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City: Dundas, Ont.
Occupation: Entrepreneur, retired auto repair shop owner
Assets: Investments worth more than $3 million; personal and rental properties worth about $5 million; a 2005 Chevy SSR
Up close and personal
When I was 13, I used to buy plastic garbage bags in bulk for a penny apiece and sell them in packs of 10 for a dollar. The margins were unreal! I always had money in my pocket. To this day, I sometimes look around and think, “What can I do to make money today?” I’m just built that way. I love the challenge.
The most important lesson I learned in business was that you cannot let your business be run by the landlord. If you don’t own the property, you are at their whim. When I started buying property, that’s when my real entrepreneurial side came out. My gears were really turning when I realized I could collect rent every month for years and make a profit when I sold it. I’m a guy with Grade 12 education. Brick and mortar is real to me. I can touch it. I love being able to drive by the proprieties I own. It’s tangible.
Adventures in self-investing
I tried my hand at investing in stocks. It didn’t go so well. I did OK with some companies, like RIM [Research in Motion, now BlackBerry Ltd.], but I also bought Nortel and I lost a ton of money on that. I knew how to make money, but I didn’t know how to make that money grow. I needed help with that.
The wrong advisor
My advisor of more than 20 years didn’t think much of real estate. He thought the stock market would always outperform it. But as far as I could tell, my money didn’t do much of anything under his management. I don’t have a lot of regrets. “You win some, you lose some” is a truism in life.
But when my bank audited my portfolio for me and I learned how much I was paying him in fees, I was shocked. I should have asked more questions. Even in years where I didn’t make a cent from the mutual funds he recommended, he was making thousands. I asked him if he would lower his fees. He said no, so I moved all my investments. I don’t blame him. He was doing his job and getting paid for it. If I regret anything, it is that I invested money that I could have used to buy more property.
The right advisors
My bank recommended a new advisor and I like him. There has to be a level of trust with your advisor, and I trust him. He understands my risk tolerance and he makes great recommendations. I’m not looking for 10% or 15%. Just get me 4% or 5% and I’m happy. The fees are transparent. Sometimes there’s still a bit of a shock when I look at the statement, but he can explain everything.
Advice for advisors
Meeting clients once a year is ridiculous. It’s wrong. Advisors should be meeting clients with the seasons, or at least twice a year. And they have to do something about confusing statements. I’m not an accountant. I would never give my clients an invoice like that. My clients would never accept that! It’s a mishmash of numbers; it’s not properly broken down. The only relevant question is how much money did I make. Break it down in layman’s terms. Simple, simple, simple.