Archive for January, 2010

Book Review: Rob Carrick’s Guide to What’s Good, Bad and Downright Awful in Canadian Investments Today

January 21, 2010

[Front Cover of Rob Carrick's Guide to What's Good, Bad and Downright Awful in Canadian Investments Today]

Respected Globe and Mail personal finance columnist Rob Carrick has followed up How to Pay Less and Save More For Yourself: The Essential Consumer Guide to Canadian Banking and Investing (read my review), a guide to getting the best deals in banking and investing, with another book with an equally long title. But don’t let the long title deter you. This is a rather short book (roughly over 200 pages), written in a breezy style and in a format that is perfect for random reading because the book is filled with handy lists such as “Six crummy mutual funds that make the industry look bad”, “Five great deals in fundland”, “Five key considerations in choosing a discount broker” and “Ten traits of a great adviser”.

I found it refreshing that Rob Carrick pulls no punches and tells it like it is. Take the “Three Examples of Fund Industry Shenanigans”, in which Rob lists the mutual fund industry practices that really bug him. Here’s what he says about making a big deal about management fees:

You may now have grasped the idea that management fees are nothing but a component of the total cost of owning mutual funds. In quoting management fees in its marketing material, then, a mutual fund company is giving you only a partial view of what it costs to own its products. Why do fund companies do this? My cynical view is that it’s to fool people.

After all, the term management fee can easily be mistaken for management expense ratio. Publicize management fees all by themselves, and maybe some people will be fooled into thinking your funds are cheaper to own than they actually are.

This is not merely a book about fund industry shenanigans, though the industry does come in for heavy criticism (and deservedly so). There is a lot of ideas for investors of all stripes, from beginners to the pros, from picking an adviser to avoiding principal-protected notes. The toughest part in investing is avoiding big mistakes. Rob Carrick’s Guide will help in avoiding some pretty big ones that could set back your finances by years. Too bad if the fund industry’s feelings are hurt in the process. After all, you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs.

Rob Carrick’s Guide is published by Doubleday Canada and has a cover price of $19.99 and is available on Amazon for about $15. Thanks to Rob for mentioning this blog as one of the “Five blogs that will make you a smarter investor”.

What you can expect on this blog

January 19, 2010


I had been meaning to write about the full disclosure policy on the blog in light of new US Federal Trade Commission rules introduced last fall that required bloggers to provide a full disclosure when they received free samples or have some financial interest in any product they write about. What with one thing or another, the topic fell off my radar screen. But now, in light of a recent minor kerfuffle on Where Does All My Money Go?, in which Preet forgot to mention that a post was sponsored, I thought I’d clearly spell out the editorial policy on the blog. So, here it goes:

  1. I will about topics I find interesting and/or topics that I think will interest and, hopefully, profit you. Unless otherwise mentioned no payment, monetary or otherwise, directly or indirectly has been paid to write and publish a specific post. Sponsored posts will be clearly marked.
  2. I occasionally may participate in affiliate arrangements with purveyors of financial products and services. Any participation will be disclosed, just so you are aware of it.
  3. I participate in’s affiliate program. If you see a link to Amazon, you can assume that it is an affiliate link. Since, all earnings from Amazon are recycled into finance books that I read and review here, you get an indirect benefit as well.
  4. About the only free products I receive are books and financial software. While I love reading and free books are one of the nice perks of blogging, receiving a review copy isn’t always a free lunch. When I purchase a book or borrow it from the library, I have no qualms about putting it away after reading a few pages. With a review copy, I feel obligated to try and finish the book and then write about it, which sometimes turns a fun activity into grunt work. Whether I purchase the book or receive a free copy, I try to record my honest opinion in the review. I won’t write a positive review just because a publisher or author sent me a free book.
  5. I will run advertisements on the blog. The ads help defray my expenses in running the blog and puts some extra cash in my pocket. I hope you won’t begrudge that because after all, we are capitalists here.
  6. Blogs are a very democratic medium and reader comments are welcomed and encouraged. However, free speech has its limits. Abusive or offensive language will not be tolerated. Neither will slander or baseless allegations. Fortunately, such comments are few and far between on this blog and only a small minority of comments have ever been deleted or edited for overstepping the limits.
  7. Spam will not be tolerated. Comments that have little or no relation to the topic at hand will be summarily deleted without any explanation.

If you have any concerns let me know and I’ll try and address it.

No-Fee Business Chequing Account from HSBC Direct

January 19, 2010


Update on April 23, 2013: HSBC Canada does not offer this chequing account anymore. If you need free pay-as-you-go business banking you may want to consider the RBC Business Essentials Savings Account that I wrote about here.

If you are tired of paying a monthly fee to do your banking, you have the option of opening a no-fee chequing account with President’s Choice Financial and seeing a substantial reduction in bank fees. If you want to earn a higher interest rate on your savings, you are spoiled for choice with a long list of online banks vying for your business. Even the discount brokerage space has vigorous competition. But, for some reason, business banking has been one area that seems completely immune to competitive pressures. If you run a small sideline business and want a chequing account, your options are limited to accounts that charge a monthly fee of $5 or $6 for the lowest-priced, pay-as-you-go, banking package. If your business is grossing about $1,000 per year, you’ll end up paying $60 to $70 just to maintain a business chequing account.

Thankfully, HSBC Canada is injecting some much-needed competition in business banking by introducing a no-fee, business chequing account that it calls HSBC Business Direct. There will be no monthly fees on the account, no charges for an unlimited number of electronic transactions and no fees for a limited number of cheque transactions (both credit and debit). Note that the Business Direct account charges some fees but these should be far and few between for light users and any applicable fees seem to be inline with those charged by the big banks. Also, HSBC says that this is not a limited-time, introductory offer type of gimmick and promises not to charge a monthly fee as long as the account is maintained.

Update: HSBC Business Direct offers both Canadian dollar and US dollar Business Chequing Accounts.