We review books that deal with everything from financial independence topics to politics, and anything in between. We may sometimes stray into films and music if there is a “Findependence” angle.

Managing Tax Season Anxiety

By Devin Partida

Special to Financial Independence Hub

Tax season can be stressful for most people. Though there are many tools and services to help you manage your finances, they don’t do anything to help your mental state. The truth is much of that stress can be of your own making. Thankfully, there are ways to manage that anxiety and get your taxes done.

To help manage your tax season anxiety, knowing why tax season makes people so stressed might be helpful. A big part of that stress is the simple fact that it has to do with money. Although they say money can’t buy you everything, studies have shown financial troubles can directly affect your mental health.

Is it any wonder? People’s worth is often judged by how much money they earn — not to mention money can affect how high your standard of living is. You are happy when you gain more money and become stressed out when you lose it.

Financial stress has become a more significant part of the world in the last few years. Events like the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine have caused global financial difficulties, making it harder for the average person to save.

Fear of the government also causes stress during tax season. While most people are upstanding citizens, the idea of the government swooping in and taking everything you have just because you missed a payment or filled out the wrong form is as prevalent as it is irrational.

How to reduce Stress during Tax Season

The key to overcoming tax season stress is to adjust your mental state. Doing your taxes is the same as any other task you have to complete. Here are some things to remember to make doing your taxes less stressful.

Address Misconceptions about the Government

Contrary to popular belief, the government will not throw you in jail for missing tax payments. In fact, the U.S. and Canadian governments will try to help you make your payments — though there are penalties for not paying on time.

The government also cannot immediately take your property if you’re late in your tax payments.

They can place a lien on your property that they can lift if you set up and commit to a long-term payment plan. The government will also be more lenient if you have a lower income, though they can still audit you.

If you’re living in Canada, there are ways to work with the Canada Revenue Agency so they can accommodate your financial needs. The CRA also encourages you to file your taxes online — it’s easier and faster to process.

Stop Procrastination

Filing your taxes is probably not many people’s definition of fun. However, constantly putting it off can cause even more stress as the due date gets closer and closer. Good time management habits can help you reduce stress and get your taxes done.

A common solution is to break down filing your taxes into smaller tasks and space them throughout the month. This can make your taxes less daunting by letting you finish in increments while giving you more time to do other things.

Use Online Tools

Online tools like TurboTax can make doing your taxes much more manageable. These tools streamline the process, making it quicker to get the job done. In addition, some tax collection organizations like the IRS have partnered with certain companies to offer free e-filing. The IRS free-file system allows you to file with them free of charge.

Filing your taxes online comes with other benefits, such as receiving refunds faster and record-keeping services. Most online tools come with 24/7 support you can contact in case you need help.

Take the Stress out of Tax Season

Stress during tax season is a common problem, but one you can overcome. Practice good working habits to prevent procrastination and get it over with. Remember that the government is not out to get you. Fire up that TurboTax and get to it.

Devin Partida is the Editor-in-Chief of, and a personal finance writer. Though she is interested in all kinds of topics, she has steadily increased her knowledge of the intersection of finance and technology. Devin’s work has been featured on Entrepreneur, Due and Nasdaq.

Learn why you should Buy This, Not That

By Mark Seed, myownadvisor

Special to the Financial Independence Hub

Let’s face it, saving and investing should be simple.

  1. Save, automate your savings to buy stocks.
  2. Invest in stocks and/or low-cost products that invest in stocks to avoid mutual fund salespeople.
  3. Disaster-proof your life by having some cash stashed.
  4. Rinse and repeat.

But simple is not easy.

All too often, we humans love to make things far more complex than things need to be.

We’re wired that way unfortunately. Egos often get in the way. 

Given many people continue to struggle with personal finance, every day, there are tens of thousands of books published out there on this subject – building and maintaining a responsible investment portfolio is only part of the personal finance success equation…

Learn why you should Buy This, Not That

Sam Dogen (aka Financial Samurai) knows a thing or two about personal finance success.

Sam founded in July 2009 during the depths of the global financial crisis.

Sam’s goal through that site was to deliver and share a cathartic way to make sense of the chaos at the time. Fast forward to today, more than 90 million people have visited Financial Samurai, and tens of millions more have read his work on publications such as CNBC, Yahoo Finance, and Business Insider.

Sam was previously at Goldman Sachs and Credit Suisse for 13 years – but he’ll share more details below!

