Categories
Life Work

Do you Live to Work?

Are you really free? If you’re like most middle-aged people, you’re probably living a life to serve the system.

Everyone starts with 24 hours:

  • 8 hours for sleep
  • 1 hour for showering, breakfast, etc. in the morning
  • 1 hour commute
  • 8-9 hours at work
  • 1 hour commute
  • 1 hour meal prep, eating, cleaning
  • 1 hour of exercise
  • 1 hour kids homework

What does that leave you? 1-2 hours of ‘freedom’. Yeah, your best hours to invest in yourself can begin after you’ve fully drained all your mental and physical energy.

Do you have hopes and dreams? Save them for between the hours of 10:00pm and 11:00pm.

You’ll notice I’m leaving out laundry, groceries, repairing the back stairs, mowing the lawn, dry-cleaning, picking up pencil crayons for your kid’s art project, and so on. That’s where your weekends go. And if you’re like many people, those obligatory social gatherings – after work drinks, in-law’s birthday party – might as well be minor forms of work too.

The time each of us have to actually do what we want is minimal. If you’re like me, you have to find enjoyment in the daily chores.

The funny thing is, most jobs don’t require 8-9 hours. How much of your day is wasted? This has become especially apparent when we started working from home. This new setup is amazing! I can get my work and daily errands done much faster than before.

But the system doesn’t like it. The system wants us indebted with minimal free time. This keeps us dependent on our employers for money. Moreover, with little spare time we blindly purchase short-lived dopamine hits – retail therapy, objects of desire – benefiting our employers. The house always wins.

Yeah, that’s it…your pusher wants you to happily return every penny he provides you so you’re totally dependent. It keeps you coming back for more, despite hating every minute of it.

Ever have a boss suggest you buy a bigger house or upgrade to a new car? Perhaps after they just gave you a raise? They certainly don’t want you using that extra money to pay down your debts to achieve financial freedom. If they’re to shape your behaviour they need you financially subservient. Highly mortgaged people with families to care for make the best indentured servants employees.

God forbid you smoke a little ganga when not on the clock and your employer tests. That stuff stays in your system for a while – doesn’t matter how good you are at your job. Even your free time is co-opted by the system.

In the end, you’re just an anonymous cog in a machine. Those people at work that call each other family will fall off the face of the earth as soon as they retire/quit/fired/die. Although turnover is a pain in the ass, in the long run everyone is replaceable. We’re all just worker drones.

So don’t give your life to work. Because work will happily take it. Break free by striving to become debt free while owning income-producing assets. Only then can you live life on your terms.

Categories
Gardening & Food Life Self Sufficiency

5 Reasons I Grow Vegetables

For most of my life I’ve relied on the ‘system’ for my basic needs, food being the most fundamental. Going to the grocery store is convenient, fast and easy. The selection is enormous and for most people living in developed countries grocery store food is quite affordable.

The system works and has worked for decades. So why would anyone go through the time and effort to grow their own food?

Spring 2021 I made my third attempt (my first serious attempt, however) to grow vegetables in my small urban backyard. I am growing tomatoes, peppers, squash, basil, jalapenos and ‘the happy plant’ from seed. So far, things are going much better than I expected. In fact, I think I might end up with more than I can handle. I’ll probably need to learn how to preserve food, but I’ll cross that bridge later.

I’m not the only one who started taking gardening seriously this year. Working at home has turned us all into renovators, decorators, gardeners, etc. as we focus on the homestead in which we are spending more time. Moreover, the pandemic has opened our eyes to the vulnerabilities of the ‘system’ upon which we rely.

There are 5 main reasons why I believe it is important that all of us should start growing our own vegetables:

Increase Self Sufficiency and Food Security

Although we rarely give it a second thought, it’s flabbergasting that we completely outsource our most essential need to others. Considering society is only 3 missed meals from anarchy, it only makes sense to reduce dependence on others for our food.

For most urban (and even rural) gardeners, it’s unlikely you can grow 100% of your own food requirements. However, replacing some portion of groceey purchases with home-grown vegetables helps increase self sufficiency in the event of a disruption to the industrial food supply chain.

Learning to grow food takes time, and it’s not something you want to figure out during a crisis. So developing the skills now (when you don’t need them to survive) is good practice for any future failures.

This goes beyond the individual household. If everyone in a community had the skill to grow some of their own food, it would alleviate pressure on the industrial food system. Some say that this community skill helped people survive the collapse of the Soviet Union 30 years ago.

