Monday 30 December 2019

Diet 2019 Wk 52 - week ending 29.12.2019

Well, Christmas went about as badly as I'd feared - I overate and under-exercised, so I ended up putting on a couple of kg in a short period of time. I really should stick to my normal eating patterns during the holiday season and not use it as a excuse to indulge in junk food!

I did a decent gym session on Friday (although the gym closed early), and I also did quite a bit of walking (I went to the shops after the gym session to buy a new swimming costume). But I then did hardly any walking on the weekend, so my average daily step count for the week wasn't high enough. I did jump in the pool and do a few (14) laps on Saturday. But as our pool is only about 8m long, that was only about 110m. I'll try to get in a few laps every evening when I get home. I used to swim about 80-100 laps a day several years ago (during the summers), so I'll try to increase the number of laps each day until I'm back to doing that amount again - at least on my non-gym days and on the weekends.

My sons received a Wii Fit Balance Board as one of their Christmas presents, so they've started doing some of the Wii Fit exercises for fun and I'll also join in for a bit of family fun. On Sunday I did a 16 min session of Wii jogging (on the spot) and did some of the planking and stepping exercises. Every little bit of extra activity helps, especially when you've been eating a bit too much junk food on Christmas Day!

I'll stick to my standard meal plan today, and drop in to the gym this afternoon on my way home to do my 'light' weight training session. Unfortunately the gym will be closed again on Wed (New Years Day) so I'll only get to the gym twice this week (unless I go in for an extra session on the weekend). Last week I upgraded my 'basic' gym membership package (about $11/wk paid fortnightly, plus an annual $40 'admin' charge) to a pre-paid annual package ($599) that includes some 'classes' (which I probably won't use), access to other gyms in the chain (which I probably won't use), and also entitles me to bring one 'guest' into the gym whenever I attend. That is the main benefit I'll use, as it means my eldest son will be able to meet me at the gym on his way home from university and do a proper weight training session (he'd out-grown the capacity of our home weight set). As I intend to keep going to the gym three times a week on a  regular basis from now on, the annual fee will work out to be about the same weekly cost as my old month-by-month membership, so he'll be getting to use a proper gym for essentially no extra cost.

My updated weight chart clearly shows the spike in calorie intake that occurred over the holiday period, and the impact that has had on my weight loss progress. As long as I now get back on track it should only be a temporary set-back.

I got an offer to purchase a 'premium' (ie. paid) subscription to mPort - which runs a chain of 'body pod' scanning devices in some local shopping centers. I had gotten a free scan last October, so I decided to now pay the $25 to be able to do regular scans for the next 12 months to easily keep track of my body measurements. The estimated body fat (based on size measurements alone) doesn't seem very accurate (it gave readings of 34% last October and 33% now), as my home scales give a reading of about 20% (+/- about 2%) now, compared to about 25%-30% when I started dieting last June. The recent DEXA reading was also about 20% body fat, so I think the mPort estimates are not very accurate for my body time, Over time I expect my chest and thigh measurements will stabilize and I'll loose more belly fat, which should improve my waist:hip ratio as I get down towards my target weight. I'll do an mPort scan every month of so to see how things are going.

Latest mPort readings: (apparently accuracy is about +/- 1cm, which isn't great)
Weight: 96.6 kg
Biceps: 38 cm (L) 41 cm (R)
Chest: 111 cm
Waist: 105 cm
Stomach: 114 cm
Hips: 112 cm
Thighs: 49 (L) 47 (R)
Knees: 42 cm (L) 42 cm (R)
Calf: 43 cm (L) 43 cm (R)

Comparison of my results to the average BMI distribution for Australia shows that I need to loose a considerable amount of weight before I'll even be 'average'. However, given that the DEXA scan showed my true body fat reading is currently around 20% and not 34%, I think the mPort body fat chart isn't accurate (due to higher than average muscle mass), and that my body fat will actually be quite low by the time I get my BMI close to an 'average' reading.

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Monday 23 December 2019

Diet 2019 Wk 51 - week ending 22.12

Did my gym sessions as planned during the week and increased my daily walking to a little over 16,000 steps/day on the weekdays (I still struggle to get enough walking done during the weekends), so my exercise last week went 'according to plan'. Unfortunately I ate a little bit more than I'd planned during the week, didn't do any fasting days, and then had bit of a 'binge' of overeating on the weekend, which included a fair amount of 'junk' food. My weight was already crept a bit higher by this morning, but at this stage that will be mostly due to the extra bulk of food and associate fluid in my gut from the weekend's food intake. So, before I continue to excess caloric intake long enough to actually start storing fat, I need to get back onto my 'strict' diet plan today, and make sure I do a fast on Tuesday. I'll have to try to not overeat during Christmas/boxing day, despite having some guests over for a BBQ on Christmas day. The gym will be closed on Wed (Christmas Day) and also close early (7pm) on Friday and Monday. I might be able to still squeeze in gym sessions after work on Friday and Monday, as the office may close a little bit early on those days, but my gym sessions are likely to be slightly less than normal until after the New Year. I'll try to make up for it by starting to swim some laps of our pool during the holiday period.

As long as I get a reasonable amount of walking and weight training done during the holidays, and fit in a few fasting days to offset those days that I overeat a bit for social events (so I don't put on any weight before the New Year) I'll be fairly happy. I'll get back into the full-on diet and exercise regime once the 'festive season' is out of the way.
While the chart shows my weight loss has only just started to 'plateau', the increase in my daily calorie intake during the past couple of weeks is quite obvious, and will result in weight gains if I don't get back 'on the wagon' asap. From now on, whenever I feel like having a 'snack' in the evening or on the weekends I need to substitute it for going for a short walk instead. Hopefully I can make that into a habit asap.

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Tuesday 17 December 2019

Diet 2019 Wk 50 - week ending 15.12

I had a reasonable week last week in terms of exercise, getting in my three planned gym sessions, averaging 10,600 steps/day walking, and only missing one day of doing my daily 5BX. I've modified my gym routine slightly so I use lighter weights and do 3 sets of ~15 reps on each apparatus on Monday, use medium weights (3 sets x 8-10 reps) on Wednesday, and do a heavy session where I can only manage 5-8 reps in each set on Friday (haven't quite worked out exactly what weights to use on each appartus for the heavy session yet). I haven't started swimming laps yet, but we're supposed to be getting several days of 40C weather later this week, so I'll probably start swimming this weekend.

I didn't do any fasting at all last week, but I managed to average about 1,127 cals/day on Mon-Fri, but then I overate a bit (around maintenance cals) on the weekend (again). On Saturday that was due to attending a party for my sister's 40th wedding anniversary, but on Sunday I just ate a bit too much during the day and then topped it off with a tube of Pringles crisps in the evening. That's caused my weight to plateau around 95kg for the past week, and my body fat seems to be stuck around 20%, so I'll try to do proper fasts on Tuesday and Thursday this week and to not overeat next weekend.

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Monday 9 December 2019

Diet 2019 Wk 49 - week ending 08.12

I stuck pretty much to my plan last week - I did three good gym sessions (my total wt volume is about 50% higher than when I last did three gym sessions in a week last month, so my strength has improved a bit) and managed to average over 10,000 steps of walking per day. I also did one day of fasting and three other days were 'keto' CR. The only area that still needs improvement is my weekends. On Saturday I managed to walk almost 10K steps (by walking around a local office complex while waiting for DS2 to do his Parkour training session), but on Sunday I only did a little bit of walking (under 2,000 steps) when I went to the local shopping center. I also ate a little bit too much on Saturday, and quite a bit more than planned on Sunday (more than my maintenance kcals!)

