Financial lessons I learned from playing golf

 

I took up golf many years ago in order to entertain clients. I found spending four and a half hours on the golf course was a great way to build a personal relationship with them. I never dreamed I could find time to play for pleasure or that I would even enjoy the game. Today I don’t know what I would do without golf to occupy a significant portion of my leisure time.

I quickly discovered many parallels between golf and managing my personal finances and investments. Like golf, investing and personal finance can often be an elusive challenge for many people, but it doesn’t have to be. Consider the following guidelines and you’ll have a much greater chance at success with both.

Be patient and persistent

Consistent improvement with your golf game takes time. I can’t count the number of times I’d practice diligently on my swing and start to see some improvement, followed by a series of bad rounds. Believe me, sometimes I wanted to throw my clubs into the nearest pond. But players who really improve don’t give up but continue to work on their golf game.

Just like the markets, there will be lots of ups and downs, and you may want to quit. A really bad day of putting can be quite humbling. Just remember, you can’t grow if you don’t play the game. It will be worth your while to stick it out.

Course Knowledge

Belonging to a golf club or playing the same golf course a few times can improve your scores. Knowing where to aim to avoid obstacles and hazards can reduce penalty strokes. Remembering mistakes in club selection can also help improve your golf scores. (Should have hit my 8 iron on this hole)

As an investor, I spend lots of time researching the different markets before selecting my investments. Like golf, constructing or re-balancing my portfolio requires avoiding making costly mistakes in my selection process.

Bad shots are part of game

Accept the fact that you are going to make some bad golf shots. Even golf pros miss hitting some fairways & greens, they even take penalty strokes. Every investment has some degree of risk, sometimes you just have to take the loss. Both golf & investing requires managing your expectations, you are going to make some good and also some bad investments.

Play your own game

I think the most important lesson that golf teaches is to play your own game. Play according to your skill level and make the shots that you know you can make. Trying an impossible shot like hitting out of a hazard may only result in taking more strokes. Taking a penalty stroke maybe a better option. Too often, people let the performance of others affect how they play their own game.

Take lessons or hire a coach

Is it possible to learn golf or investing on your own? Absolutely, but I have taken a few golf lessons and I have also worked as a financial advisor. Some golf lessons have improved my game while others have resulted in poorer scores. Unfortunately, not all professional advice in either golf or investing are created equal. Finding the right professional at a reasonable price could help you avoid some disastrous mistakes.

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My first Hole in One!

Is another credit bubble forming in subprime car loans?

I went shopping for a new car last week and was offered a subprime loan rate that sounded too good to be true. Without even checking my credit history, I was offered the choice of nothing down & half of one percent financing for 5 years. If I wanted to pay cash for the $30,000 vehicle, the dealership would reduce the price by 2,500 dollars.

The credit manager took some time to explain how subprime loans work. Auto makers take their cash back amount and give it to the finance company to buy down the interest rate. So in my case, I could take the $2,500 cash back or it would go to the finance company to reduce my loan interest. My choice really didn’t affect the car dealer in any way.

It got me thinking about some of the articles that I read sounding the alarm bells on the rising delinquency rates in subprime auto loans. Much of the concern centers around loans extended to borrowers with credit scores below 600. Some articles warn that the auto-loan market is a powder keg like the subprime mortgage market was when the globe plunged into a financial crisis eight years ago.  Will the bursting of this bubble cause another U.S. recession?

John Oliver, host of the HBO show “Last Week Tonight,” takes on the opaque world of auto lending.

Oliver points out that while helping people buy a car sounds great, lenders are taking advantage of borrowers with some predatory strategies and absurdly high interest rates. Some are offering loans to those who have recently filed for bankruptcy. Poor borrowers charged high interest rates–the average rate is 19%– end up under a pile of debt. One clip showed that a woman would have to spend $17,000 paying back a loan for a car worth $3,000.

Auto loans, including the loans extended to prime and subprime borrowers, topped $1 trillion for the first time last year, according to Experian data, exceeding the outstanding balances on U.S. credit cards. But that is a far cry compared to the $8.4 trillion mortgage market. Plus, it’s easier to repossess a car than foreclose on a home. There is typically a healthy marketplace for used and repossessed cars. Trying to unload a $300,000 home is far more difficult especially in a neighborhood of foreclosed properties.

