INVESTMENTS – online portfolios

A reliable way to invest is first and foremost – do your homework. Research: which companies to trust, which investments are stable, and the older you get, how to avoid losses, and how to look forward. From a certain age on, I cannot possible look forward to over 2 years (fixed investments) – and to over 10 years – for secured holding. After years of now managing my own portfolio via a direct brokerage pension account, I have learnt how to make the best of my investment mix at an average return rate of 4%. But working on it regularly, and follow world events which always influence portfolios.

BONDS – I had various excellent bonds, in the past, they all expired, and that market does not hold up anymore with returns of over 6%. GUARANTEED CERTIFICATES – I have a few, one pays 3.6%, not so bad, average expected by all big Banks is now from 0.6% to 2% (past, for 3 years). All such instruments need a minimum of $5,000 investment. The older you get, the shorter the term investment period. STOCKS and EQUITIES – I found a good way to invest in Sectors: ETF – Exchange Traded Funds. A good way buying units in a sector. Examples: MINING & MINERALS, HIGH DIVIDEND, BONDS, REAL ESTATE, HEALTH CARE. For 2020 – good choices. For 2021 also INFRASTRUCTURE.

Because of my low pension income, and the need to rely on my own RRIF portfolio, therefore look for ETFs which pay monthly distributions and also have a low MER (Management Expense Ratio). I never speculate, never have and never will. The best, yet, when I trade online, it costs a minimum – ETFs do not cost commission. Last, not least, markets – what goes down, must come up again. Thanks to the speculators and global politics.

INTERNATIONAL MONEY TRANSFER

What is the least expensive ? (a) online money transfer ? or, (b) purchasing a bank draft from your bank and mail it to a payee via post. Either way, the costs for doing it are usually not the costs advertised by your own bank. I have been doing online banking for at least over 25 years. Not as a business, but as a private bank customer. In my case dealing with the largest bank in Canada. My other banks are second large banks – for credit card, and for my online direct brokerage pension portfolio, self-managed.

One thing I learned, (besides “you cannot really trust any bank”) unless you spend hours researching on the Internet how money (or funds) are transferred from point A to point B, and more importantly – what extra charges are taken by each INTERMEDIARY BANK in between your bank (point A) and the payee’s bank (point B). Remember, your own bank, even if it is the largest, will not disclose this to you. You will have to dig deep for it.

CASE IN POINT. Each year I need to transfer income tax payments to Europe, where I started working, having had income, contributing to the government social insurance, and now receive a small pension. Back to banking business: What is the best and cheapest way to pay these annual amounts ? As my online bank account does not allow certain money transfers which are commercial – especially to a large government – my Canadian Bank must do this for me. My bank advertises a fee of C$6 for any amounts under $1,000. [ https://www.rbcroyalbank.com/banking-services/international-money-transfer.html ]. What they forget to mention is, that the funds may first go to an INTERMEDIARY BANK in Europe. That bank may take another hefty fee. While my bank here in Canada will not be responsible for any extra charges, once the transfer has been processed. In my case, for a small amount for under C$1,000, the bank in Europe charged an additional Euro20, equal to C$30 m/l. That is too expensive. [ https://www.investopedia.com/ask/answers/062515/what-difference-between-correspondent-bank-and-intermediary-bank.asp ]

Buying a draft in Euro currency at my bank and then mail to the (government) recipient in Europe would cost me: C$8.50 for an amount under $1,000 funds. [ https://www.rbcroyalbank.com/banking-services/bank-draft.html ]. Sending this bank draft by mail probably needs special secure mail. Check this out: [ https://www.cbc.ca/news/business/bank-draft-td-canadatrust-royalbank-rbc-bmo-cibc-canada-banking-cash-cheques-1.4457823 ]. From Canada international, better use registered mail and hope for the best. [ https://www.canadapost.ca/cpc/en/personal/sending/letters-mail/registered-mail.page ]

HOMELESSNESS

The concept of homelessness. Meaning, a person living in the street, out in the open and does not have a specific address or dwelling. (definition = without a fixed dwelling, as per Wikipedia). I stand corrected. Being that most dwellings have become more or less unaffordable for regular (working, having a job and/or a family to support) citizens, no wonder that those who decided to live in the street – rather than look for a job or even irregular work – are without a dwelling.

