Monday, March 28, 2016

Where to find Financial News ?

This investopedia article lists out the major financial news sites :

http://www.investopedia.com/articles/investing/112514/top-sites-latest-stock-market-news.asp#

I use Yahoo Finance . I recommend spending a bit of time on each site to see which one works for you.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Stuxnet

 
 


I was watching a documentary on Netflix called 'Rise of the Hackers' , and came across this engineered computer virus called stuxnet. It was designed to slow down Iran's nuclear weapon development. 

I found the design of the virus to be fascinating. Take a look if you guys have time ! 
 
If you dont have Netflix, this article is a good read as well. 
 

The virus is designed to infect PLCs ( Programmable Logic controllers ) . Everything from how it is designed to infect the machines, spread, how it hides, and how it tricks the system once it has infected the machine into believing everything is okay is very well thought out! 

This feels like how wars will be fought in the future .

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Setting up a Canadian Partnership Business


As an independent contractor you have the option of being a Sole Proprietor or an owner of a Partnership. A friend of mine recently became a contractor, and he had the option of registering as a business and billing as a business. 

My friend and I decided to do some investigation to understand how this worked and what some of the processes involved are. 

Sole Proprietorship

  • First Step, you must understand the benefits of registering as a sole proprietorship. This is the easiest form of business type to setup, inexpensive, lower reporting burdens, tax advantage if business is not doing well. One of the main disadvantage is  that there is no separation of self and business. However, for most contractors this is not a worry point.  
  • For my friend, we wanted to have the option of him being able to hire employees if required. I didn’t realize this was possible even in a sole proprietorship. This structure simply means there is one owner, however that owner can have employees. 
  • If you want to have employees you need to setup a payroll account, and remit CPP and EI payments to the government as an employer and the employee portion as well. In my friend’s case he wanted to setup the business structure so he can do profit sharing with one of his family members. If you have a family member who can perform tasks for your business, you can employ them and pay them a salary. This will be considered an expense, and will reduce the amount of net income you will receive. If your family member is in a lower tax bracket compared to yourself, it will reduce the amount of tax that you have to pay. However, you need to keep track of payroll and the deductions that must be paid to the government as an employer and from your employee’s contribution. We decided it might be cheaper in terms of effort, and % of overall deductions to set the structure up as a general partnership. 

Partnership

  • A general partnership is like a sole proprietorship but with multiple owners.  There is no separation of the partner’s personal assets/liabilities with that of the company. You can always set up a limited partnership that can help increase this separation. Since, we were interested in general partnership only, I will focus on general partnership only. 
  • The main reason we wanted to set this business as a partnership is to do profit splitting, and maximize the tax savings from profit splitting. Since net income from your business in a partnership is added to the income of the partners, it makes sense to pass on more of the profits from the business to a partner with the lower tax bracket (if both partners are from the same family). This is a simpler way of tax saving compared to employing a family member.  In order to pay more of the profit to the family member with the lower tax bracket, they need to be setup as the partner with a higher percentage of the ownership. You can have a partnership agreement drafted. It can be an informal document or a document created with the help of a lawyer.

Business Name 

  • My friend wanted to register a business as a partnership given its simplicity of profit transfer for maximum tax saving. It costs $60 to register a Business Name in Ontario and is valid for 5 years. 
  • Use this form to register for a business name and to register the business as a partnership.

b.      For a partnership he needs to choose the type as partnership and as a general partnership in the form above.


  • In addition to a business name my friend requires a GST/HST account.

a.      http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/tx/bsnss/tpcs/bn-ne/bfr-eng.html . This link has information on the different type of accounts a business owner may require.
b.       The general guideline for GST/HST account is that you need one if your business will be generating more than $30k a year. In my friend’s case it will be as such he needs to register for GST/HST. GST Account registration is part of your business registration. http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/tx/bsnss/tpcs/bn-ne/bro-ide/menu-eng.html
c.      Guidelines for how to charge your customers GST/HST : http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/tx/bsnss/tpcs/gst-tps/gnrl/stps/cllct-eng.html

Day to Day Business

  1. Now that his business is setup, my friend needs to create monthly invoices including a GST/HST portion and bill his client.
  2. He needs to keep track of the GST/HST payment and remit that to the government of Canada.
  3. He needs to track all his business expenses and book them against the revenue he receives from his client.
  4. He needs to do yearly taxes for himself and his partner. This can be done in combination of personal taxes.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Iceland – Glacier Caves or Ice Caves


One of my reasons for visiting Iceland in the winter was to visit the beautiful Glacier Caves of Iceland. I had seen photos of the blue caves and had become fascinated. Visiting Iceland would solve two items I had really wanted to do. See the Northern Lights and Visit a Glacier Cave.