Immigrant families in Canada and the United States have carried the tradition of growing food because of what they and their ancestors have witnessed in their home countries. Gardening is an essential skill.

Reduce Consumption of Pesticides and Herbicides

Industrial-scale food production isn’t possible without massive use of chemicals to kill bugs, eradicate weeds and feed plants. While the food we buy from the grocery store is generally safe, it’s still exposed to unwanted residues.

When you grow your own vegetables, you can cut out unwanted inputs. At a household scale, it’s far easier to manage pests and weeds by hand or other less harmful methods. (For example, many use a mixture of dish-soap and water as a safer alternative to pesticides.) You’re never going to win 100% of the battles, but once you accept that a portion of your crop will inevitably be lost to pests you can enjoy the remainder with less worry about what you’re ingesting.

Quality and Taste

Most varieties of vegetables grown on industrial-scale farms are bred to survive mass production, as opposed to taste. They are picked before ripening and shipped over long distances, often stored in fridges or freezers. As a result, many vegetables bought in the grocery store are of mediocre quality. Sure, they look nice (because that’s what ultimately sells the produce) but they lack flavor.

When you grow your own vegetables, you can go from farm-to-table within minutes. This means you can pick your vegetables when they are ready for eating, as opposed to when they are ready for transport and storage. Also, because your vegetables don’t need to be bred to survive the food distribution supply chain, you can use varieties that are bred for flavor.

Mental and Physical Health

Aside from the nutritional and security benefits, gardening can help improve your mental and physical health. Getting outside, moving, lifting and so on beats watching Netflix on the couch. Moreover, research has shown that being in nature can help people de-stress.

I particularly find gardening fulfilling. It is the most fulfilling activity I do. It is a rare opportunity to see something go from nothing to something valuable, entirely dependent on my effort. I have full control (mostly) and the more I put in the more I get out. You simply don’t get that from most day jobs, where your efforts are often lost in bureaucratic noise.

Gardening is the antidote to corporate life.

Community

Most successful harvests result in an overabundance of food. While it’s important to learn how to store a harvest over long periods (e.g. canning, drying), donating a surplus of vegetables is a great way to connect with others in your community.

Give baskets of tomatoes to your friends, family and neighbors. It might encourage others to start their own gardens or find other ways to become more self-sufficient.

This benefits everyone.

Categories
Life

How Toronto Crime Changed During the Pandemic

    Violent crimes down.

    Mental health and drug-related issues up.

    I would normally write a couple hundred words to go along with charts and graphs, but I think the two charts below convey all necessary information. So I’ll save you the time and simply share the charts below:

    Source: DumbWealth.com and Statistics Canada. Table 35-10-0169-01 Selected police-reported crime and calls for service during the COVID-19 pandemic
    Source: DumbWealth.com and Statistics Canada. Table 35-10-0169-01 Selected police-reported crime and calls for service during the COVID-19 pandemic
    Categories
    Investing Life Wealth

    Investing, Hope and Climate Catastrophe

    There was a time when an HIV+ diagnosis was a death sentence.

    Not anymore.

    According to Elizabeth Ranes, RN, “life expectancy for a person infected with HIV now extends to 70 years of age. That’s a remarkable improvement from the early days of HIV, when many men succumbed to the disease in their 30s.”

    Someone diagnosed with HIV in 1989 would have little to look forward to, and no need for retirement planning at all. Anyone with any savings would spend it all, as most had no heirs and many were isolated from their families.

    However, as diagnosis and treatments quickly improved during the 1990s, a subset of HIV patients started to outlive their wealth. This subset had planned for the worst, but unexpectedly benefited from new treatments. This new hope was a mixed blessing, as many of these people were now penniless.

    Today, a growing number of teenagers are increasingly hopeless about the future. Instead of a disease, a convergence of global warming, resource shortages, political extremism and wealth disparity is painting a bleak picture.

    Guidance counselors and therapists have commented on a growing number of young people seeking help amid existential gloom. Like it or not, agree or disagree, Greta Thunberg is the poster child for global teenage grief, anger and hopelessness.

    The thread below illustrates what’s going on:

    I know people love to hate on Greta, but remember she is a child. The value she provides might not necessarily be her arguments. Rather, the fact she is expressing her worry is what we need to take away. She is a barometer for the psychology of a growing portion of tomorrow’s leaders.

    As I’ve explained by looking at the AIDS epidemic, when people lose hope they adjust their behaviours. They live like they have no future.

    What does that mean for teenagers today?

    And what if they are wrong?

