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Investing Advice I Wish I Could Give My Younger Self

There are many things we’ve done in life where we’d love a second chance, especially when it comes to finances. Knowing when and how to invest can be tricky. So, I sat down with some of our own experts to learn how they approach investing, common mistakes people make, and what advice they wish they could go back and give their younger self.


Hindsight is 20/20

Have you ever made a choice and regretted that decision years later? For me, it was bangs at fourteen. I wish I’d known then what I know now and that can be said for a lot of things, especially finances. We’ve all made bad spending decisions but many poor financial decisions or lack of action center around investing.  We aren’t always as rational as we think we are which can lead to decisions and behaviors that may not be in our best long-term interest.

Now, although we can’t time travel, we can share advice and learn from those around us. I sat down with some of our own experts at Conexus to learn how they approach investing, common mistakes people make, and what advice they wish they could go back and give their younger self.

Let’s meet the experts:

  1. Ryan McDonald, Wealth Experience Coach at Thrive Wealth Management
  2. Nadia Antoschkin, Financial Advisor at Conexus Credit Union
  3. Natasja Barlow, Branch Manager at Conexus Credit Union

Each expert offers a unique perspective which is fitting as there is typically no one-size fits all approach to investing. From your preferred risk level to to the amount you want to invest, it’s a discovery process to find what’s going to work for you. You may not find all the answers you’re hoping for (and that’s okay), but here are a few tips and key learnings from the experts themselves to help equip you for your own investing journey.

It’s okay not know all the answers

Like anything, you won’t know everything when you first start out. You still might not know everything even five, ten years down the line. The world is in a constant state of change and evolution, which impacts everything around us. This is especially true for the stock market, which has high volatility, making it difficult to know when the right time to enter the market is (but don’t worry, I’ll touch on this later).

The good news is you don’t need to have all the answers. Ryan shared – “the first thing I do is educate. People aren’t always going to be experts and we don’t expect them to be, so I always make sure to discuss the various types of investments and plans that are available.”

Nadia also shared some tips that have helped her to get started:

  1. Separate your money into different accounts. One for your daily expense and one for excess cash flow you could use to start saving or investing.
  2. Start small and test the waters. She started with $50 a month.
  3. Check-in. Is $50 working for you or could you increase that amount?

Learning to understand what you can manage and what you’re comfortable with takes a little trial and error. Also, don’t be afraid to do some searching to find out what you’re passionate about. Natasja shared “what I would do differently is invest the time in learning about my investments and being interested in where my money is going.” By starting with educating yourself, you’re laying that foundation and setting yourself up for success.

Focus on your goals

Investing is personal. We all have different goals, dreams and moments that we envision for our future selves. Ask yourself – what am I investing for? Is it retirement? Your education? A dream vacation? Or your first home? I bet if you asked three different people this question, the answer is going to be different for each of them.

A common mistake people tend to make is “doing the same thing as a friend or maybe even a family member” says Natasja Barlow. As human beings, we have a tendency to follow what those around us are doing especially if they are finding success. For example, most children tend to do their banking with the same financial institution as their parents because it’s familiar and they trust their parents. However, it’s important that you know what you’re investing for so that you can create a personalized plan. What makes sense for your friends or family may not make sense for you. For instance, if your parents are nearing retirement, their risk tolerance on a mutual fund may lean towards a conservative level when it is recommended to be a little more liberal in your 20s and 30s to generate a higher rate of return.

Start now

Many people struggle to start their investing journey as it can be intimidating. We often tell ourselves common misconceptions like the market is too volatile or we need a lot of money in order to begin. It’s never too early to begin and it’s never too late to start. For Nadia, this couldn’t be more true:

“I moved from Germany when I was 35-years old, didn’t speak any English, and didn’t know anything about investing. Now, I have my own diversified savings accounts.”

You don’t need thousands or even hundreds of dollars to get started. Investing in consistently small increments will add up over time – “if I had known about this when I was younger, I would have been better off”, says Nadia.

Start early, start small and be consistent! If you’re looking for ways to get started, check out our blog Why You Need To Be Investing During Your 20s and 30s.

