Monday, September 6, 2021

How To Teach Kids How To Read Debate and the Dumbing Down Of Mathematics in NSW

The state of education is going down the drain in NSW. The Government keeps creating panels and task forces to tackle the growing issue of Australia falling behind in the PISA rankings with our children's abilities declining every single year in the global rankings. The outcome after spending our precious tax money on paying these so called experts... makes me shake my head in despair. 

Kids struggling with mathematics and poor performance...their solution is to delay teaching them key concepts like multiplication. If kids are struggling with mathematics and times table, don't delay it, bring it forward, intensify the education on the areas of concern. They won't improve by merely delaying the concepts and letting the kids grow older before they are taught. If kids in other countries can learn math concepts at a young age, why can't Australian children be expected to learn the same concepts at the same age? Language isn't the barrier. It is our lack of expectations and educational support that is the barrier. 

Currently the maths curriculum has been under debate between the national curriculum authority and the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute(AMSI). AMSI(an organisation of 30 universities and government agencies) in its submission, objected to changes that delayed the teaching of key maths concept until later years. Examples of delays include delaying clock and time concept from year 1 to year 2, pushing back learning times tables and multiplication from year 3 to year 4, learning to solve linear equations in year 8 instead of year 7, removing quadratic equations from year 10 just because some of the concept has been covered in year 9. The proposed draft curriculum emphasised problem solving and inquiry based learning.

 The other issue was English and reading abilities. The outcome of these so called experts(and NSW Education Department) and their conclusion was that kids were having trouble learning how to read and because we are falling behind in English compared to our overseas counterparts, then we should focus on teaching kids more synthetic phonics and testing them on their ability to read FAKE words just to determine their phonics ability. That this suggestion was taken seriously means our seniors and 'experts' have all gone insane. There are so many REAL words to learn and test children on, and yet they need to go and create FAKE words for kids to read just in order to test their phonics ability?!! This is why I felt that I must write. 

These proponents of synthetic phonics believe students need to learn relationships between letters and sounds, which is fine because phonics is very essential to being able to decode words for reading. However the synthetic phonics proponents created a 20 fake word list(such as 'plood' and 'pove') in order to test children's phonics ability and rule out the words that kids have memorised. If they really wanted to test children whilst also teaching them, there are rarer, less frequently used but REAL English words that could be used for testing instead of using fake words and filling children's head up with irrelevant and fake words.

The whole point of learning how to read is a mix of memorising words by sight (as many words in English fail to follow the phonic sounds) and also applying phonics- this falls under the 'balanced literacy' approach which has historically been the approach taken by educators historically to date. What the proponents of synthetic phonics have failed to tackle is the question of why the historical approach is not as effective anymore. 

It's not the teaching style. It's the modern environment and how children are increasingly reading less books. They are exposed to significantly more screen time just like adults. More digital devices. Instead of kids bringing books to read in restaurants and in cars on the way to destinations, parents give their kids the mobile phone, the iPad or play movies in cars that have screens inbuilt into the car seats already.  Screen time is up significantly for children. YouTubing, Netflixing and playing digital games. It's all so portable now and easier to calm and pacify children with digital devices when they are out and about as opposed to making them read actual books.

In 2018 the NSW Department of Education offered $50 per kindergarten child for schools to buy decodable readers however many schools declined the offer. Now the NSW Department of Education is forcing these decodable readers onto schools by not giving them a choice and will buy these books and force them onto schools instead. The decodable texts were thought of as "clumsy and contrived". It would have been significantly better if schools were just given these funds to use however they wish on educational materials. 

There haven't been any long term studies or results on how effective these decodable readers are but the main beneficiaries for sure are the two publishers who will be receiving approximately $4.3million worth of government money, Little Learners and Decodable Texts Australia. Mem Fox wrote before that school books teaching kids to read were rather nonsensical and boring which is why kids didn't enjoy reading them and didn't seek out those books. I haven't seen these decodable texts but if they're anything like the learn to read PM readers that are already in classrooms, many of the stories have no story behind them, just a bunch of simple words strung together just because they meet simple letter sounds. 

According to Damon Thomas, a senior lecturer in English Education at the University of Tasmania, he believes that if children are not interested in reading then it will impact literacy and ultimately the ability to write. He is quoted, "I don't think you can talk about this without touching on the impact of digital technology, and how easy it is for children these days to do other things with their time than sit down and read a book or write a story. This is not a writing in a silo problem. This is a literacy engagement problem. NAPLAN is a bit of a warning sign, but it has far reaching consequences if we have generations coming through who potentially don't have the skills." His comment refers to NAPLAN comparison results of boys and girls in year 3 and year 9 in relation to their performance against the national minimum standard. Over the years, both sexes have deteriorated below the national minimum standard by the time they reach year 9, the boys(20.6%) even more so than the girls(9%). 

