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A jot a day: second week edition – Monday

A jot a day: second week edition – Monday

Links
Only 15% of Canadians use passive vs. active investing and are losing 17 billion to fees every year. Comparatively, USians are 45% invested in passive funds. OOF reading that felt like a punch to the gut. (sub)


17 billion in fees!

The Annoyance Economy. (sub)

Takes The Pareto Principal and personal finance. As I have mentioned before, I am not an optimizer. I assume that by doing *most* things right it will make up for the things I get wrong (I hope).

Toronto grocery store price tracker!

Why are cafes, restaurants, and even towns banning influencers?”

• Finally, in the WTAF? news, Goldman Sachs CEO stops doing controversial DJ gigs. I am just out here, bringing you the useless info that brings zero value to your life.

The weekend

I did some admin on Friday by booking the family in for covid boosters. It’s incredibly frustrating to have to book individual appointments with some pharmacies and even with ones with bookings for multiple people, the appointments are far and few between. But with two kids in two different schools I figured sooner was better.

Friday night we took a break from #13DaysOfHalloweenMovies and instead ordered Chinese food in and binge watched the entire new season of Big Mouth. It continues to be hilarious, disgusting, and downright creepy in parts. I am glad we got some great laughs out of it though & it was nice to hunker down in the living room eating food we didn’t have to cook and having a relaxing Friday night with the family.

They closed the Queensway this weekend for a bridge replacement which basically meant driving anywhere was a nightmare. The Youngest had Roller Derby – and while they are generally always organized – OF ALL days to forget their roller skates…it was that day. Mr. Tucker – world’s greatest dad – drove home to grab the skates and then drove back downtown. Crisis averted.

Meanwhile, The Eldest spent the day baking! We always buy around 45 pounds of a variety of apples from a friend’s family’s farm in the fall. With them we dehydrate some for snacks, make applesauce and bake some delicious fall desserts with them. The Youngest also eats a pile of them fresh and whatever starts to go we end up chopping up and freezing for winter baking. So now we have an abundance of delicious baked goods!

Saturday night I hosted book club where we had read Writers & Lovers. On one hand, this book was so ridiculously readable that I devoured it in one sitting back in September. On the other hand, I had also just had surgery and couldn’t do anything but lounge around reading books and watching tv. It was a good chat with good company and I am so glad that I got to see friends. The summer/early fall has been challenging as I haven’t been able to get out and be social as much so it was wonderful to have some in-person hangouts with people.

We also decided to go back to full novels and to meet every two months. Given how chaotic the pandemic was with online school and working from home we only did poems and short stories. We also only met outside or online. While that has worked, it’s now the end of 2023 and we are moving back to our regular system. It’s odd to think that I was pregnant with The Youngest when I joined book club 14 years ago!

Sundays are generally a day for prepping for the upcoming week, having a lovely roast dinner & chilling out. Mr. Tucker also took the dishwasher apart because it’s been leaking. While he discovered some things he could clean & fix it does look like we are going to have to call the appliance repair person we use to fix the bigger issue. At least Mr. Tucker tried to fix it himself! We continue to make an attempt to fix things ourselves – it may or may not work but we always learn something.

Work & the condo

The closer we get to Mr. Tucker retiring the more antsy he gets. Who can blame him? You can see the light at the end of the tunnel but you are still IN the tunnel! He also says that he feels like just when he resolves himself that work is pretty ok, some disaster strikes and he gets irritated that he can’t just quit tomorrow. Alas, with the condo still in a state of a (semi!) disaster and with the bills from the condo still needing to be paid, we are not quite there yet. With the road closures and traffic redirection this weekend it didn’t make sense to do some work at the condo but hopefully we can get it all finished by next weekend.

Since the appliances were destroyed by the last family member who lived there I find myself having to purchase new ones. I need to figure out which company will give me a buy-now-pay-later loan/store card for the longest length of time. While I generally ABHOR store cards, it would be great to buy the appliances on time and then just pay it all off when the condo sells (or a worse case scenario I have to design into our plans: pay it off before the condo sells). A friend of mine mentioned that some places will give you up to two years grace, which would be ideal.