As an investor, be aware that massive defaults on auto loans could flood the used-car market, depressing prices for all car types should the bargains among used-vehicle options sway buyers away from new cars. Both Ford & GM are trading with low P/E’s (5.8 & 3.9) and have dividend yields in the 4.7% range. The yield is very attractive for investors looking for income as long as you understand that there could more downward pressure on the stock price.

In a quarterly filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Ford reported in the first half of this year it allowed $449 million for credit losses, a 34% increase from the first half of 2015. General Motors reported in a similar filing that it set aside $864 million for credit losses in that same period of 2016, up 14% from a year earlier.

If you are in the market for a new or used car, make sure that you can afford the payments. Don’t fall for, no money down ads, 100% approval rates and no sin number required. Remember a car starts to depreciate as soon as you drive it off the lot. Extending a car loan to 84 months (7 years) keeps your monthly payments low but the outstanding loan could be greater than the value of the actual car.

Will that be Debit or Credit?

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Most financial writers would recommend purchasing items using a bank debit card or cash instead of a credit card to control impulse buying. A debit card transaction will allow the vendor to take money right out of your bank account. It is so quick, you can see the transactions appear on your online bank statement minutes after your card has been swiped. This is good advice because spending money that you don’t have can lead to accumulating a lot of unnecessary debt.

However, my only problem with using a debit card or cash is security. Lose your wallet or purse and kiss the cash good-bye. If thieves get a hold of your debit card, the bank will not cover your loss. I am fortunate that the credit card companies in Canada have all adopted chip technology with a 4-diget Pin number for added security. Plus most retail stores even have a tap option for purchases under $100.00, so tap and go is quick and easy.

My decision to always use credit over debt, just saved me $1,470.67 because my wife’s credit card was recently compromised. The thief was very smart, only one big transaction which the credit card company didn’t red flag as an unusual purchase. I always check my monthly statements and recognized the bogus charge immediately. This is the third time in less than ten years that I have had to get a new credit card due to fraud.

The previous two times, the credit card company called me after they noticed some unusual activity. Although, it was a little embarrassing to have my credit card purchase declined but it is better than losing money. My experience with credit card fraud has made me into a frantic when it comes to making sure that I don’t lose any credit card receipts. I always cross-reference the receipt with my monthly statement. We even record each on-line purchase on a separate piece of paper and file it with the rest of our receipts.

Thieves have become very bold! I received a phone call at 6:00 a.m. from someone pretending to be from my credit card company. He stated that my credit card may have been compromised and requested that I should turn on my computer to check my debit card transactions. He wanted to get access to my banking information. Warning bells went off in my sleepy head. What the thief didn’t know was that credit card and debit card were with two different banks.

Protect yourself from fraud

  • Use a credit card for all your on-line purchases for added protection
  • Keep your receipts and check your monthly credit card statements
  • Hang up on questionable phone calls and call your financial institution
  • Use a pin number that doesn’t have any personal dates, like your birthday
  • Change your pin number from time to time
  • Share with family and friends information on current scams in your area

What is your answer to the question? Will that be debit or credit?

 

2nd Anniversary of Smart Money: Lucky number 2

In sports, no one cares who came in second. The number 2 rating of a stock is a buy. There are two sides in investing, you can be either bullish or bearish.  Number 2 in Chinese Culture is an auspicious number because Chinese people believe that good things come in pairs.

“The symbolic meaning of number Two is kindness, balance, tact, equalization, and duality. The number Two reflects a quiet power of judgment, and the need for planning. Two beckons us to choose. The spiritual meaning of number Two also deals with exchanges made with others, partnerships (both in harmony and rivalry), and communication.

2 number

What is the 2nd best investment that you can make?  The number two  investment really depends upon your age, where you live, your risk tolerance, your income level, your time horizon and your family situation. The number two investment choice for someone in their 20’s could be paying down debt. For someone in their 30’s, it could be buying a house.  For a high income earner, it could be maximizing their contributions into their retirement account. For someone who lost their job, it could be starting a small business.

So what is number one?  My answer is YOURSELF because our education system gets a failing grade regarding financial literacy. All these choices requires some financial knowledge and some basic math skills in order to be successful. I was shocked at the results of a recent financial literacy test.

Would You Pass the Global Financial Literacy Test?