I'm going to modify my gym sessions from now on to do low wt/~15 rep sessions on Mondays, med wt/~8-10 rep sets on Wednesdays, and heavier wts/~5-8 rep sets on Fridays. That should (theoretically) help retain/increase musculature while I'm shedding bdy weight/fat. By doing the heavy training on Fridays I'll allow two days for 'recovery', rather than the single day off after the other gym sessions.

Our pool has been refilled but I can't get the pool filter started, so it will need a service call. Once it is working again I'll add in swimming some laps after work on my non-gym, fasting days, and also swim some laps on the weekends.

My long term weight plot shows that I'm now about half-way to my goal (approx. 80 kg and 10% BF). But I've previously lost similar amounts (in 2001 and 2016) only to then stop tracking my eating habits and putting the weight back on again within a year or two. So this time I'll need to make my diet and lifestyle change permanent, so I maintain a healthy weight (and possibly put on a bit more muscle) once I reach my target.

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Sunday 8 December 2019

Uni result Semester 4

Turned out that my exam result was about as bad as I expected - the Superannuation exam was a whole lot of technical questions about contribution rules and taxation for specific ages, income levels, accumulated balances and so forth. I know the rules in general, but I tend to look up specific values as they keep changing so it's not something I normally memorise. As it was a 'closed book' exam I had expected/hoped it would be more about general rules and strategies. Oh well, my final result was still a Credit, so my overall GPA for 2019 is 6.00 after getting two High Distinctions and two Credits. That will just get me a 'Dean's List' letter of commendation for this year, and overall my GPA is still just on the cut-off for qualifying for a university medal (if I end up in the top 2% of my 'cohort' when I graduate) and for getting the Masters degree 'with Distinction' if I maintain a GPA of at least 6.00. Hopefully I can do a little better with my results next year, as I'd like to only get Distinctions or better.

I've enrolled in five uni subjects for 2020, one per semester in the first three quarters, and two courses in Q4. I'm planning on finishing off my Advanced Diploma subjects during Dec/Jan (before uni recommences next year), and might then do the Level I CFA exam in July. That should mean I have a fairly light study load in Q4 so I can managed a full-time study loan while working full-time and doing my uni studies part-time. We'll see how it works out in reality.

In 2021 I'll finish off the Masters degree (should just have the two 'research' subjects to complete in the first half of 2021), and I'll possibly also be able to complete my CFA and CFP certifications in 2021, and enrol in a PhD in Financial Planning.

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Wednesday 4 December 2019

Accurate body fat measurement and revised target weight

Having compared my plot of 21-day moving average body fat % readings (currently ~20%) vs BMI (currently about 32) using the daily data from my bathroom scales, it seemed that either my scales were very inaccurate OR my body fat wasn't as high as is 'normal' for someone of my weight/BMI. Indeed the 'normal' range of body fat for someone my height and weight is around 25%-30%, which is why according to my BMI I'm still in the 'obese' range.

Before I continued dieting my way all the way down into the 'healthy' weight range (56.6 kg -76.2 kg) for my height (1.75 cm), based on BMI (which had led me to have an initial 'goal' of getting my weight down to 74-76 kg), I decided I'd better get an accurate reading of what my body fat percentage actually is!

The 'gold standard' for determining body fat percentage accurately is hydrostatic weighing, where you are submersed completely underwater (and breath out as much as possible) in a special tank while they weigh you. As the density of fat mass (fat) and lean mass (muscle, bones, blood etc.) is well known, once your displacement (volume) and weight are known, your body fat percentage can be quite accurately calculated. A more recent version of this displacement method is the 'body pod' which uses Air Displacement Plethysmograph (ADP) to determine body composition (ratio of fatty mass to lean mass) in a similar way. But both these methods are a relatively inconvenient (especially as there isn't one close to where I live or work).

So a more modern alternative that provides comparable (or better) accuracy is the DEXA scan (Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry). It uses low-intensity X-rays at two different energy levels that are absorbed differently by different tissues. DEXA scans can provide bone density and body fat measurements.

I went and got a DEXA scan done at lunchtime today, which took about 15 minutes (plus a 15 minutes discussion of the results) and cost me $110. A second scan normally costs $90, so I decided to buy a two scan 'package' for $160 as I will want to do a follow up scan in about 4-6 months to check on progress as I get close to my 'ideal' weight. Getting a package deal meant that this second scan will effectively cost $50 rather than $90.

Anyhow, my result showed a couple of interesting things:

* my weight at the time of the scan was 99.1 kg. This is a bit higher than my morning weigh-in of 95.7 kg, but that difference is probably partly due to having eaten breakfast and drunk a fair amount of fluids during the morning.

* my body fat percentage is currently exactly 20.0%. This suggests that my bathroom scales (on average) give a quite accurate reading, although the precision (day to day fluctuations) mean the precision is only 2-3% using my bathroom scales. But that is good enough for me to use the 21-day moving averages of body fat and weight to track my progress. It also shows that I am relatively muscular, with my fat mass index being 6.48 (normal range is 3-6, and obese is 9-12). So I'm actually (now that I've lost some weight) just 'overweight' rather than 'obese'.

* unfortunately the scan also showed that my visceral fat (Android) is 2.086 kg, whereas my goal should be to get this down to <= 1.000 kg. Fortunately losing weight will reduce my total body fat, and will reduce my visceral fat to a more health level.

* the results also estimated my basal metabolic caloric requirement at 1953 kcals/day, which is close to what I had thought.

The consultant advised that my rate of weight loss (to reduce fat without losing excessive amounts of muscle) should not be more than about 1kg per week (I've been averaging around 0.7 kg per week over the past 20 or so weeks).

Going to the gym 2-3x per week while dieting should result in losing equal amounts of fat:muscle, so if I got down to my original 'target' of 75 kg I'd end up with a body fat percentage of around 10% which would be too lean, and I'd lose excessive amounts of muscle. A better goal is apparently to get down to around 80kg over the next 24 weeks, which should result with a very good body fat of around 12.8%. I'll check on how things are progressing in 4-5 months time (when I'm getting close to my new 'target' of 80kg).

One interesting aside is that the scan results quite clearly show that I'm right handed, and have slightly more/better muscle mass in my right arm. Both arms came in at just over 1.0 kg of fat, but my right arm has a lean mass of 4.4 kg whereas my left arm has a lean mass of only 3.9 kg. (Left arm 20.3% fat, Right arm 19.0% fat).
My left and right Rib measurements were symmetrical (23.4% fat) as were my left and right Leg measurements (19.2% fat). I'm carrying most of my fat around my stomach, and some on my arms and thighs. So I should also look a lot more 'athletic' when I get down to 80kg and a body fat of under 13%.

The scan clearly shows that inside my current fat body is a slim person waiting to escape!

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Tuesday 3 December 2019

Why BMI is not a good benchmark if you do significant weight training while losing weight

I am fat/obese. But I've always 'carried my weight well" (people were often surprised to find out exactly how heavy I was). In high school my weight was 78 kg and my height was 1.78 m, giving me a BMI of 24.6, which was at the top end of 'healthy' (18.5-25.0). No surprise there, as although I did OK on fitness tests at the time, I didn't play a lot of sports (just a bit of swimming and Judo) and couldn't do a chin-up to save my life.

And by the time I started this current stint of diet/lifestyle change my weight had slowly increased over the decades to reach a personal maximum of 111.8 kg (a BMI of 35.3) - which was just entering the morbid obesity range (if you have any obesity-related health conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetes). As I'd been on blood pressure medication for several years and my recent blood sugar test results had moved from the high end of 'normal' and into that grey area where type 2 diabetes is a distinct possibility (but can be managed by a combination of regular physical exercise, healthy eating and weight reduction) it was definitely time to do something permanent about my poor diet and lack of exercise...

