Monday, February 28, 2011

5th month's expenses

My total expense for the 5th month (1st to 28th February) is around CAD1,158, broken down as follow.

Amount (CAD) : Category

Once-off expenses

*  77 : Portable DVD player plus extended warranty.
         ***See below
*  25 : Credit card over limit fee. *See below

Yearly expenses


Monthly expenses

* 500 : February room rental. **See below
*  46 : Mobile phone bill
*  61 : Medical Services Plan
* 110 : Transport - Monthly 2-Zone Farecard
* NIL : Transport - Others
* 147 : Food/groceries
*  63 : Clothings
*  51 : Household Items (including tioletries)
*  20 : Recreation/Entertainment/Restaurant
*  21 : Meals/Drinks
*  13 : Personal Grooming & Make-up
*   3 : Stationery/Postage (exclude once-off postage above)
*  21 : Others (Lottery, Souvenirs, etc)

February being a short month contributes to the lower than usual expenses. E.g. The short month, plus finding value-for-money food items from a DollarRama store, contributed to the significant drop in Food/groceries expenses.

*I was undeniably somewhat annoyed by the $25 credit card over-limit fee. I was over the limit by 10cents (a.k.a. "a dime") as a result of 2 transactions within the same day. I have no idea how the 2nd transaction was allowed to go through without any prompt for credit limit exceeded. In order to prevent such unnecessary fees, I have decided to only use my credit card for online payments and pre-planned big-ticket items. For all other purchases, I shall use cash instead.

**Several friends have informed me that the rental rates have dropped thanks to the reduction in the number of Japanese/Korean students, which in-turn may be due to the strengthened Canadian dollar making their studies more expensive. In fact, several has suggested that I re-locate to a better priced room and/or a location nearer downtown. E.g. One local friend even has a network of friends with available rooms priced from $375/month in Vancouver for my consideration. I shall keep the rental trend in-view as I would prefer to move only after getting a full-time job offer.

***I bought a DVD player so that I can start learning French from the CDs and training guides that I had shipped over from Singapore. Of course, playing music CDs on the portable DVD player gives a much better sound quality (read, "more enjoyment") than my old (but trusty) iBook. In addition, I can borrow nursing videos, movies and/or other CDs/DVDs from the public library for use now. Most importantly, this serves to distract me while I await longingly for some good news from the CRNBC. Yes, still no news regarding the IEN SEC yet.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Tipping the balance to nursing

At end-Jan 2011, I wrote on my Facebook status "IT or nursing? 聽天遊命! [Follow heaven's will]".

At that point, I was really in 2 minds about my career direction. I loved problem solving in IT. And I love working in the male-dominated environment -- I am so used to it. Nursing? Well, to use an understatement, "My initiation into nursing could have gone much better."

Given my past experience, the winner would seem to be clear -- "Build IT solutions for the health care industry" as several friends have suggested. However, somehow I felt that it was not the answer for me now, and the right answer will appear eventually. I don't know why or how, my gut feeling has always been quite strong. And thus, I delayed making a firm decision.

Slowly, I come across things that would tip the balance towards nursing.

Firstly, a minor but factual aspect. The Working In Canada website states that nurses will be in demand and short in supply for the next 10 years.

Secondly, in recent weeks, I suddenly recalled a Gallop Clifton "StrengthsFinder 2.0" test that I did back in March 2007. My key strengths in descending order were
  • Ideation
  • Activator
  • Connectedness
  • Relator, and
  • Strategic
Thus, my roles in IT fulfills the Ideation, Activator and Strategic fronts, somewhat fulfills the Relator front, but less so on the Connectedness front. As a nurse advocate in a professional environment (IMHO, not possible in Singapore's hospital settings), all 5 of these strengths may be utilized more evenly.
I know from past experience that the Connectedness and Relator fronts matter a lot to me. At a recent volunteer services interview in B.C., the interviewer asked me why I wanted to be a volunteer. I replied candidly, "I have been volunteering since not long after I started working. It's a way to give back to the community, [and] to be part of the community. However, as you can see [referring to the volunteer information form], I stopped volunteering some time in the mid-2000's as work ate up more and more of my time, [and] my life. That was a mistake. It upset my life-balance and made me wonder what I was working so hard for." The interviewer nodded and smiled.
Finally, the most important piece. As Bone Collector correctly predicted in response to my FB status, "WD, troubleshooting computer will be too boring my friend."

True enough, in the recent weeks on my IT job search, I found that when I read IT job descriptions, things that used to excite me in the past no longer do. It is like a young love that had died. Especially for the jobs for which I have relevant domain-specific experience, "Been there, done that" kept popping to my mind. On the other hand, when I read nursing job descriptions, I still find some aspects of the job interesting.

