Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Time Sink House: Weeding and Gardening

The effort it takes to maintain the house is getting ridiculous. 

Before when I ignored the garden for the most part (except for my veggie patch), it wasn't too bad. Sure, it takes an hour to water my veggie patch and fifty pots of plants but that was somewhat relaxing. Plus, getting to reap the harvest of passion fruit, herbs, pumpkin, celery and raspberries is pretty delicious:
 Veggie patch of rhubarb, Thai basil, mint, thyme and green onions:
 Passionfruit is one of the best thing you can plant and enjoy all Summer long. I'm looking forward to enjoying this Summer's batch of passion fruit again:
Vacuuming, dusting, cleaning and other house work duties duly took its time however it wasn't consuming outrageous hours of spare time.

Now that work has settled somewhat for a breather, I finally had a bit of time to really look around these past two weeks. Our weedy lawn has deteriorated so badly after two years of neglect. Mr SMG had seriously given up on the lawn and had plans to rip out the entire thing and replace it with new lawn. Gardening isn't something he enjoys anyway so I'm sure given half the chance, he'd be content to change the lawn every few years.

But I'm not the sort to give up and I was adamant that we would not be defeated by weeds. Like everything in life, allocating regular time and dedication to any task is like an avalanche collecting snow along the way down. The results will happen, it's only a matter of time. To-do lists really work. Sometimes I find an old list from years ago with tasks and goals that I thought I would probably not end up accomplishing due to the challenge, difficulties or time restraint, but I have and every single task was ultimately achieved. Now, I put everything I want to achieve, experience or to accomplish on my list and I just know that I'll get there in time.

Every single day, I have spent about thirty to sixty minutes of weeding.The goal is to get rid of at least one wheelbarrow of weed every single day. It's really amazing that the lawn is starting to finally show the effects of being a time sink. Dandelions, bindis and onion weeds are starting to tremble in fear :p

There's a childhood story about the King and the grain of rice. There was a guy that wanted to marry the King's daughter after doing him a favour (something like that) however the King declined. So the King in gratitude, said he would give the guy anything he desired. The guy said, a grain of rice, doubled every single day. The King scoffed at what he thought was an easy, humble request to meet. 

So on day one, one grain, day two, two grains, day three, four grains, day four, eight grains, day five, sixteen grains and so forth. 

Ultimately, within a few weeks, the King was unable to meet the request, which wasn't so easy after all, and so gave his permission to the guy to marry his daughter. 

I guess I might have messed up the finer details of the story, but the moral of the story was the power of compounding and how it can really snowball with great effect. 

The practical application of that concept really is phenomenal in every way and every aspect of our life. Even with regards to weeding!! :p



Monday, October 12, 2015

Medallion Signature Guarantee and our Apple Stock Saga

No wonder people buy foreign stocks and leave it under the custody of their financial institution or broker. Computershare lodged all the Apple stocks in our names incorrectly and it has been a long saga trying to correct the mistake. 

We are still receiving correspondence from the U.S. by post. Snail mail, in this technological world. I contact our broker, our broker contacts Computershare in the U.S. and then we wait four to eight weeks before we get our documents in Sydney. It's a long protracted and torturous process. It would be easy to leave it under the custody of our broker but then having to read sixty pages of fine print from the broker is also a long and arduous process of due diligence.

I thought it was prudent to register the Apple stocks that we bought under our direct name rather than custody of the financial brokerage institution after the financial crises of 2008 resulted in many banks and brokers collapsing. Those who had margin loans collateralised to their stock portfolio in Australia, meant that they lost all their stocks including the ones that were fully owned when the brokerage company collapsed. It's really important that everyone reads the fine print and the terms and conditions.

To transfer the stock to different owners, we needed to 
1. Complete the transfer request form and have the signatures authorised with a Medallion Signature Guarantee
2. Complete the Form W-9 for tax certification(to prevent backup withholding tax)
3. Post the documents to Computershare in the U.S.

What is a Medallion Signature Guarantee?

Computershare's definition is, 'A Medallion Signature Guarantee is a special stamp provided by a bank, broker or credit union (guarantor institutions) that indicates that the individual signing a form is legally authorised to conduct the requested transaction. The guarantor institution should verify the medallion stamp is sufficient to cover the value of assets being transacted upon.'

The Medallion Signature Guarantee can be provided by a qualified financial institution such as a 'commercial bank, savings bank, savings and loan, US stockbroker and security dealer, or credit union, that is participating in an approved Medallion Signature Guarantee Program'

Residents of the United States who own less than $10,000 in total account value can utilise the Medallion Waiver option. For us, those waiver options are not applicable. 

What is the purpose of the Medallion Signature Guarantee?

It's designed to protect shareholders by making it difficult for people to take assets by signature forgery on security certificates for related transfers or sales documents.

Who can provide a Medallion Signature Guarantee in Australia?

