A Novel Approach is a Bestseller in Amazon.ca’s Love & Romance category

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It only launched last week but thanks to a link published in Rob Carrick’s Globe & Mail web roundup yesterday, A Novel Approach to Financial Independence was the #1 bestseller on Thursday in Amazon.ca’s Love & Romance category. Here’s the link to Amazon’s listing.

Love & Romance? What about personal finance? Well, I’ve always described the original Findependence Day as a financial love story so it’s not as out of the box as it may seem at first blush. Click on the blue link in the title above to find out more about the Romance plot that’s at the heart of the original novel.

The full book features a couple, Jamie and Sheena, who are 28 at the start and follows their ups and downs as a couple over 22 subsequent years. It takes a “life cycle” approach to personal finance and centers around Jamie’s declaration that he will become financially independent (“findependent”) by the time he turns 50.

There are numerous setbacks along the way, including business failure and betrayal, separation, children and more. As CTV Senior Financial Commentator Patricia Lovett-Reid says in the foreword to both the original book and the e-book, money troubles are often the cause of marital disharmony. You can read that foreword, by the way, for free because it’s near the start and Amazon lets you “look inside.”

e-book is a “Coles Notes” synopsis of the original book

The e-book pictured above is sort of a “Cole’s Notes” synopsis of the original book, summarizing the plot but focusing more on the content on financial independence. It’s short (15,000 words) but costs only C$3.37.

Amazon lets you designate purchases as gifts and with Christmas just around the corner, you have to admit it’s pretty cost-effective! Especially if you can change a young person’s life for the better, as we say in the ad below (also shown on the front page of Findependence.TV).

There is also a U.S. edition of the full novel available here, as well as a U.S. edition of the e-book.

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A young investor well on the road to Findependence

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Saxon Funk and wife Hailey.

I always enjoy chatting with readers of my blogs, columns and books. The other day I had an especially enjoyable dialogue with a 28 year old Winnipeg-based real estate investor named Saxon Funk. Saxon had bought the Canadian edition of Findependence Day and after a few emails introduced himself on the phone by noting he was the same age the protagonist in the book — Jamie — was when he embarked on the 22-year voyage to financial independence described in the novel.

After graduating from high school, Saxon tried door-to-door selling and selling insurance. He discovered day trading and foreign exchange trading in his early 20s but despite some success, learned that the activity was just as apt to leave him broke. Ultimately, real estate became his preferred road to financial freedom.

3-month mini-vacation in Asia

What really got my attention was the fact he had read a book featured in this blog earlier this summer: Timothy Ferriss’s The Four-Hour Workweek. Not because of my blog, I might add: Saxon read the book three years ago and actually enjoyed a three-month “mini-retirement” in Asia last year, in company with his wife.

Saxon works from home although he is still a salaried employee with one of the telecommunications giants based in the west. But he has a firm plan for achieving financial independence through various passive streams of income. Part of his search included a perusal of Ferriss’s material and Robert  Kyosaki’s Rich Dad, Poor Dad, as well as this site.

Saxon is attempting to build his passive investment income through vehicles like Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway and actively managed reasonably priced mutual funds from Mawer Investment Management. But his real play for findependence comes through real estate. He started while being frustrated in a previous job and reading various books about financial freedom. He was attracted to real estate when he discovered he could buy properties at 10% down, and he caught the Winnipeg real estate cycle at just the right time. Some properties in the city have doubled and tripled since he began buying properties.

Real estate is his main path to Findependence

He’s not a member of the Real Estate Investment Network (REIN) or its rivals but Saxon could be the poster boy for any of those educational outfits. He certainly speaks their language, speaking of the 14 “doors” he owned at one point, before selling one of his buildings (a triplex) at a tidy profit. He’s now at eight doors, as he wants the stability of lower levels of debt servicing. Similar to Jamie and Sheena in the novel, he and his wife live in one of the units of the building he still owns, renting out the rest.

He’s not implemented too much of the Ferriss material, other than absorbing the power of outsourcing and technology. So he has a 1 800 number he gives to tenants and when he’s out of the country can manage his properties by outsourcing to property managers closer to home. He’s not yet down to a four-hour workweek (neither am I!) but he does have a vision of living in places like Thailand, where you can get by comfortably on a Canadian income of $1,500 a month.