Standing corrected again: In Victoria BC alone there are around seven major shelters with around 100 beds (and more in the planning) for those who decided it is easier to live in the street and beg for money than to put the effort in to find some work opportunities. Work is abundant. The “homeless” shelters provide food and bedding. Health care is free. For up-to-date stats: [ https://victoriahomelessness.ca/ ]

Canada is a cold country in general, not always, not anymore, not everywhere. Summer heat can go up to 30C or over in areas. On the Pacific Side where I live now for almost 20 years (compared to many years in Alberta – often down to minus 40C), the weather is milder throughout the year, but more rain and wind. That’s why we get more people here from across Canada, Canadians who mostly have family elsewhere in Canada, drifted in here and remained. Becoming HOMELESS. For example Vancouver, Strahcona Park, turned into a “tent city” of 400. For more: [ https://bc.ctvnews.ca/homelessness-in-vancouver-council-considers-plan-for-encampment-amid-calls-for-its-closure-1.5137751 ].

This homeless concept strikes me as controversial. What is a home ? A home is where your family is and where you grew up. Where your country is of which you are/or where a citizen. One thing I noted is, that observing the “street people” I never met one, other than a Canadian, and a Caucasian. Mostly they are also men. On the West Coast, people who arrive here from other parts of Canada and declare themselves homeless mostly have a home elsewhere, where their families are. [In contrast: in the German language we have two concepts: (1) Obdachlos = (without a roof) = homeless; (2) Heimatlos = (without a home, country, = without a country, without a family, without anything.]

I myself am of the second kind. My country got totally destroyed during WWII, most of my family got killed. I was also homeless several times, having had to live in an old car for up to three months, on a different continent North America, no family, just my little boy with me. Not a penny from any government, or any shelter or a pennies’ worth of anything. Despite the fact that I worked professionally since 1955 (first in Europe many years, many countries), then since arriving in North America (USA, graduate studies M.Sc. program Syracuse University; then Canada, arriving here circumstantially).

But I found a job immediately (several days after arriving here as Landed Immigrant, and work, working my way “up again” (Alberta oil industry). And the good part ? I never begged anybody for money. Nor, have I ever received one penny from any government (neither unemployment insurance, nor any subsidies), that can be considered a (not earned) ‘handout’.

A few images showing homeless people, and myself with son traversing USA in our HOBOMOBILE, living in it for months.

CASH IS KING – household debts

CASH IS KING

not only that, it also is QUEEN and all the other assorted royals. In other words, if forced into a situation of whether to use your own cash for a necessary cost (one that cannot be avoided) or to instead take on a loan from a Bank, choose using your own cash. According to this, and compared to the statistics on average Canadian household debt loads [ https://www.cbc.ca/news/business/statistics-canada-debt-1.5609510 ], I am not only KING but in this case also QUEEN. No mortgage (thanks, Bank, but no thanks), no vehicle, no loan for anything.

Example: An older condominium building requires a number of substantial renovation projects, amounting to over one million dollars. Each condo owner must contribute (in six monthly installments) a certain amount of cash. Due and payable at the start of each month. If not paid, the strata company (who manages our property) takes 10% interest on what is owed and unpaid. Bad news for all those whose condominiums are already mortgaged (maybe, to the hilt), or those who simply do not have the needed cash when due. Mostly, those larger renovation projects draw out over a long period, during which Banks are all too happy to offer loans. It sounds nice and enticing, especially when loan rates are low. Even if the Bank of Canada rate is only 2.45%, the mortgage rates are around 4% (or higher). However, since our Canadian Banking system is conservative and well regulated, mortgages must be secured. Means, a debt must be registered against a property title.

Imagine I only need $10,000. I am still saddled with the mortgage/loan registration costs for about at least $500 – legal, document, registration costs. I refused the Bank offer of a (short-term) loan, even if the interest rates were very attractive. Why ? because of the mortgage document and registration costs (to register a loan and de-register again); these costs are not refunded.

Instead, I am using all my CASH savings for this enormous building renovation project. Lucky, I had some savings. How easy it is to fall into the debt trap.

Likewise, what should be paid off first ? when money is scarce. The credit card ! In fact, consumers who cannot afford a credit card, should not have one. Food for Thought: Most household debts can be attributed to the rigorous commercial advertising for (needed, or not needed) products, especially automobiles.

COVID-19 Mask or no mask

Mask ? of course, I would say, to protect yourself. Against those who have the virus and do not know, yet. Or those, who simply do not care if they spread the virus. Simple as that. Despite that some people may think that masks are silly or are only worn by those who are actually sick.

Since this world-wide epidemic (turned pandemic) has started it was clear that this virus – as most virus attacks are – is also air borne. People walking in the street, talking. Always talking. Breathing and spraying the virus infected air around, or worse, inside closed spaces, head to head, breathing the virus into each others faces.

For me, it was also quite clear that the regulations (keeping social distancing to each other at least 2m apart) is long not enough. From the start, since March 2020, I keep a distance of 5m. In the street, and try hard inside a store. Lucky, I live alone, no other person ever inside my home. Try to avoid public transit. When I need the bus, wear a mask. Inside the store, wear a mask. Washable, every day wash not only hands, groceries, all containers, but gloves, mask, and after the odd bus ride all my clothes.

