Travel Costs

 

20171201_160638338122909.jpg

Playa Beisanz

 

Total Cost of the Best Trip Ever: $2400


Total Airfare for Two: $770

This covered two roundtrip tickets with Copa Airlines from November 28 – December 5. We booked through Canadian Fares online. I know that this was likely cheaper because the dates fell before peak season.

20171128_0931481163385294.jpg

Meal on Copa Airlines

Copa Air was impressive – flying with them took me back to how things were before food and alcohol became additional. We were shocked when they came out with the drinks – including alcohol – near the start and end of the flight. I got so nostalgic that I just went for the guava juice – something I hadn’t had since I was a kid. Then came the meals! I had to pinch myself. I haven’t eaten anything on a flight without whipping out my credit card in years.

Another plus side when booking with Copa: When you leave Costa Rica, you apparently have to pay a departure tax of $29 USD. This fee was included in the airfare. There are a few airlines that will automatically include this fee in the price and Copa is one of them. Otherwise, if you don’t have US cash or the Costa Rican equivalent to pay at the airport, you pay this tax at the booth by a cash advance on your credit card. Oh, and we didn’t have to pay for our checked baggage.

The only downside to this airline was having Barry Manilow’s song, “Copacabana,” earworm its way into my head for the entire flight going there and back.


Park ‘n’ Fly: $185

Our flight was at 8 AM. It made the most sense for us to stay at a hotel where we could park our car for eight days while we were away. With such an early departure and late arrival, I appreciated being shuttled to and from the airport. We usually book our park ‘n’ fly using points, but this was more of a last minute booking and we couldn’t swing it this time around.


Manulife Travel Insurance: $48

This covered the two of us. Neither of us is covered by any insurance plans at work, many of which also includes basic travel insurance.

There were times in the past when I thought travel insurance was a waste of money…until the one time I needed it and it was totally worth it. The insurance covered all the costly medical bills for this one unexpected incident.


Total cost of Airbnb: $327

We went on this trip for three reasons: 1) We always wanted to go to Costa Rica, 2) We wanted to have a warm getaway, and 3) JP and I are considering buying property somewhere nice and warm.

We decided to check out a place that was easy enough to get to near a lot of beaches. That way, if we bought a property that was accessible and attractive to many tourists, it would be easy to rent out on Airbnb. We settled for the town of Herradura, which is near the locals hangout, Herradura Beach, the bachelor party capital, Jaco Beach, and the surfer-covered Hermosa Beach. We booked a house through AirBnB which was a quick drive from all those places.

It was our first time booking anything through Airbnb. What an experience! We made friends with the neighbours and had them over on most nights where we shared food and drinks. They even took us on a hike through a river to these local waterfalls. They showed us around some resorts, beaches, bars, etc. I’m sure that’s not what usually happens with Airbnb and that this was more of a unique opportunity to make new friends.


Car rental: $258

We booked through Dollar in Costa Rica ahead of time, snatching the best online deal we could find. There are a number of car rental desks at the airport where they shuttle you to their actual locations off-site, as there is no spot for them at the San Jose airport.

We got a basic car with basic insurance. They tried to pressure JP into getting the premium insurance plan, but he wouldn’t budge. The guy became a bit of a prick after we said no! Apparently, all the cars in Costa Rica are standard. (Really?) The driving there is more aggressive in that there is no room for hesitation. JP really liked driving there!


Duty-Free Booze: $98

20171209_1330461036299762.jpgOn the way to Costa Rica, our stopover was at the Panama Airport. The next time we head to this area, we are definitely going to Panama! Well, we were drawn to all the duty-free stores glowing with enormous bottles of rum and tequila. We didn’t know how hard/easy it would be to find alcohol in CR when we arrived in the evening. We shopped around and bought a bottle of rum ($17 USD) and one of tequila ($24 USD) equal to $53.76 CAD. On the way back to Canada, we bought two big bottles of rum ($34 USD = $44.35 CAD). We just knew we couldn’t find bottles of this size and price back home. We paid with credit card both times.


Cash for food, gas, etc: $588 = ₡240,000

We read that most places only took cash. Credit cards could be used at more expensive places and you could still be charged extra transaction fees for using it. We figured to bring about $600 worth of CR Colones. We ordered the currency from our bank. The exchange rate with them was much better than at an exchange house. We just had to wait almost a week for the money to arrive (which came the day before we left!).