He doesn’t consider himself findependent yet, but notes that if he were 65 (or 67), the combination of being debt-free, rental income and the usual government sources of retirement income (CPP, OAS), he would be able to enjoy the kind of lifestyle championed by Ferriss et al.

“I could be. We would still have food on table. I don’t worry about getting fired or let go; the main property we live in covers all our bills and puts money in our pocket. If I were 65 and qualified for CPP and OAS,  yes we would be more than free but since we still have another 40 years to go; most of our money goes to giving, investing and trips. So we’re at the point where our money is all play money.”

Despite being a member of the generation that has grown up with the Internet, Saxon views himself as “an old soul” who is not totally sold by the promises of web-based freedom. He does have the beginnings of a website at www.saxonfunk.com but has yet to pursue the blogging that would be part of it.

Another millennial’s dream of Findependence

For another story of a millennial inspired by Findependence Day, read about Sean Cooper’s plan to be findependent, or at least mortgage free, by age 31. You can find it here at the new Financial Independence Hub (which was launched a week ago). And you can read a new post there about how there seems to be a trend developing here.

 

 

 

Canadian e-book on Financial Independence launches

CdnEBookCover2Today, the Canadian edition of my new “Novel Series” of e-books on Financial Independence launched on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca. You can see the full title and cover in the image to the left. Those who pre-ordered should already have it on their devices.

This is the first update to the original full novel published first in Canada in 2008, and the basis for this web site. However, it is a kind of workbook companion to the novel, and at 15,000 words much shorter.

The main body of the e-book is a chapter-by-chapter summary of the story, followed by the main lessons learned by the characters. Since it’s relatively short, the price is just C$3.37 or US$2.99. (A U.S. version of the e-book launched on Nov. 3rd.)

Remember Coles Notes?

Think of it as a “Coles Notes” (or in the U.S., Cliff Notes) for people who are more interested in the content on financial independence than the story. (Come on, admit it. Remember the time in high school when you didn’t bother to read King Lear and read only the Coles Notes version! And you still got a B!)CliffnotesRomeoAndJulietCover

Or maybe you read the story once just for fun (Findependence Day, that is, not King Lear) and forgot to underline key passages containing financial lessons. This e-book is a quick refresher course and of course available on mobile devices that go where a physical book may not.

Aimed at educators, financial advisors, credit counsellors and parents

Apart from being a companion guide and refresher course for readers of the full novel, the e-books were designed for four main groups and their constituencies: teachers of finance, financial literacy or personal finance and their students; financial advisors and their clients; credit counsellors and their debt-encumbered clients; and finally parents and their children. The full books are meant to act as the “spoonful of sugar that makes the medicine go down,” the medicine being the financial lessons that have been highlighted in the short ebooks.

At its sites, Amazon provides a “Look Inside” feature that lets potential buyers sneak a free peek at the content. So you can see my new introduction, foreword and the first chapter summary. And of course, with Christmas just around the corner, Amazon also lets you specify the e-book as a gift. As you can see in our ad at the top of the new site at Findependence.TV, $3.37 is a small price to pay for something that could literally change a young person’s life. It takes just a minute to download and perhaps an hour to read.

Think that’s an exaggeration about being potentially life-changing? Read this article by a millennial who read the original novel and is now well on the way to becoming “findependent” (or at least mortgage free) by age 31.

Supplements the Novel

This ebook makes a good supplement to the novel, since it includes a few extras that were in the full U.S. edition of Findependence Day published in 2013. That includes a glossary that didn’t appear in the original Canadian novel, plus an updated bibliography of about 75 financial books from “Theo’s Kindle.” (Theo is one of two financial planner characters in the story). Most of those book listings have live links to the actual books at Amazon.

Some readers tell me they don’t own a Kindle. That doesn’t mean you can’t read these ebooks on other devices. Amazon provides a free Kindle App that lets you read Kindle ebooks on devices like the Apple iPhone and iPad, as well as the various Kindle e-readers made by Amazon.

While the U.S. edition of the full novel was available in paperback and hard cover and all e-book formats, including both Kindle and all the rest, there is still no Kindle version of the full Canadian novel. That may happen in 2015 but for those who have asked for it, we hope this new e-book is a start. And of course, it has been revised to stay current.

 

 

FinancialIndependenceHub.com and Findependence.TV launched

HubLogoJerryOn November 7th, 2014 my associates and I launched two new web sites, both devoted to the topic of Financial Independence.

