My Journey with Investing (So Far)

Hi, friends! Sorry for the disappearing act. When I went to NYC, I was in full-on vacation mode: no work, no blog, no email, no nothing. It was wonderful. Unfortunately, the minute I got home, I was hit with one of the worst colds I’ve had in… I don’t even know how long. I’ve been stuck on the couch since Tuesday, and only just started to feel a bit better yesterday. But I’m here now!

Today’s post has been a long time coming. When I held those meet-ups in Vancouver and Toronto last summer, one topic that came up over and over again in our discussions was investing – and many of you asked when I’d write about it. (PS – Should we do more of those this year!? You tell me!) The truth is, back then, I still wasn’t comfortable with my investing knowledge. But as I’ve read more and more books and blogs about it, and finally started to see my money grow, my comfort level has gone from I-don’t-know-anything to I-know-a-few-things. So, I figured it was time to tell you about my journey with investing over the last 10 years. Note that this post is crazy long. I considered dividing it into a couple posts, but I love seeing it all in one place.

Are you ready for this? Let’s start from the beginning…


I was 19, when I put my first $25 into a mutual fund. I didn’t know what I was doing, or anything about how mutual funds worked. I’d just heard that if I put money into an RRSP every month for 10-20 years, I’d have $1 million one day. So I walked into my bank (CIBC at the time), met with a financial advisor and told them I wanted to open an RRSP. The advisor asked what level of risk I was comfortable taking on, and I stupidly said, “none”. I had no money, as it was, so I didn’t want to risk losing any of it! As a result, I walked out with $25 in a low-risk mutual fund RRSP, and an automatic savings plan setup to make that happen once/month. I remember being so excited to tell my dad I’d done that, as he’d been encouraging me to open an RRSP since I turned 18. I “invested” $25/month for 3 years, before putting my big girl pants on, switching banks and moving my ~$900 RRSP (at low-risk, it obviously didn’t grow) over to it…


I ditched the “big banks” in 2007, and moved all my money over to Coast Capital Savings Credit Union. I was sold on their free chequing account, and loved the customer service I received each time I walked into my branch (the receptionist eventually started greeting me by name), so I immediately setup an appointment with one of their financial advisors to move my RRSP over. Of course, I still didn’t do any research on their products, or really understand how mutual funds worked at all… I was just drinking the Coast Capital Kool-Aid, so to speak. This time, though, when my advisor asked what level of risk I was comfortable taking on, I said, “medium”. I was sad my $900 hadn’t grown at all, and knew I didn’t need the money until retirement, so it was “time to get serious”. I moved my money into a medium-risk mutual fund RRSP, and increased my contributions from $25/month to $50/month.

Between 2007–2009, I increased my contributions from $50/month to $75/month and then $100/month. In 2010, I contributed a total of $1,200. In 2011 – the year I realized I was maxed out with all my old debt – I only contributed $450. But then I contributed $1,500 in 2012, and it’s only gone up since. While these amounts may not seem like much, remember I was also working for the BC Public Service from 2007–2012, and contributed $16,378 to my pension during that time. Spread out over 54 months, that’s ~$303/month I was putting away for retirement, on top of the $100/month I was putting into my RRSP. Of course, I had no control over how much I contributed to my pension, and used to hate seeing it come off my cheques… but it paid off, after I quit (we’ll get to that later). When I left my government job and moved to Toronto for the job I have now, I realized I couldn’t bank with Coast Capital anymore, and moved my money again…


After not paying a penny in banking fees for 5 years, I had no desire to switch over to one of the big banks. So, I decided to open free chequing and savings accounts with Tangerine (then ING DIRECT Canada), as well as a medium-risk index fund. Now, I didn’t technically have to move my RRSP over from Coast Capital. I could’ve kept it, and just setup an automatic savings plan with my Tangerine chequing account. However, after 5 years of investing my (small amount of) money in the balanced mutual fund my advisor had chosen for me, I could tell that my returns were… well, crappy. At that point, I still didn’t know anything about investing, but I knew I had put $6,500+ into my RRSP and didn’t have much to show for it (we’ll talk about why, at the end). So, for the first time ever, I actually did a little bit of research on Tangerine’s index funds, before deciding to open one.