When Sam is not writing or playing with his kids, you can find him on a tennis court or softball field in San Francisco, or on My Own Advisor giving away a book!

Sam is a graduate of The College of William & Mary and received his MBA from UC Berkeley.

I got a chance to chat with Sam recently about his new book: Buy This, Not That – How to Spend Money Your Way to Wealth and Freedom.

Here is our interview below before Sam:

Sam, welcome to the site – I know you’ve left a few comments over the years and nice to see you back!

Mark, a pleasure. I enjoy reading about your personal finance independence journey in Canada and seeing you help others with their journeys at the same time as well!

Sam, maybe not everyone is aware of your financial journey and Financial Samurai beginnings. Can you share a bit of your bio with my readers? Where do you live, what have you invested in, and “how did you get here” to writing this book?

Sure thing, Mark.

I grew up in The Philippines, Zambia, Japan, Taiwan, and Malaysia before coming to America for high school and college at William & Mary. My parents were in the U.S. foreign service.

After college, I joined Goldman Sachs in NYC in their international equities department. It was a dream job, except for the fact I had to get in at 5:30 am and often leave after 7 pm! As a result, I decided to save and invest 50% of my after-tax paycheck so I could one day have options to escape.

In July 2009, I started Financial Samurai and helped kickstart the modern-day FIRE movement. It’s been great to see so many people embrace their financial independence journey since then. My definition of financial independence is having enough passive investment income to pay for your basic living expenses.

I decided to write Buy This, Not That because I felt it had to be written. When I started Financial Samurai, there weren’t a lot of personal finance bloggers with finance backgrounds. I noticed when I first got my book offer in early 2020, there weren’t many finance authors with finance backgrounds either! So, I decided to fill this hole and provide my perspective.

Instead of scratching the surface, I decided to go deep into many financial topics. I then tackled some of life’s biggest dilemmas many of us all face.

Learn why you should Buy This, Not That! Sam Dogen

Great stuff.

Sam, in your book, you wrote:

“My first hope with Buy This, Not That is to help you let go of the fear of making a wrong financial choice. Let that sink in: there are no wrong money choices, just as there are no perfect choices, only optimal or suboptimal.”

Talk to me about your investing and wealth-building journey. What mistakes did you make? What successes did you have? What did this teach you and what do you hope to pass along to others in the book?

Mark, I made the suboptimal choice of buying a vacation property I didn’t need in 2007. I got it for 15% off, but it ended up declining by another 40% during the financial crisis! Luckily, most of its value has recovered and I’ve been taking my kids there since 2018.

Not extrapolating my income into the future was my biggest lesson learned. I was paid very well in 2007 and thought my income was just going to go higher. Life is full of ups and downs. Therefore, please be conservative with your income and return forecasts.

One of the key takeaways from the book is to encourage readers to think in probabilities, not absolutes. Don’t think you need 100% certainty to make a choice. Otherwise, you’re going to miss out on a lot of great opportunities.

In The Psychology of Money, Morgan Housel wrote effectively:

You don’t have to be a perfect investor. Getting wealthy and staying wealthy is “about consistently not screwing up.”

I agree with this/have always agreed with this and this aligns nicely to your 70/30 decision making philosophy. Can you explain that for readers and why is that framework so important to you to convey in the book when it comes to investing and wealth-building?

Use my 70-30 decision-making framework to build wealth and make more optimal choices. The framework states that if you believe there’s a 70% probability or greater your choice is the correct one, go for it, while having the humility knowing that 30% of the time, you’re going to get it wrong. And when you do, you will learn from your mistakes and get better.

Once you start approaching everything with a probability matrix in mind, you’re going to gain a tremendous competitive advantage compared to those who don’t.

I like that.

Sam, I personally equate the definition of Financial Independence (FI) as your investments generate enough passive income to cover your day to day living expenses. I’m not into this Barista FIRE, etc. What’s your take? Agree? Disagree? Why?

Yes, since 2009, I’ve stated that being financially independent means having enough investment income to cover your basic living expenses. However, I think Barista FIRE is a reasonable stop gap where you can earn extra income and receive subsidized health care while working a traditionally lower-wage job.

But at the end of the day, don’t fool yourself. If you still need to work, then you are probably not financially independent.

When I left work in 2012 at age 34, I had about $80,000 a year in passive investment income. I knew I wouldn’t starve, but I also wasn’t 100% confident I was doing the right thing. Therefore, I had my wife, who is three years younger than me, keep on working until age 34. If everything worked out with my new adventure, she could join me. In 2015, she was also able to negotiate a nice severance and hasn’t been back to work since.

