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How to decode
the information
on a Tire

of 10
for drawing
savings in


Does spending
decline as we
age? Here's what the
numbers show


Is barefoot


Do I legally
have to let in
a car merging
into my lane?


6 Ways to
Protect Your
and Keep
Online Scammers
at Bay


The Oscars
2015 87th


No more trials
for Brampton
parking tickets






Other Stuff

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How to decode the
information on a
Tire Sidewall

There is a ton of info on the sidewall of a tire, but how many out there actually know what all of it means? Consult this guide to help ensure you make an informed decision when purchasing a new set of tires for your vehicle.

P- indicates that this is a passenger tire, commonly encountered and found on most cars, SUV's and CUV's. You will also find LT (light truck) and ST (special trailer) tires, which are designed to carry heavier loads and offer less sidewall flex. These types of tires are meant for bigger SUV's, trucks and off-roaders that require a stronger commercial grade tire. While they can be used on a passenger vehicle the ride quality would be diminished thanks to the stiffer sidewalls and heavier construction.

185 – This quite simply is the width of the tire specified in millimetres.

75 – is the aspect ratio or the height of the sidewall as measured from the bead. Not actually millimeters, the 75 designates that the sidewall is 75% of the width of the tread (185 in this case). A simple formula 185*75% or 185*0.75 gives us a sidewall height of 138.75mm. A good rule of thumb to keep in mind; lower numbers designate a lower sidewall height, and higher numbers a higher sidewall height. Fast, sporting cars will usually use "low profile" tires to improve steering feel and handling, while a minivan for example will have a tall sidewall for a more comfortable ride.

R14 – Most passenger tires on the road today are of radial construction, it's quite rare to find the old bias-ply of yore. Radial construction has the internal plies of the tire running perpendicular to the bead or centre-line of the tire. The number 14 designates the diameter of rim in inches that the tire should be mounted on. This particular tire must be mounted on a 14″ rim. 82 S – indicates the load and speed index of the tire. The numbers correspond to a standardized load /speed index chart. A handy one can be found HERE. The load index represents the amount of weight that the tire can safely carry at its maximum inflation pressure. The speed index, you guessed it, is the maximum safe speed a tire can travel when loaded. Refer to the link above to get these values for your particular tires. While the info listed above will allow you to determine the size, type and speed rating of a particular tire, it's performance characteristics can be determined by the UTQG ratings for Traction, Temperature and Treadwear.

Treadwear – In our example the number is 360. Assuming a baseline tire would test at 100, the 360 treadwear indicates that this tire would last 3.6 x longer than the baseline. It's important to note that this rating is specific to each manufacturer. A Michelin tire at a rating of 300 would not be the same as Goodyear tire with the same rating. Treadwear numbers should only be compared when considering tires from the same brand.

Traction – is tested only under wet condtions to determine the rating. The letter corresponds to the friction co-efficient generated when the tire is dragged across the surface of the road. AA corresponds to a co-effiecient of 0.54 and above on asphalt. Traction grades ratings are AA, A, B, C, with AA being the highest C the lowest. Any tire tested below Grade C is deemed unsuitable for road use.

Temperature – or Temperature resistance grades are the ablilty of a tire to dissipate heat build up. Typically higher grades indicate a faster top speed as these tires can resist the forces of heat better than one with a lower grade and will be less subject to blow-outs when running at sustained high speeds. Grades are typically A, B and C with C being the lowest grade possible. The Grade "A" in our example means that this particular tire can run at speeds over 115mph.

Load and Pressure

The tire max inflation pressure and max load must be on the sidewall of every tire sold in North America. The max load in this example is 2000kg(4410lbs), and the safe max pressure is 110psi. When checking your own tire pressures, always ensure that the tire is cold(not recently driven on). The correct tire pressure for your vehicle will actually be found on the door jamb. This is what the vehicle manufacturer recommends, and will usually garner the best performance. If exceeding these recommended pressures (with a fully loaded car for example), never go above the max inflation pressure stamped on the tire sidewall. Exceeding these inflation or load values can lead to tire failure.


