Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Eggplant Grilled With Miso Sauce

During cold days... I get some seriously weird cravings happening. Today...I suddenly crave grilled eggplant after seeing ChocolateSuze's eggplant photo. Just recently I wrote about my cabbage love affair which ultimately ended as an accidentally gruelling  one week cabbage diet.

The miso eggplant is from Umi Sushi & Udon in Darling Harbour. But I'm rarely in Darling Harbour on the weekend nowadays so howami gonna get my hands on grilled eggplants that looks like that photo? *sadness*

Just when I thought I'm rather veggo these days, I see a ChocolateSuze deep fried chicken post about a Korean restaurant nearby in Epping. It swiftly brings back memories of my student days and how I went through a deep-fried-chicken-Korean-style stage.

That's what happens when you live within proximity to Korean-ville-Eastwood. You learn to wield Korean BBQ tongs in self defence around the BBQ and get addicted to spicy hot pots and bulgogi.

Back to the fried chicken topic ~ at least Beshico Epping is closer than Darling Harbour. Oh yes Beshico, you will be seeing me around:

There's hope for me yet...in the SMG pantry there is: miso paste, soy, green onions(shallots) and sesame seeds, so the dish can probably be easily recreated at home without having to traverse to Darling Harbour to eat grilled eggplant. Yay!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Sadness And Happiness

I received two touching and poignant emails from one of my closest friend who has relocated to the UK for almost 5 years now. It makes me feel so sad and my heart feels so heavy. She's gutted that she couldn't visit me earlier this year and I'm gutted that she couldn't either due to complications in her life. Either way, one of the happiest and monumental events of our lives so far occured days apart.

We've been friends for such a long time. She's known me since I was young, naive and innocent as school girls wondering what the future held in store for us. She knows all my foibles, my weaknesses and strengths. If it's possible to acutely miss friendship~ it's days like today when I read her emails and wish I could hug her and support her. I miss her and I wish I could be there for her during her difficult and challenging times. But we are oceans apart.

Internet and technology bridges the gaps and the oceans but due to the time differences and daily demands of life, it is hard to keep in touch in a meaningful way that can be treasured. Our correspondences sent to each other are raw, with neither of us holding back or putting on a polite facade. Growing up is hard.

You realise that life doesn't always follow your expectations and dreams. We find love, break other people's hearts and have our own hearts broken, and then the circle is complete~ find love again. The perfect road turns out to be paved with broken stones along the way. Just have to keep going.

We are both happy in our own way and our own lives. There are challenges on both sides of the ocean and I learn to value friendship more every single year. The ones that don't stab you in the back, that don't use you, that don't revel in your misery and instead help to find solutions to your problems, the ones that don't lie to you but instead are honest. Over these years, I've had all of those type of friends. The good ones, the great ones and the bad ones.

I am also thinking of another friend too, in her difficult time right now. If I thought last year was a very tough year for me emotionally, this year has been a very tough year for some of my friends. Things we never thought we'd be vulnerable to when we were younger. Back then, we broke hearts, got our hearts broken and that was traumatic but that is nothing compared to the life events that we now face. No doubt, years into the future if we all live to old age, we'll be looking back and thinking that what we face now is nothing compared to what we face then.

Traffic Statistics for SMG

There are two traffic counters on SMG and I'm not the sharpest web programmer out there (it's far from being an expertise of mine). I'm not sure how I've embedded my Stat Counter widget/codes but it's giving me different traffic stats from Google Analytics.

If you believe Google Analytics, SMG has had 52,437 page views so far.

But if you believe Stat Counter, it's 33,728 views. I'm not sure how I've implemented Stat Counter and what stats I chose to track but it may be tracking just the home page smartmoneyguide.blogspot.com

Anyone who is interested in generating revenue from their blogs knows that traffic statistics(amongst Page Rank and Alexa rank) are one of the important yard sticks that influences whether advertisers come knocking or not. For myself, blogging is simply a way for me to aggregate all the loose bits and pieces that I like to muse over. I never thought that I'd be getting any traffic at all because I really fail at promoting this blog.

This year, I kinda confessed to a handful of friends that I had a blog and they were surprised. After my confession, that led to their own disclosures. It turns out, one blogs about fashion and one blogs about food. As for moi, I blog about anything that takes my fancy.

SMG is not a huge blog or anything. If I wanted to push it more, I guess I should network with the other PF bloggers, leave comments and try to manipulate SEO queries like other websites but I'm not really interested in that - it takes too much time which I haven't got and I'm not sure I can write about personal finance 24/7/365.

There are several bloggers out there spamming websites and blogs with their inane comments in order to get some embedded links pointing back to their sites to drive traffic and manipulate SEO. If that didn't make any sense to you, nevermind.

Perhaps I'm fed up with having to delete random, junk comments that add no value to my blog other than people trying to sell their own site and products. Can't blame them for trying I guess. Anyone who has left comments using the blogspot.com comment interface knows that it takes effort to leave a comment, spammer or genuine commenter.

Readers, if you're a blogger, do you get annoyed by the spammers and inane commenters trying to just manipulate SEO? Do you publish their comments or delete them like I do?

And if you're a would-be-could-be-potential spammer, just know that if you're trying to promote something that isn't consistent with this blog, it simply won't be published so don't waste your time and my time. That's all folks. x

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Victor Dominello: Liberal MP For Ryde

Victor Dominello: Liberal MP for Ryde

On Monday night, I attended a community forum hosted by The Northern District Times for Victor Dominello.

