May 7, 2008

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Gen Y Growing Up: My first chat with a financial planner

Another milestone! Today, I consulted a financial planner for the first time. I’d been meaning to find a financial planner who could review my setup and suggest other best practices, and I learned a lot from the session.

When I told the financial planner how I’d maxed out my registered retirement savings plan. She was impressed and suggested looking into corporate class funds. They’re taxed a little differently than regular mutual funds, and can be more tax-efficient than regular funds when outside an RRSP. I took the literature and promised to read up on it. Based on this Globe and Mail article about corporate class funds, it seems that corporate class funds are good for active investors who like switching in and out of funds, and not so good for buy-and-hold investors who favor index funds because of tax efficiency and low management expense ratios. (TD Canada Trust e-Series has the lowest-MER index funds I’ve seen so far, as the exchange-traded index funds that are increasingly popular in the US are somewhat bulkier over here.)

It was good to get some advice on uncommon concerns, such as international personal finance. How would I need to prepare for the scenario of moving back to the Philippines? I knew that my RRSP investments could be left in Canada, but I didn’t know how to handle my non-registered investments and other accounts in a tax- and duty-efficient manner. It turns out that I can leave money here, but I may not be able to give further instructions from overseas, and withdrawing everything could result in losses or high taxes. One way to handle this situation might be to convert all my accounts into long-term investments, then leave very good instructions. I’m currently planning to stay in Canada for a while, but it’s nice to know what I need to do in order to prepare for other options.

I answered her questions about my existing assets and expenses, and I asked her to help me prepare several retirement scenarios: the traditional retire-at-65 kind of plan, the ambitious be-flexible-at-40 plan, and the calculations for time in between. I wanted to figure out what a basic plan is, then inch that retirement date earlier and earlier. I gave her the numbers she asked for, and she’ll share some plans with me the next time we meet.

Writing about this gave me an epiphany. What I want to develop is not a retirement plan, but a medium-term opportunity plan. I don’t need to know how many dollars I’ll need in order to never work again. I’m not in the habit of postponing life until then, and I certainly hope I can continue doing meaningful work forever. What I want to know is this:

How can I position myself so that I can create and take advantage of opportunities while dealing with the risks?

(This post is not financial advice. Good luck!)

May 8, 2012
I ended up not going with the financial advisor or her advice, instead sticking with index funds with low management expense ratios. I’m not trying to beat the market, and I don’t trust actively-managed funds. The opportunity fund that I started building after this epiphany worked out really well, though. It enabled me to leave my full-time job and focus on building my own business, which is what I’m doing now. Yay!

Kaizen Presentations: Web 2.0 and the University

I’m still buzzing from the first client teleconference presentation I made. I gave a brief overview of Web 2.0 and universities.

Here’s what I learned because I did it well:

  • Energy and excitement really helps. I focused on topics I was passionate about, picked highlights that I wanted to share, and told myself not to be intimidated by the collective IQ in an audience I couldn’t see.
  • Standing up is good. It makes it easier to project more energy and pretend to be giving an actual presentation. This also makes it easier to gesture.
  • If you need to use the handset, use your hand to hold it against your ear instead of scrunching your neck. This not only saves you from a sore neck, but also allows you to improve your breathing. If you have a noise-cancelling headset, use that instead. I don’t have one of those yet.
  • If you’re running out of preparation time, practice your opening and closing, run through middle parts quickly, then go back and practice enough of your opening to give you a confident start. It’s important to make a good first impression. Not only does the primacy effect mean that people will remember the beginning of your presentation more than the following parts, but a strong start will give you confidence and make the rest of the presentation flow. A strong close that recaps important points and energizes people is also very helpful. Things in the middle will come to you once you get into the flow.
  • Upload the presentation to Sametime Unyte instead of sharing your screen. Not only will this be faster for your audience, but you’ll also be less worried about random things popping up. (It’s still a good idea to set Sametime to Do-Not-Disturb or something similar, though.)
  • Call in and start recording the Unyte presentation at least ten minutes before the start of your session. Things get really hectic right before the presentation. It’s easier to spend 10 minutes just waiting on the phone than to try to remember to set up all of your recording while the organizer’s announcing you.
  • Check your social network for resources. Cattail was really handy. =) Also, thanks go to Stephen Perelgut for links and de-stressing!

Here’s what I can do to make things even better:

  • Bring a glass of water. No stage doesn’t mean no stage fright.
  • Create an activity template to make sure I remember to do everything. I’m starting to believe in Activities – I used it as a last-minute checklist for myself.
  • Make sure I get a quick brief from the organizer as early as possible. I went down the wrong path with my first draft. Fortunately, the client rep briefed me last Tuesday, so I spent the rest of the day (and the night) hurriedly revising the presentation. It came out nicely.
  • Reserve a room. I hadn’t reserved a room because I was planning to take one of the smaller non-bookable rooms, but all of those rooms were full. Moving to the “think bar” near the windows didn’t help. I should book a conference room. Even if the room is more space than I need, using that space is better than distracting more than six people. This will also minimize distractions from people asking me to quiet down. ;)
  • Keep a library of materials. I need a good system for organizing slides, images, stories, and so on.

Happy! =D

May 8, 2012
I remember this talk. I was nervous, but I pulled through, and things were just fine. Many of the tips I shared here ended up resurfacing in my “Remote Presentations That Rock” talk. I’m still in the process of building a library for slides. Slideshare gives me a visual library of my past presentations. I’ve been using Emacs Org to collect ideas and snippets, and I use Evernote to store some of my hand-drawn images.