This denotes the Department of Transportation and Transport Canada safety standards. This number decoded will tell you the manufacturer and plant the tire came from, as well as the date of production. The last 4 numbers indicate the week and year of manufacture. In this case the tire was made on the 8th week of 2015. Determining tire age is crucial as some dealers can have new tires sit in the warehouses for years. Most rubber compounds used in tires today have a finite life, and tend to age, harden and crack with time and exposure to the elements, weakening the tire structure and increasing chances for failure. A good rule of thumb is 6 years. If the DOT indicates the tire is older than 6 years, it should not be put into service, or replaced if currently on a vehicle.


Making sense of
10 strategies for drawing
down savings in retirement

The Globe and Mail
July 6. 2015

Accumulating wealth is a challenge. But "decumulating" it can be trickier still.

The problem is that you don't know many of the key elements that would enable you to come up with a perfect plan for tapping your money in retirement. How long will you live? What will market returns be like? And in what sequence will those returns appear? The answers to all those questions are unknowable.

Hence the growing fascination with so-called decumulation strategies for consuming retirement nest eggs. The strategies include the simple and much-quoted 4-per-cent rule, as well as much more complicated sets of guidelines and formulas. Each approach has enthusiastic fans.

To help bring some order to this jumble, it would help to put all the leading strategies side by side. And that's exactly what Wade Pfau, a professor of retirement income at American College in Bryn Mawr, Penn., has done.

His new paper, Making Sense Out of Variable Spending Strategies for Retirees, compares 10 systems for drawing down your savings in retirement. His research demonstrates that even experts have widely different opinions on the issue.

It also helps explain why arguments about retirement strategies often resemble a shouting match among people who don't speak a common language. The essential problem, and the reason for all that shouting, is that you can evaluate any given approach on many different criteria.

The 4-per-cent rule, for instance, says that if you start retirement by withdrawing 4 per cent of your initial portfolio, and every year bump up that starting amount in line with inflation, you will not run out of money over a 30-year retirement. Based upon market history in the United States and Canada, this is nearly always true.

So judged on one criteria – will it ensure you don't outlive your money? – the 4-per-cent rule works out pretty well. It also scores well on another criterion: It keeps your spending at a constant level, in after-inflation terms.

However, it's not so good if you're interested in being able to live as well as possible in retirement.

People who use the 4-per-cent rule can end their lives with large amounts of unspent cash. This is because the 4-per-cent guideline is designed to allow your portfolio to soldier through even a Great Depression. If you're among the many retirees who don't run into such a disaster, your portfolio grows and grows while you keep restricting yourself to modest annual withdrawals.

The 4-per-cent rule is probably unrealistic in other ways as well. If you're unfortunate enough to be smacked by a market calamity in the first few years of retirement, and your portfolio falls by half, you will probably not keep blindly spending at a constant level.

And that's a good thing. By cutting back when hard times hit, you give your portfolio a chance to heal.

But how much should you cut back? And when? That's where things get interesting.

Among the variable-spending strategies that Prof. Pfau compares are various approaches that adjust withdrawals depending on how your portfolio performs. He calls them "decision rule methods" because they lay down explicit guidelines for how to tap your savings.

He contrasts them to what he calls actuarial methods. These recalculate your sustainable spending every year based on your portfolio balance, expected longevity and expected returns. (For a closer look at one actuarial approach, check out an earlier Long View column)

One interesting strategy makes use of annuities to cover your basic expenses. It lets you tap your remaining portfolio quite aggressively, but also requires you to slash those withdrawals if markets turn against you.

So which approach works out best? Prof. Pfau sidesteps that question because no one number can sum up all the characteristics of a strategy. Some strategies, for instance, offer temptingly high initial spending rates, but also have more potential to disappoint later. Some can be more easily tripped up by sequence-of-returns risk – a run of bad market outcomes – than others.

As a rule, the decision-rule strategies are less efficient than actuarial strategies, meaning they have more potential to leave you with large amounts of unspent money at the end of 30 years. But that may not matter to you if you like the idea of possibly leaving a large legacy.

Prof. Pfau's paper can help you figure out which approach best fits your own needs. The simplest takeaway, though, is that it pays to build a bit of wiggle room into your planning, no matter which system you choose.

"Flexibility, such as the option to cut your spending if results disappoint, can go a long way toward ameliorating the risk of running into a sequence of bad market returns," he said in an interview.