So, when some one in the street passes me and might assume I am sick wearing a mask, then that is not true: I do this to protect myself from getting infected through the air. Because once infected a virus is in your blood, will travel and multiply. Since we do not have regular blood tests (to test immune system responses to such a virus) or a well functioning health care system to test for the virus itself, or get treatment once one is infected and sick. the only way to stay alive is: BE CAREFUL, PROTECT YOURSELF.

Reverse Discrimination and Racism

Black Lives Matter. You better believe it ! but so do WHITES. In this personally experienced case it has been black against white.

{Careful, how to interpret the distinction between RACISM and DISCRIMINATION. I suffered discrimination, which could have been based on racism. [ https://celesteheadlee.com/racism-vs-discrimination-why-the-distinction-matters/ ].}

For my entire professional and student life I have associated myself with international friends. Having worked many years as a professional in international organizations in Europe, I have had personal friends who were Africans. Both in Europe, and later after leaving it and arriving in North America, also in the United States, at Syracuse University, New York.

These experiences over time were “soured” by constant discrimination on the job or outside of it after I had arrived in Canada in 1976 and during my long time work in Alberta’s oil industry. Developing, building and installing large computer systems, hardware and software, as project leader for large company-wide projects, and also as a programmer for many years.

The oil industry is hard place to get a foothold as a woman. Because of the extreme nature of oil industry’s rising and collapsing, and openly permitted company takeovers during downturns, there was as a result in the 1980s a severe downturn in this industry, caused mostly by Canadian government programs and regulations. (The NEP (National Energy Program) of Canada). [ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Energy_Program#Background%5D.

It was during that time, start of 1980s, that I worked for a large oil corporation in Alberta. This company was taken over by TCPL (does not exist now under this name, but close to it – Trans Canada). This company apparently had as its mandate to get rid of existing employees, removing first most management positions – offering them posts elsewhere – and then down the line.

Although I was in a senior position in the computer and systems department (thereby needed to continue big projects), as a woman no chance to keep your job.

The enforcer sent down from headquarters Toronto, was charged with implementing the layoff program in the Systems department. This person was of African origin whose hatred against females seemed obvious. The first ones to be removed were all heads of departments – incidentally all women.

Myself as a female IT project leader was forced to do company-wide projects whose purpose was to identify all those in all corporate departments who should be fired. I was requested to do this study alone without any assistance. Naturally all my former friends in the company hated my guts. At the end, it was my turn. The pressure from within was indescribable.

In the course of a short period, a 200 page report was put together behind my back. I assume containing all sorts of slander about me. While at the same time our big company-wide systems project had to continue.

At the end, I was asked to see this man in his office, and presented with with this big report. Which I disregarded. At the same time I was asked to sign for a one-page legal document, which I did not sign. I do not sign unprofessional slander. I was then told that I should pack up. Offering me a minor compensation of 3-months salary.

Just laying off employees is permitted under certain conditions. In this case, the simplest most basic conditions of human rights had been contravened. My big mistake ? I missed the very moment when it was absolutely necessary to retain a lawyer, to act on my behalf.

However, before leaving the company I had received good letters of recommendation in writing from senior management with whom I had worked throughout my systems projects, including the CEO of this corporation. A testimony of all that I had worked for most of my life.

Yet, my professional life was compromised, I lost my home, my family (my son went to the United States to start his university program). And I had to travel around Canada making a living with computer contract work (Ottawa, Alberta oil sands, and anywhere in Alberta). Setting up my own consulting company and other business ventures, to keep afloat.

 

 

COVID-19 PPM (Pandemic Propaganda Machine)

The PPM (Pandemic Propaganda Machine) is still running at full tilt. Daily several times a day radio, or TV news inserts, or the Internet. One of the issues I do not see addressed is: How to explain this condition in simple terms to those who may not even have access to the Internet (so far provided in our – now closed – Public Libraries), or simply explain to the local vulnerable population WHY they now must clean their hands often, or in the case, they never did, why clean them at all.

And what the meaning is of this COVID-19. I assume 19 because it started 2019. (In reality it should now be COVID-20.) COVID = Coronary Virus Infectious Disease. Stemming from the SARS-COV-2 virus.

I myself who works daily on the Internet and has made her living since 1960 in computer systems development, has no problem to find the relevant and necessary information. But what about those who cannot ?