Good question >.< After researching on the net, I know plenty of institutions DON'T provide the Medallion Signature Guarantee in Sydney. From the US Embassy in Canberra, 'U.S. Consular Officers are not authorised to provide signature guarantee/medallion stamp guarantee service. Only a financial institution participating in the SEC (Securities Exchange Commission) medallion signature guarantee program is authorised to affix a medallion imprint.'

Computershare Australia supposedly offers the Medallion Signature Guarantee service but currently I don't know because I have rang their contact line twice only to be greeted with an automated voice service which diverted my call only to disconnect my call twice. A poster on the AussieStockForum posted that Computershare Australia offers the service for a small admin fee. 

The posters in that forum wrote in 2014 that they tried asking U.S. branches of credit unions and banks to no avail. 

Further research led to P&G shareholders requiring Medallion Signature Guarantees and they were advised to seek a local financial institution that has a correspondent replationship with a U.S. Medallion Program member with whom the investor has a business relationship as that firm may be a source of a Medallion Signature Guarantee

If Medallion Signature Guarantees Can't be Obtained

If Medallion Guarantees couldn't be obtained, Computershare was also accepting signature guarantees from:

* The U.S. Consulate
* A Non-U.S. Bank when it has one of the following:
 - A New York Correspondent bank referenced in the foreign bank's guarantee stamp
 - An overseas branch of a United States Bank or a member firm of the New York Stock Exchange referenced in the foreign bank's guarantee stamp
 - A correspondent branch in the United States, which is referenced in the foreign bank's guarantee stamp
* A Computershare office located in either the UK or Australia accompanying the appropriate Computershare transfer form and a valid passport as long as the value of the transaction is less than $100,000 USD

Seeing as it has been a drama, I hope this helps some poor soul in Australia from having to go through the same process of having to research the web only to find a smattering of the above same information scattered across several web pages and assorted links. I have now compiled it all in one post for you.

Friday, October 2, 2015

20 PF Life Hacks From Melissa Browne

Melissa Browne is an accountant and author who writes really simple stuff in the paper. I would like to see her writing more gritty articles for us to read. When she writes about the meatier subjects, I do enjoy reading her work. 

She wrote about personal finance life hacks that I thought readers might find to be of interest:

1. Remove the credit cards from the wallet
2. Annually review your loan rates for the best competitive offer
3. Pay yourself first, automate it if you have weak will power
4. Put all excess funds and savings in your offset account
5. Pay for deductible expenses on your credit card so that lost receipts can be backed up with credit card statements as proof of expenditure
6. If you have credit card debts incurring interest charge, setup zero interest credit cards and roll the balances over, pay them off completely before the interest free period ends
7. Buy property in an SMSF (I think this is more applicable for the over 50s. The under 50s have uncontrollable and unpredictable expenses such as kids/education, single income households, unknown health issues etc and super is a long way off being accessible for emergencies. My friend's aunties had cancer and even when very sick and couldn't work, super was not accessible under the hardship provisions)
8. Unsubscribe from online shopping sites and remove your credit card information which reduces impulse buys
9. Try going through 30 days of no spending, coined as 'financial detox'
10. Pay down bad debts which are non-deductible
11. Cook, "more time in the kitchen means less time at the doctors, dentists and therapists"
12. Shop with a grocery list
13. Share and rent items that are not going to appreciate in value over time
14. Teach your kids about money and say no to them
15. Use the cloud for free and cheap software and applications
16. Renegotiate monthly payments and if not necessary,cancel them
17. Buy a quantity surveyor report for your investment property
18. Travel in the off season
19. Build multiple streams of income such as through shares, properties, online businesses, consulting, blogging, importing, exporting and selling products
20. Manage electricity costs such as switching off unused appliances, energy efficient light bulbs, air dry clothes (For us we use blinds, curtains, drapes to keep the room warm in Winter and block sunlight in Summer, door snakes to stop winter drafts and rugs for warmth)

Other life hacks that I can think of to add to her comprehensive list is:

1. Mulch your garden to reduce moisture evaporation and watering needs
2. Switch all your loans to interest only with offset accounts attached. Divert all rental income, dividends, salary, savings and funds into your PPOR's(main residence) offset account to minimise your non-deductible loan interest
3. Stock staples in your pantry such as tinned tomatoes, corn, beans, rice, tuna, flour etc so that you can knock up something to eat when you are ravenously hungry or tired without having to resort to take away and junk food
4. Before you buy more 'stuff', stop and think, is that just ultimately contributing to landfill and will the item contribute benefits to your life
5. Grow plants and herbs, it will inspire you to cook more often
6. Compost, it makes free fertiliser and reduces land fill
7. During council clean up collection, go for  a walk and see if you can salvage anything of use from going to landfill(do not hoard by any means =) )
8. Get income, trauma and TPD insurance, you are the asset so protect your income earning abilities!
8. Read all my other blog posts =)