October 26, 2013


Sugar: Consumption At The Crossroads (cover)Sugar used to be scarce but now we’re suffering from abundance. Here are alarming findings from the Credit Suisse Research Institute:
“… added sugar is in almost everything on the supermarket shelves.” 
“Today, the world daily average consumption of added sugar per person is 17 teaspoons — up 45% compared with 30 years ago. 
“The US is rated #1 in the consumption of sugar and caloric sweeteners with an average of 40 teaspoons per person per day. It’s not surprising that the country has the world’s highest rate of adult obesity (34%). “
Sugar: Sweet With A Bitter Aftertaste
This short video explores the effects of sugar around the world.

We pay for excessive sugar consumption with our own health and as a society.

sugar content of popular beverages (click to enlarge); from Sugar: Consumption At The Crossroads The Manufacturers

The manufacturers are tough to blame. Information about sugar is easily available online. They don’t force us to buy (but entice us as much as possible). They don't tell us how much to consume (but their packaging influences us).

Depending on your age, you may recall that soft drinks in Canada came in 10 ounce tough-to-crush steel cans. After the switch to the 12 ounce aluminum cans used in the US, we didn’t throw out the extra two ounces. That would be wasteful. Instead, we quickly learned to consume more. Children did too.

17 teaspoons a dayEven Worse

While normal sugar may be bad, artificial sweeteners and high fructose corn syrup look even worse.

Also manufacturers also play games with their labeling. To avoid showing sugar as the first or second item, the label, they may show different forms of sugar (e.g., brown sugar, molasses, concentrated fruit juice, dried cane sugar, hydrolysed starch, dextrose, maize syrup, honey). Sneaky, even for people who read the labels. We care about the amount of sugar, not the subdivisions designed to deceive.

How much sugar is too much?Strategies

Here are five ways to reduce your consumption of sugar.
1. Eat Less
You can't take sugar out of your dessert but you can take a smaller portion (no seconds!) or eat less frequently. You can share too. Sometimes we’ll pour a can of pop into two small glasses.
2. Add Less
We're used to adding sugar to foods such as coffee and tea. We might add hot fudge to our ice cream or sugar to our cereal. We may have ice cream with our apple pie or apple pie with our ice cream. We can cut back and perhaps eliminate some of the extra sweetness.
3. Buy Less
Since you can't eat what you don't have, a simple solution is to avoid buying sugary processed food. If you wouldn't buy a product at normal price, should you buy because it's on sale and you're "saving" money?
4. Buy Quality
In the quest for profits, companies switch to ever-cheaper ingredients with names we can't easily pronounce. Products with better ingredients usually cost more. Buy them and you're paying a tax for quality. That's a financial incentive to buy less, eat less and savour each bite.
Depending on your skills, you could even occasionally make treats at home. You’ll know how much sugar you're using, which can be disturbing.
5. Exercise
When you exercise regularly, you want results. Eating better helps. That means less sugar and likely less cravings for the wrong things. Besides, you have less time to eat.

click to read article on The Guardian websiteWhat About Oreos?

Sugar has been called “addictive and the most dangerous drug of the times”. Oreos are as addictive as cocaine for rats, according to a flawed study. Rather than argue over the headlines, let’s live better. Where there’s willpower, there’s a way.

What sugar do you consume daily? How can you cut back before your doctor tells you?

(new from TED-Ed)


Podcast 243

direct download | Internet Archive page | iTunes

PS Next week is Halloween …

October 19, 2013


baby's hand in mom'sDad, can I borrow the car?

Like teens, advisors want to look independent but may not be.


Advisors who aren’t independent are called “captive” (Investopedia). They are dependent and forced to sell products from a specific catalogue or specific companies. They can't scan the market. Management influences what they sell through quotas and bonuses. Somehow, the captives convince themselves they have freedom of choice. They convince themselves that what they have is the best (or at least good enough). They then try to convince you.