So, based on the generic BMI guidelines, my initial 'goal' for weight loss was to get down into the 'healthy' range of BMI 18.5-25.0, which for my height would mean a weight between 59 kg (!!) and 79 kg. I had started out assuming I would stick to my CR diet and two days of fasting each week until I got under 80 kg, and then taper off the fasting to stabilize my weight in the 72-76 kg range. However, as my body type seems to be naturally mesomorph (if I lose the excess body fat and do modest amounts of weight training) I suspect that by the time I get down to around 80 kg my body fat will have already reduced to the lower end of what is considered a health body fat percentage (8%-19%) for men.

My home scales purport to give a reading of body fat%, but the reading fluctuates wildly from day to day, so only the 21-day moving average gives a reasonably consistent reading (this doesn't mean that it is very accurate though!). Plotting body fat % vs. BMI gives an interesting result, especially when compared to some published data:

The blue dots are my data points, whereas the black circles are female data and black crosses are male data from a study of Sri Lankan men and women. Admittedly I don't belong to that particular racial group, which may well explain why my data points are outliers (assuming my body fat data is even accurate), but it could also be due to the know inaccuracy of BMI as a predictor of body fat in those that have a muscular build (athletes or body builders for example).

One published formula for estimating body fat percentage from BMI data for caucasians is:

BF% = -38 + 2.2 x BMI (+/-4.8)
(for 50-60 year olds: table 4)

which for my current BMI of 30.3 predicts a BF% = 28.7 +/- 4.8  i.e. 23.9% - 33.5%

This puts my current body fat reading of around 20% well below what is expected from my BMI.

Either my scales are ridiculously inaccurate, or my weight training is making my body fat reduce at a greater rate than would be achieved by calorie restriction alone.

Therefore, as I continue to lose weight and do weight training I'll start tracking body fat using abdominal skin fold measurements (if I can find the calipers I bought several years ago!). There are several different formulae available for converting skin fold measurements to estimated body fat, I'll probably try the various ones available at and see how the results compare. Once I start getting skin fold measurements I'll be able to tell if I'm really shifting my muscle:fat ratio (as I suspect), or if my bathroom scales are just giving me consistently inaccurate body fat readings...

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Monday 2 December 2019

Net Worth: November 2019

My NW increased by $47,716 (2.02%) during November due to the significant improvement in the international and domestic stock markets. The real estate estimates remained unchanged as there was no new sales data updated yet for November, so I stuck with last month's estimate for our house price. Overall Sydney house prices increased during November (by around 2%) in response to the RBA interest rates cuts, so this may be a conservative valuation.

I wrote off the valuation for the S-type Jag that I bought last year, as the Jag dealer service centre has been unable to repair the electrical/security system fault which locked up the steering, so it is now past the overdue registration renewal deadline. I'll have to hand the rego plates in to the RTA (although I can put the rego number 'on hold' for 12 months, it will then cost me another $150 or so to have the plates remade if I do eventually get the Jag fixed, or else buy a different car to use the rego plates number on).

The stamp duty for my 'off the plan' unit purchase will be due in January and is roughly the same as this month's NW increase. If my NW ends up above $2.5m by the end of next year I'll be quite happy. The $100K deposit for the unit, and the $42K stamp duty, have both been funded with some of my available home equity loan, so I'll try to earn enough 'side income' from doing Uber Eats deliveries on the weekend evenings to cover that additional cash flow expense. As the interest is tax deductible I won't have to worry about any extra tax liability due to the extra income.

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Diet 2019 Wk 48 - week ending 01.12

Last week was another fairly mediocre effort in terms of diet and exercise. I had a uni exam on Monday, so I stayed up until 5am on Sunday night doing some last minute study and had some snacks while studying, so Monday total calorie intake ended up above my 'maintenance' level. I was quite tired Monday night, so I skipped going to the gym after work. And then on Wednesday I had to work a bit late, so I missed that gym session as well. Managed to get in one gym session on Friday after work.

I also didn't have any 'fasting' days last week, only managing to have fairly low calorie days on Thursday and Friday instead. On Saturday I overate a bit, but at least I managed to stick to my diet plan on Sunday. I did do quite a bit of walking on Saturday (14,000 steps) and on Sunday spent a couple of hours bucketing water out of our swimming pool to clean it, so I got a reasonable amount of exercise in on the weekend.

Overall my average daily kcals was a bit too high, but still averaged below my maintenance calorie level, so I continued to maintain a decent rate of weight loss due to getting in some extra exercise despite missing a couple of gym sessions. This week I'll try to get to the gym three times as planned, and also stick to my fast on Tues and Thursday.

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Tuesday 26 November 2019

Financial Planning 'business' and study update

Still no luck getting my first 'client'. I actually had a couple book a free introductory meeting a few weeks ago, but it turned out that only one of them was keen on the idea of getting financial advice, and their financial position didn't really justify the cost of getting personal financial advice at this time (they had no spare cash flow, living from pay cheque to pay cheque and using an overdraft facility to cover any 'unexpected' expenses, and no significant investments to manage). I ended up just providing them some factual information about budgeting and I'll follow up with them in a few months to see if there are in a position to benefit (and it makes financial sense to pay for) personal financial advice.

I sat the exam for my latest subject (Superannuation) for my Masters degree yesterday - I had got a reasonable 80% on the assignments (worth 50% of the subject total mark), so was hoping to end up with another Distinction overall. Getting an HD would have required an exam mark of at least 90%, and anything over 70% in the exam would be sufficient to get me a D overall. As it turned out the exam was a lot more 'technical' than I'd expected (not much about general principles, strategies or legislation, and lots of very specific case studies about contribution and benefit rule application to specific examples of employee ages and income levels). In practice I'll look up specific rates, caps, thresholds etc. and do my calculations using a spreadsheet, rather than try to rely on 'knowing' the (constantly changing) caps etc. and calculating things on a calculator or 'back of the envelop', so it seemed a bit weird for this subject to have a 'closed book' exam with lots of technical questions, whereas other subjects have been 'open book' exams, even when the exam questions were a lot more general in nature. Go figure.

On the other hand, I doubt the other students will do particularly well on this exam, so if I do OK (scrape through with a Distinction) I'll still get on the "Dean's List" for this year, and remain in the running for a university medal (and a degree 'with Distinction') when I graduate.

Now that my uni studies are over for the year, I need to buckle down and make some serious progress with the Advanced Diploma in Financial Planning that I'm also enrolled in for this year. I'd like to get the four courses for that qualification all completed before the next uni semester starts next February.

Once I have completed the ADFP qualification and I've done the taxation course for my Masters degree next semester I'll be able to do the required TASA course (on the Tax Agent Services Act 2009 (TASA), and the Code of Professional Conduct) to get my registration as a Tax (Financial) Adviser.

Once I get the ADFP course out of the way I'll be able to decide whether I should try to do two courses each semester in 2020 (to finish off the Masters degree next year), or continue just doing one course each semester. I've recently registered with the CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) Institute, so I might be studying to sit the Level I CFA exam next June, in which case it would probably be better to continue just doing one uni course each semester...

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CFD trading update - play money

As most of my investments are long term 'set and forget' style (as I have a long term investment time frame and want to minimize fees, trading costs and 'churn'), I have a CFD trading account with Cityindex that I can use to 'play' at trading whenever I get bored with just tracking my NW each month. Even with that 'trading' account I've slowly gone from taking short term positions (having had very mixed results with my results at 'day trading' - aka "I don't know what the hell I'm doing") to having a couple of long positions that I'll leave open until the current up trend seems to have broken.

