Archive for the ‘personal finance’ Category

When the economy (and financial markets) are at it’s extremes, either doing extremely well or extremely poorly, dangerous financial products and ideas become more prevalent. And right now we are seeing an increase in Offering Memorandum products.

Portus, Eron Mortgage Corp, Shire International Real Estate Investments, and Arbour Energy and just a few Canadian examples. The one common denominator they share, is they all are catagorized as Exempt Market Securities.

What are Exempt Market Securities?

…when companies (issuers) sell securities such as stocks, options, or bonds, they are generally required to file a prospectus. This document contains material facts about both the issuer and the security. However, in certain cases securities can be sold without a prospectus and these investments are called exempt securities; the sale is called an exempt distribution or a private placement.

What should I know about Exempt Market Securities?

These investments are not for everyone. A prospectus is meant to ensure an investor has key facts to be able to make an informed decision. Without it, you may be taking a greater risk with your money. Be aware that:

-If you buy an exempt security, you may not have the same legal rights as you do under a prospectus.

-Most exempt securities are subject to resale restrictions. This means you may not be able to sell them for a certain period of time.

-Even if no resale restrictions apply, there might not be a market for the securities you purchased, either because you would not be able to find any purchasers or they may not qualify to purchase the securities.

-Some exempt securities are not liquid. Liquidity means that you can sell an investment in a short period of time and turn it into cash. Some exempt securities, such as hedge funds, may require longer periods to redeem.

-Because these investments are bought without a prospectus, there may be very limited information available on which to base your investment decision.

-When an issuer sells its exempt securities, it may not use a registered dealer as an agent. This means, when you buy from an issuer, you may not get the same protection you would get when you buy from a registered dealer.

–from a release by the Nova Scotia Securities Commission and cirrulated by the other regulators. (footnote 1)

A disclosure document put out by the BCSC includes this simple explanation (footnote 2):

They are called exempt market securities because two parts of securities law do not apply to them. If an issuer wants to sell exempt market securities to you:

-The issuer does not have to give you a prospectus (a document that describes the investment in detail and gives you some legal protections), and
-The securities do not have to be sold by an investment dealer registered with a securities regulatory authority.
There are restrictions on your ability to resell exempt market securities.Exempt market securities are more risky than other securities.

Disclosure documents (be it a Prospectus, when regulated by the Securities Act, or a Policy Contract/Information Folder, when regulated by the Insurance Act), exist for a reason, To protect the investing public. There is no evidence proving the absentence of disclosure documents increases potential return, but it is well known to increase risk.

Policy Contracts and Prospectuses are the financial world’s equivalent to seat belts. Hopefully you won’t have to depend on them in a life or death situation. The best option for most regular folks is to just avoid these dangerous investments. Just like it always advisable to wear your seat belt.

How Scary is the US National Debt? Almost as scary as the fact Tony Robbins, yes the motivational speaker, is the one delivery this most depressing of economic insight.

Hell no, we won’t pay: How technology transformed our perception of value

Open Source. The backlash against Software Patents. Cloud Computing. Bitcoin. 3D Printing. Post-PC. Cord-Cutting. Electric Vehicles and Alternative Energy.

There are ideological and social drivers that are unique to every single one of these things, and yet there is a common thread that ties them together. I call this trend “anti-spendism”.

Anti-spendism is not necessarily a social movement that is tied to the betterment of society as a whole. It’s not like socialism or communism, where we are talking about a desire to more equitably distribute wealth to the have-nots.

It is by definition, the personal, self-centered desire not to expend capital at all. Or to put a more modern take on it, rapid advances in technology have so lowered our perceptions of what things should cost, that ultimately many goods and services have become devalued far below what people are willing to pay for them.

To put it bluntly, anti-spendism is “Hell no, we won’t pay” syndrome.

via Hell no, we won’t pay: How technology transformed our perception of value | ZDNet.

Vancouver company hopes to kickstart micro home revolution with $25,000 units – BC | Globalnews.ca.

Imagine being able to own a brand-new home for $25,000.

A Vancouver man hopes to revolutionize homeownership and small space living with his easy-to-assemble micro homes.

Nomad Micro Homes and its President Ian Kent are raising funds on the crowd-funding website indiegogo to make affordable micro homes a reality.

Kent says there are multiple uses for homes which are about 160 square feet in size.