    Let me tell you a secret. When I was a teenager I had little hope for my future. I’m not entirely sure why. Perhaps I received no encouragement or help. Maybe I had pessimistic tendencies. I definitely had no path in front of me.

    So I behaved like I had no future. I did many stupid things. Luckily I snapped out of it and doubled-down on forging my own path. But I could have easily gone the other way and simply continued to be a burden to those around me. Or worse.

    What happens when a big segment of the population feels this way for similar reason, thus reinforcing their belief? They certainly won’t be thinking about retirement savings. More likely, they’ll be drop-outs, criminals and pot-heads. Not all. But more than under normal circumstances.

    Maybe they’ll be proven right in the end. Maybe there is no future. But if they’re wrong, they’re basically cornering themselves into a pretty shitty life. In the end, it becomes a self fulfilling prophesy.

    I’m not blind to the problems we face, but I think it’s important to maintain some hope. We each have our ways. Acceptance, action, religion.

    We must continue saving and investing like we have a future. Perhaps the nature of those investments and the way we budget for risk change. We need to broaden our definition beyond financial instruments and invest in skills, resiliency and self sufficiency. We also need to plan for a greater number of contingencies and develop a better understanding of ‘risk’.

    As we’ve learned during the AIDS crisis, simply dropping the ball to sulk on the sidelines won’t do anyone any good.

    Categories
    Life

    Toronto is Getting Hotter

    I recently came across a chart on Reddit that showed the average daily mean temperature in Toronto has risen about 3.5% since 1841. This chart is nice and simple to understand.

    However, I wanted to dig beneath the surface to get a more detailed picture of what’s actually going on. Specifically, I wondered whether Toronto is experiencing hotter summers or milder winters. So I broke out the data and created my own chart.

    To answer my question I needed to add more variables to my chart, unfortunately making it more complicated to understand. However, if you take the time to digest the information the conclusions are pretty clear.

    Each data point in the red shaded area in my chart below represents the maximum mean temperature in the previous 12 month period. The blue shaded area represents the minimum mean temperature in the same 12 month period. Maximum mean temperatures occurred during the summers and minimum mean temperatures occurred during the winters. So what this basically shows is the hottest periods of historical summers and the coldest periods of historical winters.

    I then layered on a linear trendline to illustrate the broader trend.

    As you can see, the trend is up – for both summers and winters. Summers are getting hotter and winters getting milder. What I found interesting, however, was that while mean maximum temperatures during summers has increased by about 2 degrees Celsius since 1840, mean minimum temperatures during winters has risen about 3.5 degrees Celsius.

    Simply put, winters in Toronto are getting milder faster than summers are getting hotter, significantly contributing to the city’s overall rise in average temperature.

    Source: Environment Canada, DumbWealth.com. Monthly data from March 1840 to June 2003.

    Note: The data for this particular weather station is only available until June 2003. I suppose the weather station was closed then?

    Categories
    Investing Life Wealth

    How Can Inflation Coexist with Deflation?

    How does one explain a world in which macro trends are deflationary (DumbWealth: The Case for Deflation) yet the basic necessities of life are increasing in price?

    While it sounds contradictory, the two paradigms can coexist. Look at housing prices and healthcare costs over the past 10 or 20 years. Look at commodity prices during the 2000s.

    From the late 1990s to early 2010s commodity prices across the board were going through a super-cycle, driven by rising Chinese demand. Commodity prices were booming, yet – despite some cyclical bounces along the way – the secular disinflationary trend that began around 1980 continued until present day.

    Medium Term Crude Oil Prices

    Makes no fucking sense, right?

    There are those who argue the CPI stats don’t reflect reality. The thing is, price ‘reality’ for one person isn’t ‘reality’ for another. We all have different baskets of goods and all spend different proportions of income on those goods, so our true experiences will differ.

    ShadowStats has re-calculated CPI based on its own interpretation and has consistently printed double the reported inflation rate:

    So, despite the long-term deflationary pressures of debt, demographics, productivity and imports, one must still respect how quickly commodity prices have risen lately. We’ve seen this battle before.

    Over the near term, we’re going to see rising prices. Perhaps the scariest part of all this is how quickly global food prices are rising. Over the past year, the FAO Food Price Index has risen almost 40%!

    This doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll witness a 40% price increase in the grocery stores or a huge impact to your food budget. However, for the poorest portions of global society this could mean the difference between paying rent and feeding their kids.

    In the end, the cure for high prices is high prices. This means two things.

