Aloha! We’ve spent the past week in Maui escaping the cold winter back home and taking a much needed break. The past few months have been stressful and anxiety-ridden as I transitioned from a day job + side hustle to full-time entrepreneur.

I’m happy to say that life as an online entrepreneur is going better than expected. I’m getting flooded with fee-only financial planning inquiries and freelance writing assignments. I’ve made a point to stop working at 4pm when my kids get home from school. And three days a week I’ve taken a mid-day break to go to the gym with my wife. Life is good.

The only thing missing has been finding more time to write on my own blogs – both here and on Rewards Cards Canada. I hope to find a more consistent writing pattern as I fine tune my own rhythm and routine.

This trip to Maui has been so helpful because it has allowed me to take a break from the entrepreneurial grind and reflect on how I can spend my time more effectively. I’ve also been taking notes as ideas pop into my head for future blog post ideas. In between pool time, happy hour, and walks along the beach, of course.

It’s our first trip to Maui, even though it seems like everyone from Alberta and BC comes here on the regular. We haven’t been on a tropical vacation since our honeymoon in Mexico almost 14 years ago. First thought – why haven’t we done this before? Second thought – this is absolute paradise!

My personal finance blogger thoughts – Maui is so expensive! We flew here on an Aeroplan flight rewards, and so we only paid a few hundred dollars in fees and taxes. We also rented a car using Aeroplan miles – a first for me. With thousands already saved, we decided to splurge and stay at an ocean-front resort – an Airbnb – for $350 USD per night. Believe me, that was one of the cheaper condos available during this time.

Our flight got in late so we missed an opportunity to load up on groceries at Costco (the wholesale club near the airport is only open til 8pm). I drove 10 minutes to Safeway the next morning to get our groceries and some beer and wine for the week. After the $460 trip I came back cursing the sky-high Hawaiian prices and unfavourable USD to CAD exchange rate.

All good, though. Outside of the Old Lahaina Luau and one trip into town for lunch, we were quite content to spend our days poolside or at the beach, and preparing our own meals at home. It’s easy to see how a Maui vacation budget could quickly spiral out of control if we ate out at restaurants every meal or even once a day. 

This was the first six nights of what will be at least 51 days of travel for our family this year. Next up is 18 days in Italy this spring, followed by three weeks in England and Scotland this summer. Finally, we’ve got another six nights booked in Victoria before the new school year begins this fall. 

This Week’s Recap:

No posts here from me this week, but I did explain how to get more back on your tax return over at the Young & Thrifty blog.

From the archives: I did the math on your investment fees and the results weren’t pretty.

Over on Rewards Cards Canada – My experience using Airbnb vs. Hotels.

Promo of the Week:

I mentioned using Aeroplan miles to get to Maui and back, plus to rent a car for a week on our vacation. The fastest way to earn Aeroplan miles is typically by signing up for a Aeroplan branded credit card.

The TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Card ticks all the boxes for me. When you apply by March 2nd you can earn 15,000 Aeroplan miles with your first purchase, plus an additional 15,000 Aeroplan miles when you spend $1,000 per month for the first three months (5k miles per month). The best part? No annual fee for the first year!

Weekend Reading:

Is Canada heading for a recession in 2020? Here are common causes and symptoms of a recession, plus eight ways to recession-proof your finances.

A husband and wife have very different risk tolerances. How can they get on the same page when it comes to investing?

How Millionaire Teacher Andrew Hallam fell for a Ponzi scheme while talking to a stranger:

We all make mistakes when assessing other people. Defaulting to truth is a weakness. But it’s also a human strength. Perhaps, when making financial decisions, we should let the facts speak louder than the salesperson’s face.”

Tesla stock has been soaring lately and Wealthsimple dug into how clients on its Trade platform bought into the hype.

Interesting, because I switched to Wealthsimple Trade for precisely the opposite reason: to get zero-commission trades for my one-ticket ETF portfolio.

