The Power of Poverty


…And How to Break a Destructive Cycle

I’ve been reading a couple of books lately that have helped to shed some light on the cycle of generational poverty and why it is so hard for some people to break free. 

Hand to Mouth – Living in Bootstrap America, by Linda Tirado, is a firsthand account of what it’s like to be working poor in modern America.  Tirado and her partner have both worked multiple low wage jobs in the service industry while raising two daughters, paid rent on crappy apartments and navigated life without the safety net of health insurance or long-term savings. 

Tightrope – Americans Reaching for Hope, by Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn, is a journalistic expose on the lives of the working poor across cultural landscapes from white blue-collar neighborhoods in the Pacific Northwest to black inner city neighborhoods on the East Coast.  Kristoff and WuDunn bring their considerable journalistic chops to tell heart breaking stories of loss and despair, hope and promise from the wealthiest country on earth. 

Both books have reminded me of why I got into this business in the first place. 

I’ve made no secret of the fact that back in 2005 I declared personal bankruptcy.  My current career path has been greatly influenced by my experiences on the other side of wealth.  I know what I’m talking about when it comes to getting out of debt and building investments.  It’s been 16 years now but, in some ways, it feels like only yesterday. 

What both Tirado and Kristoff & WuDunn describe is how an upwardly mobile society stalled in its’ march toward greater equity and economic prosperity and then started moving backwards.  Today, America “boasts” the largest level of wealth inequity in history and race relations which held so much promise under presidents Kennedy and Johnson have fallen to levels not seen since the days of Jim Crow.

I am not a social activist, or an economist but what I’ve learned from reading these two books is that poverty is a big problem and that taking personal responsibility alone is not going to be enough to break a generational cycle fed by low wages, limited opportunities, paternalistic government policies, drugs, and despair. 

These books have also brought up memories and emotions that I would prefer to have kept buried. 

Poverty has a way of getting inside of you and effecting the way you look at yourself.  While most social scientist tell us that the amount of time other people spend noticing what we do is far less than we think it doesn’t change how we feel about ourselves in the moment. 

When you are the only person in your social group that hasn’t bought a new pair of shoes in 3 years, you think everyone notices.  When you chip your tooth and can’t afford to get it fixed, when you drive your car for nine months between oil changes and keep driving after your registration has expired, when you are intentionally late to meet for drinks so that you only have to buy one, most people won’t notice, but you notice, and it gets inside of you. (I’ve personally done all those things)

Pretty soon you start avoiding situations altogether where people might expect you to spend money.  Your social connections suffer and with them, your mental health.  At that point poverty starts to look and feel like an illness and a pattern of self-destructive behavior emerges that helps perpetuate the cycle.  Poverty leads to low self-esteem, followed by depression and anxiety, often ending in some form of addiction and denial.

Don’t get me wrong, I am in no way victim blaming.  Remember, I’ve done and felt all these things that I am describing.  Not everyone’s experience will be the same, but for me this is how it happened.  The roadmap for me, in hindsight was unmistakable; Low Self-Esteem, led to Depression and ended in various forms of Self-Destruction.    

So how did I turn it around?

I got mad. 

When I was finally forced to take a long hard look at where my behavior had led me, I drew a line in the sand and said, “No more!”. 

No more paying bills late, no more credit cards, no more personal loans, and no more frivolous spending.  I cut back to the bare bones and sold so much stuff on Kijiji the cat went into hiding because she thought she was next. 

I followed a snowball method to clear my debts and when that was done, I turned around and focused the amount that I had been using to service what I owed and started building assets.  I opened an emergency fund and built up 3 months of my expenses, then a retirement account.  Now when I want to buy something outside of the budget, I save for it and pay cash. 

I grew up upper middle class.  My father was a corporate director at a non-profit.  I know the value of money and how to get by, but I still fell into poverty due do some poor choices and bad luck.  I struggled my way out by making better choices and doing the work.  Many others, as described in these books I’ve been reading, become generationally poor due to systemic racism and other societal ills that serve to make the lower runs of the ladder very slippery.  I’m not better than anyone, I was just lucky enough to recognize the path I was on before it was too late. 

