Throwback Thursday: The Electronic Age

When I was a girl one of my favourite cartoons was The Jetsons about a futuristic space-age cartoon family. Advances in home technology were just beginning and the Jetsons’ high-tech lifestyle was amazing to me. Who knew how quickly many those fictional advances would come to pass.

Home Media Capacity

Related: Buying a home in 1974 vs. 2014

Television

Boomer kids were known as the TV generation.

TVs initially were like a piece of furniture, a small black-and-white screen in a wooden cabinet. Reception was from “rabbit ears” or an antenna on the roof. We got 3 channels and if you didn’t want to watch one channel, you hauled yourself out of the LazyBoy and turned a dial to change the channel manually (or forced your kid brother to do it for you).

The advent of VCRs allowed us to record a TV show and even watch movies we previously had to go to see at the movie theatre.

The latest generation of TV and Blu-ray technology is 4K – roughly four times the resolution of regular HD. OLED – organic light emitting diodes – also dramatically improves your picture quality.

Every modern TV is a “smart” TV with built-in wi-fi connections that can directly stream from Netflix or YouTube. Or, you can use Chromecast, Roku, or Apple TV. Oh, my!

Related: The 1980’s vs. today

Then add a remote control with voice control and gesture sensing (possibly not a good option for someone like me who talks with her hands).

At one time, equipping your living room for your visual entertainment was easy. All you needed to do was plug in the TV.

Today, the basic set-up of each component is more complicated and varied making it daunting to set up. When we bought our new TV, I knew we were in trouble when the sales associate recommended that a technician come to our home to set everything up for us.

Computers

When our oldest son entered high school in the early 1990’s, we were strongly urged to get a computer for his schoolwork. The whole set up cost us about $5,000 and looked something like this:

1990 Home Computer

I could be wrong, but I don’t remember my kids ever using this computer, but it certainly was a new toy for my husband. He was on it all the time.

We had dial-up Internet with a modem and you could hear a pronounced squawk when the connection was made. Every evening I’d hear, “Don’t use the phone right now, I’m on the computer.”

Computer technology is improving day-by-day. Sizes have become smaller, processors are faster, LCD monitors are more comfortable on the eyes, and data storage is in the terabytes (if that’s not enough, you have storage in the cloud). They are only limited by their memory capacity and operating speeds.

Related: Toys that have stood the test of time

Wireless laptops and tablets are small in size and more flexible to use.

Software is being improved rapidly, giving us new features every day – too many to list here. And, do you remember when there was no World Wide Web?

Telephone

My parents had a rotary phone on a little table in the front hallway – black of course.

By the time I moved away from home, and then married, we had push button phones, but they were still attached to the wall outlet by the cord, so the phone companies recommended a phone for every room – for our convenience, of course.

Phones came in a lot of different styles and colours, and novelty phones were popular. My oldest son wanted a subscription to Sports Illustrated just so he could get a phone shaped like a football.

Home phones haven’t really changed much in style these days, except for being cordless. More dominant are mobile phones – iPhones and Android smart-phones.

These have all the power of a computer with mega-multiple apps and games. They feature upgraded cameras, Hi-Res audio, HD screens and 3D touch screens.

Final thoughts

You will notice that previously each “device” was it’s own entity. Now crossover among each device is not only common, it’s expected – watch a TV show on your tablet, take a video of your kids with your phone, have a slide show of your photos on the big screen TV.

Related: The family car – then and now

Electronics are getting increasingly smaller, more complex, and, yes, smarter.

  • Your fridge can tell you when you’re out of milk and order more online.
  • You can check on your kids from a video feed to your smart-phone.
  • You can lock your door and set the thermostat and security system with your phone.

Knowledge, technology and improvements continue to accelerate at a pace that’s faster than ever. Nearly 40 percent of today’s toddlers regularly interact with gadgets with screens. Who knows what will be the norm for my grandchildren when they’re adults?

Personally, even with smart phones, smart appliances, and smart houses, I’m still waiting for Rosie, the robot cook and housekeeper.

Becoming A Better Investor: Socially Responsible Investing

It isn’t what we say that makes a difference in the world. It’s what we do.

There has been high interest and significant growth in socially responsible investing – also known as ethical investing – especially among younger investors and women.

But, even though the trend is growing, it’s not new.

Socially responsible investing has existed since the 1700’s when religious groups such as the Quakers avoided “sinful” investments such as those participating in the slave trade.