The rate announcement for the Bank of Canada will be Wednesday, October 25th and while I think they will leave it at 5% for now, they are definitely not going to bring it down. I think it’s too soon to tell. Analysts are saying it will be 5% until the end of 2024 but I feel like Tiff Macklem is under way too much pressure in a zero-growth economy. Having said that: what the heck do I know? Still, a pause may warm up the market for real estate even a tiny bit and I am crossing my fingers that it sells quickly and for a fair price.

13 Days of Halloween Movies

To recap what this is: when the pandemic hit our kids were 10 and 12 and in their prime trick-or-treating years. It made me sad that they couldn’t do the more traditional neighbourhood jaunt so instead we created a new ritual: 13 days of Halloween movies. We chose 13 movies to watch in the days leading up to Halloween and we bought them each some typical Halloween candy to enjoy while we were watching them. I also posted their reviews to each movie online with a picture of the movie poster and friends and family told me that they really enjoyed the reviews and that they looked forward to them. So even though they’ve gone trick-or-treating since then, it’s a ritual we have continued – with less candy.

Today’s offering is a modern murder mystery called Bodies, Bodies, Bodies. A group of friends ride out a hurricane in one of their mansions and try and play a murder game called …you guessed it: Bodies, Bodies, Bodies. Unfortunately, real people start turning up dead so…whodunnit? As usual, potential spoilers.

So what did the family think?

The Youngest: 7/10 It was good but it is just a bunch of random rich people getting together and dying and blaming each other and strangers.

The Eldest: 2/10 It was just lame. It was watching idiots get drunk and high and then freaking out over a storm and then killing each other.

Mr. Tucker: 3/10 First half was boring. Second half picked up a bit with some funny moments and ok suspense. Ending was quite good. The only thing I kept thinking was, “Wow! Their phone batteries are amazing!”

From the start of this movie you just basically LOATHE everyone. A bunch of spoiled, drug-addled 20-something-year-olds (and a 40-year-old one of them met on Tinder) with a dramatic history who clearly are just friends because they’ve known each other forever. Otherwise, they hate each other and constantly are making digs at each other’s expense. It works because there is clearly some mistrust even before the dead people show up. There are a LOT of terms you would get from a group who is super active on TikTok and have podcasts etc. I feel like someone older wrote these characters so that you will absolutely hate them. The way they speak is grating, like over-the-top-internet speak. You know the acting is fantastic if you have any strong emotion towards a character – even if you hate them. So I have to say, great acting on everyone’s part.

It does pick up halfway through around the scene with the four women fighting over the gun. One woman had been shot in the leg and as they are fighting she is screaming, “My leg! My leg!” over and over again and I couldn’t help but burst out laughing. There is a lot of great criticism about online culture and how it can be ridiculous and over-the-top.

The ending is fantastic! I like the way that the story resolves itself so it is a good watch just based on that.

Anyhow, have a wonderful Monday!

Money lessons, learned?

Money lessons, learned?

As a parent, as you raise your kids you just have to cross your fingers and hope that they got the lessons and will apply the teachings to their lives. You know that not everything will stick and you also know that some things have to be experienced, not just told to you. It’s a lot of work for not knowing the outcome.

Since the eldest has started her first job, we’ve done our best to give her financial advice in a way that isn’t too finger-wagging but that still encourages her to plan for saving and future spending. She luckily was given three permanent guaranteed shifts, three days a week, or 25 hours. It’s a perfect way to start your first job, in my opinion. Since she’s started though, she’s realized that she can also pick up MORE shifts and that MORE shifts means MORE money. So she got out a calculator to figure out how many shifts a week she could reasonably work. Bless her heart!

Also, because the city has had such a hard time hiring and retaining staff, they’ve also changed their NO OVERTIME policy and are allowing the wading pool attendants to get time and a half for every hour worked over 44 hours. So the eldest got her calculator out again and figured out how much she could make in a week.