If you want to learn more about my journey from bankruptcy and the path back, reach out today, let’s talk. 

Lauren

Interviewing a Financial Advisor


What to Ask and Why It Matters

The other day a perspective client mentioned that he wanted to get more serious about financial planning. 

Great! It’s never too early, or too late, to get serious about your financial plans. 

He then went on to explain that over the next few weeks he was planning on interviewing a few advisors to find the right fit.  Good Idea! 

While it’s always a good idea to make sure the person you have handling your finances is right for your needs; I couldn’t help but wonder if he even knew what questions to ask before he made his decision.

As I explained, sometimes you just don’t know what you don’t know or: 

It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble.  It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so. 

Mark Twain

Rather than agree to be interviewed by this perspective client right away I gave him a few suggestions of what he should ask of my colleagues first and suggested that after he is done interviewing two or threes of them, he should call me and compare how I answer these questions before making a final decision. 

I didn’t give him specific questions to ask but here are the things I told him to be looking for and thinking about during the interview process.

Fees

This is the one thing that is always top of mind.  At the end of the day how much is all this going to cost?  It’s a legitimate question, but if you take the right approach, it’s kind of irrelevant.

The way I see it, it’s a question of ratios.  If you pay an advisor 1.5% per year to manage $100,000 in assets the “cost” to you is $1500.  But if your assets grew under his or her management by 10% then your net gain would be 8.5%.  Now, increase the advisor’s fee to 1.75% and increase the return to 10.25%.  Your net gain is still 8.5%.  Which advisor did a better job or was more worth the money?

Yes see, it’s not a question of the fees you pay as much as it’s a question of what you get in return. 

The best advisors will tell you that the fee is secondary, the only number you should concern yourself with is your net (after fees) return.  What if the advisor who charged 1.75% got you a 15% return?  No contest right?        

Now, of course the higher the return the greater the risk so before you get too concerned about fees there are a few other things to consider.

Know What You are Planning For

Financial Planning is not just retirement planning, although most financial plans include a retirement component.  Planners that think in terms of a broad spectrum of client goals have coined the term Goals Based Planning.  In this scenario, money that is earmarked for retirement is treated differently that money for your child’s education, a new home, a dream vacation, or something more philanthropic. 

Knowing what you are planning for helps to define the amount of risk you are willing to take on, the time you are willing to remain invested, how long you can take to ride out some volatility and several other factors.  

Know Who You are Planning For

This one might seem a bit strange but determining who the plan will ultimately benefit is a significant consideration not only when it comes to education plans but also when you consider generational issues.  Building up a huge retirement nest egg is one thing, but adequately planning for what happens should you pass away prematurely is equally as important. 

This is a significant part of planning during your peak earning years.  It’s important to answer questions surrounding what could potentially happen to your plans if an earner suddenly died or became disabled before enough money had been accumulated. 

What About a Will?

Remember Prince, the popstar, who died in 2016?   He died without a will and while it is most likely that his estate will eventually be divided amongst his sister and few half-siblings, it’s been over five years and his estate has yet to be certified and distributed.  The clear winner in all of this has been Comerica Bank who have been collecting royalties and charging millions in administrative fees while the whole thing inches it’s way through the courts. 

While I am sure your estate won’t be anywhere near as complicated as Prince, the time it takes to settle your affairs will be greatly determined by how you structure your assets and insurance now, as well as how clear your will is.  A well planned estate can usually be settled in a matter of weeks.  While a poor plan regardless of size can take several years to settle, leaving your heirs with nothing while lawyers and estate administrators collect fees to sort it all out. 

Intangibles

Lastly, every personal relationship carries a certain amount of intangible connection.  At the end of the day, you have to trust who you are doing business with.  I’m not saying you should be best friends, but it helps if you like each other. 

Does the advisor come across as knowledgeable, helpful, and compassionate or are they arrogant, abrupt, and disorganized?  You can usually get a sense of these things within the first few minutes of any conversation.  Much like a priest or therapist, your financial advisor is going to find out some of your most personal details.  If you don’t trust them, you will inevitably hold back, making it difficult for them to do their job, it’s just human nature. 

