight training 2-3 times a week on the way home. There is an option to upgrade to 'Peak' membership for about $15/week, which allows you to attend some activity classes for free and to 'bring a friend' along when you visit the gym, but as neither DS1 nor DW are keen on going to the gym when I'll be stopping in on the way home from work its not worth the extra $4/week.

I've settled into the routine of my diet plan now, and I've managed to avoid eating any confectionery, having fruit for dessert instead. I haven't yet listened to the Allan Carr hypnotherapy CD again. So I'll add that to my 'to do' list for this week.


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Sunday, 9 September 2018

CityIndex CFD Trading

My CityIndex CFD trading account has been inactive for nearly a year (I had open Long positions in the ASX200 share index, and in crude oil), so they sent me an email notice that a) if an account is inactive for more than 12 months there is a fee charged, and b) that if I did three 'round trip' trades I would get $100 credited to my account. Since I have to do some trades to avoid the inactive account fee, I decided to do the three trades. My first new trade was similar to my existing ASX200 position, I simply bought the minimum quanity for the ASX200 SPDR CFD. For my second trade I bought a tranche of Gem Diamonds CFD, as there seems to have been a dip in the long-term up trend. For my third trade I have shorted the Tesla CFD (although the market was closed when I entered my trade, so it hasn't been executed yet) as it seems to have been drifting down for the past year, and recent movements of top executives and quirky behavious by Elon Musk suggest this stock could head further south for a while.

Anyhow, these trades are speculation rather than investing, so if I'm lucky and I make a profit I'll close out the three new positions to meet the 'round trip' requirement to get the extra $100. I'll keep my long positions in the ASX200 and crude oil open until it seems to be a good time to close out.

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Monday, 3 September 2018

Net Worth: August 2018

My geared stock portfolio increased during the past month, while the estimated valuation for our home continued to decline. My retirement savings had another good month of growth, due to the larger exposure to international share markets via our investment in the Vanguard 'High Growth' index fund. I decided to include the cost price of the 1999 type-S Jaguar I bought last month, although I'm not my other cars or personal items/collectibles.
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Diet 2018: Week 35

I had fairly mediocre past week for my weight loss plan. I didn't do nearly enough exercise (only walked more than 5,000 steps on one day last week, and only did 5BX once), and my calorie intake was too high most days. I stuck to my diet plan on two days last week, but had some snacks on a couple of the other days at work, and on Friday night had sausages and bacon for dinner. Overall my average daily calories were only slightly below my maintenance calorie requirement, so my weight loss was minimal.

On the weekend I read the Allan Carr 'Easy Weigh to Weight Loss' book I had lying around (bought for a few bucks years ago), and had a listen to the 20-minute hynotherapy CD. The book's main concept is to basically eat mostly fruit and vegetables, only eat when you actually feel hungry, stop eating when you've had enough, and only have junk/processed food occasionally. Nothing too unusual there. I did buy some extra fruits to have on the weekend, and I'll try to have them whenever I feel like having 'dessert' in the evenings. I'll also listen to the CD occasionally, as it was at least a good relaxation exercise, and may help me avoid buying any confectionery when I do the grocery shopping.



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Monday, 27 August 2018

Diet 2018 - Wk 34


Well, I haven't been monitoring my daily calorie intake or sticking to my diet plan since January, and it certainly shows. Rather than losing any weight, my weight has slowly increased during the past six months. My average morning weight last week was 105.0 kg, which means my BMI is now around 34.3. I certainly need to loose weight, and I also need to start doing some 5BX excercise in the evenings in addition to tracking my daily stepcount. I finally got around to tracking my eating again last week, and although I stuck to my diet plan Mon-Thu, I ate a bit too much on the weekend, including some takeaway fries on Saturday and Sunday. At least I managed to avoid buying or eating any confectionery.

My averages for the week were:
Fibre (g) Carbs (%) Fat (%) Protein (g) Sodium (mg) kcals Stepcount
40.7 58.0% 21.7% 127.5 5419.4 2637.0 3,172

My target for fat is 10-15% of total daily cals, so it was a bit too high, due mostly to the McDonalds and KFC fries on the weekend. My protein target is ~1g/kg of bodyweight, so should be around 100g/day. So this was also a bit too high last week, mostly due to having a bit too much meat with my evening meals, although I had mostly chicken and turkey breast, rather than steak, which is good. My average daily kcals were too high, but at least it was a bit lower than my typical 'ad libitum' intake (around 3,000-3,500 kcals/day). If I stick to my standard daily meal plan, my daily calorie intake would average around 1,900 kcals/day, and I *should* loose around 0.5-0.75 kg/week (a bit more if a reach my daily 10,000 step goal, and do 11 mins of 5BX excercise in the evenings). Anyhow, today is the first day of a new week, so yet another chance to actually stick to my plan...


My target is to get down to around 76-78 kg (I was 78 kg when I in High School), which would put me (just) in the 'healthy weight' range of BMI.

