Is joining an investment club a good idea?

Now, you can learn about investing in countless books, magazines and Web sites, but you may enjoy the learning process more by joining an investment club. After all, most of us are social creatures by nature, so we like being with other people.

A blogger that I follow “Bear With The Bull” belongs to a club that just shares investment ideas. He was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about his club.

How many members are in your club?

“We currently have 36 members on Meetup, not all are active. We use Meetup.com as our internet platform and we have a Facebook group page as well.  We have a 6 month activity clause. Basically we remove anybody who is inactive for 6 months.”

How often to you meet?

“We meet once a month at a local Denny’s. We try to keep the meeting short less than 2 hours. We usually have anywhere from 3 or 4 to a dozen or more show up for the monthly meetings.”

What are the experience levels of the membership, any newbies to investing?

“We have all different experience levels and investment styles. It was surprising to find out that we have pure Chartists, option traders (mostly selling), IBD folks, and people who followed other systems and sites. This past meetup we had 4 new members.  1 newbie, 2 experienced traders but new to IBD (Investor’s Business Daily), and a retired couple who had just consolidated their retirement portfolios into one.”

Is every member required to bring a stock pick or ETF to the meeting or do you take turns?

“A week before each meeting we send out an email asking for stocks and investment topics of interest. Basically this is a solicitation for topics and stocks to discuss and forms the basics of our agenda. We generally give each person the opportunity to talk about their suggestions during the meeting.”

Do you find the information useful and have you invested in any ideas that were presented?

“Generally I and others in the group find the information interesting and informative. Sometime members invest in others watch lists but for the most part I think people use it as a learning experience.”

Are recommendations review at the next meeting?

“We keep a list of all stock suggestions and track their performance. We do keep an informal tally of whose stocks are best or not.”

Thank you “Bear With The Bull” for sharing information about your investment club!

Now, do you lack the confidence or discipline to invest on your own? There are also investment clubs that you can join where members’ pool their money, study different investments and the group decides to buy or sell based on a majority vote. Most of these clubs require a small monthly investment anywhere from $50 to $100 a month.

Some Advantages:

  • Investment clubs can be fun.
  • It is a good way to get your feet wet.
  • Clubs provide an affordable way to invest. (Sharing the costs)
  • Investment clubs, by their very nature, tend to have a long-term focus. Members are interested in following investments over time, not buying and selling at a frantic pace.
  • You can find wisdom in a group

Some Disadvantages:

  • Unregulated – You have to have a high degree of trust. (Income & tax liability is calculated correctly)
  • Disagreements – Democracy is great but you could disagree with the direction of the club or with some of the investments choices.
  • Risk tolerance – Make sure that you’re comfortable with a club’s investment philosophy and the amount of investment risk.
  • Difficulty leaving – Make sure that the club has a reasonable exit time for members who want to leave.

Did you know that Warren Buffett’s wealth to acquire Berkshire Hathaway in 1965 was created primarily from his investment partnerships? The first of which was Buffett Associates, established out of his bedroom in May 1, 1956, at the age of 25. It started with $105,000 from seven partners, all of whom were close family and friends.

He was solely responsible for managing a significant amount of other people’s money with investors agreeing to pay a fee for strong investment performance. These investment partnerships eventually fell under the umbrella of Buffett Partnership, Ltd., which was the entity that bought a controlling stake in Berkshire Hathaway.

I would classify “Buffett Associates” as a legalized type of investment club.  

On a personal note: My investment club just celebrated it’s 15 year anniversary.

You need more than money to have a pleasurable retirement

9th hole

Having worked as a financial advisor, my main focus in retirement planning was building a sizable nest egg for clients’ to enjoy their golden years. I used to think that the senior who greeted me at Walmart, rang in my groceries or served me coffee needed the extra income in retirement. Did something gone wrong with their retirement plan or did they just fail to save enough to enjoy a life of leisure?

However, I am starting to think that these seniors may also be bored. Imagine, you have been traveling at 100 miles an hour at work and now have come to a dead stop in retirement. No one really prepares you for the shock of getting up in the morning with no place to go. What do you do with all that extra time?

Step One: Avoid the retirement shock, start to plan ahead

There is more to life than your work. Most of your work friends will slowly disappear once you retire. Having a social network outside of your work place is a key to a pleasurable retirement. A common mistake is not developing a balanced lifestyle before you retire. (All work and no play!)

