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Saving money on the Internet

I am probably a slow learner in this regard, but I recently found out that it is pretty easy to save money on quite a few websites on the Internet.  If you are doing online shopping, generally just searching on the company whose site you are using together with the word “discount code” will bring up quite a few websites fairly quickly that offer you discounts of at least 10%, but quite often 20% to 25%.  In fact, I have not come across a website for which a discount is not available yet and it just makes me wonder why I never did that before!  

I guess it is similar to the principle if you don’t ask you don’t get, but this is a lot easier than asking and it is a similar principle that I always tell my staff – and that is not to simply tell me what something costs, but to phone another company and get a competing quote.  There are so many businesses, especially those who you have been working with for 1 or 2 years that are slowly starting to put up their prices and don’t react in any way until such time as you tell them about a quote from a competing company at a much lower price than what they are charging you.  I don’t think attorneys compete as much on price.  In the personal injury field they all pretty much charge the same amount, although of course there have been people who have been involved in charging abusive amounts, some of whom have left South Africa and others who are subjected to litigation with regard to their fees.  I personally think the attorneys by and large compete on results and service and in that regard I have been shocked by some of the big cases I have seen, under-settled by other attorneys against the Road Accident Fund, not to mention cases where the attorneys seem to never update the clients, not more than once a year anyway. 

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Tuesday 14-Aug-18   |  Permalink   |  6 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It
Basically slavery

I must say I was devastated to read about a man who retired in October last year, aged 84, and was left with nothing, by the name of Mokgwabone Kleinboy Dinake.  He apparently worked as a farm labourer his whole life at Nooitgedacht in North West, in the employ of Mr Boet Terre’blanche.  He earned R300 a month when he retired and was left with nothing.  I don’t know how people can pay R300 a month.  It is absolutely appalling.  

I would never want to, on any of my trips to overseas destinations, have to explain to somebody that some people in South Africa, after working for years for an employer, earn as little as about $20 a month.  Paying somebody a salary like this is basically no better than treating them as a slave and the biggest tragedy is after he was awarded money by the Department of Labour in an amount of R50 000 he died.  Apart from anything else there is a minimum wage for farm workers, which from 1 March this year was R3 169 a month.  It is things like this that make a lot of people lose sympathy with some South Africans when there is talk on nationalisation of land or of houses, etc.

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Friday 10-Aug-18   |  Permalink   |  18 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It
USB plugs should be everywhere

It drives me nuts, whenever I am travelling, and I travel quite a bit, to struggle to find USB plugs.  Just about everything you need to charge these days requires a USB plug and while some hotels have put little portable USB chargers in, and some of the seats on aeroplanes now have the USB charges and many of the older planes, hotels and houses don’t have them.  I would not build a house now without putting one or two USB chargers in every room and quite frankly if you are running a restaurant or any industry involving hospitality, you need to have one or two basic chargers, in particular an iPhone charger.  I have written before about how my iPhone battery pack is indispensible – so much so that I now have three of them, which I keep in different locations and they become very useful.  

Many of us have become addicted to these screens, but in their defence sometimes quite often the phone does take on the role of your computer.  In other words, one spends quite a bit of time answering e-mails on your phone and actually attending to work.  Not everything that I do on my phone is “playing” or surfing the Internet!  I reply to staff e-mails, I send WhatsApp messages to a number of people and you need to be able to charge your phone often during the day and not struggle to find a USB plug.  I have however accepted that many people do not have these and I bought myself a number of mini-USB plugs so that if I go somewhere that don’t have a USB charging plug built directly into the wall, as many of the more modern plugs do have, I can at least use my portable USB plug and plug it into a normal power socket and charge my phone there and then.  

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Monday 06-Aug-18   |  Permalink   |  15 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It
Eating healthy

I can’t say that I am the healthiest eater, but I have certainly tried, if nothing else, to cut out sugar from my diet as much as possible.   One of the books I have been reading recently is called The Clean 20 by Ian K Smith who previously had a number one New York Times bestselling book called Shred.  He lists a number of healthy foods that one should eat, which he calls the clean 20 foods and he includes a lot of things we know that are good.  In particular, amongst the things that I eat quite a bit of are avocado’s, quinoa as well as lentils.  As he stresses, not only are lentils inexpensive, they are relatively quick and easy to prepare and are absolutely full of nutrition.  

So much of what we eat is not really good for us and some of the more expensive things, such as red meat, are not that great for us either whereas some things that cost so little, like lentils, are actually far healthier for us.  It is just something to bear in mind the next time you are preparing a family meal!  Save some money, buy something cheaper like lentils and actually eat healthier!

