Tag Archives: money

Quote

How to buy happiness

I know, everyone says you can’t buy happiness. I think this piece does a good job of showing how money can enable you to find happiness. Now you don’t need money for this, but money helps.

What does the article say you should do?

  1. Buy experiences
  2. Make it a treat
  3. Buy time
  4. Pay now, consume later
  5. Invest in others
  6. Make it a treat

If you read the piece, you’ll get a taste of what they are getting at: Shopping for Happiness – Put A Number On It!

Of course, you can have lots happy moments without spending any money, and lots more spending a fraction of what some people spend. Perhaps the real goal is to find as many ways as you can to be happy, and aim for those with the least amount of spending.

Regardless of what you do, aim to be happy and pursue it.

Quote

The challenges of taxing the wealthy

Is outlined here: Taxing the Wealthy Sounds Easy. It’s Not. – The New York Times.

It’s worth a read. It’s thoughtful, even if you may not agree with it. Also, just because something is not easy does not mean do not attempt it.

Taxing drives behaviour. My thought is drive behaviour in the right direction.  Tell affluent people to use their wealth in directed ways that improve our society or tax them so that it can be done. If they disagree, then it is time to make explicit the social contracts in place and ask what has to be changed to make for a better society. Because for most societies in the world, including Canada’s, the social contract can be a lot better.

Quote

What are the top business books?


Arguably they are the ones in this article: I read the 8 best business books of all time—here’s what I learned. If you want to know what they are and get a synopsis, read that piece.

Fifteen good links to help you manage your personal finances better


Lots of good stuff here, from how to save money on food, your kids, your transportation….and much more. From the New York Times, Vox, the Cut, and quite a few from a good site for this information called The Simple Dollar.

  1. When and How to Stop Paying Your Kids’ Bills – The Simple Dollar
  2. 13 smart ways to improve your finances in 2017 – Vox
  3. A Household Budget Strategy for People Who Hate Budgeting | Apartment Therapy
  4. 11 Lifestyle Changes That Will Help You Save Money & Depend Less On Consumerism
  5. What to Do When You’re Bad at Money – The New York Times
  6. How to Save Money But Still Have a Life
  7. What I Learned From Tracking My Spending for a Month – The New York Times
  8. 33 Productive Things to Do Without Spending Money | Apartment Therapy
  9. 5 Money-Saving Lessons I Learned in a Month of Budgeting – Bon Appétit
  10. The First Step Out of Debt – The Simple Dollar
  11. 10 Things You Should Never Pay For – The Simple Dollar
  12. Nine Frugal Strategies for Tackling the Winter Blues – The Simple Dollar
  13. Finding Meaning Within Your Job – Even If You Don’t Like It – The Simple Dollar
  14. Five Monthly Bills You Could Live Without – The Simple Dollar
  15. Five Things You Could Afford If You Didn’t Buy a New Car – The Simple Dollar

It’s RRSP season in Canada. You may feel: why bother contributing? Read this then.

If you are daunted and dismayed with the impossibiity of saving for retirement, then read this.

A few thoughts:

  1. It’s written for Americans, but it works just as well for Canadians. (Replace 401K with RRSP).
  2. You may still not be able to retire, but the more you save, the more cushion you have for later.
  3. It may help you get to sleep at night when your brain starts saying: you are doomed to die old and poor!
Quote

On Finland and UBI (Universal Basic Income)

Two links worth reading on Finland and UBI: this one and this one.

Essentially, Finland did a form of UBI and it didn’t work. Those for UBI will argue it was implemented poorly. Those against UBI will argue those people are purists and in fact UBI will never work.

I think there are limits to UBI, but the Finnish implementation was poor. I think it can be done better than that. Read the two pieces in the New York Times and decide for yourself.

Do higher taxes cause rich people to move?


No.

You will hear anecdotes of people doing so, but in reality:

While everyone seems aware of a handful of high-profile millionaires decamping to low-tax states for tax reasons, in truth few move in response to state tax rates. Young examined tax data from every millionaire in the United States over thirteen years. He found that, even over that long time horizon, only 0.3% of all millionaires, on net, moved to a lower tax state. A larger share—about 2.5 percent– move from one state to another each year, but most do not migrate for tax reasons.