Over the long term (this century), I've been a poster-boy for 'yo-yo' dieting - I can loose weight, but whenever I start eating junk food again I pack on the kilos... the long term upward trend in my maximum weight is also not good.



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Saturday, 25 August 2018

What business suit to buy?

So far I've never worn a suit to work. I started out as an experimental scientist, so for ten years wore casual clothes, often covered in a grey lab coat. Then when I changed jobs, I wore a leather jacket and tie to my job interview and was promptly told that the dress code was 'smart casual' and asked would I be OK to *not* wear a suit/jacket to work (they may have thought I was 'dressing down' for the interview!).

Anyhow, twenty years down the track, my current boss recently recommended that I start wearing a business suit to work (I've completed some Six Sigma 'Green Belt' training, and may doing some internal 'consulting' with other business areas in future). It's probably a sensible idea, as wearing an imitation sheep-skin jacket to work combined with a beard was probably makes me look more like a rancher than an IT professional ;) And as I should probably also be wearing a business suit when I meet prospective clients when I start up my financial planning home business, it was now time to buy a suit...

Anyhow, I Googled a few articles about suitable business suit colours etc. for financial advisors, and aside from getting some conflicting advice (one article said that brown conveys dependability and is good colour choice for establishing rapport, while another article said that brown is the least liked colour amongst male and female clients, and is seen to be mediocre), there was also the expected article recommended ridiculously expensive business suits for financial planners (https://www.advisorperspectives.com/articles/2015/11/24/how-male-advisors-should-dress-to-win-clients). I don't care how good a suit may be, I'm not going to be spending $5,265 or $4,450 or even $2,450 (which the author called 'surprisingly affordable'!) on a suit. In the end I've ordered an off-the-rack suit and business shirt/tie combination online from Lowes for A$107.01, including free delivery ;)

The 'Perizzi' business suit and 'Robert Huntley' business shirt sound expensive, but they are obviously not. Especially when the suit was on special (50% off) and I also got an extra 10% off with a discount code for provding my email address. Obviously this sort of cheap, off-the-rack suit isn't going to impress anyone, but at least it should look 'presentable'.

'The suit' - not sure if the black shirt is too mafioso?
So, I've bought a suit for 2.03% the cost of one 'recommended' combination, and a used Jag for 6.4% of what it cost when new. I may not impress on the basis of style, but the frugality is top notch.

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Monday, 20 August 2018

Buying a Type-S Jaguar

My first car was a 1960 Mk II Jaguar that I was given for my 18th birthday. My father had bought it second hand to use in England while we were there for nine months in 1976 on a posting (he was an airline pilot), and he had it shipped back to Australia with us (he got a subsidized shipping rate). We eventually had it restored (some rust in the door panels cut out and a respray, plus all the seats redone with new Connolly leather, the chrome re-done and wire wheels added). I used it to drive to university and work during the early 80s, and my dad used it to bring DW to our wedding. I eventually bought another car for day-to-day commuting, as the old Jag was a getting a little bit unreliable, and the manual shift was tedious to use for hours each day in peak hour traffic.

A Mark II Jaguar similar to mine
A Mark II Jaguar similar to mine
My current commuter car is a 4WD Ford Escape that I bought new in 2006. It still runs fine, but I decided I might get a more 'luxury' vehicle to use as a financial adviser (although a) I haven't finished my DFP yet, b) I haven't started a financial planning business yet, and c) I'm not sure if having a 'posh' vehicle makes one look like a successful financial planner, or just one that is 'ripping off' his clients?). Anyhow, I was originally looking at some 2008-2010 Type-X jaguars, as they look quite nice and only cost $5,000-$10,000 depending on condition and mileage, but then I decided that the older Type-S looked a lot nicer and were more 'luxury' for the same sort of money.<- a="" ii="" jaguar="" mark="" mine.="" p="" similar="" to=""> 

<- a="" ii="" jaguar="" mark="" mine.="" p="" similar="" to="">
A Type-S Jaguar similar to the one I'm buying
I eventually found a 1999 Type-S for sale (asking $9,500) that had only done 120,000 km. As the vehicle registration was about to expire, I suggested a price closer to the 'redbook' valuation of $5,700-$7,900 was more appropriate, so eventually the owner agreed to sell it for $7,900 and to also get the registration renewed for 12 months before I buy it. It comes with a removable tow-bar already installed, which might come in handy when I go up to the lake house and need to tow a small box trailer or our boat. The car has a few minor scratches on the front and rear bumper bars, a small dent at the back of the roof, and the electrochromatic rear-view mirror is permanently 1/3 black (apparently these type of mirrors are prone to faults, but as a second-hand replacement mirror costs around $150 I'll just live with it 'as is'). The interior leather is all in very good condition, and the rear seats looking as if they've never even been used.

I took it for a short test drive, and the owner says it runs fine, so hopefully it won't cost a fortune to maintain. Anyhow, at under $8,000 it seems pretty good value for money, especially considering it was originally bought for $133,000 in 1999! I've paid a $2,900 deposit, and I'll EFT the remaining $5,000 when I collect it next week after the registration has been renewed.


