wessy-l

Occupation

Student and retired police officer

City

Thunder Bay, Ont.

Age

65

I’ve been investing since:

My mid-40s

Portfolio:

About $300,000 in an RRIF; a home in Thunder Bay; pensions that net about $95,000 per year; roughly $100,000 worth of vintage and collectible cars and boats; small mortgage on my home. I recently sold a cottage worth $150,000 and gave the proceeds to my older daughter.

How long I’ve had an advisor:

About 20 years


Cash only

My dad worked two, sometimes three jobs to support his family, and I know he sometimes had trouble meeting his financial obligations. I didn’t want my finances to get like that, so I watched my money. I didn’t use credit cards. If I didn’t have the money for it, I did without. That’s followed me throughout my life and it’s paid off.

In 1982, for example, mortgage rates shot up: I had a house in London, Ont., and my mortgage payments went from about $400 a month to $1,800 a month. Lots of people I knew walked away from their homes. I sold my car, my television, anything I could sell, and rode it out for about a year and a half. I didn’t sell. I got through it on a series of six-month mortgages until interest rates went down.

Today I’m comfortable, with no financial worries. I can go on vacations, give my kids money, buy what I enjoy and do the things I want.

Getting started

When I was with the RCMP, they brought in a financial advisor to talk to us about investing and saving for retirement. That was the first time I thought about it. At first, I bought Canada Savings Bonds through work: a couple hundred dollars here and there out of my paycheque. Over time, it really added up.

Income tax and the Indian Act

I’m of Ojibway descent and a Status Indian under the Indian Act. Because my job with the Nishnawbe-Aski Police Service (NAPS) served First Nations communities, my income for those 12 years was tax-exempt, as is my NAPS pension. I was moving through the ranks and making a good income. That’s when I was able to invest a lot for my future. Today, I tell young people in the same position: “Take the amount that you would have paid in income taxes and stick that into investments. That’s what I did. I couldn’t believe how much money I saved.”

Adviser, advisor

There are advisers – who have to look out for your best interest – and there are advisors, who know how to run investing software and sell things, but not much else. Early on, I got burned by an advisor at one of the big banks who sold me a mutual fund that bottomed out: no warning, no notification. Since then, I’ve worked closely with my adviser, a childhood friend. He watches out for me and shielded my portfolio from the financial crisis in 2008. My investment philosophy is that if I can’t see and understand it, I don’t buy it. Ironically, much of my portfolio is invested with the big banks.

Susan Goldberg is a financial journalist based in Thunder Bay, Ont.

Originally published in Advisor's Edge

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