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Discussion Starter #1
I am brand new to the site and have only recently decided to do my own investing, which may or may not be a good idea.

My current situation is as follows. My wife and I are 59 y/o and want to retire at 65. Our income in retirement will be CPP and OAP of about $2,000 p/mth. We currently have $560,000 in assets, not including our house which will be paid off just before retiring.

We have been using an investment advisor with RBC Dominion who has done little to give us gains in the stock markets. I believe he manages in excess of 400 million for his other clients so we are quite small time with him with only $190,000 (stock value) and $40,000 (cash) of our money. I am sitting on the remainder of our cash ($330,000) and would like to put it to use through a self directed plan.

Literally, during the market turmoil last spring I called the advisor every week after the TSX started dropping through 14,000. I felt we should liquidate our positions but he convinced us to stay in the market. Some of those discussions were quite acrimonius. We watched the stocks go from $240,000 to $125,000 during that period. The stocks have bounced back to $190,000.

I heard from our advisor last week for the first time since the market began it's decline. I imagine he realized we had the $40,000 in the account and decided it was time to invest it and generate some commissions. I wish he had called after it was somewhat clear that the market had hit bottom.

We opened up a direct investing account in December through an online service (Canadian Bank-which I am already unhappy with). I have already purchased some Manulife, Riocan and Bonaventure Energy Trust but only small amounts of each (total $30,000).

I feel I need to stay conservative but still make some money on the remaining cash we have for investments (the $330,000). We will still be able to contribute another $100,000 over the next five years giving us a grand total of $660,00 even if it is not invested in anything.

I would appreciate any advice any of you could give with regards to what to do with the remaining cash. TIA.
 

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what an appealing post.

it's not really only until you're 65, you know. You could easily have another 40 years or more in front of you, so that's nearly a lifetime of DIY or self-directed online investing to prepare for.

btw here's the funniest thing i heard all day. Was speaking to a rather garrulous young personnage at my online this am. He eventually told me he's from XXX which is a rural area where folks have reputations as hearts of gold but the odd hayseed in the ear, which perhaps explains his slightly country-bumpkin remarks.

the irresistible part was when he described the difficulty he has "talking to 80 or 90-year-olds on respirators." Gawd i thought it was funny. Can you imagine. Here's the ICU. Old boy/old girl is all intravenoussed up, maybe even stomach tube, partially blind, but by gosh & by golly has the noteboard on board & keeps working the active trader platform ...

back to your message, i was impressed by how exceptionally well you've got the situation under control. I like your 3 stock picks, holding only mfc myself while hearing analysts comment favourably on bonaventure. I do keep a close eye with a view to short-term selling upon my own reit pick which is dundee, now that it's popped 25% in a couple of weeks and charts are looking overbought. Dundee keeps marching north like a roman legion while volume is mediocre. How is riocan, same story ?

i'll end here by offering a hearty welcome to the board, if i may, and a prediction that you will be bombarded with advice, suggestions, insights and who knows what else. You've come to a good forum for DIY investors, and if markets shuffle sideways for the next half-year you'll have an excellent time to plan what could be the most rewarding chapter of your investing life.
 

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Drop the adviser. You could have had better returns by buying a Canadian stock index ETF.
Hold a diversified portfolio of stock and bond indexes in different markets. Don't do anything else, but balance once a year. You should expect a return of about 9% before inflation, over the long term.
Maximize your TFSA contributions ($120k for two by your retirement) and open a trading TFSA account.
Determine how much you should have in RRSP by minimizing your taxes before and after retirement.
 

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About all I can do is tell you what I would do in your situation. First of all, it's hard to say whether you should drop your advisor. I'm a DIY investor with a general distrust of advisors but it seems as though he's steered you reasonably well through the crash. I would say that whether or not to keep him would be more dependent on your returns over the last 5 to 10 years rather than the past one or two.

Anyway that being said, here's what I would likely do:

- I would pay off the mortgage right away (provided it's not tax-deductible). Paying off a, say, 5% mortgage would likely be equivalent to a taxable 8-10% return on another investment product. Not a bad return in these times.

- I would probably keep about $200,000 in cash and laddered GICs at the highest CDIC rate possible, for the time being. I might use some of this money to buy bargains if there was another major crash, otherwise I'd leave it be. (ING has redeemable GICs)

- If you're happy with your $190,000 stock portfolio, I would leave it be. I would concentrate on relatively safe high dividend stocks. (I wouldn't be overly anxious to put too much in REITs at the moment as they are probably fully valued, but I would hold what I have.)