Question 1: Suppose you need to borrow 100 U.S. dollars. Which is the lower amount to pay back: 105 U.S. dollars or 100 U.S. dollars plus three percent

Question 2: Suppose over the next 10 years the prices of the things you buy double. If your income also doubles, will you be able to buy less than you can buy today, the same as you can buy today, or more than you can buy today

Question 3: Suppose you have some money. Is it safer to put your money into one business or investment, or to put your money into multiple businesses or investments?

Question 4: Suppose you put money in the bank for two years and the bank agrees to add 15 percent per year to your account. Will the bank add more money to your account the second year than it did the first year, or will it add the same amount of money both years?

Question 5: Suppose you had 100 U.S. dollars in a savings account and the bank adds 10 percent per year to the account. How much money would you have in the account after five years if you did not remove any money from the account? (a) $150 (b) more than $150 (c) less than $150

 

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Highlights of the survey:

  • The U.S. lags behind other major English-speaking economies in its percentage of financially literate citizens. Citizens of Canada and the United Kingdom beat the U.S.
  • Only 35 percent of respondents around the world got the right answer to Question 3.
  • Many homeowners can’t calculate the basic interest owed on their loan payments. About a third of adults in the U.S. have an outstanding housing loan; three in 10 don’t understand how their debt accumulates.

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Answers to the literacy test

  1. 100 U.S. dollars plus three percent
  2. the same
  3. put your money into multiple businesses or investments
  4. more money in the second year
  5. (b) more than $150

Some may argue that personal financial literacy isn’t the number one investment because you can always pay a professional. I would agree if you are lucky enough to select a good one. In twenty years of running a small business, I changed accountants three times. I changed stock brokers countless times until I became a do it yourself investor. I have dealings with three different banks to meet all my financial needs. Plus selecting the right professional still takes some financial knowledge, the ability to understand the advice and act on it.

In reality, the first and best investment that you should make is in educating yourself. Did you get take the financial literacy test and did you answer all five correctly?

You need more than money to have a pleasurable retirement

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Having worked as a financial advisor, my main focus in retirement planning was building a sizable nest egg for clients’ to enjoy their golden years. I used to think that the senior who greeted me at Walmart, rang in my groceries or served me coffee needed the extra income in retirement. Did something gone wrong with their retirement plan or did they just fail to save enough to enjoy a life of leisure?

However, I am starting to think that these seniors may also be bored. Imagine, you have been traveling at 100 miles an hour at work and now have come to a dead stop in retirement. No one really prepares you for the shock of getting up in the morning with no place to go. What do you do with all that extra time?

Step One: Avoid the retirement shock, start to plan ahead

There is more to life than your work. Most of your work friends will slowly disappear once you retire. Having a social network outside of your work place is a key to a pleasurable retirement. A common mistake is not developing a balanced lifestyle before you retire. (All work and no play!)

One of my business associate retired at 63 and decided to start to play golf. He join a golf club and found that he didn’t really enjoy playing golf. He hated winning the most honest golfer award. (A prize for the worse score)

Here are a few networking opportunities to make some new friends prior to retirement:

  • Over 55 sports leagues, baseball, basketball, hockey …..
  • Racket, curling and golf clubs
  • Bowling & dart leagues
  • Church groups
  • Alumni groups – high school, college and sport teams
  • Being a scout leader for boys or girls
  • Coaching or being a mentor

If you don’t have any hobbies yet, I suggest that you plan to get some before you retire. Sitting on a beach under an umbrella drinking margaritas sounds great but you will get bored after a while. You may not have the time right now but many schools offer adult learning classes. A friend of mine took a class on how to fix small engines. It is never too late to learn something new and it might just keep your brain from turning to mush.

Step Two: Retirement is a life changing event, prepare to change

Married couples have to adjust to being together 24 /7 which can add stress to your relationship. It’s a good idea for couples to have different hobbies and interests. Spending some time apart makes for more interesting dinner conversations. For example, I like to golf and my wife enjoys genealogy.

Household chores can be a thorny issue. Sharing or dividing these tasks will depend on your individual skill levels. My wife does most of the cooking but I will do most of grocery shopping and together we maintain the lawn & gardens. I recommend scheduling your household chores to be done during a weekday, save your nights and weekends for socializing.

