Friday, January 17, 2020

Short Takes: The World is Getting Better, and more

How your credit card company recovers from blocking your legitimate purchases matters:

Credit Card False Positives

Here are some short takes and some weekend reading:

Morgan Housel explains how the world keeps getting better for us even if it seems to be getting worse.

Retire Happy gives a nice summary of the high points of managing your financial life well.  He frames it in terms of New Year’s resolutions, but it’s really some easy-to-understand advice that applies any time. At one point, he throws out an interesting statistic: “What I find amazing is that 83% of those that file taxes have unused RRSP room”.  I have recently become part of this 83%. I used to use all my RRSP room each year, but I have no use for the room that arose from my last year working. I actually withdraw a little from my RRSP each year now to reduce lifetime income taxes.  So that last year of RRSP room sits unused. No doubt many retirees who used to use all their RRSP room contribute to the 83% figure.

Preet Banerjee explains how to save money when renewing term life insurance by undergoing a health check to requalify as healthy.  Keep in mind his warning about not cancelling the old policy until you qualify for a new cheaper policy.  If it turns out you’re very sick, the insurance company would like to have you cancel your existing policy (along with its guaranteed renewal) and then reject you for a new policy. In another video, Preet manages to connect the challenge of saving money for the future to gravity wells and the word “hyperbolic.”

Canadian Couch Potato goes through the 2019 investment returns of various assets classes as well as his couch potato portfolio returns.  Everything went up in 2019. This increased the safe monthly withdrawal amount for my portfolio and led me to sell some stocks to build my fixed income side to keep it at 5 years of available spending.  Fortunately, I have a spreadsheet to do the calculations and tell me exactly how much to sell.

Big Cajun Man is concerned that CRA is tightening the rules for getting the Disability Tax Credit.  It’s not clear if rules are changing or if CRA is changing enforcement of existing rules.

Boomer and Echo have a cautionary tale for those who feel like they missed the boat on weed stocks, cryptocurrencies, or any other high-flying “investment.”  Most things that goes up very quickly end up crashing, and most speculators get burnt.


  1. Morgan Housel has some interesting points, but doesn't seem to realize what climate change is doing, and even more, is going to do, to our planet. The modern lifestyle that's generating all those improvements will lead to massive environmental change, leading to climate catastrophe. Humanity would be better off if we were stuck in the 50s and the rest of the world was catching up to us at that level of development (which is possibly sustainable. The current western lifestyle isn't)

    1. @Anonymous: While life has been getting better consistently, there are a few things that could reverse this trend. The most likely is climate change. Another that is hopefully much less likely is widespread nuclear war. Another whose likelihood is difficult to assess is advanced pervasive technology that gets used by a small group to control the rest of us.

      I've lost hope that we can solve climate change with politics. We need continuing advancements in clean energy and batteries. Fortunately, this seems to be coming fast.

    2. @Anonymous AHH! The '50's when coal and wood burning were probably at their peak. Makes one wonder why governments are trying to cut back. HMM! Maybe you are a fan of the Don as he wanted to revitalize the coal industry down south. I would like to propose that all those against oil should remove any clothing that has plastic (polyester, nylon, etc...) in them. You might find it a bit cold outside. Oil is better than coal, NGas is better than oil, is nuclear better than them? Depends on who you talk to and your own convictions. And then there are solar and wind and tidal power which are "non-poluting"...except they need those dirty plastics to make them feasible. It is a flawed world isn't it!
      As to politicians solving our problems that is a waste of time. They are more interested in how to get elected in four years from now than in conscientiously managing our various countries.
      Rather than saying how bad this is or that is it might be better to realize we are in a pickle and would be better served with a consensus on how to change our polluting ways. Telling someone they are idiots for what they are doing is not going to get them on your side. They can probably make similar arguments against the other side.
      Mother Nature doesn't really give a c**p about whether humans survive or not. If we kill ourselves off through our own intelligence, or lack thereof, then she will just go through a few climate changes over several thousands of years and balance things back out. We, humans, just won't be around to see it.
      So lets stop telling the other guy/gal what idiots they are and work together to get it right before Mother Nature gets tired of us.


    3. Ricardo: As much as I'd like to see a ground swell of people making better environmental choices, I'm not optimistic. I think technology improvements are more likely to save us.

    4. The small stuff counts as well Michael. Things like putting that pizza carton in the compost bin and not the garbage bin. Stupid stuff but none the less some people do not seem to be smart enough to realize that a lot of "little" things add up incrementally to a big thing After all, look at compound interest.
      It is too late to wishfully think that we can go back to the caves and that will save us.
      Those windmills and solar farms need technology to succeed along with plastics and metal which can not be grown in a farmer's field. Although those windmills do often sprout up there.
      We have got to where we are though technological innovation, both the good stuff and the bad. Now technology needs to get us out of the tiff (not the one in Toronto) we are in.