There you have it.  I hope this helps some of you as you determine who is the best person to help manage your finances.  If you want to interview me as your financial advisor why not book a strategy session here? I would love to take 15-20 minutes to chat and see if we can find a way to work together. 

Cheers – Lauren

68% of Your Employees Would Leave You Tomorrow for Better Benefits     


I’ve been having a lot of conversations about employee benefits lately and that statistic, according to a recent survey conducted by SunLife, the largest provider of employee benefits in Canada, is probably why. 

The international consultancy, Deloitte reports that 30% of Canadian businesses are dealing with labor shortages due to the after-effects of COVID-19 but with only 40% making normal (pre-pandemic) sales, per the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), increasing wages isn’t an option. 

How can you retain your best people, and attract new and engaged employees in this environment?  With a highly personalized, employee benefits package, targeted to meet the unique needs of your team members and draw in the new people you desperately need right now.

Did you know that employee benefits are 100% tax deductible?  That makes implementing a new benefits package (or enhancing a current one) cheaper than offering higher wages and with tax-free reimbursement for all sorts of medical expenses it works out to a better value for your team members to boot. 

I know you’re busy but if you’ve gotten to the end of this post and would like to learn more, reach out today and let’s chat. 

Your Friend with The Benefits – Lauren Sheil

PS: If you’re more of a reader than a chatter go here to learn more about the types of benefits that I recommend. 

Sir Saves-A-Lot


King Arthur’s lesser known Knight of the Treasury

Save (verb) – to rescue from danger, harm, injury, or loss.

dictionary.com

When it comes to money, I have to say I really like this definition of saving.  To my mind it immediately conjures the image of a medieval knight leaning down from his horse and pulling a treasure chest out of a raging river, just before it’s swept away and lost forever. 

I must have read too many fantasy novels when I was in school.  Lord of the Rings and old English tales of chivalry were all time favorites.  The idea is powerful to me. 

Hold that image in your mind for a second and then think about your savings. 

Not just how much you have or need but also what you are saving for, and equally important what you are saving from.

What you are saving from is often associated with unplanned spending, impulses and emergencies.  But with good planning most of these perils can be avoided. 

That’s why I recommend that my clients maintain three different accounts, an Emergency Fund, a Retirement Account, and a Totally Fun Account. 

1 – Emergency Fund

If you have unsecured debts, like credit cards, start with just $1000.00 in a savings account at your bank then focus on getting out of debt.  Once your debts are under control move your emergency funds to a TFSA and bump them up to the equivalent of 3 months of living expenses, whatever that may be.  (If you are self-employed, seasonal or experience regular periods of low income, 6 months might be better).

This is money designated for unavoidable and unexpected expenses, like car repairs, or uninsured medical expenses.  We all know Murphy’s Law so having a bit of money set aside can really help to keep old Mr. Murphy in his place. 

2 – Retirement Account

Once you have a fully funded emergency fund open an RRSP for retirement savings and transfer 10-15% of your pre-tax earnings every month for the rest of your working life, and forget about it, treat this money as spent and completely out of reach until you have retired.   

All contributions to an RRSP are tax deductible in the year you make them so by making the contributions using pre-tax dollars you are effectively giving yourself a raise and sheltering your income from the tax man.    

You will pay tax when you withdraw the money, but that won’t be until after you’ve retired and have very few other sources of taxable income. 

3 – Totally Fun Account

Lastly, once you have started your retirement savings plan and if you still have extra funds to work with, open another TFSA or Non-Registered Account, depending on available limits and save money just for you.  This is where you set money aside for that Hawaiian vacation, Harley, or the Eleven Foot Grand Piano that is going to grace my dining room someday. 

You can also dip into this fund for smaller fun things like the occasional fancy dinner with friends or those cool boots you saw at Nordstrom last week that you just have to get.

In Canada we have two types of savings accounts that CRA has made available to us.   The RRSP and the TFSA.  Check out this article from the Toronto Star for a primer on the differences and why you would choose one or the other.

Reach out anytime for more information and coaching on how to set up your savings plans.  Book a strategy session here and download my eBook on the three steps of financial planning. 

Have a great day – Lauren

The Most Interested Man in The World


You’ve no doubt seen the commercials. 