I think that it is time for me to move out of IT and focus on nursing. Well, we will see what the IEN SEC test (Internationally Educated Nurses Substantially Equivalent Competency) report indicates.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Roomies & pet peeves

Mr Small Potato finally spoke to me today while entering the kitchen. He had just came out from the bathroom and was peeved at finding hair and lint in the bath tub.

SP annoyed: "Did you just use the bath?"

WD, enjoying her cheese sandwich: "Errm, about half an hour ago. Why?"

SP smirking: "Don't you ever clean up after using the bath? I keep finding hair and lint all over the bath tub."

WD, looking surprised.

SP smirked: "I always give the tub a wipe down after we use it. That's why you get a clean tub when you use it."

WD: "Ok, point noted. I will wear my glasses next time."

SP smirking: "Thank you". And he walks into his room.

I am genuinely sorry for the mess. I usually clean up the bath after use if I notice any mess left behind. [My landlord will ascertain this habit of mine.] The problem is I don't always wear my glasses in the bath room and thus did not realize the lint and hair in the tub. Anyway, I went back to give the tub a quick wash down. Still, I appreciated that Mr Small Potato didn't raise his voice at me, even though he was smirking. Having seen worse from him, I appreciated the self-control applied. :P And I must remember to wear my glasses to the shower in future.


[Addendum 01-Jul-2012]

By end-April 2012, Mr Small Potato was evicted by my landlord over noise issues. According to my landlord: Despite several notices and warnings, Mr Small Potato persistently did his laundry during the wee morning hours (i.e. bedtime) even though he was at home during daytime. The laundry machine and the dryer were rather noisy when functioning and my landlord wasn't happy about breaking the night-time peace. I've learned from this that my landlord's pet peeve is noise.


That's the thing about sharing a home, be it with one's spouse, family members, tenants, landlords or roomies. Everybody has his/her own pet peeves. Mine are the toilet bowl, the dining table, the cooking area, cookware and utensils.

In the past, I was annoyed with Mr Small Potato and his daughter for leaving behind a mess -- food bits on the counter, the floor, and the stove -- whenever they use the kitchen. I was bemused even, when I overhead Mr Small Potato complaining to the landlord about ants in the house when the landlord had to clean up the kitchen nightly after them. Things improved after I role-modeled to his daughter through my own action of cleaning up the kitchen after use. However, things have backtracked little since the small potato incident, but still it's better than before. I just tolerate it, plus I bought my own food containers, knife and cutlery set. [Note: I am only short of a cooking pot now, but that's my problem -- I am fussy about my cookware.]

That's life -- give and take a little. That's how my previous tenants in Singapore and I shared our home for 4 years.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Usable Personal Net Worth

Mr Wang's blog entry on Calculating Your Personal Net Worth reminded me to review mine as well. I would prefer the term "Personal Monetary Net Worth", after all one is worth more than one's financial assets. Nevertheless, following the standard the financial terminology, "Personal Net Worth" (PNW) shall be used.

Mr Wang's version is a fairly standard method used by financial advisors to calculate net worth. However, being conservative, I would prefer to make some deductions from the usual personal net worth calculations.

Step 1. List fixed assets at their current market value. Follow as instructed. Then deduct the estimated costs of converting these large-ticket fixed assets into liquid assets. E.g. Deduct from the market value of one's property the property agent's fees, the stamp duties [a.k.a. tax] and the cost of valuation report.

Step 2. List financial assets. Follow as instructed. Then deduct any sum that you do not have full control of OR cannot access immediately. To put it colloquially, "Money that you can see but cannot touch". E.g. CPF* monies, CPF* related investments, any monies held in-trust for you.

Step 3. List possessions which is re-saleable to raise funds. My preference: Count only the value of one's bullion coins, net weight of 24K (.9999) gold or 22K (.9166) gold in other gold items.
  • Unless one has exceptional jewelery items like The Hope Diamond, I would exclude from listing any jewelery items or, at most, quote the precious stones at wholesale or pawn shop prices. E.g. A high-grade 0.1-carat, round cut, F colour, VVS1 clarity, GIA certified diamond pendant has very little resale value (maybe only SGD 190), but its retail price may be 5 times of its resale value. IMHO, that is why gemstones should be avoided as an investment to store value.
    FYI: If one really want to buy a diamond to store value, then consider a Round cut, 1-carat or above, D/E/F colour, IF/VVS1/VVS2 clarity, well-proportioned, GIA-certified diamond. Be prepared to pay the price mark-up at retail outlets [i.e. making a loss upon purchase].
  • Similarly, if including the value of any "Collector's Items" or works of art into one's personal net worth, a realistic value is what one can obtain assuming one sells it immediately, and not its quoted market value. Sometimes the gap can be minimal, but sometimes it can be significant because individuals are generally not the market maker.
Step 4. Add 1-3 together for total assets. Follow as instructed.