I've had a few Berkshire Class B CFDs for quite a while, and recently did some short term trades in Tesla (which I managed to eventually close out without losing money) and Google (which actually made a small profit when my stop loss closed out my long position at a small profit). I waited too long to reopen my position in Google after the price dip, so I've now just bought a few long CFDs in the iShares US Technology ETF.

I probably won't close out these positions (unless there is a market correction or the US looks like heading into a recession) as the margins are small enough to allow for some significant price dips without forcing me to sell, but I'll monitor the daily price movements just to give me something to do. The amounts involved in my CFD account are quite trivial - a balance of around $1,000 and daily movements of a few dollars up or down.

The movements in the Vanguard high growth fund (where we have about $1m invested in our SMSF) are material to my NW, but as I intend to hold that position (and add about $2K each month via super contributions) until retirement and beyond, the monthly tracking of the daily price movements are more of an academic exercise.

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Diet 2019 Wk 47 - week ending 24.11

Last week I didn't do any fasting days, but instead had fairly low cal days Tue-Fri. But I then overate again on the weekend (which tends to be the time I have the most difficulty sticking to my meal plan, and instead 'browse' and snack throughout the weekend). So my weight had started to plateau by the end of the weekend.

I went to the gym twice last week, on Mon and Fri (I was working late on Wed and skipped my planned mid-week session on the way home), but I overdid it a bit on gym treadmill on Friday and had a sore foot on the way home and on the weekend (I have a permanently swollen left foot as a result of some bouts of cellulitis in my legs several years ago, and also have some bone spurs in my left foot which sometimes give me stabbing pains when I walk). So I didn't do as much walking on the weekend as I'd like, but things had settled down again by Monday so I'll get get back to walking at least 10K steps a day this week.

This week didn't get off to a great start as I had a uni exam on Monday morning and stayed up until 5:30am Sunday (to get in some last minute studying) and had a few too many late night snacks and not enough sleep as a result. I'm planning on getting back to my normal  diet and exercise plan for the rest of this week.

The weight and calorie intake chart shows that I'm on track to loose about 1 kg/wk on average, and that the few days of fasting each week are helping to keep my average daily calories (over a 7-day period) down around 1,600 cals/day, despite the occasional day of eating more than my maintenance calorie requirement.

I should be able to reach my target wt/BMI by the middle of next year. One of my goals is to eliminate any days of over-eating (more than 2,400 cals) by cutting out snacks and junk food). Once I get my weight under 76 kg I'll transition to only doing one day of fasting each week to maintain the health effects without losing too much weight once I reach a healthy BMI.

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Monday 18 November 2019

Diet 2019 Wk 46 - week ending 17.11

Last week was going very well up until Thursday - I'd had low-carb meal plan days on Mon and Wed, and stuck to my fast on Tue/Thu, and had good gym sessions on Mon/Wed and walked about 12,000 steps/day.

Then, on Friday, I had a day off work to stay home and do a uni assignment and didn't get to the gym or walk very much, but did at least stick to my standard meal plan. And over the weekend I went on a bit of an eating binge, having way too many snacks and 'extras'. My weight had got down to 97.1kg on Saturday morning, but was back up to 99.0kg by Monday morning!

So this week I have to be strict about sticking to my meal plans, getting in three gym sessions and doing my daily walking and 5BX without fail! Fortunately with intermittent fasting on Tue/Thu even eating 'ad lib' on a couple of days during the week my overall average daily cals last week wasn't too bad.

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Monday 11 November 2019

Diet 2019 Wk 45 - week ending 10.11

Had quite a good week last week. Stuck to my meal plans (except on Sunday, where I ate a little bit more than planned) and had a (sort-of) fast day on Tues and a proper fast on Thurs, with a low-carb 'ketogenic' day on Wed. Also went to the gym on Mon, Wed and Fri as planned and increased my warm-up treadmill time slightly (12 min rather than 10 min, although I'm taking it easy with only a 5% incline and 5kmh speed) and the total sets done in each gym session. I also managed to achieve my target of a minimum of 10K steps walked on the weekdays (but not on the weekend).

This week I'll try to do a proper fast on Tue and Thu, increase the reps a bit during my gym sessions (maybe a add another exercise), and make sure I do my 5BX session every day. I'll also do a bit more walking next weekend.

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Monday 4 November 2019

Net Worth: October 2019

My NW increased by $15.6K during October (0.66%) due to the continued improvement in global and local stock markets adding value to my geared share portfolio and also our SMSF investment. Our house valuation also improved slightly (0.75%) as the recent improvement in the Sydney real estate market flowed through into our suburb. I think that is technically an 'all time high' for my NW, but it has been fairly flat during the past couple of years due to the correction in Australia real estate and a subdued local stock market.

I've decided to report the amount borrowed to fund the 10% deposit for my 'off-the-plan' investment apartment in the 'other mortgages' total. I will continue to report the cost base for the 'other real estate' holdings until the apartment development is completed (in 2023) and I get the unit valued to obtain a mortgage to fund the balance due at settlement. There will be some stamp duty (about $42K) payable in a couple of months - I'll add the amount to the 'other mortgage' figure, and also increase the cost base by the same amount, so it won't have any impact on my NW figure until settlement.

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Diet 2019 Wk 44 - week ending 03.11

Last week went OK except for Wednesday when I at more than planned, and the fact that I only managed to go to the gym once (due to working late on two of my 'gym days' and having to get home in time to cook meals for the kids). I probably could have squeezed in the gym sessions, but I just didn't feel like it. At least I still did my daily 5BX on the days I didn't get to the gym. I also didn't do much walking on Sunday as it was raining, so my average daily step count for the week was down slightly again. I'll try to meet my 10K target each day this week, and also go to my planned gym sessions on Mon, Wed and Fri. I also need to try to get to bed a bit earlier and get a full 7 hrs sleep each night.

I watched a few youtube videos on the weekend about the benefits of fasting by Dr Fung - apparently fasting is better for retaining muscle mass while losing visceral fat than simple CR (caloric restriction) dieting. And intermittent fasting (with normal caloric intake on the non-fasting days) tends to result in more sustainable weight loss as it doesn't lower ones metabolic rate as much as continuous CR dieting -- so you tend to not suffer from the 'yo-yo' dieting effect (where you tend to put weight back on due to having lowered your metabolic rate). Fasting also helps lower insulin levels, which can produce a number of health benefits.

While I like the idea of the health benefits of fasting and using IF to get down to a healthy BMI asap, I also suspect that CRAN might be beneficial for longevity by lowering metabolic rate (so ongoing CRAN then doesn't result in a lower than ideal BMI). So on the days that I don't fast I will still restrict my caloric intake slightly (at least until I reach my 'ideal' BMI). But I might add a bit more lean protein (chicken breast or smoked salmon) on the non-fasting days, as it will make my weight training on those days more productive in terms of retaining/adding muscle mass.

Making my evening meal before each fasting day a no-carb meal (eg. chicken breast and green beans) may also help my one-day (36 hour) fasting more effective. I might also change my Wednesday meal plan to a ketogenic/low-carb one, so I end up with a three day ketogenic period each week.

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Monday 28 October 2019

Diet 2019 Wk 43 - week ending 27.10

I had a good diet and exercise week up until Sunday. I had gone to the gym as planned on Mon, Wed and Fri for some light weight training, and did one session on 5BX on a non-gym day. I also managed to reach my target of at least 10,000 steps/day, including on Saturday. But I didn't do my 5BX on Saturday evening, and on Sunday we went to the movie theatre and I ate some junk food and confectionery while we were out. Then on Sunday evening I also had some extra snacks after dinner, so my daily calories were way too high on Sunday. I also didn't walk very far on Sunday either.

