Emergency Funds

It’s strange, the question of an emergency fund rises up a lot.  If you don’t know what an Emergency Fund is, it’s a pool of cash you set aside for emergencies.  Most financial advisors recommend between $1,000 to $5,000.

The reasons for an emergency fund basically boil down to – don’t get into debt! Sometimes, expenses outside of your budget happen – a blown tire, an accident, sick days that aren’t compensated.

Having a fund that you can call on to help ease fluctuations in expenses and income keeps you from dipping into debt to cover it, removing you from the spiral of indebtness and poverty.  It’s also comforting to have some money around that you could just use…

Of course, there’s another train of thought that says – don’t bother with an emergency fund; especially when rates are so low.  You can get a much better return investing it and so long as you have a good credit rating and multiple forms of credit (Line-of-Credit or credit cards); you can use those as emergency funds.  With a LOC especially, you only pay for what you use and the rates are often very decent.

This way, the money you’ve invested will ‘work’ for you and you can dump it if and when an emergency happens.   It’s not necessarily a bad idea especially with the TFSA accounts these days.  The bad part of course is that you just don’t have that mental cushion anymore.

Myself, I lean towards the investing side – but I’m pretty comfortable and confident with investing.  For others, pure cash might be the better option.  It’s all about your risk tolerance…

 

Training while sick

I am sick a lot.  It’s just a part and parcel of my lack of luck with my immune system being shitty. Lots of cold, lots of flu symptoms.  These days I get a lot less muscle strains / aches and damage, but that’s mostly because I’ve slowly gotten pass the ‘I am a weakling stage’/

So, should you train while sick? From what I’ve read – it seems to be a case of – it’s mild sure.  If it’s a flu – no.  If it’s below the neck; no.

My problem is that a lot of the time, I have a cough / cold addition.  That sucks because it’s hard to do anything because your cardio is out and doing a major routine like the MMA training requires a lot more energy / oxygen than I can handle.

It’s weird, but being an adult sometimes means staying away from things even when you want to do it.  Bah!

We Bought a Bread Machine

So, we bought a bread machine on Boxing Day.

It’s been fun, used it a ton.  Made everything from normal white(ish) bread to raisin bread to pizza dough so far.

Amazing how much more bread we’re eating now that I can make fresh bread easily and that it tastes so good.  Like, seriously good bread. Nom, nom, nom.

In other news – it’s not worth adding banana’s to the bread ’cause it just becomes banana flavored bread.  Raisins work well though and I’m sure cranberries too.

Overall, bread is good!

Valyrie, WMA & Traditional Training

Since I’m not in Vancouver right now, I’ve been doing training at an MMA Gym up here in the Great North.  It’s actually pretty solid and the teacher knows his stuff (especially grappling) so it’s been good.  I’m going to focus specifically though on the warm-up / exercise section in this post.

Valkyrie WMA

The breakdown of warm-up for the class is relatively simple.  It generally is only 30 minutes long before we go to focused training, so I’ll discuss that part here.  It breaks down into:

  • Animal Walks / Springs- 10 – 15 minutes generally
  • Gymnastics strength training  – 5 – 10 minutes
  • Movement work (handstands, six-steps, cartwheels, etc.) – remainder 5 – 10 minutes.
  • Break

That’s the general breakdown.  There are numerous short breaks after each portion – e.g. after we do a single animal walk, we have a short (10 second break) then move on.

So, what do we see with the training? From experience, the focus seems to be on muscular strength (absolute) and power (explosiveness), with power the main focus.  In addition, there’s more focus on developing a ’rounded’ core and improving general mobility.

WMA Training

Now, WMA strength training at the gym I’m at seems to be more ‘traditional’.   It’s pretty much a 30 minute workout using traditional exercises – pushups, situps, jumping jacks, wind sprints, wheelbarrows, standing jumps, etc.   If you did it at Physical Education class, we’ve probably done it.

Quite often there’s no breaks between each exercise, so you go full-out completing each repetition of exercise before switching to a new one.

From my experience, even after my time with Valkyrie; I’m ‘gassing’ out.  The focus seems to be on cardio (muscular endurance) more than anything else.  Some muscular power obviously and probably a bit of hypertrophy added in.  However, endurance seems to be the major focus of this – classes are a constant ‘go-go-go’ (other than grappling, where things have to slow down).

Traditional Martial Arts

From my experience (and obviously, this is a very broad term I’ve used), TMA warm-ups are more focused on stretching and gentle warm-ups.  We might do 10 push-ups, 20 sit-ups the entire warmup and the warmup is often only 15 – 20 minutes long.