The suave gentleman, casually sipping beer while the voice over describes his exploits. 

Cuba imports cigars from him. 

Mosquitos refuse to bite him purely out of respect.

In museums, he is allowed to touch the art.

Police often question him simply because they find him interesting.

He is, The Most Interesting Man in The World.

The award-winning commercials for Dos Equis Beer first appeared in 2006 and were an instant hit.   As I plan my marketing for the coming year, I have decided that I want to become The Most Interested Man In the World. 

Don’t get it?  Let me explain.

My LinkedIn headline says that I am a connect or of people.  I wrote that years ago, after having read Malcolm Gladwell’s “The Tipping Point.”  In that book Gladwell tells the story of a financial advisor in Western Australia who maintains over 13,000 connections on LinkedIn.  Gladwell says that according to LinkedIn at the time, this financial advisor was the most connected man in the world.  He goes on to explain how he has leveraged this network and become a very successful advisor.

When I first read that I was intrigued but I knew there had to be more to the story.  It’s true, maintaining a lot of connections is a great way to build out content and reach people that are ready to buy.  But it’s only part of the puzzle.  The message that you put out there and the way you keep people engaged is equally as important.

So, I kept researching until I saw a video on YouTube by another Australian, internet marketing mogul Sabri Suby.  I’m not sure what it is about Australia that seems to be ahead of the curve on this stuff but I’m willing to roll with whatever works. 

Suby claims that only about 3% of people you meet are ready to buy at any given moment, so a shotgun approach to marketing, where you blast your message out to as many people as possible is only going to be 3% efficient.  The real key to successful marketing is finding a way to move the other 97%. 

I haven’t been able to verify Suby’s numbers but that’s not the point, it’s more the broad idea that only a small percentage of people are going to be interested in what you have to say.  For the sake of argument here’s his breakdown:

  • 3% are ready to buy.  They have already made up their mind to buy from someone so marketing to them is all about timing.  You need to hit them at the moment your product is front of mind but shot-gunning your message and hoping to hit people at just the right time is not efficient, so forget about it.
  • 17% are interested in buying, but they are still shopping around.  Maybe they aren’t sure what they need, maybe they need to save a bit more, maybe they are still just a little bit skeptical and are hoping for that one killer offer that will tip the scale.  Marketing to them is about making a compelling invitation so that they decide to buy now, from you.
  • 20% know they should buy but they are skeptical and/or lazy.  These are the “someday” shoppers.  They say, I’ll get to it someday, but I don’t really feel a strong need right now.  Marketing to this group is all about education.  You are battling inertia, the more knowledge you give them, or the more uncomfortable you can make them, the more likely they are to move into a buying posture. 
  • 60% don’t even know they have a problem.  Marketing to this group is futile, they aren’t listening.  They don’t even know they should be listening.  The only way to reach these people is through word of mouth.  They listen to their friends and colleagues, not advertisers.  Your only hope in reaching them is to do a good job with the other 40% and hope they get a case of FOMO.  If enough of their personal network tell them that owning your product is a good idea, then they will at least be ready to hear your message but for now, forget about them.

Marketing therefore is about targeting your message to the 37% of buyers in the middle with a compelling offer and education until they are ready to buy.

But that’s not all.  Marketers of service-related products have another problem.

The products that we sell, are unsexy and the minute we start talking to someone their backs go up.  They start thinking of all the reasons why they don’t need it and why they shouldn’t trust us.  It’s like a baseball player who’s sitting on a fastball.  The second they see it coming they unload and knock it out of the park.  In our case, they start to hit us with a barrage of objections until we give up. 

Sure, like a good pitcher we might occasionally sneak one by but by taking that approach the relationship is unnecessarily adversarial right from the start.  We might get a sale, but we won’t achieve trusted advisor status or gain a long-term advocate.

So, what is a service industry marketer to do?

The key to moving the 20% who know they have a problem, and the 17% who are ready to buy is not in continually pitching your product.  Instead, the key to this kind of marketing is in providing real relational value for free

What do I mean by relational value? 

