Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Progressing with my uni (and other) studies

A new uni semester (Q4) has just started. This semester I'm doing the 'Superannuation' subject. Browsing through the modules it all looks quite familiar, so I *should* be able to get another HD in this subject. So far I've completed four out of the twelve subjects required for the Master of Financial Planning degree, and have gotten two HD's (in Communication and Ethics for Financial Planners, and Investment Planning,) one D (in Financial Planning), and a Credit (in Commercial Law).

My GPA for 2019 (so far) is 6.0 which is just at the cut-off for getting onto the annual "Dean's List". Either a D or HD this semester will be enough to get on the Dean's List for 2019, but I'd prefer to get an HD this semester, as it will improve my chances of getting a university medal when I graduation.

My GPA overall (so far) is 6.25. To graduate 'with distinction' I'll need my GPA to be above 6.00, and for the Dean's Medal award at graduation I'll need a GPA above 6.00 AND be in the top 2% of my 'cohort' (which I think will be all the postgrad students graduating from the school of business that year). Hopefully I can get mostly HDs and Ds for the remaining subjects and get my final GPA to  6.50 or above. It's hard to know exactly what GPA will be sufficient to make it into the 'top 2%'.

This semester I also want to finish off the specialist courses in Margin Lending and SMSF that I'm doing with IIT, and also finish off the ADFP I'm also enrolled in with IIT. So I'll be quite busy studying for the rest of this year. Next year I'll only be doing my WSU studies, so it should be a little bit easier to ensure I get as many HDs as possible. Once I've finished the Masters degree I then plan on doing my CFP (the Masters degree will give me credits for three of the four required CFP courses) and to enrol in a PhD in Financial Planning. We'll see if things go according to plan...

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Thursday, 12 September 2019

Trying "12:36" (intermittent fasting) for a change

My 'diet' hadn't been working too well this year - I'd stopped tracking my daily intake and gotten into a bad habit of buying snack foods when doing grocery shopping and then browsing on them while watching TV in the evenings. Instead of losing weight, I'd been slowly gaining weight this year!

So, after reading about 12:36 ('alternate day'(ADF), or 'intermittent') fasting producing some good results for weight loss and improving a range of health markers, I decided to give that a go. I'd previously found it quite easy to stick to a five-day regime of my version of FMD ('fasting mimicking diet') that involved a balanced but low-calorie (~600/day) regime for five days, but after initially intending to do that once a month (and stick to my 'standard' healthy diet plan the rest of the time), I'd found it too much of a chore to buy and prepare the fairly specific food items for FMD. After doing it a couple of times I'd never gotten around to it again...

Therefore, the '12:36' fast seemed like a good idea, as it will be a lot easier to implement. The original version of 12:36 is to eat 'ad libitum' (whatever you feel like) for 12 hours (eg. from 8am to 8pm) and then eat nothing for 36 hours (i.e. have a fasting day). That has been applied to 'normal' weight humans, but as I am obese (BMI ~34) I really don't think having any 'ad libitum' days is a good idea (I can easily eat a family pizza and a couple of packets of confectionery or a family-sized block of chocolate in an evening if I'm in the mood). Therefore, my version of the '12:36' diet plan is to stick to my standard, healthy food plan most days of the week, and simply have a fasting day every Tuesday and Thursday. If I'm really keen I might also stick to my low-cal 'FMD' diet regime some weekends.

I experimented with doing a couple of days of fasting last week, but not stictly as I did eat a few food items on those days. I ended up having 936 cals last Tuesday and 685 cals last Thursday. I didn't feel particularly hungry on those days, so I stuck to a proper fast on Tuesday this week (no food at all) and today. I've actually found it very easy to 'fast' - not feeling very hungry at all (no more peckish that I often feel at 4pm after having a normal breakfast and lunch!).

Studies have shown that ADF has similar benefits (at least in animal studies) as CRAN, so I think this might be my ideal diet regime. The biggest plus from my point of view is that it is incredible easy to implement - no special foods to buy or prepare, and nothing to keep track of on the fast days.

So far the only 'glitch' caused by fasting is that one day I completely forgot to take my multivitamins and prescription medications in the morning as I didn't have any breakfast.

So far I haven't been on ADF long enough to determine what the long-term rate of weight loss might be, but I'm hoping to lose weight at a steady rate of 0.5-1 kg/wk once the initial 'water loss' period is over, and then slowly move towards my ideal BMI (70-75kg) over the next 12-18 months. Hopefully my rate of weight loss will slow down as I approach my ideal BMI (it takes a lot more calories to maintain and move 110kg compared with 70 kg!) - but if not I'll just replace the 'fast' days with the more modest FMD food plan on those days once I get close to the lower bound of the healthy weight range.

So far the initial results look quite promising:

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Monday, 9 September 2019

Sydney Planning for Population Growth - a house built on sand.

A read a feature article in the SMH about how Sydney's population is expected to grow by 1.3 million over the next decade. The article is full of pretty computer generated 3-D views of 'projections' of where this increased population will be housed (mostly west of Paramatta), but, having looked at the data for my suburb, I have to question whether this whole planning exercise is built on pretty dodgy data foundations.

