ErnieStDenis

E. St. Denis

Occupation

Professional engineer

City

York Region, Ont.

Age

59

I’ve been investing for:

more than 20 years
(but seriously for 9)

I plan to retire in:

6 years

Investable assets:

Enough to retire comfortably now if I wanted to

How long I’ve had an advisor:

10 years


all in the family

I learned a lot about investing from my father. I remember him sitting at the kitchen table choosing his penny stocks—he was a whiz at buying stocks at the right time—and he was also the person who first introduced me to dividend income. My father’s advisor, from RBC, is now my advisor. Our shared history is important to me; I trust and respect her knowledge and integrity. In fact, I only started to make money when I started working with her. She’s well worth the commission.

She knows that investments must meet my personal criteria, such as dividend-paying stocks with a history of steady, long-term growth. I like businesses that are well-managed and that don’t carry a high debt load. But I don’t have time for business analysis—my advisor does that.

The best thing she’s ever suggested? There’s no one-time big winner, because her advice is based on sound business principles. Just like Dad, she researches and identifies solid stocks, letting me know when it’s time to buy or sell. Her knowledgeable advice saves me time to do what matters: my volunteer work and home improvements.

You had me at “making money”

My family history with investing hasn’t prevented me from making mistakes. In my 20s, I learned my biggest lesson when I took the bait of a boiler room operation. A salesman cold-called me. After 34 years I can still hear him say, “I’m making a lot of money for my clients, and I’d like to make some for you, too.” Well, he didn’t make me much money, but he did help me lose some on a computer company stock. Now when I’m told something is “guaranteed,” I walk away.

Method to the madness

Malcolm Gladwell writes about “rapid cognition” in his book Blink, or thinking that happens in the blink of an eye. I think he’s on to something. When choosing investments, my gut is my ultimate guide. I consider my advisor’s recommendations, but I also look at performance over the last five to 10 years, and for stocks that recovered steadily from 2008. Knowledge, experience, intuition—I use them to make decisions. No media hype moves me to sell; only facts have the power to do that. I once heard David Chilton speak at Nortel, and his advice holds: Take 10% of your earnings and pay yourself first.

by Michelle Schriver, a Toronto-based editor and writer

Originally published in Advisor's Edge

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