I wrote a post on shelter/food and transportation in Iceland if you require some feedback on these items: http://financegirltoronto.blogspot.ca/2016/02/iceland-mode-of-transportation-shelter.html

We had originally planned to visit the Glacier Caves the second day of our trip. You need to drive approximately 5 hours from Reykjavik to reach either the office of the tour company or the Jokulsarlon Lagoon where you are picked up from for most of the Glacier Cave Tours.   We had bought tickets (4 of us) ahead of time from Canada from one of the tour companies for the 2nd day of our trip in February of 2015. We choose to do this, because it appeared most of the Ice Cave Tours in January and February were sold out. We wanted to visit in one of these months to maximize our chance of seeing the Northern lights, and as such needed to buy the tickets ahead of time.

As we explored the town on the day we landed we heard of a wind and snow storm warning for the next day for the area south east of Reykjavik. The area we would need to drive past to get to the Jokulsarlon Lagoon for our tour the next day. This made us sad, and the four us debated back and forth on whether we can drive through the storm to get to the Lagoon. The four of us were from Toronto and Ottawa in Canada. We were comfortable driving in heavy snow and in slippery conditions. We also had a 4 wheel rental. 

We tried calling the tour company to see if they will be able to give us a different day tour (we were planning to be in Iceland for 7 days) . They didn’t have any other openings and they mentioned they may not be able to provide us a refund. This made us even further depressed. The tour cost approximately $200 CAD each. We decided we will wake up the next morning and see how the weather is.

The Day of the Storm

The next morning we got up early and tried driving toward Jokulsarlon Lagoon from Reykjavik. It was quite windy and it was snowing. We were used to the snow, but we were not used to winds of that speed. The combination of snow and wind made driving treacherous. Also the road was blocked. We were only able to drive out for 20 minutes before we found the road to be blocked. I guess the Icelandic authorities trying to protect the silly tourists who drives around in unsafe conditions? So we turned back and did other activities closer to Reykjavik that day. I also called and emailed the tour company explaining the situation and requesting a refund. We did get a refund, but it required a lot of follow through and negotiations on our part. I don’t think you would normally get a refund for a missed glacier tour. Most companies highlight when you book one line, that you will not get a refund due to bad weather conditions near where you are staying. This is because Iceland has different type of weather for different regions. You can drive in and out of a storm in an hour, and you may run into summer like conditions driving out of the storm. One of our fascinating discoveries during our time in Iceland. 

That day I looked up other Glacier Tour companies to see if I can find another spot for the 4 of us. Luckily for us there was another opening with a different company. This time around we booked our tour with : http://www.iceguide.is/ . I had initially wanted to book with them based on all the reviews and research I had done, but at that time they didn’t have any openings. Luckily for us we were able to find a time slot for the 4 of us after we had to cancel our tour with another operator due to weather.
Our plan was to drive to Jokulsarlon Lagoon from Reykjavik early morning, do the tour and came back in the evening. This is what we did. I would actually recommend staying near the Lagoon for one night. This way you can do the drive at a slower pace and enjoy the drive itself more, and it gives you the oppourtunity to plan around bad weather conditions. Lesson learned for next time. 

The Day of the Ice Cave 

The drive between Reykjavik and Jokulsarlon is beautiful. It is one of the most diverse and beautiful drives I have done. The day of our tour, the weather was sunny which made the drive much more enjoyable. We saw beautiful snow covered mountains, stunning coast line, pulled over at waterfalls, black beaches, glacier pieces on a beach and just rugged, undeveloped scenery all throughout the drive. I think I enjoyed the drive as much as I enjoyed the blue glacier caves! 

On the way to Jokulsarlon

On the way to Jokulsarlon

On the way to Jokulsarlon

On the way to Jokulsarlon

On the way to Jokulsarlon

On the way to Jokulsarlon


Our glacier tour was around 3:15 pm. We left Reykjavik around 7:30 am so we could have some time at the Jokulsarlon Lagoon prior to the tour. We made some stops along the way, and made it to the lagoon. The Lagoon itself is stunningly beautiful. See some photos below. The Lagoon is separated from the Atlantic Ocean by a road and a bridge. We crossed over the road to the beach on the other side. The beach with big chunk of ice is one of the most unique sights I have seen. Photos below.
We drove back toward west to the iceguide office. It is about 15 minutes from the Jokulsarlon Lagoon. Ice guide is a family run company owned by Oskar Arason and his wife Heiour Johannsdottir. Heiour registered us and provided us with the equipment needed to walk on the glacier. Oskar picked us up and another six people and drove us to the Crystal Cave on the Vatnajokull glacier. 