Does spending decline
as we age? Here's what
the numbers show

Alexandra Macqueen
The Globe and Mail
June 18, 2015

If you are designing a retirement income plan, one of the things you'll need is an estimate of how much income you'll require each year, once you've stopped working. But how do you come up with a number?

One way to go about this is to simply select a percentage of your pre-retirement income – called the "replacement rate" – and assume that's what you need in retirement. Another method is to determine a so-called "safe withdrawal rate" as a percentage of your investment portfolio.

In both cases, the yearly amounts are assumed to be adjusted upwards for inflation – meaning the real (after inflation) change in spending from year to year is actually zero, and spending is expected to be flat over your retirement.

But how realistic is it that retirement spending – for you or anyone else – will remain at the same level throughout your golden years?

The retirement spending smile

Detailed research from the U.S. suggests that spending in retirement doesn't follow a steady decline, but creates a pattern that looks like a smile: it declines slowly in the early years of retirement, then more rapidly in the middle years, and then less slowly in the final years. The report doesn't attempt to figure out in any depth why expenditures change, just notes that it does. (Researchers in Canada have also found that retirement spending gradually decreases with age.)

Going one step further, this same U.S. research suggests that spending in retirement changes based on whether a household's net worth matches its spending rate. That is, households can have both high net worth and high spending, or low net worth and low spending -- or a household's net worth can be "mismatched" between high and low spending rates and net worth.

Matching spending and resources

This table shows what happens to spending in retirement when households are categorized in this way:

Household net worth Retirement spending How does spending change in retirement?
HIGH LOW increases over time
HIGH HIGH decreases over time
LOW HIGH decreases “considerably” over time
LOW LOW increases over time

Source: David Blanchett, Estimating the True Cost of Retirement (Chicago: Morningstar Investment Management, 2013).

Here's how to think about the results in the table: Households with "matched" spending and net worth experience fewer changes to their spending in retirement over time. That is, a high spending rate, when coupled with a high net worth, can be maintained over your retirement. Similarly, households with low total wealth experience smaller spending decreases over time compared to other households, as long as their spending rate is low as well.

In contrast, households with "mismatched" spending and wealth experienced spending declines over the course of their retirement – and in the case of the "low" net worth households with "high" spending, they experienced the biggest declines of all.

Start low…so you can increase as needed

The takeaway? The best way to protect yourself against big declines in spending over your retirement is to start with a low spending rate (relative to your net worth). In that way, your spending has room to increase, if you need it to.

The good news, for current and future retirees of all kinds, is that budgeting your spending in retirement is the element of your retirement plans over which you can exert the most direct control.



Is barefoot driving illegal?

The Globe and Mail
June 9, 2015

"It's an urban myth, according to my police sources," writes Brian Smiley, spokesman for the Manitoba Public Insurance Corporation.

We asked every province. There are no laws that say what you can – or can't – wear on your feet while driving a car or motorcycle. So, it's legal to drive barefoot or wearing sandals or flip-flops.

The Société de l'assurance automobile du Québec (SAAQ), the provincial insurer, says there's no law – past or present – in Quebec that bans shoeless driving.

"We do not have any idea where that myth comes from," writes SAAQ spokesperson Audrey Chaput.

Quebec does require shoes when driving off-road or in an all-terrain vehicle, Chaput says.

It's a myth in the United States, too. We couldn't find any federal or state laws against driving barefoot or in flip-flops. Some states, like Alabama, require motorcycle riders to wear shoes.

The myth may be on shaky footing, but many people believe it anyway.

"The driving myth we hear the most from people is that it's illegal to drive in bare feet – but the law doesn't say that," says Brampton, Ont., driving instructor Ian Law. "It doesn't even say in the Highway Traffic Act that you have to wear clothes while driving."

Flip-flops and you don't stop?

If your footwear, or lack of it, causes you to drive erratically or get in a crash, you could be charged with careless driving.

Official rules aside, it's a bad idea to drive barefoot or in flip-flops, Law says. Bare feet could slip on the pedals. And stepping on gravel or a pebble stuck in the pedals could make a driver pull his feet back when hitting the brakes. Flip-flops and loose shoes or sandals could fall off your feet and get jammed under the pedals.

"You need to be able to feel the pedals properly," Law says. "We strongly recommend that drivers use thin-soled shoes and stay away from open toes."