I emphasize a little bit of research because, the truth is, Tangerine made it too easy. With only 4 funds to choose from, versus the dozens that other banks seemed to have, I went for the one that matched my risk tolerance. And their fund fact sheets were so easy to read through that I actually felt like I knew what I was getting myself into. On top of laying things out in simplest terms, they showed numbers and examples that actually made sense – including how much it would cost to invest in the fund. Up until this point, no bank had ever talked to me about how much an investor had to pay to invest in mutual funds. I don’t know if I thought it was free, but I certainly had no concept of what I was paying. When I read that Tangerine’s funds had a management expense ratio (MER) of 1.07%, I did a little more research and discovered it was one of the lowest offered by any bank. That was apparently all the info I needed, to feel confident about moving my money over and closing my mutual fund RRSP with Coast Capital…


I’m still mad at myself for putting so little money in savings in 2013. I earned more that year than any other year before, but put just $2,300 into my Emergency Fund and $1,500 into my RRSP. There’s no excuse, really, but I do know what happened. After aggressively paying down $30,000 of debt over 2 years, I was just done. My gazelle intensity died. And, as you can see, up until that point, I’d hardly amassed any substantial savings before. On top of that, I didn’t have any clear goals. Anyway, 2013 wasn’t a great year for my savings, but at least it’s behind me… and things seriously kicked up a notch in 2014.

Last spring, I decided to transfer my pension from the BC Pension Corporation into my RRSP. When you pull your pension early, they give you a commuted value, which is essentially the future value of your contributions, according to some unknown interest rate and formula that your pension provider won’t explain to you. Anyway, BC Pension Corp. decided the $16,378 I contributed would be worth $27,634 by the time I turned 55, so that’s the amount they were willing to give me. I put every penny of it into my RRSP last August, and have happily watched it grow to more than $30,000 since then (even with some serious dips in September/October). Taking control of my pension is one of the best financial decisions I’ve made to date, because now that money has the opportunity to bring me some serious returns! On top of that, I have to admit that seeing the balance of my RRSP go way up is a huge reason I was so inspired to start saving more. In 2014, I put $7,700 into my Emergency Fund and $3,500 into my RRSP.


Now, let’s get into the nitty gritty of where my money is today and why. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, one of my goals this month was to consolidate two RRSPs into one, and amalgamate all my TFSAs (I had many). After so many attempts at trying to have multiple savings accounts for multiple goals, I was once again reminded that I just suck at small savings goals. I just want one lump sum of regular savings, one TFSA investment fund and one RRSP investment fund – that’s it. I finally made all of that happen last week, and here’s how it looks:


My regular savings account is now part Emergency Fund, part planned spending. I’d like to maintain a balance of at least $5,000 at all times (the Emergency Fund aspect of it), which means I’ll throw extra money into it for travel, weddings, etc. It’s basically just my way of giving myself some peace of mind, but also having cash on hand for things that come up.

RRSP Index Fund
Before I talk about my TFSA investing strategy, I think it makes sense to first talk about my RRSP. I don’t think it’s worth writing a post with my opinion on the RRSP vs. TFSA debate, but here’s my personal stance in two sentences: 1) TFSAs are awesome. 2) For the next few years, I’m only going to contribute enough to my RRSP that it counters what I make in freelance income, so I’m not hit with a huge tax bill later. So, I’ll continue to contribute $3,000-$5,000/year, but I really want to focus on maxing out my TFSA.

TFSA Index Fund
Oh, I guess I just told you what my plan is here, haha. But seriously, Canadians are currently able to contribute a maximum of $36,500 to their TFSAs (next year it’ll go up to $42,000), and I want to max mine out. It’ll likely take me 2-3 years of serious saving to make that happen, but that’s what I want to do. As soon as it’s maxed out, I’ll continue to contribute the maximum amount we’re allowed to (currently $5,500/year) and then invest the rest of my money in my RRSP, some ETFs in the future, etc.