That quote is from: What Republicans and Democrats Can Learn from “The Myth of Millionaire Tax Flight” | Tax Policy Center.

Remember this the next time someone is arguing that higher taxes will cause the well off to move elsewhere.

(Image via pexels.com)

On Bitcoin rivals


While all the hype might make you think that Bitcoin is  the only cryptocurrency, there are a number of alternatives out there and this piece in Fortune outlines what they are: 5 Bitcoin Rivals That Are Rapidly on the Rise.

While this piece lists a handful, I expect that there will be a flood of such things in the future as financial markets look to capitalize on this mixture of money and technology.

The Fortune piece is also not bad in summarizing some key facts about Bitcoin if you still find it hard to get your head around it.

I expect Bitcoin to crash to a much lower level, but I don’t see cryptocurrencies going away. Knowing more about them, especially because they could have a major impact on global economies, is worthwhile.

Where to buy and sell Bitcoin in Toronto


I don’t recommend participating in the madness that is Bitcoin, but if you want to and you live in Toronto, then check this out: How to buy Bitcoin in Toronto.

Caveat emptor.

 Ko-fi: a new way to raise money online

a small cup of coffee
There are many ways to raise money on line, from Patreon to Indiegogo to Kickstarter. A more modest way to raise money online is this site: Ko-fi. I think it is perfect for anyone wanting to share things with others in exchange for a modest amount of money (i.e. the cost of a cup of coffee, approximately). If you were looking for something like this for your site, I recommend you check it out.

By the way, if you want to check it out (and buy ME a coffee), here is my link. Thank you!

A cautionary tale of what low taxes and libertarianism brings

Amish women on the beach
There can be many lessons that can be drawn from the story here: The Rise and Fall of the ‘Freest Little City in Texas’

The ones I drew were

  • You get the society you pay for. In this case, the people of this part of Texas were unwilling to pay for anything, and they got nothing in return. It’s hard to believe this even needs to be said in this age, but apparently it does.
  • Even basic services cost money. That money comes from taxes or service fees.
  • Those services are expensive to pay for individually: it makes much more sense for people to pool their money (in the form of taxes),  to make it cheaper overall for everyone.
  • Taxes are only part of what makes a society, but a society that is based on money and that does not have taxes is no society at all.
  • Only a society that does not depend on money can get away without taxes. Typically those a tightly knit,  cohesive, pre-money communities that depend heavily on sharing and barter. These communities are more socialist or communist in nature as opposed to libertarian. More like an Amish community or hippie commune or a religious community of some form.
  • The best way to have a libertarian society is to have one of great abundance. Scarcity requires people to share and work together if they want to survive.

It’s a good story. Read it for yourself and draw your own conclusions.

(Photo above is Amish women on the beach)

Why the stock market goes down and why it goes up (and what you should consider)

Stock market gains chart since 2009

Since the start of the great recession in 2009, two things have happened in the stock market:

  • In the short term, events have occurred that correlate with declines in the stock market
  • In the long term, the stock market has steadily improved significantly

This leads me to two conclusions

  • Always take a longer term view of the stock market
  • The things that drive the stock market in the long term are very different than the short term drivers

The second conclusion is something that this piece tries to tackle: Gradual Improvements Go Unnoticed. It is easy to see what drives the stock market down in the short term: it is difficult to ascertain what drives the stock market up in the long term. Gradual improvements could be a contributor. Other things, like the activity of the central bank, affects this. Even how other markets in the world in the world can affect the stock market.

What is Rule 40  and how did athlete Emma Coburn get around it

This piece, During Rule 40 Blackout, Emma Coburn Showcases New Balance on Olympic Stage, FloTrack, has a good run down of Rule 40 and how Emma Coburn cleverly circumvented it. In short, Rule 40 prevents all but official brands and whom they sponsor from promoting them during an blackout period of time surrounding the time of the Olympics. For example, US athletes using Nike can promote the Nike brand, but US athletes using other brands like New Balance cannot.