In a 2013 poll by a British insurer, 27 per cent of drivers said flip-flops had been responsible for an accident or a near-miss.

It's bad to drive in thick work, hiking or winter boots, too, Law says. He heard of one driver who drove his truck into a river and swore the brakes were broken because the pedal wouldn't go down.

"The brakes were fine," Law says. "He had a steel-toed work boot underneath the pedal and didn't know because he couldn't feel it."

Law suggests driving in a pair of sneakers or tennis shoes and then changing when you get to the campsite or beach. Or to work – high-heels or hard-soled dress shoes are bad for driving too and should be kicked to the curb, Law says.

"A lot of fancy shoes, you can't feel the pedals and be sure that you're actually making contact," Law says. "It might look really good to be wearing fancy shoes, but it doesn't look too good to be wrapped around a lamppost because your foot missed the brake pedal."


Do I legally have to let in a car merging into my lane?

Globe and Mail
May 31, 2015

If I'm in the right lane on a highway, do I legally have to let in cars that are merging into my lane? – Nancy, Vancouver

Here's the lane truth: there's no rule that says you have to let in merging drivers. But, it is a nice thing to do if you can, police say.

"If you're already in that lane, you're not required by law to let somebody in, but it's obviously a courtesy," says Vancouver Police Const. Brian Montague. "But they're the ones who need to properly merge."

Once you're in a lane, you have control over that lane. Any time another driver is trying to get into your lane, they're required to wait until it's safe.

That means they can't just turn on their signals and expect you to yield to them. They have to slow down and, if necessary, come to a complete stop.

Drivers of merging vehicles could be charged if they butt in when it's not clear – even if you hit the merging vehicle from behind, police say.

"Drivers in the lane do not have to yield to traffic that's merging," says Toronto Police Const. Clint Stibbe.

"It would be nice for the public to offer that consideration and let other traffic in," Stibbe says. "Consideration is something drivers lack, and we all need to be a little kinder on the road."

The best way to let in a merging vehicle depends on the situation. It could mean speeding up just a little to get ahead of them, slowing down a little to let them in front of you, or switching lanes.

When traffic's slowed to a crawl on expressways during rush hour, sometimes you see cars taking turns letting in merging vehicles.

The same thing happens when one lane is closed up ahead because of construction or an accident.

Taking turns helps traffic flow. But even then, you're not legally required to let another car into your lane.

"You're not legally required to let them in, but it's pretty – disrespectful isn't the right word – irresponsible to block them out," says Montague. "That's where it escalates from a traffic issue to a road rage issue."

6 Ways to Protect Your
Information and Keep Online
Scammers at Bay

April 27, 2015

Phishing – not to be confused with the wholesome family pastime – refers to the practice of acquiring personal information through means of deception. In layman's terms, it means tricking you into handing over credit card details, banking information, social insurance numbers and other sensitive details. As phishing schemes become more and more sophisticated, they're also becoming harder to spot. We've prepared these tips to help keep you on your toes, and your information where it belongs.

Employ common sense

Phishing emails often succeed due to fear. For example, if you receive an email from someone claiming to be your bank, your credit card agency or even the government, they might attempt to retrieve your personal details by threatening your finances, services or credit. Here, the easiest way to stay protected is to employ common sense; if any of these agencies truly required your attention, they'd call or send a letter. Email is rarely (if ever) the preferred contact method for important matters such as these. If you do receive an email (or even phone call) and believe that it could be legitimate, follow our second tip.

Confirm the sender's legitimacy

If you're not 100% sure the email was sent by a trusted source, call them! A bank, credit card or government helpline can easily confirm the legitimacy of any phone call, email or notice you received. Make sure to get their number from official documentation and not the email itself, which brings us to our third point.

Don't open attachments or click any links

Phishing emails generally include a button or link which leads the recipient to a site posing as the institution it's impersonating. The site may be an identical copy, but the credentials you provide will get immediately stolen upon submission. If you'd like to check your credit, bank balance or other information, open a separate browser.

