personal finance

Personal Finance - Part 3, Investments

This is the final installment in a three-part series about personal finance for the conscious green Edmontonian. It covers:

  1. day to day finances
  2. retirement
  3. investments


The above picture is the world oil consumption curve. It is often displayed as just data, allowing what will happen on the down slope to our imaginations.

Peak oil is just one of many ways in which we are reaching the limits of our growth as a species. I find it highly absurd, then, that adults (you know, the ones who are all grow’ds up)  cannot rationally discuss the end of growth in polite company. And it’s virtually never discussed by anyone with any power. The fact of the matter is, infinite growth is impossible in a finite world. Let me repeat that:

Infinite growth is impossible in a finite world

Yes, it sucks. Yes, it’s inconvenient. But it’s true.

Maybe it’s a facet of denial, but it is easy to “understand” on one level about growth ending, and then turn around and invest our money in mutual funds and stock markets.

In my humble opinion, investing your money in stocks/mutual funds means one of two things:

  1. image The Unicorn Option - You believe that infinite growth is possible in our finite ecosystem. If this describes you, stop reading – the unicorns will deliver your fortune when the time is right.


  2. image The Playa Option - You recognize that growth will end, but you think that you’re smart and ruthless enough to get out of the stock market before all the suckers do (you know, your children and all those those other weaklings).

Option one speaks for itself, and I personally wouldn’t be counting on option two if my retirement was more than a couple of years away.  read more... »

Personal Finance - Part 2

This is the second installment in a three-part series about personal finance for the conscious green Edmontonian. It will cover:

  1. day to day finances
  2. retirement
  3. investments



Freedom 55. You may remember the phrase as part of a brilliant ad campaign (not sure if it’s ongoing) that promised a millionaire’s life upon turning 55. Just follow our advice…invest in us…this could be you.

The meaning of the word retirement has changed dramatically in the past 75 years. Pensions were first introduced in Canada in the early twentieth century. My grandparents became eligible for Old Age Security and the Guaranteed Income Supplement in the 1960s, sources of income that kept them and other pioneers and homesteaders from the Slave Lake region going through the 1970s and 1980s.

But these hardworking people did not “retire”, as we have come to know it. Most of them worked in some capacity until they were no longer able, and work was a source of pride and joy rather than a grinding burden.

These days, we have put idleness on a pedestal. Retirement seems to mean the time in your life when you lounge about all day. That may seem tempting when viewed through the screen of our Blackberry as we answer our fourth work-related email of the day at 7:20 in rush hour traffic.

But I don’t think that doing nothing every day (or golfing every day or sitting on the beach every day) is all it is cracked up to be. In fact, I think that having no work to do, ever, would spoil most leisure activities. People need the satisfaction of contributing to those around them.

The worst part is that we have become retirement slaves. Our financial planners tell us that we need $1,000,000+ dollars in order to do nothing all the time when we retire. So we invest in the stock market, continue our 50-hour/week jobs and demand that the economy keep growing until we cash out. We can’t afford to not invest in coal and mining companies because, after all, we need to hook up with that beach time when we’re older!  read more... »

Personal Finance - Part 1

This is the first installment in a three-part series about personal finance for the conscious green Edmontonian. It will cover:

  1. day to day finances
  2. retirement
  3. investments


Your Money or Your Life: One of the most important books that I’ve every read.

Day to Day Finances

My family (myself, my wife, and our two kids) got very lucky when the universe handed out its socio-economic status cards. We were raised in one of the world’s richest countries, we received subsidized, world-class educations, and we are entitled to free health care. The vast majority of humanity has never known the riches that we do.

Still, it is possible to waste any amount of money, and in my opinion much of the wealth in Canada and Alberta is wasted. It is spent on things that don’t provide much benefit to the spender, and in some ways it negatively affects the spender’s mental and physical health.

The answer for my family has been Your Money or Your Life. My wife and I read this book a dozen years ago, and it helped to set us firmly on the path of voluntary simplicity. For us, voluntary simplicity means living a materially simpler life in order for it to be more fulfilling. It means less paid work, but more time with friends and family. Less stuff, more fun. And less shopping, but more playing.

Your Money or Your Life provides nine steps to improving your relationship with money. It helps you realize that when you’re working for money, you are trading your life force, your precious hours on this earth, for dollars. Wasting money, spending it without getting full value out of it, is therefore wasting your life.

I highly recommend this book (reserve it at the Edmonton Public Library). It has helped us to live a low-impact (for the western world, anyway) lifestyle that includes the following things:  read more... »