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Revisiting a Classic Film: My Left Foot

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How to Give Financial Advice on Buying a Home

As a financial professional, you are more objective and knowledgeable about financial matters than most people. However, there is a line to walk. You do not want to give the impression that you know everything because you don’t. You also do not want to be the one who knows a lot but never helps anyone.When someone is purchasing a home, here is how to give solid advice without overstepping.First, suggest they begin saving early. They will need a downpayment. Do not be specific about what downpayment they will need. This will vary. The smallest downpayment possible is 5%, but this does not apply to everyone or to every property. The average Toronto home price in September 2020 is 1 million dollars, but you know how averages work. Suggest they speak to a mortgage professional who can help with specifics. Be sure to tell them to put their whole downpayment in a single accessible Canadian bank account. Regular automatic deposits to this bank account are a good way to go.
Along with the down…

Brief Review of a Classic: Booker T. Washington's Up From Slavery

Booker T. Washington (1856? - 1915) was born into slavery and rose to become one of the most prominent American public figures and intellectuals of his time. Washington lived and worked in a straight line - he committed his career to the school he was instrumental in founding, Alabama’s famed Tuskegee Institute. Building up the school and his fund-raising meetings and speeches took him to the power and wealth centres of the East Coast of the United States where he earned a reputation for fine oratory and reasonable, responsible views by the standards of influential persons of his day.
Perhaps it was unavoidable that such a prominent African-American would be a controversial figure in his day as well as our time. In some of his talks and writing, he appeared to favour segregation. Some of his audience might have thought he favoured training in manual labour rather than intellectual education for professional careers. He seemed to design his public presentations for white audiences and f…

2020 Financial Lessons for Kids

Our kids are living through times, unlike anything that we have ever experienced. They have been home from school for a half-year. They have been told to wear masks because everyone around them might have cooties. There are questions about how society and the economy will unfold over the coming years. 
Those who are children today will face new financial opportunities and challenges that we can only begin to anticipate. We are tempted to normalize and behave as if things will continue as usual, even while the world is undergoing radical change. We want the kids to be safe and secure, but the best way to do this is to prepare them for the world as it is and as it will be.
In Canada, the most secure jobs in 2020 are with governments, particularly health care. Will this continue as governments engage in massive deficit spending that will require decades of debt repayment? What about university education? Will this continue to be the most reliable path to middle and upper-class financial se…

Review of Maria Konnikova’s The Confidence Game: Why We Fall For It Every Time

Maria Konnikova’s book is a lively and educational read. With a series of expertly-told stories, the writer takes us into the world of ‘con games’.
Konnikova opens with a story that has the bonus of Canadian content. Ferdinand Waldo Demara, without a medical degree, assumes the role of a surgeon lieutenant in the Royal Canadian Navy. One afternoon, a rickety boat pulls up alongside the HMCS Cayuga. The Korean War is underway and the boat is packed with young men who were caught in an ambush. Under the pseudonym, Dr. Joseph Cyr, Demara takes charge of the messy bullet and shrapnel wounds. Somehow, over the following 48 hours, Demara fakes his way through nineteen surgeries. He has the help of a field guide he had persuaded a physician back in Ontario to create “for the troops” in the event a doctor wasn’t readily available.
With all the publicity that accompanied this heroic day, Demara is discovered by the real Dr. Joseph Cyr who had known him in a different disguise, Brother John Payne…

Is This The Time To Purchase a Vacation Property?

Today is a warm, but not hot, day here in Toronto. Our minds are turning with the weather toward the Fall Season.
As a savvy financial professional, you know that a good time to purchase a vacation property is when the crowd is moving on to other interests.
Like a lot of people, you previously considered purchasing a vacation property but waited. Now might be the time for you to act.
This Spring and Summer, the cottage country market was busy with a lot of people who wanted to escape the city. Demand was strong. A lot of us discovered that we do not need to be in the city 100% of the time, or at all. 
Out of habit, we sometimes still speak of ‘summer homes’ but a lot of us like to get out there four seasons of the year. Swimming on a warm August day, Thanksgiving and the spectacular Fall foliage, snow falling on trees, Christmas and New Year’s guests, and the first warm days of Spring. Why miss any of it?
You might be inclined to wait until Spring along with a lot of other people. Or you c…

Revisiting a Classic Book: George Orwell's Down and Out in Paris and London

For decades, high schools have required students to read George Orwell’s last novel, 1984. Many of 1984’s expressions (big brother, thought police, newspeak) have become part of the language. Before writing 1984, Orwell (his actual name was Eric Blair - the story of his pen name is fascinating) had recently become famous for his novel Animal Farm, published just a few years earlier in 1945.

Orwell wrote ‘Down and out in Paris and London’ in 1933, years before those more famous novels. Orwell based this novel on time he spent with people who were unemployed, impoverished, hungry, and working in low-paid jobs in hotels and restaurants.
Down and Out shows Orwell beginning to work political ideas into his writing while telling an entertaining story with colourful characters and anecdotes.
The novel evokes the vitality of another English writer, Charles Dickens, and his memorable collections of impoverished characters, but Orwell’s story also has the grim humour of Fyodor Dostoevsky.
The no…

Are You Ready for Home Ownership?

Answers to the question, ‘Are you ready for home ownership? veer all over the map.
You may be super-confident and ambitious. You are sure that you can buy your first
home and are already thinking about buying your second home. You may have the
financial backing of your family in purchasing a house or condo. Or you may be a
cautious person, prepared to let the years pass until you are certain that this is the
right time for you. You may feel that home ownership is an unrealistic goal for you.

Whatever your personal feelings are about purchasing a home, here are some practical tips for deciding for or against home ownership. If you do not need these tips at this stage in your life, forward them to someone who might need them.

The first thing to do is put aside FOMO (fear of missing out). This is your life, not anyone else’s. You are not obligated to purchase a home right now or ever. Given your current career choice or nomadic lifestyle, home ownership may not be for you. Are you thinking a…

Four Ways to Improve Your Credit Rating

As the Pandemic took hold of our economy in March and April, there was media, corporate and political talk about protecting the credit of those affected. This talk has passed from the public discussion. It should remain a priority for us.Credit reporting refers to a system that provides information about the ability of individuals and businesses to borrow and repay borrowed funds. In Canada, there are three independent, privately owned credit reporting agencies: Equifax, TransUnion, and Dun and Bradstreet. Dun and Bradstreet reports for commercial accounts, while the two other agencies are best known for consumer reports. When you have financial dealings with Canadian businesses, they typically share the results with the credit reporting agencies. What story does your credit report tell? Are you invisible? You may have minimal or no credit. Your credit report says very little about your ability to borrow or repay. The story of your credit report may be a long, tragic tale. It is pages…

Thoughts on Malcolm Gladwell's Talking to Strangers

Malcolm Gladwell Talking to Strangers (Hachette: Little, Brown, and Co, 2019)
When we interact with strangers, we tend to apply preset scripts to our interactions. Each of us seems to have a large personal collection of scripts ready to play whenever we encounter an unfamiliar person or group of people. 
Upon meeting someone such as a small child, we speak and act a certain way and have a pre-packaged set of beliefs about that little person. Likewise, when we meet a senior citizen, a person of a different race, a person who appears to be similar to ourselves, or a very different person, we are prepared for that interaction with our preconceptions of who they are, what they will do, and how we should behave with them. Such preconceptions are often maligned but they can be helpful. Our preconceptions are shortcuts that smooth social interactions that might otherwise be unpredictable. We consider the person who is unable to do this as lacking in social skills. Someone who is perpetually su…