Saturday, January 26, 2008

Hydro Rant

This week, I received my monthly statement from Hydro Quebec. They changed the format of the statement, and with the new format there is less information than was previously.

Notably absent from the new statement are two pieces of information that I consider important, and a third one that I consider less critical yet valuable for a lot of customers.

The missing items are:
  1. For customer like me who has the bi-energy counters, they no longer list consumption separately for the low-temperature and normal-temprature readings. To me this is an important information, as I like to keep track of how much electricity we used when temperatures were cold, and to see if we should be more careful.
  2. The rates for each kWh is no longer on the statement. This is always important to have the current rates on a statement, because the calculation are somtimes tricky (dayly rate, usage rate, low- vs normal-temprature rate). They will now provide this information only once a year.
  3. The total paid for electricity during the previous year, for each statement (which are every two months). Although this is not a critical information for me (since I track this anyway in a spreadsheet), it gives an at-a-glance summary of how much it costs for a year. I'm sure that for a lot of customers this is quite useful.

What is really annoying with this, is that it gives the impression that they don't want customers to know how much they are using. Furthermore, the statement came with their usual newsletter which said that the new statement contained all the information that the old one had!

I consider this situation unacceptable. I am currently preparing a complaint that I will send to Hydro Quebec, as well as the "Régie de l'énergie" (which regulate energy rates in Quebec) and "Office de protection du consommateur" (which protects customers from shady pratices).

Have you paid attention to your statements lately?

Saturday, January 19, 2008

DRiPs - Selling Shares

This is the fifth installment of my series on DRiP investing.

Selling shares from a DRiP

Although having a DRiP in a company means that you are in the the long run, there will come a time when you may want to sell shares. This may be because you want to diversify your investments, or simply because you need the money.

A bit like setting up the DRiP, selling shares from it is often more complicated than doing it from your broker's account.

Some DRiPs will allow you to sell shares directly, for a reasonable fee (about $10 + a few cents per share). You simply have to inform the transfer agent who admisters the DRiP (usually in writing) that you want to sell a certain number of shares, and they will do so. Note, however, that you won't be able to time your sale precisely. They will probably be sold at the next reinvestment date.

For DRiPs that do not offer this option, you will have to get a share certificate for the shares you want to sell, and sell them through your broker. Your usual broker fees for selling shares will apply, and a few brokers will also charge you a fee when you deposit the share certificate into your account.

All of this takes time, so you have to know ahead of time that you want to do this. The advantage of this is that it eliminates the urge to try to "play the market" by buying and selling often. The disadvantage is that it takes longer to get to your money.

But you should only invest money that you don't need in the short term, so if you invest wisely, this won't be a problem.

To read the beginning of my DRiPs series:
  1. DRiPs - What are they?
  2. DRiPs - Registering Shares to Your Name
  3. DRiPs - Enrollment and Purchases
  4. DRiPs - Paperwork and Taxes

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Goals for 2008

Like many other bloggers, I've decided to set down some goals for 2008. Not only goals, but also measurable objectives to go with each.

Goal 1 - Lose some weight: It's been creeping up slowly in the last couple of years, and it's time for me to address this problem. I tried setting up a regular exercise schedule in the fall, but got sick and failed to pick it up again afterwards. I currently weight 210 pounds, and my objective is to lose 15 pounds, so that I weight no more than 195 by the end of the year. More important, I want to maintain that weight loss. This is the most important goal to me.

Goal 2 - Increase my passive income: In 2007, my DRiP portfolio generated $130 in dividends, which were reinvested. My current holdings would produce about $300 if I add nothing to them. My objective is to increase that to $450, by making additional regular purchases to my DRiPs.

Goal 3 - Increase my net worth: My objective is to increase it by $20 000, like I did in 2007. That won't be easy, since we have some important renovations to make to the house in 2008 (we will begin replacing the windows).

Goal 4 - Blog more often: Since starting my blog last June, there were periods when I haven't written anything. This year, I'd like to do better. My objective is to write at least 1 article every week. Exceptions will be made for when I'm away on vacation for a week or more, since I usually don't touch a computer at those times.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Year-End Net Worth Update

As of January 1st, my net worth was $50 868 (up 9.7% from $46 360). This more than made up for the decrease of the last two months, but was more a matter of timing than anything else. One of the reasons is that the first pay of the year was made two days in advance because of the Holidays, which resulted in the deposit being made on December 31st. Even without that, however, my net worth would have increased by about $2 500.

If I exclude house-related assets and liabilities, my net worth is $39 486 (up 6% from $37 231).

Assets ($127 227, up 2.3% from $124 334)
  • Bank Accounts $5 312 (up 47% from $3 622)
  • Emergency Funds $2 761 (up 8% from $2 556)
  • RRSP Accounts $32 706 (up 4.5% from $31 306)
  • Non-Registered Investments $5 172 (down 7.2% from $5 632)
  • Home $75 600 (stable)
  • Arbitrage $5 000 (stable)
Liabilities ($76 358, down 2.1% from $77 975)
  • Credit Cards $5 138 (down 19% from $6 362)
  • Student Loan $2 416 (down 9.4% from $2 665)
  • Mortgage $56 574 (down 0.2% from $56 680)
  • Heat Pump Loan $7 102 (down 0.7% from $7 151)
  • Arbitrage $4 792 (down 2.1% from $4 895)
Looking back a year, the number are impressive. My net worth went from $30 775 to $50 868, wich is an increase of $20 000! Although that is to be tempered by the timing issue (which is coumpounded by the fact that last year we contracted the loan for the heat pump), this is still very nice to see. I don't expect next year's increase to be quiate as large, but I believe it will be somewhere between $10 000 to $15 000.

Happy New Year!