tangerine-asset-allocationAs of right now, both my RRSP and TFSA are held in Tangerine’s Balanced Growth Fund, and there were a few things that helped me choose it over the others. First, whenever you open a new investment account, banks have to ask you what your risk tolerance is. Tangerine asks a series of questions, which always lead me to this fund. It’s the only medium-risk fund they have, so that takes care of one deciding factor. Second, I consider everything I’m putting into these two accounts to be part of my long-term investing strategy, so I’m comfortable with its asset allocation. Using the “age-old” question, and knowing I’m a somewhat conservative investor (but am comfortable with more risk than I used to be), I know that stocks (equities) should make up ~80% my investment portfolio (110 – age 30). The Balanced Growth Fund is only at 75.4%, but the next fund up is at 99.3%. I wish I could say I’m comfortable with that, but I want to be able to sleep at night, haha. Third, the fund has had returns of between 8.61 – 11.13% per year for the last 3 years. Oh, and then don’t forget the low MER. At this point, I think Dan Bortolotti would call me a novice investor, but I’m going to call myself a Jr. Couch Potato, since I’m only investing in Tangerine index funds. When I’m ready to dive into the world of ETFs, I’ll likely look at Vanguard… but that’s for another day.

Mistakes Made in My First 10 Years of Investing

So, that’s that – my journey with investing so far. (Are you still reading? Love you, if you are! haha) Considering I was maxed out with $30,000 of debt just 4 years ago, I’m pretty happy with where my net worth stands today. Unfortunately, as this timeline shows, I also made almost every mistake in the book, during my first 10 years of investing:

  1. I trusted that my bank had my best interest in mind. As you can see, I’ve always invested my money with the same institution I do my daily banking with, which seems to be the norm – but that doesn’t mean it’s smart. If you take the time to research all the best options, and are willing to invest your money elsewhere, you’ll likely see much higher returns than what your bank could ever get you. I learn this lesson every day at work (dealing with mortgage brokers vs. banks) and the same is true for investing. The one instance where it’s worked out for me is that Tangerine has some of the most recommended funds of all banks, and I just happen to bank with them, too.
  2. I didn’t understand what mutual funds were, how they operated or how much it cost me to invest in them. I don’t know what CIBC’s MER was, but I later learned that Coast Capital’s was 1.73% + a flat fee of $45/year. <— That is insane! It means that if I only had $1,000 in the account, I’d have to pay $62.30 ($17.30 MER + $45 fee) for them to manage the fund. If I got anything less than a 6.23% return, I’d earn $0. It’s no wonder why my small savings didn’t budge.
  3. I didn’t take enough risk. The younger you are, the more risk you can take on – I wish I had understood that, when I first started out. Instead, I started with a low-risk fund, and have only recently been investing in something that’s more appropriate for my age. Think of all the returns I lost out on…
  4. I didn’t save enough. Period. And that one makes me sad.

Despite all the mistakes I’ve made, the one thing I am grateful for is that I started “investing” when I did. Sure, if I could go back, I’d tell 19-year-old Cait to put at least $200/month into a medium-to-high risk fund instead (and if you’re 19, that’s my advice to you!), but at least I started with something. I’m grateful for all the appointments I used to make with financial advisors, and I’m grateful that I took the time to move my money around, when I could see it wasn’t growing. I may not have much to show for it yet, but all the mistakes I made have got me to where I am today – and I’d say things are looking up. :)

Care to share any mistakes you’ve made/lessons you’ve learned, in your own journey with investing?

  • TFSAs should really be called TFI(nvestement)A, that way people view them more as an investment vehicle rather than just a savings one but since they are used different things it is nice to have the flexibility.
    My biggest investment regret was closing and emptying out my Mutual Fund which I had opened when I was 17 and started contributing only $30 a month. I don’t when I closed or how much it had in it. I take that regret and tell myself never again.
    Question, you said you contribute to your RRSP what you make in freelance or do you invest only what you would pay in taxes?
    I wish we had more options for low cost brokerages. I haven’t gotten serious about investing yet but I have started looking at Questrade, TD e-series. Would love to get more suggestions from anybody else.

    • I agree that TFSAs should be renamed! And I think you’ll find most people suggest both TD e-Series + Questrade. I just opened up my Questrade account yesterday… :D

    • I’m with Questrade and I would definitely recommend them. They don’t have an annual fee for opening a TFSA or RRSP. Also, assuming you’ll be couch potato investing via ETF’s, there will be no commissions. Buying ETF’s at Questrade is commission free. This is great because you can buy a small amount, even one share at a time without the commission taking a large bite out of the investment. What this will allow you to do is let the dividends from the ETF’s build up and once you have enough to purchase one whole share you can do so commission free allowing you to compound your investment. This is basically what I do in my TFSA although I’ve modified my approach to be a little more aggressive.