“There’s a wide range of uses, from people using them as additional accommodation, to recreational property — you could basically drive this home in and assemble it in a week.”

The homes are easy to assemble and set-up.

“At least one handyman with a helper could assemble it in less than a week, it’s kind of an IKEA type model,” says Kent.

Three different models are proposed, starting at $25,000 for the base model, and $28,000 for the “Live” model that includes kitchen appliances and bathroom fixtures.

The homes don’t have a traditional foundation, instead they sit on screw piles. Screw piles are piles you can screw into the ground with your hands.

“You would be feeling very good about establishing a trend-setting mode of sustainability,” says Kent.

“You’re flexible in location – you could pick up and move it somewhere else.”

Buyers who want to go “off the grid” can upgrade to a composting toilet, solar power system, greywater treatment system and rainwater collection system.

All of the models can be hooked up to existing sewer, water and electrical systems.

The micro homes could be an answer to B.C.’s high real estate prices, but first, cities and municipalities need to change their bylaws, says Kent.

“The bylaws in many municipalities and cities don’t quite allow something like this, it’s something that we are going to start lobbying for once we have this product fully established.”

Vancouver currently stipulates that a home cannot not be smaller than 320 square feet.

“The bylaw may be a bit antiquated for the new sustainable housing models coming out. They’ve allowed laneway houses, but they still seem to be quite expensive to build and rent.”

“People are building small houses on trailers and remove locations where there are no bylaws to contend with,” says Kent.

Living in a smaller space would also force people to do more with less, says Kent.

“Your consumerism would drop, because you wouldn’t be able to fit in things that people usually buy. You would become very efficient and that’s going to be a forced savings in your bank account. Plus, you are going to become a fantastic recycler and you are going to come up with new methods of recycling, because you can’t fit garbage in your unit.”

Vancouver company hopes to kickstart micro home revolution with $25,000 units – BC | Globalnews.ca.

Critical illness insurance is a type of protection that provides you with a lump sum payment if you are diagnosed with a covered critical illness and survive a waiting period (which is usually 30 days). With the advancement of technology more people are fortunately surviving these conditions but are often unable to get back to their pre-condition potential.

What’s the difference between disability and critical illness insurance?

Unlike disability insurance (that pays out a percentage of income as a monthly benefit), critical illness insurance actually pays out the entire tax free lump sum immediately, giving you flexibility to use the money as best needed. That’s where the critical illness benefit comes in—you are free to spend the money as you wish—such as to help cover lost income, to pay for private nursing or out-of-country treatment, for medical equipment or even to pay off your mortgage. It can help you where you need it most so you can focus all your energy on recovering.

NOTE: I have seen the benefits of this coverage first hand when my partner Tom suffered a heart attack in 2007 and fortunately had this coverage in place (although he didn’t take us to Hawaii like he said he would!!)

Could A Critical Illness Really Happen To Me?

(not the funnest facts but definitely an eye opener):

80% of heart attack victims survive
2 in 5 Canadians will develop some form of heart disease during their life time
Half of heart attack victims are under 65
153,000 new Cancer case in Canada in 2006
1 in 3 develop cancer in their life time
There are 40,000-50,000 strokes each year in Canada
One third of stroke victims are under 65
300,000 Canadians are living with the effects of stroke
Approx. 75% of all Canadians that suffer a stroke will survive but will be left with some form of disability
Sources: Heart & Stroke Foundation (2006), Canadian Cancer Society, Canadian Cancer Statistics (2006), Veterans Affairs Canada (2006)

As an independent insurance broker with Manion.ca,  we have contracts with all the top insurance carriers allowing us to shop the market to find the right critical illness insurance product for you at the best price.

Need more information?

For more information on Critical illness insurance in Maple Ridge & Pitt Meadows BC please 

First and foremost is the BC Provincial Government’s Guide of Seniors

bcsenior

More specific to the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows area is the Seniors’ Network Guide

katzie

investrightCSA

Two great documents available online every senior should read.  One about the dangers of private placement investments from investright.org.  The other from Canadian Securities Administrators about frauds and scams

As always, I am welling to address any questions

H&R Block has offered their top 10 tax myths:

Maternity leave income is not taxable. “You are required to report your EI benefits as income. In most cases, Service Canada withholds less than the lowest tax rate so you may have tax obligations at the end of the year.