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Friday 03-Aug-18   |  Permalink   |  20 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It
The United States get the World Cup again

It was interesting to see that the United States, where soccer is far more popular than many would imagine, has once again won the right to host the World Cup Soccer.  The World Cup they will host, easily beating Morocco in the bid to host, is to be held in 2026.  This time it will be held in conjunction with Canada and Mexico, but you can rest assured that the final and the most important games will be held in the USA.  Soccer is a far bigger sport in America than many South Africans believe - just as many don’t really appreciate how big rugby is in Japan.  A number of major cities, like Seattle, have their own soccer teams that regularly fill up stadiums with 50,000 or more people and while the quality is obviously not as good as that of the English Premier League or EPL, it has been growing in leaps and bounds.  The USA soccer team is in any event rated higher than the South African team, so we must be careful before we are too dismissive of their ability to play soccer!   

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Wednesday 01-Aug-18   |  Permalink   |  21 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It
The government to trim thousands of jobs in public service

Apparently, thousands of Government workers over the age of 60 will be offered a voluntary retrenchment by the government.  This is because the Government has again agreed to a new 3 year wage agreement that has gone over the budget by about R30 billion.  The Government say they will encourage early retirement by topping up pension funds for those who take retirement packages – which of course will cost us more immediately right now – and one wonders how many people will take up that package.  If they are over the budget by R30 billion over 3 years it means that they need to reduce R10 billion worth of salaries per year, and I don’t think they will get enough people to agree to give up good jobs working in the government with far less accountability than you would have in the private sector that would add up to R10 billion.  

I have written about this problem before in my blog – we have far too many government employees and the reality is they are overpaid.  Their salaries are eating into the funds that we need for education, policing, our courts and health services, so the next time you see somebody loafing around in the Post Office or asking you why you have come to the Post Office 20 minutes before closing time, as if that is a sin, remember how we have chosen to have that person in that job rather than another teacher or another doctor servicing the ill and the weak.  At the moment, the bills for government employees’ wages is one-third of the country’s entire annual budget and government wages have increase 10,3% annually since 2009 – far ahead of anything in the private sector. 

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Monday 30-Jul-18   |  Permalink   |  29 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It
Mandela’s daughters challenge Will

I was very disappointed to see the news that two of Nelson Mandela’s daughters are challenging his will.  They claim his will is unconstitutional and deprives their mother, Winnie Mandela, of a share in his home in Qunu.  I must say, I think at a certain point in life one has to stop looking for handouts and trying to play the role of a victim.  South Africans love to always blame somebody else for their plight, imcluding running off to the CCMA, but honestly, when it comes to one of the greatest men who has lived on this planet, I think that one should just accept his wishes, in the form of his will, and move on.  In other words, if he chose to leave the property to a Trust of his, that is what he chose and I think his wishes should be respected.  In fact, I think the wishes of most people in a will, unless they have lost their mind, should be respected.  

People’s money and possessions are theirs for them to choose to do what they want with and if two of his daughters, with the advantage of a surname like his and political clout, have not done well enough for themselves in life that they feel they need to now challenge his will I think that is particularly sad.  I understand that they have already lost the first court case and are now appealing to the Constitutional Court, but I don’t even see that there are constitutional issues to be raised.  I do hope that their challenge is dismissed and that the Constitutional Court respects the wishes of Nelson Mandela, as opposed to now saying that even his will was not constitutional!

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Friday 27-Jul-18   |  Permalink   |  38 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It
Yolande van Biljon starts at the SABC

I was quite interested to read about the appointment of the former Chief Financial Officer of the Road Accident Fund, Yolande van Biljon, to the SABC.  She apparently has been tasked with sorting out the financial situation at the SABC which posted a nett loss after tax of R977 million in the last year and only had R82 million in cash on hand compared to the previous year’s R881 million.  What she will manage to achieve will obviously depend on how much freedom she is given to do so – the SABC has in recent years, according to media reports anyway, been subjected to a lot of political meddling. 

I can only say, from dealing with her at the Road Accident Fund, she was extremely professional and fair.  I don’t think she is the type of woman who will tolerate “special deals” or people who believe their payments should be prioritised ahead of others and she is certainly an extremely hard worker.  When she was at the Road Accident Fund during the height of their cash flow crisis, she was always available to answer e-mails – and I am talking about e-mail replies that you would get from her at 10pm at night, even though the Road Accident Fund used to close its offices at 4.30pm.  So she is hard working, she has integrity and she has worked at cash starved entities before.  If she is given a fair chance, she will no doubt succeed.  