For Mon-Sat I averaged 1,270 kcals/day which was close to the previous weeks daily average. But on Sunday I had 3,586 kcals, which blew out my daily average for the week to 1,601 cals/day. Still OK as a long term daily average, but my weight had ticked up quite a bit this morning (to 102.8kg) simply due to the extra bulk of food and corresponding water retention.

Today I'll stick to my 'standard' diet plan and go to the gym on the way home. I did a 30 min circuit of weight machines with 3 sets of 8-15 reps at each station last Friday, and I'll try to do the same in each gym session from now on and slowly increase the weights. Initially I'll use weights that I can manage 15 reps with, as I want to build up a bit of strength and avoid injury rather than build muscle mass (it would also be difficult to training for increased muscle mass when simultaneously dieting).

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Thursday 24 October 2019

Overview of my 'healthy eating and exercise' plan

I thought I'd post an overview of my diet and exercise plan for the next 6-12 months. The week-to-week reality may differ somewhat from 'the plan', but this is what I am aiming for. Having a written plan is a good first step towards achieving any goal. And I find that recording what I've eaten each day helps me stick to my plan (most of the time).

My current eating plan is to stick to a 'standard diet' meal plan five days each week, and to fast two days each week.

My 'standard diet' consists of a healthy breakfast of honey-flavoured porridge with lite milk (and a scoop of added whey protein - "Vital Strength hydroxy ripped  thermogenic protein" is what the marketing department called the product I happened to buy on sale (50% off) in my local supermarket, but any whey protein will do once I've use this batch up) and a glass of grapefruit juice (I also take a daily multivitamin, 1000mg of Vit C, some Vit D and prescription BP medication). Then my weekday lunch consists of a 125g tin of smoked salmon slices and a 300g tin of baked beans. And dinner consists of some grilled animal protein (e.g. 120g of fillet steak, chicken breast, or pork fillet) and a serve or two of vegetables (usually frozen or tinned peas, carrots and green beans), or a gluten-free soup and pita bread. And then some fruit (eg. an apple and mandarin) and a jelly for dessert. On the weekend I'll have the same breakfast, but might have scrambled eggs on toasted gluten-free Pita bread for lunch (with a small amount of 'proactive' cholesterol reducing margarine), and I often make a pot roast and some roast potatoes for the family to have for evening meals during the weekend.

I eat my breakfast around 8am, and have usually finished my dinner by about 7pm (and avoid having any snacks after dinner - snacking after dinner was a major reason why I put on weight over the years). This is basically a 13:11 diet regime coupled with CRAN (the total cals are around 1,600 compared to my basic metabolic requirement of around 2,150-2,350 cals (depending on how active I am), so this meal plan represents 25%-30% CR and I've checked the overall fat:carb:protein ratios and vitamin and mineral content using a spreadsheet). Sticking to basically the same meal plan (with minor variations) each day makes it easy to do the weekly shop, and it also avoids have to recheck the nutritional values are adequate with a CR diet that changed day-to-day.

So far I'm finding it quite easy to have a fast on two days each week (TUE and THU, which are the weekdays that I'm not going to the gym). Actually, from when I stop eating around 8pm on Monday night to breakfast on Wednesday morning is approx. 36 hrs, so it is really 1.5 days of fasting (or 36:12 as I've seen it called in some articles about IF).

Overall, that means my total weekly calorie intake (if I stick to my plan) totals around 5x1650 cals each week = 8,250 cals (or an average of  about 1,200 cals/day). Which compared to 7x2,350 = 16,450 cals/wk if I was eating 'maintenance' calories (~2,250 cals) each day is a quite substantial CR of 50%. This should result in quite a rapid rate of weight loss, which is probably a good idea given my BMI started off in the 'obese' range, and I've been meaning to get down to my 'ideal weight' since the 1980s!

Once I get down towards my 'ideal' BMI I'll cut back to only one day of fasting each week (some amount of ongoing Intermittent Fasting is supposed to be good for your health) and increase my standard daily calories slightly to my new maintenance level (which will be lower once I achieve a lower BMI). The exact level of maintenance calories required will depend on how active I am.

In terms of exercise, my plan is to do 5BX in the evenings and to walk 10K steps each day, and to go to the gym and do some weight training on my non-fasting weekdays each week (i.e. Mon, Wed and Fri). I might skip the 5BX on days when I've already had a gym session (although it is probably good to do the stretching involved in 5BX after a session of weight training).

I'm hoping that I won't end up with too much 'loose skin' by the time I get to my ideal BMI. Apparently the amount of excess skin one has after weight loss tends to be genetic to some extent. Generally anyone that looses 100lbs or more (45 kg) seems almost certain to end up with excess loose skin, and some people who have only lost half that amount end up with excess skin after losing weight. My planned weight loss is to go from my 111 kg starting weight to get down to about 74 kg (and stay there) - which will be a reduction of 37kg (or 81 lbs). So its quite likely that I'll have some loose skin after the weight loss. Replacing some of that fat loss with muscle gain should help reduce the amount of loose skin to some extent. And having jelly (full of collagen) *might* also help improve skin elasticity and maximize the chance that my skin will shrink to suit my reduced body size as I loose weight. In any event, having a bit of excess skin is a lot better than killing myself slowly by having excess weight.

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Monday 21 October 2019

Diet 2019 Wk 42 - week ending 20.10

Had a solid week of sticking to my diet plan and also did a day of fasting on Tuesday, and went to the Gym on Monday. I also did 5BX sessions on five of the six days I didn't go to the gym, and increased my daily step count a bit closer towards my 10,000 steps/day target.

This week I plan on going to the Gym on Mon/Wed/Fri and do 5BX on the other days (and a bit of dumbell weight training at home on those days), as well as stick to my diet plan and fast on Tue/Thu. Hopefully this will become my normal routine after a couple of weeks. I also need to try to get to bed a little bit earlier, as ideally I should be averaging around 7 hrs sleep each night if I want to maintain muscle mass and lose mostly fat as I diet and exercise.

Daily averages for the last two weeks:

As my protein intake is probably a little bit too low for muscle gain/preservation while dieting, I've added a scoop of whey protein to my morning breakfast of porridge. I might also get some creatine powder to have with my morning grapefruit juice if I'm going regularly to the gym three times a week for weight training.

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Tuesday 15 October 2019

Diet 2019 Wks 40 & 41 - weeks ending 06.10 and 13.10

I had two weeks of eating 'ad libitum' due to a combination of having a lingering cough (so I didn't want to fast or diet while still recovering from the 'flu) and weekend visits to my parents up at our hobby farm/lake house weekender (which involves several large home-cooked meals a day, plus snacking). I therefore put back on most of the weight I'd lost during the previous three weeks of dieting.

Anyhow, last week my cough had finally cleared up, so I got back onto my standard eating plan and eliminated snacks/junk food. I didn't have any fast days, but did eat a bit less than my standard diet plan on Tue-Fri. I also went to the Gym for the first time in ages and did a bit of weight training.

This week I've resumed fasting on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and will go to the gym for half an hour of easy weight training on Mondays and Wednesdays on the way home from work. On the days I don't go to the gym I've started doing 11 mins of 5BX in the evenings. I'm also trying to do some extra walking around the office and in the evenings to get my daily step count up to my target of at least 10,000 steps/day.

My chart of daily calorie intake and weight shows the effect of two weeks of eating too much. Next time I get sick I need to take it easy and get plenty of sleep, but avoid overeating, and especially avoid 'snacking' when I'm not being very active.