By strange coincidence the Mark II Jag I have is one year older than I am, and this one is one year older than DS1 ;)

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Friday, 10 August 2018

How many Financial Advisers are there in Australia?

Given that I'm currently doing a Diploma of Financial Planning course and have also enrolled in a Master of Financial Planning course with the goal of eventually starting up a Financial Planning business, it seemed prudent to do some research into how many financial planners (advisers) there are in Australia, and whether the market is under- or over-supplied. While the aging and growing population suggests an increasing need for financial advisers in Australia, offsetting this is the fact that the number of financial advisers seems to have been growing rapidly - from around 18,000 in 2009 [Ref: Ripoll Report] to 25,386 registered advisers on 1 April 2018. However, the supply of registered financial advisers may dwindle in coming years due to the combination of more stringent educational and other requirements coming into force on 1 Jan 2019, and the aging of the existing cohort of financial advisers. (And the current 'bad press' from the Royal Commission combined with removal of commission-based fees is making financial planning much less attractive proposition to new entrants).

Comparing the number of medical practitioners to the number of financial advisers is quite interesting:

In 2015 there were 102,805 registered medical practitioners in Australia. Of these 83,427 were GPs and 49,060 were specialists. This equates to a rate of 112 FTE GPs per 100,000 population in 2015 [ref:1].

In comparison, as at 1 June 2017 there were 25,386 financial advisers registered in Australia [Ref:2], which corresponds to a rate of around 34 financial advisers per 100,000 population. Then again, most people would see their GP a lot more often than they consult a financial adviser!

Estimates [2] suggest that around 30% of the Australian adult population use, or have used, a financial planner or adviser. From this, one can calculate roughly how many clients the 'average' financial adviser has serviced:

100,000 x .3 (have seen an adviser) x .8 (ratio adults in population)= 24,000 adults per 34 financial advisers, or 705 clients per adviser on average.

Of course, many adults will have only seen an adviser once in their lifetime, so the number of clients serviced per annum per adviser would be significantly lower than this (on average).

The number of prospective new client's per adviser can be roughly estimated by the 48% of Australian adults that have indicated that they have unmet financial advice needs [2]. This corresponds to 100,000 x .48 x .8 = 38,400 adults per 34 financial advisers, or roughly 1,130 prospective new clients per adviser on average. Of course many of these prospective client's would not be willing to pay for financial advice, despite having a perceived 'unmet need' for such advice. Similarly, many client's would only require a single SoA from an adviser, or perhaps an update every 5-10 years. So the average number of new client's per adviser per annum is more likely to be around 100, which seems a realistic 'guestimate'.

The total revenue of the financial planning sector is around $4.6b pa [2], which equates to approximately $181,200 per adviser. Again, this seems in line with advertised pay rates for financial advisers, allowing ~50% for costs and AFSL fees/revenue sharing. (In the US the median annual salary for financial advisors was $90,530 in 2016).

ASIC noted that 2.3 million adult Australians had received advice from a financial planner in 2015/16 FY, which corresponds to 90.6 clients per adviser, which is in close agreement with my estimate from 'first principles' above ;)

So, a long-term goal of having 1-2 clients per week seems realistic. The somewhat depressing statistic is that apparently a response rate of 2% to marketing campaigns is common, which means a *lot* of marketing is required to get any prospects, and only a fraction of prospects may become a client. For a start-up financial planning business run on a part-time basis, the question then is how many clients, and what fee structure, is required to 'break even'?

References:
1. https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/workforce/medical-practitioners-workforce-2015/contents/how-many-medical-practitioners-are-there
2. https://financialservices.royalcommission.gov.au/publications/Documents/features-of-the-australian-financial-planning-industry-paper-6.pdf

Investing in 'Spaceship Voyager'

There are many reason for making an investment, but probably one of the least rational is because it is 'cool' or 'fun' (imho). Doesn't stop me doing it though! So, don't take this as any sort of recommendation, just a 'fun' little investment option I found out about today and thought I'd share.

Spaceship Voyager is an app for your phone that lets you invest in an Australian Index Fund (ASX200) option, or alternatively in a some-what managed Fund (Spaceship Universe) that invests in 100 global companies that have been selected as less prone to disruption (i.e. investments such as Alphabet, rather than Encyclopaedia Brittanica). One thing I do like is that there is no minimum investment amount (investment and automatic savings plan are via direct debit from the bank account you link to) and no fee on the first $5000 you invest. I chose to invest $100 initially, with a monthly addition of $100. So, after four years or so I should reach the $5000 threshold to start paying a fee of 0.10% (for the Universe Fund) on my balance over $5000. If I'd invested in the Australian Index Fund option the fee for amounts over $5000 would have been even lower (0.05%).

They say they invest directly in the companies in the fund, rather than via an ETF, so I have absolutely no idea how this would be possible given the lack of any fees on the first $5000 of each account balance, and the likely small size of this Fund (it only launched in April 2018 as far as I can tell). But I wish them all the best (especially as they now have some of my money!).