It’s about providing connections to the people and services they need without expecting anything in return.  Helping the software developer hire a programmer, the homeowner find a painter, and the new mom find a daycare.  It’s about listening between the lines and solving people’s problems before they even know what they are themselves. 

All without any expectation of anything in return until one day when they are ready to buy you are the only person on their mind. 

In short, it’s about becoming the Most Interested Man in the world.  You need to become interested in everyone and everything, drink in knowledge from every source, learn to hold your own in conversations across a broad range of topics and constantly listen for opportunities to introduce the people you know. 

It’s Six Degrees of Separation in reverse. 

As you continue to do this the people in your network will start coming to you with their problems in the belief that you will have a connection that can help.  As you continually build out your network it will gradually become more and more likely that you do.  

The ultimate end game is to reduce as much as possible your network to one degree of separation with you as the hub of the wheel.  That way you have your finger on the pulse of everything that is happening within your network and when someone expresses an interest in the services that you provide, you are the first call they make.

Make no mistake, this doesn’t happen overnight, it’s a long game.  But The Most Interested Man in the World, eventually becomes The Most Connected Man in the World and that’s what makes him interesting. 

Time to go and make some more connections…

Water Witching


A not so Spooky Story about the Environment and Sustainable Investing.

Halloween is just around the corner and spooky stories about ghosts and witches are all the rage, but honestly when it comes to spooky stores, I’ve got nothing.  So instead, here’s a not so spooky story about a different kind of witch that might just lead to a great investment opportunity to boot.

Back in the 1980s my family owned a cottage outside of Bracebridge ON. 

It was a rustic place.  No electricity and no running water.  But the lake was full of Pickerel, and that was good enough for me. 

We had to bring bottled water from home to drink and boil lake water for everything else. 

One summer my dad noticed a trickle of water meandering across the road behind our place and surmised their must be a spring nearby.  So, he cut a switch from a tree and went in search of the source.  When he found it, we had fresh spring water suitable for drinking. 

Have you ever seen someone use a Water Witch?  That’s what dad did to find the spring.  As a kid I was utterly fascinated that something so simple could be used to find something so vital. 

Here’s a link to a video of a man demonstrating the technique.  It looks strange but believe me, it works!

It was during those summers at the lake that I first gained an appreciation for nature.  As you know, a lot has changed in the past 40 years or so.  I don’t want to get into a debate out climate change, I’ll leave that to the scientists, but it’s clear that our planet is fragile and anything we can do to protect it is a good thing, right? 

That’s why I am please to point out the new Canada Life Sustainable Portfolios. 

When I started in this business sustainable portfolios were a niche product that in most cases were content to accept mediocre returns in exchange for a sense of moral superiority.  But as the sustainable investing industry has matured and more people have become aware of the need to protect the environment these funds have had to keep up with the rest of the market.  In recent years it has become not only possible, but commonplace for sustainable funds to compete and even outperform.  

On September 20, Canada Life finally launched a line of sustainable portfolios and I for one couldn’t be more excited! 

I am now able to help you invest in companies that follow strict guidelines pertaining to corporate governance and environmental responsibility without sacrificing returns.  Canada Life partnered with JP Morgan, a world leader in sustainable investing, to build out portfolios covering a variety of investment styles and objectives. 

Check out this link for more information.   And don’t forget to book a strategy session with me to learn how to incorporate sustainable funds into your portfolio.

Have A Great (sustainable) Day – Lauren

PS:  The deadline for my 10th anniversary promotion is only 6 weeks away.

1 – Download my eBook; “Three Steps to Financial Freedom.” and learn my system for achieving freedom and security in your lifetime.

2 – Book a FREE 30-minute strategy session and learn how best to implement these three steps into your family’s life. 

3 – Implement at least one aspect of the plan before November 30 and receive a gift of appreciation. 

My 3 Word TED Talk


If I am ever asked to give a TED Talk I already know exactly what I’m going to say.

Curious?

Here it is:

In order to be successful in whatever you set out to achieve you must first Ruthlessly Eliminate Hurry.

That’s it.  TED Talk over.  That is the key to a highly productive, successful, low stress life. 

Pretty good right? 

I stole it.