How did Coburn circumvent this? According to that article,

After crossing the finish line in third behind Ruth Jebet and Hyvin Jepkemoi, respectively, Coburn immediately removed her New Balance spikes and draped them over her shoulder before carrying the American flag. As a result of the bold move, thousands of photos snapped during her victory lap included her sponsor, New Balance, which otherwise would not have been featured. It’s more than likely that Coburn, who is vocal about sponsorship rights, did this intentionally to spotlight New Balance in the middle of the Rule 40 “blackout period” and circumvent Nike’s exclusive sponsorship rights with USATF.

One thing to note is that there are different rules for different athletic federations, it seems. The US swim team has more latitude than the track and field athletes.

As always, this is about money. Whatever else the Olympics are about — and obviously they are about many good things — money is one of the big aspects of these games.

Want to know why it is so expensive to get tickets to special events?

Then you want to read these two really good pieces on why it is brutally tough to get tickets to an event without paying a fortune:

What it comes down to is a very limited supply and a very high demand. But that’s obvious. Read the pieces to see just how it really plays out.

The rich stay richer and the poor stay poorer (now with data to back this up)

I was impressed by this study of economic mobility over many generations in Florence: What’s your (sur)name? Intergenerational mobility over six centuries | VOX, CEPR’s Policy Portal. They make a good case that the richer families stay richer and the poorer families stay poorer regardless of the many other changes that occur in an area.To add to this, VOX reviews it and also references a study done in Sweden that finds something similar (Today’s rich families in Florence, Italy, were rich 700 years ago – Vox).

It’s depressing, but not surprising to me. I suspect that while individuals may rise and fall in terms of economic mobility, specific families work to insure that the wealth acquired is maintained through marriage and inheritance. Worse, conditions for poorer families are such that they can never acquire enough wealth to move them from the lower percentile to a higher one.

What companies mean when they say money is offshore

When you hear of companies like Apple having their money offshore, you might imagine piles of gold bullion or paper bills sitting in a physical bank somewhere in Switzerland or Ireland. More likely that money is residing in one of the big banks head-quartered somewhere in the United States. (For that matter, it is likely residing as so many numbers in a computer run by one of these banks and not piles of paper or gold.)

The Times and Slate explain it here: For U.S. Companies, Money ‘Offshore’ Means Manhattan – The New York Times and Offshore accounts not actually offshore.

Why Bankers Want Rate Hikes

It looks like the Fed in the US is going to raise rates. It is highly arguable whether it is a good idea. For a long time, it was a bad idea. Despite that, commercial banks recently have been arguing for the Fed to raise rates.  Now whatever reasons they have been given, the true and underlying reason is mentioned here:  Why Bankers Want Rate Hikes – The New York Times.

It is more difficult for banks to make money with lower rates. Higher rates make it easier for them to make money. Hence the push by some of them to raise the rates.

Banks aren’t stupid: they don’t want the economy to tank: they don’t make money that way either. But the sooner rates rise, the easier it is for them. Here’s hoping the US Fed continues to be smart enough to resist the pressure and do the right thing for the American economy.

 

Janet Yellen, Forecasting Ace

I didn’t expect a positive review of Janet Yellen in the wsj, but this piece, linked to below, is really positive. Here’s a sample:

Steering central bank policy depends more than anything on assessing where the economy is heading. Yet, central bankers, surprisingly, are seldom picked for their forecasting acumen. More often they are former public servants, bankers or academics.

Then there is Janet Yellen.

Her forecasts as a Fed official have been strikingly accurate, as the release of 2009 transcripts to the Fed’s deliberations make clear. If she worked on Wall Street, she’d be a “hot hand.” This does not mean as chairwoman she is necessarily right; but it does suggest her forecasts deserve the benefit of the doubt.

via Janet Yellen, Forecasting Ace – Real Time Economics – WSJ. A really good piece.

The Performance of Many Hedge Funds Comes Down to Owning *ONE* company

The one company? Apple. How dependent are the hedge funds? According to Bloomberg Business:

A group of companies representing the most popular long positions for hedge funds is up just 0.2 percent in 2015, compared to a 2.3 percent gain for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index, data compiled by Goldman Sachs show. A 19 percent year-to-date increase for Apple, which is owned by one in every five hedge funds and is a top-10 position for 12 percent of them, has provided a needed boost, the firm said.

