Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Property Renovation and Weddings

When the weekends ain't enough, the weeknights are used. I was out on Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Property Is Not Really A Passive Investment

Rental investment property and rental income in reality is a semi-passive form of income. Theoretically it is considered passive but you could find yourself painting, gardening and scooping up dog crap like me and that doesn't convey an image of passiveness does it? Or tenants asking you about this or that which has broken and needs repairing.

Last week, my folks wrapped up paperwork on an investment property that they bought. The house requires some cosmetic renovations so on Saturday, my friend(W) and family did some painting. First the undercoat of paint. Holes and dents were puttied over. This weekend should be the final coat of paint. The garden will require some work and redesigning. I've been thinking about the garden. It's currently a mess with overgrown weeds and the worst plant combinations. I would have thought it'd be more logical to plan the garden before landscaping and planting anything. But alas, they planted everything in an adhoc manner. This is how it currently looks:

I plan to do some weeding, fix up the garden bed and clearly separate the garden from the lawn. Painting and gardening is quite fun and enjoyable. I love transformations. It's not the first time I've painted so I'm slowly improving without dripping too much all over the place and applying a more consistent layer. The paint rollers are like my new best friends! The previous owners were rather unhygienic. There must've been almost one kilo(two pounds) of dog crap on the lawn.

Didn't they realise that all the dust, dog crap and fur smothering the place detracted from getting the best sale price? If that was my house, I'd have given it a good scrub, cleaned up the lawn and wiped up every dusty surfaces to maximise the sale price and entice would-be buyers to fight for the property.

A clean, well maintained property with beautiful interiors and landscaped lawns will always trump something dirty and untidy. It will lure a more affluent class of tenants too. There's a lot of work to do on the place before it can be rented out so hopefully I'll remember to document before and after shots of the renovation and redesign.

The Wedding

Two friends got married on Sunday at St Thomas' Anglican Church at North Sydney. The church was originally built in 1846 but since then replaced by a larger design which opened in 1884. It's a grand, historic church with huge organs and a rich, red carpet leading up to the altar.

The reception was held at WatersEdge situated on Pier one. The view is breathtaking with unobstructed views towards Luna Park, Walsh Bay, the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. The alternate entrees and mains were average and nothing special. Fortuately for WatersEdge, they have a beautiful location and specialise in functions rather than in the business of restauranting.

Some scenic shots around the venue:
On the left: These aren't books. They are super cute boxes for inserting wedding cards and 'hong bao' (red moneybags) which are traditional in a lot of Asian weddings. Money as a gift form has been gaining popularity ever since couples started cohabitating together prior to marriage. By the time they actually marry, their abode is jam packed with household goods and items already, so the traditional gift registry is heading down the path of the dinosaurs.

How much to give? The general guildline absolute minimum is $100 and that's bordering on stingy believe it or not. Due to inflation, wedding gifts of hong baos should be over $100. At least $150 as a starting point per person if you're not struggling financially.

Our table was a corner one with sweeping views of Sydney Harbour and the Harbour Bridge. I should have entered prior to guests entering so that I could get uninterrupted and unmussed up shots of the place.
The wedding cake was cute with the dress decoration on top, custom made to resemble the bride's actual wedding dress.

The Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House looks nondescript in the daytime, but when night falls, they obtain their beautiful glow. It's as if the daylight is harsh on their features while the night light softens their wrinkles:

Hope you've enjoyed these photos and the renovation recaps.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Social media is killing me softly

The Buggles once sang 'Video killed the radio star" in 1979 and I can now write that DVDs killed the video and the DVD was killed by downloaders and YouTube.

I'm slowly dying via social media. There's just so much around. Replying to family and friends now involve me texting/sms, phone calls, emails and facebook. Then there is this poor little ol' blog that's not getting much love from me because I'm so busy trying to live life and reply to all these other forms of communications which is just insane. Who's slowly dying trying to keep up with this inundation of Twitter, Flickr, Facebook, smartphones and multiple email accounts? Technology is flying along which is awesome but then on the other hand, we are always switched on 24/7. Are you wondering why you've subscribed to a blogger who doesn't really blog? Me too.

I can't wait until a great aggregator comes along. Google Wave was supposed to knock us out with its amazingness, but sadly that didn't happen. My friend sent me an invite to the beta Google Wave and it didn't succeed because it was just four of us on Google Wave and then Google decided to pull the plug anyway.

My new resolutions in regards to social media: Reply to all personal text/sms/missed calls more promptly, reply to emails more promptly, keep more up to date with Facebook messages, post more frequently to this blog, keep on top of my computer documents/files and photos, file stuff I wish to keep and delete/dump stuff that isn't relevant, maintain my RSS feeds and delete blogs and websites that I no longer enjoy.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Employee Theft: Management Liability Insurance Cover

At work, I received a booklet and paperwork from the insurance company about half an inch thick, pimping their 'Management Liability Insurance Cover' scheme. First thought that popped into my mind was, 'What IS that? Do we have to insure?'