The Hon. Victor Dominello is M.P for City of Ryde. Every single day, I drive through the congested streets of Ryde and past the huge poster of his smiling mug which you can see on the left. More often than not, I'm stuck at the Ryde Road and Victoria Road intersection directly where his office is located.

If you would like to read more about Victor Dominello, his working history as a solicitor/lawyer/partner and professed advocacy for the vulnerable members of society, you can read his inaugural speech here, here and some interesting history about his Italian life, aversion to pork meat and market gardening(farming) heritage here.

When he posted a brochure inviting people to join the 'Ask Victor Forum', I thought it would be a good opportunity to listen to what the community concerns were, understand a bit more about politics, the decision makers for local areas and while I was doing that, vent my grievances about traffic congestion, rubbish dumpers and graffiti.

I phoned Dominello's office and his staff Michael, kindly and politely jotted down my idea on how to alleviate traffic in the area. They'll even compose a letter to the Transport Minister on my behalf.
Before I go on any further, I'd like to clarify that I am neither pro Liberal nor pro Labor. My family and and I are mainly swinging voters depending on which party has the most reasonable policy. So far, the Liberal State Government appears to be doing alright. (Just get rid of Tony Abbott and have Malcolm Turnbull in place and there would be a stampede to vote Liberal at the next Federal elections).

I couldn't wait for Liberals to get into office for NSW so that Barry O'Farrell could repeal Part 3A laws as he promised in his election campaigns. (Part 3A of the EP And A. Act caused havoc across several communities such as Greendale, Silverdale, Luddenham and Ryde to name a few and I'm totally opposed to it).

Some Of The Issues Raised At The 'Ask Victor Forum'

The Northern District Times hosted the forum. It's good to have someone to anchor the forum because the forum was swamped by a rather vocal group up front concerned about the Ryde Civic Centre sell off by council. Justifiably so however it is a bit frustrating that they took up so much air time when it really is a council issue and they should be lobbying the Ryde councillors instead.

It's a shame that not all the questions were covered. One lady I spoke to attended because she wanted to know about the proposed North West Rail Link and whether associated infrastructures such as car parking facilities would be catered for. There's plenty of contradictions in our society. One gentleman was opposed to illegal boarding houses for Macquarie University students and the folks seated near him were opposed to more high density apartments being developed in the area. It's a zero-sum-game. It will be near impossible to cut back on illegal boarding house demands without having more housing development.

And if rental affordability were an issue, then illegal boarding houses would be cheaper than the ones that are legally registered. To cut illegal boarding houses and drop rental prices is to increase supply- thus build more rental property. A zero-sum-game indeed.

Issues covered:

* Ryde Civic Centre proposed rezoning and apartment development with potential to build 500 units and only 600 car parking spaces. What a disaster that would be. Throw more traffic onto an absolutely congested road. If anything, the high rises need to be built on top of Macquarie Shopping Centre, Macquarie Park and North Ryde station. High density office and apartments should be located at, on top and near the stations. Since the skyline in Rhodes has been ruined by the two new high rise atrocities, they may as well keep it consistent and keep building until Rhodes can be renamed Hong Kong Rhodes.

* Ivanhoe Social Housing Estate development taskforce - The forum threw out a rough statistics that the Salvation Army owns 10% of the Ivanhoe Social Housing Estate? Impoverished and poor members of our society will always be easy targets. An ex-bf of mine always disliked the social housing estates claiming that they were dangerous and resulted in lower socio-economic households not really attempting to improve their lot. I think he bought a townhouse in the area so he'll proably be pleased with the taskforce.

* Stance on Euthanasia - Dominello is against euthanasia, citing that there needs to be a lot of controls in place before even venturing near the topic. He refrained from saying it, but I'll put it out there- the politicians and a possibly a large group in our society may be worried that legalising euthanasia will result in some eager younger folks popping off their oldies in order to obtain their inheritance. Sounds sickening doesn't it? Money can be at the root of all evil, divorces and arguments so better being safe than sorry is probably the motive behind not legalising euthanasia.

* School Garden Projects and Solar Rebate Scheme

* National Disability Insurance Scheme (Peter Wilkins on behalf of Achieve Australia)

* Devolution Fiscal Budget Cuts

* Illegal Boarding Houses - Drafting of legislation for boarding houses to be registered

There were approximately 60 to 70 older generational attendees and I think that the younger crowds were neglecting a huge opportunity to create a direction and vision for their area.

If Liverpool Council and Penrith City Council held forum consultation sessions with local MPs similar to Ryde's electorate, then they would be more aware of what the community concerns are instead of leaving the rural community stuck with DAs from wealthy doctors and developers wanting to get wealthier by building cemeteries and crematoriums regardless of how many rural residents they have to trample on.

Dominello's staff member Michael, queried me for some feedback about the forum session. I think the forum is a great idea for the community to voice their grievances and ideas. If Ryde Council councillors attended too then it would be perfect. That way, anything that is of council concern could be addressed directly by the council and anything that is Dominello's concern can be addressed towards Victor. That would enable the forum to cover more topics instead of Dominello having to insistently state that he's not a decision maker on behalf of council. Oh, and starting promptly on time would also assist in managing more questions.