One of my business associate retired at 63 and decided to start to play golf. He join a golf club and found that he didn’t really enjoy playing golf. He hated winning the most honest golfer award. (A prize for the worse score)

Here are a few networking opportunities to make some new friends prior to retirement:

  • Over 55 sports leagues, baseball, basketball, hockey …..
  • Racket, curling and golf clubs
  • Bowling & dart leagues
  • Church groups
  • Alumni groups – high school, college and sport teams
  • Being a scout leader for boys or girls
  • Coaching or being a mentor

If you don’t have any hobbies yet, I suggest that you plan to get some before you retire. Sitting on a beach under an umbrella drinking margaritas sounds great but you will get bored after a while. You may not have the time right now but many schools offer adult learning classes. A friend of mine took a class on how to fix small engines. It is never too late to learn something new and it might just keep your brain from turning to mush.

Step Two: Retirement is a life changing event, prepare to change

Married couples have to adjust to being together 24 /7 which can add stress to your relationship. It’s a good idea for couples to have different hobbies and interests. Spending some time apart makes for more interesting dinner conversations. For example, I like to golf and my wife enjoys genealogy.

Household chores can be a thorny issue. Sharing or dividing these tasks will depend on your individual skill levels. My wife does most of the cooking but I will do most of grocery shopping and together we maintain the lawn & gardens. I recommend scheduling your household chores to be done during a weekday, save your nights and weekends for socializing.

Avoid becoming a couch potato, it is a sure way to shorten your retirement years. A regular exercise program should be part of your everyday routine. You don’t have to go to the gym and lift weights to stay fit. There are many simple ways to keep active; walking, cycling and swimming, just to name a few. If you have a partner, find something that you both enjoy doing, having someone to workout with can help you get off the couch.

Step Three: Take on new challenges

Learn to play a musical instrument, speak a second language or better yet give back to the community. There are many fine organizations that are in desperate need for volunteers. You have a wealth of experience, professional expertise and invaluable personal wisdom that shouldn’t go to waste. You have a lot to offer, find things that you are passionate about.

In my case, playing football was a strong positive influence in my life. In honor of all my football coaches, I spent six wonderful years coaching kid’s football.

When people ask me what I do all day, I tell them; “I am so busy in retirement that I was surprised I found the time to work”! Remember, variety is the spice of life.

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Moms rule and Dads drool: Happy Father’s Day

Sorry dads, but more money is spent on Mother’s Day than Father’s Day. The National Retail Federation expects Father’s Day spending to reach $12.7 billion. That sounds like a lot of money, but it doesn’t stack up to what was spent on Mother’s Day: $21.2 billion. There are a number of factors that contribute to making Father’s Day a lesser commercial holiday when compared to Mother’s Day.

Let’s face it, the majority of Moms prepare the family meals, so it is easy for restaurants to promote giving Mom a break from cooking by offering a Sunday brunch special. I asked the food & beverage manager at my golf club why they did not offer a Sunday brunch for Father’s Day. Her answer; “We tried it but had to cancelled due to lack of interest”. By the way, the mother’s day brunch is sold out every year.

Father’s day spending is now competing with Memorial Day, graduation and of course, June is prevalent for weddings. It is easy for children to justify spending less on dad who is laid back enough to be okay with receiving a smaller gift. Plus buying for Dad is tricky: Mom is probably going to appreciate flowers and chocolate more than Dad is going to dig his Daffy Duck novelty tie.

The most popular Father’s Day gift: quality time, it costs nothing.

father day

 

But Dads do matter: they really have an important role to play

Human beings are social animals and we learn by modeling behavior. In fact, all primates learn how to survive and function successfully in the world through social imitation. Those early patterns of interaction are all children know. It is those patterns that effect how they feel about themselves and how they develop.

Fathers are central to the emotional well-being of their children; they are capable caretakers and disciplinarians. Children who are well-bonded and loved by involved fathers, tend to have less behavioral problems, and are somewhat protected against alcohol and drug abuse.

Studies show that if your child’s father is affectionate, supportive, and involved, he can contribute greatly to your child’s cognitive, language, and social development, as well as academic achievement, a strong inner core resource, sense of well-being, good self-esteem, and authenticity.

How fathers influence our relationships.

Girls will look for men who hold the patterns of good old dad. If father was kind, loving, and gentle, they will reach for those characteristics in men. Girls will look for, in others, what they have experienced and become familiar with in childhood. Because they’ve gotten used to those familial and historic behavioral patterns, they think that they can handle them in relationships.

Boys on the other hand, will model themselves after their fathers. They will look for their father’s approval in everything they do, and copy those behaviors that they recognize as both successful and familiar. Thus, if dad was abusive, controlling, and dominating, those will be the patterns that their sons will imitate and emulate. However, if father is loving, kind, supportive, and protective, boys will want to be that.

As a father of two, a boy and a girl, I have accepted the fact that Moms will get a lot more attention than Dads. It doesn’t mean that your children love you less. Your reward comes from knowing that your sons or daughters will be successful academically, become well-adjusted members of society, be in loving relationships and have good careers. Hopefully, they will eventually become good parents.

