Sunday, 25 June 2017

Financial Finalities, Futurama and Forever

The word of the week is vulnerable.

June 19 – Finality

Five months from now, I'll have to make a HUGE decision about my future:

Do I go on, or do I call it quits?

Before you worry, I'll be clear: I'm talking about my financial future, and how my current ongoing situation is drastically affecting my life.

Things have been coming to a head for some time now, and my projections show that this year is the clincher, hence the decision needed as noted above.

To be blunt: I owe more than I can ever pay back, given my present income and my hopes to overcome.

Now, some people will jump on that right away with advice such as 'Get a better job!' and 'Spend less!' - both valid points, and both are pieces of advice I have already been following for years now. The better job( another $10K a year would be a minimum )is something I've already spoken about in the blog, that's not been happening and I've already redoubled my efforts earlier in 2017 to figure out why. Then do something about it.

Spending less, well... I'm as frugal a guy as I know, without being a hermit.

Looking over my calculations, if I had been a hermit for the last 5 years... I'd owe 1/3 less money. Which is still more than I can repay: I owe more than I make in a year at my present job, which adds up to significant monthly payments that creep up a little bit more with every bill.

What tipped the balance, you might ask?

It's a matter of What and When, really. Continuing depression from years ago meant I purchased things I didn't need( DVD's, video games, books, some low-cost collectibles )that added up over time, when I should have been saving for my future AND knocking down my costs incurred from moving to BC - but I couldn't see that then, like I can now.

Quitting my long-term job in 2012 and going on EI was the continuation of the downwards slide, as my income dropped by 1/3. Then I was without income for 5 months after EI ran out before I was hired for a minimum-wage job... which I stayed at for 2 years while looking for better work. My income dropped to half of what I was earning before, and the slide steepened. Despite numerous entreaties to the bank, there 'were no other options' for me, according to them - more on that in a bit. There was also a stretch in there where I didn't work for 2 months due to scheduling errors, but that was just par for the course at that point...

I should have thrown in the towel then, but I was too stubborn - still am, in some ways.

Three years ago I found a better job, and managed to halt the slide... but I didn't make progress in reducing my debt for more than a year into the job, when I managed to get someone at the bank with a conscience to admit there was a 'HelpLine' that could reduce my monthly payments by 50%. Nice of them to tell me this after asking regularly for four years, the bastards. That call was with a very nice lady, who expressed shock that I hadn't called years ago for help.

Yeah. Hindsight's no use if nobody at the bank admits there's even a window...

In any case, the numbers never lie, if you're honest about it, and I've been pretty honest with things for the last 5 years. An entire paycheque each month is going to pay my debt, and that will be unsustainable by early 2018. I've struggled to keep ahead of things and maintain my credit rating, but by this point it doesn't matter: nobody will give me a decent rate for a consolidation loan due to the amount of debt( ratios, you know )meaning that my solid credit rating does me no good whatsoever. I can fight all I want, but the end is in sight - and getting nearer by the week.

More on this in a future post -  I can't write about it any more today. 

But, I did write about it, out in the open... and that's a big step for me. Not talking about it, working out things on my own, while asking for advice as needed: none of that's worked, and so 2017 will see the end of things Fiscal for me, and perhaps a new beginning for 2018.

June 20 – Futurama LIVE!

"Good news, everyone!" said Professor Farnsworth.

I love Futurama. It's a show that rolls so many of the things I love into one program: science fiction, animation, comedy, puns, satire and so much more make the show a joy to watch almost every time.

This week was rather special: to celebrate the release of the only to-date game involving Futurama, there was a live reading of an episode online! You can watch it in its entirety below, including the post-episode questions. It's so worth it, especially to see the incredible dynamic that the cast has with one another. The fluid interactions and timing from years of practice together make the reading flow wonderfully well and is only possible with such a finely tuned set of performers - enjoy!

June 21 – Useful, or not?

For the past month, I've devoted 2 nights a week to money.

Because it was free with my Forum a few months ago, I've been attending the Land Mark Money Seminar every Wednesday, and a followup group meeting the Monday after. Tonight was Session 4 of the seminar series... and I was mighty frustrated.