Simplified explanation: This virus (who cares about its name) is easily transmittable from person to person. Inside the human system it multiplies and exits via mouth or via the ‘rear end’ , and is likewise easily transferred to a person’s hands. A person touching any number of surfaces where this virus than attaches itself. In addition to particles caused by coughing. Again, where people touch any part of their face, so that the virus can enter. And why always wash your hands is, nobody knows who is infected already, may carry this virus, and who not.

THEREFORE THE all-the-time HAND WASHING, AND NO HAND SHAKES ANYMORE

That is all the media systems need to tell people, if they care about them.

COVID-19 Extra Protective Measures

Continuation of my previous blogs (extra measures during these trying times – [ https://renataveritasopinion.com/ ]

IMPORTANT UPDATE

What can kill this new corona virus (SARS-CoV-2 ) ? [ https://www.sciencealert.com/here-s-the-expert-advice-on-which-cleaning-products-to-use-against-coronavirus ]

Seems one of the active ingredients (besides bleach=sodium hypochlorite) is alcohol ethanol. Searched all my cleaners like dishwashing and regular, found Comet (contains bleach), is harsh on surfaces. I always use for all items brought back from stores. More difficult: what to use for washing produce ?

Then found that none I had except WINDEX (for windows cleaning) which contains ethanol and may help.

[from the Web: WINDEX MULTI-SURFACE DISINFECTANT SANITIZER CLEANER will clean and shine surfaces without any dull residue. It KILLS 99.9% of GERMS, VIRUSES, and BACTERIA on hard, non-porous surfaces. This is the perfect product for cleaning bathrooms, kitchens, tiles, stainless steel, and so much more!Oct 7, 2019]. Which I will use.

[ https://www.sydneysolvents.com.au/blog/our-blog/product-talk/10-uses-for-ethanol-around-the-home/ ]

Here Victoria, Vancouver Island. Always finding new ways on how to protect myself better from carrying a nasty virus home, after grocery shopping. Not only do I always wear gloves – easily washable ones when coming home – but all items, be they food items or packaged items no matter what package (plastic, aluminium, cardboard or other) will be washed using cleaner with bleach, or better, yet, now I started to remove food items out of those containers wearing protective plastic gloves, then again wash them and then place my groceries where necessary safely elsewhere loose (outside of packages), or else then in fridge. Except yogurt or similar, which is more difficult. 

In our stores finally now signs KEEP YOUR DISTANCE, which most customer do nicely. In the street, I always go around others keeping more than 2m distance.

Checkout: card readers (some stores cover up with protective plastic, some not). As I always wear gloves I can use the little keys with gloves on (see above, I wash gloves at home). Computer keyboards ? what about those ? Wipe down as well.

COVID-19 another corona virus outbreak

A virus is a smart little entity and knows how to find hosts, multiply and make humans really sick.

Typically, going back in history, did not most of these virus epidemics or pandemics that caused upper respiratory disease start in large human populated areas ? [ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Severe_acute_respiratory_syndrome ]

Of most types of (zoonotic) infections (animal to human) the swine flu outbreak has also been devastating. World wide. 

[ https://virologyj.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1743-422X-6-207 ]

As with most such viral outbreaks where animal virus can pass to humans, these significant zoonotic pathogens may also be a result of deliberate cross contamination of viral matter in laboratories. The next article is a wake-up call and reminding us how vulnerable we as humans are facing another pandemic:

[ https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200325-covid-19-the-history-of-pandemics ]

How to survive ? Well humans are just another category of ‘social animals’, needing contact. Large cities are a breeding ground for human contact.

And any virus – new or old – is a happy pathogen causing deadly diseases often via bacterial infections. As said before, find the best way to fight stereotype herding behavior and maintain a healthy lifestyle. A few of us will survive, even older people, especially older people, but how to survive financial disaster afterwards, that is another story.

One person’s opinion from the New York Times [ https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/24/opinion/tech-companies-covid.html ]

COVID-19 and related issues – continuation

Continuation of my previous blog (extra measures during these trying times – [ https://renataveritasopinion.com/2020/03/18/covid-19-viral-pandemic-extra-measures/ ) ]

Here Victoria, Vancouver Island. Most residents try to keep social distancing. I say most, or many, not all. What surprised me was that there are still people who do not take this seriously, including health care workers, who are sick, now at home. And tell you (on the phone, luckily) “I am OK, will come back to work in one week”.

NOT GOOD !!!

This virus is quite persistent, may be dormant after a bout of respiratory disease, but can still become life again and try finding a new host, to replicate. Personally, I definitely do not go to that clinic after a health care worker comes back to work after one week, even two weeks, even more.

[ https://www.ecdc.europa.eu/sites/default/files/documents/COVID-19-Discharge-criteria.pdf ]

What counts is, how well everyone’s immune system can cope.

[MORE UPDATES ON THESE ISSUES LATER]