Off to her first day of work

Of course, I don’t want my 15-year-old to work over 44 hours a week but I think the process is valuable. It makes her calculate – and evaluate – how much time she wants to trade for money. I think she also thought that her friends would be around much more than they have been this summer. Many of them have cottages or have gone on trips so her off time is generally spent playing video games & staying home. I think that is what has prompted her to pick up as many shifts as she can: she really wants to save enough to spend during the school year, when her friends are around and they want to go out and do things.

I would be lying if it didn’t warm my cold, goth heart when she called me into her room to tell me about the financial plan she had worked out based on a theoretical amount of shifts she can pick up over the next 5 weeks. She had stuck to my 50% long term savings, 25% short term savings for the school year and the 25% spend now plan! I was super proud of her even though I only said she had to put X amount into long term savings – she decided on her own to save more!

Of course, I did tell her that she should take her first pay and spend it all, as a treat for getting her first job. She ended up getting paid and taking her sister to the mall with her so she could pick up a few things. Sure, she spent money on things that I thought were useless but we all spend in ways that other people wouldn’t! She also kindly bought her sister a cute sweater.

What I found telling though is that the eldest also decided to buy them both lunch at the food court while they were there. When she got home with her spoils she confided in her dad and I, “I wish I hadn’t bought the fast food. It was $30 – two hours of work – and it wasn’t even that good! Oh well.”

Lesson learned, indeed.

My kid got her first job

My kid got her first job

Mr. Tucker and I both had pretty shitty first jobs. He worked in a camp for a stipend (which is really a volunteer position) when he was a teen but his first “real job” was in fast food. My first job was at 13 at a downtown restaurant with a takeout counter. When I was 14 I switched to working as an overnight busser on weekends. It was one of the two only restaurants that were open 24 hours so since I worked the weekends it was…not ok. Although the late 80s and early 90s were a different time, looking back on it an underage kid should not have been exposed to so many drunk people and their inability to keep their hands to themselves. Mr. Tucker also worked in a west-end fast food place after the bars closed and it was challenging in similar ways, mostly fights.

While I truly believe that everyone should work a shitty, low-paying job at least once in their life, I don’t necessarily think that should be your first job out of the gate. In fact, I think my most hated job (next to the ONE day I did telemarketing) was in a big box craft store* (yes, that one).

So when it came to the eldest, I decided to stack the deck in her favour. Because she loves skiing so much and has aged out of the lessons, she took her first ski instructor course this winter – and passed! So now she is a certified Level I Ski Instructor and she hopes to get hired at a local hill next season. I had also heard that the city was looking to fill a bunch of lifeguarding jobs, so she started down that path last fall. At 15, she now has her Bronze Medallion and Standard First Aid with CPR-C. This got her an interview – and a subsequent job offer – to work for the city this summer! Although I saw that you didn’t need experience in anything, it did recommend that you have some lifeguarding training and SFA/CPR was a requirement.

The eldest is blasé when it comes to continuing lifeguarding courses but at the very least what she does have has helped her get a job where she gets to spend all day out in the fresh air all summer. It’s also a job where there aren’t early mornings/late nights and it is more family-oriented (which doesn’t mean NO challenges but certainly reduces the potential to be around drunk, handsy people). She will also be placed in our general area of the city, which means she can probably bike to work which will also be great exercise.

My goal for both of the children is to get them to 16, pay for Driver’s Ed, pay for them to get their driver’s license and then set them freeeeeeeeeeeeeee to pay for the things they want after that**, by which I mean no more allowance.

I did sit the eldest down and drew her this fine sketch:


Behold! My incredible art skills make charts come to life!

I then told her that her first week of pay should be one of celebration: celebrate getting your first job and spend a week’s worth of earnings on buying things that she wants. But after that, it’s time to buckle down. I suggested that she budget:

50% to long term savings: this amount will go into a high-interest savings account for when she is unemployed or if she is in university and needs money to go out, buy herself things etc. Also, she knows that we have enough for a local school but if she chooses to go away for university she will probably have to chip in.

25% to long term spending: this is the money she can put in a savings account for the fall when she is in between jobs but still wants to go out and hang out with friends. Essentially, she will need to spread this amount over 4 months from September to December until she is working again in the winter. It’s basically teaching her to budget & monitor her spending so that she doesn’t run out of money.

