Give Me Back My Five Bucks - a quest for financial independence

Recent Posts

Spending Recap: August 11-17, 2014

Monday 11th – Seattle, WA
$22.14 breakfast
$14.58 dinner

Tuesday 12th – Seattle, WA
$16.82 parking
$7.54 breakfast
$11.31 lunch
$6 dinner

Wednesday 13th
$22.50 gift
$22.87 groceries

Thursday 14th
$22.94 groceries

Friday 15th
No Spend Day!

Saturday 16th
No Spend Day!

Sunday 17th
No Spend Day!

Freelance Income: $0
Expenses: - $146.70

TOTAL: - $146.70

This was a busy week! The first two days were spent in Seattle with my family. We had a great time at the Blue Jays/Mariners game, despite losing by a lot. :) Still, I’m happy that we went, and I’m glad this is now an annual event for us. :) Although next year, we’ll probably stay for at least two games!

The rest of the week was pretty uneventful. I got in a long run this week of 17km, which I’m happy about … but with the half marathon less than two months away, it’s a bit stressful. I had hoped this year I could really put in a good effort to improve on my time, but with the injury setback, it’s been slow. Still, I’ll be able to at least run in the race.

I spent most of the weekend helping BF with his rental house. There was some tree pruning to be done, as well as a major renovation to the sundeck. I’ve never done any renovations before (aside from painting, and building IKEA furniture), so it was a good learning experience. :)

Spending Recap: August 4-10, 2014

Monday 4th
$18 parking
$3.80 ice cream
$48.88 lunch & drinks (for 2)

Tuesday 5th
$7.34 groceries
$47.15 gas

Wednesday 6th
$11.50 lunch

Thursday 7th
$24.78 groceries

Friday 8th
+ $300 freelance income
$6 dinner

Saturday 9th – Redmond, WA
$8.26 Chipotle
$41.20 gas

Sunday 10th – Seattle, WA
$5.54 lunch
$6.69 dinner
$20 GameWorks
$9.98 beer (2)

Freelance Income: + $300
Expenses: $247.62

TOTAL: + $52.38

This was a fun week for sure. Monday was a holiday for us (BC Day), so we spent it at White Rock Beach with friends of mine who were visiting from out of town. We had lunch, and played on the beach for a few hours. I never knew White Rock Beach existed before they suggested we meet up there, and I’m sure that we will be back again.

Bright and early Saturday morning, we headed across the border for breakfast with one of BF’s friends. Then we drove around Lake Whatcom, which is absolutely gorgeous! Another place I’ve never explored before. Around mid-afternoon, we drove to Redmond. There, we hung out on the shore of Lake Sammamish.

The next morning, we drove to Seattle to meet up with my parents and sister! We spent the afternoon wandering around the market and pier, and in the evening, BF and I went with my sister to GameWorks – a huge arcade right in downtown Seattle. It was so much fun! The variety of games was great, and drinks were cheap as well. My only complaint is that there weren’t enough pinball games – my favourite. :)

How I started investing: Part 2

This is Part 2 of a 3-Part series in how I started investing. If you’re new here, please take a moment to read Part 1: The Beginning!

In this blog post, I’m going to talk about how I got started managing my own portfolio, as well as the mistakes (and small wins) I made along the way in creating my own DIY investing strategy. :)

DIY Investing

So in Part 1, I left off by talking about how I had just learned about Management Expense Ratios (MER) and the existance of the TD e-series Funds from a blog. As soon as I felt like TD Canada Trust was taking more money away from me than necessary with the high MER on the Balanced Growth Fund they had gotten me to invest in, I made it my mission to try and keep as much of my own money as possible.

After doing a bit of research, I decided that the TD e-series Funds were the right product for me to invest in. The funds seemed straight forward enough, and I was excited to get started! However, because the TD e-series Funds aren’t really managed by TD, it was a huge headache figuring out how to switch my account over (especially because there was very little information on the internet about e-series funds at the time). I’ve talked about my issues with TD a lot on this blog, but finally figured it out.

Related: How to set up a TD e-series account

To be honest, when I finally got my account set up and was able to buy e-series funds, I didn’t really know what I was doing. I just started reading about each fund, and randomly purchased ones that sounded interesting. At one point, I had 9 funds in my account: CDN Money Market, Canadian Index-e, U.S. Index-e, European Index-e, Japanese Index-e, CDN Bond Index-e, International Index-e, TD Dividend Growth, TD Balanced Growth.

You’ll notice that I ended up buying another TD fund with a high MER – Dividend Growth. Why did I do that? I have no idea. So you can start to see that even though I was mostly investing in low-fee mutual funds, I was still pretty lost at this point.

Getting help

I continued contributing to these funds over the next couple of years, building my portfolio up to the point where I had almost $40,000 in 2011. It felt great to see my money grow, but at the same time I was questioning whether or not I was on the right path for my goal of early retirement and financial independence. I didn’t have a strategy, and it really started to bother me.