The director of strategy for reading at Multilit, Jennifer Buckingham says that boys read less frequently than girls and quantity and quality of reading correlated with writing quality. Books that children read influenced their writing ideas. She believes that kids having trouble with spelling will choose to use simpler words in their writing and that spelling impacted on accuracy, fluency and was a factor in determining the extent to which students enjoyed writing. 

According to Jenny Atkinson(chief executive of Littlescribe and founder of Co-author program), "The Thematic Review of Writing, commissioned by the NSW Education Standards Authority highlights a lack of teacher knowledge, skill and confidence in the teaching of writing as the key challenge. There are three clear problems: the overuse and misplaced use of technology, a lack of purpose and relevance for students and teachers around support for writing and a lack of skills and resources for teachers. There is an over reliance on technology for teachers to collect data to prove the delivery of what has been taught rather than what has been learnt. Students respond digitally to writing tasks. We have created a copy and paste, auto-correct and regurgitation behaviours rather than students learning how to craft original concepts and draft, edit and rewrite-by hand"

Atkinson also writes that, " is part of the problem. Drawing and writing with a pen taps all parts of the learning brain at once: visual, kinesthetics(the act of doing) and linguistics. This activate more neural pathways as all learning systems are in play. Handwriting layers new knowledge on existing muscle memory, increasing our recall and the ability to glue new concepts together. The overuse of technology has turned off a powerful learning system."

Dr Anabela Malpique from Murdoch University concluded that "handwriting fluency can be used to predict writing quality a year later". 

The quality of the students writing was determined by their ability to recognise and use distinct, appropriate writing styles when required in relation to the various subjects such as science, history, health, technology and music for example. As students learn specialised subjects, the writing used in each subject employs different terminology and words, in English, writing tends to evaluate and analyse texts whereas in other subjects it is more factual or persuasive or informative.  

These so called experts who are influential in what children learn should have higher expectations for children and not dumb down materials or delay teaching key concepts. If children overseas can learn concepts from a young age, why can't Australian children? If delivery of these concepts and teaching style were fine in the last few decades, then what is the reason for the decline? That should be the first port of call when looking for a reason. I have seen children use laptops and iPads more frequently in their 'studies' and learning program and when the parents aren't around for even a few minutes, the kids are watching YouTube and chatting away on messengers and chatting programs. You can't be distracted like that when you have books and a pen in hand with no connection to the internet. I've seen parents just watching and cruising social media while their kids are reading next to them, half distracted by the sounds.

There should be studies done instead on how digital devices have impacted and detracted from children's learning instead of just concluding that it's the teaching material that is the issue and dumbing down the materials. How is Australia going to produce cutting edge designers and inventors of the future if we dumb down materials and lower expectations on what they are to learn?

On conclusion, I am not sponsored by Reading Eggs but I highly recommend that app for teaching kids how to read. I have seen many kids use that app and can read fluently before Kindergarten even starts. Educators should look at that app. It is amazing.


The Sydney Morning Herald, 'Schools on board with phonics check' by Jordan Baker, 1-2/08/2020

The Sydney Morning Herald, 'Boys can't keep up with girls in writing results' by Jordan Baker

The Sydney Morning Herald, 'Beyond grammar, context is king' by Yaegan Doran and Sally Humphrey, 18/9/2020

The Sydney Morning Herald, 'Parents should put down phones, help solve writing crisis' by Jenny Atkinson, 16/09/2019 

The SMH, 'Teachers to ignore phonics test' by Pallavi Singhal, 18/06/2019 

The SMH, 'War over plan to change how maths is taught' by Lisa Visentin and Anna Pyrtz, 9/7/21 

SMH, 'NSW asks for revision of reading and maths' by Lisa Visentin, 20/8/21 

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Writing Again and Creating New Content

Back before COVID. A trip to Japan for snowboarding. Last leg of trip in Tokyo.


Thanks to all readers who are still visiting this blog to read. I thought Google would have ranked this blog poorly due to the lack of new content and that there would be no more traffic but surprisingly, there are still hundreds of thousands of readers even with no new content in the last three to five years. Thanks Google(Alphabet, ticker GOOGL), this is why I love you and why I invest in you. You show a lot of love for content that is genuine and keep bringing it up in your search results which is why this blog still has traffic in the hundreds of thousands. 

I hope you guys are okay and I know life is tough and depressing to some extent due to the coronavirus pandemic, but I believe in our strength and our ability to overcome this pandemic and come out stronger on the other side. It's all a bit frustrating to have no deadlines and see no end to this tragedy but being constantly frustrated isn't good for our health so we all need to try and see the positives given this current state of the world.

