9 Tips For a Great Job Interview

Yes, I mentioned it in my latest monthly review:

I recently got a promotion! 🙂

As you already know, saving and investing as much as possible is essential to reaching FI. Of course, there are two important variables that can be changed to increase one’s ability to save. I’m talking, of course, about expenses and income.

On the expense front, I believe mine are already quite well optimized and it can only be lowered so far. I already lead a rather frugal life. So I decided to take a page from my own book and increase my income. A particularly interesting way to do this is to increase my hourly wage. This way, I earn more money working more hours. Double win!

In my current role, I actually asked for a raise last year. I got 12%. Just for asking for it! Imagine if I hadn’t had the courage to do it?

Be Open to Opportunities

This year, though, I could hardly see how I could get such a substantial raise in my current role again. So, I began to look for a different position within the same company.

I quickly found an interesting position one level higher, i.e. a 7.5% salary raise, and for which I seemed to meet the profile they were looking for.

Of course, it was in a completely different team and I didn’t know anyone on that team. I didn’t necessarily meet all the requirements mentioned on the job posting. My resume needed a makeover. I had to do a cover letter. Job interviews are stressful.

Considering all this, I could have used any one of these excuses not to give it a try. I know a lot of people around me who like to make this kind of excuses to stay in the status quo. Well, I decided to go for it.

Personally, I prefer to think I have nothing to lose and everything to gain. So I applied for the job. Because if you do not ask, the answer will always be no. 🙂

Preparation is Key

No matter how much self-confidence I have, I remain an introvert through and through. I am comfortable writing, but oral presentations have never been my forte. You can imagine how a job interview can make me anxious.

I am very aware of my weaknesses in this regard. I also know that the best weapon against my anxiety is preparation.

Here is the result of my research, preparation and experience. This is how I got my promotion. Who knows, maybe you’ll find it useful!

1. Prepare for the Most Frequently Asked Questions

A simple search on Google or YouTube will allow you to find plenty of resources on the most frequently asked questions and how to answer them. Questions such as:

  • Tell me about yourself;
  • What are your strengths;
  • What are your weaknesses;
  • Where do you see yourself in 5 years;
  • Why did you apply for the job;
  • Why do you want to quit your current job;
  • Etc.

Just check out a few sites or videos to get a good idea. There are plenty of people who have already been on the other side of the table who know exactly what questions will be asked and how to answer them.

This way, you’ll be able to think about your answers and be ready for most questions you could be asked.

2. Prepare Elaborate Answers and Stories

In addition to the typical questions, there are often questions that can be adapted to the job. You might be asked to give an example of a particular situation that you’ve experienced in the past. For example, you may be asked to give an example of:

  • A difficult situation at work;
  • A difficult customer;
  • Particularly good customer service you’ve given or received;
  • Work overload and how you handled it;
  • Etc.

So it’s very helpful to have some career highlights in mind when you’re being asked these kinds of questions. Think about difficult or stressful situations, but especially how you overcame them. Also think about some good things you’ve done, procedures or methods you’ve improved, etc.

These kinds of questions can be really annoying if you don’t have some ready-made answers in your back pocket. You have to be quick to answer. Of course, you can take a few seconds to think about it, but you don’t want to answer that nothing comes to mind. It’s your time to shine, don’t waste it!

3. Learn More About the Position, the Team and the Company

You don’t want to look like someone who applied for the job just for fun or for the money. 😉

You must show that you have at least some knowledge of the position in question and that you are really interested. The first thing to do is to read and basically know the job posting by heart. Sometimes job postings just sound so abstract, and it’s hard to know exactly what the job involves without actually doing it, but reading the job posting will give you at least an idea.

If it’s a job for another employer, it’s good to know the company in question. Do your research.

4. Smile and Have a Positive Attitude

No one wants to hire a negative person.

Be enthusiastic, smile, ask questions, look interested and thank the interviewer. Show them that you’re happy to be there, that it’s a pleasure to meet them and to discuss opportunities for your future career.

Positive attracts positive, so be positive.

In addition to talent and qualifications, employers are often looking for a good fit. I guarantee that a person who sounds and looks negative will rarely be a good fit in any team. It doesn’t matter what team.

5. Remember It’s Not an Interrogation

An interrogation sucks for everyone.

Relax, remember that the person in front of you is a human being too who wants the process to be as enjoyable as possible. You may be the fifth person they’ve interviewed today. Make it a little more enjoyable for them.

Ask questions along the way, too, if you have any. It creates a nice back and fort and makes the conversation more natural.

6. Save Questions for the End

Inevitably, you will be asked if you have any questions at the end of the interview. It is important to have questions.

Once again, it shows interest, curiosity and, it could actually be useful to you. You probably have legitimate questions on your mind anyway. It’s a win-win situation.

Again, Google is full of suggestions of questions to ask if you’re short of ideas. Here’s one I wrote down, asked, and am particularly proud of:

“After our discussion, is there anything else that makes you hesitate to offer me the job?”

What makes this question so powerful is that it gives an idea of your chances. It also shows that you are able to take charge and handle criticism. Finally, it could give you a second chance to clarify or elaborate on a point that was perhaps not clear or that makes the interviewer hesitate.

However, if you have questions about benefits and working conditions, it can wait until after you’re offered the job.

7. Send a Thank-You Email

I know. It feels like sucking up.

I read on several websites that it was important to send a thank-you email within 24 hours of the interview. Once again, it allows you to show you’re really interested, and it shows your gratitude. That’s another example of having nothing to lose and everything to gain.

I was still reluctant to do it. Probably my introversion striking again. So I asked the opinion of a friend who interviews candidates on a regular basis. His answer was clear: it’s an excellent thing to do. So I proceeded with a nice little email:

“It was a real pleasure to discuss with you both and to learn as much about the role as about your team. It has only increased my enthusiasm to join you and put my experience to good use. I look forward to hearing from you soon.”

I still think it sounds lame, but an hour later I was asked to provide references.  It sounds like it didn’t do any harm. 🙂

8. Notify the People You Will Use as References

Seriously.

No one likes to be called for references without prior notice. A quick phone call or email to notify the person is the least you can do. That person will appreciate having time to think about what they can say. You want the person to recommend you after all. Don’t take them by surprise.

It’s also a good idea to think ahead of time whom to use as a reference. If you are asked for one, it’s suspicious if it takes you two days to find one. Are you recommendable or not?

9. Be Patient

You’ve now done everything within your power. All that’s left is to trust your ability to have swayed them and wait for the good news. 🙂

A Great Learning Opportunity

Even before I got the good news, I was over the moon. I knew that I had prepared enough and performed well during the interview. No matter the result, I had had the opportunity to put myself out there and make myself known. It can never be a bad thing.

Even if I was not offered the job, I would roll up my sleeves and keep looking. You just have to appreciate having had a chance to prove yourself, to practise your interview skills and to make yourself known. You also have to take criticism humbly and then start working on your weaknesses.

I don’t remember the exact phrase, but a dear friend shared a quote to me recently. It said that to be happy no matter the outcome is a superpower. I couldn’t agree more. 🙂

All’s Well That Ends Well

Luckily, I was offered the job! I will be starting on February 15th in my new position. I have been told that I was “a great find” and that they’re looking forward to working with me. What more could I ask for?

Oh, yes, the raise that I plan to fully save and invest. 🙂

I’m also hopeful that I’ll enjoy my new role. Although I was hired for my insurance expertise, there is a retirement & saving component that I will need to be “trained” for. I believe I am up to the challenge. 😉

I see a trend emerging! Indeed, it’s nice to see I’m not the only one in the blogosphere to have been promoted recently. Indeed,  ObjectifIF and L’Ingénieuse will also be able to increase their savings thanks to a promotion. Huge congratulations to them and I wish them the best of success!

What about you? Have you thought about how you could increase your income in 2021? 🙂

January 2021 Review

Hello!

Already one month behind us! Even though it’s a rather boring time of the year, even without a pandemic, I feel like time went by pretty fast. My blog and Facebook page keep me pretty busy, on top of the overtime I did at work and the time I’ve spent preparing for a job interview!

It just goes to show that the best way to survive this never-ending pandemic is to stay busy. 🙂

So here we are, already starting a new month. Let’s see how my net worth has grown in this past month!

Net Worth as of January 31, 2021

Assets
Checking Accounts:
Questrade TFSA:
Questrade LIRA:
Questrade RRSP:
FTQ RRSP:
Fondaction RRSP:
Non-registered:
$1,369
$32,176
$43,405
$33,916
$5,752
$13,427
$307
Total assets:$130,352
Liabilities
Car Loan:
Line of Credit:
Tangerine Master Card:
Amex Air Miles:
BMO Air Miles:
Amex Aeroplan:
$8,192
$1,000
$0
$0
$31
$11
Total liabilities:$9,234
Net Worth$121,118
Difference+$3,313

My net worth is now $121,118! That’s a $3,313 increase since December 31, 2020. It had been a good month for the stock market, right up until last week, when everything went haywire. It doesn’t matter much, since I continue following my savings and investment plan and as a result, my investments slowly but surely keep going up. 🙂

As a matter of fact, a reader wrote to me recently and wondered if the monthly portfolio value was the best way to track one’s net worth. She thought that it fluctuates excessively from one month to another, and it could be discouraging during periods of decline.

I have to agree that tracking my net worth so closely involves a lot of fluctuations. However, I am aware that this is part of the game and I have an excellent risk tolerance. Since I already track my net worth in my spreadsheets on a monthly basis, I decided to include it on my blog on the same basis, along with my expense reports.

However, I realize that I will eventually have to compress the data on the graph (due to lack of space) on my net worth page, possibly to three-month intervals. This should smoothen the curve a bit. 😉

Portfolio Changes

I decided to start the year with a few small changes to my portfolio. As I mentioned in previous articles, my main investments are with Questrade, split between a LIRA, an RRSP and a TFSA. In all three accounts, I held only XEQT, an all-in-one ETF by iShares made up of 100% equities, 22% of which are Canadian.

