Financial Planning

If you would like to get an idea on what I am up to, all you need to do is to see what kind of books I am reading. I was attending art classes late last year so I usually borrowed art books from the library. But my collection of borrowed books made a sudden shift this year.

Here are some of the books I have been reading the past few months:

  • The Wealthy Barber by David Chilton
  • The RESP Book – The Complete Guide to Registered Education Savings Plan for Canadians by Mike Holman
  • The RRSP Secret – Defend and Build Your Wealth With This Powerful Investment Strategy by Greg Habstritt
  • The Naked Investor – Why Almost Everybody but you gets rich on your RSP by John Lawrence Reynolds
  • The Pension Puzzle – Your Complete Guide to Government Benefits by Bruce Cohen
  • You Can’t Take It With You by Sandra Foster
  • The Ultimate TFSA Guide by Gordon Pape
  • Multiple Streams of Income by Robert Allen
  • Rich Dad’s Success Stories by Robert Kiyosaki
  • 101 Ways to Cut Your Expenses
  • Suze Orman DVDs on Personal Finance Management

Yes, I’m into Personal Finance right now. I take joy in planning and what better thing to plan that my family’s financial present and future.

I am not an expert on personal finance but I hope that this blog would help or even be an eye opener to you. Or at least read this so you’ll be up-to-date on what I’m up to these days since you may not have heard anything about me for at least a year.

I wanted to call a family meeting right after the New Year celebration to discuss the year that was (2011), the present (2012) and the future. I had my print-outs of 2011 expenses complete with bar and pie charts but my 2 young kids didn’t really care. I reminded them of the meeting a week before but they must have forgotten or got distracted by playing games and other more fun stuff than what was on my meeting agenda.

So I took it as a personal burden/crusade to go ahead and plan for 2012 and the years ahead. As of last week, my wife made a decision to join the crusade and is now on-board and up-to-speed on the plan. Actually, she is running the show now so I better find myself another art class to keep me busy.


Here’s a high-level overview of how we made our family’s financial plan.

Identify Targets and Objectives

Listed below are our family financial objectives for the next 5 years. It is important that all family members have an input and agree on the objectives. Otherwise, your plan will just be a personal rather than a family financial plan. (Note: Your kids can’t have any input on the plan if they didn’t attend the Family Financial Planning Kick-Off Meeting)

Our financial decisions will be based on these objectives. Without any objectives it would be difficult to know where we are going. Objectives give us a sense of purpose, a reason for why we are doing things. The objectives will decide or make it clear whether we are purchasing a “need” or a “want”.

  • Continue saving for our kids education
  • Slowly build-up retirement funds
  • Pay the mortgage as soon as possible
  • Get a Personal/Life Insurance
  • Create a Will and Testament
  • Live within below our means
  • Continue enjoy life, travel
  • Continue building our wealth in heaven

Develop a Plan

Achieving the objectives we listed above starts from having a grasp of our spending habits as well as a good understanding of our commitments or bills we need to pay.

I had been monitoring our family finances since 2001. But for the purposes of future planning, the 2010 and 2011 historical data are enough to give me enough information to forecast future expenses. I have created a new spreadsheet to keep track and forecast of our financials to the next 8 years.

Our Financial Plan lists all money coming in and all expenses. A monthly view of both income and expenses gives us a better understanding if we are living below our means. I said below our means as opposed to within our means to give room for savings.

Here are the categories I used to group and monitor our expenses.


  • Salary
  • Other source of income such as benefits and bank interests


  • Utilities
    • Water and Sewer
    • Phone, TV and Internet
    • Electricity
    • Gas and Heat
  • Insurance
    • Car Insurance
    • House Insurance
    • Life Insurance
    • Medical Insurance
  • Transportation
    • Car Payments
    • Car Maintenance
    • Gas
    • Parking and Fare
  • House
    • Mortgage
    • Maintenance
    • Property Tax
  • Leisure and Entertainment
    • Shopping
    • Leisure Class
    • Movies
    • Eat Out
    • Road trips
  • Food
  • Other Expenses
  • Investments/Savings
    • Education
    • 6-month Emergency Fund
    • Retirement

Savings Formula

I have learned this formula more than a decade ago. Most of us use this formula to manage our money.