I haven't blogged in a long time due to several factors. Life has been really busy and hectic with so many events and functions. With COVID and lock downs, all those events are pretty much all cancelled, so now I find the time and freedom to actually do other things that I haven't had time for such as writing, reading, trying out new food recipes, practicing piano and bingeing on TV shows and movies. It's strange to think that I now have freedom to do what I want when in reality the physical freedom to go anywhere and do anything has been curtailed severely due to restrictions and lock downs. Socialising is great but I'm also such a homebody at heart. I can be completely and overly entertained just being at home and will never run out of things to do while being home. Especially if I have books, computers, devices and an internet connection.

I have also been working on other e-content(unrelated to finance) and was also hoping to register a domain for personal finance blogging instead of using blogger as it will be a lot of work migrating the content out of the blogger infrastructure and having to work on all my back links and tagging. Even though I barely blogged in the past five years, I have so much content and thoughts on finance. 

The investment landscape has changed significantly over these five years. There are so many new companies, new unicorns, new green technologies, new speculative investments and derivatives(cryptocurrencies and the multitude of trading platforms, listed funds trading on the cryptocurrencies and tokens etc). 

Personal finance, finance and economics, investing and property are all still very exciting for me even though I have been immersed in this landscape and this context for over two decades now. I feel that all my investment goals have been achieved and it wasn't overnight. It was a steady process of setting goals, working towards them daily and yearly and then suddenly upon reflection, realising that I had achieved everything that I had always wanted, that the early retirement was now possible and that I could pretty much bum around and spend my life chasing the winter ski seasons or sit on a beach sipping coconut juice for the rest of my life without working and be fine. I can't tell you how exciting that was. The icing on top would be to buy a ski chalet and then I'd be completely aimless haha. 

Luckily I still enjoy working and the topic of finance is still just as fresh and intriguing to me as it was from so long ago. I still remember the feelings I had when my Mum taught me about term deposits and interest rates and returns back when I was 13 years old, when at kickboxing classes, I met a guy working at the Reserve Bank of Australia at 15 years old(thanks Dave) and he told me he was an economist and it inspired me, it introduced me to a whole new world to be passionate and obsess over. I was living in this small world until then and when he taught me about economics and spoke about his work, it broadened my horizon so much that I would count that as a turning point. Like a fish trapped in a fish bowl that has been turned out into the ocean and discovers a huge and exciting new world. It has consumed me for so long, the world of finance and economics is so intricate and endless, there are so many inter dependencies, inter related issues due to globalisation and also the advent of new products and new technologies have also meant that investing has changed significantly every single day and every single year. 

New stock apps have enabled a broader population to engage with the stock markets, new technology have enabled hedge funds and investment banks to beat the ordinary folks with their cutting edge programs able to scan through financial reports within seconds and start executing trades while the ordinary folks are still scratching their heads over the reports and trying to decide what they will do. This field of finance and economics is dynamic and that is why it will never get old and boring.

Anyway, get ready for new content coming!

Monday, March 5, 2018

Opposing the Wallacia Cemetery DA and Catholic Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust

The world in Sydney has gone mad. I haven't written for a long time due to the demands of life however, I felt that I had to put pen to paper, figuratively speaking.

Councils are designed to look after the local area and ensure developments are benefiting the local community. Then the state government changed the planning laws so that they could approve developments which can over ride the wishes of council and the community. 

This is what is happening with the Catholic Cemeteries and Crematoria(CCC), Catholic Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust(CMCT) plans. They bought the Wallacia Golf Club off Panthers and hope to build a cemetery and crematorium right in the MIDDLE, HEART and TOWN CENTRE of Wallacia. 45 hectares(Footnote1) of land right in the heart of the town. That the DA has gotten this far is what confounds me. These are plans to kill the town. The words would be a humourous pun if it wasn't so ludicrous.

Imagine the uproar if CMCT was building a cemetery right in the heart of the Sydney CBD. It's easier to subjugate a smaller town where residents are dispersed and widely spaced out. David and Goliath. It's ironic that it's the Catholic Cemetery too. The irony. 

Come on Sydney, wake up to what is happening. You are reliant on drinking water from Warragamba Dam and you eat prawns, oysters and fish from the Nepean/Hawkesbury River. The site for the proposed cemetery/crematorium is on a flood prone land containing watercourses that flow to creeks and this flows to the Nepean/Hawkesbury River. You swim and enjoy recreational activities on this river. You risk this river being contaminated from cemetery leaches. Don't allow this to happen. There is a saying that applies to this situation, "Don't shit in your own backyard." 

Yes, the golf club is struggling financially. The better option for a struggling golf club would be to build playgrounds for kids, some public facilities, gyms, swimming pool, shops, good quality eateries so that it can pull in customers and revenue. After all, this is how Westfield Shopping centres survive the slaughter from online shopping. And it would be more in line with the typical development and progress that you would EXPECT for a town centre. Now that would be an array of amazing community facilities that local residents can enjoy and be proud of. I wold love to go for a swim or catchup at a local playground. I would love to eat delicious food in the area and have culinary choices to choose from. I would love to be able to meet friends at those sort of facilities and spend my money. 