Reducing Home Country Bias

After doing some reading, notably Ed Rempel‘s blog, I decided to reevaluate my home country bias, i.e. being too widely exposed to one’s own country’s stocks. Indeed, Canada represents about 3% of the world economy and is primarily based on resources and banks. Knowing this, how is it good diversification to hold 22% of my portfolio in Canadian stocks?

Especially since I have (unfortunately) about 15% of my portfolio in labour-sponsored funds that invest only in local companies. That means my home country bias is actually quite high. It actually amounts to about 33% of my total portfolio in Canadian equities.

After some thought, I chose ZGQ (graciously brought to my attention by one of this blog’s reader) to reduce my home country bias a bit, in addition to getting a bit more exposure to emerging countries. This ETF actually seeks to replicate the performance of the MSCI All Country World High Quality.

However, I only made the change in my TFSA, where I want to get the maximum return. I still hold XEQT in my LIRA and RRSP. This will gradually reduce my portfolio’s total exposure to Canadian stocks as I continue contributing to my TFSA.

A Healthy Dose of FOMO

Yes, I joined the Bitcoin train (or rocket?). It finally went down after its all-time high in early January. So I took the opportunity to learn a bit more about Bitcoin, then invested a small amount of money. Initially, I decided to do this by buying a few units of the new Bitcoin ETF QBTC. This way, I can take advantage of the possible gains of Bitcoin in my TFSA, which cannot be done by the traditional method.

Afterwards, I continued to read up on Bitcoin and learned about the Montreal application called Shakepay and decided to actually buy Bitcoin this way. In fact, by using a referral link, I was getting $30 by buying $100 worth of cryptography. So why not? An instant return of 30%. 😉

More seriously, I prefer to set myself a limit of 1% of my portfolio with regard to cryptocurrency. I think setting a limit will prevent me from going overboard on this. What’s more, it’s an amount I’m willing to lose. And if I ever make a  sizeable profit, even better! I just don’t intend to speculate, but to buy and hold it like with my other holdings.

Savings

Here are the details of my January savings:

  • January 14: $750 out of $1,710.67 (44% savings)
  • January 28: $1,035 out of $2,005.17 net (52% savings)
  • Total savings: $1,785 in January or 48% savings

Of the $1,785 I saved, I contributed $1,550 to my TFSA and added $235 to Shakepay.

The higher pay is justified by a few extra overtime hours in January.

Also, starting at the end of February, I’ll start getting bigger pays because I got a promotion! Before the holidays, I had applied to a higher-level position within another team. I didn’t necessarily have a lot of hope to get a call, as I didn’t know anyone on that team. You know it: it’s better to know someone than to know something. Luckily, I got the call and a few days after the interview, I was offered the job. 🙂

So, I will go from a base annual salary of $71,180 to $76,600, which is a 7.6% increase. There will also be a yearly increase in April, which should be around 3%, which would bring my salary to $78,898.

I’m not just talking about increasing income. Trying to walk the talk!

Finally, my $25,000 savings goal for 2021 will be slightly easier to achieve than I thought. You know me well enough to know I plan to save 100% of my raise. 🙂

Expense Report

DateAmountDescription
2021-01-01$120.00American Express Annual Fees
2021-01-01$6.79Starbucks
2021-01-02$7.15Spotify
2021-01-02$10.00Donation
2021-01-02$18.39Mondou
2021-01-02$13.41Gas
2021-01-03$96.42Groceries
2021-01-04$497.50Rent
2021-01-04$403.85Car Payment
2021-01-05$14.39Home Insurance
2021-01-05$48.04Car Insurance
2021-01-07$14.23Subway
2021-01-07$12.50SAQ
2021-01-09$7.70Netflix
2021-01-09$3.40Starbucks
2021-01-13$29.50Hydro-Québec
2021-01-13$71.95Home Insurance
2021-01-15$403.85Car Payment
2021-01-17$3.40Starbucks
2021-01-17$101.00Groceries
2021-01-21$25.21Pharmacy
2021-01-23$3.40Starbucks
2021-01-25$11.09Pharmacy
2021-01-28$20.82Gas
2021-01-28$15.29Groceries
2021-01-28$2.70Starbucks
2021-01-29$403.85Car Payment
2021-01-30$27.60Home Internet
2021-01-31$3.40Starbucks
Total:$2,396.83

In January, I had $2,396.83 in total expenses, or $28,761.96 annualized. Excluding my car loan payments, it comes down to $1,185.28 or $14,223.36 annualized. The big difference between the two is explained by three car payments I had this month, instead of the usual two.

Otherwise, one month look like the next! I should be ashamed: $23.09 in Starbucks coffee. Just think about it! That’s $277.08 a year! It would take $6,927 invested to generate enough passive income to pay for this bad habit! I just can’t wait to do anything other than car rides. 😉

Also, there are some transactions related to travel hacking, such as the $120 annual fee on my Prestige Aeroplan American Express. I also paid my home insurance policy balance in full to help me reach the required spending on my BMO AIR MILES Mastercard to unlock the 850 bonus miles. Once again, I didn’t spend more to earn points, I spent money I was going to spend in the future. 🙂

It’s ironic, really. My biggest challenge with Travel Hacking right now is to find a way to reach the spending thresholds necessary to unlock my bonuses. Luckily, Milesopedia gives good tips on how to do this.

Reading List

My Facebook page followers may have noticed: I am an avid reader. I often read several books in parallel, in addition to the occasional audiobook. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll reach Warren Buffett’s level:

Read 500 pages like this every day. That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest. All of you can do it, but I guarantee not many of you will do it.

In addition to reading, I also like to share about the latest books I’ve read and know what others are reading. In that vein, I thought adding this section to my monthly reviews could be interesting to my readers. 🙂

So, my January reading list looked like this:

I have to admit it: I’m a Self-Help junkie. I still try to balance a bit between fiction and non-fiction. By the way, don’t be surprised to see a Star Trek novel in it from time to time.

Of this list, the one I recommend the most is definitely The Psychology of Money. For me, it was a perfect mix of two subjects I love.  Also, anyone who is struggling to make lasting changes in their lives would also benefit from reading The Power of Discipline.

February Is Going to Fly By!

February only has 28 days, after all.

Next Monday’s article will focus on job interviews and how to prepare for it, especially when you’re an introvert like me. The following week, I’m going to take a little break. I’ll start working on my new position then, and I want to be able to focus mostly on that. 🙂

So I’ll still have two weeks to put together an article on my withdrawal strategy once I’ve reached FIRE. Many of you are asking me to do an article on this, so I’ll try not to disappoint.

I will also have access to my T4 & RL-1 on February 16. This nerd will be very happy to get started on doing tax returns ! In addition to mine, I always do my sister’s and brother’s tax returns. 🙂

I’m especially looking forward to doing my sister’s tax return to apply the method to boost her RRSP contributions as perfectly as possible before March 1st.

As a matter of fact, do you have any suggestions for a good software to do multiple tax returns? I’ve been using UFile since 2014 without looking too closely at what others offer. I’m open to suggestions!

See you next time!

 

My Future Retirement Expenses

Those of you reading this blog’s articles every week may have been startled a few times whenever I mentioned how I am aiming for $15,300 (in 2021 dollars) in annual retirement expenses. One loyal reader even told me once that he was afraid I’d run out of money before the end of the year.

Also, you have access to my monthly reviews and you’ve probably noticed that I am far from the mark.

I have therefore decided that it’d be relevant to write an article about my current annual expenses. I will also break down how I plan to optimize everything, in order to make $15,300 in annual expenses realistic once I retire.

My Current Expenses

As already detailed in my article about lowering expenses, here is an estimate of my current expenses.

ExpensesAmountAnnualized
Housing
- Rent
- Hydro-Québec
- Home Insurance
$497.50/month
$29.50/month
$14.48/month
$5,970.00
$354.00
$173.76
Car
- Payment
- Auto Insurance
- Gas
- Registration
- Oil Change
- License
$403.85/2 weeks
$48.12/month
$10.00/week
$230.43/year
$100.00/6 months
$86.34/year
$10,500.10
$577.44
$520.00
$230.43
$200.00
$86.34
Food
- Groceries$50.00/week$2,600.00
Subscriptions
- Mobile Phone
- Home Internet
- Spotify
- Netflix
$31.57/month
$28.75/month
$7.15/month
$7.00/month
$378.84
$345.00
$85.80
$84.00
Donation
- CanadaHelps$10.00/month$120.00
Cats
- Food
- Litter
$30.00/month
$10.00/month
$360.00
$120.00
Total:$22,705.71

You’ve probably noticed that some expenses are not what one might really consider fixed. However, since I track my expenses every month, I can easily estimate a fairly representative average.

Optimizing Budget Items

You’ve probably noticed that I am currently almost $7,500 overbudget. I am well aware of this. Let’s see how I could optimize my expenses to live on $15,300 per year. 🙂

Housing

For this budget idem, I’ve already talked about what my plan is shaping up in my article about my 2021 goals.

Currently, I am renting a 2-bedroom apartment with my sister. I live about ten kilometres from my workplace. Once I retire, I’ll no longer need to live near the workplace. Although my retirement plans involve quite a bit of travel, I’d still like to have a place to go back to in Quebec.

Thus, the most logical choice for me would be to buy my mother’s house in my small hometown. Since she lives far from civilization, the house is definitely a cheap deal. With the interest rates as they are now, a mortgage on the house would cost me about… $250 per month.

I very freely estimate insurance, taxes and electricity at about $1,000 each per year.