RRSP contributions do not have to be reported if I do not use the deduction. “Even if you are not claiming a deduction for the contributions you made in the year, you are still required to record the fact that you made them. So all your contributions from March 2, 2012 until March 1, 2013 should be recorded on your 2012 tax return.”

Tips are not considered income. “Servers and others working in the hospitality industry are required to record and report their tips on their tax return. For servers, tips may be as much as 200-400 per cent of their income.”

Students get refunds on their tuition. “In order to receive a tax refund, you need to have overpaid your income tax during the year. If a student does not have taxable income, they cannot use their tuition and education credits on their return. They have the option to transfer up to $5,000 to a parent, grandparent or spouse or they can carry forward credits to use in future year.”

Mothers are required to claim the children first. “The lower income spouse is required to claim childcare expenses whether it is the mother or father. Either parent can claim the child tax credit.”

I earned less than $10,000 so I do not have to file a tax return. “Even if you did not earn more than the $10,822 personal amount, filing a tax return may trigger benefits like the quarterly GST/HST payment. And if you had tax withheld, you should receive a refund.”

I can claim a flat rate amount for my business mileage. “Self-employed Canadians are required to keep a logbook to calculate the auto expenses for their business.”

Child support is a tax deduction. “Unless your agreement is dated before May 1, 1997, child support payments are reported on your tax return but they are not a deduction or included in income.”

If I work outside of the country, I do not need to file a tax return. “The Canadian tax system is based on residency. If you are emigrating, you should indicate your date of exit on your last tax return. If you are working outside of the country but have substantial residential ties to Canada still, you will be required to file a Canadian tax return.”

Mortgage interest is a tax deduction. “Only self-employed Canadians who work from home are allowed to claim a percentage of their mortgage insurance as a business expense. The tax benefit of owning a home comes when you sell. Every Canadian receives a capital gains exemption on the sales of their principal residence.”

http://www.hrblock.ca/documents/TS13%20Media%20Advisory%20Tax%20Myths.pdf

 

John Kay On The Market

Prof. Kay doesn’t pull any punches when discussing the worst flaws of the market, the financial sector or the euro zone.

On the often-expressed industry view that people just need to better understand how the financial sector works:

“I do not know what is under the bonnet of my car and I do not want to know. … Nor do I want to read large volumes of disclosures about what’s under the bonnet of my car every time I sit behind the wheel. What I want is the confidence … that the combination of a modest amount of regulation together with a manufacturer’s concern for his reputation means that … I can expect that most of the time it will do more or less what I want it to do. That’s very far from being the kind of comfort which people can today bring to their purchase of financial services.”

300 million dollars out of thin air: Bitcoin turns four and approaches $30 value.

Money is a delusion – but a delusion that works as long as it’s shared. The value of a U.S. dollar was once tied to a government guarantee that you could, at any time, exchange it for a quantity of precious metal – but since America officially abandoned the gold standard in 1971, its value is now more or less rooted in its ubiquity. If large swathes of people decided they would no longer accept it, it would suddenly be worth a lot less.

The Bitcoin - global anarchist financial revolution, giant scam, great investment or some ...

Government currencies like the American dollar are also a bit odd, in that a government can decide to print more money at any time to serve its own purposes. This is very handy for the government, but through inflation it causes each individual dollar to be worth a bit less each time.

It’s a problem that will persist with pretty much any currency that’s managed by one central organization. And distrust of these organizations is one of the strongest driving forces behind alternative currencies like Bitcoin. The idea is to create an entirely new currency that’s widely accepted, fairly stable, and more or less inflation-proof because the money supply can’t be increased at the whim of some central figure.

So how do you create a new currency?

The answer, more or less, seems to be that you simply build it, convince people it’s worth something, and give them an incentive to get on board.

Bitcoin was first proposed in 2008 – a fortunate time, since faith in the global banking hegemony and government control of money was crashing as the global financial crisis kicked in.

It was designed by “Satoshi Nakamoto” – a pseudonym, possibly for a group of anonymous designers who have never revealed themselves. Bitcoin’s key selling points from day one were solid, trustworthy and transparent technology, a controlled money supply and a built-in early adopter bonus that made them very cheap to produce while the currency got off the ground.