The goal is to get the body mobile and ready for class, not to improve physical strength at all.  In my years doing TMA, while my overall endurance and strength might have gone up; it’s more a by-product of the training (forms, punches, etc.) rather than a specific focus.

Again, this varies – I’ve had TMA warm-ups / classes which are much more vigorous than others; but compared to the above two, the differences are still striking.

Conclusions

It’s interesting to see how the different systems of warm-ups work.  TMAs, due to their need to be ‘everything’ for most people have extremely simple / relaxed warm-ups.  The focus seems to be on getting through the warm-ups fast so that you can focus on learning the ‘art’, with some expectation that individuals will develop their strength / etc outside of class.

Valkyrie’s system seems to work very well at getting people who have little to no experience at exercise to exercise.  The idea of ‘play’ is important, as does the constant mini-breaks.  While cardio / muscular endurance doesn’t increase at the same rate as the MMA training, I couldn’t see some of the students I’ve known / had doing WMA coming to an MMA gym.  They’d be frightened off / wiped immediately.

MMA training is in some ways the most intense.  The expectation is that most people have some minimum level of fitness.  While the Beginner classes might be less intense, they are still intense.  There is little directed training, with the focus on ‘go-go-go’ exercises.  It’s great if you are already fit, but I’m not sure I’d put someone who is new into it.  It’s also less useful as mentioned for building absolute strength – there’s an expectation people are going to go out and lift weights if you wanted that.

Cooking Tips

Things I’ve learnt about cooking recently. Writing as a gentle reminder to brain:

Kosher Salt

  • It’s salt, just with larger grains.  Makes spreading easier.
  • With salt, if doing a dry-rub; marinade with salt and dry-rub overnight (or a few hours before cooking, usual deal).  Salt will draw moisture out and then eventually ‘push’ marinade and moisture into the meat.
  • Incredible with roasts. So-so (i.e. easy to over-salt) with chicken.

 

Browning

  • Ignore idiot 4-hour workweek writer. Browning is very important. Take the time to cook it properly – it’ll make a difference
  • Browning requires a high temperature; so pre-heat the pan a lot before you toss the meat in
  • Also, don’t crowd the meat.  And make sure meat is dry(ish) when you brown, it’ll make sure you get the nice chunky brown bits.
  • Deglazing is good if you aren’t using really good pans; it’ll get you the nice crunchy bits to add.

 

Stock

  • Make your own. Seriously. Keep bones in refrigerator till you get enough, then boil.
  • Slow-cookers are amazing for this.
  • Add onions & salt. Anything else you want to season your stock with; I generally prefer just plain bones, water and onions.
  • Freeze extra stock.  Makes anything you’d add water to so much better

Wine

  • Remember to buy some cheap wine and keep it around.  Doesn’t have to be amazing wine – I can’t taste the difference.
  • Use it for braising or stewing (red wine for beef & pork and other red meats). Adds a ‘layer’ beneath the meal; makes it so good…
  • Make note – try adding black molasses instead next time to see if it makes a difference and removes need for wine

 

 

Raise the Rates Idiocy

So, saw a post going around about raising the welfare rate in BC from $610.  What a lot of people don’t read and they don’t list in the petition is that they want to raise the rate from $610 to $1,300 (found on the website for the ‘Raise the Rates’ group.

Yup, that’s $1,300 a month.

Don’t get me wrong – I would sign that petition myself, there’s obviously an issue at $610.   Just a plain room in Greater Vancouver these days seem to range from about $425 – $550 (and more).  So, you definitely need to increase it for basic needs.

On the other hand $1,300 a month is ridiculous. That’s close to the $1804 (based on 22 working days and $10.25) a minimum wage worker makes working full time (40 hours a week) – their take home is $1703 after taxes which the welfare recipients don’t pay.

Of course, the fact is that the welfare number of $1,300 comes from the Market Basket Measure.  And what they don’t mention is that the Measure is calculated to give a basic living expense (everything included) for 2 adults with 2 children.

Yeah, so they want to give the family cost to 1 person. So a family of 2 adults then pulls in $2,600 a month or $31,200 a year without paying taxes.

That’ll do great things for the economy.  Of course, to pay for all this they also want to raise the taxes on those earning over $250,000 and cut the corporate tax cuts.  Oh, and raise minimum wage again to $12 an hour. I wonder if they actually ran any numbers to see if this would cover the costs (present market situation).  I’m guessing not but I haven’t either, so won’t point fingers.