On our way to our accommodation, we stopped over at some food stands and stores to load up with enough chow to tide us over the next few days. We bought tropical fruits, tomatoes, beans, nuts, and rice. We nearly fell over after we figured that the few bags we purchased amounted to $80. The food prices in Costa Rica rival Japan’s. I mean, I have never tasted more exquisite avocados and pineapples, but come on! However, alcohol is much less expensive there. On most days we ate a lot of fruit and made our own meals. The place we stayed at had a great kitchen where JP whipped up the best dishes.

We allowed ourselves a couple of extravagant days when we bought day passes to hang out at a nearby resort which gave us access to the poolside bar/restaurant and beach. A pass cost us $30 USD each.

After a week in Costa Rica, we blew through most of our cash. We had enough to refill the gas tank before returning the car to the rental agency. With all the driving we did, including a day trip to Manuel Antonio in the south, we used only one tank of gas. Filling it up cost around $45 CAD. We gave the remainder of our colones to the shuttle driver who took us to the airport.


Roaming: $96

We paid $10 a day for data. We needed to navigate a lot on Google maps. Fun fact: They don’t use addresses in Costa Rica! Everyone uses landmarks. There were a couple of days when we didn’t need data, but I forgot to put my phone on airplane mode before midnight.  Before leaving, I also had to make a phone call from Canada to the caretaker of the house to arrange for the key exchange.


If you added the food we bought at the airport while waiting to depart in Canada, Panama, and Costa Rica, it comes to another $25 CAD. All told that is about $2400 or $1200 per person. Not bad for one of the most incredible trips I have ever taken. We went to four different beaches, witnessed the most stunning sunsets, saw so much wildlife, made new friends, and learned so much about that amazing country. Would we consider buying property there? Claro que si!

 

20171130_14323471458249.jpg

Playa Herradura

 

The Transparent RRSP: Vacay

The week of November 27
  • I deposited $150 into the RRSP ahead of December. There is $351.89 cash in the RRSP account.

JP and I are going away for a week to Costa Rica (we’re going to the Pacific side). We decided to only bring our tablet and phones. Neither of us has plans to trade while we’re away. Our main focus is to relax, enjoy the warm weather, check out the real estate situation there, and read and swim at the beach. I might squeeze in some study time whenever I can. Derivatives and options have my brain turned in on itself – to take a week off could mean excruciating reviewing when I return.

The airfare was too hard to turn down: $770 CAD for both our tickets! Yes, we’re travelling at a time when the weather isn’t totally unbearable in Ontario yet. We do, however, plan to go to Florida in late February. That’s usually when the cabin fever is at its most intense and could use a warm disruption. Before I take off, I must, of course, look at the markets.


 

November markets

SPY, QQQ, DIA, XIU ETF charts on freestockcharts.com

 

I don’t know how the market will trade after the US Thanksgiving holiday. December could be positive because of a stronger retail sector around this time. The bearish correction in the fall that I was bracing/hoping for never came. (And that is why we trade the trend, even if we don’t believe it’s still there.)

The trade volume in the US markets seems to be coming down while the prices are going up. The confluence of those two factors often means that: 1) savvy investors start to take profits, and 2) the public starts asking those investors if it’s a good time to buy Apple. The best thing to do is wait for 3) to happen, which is an actual correction.

I was in the Caribbean on my first and last cruise in early 2015 when this happened:

Caribbean

XIC ETF on freestockcharts.com

When JP and I checked our email for the most expensive 10 minutes of our lives, we also checked the markets. At the time, we were only day trading, which meant we were holding no positions in our accounts. Although we weren’t losing money, we figured good opportunities would be short-lived. We were concerned about entering a more hostile trading environment in which small fish like us would get eaten by the bigger, well-funded fish.

After we returned and got our sea legs back, we looked at Canadian companies that traded on both Canadian and US stock exchanges. We discovered they were CHEAP. We bought just a few to hold long term and had a gangbuster year. I doubt the market will do that in the week that we’re gone. Perhaps next January?