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Wednesday 25-Jul-18   |  Permalink   |  36 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It
The Eternal Road

The Eternal Road is an Indie film or independent movie that I recently watched during a film festival.  It deals with a forgotten part of Russia’s past and that is when in the time of Stalin workers from around the world were invited to come and join in the socialist revolution that was taking place in Russia.  The Russian government placed adverts in newspapers around the world encouraging the workers of the world to come to Russia for plentiful jobs and because there were no jobs in their countries, and they felt they could not look after their families, or because they believed in socialism, they took up those offers.  This is also very well covered in a book called “The Forsaken, an American tragedy in Stalin’s Russia” by Tim Tzouliadis.  The theme of the book is pretty much the same as that of the movie and I would strongly suggest to anybody, particularly those with Russian origin or Russian members of their family, that they watch the movie.  It relates to what happened to those people.  

Initially, and in the late 1920s America went through a terrible recession, life for those particular people was far better in Russia, because many of them were unemployed in America.  More than 10,000 Americans went to try out the excitement of the new experiment with socialism in Russia and many Finnish people went as well – the protagonist in the movie is Finnish.  They were put on collective farms, they even had baseball games and social gatherings in Russia, but a few years later, during the late 1930s, Stalin became paranoid of many of these people, especially when they start wanting to go back to America, believing they were Russian spies.  Their passports were confiscated and those that went to the American Embassy to try and make arrangements to get back were picked up by the secret police of Russia as soon as they left the Embassy and never seen again.  The vast majority were shipped off, put on trucks and led to wooded areas where they were executed, one after another.  That is where the title of the book comes in, because they were forsaken and in some instances their children were adopted by other Russians and given a new life, but more than 10,000 Americans and Finnish people as well as people from other countries of the world were simply executed.  

It is a good reminder, while capitalism is not perfect, that communism and socialism have not worked in other countries and it was not just 20 million Russians who were killed during this time, but other people from all over the world who went along to genuinely take part in a political system that they thought was much better and had equality for all people, also got executed.  For some reason or other the political systems that allege equality between people almost always end up, not only in disaster, but killing anybody along the road that dissents with them, disagrees with them or is even considered to be too intellectual for the system.  The first to be killed are normally the lawyers, the Judges, the writers, the thinkers and many of those who were not executed learned very quickly to give up any job of any prestige at all and quickly become a labourer, farmer, etc.  

Unfortunately for the Americans and the Finnish, who were largely working on farms as farmers, they just got executed.  Movies and books like this often never make the mainstream with the result that most people, including most Russians, would not even know this history of their country because it is largely being covered up and forgotten about.  

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Monday 02-Jul-18   |  Permalink   |  30 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It
How much higher can stock markets go?

I have reduced a lot of my investments in the Stock Market at the moment, because I think that prices are already very high.  I don’t see much room for the market to grow at the moment, but that does not mean, for example, on our local market that Rand hedge shares cannot go up.  That is shares which, every time the Rand decreases due to the investments, see their price going up.  If you are a long-term investor, whether in your retirement annuity or in terms of putting a monthly contribution into the Stock Market, then I would certainly carry on doing that, but the market had such a tremendous run since the lows of 2008 when I wrote in my legal newsletter that anybody buying at that time just could not lose, the things cannot possibly go up over the next 10 years as much as they have over the last 10 years.  So many markets are at all time highs, not just in terms of their price, but relative to the earnings of the companies I think the market is now much more dangerous than it has been at any time in the last 10 years.  That of course does not mean it cannot go up – I don’t believe in Bitcoin at all either and I don’t think Bitcoin has any real value, but that does not stop people speculating in it.  

I just think if you are a person who believes in long-term value in terms of buying shares based on what the profits of each company are that shares are very expensive now.  A few years ago, by way of example, you could have bought Apple shares at a considerable discount relative to their earnings than what they go for now.  I guess what I am saying is that a few years ago the markets had screaming value all over the place, but right now most global economies, other than the South African economy, are running at full speed, companies are making bigger profits than ever before, they had the benefit of tax breaks in the US, and all of these things are unlikely to be repeated in another year’s time, so I just don’t think that in 2 or 3 years’ time we will be talking about a market that is 30% or 40% higher than the current market.

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Thursday 28-Jun-18   |  Permalink   |  18 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It
Legal secretary worth R101,6 million

I was really astounded to read an article recently about the death of a lady called Sylvia Bloom.  A legal secretary in New York who, when she died, made the largest donation ever from an individual to a social service group in its history when she gave them $6,24 million.  She was a legal secretary in Brooklyn who worked for the same law firm for 67 years until she retired at the age of 96 and died shortly thereafter in 2016. 