Also, on another point, there is an airport that is due to be built about ten minutes drive away. Economic benefits will flow to Wallacia in many forms in future. It's valuable land that will be close to the new airport and the new industry in the surrounding regions as jobs and businesses relocate and build themselves in the area. By virtue of Wallacia, Mulgoa and Silverdale being within such proximity to the new proposed airport, there will undoubtedly be increased tourism and patronage of local businesses from the surrounding populated areas and from travellers.

CMCT are deluded if they think that they are the only ones with the best plans and have the interest of the community at stake by developing a cemetery in the town centre. Wallacia and Mulgoa are already tourist destinations with the river nearby, Warragamba Dam, beautiful tree lined roads and the natural bush lands which are catchments for Sydney's drinking water. 

With an airport that is due to be built within the vicinity, this will deliver economic benefits to Wallacia and Mulgoa without even trying. Wallacia and Mulgoa will definitely be enjoying a boost in traffic from tourists and new residents in surrounding areas who are happy to spend money in the local area with day outings, camping near the river on the campground at Wallacia. 

Such benefits could include patronage to shops/retailers, petrol stations, hair salons, eateries, fishing and camping etc. With the increase of economic and business activities at Badgery's Creek which is adjacent to Wallacia and Mulgoa, it would result in more people desiring to live in the area and this would create funds for more schools, improved shops and social facilities. Now these sort of developments would be more aligned to the community and resident's welfare. The increase in tourism and happy people visiting the area would result in more prosperity for locals and better psychological benefits than a cemetery/crematorium.

Mourners and people going to funerals are not going to be enjoying what Wallacia and Mulgoa has to offer. They are sad. They are mourning. They just want to attend the funeral and get out of the area. To go back home. To go cry. I've been to funerals. What happens at funerals is that people mourn and cry. They have no desire to go looking around the suburb or locality of the cemetery/crematorium. Who would want to hang around a cemetery/crematorium? So if the CMCT builds one at Wallacia, who will want to hang around Wallacia?

It's getting ridiculous that we are even forced to consider the idea of CMCT building a huge cemetery in the water catchment regions of Sydney. It's in the catchment region. It's our drinking water! There are residents in the area still drinking tank water and collecting rain water for their personal use. Not by choice but because reticulated water isn't available. 

Erosion occurs because of acid pollutants in the air mixing in with rain. How would CMCT feel about a dose of crematorium air pollutants mixed in with harvested rain water for residents to use? It doesn't even matter how efficiently crematorium filters operate because there will always be unavoidable air pollutants that filters cannot eradicate. How is this proposal even under consideration? And there is no reticulated sewerage to many of the properties in the area. This poses health risks.

The CEO for CCC Peter O'Meara was quoted in the saying, "The style of the landscape will complement the surrounds of the area. It's not like the style of Rookwood, but something that children and families can enjoy too." Do they really think that parents will be taking their kids to enjoy a fun day out at a location where there are bodies being cremated underground, burials and people crying above ground? Hearses and coffins going in and out and people in distraught constantly at the town centre? 

Imagine fielding the questions from children..."What are those cars carrying...?"..."Why are people always crying there?"..."Why are all the people wearing black?"..."Why are the people there so sad all the time?", "What is in that box that people are always carrying?".... So no, families are not going to want to bring their kids to play at the cemetery or whatever sort of community centre that CMCT intends on building to try pacifying the community. It's absurd to think that community members and residents will wish to celebrate special happy events in a centre that is in the cemetery.

There was a quote from a local mother saying, "My kids can't ride their bikes around here, if we want to go for a ride, we have to drive somewhere else." Which parent is going to take their kids for a bike ride or a play date in a cemetery? Or even a community facility in a cemetery? Imagine anyone with kids saying, "Let's have a playdate. The kids can ride their bikes and scooters around at the park at the cemetery/crematorium." There's already beautiful bicycle and walking lanes at the park alongside the Nepean river all the way up to Penrith. 

If Sydney is so in need of cemeteries and graveyards then why are they clearing Rookwood cemetery to build a 16 storey, $200 million dollar unit (the If anything, the cleared cemetery an be re-used for the same purpose it was designed for, instead of constructing homes there. 

The 2) wrote that the Wallacia club was the first in the country to allow women to join as associates and that the club historically opened in 1933. This is history folks. History for women. History for Wallacia, Penrith and Australia. Irreplaceable history. 

Peter O'Meara was interviewed on radio recently on 6th March 2018, and O'Meara sounds confounded that (you can hear it in the tone of his voice), "...strangely enough, the opposition seems to be coming from people who actually aren't members of the golf course..." 