Black Beach

Black Beach

Jokulsarlon Lagoon

Seals @ Jokulsarlon Lagoon

Black Beach

Glacier Piece on Black Beach

Jokulsarlon


It was a beautiful drive, and the crystal cave was just magical. It was worth going all the way to Iceland. Inside the cave it is actually blue with so many patterns in the ice. The ice has been frozen for thousands of years.  It is a truly unique sight and a must do if you have the opportunity to do so. I believe glacier caves like this where you have guided tours are rare! At least based on my searches. What we visited was a glacier cave. A glacier cave is formed by water flowing through the melting glacier in the summer. An Ice cave is a normal bedrock cave with ice inside it. I didn’t know this till I started researching the glacier caves in Iceland.  The brilliant blueness is only seen in a glacier cave.
See below for some photos of the beautiful glacier caves. We walked/crawled into the cave for about an hour and half and went back to our tour vehicle for the drive back to the office.

Vatnajökull Glacier

Crystal Glacier Cave

Crystal Glacier Cave

Crystal Glacier Cave

Crystal Glacier Cave

Crystal Glacier Cave

We thanked everyone, and headed back to Reykjavik. That night we were lucky enough to see the Northern lights! More on that in another post!

Monday, February 15, 2016

Where to find events that may affect the financial markets tomorrow?

The financial markets are affected by many different events. Events such as a Central Bank’s decision on interest rates, government releasing different type of numbers such as unemployment rate, major companies reporting earnings, events that affects large countries such as a recession in China, and events that affect specific sectors such as OPEC’s decision to cut oil supply.

In addition to the specific news stories that come out throughout the day, the markets are affected by specific events. See below for some examples and places to keep track of events. 

This Bloomberg Calendar below tracks different US Government statistics. The nice thing about this calendar is if you click on an event it has an explanation of the statistic/event.


The NASDAQ earnings calendar shows the list of all the companies reporting earnings for a specific day. You can sort by the company size. Usually the larger a company, the larger its earnings effect may be on the overall economy. 


The TMX earnings calendar gives you the ability to sort by different exchange.


The scheduled events, and the news stories should help determine the trading strategy for the week, as well as help understand what might happen to the markets during the day or during the week.

Iceland – Mode of transportation, Shelter and Food


I visited Iceland in 2015 with a group of friends. I wanted to visit Iceland in winter for two main reasons. One to see the Northern Lights, and the second to visit the Glacier Caves.  We were there for a week starting on February 24th 2015. 

I am from Canada and most of the flights to Iceland from Canada is directly to Reykjavik Airport, Iceland.  Reykjavik is the capital of Iceland and about two third of the population of Iceland lives in Reykjavik. We rented a car from Sixt Rental near the airport. They were kind of enough to upgrade us to an SUV with snow tires at no extra charge! 

We choose to drive in Iceland in winter due to the following reasons:


  • We needed to drive to Jokulsarlon Lagoon which is about four hours from Reykjavik for the Glacier Cave Tour. There were no day tours available from Reykjavik, and there were four of us. It was more economical to rent.
  •  The car also saved us money on transfer from/to airport.
  • The car also gave us more flexibility in terms of driving out to see Northern Lights at different times ( not during a specific time of a tour)
  • It also allowed us to go into downtown and to different parts whenever we decided to do something spontaneously.  Gave us a lot more flexibility.
  • We were worried about the driving conditions in Iceland. However, we were from Toronto and Ottawa in Canada and was used to driving in heavy snow and ice conditions. One of the things we did not expect was the heavy wind in Iceland. It made for some scary drives during our trip
  • Also you would read on some forums that the area near Reykjavik is flat . Not fully true. Even within 15 – 20 minutes of Reykajivk there are some mini hills and slanted roads in which you need to be careful in winter driving conditions. 


In hindsight, I would still recommend driving in Iceland in Winter. You may have a few steering wheel griping moments, but all the flexibility and cost savings will make up for it. I believe the driving makes the whole experience richer. One of my favorite memories in Iceland is driving from Reykajivk to Jokulsarlon. 

We stayed at the Grand Hotel Reykjavik. It was a very nice hotel, with clean well decorated rooms and lobby. The staff at reception was very helpful. Daily breakfast was included in our stay, and the breakfast was good. Had lots of choices and tasty food. One day I was able to see the Northern lights from my bed in the hotel!  Parking was included in the stay, and there was always parking available. This hotel is about 15 minutes from downtown Reykjavik, but not an issue for us since we had a car. We always took the car into the city. We were able to find free parking in the city whenever we went in. 

For food, we had a heavy breakfast (included with our hotel stay), for lunch we did grocery shopping and made sandwiches and snacks, and for dinner we mainly ate out at different places in Reykjavik and near Reykjavik.  Since we had a car, we had the flexibility to drive around find different places to eat at. 

We were prepared in terms of clothing. We dressed in layers and had snow pants and parkas for most of the trip. We all had winter boots. We were never cold. Important to dress for the weather, or else your experience will be ruined from the cold. 

I loved Iceland. The ruggedness of the landscape and the kindness of the people left a lasting impression.