As for Dominello as Ryde's Liberal MP, he's rather affable, friendly and articulate, like all politicians. His office likes to send out a lot of letters and publications so it's impossible to forget that he's the local MP. He's giving the impression that he cares about the area a lot due to family history but that's what all politicians do. The try to evoke the warm fuzzy feelings. Unfortunately I didn't get a chance to exchange more than a greeting with him since the crowd was clamouring all around him. All in all, it was an interesting forum.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Balcony Gardens In Cabramatta

Cabramatta. Chinatown. Vietnamesetown. Khmertown?

Cabramatta has certainly come a very long way from its murky, drug addict past. Previously, visitors at night would see drug addicts passed out on the sidewalks and police patrolling in groups. Now it's just a dining destination and has cleaned up rather well. The real estate prices reflect the change in its demography.

I love Cabra. If it wasn't such a mad house to get parking, I'd visit more frequently. Last time we visited, I saw a few interesting balcony gardens. Strata and by-laws are obviously ignored or nonexistent judging by the milk crates and buckets full of plants oozing onto the common garden area. :

Deteriorating styrofoam boxes mounted onto milk crates aren't exactly a good look.

How about an insane, out of control bouganvillea plant to screen out annoying neighbours and passer-bys on the main road? There really is a balcony hidden behind that illustrious looking bougainvillia! To combat the out-of-control bougainvillia, the second floor neighbours mounted their own attack, huge TV antennas ... :

Empty Neverfail water bottles and a rug thrown onto the balcony:

Oggling balcony gardens aside, this is why I love going to Cabra. The piles of fresh green mangoes and the delicious sugar cane juice:

It's been a while now since I've visited Cabra... Cabra and it's sugar cane juice is calling...

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Daily Work Commute: Sydney Traffic Congestion

That's what the drive to work is like. Crawling painfully along.
And this is what the drive home is commonly like, more painful commute:

It doesn't matter which day it is. There's a traffic jam every single day. The traffic congestion isn't just restricted to business days. It's Monday to Sunday, every single week.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Textures And Shapes

Within one carpark, I encountered all four wall materials. Slate, stone, bricks and concrete. The builder and the architects could have used plain, boring concrete for all walls and it would be easier if they did, but I'm glad they didn't. Sometimes beauty and design should never be sacrificed simply due to budgets.

Imagine how boring the world would be if everything was homogenised and everyone took the cheapest route.

Monday, May 14, 2012

GAME Australia's Voluntary Administration And Refunds On Diablo III

"Due to the appointment of an administrator to our business this morning, it is with regret that I inform you all that our stores will not be receiving any stock of diablo 3 (sic). Because of this, we regrettably will be unable to fulfill any pre-orders. Also, we will be unable to refund any deposits paid towards a pre-order of diablo 3. If you need any more info, please email customerrelations@game.com.au."
 Just read that GAME Australia entered into Voluntary Administration with 500 jobs on the line. Damn that's tough. When we shopped in Hong Kong, the same games were two third the price of games sold in Australia so it's no surprise that shoppers are buying online from overseas suppliers.

I thought I'd mention a brief note on the poor folks who have pre-ordered and paid for Diablo III who will not be receiving their game. If anyone finds themselves in a situation where the retailer has gone broke and is unable to provide goods or services that have been paid for, if they paid with a credit card- they can be potentially refunded.

Under the merchant banking system- if goods or services haven't been provided then you can ask for a refund 'chargeback'. That's where the onus is on GAME Australia to prove that they have provided the goods or services in order to retain the money and prevent a chargeback. Obviously GAME Australia won't beable to prove that you got your Diablo III game, so your bank will refund the money to your credit card.

If you paid for goods or services with cash or direct debit and you don't receive the goods or services, unfortunately refunds depends on the financial viability of the company and whether they wish to refund you or not. You're on your own if you paid via cash or direct debit and have no choice but to wait in line with the other unsecured creditors. Summed up, it means you're stuffed if you're ever waiting in the queue with unsecured creditors.

If you paid with a credit card then you can bypass the company and go straight to your bank ala credit card provider. That's the second largest benefit from using credit cards to pay for things. The best reason for using a credit card (if you don't have a shopaholic bent) is that you can use the bank's money for up to 55 days interest free before you have to pay your credit card bill.

And you should always pay your credit card bill in full at the end of each billing month or else you lose the 55 days interest free period and they charge you their whopping interest rates of up to 25% daily until you pay the bill in its entirety.

Out And About: Mushrooms, Rubbish and Sunset

Even though there was a distinct chill in the air, the day was sunny and beautiful. I was lured outside and decided to clean up the waterways. Along the way, I encountered mushrooms proliferating on the lawn in wild abandon. Mushrooms in groups of twos, in trios and in gangsta groups. If only they were edible...

And the mushroom photos are piling up...

Rubbish, rubbish and more rubbish. I cleaned up 7 bags of rubbish from the waterways. The constant bending up and down is really good for stretching muscles oddly enough:

Later in the day (after cooking and baking), I went out and cleaned up another section of the river, the sun was setting and the sky was was stunningly gorgeous:

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mothers Day: Lemon Madeleines, Caramel Cookies, Creme Caramel & Jap Chae

Today, I want to dedicate this post to my mum and all the mothers out there who have tirelessly worked to raise their kids and try to give them everything they possibly can- especially unconditional love.