- I would probably put another $100,000 in preferred shares of the 5 big banks (probably $20000 in each). As an example, CM.PR.G is currently yielding 5.8%.

- The rest I would put in bonds or bond ETFs. I would lean toward shorter term or RRBs, probably divided evenly between CSO, XSB amd XRB.

Again, this is just what I would likely do. It may be totally inappropriate for you.
 

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I agree with the above posts mostly. Definately max your TFSA's because even current bond rates aren't 'so' bad if you get to keep all the income.

The suggestions that make most sense likely depend on how much you think you will need each year to live off of when you do retire. If you will be getting 24,000 / year in government funds, how much more do you plan on needing to keep alive and happy? The answer will influence what you need to do to make that 600K work for you; and will you have any other sources of income?

Regardless, I would just add that given the time to retirement, you should be likely on the conservative side of things when it comes to what investments you pick, a good portion should be bonds; likely short term bonds if interest rates are going to rise as the media seems to like to report they are.

I think given current timing of your post, and economic conditions which I'm not sure really are stable yet, and if you do want to play it safe, I think 9% return expectation should be on the high side (maybe not even currently possible today, but that could change).

Most important thing is that you do not lose real cash value (so at least keep up with inflation). Maybe I'm wrong about what you should expect for returns, but don't get too greedy. ;)

If investing in funds, keep an eye on the MERs and keep them as low as possible. Usually ETFs give the best MERs but I have read that TD has very attractive mutual funds with low MERs too.
 

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"I wish he had called after it was somewhat clear that the market had hit bottom."

and when exactly was that? What does it actually look like when it is clear the markets will not go down anymore. I wish someone would call me the next time that happens.

Look, I am not saying you cannot do better than your advisor, but first of all, I doubt your advisor is here asking investment questions and secondly, advisors cannot see the future any better than you or I can.

Now I don't use a financial advisor either, but I really hate it when I see them getting blamed, on these forums, for an awful lot of stuff that is beyond their abilities. This is not because I have any fondness for these people, but because I fear the clients that leave them to DIY, actually think that they can do better. Now some will and some won't but I am absolutely positive, none will be able to tell me "when the stock market has hit bottom".

Good luck to you.
 

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Welcome! My first suggestion to you, no matter what you eventually decide to do, would be to read Shake's Primer from cover-to-cover. This will give you a very good base from which to proceed with respect to managing your retirement assets. From there, you can further explore various options depending on how you choose to proceed. The merits of indexing are well covered atBylo's web site. In Your Best Interest is an excellent resource for fixed income investing. Detailed information with respect to stock picking is thoroughly covered at this web resource which is compiled by a member of this forum, leslie. Finally, you may find that preferred shares have a place in your plan; James Hymas' blog offers insight and advice for investors in this asset class.
 

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"I wish he had called after it was somewhat clear that the market had hit bottom."

and when exactly was that? What does it actually look like when it is clear the markets will not go down anymore. I wish someone would call me the next time that happens.

Look, I am not saying you cannot do better than your advisor, but first of all, I doubt your advisor is here asking investment questions and secondly, advisors cannot see the future any better than you or I can.

Now I don't use a financial advisor either, but I really hate it when I see them getting blamed, on these forums, for an awful lot of stuff that is beyond their abilities. This is not because I have any fondness for these people, but because I fear the clients that leave them to DIY, actually think that they can do better. Now some will and some won't but I am absolutely positive, none will be able to tell me "when the stock market has hit bottom".

Good luck to you.
I agree with you. Advisers are people too; and few are likely fortune tellers as well. ;)

The issue with most advisers, especially ones from big banks is that they have a severe conflict of interest. Their main focus is to keep their job and their pension, and keep their boss and boss's boss happy; not to treat your money like it was their own. Again, they are just people after all right?

I know one former adviser from RBDC that quite in December 2008 after working for them for almost 20 years because he says his ethics could not allow him to keep towing the company line; which he tells me was to 'keep clients invested with us at all costs', even when they did know that the further down side was more likely than the upside. He almost had a nervous breakdown. This does not seem like what a good adviser should really be doing is it, just towing the company line? The former RB adviser is now trying to be a private financial adviser, and I am still staying away. ;)

The point that you may not be able to do any better than an adviser is 100% correct; you very well may not. Or you may; especially when you are retired and have the time to tend to your $. Only time will tell.

