October 25, 2014


Red Cross tent
Life keeps breaking bad. Floods. Plane crashes. Shootings. Bombings. Diseases. Power outages. Forest fires. Computer viruses. Sometimes bad happens to strangers in a distant continent. Sometimes to people we know or places we’ve been. Good happens too, but gets less attention. Who would watch The Walking Alive, The Empire Doesn’t Strike Back or Breaking Good?

Many headline-grabbers fall into what Stephen Covey calls our large Circle of Concern. We can only make a difference in our smaller Circle of Influence which lies within. Do we do what we can?

Looking Back

When we look back, mistakes looks “obvious”. They weren’t at the time. No one can take all precautions all the time. Right Maleficent? Situations also change. A locked barn door doesn’t protect against leaks, tornados or termites.

Our priorities shift. One day we want lower taxes and convenient access. Another day we want more services and strict security.

At a personal level, memories fade. We forget to prepare (or stay prepared) for next time to the extent we intended.

Mismatched Resources

When disaster strikes outside our homes, society at large can help. Billions of dollars can be committed. There’s an outpouring of support, sometimes from other countries.
click to watch the The The Three Little Pigs on YouTube
When disaster strikes within our homes, we can’t count on the same help. We can take precautions

We can also transfer the financial risks in advance. That’s precisely what insurance does. Because there’s a price and underwriting, we can’t buy an unlimited amount. We’re forced to evaluate the risks, which can be difficult on our own. We tend to fear the wrong risks (e.g., sharks or terrorists) instead of higher probability risks (e.g., disability and longevity).

Looking Forward

To paraphrase Jim Rohn’s dad: You can’t fix the roof when it’s raining. And when it’s sunny, you don’t need to.

What will you do with what you know now? It’s easy to become desensitized (and do nothing) and hard to mobilized (and take action steps within your control).


PS Good also happens … sometimes from preparing for bad.

October 20, 2014


The very first blog post was published over 20 years ago. Newspapers, magazines, books, radio and television started even earlier. The personal finance educators tend to use those media. Yet financial literacy remains a serious problem. Maybe the audience has been shifting their attention elsewhere.

What about the trends towards video and mobile devices? Canadians are big users. According to the 2014 Canada Digital Future In Focus report
  • video viewing is up 33% since 2012
  • 74% watch online video
  • viewing time is 1,769 minutes per month – 43% higher than Americans
There’s a huge (and growing) audience on YouTube. How much personal finance information is available there?

As we’ll see from case studies, current approaches to using video for financial education aren’t working well. There are opportunities to experiment and make breakthroughs. If you’re a less established blogger, you might want to focus on video. Ditto if you’re established and looking to evolve.

Case Study: Investor Education Fund (585 views)

(click to enlarge) YouTube views - InvestorEDfund 2014-10-14
You’ll find good videos on the InvestorEDFund channel from the nonprofit Investor Education Fund. Host Rob Carrick conducts short 1-2 minute interviews which are co-branded with The Globe and Mail. The last 15 videos garnered 585 views. The most popular title got 84 views.

Viewership might improve with
  • Better thumbnails: the current images aren’t always enticing; might show the title, guest and host
  • Longer videos: short clips tends to simplify and generalize (e.g., 84 seconds on whether to cancel your home insurance); more time might let guests give better, less rushed answers

Case Study: Financial Post (714 views)

(click to enlarge) YouTube views - Financial Post 2014-10-14You’ll find good videos on the Financial Post channel. I especially like the ones with Melissa Leong. The last 15 videos got 714 views. The most popular had 134 views (an ice bucket challenge).

Viewership might improve with
  • Better thumbnails: generally good but some don’t look enticing or relevant (e.g., “Can I leave my estate to my pet?” could show an animal)
  • Start titles with the important information: move the less important like “Save your #@%* money” or “What the what?!?” to the end (e.g., “What the what?!? My husband drives like a…” is incomplete)

Case Study: Money Minute (undisclosed views)

click to enlarge
Money Minute with Ashleigh Patterson has good content and lots of visuals. The title is odd since the videos tend to be 3-4 minutes long (a satisfying length). The thumbnails are nicely done.

