Category Archives: Updates

Updates on the Value of Simple and the website

Paperback Going Out of Print

There are a fair number of changes in the errata now, and printing costs (in CAD) are going up. As the book approaches its third year of publication, it seems like a good time to pull the plug on the dead-tree version. There are a number of copies in the distribution pipeline, so you will still be able to purchase paperback editions for a few more months from Chapters/Indigo (and likely a few other booksellers).

The ebook is still available and will continue to be available at all major vendors (plus directly through my storefront here), and the ease of updating an ebook means that all the changes are included in the version a customer downloads.

At the moment I don’t have any concrete plans to do a second edition, and my schedule is packed through to the winter so I won’t be able to get it done until 2018. That also means there aren’t any public lectures scheduled in the near future, either.

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SSL and New Store

Depending on how you got here, you may have noticed that the site is now secure with an SSL certificate. I haven’t forced the move to https for fear of breaking something, but it appears to be working now.

I’ve also installed WooCommerce as my new direct-from-the-author store software. It should be faster and more user-friendly than the old ZenCart-based store was, and more importantly, now has an option for purchasing as a guest — no more being forced to create a password you’ll never use. Downloading e-book copies should be more user-friendly now, with a PDF-only download option for iOS users who couldn’t open the zip file. In testing, it doesn’t appear to be sending email receipts though, and I’m not sure what I can do about that just yet. If you make a purchase and don’t get a receipt, please be patient: I’ll send one manually until I get the automatic emails working, but it may take a few days to do so.

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Value Proposition for Investing Course

Building on the material in the book and questions from readers over the years, I’ve developed an online course to teach people how to become do-it-yourself investors. Since completing it for the New Year, I’ve had a few questions about what the value of the course is, and if it’s worth the price of admission.

The course focuses on behaviour and processes for success, which is important — it’s not just about introducing the concepts and setting you free, but helping you to understand that investor behaviour is a huge factor, and something a lot of investors get wrong.

Everything is also explained clearly, in plain language — something that was a big selling feature of the book. Some ways of explaining and framing things are unique and are not available outside of the course. There’s also a Q&A section so if anything isn’t clear, you can ask me a question and I’ll answer.

Another point of value that the course delivers is inherent to the format: rather than just text or just a person speaking at the front of a lecture hall, the course uses mixed media: text, video, presentations, spreadsheets, templates, as well as active elements like exercises and quizzes. Not everyone learns the same way, and having variety and different approaches will help keep a student’s focus and improve their ability to learn. The material is also available on your schedule, whenever you need it, so you’ll never miss a line.

Finally, the course represents a huge value in time savings as well as the peace of mind in knowing that I’ve curated the vast amount of material out there for you — so you’ll also know when you can stop reading all the things and reduce the information overload. Some have commented that all the information needed to become an investor is available online or in the library, much of it for free. Yes, many people have figured out how to become successful DIY investors before I created the course, and many will continue to do so without the course. However, at this point there are millions of words written on the subject out there. Canadian Couch Potato alone has roughly 1,000 posts in his archives. And while there’s a ton of great material on that blog, it’s not the only one and it still doesn’t cover everything — you’ll definitely want to peruse the archives of Michael James on Money, Blessed by the Potato, Canadian Capitalist, oh and don’t forget Young & Thrifty, Canadian Portfolio Manager, and many more. Plus there are many magazine articles, newspaper articles, podcasts, whitepapers, and a few books. All told, you’re looking at something like one or two hundred hours of reading and having to determine what to follow because some of that freely available information is now out-of-date or just plain wrong.

For comparison, this course from UofT’s School of Continuing Studies will run you $325 (BTW, I’ll be popping in as a guest speaker for that one), but if you don’t happen to live near Toronto and have Thursday evenings free, you’ll likely appreciate the anytime, anywhere nature of an online course. PWL (Dan Bortolotti and Justin Bender) used to help teach people to be DIYers — a service that also included some personalized planning and the creation of a specific portfolio, so not apples-to-apples — for $2500-5000. Many investment coaches will help teach you from scratch, or answer specific questions to get you over any remaining hurdles after reading about it, but unless you can figure it all out in a single short session, that’s going to cost more than the course, too.

The course is not going to be for everyone, and that’s ok. Some people will figure this stuff out on their own, using books (like the Value of Simple) and other resources, filtering and addressing the conflicting information on their own. Some people are not interested in DIY investing, and will pay someone to handle it for them. For a fair number of people though, I believe the course will provide them with a lot of value in time saved, ease of understanding, and ongoing success. If you’re already successfully investing on your own after reading the book, you likely won’t get a ton of extra value from the course — there’s more detail on taxes and tax shelters, optimizing, and creating processes, but you may not need that. If you haven’t yet read the book and think you’ll need more than just a book to get the confidence to start investing, then you may prefer to start with the course.

