Entries from July 2019 ↓


Yesterday’s post referenced a honkin’ big white motorhome with a couple of blog dogs at the wheel who rolled into my day. Turns out it was Eric and Kylie. Now I know their story. This just arrived:

Can’t believe we met yesterday like that… especially during Bandit’s bowel movement! And I didn’t even have to do the obligatory suck-up to be mentioned in your blog! Like most everyone probably, we know you but you didn’t know us. .Started reading your blog long ago. Loved your advice of living within your means, staying out of big debt, renting instead of owning if it’s cheaper even when society thinks you’re crazy, and saving and investing to take the extra stress out of life seeing that many of our problems are financially caused. Your take on the overall housing market insanity and FOMO mentality was bang on! Especially as we were living in the Okanagan and Vancouver areas and saw it first hand…

Worked for the same company for 30 years in sales. Rented in the Vancouver area for the last 10 years, because renting was FAR cheaper than owning. Put the difference each month into savings. Don’t own real estate in Vancouver, but have a couple rentals in Phoenix AZ which we bought when the prices were low and the dollar on par (that was my wife Kylie’s great advice!)

So move the clock forward to now….. as we just became empty nesters, and as we decided to move to Australia, we figured what a great time to do a sabbatical and see our great country of Canada! We sold everything, quit my job after 30 years (on a high point!), and hopped in our motorhome and are now taking 9 months off to do so as I wait for my Australian immigration visa to come through!

As I took your advice over all these years, we saved up for this time and are now financially able to do it. What a great feeling to do this now in our 50’s while we are still young and healthy enough to do it. No kids, no job, no house, no cars, just the motorhome and having a blast. Almost 11,000 kms so far and we haven’t even made it to Newfoundland!”

I got pix, too. E&K smiling on Parliament Hill. E&K happy in a campsite. And a fetching shot of E&K’s bloated bus in front of a mountain. And now off they go Down Under.

So let’s contrast the screw-it-we’re-off-on-an-adventure choices E&K are making with the dismal, desperate real estate reality of Bill and Teresa Rambold, a Calgary couple whose lives have been ruined by a house – their dream home, now tenanted and sinking.

Construction started five years ago in the tony Mount Royal hood, just as Alberta went into a funk and the housing market croaked. The place cost $3 million to build, but shortly after completion was assessed by the city at $1.6 million. Ouch. Drowning in debt, B&T are unable to sell the place for enough to cover liabilities. Trapped. They’re prisoners to a home they apparently cannot afford to even live in. It’s a classic example of how much risk there can be in recklessly pursuing a one-asset strategy (as most Canadians do).

Now they hope to claw their way out with a form of crowd-funding. Their salvation will come if least 100,000 people will send them $35 and a cutesy pet picture. The winner gets the house. B&T get $3.5 million to pay off their debts. Two runners-up receive fifty grand each. Plus there may be a hundred left over for animal charities. The concept isn’t new, since a handful of other Canadian couples have tried this when confronted with a house nobody wants to pay for. But there’s no evidence the strategy has succeeded. Nor is it likely this time. However full marks for glitz and creativity, as you can witness at the official, begging web site.

Two couples. Two divergent paths in life. Freedom and flexibility on one hand. Indenture and stagnation on the other.

If you’re lucky, real estate can build wealth. If you’re unlucky, it can destroy you. And the things which dictate this outcome – monetary policy, bank rates, economic conditions, commodity markets, political changes – are beyond the control of any one person or family. Unlike having a diversified liquid portfolio, putting all net worth in a single, leveraged asset can be financially fatal. Asking strangers to bail you out must be humiliating. And futile.

RV or mansion? No brainer.


Bandit was about to do his business. I fished a plastic bag from my jeans pocket and waited on the sidewalk to, well, you know.


“Garth. Is that you?”

I looked up from the emerging issue and saw a great, long bejesus white motorhome come to a stop on the street beside us.

“It’s Eric,” the driver shouted at me “From Vancouver. We’re blog dogs. I can’t believe it’s you. And Bandit.”

Eric and his squeeze turned out to be decent people. They’ve had it with Van, are fleeing to Australia (another house-horny place) and decided to rent a camper and drive across the entire country before departing Canada. “We had to see our own country, before we left it.” So there we were, on the pavement in a tiny, seaside Nova Scotia town in the waning hours of a hot July.

Actually a weird number of people who waste their lives reading this pathetic blog have turned up in my summertime retreat lately. I met Bob from Grimsby (& family) on the wharf this week. And Angela from Manitoba (I think) popped into my rarefied bank building for selfies. There’s been a steady stream of people on vacation, or exploring, curious and kind enough to come and see me. Most are gracious and don’t ask the obvious question: ‘Why the heck are you here?’

Here’s why.

Before I made an absolute fortune writing a free blog I toured the country giving lectures on financial stuff, hired by banks, advisors and fund companies. Dorothy was my roadie, doing up to 200 gigs a year, hitting every crystal hotel ballroom and Legion basement in the nation. One rainy October eve we landed in Lunenburg, on the south shore of Nova Scotia about an hour from civilization. My speech that night was in a museum full of fish. Seriously.

In morning’s light, the place was a heady swill of sea, history, architecture, colour, culture and the confident, bemused serenity of locals dealing with some dude in a tie from Upper Canada. We were infected. Within a year we’d bought a little blue cape house on the harbour. The routine airplane travel or the long drive (22 hours) was rewarded with weeks by the salty ocean and solid, welcoming neighbours. It’s amazing how sweet people can be when you suck the road rage, shopping malls, competition, and financial stress from their souls.

In April of 2018 Dorothy, Bandit and I made the annual car trip. Soon after I lost my mind and bought the historic stone B of M edifice in the middle of town when the bank decided to replace it with an ATM and a web site. The reno turned it into a such cool, peaceful space that I was smitten. Why not live and work where I wanted to live and work?

Months later the Atlantic Canada branch of my financial business opened its doors. Employees. Clients. Dog. Flexible, progressive corporate partner. Connected in real time with colleagues still imprisoned on the 53rd floor of a bank tower at King & Bay. It had occurred to me that if I could look after the affairs of people in Vancouver or Montreal from downtown Toronto that the same could happen from the seething urban core of downtown Lunenburg. And so it was. And is.

This is what our world has become. Technology, connectedness, digital infrastructure – these things have made geography moot, removing the shackles of location and the sacrifices big-city living demands. Good jobs, incomes and financial security can be carved out anywhere. And surely, when people are freed from the burden of million-dollar houses and hour-long commutes they feel encouraged about their careers, lives and futures. How is this not better?

Anyway, as I write this Bandit is sleeping four feet away. Within two blocks of this liberated bank is the drug store, the post office, lawyer, grocery store, town hall, concert hall, restaurants, boutiques, eight art galleries, four real estate offices and a harbour which today berths a $16 million US superyacht. Oh, and my house. By the way, my home (it’s nice) and my bank cost less together than a slanty semi in Leslieville. Lots of cash left over for a tug, too.

The only regret? Took too long. You should reflect on that. I sure do.