This post is dedicated to my Dad who was done too soon and to my son who has begun his journey as a great Dad.

 

 

 

My 100th Post: If Money doesn’t buy Happiness, than you are spending it Wrong

sad-face-plus-money-equal-happy-face

I wouldn’t have worked as a financial advisor or be writing a financial blog if I didn’t believe that most people have a happiness number.  Your happiness number will be adjusted over time based on changes in your lifestyle choices.

You don’t need a degree in psychology to recognize that happiness is a state of mind. I have to admit that after a modest level of income, there isn’t really any evidence to suggest that people’s happiness increases with their wealth.  Money is not going to turn an unhappy life into a happy one. Some people are unhappy no matter how much money they have. However, I have also seen where spending money that you don’t have can turn a happy life into an unhappy one. Whether you are loving life or hating it, I do believe that it could really depend opon how you are spending your money!

“I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor. Rich is better.” This insightful bit of personal financial wisdom has been credited to entertainer Sophie Tucker, comedian Joe E. Lewis, comedienne Fanny Brice, actress Mae West and many others.

Some tips on buying some happiness:

Tip 1 – Buy experiences instead of things

Who we are as individuals is the sum of our experiences not the sum of our possessions. The joy of buying something new tends to deteriorate over time but creating memories last a lifetime. Sharing those experiences with family or friends can make you even happier.

Tip 2 – Many small pleasures might be better than a few big ones

Will you be happier saving money for a big-ticket item like a luxury car or indulging in small things like going to a spa or out to dinner with friends. You may be surprised at how many small pleasures can add up to a happier lifestyle.

Tip 3 – Spend on others and not yourself

There is a lot of merit to the saying “it is better to give than receive” The holiday season is just around the corner. Isn’t seeing the reaction of family & friends opening a gift that is thoughtful and unexpected, priceless?

Tip 4 – Rent a dose of happiness

You can enjoy something without having to own it. Rent a cabin hideaway if you enjoy the great outdoors. If you love the thrill of driving a luxury sports car, rent one occasionally or sign up for a weekend racing experience.

Tip 5 – Before you buy think about all the downsides

Often people buy with rosy colored glasses, they only see the good buying points and forget all the shortcomings. For example; some people think that owning a truck and a large trailer would be a great way to see the countryside. What they don’t see is having loud neighbours at camp sites, buzzing insects, traffic jams and vehicle breakdowns. Happiness is often in the small details.

 

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During my career as a financial advisor, I helped many clients find their happiness number. For some it was buying their first home, for others it was seeing their children graduate or get married will little or no debt. In my own case, my happiness number allowed me to retire early and spend more time with family & friends.

I am very fortunate to go south every November to play golf with my buds. We started 13 years ago with a total of 8 golfers, we now have 20 and there is a waiting list to join our group. We have so much fun that one of my house mates made a surprise comment. ” I would have to be on my death bed,  for me to miss this golfing trip” (Money well spent!!!)

When you think about it, money has no real value except that it can be exchanged for goods & services that we need and want. In my humble opinion, the whole purpose of having wealth is to use it as a tool to create a life you desire, enhance the lives of people you care about and hopefully leave a legacy that you are passionate about.

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Does Your Debt Die With You?

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My daughter asked me this question while having dinner at her house.  It started with me complaining about how some of my boomer friends were living beyond their means and had mountains of debt. I had to reassure her that we were not in that situation. (It is not uncommon that your family dinner conversations included some financial topics)

I explained that she and her brother had nothing to worry about. Children are not responsible for any debts belonging to their parents.

Generally, the estate pays off debts, as long as there’s enough money in an estate to pay them all off. Any remaining money goes to beneficiaries. There is an order to how debts must be repaid. Funeral expenses, income & estate taxes and secured debts are the top. Unsecured debts, such as credit cards, lines of credit are near the bottom. If the estate does not have enough money to pay back all the debt, creditors are out of luck.

Remember that jewelry, antiques and other valuables must all be added to the total value of the estate. You might be forced to sell some of them in order to pay back creditors. Very important, the executor of the will could be liable if he or she pays money out to the beneficiaries from the estate before all the debts are settled, creditors could make a claim against the executor personally.

Creditors could also go after an individual’s retirement account and proceeds from a life insurance policy if no person is named as beneficiary. Those funds would automatically be included into the total value of the estate. However, in Canada, retirement accounts can to transferred tax-free to the surviving spouse.

Joint ownership or loans that have been co-signed are different. You will be responsible to pay them back. You don’t inherit your parents’ or your children’s debts unless you guaranteed them.

It is very important for young people to check their own credit report periodically to make sure you are not still holding debt for someone who isn’t in your life anymore. Credit cards that you have co-signed years back may still be active and you could be also on the hook for apartment leases even if you moved out.

