The nine milestones of a financially sound life

Moshe Milevsky never intended to write another book about financial planning. But then the 42-year-old York University finance professor in the Schulich School of Business watched in horror as his family’s net worth shrank by nearly 50 per cent in the great market crash of 2008, wrote The Globe and Mail Feb. 24.

It wasn’t because he was highly leveraged or had taken unnecessary risks. A cautious investor, he had stacked his portfolio with stock in some of the biggest, supposedly safest, most successful American firms – GM, AIG and Lehman Brothers, among them.

To help recoup some of his losses, the industrious Milevsky…returned to writing. Within a matter of months, he had produced Your Money Milestones: A Guide to Making the 9 Most Important Financial Decisions of Your Life (FT Press,2010). It’s his seventh book and a timely one, especially for those contemplating their annual contributions to retirement savings plans.

Written during an academic sabbatical which saw Milevsky lecturing at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and in Sydney, the book incorporates some of the lessons he learned from the market meltdown. Central among these is the that the old paradigm – the stock market as a casino game in which savvy investors carefully calculate the odds of any particular wager succeeding – must be discarded.

In its place is the nuclear paradigm, so-called because no historical data would be of any value in predicting the next nuclear reactor accident. It therefore abandons all possibility of determining odds. In the new investing environment, a nuclear accident can occur at any time, without warning, making bets on stocks, even blue chips, inherently unpredictable.

A future ‘flood of refugees’ to the north?

In his article “Roots of Flight: Environmental Refugees in Latin America”, York University Professor Andil Gosine, a sociologist in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, explains the processes that forced indigenous populations and small farmers from the rich arable valleys onto marginal arid or mountainous lands, wrote Alexandra Deprez in an article for the Council on Hemispheric Affairs posted on Feb. 23.

The arrival of European “conquistadores” to Latin America marked the installation of a very unequal land tenure system, visible to this day in countries such as Nicaragua, where in 2003 less than 25 percent of the rural population owned almost 85 per cent of the country’s land, said the article.

The capitalist systems established in many Latin American countries in the 19th century exerted economic pressures on the region to produce monocultures for export. According to Gosine, this trend, which was continued by the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) infamous Structural Adjustment Plans of the 1960s that supported the production of cash crops, has served to perpetuate an unequal geographical distribution of the population.

Relegated to less productive lands, small farmers in Latin America face undeniable economic hardships as their produce customarily has to compete against strongly subsidized American and European agricultural goods.

The migratory pressures already in place due to these hardships will most likely be cemented by climate change, and the inequality in land distribution only further underscores the disproportionate influence it is bound to have on the poorer sectors of Latin American society.

Schulich grad student is riding the exchange-traded funds wave

From her 25th-floor office window overlooking Toronto’s island airport, Heather Pelant takes inordinate pleasure in tracking the growth of Porter Airlines as she observes the steady increase in takeoffs and landings, wrote The Globe and Mail Feb. 24 in a story about the Schulich executive MBA candidate.

There is something about “scrappy upstarts” that appeals to the competitive spirit in Pelant, who is managing director of the iShares family of exchange-traded funds (ETFs) for BlackRock Asset Management Canada Ltd. Just as Porter is rattling the Canadian airline establishment, BlackRock is taking on the giants of the Canadian mutual fund industry, with a view to “fundamentally changing the investment landscape.”

To support Pelant as she built iShares’ business in Canada – and while simultaneously earning an executive MBA from York University’s Kellogg-Schulich program – her husband stepped aside from a career in financial services. He has opted, for now, to stay at home with the couple’s two young daughters and helps keep the family’s work-life balance on an even keel.

While RRSP season is on, however, her workday is a long one. There is still much work to do in expanding public awareness of ETFs, Pelant said.

Young activist honoured for work in Jane-Finch neighbourhood

Being black growing up in the Jane-Finch neighbourhood, Antonius Jamal Clarke became convinced he needed to work hard to defy stereotypes and escape the social stigma associated with his community, wrote the Toronto Star Feb. 24.

“It’s discouraging,” said the 25-year-old, who was raised by relatives in St. Lucia before joining his single mother and four siblings in Toronto at age 5.

Clarke’s vision and compassion for his community has earned him one of six New Pioneers Awards – which recognize the achievements and contributions of newcomers to Canada – to be presented Thursday by Skills for Change at the Fairmount Royal York hotel.