On the downside, the PDS states that the parent company doesn't guarantee withdrawals, so if the whole scheme goes 'belly up' you're likely to loose your investment. But I suppose that's the case with many investments - if you want a government guarantee to get your money back you have to invest in a bank savings account.

Anyhow, the Fund/App is a cool idea, the colour scheme is great (purple!), and the theme (space) appeals to me. I did get a referral link when I signed up, but since I can only send it direct to my friends (I've sent it to DS1 in case he is interested), I can't spam it here. But if you really want to get an extra $20 for opening an account before the end of August, and plan on opening an account with them, I suppose you can email me or drop a comment on this article and I'll send you the link/referral code.

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Thursday, 2 August 2018

Another change in my WSU enrolment

After being initially told I was offered a conditional place in the Master of Financial Planning at Western Sydney Uni, and then having to enrol in the Graduate Certificate course instead, when my employment experience was 'not deemed to be specific enough to financial planning', today I received another email saying 'Congratulations - you have met the conditions' to enrol in the Masters degree course. After checking to confirm that this was correct, I then had to go through the online enrolment procedure again in order to enrol in the Masters course. Hopefully this is the last time WSU admin changes their mind!

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Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Net Worth: July 2018

Networthiq seems to be off-line at the moment, so this month's snapshot of my net worth is brought to you by networthshare (in a slightly different format)...

My geared stock portfolio increase modestly, while the estimated valuation for our home continued to decline slowly. 'Experts' are currently predicting a further decline of 0%-15% over the next 1-2 years, so this is likely to be a drag on my net worth performance until at least the end of 2019. My retirement savings showed a relatively strong rise, probably due to the larger exposure to international share markets than is this case for my geared share portfolio (i.e. the decline in the value of the AUD vs USD boosted the AUD value of our investment in the Vanguard 'High Growth' index fund.
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Thursday, 19 July 2018

Earn a bonus $75 on your savings at RateSetter


I started using RateSetter back in March, and I've been saving $100 (automatically transferred from one of my bank accounts) every month and investing it at around 9%pa using the 5-year lending option. While such peer-to-peer lending is obviously much more risky than investing your money in a bank savings account, the higher interest rate is (hopefully) commensurate with higher risk. Also, if you invest in 5-year lending, only some* of your investment will be locked up for the full five years.

At the moment, RateSetter is offering a $75 bonus^ if you join RateSetter using this referral link and invest $2000 or more in the 3-year Income or 5-year Income lending market before 16 September 2018. So, if you were thinking about saving some funds in a RateSetter lending account, get in quick for the chance of a bonus $75!

Last Matched Rates on RateSetter:
1 MONTH 5.0% at 14:36
1 YEAR 4.0% at 14:31
3 YEAR INCOME 7.4% at 13:19
5 YEAR INCOME 9.0% at 15:06
GREEN LOAN 6.5% at 14:25

* Investing in 5-year loans, you get a monthly repayment of interest and capital into your holding account (which I reinvest each month), so the initial investment isn't locked away for the entire loan period.

^ You will get a $75 bonus and so will I. Full disclosure ;)

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Saturday, 14 July 2018

Putting the cart before the horse

Instead of working on my DFP assessment tasks, yesterday I compared various business bank accounts that might be suitable for a small start-up. I found that most banks are charging $10 per month for their basic business account, and most have very limited features (for example, the St George one provide a debit card). In the end I decided to apply for a business account with BankWest, as I already have a CC account with them so I didn't need to provide any additional 100-pt identification information. I just logged in using my normal ID and password, and had to provide my ABN then pick which of the business names I was opening this account for. I also selected the option to get a debit Mastercard on the account, and a 'token' so I will be able to authenticate and transfer transaction data into an accounting package (Xero and MYOB are supported). The account has no minimum opening balance or monthly fee, and the debit card and security token should arrive in 5-10 business days. The next step will be to confirm if the data export is compatible with the basic admin module in Midwinter (the Financial Planner software package required by the AFSL that I intend to become an authorised representative of).

I also looked up options available for accepting client payments - it looks like the cheapest option initially will be to setup a Paypal merchant account (free) and just pay the 2.6%+$0.30 fee per online transaction initially. If my business succeeds at some stage it will be worth getting a 'pay here' card reader (A$99) and benefit from a lower (1.95%) transaction processing fee. Again, I'll have to check if the Midwinter admin module works with the Paypal invoicing option and so forth.

This morning I spend a bit of time fiddling with DNS settings to get the domain name I had registered a few years ago with Dotster to 'point' to a test index.html page on my hosting account with GoDaddy. And then wasted a bit more time looking up 'best financial planning website designs'. Quite enjoyable, but not getting my DFP assignments done ;)

Oh well, back to the textbook...

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Thursday, 12 July 2018

How to get a government guaranteed return of 1000% on an investment*

Now that DS1 has turned 18, he could get an effective return of 1000% simply by making an undeducted contribution (after-tax) into his superannuation account this year of $2. This is because the Super co-contribution paid to low-middle income earners has a minimum amount of $20.