Because it's Mothers Day, I spent a lot of time in the kitchen cooking  Korean vegetarian Jap Chae recipe from Alice at Savoury Sweet Life (image above), Korean bulgogi from Katherine Joy at Food.com and from the Women's Weekly Biscuits book, lemon madeleines and chocolate caramel cookies. Also tried another creme caramel recipe as well but unfortunately that didn't go to plan sigh...I accidentally bought fat free skim milk and I think that affected the richness of the creme caramel.

I've cooked the Korean vegetarian Jap Chae recipe a few times because my family likes the noodles. The bulgogi, I've tried a few recipes trying to find an authentic one.

The lemon madeleines are really yummy although they are best out of the oven and doesn't keep very well during cold days:

Lemon Madeleines

2 eggs
2 tbsp caster sugar sifted
2 tbsp icing sugar sifted
1/4 C self raising flour
1/4 C plain flour
75g melted unsalted butter
1 tbsp water

1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees celsius or 180 degrees fan forced. Grease two 12-hole madeleine pans if you like them petite and only 1 tray if you'd like them large and supersized
2. Beat egg and sifted sugars together until thick and creamy
3. Triple sift flours and then sift over egg mixture and fold to combine
4. Pour combined butter and water down the side of the bowl and fold mixture together
4. Drop mixture into madeleine pans and bake approx 10 mins. Tap hot pan on bench to release madeleines and turn onto cooling racks. Serve dusted with icing sugar

Variation for lemon or orange madeleines: Add zest from either 2 lemons or 2 oranges into eggs before beating. Omit the water and replace with 1 tbsp of lemon or orange juice.

Chocolate Caramel Cookies

125g softened butter
1/2 C caster sugar (110g)
1 egg
1 C plain flour (150g)
2 tbsp cocoa powder
2 x 60g Chokito bars, chopped finely

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees or 160 degrees fan-forced. Line baking trays with baking paper
2. Beat butter, sugar and eggs until smooth. Do not overbeat
3. Stir in sifted flour and cocoa, then chopped chocolate bar
4. Drop tablespoons of mixture about 5cm apart onto trays and bake for 15 minutes

The madeleines are yummy. Very quick and easy to make with no need to soften any butter beforehand unlike other baking recipes. The cookies are just your average caramel cookies and very chocolatey- the original recipe recommends cooling on the trays but I think that dries them out just a bit as they continue cooking until the tray is cool.

Happy Mothers Day to my mums and all mothers out there!


Saturday, May 12, 2012

Glasshouse Tomatoes, Long Melons & Zucchini Plants


Have any of you visited a vegetable or fruit farm before?

Life gets so busy that it gets harder and harder to visit my family on a regular weekly basis. I still try. My last visit found me checking out our neighbours' glasshouse tomatoes. They're so glorious looking and then I think, bugger...these are our competitors!

Our family have grown some beautiful looking long melons so all is not lost...

A Chinese long melon up close and personal, nice and furry:

And don't they look simply beautiful in their boxes, ready to be shipped to the wholesale markets:

The zucchinis in their prime and past their time. There are two varieties that we often grow. The white zucchinis and black zucchinis (of which the black zucchinis are at the end of their lifespan):

And finally, went for an exercise/walk to the back of the farm and the bushes:

The farm is not always so picturesque, especially when there is poor drainage and the crops are still young. This one is our neighbours' snow peas plants. Water has pooled up where the tractor treads have sunk heavily into the soil during rainy days:

Friday, May 11, 2012

United Kingdom Beware of Shipping Container Scams

Cheap shipping containers for sale in London and the United Kingdom on Ebay and on this website!!

Sorry, I'm not selling anything. I'm just hoping to catch all the Google traffic from would-be- 'cheap shipping container buyers' and warn them that there appears to be a huge shipping container scam happening in the United Kingdom right now as I write.

There's been a truckload of visitors from the UK (daily!!)coming to read about my old post on shipping container scams: http://smartmoneyguide.blogspot.com.au/2010/08/httpaatransnet-is-scam-so-beware.html

Usually people read up on particular scams AFTER they've been scammed so I'm hoping that this post can help prevent people from being scammed. This blog gives me a voice and I want this to be something to help people.

United Kingdom residents trying to buy cheap shipping containers - beware! There must be con men or con women doing the rounds over there because the past two weeks have seen a procession of traffic from folks looking up shipping container scams.

Report it to your local police. A similar con artist victimised one of my friends for $2.5k and I'm determined to help ensure that those shipping container con artists scammers are flouted in their attempt over on your British shores.

If you are looking to buy cheap shipping containers, ensure you check up and validate the seller. Call the phone numbers, visit the premises, check that their business registration number matches their name and that those details matches the government database details. Unfortunately I don't know the government agencies in the UK so I can't give you those details.

I have outlined steps to validate a business but unfortunately it's only for validating Australian businesses- however a few of those steps are valid for you too- particularly the bits that helps to investigate the business and it's online identity, read the steps at:


Do not let yourself be scammed.