The ideal scenario would be for my mother to continue living there. That way, there would always be someone in the house, even when I’m out exploring the world. My sister is aiming for FIRE as well and could opt for the same kind of arrangement. I could then take care of paying the mortgage, while my mother and sister take care of paying the other house-related expenses, or any other arrangement that would involve sharing expenses.

Car

This particular budget item, as you already know, will be automatically optimized in November 2021 at the latest, when my car loan is fully repaid. This means $10,500 less in annual expenses. 🙂

While I still have a loan on the car, the bank requires I have full insurance. Once the loan is repaid, I may consider changing my insurance shortly thereafter and drop collision and comprehensive coverages. I called my insurer to find out how much my premium would be and I learned it would go down from $577 to $336 per year.

As far as licence and registration are concerned, it won’t change. Obviously, it’s more likely to increase slowly but surely.

Gas could very well increase at times (both the price and my consumption), just as it could remain very stable at other times. I’ll estimate double what I’m paying right now, just to be on the safe side.

Finally, for all maintenance, including oil changes and repairs, I’ll have to plan for a larger amount. My car is starting to age and when I reach FIRE, it may start to need some love! I think it would be reasonable to budget for about $750 a year.

Food

On that front, apart from the normal food cost increase, there should not be a big difference. Fluctuations will mostly happen according to where I’ll be in the world. Food is ridiculously cheap in Southeast Asia, for example. However, feeding myself in Europe could be a whole other story. While I am in Quebec, it will be more or less the same price I am paying now, plus inflation.

I am already careful to buy groceries on sale, in large quantities (economy of scale), I avoid restaurants, I meal prep and I make sure I don’t waste anything. These are all good habits that I intend to maintain. Furthermore, I have been eating keto for three years and I don’t plan to change my diet.

Tentatively, I’ll keep the same amount that I am currently paying.

Subscriptions

I don’t see much change happen here.

For my mobile phone plan, I don’t see any major changes. I currently have a $27 (plus taxes) plan with Fizz that suits me perfectly. Abroad, there is always WhatsApp that will allow me to call or send text messages at no charge, as long as I have access to a wifi.

As for home internet, little change is expected. I find that I am already paying a fair price. Actually, it could even get lower if we ever share the bill with my mother.

For Spotify and Netflix, I don’t think I’m going to unsubscribe, since I use these services extensively and it’ll be useful to me no matter where I am in the world. 🙂

Donations

For this expense, I already donate very little. I certainly don’t think I’ll decrease the amount. At the moment, I also give through deductions at source at work, to the tune of $10 per two weeks. There is therefore a better chance that I will increase my donations to reach an equivalent total of donations.

Cats

For your information, my two cats are immortal. Therefore, this expense item will never change.

Hypothetical Retirement Expenses

So, after all these changes, here is a hypothetical retirement budget:

ExpensesAmountAnnualized
Housing
- Mortgage
- Home Insurance
- Taxes
- Hydro-Québec
$250.00/month
$1,000.00/year
$1,000.00/year
$1,000.00/year
$3,000.00
$1,000.00
$1,000.00
$1,000.00
Car
- Gas
- Maintenance
- Auto Insurance
- Registration
- License
$20.00/week
$750.00/year
$28.00/month
$230.43/year
$86.34/year
$1,040.00
$750.00
$336.00
$230.43
$86.34
Food
- Groceries$50.00/week$2,600.00
Subscriptions
- Mobile Phone
- Home Internet
- Spotify
- Netflix
$31.57/month
$28.75/month
$7.15/month
$7.00/month
$378.84
$345.00
$85.80
$84.00
Donation
- CanadaHelps$30.00/month$360.00
Cats
- Food
- Lititer
$30.00/month
$10.00/month
$360.00
$120.00
Total:$12,776.41

This is actually a very conservative assumption, as I include all the house-related costs, as if I am not going to split anything with anyone (which I highly doubt). In all honesty, if I am to pay for everything on my own, I would probably choose to rent instead, in the same small village.

Thus, if I were renting, or, as mentioned above, if my mother and sister were paying for the house-related costs, it would be about $3,000 less per year for me.

Accordingly, here is a more optimistic (or realistic) scenario:

ExpensesAmountAnnualized
Housing
- Mortgage or rent$250.00/month$3,000.00
Car
- Essence
- Entretien
- Assurance auto
- Immatriculation
- Permis
$20.00/week
$750.00/year
$28.00/month
$230.43/year
$86.34/year
$1,040.00
$750.00
$336.00
$230.43
$86.34
Food
- Groceries$50.00/week$2,600.00
Subscriptions
- Mobile Phone
- Home Internet
- Spotify
- Netflix
$31.57/month
$28.75/month
$7.15/month
$7.00/month
$378.84
$345.00
$85.80
$84.00
Donation
- CanadaHelps$30.00/month$360.00
Cats
- Food
- Lititer
$30.00/month
$10.00/month
$360.00
$120.00
Total:$9,276.41

Now, do you understand why I think it’s realistic that I can keep my annual expenses under $15,300? 😉

My current expenses are already quite low. As I write this article, I notice how housing and car-related expenses change everything. Once these two big expense items are optimized, I’ll be able to reach a realistic level of spending to achieve my goal. 🙂

Lean FIRE

Also, let’s take a closer look to my hypothetical retirement budget. Whether you take the conservative assumption ($12,776) or the more optimistic assumption ($9,276), it is still a pretty tight budget for many people.

It reminds me a bit of Lean FIRE. Financial 180 explains the concept as follows:

Lean FI is what my wife and I call the point where you can passively cover all your essential expenses, perpetually. Think food, shelter, and bills. This leaves off all the discretionary frills such as travel, eating out at restaurants, Netflix, etc. It wouldn’t be a super fun lifestyle, but you technically could quit work right now and survive forever. I like to think of Lean FI as an emergency fund that can cover infinitely many months of essential expenses.

For those who are intrigued, there is a full Subreddit about Lean FIRE.

In my case, Lean Fire could actually be reached at around $200,000 (or $8,000 in annual expenses), when I leave out Netflix, Spotify, mobile phone plan, etc. It could even be less, if I were to forget about the car and the associated costs, for example. You get the picture.

Not very glamorous, but with some extra income, it’s starting to look like freedom!

Buffer

Of course, I would like to actually do something with my time once I’m retired. Lean FIRE is not my goal. So, I think a buffer is of the utmost importance. By aiming for $15,300 a year, I am therefore planning for a buffer somewhere between $2,500 (according to the conservative assumption) to $6,000 (according to the optimistic assumption). Let’s meet somewhere in the middle with a $4,000 buffer.

In my opinion, this would allow me to do enough activities to keep me busy, in addition to my favourite hobbies that are already inexpensive. That’s the equivalent of $333 a month or $76 a week for activities, restaurants, or others. Considering my current lifestyle, this would be fine with me.

This amount could also absorb other needs, such as clothing, for example. Considering that I already buy most of my clothes used, I don’t foresee big expenses on this front. The buffer could therefore absorb it.

In terms of major expenses that I plan on having during retirement, such as travelling, Travel Hacking will be my friend. My points and miles will allow me to travel at low costs. 🙂

Geographic arbitrage will also be a powerful ally. The beauty of early retirement is that I will have the freedom to go where I want, when I want. It’s getting a little too expensive in France? Perfect, let’s go visit Eastern Europe. I’m starting to bust my budget in Japan? Next destination: Thailand! It’s all about balance. 😉

Never Forget About Inflation

Of course, this $15,300 is in 2021 dollars. I have already mentioned this in other articles, but we must never neglect inflation while doing projections. For example, by applying 2% inflation until 2026, which is the year I expect to reach FIRE, I get :

  • 2021: $15,300
  • 2022: $15,606
  • 2023: $15,918
  • 2024: $16,236
  • 2025: $16,561
  • 2026: $16,892

I can’t wait to see how accurate those projections will be. Many bloggers have actually noticed that their expenses changed very little from one year to the next, either before or after FIRE. So, I may even be too cautious in my projections. Can’t wait to find out! 😉

Killing Two Birds With One Stone

The main advantage of having a low level of annual expense is that I won’t need millions of dollars to cover it. With the 4% rule, that means I would only need a nest egg of about $382,500 in 2021 dollars.

Whereas if I were to start splurging and have to estimate my expenses at $40,000 a year, for example, then I would need literally over $1 million. In fact, to cover $40,000 in annual expenses, I would actually need $50,000 in gross income. And still using the 4% rule, to withdraw $50,000 per year, you need…  1 250 000 $.

Let’s just say that would move up my FIRE date by several years. Personally, I prefer to lower my expenses.

Of course, that’s a worst-case scenario where all income comes from an RRSP and is taxed accordingly. There would be a way to lighten the tax bill by making withdrawals from a TFSA (which I don’t recommend at first) or from a non-registered account. Still, we must always take taxes into consideration.

Which brings me to the second advantage of having low annual expenses. By aiming for $15,300 in annual expenses, I make sure that I pay as little taxes as possible. This amount is actually quite close to the basic personal amounts ($13,808 at the federal level and $15,728 in Quebec in 2021). The tax payable would therefore be really minimal. In fact, it would be $187, according to this calculator.  Of course, that’s if I were to withdraw it all from my RRSP. If I do a happy mix of withdrawal from an RRSP and a non-registered account, then there’d be zero dollars in taxes to pay. 🙂

Long Live Frugality!

So that’s how I plan to live on $15,300 once I retire. Personally, I think it’s realistic according to my personal needs. I spend very little and I don’t think that will change once I retire. The small nest egg needed to cover this amount and the tax advantages encourage me even more to maintain my frugality.

Also, if I ever run out of money in October, like my faithful reader fears, I’ll improvise. I consider myself resourceful and creative enough to find a solution!

