Full Disclosure: I have NO idea what to do with my personal finances.
I am fairly confident that I am not alone in the world when I say that my anxiety peaks when I think about my bank account. I am lucky – my rent cheque will not bounce. My car insurance comes out of my account automatically each month at the same time, and miraculously it is the only monthly expense that seems to go down, instead of up, every year. And yet I cannot help but feel my pulse race, my heart quicken and my ‘angry eleven’ get deeper every time that I log into my online banking account.
When I was tasked to sit down with Dave McGann, the Director of Tangerine Investments for this story, I was confident that I would not make it through our interview. My head was spinning with self-deprecating thoughts, the most prevalent being, “Ariel – this is going to make everyone around you realize that you are not as put together as you appear.” The truth is that while I am a 27-year-old senior marketing manager who is driven, educated and self-sufficient, I am not as financially literate as I would like to be.
Several years ago, I opened a TFSA where I deposit a small amount of money on a monthly basis. It’s enough money so that I don’t feel guilty about my obnoxious heeled shoe collection which I never wear because my knees can no longer handle anything other than a sturdy Nike or a plush flip flop. I also have an RRSP account where I make a yearly contribution, that for a time was matched by my employer. Beyond this, I have a Visa card and a chequing account and no further financial literacy or understanding of investments that did not come from “The Big Short”.
My main goal from this interview was to gain insight on what I should do next. Dave started by providing context for me on what a Mutual Fund is. When I think of investing in the stock market, I tend to think of a stressful, loud trading floor and having to speak to a slick talking, fast moving investment banker on a regular basis. No thank you, I am already far too stressed out that Scandal is ending this season and I don’t want to think about life without Olivia Pope. It turns out that because of “Mutual Funds” I can almost ignore the fact that I have investments at all until I have a major life change, like birthing a child or a mid-life crisis.
Mutual Funds are a diversified way for people like me – who have a small amount of money – to invest. It pools my money with thousands of other people to strengthen our investment. There really is strength in numbers.
It turns out that I can invest in a Mutual Fund that will grant me access to a broad and well-diversified portfolio of global investments – yup – global investments that make my hard-earned nickels (since we no longer have pennies in Canada) safer than if I invested in a single TSX stock. Tangerine offers multiple portfolio solutions and matches you to one that will help you reach your goals – it’s as simple as that.
Do you want to know what I found to be the best part about this? I don’t have to manage a thing. My money might ebb and flow with the market, but a Portfolio Manager will monitor it for me. This fits perfectly with my life – I don’t want to know things until I have to know. That’s what they are there for. It is a service that they provide to me, the customer. Dave had one note for me, though. “Ariel – you will pay for this service, but make sure you watch the management fee percentage. That’s where ‘they’ will get you.” As it happens, over two decades of paying a 2% management fee could cost me tens of thousands of dollars. I DON’T HAVE TENS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS! Do you know who doesn’t have a 2% management fee? Tangerine Investments. Their management fee is only 1%!
Dave was so kind and thoughtful in explaining all of this to me that I took a chance on making myself even more vulnerable. I asked:
“Everyone around me is buying a house or a condo. I feel left out – like I will be behind in saving for retirement because they will have purchased homes and benefited from the housing market. What if I am 80 and still working? THEY WILL BE ON A BOAT WITH THEIR GRANDCHILDREN AND I WILL STILL BE PAYING RENT!”
Dave was very patient as he told me that I would be fine – in fact, I had already started some great habits like saving in a TFSA and my RRSPs. He calmed my nerves by telling me that it was okay for me to not own a home. Recency Bias (or what I would call financial FOMO) is when people are attracted to what appears to be a good investment, which in recent years has been focused on real estate. Every news outlet and blogger seems to be talking about real estate. But Dave reiterated what my dad always told me – live within your means and be true to yourself. Meaning that I should continue to diversify my portfolio to reflect my lifestyle. Save for retirement, save for a rainy day or a trip to Asia, invest in a home when my growing family demands it and make sure that not all of your eggs are in one basket.
As I wiped sweat from my brow and tears from my cheek, I followed up with another self-serving question.
“Dave… what should I do next?”
Dave said that I should research my options, but if he were me, he would open a Mutual Fund under a TFSA.
“Excuse me, I can open a TAX FREE SAVINGS ACCOUNT for my Mutual Fund?”
What this means is that I would not be taxed on my investment in that well diversified, low maintenance Mutual Fund and could see a higher return potential. And did you know that it could take me as little as 15 minutes to get this up and running once I am ready?