Clarke was kicked out of Thistletown Collegiate Institute after taking part in a yard fight in Grade 11. His transfer to another school ended with him serving as class president and valedictorian. In 2004, he founded Friends in Trouble, a non-profit youth-run organization that offers arts and recreation programs, as well as counselling, to at-risk youth. The group has grown from 30 members to more than 500.

Clarke is now in his third year of sociology studies at York University.

Other New Pioneer Award recipients include York University student Karar Jafar from Iraq, said the Star.

Award-winning author to speak in St. Thomas

A Governor General’s Literary Award winner will be in St. Thomas Thursday night to discuss her work, wrote the London Free Press Feb. 24. Karolyn Smardz Frost, a Fellow of York’s Harriet Tubman Institute for Research on the Global Migrations of African Peoples, who won the 2007 Governor General’s Non-Fiction Award for I’ve Got a Home in Glory Land: A Lost Tale of the Underground Railroad, is speaking as part of Black History Month events.

An expert in Ontario black history, Smardz Frost will be at the St. Thomas Public Library, beginning at 7:30pm. I’ve Got a Home in Glory Land is the epic story and biography of a fugitive slave couple, Thornton and Lucie Blackburn. The book has been called one of the most valuable pieces of Canadian history by reviewers.

Grey Highlands hires York grad as new CAO

Grey Highlands council announced this week the appointment of Daniel Best (BA ’90) to the position of chief administrative officer effective Feb. 24, wrote The Blue Mountains Courier-Herald Feb. 23.

Best was recently an account manager at Ontario’s Ministry of Municipal Affairs & Housing, Community Partnerships & Projects Branch. Previously he was director of community services for the County of Dufferin.

A trio of dynamic duos

You could say Dancemakers knows a thing or two about creative matchups, wrote The Globe and Mail Feb. 24 in a review.

When a group of York University dance grads founded the company back in 1974, their goal was to be a repertory collaborating with a wide range of choreographers. In its first 16 years, the company did just that – presenting new dance pieces by New York’s Paul Taylor and Lar Lubovitch, Canadians such as Judith Marcuse and Karen Jamieson, and Dancemakers members York Professor Carol Anderson (BA Spec. Hons. ’73, MA ’06), of the Faculty of Fine Arts, and Peggy Baker, a guest instructor in the Department of Dance.

Now, current artistic director Michael Trent, who took over in 2006, has launched the Dancemakers Presents Festival. Called TwoByThree, it’s a program of duets featuring six acclaimed, avant-garde choreographers from four countries. “The duet is a powerful, compelling launch site for discussing human relationships,” Trent says.

Lions football coach plans to visit Bears’ camp

The Brampton Bears football club will be holding a winter camp at Ken Giles Recreation Centre from March 1 to 5, wrote the Brampton Guardian Feb. 20. Coaches attending include Adam Rita, general manager of the Toronto Argonauts, Mike McLean, head coach of the York University Lions, and John Engel, University of Toronto recruiting coordinator.

Ex-York lineman signs with Seahawks

The Seattle Seahawks signed defensive end Ricky Foley and punter Tom Malone on Tuesday, wrote the Toronto Sun and the London Free Press Feb. 24.

Foley played at York University in Toronto and was signed by the Baltimore Ravens as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2006 but was released before training camp. He was drafted by the BC Lions and in 2009 led the CFL with 12 sacks and had 51 tackles.

Mother intervened to help Glendon grad

Both sons credit Helen Weinzweig’s interventions with saving them from lives of profligacy and dissolution, wrote The Globe and Mail Feb. 24 in an obituary. Paul Weinzweig (BA ’64) says he was metaphorically dragged out of poolrooms and into York’s Glendon College. Making a personal visit to the dean, she persuaded him to teach her son weightlifting, which proved an enormous boost to his self-confidence. Paul became a professor of criminology and later went into business.

On air

  • Richard Leblanc, professor in York’s School of Administrative Studies in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, spoke about why employers should not crack down on employees who are watching the Olympics, on Saskatoon, Sask.’s News Talk 650 Radio Feb. 23.
  • Joe Baker, a professor in York’s School of Kinesiology & Health Science in the Faculty of Health who teaches a course in sports psychology, spoke about Canadian figure skater Joannie Rochette who is coping with the death of her mother, on CTV News Feb. 23.