Do not pay by direct deposit even if they are begging you or using those magical pyschological words that compels action deep within our human pysche (because we are all bargain hunters deep within):

*Hurry or you'll miss out
*It's the last one so hurry or you'll miss out
*I can sell it to you at a discounted special price but you need to deposit the money into my account today
*I don't accept paypal or credit cards, you need to deposit the funds into my account (paypal and credit cards offer buyers protection in most circumstances of dodgy suppliers so to not use them means you've lost the most reliable avenue of protection and chances of getting a refund)
*Pay the entire amount before we can ship it to you or you can pick it up

Yes you scammers- Take that for screwing my friend over. This is where I help prevent potential victims from becoming your victims.

Baby Steps: Distribution In Specie of Metminco Shares

Say what?

Because life is all about baby steps. When you first don't quite understand something, the initial reaction for some may be to recoil and take a step back in order to avoid the unknown, while some like to tackle the unknown head on.

Thought I'd tackle one of the popular investing terms, made even more popular these recent few years due to the fall out from subprime credit crisis.

Distribution In-Specie.

Indeed, if you skimmed that phrase fast enough it would appear as if alien species are being distributed or perhaps Sigourney Weaver gave birth to some more odd critters.

Alas, it's not distributing alien species, it is distributing a physical asset such as company stocks or properties instead of distributing cash. Companies short on cash during dividend payout periods may choose to distribute company stocks in-specie instead of paying a cash dividend.

Someone I know, let's call him Mr ABC, received a brochure from Takoradi Limited recently outlining the Board of Directors' intentions: "Distribution In Speci of Metminco Shares".

If you're an existing Takoradi shareholder(or a confused reader) wondering what the heck that means, it's rather simple:

a) Takoradi Limited owns 152 million Metminco shares and it wishes to distribute 107 million to its shareholders to own directly

b) You own some Takoradi Limited shares

c) Owning 1 Takoradi Ltd share will entitle you to 1.5 Metminco shares

d) So if you own 100 Takoradi shares, you will be given 150 Metminco shares

e) 'Distribution In Speci of Metminco Shares' means that they instead of distributing cash to shareholders in the form of capital return, they will distribute Metminco shares to you instead 'in specie'(as a substitute)

f) This is proposed by the Board of Directors, of course shareholders are entitled to vote and reject that

g) If the proposal is passed, then every Takoradi shareholders will become direct shareholders of Metminco (and get dumped with heaps of paperwork from Metminco directly in future)


a) If this gets voted through, then existing shareholders will own Metminco shares and be a direct shareholder, instead of owning indirectly through Takoradi Limited

b) Takoradi Limited is effectively partaking in a capital reduction, so the market capitalisation value of Takoradi Limited will theoretically fall by approximately $19.26 million (ie 107 million Metminco shares x $0.18/share)

c) Takoradi's share price and market value should drop commeasurately in an efficient market but as we all know the market is inefficient, unpredictable and suffers from insider trading. So distributing $19.26m worth of capital in the form of Metminco shares could mean Takoradi's value dropping by less than or greater than $19.26m when logically and theoretically it should only drop $19.26m

d) You get more paperwork to fill out come dividend time, tax time and filing time now that you own another stock

e) Is that a good deal or a bad deal? You'll need to analyse Metminco and decide for yourself whether they're worth holding onto or sell. If you've got an online brokerage account, you'll probably have to fill out more paperwork to link those new Metminco stocks to your brokerage account enabling you to trade

In-Specie Is A Useful Word To Learn

In Specie is commonly used in the investment sphere. During the credit crunch, companies were short on cash. Infact, previously illustrious companies such as ABC Childcare and Babcock Brown couldn't even roll their loans over due to the liquidity crisis and have since, collapsed.

If you owned stocks in the last few years then there's a good chance that you would have received paperwork offering you the choice to accept dividends in cash or accept a similar amount in heavily discounted company stocks instead (in-specie).

Transferring of 'In-specie' contributions to SMSF have also been huge in the recent years since Howard and Costello changed the super tax laws and made it supremely favourable for retirees and their pension funds.

From the ATO:

"'In-specie' contributions

Generally, trustees of SMSFs are prohibited from acquiring assets from related parties - such as fund members, their family, and partners, related companies and trusts. However, there are some exceptions.

Therefore, if you're a member of a SMSF you should not contribute your own assets or assets of your associates unless the asset is:

business real property (used exclusively for the running of a business), for example a warehouse you conduct your business from a listed security (such as shares in companies listed on the stock exchange), or an in-house asset, for example an investment in a related party. The market value of in-house assets cannot exceed 5% of the total market value of assets held by the fund.

You can also generally contribute an investment in a managed fund, provided it is a widely held unit trust. If the managed fund is a normal public offer fund with a range of investors it should meet the definition. Smaller vehicles such as some property syndicates may not. You can check this with your managed fund.

Each of the assets must be acquired by the SMSF at market value.

You cannot transfer a residential investment property to your SMSF. It is not covered by the above exceptions.

The transfer of an asset 'in-specie' is a CGT event as the transfer is a disposal. You may make a capital gain or loss from the CGT event according to the usual CGT provisions that apply to that asset.

If you make an 'in-specie' transfer, CGT may still be payable as you may be taken to have received the market value of the asset at the time of the CGT event.

Depending on the situation, a market valuation may be undertaken by either a qualified valuer or a person without formal qualifications. In any case, the person who conducts the valuation must base their valuation on reasonably objective and supportable data.

Use of a qualified valuer should be considered where the value of the asset represents a significant proportion of the fund's value or where the nature of the asset indicates that the valuation is likely to be complex or difficult."