The phrase was coined by philosophy professor Dallas Willard of The University of Southern California.  Willard was not only a great teacher but also a prolific author and sought-after public speaker.  When asked by a young journalist how he managed to fit everything into his busy schedule he is said to have looked the journalist in the eye and very slowly said, “You must first ruthlessly eliminate hurry.” 

The eager young journalist jotted that down and then said, “Great! What else?”

Willard paused for what seem like a very long time, took a deep breath, and said, “There is nothing else.”

Over Labour Day I went home to visit my parents.  My mom and dad are both in their 80’s now and while they are still strong and active, they are nevertheless starting to slow down a bit.  

Before I went, I told dad that if he had any heavy work that needed doing around the yard to save it for me.  No need for him to overexert himself if I was going to be there in a few days.  That’s how I ended up spending my holiday spreading two yards of mulch over his garden. 

It was a big job but as I was loading the wheelbarrow for what seemed like the 1000th time I remembered Dallas Willard and I realized that no matter how insurmountable the task might seem, to be successful you must first ruthlessly eliminate hurry.  No point in rushing, the mountain of mulch wasn’t going anywhere without me.

And I brought that lesson home. 

September has always been a time of reset and refocus for me.  As of this writing there are just 14 weeks remaining in 2021.  While I’m not complaining there are still a few goals that I have yet to accomplish.  Time to refocus and push hard to the end of the year. 

But not at the expense of quality service, and my mental health. 

Hurry leads to anxiety, causes mistakes, and almost always ends up increasing the time it takes to reach our goals.  That’s what I think Professor Willard was getting at when he said we must ruthlessly eliminate hurry. 

So, as we all refocus for the fall remember to ruthlessly eliminate hurry and pay attention to quality.  The mulch is not going anywhere without you, so to speak. 

I also just wanted to give you a quick reminder to not forget about my 10-year anniversary special –

1 – Download my eBook; “Three Steps to Financial Freedom.” and learn my system for achieving freedom and security in your lifetime.

2 – Book a FREE 30-minute strategy session and learn how best to implement these three steps into your family’s life. 

3 – Implement at least one aspect of the plan before November 30 (the actual 10-year anniversary of my employment with Freedom 55) and receive a yet to be determined gift of appreciation. 

Talk again soon – Lauren

PS:  Did you hear the news?  Canada Life has just launched a new series of Responsible Investment Funds designed to help the planet while maintaining investment returns.  Check out the press release here and get in touch any time if you would like your investment portfolio to include funds that are conscious of their environmental and social impact.

5 Reasons to Book a Strategy Session Today!


Hello beautiful people! 

I just got off a zoom call with a new client and I am pumped up!  Not because the call itself was anything special but because my new friend Ryan, truly gets it. 

I met Ryan last month, and no word of a lie, when he found out I was a financial advisor his immediate reaction was, “Do you sell Life Insurance?  We need to talk!” 

I’ll be honest, I was a bit surprised by that.  Nobody gets that excited about meeting me for the first time unless they think I’m someone else. 

I’ve been told I look a bit like the actor Andy Richter but honestly, I don’t see it, you be the judge…

Andy Richter
Me

But Ryan was genuinely excited to talk with me.  Why?

Ryan just turned 25.  Not exactly the age that a lot of people are thinking about Life Insurance.  He just graduated from college, started his first real job and has very little debt. 

On the surface Ryan is young and vibrant, with no real obligations that would require Life Insurance. 

But Ryan knows one fundamental truth that people several years older them him sometimes have trouble grasping –

Life Insurance isn’t about you – it’s about the people you leave behind.

It turns out, Ryan is about to become a dad, and that changes EVERYTHING!

That got me thinking, over the years I have noticed that there are generally 5 times in a person’s life then they tend to engage the help of a financial advisor.

  1. When they start or change jobs
  2. When they find a life partner and combine households
  3. When they purchase a home
  4. When they have a child
  5. When they, or someone close to them, experiences a life changing injury or illness and they see firsthand how proper financial planning could have saved a lot of hardship.

When I sat down with Ryan it quickly became apparent to both of us that he easily ticked off 3 of those 5 boxes. 