I can say that if they started raising minimum wage rates again and our tax rates, it’s going to suck for the economy.  And the business.

God but I hate idiots.  I really, really do.  They ask for stupid, stupid things and make a reasonable suggestion (raise welfare rates) to something that even a moderate like me can’t get behind.

Oh, what I would raise it to? Probably around $900.  Not great, but you could live on that (barely). Which is kind of the point – you do well enough to survive and can then start working on making yourself employable.  You just aren’t comfortable.

The Game Store Game

So, had an idea for a board game – a board game about running a game store. So I figured I’d start putting notes here.  I doubt I have the time to actually ever make it a game, but who knows eh?

So, start is always cash.  Everyone starts with an equal amount of cash.  Win condition of course is whoever has the most amount of cash – probably do it over 5 or 7 year rounds.  5 is probably the minimum but we shall see; depends on how long it takes.

Everyone starts out with only cash.  Players have to buy a location – whatever locations there are changes each game (random draw of cards).  B&M locations all have a set cost to buy into (upfront) and a regular cost.  Amount of cost will vary as well.  Also, each location will generally have a certain set ‘marketing level’ in it.

There will be a web store. Lowest cost set-up, low monthly cost but 0 marketing level.

Start of turn – turn over event card which dictates industry in play.  Keep a maximum of 2 events running, though some events will be 1 off events.

Thinking that regular turns, individuals choose from a hand of cards which are their ‘roles’ or ‘actions’ that turn.  Everyone starts with a preset amount of actions they can take (their ‘staff’ actions).  You choose (in secret) what priority you place on each action (order).

First action flips over, individual who turn it is starts and gets to choose / take that action first and puts his marker on it.  Sort of like Dungeon Lords – but everyone can do everything all the time, just effectiveness might degrade.

Number of actions is dictated by staff.

So, actions:

  • buy products (from market, which has a refill amount – levels will need to be preset / adjusted)
  • hire staff (staff also have a cost)
  • marketing (have individuals get first choice from customer pool or maybe get more cards?)
  • customer service / sales (free area, keep more customer cards?)
  • events (generate more revenue, keep more customer cards – not available to web store I’d guess)
  • cleanliness (clean store, keep grunge level down)
  • training (special cards / skills? Or too complicated for skills?)
  • ? – anything else

Market for products – CCGs, Miniatures, Board Games, RPGs.  Each has a different refill rate and ‘set amount’ of stock.  Product will be refilled each turn.

On players boards, items bought from market indicate the type of stock they have.  End of turn, certain number of products disappear (shrinkage / obsoletion. Certain product obsolete slower than others – e.g. RPGs)

During customer acquistion / resolution, everyone gets their customer cards.  Customer cards have 2 cash sections, one for how much they provide if all their ‘needs’ are met; another for how much they are worth in short-term (single sale to them).  If all customers needs are met, you can then choose to keep them where they then provide revenue on an on-going basis (loyal customer).  All loyal customers though have a ‘grunge’ factor.  If your total grunge factor in store is too high, other customers will not buy from you (you lose them as customers) due to lack of cleanliness/etc. in store.

Any non-loyal customers get sent into the customer pool (maybe only around for 1 turn or something) where they might be picked up by the person with marketing role choice in next turn (or special cards).   If customer deck runs out, reshuffle all discarded customer cards; but a certain number should be ‘thrown out’ (i.e. to indicate the decreasing number of customers – market saturation?)

Also, end of turn should have customers disappear along with the stock (i.e. you lose regular customers as well).

That’s pretty much the basics of the game there.  Interaction really is only in role-choice / order and the resource market; not sure if more is needed.

 

 

 

10% Returns

10% sounds like a huge return.  It is.  In fact, it’s higher than most mutual funds will be able to provide, higher even than most hedge funds.  However, it is possible to do so, I have for nearly 8 years now.  Yes – even through the huge market crash in 2006 / 2007.

On that note, I’m just going to list some general thoughts for now.

The disclaimer: Not a financial planner or analyst, take what I say here with a grain of salt; don’t invest (not that I’m going into details anyway) on this information alone. Do Your Own Research.

First Things First

Generally, there’s no way to get to that level of return without taking a risk.

The more risk you take, the higher your general return.  It’s why you need to start investing young – you can take that risk when you are young – you have the time to make that money back.  Risking it all when you are 60 is a bad idea.

Also, you will almost never get that level of return from a mutual fund.  Especially once you take out their Management Expense Ratio (MER) – aka their cut.  In Canada, it’s generally 2-3% of the total fund.