How is it strange that the residents oppose a cemetery/crematorium in their town centre? There's a retirement home directly opposite the site. There's a primary school opposite the site. There's no denying that there will be air and water contaminants and leachates. Or that all the roads in the area and leading to the area are rural single lane roads that have had mortality from car accidents due to dangerous over taking. It's not just the welfare of golf club members at stake. 

We all know that Sydney is in need of more burial spaces. No one is denying that. However, the search for appropriate land must go on. The land that Wallacia Golf Club currently resides on is not the appropriate land. Why are we even debating the idea of this. Premier Gladys BereJiklian, the future of Wallacia is in your hands. Is your government going to support the residents and assist in opposing the CMCT DA or are you going to go against community wishes?

Follow up on what is happening via the Facebook page:

Footnote 1: DA papers lodged by CMCT
Footnote 2:, 'Cemetery headed to Wallacia Golf Course' 

Environmental Rubbish Driven By Modern Behaviour

It's been definitely far too long between my blog post. Happy 2018 and I hope this year brings happiness, love, good health... and good investing outcomes -this is after all a personal finance blog =)

What have you been up to recently? Saved a decent amount yet? Paid off the debts yet? Investing yet? Did you set new years resolution to get healthier, fitter, smarter, richer, promoted and for luxurious holidays? 

After years of paying down the mortgage and not sinking much money into the stock market because it wasn't performing like real estate, about two years ago I finally decided to divert some funds into the U.S stock market. Best decision ever.

The Aussie share market has been so painful to watch as it dithers and dallies. Unfortunately because it's only around 2% of the global stock market, it's a follower, not a trend maker nor a leader. So two years ago, I started diverting funds into Apple (aapl) and Google Alphabet (googl) and it has delivered phenomenally. 

Real estate in Sydney is rather static and if anything, on a slight downward inclination in some areas. If you can afford to buy, it's always good to buy and don't bother with speculating because the big money can move very fast. When the market goes on another upswing, the big and smart money moves fast and it's harder for the lesser off to compete due to fear and indecision. 

With that in mind, I really want to do some land banking while fear of a property slump is in the Sydney air. There are areas in Sydney destined for greater changes with infrastructure and development. Much as I love green environments, I have to look at the stark reality that population growth brings with it - increased rubbish, construction and loss of green fields due to urbanisation and new housing lots.

Anyway, after being indecisive for so long about buying land, my friend has pointed out a few stocks that took his fancy and thought I may be interested in for the moment: Netflix and Match.

I was reading's article on Match when I thought that modern behaviour and spending is getting ridiculous. Almost every modern change with technology and delivery is killing our environment. From the article, 'Match Group: Time to Sell' :
"Shortly after Tinder Gold launched, we put out a bullish note on MTCH. The thesis was pretty simple. Tinder is a natural component of the currently in-favor at-home economy. Consumers don't go to movies as much anymore. They watch Netflix (NFLX). Consumers don't eat out as much anymore. They order food through GrubHub (GRUB). Consumers don't shop in-store as much anymore. They go to (AMZN)."
The growth of ordering take away food is growing insanely but do people ever think about how bad take away food is for this world? All the packaging and disposables that is single use, and then forever to spend its life in landfill. In Sydney, Uber Eats and Deliveroo is growing its market share so quickly, but along with that growth is the growth in disposable rubbish. 

Amazon is also growing quickly along with online shopping. Again, online shopping and having parcels delivered is so environmentally unfriendly. The purchases get wrapped up with plastic, foam and bubble wraps, then goes into a box that is taped to death, and then gets transported. A few people I know will order two sizes or colours and then using the free refund policy, send the one they don't want back by another box. Again, generating twice the rubbish. 

The more traditional method of eating in at a restaurant would mean using stainless steal and ceramic cutlery so no disposable rubbish. The act of visiting a store to buy goods would mean a plastic bag and occasionally some extra packaging, but this is nothing compared to online shopping and the rubbish that accompanies it. 

The green trend is failing. People talk about how to be more environmentally friendly but then I see mandarins and oranges peeled and repackaged into plastic containers for the time poor. I see people shopping for groceries with their re-usable bags but then in their trolleys, countless carrier bags from clothing stores that will go into the bin once they get home. Why can't people use re-usable bags too when they go shoe or clothes shopping? Is it a cool thing to look like a shopper? If you have ever shopped in Bread Top, they put every single bun into its own little bag, and then all the little bags go into a big bag.

Modern behaviour is rather selfish. It doesn't consider the world that we leave to the next generation and the generations following our generation.

If I were to invest ethically based on companies with greener foot prints or more sustainable foot prints, I'd miss out on these companies that are pretty much disrupting the older businesses and devouring market share at a ridiculous pace. I'm at a point where I don't know what to do. Pursue the growth companies which are environmentally unsustainable or miss out on the growth companies that modern behaviour is driving?