Step 5. List liabilities (debts) and subtract from total assets. Follow as instructed. Then also subtract any potential fees or other sums that would be out of one's control. E.g. Any bank charge for early mortgage redemption, assuming immediate redemption. E.g. Any amount that one has to return into one's CPF* account after the property sale.

The result is the "Usable Personal Net Worth". [Note: this term is coined by me, it is not a standard financial term]. That is, wealth under one's control. I think that the difference between my modified calculation and the standard PNW calculation methods may partly explain why some Singaporeans seem to be wealthy on paper but they do not feel it [See Danny's comment on October 10th, 2010 at 12:04 pm in the article].
"My wife, myself and many of our friends, all of us true blue Singaporeans (gotta say this nowadays), are in the top 1% in the world by net wealth (each of us has more than 800k net wealth), but we surely don’t feel like we’re that wealthy. I agree with John that perhaps it due very much to having too many assets and too little cash to enjoy life as it should be enjoyed. We appear wealthy on paper but we are certainly not enjoying the wealth like the others in other countries. Then maybe one day we’ll wake up from our dreams and realize what’s the point of having so much paper wealth…"
- Danny's comment extracted from
*Note: For those not familiar with Singapore, CPF is "Central Provident Fund". It is the Singapore government-controlled and mandatory pension contribution held in each individual's account. Thus, it pushes the PNW of a Singapore resident up, but the resident has very limited control over how the bulk of the money is invested/spent. More importantly, the government-controlled interest rates on CPF accounts is unable to match Singapore's inflation rate, and the resident cannot access the money until the official retirement age (currently 65). Even upon reaching the official retirement age, the resident cannot access the full sum, i.e. there is a minimum sum (currently SGD123K or around CAD94K) that is mandatory to be retained with the CPF. Thus, residents are making a real loss on the bulk of their CPF yearly but their hands are tied.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

PR card

I just received my Canadian PR card. [According to the Community Airport Newcomers Network booklet, the PR card is usually mailed out in about 6 weeks from the landing date. However, based on the experience of people who shared with me, the norm is more like 2 to 3 months.]

It has been delayed because the original photo, taken in a Singapore studio, was not acceptable. Instead of having the required neutral expression, I was smiling.

When I posed for the photo re-shoot at a Canadian studio, I was still smiling widely. Fortunately, the photographer knew the requirements of Citizenship and Immigration Canada. Thus, she instructed me to smile less broadly for the shot.

Guess, I can't help smiling because I feel lucky to be in Canada.

4th month's expenses

My total expense for the 4th month (1st to 31st January) is around CAD1,382, broken down as follow.

Amount (CAD) : Category

Once-off expenses

*  28 : Re-take PR card photos and resubmission postage
*  20 : Unlock Fido phone for other SIM cards. *See below
*  33 : Personal business cards with express delivery

Yearly expenses

* 218 : 180 pairs of daily disposable contact lens (for 1/2yr)

Monthly expenses

* 500 : January room rental
*   8 : Mobile phone bill (after $25 referral discount)
*  61 : Medical Services Plan
* 110 : Transport - Monthly 2-Zone Farecard
*   4 : Transport - Others
* 227 : Food/groceries
*  16 : Clothings
*  81 : Household Items (including tioletries)
*   9 : Recreation/Entertainment/Restaurant
*  25 : Meals/Drinks
*  11 : Personal Grooming & Make-up
*   0 : Stationery/Postage (exclude once-off postage above)
*  31 : Others (Lottery, Souvenirs, etc)

Have been working much during the 1st 2 weeks of 2011 and thus have less time for shopping and entertainment. That helped to keep the expenses close to the budget.

*The $20 to unlock a Fido phone to accept other vendors' SIM cards is something new to me. In Singapore, when a mobile phone comes free with a service contract, the phone is not locked to accept only that particular vendor's SIM cards. However, for Fido, one cannot use another vendor's SIM card (e.g. a Singapore SIM card) on the "free phone with contract". I heard it's the same for the other Canadian mobile vendors.

This month, I have kept to the budget better. I overshot the Groceries purchases by only $7 (less than 3.5%) and the Others category also by $7 (due to some CNY gifts). The biggest gap is $21 (35%) for Household items. My little trip to one of my favourite hang-out place, Ikea, broke the budget. Nevertheless, I am very happy that my things are more organized thanks to the Ikea items. Look forward to future budget for additional Household items to organize my things.