So, when did you realize FI (Financial Independence)?

In 2012 when I was 34. At the time, I had a net worth of about $3 million that generated about $80,000 a year in passive income. But the biggest catalyst was negotiating a severance that paid for 5-6 years’ worth of regular living expenses. My severance paid all my deferred cash and stock compensation over the next three years. I also had a private investment made in 2010 that wouldn’t come due until 2017 that was fully paid out. Continue Reading…

Life after Twitter: Mastodon & other alternatives

As I posted on Twitter a few days ago, Elon Musk’s ownership is causing a lot of Twitter regulars to rethink their commitment to the platform. Personally, I have invested a lot in the Bird since joining in 2009 and so I am reluctant to storm out of there merely out of sheer petulance. Better, I think, to take a wait-and-see approach and give Elon a chance to salvage it or to burn it to the ground.

But it does behoove regulars to have a contingency plan or Plan B. Once upon a time, I viewed Google Plus as an alternative but it proved to be a virtual ghost town until Google pulled the plug on it. If Twitter keep imploding, perhaps the folks at Google will think of giving it a go again. But in the meantime, there are still LinkedIn and Facebook.

While in Spain this month, I started to experiment with the platform that seems most likely to accumulate disaffected Twitter users: Mastodon. (spelt with the letter o in two places, NOT the letter “a”!

Unlike the centralized Twitter platform, Mastodon is decentralized and that’s the first thing you need to know about it when signing on. First you have to pick a server, which is run by volunteers around the world. I picked one of the few (or only?) Canadian ones: It’s also called Mastodon Canada and bills itself as being run by Canadians for Canadians

A new meeting ground for Canadian finance Tweeters and bloggers?


Perhaps it’s too early to say, or that it’s wishful thinking, but it seems possible that a critical mass of disaffected Canadian Twitter users may be building there, including a subset of Canadian financial tweeters; I mean tooters!

For me, Truth Social was never an option, for reasons that should be obvious, given its ownership. If there are other Canadian Mastodon servers and there may be, Google Canadian Mastodon servers.

Mastodon takes some getting used to and the learning curve seems steeper than Twitter was in its heyday. At the same time, it’s fun to give one’s atrophied social media little grey cells a new workout, and it’s a learning experience to see new networks and patterns of networks evolve almost from the ground up.

It was helpful to be fairly early with Twitter and in the same way Mastodon has that pioneering feeling here in November of 2022, the first full month of Elon’s Twitter ownership. Mastodon has been around much longer but there’s little doubt there is now a wave of Twitter users descending on the place. Most of the new arrivals admit they’re looking for a possible alternative, or don’t really know why they are there, and most either need a bit of help or encouragement or are a bit more experienced and willing to offer assistance to the newbies.

In fact, is so new they are still asking for volunteers to moderate and assist with the technical side for those who have the skills. They’ve also just set up a PayPal account to accept donations to offset the server costs.  Continue Reading…

The endless glut of Trump books — and now Biden — continues

It’s been awhile since I reviewed any political books here on the Hub. The last time was this time a year ago when I surveyed what were then the latest books on the Trump presidency (at one point in 2021, 3 of the top 6 New York Times bestselling books were on Trump: see here).

I occasionally wade in on this topic on the grounds that investors need to be on top of this seemingly unique political situation. That’s despite the fact that when Trump first won his shock victory in 2016, markets briefly cratered, only to quickly recover.

The particular pair of mini-reviews below has no real financial angle but you can see I explicitly covered that a few years ago in  a MoneySense column that evaluated the implications of the Trump presidency for the Boomers’ collective retirements: see here.

Over the long weekend, I finished reading two recently published books that some may find of interest, whose covers are illustrated on this blog. One is Thank You for Your Servitude, Mark Leibovich’s entertaining summary of all the Republican enablers who made the Trump presidency possible in the first place, and may yet facilitate a dreaded second term. The other is This Will Not Pass [Simon & Schuster) by Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns, subtitled Trump, Biden, and the Battle for America’s Future. The co-authors are both New York Times writers and CNN political analysts, neither known as MAGA-friendly outlets.