25% to short term spending: this is the amount that she can spend free and clear every pay without having to worry.

In this example, I gave the example of a $500 paycheque to illustrate how she would divvy it up.

Do I anticipate that this will go 100% smoothly? I do not. BUT she at least has a game plan in mind and a goal to try and achieve when the stakes are relatively low. I feel like teenagers are kind of the perfect audience for this kind of budget teaching: they will test the waters and (most likely) find themselves coming up short. But they will learn the lesson and take it with them all through their financial journey. Like anyone, they will need to actually experience the highs and lows of money management until they figure what works for them. All you can do as a parent is teach the lesson, give them encouragement and support (not judgement) and hope that remember the lesson when they need it the most – when the stakes are higher.

She is eager to work as many hours as she can this summer but we will see what happens. Either way, it’s another milestone on the way to adulthood!


Filling out the ubiquitous onboarding forms – get used to this, kid


*I should have known that they’d be awful when “training” consisted of watching an anti-union video. They consistently understaffed and overworked people and the final straw for me was when they scheduled me at the same time that I had requested off to take a university exam. I walked out.

**Clearly we will still pay for clothes, food, shelter, education etc.

The History of work & the fallout

The History of work & the fallout

On our flight back from Puerto Rico in March, I ended up watching a documentary on overwork. It’s a very basic overview on the issue but I found it a good primer. It’s only 50 minutes long and you can find it online here:



Until I was diagnosed in 2018 I ran a blog that was loosely based on early retirement. Even before that, I had a livejournal that was personal but that also discussed frugality and Simple Living. I think I was lucky in the fact that when I was 18 years old and poor as shit, I came across The Tightwad Gazette which led me to Your Money or Your life – the de facto standard on early retirement. Since then, it was my goal to work as little as possible, save as much as possible and hopefully be out of the rat race fairly early in life.

I mean, GOAL ACHIEVED! C’mon, you HAVE to laugh: the universe has a cruel sense of humour.

(I have already discussed this origin story in this post if you are interested in the long version)

Of course, I would have loved to have continued working and been able bodied for a long, long time but given that this wasn’t an option, being able to keep some semblance of a salary plus benefits was a close second. As Tyrion Lannister said, “If you’re going to be a cripple, be a rich cripple.” While I’m not rich, I am also not struggling which is a gift.

So once we adapted to this we started working on Mr. Tucker’s escape from work but then he changed his mind. Since then, he’s received a promotion with a substantial raise, which is great considering how much inflation we’ve seen lately (and our appliances are dropping like flies, which is a post in itself).

Still, I am still interested in the idea of early retirement and working less because I feel it’s something that our communities (and the society at large) as well as the environment need. I think it’s absolutely bonkerstown that we can’t figure out how to make permanent part-time work…work. It’s interesting to watch Canada move towards universal dental care in the next couple of years with universal pharma care maybe not far behind it. These stressors are what make people panic about not working full time even though if more people worked part time there would be more work for everyone. Of course, since it’s an employees market right now, there may be room to negotiate these better hours for people.

The pandemic has really shone a light on how much we are stuck on that idea of workplaces as factories. There has been a battle between employees and employers over the past two years and despite the success of WFH some people still want to go back to the office. Employees who’ve generally enjoyed their time and money back from not commuting, not buying food out, not buying work-related clothes would like keep some flexibility in working from home. Employers on the other hand are still stuck in this 9-to-5 panopticon office mentality where they feel everyone should “put in their time.” The problem is that studies have shown that for knowledge work, it’s mostly task-based, not time based and that not all hours of the day are productive ones. It seems to me that if you are getting paid for your education, experience and output, that it is completely backwards to treat the workday like a factory you have to punch in and out of.

Of course, the flipside is that a lot of knowledge workers work in tech and tech has a vested interest in you sitting at your desk for as long as possible. People lauded Google for supplying their employees with such benefits as free meals, in-house doctors, hair cuts, oil changes etc. but as a friend who worked there once said to me, “Do you know why they do that? Because if you need to go to an appointment, that is a couple of hours of you not going “ticky-ticky” on your keyboard for the company. It’s cheaper to provide these services to employees to ensure they aren’t away from their desks for too long.”