The philosophy behind the new site was explained in the previous post about reframing the “Retirement” discussion as the emerging alternative paradigm of “Financial Independence.” That blog featured two prominent U.S.-based financial planners, Michael Kitces and Roger Wohlner (aka The Chicago Financial Planner.)

Click here to find the introductory post for what we’re calling “The Hub.” In addition to www.financialindependencehub.com there is a mirror site, www.findependencehub.com. They are the same but the latter takes fewer syllables to verbalize and fewer keystrokes to enter into your browser. Another reason to adopt the term “Findependence,” right?

There is also a new sister site devoted to audio and video content about financial independence. It’s at www.findependence.tv.

And yes, there will be discussion forums, five of them to correspond to the life cycle approach to investing contained in the two Findependence Day books and now the two new companion Kindle ebooks described earlier this week in this space.

This site will continue to exist

To clarify, the existing site will continue to exist, but chiefly as a vehicle to sell the two existing Findependence Day books, the new e-books and any other spin-off products that may be developed over the years. The new sites attempt to look at the entire topic of Financial Independence from a North American perspective, so will (hopefully) range far beyond the particular books featured on this site.

A prominent feature of the new site will be reviews of other books on Financial Independence, both by me and by guest reviewers I would love to hear from. It will also feature all the other blogs out there on the topic, even those that still bill themselves as personal finance, frugality or retirement blogs. We started with the list of Plutus award-winners that Roger Wohlner featured on his site recently.

We will also have a monthly email newsletter free to anyone who enters their email on the home page of the new site. Better get over there now, and thanks for reading!

Reframing the Retirement discussion as Financial Independence

Michael Kitces

Regular readers of this blog won’t be surprised to see an installment dedicated to the difference between Retirement and my preferred term Financial Independence. However, I’m by no means the only person endeavouring to make this distinction. The other day a prominent American financial planner and influential blogger, Michael Kitces, called for a shift in focus for his profession in this essay published on his blog.

He noted that for most of its history the term “retirement” has been synonymous with “not working.” For all the pleasant imagery of golf, vacations and walking on the beach, the historical context for the term retirement was, Kitces wrote, “a mechanism to ‘force’ people out of jobs they were no longer competent to perform. Programs like Social Security were originally a way to soften the blow for those forced out of the workplace into retirement … and they weren’t expected to live long in that retirement in any case.

Total leisure may not lead to happiness

But research is showing that a total cessation of work in favor of a life of 100% leisure “does not actually create the happiness that we might have expected,” Kitces says, “Leisure as an occasional break from work is appealing, but a full-time life of leisure can become boring once the novelty wears off.”

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Andrew Allentuck

This is exactly what Financial Post writer Andrew Allentuck once told me: Allentuck himself has passed the traditional retirement age of 65 but he continues to write a weekly Family Finance feature focused on the retirement readiness (or lack thereof) of various couples in their 50s and 60s (usually.) When I asked him about this, Allentuck said simply, “Retirement is boring” and added that self-evident truth that the more you work, the more money you have.

Kitces observes that being productively engaged in work brings about the meaning and purpose in life that fuels positive well-being. The work environment also provides a source of interaction with others to fuel our social well-being. This explains the rise of part-time work in retirement or even entire new “encore” careers on the part of those who, financially speaking, could afford never to work for money again.

The financial industry has held out the state of “not working” as the ultimate goal and reward for decades of career success, yet those that reach the retirement finish line often find themselves “unhappy and unfulfilled” after a few months or years. The words in quotes is Kitces’s phrasing, which he follows by suggesting it may be time to rename retirement.

Findependence more achievable than Retirement

His suggested alternative? You guessed it: financial independence. My own call to shift the discussion from Retirement to Financial Independence was articulated in a guest blog I wrote more than a year ago for Roger Wohlner, aka The Chicago Financial Planner, which you can find here.

Here’s how Kitces frames the discussion: “Being financially independent is about being independent from the need to work, which then opens the door to more productive conversations about whether we want to work, and what meaningful work might be.” (his emphasis).

I have noted before that for young people for whom retirement is a distant and seemingly impossible prospect, Financial Independence is a much more doable goal. Kitces says as much when he provides a nod to my book, writing that “For many, their ‘Findependence Day’ may be much more achievable than a full-on retirement, in addition to being more personally satisfying and conducive to well-being!”