Land Mark offers a 'different' approach to discovering one's relationship to money, and I had hoped that it would give me new insights into the nature of my habits with money or at least prompt me to ask questions I hadn't before.

Tonight, my question was: why am I still doing this after a month?

While the group discussion sessions have been interesting and the people in them are all intelligent and pleasant, little useful insight for me has come out of them. That's not to say that the methodology is crap, because it does do some good:

The seminars themselves mainly consist of stories being shared from other attendees, none of which to date I've been able to relate to my own situation. There's precious little concrete teaching going on, either: so far, the seminar leader has yet to use the word 'budget' which I find frustrating, along with some other factors. However, some of the things they teach are useful, such as:

Problem is, I already practice doing that, and have been for years. The language they insist that one use to conceptualize their teachings isn't compatible with my mental processes. I think all the time, on many levels, about many topics, so to re-wire my thought processes just to take in lessons I already practice really isn't possible, or needed, in my case. Other people in the seminar have really benefited from the methods, as evidenced every week by their reactions and insights, but for someone like myself, who's already deeply introspective and thoughtful, the sessions have proved only that I'm on the right mental / emotional path... and that my finances aren't something that can be fixed just with thought, despite my hope for useful insights into money processes I might not know.

Next week will be the deciding factor, as the topic is 'Escaping The Money Trap' which is why I've been hanging on with the series for 5 weeks now.

If it's a rehash of what I already know, then I'm going to have to bow out: I have a novel to finish editing AND a second one to finish writing this summer!

June 22 – Woo Juice

It's frustrating being smart, so much of the time.

Nowhere is that more evident online( FBook )where intelligence and ignorance meet to mingle and usually shout at each other with various levels of vehemence.

I tend to chime in on conversations that involve climate change and vaccines, mainly because these are usually involve massive amounts of ignorance that are displayed by people: those who deny climate change and those who deny the effectiveness and /or safety of modern vaccines.

It's shocking how little people know about the subjects, even in this day and age of instant information available on the Internet. For example:

My response to the above would always be the point person in the right direction of factual information, but there's a problem: it's actually difficult to find good information with your standard web search, because so much garbage is shoved in the way first by people with vested interests in denying the facts for profit.

Seriously. It's mind-boggling that greed comes before facts so often these days.

Take, for example, the 'superstar' of the anti-vaccine world: David 'Avacado' Wolfe, who makes his living by denying the effectiveness of vaccines with one hand and selling his 'natural lifestyle products' with the other - a practice I find despicable, dishonest and frankly criminal given that he's been responsible for so much needless suffering through the spreading disinformation through his campaigns.

What the Avacado is doing is making is disinformation far easier to find when people who don't know any better go looking for information about the safety of vaccines. When they do, it's highly likely that they'll find dire warnings about the dangers of vaccines on the first few dozen search results they get, from 'mommy-centric' blogs and natural-health-solution sites brazenly peddling their wares.

It's frightening how easily people like the lady above are fooled. One woman responded to one of my measured statements with a massive copy-pasted list of over 100 studies 'proving' that vaccines cause harm to children. What she failed at was to actually investigate the literature, ALL of which has been debunked by the study-creators peers - someone's actually gone to the trouble at THIS site, thank goodness.

That's really what it is: a lot of back-and-forth, with ignorant statements taking massive amounts of time to refute with proper facts, and then more ignorant statements being made... all because those who are ignorant cannot find, cannot understand , or just will not look for the facts themselves because they prefer to maintain their air of 'superiority' over the experts that their echo-chamber friends online tell them to distrust.

At least until their child falls ill from a preventable disease.

June 23 – Renting Forever

Housing prices here in Victoria keep rising.

As I've mentioned before, with the rental vacancy rate under half a percent, it's next to impossible to find affordable rentals inside city limits, with one bedroom units going for well over $1000 - or more, depending if there's a bidding war or not.