I am very curious about how much you expect to spend in retirement. 🙂

How to Boost Your RRSP Contributions

Those who’ve read my article called Why I Will No Longer Contribute To My RRSP may raise an eyebrow at this article’s title. 😉

Please be aware that my RRSP game plan does not apply to everyone. For most people, maximizing their RRSP is a great idea.

So I wanted to share this tip to help optimize RRSP contributions for those who still have unused contributions.

Although I really don’t encourage going into debt, this method could require the use of an RRSP loan, a personal loan, a line of credit or any other form of borrowing. When done properly, it is possible to pay little or no interest while boosting your RRSP contributions.

So, if you contributed to your RRSP this year without reaching your maximum contribution, this article will probably be useful. 🙂

RRSP Season

That’s what many financial institutions like to call the first 60 days of the year. In fact, it is the last sprint to contribute to your RRSP to reduce taxes for the previous year.

Generally speaking, some people neglect their RRSPs all year round. Once RRSP season knocks at their door, these people rush to put money into their RRSP (sometimes with the help of a loan), to ensure they get a tax refund (in order to pay for the next trip down south).

Reminds you of someone you know? 😉

A much sounder way to save is to do it automatically and regularly throughout the year. This is an excellent financial habit to take to ensure a good retirement (early or not).

What’s more, once you’ve saved throughout the year, you’re in an excellent position to boost your contributions thanks to the RRSP loan, for example, which your financial institution may even have already offered you.

The Classic Method

I usually like to show you examples using my own numbers. However, as of today, my RRSP is already fully maxed out. I will therefore take my sister’s example to show you the classic method used to contribute to an RRSP.

In 2020, my sister contributed $11,780 to her RRSP. This will be used to reduce her taxes for the same year. Congratulations! I wonder who she takes after. 🙂 However, for the sake of a better understanding, I will round it up to $10,000.

She has about $12,000 left in unused contributions. So she could continue to contribute without any problem. However, she has decided to focus her savings in her TFSA, for now.

Using Wealthsimple’s calculator, I can get the details about her marginal tax rate and her estimated tax refund.

She can therefore expect a tax refund of approximately $3,270. Wonderful!

This is where good savers are already planning to reinvest this refund directly into their RRSPs to reduce their 2021 taxes. That’s exactly what my sister was planning to do.

This is where I came in. Because by using the RRSP loan, or any other form of borrowing, there is a way to boost RRSP contributions for the year 2020 without really paying more out of pocket.

The Optimized Method

If my sister got a loan for the same amount as the expected tax refund ($3,270), and contributed that amount within the first 60 days of 2021, she would then increase her total contributions to $13,270 in order to reduce her 2020 taxes.

As a result, her tax refund will no longer be $3,720. It will increase to $4,171.

With this amount, she’d have plenty of money to quickly repay the loan in full and avoid paying interest. There would even be enough left over to contribute to the RRSP again in order to reduce her 2021 taxes.

However, if you understood the method, you may see where I’m going with this.

If my sister can now expect to receive $4,171, then why not borrow that amount instead and add it into the RRSP within the first 60 days of 2021?

Her total contribution to reduce her 2020 taxes would then be $14,171, which would then generate a tax refund of $4,419.

You can keep going until you reach the point of intersection.

Ideally, one does not want to borrow more than the expected tax refunds, since it will be used to repay the loan. This way, you avoid paying interests. Of course, some RRSP loans have such low interest rates that it could still be interesting to borrow a little more and accept to pay some very minimal interests.

Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide how comfortable you are with borrowing to invest.

The Point of Intersection

In my sister’s example, the sweet spot is about $4,512 that she’d need to borrow.

Indeed, that means she’d contribute a total of $14,512 in her RRSP and get $4,512 in tax refunds. This refund would then be equal to the amount borrowed.

It could be simpler for you to use this calculator to find out the total contribution you would have to make. Simply enter the amount you have already contributed to date and your tax rate.

Upon receipt of the tax refund, my sister will repay the loan in full. She’d then be able to start fresh with regular (automated) RRSP contributions for 2021.

Finally, instead of a non-optimized tax refund of $3,700 to reduce her 2021 taxes, she will have added $4,512 to her contributions to reduce her 2020 taxes.

By doing so, she advances future contributions to her RRSP.  If she keeps doing that every year, she’ll max out her RRSP in no time and reap off the benefits of compound interest a bit earlier. 😉

A Debt That’s Worth Its Weight in Gold

Of course, the idea is to advance future contributions. It doesn’t necessarily have to be through an RRSP loan. The money can come from a line of credit or a loan from a friend, for example. You can be creative.

Personally, when I still had unused contributions, I borrowed the money from myself, or more specifically from my emergency fund. I had a zero-dollar emergency fund for a couple of weeks or months, but I was willing to take the risk. It also allowed me to pay no interest on a loan, besides the opportunity cost of the interest (1-2%) the money in my emergency fund would have generated.

If you are able to find interest-free money, it may be interesting to borrow more than the expected tax refunds. That’s entirely up to you. 🙂

In addition, for those who contribute to labour-sponsored funds such as FTQ or Fondaction, 30% or 35% tax credits increase tax refunds considerably and make the method even more efficient!

That’s precisely what I did back in 2018 and 2019, when I had not yet maxed out my RRSP. It really increased my savings and helped max out my RRSP sooner!

Keep in mind that you need to have the discipline to use the tax refund to pay off the loan in full, rather than using it to pay for an all-inclusive vacation. 😉

Bonus

Of course, anyone who optimizes their RRSP contributions will see their taxable income decrease. This could have the effect of giving access to or increasing GST and solidarity (or other provincial) tax credit refunds.

This is also a very interesting for families. By reducing their taxable income even further, parents who make use of this method will be able to increase their child benefits.

If these refunds and benefits are then added to the RRSP throughout the year, this will set the stage for the next RRSP season. At least, until the RRSP is maxed out. 🙂

Yes, More Tax Optimization

I’m really that boring. However, anyone who is able to use the method described in this article will benefit from it. 🙂

I’m curious to know if you have tricks like that to optimize your registered accounts or your taxes in general. Do you have any tips on how to make the most of RRSP season? Feel free to leave a comment!

In the meantime, I’m looking forward to my favourite season. I’m talking, of course… about tax season. 😉

2020 Review

I’m not gonna lie. I’m not at all mad 2020 is over! A year that felt like ten, but also sort of flew by, in retrospect. A year that made history, for sure.

I like to think that this year will also have made my history. It was truly the year that allowed me to take the reins of my financial life. And now that this unique year is behind us, it’s time to do a full review! I’ll be true to myself and I’ll present a lot of numbers. 🙂

My FIRE number

As you already know, I am aiming to reach financial independence by building a nest egg of $375,000 that would generate $15,000 in passive income, according to the 4% rule.

So where do I stand exactly with regards to my goal?

I had $125,500 in personal investments at the end of the year. To this, I add the estimated commuted value of my DB pension of $26,000. I can therefore say that my nest egg reached $151,500. Therefore, I’m at about 40% of my goal.

Another way to put things into perspective is to apply 4% to what I already have. Right now, my nest egg would provide me with an annual passive income of $6,060. I am $8,940 of passive income away from my goal.

If we take a closer look, we can also conclude that at $6,060 per year, it would currently pay my rent. In fact, that would give me $505 per month in passive income and my rent costs me $497.50 per month. 🙂

In comparison, I had $73,000 in personal investments and $14,000 in my DB pension plan, for a total of $87,000 as of December 31, 2019. That’s an increase of $64,500 (or 74%) in twelve months! I am extremely pleased with those results!

Now, I have to be realistic and adjust my target with inflation. So I’ll add 2% to my goal. That means $15,300 in annual expenses or a FIRE number of $382,500 in 2021 dollars. 🙂

Net Worth

You’re already quite familiar with this part, thanks to My Net Worth page, in addition to my December 2020 monthly review.

All the same, I am proud and happy to repeat that in 2020, I reached a net worth of $117,805.

By comparison, my net worth as of December 31, 2019, was $55,444. This is an increase of 112%.

What a year!

Returns

The year 2020 will certainly have been full of twists and turns in the stock markets. Let’s just take a look at the S&P 500 or the S&P/TSX 60 over the last twelve months. Since I only invest in index ETFs, this has had a direct (and positive) impact on my returns.

Indeed, Passiv allows me to see the (relatively minimal) impact that the stock market jolts have had on my portfolio over the last twelve months:

The top line represents the value of my portfolio while the bottom line represents my total contributions.

This clearly shows the importance of staying the course. Just keep saving and investing on a regular basis, regardless of the ups and downs.

For all of my personal investments, I have earned the following returns according to Questrade :

If only it could always be like this. 🙂

Switching Strategies

I have to say that I have had some strokes of luck during the year. At the time of the March 2020 drop, I had a sort of hybrid portfolio that combined the old Canadian Couch Potato portfolio model and Ray Dalio’s All Weather Portfolio. While I most certainly felt the drop, it wasn’t as bad as if I had been 100 % stocks.

On top of that, I had a lot of money coming in at the time, including a large tax refund, a bonus and refunds for a cancelled trip. I invested all of it at the right time and clearly benefited from that afterwards.

Also, I later decided to make some changes to my portfolio after hearing about the all-in-one ETFs. I changed most of my portfolio for XEQT. By doing so, I took advantage of another happy coincidence. Indeed, I sold a considerable amount of MNT (gold) while it was at its peak during the summer.

In the end, my portfolio will have increased by $20,544 in return alone. I still find it a little hard to believe that this amount accumulated on its own! I’m starting to see the benefits of making my money work for me, rather than working for it.

Dividends

Although my investment style is not focused on dividends, some of the ETFs I held, or still hold, do pay dividends. It’s no big deal, but I received $1,200 in dividends in 2020. By comparison, I received $1,056 in 2019. The difference is rather small, considering the difference in value of my portfolio over the last twelve months. This is mostly due to the changes in ETFs I’ve made in the past year.