More recently, in the 1960s – 1970s, investors were mainly concerned with contributing to causes such as women’s rights, civil rights and the anti-war movement.

Between the 1970’s and 1990’s, companies, pension funds, and individuals stopped investing in South Africa due to apartheid – racial segregation and other human-rights violations. Socially responsible investing was used as a tool to dismantle apartheid in 1994.

Currently, awareness has grown over global warming, climate change, and human rights.

Socially Responsible Investing

Is socially responsible investing the right choice for you?

Modern ethical investing has become more complex because there are hundreds of investment products and fund managers putting their interests towards a wide spectrum of social issues.

Many socially responsible fund managers rigorously screen their holdings and avoid businesses involved in tobacco, alcohol, gambling and the development of weapons. “Green” investing focuses on environmental protection.

Nearly every major financial institution offers socially responsible funds, as well as mutual funds companies such as Phillips, Hagar & North. Some products are available for purchase through a discount broker. Others are only purchased through financial advisers (Ethical Funds).

Do your research

Don’t be sidetracked by the word “sustainability” in a fund’s name or description. A check of a couple of popular sustainable funds showed little difference between them and their regular counterparts. For instance:

RBC Janzi Canadian Equity Fund (RBF302)

Holdings: 36% financials, 18% energy, 46% other

Top ten holdings: RBC, TD, BNS, CNR, Suncor, Brookfield Asset Mgmt, BMO, Canadian Natural Resources, Manulife, BCE

MER: 2.09%

Returns:

RBC Jantzi Canadian Equity Fund

RBC Canadian Equity Fund (RBF269)

Holdings: 39% financials, 21% energy, 40% other

Top ten holdings: RBC, TD, BNS, Suncor, Canadian Natural Resources, CNR, BMO, Brookfield Asset Mgmt, Enbridge, TransCanada Corp.

MER: 2.06%

Returns:

RBC Canadian Equity Fund

iShares Jantzi Social Index ETF (XEN)

Holdings: 34% financials, 17% energy, 49% other

Top ten holdings: RBC, TD, CNR, Suncor, BMO, BCE, CIBC, CPR, Telus, Sun Life

MER: 0.56%

Returns:

iShares Jantzi Social Index ETF

iShares Core S&P/TSX Capped Composite Index (XIC)

Holdings: 35% financials, 20% energy, 45% other

Top ten holdings: RBC, TD, BNS, CNR, Suncor, BMO, BCE, Enbridge, TransCanada Corp, Canadian Natural Resources

MER: 0.06%

Returns:

iShares Core S&P:TSX Capped Composite Index

If you want to invest in companies that follow environmental sustainability, social responsibility and corporate governance (ESG), you should do your own research.

Check Sustainalytics, an investment research firm that provides research on different companies and countries. For a mutual fund or ETF evaluation, Morningstar rates how well the companies held in over 2000 funds are managing their ESG risks and opportunities.

How are the returns on SRI funds?

The bad news with socially conscious investments is that they’ve had a history of poor returns. They don’t produce nearly the same returns as their unethical counterparts.

For decades, investments such as the Barrier Fund (formerly the Vice Fund) which invests in companies involved in defense, gaming, tobacco and alcohol, have significantly outperformed benchmarks such as the S&P 500 and all ethical funds.

But, don’t avoid socially responsible investing because of poor returns. The key, as in other investing, is to judge the company and fund as an investment first and not become so enamoured by its social responsibility record that you can’t see whether or not it is over-priced.

High fees can eat up more of your portfolio than underperforming markets. Understand what you’re paying and whether it’s worth it to you.

An investor must still assess the financial outlook of any investment. Give thoughtful consideration to the investment’s history, management, and future direction.

Final thoughts

Many investors believe that social responsibility should be a primary consideration in making investment decisions.

The good news is that the Canadian socially responsible funds market has been gaining increasing momentum and influence over the past few years. This increase can be attributed to large pension funds adopting new social and environmental screening policies.

Even robo-advisors such as Wealthsimple and ModernAdvisor have designed portfolios specifically around socially responsible investing.

If this is an investment strategy you want to pursue, begin by examining your own personal values and what you consider ethical and unethical. Follow your own guidelines to make the most meaningful use of your money.

Socially responsible investing is about choosing to make a financial commitment to your conscience and investing where you feel your money is the most useful.

Try to balance your social concerns with long-term results.

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