Save your money and borrow these from the library

I might add that, despite being an author myself, I generally refuse to buy any of these US political books: I either read ebooks from the Toronto Library’s excellent Libby app, or download ebooks or audio books from the paid SCRIBD service. Libby often involves waiting a few weeks or months for popular bestsellers; however, if you can read quickly, you may be able to luck into the occasional Skip the Line service, which lasts only a single week. SCRIBD sometimes has books not yet on Libby, often in audio format, and unlike the library, you can keep them beyond the normal three-week limit.

There’s been a fair bit of press and YouTube clips on both these books. Formerly with the New York Times, Leibovich is perhaps best known for his bestselling This Town, about 21st century Washington. Thank You for Your Servitude [Penguin Press, New York, 2022] is subtitled Donald Trump’s Washington and the Price of Submission. While the author admits that many of the anecdotes will be all too familiar to anyone following the daily press, he manages to provide a fresh perspective on them while simultaneously apologizing for making readers relive the worst of these moments. Many of them center around Trump’s Washington-based Trump Hotel, which is where the book begins and ends.  There you meet such familiar characters as Rudy Giuliani, Reince Priebus, Kevin McCarthy, Mitch O’Connell, William Barr, Jeff Sessions, Lindsay Graham, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Kellyanne Conway and the whole sordid collection of Trump toadies and sycophants, or the so-called MAGAts.

One early chapter is entitled “The Joke,” which apparently is how even how Trump’s closest enablers seem to view his rise to the top of the political pyramid:

It would be risky, obviously, for a Republican member of Congress to declare, explicitly, that “Donald Trump is a complete ignoramus,” even though that’s what they really believed. But none of this had to be spoken because the truth of this scam, or “joke,” was fully evident inside the club …. Everyone … got the joke.

Covers Ukraine invasion but not January 6th hearings

The book is recent enough that it includes an epilogue about the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February. The book ends on a despairing note of pessimism about the prospects of anyone stopping Trump in 2024. Of course, it was published months before this summer’s high-profile January 6th hearings, nor does he spend much time addressing any of the other multiple investigations into Trump’s businesses and political shenanigans.

The following telling snippet is one of many that may not be widely known. I was struck by the revelation in the epilogue that within a day of Trump’s “Be there, will be wild” tweet promoting the January 6 rally, the cheapest room in the Trump Hotel immediately jumped from US$476 to US$1,999.

Donald Trump didn’t just inspire the Jan. 6 riot … He seems to have made money off it.

That pretty much says it all. Leibovich ends with an ominous foreshadowing of Trump’s possible triumphant return in 2024. His final sentence is “And who’s going to stop him?” A few sentences earlier, he quotes a former Republican congressman who confessed that the party’s only real plan for dealing with Trump in 2024 involved a darkly divine intervention: “We’re just waiting for him to die .. That was it, that was the plan. He was 100 percent serious.”

Can Joe Biden extract the US from its “political emergency?”

Simon & Schuster

Those who are thoroughly sick of Trump — as I am — may find This Will Not Pass more to their liking, as roughly half the content is devoted to Trump’s successor, Joe Biden. The focus is what it describes as the “political emergency in the United States: the story of how the country reached and survived a moment when carrying out the basic process of certifying an election became a mortally dangerous task.”

It recounts how the country “sort of” survived but like Leibovich, leaves readers pretty nervous about what may yet occur in the 2022 mid terms this fall and ultimately in 2024. As Martin and Burns remind us (as if we needed it!):

Donald Trump has not been banished from national life, but instead remains the dominant force in his party and is bent on purging those few Republicans who won’t bow to him … The former president’s delusions about a stolen election … have lingered with corrosive force, warping his own party and catalyzing a wave of red-state voting restrictions aimed at cracking down on election fraud that did not happen. The fantasies of a Trump restoration have only deepened since his departure from the White House.

The book is arranged in three parts: the year before the 2020 election and Trump’s mismanagement of Covid; the tumultuous months between the contested 2020 election and Inauguration Day, and everything that has transpired since:

… As President Biden attempted an acrobatic feat of leadership: pushing a liberal policy agenda of titanic ambition with the thinnest of majorities … Far from quickly erasing the Trump era, leaders in both parties have found the shadow of the last presidency has been longer and darker than they anticipated, colouring every major political decision and legislative negotiation of the Biden administration and shaping even the perceptions of American democracy overseas.

Ambitious, yes: One chapter nicely summarizes the dominant question before Biden as “How Big Can We Go?”