What to do? What to do?

Monday, January 16, 2017

How To Write A Public Submission Responding to Development Applications

A development application(commonly referred to as DA) is a formal application to council or the Department of Planning and Environment, by a person/owner/builder wishing to build or alter a building and or land and its usage. A submission in general is a method of submitting your response to a proposal.

There may come a point in your life when you feel worked up about a development application that will impact how you live your life that you want to and should write a submission so that your views are formally considered. You can make a submission alone or as a joint submission with others who share your views.

If your submission is lengthy, utilise a table of content or headings and paragraphs or bullet points. 

Here are some ideas that you can cover when you are composing your submission in response to the DA. By the way, council and the Department of Planning and Environment aren't really interested at all on how the DA will positively or negatively affect your property prices. They are more interested in issues that you can cover below:

* Traffic and car parking impacts, call for a road safety audit if the proposed development is near an intersection or roundabout
* Inappropriate height of proposed development possibly setting precedence, the height could be visually bulky and out of context with neighbouring development, it could dominate the skyline
* Adverse increase in density affecting quality of life
* Unjustified reductions in community centre sizes or open public spaces
* Adverse impact on social infrastructures/services such as park, public transport, bus facilities and local roads
* Lack of open spaces/green spaces which are beneficial to people's long term mental health and happiness
* Noise and nuisance during construction
* Adverse environmental impacts on such things as trees, landscape, ground water, contamination
* Overshadowing and overlooking
* Inadequate public transport
* Obscuring private views
* Increase in crime
* Failing to accord with Council's strategy for the area
* Non compliance with Council's Development Control Plan (DCP) for the area/suburb
* Local schools are at capacity or over capacity and overcrowded being unable to cope with increased density and population
* Refer to data, any legislation or laws that are applicable, refer to any relevant policies

Monday, October 17, 2016

Helen Mirren on Financial Independence

Helen Mirren, yes *the* Hollywood actress Helen Mirren, actually was quoted giving financial advice. She learnt how to manage money from her parents: 

"I think, really, the most important thing to me is financial independence. Don't spend your money on handbags, put it into a savings account. I know it's sensible. But if you want a new handbag, go to H&M, don't go online to Net-a-Porter. Don't feel you have to have a Prada handbag. Prada will hate me for saying this, but you know what I mean. When you're young, you can't afford it. If, later on, you can afford it, then great. But just try and get as far as you possibly can to be financially independent. And never imagine that it's all going to be all right because in the end you'll find a man and he'll pay for everything... What I think they(sic: her parents) would have been most proud of is my financial independence. I think the fact that I've earned my own living my whole life. I've bought my own house - it's my house, it's nobody else's house -and I've earned enough money to help my family if they need it. Also the fact that my sister and I are still extremely close. We see each other a lot and we're each other's best friends, I would say, and I think they would be immensely proud of that relationship, which they created."

Monday, September 19, 2016

Are You A Credit Risk? How You Can Check Your Credit Score Now

It's been a few years since I checked my credit score. Have you checked yours recently? If you want to borrow money, it's a good idea to go take a look at your credit score first. You don't want to keep applying for loans or accounts and get a lot of rejections as that could result in further deterioration of your credit score.

You can get a free online credit report check instantly from or by mail from

Why is your credit score so important? It can influence your application for utility or new loans by being declined, being approved but as high risk and thus higher interest rate, or as a good risk and offered cheaper loan rates. It roughly tells creditors how 'financially responsible' you are. 

Nicole Pedersen-McKinnon had a reader write in to ask about how she could fix her "below average" credit score of 230 (out of 1200). She advised that if you have a poor credit score, contact those that you owe money to, pay them back in full and request that they update your file as "fully paid". The details will unfortunately be on your file for 5 years from the date that you incurred the debt. So the faster you act, the better.

Out of curiosity, I checked mine and what a relief it was that it was nothing funky (I'll settle for ordinary and that's what I got)

And what does it mean? 

So my credit score is 927 out of 1200. On the upper tier so that is a relief, but nothing special. A range of factors affect your rating. I wonder what it takes to achieve a credit score of 1200? Having absolutely no mortgage or personal loans? No credit cards? Doing nothing financially risky? 

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

When It Rains, It Pours: Weather and Hard Disk Drive Failing

You know those days, when bills upon bills just rain down, and then literally for us, when it rained, it poured.

Those end of financial year enticements have been luring us for years and now, the sum of all those parts have really come home to roost into a huge consolidated sum once those bills are all paid.

Sydney had a massive, drenching rain last weekend which resulted in three deaths and homes flooded, with some coastal houses lost to the ocean. For us, it meant a leaking roof/ceiling and a few more thousand dollars worth of impending repairs. The joys of home ownership.