Ride the turbulence

I touched on this earlier but depending on the investing option you go with – the market can be volatile. This means that there is often unexpected or sudden change which can drive the value of your investments up and down. When this happens, as humans it is natural to react. However, this reaction is often triggered by fear or worry which causes us to make irrational decisions like pulling your investments before they have the chance to recover.

In this article by the Financial Post, they discuss how strong emotions can influence investor behaviour in ways that may jeopardize their long-term investment goals.

Ryan explained it best using the “airplane analogy”. If you’ve been in an airplane, you’ve likely experienced turbulence. In these circumstances, our brain doesn’t say ‘oh it’s bumpy, let’s jump out and swim the rest of the way’, because eventually the plane gets back on track and to our destination a lot faster than we could swimming.”

He also shared, “investing is best if it’s boring and you do the basics of paying yourself first, investing early, staying invested and having a diversified portfolio. In 2008 I had been in the industry for two years and decided I should day trade my investments. This was the worst decision of my life.” Day trading is the practice of purchasing and selling a security within a single trading day. This involves buying a stock when it was low in price range and selling it as it moved up in range. Day trading can lead to obsessive behaviour and constantly watching your investments which can lead to urges to pull investments when they are better left untouched.

Sometimes it’s a matter of reducing your investment amount versus stopping all together. “If I would have reduced my investment instead of stopping it, I would be further ahead. That is a key learning for me.” says Natasja. But remember, it should always come back to your goals. What are you investing for? What is your risk level? Is this a short or long-term investment?

Investing isn’t one size fits all – it’s personal and is based on your individual goals, risk tolerance, or stage in life. You’re also going to hit some bumps along the way and make some mistakes – even with all of this advice. You know why? You’re human. My hope is that this blog at least encourages you to start and removes some of the worry or fear standing in your way. If you’re ready to get the conversation started with a financial advisor, book an appointment at www.conexusmoments.ca. 

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Why You Need To Be Investing During Your 20s and 30s

Repeat after me: Investing is for everyone. If you are in your 20s and 30s and you haven’t explored investment options – it’s time to start. This blog breaks down why you should care about investing during your 20s and 30s, the options available to you and how you can easily turn time into money.


Growing up, I thought of “investing” as some sort of mix between The Wolf of Wall Street and Dragon’s Den. I pictured people in suits trading stocks and speaking a whole other language filled with terms that I didn’t understand like “bullish”, “NASDAQ” and “hedge funds”. I considered decisions around TFSAs, mutual funds and pension plans to be a problem for my 40s and I would much rather talk about RSVPs instead of RRSPs.

Well, I’m here to tell you as a 30-year old who is a few years into his journey with investing – this frame of thinking is not uncommon but it is a myth. If you escape your mid-30’s without exploring investment options with your financial advisor – you’re already behind and have missed out on the opportunity to make your money work for you and help set you up to meet your short and long term savings goals. Plus, many investment options, especially the ones I’m going to go over in this blog, are easy, flexible and you can see returns right away. I’ll break down these intimidating terms and behaviours, my experience with each of them and why they make sense for your 20s and 30s. Let’s start!

RESPs, RRSPS, TFSAs, Oh My!

Part of the reason why conversations about investing are so intimidating is because we throw around acronyms and assume everyone knows what they mean. Let’s slow this conversation down and break down what each of these options are:

RRSP (Registered Retirement Savings Plan): An option for investing that incentivizes you to save for retirement by giving you a tax break on your current income and allowing you to pay the taxes when you retire and when your tax rate is lower than it is now.

TFSA (Tax-Free Savings Account): An investing option that incentivizes you to save money as you do not need to pay taxes on any of the gains your investment makes. Utilized for short and long term savings goals.

Term Deposits: A deposit account where you lock in your money for a set period of time, typically one to a few years, but the interest you receive is higher compared to a traditional savings account where you can access your money at any time.

RESP (Registered Education Savings Plan): An investing option available for caregivers to save for their children’s education after high school. Your savings grow tax free with no taxes on the earnings that you make.

If you need more details about what each of these options mean, check out one of our previous blogs Investment Terminology 101 for a more detailed breakdown of each option.