SAVINGS = Income – Expenses

Of course, since we don’t run out of expenses, chances are there will be no money left for savings.

The correct formula is: EXPENSES = Income – SAVINGS

That is, based the financial objectives I listed above, our family decides on a target saving each month. The monthly target savings determine our monthly expenses. Of course, there are monthly expenses that are fixed such as mortgage and utility bills. But there are other monthly expenses that if controlled can make room for savings.

You will be in trouble if you are spending more that you are earning.

Balance of Present and Future

Keep in mind that you have to enjoy the present as well. You won’t enjoy the future if you don’t enjoy the present because the present (the now) was the future (like 5 years ago).

Enjoyment may mean different things to different people. You have to know what each one in your family enjoys and spend on that.

Learn The How’s

Either you consult with an expert or be an expert (or at least be informed) yourself.

  1. Familiarize yourself with how government benefits work.
  2. Familiarize yourself with your company benefits.
  3. Familiarize yourself with how taxes work
  4. Discuss financial management with your friends and co-workers.
  5. Arm yourself with knowledge on personal finance and investment instruments.

Knowledge is power. You are better equipped to execute your plans if you have a sound knowledge on financial management.

Risk Management

You have to prepare for the unexpected or expect the unexpected ahead of time. Risk is an uncertain event, that if occurs , has a positive or negative effect.

Some of the risks that have negative effects that you need to plan for are:

  • Losing your job or any of your source of income
  • Accident
  • House burned
  • Family member got sick

Get insurance to handle these risks.

Prepare for Your Future in Heaven

I am currently reading a book on estate planning. I just started with the book but the title already taught me a lot. The book title: “You Can’t Take It With You”.

Regardless of how much I have saved for the future, I can’t take it with me. Sure, my wife and kids will enjoy the family savings but they still can’t take it with them.

What’s my point? Invest in your future in heaven.

Here’s a simple breakdown of how we spend our money. And I suggest you do something similar.

10% for our future in heaven

20% for our future on earth

70% for the present

Let me end this blog with a story.

A rich man who owned mansions and real estates died and went to heaven. He was greeted by the angels and was asked to follow them to the house they built for him in heaven. They passed by big houses and mansions. The man is getting more and more excited, he did after all stayed in mansions on earth. To his dismay, the angels led him to his a small nipa hut. The angels said, “God wanted to build you a really nice house, but that’s all the money you are sending Him could buy”.

Build your mansion in heaven!

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5 Months Hiatus

It has been 5 months since I last posted. I’ve been busy with art and started art blogs. Attending art classes, among other things, kept me busy and this explains the lack of blog since February.

Enough said, I have many stories to tell and many blogs to write.

In the meantime, please access my other blogs.

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Books To Go

I have been visiting the public library weekly for about 5 months now. They have increased my book limit from 10 to 50. I initially thought that 50 books are too much but now I have around 35 items from the library at any time.

Here’s a list of the items I usually borrow from the library to give you an idea of my interests.

  1. Geronimo Stilton Paperbacks – These are actually for kids but I had to borrow some for my son. We used to go together but the weather is always a concern.
  2. Graphic Novels – Yes, I still do read graphic novels (DC and Marvels). I prefer quick reads that I can finish in one or two sitting. With 2 kids at home, it’s difficult to find time and read novels.
  3. Mythology – This is not Greek mythology but one by Alex Ross. I borrowed this one mainly for the drawings and watercolor paintings.
  4. Magazines (Shape, Health, Mens Fitness, Entertainment, People, etc) – Again, just for quick reads.
  5. French – I remember I wanted to learn French.
  6. Kiss My Math (Danica McKellar) – I was just curious.
  7. The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands – I just leave this in our living room hoping that my wife would read it after she’s done reading the magazines.
  8. Chicken Soup for the Soul
  9. Art Books – I’m still trying to learn how to draw and paint.
  10. Pope John Paul II: His Life and Legacy

I recently realized that the rush I get from having something new to read is similar to the rush I get when I just purchased something. The only difference is that the former costs me nothing.