You don't go to the Apple Store for unbiased advice about Apple or Android. At least you know that. With financial advice, the limitations aren't as obvious.

Captive advisors are like commissioned employees. They're stuck selling what they're told to sell, regardless of quality or value.
Spotting Captives
Dependent advisors don't have their own brands. Their business cards show the name of the company they represent. Dependent advisors rarely have their own websites. Instead, they may have a page on a corporate website that lists competitors (other advisors from the very same firm).

What about social networking? Since captive advisors are representatives of a brand, they may not be allowed to use social media. It’s as if the brand doesn’t trust the judgement of their own employees.

Captive advisors might be on LinkedIn but have an especially bland profile due to corporate standards. Following the rules is called “compliance”. They may belong to Groups, but do they participate? If you connect to a captive, don't be surprised if they block their connections from your view. Actually, that could easily be true for independent advisors too.
Write Wrong
An article from a captive advisor may have been ghostwritten by the corporate head office or approved there. You can often tell by the blandness and wishywashy-ness of the content. The writing rarely sounds like the advisor. There's rarely any personality or a controversial stance.
Pretend you wrote Speaking of Success with Blanchard, Canfield and Covey
Do a web search for an article title and see what shows up. You might find the same article but with different author names. That even happens with books like Speaking Of Success written by Ken Blanchard, Jack Canfield, Stephen Covey and    (fill in the blank)   . Actually, independent advisors can play this game too.


Independent advisors can scan the marketplace. That choice might be an illusion. In practice, they often have preferred suppliers which get the bulk of their business.

An independent advisor is more likely to
  • show up in a web search
  • have a real website
  • be on Twitter (check their Klout score)
The products they sell might cost less or guarantee more.

Which Is Better?

A captive advisor can't offer you much choice. That may seem like an advantage because choice can paralyze. An independent advisor can scan the marketplace and filter the choices for you.

Mommy, where do independent advisors come from?

They often started as captives to get training. The top ones often leave after they’re trained and established. Why? Independents tend to get paid more. Also, independents tend to get better service because vendors are competing for their business.

If you're young, your needs tend to be simpler. The difference between captive and independent matters less. By the time you need choice, you've established a relationship with your advisor and your advisor has developed more sales skills. You're less likely to leave or realize what you are (not) getting. You risk becoming the captive, caged by a Goliath.


Podcast 242

direct download | Internet Archive page | iTunes

PS Just because an advisor is paid on commission doesn't make them independent.

October 12, 2013


Once you understand that Goliath is much weaker than you think he is, and David has superior technology, then you say: why do we tell the story the way we do?
--- Malcolm Gladwell, TED Talks Q&A

Do you remember the tale of David and Goliath? That’s the title of Malcolm Gladwell’s new book. He shared his interpretation at TED@250.
There are lessons for you and your money.


The financial sector is huge, powerful and the least trusted in the world. We're still recovering from the harm caused by the 2008 financial meltdown. There are lots of examples of misdeeds in Pound Foolish (Helaine Olen), Fight Back (Ellen Roseman) and @trustandyou.

David and GoliathDavid Then

David took a stand against Goliath in hand-to-hand combat when all others cowered with fear. The match looked unfair.

Goliath had size, strength, experience and armor. David didn't. In a conventional battle, Goliath had the clear advantage. David changed those strengths into weaknesses. He turned his own speed and nimbleness into advantages. He used his slingshot to down Goliath from a safe distance. The battle was unfair ... to Goliath.

David Now

You are nimble. You have a weapon more powerful than sticks, stones and slingshots. You have social media. You have access to the world from your smartphone wherever you go (though mind the roaming rates!). You can attack Goliath anytime you see misconduct using text, photos, audio or video.

Goliath has trouble responding in a quick, caring and believable way. Employees are often restricted or prevented from using social media. For instance, Air Canada lost a dog and internally planned to “just ignore” the media attention, hoping the story would fade away (like RBC-iGate did).