I have some stock charts worth checking out:

  • FIRE.V (New and risky, but cheap. Take fewer shares.)
  • IMH.V (Same as above.)
  • TCW.TO
  • SSL.TO (I already have this in my RRSP.)
  • SMF.TO

Please check the company, the sector, the earnings, the market, and the fundamentals that you think are important. Always do your due diligence to trade with confidence while respecting your risk tolerance. I do think that the market could pull back early in the new year. You could wait until then before buying or take fewer shares now and more later.

The Transparent RRSP: Taking Some Action

The week of November 6
  • I didn’t do anything for the RRSP. There is currently $194.64 of cash in the account.

I did, however, pass my Technical Analysis exam. I certainly didn’t do as well as I wanted to though! I carried on by buying some shares of H.TO and ATZ.TO for my TFSA. I already own these stocks in the TFSA so I was just scaling into what looked like some (aggressive) buying opportunities. I also signed up for the Derivatives Fundamentals & Options Licensing Course and the Futures Licensing Course. (Talk about intense content!) I hope to finish these courses early in the new year.


I’m still not a fan of this market and entering any new positions makes me nervous. I am considering making a move this week, though, depending on how my idea performs alongside the market.

TA2

TA.TO price chart on freestockcharts.com

The daily and weekly charts aren’t great for TA.TO; however, the monthly is appealing to me. It’s making higher lows and demonstrating a trading range that is tightening. This could lead to a really good long-term trading opportunity with so much room to move into the upside. I wouldn’t mind owning more shares of this stock should this move actually occur.

Last Thursday and Friday experienced heavier selling in the U.S. and Canadian markets. If the selling continues and the market starts to correct this week, I’ll be watching this stock to see how it performs against the market. TA is in the energy sector which has been showing more strength than other sectors. If energy keeps going, scaling into this could be a good idea.

I would only scale in with a few shares (5 to 15) as I think the market will still endure a larger correction. I don’t know if energy’s strength will outlast or outperform the overall market correction. There are times when the right thing to do is sit on your hands and wait, while other times you should take full advantage of great opportunities. I feel that right now, I should find some balance in taking some action with little risk as opposed to doing nothing.

 

The Transparent RRSP: A Beauty Swing Trade

The week of October 30 
  • I deposited $150.00 into the RRSP account. There is 192.17 in cash now.

I’m still waiting for the market to correct, even by just a little on the weekly chart before I do anything. My focus is also elsewhere as I have an exam tomorrow for my Technical Analysis Course. Even though technical analysis is my ‘thing,’ it would be totally humiliating if I didn’t pass. I’m actually studying much more for this exam than I did for my last one. This also means I’m putting in zero effort in looking presentable around the house. JP drew this picture of me this morning:

 

20171105_1731241444805594.jpg

This is me.

 

If this is how I look right now, JP must really love me for what’s inside!

I haven’t been interested in opening any new positions in the last little while because I’d rather wait until the market has had a correction. For JP, his strategy in trading an extended market is to trade this bullish sentiment with shorter term trades. He took a beauty trade last week worth talking about.

MOGO

MOGO on freestockcharts.com

JP bought shares of MOGO.TO last Thursday. Then on Monday, KABOOM! He sold 2/3rds of his shares. On Tuesday, he sold some more shares. Now he has a small number of shares which he’ll keep in for a longer time period.

The thing is, MOGO has been on JP’s radar for quite some time now. It’s had a number of breakouts (November 2016, January 2017, February, and April). He either missed the breakouts or wasn’t paying close enough attention to during those times.

MOGO had been building a base over the last two months. It had consolidated, trading sideways with the price range tightening up on less volume. In a bullish market, this is a money setup. JP’s patience paid off with a handsome profit made over just a few days. He also bought shares of PUR.TO and DRM.TO. I hope these trades work out too!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stock Markets and Stock Picks

Marks

Monthly charts of market ETFs: XIU, DIA, SPY, QQQ on freestockcharts.com

The Markets

I typically like to analyze the XIC ETF as it consists of more TSX stocks. The XIC is very much like the SPY ETF for the S&P 500 index. When I want to know how the tech-focussed stocks are doing, I check out the QQQ.