She did not appear to tell anybody about her money, she left some money to relatives, but directed that the bulk of her fortune goes towards the scholarships of needy students.  The executor of the estate and everybody else said they were absolutely blown away by how much money she had.  They explained it this way, and please note that the total she was worth when she died was $8,2 million and I have based my heading on an average of R12,40 to the Dollar – obviously the Rand amount changes everyday.  I think her loyalty to one firm and listening very carefully to everything paid off.  She was a secretary, as they explained in numerous articles, in the day and age when secretaries often used to be responsible for conveying their bosses’ instructions to stockbrokers as to which shares to buy, which shares to sell, etc, and she obviously worked for a very bright man who handled his investments well.  Whenever he bought a share she would buy the same share as well and she learnt from him.  That, together with an approach of saving everything and not spending wildly, left her richer than most of us can ever imagine being. 

Certainly, none of us would ever imagine that a legal secretary would end up so wealthy when most attorneys will not even come close to a quarter of that, no matter how successful they are.  The other side of the story is of course a work ethic – when you hear somebody kept working until they were 96 years old, you are dealing with a special individual in the first place!  It is uncanny that once she retired she died.  The same thing happened to my Gran – perfectly healthy while she worked, but she died 6 months after retiring, so it feeds into some superstitions I have about early retirement.  If you are having fun and making money there is no reason to sit at home and play golf 7 days a week. 

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Monday 25-Jun-18   |  Permalink   |  21 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It
A useful app - Strava

I mentioned Strava in a recent blog of mine and it is a particularly useful app that you can use to measure any sort of workout.  It does come at a yearly subscription fee and it made world headlines recently when it came out that American military personnel, walking around secret bases, were essentially publishing their routes through the app that they run and walk, which could be useful to enemy combatants through their use of the app.  I think Strava had to make some changes so that it no longer publishes that information in security sensitive areas, just showing you how ingenuous the spies are when it comes to trying to gather information as to where buildings, etc are! 

Strava can be used to plot any workout, but it is most useful for outdoor walks, hikes, running or riding a bicycle.  The data becomes particularly useful if you use it in an area, as I do, where a lot of people ride bicycles.  You can, for example, compare what your time was over a stretch of the road to all of your times that you have ever ridden over that stretch of road, to other people of a similar age category, similar sex and similar weight category!  I don’t seem to make the top 10 on any of those lists, but I think that is because I am not riding a proper racing bicycle and while I am spinning my wheels at the same speed as guys who are going past me, I need to upgrade to a serious racing machine!  Obviously, the app is doing all this work.  I start it at a beginning of a ride and I end it at the end of the ride.  I am not timing the different segments, but those segments have been broken down by different people to give certain hills and certain names and when you get to that point, and it is obviously tracking you by use of GPS, it will start timing how long you take to get to the top of the hill and then tell you how your hill climb that day compares to your best times on that hill climb. 

For example, it tells you at the end of your ride that the one stretch of your ride was the fastest time you have ever done and another stretch of your ride was the third fastest time you have ever done.   I guess the statistics and comparing you to a lot of strangers, and sometimes people that you know is also meant to help motivate you to keep exercising.  I certainly find it useful and with the latest version of the Apple Watch, which has GPS and a cellular signal, it allows me to do all of that from my watch, as opposed to having to lug my phone with me, so it is extremely convenient.  It is very useful when you are on a run to be getting told what your pace per kilometre or per mile is for the whole race so far so you can tell whether you are going slower than usual, if for example you normally run at 7:30 mins a mile and now you are running at 9 mins a mile. 

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Friday 22-Jun-18   |  Permalink   |  23 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It

Johannesburg based attorney specializing in personal injury matters including Road Accident Fund claims and medical negligence matters. My interests include golf, reading and the internet and the way it is constantly developing. I have a passion for life and a desire for less stress!
Have you been injured in a motor accident?
Recent Settlements
Lumbar spine compression fractures R2 500 000.00
Severe hip fracture requiring total hip replacements R3 305 000.00
Head injury with disfiguring facial scaring of a young female R4 000 000.00
Whiplash and compression fracture of the spine R4 000 000.00
Broken Femora R1 914 416.00
Broken Femur and Patella R770 881.15
Loss of Support for two minor children R2 649 968.00
Fracture of the right Humerus, fracture of the pubi rami, abdominal injuries, head injury R4 613 352.95
Fracture of the right femur, Fracture of the right tibia-fibula R1 200 000.00
Broken Jaw, Right Shoulder Injury, Mild head injury R1 100 000.00
Degloving injuries to the hips, legs and ankle R877 773.00
Head injury R 2 734 295.12
Fractured pelvis R1 355 881.53
Damaged tendons in left arm R679 688.03
Fractured left hand R692 164.48
Amputated right lower leg with loss of income R3 921 000.00
Fractured left foot R600 000.00
Head injury and multiple facial fractures R5 000 000.00
Head injury, compound fracture right femur, right tib and fib fracture, and injury to the spleen R4 529 672.06
Head injury, multiple facial fractures, collapsed lung and a fracture to the right frontal bone R2 890 592.77
Loss of support R5 144 000.00

 


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