Here’s the deal.  If you tick off any  of those boxes we should talk.  A 30-minute strategy session is all it takes to determine exactly how I can help you. 

Interested?  Book your strategy session here.

Not quite ready to commit?

Consider this:

  • 27,000 people in North America get hit by a bus every year.  And 43% of them have no Life Insurance. 
  • The average North American will make approximately $1.7 million in their lifetime.  And those with Life Insurance only carry about $160,000 of coverage.  That’s less than 2 years of income for their families to live on after they’re gone.
  • A $1 million life insurance policy costs on average $2.00 per day!

Is your families future worth $2.00 per day? 

And that’s just Life Insurance.  Not to mention your needs for Disability, Critical Illness or Health Insurance, Retirement and Estate Planning. 

Now can you see the value of Financial Planning? 

Book your strategy session here today.

Talk soon – Lauren

PS: Still not sure we can work together, download my eBook:  Three Steps to Financial Freedom and see for yourself exactly how I work.

PPS:  Be honest, do you think I look like Andy Richter?  Personally I think I look more like TinTin from the Belgian comic book series…

Uncle Bert’s Mansion: A Story of Dreams, Interest Rates, and Strategic Planning


My Uncle Bert built a mansion…

Way back in the late 1970s, Uncle Bert bought 100 acres of farmland near Mount Forest, ON, northwest of Toronto. 

He negotiated with a Mennonite farmer a few towns over to reclaim the lumber from a dilapidated old barn.  Tore it down and loaded all the lumper on a flatbed truck for his house. 

That house was going to be huge!

Some 10,000 square feet featuring an indoor swimming pool, a games room and a three-level deck over-looking the fields. 

Early on he planted a variety of pine saplings, as far as the eye could see. 

Uncle Bert’s dream was to become a Christmas Tree farmer. 

Now before you get the wrong idea and think that Uncle Bert was rich you need to know that the entire process, from empty fields to mansion and row upon row of Christmas Trees took him over 15 years to achieve.  All the while working full time as a science teacher at the local High-School.

He built it all, “by the sweat of his brow and his own two hands” as the saying goes.  Whenever we would visit, for years, the house was under-construction.  The finishing touches were only completed a few weeks before his daughter’s wedding, she was 13 when he started. 

Uncle Bert built slow.  Using cash whenever possible, reinvesting the profits from the Christmas Tree Farm, adding little by little and piece by piece until his dream became reality. 

But that wasn’t the original plan.

Originally Uncle Bert had a traditional mortgage on the land and a pledge from the bank to advance him more money as the house was built.  But then halfway through construction the mortgage rate went above 20% and some local politicians got nervous about this massive house being constructed with recycled lumber. 

The bank refused to advance any more money and the local government threatened to pull his building permit. 

With the stamp of approval from a structural engineer the government relented but the bank never did so Uncle Bert was forced to finish his dream house with cash.

The 1980s were a crazy time in the lending markets.  The Arab Oil Embargo of the late 70s started a period of high inflation and to cool things down central banks all over the world began to increase interest rates, making it harder to borrow and curbing demand for housing and luxury items.  By the fall of 1981 a 30-year mortgage in Canada was going for 21%. 

High interest rates put the breaks on inflation but also ushered in one of the deepest and longest recessions of the past 50 years.  Interest rates didn’t drop below 10% until the mid 90s.  When I bought my first house in 2005 the interest rate was 5.75% and everyone told me to lock in for as long as possible because we would never see anything lower than that. 

The only thing that is constant is change. 

The subprime mortgage crisis of 2008 started what has now been the longest continual decline in mortgage rates ever. 

But last month inflation hit 3.6%.

Is the cycle starting over?  Or is it just a COVID bump?

Only time will tell. 

Here is what I know for sure. 

The only constant is change…

If you want to get into the housing market, my affiliate lender, Canada Life, offers some very attractive mortgage programs. 

But more importantly, to be prepared for whatever happens, you need a strategy.  It all starts by looking at where you are now and where you want to be in X number years. 

That’s what I do for my clients. 

I write and implement strategic plans, (I call them Financial Security Reports), all day every day. 

It starts with a FREE 30-minute strategy session over zoom or in person. 