The basic problem is that the videos aren’t on YouTube. That means you won’t find them with the #2 search engine and there’s a learning curve. For instance, I couldn’t figure out how to improve the playback quality or share a video with Buffer or Hootsuite (each video uses the same URL ca.finance.yahoo.com/video/money-minute). I couldn’t find a way to subscribe either.

Viewership might improve with
  • Hosting on YouTube: likely a nonstarter but who goes to Yahoo for video?
  • Transparency: Yahoo hides the number of views and even the publication dates

Case Study: Taxevity (737 views)

YouTube views - Taxevity 2014-10-14Our new Taxevity Insurance Advisory channel features in-person interviews over tea in my office. The last 15 videos got 737 views with less than 50 subscribers. The most popular title had 124 views. The lengths varied from 13:54 to 64:03 minutes. As much as 1,290 minutes of content was viewed on a single day.

The topics are diverse but all relate to money (especially the often overlooked aspect of investing in yourself). The guests are diverse and some wouldn’t be considered conventional money experts. That helps reach people who avoid financial education. The questions and flow are planned with the guest before recording. The thumbnails are going to be redone to include the interview title. Most of the marketing takes place on LinkedIn, the place you’ll find people with money. Canadians are big users --- #5 in the world.

You'll have your own approach.

Your Turn

If you create personal finance content, why not create three new videos? One isn’t enough because of the learning curve.

All you need is a webcam or smartphone, a free video editor and free natural daylight. You can upgrade later (e.g., our recommended gear on Amazon).

You might want to
  • talk directly to the camera: impromptu or with a script (which you can re-use in a blog post and the YouTube video description)
  • do interviews: in person or over Skype (Singularity 1 on 1 with Nikola Danaylov uses both) or a Hangout (the Because Money podcast with Jackson Middleton, Sandi Martin and Robb Engen)
  • get creative: say with a whiteboard, an animated whiteboard or a PowerPoint voiceover. Use your imagination (e.g., the funny series The Tax Man from Allan Madan).
Video has impact and is easy to share. Your tools include visuals, audio, text, music and movement. You don’t have to use them all. Maybe you’ll find that video is more enjoyable for you and more valuable for the vast audience waiting.


PS Have you got a moment to subscribe to the Taxevity channel?

October 11, 2014


How can you lose by learning to invest better?

Steadyhand Investment Funds sells no-load low-fee mutual funds directly to investors.
They've prepared an easy-to-read report called Five Essential Elements To Being A Better Investor (PDF). The focus is on sound, timeless basics rather than trendy quick-fix tips.

You'll find interpretations at


You can also watch my chat with David Toyne, their Toronto-based Director of Business Development on Tea At Taxevity (interview #20).

An Extension

The steps to becoming a better investor also apply to becoming better insurance buyer. The following list shows the Steadyhand recommendation in bold and my interpretation for health or life insurance in italics.
  1. Be realistic: risk happens even if you’re optimistic and we have a knack for worrying about the wrong risks
  2. Have a long-term plan: prepare for your financial risks during your working years (disability), retirement years (longevity), throughout (morbidity, mortality) and at death (taxes!)
  3. Commit to a routine: if your insurance gets cancelled because you missed premium payments (e.g., cheques bounced during a long vacation), you lose your protection.
  4. Prepare for extremes: that’s precisely what insurance does by transferring unpredictable financial risks from you
  5. Act as the CEO of your portfolio: be proactive to make sure you get the service for which you're paying. Without regular checkups, you risk having the wrong amounts of insurance and perhaps the wrong types of insurance.
The Steadyhand report is well-worth reading. You might even want to invest with them.


PS Invest in yourself too. Keep developing marketable skills.