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Missing the Bus

For 2 consecutive days, I missed the bus for just about 5 seconds. And it meant waiting for another 10 minutes (30 minutes during non-peak hours). I usually arrive at the office at 7:30am so waiting for another bus for another 10 minutes is not a big deal. The coldness of Vancouver’s early winter morning doesn’t bother me anymore. I am usually just upset because it would mean 10 unproductive minutes at the bus stop.

I’ve been taking the bus to and from work for a little more than 3 months now. There were times when I was early, on time and late for the bus. But missing the bus doesn’t bother me anymore. I just accepted the fact that although you may miss an opportunity if you are late but at the same time you’ll miss other opportunities as well if you’re too early.

Whenever I see the bus coming and I am still more than 100 meters away from the bus stop, I don’t bother to catch it anymore. You win some, you lose some. The key is advance planning and having contingency on your schedule just in case to lessen the impact.

Tomorrow’s another day. I may or may not catch the 7AM bus but life goes on.

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Look Who’s Working

It has been 3 months since I landed my first job here in Canada. It was truly a blessing that I found a job in my line of work (a miracle according to other people).

I started looking for work about a month and a half after we landed last year. I knew I had to take some time off from work (a well-deserved vacation) while the whole family settle and get acquainted with the new environment so I didn’t look for work until more than a month after.

The job hunt officially started when I attended PMI CWCC’s orientation for new members last September. I had the chance to meet other Project Managers mostly based in Vancouver. Some, just like me, were new immigrants and looking for work. I came home with a bunch of business cards and a very positive attitude towards job hunting.

After sending a number of resumes and attending interviews, I was offered a job. The job hunt took 6 weeks. It was a blessing indeed.

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House Hunting Adventure

Our house hunting started with a plan to rent a temporary place for the whole August and to spend more time looking for a more permanent place while our body adjust to the local time.

All along, our plan was to stay in Burnaby for about a year. A year will be enough time for us to drive around BC and find an ideal place to stay. We landed in Burnaby last year so we are most familiar with this city compared to the other places. After the EB with P2C, we were intrigue by how establishments are accessible in Surrey (according to those who are staying in Surrey). Of course, those who stay in Burnaby or Richmond have their own “promotional talk”.

About 10 days ago, after short-listing the places we’ve found in craigslist, I went to Surrey to look at apartments in Guildford. Most of the folks we met at P2C stayed near this area so we concentrated on finding a place in the area.

What do we look for? Apartment, condo, basement, townhouse, etc? There are too many choices depending on your budget and needs.

One of our options is to stay at apartments. They are affordable and most of them are close to elementary  schools. The low prices did not match our high expectations (of course). With two active kids, the two-bedroom apartments will feel smaller than they already are.

House basements were also considered but since some of us are light sleepers, it may become a problem as soon as our first night.

We have also looked at other apartments, knocked on doors and made a number of phone calls. Thanks to friends and an aunt who helped us drive around to view the different rental places.

After five whole days of driving and looking around … we have found a place that we really love. It’s a little (relatively) far from the nearest elementary school which means we better find a car soon. It may be not as much of a challenge if my wife will not have to walk with a 3-year old who prefers to ride the stroller or be carried than walking. Imagine what it would be like during winter when it is snowing. But we do love the place so we’ll just find a solution to the minor “school’ problem.

We found a one-level ground-floor corner condominium. It’s 1100 sqft and is really a bargain. The place looks like the apartments and townhouses where we were housed during our US assignments ages ago.

We felt “at home” with the place. It felt ours actually but someday we’ll have a place of our own we will really call “Our Home”. But for now … this place will do.

By the way, we’re moving in this Tuesday.

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The First Week

Our first week in Canada was a mixture of things expected and unexpected.

We spent the first few days adjusting to the time difference. Even if the four of us came from the same place (Phil), we ended up having two sets of body clocks. My wife and my younger son wake up at almost noon time while my other son and I wake up at around 9AM.

About three days after we arrived, my older son was hit by a stomach flu while the other was bothered by stomach ache. I myself have colds since we arrived and was bothered by sore throat. My wife proved herself to be a superwoman once again as she remained the last immigrant standing. It was good that we applied for a 3-month (temp) medical insurance. I took my son to a clinic for a quick check-up. No dairy and fried food for him for about a week.