However, as the maximum co-contribution amount of $500 will be paid if DS2 makes a contribution of $1000, I'll make sure I give him that amount to put into his superannuation account this FY (while he might get a job to earn some money during the summer vacation, I doubt his top priority will be to lock some of that money away until his retirement!). Even with a return of 'only' 50% is well worth making the effort. And, with around 50 years to benefit from compound interest and a superannuation tax rate of 15% on investment earnings, the $1500 added to his superannuation account balance at age 18 will have a significant effect on the amount he has available to fund his retirement.

* of $2

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Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Correction - enrolling in GradCert in Financial Planning ;)

On the bright side, HR responded very quickly to my request for a 'statement of service' and provided the requested document the very next business day. On the down side WSU admin has then decided that my work experience wasn't "specific enough to financial planning" (despite the WSU handbook stating that one of the options for qualifying for admission to the Masters course was "Successfully completed an undergraduate degree, or higher, in any discipline AND have a minimum of five years general work experience in a related field." - not sure how 20 years experience working for a company that services the financial sector doesn't meet this requirement, but I can't be bothered arguing the point with university admin). They did confirm that I'll now be receiving a full offer (unconditional) to enroll in the Graduate Certificate in Financial Planning instead. So this is not really an issue, as the four courses required for the GradCert are the first four courses out of the twelve courses required for the Masters degree. So it shouldn't end up costing any more or taking any longer to eventually qualify with the Masters degree. In practice all it means is that I will get an extra testamur to hang on the wall, plus I'll have to apply for entry into the Masters degree when I complete the GradCert (and apply for advanced standing/credits for the courses completed).

Anyhow, before this new course commences in September I'll be busy enough finishing off the Diploma of Financial Planning with IIT.

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Saturday, 7 July 2018

DS2 Selective High School result

The results of DS2's selective high school exam/application came out yesterday evening. We had a reasonable idea of how well he might do as he had done a few practice tests at a 'coaching' college last year, so we had not bothered including the top selective HS (James Ruse) in his three choices, as he had very little chance of doing well enough to qualify for a place (plus it would be more than an hour's commute each way from where we live). We had nominated North Sydney Boys HS as his 'first choice', Manly Selective (where DS1 attended HS) as his second choice, and Chatswood HS (which has both selective classes and some non-selective classes) as his third choice (in case he did poorly on the exam due his eczema). His local non-selective HS also has a 'gifted and talented' class available, so he had sat a separate entry exam for that class (and been accepted - we'll now let them know he won't be attending there).

Anyhow, his result wasn't quite good enough to get into North Sydney Boys HS (he didn't even get onto the 'reserve' waiting list, so the cut-off mark must be a couple of marks higher than his score), but he has been offered a place at Manly Selective HS, so that's where he will be attending high school. It is actually the most convenient selective high school from a transport viewpoint, as there is a direct bus that takes about 30 minutes, and the bus stop is only 5 minutes walk from our house. Manly also has a nice campus (not overcrowded) and good facilities with some nice playing fields both on campus and across the road from the school. So, overall, we are very happy that DS2 will be attending Manly. Now I just have to get DS2 to stop wasting so much time playing computer games, and spend a bit more time on something more productive...

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Friday, 6 July 2018

Enrolling in Master of Financial Planning course at WSU

My application to enroll in the Master of Financial Planning course at Western Sydney University has been conditionally accepted (I just have to provide a 'statement of service' to confirm the work experience I listed on my application form before term starts - this shouldn't be an issue, unless our HR department a) takes forever, or b) decides that it isn't company policy to provide this sort of thing). I'm enrolling in Session 4, which starts on 17 September. The course consists of 12 'core' modules (ie. all subject are compulsory, with no electives), and usually take 1.5 years full time, or 3 years part-time to complete. I'll be doing the course part-time and online, so I should be finished sometime in 2021.

The course is fee-paying, which for domestic students is A$24,000 for the Masters degree (I think - this is the cost listed on the WSU website, but they also put the cost of the Postgrad Certificate course (which is the first four modules of the Masters degree) at $12,000. So the quoted cost for the Masters degree might be for student's continuing on after completing the Certficate course?
Similar courses at other Australian universities cost a bit more, plus some of them require a 'relevant' undergraduate degree (Commerce or Accounting), whereas the WSU course only requires an undergraduate degree (any field) plus work experience in the financial industry.

I've ordered the textbook (Financial Planning in Australia: Advice and Wealth Management) required for the first course from Zookal for $120.12 (which includes free delivery). Comparing prices online, the major bookseller Dymocks was selling the older edition for a higher price ($168) and even the University co-operative bookshop is more expensive ($156 or $140.40 for co-op members).