Why do these matter in your 20s and 30s?: Instead of just letting your money sit there in your chequing or savings account, why not make your money work for you and grow? For so long, I left all of my money sitting in my chequing account because I knew that I’d always have access to it. Now I’m kicking myself thinking about all of the money that I could have generated if I would have utilized one of the options above. I worked with my financial advisor to establish an amount where my balance never came close to dipping under and I invested that in a two-year term deposit where the interest rate I gained was much higher than a traditional savings account. After my deposit matured in two years, I was able to use my earnings to help pay for a large chunk of my LASIK eye surgery. Now I see clearly (literally and figuratively) that I wasn’t even using this money in the first place and this helped me accomplish a short-term savings goal.

Mutual Funds

I’ve recently journeyed into the land of mutual funds and they have turned into my favorite option for investing. Mutual funds are essentially a portfolio of investments consisting of stocks, bonds or other securities that a professional manages for you. There is often a much higher rate of return in mutual funds but it is a riskier option compared to the options listed above as there is no guaranteed return. There is also a fee for the professional management of your portfolio but it’s small and it’s worth it to ensure it’s being done correctly. Plus you barely have to lift a finger while your investment grows.

At the beginning of COVID-19, my financial advisor walked me through why investing in mutual funds during a global crisis, if you have the discretionary income to do so, is a great idea. When a global crisis hits the market, like a worldwide pandemic, the price of shares and stocks decrease. This allows you to purchase more units in your mutual fund than you would during times of economic growth and stability. As the market recovers and the value of the shares/stocks increase, you’ll have more of them at a price higher than what you originally paid. Plus, you can choose your risk tolerance where you can generate a potential higher rate of return if you can stomach the higher volatility.

Why do these matter in your 20s and 30s?: Mutual funds are a great long-term investment as the market may fluctuate through crisis, but as seen in this graph in our blog Should I Be Investing During a Pandemic, the market always recovers. The key is to view mutual funds as a long-term option and not to pull out your investments during global crisis before they have a chance to recover. If you invest in mutual funds in your 20s or 30s and commit to keeping your investment in long-term, you can crank up the risk tolerance in order to give your investment the most potential to grow. I started investing in mutual funds when the market was at its lowest during COVID-19 and the investment has already seen a rate of return of 25%. This investment will continue to grow as the market recovers and will increase and decrease over the years, but as seen in this graph, history is on the side of continual growth. If you are in the financial position to consider investing long-term in your 20s and 30s, mutual funds are a great option because starting now allows more time for your investment to generate compound interest which will result in more money in your pocket. If you’re interested, chat with a financial advisor and they’ll explore this option with you and get you started.

Automated Pension Contributions 

I get it – contributing to your pension when you are just beginning your career does not sound like the most fun way to spend your paycheques. But hear me out because this is one of the most valuable behaviours I’ve established since I started working full-time. There is no magic threshold to hit where you have enough money to support yourself when you retire as it all depends on the lifestyle you want to live so it’s never too early to start contributing to your pension. Manually putting away some of your income into your pension can be tedious and a bit of a buzzkill. Many workplaces give you the option to contribute a portion of your paycheque to your pension through an automated transfer when pay day rolls around. I take advantage of this so I don’t even need to see the amount come off my paycheque but I can take comfort in the fact that I am setting my future self up for success by putting this money away and letting it grow. Plus, a lot of workplaces want to encourage their employees to save for their retirement so they will match these payments up to a specific amount.

Even if your workplace doesn’t match your contribution, it’s still an important habit to consistently add to your pension as your pension fund is an investment that earns money over time. By contributing to your pension regularly, you are increasing the amount of potential earnings it can generate.

Why do these matter in your 20s and 30s?: It’s free money! It took me a while to dismiss the devil on my shoulder who wanted to spend my entire paycheque, but the long-term gain is so worth it. Your income may not be at its peak in your 20s and 30s but establishing a solid floor to begin generating compound interest will make a big difference down the road. If you rely on almost every dime of your paycheque to make ends meet, start with putting away 2% of every paycheque and work your way up until you get to 5-7%. You’ll thank yourself later for being disciplined with your pension contributing behaviour as an extra percentage put away could translate to thousands of dollars down the road.