So I made it my goal to start reading articles about investing. I wanted to read all that I could about mutual funds, ETFs, stocks, and some sort of basic investment strategy for someone in my position. But instead, I found myself researching investment advisors instead. Up until that point, I didn’t believe in paying for someone for financial advice. I figured I was young enough to do my own thing through trial and error. And besides, I had the basics down. I knew I was invested in the right mutual funds, and I had the basic understanding of what I needed to do. But nobody had ever seen my investments before, and I began to crave direction and validation.

After looking into investment advisors for a few weeks, I decided that I wanted a “fee-only” advisor, because I was confident that – once given a plan – I could execute it myself. Luckily, through my previous gig with the Toronto Star, my editor asked if I wanted to be a guinea pig and get complimentary advice from a fee-only financial advisor. Of course I said yes immediately. It was perfect timing.

A Rebalancing Act

Above, I mentioned I was invested in 9 different funds at the time:

  • Asset allocation
    • 91.7% stocks
    • 2.7% bonds
    • 5.6% cash
  • Geographic allocation
    • 51.6% Canada
    • 24% U.S.
    • 24.4% International

In speaking with the financial advisor, I learned that while my geographic allocation was good, my asset allocation was too risky. He recommended rebalancing to 70% stock, and 30% bond funds. He also advised that my portfolio was over-diversified. By a lot. For example, the allocations contained in both the European and Japanese Index-e funds were also contained within the International Index-e fund. He also called me out on investing in that Dividend Growth fund, which boasted a lame 2.03% MER. Whoops.

The financial advisor told me that I should simply my portfolio from 9 mutual funds down to just 4, and suggested this allocation:

  • 20% Canadian Index-e
  • 25% U.S. Index-e
  • 25% International Index-e
  • 30% CDN Bond Index-e

It all made sense to me, so I took his advice (to this day, I’m still invested in those 4 mutual funds with that exact percentage allocation). I continued to invest in my TD indexed mutual funds for the next two years, and it wasn’t until 2013 that I took the next step in my DIY investing strategy and branched out.

Part 3 coming soon…

Spending Recap: July 28-Aug 3, 2014

Monday 28th
+ $200 freelance income
$3.59 groceries

Tuesday 29th
+ $50 Tangerine referral (thx!)
$17.91 Running Room

Wednesday 30th
$33.89 liquor
$6.79 groceries

Thursday 31st
No Spend Day!

Friday 1st
$10 parking
$11.81 Theirry Cafe

Saturday 2nd
No Spend Day!

Sunday 3rd
$6.50 dinner

Freelance Income: + $200 (+ $50)
Expenses: $90.49

TOTAL: + $159.51

This was a really light week in terms of spending, because most of the things I did this week were free – two nights of the Celebration of Lights, Pride Parade, and the beach. :) I also went for lunch with a friend this week, and they offered up my meal for free because it took so long for them to bring it out (we think they forgot about it). Free food is the best. :)

Grocery expenses were way down this week because I stayed the majority of the time at BF’s house. But I sort of made up for it by helping purchase alcohol and a few groceries for a fireworks party he was throwing.

I think the most notable expese this week was finally buying a handheld water bottle for running. It’s one of those tiny 12 0z bottles with a handstrap. I’ve never run with water before, and when I drained the bottle halfway through my first run with it, I found myself wondering how I ever ran without one before? Crazy.

August 2014 Goals

We’re into August, which means the summer is almost over. I’ve tried to calculate my expenses the best I can, so here’s hoping for a good month. :)

I anticipate the major expensive of the month to be paying my field hockey fees for the upcoming season, as well as registration for the GoodLife Half Marathon in Victoria.

Another big expense is the 3-night trip to Seattle with BF and my family. Two nights of our hotel are covered, so we only need to worry about one night of accommodation, gas, and food. Hotels seem to be around $80/night where we want to stay, and I can get to Seattle and back on almost one tank of gas… so if BF and I split those expenses, $200 for the trip seems reasonable.

08-Aug-Budget

August 2014 Goals:

  • Eat healthy. I eat relatively healthy most of the time, but sometimes I slip up… and when I do, my body feels so awful afterwards. Sometimes I even skip runs/workouts because I’m not feeling good, or if I haven’t eaten enough during the day. This month will be about eating nutritious meals at home, limiting restaurant food, and cutting back on sugar, coffee, and alcohol.
  • Sign up for the half marathon. In hindsight, I should have registered for this race a few months ago when the race fee was $20 less, but I wasn’t confident I would be in town for the race, so decided to hold off.
  • Clean out my storage area. There’s a lot of stuff I can toss or give away.
  • Save $850 towards retirement. My usual monthly contribution is $750.