      • Yea, I’d like to get my one TFSA index fund up to $10K, then start buying ETFs in a TFSA with Questrade (Couch Potato style). Thanks for all the info! I really appreciate it. :)

  • Very typical story — and many don’t make it to the lower-fee Tangerine evolution. Starting off by heading out to “buy an RRSP” from your friendly neighbourhood big bank is how many get started. I wonder how much will change with new fee disclosures.

    On the one hand it’s great that you started so young, but unfortunate that in the bad years there was the inefficiency of putting money in an RRSP to barely grow while non-registered debt ticked away. With the TFSA it would be easier to pull that back out to pay off debts that came up, which is part of the reasoning behind the “TFSA first” rule-of-thumb — though that can backfire too when you’re in a pickle!

    Did you ever get a chance to read the Value of Simple?

    • I haven’t yet, no. I accidentally left it at the friend’s house I was staying at that night. Will get it next time I go back!

  • I took a very similar path, made similar mistakes and have the same regrets. The turning point for me was end of 2012 and start of 2013 when I realized how much I was getting screwed by the big bank and their mutual funds. I started reading about investing and learned just enough to take control of things myself.

    I opened a Questrade account and moved my accounts there and focused on dividend investing for a few years before I liquidated the accounts to buy a condo.

    Mistakes 1, 2 and 4 (especially 4) are probably the most common ones that everyone makes at first.

    • What have you done, since liquidating? Are you back in Questrade, making new things happen? I just opened an account yesterday… :)

  • Cait, you will be really proud of your decisions in a few years, (and you really should be already). In the grand scheme of things, 30(ish) is pretty young for the level of financial knowledge you have, if I compare it to many people of your age that I know. I was in my 40’s before I realized that not everyone had my best financial interests at heart, and I wasted a couple more years “trying out” investment advisors at big banks before I happened on Tangerine accounts.

    Great blog, really enjoyed it, now if I could just get my kids to read it!

    Have a great day and feel better!

  • Hi Cait!

    Like yourself I’ve always been a pretty conservative investor since the day (at age 23) when I started with my first RSP (which was in 5 year laddered GICs – but the interest rates were much higher back then). And like yourself over time I learned that the investment products sold by the banks weren’t always as beneficial to me as they were to their bottom line growth. So now, without further ado, (taking a page from last night’s Oscars – lol) here are my mistakes made / lessons learned over the years. The envelope please:

    The mistake that I remember the most was the time that I invested a large chunk of money into a 5 year market index fund. The economy at the time was going well and the thinking then was, based on past performance, that the market growth would continue and add handsomely to my capital investment at the end of five years. Well, fortunately my capital investment was guaranteed (so I didn’t lose any of that) but the market didn’t gain as expected such that I didn’t earn so much as a penny in investment growth. What I did lose however was all the interest that I could have made had I simply invested all that money in a simple 5 year GIC.

    As to lessons learned, well the best (and most profitable) one was when our daughter met her husband and they got married. His dad ran a financial consulting business (associated with a large financial investment group, but not a bank) and, when he retired, our SIL took over the business. Over time we switched all our investments over to his company. He first took steps to find out what kind of investors that we were (moderately conservative but still looking for growth). Next he got us into various diversified balanced investment products that have really paid off over the years.

    The lesson here is simply this:
    You have to seek out knowledge and expertise. Not many can do this all on their own.
    You seek medical help (doctor, dentist, eye specialist, etc.) when you are sick. You usually don’t self-medicate all the time. Likewise with financial health. I would recommend that one spend a lot of time and seek out a good knowledgeable financial adviser – one who only charges for his time and knowledge and who can find various investment products from many different sources – not one who sells his/her own products (like TN@TB – or as Garth Turner refers to as “the nice lady at the bank”) and earns a fat commission. Paying a relatively small fee for a few hours of a financial adviser’s time and services might make all the long term difference in the world.

    And the Oscar winner is: YOU! :-)

    • Haha, I’m going to remember TN@TB… that’s too funny (and also too true). It’s impossible to trust what someone at a bank tells you, because they are 100% biased by the terms of their own products (and quotas that must be met). But talking to people does help. So far, I’d say my dad + bloggers are my financial advisors. Is that ok? :)

  • That’s a great journey in investing. My biggest thing right now is pay off debt, while sticking to my my retirement goals (about $800/month, but with a HUGE kick in from my company pension). I don’t know a whole lot past the MERs and the general asset classes, etc, but I’m okay with the level I know right now. Indexing is the way to go for me, right now. I’ll play when I have some more money. Maybe.