In Ontario, where I live, they treat knowledge work like factory work – with the exception that there is no overtime pay for certain workers: IT, law, accounting, medicine and the entertainment industry. Also of note, many manual labourers who work in agricultural settings such as growing mushrooms and various other plants and trees for the retail trade (which is usually piecemeal work done by labourers brought into Canada on agricultural visas). Oh, and of course teenagers. So I question the factory model of “putting in the hours” when it’s clear that the output should be the yardstick of successful work.

But watch the video. I found it interesting and I especially enjoyed David Frayne’s The Refusal of Work for more comprehensive introduction to work theories. My only wish is that he had explored more of the case studies in the second half of the book.

* * *

I ended up taking out some of the books written by the interviewees of this documentary as well. So far, I have received:

Team Human by Douglass Rushkoff.
The Refusal of Work by David Frayne.
McMindfulness by Ronald Purser (which I haven’t started yet).

I haven’t read anything by these folks also featured but will in the future:

– George Monbiot (whose website seems to have some interesting blog posts).
– Guy Standing who writes a lot on Universal Basic Income (UBI). A list of his books can be found on his website
– Jason Hickel who focuses on global inequality etc. website.
– I’ve seen a lot of Carl Honoré’s work because his books are pretty popular. His website.
– Faiza Shaheen has a book coming out in 2023 titled Know Your Place: how society sets us up to fail.
Grace Blakely who writes about leftist politics in books and for the New Statesman
– Bredan Burchell (who hasn’t really written anything recently but is a professor at Cambridge).

People I couldn’t find any info on:
– Margaret Anderson, University of Michigan

Unboxing my work life

Unboxing my work life

Last week I was cleaning out my computer and I came across my resumes. “WELP,” I thought. “I guess I can discard these.” It shook me in the moment to think that I will never need them again. My entire career took 10 seconds to delete.

After I did that I realized that I still hadn’t opened the boxes of the contents of my office that work had sent me in fall of 2019. I had spent 8+ hours a day surrounded by this stuff and it was boxed off and sent off without ceremony. Unlike retirement, there is no grand party, no congratulations, no watch to mark your years of service. You are just canceled. They send you your work life by mail, and that is that.

After they arrived, they sat upstairs for over a month, untouched, when Mr. Tucker had taken them downstairs and out of the way. They sat there for over a year. I couldn’t bear to deal with unboxing my work life and putting it up all on a shelf. I guess I wasn’t ready to say goodbye.

This weekend though, I bit the bullet and I had Mr. Tucker bring up the boxes. I have a couple of pairs of Fluevog high heel shoes that I (obviously) can’t wear anymore so I made the decision to sell them & put the money towards some stuff the girls want for their birthdays. It made sense to just open them up and go through it.

In the end, it was less traumatizing to go through it than I realized. On one hand, I was missing my favourite San Francisco mug (SNIF) which I am not surprised was taken. I also had a giant soup bowl that had disappeared. On the other hand I got an iPod classic and some stress ball swag? The shoes were all there so that was what I really wanted. You win some, you lose some.

I needed time to process, I suppose. I think I needed to realize that maybe that was the end of one life but the beginning of another. Honestly, life is all about moving from one aspect to life to another. From elementary school to high school, from high school to university, from university to my first office job, from job to job…it’s always in flux and it’s always changing. For sure I needed to mourn my old life – I didn’t choose this change – but it doesn’t mean that every aspect of it needs to be negative. Having a motor neuron disease is absolutely awful but the flip side is that I am able to have less stress in my life. If I focus on the positive things, there are a lot of positives.

So good bye, old work life. I enjoyed our time together. I am now going to live a new life.

