Joining the 21st Century

Well, Rogers Mobile has some special sales on now to introduce their Ignite Unlimited wireless. Although we have been a customer for decades, up till now we have had only one wireless phone.

We started out with a bag phone which only worked in the car if you plugged it into the cigarette lighter. In the late 90s, we got a portable and (for the time) compact candy bar phone.

When we first moved to Almonte, Bell Canada technicians were on strike so we couldn’t get Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS.) The candy bar phone – which up until then had been for emergencies only – became our only telephone. Eventually, we got back to a wired phone and kept the wireless phone for the car, mostly.

Then Rogers switched to a new wireless protocol and we were forced to upgrade to a compact flip phone. Maria carried this in her purse until a couple of years ago. At that time many family members were communicating by text and she wanted to join in. The flip phone could send a text – but not if you valued your sanity. So we switched to a Samsung A5 smartphone and she has been happy with it.

We had a very restricted data program but that has changed recently with the new Rogers Ignite offers. It seemed a good time to add a second phone line to our account. After all, if one person has the smartphone it isn’t possible for the other one to text anybody – now is it?

With all the computer power around here I had been reluctant to add another one, but I finally weakened and got another Samsung smartphone – this time an A50. It was cheaper than the A5 but given the progress of technology, it is just as capable.

A lot of folks use a smartphone to replace their PC and camera but I don’t think I’ll be doing that. The smartphone can surf the web but who wants to play games or watch YouTube on a 6-inch display when you have a 24-inch one? As far as the camera goes, it is quite capable of shooting selfies or snapshots. It even has a pretty good wide-angle capability. The above shot where Oates is hogging my computer chair was made with the smartphone.

However, the camera has zero telephoto possibilities without using digital cropping. There is no viewfinder which I use all the time in bright light. And I don’t see how the smartphone would have the storage or battery capacity to take a couple of hundred holiday pics. So my camera will be coming along whenever I go on a trip or want to do some serious photography.

That said, I have been pleasantly surprised with the performance of this A50 Android phone. I think I’ll mostly use it for text and talk but it’ll be OK to check something on the Net when I’m on the go. Many places have Wifi available so I won’t need to burn a lot of my mobile data either. I’m happy.

My Take On FI/RE

I retired from Unilever at 58. At the time that was considered early to hang up my skates.

Since then a lot has changed in my former work world. The factory I worked in for years has closed and been torn down. The products I worked on were sold to a new company – along with the other factory I worked in. Even this venerable Research Laboratory in Vlaardingen Netherlands has been sold and some parts of it moved to a new Dutch location. Most of my former colleagues have joined me in retirement. And so it goes.

Another retirement wrinkle that has surfaced since I left the workplace is something called FI/RE. This stands for Financial Independence / Retire Early. And it’s quite different from the early retirement I went through in 2004.

The principles of FI/RE are simple enough. First you get a high-stress high-reward job, probably in the Financial or Information Technology field. You then proceed to live like a monk, saving 70% of your salary in low-cost ETFs or index funds making maximum use of your TFSA and RRSP. After you have accumulated a million dollars or more, you can declare FI. At that point you live off the capital, quit the high-stress job and either RE or move on to something more interesting for the rest of your working life. Many FI/RE types write books or blog about their experiences. RE is something that happens to you in your 40s.

FI/RE seems to be largely a Millennial thing though. It would never have applied to me as a leading-edge Boomer. First of all both Maria and I did OK in our careers but were never in the high salary bracket. We both had formal pension plans that weren’t designed to kick in till at least 55. TFSAs didn’t exist during our working lives, nor could we put a lot in RRSPs because of the Pension Adjustment applied to us.

As far as living like a monk, we had a child to bring up and educate. We lived beneath our means I suppose – but there’s no way we could have saved the sums the FI/RE folks recommend.

By and large, I enjoyed my working life up until my late 50s. I don’t think I would have wanted to do the FI/RE dance thank you.

If you had started your working life in 2009 at the pit of gloom in financial markets, you’d probably have done quite well saving for FI/RE. If you started now with markets doing as well as they are you better count on saving more and spending less.

The current generation of workers isn’t as lucky as we were, having a decent pension plan to rely on. Maybe that’s why saving for FI/RE is so appealing to them. Let them try; at least there’s the TFSA now. But honestly, I don’t see many of them retiring after 20 years in the workforce.

Blue Days

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a Blue Jays Baseball Game Live at the Skydome – er, Rogers Centre. This picture from July 31, 2003 marks the occasion. The Jays lost to Tampa Bay that day, the same way they did today – decisively.

I suppose I could trot out the excuse that I now live 6 hours away, rather than 1 hour. But I’m not motivated to watch on TV or Facebook either. (Yes , one game earlier this week was on Facebook – go figure.)

Maybe it’s bad baseball – the Blue Jays will have their 5th worst season ever this year. Maybe I’m more interested in watching Red Sox v Yankees – where a former Jays frontline pitcher went 6 1/3 innings last night and a former Jays slugger drove in 3 runs. Maybe I can’t take the constant homer hype from Buck and Tabby. Maybe I’m tired of the small market attitude of the Jays Cleveland-based management. But I haven’t watched a single game in its entirety for ages. This is a guy who used to attend 40 games a year, was at 2 World Series and saw the historic Joe Carter homer in person back in 1993. Pretty pathetic huh?

Judging by the precipitous drop in attendance at the ballpark, I am not alone. I haven’t got any TV ratings but I’m sure they are down as well. Does Rogers really care?

I am glad I got to see Dave Winfield, Paul Molitor and Robbie Alomar perform at their best, but I don’t think we’ll ever see anything comparable in future – not as long as the current management remains in place. For them it’s more important to have 42 years of low cost player control than to have a winning team. Probably it’s time to shift my fan support to Atlanta – where another ex-Jay is flourishing and a former Jays GM is in charge of a potential pennant winner. Nuff said.

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