I didn’t used to invest on my own. For years I left my hard-earned money to the “professionals” to invest on my behalf. For years I bought mutual funds thinking that was the only way to invest and that’s what I was supposed to do. Here’s my story on how I went from being dependant on others to independent, from losing money to making money.
I bought my first term deposit (GIC, Guaranteed Investment Certificate) in 1988. Interest rates went higher after that so I could have made more money, but there was nothing I could do until the term was up. Once I started earning more, I was told to start investing in mutual funds. I never questioned if there was a better way. I just did what everyone else was doing, I diligently started buying mutual funds every month within my RRSP (similar to 401k) and outside of my RRSP. I watched the performance of my mutual fund investments go up and down every year. Over the course of 10 years I had a number of different financial advisors and financial planners. The so called “experts” advised me each year to take money out of the poor performing mutual funds and buy mutual funds that had better performance in the previous year. I did not know it at the time but this constant selling (low) and buying (high) was detrimental to my portfolio, and the fees made things worse. After 10 years I did not have much to show for my investments, but I held on to my mutual funds.
In 1998, friends, colleagues, and family members started talking about technology stocks. Do you remember the technology bubble in 1998-2000? During the tech bubble it seemed as though every technology company’s stock (eg: Amazon.com, Yahoo.com, Worldcom, Nortel, Cisco…) was going thru the roof. You could literally buy a stock on a Monday for $25 and sell it on Friday for $30-40. How could you possibly lose money in a market like that? I waited a few months, but it looked like people around me were making lots of money. So without any knowledge, or research, or investment education of any kind, I went out and bought some stocks in technology companies. I basically bought these stocks based on “hot” tips from family, friends, and “experts” on the internet. Everyone knows what happens to a bubble when it gets too big. By 2000-2001 the technology bubble burst, and every one of my technology stocks went down and down. I panicked and sold some stocks, but kept the others and watched as they declined in value.
At this point I realized that for me to become a successful investor I had to change what I was doing. Blindly following other people’s advice was clearly not working. I lost money with mutual funds and I lost money with stocks. I figured there had to be a better way, I had to start with a clean slate, and anything was possible, perhaps real estate, starting a business, or going back to school would be a better investment.
I decided that I needed role models:
After I found these role models my goal was to:
Step 1: Learn exactly what they did to become successful
Step 2: Copy and implement what I learned in step 1
I started to research, interview investors, and read as much as I could about investing. After a while I noticed a common thread in all the books I was reading:
Equipped with my new found knowledge I decided to try investing in stocks again. But this time I would do my homework and focus on quality stocks when they were undervalued. I still kept my mutual funds on the side just in case the stocks did not work out. I also decided to track every penny I invested and the performance of my stock portfolio. I wanted to prove to myself that the value investing approach worked, if not I would sell the stocks and probably keep my money in term deposits or bonds, or just in a savings account.
It took me about 3 years thru trial and error, and further research and refinement to feel 100% comfortable investing on my own. I could also see that my stock portfolio was doing extremely well, much better than my mutual funds. Over time I slowly began selling all of my mutual funds, and began growing my stock portfolio.
This experience taught me 3 things:
Today, my passion for investing and teaching allows me to teach people just like you how to invest successfully, reduce your risk, save time, and earn more.
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