Monday, April 23, 2007

Trading note -- Bring on more bank fees, I say

Made my first stock purchase in a while last week. I'm pleased to say that like 99% of Canadian investors, I'm now a happy owner of bank stocks. I put $3200 into BMO shares. Yes, yes, I know that BMO's currently trading at an all-time high -- but we're talking about the big banks here, people: the old rules don't apply. I'm not expecting my shares to skyrocket overnight so I can cash out in a few weeks time, but in terms of buy-and-hold Canadian dividend investing, the banks really are no-brainers. I'm confident my tiny stake in BMO will do what I hope it will -- slowly grow over time, giving me dependable capital gains and a steadily increasing dividend payout.

That'll probably be the last position I'll be instigating in Canada for a while now, because barring a major market correction, the whole TSX looks a tad pricey to me. As per my asset allocation targets, my next purchase will probably be to pad up my international holdings -- most likely via an emerging market ETF since I currently have no exposure to that sector.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


Alternate title: A moving post

With apologies to David Bowie, from whom I borrowed the title of his seminal 1972 rock anthem as a hackneyed segue, I want to talk about the costs associated with moving into nicer living accomodations.

My girlfriend and I currently live in a 1-bedroom apartment that hovers somewhere between "milk-crate-bedecked-student-accomodation" and "Volkswagen-Passat-clad-yuppie-pad" depending on how motivated to clean and or decorate the walls either of us happen to be at any given moment. Since we've both apparently recently figured out that we haven't been full time students for over two years, we've decided to test out the condo marker -- the condo rental market, that is -- to see what life is like for mid-20s urban professionals with a modicum of disposable income to spend.

We've found a nice place in a mid-sized, newish building with all the amenities (a patio, a gym, parking included) we were looking for. We'll be signing the lease imminently, the net result of which will be about an extra $200-$300 more in rent, per month, for each of us. In and of itself, that's an entirely manageable increase in monthly spending to accommodate -- expecially considering I was worried I've been cheaping out for a little while and not taking the time to smell the roses that life has to offer. (That shouldn't be a problem now as my rooftop patio allows or my own personal rose garden should I want it.)

But it's the other, ancillary costs that come with a move that can really add up. Because you're not really just signing up for an extra $250 a month. You're signing up for an extra few hundred square foot of space -- which you're probably going to want to plonk a $1000 worth of sofa into. And those extra cupboards in the kitchen need a slow-cooker and a pasta-maker to fill them up, for the low low price of a few hundred bucks.

I've never really been one of those people who gets drawn into "keeping up with the Joneses" but doing the math in my head, I think we're both going to be out as much as $1000 upfront in moving-related expenses, what with moving fees and a smattering of new furniture to be purchased.

They say buying a home is one of the most expensive things you'll ever do. I may not have a huge mortgage to worry about just yet, but in my experience -- so is moving into a bigger apartment.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Taxes -- Finished!

Sat down last weekend for my annual March/April tradition of filling out my income tax form and I'm pleased to report that it gets less painless every year.

The net result is a nice little refund for me (Thank you, RRSPs!) but what I really wanted to focus on is an obscure clause in last year's budget I had forgotten about that came up in my favour:

Line 363 -- Canada Employment Amount
Under proposed legislation, employees are eligible to claim an employment amount. Claim the lesser of $250 or the total of the employment income you reported on line 101 and line 104 of your return

For 99% of employed, tax-paying people, this means a $250 tax credit. I remember this news at the time of the 2006 federal budget but I had forgotten it until I sat down to file my return. As best as I can tell this was a Conservative attempt to reward any and all Canadians who have a job for being productive members of society. Seems like an obtuse way of going about it, but who am I to knock a gift horse in the mouth. Every little bit helps.

Postscript:Just a note that my net worth this month has hit another milestone by crossing through the $30,000 barrier. Doesn't really mean anything in and of itself, but I'm pleased with my progress and my long-term plan's progression. Slow and steady…slow and steady….