The third point is probably the most important; Bitcoins are produced by getting a computer to crunch complex algorithms. Once a certain amount of work is done, you create a brand new bitcoin. That amount of work was very quick and easy early in the piece, so early adopters were able to churn out large numbers of coins. But the algorithms are designed to become progressively more difficult over time, until a point some time around 2040 when the supply will be capped forever at around 21 million bitcoins.

Effectively, if you got in early, you could use your personal computer to churn out thousands of bitcoins – giving early adopters a heavy incentive to find things to do with them. But now, the Bitcoin mining process is already so difficult that you need a specialized rig bristling with dozens of graphics cards to make any decent progress.

This gradual restriction of supply is what Bitcoin advocates maintain makes the currency inflation-proof. There’s no such thing as “quantitative easing” in the Bitcoin world. In fact, as the money supply crawls to a stop, the currency should deflate over time, making each bitcoin increase in value.

Of course, it also makes the Bitcoin system look a lot like a pump and dump scam as well – early adopters mined huge amounts of bitcoins early on for very little effort, and stood to gain huge amounts of cold, hard, non-virtual cash if they could convince other people the bitcoin was worth something. But let’s backtrack a little before we explore that.

How bitcoins work

The most important feature of a digital unit of currency is that ownership can be authenticated, and the money can’t be spent twice. You can ensure this by keeping a central ledger somewhere of who owns exactly which bitcoins – but the genius of the Bitcoin system is that this ledger is completely decentralized and run as a peer-to-peer system like the BitTorrent network.

When you make a transaction, the Bitcoin network sends out a notice and a confirmation process takes place. In this confirmation process, the transaction history of the particular bitcoin being moved is checked against the records of a number of different nodes in the system. Only when several nodes “agree” that the bitcoin is authentic does the actual transfer occur.

A bitcoin itself is just a string of letters and numbers – the system would be vulnerable to all sorts of hacks if it wasn’t for this peer-to-peer tracking system. And although the bitcoin’s entire transaction history is sent around the network for checking, it’s only a series of bitcoin wallet addresses that are used, rather than account names – making it virtually impossible to work out exactly who owned the coin in the real world.

This also makes it virtually impossible to prove you owned a bitcoin if you misplace its alphanumeric code. If you delete your wallet file or forget your passwords, your money is gone forever.

Getting money in and out of the Bitcoin system

First off, you need a wallet. You can either download the original Bitcoin client and run it on your own computer, or you can trust a third party online service like MyWallet to take care of it for you.

From there, there’s a number of ways to buy bitcoins with regular cash. You can strike a deal directly with another bitcoin owner over at Bitcoin OTC, use a big-time currency exchange like Mt.Gox or any number of others.

If you want to keep your identity as far away from the transaction as possible, you can use a cash deposit service like bitinstant – you notify the service that you want to buy X dollars worth of bitcoins, they give you some deposit details, and you simply walk into a bank (or another deposit location like a 7-11 or Walmart store) and drop off the cash with a given account and reference number. Once the transaction is verified, the bitcoins are transferred to your ownership. The process takes less than an hour and costs you a four percent fee.

To get money out of the system, you’ve got to effectively sell your bitcoins. The easiest method is probably to register with a big exchange, sell your coins and have them transfer the money to your local bank account.

There’s other services that will pay you back through Paypal, vouchers and all sorts of other options – and if you want to keep things totally anonymous, you can always strike a deal directly with somebody who wants to buy the bitcoins, and dodge the transaction fee in the process.

What’s a bitcoin worth?

Graph showing the value of 1 Bitcoin from 2009-2013. Created at bitcoincharts.com.

As I write this, close to US$30. Here’s a live update. The currency is still pretty volatile, its value changes constantly. If you’d bought yourself a bitcoin in December last year, you’d have doubled your money in the last 50 days.

That’s nothing compared to the gains the early adopters have made, though – bitcoins were worth literally nothing back when the system went online in January 2009. They were trading for less than US$0.10 back in September 2010, and only broke the US$1 mark in February 2011. They spiked up to US$27 in May 2011, then crashed down to US$3.50 within a couple of months when Mt.Gox and MyBitcoin were hacked, resulting in a leaking of user information and some straight-up bitcoin theft.

Right now, it’s riding higher than it ever has and spiking upwards like crazy, and there’s every chance you can still make money as a speculator – as well as every chance that it’ll crash again before 2014.

Read more…300 million dollars out of thin air: Bitcoin turns four and approaches $30 value.