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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.