It likely comes down to more of a comfort thing than anything; are you more comfortable having someone else take care of your money and take what their companies decisions give you, or are you more comfortable taking things into your own hands and having only yourself to blame or thank for what happens?
 

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You mentioned you called your advisor every week when the TSX went under 14,000 which says you cannot tolerate very much risk. Example for reason to sell could be that you feel the market is overvalued by some measure like the overall market PE ratio and you feel you would like to step aside knowing the market could stay overvalued for a long period of time. That said, if you were in the market in 2007 and felt it was to high and overvalued then why didn't you call every week back then to sell.

The thing is you did not know why you wanted your advisor to sell and just wanted to sell for no good reason other then the TSX went below 14,000. At this time you shouldn't be in the market at all knowing you have have no tolerance for risk. You have a lot to learn and need to be a lot more comfortable with any risk you take before putting money in the market.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Wow!

Thanks for all the responses!

Humble pie-thanks for the welcome.

Thanks to all who have submitted posts regarding our situation. I really appreciate all of your advice. I have been searching for a month to find a site such as this. Many others seem to be individuals trying to influence the sale of individual stocks and that was not the information I was seeking.

It is going to take time to try and digest the points brought up by many of you so I will try to address some of the issues brought up in some of the previous posts. I will try to get back to all of you but it may take time.

1. Dumping the advisor. Since I am totally new to the investing environment I would be reluctant to drop whatever little advice he may give me. I am not ready to totally take over in that capacity. I am even a bit nervous about investing the $330K which is why I only invested $30K as an initial investment.

2. The $330K in cash that we have is in a corporate holding account. If I take it out to pay off the mortgage or transfer to a TFSA it will trigger taxes on the money withdrawn during that year, on top of our normal income. I don't think that woud be good as we would have to pay enormous amounts of taxes on the money taken out. Our mortgage and line of credit is about 250K. Those will be paid off in 5 years without incurring a huge tax problem that would be present if we were to pay off the mortgage and LOC in a lump sum.

3. The problem with buying bonds, GIC's T-Bills, etc. is that in a holding company they are taxed at 50%, unless I am mistaken. If I purchased such items and made 3%, after tax it would only be 1.5%. Granted, it would be safe money but I would hope to achieve more.

4. I am aware that investment advisors cannot see into the future any more than I can. I probably should have stated that I have acquaintenances, not necessarily friends, far wealthier than what we will ever be, who use the same financial advisor. We live in a small town and run into these people occasionally. As many of us are nearing retirement, or are already retired, how our stocks were doing would commonly enter the conversation. Conversations with them after the TSX started going back up revealed that he was calling them to put more money into stocks, which turned out great for them. Here again there is no way to see into the future.

I understand that we are very small fish in his investment pool. If I were he my first calls to solicit stock sales would be to the big fish. That is understandable-he has to make a living as well. I just felt that he could have called a couple of months ago anyway, or once a year to say hi.

I know I haven't addressed all of the issues you have raised but thought I would cover a few before dinner. After dinner I may have to order a couple of books suggested here for reading!

Thank all of you for your advice. I am already way behind on the thread. I am going to have to look up some the terms you have used. As I said this is new to me, so please bear with me.

Once again, thanks.
 

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You still have to answer to yourself if you are willing to take another big hit in this market because we could just as easily head back down again. You were not comfortable before as you mentioned in your opening post. It is much easier to hold on when the market is going up and claim you can handle the risk.

You also mentioned your advisor doesn't pay as much attention to you or your money as you would like so he may not be right for you. At the same time you do pay fees for this service which will add some drag to your portfolio. Check out the Couch Potato strategy for a simple do it yourself strategy http://www.canadianbusiness.com/my_money/investing/article.jsp?content=20060405_152254_1452&?ref=ln of course you still have to know if you can handle losing money.

Sorry for sounding harsh and I don't know if you should keep or get rid of your advisor, I am just trying to make sure you are being honest with yourself. It is important to know who you are so you don't waste valuable time and money.
 

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Discussion Starter #12 (Edited)
You mentioned you called your advisor every week when the TSX went under 14,000 which says you cannot tolerate very much risk. Example for reason to sell could be that you feel the market is overvalued by some measure like the overall market PE ratio and you feel you would like to step aside knowing the market could stay overvalued for a long period of time. That said, if you were in the market in 2007 and felt it was to high and overvalued then why didn't you call every week back then to sell.