But he adds that you can’t plan for financial independence until it’s identified in the first place. Addressing other financial planners and their interactions with clients, he closes: “So the next time you’re talking about ‘retirement,’ think about ‘financial independence and see where the conversation goes!”

Motley Fool podcast, new websites

marketfoolerySome of these themes were discussed last week on Motley Fool’s Market Foolery podcast hosted by Chris Hill, which you can find here. He closed with a mention of the US edition of my new ebook.  (Note that I now also write for Motley Fool Canada, whose website is here. As per previous post, the Canadian e-book will be available on Thur., Nov. 13 but can be pre-ordered now)

Also, as detailed in November 3rd’s post, my associates and I have just launched two new websites focused on Financial Independence. By the time you read this, the initial versions should be available at www.financialindependencehub.com and www.findependence.tv. A third site, www.findependencehub.com, is a mirror site of the first one, for those who wish to save keystrokes and are comfortable with the neologism of Findependence.

 

 

 

Introducing new e-books on Financial Independence

jonchevreau_cover-2On Tuesday, Amazon Kindle Digital Publishing released the first of my two new e-books, entitled A Novel Approach to Financial Independence.

These are not brand new projects but are short (15,000 words) summaries of Findependence Day (the financial novels shown on the right) and priced accordingly. First out is the U.S. e-book. A Canadian edition will be available next Thursday, Nov. 13 (date moved up from Nov. 24) but can be preordered now. Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature lets you read the forward, my new introduction and the first two chapters free.

Companion guide serves as teaching tools to full novel

The purpose of the new e-books is to act as a teaching tool or companion guide to accompany the full novels. Thus, they are aimed primarily at three groups: financial advisers working with individual investors; teachers of personal finance or financial literacy who work with students; and finally parents, who may want to use the full-length book to teach their children or relatives the basic principles of financial literacy or findependence.

The ebooks are priced at US$2.99 or C$3.37 (the minimum amount you can charge at Amazon and still qualify for maximum author royalties). (Note the Kindle version of the full U.S. edition costs $7.09 but sells for less on other e-book platforms, primarily through Trafford.com, Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com.)

Financial focus, but includes short plot summaries

The focus of the e-books is less on the story or novel, and more on the underlying financial principles. However, it does include short plot summaries of each chapter. It also summarizes in bullet point form the financial lessons associated with each chapter. (These end-of-chapter recaps already appear in the full U.S. edition and e-book but not in the original Canadian edition.)

The new e-books also include the glossary and bibliography from the full U.S. edition, and a new introduction by myself. The U.S. edition includes a forward written by certified financial planner Sheryl Garrett, and the Canadian edition again features a forward by CTV News senior financial commentator Patricia Lovett-Reid.CdnEBookCover2

While the ebooks are for the Kindle, you don’t need a Kindle to read them:  Amazon provides a free Kindle reader app that lets users of iPhones, iPads and other devices read Kindle ebooks. Amazon customers can also access the Kindle Cloud Reader, which you can find here.

Astute observers may note that the title of the ebook inverts the wording of the full U.S. book. My reasoning was that while the term “Findependence” may slowly be catching on in Canada, where the book was first published in 2008, the term is less familiar in the U.S., so the main title focuses on the more well-known phrase Financial Independence.

The ebook also includes live links to two new web sites on financial independence that are in the process of being launched in a matter of days.

Here comes income splitting

office binder taxes house family dollar symbolAs predicted in the morning papers, the Conservative government has formally announced its long-promised introduction of family income splitting. A $4.6 billion-a-year package of tax measures was unveiled Thursday afternoon in Toronto. As of 4 pm Thursday, here is the latest report from the Globe & Mail.

As expected, there was also an enhancement to the universal child-care benefit. The previous $100/per month for each child under six is being raised to $160/month. And parents with children between 6 and 17 will receive $60/month for each child of that age, effective January 1, 2015. However, the existing Child Tax Credit is being eliminated.

Also as anticipated, couples with children under 18 will be able to split income for tax purposes by transferring up to $50,000 of income from the higher-income earner to the lower-income partner, effective for the 2014 tax year now in progress. As speculated in the morning papers, the original proposal has been slightly watered down to impose a maximum (annual) benefit of $2,000: a sop to critics who carped that otherwise high-income earners would unduly benefit from family income splitting.