One thing is certain: I’m not going to say no to money that’s deposited in my account. Also, all of it has been reinvested.

Expenses

Although every personal finance book in the world explains how important it is to track your expenses, I only started doing so this past August. So I don’t have the information for the whole year, but here is the detail from August to December regarding my expenses :

This amounts to a monthly average of $2,138, or an annualized total of $25,654.

Also, I would like to do the same exercise, but without accounting for my car loan repayments. Since this loan will not follow me into retirement, I wanted to get an idea of my current spending level without this cumbersome (and unrepresentative) expense.

  • August: $1,090
  • September: $1,761
  • October: $1,042
  • November: $1,599
  • December: $1,396

That’s much better, isn’t it? This means an average monthly amount of $1,377, or an annualized total of $16,529.

Considering that I estimated $15,000 in annual retirement expenses (in 2020 dollars) and that my current expenses are not yet completely optimized (notably through geographic arbitrage), I find that I’m not that far off the mark. 🙂

Income

My final pay stub confirms I earned a gross amount of $78,050 in employment income. In comparison, I earned $63,288 in 2019. That’s a 24% increase! I did have 27 pays in 2020 instead of 26 and a nice raise. That helps. 🙂

Worth mentioning, although nothing major : I got $340 in Amazon gift cards through Swagbucks and $260 by doing jobs through Field Agent (mostly before the pandemic and during the summer). By the way, thanks to everyone who signed up for Swagbucks using my referral link!

Savings

I am more than happy with my savings rate in 2020, which is 50%!

As I explained here, I prefer to use a very simple formula:

(Amount saved / net income) * 100

Indeed, I saved a whopping $27,055 on a net employment income of $49,371, to which I also add my $5,000 tax refund, for a total of $54,371. I want to make it clear that this is my personal savings only. It does not include contributions to my DB pension plan, or any other form of forced savings.

I wasn’t tracking every cent at the time, but I estimate my savings rate in 2019 to have been around 27%, based on the same formula. At that time I was not yet aiming for FI, so I wasn’t saving as aggressively as I am now. It was still a good savings rate compared to the average person. With 50% in 2020, now we’re talking! 😉

Travel Hacking

I started looking into Travel Hacking this year after reading Quit Like a Millionaire, which praised its benefits in lowering travel expenses.

I started simply with the TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite back in March (for 30,000 Aeroplan bonus points). I later took the CIBC Visa Infinite Aeroplan in July (for 20,000 Aeroplan bonus points).

I studied more about travel hacking (thanks to Milesopedia), and in November, I applied for three more: American Express AIR MILES Platinum (for 3,000 bonus Air Miles), American Express Prestige Aeroplan (for 20,000 Aeroplan bonus points + a Buddy Pass) and BMO AIR MILES Mastercard (for 950 bonus Air Miles).

On top of all the sign-up bonuses, points are also earned based on expenses.

So, in just about 10 months, I managed to pile up the following points and miles for future trips :

  • Aeroplan: 72,212
  • Air Miles: 1,182

What I Can Buy With My Points

I still don’t have enough Air Miles to buy much of anything. Since I started collecting them pretty recently, I haven’t unlocked any sign-up bonuses yet.

On the other hand, I am starting to have an interesting number of Aeroplan points. You can take a look at this page for an idea of a flight’s cost in points. For example, I could currently pay for five short round-trip flights in North America (ex: Toronto, New York, Washington, DC) or three longer round-trip flights (ex: Mexico or California) with my points. I would only have to pay the taxes.

More specifically, my first travel destination post-COVID will be Hawaii (which I had to cancel this past April). Currently, a round trip (ex: YQB-KOA) with randomly picked dates would cost me 34,100 Aeroplan points and $189.66 in taxes. Once I get my Buddy Pass, I’ll even be able to bring someone with me (my sister, in this case) for the same number of points. Only the taxes would then be payable in double.

If I do the same search on Google Flights for the same random dates, I find that the cheapest tickets are $635.00 per person. By using my points, we’d be saving $445.34 per person!

Long story short, not taking advantage of Travel Hacking is leaving money on the table. 🙂

Blog

Finally, I wanted to mention that in only 3 months of blogging, I wrote (and translated) 14 articles. I must have something interesting to tell because I have had 3,741 visitors in 2020. My Facebook page is also now over 600 likes! Wow!

To be honest, I wasn’t expecting any real success. I just wanted to have a place where I could put my ideas in place and have some structure. Based on the positive feedback I get, I think people relate to me and I’m really thankful for that. It’s been a very rewarding experience to talk to some of you. I also love the complicity that comes naturally between FIRE bloggers.

All in all, it has been a very positive experience and I will do my best to continue bringing quality content. 🙂

Managing Your Personal Finances Like a Business

I know I may seem a little intense by doing such a detailed review, but I think you’re getting to know me a little bit. What can I say? I like numbers. It’s my Vulcan brain’s fault. By the way, I see that you like numbers too, judging by the traffic trend on the blog. 😉

Also, the fact that I put hard numbers on all this allows me to see my progression. That’s very encouraging.

I can’t help but think about Jean-Sébastien Pilotte’s (Jeune Retraité) book La retraite à 40 ans. The first chapter is called Devenir le PDG de sa vie (Becoming the CEO of Your Life). Here’s my rough translation of my favourite part:

The first step towards financial independence is the most decisive one to succeed. It is about having the will to take control of one’s finances. It’s time to go from being a janitor to becoming CEO. Take off your blue rubber gloves and put on your best tie. You are promoted! No one else applied for the job.

To begin your new position, you will need to understand and analyze your current financial situation. Where is your money going? What are your main expenses? What are your assets? So many questions that are essential to your financial health and, ultimately, to your quality of life. Like a CEO, you will have to peel the onion, layer by layer. And most of all, don’t cry! You will certainly have to get out of your comfort zone and make some unpleasant observations, but it’s time to get to the bottom of this.

I particularly liked this part. It’s really in synch with the way I see things. How can we hope to improve and move forward if we have no idea where we stand exactly?

Gratitude and Thanks

To say the least, 2020 has been a very special year. No matter how unpleasant the year has been, there is always a way to find something positive. I think this review shows that.

Financial review aside, I am also filled with gratitude for this blog and all that it brings me. In addition to discovering a certain talent for writing, my articles allow me to reach out to people and interact with them. I am so grateful for the opportunity to discuss with equally passionate people.

Thank you for reading my blog. Thank you for commenting (it’s sort of my pay!). I like to know what resonates with you in my writing. I love it when you share your own calculations or suggestions. Sincerely, don’t hesitate to contact me. I love discussing personal finances and FIRE.

I am ready to face whatever 2021 has in store for me. As you already know, I have already set goals for this year. Undoubtedly, I have a lot of work to do!

Perhaps the fact that it’s not easy is what makes it worthwhile.

– Odo (Star Trek Deep Space Nine)

Let’s stay the course. The best is yet to come.

 

December 2020 Review

Hello there!

Finally, a new year has begun!

To all my readers, I wish you a very happy new year, full of wealth and prosperity, of course, but also happiness and, above all, good health. I hope that we’ll have as much fun learning and supporting each other on the road to financial independence.

Also, I hope that this ugly pandemic will fade away and that we’ll find a semblance of normalcy in our respective lives. And I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t say no to a trip or two. 😉

Before completely turning the page, I want to do my usual monthly review of December 2020. In fact, these monthly reviews have helped track exactly where my money is going and assess how realistic my FIRE goals are.

I’ll keep doing those very enlightening reviews in the new year, as previously mentioned in my 2021 Goals article.

So without further ado, let’s get down to the juicy details.

Net Worth as of December 31, 2020

Assets
Checking Accounts:
Questrade TFSA
Questrade LIRA
Questrade RRSP
FTQ RRSP
Fondaction RRSP
$1,624
$29,608
$43,118
$33,679
$5,752
$13,427
Total assets:$127,208
Liabilities
Car Loan:
Line of Credit:
CIBC Aeroplan:
Tangerine Master Card:
Amex Air Miles:
BMO Air Miles:
Amex Aeroplan:
$9,403
$0
$0
$0
$0
$0
$0
Total liabilities:$9,403
Net Worth$117,805
Difference+$7,692

Full disclosure: I never dared hope to reach such a high net worth at the end of the year. I’m so grateful that I have been able to save so much throughout the year, in good times and bad. By following my automatic and regular savings plan (every two weeks on payday), I have been able to get exposure to different market prices throughout the year. This is what we call taking advantage of dollar-cost averaging.

I must admit I also made an effort to invest a little more than normal whenever the markets were down, too. 🙂

It wasn’t that long ago that I was hoping to end the year with $100,000 in net worth. I certainly wasn’t expecting to end with $117,805, which is 17.8% more than expected. Needless to say, I am extremely pleased with such results after a year like we had. I’d never have expected that back in March! So, there is something positive to come out of 2020. 🙂

I am ready to tackle a new month and a new year with those very motivating numbers!

Debt repayment

Finally, I also reached a new milestone on the debt front. My car loan went below $10,000! I can’t wait to see it disappear forever from my calculations.

In fact, some may wonder why I don’t pay off the balance in full and get rid of it once and for all. After all, I do have the money in my TFSA.

Ultimately, it’s a question of opportunity cost. If I take almost $10,000 out of my TFSA to pay off my balance, I’m turning my back on the return I could have earned on that investment. Of course, the return I could earn is hypothetical and cannot be predicted or guaranteed. However, I believe there is a good chance that the return will be higher than the interest rate on my car loan.

Believe it or not, the interest rate on my loan is 0.04%.

See the dilemma, here?

So while being debt-free is very appealing, I can’t possibly give up on the return I’d get on my TFSA to pay down a debt that costs me next to nothing in interest.