That’s a bad thing. A similar thing happened in Canada when fund managers held large holdings in companies like Nortel and RIM. It didn’t end well.

For more, see this: The Performance of Many Hedge Funds Just Comes Down to Owning Apple – Bloomberg Business.

Piketty Explained (by someone other than me. Also more prodding from me to get you to read it

 

I wrote about Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century here and here. As I said, I strongly encourage you to read it and take notes.

If you want a great summary of the book, I highly recommend this post: Piketty Explained: Summary of Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty.

It’s superb. Peter Shirley, the author, has written  a 30 second summary and a 15 minute summary, and when you finish both, you will have a very fast but very thorough introduction to the book.  I am going to come back to this from time to time as a refresher to what I read in the book (as well as flip through the book again). Did you read Piketty but skip sections? Then review Peter’s post to see what you missed.

More good reasons to pick up Piketty before 2014 ends.

(The chart on world growth rates is from a link to Peter Shirley’s blog post.)

My marginalia from my copy of Piketty’s capital

My previous post was a guide to reading Piketty’s Capital. As I was going through it, I also jotted down some rough notes on the book and things I thought as I was going along. My marginalia, so to speak. Here it is, for what it’s worth to you:

  • Piketty’s book irked people for a number of reasons, including me initially. One reason, I think has to do with the grandness of his book. First, there’s the title. It implies this is a follow on to the great text by Marx. Second he does things like state fundamental laws of capitalism, as if economics were physics and Piketty is the 21st century Einstein. While Piketty can seem grand at time, he’s also humble in other parts. Throughout the book he often confesses to the limits of his approach based on the data (or lack of data) he has. He still has a lot of data and he has done a lot of analysis, but he is aware of the limits of it. This humility helped me get over the parts that irked me.
  • For non-economists like me, I think the book is most enjoyable when Piketty relates economic theory with example in literature and history. His references to Austen and Balzac make his ideas less abstract and make them richer. Fortunately, he does this often.
  • Some American critics would have you believe that Piketty is anti-capitalist / pro-socialist. I didn’t see that. I’d say Piketty is for open markets, strong on education, and democratic.  From an American point of view, he may seem left wing, but to most of the developed world I would place him closer to the center, slightly left.
  • One thing Piketty’s analysis can’t or doesn’t take into account is the exponential change in everything starting at the end of the 19th century. He touches on it a bit (pop growth rates on page 80), but this is factor. I believe that there is a correlation between growth rates and birth rates, with growth rates lagging birth rates. But this is a belief I have: I don’t have the ability to show this.
  • I was surprised by how limited economic growth is. (Chart on page 94). As Piketty mentions, people think it should be in the 3-4% range, but is much more likely to hover around the 1% range. Yet even such growth rates have a huge impact over decades and centuries.
  • Indirectly, Piketty makes the case for Naomi Klein’s thesis on disaster capitalism.  The biggest opportunities for growth in the 20th century occur as a result of the World Wars. Take a look at the charts on page 97 to see what I mean. Wars are terrible for people and cities but good for economic growth.
  • As I was reading the book in the summer, there were a slew of critics writing Think Pieces (or tweets!) against him and his book. The most ridiculous arguments against Piketty are the shallow ones, of course: the ones based on the book title, or that he is French, or that the book is all about new taxes. These arguments, mainly from American writers, reflect a lack of thought and the biases of Americans more than anything else. Critics of Piketty who write small articles on his book, criticizing this point or that, are missing the much bigger picture. Piketty, in presenting all of this data and analysis, is providing a broad stage to discuss capitalism. I think anyone wanting to take him on really has to do the same level of work. That’s the thing. Cherry picking is useless. Yes, it would be good to have more data. But this is the data available. If you want to criticize Piketty, you need more data, or you need to critique his data. If you want to show how technology is making inequality less not more, bring that data. Saying “Piketty is a red” or “this is not 19th century range” and thinking you are done just makes you look foolish and your arguments weak. (Of course you can believe what you like, but belief is not argument.)