Pension splitting foreshadowed this

The precursor to family income splitting was pension income splitting, which provides a considerable tax break to retirees when one couple has a large employer pension and the other spouse does not. Introduced in the 2007 budget, pension income splitting already operates in a similar fashion to how family income splitting would work. Pension splitting is implemented when couples prepare their annual tax bill each spring.

During the 2011 election, the Conservatives floated a promise aimed at families with children up to 18 years of age; it would permit the higher-earning parent to transfer up to $50,000 a year of income to the lower-earning spouse. In effect, this would reduce tax levied at the highest marginal tax rate for the higher earner, while the lower-earning spouse would be taxed at their likely lower tax rate.  Seen as a family unit, the net tax paid by such couples would be potentially thousands of dollars less.

The classic example is to compare a one-income family where the sole breadwinner earns $100,000 a year and is taxed accordingly, versus a family where both spouses earn a more modest $50,000 a year and are taxed relatively less. A 2011 research paper from C.D. Howe Institute said the tax savings could run as high as $6,400 a year for some high-income families earning at least $125,000 a year. It said 40% of the benefits of family income splitting would go to those high-income families.

Many families — and singles — would gain nothing

While it’s nice that seniors and families with children can gain from income splitting, in between are many Canadians who would not benefit from the measure. CD Howe found 85% of households would gain nothing. That would include families where both spouses are in the same tax bracket and of course single parents who have no spouse with whom income could be split for tax purposes.

Looming election issue

I’m all for anything that boosts the financial independence of heavily taxed Canadians. Part of me thinks that all taxpayers should be treated equally, rather than singling out seniors and parents. On the other hand, there would be a high cost to the federal treasury if income splitting were applicable across the board. Because it potentially affects so many of us, family income splitting is bound to become a major political issue the next time we go to the polls. Liberal leader Justin Trudeau has said he would repeal family income splitting if he were to be elected next year. The NDP is sitting on the fence on the issue, saying it wishes to study the measure before deciding on its position.

When I posted a link this morning on my Linked In account, Allen Scantland — an accountant in Metcalfe, Ont. who is running for city council  — said “the arguments against income splitting in my mind are baseless, derogatory and wrongly associated with old notions of who earns money in the family.” Scantland said relatively few families have a primary earner making more than $100,000. Most make less and have to make tough choices on childcare, homes and where to work. “Almost all families spend their money together and should be able to level their taxes by income splitting. It is a social good.”

Tickets still available for Saturday retirement event

On a related note, the MoneySense retirement event is on Saturday morning. Last I checked, tickets were still available. Details can be found at MoneySense’s website here. marketfoolery

Also, if you listen to Motley Fool’s podcasts, I was a guest of Chris Hill on Thursday’s edition of MarketFoolery. The 14-min clip can be found at iTunes here. We talk about how Canada’s stock market resembles Australia’s, the fact Canada is concentrated in just three sectors, longevity, retirement versus Financial Independence, and even a prediction I made in 1983 about cell phones.

 

Give and ye shall receive — reflections on U2’s iTunes giveaway

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Apple’s Tim Cook and U2’s Bono

This post is only distantly connected to this blog’s normal theme of financial independence, although on reflection it may have bearing on the rock group U2’s financial independence.

Like many iTunes users, I was at first annoyed when a free copy of U2’s latest album appeared magically on my iPhone. I’d bought a few U2 albums on vinyl and cassette in the early days but was underwhelmed by my CD of Rattle & Hum, and pretty much stopped buying them or listening to U2 for the last decade or so.

I am, however, an enthusiastic fan of what I’d term “Melodic Rock,” which is why the subplot of Findependence Day revolves around vinyl music and its (arguable) cultural renaissance.  I tend to be a serial monogamist when it comes to bands. I’m the opposite of a “Shuffle” person or listeners who are happy to listen to the radio or whatever random songs that new applications like Songza throw at them.

I’m a musical serial monogamist

I tend to listen to one group at a time and play them to death for roughly two months, then latch on to a new group or rediscover an old one I hadn’t really focused on before. In the spring of this year, I went through this cycle with Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, then Ian Tyson and then in late summer The Killers. If I like the music, I’ll burn all my old CDs onto iTunes, and purchase older albums if I missed them when they came out.

Just as my time with the Killers was about to expire, along came the free download of U2’s Songs of Innocence. I hadn’t ordered it, hadn’t given much thought to U2 at all lately but hey, a bargain is a bargain. I gave it a listen and it sounded okay, listened again and quite liked it. Sure as shooting the old pattern kicked in and the Killers had been supplanted not by some newer group like the Shins (which I’ve sampled) but U2, which for me had ceased to exist since the late 1980s.