David fought alone. Your weapon is even more powerful because you can mobilize others. Even total strangers can help as your word spreads. Thanks hashtags, retweets, Likes and +1s.

Your Ultimate Weapon

Your ultimate weapon is your money. You alone can decide to
  • support banks with low (or no) service charges and fees
  • question advice from your advisors
  • deal with better people and better companies
Unless you take action, you help Goliath grow stronger. You must give incentives to force change. You must be willing to move your business. You might even need to admit that you made mistakes.

Your Successes

You do make a difference. Here are examples:
  • Rogers gave mobile customers a credit for the latest service outage (perhaps worth $18 million). This seems to be a first.
  • Apple reversed a decision to leave a rating system which measures the environmental impact of their products.
  • Starbucks stopped colouring Frappuccinos with bug extract
There's less need to fear Goliath. We're connected. We’re stronger. We’re more resourceful. We vote with our wallets and feet. We're winning … unless we stay silent.


Podcast 241

direct download | Internet Archive page | iTunes

PS Support those who support you

October 5, 2013


One of the best ways to keep earning is to keep learning. Maybe the solution is the Netflix “all-you-can-eat-for-low-monthly-fee” approach.

Netflix For Watching

We've had Netflix since the launch in Canada (no cable or satellite TV). We get great value for our $8 a month. Thanks to fast unlimited internet, we don't have to worry about bandwidth considerations. 

Netflix works because of the large selection and low price. Thanks to Canadian innovations MoreFlicks and Unblock US, we can access Netflix titles from other countries. How can you not get your money’s worth?
This same model may not work for other services.

Netflix for Learning

We can learn by reading and listening. Here are ways.
Magazines: Next Issue
Netflix for magazines: Next IssueNext Issue (US, Canada) gives you unlimited access to all issues of 100+ magazines for $15 a month. This might sound like a great deal but is it? You can certainly browse many titles. Would you?

There is already so much content available online for free. You already get a personalized magazine-like feel with services like Google Currents, Flipboard, Vu and Zite. When you’re looking for something, it’s much easier to do a web search than to go to the magazine’s website. I’m more interested in the article than the publication. I like looking at different sources, including blogs.

How much do you spend on magazines today? For us it's about $50 a year. With Next Issue, the price jumps to $180 a year. We'd be spending much more than we currently do. Why? It’s not as if we have hours of extra time for the extra reading. Does Next Issue look appealing to you? I’d rather spend the money upgrading my mobile data plan.
Books: Oyster and Scribd
Scribd - never stop readingIf you read books, you can easily spend hundreds of dollars a year. And get stuck with titles that simply aren't very good. No refund.  A flat fee subscription has appeal. You get to browse without penalty. Since the publishers get paid based on how much of a book you read, they bear the risk for lousy content.

The Kindle Owners’ Lending Library has 350,000 titles as part of Amazon Prime for $79/year. There are two new options with 100,000 titles: Oyster ($10/month) and Scribd ($9/month). These choices are US-only at the moment.

Not all publishers are participating, which limits the selection. As with Netflix, you won't get the newest releases until later. That's fine with me because I've already got too much to read.
Audiobooks: none
audiobooks.com - discontinuedI’m a big fan of listening to books but there’s no all-you-can listen service now that audiobooks.com switched to the unsatisfying Audible model of a title per month. Their price of $25/month looks too high. You can skim books but not audiobooks. A lower price makes sense.

Why should audiobooks cost more than magazines? Why should magazines cost more than ebooks? Why should they all cost more than Netflix?

I'd love to see a service which offers both ebooks and audiobooks for a reasonable price. I like listening while commuting and having the ebook for making notes. Given the pace of innovation (or copying Netflix) that may happen soon.


Podcast 240

direct link | Internet Archive page | iTunes

PS For a free “Netflix for learning”, visit your public library in person or online.