I admit, I rarely look at the XIU (the TSX’s top 60 large cap stocks) or the DIA (the U.S. ETF for the Dow Jones Industrial Average). It’s an old habit of mine as my trading background was more focussed on shorter timeframes and bigger price action. There is less price action in these indexes that cover the large-cap, blue chippy stocks. Molasses moves faster than some of these stocks’ prices — this is because there are so many more shares to go through at each price level before the price moves up or down. Less price action, though, doesn’t mean less money. It’s just more stable. I really should watch these ETFs more because this is where big money, like funds, tends to go. With investing, it’s often good to follow the big money.

I drew horizontal lines on the charts for the XIU, DIA, and QQQ to show where those stocks had reset. The XIU has been “resetting” for a long while now, pretty much since February. The DIA (often called “the Diamonds”) had a reset in April and the Qs had one in July. Look at the SPY’s trendline that goes straight up. When is the SPY going to take a breather? If we’re going by season, then perhaps in the fall?

Observing the timing of these corrections demonstrates well the cyclical nature of markets. To get a better idea of what drives these differences means to take a closer look at the sectors and specific stocks that dominate their respective markets.

I worry that if the SPY makes a correction, it will affect the Canadian market. If I didn’t concern myself with the U.S. market at all, I have to say that I like what the charts tell me for the Canadian market. It’s been rationally pulling back for over half a year now and moving sideways for three months. It could be gearing up for another bullish move up. Let’s hope that if and when the SPY comes down, investors move into the Canadian stocks and start a new investment cycle.


Stocks to Check Out

Here are some stocks with nice-looking monthly charts:

  • TCW.TO
  • CVE.TO
  • SJR.B.TO
  • HSE.TO
  • IPL.TO
  • POU.TO
  • MG.TO
  • THCX.V (I own shares of this one already.)

Now, keep in mind, most of these are oil stocks. If you’re considering trading any of these, keep a close eye on the sector. And as I always advise, do your own necessary research on the company, the sector, and the markets. Consider how your choices fit into your grand plan and decide on the appropriate time horizons and how much you can safely risk for your portfolio.

My Best Investment

Back to school

I always get nostalgic this time of year.

Once upon a time, in a faraway land, I was a fretting teenager about to finish high school. While all the other girls were obsessing over prom and what college they were going to, my own world was crashing around me. My boyfriend dumped me two weeks before prom, leaving me dateless. That was also the year my father became chronically ill and was ordered to go on medical leave. There would be no college fund to support me. I was admitted to the university I had set my sights on, but I had no idea how I was going to afford it.

Humiliated and defeated, I opted to lowball my expectations on everything. I wouldn’t go to prom and I wouldn’t go to university. I had some great excuses to stop caring, so I leaned into them. My friends became my fairy godmothers. One took it upon herself to find me a date. Through her grad date, she managed to set me up with a model/actor (or actor/model?). My other friend made me copy and study her year’s worth of notes for my Biology 12 exam, the most demanding subject I had to study for that year. Because of my friends’ clutch support, I was motivated to keep going.

With Starbucks’ chocolate covered coffee beans to keep me jacked, I crammed like a champ. I aced everything that counted and I finished with honours. My grad date, whom everyone ogled that night, turned out to be a seasoned partier. Instead of binge-drinking at a house party with the other grads after prom, my friends and I followed our dates to a rave in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside where we danced until four in the morning. I took a cab home with my bestie as the sun was rising. I finished high school feeling like a rock star.

My next problem was going to be going to university. I got a job, but I couldn’t qualify for a student loan because the tax year prior to my dad’s medical leave stated he made a lot. The financial issue was moot as I didn’t even know what I was going to study even if I could afford school. With no money and no clear ambition, it made no sense for me to go to study at all.

I continued to work. Without any goals to anchor me, I spent my money faster than it came in. I was living the Gen X dream buying beer, candy, and cigarettes, watching movies all day, wondering about the future. I’ve told this story many times before and it’s because it was critical to everything I’ve ever done thereafter. My boss saw how much money I was quickly wasting after each payday. She gave me a talking to and told me how to start saving and investing. Her persuasive sisterly coercion got me going to the bank and getting started. Then after saving for a while, things changed. With money in the bank, I saw school as a possibility. Determined to go to law school, I reapplied to university.