Nevertheless, I believe I made a compromise between the emotional side (being debt-free) and the rational side (getting a return on my TFSA) by increasing my regular payments to the maximum. I reduced the amortization by more than two years. The maturity date will be November 2021 instead of December 2023.

Additionally, I don’t rule out the possibility of making additional payments throughout the year. For example, I expect a tax refund in the spring, as well as a hypothetical bonus at work. If I use these to repay my loan, I’ll reduce the amortization even further.

However, selling investments to pay off my debt is the last thing I want to do.

Savings

Here are the details of my December savings:

  • December 3: $1,200 out of $2,148.84 net (56% savings)
  • December 17: $1,000 out of $1,892.52 (53% savings)
  • December 31: $1,000 out of $1,897.52 net (53% savings)
  • Total savings: $3,200 in December or 54% savings

Of the $3,200 I saved, I invested all of it in my TFSA. That leaves me with about $44,000 of unused contributions, in addition to the new $6,000 contribution limit for 2021.

I still managed to save a large portion of every pay, considering (yes, again) this never-ending lockdown and the low expenses associated with it. The fact that I was paid three times instead of two in December and that I did some overtime also helps a lot. I had 27 pays in 2020, instead of 26. Apparently, it happens once every 11 years!

Expense Report

DateAmountDescription
2020-12-01$497.50Rent
2020-12-01$99.84Groceries
2020-12-01$19.72Gas
2020-12-01$18.63SAQ
2020-12-02$7.15Spotify
2020-12-02$10.00Donation
2020-12-04$403.85Car Payment
2020-12-04$27.36Yarn
2020-12-05$6.79Starbucks
2020-12-07$14.39Home Insurance
2020-12-07$48.04Car Insurance
2020-12-09$7.70Netflix
2020-12-09$29.50Hydro-Québec
2020-12-12$4.37Dollarama
2020-12-14$109.33Groceries
2020-12-14$13.90Gas
2020-12-18$403,85Car Payment
2020-12-19$6.79Starbucks
2020-12-21$230.43Registration
2020-12-23$206.55Airbnb
2020-12-23$6.93Groceries
2020-12-25$3.40Starbucks
2020-12-29$27.60Home Internet
Total:$2,203.62

In December, I had $2,203.62 in total expenses, or $26,443.38 annualized. If we take out the car loan payments, it amounts to $1,395.92, or $16,750.98 annualized. I consider this very reasonable.

There is little difference from the past months again. There aren’t many opportunities to go splurge, after all! I spent the holidays with only my sister at our place, out of concern for the sanitary measures. For Christmas, we had already planned not to give each other presents. In fact, we both consider that we don’t need anything, and we really didn’t want to buy a useless thing just for the sake of it. Actually, we much prefer to offer each other experiences (tickets for shows, activities, travel) and these are rather limited nowadays. That was definitely the least expensive holiday season I’ve ever had! 🙂

My slightly more outlandish expenses are generally related to keeping me sane during the lockdown. So you’ll notice a few Starbucks coffee here and there, again, and even a visit to SAQ. I also used my travel account to book a small cottage for a few nights in January with my sister. After the last few months, we feel like seeing something other than our 2-bedroom apartment (and our noisy neighbours).

Finally, I still don’t have any charges on my cell phone plan this month. By the way, a huge thank you to those (two) who used my Fizz code (N5MMB) so far! I’m not going to say no to $50 applicable on my cellphone bill. That’s a great way to reduce both our expenses. 🙂

Here’s to 2021!

That’s it, that was my December monthly review. All in all, an unusually uneventful month, but also very beneficial for my savings goals. I’m sure we’ll get to celebrate with family and friends soon.

My next article will officially be the last one regarding 2020, as I will make a full review of the whole year, regarding various financial aspects. As you know, I love numbers and statistics, and I will have plenty to give you.

So, did you start tracking your expenses like I do, after reading my monthly reviews? Were you surprised to see where your money is really going? Have you noticed that simply tracking every expense makes you spend more consciously?

For me, it’s been more than beneficial! I hope it is for you as well, or that you will try it out soon. 🙂

See you next week!

Why I Will No Longer Contribute To My RRSP

I am one of the privileged few benefitting from an employer-sponsored pension plan. It is becoming increasingly rare these days. Generally, when we tell people we have a pension plan, we’re told how lucky we are.

In addition, there are different types of pension plans. One of them is the mother all of pension plans. I’m talking, of course, about the defined benefit (DB) pension plan. That’s the one offered by my current employer.

For many, it’s an excellent advantage. In my case, it’ll bring me closer to my goal much more quickly. On top of my contributions, my employer’s contributions will be returned to me in part when I resign, through the transfer of the commuted value.

For others, who are not aiming for FI and are not saving anything by themselves, it’s more of a gilded cage than anything else. At least, that’s how I saw it back in the days when I wasn’t saving. But that’s a whole other discussion!

How It Relates to the RRSP

First, the maximum RRSP contribution is the lesser of $27,230 (for 2020) or 18% of the previous year’s earned income.

However, a person with a DB pension plan will not be able to contribute up to 18% of their salary to an RRSP of their own. That wouldn’t be fair to those who don’t have a pension plan.

So, to balance it out, employers must calculate the pension adjustment (PA). This factor must then be deducted from the RRSP contributions.

For those interested (or for nerds like me), the calculation of a PA for a DB pension plan goes as follows:

(9 x annual accrued benefit) – $600

The annual accrued benefit varies from one pension plan to another. It is established as follows:

Pension formula * Annual salary

To give you an idea, I used my December 31, 2019, statement numbers. For your information, the Maximum Pensionable Earnings (MPE) for 2019 was $57,400. My annual accrued benefit is calculated like this:

[(1.5% up to MPE) + (2% above MPE)] * $61,442 = $942

Thus, my PA was calculated as follows:

(9 x $942) – 600 = $7,877

So while my RRSP contributions for 2020 should have been $11,382 (18% of my 2019 salary), my PA brought it down to only $3,505 ($11,382 – $7,877). Then, I could only contribute $3,505 to my own RRSP.

Long story short, the PA significantly reduces a person’s RRSP contribution room for the following year.

Why Stop Contributing?

Let’s keep in mind that I’ll reach FI once I have accumulated 25 times my annual expenses. In fact, I intend to reach this magic number once I take my pension’s commuted value. This amount can be transferred to a Locked-In Retirement Account (LIRA) up to the maximum transfer value (MTV) allowed by the Income Tax Act.

The MTV is calculated like this:

Annual pension at age 65 * Present value factor

The present value factor is based on age.

As an example, here are the important numbers from my December 31, 2019, statement :

  • Pension value: $14,100
  • Annual pension at age 65: $1,370

By applying the above-mentioned formula, I understand the MTV would have been $12,330 ($1,370 * 9). However, the pension value was $14,100. Therefore, if I had decided to resign on December 31, 2019, there would have been an MTV of $12,330 and an excess of $1,770 ($14,100 – $12,330).

What could I have done with that excess? Either cash it in and pay taxes on it, or transfer it to an RRSP.

However, transferring the excess to an RRSP can only be done when you have enough unused contributions.

Therein Lies the Problem

In order to reach FI, I will take the commuted value when I resign, at the latest, in 2026.

Being the nerd that I am, I have made various projections to estimate the value of my DB pension plan in 2026, as well as what the excess could be. Based on various hypothetical returns and projected salary raises between now and 2026, I estimate my excess could be somewhere between $26,000 and $44,000.

So, if I have no unused contributions left when I take the commuted value, I will have to cash in the entire amount and pay taxes accordingly. With no other income, this means between $4,500 and $10,600 in taxes for someone living in Quebec (according to this calculator).

Even worse: if I earned, let’s say, $60,000 that year before resigning, the excess will be added to my employment income. Worst-case scenario: I would have $104,000 of taxable income at the end of the year. That means I reach a higher tax bracket!

We want to avoid that, don’t we?

So, contrary to what I said in a previous article about maximizing all registered accounts as soon as possible, I must hold off on contributing to my RRSP until I resign. I have to save any unused contributions for later.

Also, let’s not forget that the PA significantly reduces my RRSP contributions each year.

Considering this, and the fact that my RRSP is currently maximized as of 2020, I estimate I’ll barely have $20,000 in unused contributions in 2026. Thus, there’s still a risk of not having enough unused contributions to absorb the entire excess.

To make up for this, I could resign at the end of the year and receive the excess at the beginning of the following year. In that next year, I would have no employment income. I would also have new RRSP contributions to add to the previous years. Finally, what wouldn’t fit in the RRSP could be used as income for my first year of early retirement. I would probably only make a partial withdrawal (less than 4%!) of my investments to make up the difference in that first year.

With a little luck, the amount would still be less than the basic personal amount and then, I wouldn’t have any taxes to pay. 🙂

Other Options

So if I can’t touch my RRSP until 2026, what do I do in the meantime?

I use the very wonderful TFSA until it’s maximized, of course. As of today, I still have about $45,000 left in unused contributions. We can assume an increase of about $6,000 in contributions a year. Maybe more, if we’re lucky!

If I keep saving $25,000 a year on average, I should be able to catch up on my TFSA contributions by early 2023.

Once that happens, I’ll need to start investing in a non-registered account. This type of account has no limit, unlike registered accounts. At that point, I would contribute the $6,000 (or more) per year to the TFSA and all the rest of my savings would go in a non-registered account.

Deferred Pension or Commuted Value Transfer

Some may wonder if it would not be better to just take the deferred pension and not bother with all the calculations I have just explained.

It depends.

If you’ve been contributing to your pension plan for a long time, then the commuted value, as well as the excess, could be really significant. For example, if you have $100,000 in excess and no unused RRSP contribution, the tax bill would be huge!