A Wealth of Common Sense blogger Ben Carlson shares some thoughts on young people getting into day trading.

An explosive article in the Globe and Mail last week suggested the robo-advisor model has been a massive flop across North America as assets haven’t flowed in as quickly as experts anticipated. Rob Carrick explains why robo-advisors beat these human advisors – sorry, salespeople – any day.

The Evidence Investor shares a lesson still worth learning three centuries later:

“The South Sea Bubble should stand as a reminder that successful investing is not about chasing the most exciting opportunities. It is actually the opposite: be boring. Diversify, keep your costs down, and let the market do its work over time.”

Sequence risk is the risk that investment returns happen in an unlucky order. It can make or break portfolios and this post shows how to protect against it.

Is it smart to hold a single exchange traded fund in your RRSP? Dan Bortolotti explains how to use an all-in-one ETF portfolio.

Here’s a very interesting post on retirement and the non-smoothing of our consumption of leisure

Jonathan Clements has devoted his entire adult life to learning about money, but there are some key lessons that only came to him recently. Here are 10 things he wishes he’d been told in his 20s—or told more loudly, so he actually listened.

Finally, here’s John Heinzl with a thoughtful article on preparing your portfolio after a spouse is gone.

Mahalo, and have a great weekend everyone!

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15 Comments

  1. Gary L. on February 15, 2020 at 12:08 pm

    You say you quit each day at 4 pm and go to the gym three days a week. Looks like you are grinding for only half the hours normal entrepreneurs do. Lol

  2. Robb Engen on February 15, 2020 at 12:21 pm

    Ha! You’re right! Reality is that I dropped a 40 hour/week job and added another 20 hours/week to my online business. Can’t complain too much about that!

  3. Jean Tetiuk on February 15, 2020 at 12:35 pm

    Is there any way I could discontinue my present TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite card to get a new card with all the bonuses and benefits without losing the Aeroplan reward points that I have accumulated?
    Jean T.

    • Robb Engen on February 22, 2020 at 10:27 am

      Hi Jean, I don’t believe so but one suggestion would be to call TD and ask for a “product switch” to the TD First Class Travel Visa Infinite Card. You can earn up to 80,000 TD points (useful to book through Expedia – $400 value) and the annual fee is waived in the first year. Since you’re ‘switching’ products it won’t count as a new credit inquiry and you’ll qualify for all the welcome bonus benefits. Then, in 6-10 months, check out the Aeroplan Visa again and see if it has a good promo that you can once again ‘switch’ into.

  4. Maria @ Handful of Thoughts on February 15, 2020 at 12:43 pm

    Enjoy Maui. We went a few years ago and had most of the same observations as you, lots of western Canadians there, pretty expensive but you can save money “cooking at home”.

    I’m sure there will be lots of snow for you to get back to .

  5. Toby Stewart on February 15, 2020 at 4:18 pm

    I’m really sorry to have to mention this Robb, but all that air travel won’t be good for your kids’ and grandkids’ environmental futures. And so-called “carbon offsets” are really not going to alleviate the situation…

    • Robb Engen on February 15, 2020 at 5:00 pm

      Hi Toby, you bring up a great point about considering the environmental impact of our choices in life. According to research by Oxford University, the single biggest choice we can make as individuals to reduce our environmental impact is to reduce or eliminate the consumption of meat and dairy. This has a much more significant impact than reducing air travel or switching to an electric car (for example).

      https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/veganism-environmental-impact-planet-reduced-plant-based-diet-humans-study-a8378631.html

      For that reason, among others, our family has made the decision to eat a plant-based diet.

      Yes, air travel has a major impact on the environment. And we balance that with the belief that travel will enrich our lives and our children’s lives by exposing us to new cultures and experiences.

      That said, I totally respect those who have taken the no-air travel pledge to reduce their environmental footprint.