After about four years of use, my Macbook started playing up and it turns out the hard disk drive was failing and lucky I had backed up everything in time before it died. Now it's a slow process of re-installing a few applications, recovering bookmarks etc. Fortunately, all files are safe and sound.

This is probably one of the most adhoc post I've ever written, so apologies for that. It shows the state of my mind, which is currently all over the place. I have my fingers in way too many pies presently.  I'm hoping that over the next two years, it will all be sorted and falling into a routine. 

It's been an incredible ride these last handful of years. 

I was on TV(briefly haha) and looks like I may be published in an industry magazine. An offer of more TV appearances but I'm not sure I want to pursue that path. That opportunity arose many years ago which I declined as well. Life is really strange. These are such random opportunities which just fell into the lap. Some try so hard and actively to pursue TV fame and opportunities but here I am, consistently declining the offers.

Financially (seeing as this is a personal finance blog!!), it's also been incredible. We reached a huge milestone a few years ago, so these last few years simply amplified that.

I will be back writing about being on the hunt for acreage and land banking versus buying a blue chip property in an established suburb. Our friends are also doing exciting things with their properties, some are demolishing and rebuilding, some are looking at $4 million houses to buy. Some have just got a foot hold into property while some are renting. It's amazing how we all pretty much started out at similar junctions in our life. 

From being friends at University, the choices that we individually made over the years is now starkly apparent and the differences between all of us diverges more dramatically every single year. Some are holding stellar careers and lifestyles. Some are still struggling. Some are living the golden life, while some are just surviving day to day. What differentiates the stellar achievers versus more ordinary achievements? I would hazard a guess and say that the stellar achievers have planned a lot more in their life for the long term horizon as opposed to short to medium term planning only. And they're type A personalities. Really great organisational skills to boot. 

So what do you want from your life? What are you doing to achieve those plans? Are you all talk and no action? Or are you talk plus action? Are you going to look back in ten years time and wish you had done something? 

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The Power of Saying Yes and No

Have any of you heard about the power of saying yes or no? It's suppose to be a life changing concept to apply. Saying yes or no to people. Its power includes opening up new doors, unlimited opportunities and new experiences.

Some say that saying yes is very powerful, while some argue that saying no is more powerful. Unfortunately life doesn't come with a manual to teach you when you should say no and when you should say yes. And knowing the difference of when to apply which, is what changes your life positively.

I think the best way to approach this is what I read from James Altucher. He wrote:
"I started saying “No” to people who weren’t right for me. I started saying “No” to everything I didn’t want to do.I started saying “No” to mindless meetings, mindless events, mindless people who were bad for me, mindless food or alcohol, mindless anger and regret. Mindless TV and news.I started saying “No” to colonoscopies and other things related to painful medical experiments. I listed all the things I could say “No” to and I still do.When you have a tiny tiny piece of shit in the soup it doesn’t matter how much more water you pour in and how many more spices you put on top. There’s shit in the soup.I had been saying YES to the wrong things for 20 years.Within six months my life was completely different. I met Claudia. I moved out of hotels. I was working on ideas that actually made money. And I needed fewer and fewer things to make me happy. That’s the Power of No. That’s true minimalism."
I've been thinking about the concept lately because recently I have had difficulty finding the strength to say "no" to people. I've been saying yes, yes and more yes. Instead, I am bending over backwards trying to help people from all walks of life. It feels draining. Instead of being uplifting and generating the happiness buzz, it feels draining. 
Questions like, "Can you help me get a job? Can you ask so and so if they have work? Can you call so and so for me? Can I borrow blah? Do you know how to do this or that? Can you help me do blah? Can you etc etc etc." These are people who work for people I know, or people who I come into contact with weekly, but aren't immediate colleagues or friends. Just friendly people that I come into contact with. I could help them, that's a certainty (and I have) but I find that more and more people are leaning for help and it's starting to burn up serious time.
So, it's time to work up the courage to say no. To admit that I am time poor and I'm sorry but I can't help. Is that selfish? I don't know. Is it selfish to try to protect ones free time? I don't know. What Altucher wrote is what I was able to practice for many years and it made me happy to be able to do that. I said no to crap TV, no to watching miserable news. No to really bad food. No to those who simply wanted to use me emotionally or materially. Somehow, over the recent years, I simply stopped saying no and just started saying yes again to everyone. And saying yes to everything is NOT powerful. 
What is powerful, is the ability to say no to the crap, bad things or people that drain you and to say yes to the opportunities or the people who lift you and the people that make you happy. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Appillionaires Secrets from Developers Who Struck It Rich on the App Store by Chris Stevens

Appillionaires by Chris Stevens 
(developer of Alice for the iPad and Alice in New York)

This book illustrates the story of some of the app world's successful developers and how they arrived at their point of global app fame. The road is long and not easy even though the media makes it look like instant fame hit.