The thing is you did not know why you wanted your advisor to sell and just wanted to sell for no good reason other then the TSX went below 14,000. At this time you shouldn't be in the market at all knowing you have have no tolerance for risk. You have a lot to learn and need to be a lot more comfortable with any risk you take before putting money in the market.
The only answer I can give you is that I did not follow our investments at all. This may be a tough sell to people on a forum dedicated to investing but in actuality it was the case. We had investments with a broker and what seemed to be lots of cash. That perception changes when one ages and gets nearer retirement. It suddenly dawned on me that we should get more involved.

I started reading financial pages for the first time in my life and many people were suggesting that the mortgage backed securites could come to a crisis. No one knew how far and widespread that problem would come to be. Perhaps is was just selective reading by me in the G&M, or selective memory in my case, that there didn't seem to be a lot of positive financial news at that time. Many were stating that stocks were overvalued. Granted, for every person who said the stock markets were in for a tumble there were others stating the opposite.

We had money in mutual funds in 1987 when the markets tumbled. I don't even know how much it was as I stated earlier that I haven't followed our investments from day one. My wife informed me at the time that we lost a bunch of money. It was not significant at the time as there would be lots of years to recoup the losses.

As we near retirement there aren't as many years to recoup losses. Having lost money in 1987 and not having paid any attention to our investments since then, whether losses or gains, it just seemed prudent (last spring) to start paying attention to what was happening to our investments. It is something that I should have been doing for twenty five years. Hindsight..... To those of you actively engaged in trading stocks I can only offer kudos and hope you all do well.

When our portfolio tanked last year I buried my head in the sand and quit reading the financial papers. I should have paid attention. I am reading them again and will pay attention, hopefully for the better.

As far a risk tolerance goes I will definitely try to keep risks in mind. I did purchase two other stocks, Agrium and Teck. They have a higher beta than the others I purchased. I lost two hundred dollars on Ag and made three hundred on Teck:).

I will keep following the thread for input. Thanks for everyone who contributed their thoughts and recommendations. I do have a lot to learn:eek:
 

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You stated that you have 330,000 in your corporate holding company. I was under the impression that all income generated in a corporation was subject to 17.5% tax (I am not an accountant at all, just what I have been subject to with my small deal). You may or may not be aware that you can dividend out the money from the corporation tax exempt to directors. Depending on your accountant and the province your in you can get anywhere from 25,000-37,000CDN tax free as long as you do not have any other income. So for your wife and you there could be as much as 50-72k tax free. The trick is that if you do have any income you can get hit hard with tax. The whole point of this method is to get the cash out w/o paying tax.

Just make sure you are set up with an accountant that is good with this stuff. Good luck trading! I work with around 330k right now and it is so rewarding seeing that number go up. There are mental hurdles to get over using money like this. I started with 5k over a year ago after studying the trends for 6 months. That gradually worked its way up 30k and then up to 100k and now where it's at (cash was added). It is important to feel comfortable doing this.

One really good site I found the other day is called daytradingradio.com he is a guy out of New York and you can listen to him live while he trades all day. His handle is daytraderrockstar on youtube.

Cheers,

Good luck!
 

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Discussion Starter #14
i'll end here by offering a hearty welcome to the board, if i may, and a prediction that you will be bombarded with advice, suggestions, insights and who knows what else. .
The advice has been good up until the last post.

I checked my wardrobe and didn't see the red "x" on anything. I'll recheck in the AM.
 

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re tck dot b and agu - these are cyclical & quasi-cyclical respectively, both vulnerable to china inc as are all commodity stocks. Because they're high on the cycle now they're perhaps not the best instrument for a novice. Hopefully you have only a small position in both.

can you study your advisor-managed account to see where he has placed you & why. Given your age there should be a preponderance of what i call the good old stuff - the banks, telcos, pipelines, big energy companies, maybe a railroad, a big pharma or 2, a big US merchandiser. Plus significant inventory of bonds.

or he may have been an income trust guy, in which case your portfolio offers more risk as these motor slowly forward to conversion and lower dividends by the end of this year.

a huge mistake i see some "advisors" and even some journalists who should know better mouthing is that investors should leave sober & serious "real" investing to the advisor. This argument then goes on to say that what the investor/client should play around with on his own are the wilder, riskier instruments.

the above division is a self-serving sham imho because identifying & buying the sober serious stuff - the good old stuff - is so easy as to be a no-brainer. The study of this should be introduced in the high schools imo. Every citizen should possess a basic knowledge of how to add to their savings by owning a few shares in their bank, their pharmaceutical chain, their telco, provincial gasco and so on. Or how to buy a broad index ETF that offers the same.