  • Another thing he doesn’t touch on is the destructive nature of IT on capital. Being an IT professional, I was wondering if he would examine capital in the 21st century from that perspective, since IT is having a greater and greater effect on our economies, and as more things become digital, the depreciation of capital related to those things accelerates. If you’d like to read more on that topic, you won’t find it here.
  • It is interesting to note the stability of capitalism in the 19th century, at least in Europe. It was a conservative time politically, with limited warfare. Currency and other things economic were also stable then. No point here, just something that struck me as interesting.
  • I believe that an accumulation of capital leads to anti-democratic measures by capitalists that result in revolutions or wars, which lead to the destruction of private capital. Piketty doesn’t go into this, but it would be interesting to read an analysis that shows a relationship between the accumulation of capital and the advent of wars and revolutions.
  • I found this fact fascinating: after the Napoleonic wars and World War 2, Britain’s public debt was 200% of the GDP. 200%! I found this fascinating, first because there is a lot of worry now about the wealthiest nations having their public debt going over 100% of their GDP. Yet Britain’s was much much higher in those two cases. How did they reduced that debt and bring the percentage down from 200% to a much smaller number (as seen in the book)? Inflation. It was done over a very long period of time, but it is proof that high debt can be brought down and that it isn’t irreversible.
  • Reading the section on slaves and capital made me think many things, including the idea that capital based on anti-democratic or inhumane means is precarious — think of capital that pollutes or depends on the deprivation of otherwise rights….it is unstable capital — and that capitalists and not just socialists should argue for an economic society based on democracy and human rights.
  • One thing Piketty does well is whenever possible he links data from the US and Sweden because they are both relative outliers to the UK, France and Germany. It also highlighted to me how much the US lags (or leads, depending on your viewpoint) much of the developed world.
  • Piketty is big on education. If anything, I think he gives it too much weight. People from better schools stay wealthy not just because of what they learn but who they connect with in such schools. (Maybe it is different in France, but I doubt it.) Establishment schools are smart enough to let new blood in but they are far from meritocracies. To me, Piketty seems to have a blind spot when it comes to academia that he doesn’t show elsewhere when talking about inheritance or super-managers.
  • Piketty makes the case that taxes are better than debt. I made this note: “The concern for progressives is that capitalists will drive down both taxes and debt by abusing social programs.” But I don’t know why! 🙂 Ah well…it was likely a good thought at the time of reading it.
  • Piketty talks at the end about the contradiction of capitalism is r > g. My belief is that this formula should be more complicated and that when you add a time factor in there and some other dependencies, you see have a better model and formula (or formulae) on how capitalism corrects itself, either through war, or revolution, or other drastic social change. But this is just another belief I have.

As you are reading it, you will likely have your own notes and marginalia. Let me know what you think.

My modest guide to Piketty’s Capitalism and how to read it (all the way to the end)

 

You are looking at buying Piketty’s Capitalism, or maybe you already bought it, but you are daunted by it. Having read it, I can say it is daunting in parts, but it is also great. I highly recommend you get it and read it from front to back. Some of you will have no problem with that. For the rest, I put together this modest guide on how best to read it and finish it and not get bogged down and put it aside.

Here goes.

The introduction is an easy read. If anything, it is highly approachable. Piketty is a good writer, and he does a number of things to make it easy to read. (For example, he brings in a lot of literary references. He also does not assume you are an economist.) For the first 100 pages I thought: why is everyone having difficulty with this book….it’s fun! (Mind you, I am interested in economics, but still….) What I’d say is that this introduction is a good introduction not only to the book but the field of economics in general. Don’t be fooled though: the rest of the book is not as easy to read.

Of the book’s four sections, the first and last are the most approachable for non-economists. Emergency tip: if you are getting bogged down in the middle of the book, feel free to skip to the last section. Reading the first and last section is still rewarding, and you can read the last section without reading the middle. (Not ideal, of course, but better than skipping the last section all together).

