Happy trails, my good friend.

How does one say goodbye to a dear friend who has passed too soon. Sometimes, it escapes me how cruel life can turn out to be. The loss of a loved one is not a thing that you can prepare for ahead of time. Events occurred and things can change very quickly from one moment to the next. In one moment things are fine then next thing you know, things turn for the worse. It all happened so quickly that there was no time to piece it all together. You go into a sort of shock and in the moment, things just go quiet.

I was at a loss for words when I heard the sad news. A good friend of mine, Tan Phan passed away Monday night. The news was something that I never wanted to hear about. I feared the day that I would have to face it. I try to take comfort in hearing that he went peacefully but a part of me does not want to let go since it was all too soon. He was a guy who received the short end of the stick in life and made the most of it.

My good friend, Tan was a terrific guy. He was the type of guy that hated idling around. While he was awaiting a new kidney, I could tell that he frustrated that he was not doing more with his life. But given his predicament, he made the best hands with the cards that he was dealt. I recall him having a new take on life when he received a new kidney. He wanted to go out there. Do more! See more! And experience everything that life throws at him. Every time I spoke with him, he had a new idea for a new adventure. At one point, you just couldn’t keep him still. It was as if he was infused with a new sense of purpose and he went all in!

Tan and I would talk for hours over a cup of coffee at the Hamilton mountain brow. This was the place that we would go to, just to shoot the shit. With a hot cup of coffee in our hands and a great view of the city, we would talk of hobbies and travels. We were both into photography so we were always comparing notes. We were both on the road often so we were always dreaming of new destinations to visit. The road trip to the west coast was something that he and I were supposed to do together but due to bad timing, I went alone and he went a year later. His road trip would kick my road trip’s ass any day. He explored while he was out there. He met new people. He did a lot of things at the spur of the moment. I have no idea how he planned his trip but he was all over the map. Looking at his pictures and videos, he did a lot more than what I did.

Tan and I would engage in many conversations and discussions about life in general. If you have ever spoken with Tan, you probably would have a hard time comprehending what goes on inside his head. Sometimes, he would have to explain his ideas a couple of times before I understood the idea that he was trying to convey. We saw many things eye to eye since we had a lot of things in common but we also had our difference. We never let our differences come between us though. Tan had his own insights on life and would express it when he could. His outlook on life was that you go out there and live it to the fullest. He would prefer that you seize the moment and make the most of it and not idling around. But at the same time, he was willing to grab that one cup of coffee with you. He saw the large and the small things in life. He took each day as a challenge to better himself. He was a guy with big dreams! A guy who wanted to explore the world.

Tan did not have much in life albeit, he didn’t need much. He had a dream and rather than staying in bed and dreaming about it, he woke up and chased it. His car and whatever he could fit in it was all he needed. You can tell a lot about a person by looking at the things that made them happy.

Tan Phan
December 30, 1981 – February 10, 2014
Mieng, it was an honour and a pleasure to have such a great friend.
Life as I know it, will not be the same without you.
I am going to miss our talks over coffee.
I am glad that you were able to make the journey out west.
I will take you with me on every adventure that I go on.
May your travels beyond take you to many undiscovered countries.
Rest in peace.

Personal finance

Ever since the day I opened up my very first RRSP account, I became interested in saving money. Even today, I am curious about personal finance. I read personal finance blogs, visit websites that help you save money and even listen to podcasts.

After I graduated from high school, I needed to find a job to help pay for my college education. I applied for the Ontario Student Assistant Program (OSAP) but they did not help me much. According to my application, my father made enough to pay for my tuition so they would only give me enough for a semester. At the time, I had no choice but to find a part-time job if I wanted to continue my education.

In hindsight, being denied full tuition assistant was a good thing. It forced me to find work and gain some experience and it helped me become financially independent. As a young adult coming right out of high school and going into adulthood, there are things that they do not teach you in school. Even to this day, I do not know if they teach kids how to be financially responsible. A lot of the financial habits and skills that I have now, I learned along the way.

During the summer of 1999, I applied for a part-time job and was hired on by Burger King. Before being hired, I had made a decision that I would not work in fast food. I don’t recall the reason I made that decision but as the summer came, I convince myself that find a job in fast food would be the easiest thing for a student to do, given that I had no prior work experience.

With a part-time job at Burger King, starting off at $6.25/hr, I was on my way to saving for college. One day, when I went into the bank to make a withdrawal, the teller asked if I wanted to start an RRSP. I had no idea what an RRSP was but since it had something to do with savings, I signed up for one. I was not making a lot at Burger King so I started out small by depositing $25 a month into my RRSP account. Little did I know that it helped me during tax season. This was back in the day when tax software wasn’t easily accessible so I had to do my taxes my hand, which I highly recommend you do if it’s your first time doing you taxes.

Anyway, over the years, my RRSP grew. I made an effort to increase my RRSP contribution as my pay went up. I increased my contribution from $25 a month to $25 per pay. Then when I found a higher paying job, I increased it even more. I am now up to $75 per pay. The odd times, I will throw in a few extra bucks here and there. Surprisingly enough, this year I didn’t even realize that I doubled my contribution. It wasn’t until I received the tax receipt that I saw what I had done. It’s no wonder I hardly have extra money lying around. Not that I am complaining about contributing more. It’s always wise to put money away.

For the last couple of weeks or so, I’ve had time to take a closer look at my finances. I am not sure of my exact return on investment for my RRSP accounts but I decided that I should save some more. I’ve recently started hearing about couch potato portfolios and was interested in starting my own. There’s a lot out there to choose from but I went with ING Direct’s Streetwise portfolios. I started off by investing $200 in the Streetwise Equity Growth portfolio and if I understand the cough potato method correct, I should just let it sit. I will be keeping a close eye on this portfolio as I am very curious about how it will work.

I am sure that there are lots more things to do to increase my network but I am going to start out slow. Once I am comfortable and know what I am doing, I will start to be more aggressive with my savings. Hopefully, I am on the right path to financial freedom.

Where does the time go?

It has been a while since I have written anything on my website. For the past couple of years, this site has been mainly used to use my photographs. As you can see, I have a couple of failed attempted at the 365 projects. I think that I can attribute that to laziness. At the same time, with the weather being so gloomy, I also did not have much enthusiasm to capture anything. Lately, it has just been pictures of my cats, Einstein and Grumpy. I think I take a lot of pictures of them because I have stayed home more often as of late. Perhaps, to help me write more, I will start off with a couple of paragraphs here and there, just until I get into the swing of things.

Hi, my name is Don!