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Sunday 13 October 2019

How much tax does superannuation really cost the government?

An article in today's SMH reports that $800b is now in the superannuation accounts of those of retirement age (over 65), which has meant a reduction in reliance of the age pension. Instead of the cost of the age pension rising from 2.9% of GDP in 2001 to a projected 4.6% by 2040, it is now projected to actually fall to only 2.5% by 2038. However, it is also reported that the cost of the concessional tax rates applied to superannuation means that it is costing 1.9% of GDP, which according to the Grattan Institute will rise to 3% of GDP by 2060.

However, while the age pension is a real cost to government, the cost of the concessional tax rate applied to superannuation is not as high as generally reported. Why? Because calculations of the 'cost' of superannuation assumes 'all other things being equal' ie. If someone with taxable income in the top (45%) marginal tax rate has SGL and salary sacrifice contributions into super taxed at 'only' 15%, this is costing the government 30% in tax concessions. However, the reality is that if superannuation wasn't available, those in the higher tax brackets would simply use other means to reduce their tax liability. The projected 'cost' also does not take into account planned changes to the higher tax brackets in 2024-25.

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Thursday 3 October 2019

Diet week ending 29.09.19

Last week my cough persisted (it is only clearing up now) so I didn't do any fasting days, and indeed I didn't even follow my standard meal plan and I snacked quite a lot on confectionery and chocolates when I wasn't feeling well. So my average daily calorie intake for last week was quite high and I put back on most of the weight I had managed to shed.

This current week (so far) has also not been very good, diet-wise, and I've only got back onto my standard meal plan today (so no fasting days again this week). I'm also going back up to the lake house this weekend to visit my parents and collect DS2 (who was staying with them for the first week of the school holidays), so the coming weekend will involve several large home-cooked meals. But I'll do my best to avoid any more junk food/snacking during the weekend.

Next week I'll get back to following my standard diet plan, and also have a couple of fasting days  provided my cough has cleared up completely and I'm feeling 100%.

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Wednesday 2 October 2019

Where to with regard home loan interest rates?

Recent interest rate cuts to 'historic lows' in Australia, combined with high property prices (especially in Sydney and Melbourne) have lead to a lot of speculation about how low interest rates will drop (after yesterday's 0.25% cut I've seen some pundits predict a further two cuts by the middle of next year), and when/if rates will increase again -- and by how much.

This is an especially hot topic amongst comments regarding property prices and loan affordability. Many comments are along the lines of 'prices are too high, and will drop 40% or more' -- which reminds me a lot of Dr Keen's prediction about a '40% fall in property prices) back in 2008. Many of the comments also assume that the current low interest rates are an aberration, and that home loan mortgages *must* rise substantially -- which will lead to mortgage stress and potentially a significant rise in mortgage defaults.

While home loan interest rates are certainly very low and can't fall much further (given that RBA cuts below 0% would be ineffective, so the focus would shift to QE instead. and that banks set home loan rates which also reflect non-zero deposit rates and their admin/overhead costs), this doesn't mean that home loan interest rates must rebound. After all,taking a really long view, current home loan interest rates are back down to what was considered 'normal' prior to WWII.

I've cobbled together a couple of historic charts of Australian average 30-year home loan interest rates below, and extended it to include recent rate changes. This chart shows that the current home loan interest rates might actually be 'normal' for an economy with low growth rates and inflation, and little prospect of major rises in productivity (unless AI turns out to have as big an impact as computerisation and robotics had in the 1970s-2000s).

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Tuesday 1 October 2019

Net Worth: September 2019

My NW increased by $33.6K during September (1.45%) mostly due to the gains in the local and global stock markets flowing through to my geared share portfolio and also our SMSF investment. Our house valuation was slightly lower, based on sales data for our suburb, whereas the overall Sydney market has shown a rebound in property values (likely due to the two interest rate cuts by the RBA in recent months).

My NW data for this month includes a $1m increase in 'other real estate' as an asset, and a corresponding increased liability of approx. $1m in 'other mortgages' - this is due to my purchase 'off-the-plan' of a one bedroom apartment in a high rise apartment development (88byJQZ) in St Leonards. I paid the initial $5K 'holding deposit' using my 'portfolio loan', so that debt has actually been reflected in the net value of my 'Stocks' position, leaving $995K liability. When the balance of the 10% deposit gets paid when I exchange contracts this month, the 'other mortgages' figure will reduce to $900K (that balance will fall due when the apartment construction is completed and 'settlement' occurs - currently scheduled for Q1 2023), and the full $100K deposit amount will be reflected in my 'portfolio loan' balance as I am using that to pay the deposit. This will reduce the net value of my 'Stocks'  portfolio by $100K, which is a bit misleading, so I may do an ongoing adjustment to the portfolio loan figure and include the $100K 'deposit' amount as part of the 'other mortgages' figure.

I'll probably also add the stamp duty (payable 3 months after exchange of contracts) as part of the 'valuation' of my apartment, as this will probably be similar to the price differential for a completed unit compared to 'off-the-plan' pricing. In the unlikely event that the apartment development does not complete, I should get my deposit refunded and also be able to claim back the stamp duty payment.

Hopefully the property market 'correction' in Sydney is indeed over, and between now and settlement in 2023 the valuation of my apartment will have risen (so it shouldn't be a problem getting a mortgage for the balance due on settlement - I will have paid a 10% deposit, and banks usually prefer to only lend 80% of valuation).
As with all geared investments there are several risks in making this investment, including:
* property prices may not appreciate, or may decline (as was the case during the recent property slump) - but historically St Leonards has enjoyed an average gain around 6% pa. I've calculated that I would make some gain as long as prices appreciate by at least 2%pa during my holding period (10-15+ years).
* I may not be able to arrange finance (a mortgage) when the development is completed in 2023 and I need to 'settle' the balance. This seems unlikely as I have another unencumbered property that could be used as collateral for the loan. But if I am no longer employed it may be more difficult to obtain a mortgage.
* Interest rates may increase substantially - currently investor mortgage rates are around 3.5%-4.0%, and interest rates are currently being reduced. On the other hand, interest rates are at historic lows, so a substantial rise in interest rates is a distinct possibility in the medium-long term.
* I may not be able to achieve typical rental returns ($560/wk for a one bedroom apartment), or may experience high vacancy rates. However, as a new, 'luxury' apartment on the 39th floor with views towards the city, harbour, and harbour bridge it should be relatively easy to rent out and obtain above average rent.

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Friday 27 September 2019

Is China still a 'developing' country or is it a 'newly developed' country?

Recent speeches by Trump and Morrison claimed that China is no longer really a 'developing' country, but a 'newly developed' country. The implication being that much of the 'special treatment' it obtained in relation to international trade and climate change should now be wound back.

But is China now a 'developed country' or is it still 'developing'?

A couple charts suggest that it is indeed now a 'developed country':

1. Urbanization.

While still less urbanized that the US, Europe or Australia, China is now at a similar level of urbanization that Europe attained by the 1950s - which suggests that on this measure it is already 'developed'. And it looks to be on track to be just as urbanized as Europe and the US within a decade or so in any case.

2. Per capita GDP and electricity use

While China already uses as much electricity per capita as the UK (which accounts in large part for its massive increase in carbon emissions since the Paris agreement was drawn up), it still lags far behind the US, UK and Japan in terms of current GDP per capita. On the other hand, China's GDP is already around that was enjoyed by citizens of the 'developed world' back in the 1950s. So although it can be argued that China is still a 'developing nation' relative to the affluence of Western nations, in absolute terms it is already a developed country (unless we choose to believe that the US, UK and Europe were NOT really developed countries back in the mid 20th century?).

