Green Spot: The Evolution of Balance

I think most people would agree that we are generally living in the age of excess.  We eat too much, drink too much, shop too much and watch too much TV.  We’ve lost the sense of balance to our lives.  So HR departments end up talking about work/life balance because people are destroying their home lives or worse yet don’t have a home life because of a job.  We’ve spend so much time in these excesses we are like a group of alcoholics that wake up one day and look in the mirror and say “What the hell am I doing to myself?”

So now we end up with people going green to the Nth degree.  They buy solar panels and any product with a ‘green’ label and become walking green police telling everyone around them what they are doing wrong.  The ironic thing is they think they are doing something good when in fact their basic behaviour in the same.  They are still doing everything to excess.  So that’s why I’m glad to see some people are evolving to a sense of balance.

We are starting to talk less about giving up things for the environment, but rather wanting better things for ourselves and the environment.  Why not heat your home with a high efficiency furnace? It’s saves on natural gas use and lowers your bills.  Why not do some composting in the yard? You get a better garden and cut back on filling up your local landfill.  Why not reduce your car usage? You save money and reduce air pollution in your city and often get healthier for walking more.

Going green doesn’t have to hurt or mean giving up anything.  It means demanding not more, but better.  We can still have most of our lives like we currently have and use a faction of the resources to do it.  We win with a better quality of life and a better place to live with less pollution.  So remember to ignore the green police and find your own evolution of balance.

Net Worth Update – Oct 2008

Ok, let’s check in on the damage this month.


House $310,000
RRSP $14,500
LIRA $8,600
Pension $5200
Wife’s RRSP $6600
Wife’s Investment Account $5900
My Investment Account $7100
High Interest Savings Account $3000

Mortgage $138,500
HELOC $3300

Therefore my net worth now stands at $219,000 for the end of October 2008. That is an decrease of -$8,200 or 3.6% from my last update.  My year to date net worth increase now stands at 1.9%.

Well the damage here isn’t a bad as I initially expected.  The local housing market is a bit of a mess.  You got older high listing and a few desperate people selling at very low prices.  Hence getting a market value on my home was almost impossible to determine in any exact fashion.  Yet as an overall level my last estimate of my house value is likely still approximately correct.

My investment accounts and RRSP’s keep sinking like stones, but I keep buying as things drop.  The rebalance on my RRSP accounts should be interesting at the end of the year.  On the investment side we’ve picked up two new stocks: CDL.B and APF.UN.  Both had been on my watch list for some time.  I’m really glad I didn’t pick up any APF.UN until after they cut their distribution by 74%.

Overall I’m amazed that our net worth for the year still have a positive value after all of this mess.  Obviously if it sinks much further this year will be a complete loss.

For more details see the following graphs (click to see a larger version).

Finding Time

Do you ever find yourself wishing you had more time to do… whatever?  I do at times.  So once in a while I’ll run an experiment to find out exactly where is my time going every week.  I personally find the only way to effectively know where your time is going is to break up your usual habit so you become aware of all those things you do by habit.

Case in point.  I’m currently trying a week with as little reading as possible (so yes I’m missing a week of news stories and great blog posts).  Until this week I had no idea of how many times a day I manage to get in ten or twenty minutes of personal reading.  I usually manage almost 40 minutes on the bus, 20 minutes at lunch, 15 minutes during coffee breaks and about 45 minutes at home during the evening.  So now I know where about 2 hours of my day goes or 10 hours a week.

I know also now know that the excuse ‘I don’t have time for that’ is completely useless.  We choose how we spend our days or nights.  Time is completely what you make of it and wasting it is actually worse that wasting money in my mind.  Money you can make without your active attention (think of a dividend from a stock you own), but time can’t be made up or replaced.  Once that hour, day, week, month or year is gone you can’t get it back.

So what are some the famous time wasters?  Here’s my list that I’ve personally done:

  • TV – You actually don’t want to watch a specific show, but you turn it on to kill time.
  • Reading News – Ok the first news story on a topic might be interesting, but do you really need to read three different stories on the same basic thing.
  • Checking your portfolio or stock market daily.
  • Continue reading a crappy book.  Really it is ok to stop reading something after the first 50 pages if it fails to keep your interest.
  • Checking your personal email more than once a day or your work more than four times a day.

So be mindful of your time and respect your time and make the most of your life.  Don’t dwell in the past or the future for too long, but rather focus your time on the now.  Make time for what you value most in life.  I personally always make sure I spend at least a little time each day talking to my wife, playing with my kids, writing something and day dreaming.

Live your life like you dream with ever action intended otherwise you will find your days filling up with meaningless tasks like checking your email or checking the TSX for the sixth time that day.  Happiness comes from living a great life, which often means knowing where you spend your days.  Spend your days making sure your full of meaning and happiness.