So if you are a 20 or 30 year old who have yet to explore these investing options and are looking for a nudge to get started – this is your push! Think about your short and long term goals and picture yourself reaching that moment where you get to cash in on your hard work. Whatever that moment is, the above investing options can help get you there on time. If you’d like to chat about any of these options or discuss the best way to reach your moment – book an appointment with a Conexus financial advisor at www.conexusmoments.ca.

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Should I Be Investing During a Pandemic?

One of the most popular questions we have been asked by our members during COVID-19 is “If I can, should I be investing during this pandemic?” This is a bit of a complicated question but we’re here to break down this intimidating conversation.

But if you want our short answer, the best time to start investing is between the hours of “right now” and “as soon as possible”.


The short answer is “Yes.”

If you’re saving money by making coffee at home instead of going to your favourite coffee shop then you should start investing. Are you working out at home and saving money on your $50 gym membership? Then you should start investing. If you have any extra money due to the pandemic and are comfortable that your income will remain sustainable then, you guessed it,  you should start investing. And here’s why…

Investing has more to do with how much time you have to invest, rather than the time at which you start investing.

Even though the pandemic has had an impact on the world economy and global markets, it does not mean that investing is a bad idea. Investing has been, and always will be, about focusing on an “average rate of return” versus a “fixed rate of return”. The markets may go down (for instance, due to a pandemic) but they may rise again afterward. It is the average between these years that measures the success of an investment, not the lows or highs by themselves. That is why,

The best time to invest is always going to be as soon as possible.

The sooner you invest the better. Whether it is a lump sum of $10,000 when you’re 25 years old or $25/month for 30 years. If you have money to invest, start today because it will be more than worth it and I’ll show you why:

Time is your friend

Time is the great equalizer.

To understand this in more detail, let’s have a look at the graph (2018.11.23) below from our good friends at Credential. From 1960 to 2015, we see the markets have had many ups and downs, but the average rate of return rises over time. They also point out that “markets continually bounce back from crisis.” Are we in a crisis with the pandemic? Yes. Is it likely the markets will bounce back?  Absolutely. So what can we learn from this?

  1. Long term investing produces the best average rate of return. Someone who started investing in 1990 will have gone through the same 2008 global recession as someone who invested in 2002. But as we can see, both people, if they remain invested, will still receive a profitable average rate of return by 2015.
  2. Starting to invest during a crisis often means the price of shares and stocks are low. This means you will be able to purchase more units for a lot cheaper than during times of economic growth and stability. If you’re already invested, the key is to not panic, remain focused on your long terms goals and remain invested. The worst thing you can do is pull out your investments before they have a chance to recover.

This image shows how the market quickly recovers and continues to grow after a crisis to help with investing.

*Image provided by Credential®. Issue Date: 2018.11.23

Rates of return: Average vs Fixed

You may be asking yourself: “What is so important about the average rate of return? Why not just place your money in a term deposit and guarantee a 1.5% return? Why not keep your money in a savings account?” For starters, the average rate of return for a mutual fund in Canada is between 6% – 7% on your original investment. This is dramatically better than that of a term deposit which is often much less than 2%. If you are planning to save for a long period of time then you will want to maximize your rate of return. One of the principle reasons for this is due to inflation. The average inflation rate in Canada is 2%. So if your retirement savings is making anything less than the rate of inflation (2%) you’re in trouble. If you find yourself in this category, we advise you to meet with a Financial Advisor as soon as possible.

That being said, term deposits and savings accounts have their place in a saving strategy. If you have some short term savings goals were you need access to your money within a few years then one of the these options may be the perfect fit. You will guarantee a return on your money in a couple years and you’ll shelter yourself from the ups and downs of the market; however you will not see nearly as high of a return on this investment. That is why these are great tools for short term saving goals (ie: saving for a trip, buying a new car). Either way, before you save, you should have a conversation with your advisor. If the primary goal of your savings is to have your money make money then a financial conversation needs to be one of the starting points for you.

Ready to invest, but don’t know where to begin?