That said, there are great passages in the middle, and there are some slow sections in the front and back. (Don’t entirely skip the middle, and likewise, don’t be thrown off by some harder parts in the front or back.) Here’s some examples of what I mean:

While non-economists might want to skip over it, I found his history of data collection — around page 55 — interesting. He is following in the footsteps of some of these other figures in the field of economics while also showing the limits of what analysis can be done, given the lack of data. I think this is an important thing to read if you read his critics. Piketty is aware of the limits of his analysis: something you would not think by reading his critics like I have. It’s good to know this. Also, this supports the case that Piketty makes later in section 4 on why a global capital tax would not just be good for states and a check on capitalism, but also as a way of improving the field of economics. Try to read this part.

Generally, the sections of the book on growth, income and capital are interesting infor the long term perspective they give. I found those worthwhile.

The second section is a good take on how capital has changed over the centuries. If you are going to think about capital and capitalism, it’s worth reading the second section on this history. There were radical changes in capital from the 18th century to the 20th, as capital went from being largely agricultural land or largely housing. In the United States another big capital shift occurred as human capital in the form of slaves rightly disappeared after the American civil war. So, I liked this section: it got me thinking about capital in ways I hadn’t before.

I highly recommend you don’t skim the part on the relationship between slavery and capitalism in around page 158. The value of slaves as part of the overall wealth of the US south is incredible, and the effect the Civil War would have on rightly destroying such capital was significant. You can rightly argue that slaves are human beings and not capital, but from the point of view of the slave owner, they were as much capital as machinery or barns or land. A thought provoking section, I found.

Of the middle section, make sure you read page 166 where Piketty introduces his law of capitalism. Piketty’s laws are a key part of the book. Also at the beginning of page 237 the book moves away from the data to talk about inequality and there is more approachable analysis. For example, around this point of the book, Piketty provides a good analysis of labor vs capital, class, and an insightful review of inequality. In particular his analysis around super managers and super salaries is really good and highly relevant in our times. (I think it also got up the nose of some Silicon Valley types, which I found fascinating.)

Make sure you read the section of the book on inequality: I found it to be one of the better parts of the book.

Overall, beware of section two. In this section, Piketty looks at capital in various parts of the world. If you are an economist, then  you really want to focus on this section, because he is making a case for his central idea. However, for a general reader, you might become fatigued in the middle of this part as it tends to feel repetitive. By the way, I think this repetitiveness is really supportive of Piketty’s point. He can argue: hey! look there is a consistency here we can make some conclusions about. If you already support his point, skim away.

If you are skimming madly in the middle, slow down as you get to page 400.
I took a lot more notes towards the end of the book (in the 400s) and I thought this section readable and interesting. For example, in the 400s, Piketty deals with merit. I believe a lot of critics don’t like the book because of how Piketty places limits on virtues of merit and hard work. Piketty argues you can work hard to get rich but someone with a lot of capital can get as rich or much richer with little if any effort. He goes on to show that capitalism is structured such that the rich will…well, get richer. Which means that proportionally the poor get poor. You may believe the rich get richer: here’s the argument as why in a capitalism society that happens.

The other thing I like about the 400s is that Piketty bring in literary examples again. He does that in the first section, and he does it again here, and I found whenever he does this, the book becomes livelier and more interesting.

Still reading? At the last section? Good! In the last section, Piketty focuses on the importance of regulating capital. Now, I am skeptical of what he recommends, even though it is hardly revolutionary (literally or figuratively). Maybe it will happen in the 22nd century. I am willing to believe it will happen, thought. After all, progressive income tax is a fairly new thing, and taxes themselves will continue to evolve, just like they have for centuries. Likewise, freer trade has increased dramatically in the 20th century, and other taxes like VAT taxes have made a big impact. Perhaps a global tax would not be impossible. That said, you should read the last section, because to not do so would be to miss out on a key point of the book.

Ok, that’s my modest guide to reading Piketty’s Capital. Did I convince you to give it a try? Great! Give it a go! If you can avoid the pitfalls in the middle, you’ll find yourself cruising towards the end and find you are done sooner than you think. Book completion aside, when you finish Piketty’s Capital you’ll have a much better understanding of capital in the 21st and capitalism in general. I think this important, because even if you don’t want to think about capitalism, capitalism affects us all. Knowing more about it, knowing how to think about it, and having ideas on how to change it are valuable.