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Practical Index Investing Course is Complete

My online course to guide you through becoming a do-it-yourself investor is now complete.

Click here to download the final syllabus.

About the Course

The course is your complete guide to all the practicalties involved in becoming a do-it-yourself investor with index funds or ETFs, including:

  • Coming up with a basic plan to guide your investing.
  • Assessing your risk tolerance, and understanding the risk involved in investing.
  • Creating an account and purchasing an investment.
  • Choosing between your TFSA and RRSP.
  • Tracking your gains and reporting your investment income on your taxes.
  • Managing your behaviour and setting up good processes for long-term success.

What Does Complete Mean?

I say the course is complete, but what exactly does that mean? Well, I’ve delivered on all the essential modules in the syllabus, and what I had originally envisioned. That doesn’t mean that now I’m going to unplug and ignore it. I’m a strong believer in continuous improvement, and will keep tweaking the course to refine the content that’s there, and add material to address questions as they come up. The course platform has a discussion section, which will help identify areas that people may be having trouble with. I also plan on running a few webinars through the year — a feature other courses charge extra for — in case people want more chances for discussion and Q&A.

Please click here to check out the course.

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Course Update: November

For people who don’t read my personal blog, this will be news to you, so my apologies for taking so long to let you know separately. In October my wife got sick and was diagnosed with a very rare and serious blood disorder called TTP. She spent a little over two weeks in the hospital, and still has a fairly long road to recovery here at home. Needless to say, it has been a crazy time for me and I was not able to spend much time on the course.

The course is slowly moving towards completion, though the original final date was about now. I’ve updated the syllabus for November. At this point there are only 11 modules left to complete. I’ve marked them all for December completion in the syllabus, but with things still as chaotic as they are I can’t guarantee that those won’t slip into January. If you count by line items in the syllabus, the course is now 85% complete; I’d say it’s closer to 95% complete based on the planned wordcount/tool complexity/”meatiness”/etc.

The early access price (just $189!) will stay in effect until the final few modules are complete, which is good news if you really can’t think of anything cooler to give your friends and family this holiday season.

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Robo-Advisor Tool at AutoInvest.ca

I’m very happy to finally be able to announce something I’ve been working on for months: a new Robo-Advisor Comparison Calculator at autoinvest.ca!!

I think the robo-advisor model looks like a great choice for a lot of Canadians. Many will save even more money with a do-it-yourself approach (and I have a book and course to help show them how to do that). But for those who don’t have the interest in DIY (or who will DIY all the parts that involve decisions, and use as service for the purchasing and rebalancing parts), having a low-cost option to handle your investments is wonderful.

Why a Calculator is Needed

Of course, there are a lot of robo-advisors out there these days, and trying to find the one that’s best for you can be a challenge. There certainly isn’t a clear winner across the board, and even comparing them at a glance with a table is quite the challenge. For starters, there are several pricing models in play. I love the flat-fee model that firms like NestWealth use, but for many people with smaller accounts paying a percentage of assets is still the cheaper way to go. However, even there each firm has their own rate and their own thresholds for where their percentages change — and some are marginal (like 0.5% on the first $X no matter how much you have) and some are thresholds (X% on the whole amount as soon as you cross a threshold).

On top of that, each firm has a different set of investments that they will put you in to, with their own underlying costs. Even finding what these costs are can be a challenge sometimes, and they’re going to be different depending on your risk profile. Sometimes even by how much you have to invest, as you may get access to cheaper underlying ETFs when your account gets larger (or conversely, there may be more slicing-and-dicing for larger accounts).

So Sandi Martin made a nifty tool a while ago to help with this comparison. It was popular, but that popularity led to some issues: people were colliding when too many tried to use it at once, and every now and then people would use cut & paste (instead of copy & paste) which broke the cell references. It was time for something better.

A Better Calculator

She had the idea of building a better, dedicated calculator on its own website, and I jumped on board to partner with her on making it happen. While we were at it we added some nifty new features, including the ability to filter the results according to whether they offered certain services, account types (like the RESP, or RESP with BC/Sask provincial grants), or investing styles.

A part I really like is how she broke down planning services – lots of them have planning or concierge or other advisory services, where you can speak with a person in some capacity about your particular situation. But whether the advice is limited to your portfolio, or savings, or your more general financial situation can vary. So Sandi has broken the advice up into several categories with representative questions.

It’s fast, doesn’t have the issues of the spreadsheet, and looks cool. I’m super proud of this.

Things to Remember as You Use It

This will help you compare the costs of different robo-advisor services for your situation. However, the cheapest one may not necessarily be the best one for you. Having the pricing information helps you better compare the other features, so you can see if you’re willing to pay $X more to get certain kinds of advice, portfolio options, or whatever feature it is that interests you.

