Friday, May 22, 2020

Short Takes: Pizza Arbitrage, Open Offices, and more

Here are my posts for the past two weeks:

How Much of Your CPP Contributions are Really a Tax?

Playing with FIRE

Here are some short takes and some weekend reading:

Ranjan Roy explains a pizza arbitrage scheme when a food delivery startup scrapes a restaurant’s website.

Big Caun Man is predicting the death of the open-concept office space.  Organizations love the cost savings of open office spaces.  These savings are very easy to measure.  Much harder to measure is the loss of worker productivity.  Concern about spreading viruses will fade, but workers who need to think deeply, like software developers, can’t get their work done efficiently in open offices.  The constant distractions make it impossible to solve a problem that requires 15 minutes of uninterrupted thought.  One of the touted advantages of open offices, that workers will collaborate better, turns out to be false.  Research at Harvard found that face-to-face interactions dropped 70% after switching to an open office.  This is consistent with my own experience.  It’s hard to talk to anyone when even a whisper disturbs other workers.

Moneysense got together a panel to pick Canadian ETFs again this year.  The list has now exploded to 42 ETFs, reflecting disagreement among panelists.  Amusingly, one panelist took a “hard pass” on another’s pick.  By my count, the article blended opinions from two index investors, three more who use factor tilts, and four active investors.  My own investing approach is between the two index investors and those who believe strongly in factor tilts.

The Rational Reminder Podcast interviews Andrew Hallam, author of Millionaire Teacher and Millionaire Expat.  Andrew is always interesting with his takes on the disconnect between income and wealth, the link between debt and misery, the ways advisors try to talk you out of index funds, and geographical arbitrage.

Robb Engen at Boomer and Echo lists five important investing rules. Don’t miss his excellent response in the comment section to the question about trying to save on MER costs by buying individual stocks.

Canadian Mortgage Trends reports CMHC’s gloomy outlook for real estate.  They see an 18% drop in home prices.  Almost everyone who makes their living from real estate transactions disagrees.  Do they have better insight or are they using motivated reasoning?  Hard to tell.

Nick Maggiulli explains why those who make pointless predictions aren’t punished for being wrong.

The Blunt Bean Counter has a guest post imploring business owners to look at their businesses from an investment perspective rather than just propping it up and risking their personal finances.


  1. Hi Michael, thanks for the link and the kind feedback.

    Yes, it was quite the process to select the top ETFs this year. I think it was fair to include the low volatility ETFs. I also suggested expanding the list of all-in-one ETFs - thinking it wasn't fair just to include Vanguard's line-up when we clearly included competitors in the other categories. That alone blew up the asset allocation category to 13 ETFs.

    1. Hi Robb,

      I guess with the explosion in number of ETFs available, it's inevitable that some of them would be good :-)

  2. I suspect that the "Open Office" is not as dead as I would have hoped it was, but it has been dealt a setback for the next few years, that is for sure. Thanks for the mention

    1. Hi Alan,

      In my experience, different people get bonuses based on cost savings and revenue generation. So, the person who gets a bonus for reducing real estate costs with an open office will always push hard for the open office and will deny that it hurts productivity. Those concerned with revenue tend to focus on the short term by looking at salespeople. Everyone thinks engineering should build things faster, but few consider that the open office is a big part of their problem.