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Analysing PF Blogs: Bad Money Advice & The Barefoot Investor

SMG is going to be analysing and dissecting the other PF Blogs in the blogosphere. Other websites have started writing series so I thought I'd start a series too. It's going to be a series on 'Analysing PF Blogs'. Every week, I will try to dissect through websites and blog sites to evaluate the merits of the advice given and the background of the writer/s.

Bad Money Advice

If you've never heard of Bad Money Advice, written by a cranky dude going by the moniker of Frank Curmudgeon(who used to be a previously unemployed hedge fund manager), you should visit that site and read- I really recommend. He's recently gotten a job so fortunately for him and unfortunately for me, the delectably witty, insightful and sarcastic articles that he churns out has decreased significantly.

Bad Money Advice differed from mainstream sites because it doesn't exist to publish gardening and food drivel like SMG (had to confess that), it exists to solely point out the wrong financial advice given out in the blogosphere and on money management websites. I thought that would be an interesting slant for SMG readers to read about. SMG has dissected its first blog in the post, Australian Personal Finance Blogs where the blogger MJTED started her own SMSF fund with only $32k which is financially illogical(unless proven otherwise).

The Barefoot Investor

The Barefoot Investor, also known as Scott published a popular money management book a few years ago and have since then, gained a rather large number of followers in the Australian market. Over 18,000 people have 'liked' his Facebook page if that signifies anything. The screenshot above is a snippet of the interesting income, expenses and investments of the typical 'average couple' that Scott likes to write about.

He writes in a very casual manner. He likes to mix alcohol and trivial stories into his articles and he steers away from overly complex financial geek speak. His style is very casual. His target group would be beginners, intermediates and pretty much the average population in Oz.

While I don't agree with everything he's written, most of it is wise, good old fashioned advice. The only thing I'd like to caution readers who visit his blog is to be wary of the commenters. Quite a few of the comments are misleading and bad money advice. But that begs the question, do readers really take notice and take advice from commenters?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Time Sucks: Game of Thrones And TV

There are so many addictive reality TV shows on right now. I've just burnt 12 hours watching Game of Thrones(G.o.T) and G.o.T has just barely gotten started (it's adapted from novels).

G.o.T is hugely addictive and better than The Hunger Games due to the witty dwarf character(Tyrion Lannister played by Peter Dinklage) who rocks out the most awesome lines ever. Anyone with a bent for mediaeval type of battles, lancing, beheadings, incest, romance gone wrong, sorcery, backstabbers, beautiful women and good looking men would enjoy G.o.T. There is possibly a bit too much gore and too many sex scenes but it's a no holds barred type of series so they really push the boundaries.

G.o.T > The Hunger Games > Twilight.

Twilight is scraping the bottom of the barrel. The first Twilight movie was acceptable(probably due to Catherine Hardwicke's directorial vision) while the later films in the chronicle are a total yawn fest with wolf boy employing the old strategy of ripping off his shirt to draw in the female audiences. Pattinson's super pasty white face gets pastier as the series plods along. Movies aside, TV is a huge time suck lately.

The Voice Australia chews up about 2-4 hours each week and Australia's Got Talent chews up another 3-4 hours weekly. Now that Masterchef is on...maybe 6 hours a week for Masterchef? That's about 11-14 hours chewed up just watching TV shows. Most of them are on the same time (damn you *shakes fist*) so thank heavens for catch up TV. Or should I be cursing catchup TV instead >.<

With those 11-14 weeknight hours, I could be trying new recipes, baking, reading, learning, studying, blogging, cleaning the house, gardening, exercising, playing sport... yes, 'could be' are the operative words...TV is burning through a lot of my weeknights. To compensate for those TV hours, I've been staying up pretty late and burning the midnight candle. I refuse to watch The Amazing Race and The Apprentice(even though I do love those shows) or else I'd be spending 20-25 hours a week watching TV. OMG.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Saving The Planet One Step At A Time

Certain things annoy me. I don't know what sort of things drive you crazy but it's the rubbish dumpers that does it for me. Things like people dangling their hairy or manicured hands out of the car and letting their rubbish drop onto the road. Or walking behind said rubbish dumpers.

How hard is it to hold onto your rubbish for that extra 50m?
Or waiting until they reached their next destination to empty the trash into the bin?

Maybe I should stop watching evironmental documentaries. I watched an episode about how plastic gets into the waterways and ocean. It takes many years but the plastic eventually breaks down into tiny pellets which fishes and turtles think are edible. Some marine animals die, some suffer pain for their lifetimes and some get very sick.

I'm not a greenie or a tree hugger. Infact, I'd come under fire if I professed to be one because I have some hypocritical behaviours too.

In Christmas 2007, my family and I stayed at Vincentia, which is a coastal town in Jervis Bay about 3 hours drive, south of Sydney. Early one morning, I went for a walk and there was a gentleman in his fifties, walking around collecting dumped rubbish. He wasn't a council worker or anything. He was a local resident. He greeted me and we fell into a conversation.

Inspiration. It doesn't take a meeting with a President or Prime Minister to do it for me. It takes a person who has respect for themselves, their beliefs and they try to make things happen instead of waiting for things to happen. The gentleman told me that he used to get annoyed at the people who would visit their town for holidaying and dump a lot of rubbish at the parks and beaches.