As the summer starts to wind down, I currently have room in my calendar for up to three of these sessions per week, book your session here, now.  Fall is coming and my calendar will book up fast come September.  Now is the time to get started before interest rates rise and we all get too busy. 

Here’s the link again – Log in and book your strategy session today.

Peace – Lauren

PS:  If you’re not ready to commit to a strategy session why not order a copy of my EBook; Three Steps to Financial Freedom here.  You can always try to book a strategy session later.  That is if I still have the time. 

PPS:  In case you were wondering, the politician who tried to block Uncle Bert’s construction project was arrested and charged with conflict of interest.  Turns out he was silent partner in the local lumber supplier.  Go figure…

I Was a Fantastic Baseball Player, Sort of…


Kevin Youkilis – “The Greek God Of Walks”

In my final year playing youth Softball, I had an OnBase percentage of .721! 

For the uninitiated that means that I made it to first base nearly 3 out of 4 times.  

I led the league!  And that is what made me a coveted lead off hitter. 

You would think that I had a superior “eye” and could pick up on pitches out of the strike zone.  But the fact is I had a terrible eye, I couldn’t tell the difference between a ball and a strike until it was too late.  My saving grace was that the pitchers in youth softball aren’t exactly aces.

As a result, I hardly ever swung at anything and when I did swing, I was so late that all I could manage was a weak grounder.  I was sometimes fast enough to beat the throw to first base, but I rarely hit anything in the air beyond the shortstop. 

In the days before Billy Beane popularized the use of statistics to analyze a ball player’s offensive value, I was an outlier.  When he was general manager of the Boston Red Sox, Beane once referred to his first basemen, Kevin Youkilis, as The Greek God of Walks.  But beyond my OnBase percentage, no one was comparing me to Youkilis, the fact is, I was a terrible ball player.  Sure, I walked a lot, but all that did was mask the fact that I could barely hit, run, catch, or throw. 

Baseball is a game for statisticians, and I love statistics.  I can have just as much fun pouring over a box score as I can watching a live game.  But in so doing I have learned that one number does not tell the whole story. 

Politicians and economists should know this better than anyone.  But more often than not, they will seize on one economic indicator and use it to build an entire narrative.   

  • Gas price goes up?  The economy is in the crapper, and we’re all going to be on food stamps by Christmas!
  • Jobs numbers go up?  We’re all whistling dixie!
  • Last week it was reported that inflation hit a 10 year high (3.6%) and suddenly the sky is falling! 

Never mind the fact that we are coming out of the worst pandemic in modern history, and the other things I mention, gas prices and jobs numbers too, are all true. 

The fact is, like baseball, you can’t measure the strength of the economy by one number.  If you could, politics would be easy, and I’d be in the hall of fame.

Needless to say; I’m not a professional baseball player.  Neither am I an economist, or heaven forbid a politician. 

I am a financial advisor.  I spend my days analyzing balance sheets, and the goals and dreams of Canadian families. 

Like a baseball box score, your balance sheet tells a story. 

It’s a story about what you value and gives clues about where you are headed.  It also helps define a path to the life you wish to live.  It’s a dynamic story, with a lot of moving parts.  One that requires careful analysis and a wholistic approach that doesn’t fixate on any one number.

A few months ago, I started offering everyone a free 30-minute strategy session, where we sit down over zoom (or in person) and talk about the story your balance sheet is telling.

Here’s what Don had to say about the experience:

Wow, just Wow!  I never realized how much my love of coffee was affecting my future plans.  Now that I have helped secure Howard Schultz’s [founder of Starbucks] retirement, let’s get to work on mine.

Is it time to look closely at your balance sheet?  Go ahead and book your strategy session here, and let’s get to work on securing your retirement too.    

Have a great week – Lauren

PS:  Not ready to commit to a strategy session?  Download my eBook; Three Steps to Financial Freedom, instead.

PPS:  Back in the early 2000s, Billy Beane changed the game of Baseball forever.  Check out the book Moneyball, to understand how he used some of the most insignificant stats to turn the Oakland Athletics into perennial contenders and led the Boston Red Sox to finally break the Curse of The Bambino and win their first world series in over 80 years.