A short history of my personal FI success

A short history of my personal FI success

My foray into personal finance started when I was 18 and dirt poor & living on my own. In the 90s buying clubs like Columbia House (hah! Remember them?) and Book of the Month Club were all the rage and like a fool, I was a member of both of them. But as fate would have it, one of the books that I received was The Tightwad Gazette (TWG) II. When I got it I read it cover-to-cover and then I read it again. Despite the fact that these mail order clubs were pretty awful, I probably have benefited more financially from stumbling across that book than from anything else that has happened. It lead me down a road of seeing that there was a different way of living and it gave me the power to understand that I had control over my money. Eventually I bought both TWG I & III as well as Your Money or Your Life (YMOYL), which is the book that had the most impact on me during my 20s and 30s.

Before the FIRE (Financial Independence/Retire Early) movement with its stoicism and side hustles by tech-based workers & other high-income adherents, there was Joe and Vicky. Their vision of the for financial independence (FI) movement was one of simple living and community. Their ideas were about resource management not just for the accumulation of cash but also concerned the environment & leaving the planet a better place. It was a vision for a better world and it spoke to me. Although I have enjoyed some of the FIRE blogs over the past 10 years, I have been embedded into the YMOYL vision of FI and have found that the bootstrapping, solitary goal of accumulating money of most FIRE bloggers has struck me as mostly empty. Of course, there are those who have a larger vision but they don’t seem to be the ones screaming the loudest.

Of course, you may be thinking, “Well Tucker, learning about all of this by 20 certainly didn’t help you to retire early! You worked until 3 years ago!” While that is true, it is also missing the larger picture, which is the one of independence, or having the freedom to make different choices. By learning to be good with my money it has given me the option to make decisions that I may not have been able to make had a lot of debt or lived a large lifestyle. Here are some things that FI knowledge has given me:

– After being laid off from my well-paying corporate job I was able to join a government-sponsored small business training program that lead me to owning an eco-friendly cleaning business in my early 30s.
– After listening to my mother, I bought a condo downtown for $115k when I was 24 years old with a $5000 inheritance I received (full disclosure she co-signed the mortgage). After a couple of years I was able to remortgage & used the money to pay off my student loans (the difference was 6.5% a year!).
– After I became a parent, being frugal allowed me to stay home with my kids until they were 2 & 4 years old.
– I went back to work when it looked like Mr. Tucker’s job situation looked tenuous. But we were still able to live off of one salary.
– When I went back to work I was able to take contracts from September – May and stay home with my kids over the summer (I would have worked but student programs generally filled those jobs during those months).
– Going back to work allowed us to spend a month in Puerto Rico in 2014 & not have debt long-term.
– Saving up a huge down payment for our house allowed us to take on a smaller mortgage than we would have. We are now looking to pay this off by 2023.
– When I was diagnosed with Primary Lateral Sclerosis the waiting period for sickness benefits with Employment Insurance was a month & only lasted 12 weeks. The waiting period for my Disability Insurance to kick in was 13 weeks! Having savings & having an emergency budget for when money got tight helped us not use credit to see us through.
– Being disabled can be expensive: having a doctor fill out my forms just to apply for my benefits was $45 each time. I have great medical insurance but it only pays a portion of my mobility device costs.
– Because we wanted to travel when the kids could be pulled out of school and my mobility was still good, we are frugal in our daily lives but have visited many countries, were able to go to Disney (twice!) and Universal and are able to rent cottages with friends in the summer.

All in all, my FI knowledge, ability to switch into a tight budget, and our savings rate have all contributed to our lifestyle. Between graduating from university & my diagnosis I have worked full-time only about 10 years & the rest were part-time or were the years I was a stay-at-home-parent. We don’t have a basement full of stuff (but if you enjoy that kind of thing, more power to you), we only got a car when the eldest was around 1, we cloth diapered, we reused everything, ate a lot of beans, and didn’t buy a lot of things we didn’t need. But we did want to travel, our kid’s university savings accounts are well-funded and our retirement accounts are doing well. We also have a ton of friends in our community and the kids and the adults all have hobbies that they enjoy doing.

Overall, this is the definition of FI success to me. We don’t live life on autopilot but instead make concentrated decisions of how we want to spend our time & money to live the life we want. It’s part luck, part good choices but also making great friends, having the support of our families, and having fun hobbies to sustain us. We have even loftier goals for the next three years but more on that later!