Avoid becoming a couch potato, it is a sure way to shorten your retirement years. A regular exercise program should be part of your everyday routine. You don’t have to go to the gym and lift weights to stay fit. There are many simple ways to keep active; walking, cycling and swimming, just to name a few. If you have a partner, find something that you both enjoy doing, having someone to workout with can help you get off the couch.

Step Three: Take on new challenges

Learn to play a musical instrument, speak a second language or better yet give back to the community. There are many fine organizations that are in desperate need for volunteers. You have a wealth of experience, professional expertise and invaluable personal wisdom that shouldn’t go to waste. You have a lot to offer, find things that you are passionate about.

In my case, playing football was a strong positive influence in my life. In honor of all my football coaches, I spent six wonderful years coaching kid’s football.

When people ask me what I do all day, I tell them; “I am so busy in retirement that I was surprised I found the time to work”! Remember, variety is the spice of life.

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What should an investor do about Brexit?

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Many of the worst investment mistakes I’ve seen have originated from an overreaction to the unknown. We have all witnessed substantial global upheaval in the past. Many of us have had a window seat to watch how Wall Street responds to uncertainty and turmoil. The financial markets don’t like uncertainty. Why? Because it’s extremely difficult to try to predict the future.

For instance, what will happen to all of the trade deals that are in place? What impact would this have on corporate profits? What about the bond markets, or the debt that is tied to the European Central Bank? Long term, will other EU countries follow Britain’s example? The list of questions goes on and on.

Far too many money managers placed huge bets on Brits staying within the EU. They all have egg on their faces. Now there is a rush to exit these positions causing market volatility. Their repositioning responses will not been good for your portfolio.

It has always been my philosophy that slow and steady wins the day. So what should you be doing to protect your life savings from the Brexit vote to leave? Actually, you probably shouldn’t be doing much at all. If you are properly diversified with limited exposure to any one country, you should probably sit tight for now.

Here is a four-point strategy to help investors:

  1. Don’t react by selling anything. To be sure, there will be some fear in the European markets, but this would not be a good time to react to that fear. This is an emotional component of behavioral finance, and history has shown that those investors who sell in the midst of a crisis usually end up doing so at the wrong time. They wind up selling low and buying high.
  2. Look for buying opportunities. The best time to purchase things on sale is when nobody else wants them. There may be some tremendous opportunities to purchase distressed assets, because many investors have given into fear and are running scared.
  3. Analyze how much of your portfolio is at risk. Most investors don’t have all of their portfolio in risky assets. Figure out how much of your portfolio is actually tied to risky areas and how much is reasonably safe. Odds are, if you are a well-diversified investor, you don’t have a high percentage of your portfolio tied to the European financial markets.
  4. Relax! We’ve experienced changes before, and sure enough, we will see more changes in the future. Most cannot be predicted. While changes of this magnitude can be worrisome, I urge you to fight through your fear.

Simply put, a well-diversified portfolio should protect you from most of the worst aspects of any volatility we may experience.

Moms rule and Dads drool: Happy Father’s Day

Sorry dads, but more money is spent on Mother’s Day than Father’s Day. The National Retail Federation expects Father’s Day spending to reach $12.7 billion. That sounds like a lot of money, but it doesn’t stack up to what was spent on Mother’s Day: $21.2 billion. There are a number of factors that contribute to making Father’s Day a lesser commercial holiday when compared to Mother’s Day.

Let’s face it, the majority of Moms prepare the family meals, so it is easy for restaurants to promote giving Mom a break from cooking by offering a Sunday brunch special. I asked the food & beverage manager at my golf club why they did not offer a Sunday brunch for Father’s Day. Her answer; “We tried it but had to cancelled due to lack of interest”. By the way, the mother’s day brunch is sold out every year.

Father’s day spending is now competing with Memorial Day, graduation and of course, June is prevalent for weddings. It is easy for children to justify spending less on dad who is laid back enough to be okay with receiving a smaller gift. Plus buying for Dad is tricky: Mom is probably going to appreciate flowers and chocolate more than Dad is going to dig his Daffy Duck novelty tie.

The most popular Father’s Day gift: quality time, it costs nothing.

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But Dads do matter: they really have an important role to play

Human beings are social animals and we learn by modeling behavior. In fact, all primates learn how to survive and function successfully in the world through social imitation. Those early patterns of interaction are all children know. It is those patterns that effect how they feel about themselves and how they develop.