Before this course starts I want to finish of the Diploma in Financial Planning I'm currently completing online at the International Institute of Technology (IIT), and also complete the couple of FinPlan short courses I've just started on Coursera. Looks like I won't have much time to play computer games for the next couple of months... ;)

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Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Free Personal Finance courses starting on Coursera

There are a couple of new personal finance courses available on Coursera that have just started, both of which can be done in 'audit' mode for free (ie. access most of the content, but not some of the assessment tasks that are required to obtain the 'certificate'). 'Financial Planning for Young Adults' is by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign,runs for four weeks and ends on the 6th of August.
The second course 'Personal and Family Financial Planning' is from the University of Florida, runs for 9 weeks and ends on the 10th of September.

I've enrolled in both courses in 'audit' mode (free), and I might pay for the verified certificate option (it can't hurt to have a few extra certificates to add to my DFP if I want to become a financial planner eventually).

If you want to complete all the graded activities and obtain a certificate upon completion, the cost either one is A$64.

Both courses cover the basics of personal finance, with the main topics being:

Financial Planning for Young Adults:
Module 1: Setting Financial Goals and Assessing Your Situation
Module 2: Budgeting and Cash Flow Management
Module 3: Saving Strategies
Module 4: The Time Value of Money
Module 5: Borrowing and Credit
Module 6: Investing
Module 7: Risk Management
Module 8: Financial Planning as a Career

Personal and Family Financial Planning:
Week 1: Understanding Personal Finance
Week 2: Financial Statements, Tools and Budgets
Week 3: Managing Income Taxes
Week 4: Building and Maintaining Good Credit
Week 5: Managing Risk
Week 6: Investment Fundamentals
Week 7: Investing Through Mutual Funds
Week 8: Personal Plan of Action
Week 9: Bonus Module

While some of the material will be very US-centric (eg. taxes), most of the topics and general enough to be relevant to everyone.

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Tuesday, 3 July 2018

UberEats Sydney $150 offer

UberEats is offering $150 for new Car or Bicycle drivers that make 40 trips (deliveries) between 3 July and 12 August. So, if you live in Sydney and were thinking about signing up with UberEats, please use referral code ralphm5810ue

I do UberEats deliveries by car, and make around $25 gross per hour during the evening peak times (around 5pm - 8:30pm), although it can be a bit slow Sun-Thu. Best nights are Fri and Sat.

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Monday, 2 July 2018

Net Worth: June 2018

Last month the stock market gained during most of the month, with a slight reversal in the final week. This left my geared share portfolio (+$16,653)and retirement savings (SMSF account +$18,118 or 1.91%)) higher at month's end compared to May. The continuing decline in Sydney house prices was reflected in our suburb's average sale price, which is incorporated in my estimate of our home valuation (-$11,401 or -1.38%). Overall, my net worth rose $23,591 (1.04%) during June.

My geared share portfolio will show reduced volatility going forward, as I decided to sell off my direct share investments held within my margin loan accounts, and use the proceeds to reduce my margin loan balances. I've retained my managed fund investments in my margin loan accounts. I'll have the chore of working out the cost basis for each share sale in order to calculate the capital gain or loss for each transaction. My motivation for the share sales was to realize any capital gains while the current CGT rate still applies. If Labor wins the next federal election they intend to substantially increase the tax payable on long term capital gains.



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Saturday, 30 June 2018

Is PFblogs.org dead?

One of the sources of things to read about personal finance on the internet is pfblogs.org. It is (or at least was) an ad-free aggregator of 'personal finance' blogs. While a lot of the material was pretty lame (I suppose that it true of most blog content), at least it gave one a way to quickly browse through the title and first paragraph of a whole bunch of blogs that were supposed to be about personal finance. I'd usually scroll through the first half-dozen pages to see if there were any posts that looked interesting enough to actually click-and-read.

Unfortunately, since 26 June there hasn't been any new content appearing on pfblogs.org Hopefully it is just a technical issue, and not the death-knell of pfblogs. If anyone knows what is going on with pfblogs.org, write a comment.

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Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Networthiq and Networthshare

I've been using networthiq to record my monthly net worth summary figures each month for many years, but last month the website wasn't available when I wanted to add my latest data (and apparently it has been having intermittent issues for a while). So I did a quick search for an alternative and found networthshare. There are slight differences in the presentation of data in the two sites, and I haven't yet manually entered data into networthshare (all my existing data was copied across within a couple of weeks of posting a request in their forum), but networthshare may be of interest to anyone currently using networthiq.

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Everything you need to know about personal finance in 1,000 words by C.J. Carlsen

While browsing amazon.com to see if there were any interesting books in the area of 'personal finance' that I wasn't already aware of, I came a across "Everything you need to know about personal finance in 1,000 words" by C.J. Carlsen. The title was intriguing, and the price ($0 for the Kindle edition) was certainly a bargain. So I spent five minutes 'buying' the free Kindle edition and reading it via the Kindle cloud reader.

Overall, nearly everything in it I completely agree with, with a couple of minor tweaks. The advice to accumulate six months of living expenses before putting money into investment accounts (after paying off any credit card balances and continuing to pay off any credit card balances in full each month) is fairly sound, but rather than simply accumulating this in a savings account (often at very low interest rates), I would look around for a high-interest online savings account. Also, once you have a home mortgage, if there is a mortgage-offset account available, this might be preferable to a savings account.

