I’ve been investing for:
more than $4 million
How long I’ve had an advisor:
on my own for 40 years
Stocks and bonding
In the 1940s, when I was a teen, my father would write a list of his investments and their daily performance. I used his brokerage account to make my first investment: $100 of stock in Steep Rock Iron Mine. The stock rose and then dropped below my buying price. It was my first and biggest investment lesson: sell your losers.
When my father’s broker retired, the new broker called me and I started investing consistently with him (I was in my late 20s). I was his fun client—someone interested in playing the markets; most of his other clients had dull “bonds and Bell” portfolios.
New companies with new ideas appealed to me, like Michigan’s Energy Conversion Devices and its solar technology [in business from 1960 to 2012]. Although I did my own stock picking based on newspaper and TV tips, I appreciated having my broker act as a sounding board. We regularly went to lunch and spoke on the phone, and he’d listen to the reasons behind my investment choices. Sometimes his questions and comments would motivate me to reconsider. He always called if he had new information about my stocks.
My broker retired when I was about 40. I’ve invested on my own since, but I continue to bounce ideas off friends and, now, my grown grandson. The give and take of conversation is a good way to learn.
In my 40s, I continued to invest as I plugged away in middle management. One exceptional day, I made more on stocks than I made in a year at work (one of them was Crown Crafts). When my employer went bankrupt, I lost my job. But I got the push I needed to trade stocks full time. I was 51.
Investors like Warren Buffett and Peter Lynch like to present themselves as simple people, but I don’t have Buffett’s cleverness or Lynch’s intuition. However, I do have my own secret weapon: the GRID, a data analysis tool I developed myself. It rates stocks using 26 data points, such as company debt. I update the GRID daily and weekly using numbers from TD Waterhouse and Investor’s Business Daily. When I started investing, my broker had to wait in line at a clunky machine to get this type of information; I have it all at my fingertips.
My five little old ladies (proven, dependable stocks) are three Canadian banks, CNR and BCE. My only regret is not investing a greater percentage of my portfolio earlier in U.S. stocks, like water-heater maker A.O. Smith (water heaters are selling well in China) and chipmaker Avago Technologies. I’m now about 65% U.S. stocks, 35% Canadian.
by Michelle Schriver, assistant editor of Advisor Group.