In this article, the author explains in detail his strategy. In his case, the commuted value was $290,143. He was surprised to learn that the MTV he could put in a LIRA was only $134,028. That means he had an excess of $156,115. More than half of his commuted value would be taxable, at a rather high marginal tax rate! In any situation, there is little chance that unused RRSP contributions could absorb all of this.

A person living in Quebec would have to pay $59,798 in taxes on such an amount. That reduces the real commuted value by a lot, doesn’t it? In the end, out of his $290,143 commuted value, he would really only get $230,345. That can make a big difference in terms of FIRE. Personally, I wouldn’t be willing to sacrifice close to $60,000!

You understand that it is therefore very wise to do your calculations before making any decision.

Furthermore, are you a good enough investor to “beat” the deferred pension provided by the plan, if you invest the commuted value yourself? And how many years do you have left before you can take the deferred pension?

These are many factors to consider. For my part, I much prefer to proceed as I have detailed, because that is what will allow me to reach my number much earlier. I made a plan to optimize everything and make sure I pay as little tax as possible. But for someone else, the reality could be completely different.

My Own Personal Experience

When I left my former employer in 2018, I was promised an annual pension of $3,314 at age 65. Nothing to write home about, right?

The other option was to transfer the commuted value of $42,000, of which $12,000 was in excess. Fortunately, I had plenty unused contributions at the time to absorb it all. So, the decision was easy to make. 🙂

Two years later, I am more than happy to have taken the commuted value to a LIRA and the excess to my RRSP. It has given a huge boost to my personal investments. It makes even more sense now that I am aiming for FI.

In fact, I’ve had an excellent return on my commuted value by investing it myself so far. Thanks to Passiv, I can give you an overview of my LIRA return since I opened the account two years ago.

So, the boring answer to the initial question is: it depends. It’s up to you to do your calculations.

The Importance of Planning

If I’d never bothered doing calculations, I’d have continued to maximize my RRSP every year until I resign.  The result could have been a tax bill up to $10,000. It would be even worse if I were to receive the excess the same year I resign, as it would be added to any income already earned. I would then reach a higher tax bracket and the tax bill would be even higher!

That’d mean less money in my pockets, more in the pockets of the taxman. By planning everything in advance, I make sure that I maximize the money I will keep from my commuted value.

It’s always ideal to get as close as possible to 100% of our money. In other words: pay as little tax as possible. This applies just as much to the 4% rule, which indicates to have 25 times your annual expenses. To be realistic, this amount must be net of any taxes. If you haven’t planned for (or optimized) this important aspect and you end up sending a third or your passive income to the taxman, you’re going to run out of money. So you have two options:

  • plan for a larger amount to cover taxes; or
  • optimize your taxes.

I know which one I prefer. As Pierre-Yves McSween puts it:

As much as we hate taxes when we build our wealth, we can benefit from tax rules once we have enough.

When you know how things works, you can make the most of it.

For the Lucky Few

This article was certainly aimed at a somewhat smaller audience, namely people benefiting from a DB pension plan. Even for them, it may not have been the most exciting article! There were a lot of calculations, formulas and complex terminology. On top of that, the terminology seems to differ from one pension plan to another! I hope I managed to be coherent, under the circumstances.

However, it did allow me to put together all the information I gathered on the subject and it helped me refine my strategy. I hope my thoughts on the subject helped some of you.

Have you ever had a DB pension? Have you ever had to choose between a deferred pension and a commuted value transfer? What did you choose? Or are you currently one of the lucky few? If so, what’s your game plan for when you leave the rat race?

Feel free to leave a comment! Seriously, I want to know. I’m that much of a nerd.

2021 Goals

I don’t know about you, but I’m all about goals. Could it be conditioning from work? Maybe it is. Even on weekends, I have to write to-do lists to clear my head and have the satisfaction of crossing things off.

Once retired, how many years of therapy will it take to get rid of this habit? All bets are off. 😂

My silly to-do lists aside, I still find it important to set small concrete goals in the pursuit of a bigger goal. On the path to FI, every action counts. In order to focus my efforts in 2021, I have established different precise goals. What better place to put them in writing than on my blog?

Then, at the end of 2021, I will be accountable to all of you, and not just to myself. Talk about extra accountability! 😉

How to Set Good Goals

To establish good, clear goals, you might have already heard of the SMART mnemonic acronym. Its indicators are as follows:

  • A Specific goal should be simple to understand, clear and precise.
  • A Measurable goal must be quantified and have a threshold to reach.
  • An Attainable goal must be large enough, ambitious enough to be challenging and motivating, yet reasonable.
  • A Realistic goal must be at a level where the challenge will be motivating, to avoid giving up.
  • A Time-related goal should be time-bound, including a deadline.

Therefore, I decided to set my 2021 goals based on these indicators.

My Goals

It seems appropriate to divide my goals into two categories: some goals are definitive, while others are hypothetical. The definitive ones depend mostly on me, my discipline and my will. The hypothetical ones depend on some external factors.

Definitive

Savings

In 2021, I’d like to say it would be prudent to set my savings goal at $20,000. That is considering a good part of my cash flow will still be allocated to my car loan until November. Over the entire year, this level of savings would average $769 per paycheck (every two weeks).

On the other hand, I’m an overachiever, and I want to give myself $25,000 as a goal. That’s actually what I’ll have approximately saved by the end of 2020. That would be an average of $961 per paycheck. Although it seems rather difficult considering I start paying QPP again in January, there will be other possible cash flow that could compensate, such as a tax refund or a possible bonus in March, for example.

Also, maybe it’ll lead me to actively look for alternatives to increase my income. I gotta walk the talk, right?

Debts

Oh, that goal sure is definitive! Currently, with my payments increased to the maximum allowed by the bank, my car loan will be all paid back by November 2021. Specifically, my last payment would be on November 18, 2021. After that, I will be debt-free! Woohoo!

I will then be able to allocate that part of my budget directly to my savings (and that’ll help me reach my previous goal). 🙂

House Sitting

Do you know about House Sitting? People from all over the world are looking for house sitters to take care of their pets and home while they are away. There are many websites that facilitate contact between these people, such as Trusted House Sitter, Nomador, House Sitters Canada, etc. To have access, there is an annual fee that goes around $50-$150.

In order to travel inexpensively, I would like to give it a try. Ideally, I could start by trying it out in our province. Once the pandemic gives us some breathing room, I could go and take care of someone’s pets in Montreal, for example. That way I could see how I feel about the experiment. In addition, house sitters get rated on the website. That would allow me to start building a reputation, so to speak.

Afterwards, I could use this method to travel the world at almost zero lodging fees (besides the annual site fee) in exchange for taking care of pets. Useful, both before and during retirement. 🙂

Corrective Eye Surgery

This may seem like an unrelated goal, but it will be useful to me from a long-term financial standpoint.

I’ve been wearing glasses since age 14, and have almost always needed to change glasses every 2-3 years. Rather than having to plan for this expense once I retire, I could use my current insurance coverage to address this problem once and for all!

In fact, my insurance does not provide any amount for this specific surgery. However, I do have a Health Spending Account that provides $500 per year. I didn’t use the 2020 amount, which will be added to the 2021 amount. I will therefore have $1,000 that I can use to reimburse part of the surgery. 🙂

I also asked my insurer about the possibility of using the $500 from 2022 and 2023, if I take the 24-month interest-free financing offered by Lasik MD, for example. I am waiting for a call back. If it is possible, then it will be $2,000 covered by my Health Spending Account!

Afterwards, I won’t have to plan any more expenses for glasses or contact lenses.

By the way, if you have any recommendations or suggestions on the subject, don’t hesitate to share them with me. I’m only just shopping around at this point.

Blog

Of course, continuing to write articles for this blog is on my list. I don’t want to commit on how often I will post articles. Currently, I manage to publish once a week. However, once the pandemic is a thing of the past, maybe I’ll want to write a little less. 😉

On the other hand, I am committed to continuing my monthly reviews. I find it really important to share with you such concrete information, like my expense report or net worth.

Tracking my expenses and publishing them forces me to think about the relevance of every expense. Being accountable really motivates me to stay the course!

Travel Hacking

I plan to continue subscribing to new credit cards every 3 months in order to accumulate points, especially Air Miles and Aeroplan. In particular, I would like to reach 10,000 Air Miles by the end of 2021, for a possible trip to Disney World in 2022. For Aeroplan, I don’t have a fixed goal. I just want as many as possible in order to pay for future flights. 🙂

Hypothetical

Real Estate

You may have noticed in my expense reports that I am currently renting my place. I’ve also already mentioned that I plan to take advantage of geographic arbitrage in retirement, i.e. living somewhere where the cost of living would be lower.

In fact, the easiest thing for me would be to buy my mother’s house. She and the rest of my extended family live in a very small village. I think it’d be ideal to keep roots in the province.

Besides, the house is appraised at $67,000. Can you imagine? A mortgage for a house like that would still be half of what I am currently paying for housing. That’s what geographic arbitration is all about. Yes, it still applies within our province. 🙂

Initially, I was considering this option for retirement. However, I’m now considering moving up the purchase date. The interest rates at historic lows and full-time teleworking (possibly even post-pandemic) are really starting to push me towards making a move in 2021.

Of course, if this is in the hypothetical category, it’s because I need to talk seriously about it with my mother first. We’ve talked about it in the past, but we didn’t bring it up recently. I’m going to have to put it back on the table. 🙂

Travel

No need to explain why this goal is hypothetical. I will therefore not quantify it. As soon as it is possible to do so, I want to travel as much as possible!

