Friday, February 20, 2009


President Obama's first big foreign trip was to Ottawa yesterday where he was welcomed by hordes of cheering Canadians, a snowstorm, freezing cold temperatures, a happy Harper and about ten thousand cops, security personnel, mounties and military snipers. I suppose that indicates he is fairly high value target.

The Canadian news reports of the visit were overwhelmingly positive and the trip seems to have been quite a success for both leaders. Stephen Harper actually looked happy, which is an emotion he surely hasn't felt for months. During the press conference Ana and I were trying to imagine how it would have been different with Stephane Dion up there and the image was not pretty - something along the lines of "the Messiah meets Forest Gump". Thank god that didn't happen.

There has not been such an outpouring of affection for a US president by Canadians since Kennedy so I see this as a potentially huge turning point in Canada-US relations. The anti-Americanism in Canada isn't just an embarrassment, it is an insult to our collective dignity. I think that Obama will give Canadians a reason to leave much of that crap behind and instead focus on the overwhelmingly positive aspects of our relationship with our neighbour to the south. One thing Harper said yesterday really struck a chord with me - he said that we often concentrate on the differences between our countries, and even when Canada "wins" a dispute with the US, we lose. That's some terrible paraphrasing on my part, but the idea is so true.

Thanks for visiting us, Mr. Obama! Here's to a productive US/Canada partnership as the collective economic shit hits the fan!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Economic disaster - time to buy a boat?

We took a drive to Cleveland last weekend. If you're as geographically challenged as I am you probably haven't got a clue where it is or why you'd go there. Cleveland, Ohio is about a 5.5 hour drive from our home in Paris and the route takes you through steely Hamilton, past splashy Niagara Falls, across the border at wingy Buffalo, then west across the spooky south shores of Lake Erie until you hit Cleveland, home of the Rock & Roll Museum and I'm not sure what else. Our friends Andrew and Jess put a bid in on a repossessed 34' Sea Ray powerboat and we went down there with them to check it out in person before sealing the deal. Of course, spending a couple hours poking around beautiful, bargain priced boats certainly puts you in a "retirement fantasy mode" and we of course started scheming for our own boat purchase.

We've been thinking that we'd like to spend our 40th birthdays on a sailboat someplace warm. And since our 40th birthdays are six months apart, it really gives us no other choice besides spending a full year away. My original calculations produce an estimated departure date three years hence but when I checked with Ana to see how old we were, I found out that I slipped a year somewhere and was a bit older than I thought. So we may have to do our 41st or 42nd birthdays on a boat. Regardless, we still need to get a boat beforehand to actually learn how to sail. The last time I owned a boat I nearly destroyed it on several occassions, which is a tremendous way to learn, but this time around I think it may be a better idea to take things somewhat slower and try not to sink it.

If anybody hears of a person with a 37' to 40' mint condition sailboat manufactured in the late eighties who is desperate to sell for a ridiculously low price due to job loss, divorce, mental instability, boredom, grief, fun, or whatever, give them my email.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Market value of rental properties

Ana and I have been discussing selling one of our rental properties in Brantford that we currently rent to students. It's a 3 + 1 bedroom house that we originally bought to renovate and resell but were not able to sell it for what we wanted so decided to keep it and rent it out to students, since it's close to the university in Brantford.

I've been wondering if we should sell it now in case the local real estate market takes a tumble. The house now is cash flow positive, especially since the variable rate mortgage payments have been tumbling, but it is not our best performing property. We discussed this last night and came to the following conclusions:

1. If we sold it now, we wouldn't make a substantial amount of profit after realtor fees, mortgage penalties, etc so it wouldn't result in a large amount of equity to put into another project
2. Our student tenants are excellent and are taking good care of the place
3. We've done a substantial amount of maintenance on the house making it pretty much maintenance free now
4. We haven't been finding many opportunities in the market, prices are still very high and there's not much quality stuff coming available
5. The local universities are expanding like mad and since university attendence usually increases in a recession, we should have no trouble keeping it filled for the foreseeable future

Since reveue generating real estate value is based on cash flow produced, it may make this particular segment of the real estate market hold up okay in a major correction. Landlords are normally very wary of reducing rents so hopefully the rental market remains strong and we'll just keep collecting that monthly cash flow!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


This is year two of our website redesign project. Year one didn't go so well - we came up with lots of ideas to improve and modernize the site, but then life got in the way!

One area to update is our journal. We are now in the tenth year of logging journal entries and during the time, the internet has come a long way to say the least. Our current system of adding journals is very manual so I decided to set up a proper blogging account and link it back to our website. Now that I have it set up I am really amazed by the functionality available, much more than I was anticipating. Just being able to add to the blog from any computer or even mobile phone will be a major improvement.

Recently, I've been wanting to do more writing on the various thoughts I have on other topics, such as investing, real estate, landlording, and raising kids. I find it very interesting to look back at old journal postings on our website, which are mainly travel related. To help develop my investing skills I think it will be good to log how I'm currently viewing the markets and my current investment strategy then look back in a year and see if they were the right decisions at the time. This should help in making me a better investor.

I'd also like to use this to start building up our lifeisgrand mailing list. I am currently working on a book and once it's done it will be nice to have an email list ready to help in marketing the final product.

Welcome to the new lifeisgrand blog!