I finished my bachelor’s in record time (thanks, Starbucks coffee beans!). By the end of it, though, I decided not to go to law school. With good financial habits and the benefit of going to university when it was still affordable, I graduated with no student debts. I traveled a lot and lived overseas for a few years but came back to Canada. Even though my studies in humanities was never directly applicable to any line of work I sought, having a degree gave me better job options.

After ten years of drifting, I was still by definition a slacker, but at least I had savings. I brainstormed many possibilities on where I was headed next. I found I was most curious about opening a business. This led to my part-time studies in business school and eventually, further studies and pursuits in investing and the stock market.

Today, I am once again a student. I am deeply curious about how the stock market works on the inside. I know what it is to be a trader/investor, but what happens behind the curtain is what I really want to know next. I am currently enrolled with the Canadian Securities Institute, working towards my Certificate in Equity Trading & Sales. I don’t know exactly where studying this will take me; whether I trade for others or still just myself, I will always be a trader, only a more educated one.

Whether you achieve your career peak and hit your financial goals, learning should never stop. You can take courses or just read books that will help you develop in parts of your life that you feel need focus. In the long run, being dedicated to your personal and professional development really is the best investment.

The Transparent RRSP: Relative Strength

The Week of August 14
  • On Wednesday, August 16th, I bought 100 shares of Bombardier (BBD.B.TO) at $2.65 per share.
  • With $1 in commissions, the whole purchase was $266.00. I now have $18.47 in cash in the RRSP account.

I actually meant to buy the shares on Tuesday, but I totally forgot to put in an order! So, on Tuesday night, I put in a limit order to buy 100 shares at $2.68, a couple of cents above the current bid/ask price. I was peeved by my sloppiness, but I’d been stalking this stock all month, watching it against the market. I wanted it that badly that I was willing to pay more than I knew I should have.

Thankfully, on Wednesday, my order was filled at the lower price of $2.65! This happens sometimes; other times it can go the other way and your order will be filled at a much higher price. It’s called slippage when you get filled at a higher price than what you have on order. Slippage tends to happen more when stocks are lightly traded. Bombardier is a heavily traded stock, so slippage is less likely to happen.


Let’s do some chart analysis!

 

BBD analysis

Price charts for BBD.B and XIC on freestockcharts.com

On Chart #1, the pink arrow shows the day I bought BBD.B. No special day and it closed negative. On Chart #2, the pink arrow for the XIC market ETF shows the market on the day I bought BBD.B.

The blue arrows on both charts #1 and #2 show how they closed for the week. BBD.B closed more positive than the market did, showing relative strength. There’s been uncertainty in the overall markets in general with the possibility of war — and then you add violent protests and terrorist attacks to the mix and you get even more negativity. I hope this little stock, along with the rest of the RRSP portfolio (come on, LIQ!), will show resilience in the face of all this.

Chart #3 is the weekly chart for BBD.B. It’s a healthy looking chart with a very bullish setup. (If you’re not familiar with the market lingo, bullish means optimistic and positive because apparently, bulls look up when they’re in attack mode; bearish means negative and pessimistic because bears look down when they’re about to pummel you. There could be more to the meaning of these terms, but all that matters is that you get the picture.)

Chart #4 shows a lot of potential for BBD.B to move up if and when it gets past the previous price resistance points as seen on that pink dotted line.

Of course, all of this can go potty — regardless the relative strength and bullish setups — if the overall markets get really negative and there are more sellers than buyers. No matter what, just try to stay positive and strong!

 

The Transparent RRSP: Market Fears

The Week of August 8
  • I left the RRSP account alone. I wanted to buy shares of Bombardier (BBD.B.TO), but I couldn’t find an entry. There might be an entry on Monday or Tuesday.

 

BBD vs XIC

Price charts: BBD.B vs. XIC on freestockcharts.com

As you can see in the top two charts, BBD.B has been more positive than the market (the two lower charts of XIC). If the market continues to head lower, I’ll either abandon the plan to buy shares of BBD.B or just wait until the market settles down.


Last Thursday, the markets collectively demonstrated anxiety over North Korea. There was a big market sell-off and most gold stocks went up. It’s hard to say at this point if this is a reaction temporary in nature, or if it will signify the beginning of more and more selling due to fear. I’m going to make it a point to pay closer attention to the news and to how the market trades over the next couple of weeks.