Estate laws vary depending upon where you live and can be very complex. Get some good legal advice, talk to a tax specialist and pick a knowledgeable executor. You can’t take it with you! However, avoid giving it to the tax man and leave something to your love ones instead.

 

death of credit

 

 

Money & Life Lessons from My Immigrant Father

war

In honour of Father’s Day, this post is dedicated to my father who left this earth way too soon. You may find some of these money lessons in this post out dated but I hope that it will  inspire you to make some positive changes in your life.

The first life lesson that I learned from my Italian father is “Life is not fair!” In 1939, my father was forced to serve in a war that he didn’t believe in. He was only 18 years old at that time and was lucky to have survived. He rarely talked about his war experiences except that he ate potato peels that he found in the garage because he was so hungry.

Life after the war in Italy must have been horrific for my father to come to Canada, leaving his pregnant wife to earn some money. I can’t imagine going to another country with no marketable skills and not being able to even speak the language. He found that the streets of Toronto were not paved in gold. Two years later, my mother & I left Italy with only a suitcase and a few dollars in our pockets. A whole new meaning to “Desperate times requires desperate measures!”

I am amazed that within four years my parents who were illiterate, with no education, manage to save enough money to buy a house. They earned extra income by renting a portion of our house for many years to assist with the mortgage payments. My mother used her sewing skills to earn extra money making bridesmaid and wedding dresses.

As a kid, I never played in the backyard because it was turned into a vegetable and herb garden. It never occurred to me how much that garden help reduced our family’s grocery bill until much later in life.

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Homemade food products that also reduced the grocery bill:

  • Pasta sauce – we still make a year’s supply of pasta sauce every September
  • Pasta – my mother’s ravioli & cannelloni would make even top chefs envious
  • Pizza dough / pizza
  • Cured meats – ham, bacon, salami …etc.
  • Sausages
  • Wine & sometimes vinegar
  • Preservatives – jam, peaches, peppers, pickles…etc.

sauce

My father had a background in farming back in Italy and would often purchase some meats directly from local farmers to save money. Chickens, rabbits, pigeons and quails found their way into a large chest freezer and later on to our dinner table. For years, my father raised his own rabbits in the garage. (Rabbit is still one of my favourite meals)

Other ways that my father saved money:

  • Avoided eating out, told people that restaurant food made him sick
  • Always took a bag lunch to work – thermoses full of leftovers & coffee – ate by himself to avoid ridicule from his co-workers
  • Paid cash – never own a credit card
  • Rarely borrowed money – only from family and always paid them back
  • Car pooled to work
  • No pets, in his opinion, a total waste of money
  • Restricted vacations to going back to Italy to visit family
  • Limited his entertainment to visiting friends & relatives (plus weddings of course)

When I was in high school, my father got me a high paying summer job at the industrial plant where he worked. He stressed that doing the most boring, dirty and repetitive jobs well would guarantee that I would get rehired next summer. Following his advice, I ended up working at the same plant all through high school and university, graduating debt free. (After three summers, I was put in charge of an all student afternoon shift)

My father taught me that it is easy to excel in jobs that you enjoy but surpassing expectations doing lousy jobs can have its benefits. In my opinion, the real irony was the work experience from my summer job was more valuable in running my own small business than my university education. An argument that I never won with my father even after his plant shut down and he had to come to work for me. “You will always have that piece of paper to fall back on!”

Considering that my father was a teen during the Great Depression and then drafted into World War II, he enjoyed the simple things in life to the fullest. Despite all his hardships, he was proud to own the roof over his head. He really enjoyed sharing a home cooked meal with his friends, along with a glass or two of  his homemade wine. To honour all the sacrifices that he made, I followed a old Italian tradition and named my son after him.

wine   Salute Papa!

 

HAPPY FATHER’S DAY

 

 

Am I Liable if I Marry Into Debt?

I just received a wedding invitation and one of my best friends’ son just got engaged. Laura’s excellent research applies to Canadians and well worth a read.

OMG I'm Thirty

The other day a friend of mine and I were having dinner and she was discussing buying a house with her boyfriend. They’d been together for some time and were hoping to get married within the next few years.

“I’m wondering though,” she said, “if I’ll take on his debt when I marry him. ”

For the last two or three years, the number of people I know who are engaged, about to be engaged, or married has skyrocketed. This definitely corresponds with the thirties- many people hitting their thirties are (possibly) beginning to settle down and find others they want to be with for the rest of their lives. Not everyone, of course, but it’s definitely been a trend.

Which is why I was surprised that I didn’t know the answer- I felt like I’d researched this before, and the answer was no, but I couldn’t be positive. I actually…

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