What Online Brokerage Do You Use And Why?

I’m sort of in a bind. I’m undecided of what to do with my current online brokerage that I use for trading, RBC Direct Investing. I want something with lower trading fees. Paying 28.95/trade seems ridiculous, especially as a young investor/student trying to save for school in the fall. So I’ve continue to snoop around to one of my favourites: Questrade, a Canadian online brokerage company.

Recently, a close friend of mine in Toronto, jumped onboard with Questrade. At $4.95/trade to never more than a max of $9.95, that is some serious savings. As well, another friend on Twitter was posing the same question as to what is a good online brokerage to get. I’m pretty stumped. The one big reason for keeping RBC is because I do all of my banking there and my heart is there. But common sense is telling me otherwise and go with the savings and Questrade.

So a quick question to you. What online brokerage do you use and why?

Meeting with the DM

Yesterday, I was invited along with a number other students, to meet the Deputy Minister (DM) of my department which I work in, at the government. Should have tweeted it out that I was attending. Got lazy. Anyways, the meeting with the DM was an informal discussion. He was dead panning throughout the one hour chat, sharing with us in broad strokes what the department/government is all about, while we as students brought to him our myriad of concerns, in the form of questions.

Most of the questions posed to the DM were predictable. “What do you think about the Canadian government downsizing the size of the government and its employees?”, “How can we make the federal government more efficient”, and “I was in line for a job and didn’t get it. What’s the best way to force my manager to hire me?”. Ok the last one was a little exaggerated but it was something along those lines. As I sat 4 rows back from the DM, I was thinking of these all valid, thoughtful questions. But here is one statement I would have posted to my fellow colleagues to quell all their fears:

“You have all the skills right now to make yourself a valuable employee to the federal service or anywhere for that matter. Trust in them and grow with them.”

Quite frank, I know, but not totally out of the blue if you care to follow.

When you look at the current trends, high unemployment rates in Canada, U.S. ,and across the world, the rise in term/contract work, apparently in teaching profession in particular, according to the DM, and the desire to hire experienced (I’ve seen a lot of PR postings requiring 5+ years experience in my little job search) your pointed in this direction of the this job reality. Yes, ideally, you want a full-time job in the government or elsewhere. But what happens if it doesn’t come? What happens after your finishing masters program, there isn’t a position? Or after your student contract, they look elsewhere and hire another candidate? Well, what happens is you have fall back on your skills, your area of expertise, probably from your subject of area of study in school, that you’ve invested so much time into, to be your fall-back plan or number one option.

Today’s job market is extremely competitive. I remember being younger and applying to jobs and getting many call-backs. Not anymore. When observing my peers, I don’t run into many of them who aren’t thinking about adding a masters program, MBA, or other courses to push them ahead of the pack. This is the new reality for the next generation of workforce in Canada, both in the government and private sector, where the masters is the minimal requirement. Happy trails Bachelor of Arts!

Does this route guarantee employment right away? Of course not, but it is a trend worth noting so you aren’t caught in an unemployment situation. That is why this blog, as an outlet for my thoughts, ideas, and writing is so important. Prospective employers are always looking to what gives you an edge, and why you as an individual would be an important addition to the team.  For me I think that’s my personality as well as my skills/knowledge I have in my writing, investing, researching in the world around me. Whatever your passion is, putting time into it has the potential to create greater opportunity for yourself down the line. It’s never a waste of time. Something I which is much better than waiting on that job which may or may not come through.

Getting A Little Bit Better Everyday

When watching professional sports there are a variety of feelings that one can see clearly when watching your favourite team throughout the season. They can be simplified in three categories: joy when your team wins, anger when they lose, or pride when they give it their all but come up short. One feeling, a lot subtler than those three, which I love seeing in sports is inspiration. This week I found no better example of inspiration than that from the new coach , Paul MacLean aka the man with the killer moustache , of my hometown NHL team, the Ottawa Senators.

We had a rough season in Ottawa in terms of  Senators hockey. No playoffs. At one point during the 82 game season we were the worst team in the NHL, before coming to a “positive” finish of 5th last in the league. But there’s always another season in pro sports, and with that comes change. We traded a lot of our  veteran players on the team, and fired our head coach. Insert MacLean, to take control of the team. He had this gem of a quote I picked out from his introductory press conference to the media on Tuesday:

paul maclean

“Were just going to get a little bit better each day”

Those words just stuck to me. Yes, it’s a coach saying all the right things to try and get himself acclimatized to a passionate fan base in a highly competitive league. However, it made me look in one area where I strive to get a little better in everyday: reading.

Reading

Everyday, as part of my morning routine, I read the local paper as well as the what is closest to Canada’s national daily (The Globe and Mail) to soak up what’s going on in the local/national environment. As well, I read a book on the commute into work (Malcolm Gladwell’s third book, Outliers is my book of choice right now). Throw in some investing and business reading from online websites, as well as Canadian Business magazine and I’m done in this department. When you break it down that’s a lot of reading and it keeps me learning of what’s going on around me in the world.

As well, reading is something that enhances other areas such as your comprehension skills, vocabulary, and writing one of the key skills in the PR professionals toolbox, and one I’m working hard to develop, both professionally and creatively. Not to mention it’s fun getting lost in another writer’s thoughts, which in turn is usually intellectually stimulating.  Especially on warm summer days.

What do you do to get a little better everyday?