Of course aside from not being a 'developed' nation, another argument put forward for why China should not need to curb carbon emissions as much as 'developed countries' is the notion that it isn't just a country's current emissions that should be taken into account, but also the cumulative emissions of a nation. While this seems reasonable on an equity basis, the reality is that global warming is being driven to catastrophic levels by the rate of current emissions - the impact of emissions prior to 1970 on the global climate just wasn't all that significant.

It's a bit like a group of shipwreck survivors adrift in a lifeboat that was slowly filling up with water due to a couple of passengers that had been pouring cups of water into the boat for the past day. It is only after the other passengers also start pouring water into the boat and the water level starts rising noticeably faster does everyone realize that if they don't stop pouring water into the boat it will sink. Does that mean that only the passengers that had been putting water into the boat all day should stop? Or does everyone need to stop in order to save the sinking lifeboat?

Of course China has a vested interest in continuing to be considered a 'developing' country, and the developed nations has a vested interest in China no longer being afforded any 'special treatment'.

A final chart of GDP growth rate also seems to indicate that China may be leaving the era of  'developing' and is now joining the club of mature, developed economies (that have lower, sustainable growth rates):

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Wednesday 25 September 2019

What caused, and what will fix, global warming?

With global warming the current 'hot' topic, I though I'd (again) post my observations about the cause of global warming, and how it can (or can't) be fixed.

1. Cause.

Well, as they say, 'the science is in' and the answer is increased atmospheric concentrations of 'greenhouse' gases (CO2, methane, CFCs etc.) causes a larger 'greenhouse effect' and increases global temperatures. In fact this was already an established fact when I studied environmental chemistry back in the early 1980s. There was a bit of debate about the cause(s) of the increased levels of CO2 in the atmosphere, and how big an impact it has on climate, but it turns out that the obvious cause (us) is also now pretty much beyond doubt. Unless of course you're a climate change 'skeptic' that chooses not to allow evidence to affect their chosen/indoctrinated beliefs (similar to flat-earthers, moon landing skeptics, and, funnily enough, religious 'believers') - so you pretty much have to accept that global warming is artificial, and not a natural variation in climate. So it isn't magically 'go away' unless we do something about it.

But the key driver is actually the sheer number of 'us' on the planet. It was fine for a small percentage (a few hundred million people) to want/have cars, energy-intensive (industrial) jobs, and all manner of labor-saving and entertainment electrical devices, but when you combine a natural desire for nearly everyone to achieve similar living standards with an massive increase in the total population, the problem becomes much more intractable.

It is interesting to simply compare global greenhouse gas emission levels with global population - it can be seen that from 1850-1980 the correlation was obvious and unbroken. It is only from 1980 onwards that there has been some slight reduction in the trajectory of carbon emissions compared to population. Unfortunately any reduction in per capita emissions has not been enough to solve the problem of increasing population. I've added the black line showing (roughly) where carbon emission levels would have gone (simply driven by increasing population and development) if not for the mitigation achieved so far (more energy efficient technologies, non-fossil-fueled energy sources etc.).

2. Solution?

Well, as can be seen from the population chart, population growth rates peaked in the 1950s, and are slowly trending down towards a projected 0.1% by 2100 (still almost twice the rate of about 0.04% that applied prior to 1700 - before infant mortality rates plummeted). So, in the very long term, stabilizing global population would stabilize carbon emission levels even in the absence of any per capita reduction in carbon emissions. And, if/when the entire world is developed, with high living standards, literacy levels, and gender equality, fertility rates might even drop below replacement level globally, allowing the global population to slowly decline to a more sustainable level (2 billion? 5 billion? 10 billion?). Unfortunately, the global population at the time of the Paris Climate agreements was around half what it will be by 2100 -- so the global average per capita emission level will have to be halved simply in order to 'tread water'.

But as global population will continue to rise for many, many decades, the only way to address global warming is to reduce per capita carbon emissions by a massive amount. Enough to more than offset the increasing population. Comparing per capita levels for different countries reveals a number of things:

1. Developing countries (China and India especially) are rapidly increasing per capita emissions towards that of developed countries. Combined with substantial (and growing) populations, these countries need to be able to achieve development without hitting the same levels of per capita carbon emissions of the USA. So, building a whole lot of fossil-fueled power stations and providing the population with petrol-powered cars isn't really sustainable. China already has higher per capita emission levels than Europe. So, while developed countries have been cutting their per capita emissions, the global average per capita emission level hasn't changed very much:

2. Developed countries that are a) large and b) high per capita emitters, need to initially reduce their per capita carbon emissions towards 'best practice' amongst developed countries.

3. After that, the 'developed' countries (including, by then, China) will need to get their per capita emissions to a much lower level than what is currently 'best practice'. While there are some constraints (not all countries can rely on geothermal power like NZ or Iceland, and not all developed countries want to incorporate nuclear power in their energy mix like France) improved renewables technology should make it possible for developed countries to decrease their per capita emissions significantly in the next few decades.

Unfortunately improved per capita emissions in the already developed countries can't solve the problem. Getting to 'zero emissions' in the UK or EU will be helpful, but this will be overwhelmed by the population growth and development effects of China and India. It is even more important for the developing countries to be aiming for per capita emission levels significantly lower than those achieved by current 'developed' countries. The following chart doesn't make this seem too likely - China, while still only 56% urbanized already has higher per capita emission levels than the EU (which is 74% urbanized). As India increases urbanization (from its current level around 34%), it is also likely to overtake Europe and the USA as a source of carbon emissions.

Although it is now, apparently, a climate 'emergency' the most obvious (and effective) means to slow the rate of global increase greenhouse gas emissions (actively working towards ZPG and slowing the rate of development in underdeveloped countries) are 'off the table'.

Incidentally, although Australia's CO2 emissions per capita are very high and need to be reduced, our total emissions are relatively small - so even heroic reductions in Australia's per capita emission levels would have negligible impact on global warming.

The current debate regarding 'what to do' about climate change seems to be a nonsensical reversal of the 'pareto principle'. Rather than focus on actions that could/should be taken to impact on 80% of future increases in carbon emissions, the focus seems to on actions that can only have a trivial impact on the total level of global carbon emissions...

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Diet week ending 22.09.19

Was going well until last Thursday when the slight cough I had developed on Tuesday progressed into another bout of the 'flu. So I decided to give up on the fast day in the afternoon and had some dinner and snacks. Then from Friday to Sunday I was fairly sick, so I did less walking than usual and also ate 'ad libitum' - which for me means have three healthy meals but then also snacking on some confectionery and/or chocolate. So the weekly daily average for week 38 ended up close to maintenance caloric intake, despite the week including a day and a half-day of fasting.

Daily averages:

This week I've been feeling a lot better, with the cough slowly clearing up. And although I ate three meals on Monday and Tuesday, I've at least slowly cut back on the snacking. Today I'm planning on sticking to my usual 'non fasting' daily food plan (no snacks/junk food) and might do a light workout in the gym on the way home.

Tomorrow is normally scheduled as being a day of fasting (every Tue/Thu is my plan until I get down to my ideal/healthy BMI), but as I've still got a slight cough I'll instead have a normal lunch and a light dinner tomorrow rather than fasting.

I'm taking the boys up to our hobby farm this coming weekend, and DS2 will be staying at the farm with my parents next week (the first week on his school holiday). My mum usually cooks large dinners while we're visiting, so I'll have to resist the urge to overeat (and also avoid having any snacks while I'm there, or during the four hour drives there and back).