Fathers are central to the emotional well-being of their children; they are capable caretakers and disciplinarians. Children who are well-bonded and loved by involved fathers, tend to have less behavioral problems, and are somewhat protected against alcohol and drug abuse.

Studies show that if your child’s father is affectionate, supportive, and involved, he can contribute greatly to your child’s cognitive, language, and social development, as well as academic achievement, a strong inner core resource, sense of well-being, good self-esteem, and authenticity.

How fathers influence our relationships.

Girls will look for men who hold the patterns of good old dad. If father was kind, loving, and gentle, they will reach for those characteristics in men. Girls will look for, in others, what they have experienced and become familiar with in childhood. Because they’ve gotten used to those familial and historic behavioral patterns, they think that they can handle them in relationships.

Boys on the other hand, will model themselves after their fathers. They will look for their father’s approval in everything they do, and copy those behaviors that they recognize as both successful and familiar. Thus, if dad was abusive, controlling, and dominating, those will be the patterns that their sons will imitate and emulate. However, if father is loving, kind, supportive, and protective, boys will want to be that.

As a father of two, a boy and a girl, I have accepted the fact that Moms will get a lot more attention than Dads. It doesn’t mean that your children love you less. Your reward comes from knowing that your sons or daughters will be successful academically, become well-adjusted members of society, be in loving relationships and have good careers. Hopefully, they will eventually become good parents.

This post is dedicated to my Dad who was done too soon and to my son who has begun his journey as a great Dad.

 

 

 

Is Globalization or is Technology destroying more jobs?

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Could last Friday’s weak U.S. job numbers help make this man president of the United States?

Many Americans believe that China and Mexico are responsible for their job losses. There is no doubt that some industries like apparel & electronics require cheap labor costs and companies have moved production overseas. I also believe that the majority of illegal immigrants (Mexicans) are working at low paying jobs that Americans don’t want. (Even Canadian farmers hire temporary workers from Mexico during planting & harvest season).

Economists around the world believe that globalization has more benefits than detriments. Long term, higher wages in poor countries should theoretically increase spending and help spur global economic growth. Wages in China are going up causing a slowdown in their manufacturing boom. In fact, some illegal immigrants are moving back to Mexico because of higher wages.

Advances in technology has created a large number of new jobs but many of those jobs are unfilled. The major problem is employers find it difficult to find workers with the appropriate skill levels. The education system is really behind the curve in preparing young people to enter the job market. No real surprise that the participation rate is falling as the unemployed are giving up looking for work.

The automotive industry has been well-known for its intensive use of robotic arms for assembly, welding and painting of cars. Many other industries have adopted robotic arms into their manufacturing process. Advances in automation has eliminated an estimated 30% of all manufacturing jobs. Developments in 3D printing could allow consumers to make a variety of products beyond just toys, jewelry and novelty items.

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Technology has destroyed a number jobs in many sectors. It is obvious that on-line shopping has really hurt brick & mortar retailers. Retailers have cut full-time staff and reduce costs by hiring more part-time seasonal personal. A large number of book, music and video stores have simply disappeared. Netflix and other low-cost streaming services has really hurt jobs in media, cable and the music industry. Facebook and Google have captured the majority of advertising  dollars which has reduced revenue and job opportunities in radio, television and print media.

Have you ever wondered why there are so many fake reality shows on cable? Production costs are so much cheaper than producing quality programing. Networks have less ad revenue to paid wages for real actors, writers and directors.  

Thanks to ATMs, internet banking, direct deposit and mobile banking apps, bank branches don’t have as many tellers or people waiting in line. The rise of Robo-Advisors will further reduce bank staff over time. I wouldn’t be shocked to find a decline in the number of bank branches in the near future.

Smartphones have reduced the need for buying cameras, voice recorders, camera film, photo albums, alarm clocks, GPS’s, video cameras, calculators, flashlights, landline phones, watches, calendars, note pads, newspapers, books and even credit cards. I wonder how many jobs have been lost because of the popularity of smartphones.

The oil and gas industry used to drill five wells in order to get one producing well. Today’s drilling technology enables 100% success rate in finding oil and gas. Plus fracking technology has allowed oil companies to maximize oil and gas extraction.

Will future improvements in artificial intelligence enable robots to replace human workers?

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What do you think, Globalization or Technology to blame for job losses.