it's trading in the wilder, frilly stuff that requires expert knowledge or expert guidance or both. So in the aforementioned scenario the advisors are grabbing the easier and perpetual money-making core of a portfolio for themselves, while out-sourcing 100% of the risk to the client. Please don't fall for this approach.

scomac has offered some excellent study suggestions. It will take you a while to follow up on these and actually do this legwork.

there is massive discussion on this board of a simple, intelligent approach to managing an investment portfolio through the deployment of a few basic ETFs, or exchange-traded funds. Often this approach is referred to by the code name couch potato. You will find aspects of couch potato being discussed here on this forum almost every day. It's a good idea to pay attention. Your advisor may not have put you into any of these ETFs, because generally speaking they don't remunerate an advisor sufficiently. But over the past 20 years billions of self-directed mom-and-pop dollars have made their way into these ultra-low-cost exchange-traded indexed-based funds.

oh and please pass on the radio daytrader.
 

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On one hand, I agree that the financial advisor shouldn't be blamed for suggesting that you hang on to your portfolio during the market downturn. It's reasonably sound advice given that no one can predict "the bottom".

On the other hand, at 59 years of age, and with a propensity for calling your advisor on a weekly basis during market swings, I suspect that your advisor should never have had you invested so heavily in a risky stock portfolio.

Going forward, I am tempted to agree with many of the other posters, here, in that you should be looking to minimize your risk exposure and maximize your solid, regular, monthly returns.

K.
 

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Going forward, I am tempted to agree with many of the other posters, here, in that you should be looking to minimize your risk exposure and maximize your solid, regular, monthly returns.

K.
Yes absolutely and one other thing; stop buying any more stocks/investments until you have spent the time to gain the necessary foundation of knowledge that you will need to make informed decisions as a DIY investor. If you find this task too daunting, then spend your efforts on finding a financial advisor who is more closely aligned with your needs and risk tolerance.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
re tck dot b and agu - these are cyclical & quasi-cyclical respectively, both vulnerable to china inc as are all commodity stocks. Because they're high on the cycle now they're perhaps not the best instrument for a novice. Hopefully you have only a small position in both.

can you study your advisor-managed account to see where he has placed you & why. Given your age there should be a preponderance of what i call the good old stuff - the banks, telcos, pipelines, big energy companies, maybe a railroad, a big pharma or 2, a big US merchandiser. Plus significant inventory of bonds.
I will keep a close eye on the three stocks I have purchased and if I see a significant pullback on them I will sell them. For now they seem to be doing well and paying dividends, although Manulife did cut the dividend last fall. I only have about 10% of the total amount of cash available in these three so I shouldn't get hurt too bad on these.

Our advisor put all of our RRSP's in two mutual funds about 7 years ago. But like I say I really haven't paid attention to dates or numbers. The two funds are Fidelity Disciplined Equity and Sentry Select Reit. That was all he had us in until just before the market tanked when he had us purchase tck.b and PetroCanada (now Suncor) because those stocks apealed to him at the time. Those have come back. The Sentry Select REIT is still down from when we purchased it many years ago.

The information provided on this site will give me lots of legwork as you suggest. I will study the information and do the best I can. The Couch Potato is something I will look more into this weekend. Like I say I have lots to learn.

Once again, thanks to all.
 

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One other suggestion - go to your local library and borrow as many past issues of the MoneySense magazine as you can find.
Then read them cover to cover.
You will find several common themes in past issues - for example, passive index investing vs active fund management; couch potato vs mutual funds; market risks etc.
 

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Yes absolutely and one other thing; stop buying any more stocks/investments until you have spent the time to gain the necessary foundation of knowledge that you will need to make informed decisions as a DIY investor....
Agreed, there's no way around this than to educate yourself and take a hard look at what your portfolio is actually doing. My mother was in the same situation with her investments. After 15 years of trusting that bank advisor, her investments yielded nothing. In your situation I would fire that guy, and tell a few other friends too. In a small town I wonder how long it would catch up to your advisor.

There was a comment defending those advisors somewhere along the lines of ' advisors are people too and don't have a crystal ball...' I disagree. They're paid professionals and if they're too stupid to leave money in a sinking ship then they shouldn't be in the business. Harsh? No. Just look at the devastation those professionals caused. Losing your retirement, house etc is harsh.
 
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