The chapter on 'investing' is also US-centric, so the references to 401(k)'s, IRA's, SEP's, and 529 plans are only relevant to US readers. For those in Australia the approach would be to max out salary sacrifice limits into superannuation (possible a low-cost SMSF via eSuperfund once you have a sufficient balance to make it cost effective compared to an industry fund). The advice to invest via low-cost Target Date funds also has to be translated into the local alternative - in my case our SMSF invests via the Vanguard High Growth Index Fund.

Overall, I recommend this as a quick read for anyone starting out with learning about personal finance, and it is also a good 'refresher' of the fundamentals for anyone that already knows a bit about personal finance.

I'll include this book in my amazon affiliate booklist (not that I'll get any revenue from this, as its a free book), along with my other favorite books in the area of PF and investing.

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Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Money for nothing, and flights for free

Like many people I like to get something for nothing, so the chance to get enough free 'frequent flyer' points to 'pay' for round trips from Australia to New Zealand for a ski trip for myself and DW was quite attractive. So, last April I Googled "QFF bonus points no annual fee" to see what credit cards were currently offering a) a sizable number of 'bonus points' for obtaining a new credit card and simply using it for my normal monthly expenses, and b) would not cost me anything (no annual card fee for the first year).

The card I decided on was the 'ANZ Frequent Flyer Black' card. The card was offering 75,000 'bonus' points if you got the card and made $2,500 of purchases using the card within the first three months. As I normally put about $2000+ per month on my credit card (for standard expenses such as groceries, utility bill payments, petrol etc.) and pay the amount due in full each month, it would be no trouble simply putting those charges on a different card for a couple of months. The online application took about five minutes to fill in, and, because I included some investment income (dividends) in the financial details, I received a phone call a few days later asking for evidence of the dividend income I'd listed. I simply had to send a pdf statement of the past 12 months worth of dividend payments, sourced from the two share registries that do the admin for most Australia shares.

The card arrived a week or so later, and, as expected, I easily met the required 'spend' amount within the first two months. Now that the 75,000 QFF points have been 'statemented' I just have to wait until they get transferred to my QFF account, and then I'll phone up to cancel that credit card. Meanwhile, since I've met the required spend amount, I've switched back to using my normal credit card.

The 75,000 points will be sufficient to 'buy' two round-trip economy class seats from Sydney-Christchurch (they currently are listed at 36,000). And it cost nothing. Well, almost. I did manage to forget to pay the first monthly statement by the due date (my normal credit card bill gets paid automatically via direct debit from one of my savings accounts), so I ended up paying about $30 in interest. Still, overall it is a very cheap way to fly from Australia to New Zealand!

Once I've cancelled that card I *might* do a similar thing with a credit card from another bank, although at the moment the best offer I can find is 'only' for 40,000 QFF points. Once the ANZ account has been closed for at least 12 months, I could apply for a similar offer as a 'new' ANZ customer again, although it seems slightly unethical.

Aside from costing me a few dollars when I forgot to make the monthly payment (in full) on time, the only 'downside' of this technique is a potential 'hit' to ones credit score. So, if you are about to apply for a major loan (eg. a home loan), then this probably isn't a good idea. And if you don't have a good credit score, you probably won't get approved for such a card anyhow. Also, unless you are used to charging your expenses to a credit card and paying off the balance IN FULL each month, it would be highly inadvisable to start using a credit card just to qualify for some frequent flyer points. Another thing to look out for is any 'service fee' that may be added to bills paid using a credit card (for example, some utility bills add 1% or more to your bill amount if you pay using a credit card). Similarly, Coles and Woolworths don't apply any 'surcharge' for paying for groceries using a credit card, whereas Aldi adds on a small charge for making payment via credit card.

Another thing to watch out for is cancelling your card too soon - before the FF points have actually been transferred into your FF account - such transfers are usually only processed when the following monthly statement gets processed. So, if you pay off and cancel your credit card as soon as the FF points appear in your online transaction listing, they may never arrive in your FF account.

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Friday, 8 June 2018

DW working again (again)

It's been more than a year since DW was made redundant by the multinational company I work for (so far I've still got a job - finger's crossed), and in that time she has only had a couple of short-term periods of employment, and has spent a lot of her time doing various free courses at TAFE and community colleges while applying for jobs. She recently had a couple of interviews with a local company for a part-time admin role, and she has now been offered the position (starting next week). Hopefully she enjoys the work and it leads to a permanent job, possibly evolving into a full-time role over time. The company is located only a short bus trip from where we live, so it is certainly convenient from a commuting point of view.

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Net Worth: May 2018

My geared stock market portfolio declined by almost 10% last month, and the estimated valuation of our home also declined slightly. The value of my retirement savings increased somewhat. Overall my net worth decreased by $16,965 (0.74%) during May.