      • Toby Stewart on February 15, 2020 at 5:19 pm

        Thanks Robb — and I wasn’t trying to be snarky… obviously the ideal would be to make multiple changes to our environmental footprints — eating less meat-based food and not flying and composting and growing our own (summer in Canada) veggies, etc.. I also try to use my bike for local shopping trips… and I only drive when I can cover off several tasks in one multi-stop round trip.
        The downside to not trying to minimize our individual and collective environmental footprints (we Canadians are among Earth’s largest per capita GHG contributors) is that the overall economy will suffer (and increasingly be less profitable)… thereby reducing the benefits we investors may derive from it in our coming years.
        I applaud you and your young family for having opted for a full plant-based diet — we have reduced our meat intake (especially beef), but haven’t yet gotten to zero.

  6. John Bruder on February 15, 2020 at 6:57 pm

    A question to Toby Stewart…
    “we Canadians are among Earth’s largest per capita GHG contributors”
    Do you have a source for this claim? I’m interested in reading it.

    Even if it is true, put it into perspective by addressing Canada’s population vs other “largest per capita GHG contributors” populations’ to determine the total GHG emissions.

    I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t do more to reduce our carbon footprint at all. But you need to look at the largest contributors and see what they are doing about the problem.

  7. GYM on February 16, 2020 at 7:15 am

    Robb, I recently read the “Blue Zones” book and have been inspired to eat less meat (but am nowhere near completely plant based). Have you read that book?

    I love Hawaii- haven’t been to Maui yet. We stayed on the Big Island at a hotel (Marriott with points) and it drove me crazy having to eat out for the few days we were there. It was expensive and also didn’t feel very healthy eating out so much.

    • Robb Engen on February 18, 2020 at 12:15 pm

      Hey GYM – No, I haven’t read Blue Zones but I’ll definitely check it out. We found a couple of tasty vegan places in Maui. One was called Moku Roots and I wish I could’ve tried everything on their menu!

      We had friends staying on the big island at the same time – I’d love to visit there too! I hear you about eating hotel food everyday – not ideal.

  8. Firas on February 16, 2020 at 1:08 pm

    Hi Robb,

    Signing up for new credit cards is great because of all the perks that are offered on sign up. But I don’t like having too many credit cards, and too much credit available, and I’m sure a lot of people might feel the same. I also heard that closing credit card accounts can have a negative impact on one’s credit score. Do you have any advice or recommendations on the topic? Thanks.

    • Robb Engen on February 18, 2020 at 12:19 pm

      Hi Firas, I keep my oldest card open (Capital One Aspire Travel), plus two other core cards and then cycle through the rest based on sign-up bonuses available. One time this practice really hurt my credit score and it dropped by about 100 points, but it recovered in about 6 months and now consistently hovers around 740-750. I’m not too worried, since I don’t plan on applying for actual borrowing credit, but if it’s something that concerns you then I’d just spread out your applications throughout the year and limit your new applications to maybe 3-4 per year.

      The new credit application will ding your credit score by about 10 points but it will recover if you pay your bills on time.

      Here’s my cautionary tale: https://rewardscardscanada.com/what-happened-to-my-credit-score/

  9. TJ on February 16, 2020 at 9:16 pm

    Enjoy Honokowai. Are the food trucks still set up in the empty lot?
    You will really enjoy the resort you are at. We’ve been able to stay there numerous times; the seawall is really wonderful place to enjoy the sun and a book.

    Our family has found that groceries are close to the same price as Southern Alberta but in US currency. However, it is still extremely economical to cook in your unit or the resort BBQs over eating out.

    I hope you enjoy the many beaches in the area. Our family favourites are DT Fleming (boogey boards) or Napili Bay (snorkelling).

    • Robb Engen on February 18, 2020 at 12:22 pm

      Hi TJ, thanks! Yes, a bunch of food trucks were parked in the empty lot next door. We loved the resort – it was a long drive from the airport (about 45 min) but once we were there it had everything we needed, plus it was so easy to get around. The kids were in the pool every day, which was fine with us!

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