When most people begin their journey with investments they often start with mutual funds. Mutual funds are often referred to as a “managed portfolio”. What this means is someone manages your portfolio of investments for you. While there are fees attached to mutual funds, there are many benefits. We’ve already discussed one benefit being the often higher rate of return. Other benefits include having a financial advisor to work with you and having multiple mutual funds to choose from to fit your savings goals and risk tolerance. Options include low risk mutual fund which give investors a more secure rate of return but there will be lower volatility in the investment. There are still ebbs and flows with the low risk fund, and your returns might not be as high, but they are often protected from market volatility due to the way the portfolio manager invests your money. If you have lots of time and don’t mind a higher level of risk, you can enter into a higher risk mutual fund. These have the opportunity to gain more return on your investment, however they are more prone to market volatility as the majority of your money will be invested in markets and securities versus things like government bonds. Again, the starting point will be to book an appointment to ask more about investing and mutual funds with a financial advisor and they’ll work with you to establish your risk tolerance before you leap.

What about Wealth Simple?

You may be reading this and asking yourself, “What about something like Wealth Simple? I see lots of commercials about them advertising low fees?” Essentially, Wealth Simple is a robo advisor company. This means it is a machine learning platform. There is no “portfolio manager” behind the scenes, but rather a robot. For those not looking for any advice or planning, this type of investment platform can be an option. Credit Unions have access to a similiar tool called VirtualWealth and can be found at www.virtualwealth.ca. I highly recommend speaking with a financial advisor before jumping into investments, especially high dollar ones. Using a solution like Wealth Simple is like buying/selling a house without a realtor. A financial advisor gives you the peace of mind that your big chunk of change is not going to be mismanaged and your bases are covered.

“I’ve always wanted to buy stocks in a specific company.”

For the bold and the brave, you may have a desire to buy stocks in a specific company, or you’ve seen the Questrade commercials and are curious what it is. Questrade is an online broker that allows you to register an account and buy and sell stocks directly. If you wanted to buy a single stock in Apple or Amazon, you could use an online broker platform. Credit unions have access to Qtrade Investor. Qtrade Investor has been the leading online broker in Canada for over 20 years! Visit www.qtrade.ca to learn more.

Similar to robo advice, there is no financial advisor or portfolio manager when purchasing stocks directly so that is why I say, “for the bold and the brave”. When it comes to buying stocks directly, you will want to have a good understanding of what you are doing, how the markets work, along with the tax implications and so forth. A financial advisor can help answer some of these  questions, but for the most part, you’ll be on your own. We advise most people who are interested in buying stocks directly to balance this with something more secure such as mutual funds. It’s never a good idea to put all of your eggs in one basket. If you drop your basket, your chances of breaking all of your eggs is much higher than having a couple of different holders.

In conclusion

We started with the question, “Should I invest during a pandemic?” I hope this blog has shown you that when it comes to investing you can never start too early.

The key is to start when you can, with as much as you can, as soon as you can.

Investing isn’t the goal, it’s the vehicle in which you reach your savings goals. If I haven’t said it enough, before investing, the best thing you can do is have a conversation with a financial advisor about your savings goals.

If you’d like to talk to someone about your savings goals give us a call at 1-800-667-7477 or, if you already have a trusted financial advisor, we encourage you to reach out to them directly and start the conversation.

I wish you all the best with your savings journey and if you are looking for some more relatable financial literacy tips, check out the rest of our blogs here.


Mutual funds are offered through Credential Asset Management Inc. Online brokerage services are offered through Qtrade Investor. Mutual funds and other securities are offered through Credential Securities. Qtrade Investor and Credential Securities are divisions of Credential Qtrade Securities Inc. Credential Securities and Qtrade are registered marks owned by Aviso Wealth Inc. VirtualWealth is a trade name of Credential Qtrade Securities Inc. The rate of return is used only to illustrate the effects of the compound growth rate and is not intended to reflect future values of the mutual fund or returns on investment in the mutual fund. The information contained in this report was obtained from sources believed to be reliable; however, we cannot guarantee that it is accurate or complete. This report is provided as a general source of information and should not be considered personal investment advice or a solicitation to buy or sell any mutual funds [and other securities]. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of Credential Asset Management Inc., Credential Securities or Qtrade Investor.