Wondering what else they might have done that I’d have liked, I read the iTunes reviews of all the U2 albums that were new to me. Since many of them cost only about $5.99, I bought two more: Achtung Baby and How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. If they continue to please, no doubt I’ll round out the entire collection before tiring of the group around — let’s see — Christmas.

I remember reading on the web a recent interview with Bono, in which the singer professed to being somewhat baffled by the uproar over what was essentially a gift to music lovers. I know plenty of people went to elaborate lengths to find a way to purge the album, unlistened, from their devices. If you’re one of them and have happened upon this blog, do yourself a favour and at least listen to the opening track or try the cut Sleep like a baby tonight.

Okay, now how do I seque to the topic of financial independence here? The obvious lesson in my case is that it cost U2 virtually nothing to give me the free download but it has since made $12 from me that it might not otherwise have earned. Before I’m done, they’ll probably make another $50, and of course they may get a few more sales from the modest publicity this blog provides. But that’s nothing compared to the many other free copies of the album that went to iTunes users: even if only one in a hundred reacts as I did, the group stands to make a mint on its back catalog on iTunes or other distribution outlets.  So this seems to be at least one good example of the spiritual proposition that “give and ye shall receive.”

Other examples where freebies generate sales

I can think of one other similar example involving Greek yogurt. One day in the grocery store, someone offered a sample of Oikos “Honey on the Bottom” Greek Yogurt. It was delicious and I’ve been a customer ever since.

A third example, closer to the U2 iTunes one, is the current rage of publishing low-cost and practically free e-books. In fact, there is an entire e-book out there that outlines a strategy of issuing almost-free ebooks or giving away totally free ebooks for short periods of time: Crush it with Kindle (which itself costs just $2.65). In the next week or so,  using these principles, I will be releasing a Kindle-only ebook called A Novel Approach to Financial Independence. It will probably cost $2.99. I’ll devote a whole blog to it when the time comes early in November.

But right now, I have to get back to listening to U2.

 

How to transition to drawing income in retirement

diamondbookcoverIt’s not often I read a book twice and even rarer that I’ve reviewed the second edition of a book. The rare exception is Daryl Diamond’s newly revised Your Retirement Income Blueprint, published by Wiley Canada in 2011 and now in 2014 by Milner & Associates Inc.

A major reason is revealed in the back-cover blurb I supplied for the new edition. When the original came out, I was still fully employed and the idea of retirement or financial independence were just theoretical concepts. But as I say in the blurb, now that I’m transitioning from employment to semi-retirement or self-employment, “I intend to use Daryl’s blueprint as my personal plan for drawing income from a diversified portfolio and other income sources.”

Different skill set for decumulation

Diamond rightly points out that there is a world of difference between wealth accumulation and drawing an income. He’s probably also correct that there are a lot fewer financial advisors who specialize in decumulation, compared to the legions who are focused on wealth accumulation.

Diamond – who like myself was born in 1953 – lays out a six-step plan for creating and implementing a retirement income blueprint. Even on a second read, I still found myself underlining certain passages that must not have penetrated my thick skull originally. Things like the Age Credit and Pension Tax Credit tend not to be top of mind until you actually stand to benefit from them. (And I don’t yet but can see the day fast approaching when I would!)

Where Diamond really adds value is the way he integrates tax planning with a logical order for drawing on various retirement income sources. His “Cash Wedge” or “Floor and Upside” concept seems to me a variation of Asset Dedication: setting up enough cash flow to draw down on for the first two or three years. His discussion of the order in which to draw on government and employer pensions, annuities and registered and non-registered investments is masterful. And his recommendations are not always obvious. For example, he’s generally in favor of taking OAS and CPP benefits relatively early, in part because he has an acute understanding of how higher income later in retirement can impact the aforementioned age and pension credits, or indeed receipt of OAS benefits at all.

In a similar fashion, he advocates using non-registered (or what he terms tax-paid) assets when you move into higher tax brackets.

Sweet spot for age and pension credits

While the editions aren’t hugely different – the blue front cover is virtually identical in both editions — Diamond and editor Karen Milner have done a good job updating everything to 2014. So, for example, you will learn (on page 158) that the tax-efficient net income “sweet spot” in 2014 for someone aged 65 or over is $34,873. Or, a few pages later, that the federal “tax-free zone” is $18,054, which rises to just over $20,000 if the pension credit is generated.