    1. Much of the current increase in commodity prices is caused by supply chain issues created (exposed?) by the pandemic plus growing shortages of raw commodities. Higher prices are incentivizing production (and delivery) to quickly come back on line, which will eventually mitigate further price increases – potentially even lowering prices.
    2. Higher prices could break demand. At some point people simply can’t afford to pay higher prices. There’s an argument that the final straw that broke the housing market’s back prior to the 2008 Global Financial Crisis was higher gas prices. People could no longer justify longer drives, eroding demand for new suburban sprawl developments. Simply put, higher prices eventually erode demand somewhere, somehow and this can have a domino effect on the economy, ultimately replacing rising prices with a deflationary shock. This is what we saw in 2008.

    Final thoughts

    Although the ‘peak oil’ movement seems to have disbanded with the influx of lower quality, relatively expensive American shale oil, it is quite possible the world is riding a deflationary low-tide coupled with broad resource shortages that result in inflationary waves.

    My prevailing shower theory (i.e. something I came up with in the shower) is that the secular deflationary forces will remain omnipresent, but most of the world will fixate on the boom/bust cycles driven by resource demand and shortages, exacerbated by fragility in the global just-in-time supply chain.

    There will be rotation from good times to bad and back, but ultimately there is no end to this inflation-deflation battle. We can’t make more easily accessible, high quality oil, copper, etc. Yet, ‘economic progress’ requires us to use more and more. However, demographics and debt will continue to act as a counterbalancing force for our destiny.

    Categories
    Life

    Government Supporting Fossil Fuel Offenders Over Green Economy

    According to new research by Tearfund, the International Institute for Sustainable Development and the Overseas Development Institute (source), governments around the world are talking more than acting when it comes to mitigating climate damage.

    G7 governments – UK, US, Canada, Italy, France, Germany and Japan – spent $189bn to support oil, coal and gas between January 2020 and March 2021. They spent another $115bn to prop up struggling automobile and airline industries, during that time. Despite all the green economy rhetoric, 80% of this money was given with zero environmental conditions.

    In contrast, G7 governments only spent $147bn on clean forms of energy. That’s less than half the $304bn given to big CO2 offenders.

    Governments around the world are promoting plans to ‘build back better’ in a post-pandemic world. Yet, looking at these numbers, I have to ask: ‘better for whom?’

    Categories
    Life Wealth

    Should You Get Your MBA?

    Are you considering dropping $100k on an MBA? You better think long and hard before applying. That boat load of money might not get you what you’re looking for (assuming you even know what you’re looking for).

    An MBA isn’t a solution for career malaise and those who do it are often disappointed. Particularly given the cost.

    Here are some real comments from a recent Reddit post by Canadians who have done their MBA in the recent past:


    I completed my MBA from <school in Toronto> last year. I was also a mature student. Frankly I don’t think it is worth the investment. The program is poor and the resume build and placement assistance is mediocre at best. If you are planning a career in a sports related industry, you may be able to connect with alumni and help you in your career, but in other areas / industry – the hiring / placement is comparable to any other degree. You could recover part of the cost by working as a graduate assistant. Not recommended for gaining any new skill set or career growth. If you are interested in entrepreneurship and planning your own start-up, they have some resources and good profs. Other courses, it’s just a sham – you participate and submit any junk, you will get an ‘A’.

    I think it really depends on the type of job you’re aiming for. For example, if you ask the accounting majors wheter you should get a MBA, it’s almost always going to a no because regular accounting work holds the CPA designation more valuable than an MBA. However, if you want to get into consulting, some firms may require a MBA, and going back to school definitely has its perks on career resources and events that you can attend. I would say make sure you actually have a plan in mind to use that MBA towards something, whether it be a job in new direction or something. Otherwise, if you’re doing it for the sake of doing it, it may just become a really expensive paper.

    Yrs ago I was torn whether to do a CPA or an MBA. Decided CPA was better value and return. Yrs later, I have no regrets. I’m likely making much more money than if I had a MBA. To me, an MBA is really a networking opportunity. The actual content is no more than you’d get in any bachelor degree. So if you don’t plan to really take advantage of the networking it’s of almost no value. And an online MBA is (In my opinion) almost useless, and a total waste of a lot of money.

    I may be wrong, but my opinion after 15 year career is that many MBA grads do it because their career has stalled and they need a credential to get another 10%. They tend to not be super talented or high performers but are good at school. Source: I work in marketing and make a comfortable living with only a BSc and relatively high IQ.

    Well MBA grad from one of the top Canadian schools here. Unless you’re in management consulting or investment banking then it’s not worth it. Save your money and invest in something else instead.