We haven’t put in a DIY with ETFs option to compare to the robo-advisors. There are some good reasons for that: because it would always be cheaper, because I have DIY stuff to sell and we don’t want the perception of a conflict-of-interest, and because we don’t want people who may be looking for a robo-advisor because they’re uncomfortable with DIY to feel pressured to go down that road. But if you’re DIY inclined, then approx. 0.14% + some trading commissions (depending on your broker, but ~$10-100/yr is not far outside the ballpark, depending on how you arrange your investing) would be a decent comparison figure.

A preview of the calculator at autoinvest.ca

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Course Update: July

July has just ended and the Practical Index Investing for Canadians course is progressing well. Roughly 70% of the content is done and online, everything that had been projected for June and July, with a few bonus items as well (though two of the videos are still rendering here, they have been shot and will be up soon). I’ve updated the syllabus here.

The towel-day pre-order price is on its way out. You have until Friday to get the course at the incredible rate of $49 (no coupon code needed — that’s the price that’s set on the course platform site). After that it will go up to the next pre-order level before release, and to the final price in the fall.

The updates will be coming slower now, though. You’ll notice in the syllabus that though most of the course is there, there are only a few things scheduled to be completed in August, and nothing for September. That’s because I know I’ll be too busy at the day job to get any material up through then, so it won’t be until October that the final bits of the course are up and done.

If you have any suggestions (or prefer that I prioritize one section for August) send me an email and let me know!

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Course Update: June

June is nearly over and the course development is progressing well. There are a few parts near the beginning that I had flagged for completion in June. With just a week left, a few may slip into July. However, section 8 (Taxes and Tax Shelters) is complete, including parts that were not expected for several months yet.

I think prioritizing that section was a good move, as it was of interest to some of the students who had signed up for the early access, and it creates one complete section to better show what the course is and what it adds above and beyond the walk-through in the book.

I’ve updated the syllabus here. The Towel Day/pre-order price of $49 will continue until mid-July, when it will ratchet up as the full release gets closer. If you’re interested in learning more about how to become a do-it-yourself investor, be sure to sign up soon!

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Towel Day and Course Pre-Order

Happy Towel Day!

As you know, I’m a fan of Douglas Adams, borrowing the “Don’t Panic” message and putting it in large, friendly letters at the beginning of my book. So it’s only fitting that I do something special in the spirit of Towel Day. First, a blockquote to remind you of what that spirit is:

“A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a miniraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (a mind-bogglingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you — daft as a brush, but very very ravenous); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.

More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitch hiker) discovers that a hitch hiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitch hiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitch hiker might accidentally have ‘lost’. What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is is clearly a man to be reckoned with.”
–Douglas Adams, The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

It has not been a secret that over the past several months I have been working on an online course to complement The Value of Simple and help people get set up as successful do-it-yourself investors. It was almost a year ago that I posted the first draft of the course outline. Since then I’ve given more library talks, a guest lecture for Ellen Roseman’s UofT course, and had more conversations with experts and potential students on how to better refine the course. Most importantly, I’ve done a lot of reading on delivering an online course effectively, and changed my approach to it.

However what I have not done is finished the bloody thing.

So here is my towel: I have the structure, I have a few modules done and uploaded, I have a history of building and delivering courses and workshops in science and personal finance. If you believe that I have just mislaid the rest of the course you can buy it right now at a huge discount, and help test it and shape its evolution as it comes together.

How big a discount? You can get it for just $49 right now as a Towel Day/pre-order special, roughly1 80% off! Why just $49? In part as a tribute: that’s the age Douglas Adams was at his untimely death. And in part because this is early, early access — so early it’s better called a pre-order. However, it will be finished, it will be polished, and if you plan on signing up eventually then doing so now is a great deal. (Note: no coupon code needed, I’ve simply set the price at that level and will raise it for new subscribers as material is added and the course is fleshed out)

Click here to go to the course page and enroll!

1. Roughly because though the final price will likely be $279, I’m very tempted to make the final price $246 because you can even!

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TFSA vs RRSP Guide and Questrade Changes

Tax-Free Savings Accounts (TFSAs) and Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs) are great ways to let your investments grow tax-free — with the added benefit of making your paperwork simpler because you won’t have to track or report the gains of individual investments within them. Deciding which is best for you can be a bit complicated, so this decision tool should help you quickly figure out which to use. Click here or on the preview image to open the PDF.

A decision guide in PDF format to help you decide whether to use your RRSP or TFSA. Click to download.

To make it approachable (and fit nicely on a one-page infographic) I worked to make each criteria fit within 3 lines. For more discussion on the considerations, see this post.

Also, Questrade has recently made major changes their interface, which is going to require a substantial update to the book. However, I have a major project due soon and thus zero time to create the updated step-by-step guide in January, so hopefully you can make the inference from the guide using the old interface. Check back in mid-to-late February for an update to the errata for any changes in the instructions. Thanks for your patience, and I hope you enjoy the infographic.

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