Keep your details private

Phishing doesn't only happen online. Clever criminals have been known to call their victims at home, posing as a representative of a popular service provider, and asking security questions in order to "validate" the call and discuss whatever fictional matter they've chosen. Obviously, once this information is retrieved (mother's maiden name, first cousin, etc), it can be used to gain access into your account and steal personal information. To be safe, never provide personal information to anyone who calls. Instead, find the organization's number and call in yourself in order to be sure you're providing it to a staff member.

Protect yourself online

When it comes to protecting yourself online, you can never be too careful. Anti-virus and anti-malware software are a great way to ensure that something you accidently download doesn't wind up infecting your system and logging your input, so make sure to take advantage of free scanners and monitors available online. Malwarebytes and SUPERAntiSpyware are great ways to clear suspicious malware and trackers from your computers, and viruses can be taken care of with Microsoft's free anti-virus software


The Oscars 2015 - 87th
Academy Awards

February 23, 2015

Best Picture
American Sniper (Director: Clint Eastwood)
The Imitation Game (Director: Morten Tyldum)
Birdman (Director: Alejandro Iñárritu )
Selma (Director: Ava DuVernay)
The Theory of Everything (Director: James Marsh)
Whiplash (Director: Damine Chazelle)
The Grand Budapest Hotel (Director: Wes Anderson)
Boyhood (Director: Richard Linklater)

Best Actor
Bradley Cooper - American Sniper
Steve Carell – Foxcatcher
Michael Keaton - Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Eddie Redmayne – The Theory of Everything
Benedict Cumberbatch – The Imitation Game

Best Actress
Julianne Moore – Still Alice
Reese Witherspoon – Wild
Rosamund Pike – Gone Girl
Felicity Jones - The Theory of Everything
Marion Cotillard – Two Days, One Night

Best Supporting Actor
Robert Duvall – The Judge
Mark Ruffalo – Foxcatcher
J.K. Simmons – Whiplash
Ethan Hawke – Boyhood
Edward Norton – Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Best Supporting Actress
Patricia Arquette – Boyhood
Emma Stone – Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Laura Dern – Wild
Meryl Streep - Into the Woods
Keira Knightley – The Imitation Game

Best Animated Film
How to Train Your Dragon 2
Big Hero 6
Song of the Sea
The Boxtrolls
The Tale of Princess Kaguya



No more trials for
Brampton parking tickets

Toronto Star
June 17, 2014

I was ticketed by Epic Parking Control at the Finchgate Medical Centre in Brampton.

I'm told it's an official city ticket that affects my plate renewal if unpaid. Although the city gets the money, Epic gets the ability to intimidate those who park in their private lot. I don't think that's right.

City of Brampton spokesperson

Megan Ball replies:

The City of Brampton appoints private security officers as municipal law enforcement officers for the purpose of issuing parking tickets on private properties. This practice allows the city's enforcement officers to focus their patrols on city streets.

Epic Parking Control Services is authorized to issue City of Brampton parking infraction notices.

Ticketed persons can pay or dispute a notice within 15 days. Otherwise, they'll receive a Notice of Impending Conviction by mail.

At this point, they can pay or dispute the charge by trial.

Should they fail to act, they'd next receive a Notice of Fine and due date by mail, and are deemed not to dispute the charge.

If there's still no action taken, the next step is licence sticker denial by the Ministry of Transportation.

Eric Lai adds:

As of June, the appeal process for parking tickets of $100 or less, and not involving accessible parking, is fully managed by the City of Brampton through the Administrative Monetary Penalty System (AMPS), which replaces the judicial appeal process.

Ticketed persons can, within a limited time, request a screening review with a city officer, who has the authority to uphold, cancel or reduce the parking penalty.

The outcome of the review can, within 15 days, be further appealed at a hearing. That decision is said to be final.

However, I consulted a serving federal judge, who asked not to be named, and Toronto lawyer Greg Chang. Both indicated that a legal challenge of the above non-judicial process might be successful.

Ticketed persons have no court option and didn't voluntarily agree to the AMPS terms in lieu of a trial.

Additionally, there's a perceived conflict of interest when a city employee adjudicates a city parking ticket matter.

In general, administrative tribunal decisions can be appealed through the court system — provided there exists a valid question of law requiring clarification.

In reality, though, a minor parking ticket doesn't financially justify protracted litigation beyond the no-fee screening and hearing reviews, so a formal court challenge is unlikely.

City of Brampton officials were invited to comment, but didn't reply.











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