    My husband graduated with an MBA from uoft 5 years ago and hasn’t used it to its supposed advantage. He didn’t take advantage of the networking aspect of it and is still in the exact same industry, associate level position and income bracket. I admit he lacks the drive to really do anything with it which is why I had initially advised him against doing the degree. unless he had a clear plan for his career…which he did not. With that said, he enjoyed the program although it was very intense. Many of his classmates are now very successful in their careers. If you want to do your MBA just make sure you know why you want to do it, what you will do with it and if it will add value to your life and career.

    I asked my former boss who did it and he doesn’t think it’s worth it. And as someone who never had an MBA, I don’t think its worth it as well. Education has lost its luster and its more of a “foot in the door” for consideration rather than having value. Even for candidates whom I’m interviewing for, I don’t really put much value behind it. Relevant experience is more important. This is coming from the perspective of CPG business/ecommerce.

    MBA is only worth it if you can’t breakout of your current income level. If you’re already at +$100k, then it’s basically useless and your opportunity cost is insanely high for the potential return. To move into the mid 6 figure salaries, you’d be better off with a solid executive coaching program and networking with VP+

    I was seriously considering this about 8/9 years ago and was planning to go to <school in Toronto>. I was getting into the tech industry and wanted something that would “help advance my career”. This is around the same time when “design thinking” was the new buzzword that every business was using and, bingo, I was a young product designer at the time. I decided not to do it and I’m glad I didn’t because it wouldn’t have been for me. I hated university the first time around and felt like I could flourish much more actually working and learning from those with experience. I’m really happy with how my career shaped out and I’m earning considerably more than I ever thought I could with room for growth. I know this is an entirely different perspective that you originally asked for but I think you just need to think about if it’s something that is going to be right for you. Do you enjoy what you do? Do you feel like your position has room for growth (seniority, managerial, exec.)? Do you feel like your industry has room for growth (tech, etc)?

    Far too often, degrees are seen as a way to get a better job as opposed to a way to do a job better. I think employers can see through this by now.

    Successful MBA graduates aren’t successful because they got an MBA. They’re successful because they work their asses off to leverage any opportunity (education/network/namebrand/alumni) to move the needle further. Having the expectation that the MBA will open doors will set you up for a lot of regret.

    Categories
    Life Real Estate Wealth

    Canadians are Not Happy

    A recent global happiness survey conducted by the World Happiness Report has shown that Canadians now rank 15 on a country by country scale. This is a 5 place drop from Canada’s previous rank of 10.

    On an absolute and relative level, the conclusion is simple: Canadians are not happy.

    You might argue that Canadians are happier than people in Moldova or India, and you’re probably right. The thing is, people don’t measure satisfaction based on how bad things could be. They compare their standing against others around them. And against their own experiences.

    The whole world has gone through lockdowns, Covid deaths and massive lifestyle changes. So if everything were equal, you’d expect the rankings to remain constant. Clearly, Canada is going through something other countries aren’t. The right will blame the left. Left the right. There’s so much subjectivity in these kinds of surveys that who’s to really know.

    One thing is clear though. The countries with the happiest citizens are socialist paradises: Finland, Denmark, Switzerland, Iceland and Netherlands. These are countries that take care of their people. Indeed, 9 of the top 10 countries were European.

    The anomaly was New Zealand – probably the most European country outside of the EU. Canada used to fit that description.

    So what went wrong? The most objective answer I can provide is economic. A growing proportion of Canadians can’t afford one of the most basic of Maslow’s needs: Shelter.

    Rents and home prices across Canadian regions with the most jobs are higher than almost anywhere else in the world, in relation to median incomes. Moreover, the unaffordability gap is widening. Every day, housing prices are rising faster than most individuals’ ability to save for a down payment.

    It used to be that a nuclear family could live quite well off a single blue collar wage. Today, many Canadians are abandoning the idea of ever having kids – they have nowhere to put them.

    I’m not saying these Canadians are living on the street. They’re living with parents and sharing apartments. But they’re doing so way longer than previous generations. With the light at the end of the tunnel shrinking, this dependency on the kindness of others to meet a basic physiological requirement is stressful, and unusual for most Canadians throughout modern history.

    When basic physiological needs – like shelter – are not met, people are unable to pursue safety, belongingness, esteem, and self-actualization. They are unable to develop as humans, therefore limiting their capacity for happiness.

    Categories
    Life Work

    UBI: A Modern Day Utopia?

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