I've started doing some UberEats deliveries in the evenings as I quite enjoy driving around our local area and I can make around $25/hr gross during the peak 6pm-8pm period. Petrol costs will consume around 20% of the proceeds, but on the other hand it will mean that a portion of my existing car expenses (registration, insurance, servicing) will be tax deductible. Depending on how many evenings a week I feel like doing UberEats deliveries, I could earn around $10,000 pa, which I intend to add to my retirement savings as an 'undeducted contribution'.

I also decided to sell off all my individual stock holdings (held within my CommSec and Leveraged Equities margin loan accounts) this week. After paying off my margin loans (and paying any capital gains tax liability) I'll also invest most of the proceeds into my superannuation account. The trigger for deciding to sell off my shares at this time was the possibility that Labor may win the next Federal election, in which case their proposed changes to the treatment of long-term capital gains might have significantly increased the amount of tax payable.


DS1 turned 18 recently, so I've added him as a trustee and member of our SMSF. Adding his details using the eSuperfund portal was very quick and easy, but resulted in being sent a 103-page pdf file to printout, sign in about 20+ places (all three of us), and also get some identification documents for DS1 certified by JP... Once the paperwork has all been finalised, DS1 will be able to roll-over his existing superannuation account balance (with a retail fund manager) into our SMSF.


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Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Net Worth: Mar-Apr 2018

I've been quite busy at work, especially at the end of the month, so I didn't get around to doing a Net Worth post for March. So here are the snapshots for March and April:

Everything was down in March, with my geared stock portfolio shedding $33,764, and my superannuation account balance losing $14,037. Real Estate continued to 'correct', so the estimated house price (my half) declined by $13,474. Overall my NW decreased by $61,043 (-2.64%) that month.

April was a mixed result, with property prices continuing to weaken, reducing the estimated house price to $830,451 - a drop of $9,069. On the other hand, the local and international stock markets recovered, so my geared stock portfolio net value rose to $229,186 (up $22,305 or 10.78%) and my retirement savings rose to $943,899 (up $24,457 or 2.66%), helped along as usual by the employer SGL contribution and my 'salary sacrifice' contribution.

Overall, my NW declined by -$61,043 in March, and recovered $37,912.



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Thursday, 1 March 2018

Net Worth: Feb 2018

My NW decreased slightly during Feb, almost back to where I was at the end of 2017. Weakness in both the international share market (which affected our retirement savings) and the Sydney real estate market resulted in an overall decline in net worth of -$6,115 (-0.26%). The market recovered some of its earlier losses towards the end of the month, although it showed continued weakness in the final days of the month.



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Thursday, 1 February 2018

New Worth: Jan 2018

My personal net worth increased slightly during January (up 0.45% to A$2,322,494), mostly due to an increase in the value of my retirement savings (up 1.22% or $11,334). My geared stock portfolio ended almost unchanged at the end of the month (up 0.07% or $162), having given back most of the month's gain during the final two trading days. As expected, the estimated valuation for our home decreased during January (down 0.30% or -$2,591), driven by weakness in the Sydney real estate market reflected in average sales prices for our suburb.

While predictions are notoriously inaccurate, especially ones about the future, I anticipate my net worth may end the year in the range A$2.3m-A$2.5m. The lower figure would reflect stagnant house prices during 2018, but not a 'crash', and lack-luster stock market performance being offset by my continued retirement savings. Any significant adverse event (loss of employment, significant downturn in Sydney real estate throughout 2018, or a major stock market crash) could easily see my NW dip below this figure. The upper figure assumes an overall gain of around 7.5% during 2018, which would represent a dollar amount of around A$174,000. While not outside the realms of possibility, I can't see any evidence to suggest that either the property or stock market (or both) will perform well enough during 2018 to achieve that result. It will be interesting to see how 2018 does pan out, and what NW figure I end up with at the end of this year...



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Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Net Worth: Dec 2017

DS1 is mid-way through his European vacation. He got a good enough ATAR to get into his first choice of university course, and has already completed the offer acceptance online. He'll finalize his enrolment details when he returns to Sydney at the end of January, and start preparing to start university at the end of February.

My net worth increased again in December, with my geared share portfolio adding a bit over $10,000 to my net worth, and my retirement savings also increasing by around $10,000. Some of the increase in the estimate of my retirement savings account balance is due to my making a slight adjustment to the calculation formula used to work out the % of the total SMSF balance that belongs to each member. I had previously simply added up the contributions made by DW and by myself, and used the relative % of total contributions to apportion the current balance to each member. The correct method is to calculate the relative effect of each contribution to the current total balance at the time of each contribution. The revised calculation method accounted for most of the increase in my SMSF account balance between Nov and Dec.

The estimated valuation for our home increased slightly, as the median sales price in our suburb rose slightly, bucking the general downward trend in property prices in Sydney. 'Experts' are now predicting a decrease of between 4%-10% in Sydney property prices during 2018, which would make it difficult for my NW to continue to rise during 2018, unless there is a substantial shift in investor focus from real estate to the share market, which might assist my geared share portfolio.



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