Stevens wrote that most indie developers struggle to get attention for their apps due to lack of marketing clout and their reliance on top placement in the App Store. For indie developers, being featured by Apple or advertised in an iTunes banner ad is the largest road to being noticed. After finding fame with a successful app, app developers find themselves constantly being pitched app ideas. Stevens write that few Appillionaires were overnight successes. The book has chapters based on specific apps such as Doodle Jump, StickWars, Harbor Master, Angry Birds and Pocket God. I'll go through them more thoroughly on the next blog post. 

Mills from Angry Birds says, "People say it was an overnight success. Well, yes, it was an overnight success after 52 other failed attempts."

Max Slade from Johnny Two Shoes recalls that, "We actually unplugged our phone because we were getting so many calls from VCs saying, "We want to give you some money; let's give you some money. Here, have some money. Money. Money!"

To be in the app game, it cost $99 to join up as an Apple developer. The expense is your time and or paying people for work. The official Software Development Kit (SDK) is a free download from apple that allows anyone to try programming for the iPhone. 

"Free apps accounted for 65-70 percent of the software installed on iPhones in 2009, which meant than an impressive proportion were paid apps, with 99 cents already established as the most popular price. By the end of 2009, Apple had supplied over 2 billion apps to iPhone and iPod Touch users in 77 different countries, netting developers over $900 million. Customers were downloading an average of 11 apps each per month and a mind-boggling 8,500 new apps were being submitted to Apple by programmers every week."

"The masses wanted cheap, straightforward games they could dip in and out of during a bored moment on the train. They didn't necessarily want a virtual film experience with layered plots and an advanced control system; they just wanted the next Tetris."

Stevens write that, "Almost as soon as Alice hit the number one spot I was fielding calls from The New York Times, giving interviews to Japanese television stations, and advising major print publishers on how to make digital books. Alice was literally programmed in a bedroom- a phenomena that the App Store had made possible...What few people saw were the months of near insanity that led up to the success of Alice. The confusion and self-doubt as app after app that we attempted to sell on the App Store failed to turn a profit. Alice was the culmination of almost a year of repeated failures."

"The store has become a magnet for the overly optimistic with money to spend on getting their app built. I've sat in meeting after meeting with recent university graduates who have scraped together thousands of pounds from friends and family with the intention of making a fortune on the App Store. Almost without fail, their ideas have been vague, or based on gut instinct, rather than the commercial realities of the world's most competitive software market."

Peter Pashley was quoted in the book saying, "It was the first time that a distribution channel existed for a single creative to distribute their work to tens of millions of people. If you're a musician that never really happens-unless you have a label. If you're an author that rarely happens- unless you have a publisher. People are actively looking for apps all the time and, if you make something good, it has the potential to spread like wildfire. Books and CDs never had that."

What can we take away from Steven's book? He quoted Castelnuovo (creator of Pocket God) as saying, "I think that success in the entertainment industry has a lot to do with luck: the reception of the audience. You can't really quantify or second guess that easily. It's like a lottery ticket. The strategy was to keep it small, stay in the game for a long time, and keep working on projects until something stuck... People see that a lot of people are making money, and that a lot of people have these devices. They think they could come up with an idea. But having an idea is 5 percent of the thing. Implementation counts for a lot." 

Castelnuovo believes that the buying public enjoyed Pocket God's app updates and new game mechanics. "The best strategy is keep your costs down, and support your app like crazy. Be laser-focused in getting it out there. You can't just do something, watch and see if it takes off. You have to put everything behind it. Get a sense if the audience is receptive to your idea. If they're not, then cut your losses and work on a new game. But if there is enthusiasm, get behind it."

John Hartzog, creator of the game StickWars advice was, "I hit a momentum and realised that, if I kept updating the app every three weeks, I could accelerate the rise... Work independently. That's what I did at the start. Focus on making a fantastic game and worry about money later. First, make a great product."

A simple app is estimated to cost between $15,000 to $50,000 to produce (not inclusive of marketing). Stevens created some simple interactive book apps which cost $60,000. 

"Bedroom programmers can eliminate much of these costs by doing all the coding and design work themselves- the first Alice app, for example, cost nothing except time. Increasingly, young entrepreneurs with no programming experience are now choosing to employ outside help to build their iPhone app ideas, making the projects extremely expensive. The unfortunate truth of the market is that most of these entrepreneurs will never recoup their investments. Ever. The most cynical estimate is that the median app makes $682 per year for its developer on the App Store."

It's an easy book to read. Interesting in the way that it delved into the history of the programmers and how their interest in game design originated from a young age and Apple's App Store was the perfect vehicle for indie and small developers to release and distribute their work to the global marketplace.