Unlike Servitude, This Will Not Pass was published too soon to cover much of the events of 2022. Oddly, for an American book, it closes with an observation by a Canadian, Bob Rae (at one point Canada’s ambassador to the United Nations.) He calls Trump an “authoritarian … I don’t believe the Republican Party believes in democracy.” And he warned that the threat to American democracy was far from defeated: “America,” he said, “is a very important battleground.”

They Want to Kill Americans

(Added subsequently). There’s a third and even scarier book that I only began to read the day this blog initially was published. They Want to Kill Americans by Malcolm Nance, describes Trump’s brownshirts and the ongoing assault on American democracies by Americans. Here’s a link to Goodreads’ entry on it. And here’s a Kirkus review.


Jonathan Chevreau is Chief Financial Officer of the Financial Independence Hub, author of the financial novel, Findependence Day, co-author of the non-fiction Victory Lap Retirement, and columnist and Investing Editor at Large for 





MoneySense Retired Money: Reboot Your Portfolio book review

My latest MoneySense Retired Money column is a belated review of Dan Bortolotti’s recently published ETF book, Reboot Your Portfolio. You can read the full review by clicking on the highlighted text: The Canadian Book about ETFs that will have you saying eh-t-fs.

The book has already been well reviewed by prominent financial bloggers: for example, early in December the Hub ran this blog by Michael James on Money’s Michael J. Wiener: Do as I say, not as I do. 

As the column notes, MoneySense readers should find the book a nice complement to the MoneySense ETF All-stars feature that I used to write each spring, and which was initially a collaboration between myself and Dan back when we were both full-time MoneySense editorial staff. The 2022 edition ran last week and is now written by Bryan Borzykowski.

Dan’s book is an excellent primer for any aspiring do-it-yourself investor who wants to buy ETFs at a discount brokerage, or someone wanting to create an ETF portfolio with or without the help of a financial advisor like Dan or his employer, PWL Capital.

Since the dawn of Asset Allocation ETFs early in 2018 (starting with Vanguard, soon matched by iShares, BMO and Horizons), it’s now possible to have an entire portfolio consisting of a single ETF. Those who like the traditional pension fund allocation of 60% stocks to 40% bonds could choose VBAL, XBAL or ZBAL, or Horizon’s slightly more equity intensive, HBAL (with a slightly more aggressive 70/30 stocks/bonds mix).

One-decision funds and automatic rebalancing

Bortolotti is quite enthused with these Asset Allocation ETFs, as are most of the other ETF experts in MoneySense’s ETF All-stars feature. One thing he particularly likes about such funds is the automatic rebalancing between asset classes, or at least between the stocks and bonds that most of them hold in varying proportions. As he says in chapter 8 (Keep it in Balance), “There’s a lot of research suggesting that people do better when the rebalancing decision is taken out of their hands.”

The book takes a holistic approach to financial planning and ETF portfolio creation. In fact, he makes a point of not even addressing ETFs until chapter 5, after first covering the need to cease trying to beat the market, set financial goals, determine the right asset allocation and then fine-tuning.

Like most indexing enthusiasts, Bortolotti takes a dim view of such investing sins as market timing and stock picking.   In his chapters on Asset Allocation, Bortolotti does not restrict his readers to strictly ETFs: there may be a place for GICs and high-interest savings accounts. He says many could put half their fixed-income allocation in GICs and use bond ETFs for the other half.

But he does believe that even very conservative and very aggressive investors should have at least some exposure to stocks and bonds; conservative retirees should still have at least 20% in stocks and aggressive stock investors should have at least 20% in bonds. For those between, he is comfortable with their holding the traditional 60/40 portfolio, which has returned between 6 and 7% a year since 1990.
Beyond stocks and bonds, however, Bortolotti is less enthused. He doesn’t recommend commodities like gold and other precious metals, collectibles like rare coins, fine wine and artwork, or even REITs, preferred shares or Real Return Bonds: whether held directly or via ETFs.

When it comes to ETF portfolios, Bortolotti is primarily focused on broadly diversified low-cost ETFs that use traditional market-cap weighting, although he also sees the case for equal-weighted ETFs. But he does not recommend what he calls “narrowly focused” sector or “theme” ETFs. He covers the pros and cons of “smart beta” ETFs, which usually cost more than plain-vanilla ETFs but will at least be cheaper than actively managed mutual funds.

All in all, any MoneySense reader will probably find the combination of Reboot Your Portfolio and the ETF All-Stars as a nice one-two punch for their portfolio.