Last week, I put together a big watch list of stocks that had promising charts. After last Thursday, only a few of them still look okay:

  • L.TO (Wait another few weeks to a month for this to properly set up)
  • H.TO (I own shares of this stock already.)
  • EXE.TO (I own shares of this stock already.)
  • TCW.TO
  • D.UN.TO (This is a REIT.)
  • CNE.TO (Needs a better setup unless you’re into aggressive, riskier entries.)
  • LIF.TO

Until you know what’s going on with the market, I don’t recommend buying anything. These stocks would be worth looking at while also observing the market. Watch how these perform against the market or their sector. If resilient stocks start to show weakness, then it’s usually a good sign that a weaker market will become even weaker.

There are different ways to play defensive during uncertain times. You can buy gold or shares of gold stocks. You can also buy consumer staples stocks. You can buy nothing or you can sell all your stocks. Whatever you do, don’t lose sight of what you want for your portfolio long term and think strategically.

Since the late spring, I’ve been unloading shares of stock. I’m either selling portions of my positions or all of them to either collect profits or reduce my exposure to the market. I have still been buying shares here and there, but not as actively as I used to. This has nothing to do with North Korea. Rather, it’s more about the market, which has been pulling back since the end of April. Maybe eventually, it will have everything to do with a conflict with North Korea. Regardless of what happens, I’ll let the charts guide me, not my fear.

 

 

 

 

 

U.S. Stocks

I get this Monday off at work because it’s a holiday. The US stock market, however, is still open, and I really hope to get my trade on.

It’s been so long since I’ve been able to watch the US market live. I still have an active trading account with Interactive Brokers set up just for day trading and swing trading. My US trading account looks a lot like a backyard that needs a lot of tending to: some big glorious trees (a couple of winning stocks) among a bunch of weeds (half a dozen losers).

Regardless of its imperfections, my US portfolio has been outperforming the market all year — a huge reason why I leave my trades alone. I’ve been busy transplanting my life to a new city, anyway. Making any attempts at fast trading while busy and heavily distracted would be bad practice. The US market is full of action, but it’s a hostile environment to navigate. The payoff can be fast and big, as can be your losses. I need to be focused and ready to execute even just one quick trade. Now that I’m all moved in and my office is all nicely set up, I hope to do a bit of ‘yard work’ for the first couple of hours that the market is open.

Half of my money in this trading account has been sitting there doing nothing for a very long time. I hope to open one or two swing trades this Monday – and maybe get a day trade or two in there while I’m at it.

I did a search on finviz.com using the filters and criteria for finding stocks I like based on price and trading ranges. I found a few worth considering:

  • CARA
  • CLR
  • DKS
  • DVN
  • FL
  • NSC
  • TRIP
  • UAL

I noticed some pretty beat up stocks that would be worth considering if a shocking reversal were to happen (a VERY aggressive play):

  • LNG
  • RH

Usually, before the market opens, my brokers provide a number of stocks that are actively trading in the pre-market (before 9:30 AM). These stocks often end up being in play all day, or at least for a big part of the morning session (trading usually slows down around lunch).

My own discipline requires that I only select only a few of these stocks and watch them closely. If and when an opportunity presents itself, then I’ll do a trade that will last anywhere from a few seconds to a few hours. Day trading is not for most people and I would never recommend for anyone to even try it.

I discovered day trading is not for me either. Swing trading (a few days to a few months) and position trading (months to years) is more lucrative and a more realistic way to handle your money. I haven’t totally given day trading up because doing it every now and then (like once a month) keeps my instincts sharp. Most importantly, it reminds me of the value of never risking too much on any one trade. I might win on these trades 80% of the time, but the losing 20% can be such a blow financially, mentally, and emotionally. Losing keeps things real and really forces me to learn from my mistakes.

If the market is too volatile or my choices aren’t great or don’t open well, I might just leave the account alone and not trade anything. Always have a great Plan B so you don’t end up trading just because you had originally intended to. Not every day is a good day to trade — it’s just not something worth forcing. I might just take the holiday off and go to Niagara Falls instead!