One day he realised, it's easier to just pick up the rubbish himself and deal with it than to grumble about it, see it every single time he goes out for walks and get annoyed all over again on a daily basis. After he'd started doing that, there were barely any rubbish anymore on his walks and people were less inclined to dump if they saw that it was a clean and tidy park.

I''m starting to understand his mentality. I like to go for bike rides and walk along the river. It really annoys me when I ride past sections of the river where the rubbish have washed up onto the shores in giant piles of human strewn detritus. Recently I've started to clean up the riverside areas. There's no point waiting for something to happen because nothing will on its own.

You could pretty much apply that gentleman's attitude to anything you want to happen in your life. Don't wait for the change because oftentimes, things don't change by themselves. You need to go out there and make those changes.

If it annoys you, fix it.
If it bothers you, change it.
If you want it, go for it.


Friday, May 4, 2012

"How Do You Hide Money From Your De Facto, Wife Or Girlfriend?"

Believe it or not, that was one of the search phrases that a local Sydneysider googled. I know I actually wrote two posts on how to hide assets which you can read here, and here but I had no intentions to assist with deviousness of hiding assets from your marital spouse.

Obviously exceptions exist, such as your spouse is a gambler or a junkie or pretty much a useless good for nothing but generally, I'm not particularly interested in the exceptions to the rule when I'm writing for this blog.

If someone feels desperate, worried or concerned enough to try and hide money from their girlfriend or de facto then maybe they ought to reconsider the relationship. The best way is probably just being honest and straightforward. If necessary, get a BFS drawn up if you're really concerned about your assets.

If the relationship fails at the BFS contemplation and phrasing stage then that should solve your concerns. This is probably why people don't really stray too far from their social circle and from their peer groups. When entering into a relationship or seriously thinking about taking it one step further, money usually only becomes an issue when one party has significantly more than the other.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Australian Personal Finance(PF) Blogs

I found some Aussie PF Blogs. I was beginning to think that Aussies abhor discussing their personal finances and only the British, Americans and Canadians enjoy dissecting their finances to pieces, obsessing over couponing, managing rentals and all that other Jazz.

PTMoney published a Personal Finance Bloggers Map which enables readers to locate a personal finance blogger situated near their city so that they can have 'local' blogs to follow. I thought that might interest you as a reader of this blog. Some of the personal finance blogs that I subscribe to and skim through often can be found in my old post 'PF Blogs I Often Read: Some Blog Lovin'.

If you're looking for Australian PF bloggers, look no further:

1. Kylie Ofiu : @ Aspiring Millionaire. Her blog is interesting. Advice appears sound however she's confessed that she has no official financial qualifications whatsoever so read with an open, inquisitive mind and do your due diligence.

2. My Journey To Eliminate Debt : Mainly for those in debt if you're looking for motivation. MJTED is a blog about a couple in their early 40s and their efforts in paying down their mortgage.

There are a few issues that I'd like to raise regarding that blog though- the author has an SMSF with just $32k? I wonder what fees she pays on running her SMSF? According to the Cooper Review below, SMSF with asset values below $50k pay an average operating expense ratio of 5%. MJTED has only $32k and with an average operating expense of 5%, she'd need to get an investment return of at least 8.5% to keep pace with inflation and a return greater than 8.5% to even be growing her retirement funds. Is she doing more harm to her retirement funds than good by opening up an SMSF with only $32k?

Fees on retail super funds are usually under 2% but again, the fees vary depending on how active the super fund is in 'managing' your funds. Maybe her 'professional' retail retirement fund crashed up to 40% or something drastic during the peak of the GFC, spurring her to open up her own SMSF despite not having a large fund value to work with?

If you'd like to understand the link between SMSF fund values and calculating the operating expense ratio, read the extract below:

Googler Maths Question

"dora put $144 into an investment that gave her a 12.5% return on her investment. how much money did dora have after the investment?"
I wonder if that question was somebody's school homework question...

* If you want to calculate what the 12.5% return was:
   [12.5/100 * $144] = $18

* If you want to calculate what the end amount was with $144 invested at 12.5%pa return:
   [1.125*$144] = $162

Oh well, if that was somebody's school homework then I've just answered that question for them...

Edit 04/05/12 : It was definitely somebody's school homework question... Broward County Public School in Miami Florida to be precise... got more googlers from Staten Island in NYC so maybe it was in some sort of national exam or something lol

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Repotting Succulents, Aloe Vera and Avocado Seeds

For the first time in months, I found myself with time to relax and chill at home on the weekend. So with time on my hands what did I do? I slopped on some sunscreen and got my gardening gloves on. I don't even really have a garden. I have a balcony container garden which you can see by clicking here, here and here.

Peanut and I were joking around about a mango tree growing competition and next thing you know, we had mango juices dripping down our cheeks over the next few weeks in the attempt to accumulate mango seeds to grow. Well, they're growing and the balcony is heaving with plants.

Buying pots and plants can really get expensive really fast. That's when my gardening tips are useful. Afterall, a farmers daughter should know something aight?!! After growing plants in containers and pots for a few years now, I've learnt a few things along the way which I'd like to share with anyone who loves gardening. It's been a long journey and for each lesson learnt, I've lost a plant or two along the way.