When I selected my suburb the 'model' responded that the 2016 population was 2,656 and that by 2031 it would increase to 2,677. Really? An increase of only 21 people?

Given that the brand new Northern Beaches hospital was recently opened in this suburb, resulting in rezoning from single dwelling to medium for quite a few blocks (one house nearby was already replaced with a block of six or so units just this year), and that the nearby High School is slated to be moved to another location and replaced with a new 'town centre' featuring three apartment blocks of around 10-15 floors each, I have to wonder at the accuracy of all the 'data' being used for these projections and modelling.

God help us if they are actually planning infrastructure developments based on these models.

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Thursday, 5 September 2019

AMP casting Financial Planners adrift

An article in today's SMH describes how AMP has started cancelling the licences of some of its 1500+ aligned financial advisers. The article parrots the AMP line that this action is to take a 'tough stance' as "some advisers were not going to meet new regulations imposed by the government to abolish commissions and increase compliance".

This implies that these advisers are being dumped due to some compliance issue, whereas the reality is that those adviser's "business economics simply aren't strong enough" -- which is AMP's way of saying that these advisers don't generate enough revenue to make it worth AMP keeping them as authorised representatives.

Those advisers will now in the difficult position of having to find a new AFSL to get registered with, or, if they decide the quit the industry they find that the value of financial planner's "books" of clients being worth a fraction of what it has traditionally been - due to reductions in ongoing commissions and increased costs (compliance) for servicing clients. This is reflected in the fact that AMP has also slashed the amount it will pay their advisers as 'buyer of last resort'.

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Monday, 2 September 2019

Government meets demands of AFA and FPA lobbying - FASEA exam and education deadlines extended

Due to the large number of AFA and FPA members that were unhappy with the 'short' timeframes allowed to a) pass the FASEA Financial Planner examination (which basically just tests the ethics and best interest concepts that all financial advisers should already have embedded into the day-to-day practice), and b) upgrade their educational qualifications to meet the new minimum requirement of the equivalent of a tertiary degree in financial planning, the AFA and FPA have been actively lobbying the Federal government to extend the current deadlines.

The rational for extending the FASEA exam deadline was that it had originally been announced as being "two years" to pass the exam, but due to the time required for FASEA to actually develop the exam with ACER and implement the first round of exams in June, the original deadline of 1 Jan 2021 would have 'only' allowed 18 months for existing financial planners to pass the exam (or be deregistered and have to go through the 'new adviser' process). The associations also complained that due to the time taken to mark exams and issue results, the last possible session for sitting the exam and receiving notification of a 'pass' before the deadline would have been Sep 2020, not the end of the year. In the end the government agreed to change the exam deadline to 1 Jan 2022 (a full 12 months extension), which allows more than two years to sit and pass the exam (I sat my exam in June and passed, and around 90% of the first cohort passed, so it isn't a particular difficult exam).

The deadline for the educational requirements was originally 1 Jan 2024, which seemed perfectly generous to me - even doing a full Masters or Bachelors degree in financial planning would only take 4-6 years part-time for those with no advanced standing for 'prior learning' such as the advanced DFP or a CFP qualification. But apparently due to business and family commitments (which are the normal status for nearly all part-time students) many financial planners had indicated it would be 'too hard' to meet this deadline. So, the deadline for the educational requirements has been extended by two years - to 1 Jan 2026.

The AFA and FPA have expressed the hope that this extended deadline will allow more planners to remain in the profession. Personally I think this would be due more to older, existing planners being able to keep working until the end of 2025 without needing to upgrade their educational qualifications, than many more planners attaining the higher educational requirements simply due to having another couple of years to complete the studies. Those who complained the most (planners with many years of experience and no tertiary qualifications) will still find it a shock to go 'back to school' at a university level, regardless of how much time they are given to complete the courses.

On the downside, the changes mean that the public may still be getting 'professional advice' from financial advisers that don't have a tertiary education for another five years...

Both changes will require legislation to be passed before coming into effect.

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Net Worth: August 2019

Although the equities markets recovered slightly towards the end of August, this did not completely offset the sharp declines experienced when the US-China 'trade war' became more intractable earlier in the month. Therefore, my geared stock portfolio and superannuation (which is mostly invested in Australian and International share markets via the Vanguard High Growth fund) investments declined by $11,061 and $10,163 respectively.

The net value of my geared stock portfolio continues to reflect the ~$2,600/mo of startup costs for my financial planning business that are being funded using my 'portfolio loan'. I haven't got any clients yet, but my goal is still to get a few clients by the end of 2019, and (hopefully) enough clients by the end of 2020 to at least cover the running costs of my home business. The major costs are the monthly fee to the AFSL ($1,150/mo), the monthly fee for Midwinter (admin) basic subscription (~$200/mo), and the costs of my uni studies (about $1,200/mo on average) and FPA and AFA memberships (~$100/mo).

The estimated value of my half of our home remained unchanged, as the local sales data was not updated last month, but the CoreData index of Sydney house prices showed a 1.5% gain during August, so it definitely appears that the decline in property prices has bottomed out after the two consecutive cuts in the cash rate by the RBA, and the introduction of personal income tax cuts by the Federal government.

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