Next week (assuming my cough has cleared up completely by then) I'll get back to fasting every Tue/Thu and going to the gym on the way home from work on Mon/Wed. I also need to try to increase my daily step count to the recommended minimum (10,000/day) and start doing a 5BX exercise session every the evenings before showering. The 5BX routine starts out incredibly easy, so its simply a matter of building this into my nightly routine until it becomes a habit again.

My long term weight chart shows how my weight has been slowly going higher over the past twenty years, despite many periods of a year or two where I've managed to reduce my weight by 5-10 kg before putting it all on again. My weight when I finished high school was 78kg (a BMI at the top end of the 'healthy' range) and was already in the 80s (overweight) by the time I graduated uni, so I definitely have a tendency to overeat and/or snack on junk food whenever I'm not consciously keeping track of what I eat. You'll notice that I've generally been recording my weight while its been going down, but then it has (generally) gone up while I wasn't monitoring it. There are a couple of periods where my weight has been increasing despite recording it regularly - which is a case of where I had 'good intentions' but didn't actually get around to changing my behaviour. (For me, keeping a food diary is a necessary but not sufficient condition to actually reduce my weight!).

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Monday 23 September 2019

Buying an investment apartment 'off the plan'

They have been excavating the foundations for a new high-rise (150m/47 stoery) apartment block nearby where I work since before my employer moved offices to St Leonards in June last year. I decided to look up what was being built there ('88byJQZ') and found out that while the initial release of apartments 'off the plan' was done when the project was announced in Feb 2018, a third 'phase' (or tranche) of units had only been released for sale a few weeks ago.

As the Sydney property market appears to have (maybe) finished its 'correction' during Q2 2019, and there has been a massive drop-off in new developments now planned/getting approved, I've decided it might be a reasonable (good?) time to invest. The new apartment block is close the the St Leonards train station (which is five stops from the Sydney CBD) and will also be close (~250m) to the new Crows Nest Metro train station that is due to open in 2024 and will be only a few minutes from Barrangaroo Metro station and the CBD.

I enquired about available one-bedroom apartments, and this release offers a selection ranging from $780,000 for one on the second floor (with 'views' of the other 26 storey apartment block that is also under construction), up to $1m for a one-bedroom apartment on the 39th floor that has views from the balcony towards the Sydney Harbour Bridge and parts of the harbour and CBD skyline (and probably also some distant views of the Pacific Ocean). While it is a one-bedroom apartment, the apartment I was interested in also has an extra 'study' room located where the elevator shaft for floors 1-26 is located on the lower levels. This increases the apartment's floor area and provides a 'spare room' that could be used as a home office, nursery, or overnight guest accommodation. I decided on buying that unit and paid the $5,000 'holding deposit' while my solicitor reviews the contract.

The required deposit will be $100,000 (10%) which I'll fund out of my existing, undrawn 'portfolio loan' account (secured against our home equity). The apartment block is due for completion in Q1 of 2023, and which time I'll need to arrange an interest-only investment loan for the balance ($900,000) due at settlement.

At current interest rates, average rents for one-bedroom apartments in this suburb, and the estimated costs (management, rates and strata levy) this investment unit would produce a negative cash flow of around $15,000 pa. As this would be negatively geared, the impact on my 'after tax' cash flow should be considerably less ($10,000 pa or so). The average rate of price increases for units in Sydney over the past 25 years has been 5.9%pa, which would equate to around $59,000 of unrealised capital gains pa. Any eventually capital gains would (under current rules) be taxed at half my marginal tax rate (and if I sold the unit when I am retired, my marginal tax rate may be considerable lower than my current marginal tax rate).

Of course, the actual outcome will depend entirely on future (unknown) changes in the main risk factors:
- will Sydney property prices continue to rise over my investment time-frame of 9-16 years?
- will prices drop again/more? By the time of settlement (2023) when I need to arrange a mortgage?
- will prices drop over the 9-16+ year period that I intend to hold onto the investment?
- if so, will the rise be the 'typical' gain of 5.9%pa of the past 25 years? Or more? Or less?
- can the average rental be achieved? Will this new, 'luxury' apartment rent for more than the average? - will there be a high vacancy rate and/or pressure to reduce rents (there are a couple of other high-rise apartment blocks currently being completed in the area, or due to start construction)
- will the current (historically low) interest rates persist? or will my mortgage costs rise significantly?
- will I be able to fund the negative cash flow out of my employment income? (ie. will I be retrenched before my planned retirement age?)

Many of these factors are unknown but have significant downside risk - for example the global economy appears to be slowing, as does the Australian economy. Whether or not that results in recession, higher unemployment, and lower real estate prices is impossible to predict. As is the likelihood of significantly higher interest rates (at the moment we still seem to be in period of declining interest rates). Or lower rental returns and/or high vacancy rates.

I've done some rough calculations of possible outcomes assuming typical rates of rent increase (3%pa), current interest rates (4-5.5%) for my portfolio loan and the required mortgage, and price rises ranging from 2%pa-8%pa. At a 'typical' rate of price growth (6%pa) over 9 years I would end up with a capital gain of around $500,000 (assuming current interest rates, low vacancy rates and achieving 'average' rental rates that increase by 3%pa). If price rises averaged 'only' 2%pa over the next 9 years (eg. a double dip slump in property prices in the next couple of years if Australia has a recession, followed by economic recovery and return to 'typical' rates of property price rises) I would still make a small profit over 9+ years. Indeed, even assuming 2% average price rises over the next 9 years, and interest rates rising 1% I would still end up slightly ahead.

I haven't taken into account the modest price differential for completed apartments compared to their 'off the plan' price (often around 10%) - due to people preferring to purchase a home that is ready to move into. Hopefully that builds in a small 'buffer' in my projections.

Of course the 'worst case' scenario is fairly dire - for example a severe recession with property prices dropping, lower rental returns and high vacancy rates, and/or higher mortgage costs. We'll see how things turn out - this feels a lot more like a speculative gamble than an 'investment', but I suppose that is always the case when you head off towards the pointy end of the return-risk relationship...

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Friday 20 September 2019

Climate change 'strikes'

Apparently, having just voted in the LNP (conservative) government in Australia, and with both major parties supporting coal mining, the most effective thing people can do to attack the climate change 'emergency' is to have a day off work/school and wave some placards around.

The funniest thing about these hordes of people gathering to protest human greenhouse gas emissions is that the rise in greenhouse gas emissions since the 1880s has been driven mostly by the inexorable growth in the human population.

Just do a back-on-the-envelope calculation of what global emissions and the temperature rise would have been if population was still at 1880s levels...

I also wonder how many of these people are actually paying the few dollars extra that would be required to get all their domestic electricity consumption provided by renewables? As with most things, many people will cry out for action, but generally only if someone else pays for it - either via taxpayer funded schemes or by costing someone else their job.

It will also be interesting to see how many people protest in the countries that have increased global emissions the most in the past few decades - since 2005 US emissions have declined by 758 million metric tonnes, the EU by 770 million metric tonnes, while China has increased their emissions by 3 billion metric tonnes, and India by 1 billion metric tonnes.

It's not a coincidence that the underdeveloped countries with huge populations that are trying to 'westernise' their economies and living standards are the ones currently driving the world towards temperature rises above the 2 degree 'crisis' target. And it also shows the futility of making heroic cuts in carbon emissions in the developed countries when this is being overwhelmed by rising emissions in the developing countries.

Yes, the rich nations with already high living standards can best afford transitioning to non-polluting energy sources, and should lead by example (and pay the 'sunk costs' of developing the required technologies). But if this truly is a 'climate emergency' the most significant change that could avert a climate disaster would be to ensure that developing countries only develop via non-polluting energy sources, rather than simply pushing ahead with economic growth at any cost (on the back of fossil fueled energy supplies).

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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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