Basically 'Management Liability Insurance Cover'(MLIC) is insurance for employee crime/theft, occupational health and safety liabilities, employment practice liabilities accruing from business operations and liabilities accruing from the actions of directors and officers.

One of our clients at work had a staff member steal several thousands of dollars from the company. Email records were pulled out from the archives and embarrasingly personal emails that were sandwiched between the corrupt dealings were paraded around the court. The person in question was using her work email account to setup liaisons and steamy dates with her boyfriend and all these were supplied to the court as evidence along with all her other unsavoury emails.

The insurance brochure provided a few case studies but in terms of relevance to this PF blog, here's the financial case study of one of the claims they provided as a lure to convince companies to buy MLIC insurance.
"Employee theft is the most common type of crime claim, specifically theft by a staff member in a position of trust, through the manipulation of accounting systems. Over a period of nine months, an employee of the Insured misappropriated $80,000 of client's money by pocketing cash from sales which was to be banked into the Insured's trust account. The employee had a gambling problem and admitted to stealing the funds. The employee is being prosecuted by the police but is unable to pay the stolen funds back their employer as the funds were gambled away."
I can't even begin to grasp the craziness of that employee for stealing $80,000 to gamble and lose. The list of negatives resulting from that action is astounding:

* Criminal record in police database
* Being unemployable for the rest of their poor miserable life (no work=no money=no life=miserable)
* Gambling habit/problem will probably result in them pawning off the rest of whatever possession they haven't yet already pawned
* All those years of study and work history down the drain because no employer will hire them in that position nor industry ever again
* Being cast out from their professional association or disbarred depending on your industry and qualifications
* Being banned from travelling in countries which frown on criminal convictions

One of my colleague at work says, "If someone is going to steal, they should be smart enough to realise that you need to steal enough to beable to retire for the rest of your life in a foreign country where you can obtain a new identity."

In the Leonardo DiCaprio movie, Catch Me If You Can where he plays Frank Abagnale Jr, the moral of the story is that you can be talented at theft and fraud, thinking that you can get away with it, but in the end - you will be caught.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Spirits: Dreams of white and blue lights

I'm sorry to really stray from the topic of this blog but hopefully someone out there may beable to tell me something, sometime about the existence of spirits and lights.

I may have seen a spirit. It's hard for me to fathom whether it was a dream or it was reality. If you had asked me if I believed in ghosts and spirits, I would have said yes but that I have never personally seen one myself. I think I have finally seen one for myself. 

On Monday, someone I knew passed away early in the morning. I can't mention too much details suffice to say that I have known him for over 8 years now and I knew he had cancer and that death was a possibility but it still was a shock when it happened. He was full of life and as life was given and now taken away by whatever greater entity is out there.

This year is horrible. Earlier in the year, I attended a funeral of someone who was dear to me and those that I love. This Thursday, another funeral. It is a sad, sad year. Is it possible to have a heavy heart? Is it possible to feel sadness that beyond such that even tears does not come sometimes?

On Tuesday, I tossed and turned all night and couldn't help thinking about Monday and our loss. Closer to dawn, but not quite dawn, I may have been awake or asleep - it was hard to tell but when I dream, my dreams are usually set at someplace else in some unknown land. This dream or reality had me lying in bed in the bedroom and that's why it felt real and perhaps why it didn't feel like a dream.

I'm lying in bed (whether it was a dream or reality will never be known) and suddenly I hear footsteps that were light and yet loud enough to be heard approach the bedroom. Instead of a person, it was a large ball of blue and white light that was hazy about half a metre wide and not a perfect sphere. Just a hazy roundish light. The essence of the light had the essence of the person that I had known. I wasn't scared. I eagerly called out his name and the voice came clearly into my mind, "It's ok. I'm alright." I call out his name again and instead of answering me, the light floated towards the window accompanied with the sound of footsteps leaving the room.

Then the light and sound was gone and by then I was wide awake. Unsure whether it was a figment of my imagination or whether it was real. The footsteps were very realistic and never have I ever dreamed myself lying in bed. When I dream, I'm always elsewhere and never simply in the bedroom lying on the bed. Either way, I am reassured by what happened and I feel that he is at peace now.

Do you believe in spirits? Does this sound fantastical? It's hard to believe that something like this happened or that I dreamed it up. The memory is so sharp.

To everyone and anyone who has lost loved ones, my thoughts and prayers are with you. May this year improve and bring happier times. RIP to those that we love and have cared about and may their spirits find happiness wherever they have gone.