The nights were usually spent checking FB, Yahoo Mail and craigslist (hunting for apartment). It was an uneventful week for us as expected except for the flu that hit the kids.

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Abayas, Short Skirts and Skimpy Shorts

I was at the Burnaby Metrotown Mall the other day to pick-up some groceries, apply for medical insurance and mail some application forms. One of the first things I noticed was how women, especially the teens, dress themselves during summer. (I wasn’t entirely surprised since I was in the US for 5 years about 8 years ago)

Five years ago, after only about 3 months in Saudi Arabia, I went back home to get the my work visa. I was in Makati booking a flight back to KSA. I didn’t expect my reaction upon seing theMakati women professionals in their short skirts up to just above the knee. For me, they looked like they were wearing less cloth than what’s appropriate. (To think that I worked in Makati for at least 8 years).

Now, after more than 5 years of stay in Saudi Arabia, I realized that the purpose of the abaya (long overgarment essentially a robe-like dress) is for women to become invisible from the eyes/stares of men. It was very effective as I learned to just ignore any black moving objects as I roam around Jeddah.

But just the other day at the Metrotown Mall, I guess the leap from abayas to skimpy shorts (tank tops and professionally-maintained eye-brows) was a big change for me to handle. I was wondering why those women had to dress that way. They probably dress to attact attention, to be accepted (?) or just to show others that they know what the latest on fashion. I’m sure they spent a fortune (money and time) to look that way.

I miss the women in abayas.

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A Day at the Burnaby Central Park

Day 3 … after spending the first 2 days adjusting our body clock to the local time, we decided it’s finally time to go out and explore the city.

While Waiting for the Bus

We stayed in Burnaby for a month last year so we already know which bus to take.

A quick tour of the mall. We went back later for some groceries.

We spent our lunch time attending an EB (Eye Ball) activity of P2C (Pinoy to Canada). I’ve been a member of the online forum group for more than a year and it was really nice to finally meet those who were constantly sharing and helping new immigrants like us.
Most of the afternoon was spent sharing and learning immigration related experiences from fellow Filipino immigrants (job-hunting, house-hunting, etc). Without any close relatives in Canada we need all the help we could get. Thanks P2C for the help and for the food. We’re looking forward to the next gathering.

Pinoy to Canada (P2C)

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Start of a New Adventure

Our new adventure in Canada officially started yesterday but we still don’t have the energy to start it with a blast.

I am just starting to feel the jetlag from my Jeddah-Manila flight 2 weeks ago, combined with the almost daily packing of our stuffs we shipped and brought to Canada, and the jetlag from most recent flight from Manila to Vancouver. We shipped 6 boxes, brought with us 8 big luggages and 3 handcarry bags, gave away a CRV-load of stuff and still left 3 big boxes of different items we accumulated over the years.

We flew to Vancouver last August 12 at 5PM but had to leave our house at 9AM in order to ship the 6 boxes. We went straight to the airport right after lunch time so we ended up about an hour early for checking in. Most of my wife’s energy was spent running after our 2nd son who roamed around almost the entire time. I had the easier job of keeping an eye on our older son and our luggages.

The 2-hour flight to Taipei was uneventful which is good. I spent most of the 3-hour stopover in Taipei running around with and after the 2 kids (I found out later in Vancouver that the sole of my shoe, which was not build for running, gave up on me after the marathon in Taipei).

The highlight of my 11-hour flight to Vancouver was me watching Iron Man 2 while the rest of the family was sleeping. The flight went surprisingly well as both kids were asleep most of the time.

After going through immigration, we were asked to go a section where custom officers inspect the bags and sometimes open even the boxes. I still don’t know what their criteria were but we were sparred from having to open our bags and explaining what we’re bringing to Canada.

We reached ‘home’ at 10PM and spent the next 3 hours sorting our stuff trying to find where we put things like food, etc. Except for my trip to Metrotown Mall to buy some groceries, apply for medical insurance and mail application forms, the rest of the 2nd day was spent coping with the jetlag.

And now on the 2nd day, or is this the 3rd, I need to start looking for a house to stay from Sept 1 onwards. The next steps will be finding a school for our first born and of course finding a job.

But for now I need some sleep.

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