As far as the destination goes, I was supposed to spend two weeks in Hawaii in April 2020. That’ll be one of the first things I do, as soon as possible! Otherwise, I’m open to any opportunity. After all, I have to use my travel points. 🙂

Milestone

Here, no matter what my savings rate is, if the return is bad, it could be unattainable. However, if the return is good, my projections give me hope of reaching what some people call Half FI, or 12.5 times my annual expenses! 🙂

My target annual expenses for retirement in 2020 dollars are estimated at $15,000. Adjusted for 2% inflation for 2021 give me $15,300. So Half FI would be :

15 300 * 12,5 = 191 250 $

Considering my current investments, my pension plan’s estimate value and my projected savings, I think this could be realistic. I can’t wait to see! 🙂

From Small Goals to Big Goals

The SMART method can be applied to all types of goals. I can apply it to my small goals for 2021 and subsequent years, as well as to my ultimate goal of achieving financial independence.

Remember that a smart goal must be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-related. Let’s see what I can come up with :

My goal is to achieve financial independence and early retirement, i.e. no longer depend on a salary and be able to do what I want, when I want. To do this, I will need to save and invest more than 50% of my income in order to accumulate 25 times my annual expenses by my 35th birthday, at the latest, or in 2026.

I must admit that my projections are starting to make me believe that 2025 is even possible. Of course, it’s mostly based on the return I’ll get in the next five years. I could save 80% of my income, but if we fall into a bear market during those five years, it could definitely put a wrench in my plan. Therefore, 2026 is more realistic.

2021 Is Just Around the Corner!

I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to turn the page on 2020. I’m optimistic and I sincerely think 2021 will be a good one! So let’s take the bull by the horns and think ahead about what we want to accomplish! However, I can assure you that you don’t need to be as neurotic as I am about setting your goals. Just do it whatever way you prefer. 🙂

Looking back over the years and thinking about my current goals, I find that the more time you give yourself to do something, the more time you take to do it. We’ve all seen this in school. No matter when we needed to hand in a paper, we always ended up handing it in at the last minute. Curious how a paper you had three months to do ended up taking precisely three months to do.

Abraham Lincoln explained the phenomenon well:

Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.

Yes, you shouldn’t set goals that are too difficult to avoid giving up, but you shouldn’t set goals that are too easy either. It takes a bit of a challenge to be motivating enough.

Have you set goals for next year? Don’t hesitate to let me know!

November 2020 Review

Hello there!

It’s already time to do the November monthly review! It’s fascinating how relative the perception of time is, especially this year. On one hand, I can’t believe that the year is nearly over. On the other, I have the impression that this pandemic is never ending and that each day of lockdown goes by at an indescribably slow pace.

But we’re not here to talk about that. It’s time for numbers! Nice numbers, by the way. 🙂

Net Worth as of November 30, 2020

Assets:

Checking Accounts:
Questrade TFSA
Questrade LIRA
Questrade RRSP
FTQ RRSP
Fondaction RRSP

Total assets:


$1,237
$25,950
$42,414
$33,063
$5,182
$12,015

$120,448
Liabilities:

Car Loan:
Line of Credit:
CIBC VISA:
Tangerine Master Card:
Amex:

Total liabilities:


$10,210
$0
$0
$0
$125

$10,335
Net Worth$110,113
Difference+ $11,697

Remember that $100K I didn’t quite officially reach at the end of October? Well, here it is, and then some! After two rather slow months in September and October, the stock markets went wild for most of November. This is partly due to a nice mix of good news about promising vaccines and a presidential election that seems to be making Wall Street happy!

Thus, between October 31 and November 30, there was a variation of + $11,697! Unbelievable, isn’t it? That’s 11. 8% in a single month! If every month was like that, it would be too easy, wouldn’t it? 🙂

Also, I realized by doing this review that I doubled my net worth in the last twelve months. Indeed, my net worth as of November 30, 2019, was $53,184. While I know I saved and invested a lot in the past year, I never expected such an impressive result! I am more than grateful for that. 🙂

Savings

Here are the details of my November savings:

  • November 5: $1,000 out of $1,892.51 net (52% savings)
  • November 10: $100 out of $110.82 (90% savings)
  • November 19: $1,000 out of $1,892.52 net (52% savings)
  • Total savings: $2,100 in November or 54% savings

November was another great month for savings. Lockdown keeps making it even easier to lower expenses, which has a direct impact on my savings rate. We can say whatever we want, but this pandemic has really boosted my savings. That is considering I was lucky enough to have no loss of income whatsoever throughout the year. It will allow me, in the long run, to reach my goal considerably faster!

The small amount I got on November 10th came from a small translation contract that sort of fell on my lap. While I don’t usually do this professionally, I do have a bachelor’s degree in translation. I couldn’t say no! 😉

Out of the $2,100 I saved, I invested $1,900 in my TFSA and $200 was added to my travel account.

As a matter of fact, some may be surprised to know I’m saving to travel while on the path to FI. It’s certainly quite expensive to travel after all. However, I absolutely want to do it. I love it, it makes me happy and it ironically helps me stay on track with my goals as well. Since I want to travel once I reach financial independence, I have to practise. Right? 😉

Expense Report

DateAmountDescription
2020-11-02$497.50Rent
2020-11-02$7.15Spotify
2020-11-02$10.00Donation
2020-11-04$96.22Groceries
2020-11-04$16.10Mondou
2020-11-06$403.85Car Payment
2020-11-08$14.39Home Insurance
2020-11-08$48.04Car Insurance
2020-11-09$2.78Amazon
2020-11-09$7.70Netflix
2020-11-11$31.46Fiverr
2020-11-14$1.09Amazon
2020-11-15$5.41Starbucks
2020-11-19$95.24Groceries
2020-11-20$403.85Car Payment
2020-11-21$27.36Yarn
2020-11-22$5.40Starbucks
2020-11-23$30.78Google Drive
2020-11-23$120.00American Express Annual Fees
2020-11-23$29.50Hydro-Québec
2020-11-28$468.99Air Canada
2020-11-29$27.60Fizz Home Internet
2020-11-30$55.94Mondou
Total$2,406.35

So in November, we are talking about $2,406.35 in total expenses, or $28,876.20 annualized.

That’s a large amount, even pretty far from what I’m aiming for, but it’s exceptional. I wanted to take advantage of Air Canada’s Black Friday offers! While it may seem like a big expense, the money was actually coming out of my travel account and would have been used for that at some point or another. I just decided to spend that amount in advance, in order to earn more Aeroplan points.

Otherwise, there is not much difference compared to previous months, outside fixed expenses. There are a few Starbucks coffee here and there, more out of a need to keep me sane and get out of my apartment, than anything else.  You gotta do what you gotta do to survive this lockdown (or to avoid noisy neighbours). 🙂

Also, I had no cell phone expenses this month, thanks to Fizz‘s referral bonuses. I had gotten $40 by subscribing with someone’s code and then $40 when my sister subscribed with my code. Since I took the $27/month plan, that’s three months covered. 🙂

If you are interested in subscribing, please enter my referral code N5MMB and we will both get $50. That’s right, they raised the bonus! This is valid for mobile plans as well as Home Internet plans.

Little Travel Hacking Lesson

Let me share my strategy when taking advantage of Air Canada’s Black Friday offers. The golden rule of Travel Hacking is not to spend more than normal to get points, otherwise it’s counterproductive. In my case, I was already accumulating money in my travel account for eventual plane ticket fees or other.

Air Canada had several Black Friday offers. The more offers you combined, the more points you got:

  • 2 offers = 500 bonus points
  • 3 offers = 1,000 bonus points
  • 4 offers = 5,000 bonus points

So I took advantage of a first offer by purchasing a gift card:

  • By buying an Air Canada gift card, I could accumulate 2 points per dollar spent.
  • By purchasing the gift card with my CIBC Visa Infinite Aeroplan credit card, I could accumulate 1.5 points per dollar spent.

I purchased a $400 gift card, and I was able to earn 1,400 Aeroplan points for this first offer.

Then I took advantage of a second offer by buying points:

  • The promotion offered a 50% bonus on the points purchased. The minimum possible was $60 for 2000 points + 1000 bonus points.
  • By purchasing the points again with my CIBC Aeroplan credit card, I could accumulate 1.5 points per dollar spent.

I paid the minimum possible of $60 to get 3,090 Aeroplan points.

Finally, I took advantage of a third offer by buying a product from a partner via the Aeroplan eBoutique :

  • Purchases at Amazon gave 2 points for every dollar spent.

I was already planning on buying running shoes in the near future. I actually had enough Amazon gift cards accumulated (thanks Swagbucks!) to get them for free. The shoes cost about $50, so that’s 100 Aeroplan points.

Since I used three offers, I get the 1,000 bonus points.

Result: 5,590 Aeroplan points.

The awesome part is that I get all those points for expenses I had already planned. It’s all a matter of timing.

Is Paying Annual Fees an Investment?

Additionally, you may have noticed in my expense report the $120 annual fee for my American Express AIR MILES Platinum Credit Card. Does it seem counterproductive to you to pay an annual fee?

The idea behind it is that I only signed up for this card to get the 3,000 Air Miles bonus, which can be worth up to about $600, if you play your cards right. I plan on cancelling the card before I am charged the annual fee again next year. So despite the annual fee, I’ll have made a profit. 🙂

I’m still a Travel Hacking beginner, but I’m already starting to accumulate nice amounts of points and miles. In a possible future where travelling will be more accessible, I’ll be more ready than ever to go at very low cost. 🙂

For those interested in the various Travel Hacking strategies, check out Milesopedia. It’s a real gold mine!

2020 is almost over!

I can’t wait to see what the stock markets have in store for us before the end of the year. Everything that goes up inevitably ends up going down, so who knows. One thing’s for sure, the markets have fully recovered from last March’s historic crash, and then some.

As far as I’m concerned, I think my income will be pretty good in December. In addition to being paid three times instead of two in December, I will also receive paid overtime. As for expenses, there is very little risk of splurging, except perhaps for food and drinks. My family and I had already agreed that we wouldn’t give each other Christmas presents, so no worries about that.

I’m already looking forward to my next monthly review. 🙂

See you next time!