As I found out with shocking results, container and balcony gardening is vastly different from normal plant-directly-into-the-ground type of gardening. If your plants are in pots or containers and if you also live in an apartment and plan to have a balcony garden then these tips may save you from killing your plants and crushing your gardening spirit ^.^

16 Useful Gardening Tips

1. Learning to grow from propagation, cuttings and seeds will save you heaps of money. The trick is learning which plants can be grown from cuttings and which needs seeds or grafting.
  • Some herbs such as the Cambodian/Vietnamese mint and watercress can be grown by stripping off the lower leaves, plonking them into a jar of water and leave in a sunny spot by the window and within a few days they'll be sprouting roots crazily. Plant them in wet soil. 
  • Succulents can be grown from a simple leaf.
2. If you want to grow mango seeds, avocado seeds and any large seeds, you can sow them direct into the soil and cross your fingers and pray or you can start them off by wrapping them into damp paper towels, place into a clear plastic bag and leave on the sunny window sill until they crack and grow roots. The damp paper towel technique has worked for me 99% of the time. The 1% fail rate is because sometimes I'm so busy that I've forgotten about them and when I get around to remembering, they've rooted madly but have gone slightly mouldy.

3. If you want to grow succulents such as Echeverias from their offsets 'pups', wait until the pups are large enough to have air roots (roots that grow off the baby offset) and/or have some roots making soil contact- they're then ready to cut off and repot into their own pot
  •  If growing succulents and newly repotted- give them one week to recover from transplant shock and then water very lightly once a week only. In Winter, once every 2 weeks. 
  • If growing anything else except succulents, they must be watered everyday when newly transplanted until they are larger

4. With repotting Aloe Vera pups, if the pups don't come off with a tug, repot the whole Aloe (mother and pups) until the pups are larger. When they're large enough, they will easily come off with a strong tug with their own independent root ball. You can visit my archive, 'Container Gardening: Aloe Vera, Pups, Repotting and Healing'

5. Irrigate/water your plants at the soil instead of hosing down their leaves. If you water them from top down, you risk subjecting your plants to fungus/mould/rotting/diseases. Some plants need water from the top/leaves down but these are rare (eg bromeliads).

6. If your plants will be in a very sunny or windy location, mulch heavily to prevent moisture evaporation.

7, If you have tried many times to grow plants and have failed, go for the hardier succulents which requires minimal care and watering, or go for the drought tolerant type of plants, or go for the varieties that are 'resilient' (you'll see them at the nursery ~ these are usually hybrid and bred to be resiliant to pests and a few other botanical problems).

8. Buy good quality potting soil. They have water crystals and retain water for a lot longer. I've bought both, the expensive ones and the cheap ones to test whether there is any difference. Result? Yes there is a huge difference! The cheap ones dry a lot quicker, are poor at retaining moisture, tend to dry and then harden into clumps, lack the rich, deep brown composted soil, lack nutrients and will affect the quailty of your plants' growth.

9, The soil will eventually run low and lack nutrients so fertilise. In normal ground soil, the debris and leaf litter usually breaks down and decomposes into nutrients. In container gardens and balcony gardens, there is no plant debris and leaf litter so the potted soil eventually runs out of nutrients. The horticulturalist at Eden Garden recommends using Blood and Bone fertiliser alternated with Dynamic Lifter every three months ~ they're considered as soil conditioners. You can also use liquid fertiliser when the plant is fruiting or flowering ~ considered as plant conditioners. If you are repotting, transplanting or had a shockingly hot day and find your plants heavily wilted ~ Seasol will hydrate and sooth your plants.

10. Fertilise lightly ~ frequently is better than heavy applications. Heavy applications can lead to burning the plants (leaves dying or going black after a bout of fertilising are symptomatic of too much fertiliser).

11. If your plants wilt heavily in summer, there are a few options: repot into larger pots, raise the pots off the hot tiles/concrete/ground by using pot feets, add water storing granules or wetting agents to your soil mixture, use large ceramic glazed pots (ceramic glazed are cooler than terracotta which are cooler than plastic pots).

12. For container/balcony gardens ~ large pots (eg 40-50cm in diameter) are better than lots of little ones because they keep the roots cooler and are better for moisture retention

13. Plants reliant on good drainage ~ you can fill the pots with a shallow layer of gravel before filling with potting mix giving you great drainage

14.  Plant sickness, disease and/or infections. Keep an eye out for plants that are yellowing (too much or too little watering), having white mildew on the leaves (fungicide), going brown on the tips (too much or too little watering), missing chunks of its leaves (caterpillars or bugs are eating your plants), white fine webs on the plants (spidermites).

15.  If your plants' health are deteriorating and the weather and your watering patterns have been consistent, there may be other larger problems on hand, such as pest infestations. Lean in close to your plants and *stare* at your plants leaves, under the leaves, at the shoots and at the base and you are likely to find pests such as caterpillars, aphids, spidermites and leaf miners eating your plants and slowly killing your plants.

16. If you go away on holidays or trips, get someone to water your plants regularly. I went away for Christmas only to return and find all my plants heavily wilted, distressed and requiring water. Even two months later, some of the plants still haven't recovered. I probably should have watered them with Seasol but I've been very busy with other things.

Phew. What a mammoth post!! Good luck with the gardening and trying to grow your plants. If you managed to read to the very end, share your gardening tips if you have any. Advice is most welcome.