Second Thing

You won’t get there without some research.  6 – 8% sure; not a problem – stick in an ETF that tracks the market, get a balanced couch potato portfolio and you’ll do pretty well most years.  It’s not great returns, but it’s a heck of a sight better than what you get in a GIC.

At 10% you need to be actively doing research, watching the general trends not only in the financial markets but the entire economy (global) so you have an idea of the way things are going to play out in broad strokes.

You also have to start looking at specific shares.  And yes, that means taking risks.

Third Thing

It’s not as risky as you think – you can still generate damn decent returns buying things like blue chips.  If you bought Telus shares in 2010 at $16.50, you’d have received dividends of $4.51 till today, received a 2:1 split and still have shares worth $34.64.  That’s more than 400% returns in 3 years, or approximately 133%.

I’ll talk about specific strategies, but there are ideas out there like Buying the Dogs of the DOW, Value Investing and Dividend Investing.  All of them have good points and can generate good returns, with an amount of manageable risk.

You just have to do the research (see point 2.)

Fourth Thing

Cut your losses early.  I have a hard time with this one still.  It’s important though.  If you go up by 10% and then down by 10% you are actually behind.  You have to reduce your downsides faster than your upsides.

Fifth Thing

Cash out.  Remember Telus? Well, make sure you cash some of that money out when you can.  Until you actually cash that money out, it’s all paper gains.

Sometimes you’ll want to reinvest that money.  Sometimes you’ll want it in bonds.  Whatever the case, cash out some of those gains – you might lose out on future gains, but you also miss any huge drops.

Sixth Thing

Diversify.  Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.  Own more than a few stocks, in more than a few sectors.

Caveat – if you have less than 5k to invest; you really should consider a mutual fund.  Yeah, I know – it’s still better than nothing and it’ll allow you to diversify automatically.

Seventh Thing

Never invest money you can’t afford to lose.  Really, that should be like point no.2 in anything I say.

Eighth Thing

Don’t play the market.  By that I mean don’t try to invest and ‘win’ each stock, you are much better off just doing a few transactions a year (in total!) than buying and selling each month.  Watch the market, but don’t play it unless you can make it your full-time job.

Ninth Thing

Practice, practice, practice! You don’t have money now? No problem – Google Finance allows you to create a ‘portfolio’ of stocks.  Start doing the research now, ‘buying’ stocks and funds and tracking your imaginary portfolio.  Watch how things change, and try to figure out why you are winning / losing.

You’ll learn a lot just by practising and doing your own research.

Tenth Thing

There’s no get rich quick scheme. I probably don’t need to say this – but people who try to sell you a get rick quick scheme are probably lying to you.  There’s no quick way to get rich investing; not without a huge amount of risk, a lot of luck and some great connections.

Lastly

Rather importantly, don’t discount luck in all this.   I’ve gotten lucky more than once; but you have to be willing to put yourself in play and in position to get lucky.

 

 

The Winning Mindset

So, at my last class at Valkyrie I was asked by Randy to change what I was doing.  I had intended to take the time to continue working on a particular flaw in my style – my tendency to launch attacks whenever I saw an opening, whether or not I am covered.

Randy asked me to change that and to speed up, to go full speed.  He noticed that I was running at a lower setting (as usual) and wanted me to go fast.
I resisted. I didn’t like doing it, but I did it and I grumbled a lot aftewards.  At first I thought it was because I had a plan that I wanted to work on.

Later on, I realised why…

I don’t play to win.  I almost never play to win – and it’s something I’ve done all my life.  I didn’t bother competing in the exams at school because I saw no point.  I don’t train to be the best or take part in tournaments to win…

Don’t get me wrong, if it’s serious I can get serious too – work and business being one of them.  Even there though, I never go all out (at least, not anymore).  It’s just when it’s not serious, I don’t play to win…

So training a natural advantage I have (speed) seems a bit strange.  Not only have I not trained it at all; in fact often training myself to fight slower and slower – but a part of me doesn’t see the point.  Why train to beat people by being faster than them when I know I am? Where’s the challenge in that?

The obvious point of course is that I’m not the best there is yet, I’m not even in the tippy top ranks of fighters. I’m good, but not great.  Still… a part of me always asks – why bother?  Why ‘win’ when the win is so easy?

I guess that’s the problem – I’ve never sen the point of winning for the sake of winning.  I’d rather fight / compete / play and enjoy the journey, working the harder parts for me and eking a win out that way rather than working the easiest parts, becoming super good at it and then winning.

I’m not sure this is the healthiest response – or even best, but it’s something I have to think about. further.

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