The situation is even worse for people trying to purchase a home, as the average two-income couple can't afford houses that now start around $600,000 CAN for a two-bedroom detached home, usually nothing newer than places built in the 1940s. Condominium units starts at around $300,000 for a tiny one-bedroom sizes in the 600 ft.² range, which frankly isn't worth the money for the size. The story is worse in Toronto and Vancouver, where people are praying for a real-estate crash:

With the present market prices, there's absolutely no way I'll be able to afford any kind of home. Even with a 10% down payment and twice my current income, a mortgage amortized over 25 years would max out at a purchase price of $550,000 CAD, well short of the calculated costs of decent homes here in Victoria, which are running around $750,000.

I could always find housing outside of town, but that means joining the tens of thousands of people who commute daily along our jammed main highway from the smaller feeder towns of Sooke, Langford, Sidney and others. I wouldn't do that unless I had any other choice, because it also mean that I'd have to buy a car... which reduces the maximum monthly mortgage out I can afford yet again. Not to mention the hours of time lost in traffic jams...

It's discouraging, but at least I don't have a young family I'm trying to house.

Hopefully by the time I'm looking for a house( sometime in my early 50's ?) the market will have adjusted and something decent will be available. In the meantime, I'll continue to rent, and continue to work on my Tiny House plan, where I might be able to actually afford something for around $200,000 - which all depends on getting the proper zoning bylaws passed as well is finding land.

But that's another story.

June 23 – Accents!

I love accents...

One has practice them every little while to fine-tune your ears, though, and some people are much better at doing that than others.

Take for example, the lady below: she's able to do over a dozen accents in less than 4 minutes, and each one is flawless... so impressive!

For myself, I've long considered getting into voice acting. While right now I'm too busy with other things, I have been doing some work( research and practice, mainly )in learning the business as well is the range of my own voice. As you may have noticed from my Futurama post above, I have a lot of respect for voice actors; a good friend of mine has just recently dived into the business and I wish him all the best at making a living in what I believe can be a fun career.

It's another option for me, I believe: I just have to talk myself into getting there.

June 25 – Gaming and Vegans

Up early again today... lots to do!

Since I cut out caffeine completely in the fall of 2016, my biorhythms have adjusted rather nicely. I'm now waking up naturally around 5:30am, giving me about two hours to get things done in the morning, including some writing.

The weekends do seem to disappear quickly though, when one plays catch-up with various tasks that need doing. Especially as my weeks have each been short several days due to the seminars I've been attending for the last five weeks.

Today I took the afternoon off, spending it with my girlfriend and my friend Chris playing Super Dungeon Explorer! It was another hot day outside, and I was grateful to be able to sit indoors under a ceiling fan to keep cool while we played at his place.

The nice thing about S.D.E. is that it's not complicated: you choose which Hero mini you want based on their powers, set up the board and go at it. Enemies spawn based on a set of rules that are randomized by card draws every turn, and when you defeat them you draw loot cards to enhance your character's abilities. There are three colors of dice of increasing potency, each color linked to more powerful items and abilities of your characters. There's some nice strategy that can be implemented without over-complication, and the game is challenging enough without being insanely difficult that you have to work to win but don't expect it... which I like.

Start on the left and Big Bad Takedown on the right - we all survived!

We finished up the three-player game in under three hours, including cleanup, and had a great time. This fall there will be an RPG expansion to the game, meaning that are characters can keep their loot between sessions, much like in a regular D&D campaign, which is excellent!

In the evening I attended a Vegan/Vegetarian potluck dinner at Government House( a stunning public-accessible place! )hosted by with my parents. It was well-attended, with about forty people there all told. The weather was perfect, and the dining options delicious:

It reminded me that I'll have to go back to Government House a few more times this summer, as it's a 'hidden gem' of Victoria: the beautifully-kept grounds and lovely architecture are sights best beheld at leisure, which I hope to have a bit of in the next few months, now and then.

Did I mention everything was delicious? They had vegan donuts and cookies!!!!

Apologies for the heavy topics in this week's blog; I've had a lot on my mind, and it's all coming to a head this month, apparently. While I haven't had much use for what Land Mark has been presenting in their seminars, I will say that they've got my mind weighing things again, and doing so without freezing into anxiety-ridden paralysis - I got that out of the way earlier this year, so in a sense this is good timing for the exercise. I've got too much to do and too many dreams in life to dwell in logic-loops any more, so decisions will be made and Things Will Get Done this summer... I'm tired of treading water in my life.