He also makes it clear that letting vehicles like tax-deferred RRSPs grow indefinitely can be tax-inefficient, since that creates what can be a “tax trap” after age 71, when minimum and fully taxable RRIF income starts to kick in. So he shows how you can start withdrawing income from RRSPs or RRIFs to get you to the top end of any given tax bracket, even if the extra (and taxable) income is not required that particular year. He’s also a big fan, as I am, of the Tax Free Savings Account or TFSA.

No doubt I will frequently consult this book personally as I progress to later stages of the “Findependence” journey I’ve been chronicling in these blogs.

All I can say is the $26.95 retail price of the book is trivial compared to the tens of thousands of dollars that could be saved by implementing the steps in the proper order.

 

 

 

 

 

Catch the Wave: Cloud-based accounting

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Cloud-based accounting means the end of shoebox accounting

The book The E-Myth Revisited makes some amusing points about small business owners. Almost to a man (or woman), they loathe accounting. They may enjoy marketing or creating new products or services, but keeping track of expenses, invoicing and the like? It’s the last thing they really want to do, which leads to the usual habit of procrastinating by shoving paper receipts into the proverbial shoe box, then presenting the whole shooting match to their accountant once a year.

But no accountant I know will accept such an arrangement, or if they do they’d have to charge a prohibitively high rate for the service. In practice — and I base this on running a personal corporation since 1999 — you at least have to put all the receipts and paperwork into folders representing the major expense categories, then summarize it all on a spreadsheet so the accountant can make some sense of it.

At one point, I experimented with shrink-wrapped accounting software, which typically cost a few hundred dollars. But I was never comfortable with it so stuck to the shoebox-and-spreadsheet routine. Until this summer, when courtesy of the very helpful folks at Knightsbridge, I discovered Accounting by Wave.

This software has several good things going for it. First, it’s free. Second, it’s cloud-based, so you can store all your info on “the cloud” and access it from whatever computer you have access to: there’s even an iPhone app. Third, it’s Canadian. And fourth, it’s relatively intuitive and easy to use. What more do you want?

Not surprisingly, the software has 1.5 million happy users, most of them the small businesses, consultants and freelancers the company has targeted. And wouldn’t you know it, right off the topic they promise “shoebox accounting stops now.”

Integrated with your business bank account

The software lets you input your corporate bank account information so right off the bat payments to your account and disbursements from it are automatically recorded. You’ll have to spend some time reconciliation expenses incurred via credit cards, cash disbursements and the like but an hour spent every week or two should suffice for most home-office setups like mine. And it sure beats dreading the annual spreadsheet ritual!

The software is quite proficient at keeping track of customers and invoicing, and it generates various reports on demand that show the current expenses, payments and accounts receivable. And yes, it lets you add HST. Again, there’s an element of garbage in, garbage out here, so the reports will only be meaningful if you’re staying on top of all the transactions and properly categorizing them.

How does this relate to Findependence Day?

Glad you asked! If you’ve followed this blog since May, you’ll know I believe in creating multiple streams of income, whether you’re gainfully employed, semi-retired or even fully retired. Part of that is Internet-based: refer to Robert Allen’s book, Multiple Streams of Internet Income, or any of the three books by Scott Fox. (His site is here, and latest book here).

But the other piece of the equation is running your own business and keeping track of all the moving pieces. As I’ve come to appreciate, a traditional “job” really comes down to serving and satisfying a single client, which in practice means “your boss.” The traditional corporate or government job largely shields the employee from accounting: all you need to worry about is submitting the annual T-4 slip with your annual tax return, claim the usual deductions and hope for a tax refund at the end of it.

The good thing about self-employment is that (hopefully) you don’t have any boss but yourself and instead of one huge mega-client, you have many smaller clients. You may lose one from time to time but the others can keep the ship afloat until another replaces it.  Seen that way, a “job” is the opposite of diversification: you have all your eggs in one basket and if your boss decides to smash that basket, you’ve got trouble.

This cloud-based software is a real boon to keeping on top of your business. Hopefully, all your earned income from multiple clients or products or services constitute a major part of your revenue stream. Of course, you should also have investment income, emergency savings and pension income (depending on your age), so that your “Findependence” isn’t riding on any one of these.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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