Good luck!

On class, Tim Hortons, and Starbucks


While there is alot being written about the Tim Hortons/Burger King merger from the point of view of taxes and finances, this piece in the blog Worthwhile Canadian Initiative touches on something else: class

Can’t we at least get a decent class analysis of this question? There are two sorts of people: Starbucks people; and Tim Hortons people. And this class distinction is far more important than anything based on superficial differences like income and occupation. As a Tim Hortons person, who feels deeply ill-at-ease in a Starbucks, and who does not understand the menu, I cannot stop myself asking the “barista”(?) the subversive question: “Can I have a small double-double please?”

In my experience with going there, Tim Hortons is an establishment that seems to be staffed sith and patronized by working class people. As opposed to Starbucks, which seems to be staffed and patronized by middle class people. This is not to say that one class is better than another, but there appears to be this class distinction that differentiates them. The blog post linked to above talks about cultural or educated classes, but I think there is a case to be made that this also has to do with economic classes as well as a rural / urban / suburban divide.

Economically, the lowest coffee advertised by Tim Hortons is closer to one dollar (in Canada). In Starbucks, the lowest coffee advertised is closer to two dollars. While that may seem like much to some, for working class people, it makes a big difference. (Never mind that alot of the coffee bought in Starbucks is over three dollars once you start getting it from the espresso bar versus from the coffee carafe.) Likewise, a coffee and a donut costs less than three dollars in Tim Hortons, while a coffee and a snack at Starbucks is closer in the range of four to five dollars. (Based on the many coffee / snack combos I have bought at both.)

In terms of rural / urban divide, Tim Hortons has been over time making a move into the downtown core (at least in Toronto), while Starbucks has been slowly expanding outwards (e.g., Sydney, Nova Scotia recently got a Starbucks).

Those of you who say you have good taste may say: yes, but Starbucks is better. (And there will be others that say both are terrible and only indie coffee shops have good coffee.) I believe it is better too, though I don’t think Tim Hortons’s coffee is bad. (I have drunk bad coffee, and Tim Hortons is not bad.) I think for Tim Hortons customers, coffee is a hot beverage with caffeine that is good to drink while driving and at work.  Having it cost less makes a difference. Tim Hortons advertises that their coffee is fresh: that is the quality it has. Starbucks will talk of their coffee in terms of where it comes from and with terms you often hear wine experts talk about: those are the qualities it has.  Your values will determine where you buy your coffee from.

By the way, one of the stereotypes was that only middle class people (and pretentious ones at that) drank lattes. Now Tim’s has machines that make lattes and a wide range of milk based coffees too. They may not be as good as those in other places, but they are not bad and they have two other qualities: they are fast and they are lower in cost. Those two qualities are valued by working class people. And working class people like to try things too: they are no different from people with more money and more education who live downtown in the city.

Coffee is about class. It’s about the different classes we have in our society that center around money, education, where you work and where you live. Starbucks and Tim Hortons are based upon that as well, though as each attempts to grow more, they are expanding from their class base. As someone who comes from a rural working class background but lives an urban middle class background, I am comfortable in and recognize the value in both.

In Canada, we don’t talk about class much, but it is everywhere. Including the coffee shops we patronize.

Freedom 48 – how to retire early

My former colleague and all around great person, Annie English, has a book and a blog on how to retire young. The Toronto Star has reviewed it here: Here’s how this couple retired at 48 in expensive Toronto: Roseman | Toronto Star. Annie and her husband, Rich, were disciplined before retirement, and that discipline has paid off. If you want to learn how they did it, check out the Star article, or their blog, Retired At 48. If this is something you want to achieve, buy the book, too.

Here’s a good run down of other digital currency besides bitcoin

Bitcoin is not the only digital currency out there. Indeed, there is a wealth of them, as
this list illustrates. My favourite is dogecoin, but there are many many more. If you feel like you want to get involved in digital currency but bitcoin is too rich for your blood, then one of the other ones on the list may do the trick.