Entering the Superhero World This Summer

Let me start off by saying that I haven’t been to the movies in a while. The last movie I saw in theatre’s was theOttawa-20110606-00031 King’s Speech and I have to admit I fell asleep. Great movie though. But there are movies that I never sleep through or seem to miss: action movies, well specifically superhero movies.They really are the perfect summer movie, since they are visually stunning, with a tight storyline, and full of drama.

I’ve always been into comic books, superheroes, that cool fantasy world (sorry Harry Potter) and the like. I think it’s because I remember back when I was younger, on those lazy summer days, when my brother and I would sit reading the countless collection of amazing Spider-Man comics we had. Whether you read the same comic five times, the storyline, with all the action, placing you in this fantasy world of heroes vs. villains, was always fun. You can imagine how I was when they did the first remake of the Spider-Man movie series staring Toby McGuire and Kirsten Dunst in 2002. It was pretty sick. I was constantly back checking the comics, making sure they did good on t intricacies of  the main characters, Peter Parker and Mary Jane. They did ok. McGuire was super nerdy and Dunst perhaps a little stiff. By the time they reached the 3rd Spider-Man movie, Spider-Man 3, things  went completely nuts and it became my least favourite movie in the series. Think Glee with superheroes singing…no thanks.

Today there is seemingly a new comic book movie coming out every summer weekend. Thor is out. X-Men: First Class came out last week. Green Lantern is coming out, as is Captain America. Not to mention a reboot of the Spider-Man series next year, the Avengers in 2012, and Iron Man 3 in 2013. If you have followed these characters stories in the comic books, like I have for the most part, you get excited with how these movies will turn out. I’m probably most looking forward to Captain America. Set in the WWII period, with the Axis vs. Allies backdrop, it has a different feel than the others which are in more modern settings and is the one I’m really looking forward to see.

Which superhero movie are you going to go see this summer?

Book Review: The Tipping Point + Why I love Malcolm Gladwell

I just recently devoured author Malcolm Gladwell’s first book “The Tipping Point” (2000) and now I am one third of thetipping_point way through his latest book “What the Dog Saw: And Other Adventures” (2009), leaving his two other books, untouched for now, and noticed we have 3 things in common. Firstly, we are both Canadian. Secondly, we both have Nigerian roots. Thirdly, but hardly the least most important is we are both writers. Me on this blog and an possible e-book (if I can get off my butt and make it happen) and him and his aforementioned 4 books, as well as a distinguished career as a journalist at The New Yorker. That’s a lot to like, but I rather just say love, because after reading The Tipping Point, you can’t come away not loving the book, as well as Gladwell. He is an amazing writer.

Whether you have heard of the term “tipping point” before or not it doesn’t matter. Gladwell explains the concept really simply, something that he is able to do with everything we encounter in The Tipping Point. What Gladwell looks at are social epidemics are things which start off small and but spread extremely quickly, through word of mouth, that they “tip”. Examples of social epidemics that Gladwell references in the book, are Paul Revere and his midnight ride to warn Americans of the incoming British invasion in the late 18th century (American Revolution), the rise of Hush Puppies as a fashion trend, and the spread of sexual transmitted diseases in Colorado Springs.

Gladwell continues by pointing us in the direction of three special personality types he wishes to highlight: “Connectors”, “Salespeople”, and “Mavens” and their influence in making social epidemics tip. These people are elite activists in what their name description implies, really exceptional people (as you will read in the book), that are able to help social epidemics reach the masses as well as direct people to information. Gladwell also talks about “The Stickiness Factor” which helps to show why Sesame Street was so successful. In the case of Sesame Street, Gladwell talks of the way in which in the early days of the show, the 1960s, the creators tested children’s attention spans. What they did was have a slide show which ran random slides such as a rainbow  or a leaf floating through ripples of water, every 7 seconds. Then, children would be brought into a viewing room, in pairs, to watching an episode of Sesame with the slide show running as well. The creators then would take note of when the children looked at the slides or Sesame. Every time the slide changed, the staff would make a notation. From this information, they would have a very detailed account of what shows held the attention spans of children, The Stickiness Factor, thus allowing them to create shows that would capture children’s hearts for decades.

In addition to having Connectors, Mavens, and Salespeople and The Stickiness Factor, the final thing which aids social epidemics in tipping is what Gladwell says is “The Power of Context”. Gladwell describes this as being the how our surroundings, shape the lens in which we view the world, and how they may actually have more impact than our individual personality traits and dispositions. This is the whole nature/nurture debate and Gladwell expertly dances us through this idea using case studies, which are very gripping and perhaps some of the most interesting parts of the book. For example how an murder on a subway in New York City in the 1980s started a crime revolution in the city and the reason why children are increasingly smoking cigarettes.

Add all these concepts together and this is the essence of what the The Tipping Point is all about. Gladwell is able to shed light onto why things happen in this world, that things are not merely of random coincidence, and how small things lead to big changes or social epidemics. What you take away from reading the Tipping Point, is you become more aware of the world around you, as perhaps the numerous preconceived notions you may have had on things are broken down by Gladwell’s logical analysis and interaction with experts in a variety of fields.

Gladwell is able to weave all these pieces together so well, which makes reading the Tipping Point a breeze. His storytelling, without unnecessary words or jargon, is one I can appreciate, with every sentence making a point and leaving you eager to read the next. In my eyes, Gladwell’s agenda is a simple one. By sharing The Tipping Point, he is able to empower you with knowledge of the world around us, an extremely valuable resource in our ever increasingly complicated and interconnected world.