    Regarding the TFSA vs. RRSP debate, I admit I feel like I’ll likely be using my RRSP to mitigate taxes for the next few years (rental income without depreciation), but I’ll like to be able to max out my TFSA yearly to at least keep up with the current pace. I’ll likely bump my RRSP contributions to 18% after debt repayment (currently around 15%). Then my TFSA would be an additional $450/month after my debt is paid off.

    I don’t anticipate backfilling my TFSA and RRSP any time soon since that’s an additional $50k, but I think if I can keep pace with the yearly TFSA room, and my full RRSP, I’ll be happy with that :) But I still want to have a life… and investing 25% or so of my gross income for retirement is going to be semi-difficult. But that will still give me back a few percent of my debt repayment money, so… I’ll manage :)

    • I think I’ll be an indexer for life… but it’s obviously way too soon to tell! I just don’t think I’ll ever be someone who tries to beat the market.

      You’re doing great, btw! I can’t wait to see what you do when you’re debt-free. :)

  • Tangerine Funds are great since they require zero thinking at a reasonable MER. That being said you could reduce your MER to about .49% if you switched to TD e-Series. When your portfolio reaches $50K there’s even more value to switch to ETFs where you’ll pay only .19% on average.

    • I think about the TD e-Series a lot, but have read/been told so many times how annoying it is to setup, get started and withdraw from. Any thoughts on that?

      • Cait, I opened an RDSP with TD just this past January. I had also read that it was quite difficult/annoying to open one, but I wanted the value of the e-series and the ability to choose my own asset mix. It ended up being really easy! I made an appointment with a TD branch, went in knowing exactly what I wanted, the advisor filled in the paperwork, sent it to their investment arm (TD Waterhouse) and I just had to wait a couple weeks for them to send the confirmation letters with my username/password to use their online service. And it’s easy to transfer money over, I just added my TD account as a bill payee from my regular bank.

        I had read that I would need to open a regular account and then convert it to an e-series, which seemed like the most annoying part, but that wasn’t the case with me.

        PS Glad you’re starting to feel better!

        • So you don’t have to bank with TD? I also read that was the case! Really glad to hear it’s not. Thanks for sharing your experience, Vanessa! :)

      • Most of the complaints come from the TD mutual funds side, or from conflicts with the branch staff. In fact, I have a slide for tomorrow’s talk that just repeats “the branch staff cannot help you” three times over.

        If you go with Waterhouse/Direct Investing and expect to do it all yourself, there’s no problem.

  • My biggest mistake is not saving enough but also I emptied a couple RRSPs that I’ve had over the years. Last year I started a Tangerine Mutual Fund account. I’m currently in the Balanced Portfolio but I’ve been contemplating changing it over to the Balanced Growth. I am mainly using it as a tax shelter for my side income as I have a pension at work. I also started a TFSA mutual fund about two weeks ago. I’m still working on getting in to the saver mindset and I’ve been making headway.

    • I think I mentioned this to you once before, Trista, but I was the same way for years. Always spent whatever I had in savings. It took finally seeing a certain amount (~$7,000 I think?) for my brain to finally switch and think, “I have to protect this! And save more!” You’ll get there, I’m sure of it. :)

      • I took out an RRSP loan with Tangerine at the beginning of the year and added it to my existing mutual fund it was a huge boost to my savings mindset. Seeing that $3500 makes me want to save even more.

  • Hi Cait! Sorry to hear you’re under the weather – the cold is going around here right now and it’s a doozy this year. I recommend hot water with 1 tsp each of lemon juice and apple cider vinegar (totally does the trick for me, even if it tastes…interesting…).

    Great post on investing; please continue sharing more! :)

  • Cait, great post! I haven’t really gotten into investing, I’m too scared and feel I don’t know enough, but it may be time to start! I think your #3 mistake, of not taking enough risks, is something that most people make the mistake of. I know I do! It’s scary, but now is the time to take the risks, while we’re young and can afford to do so! :)

    • Yep! It can be scary to see your money fluctuate, but you have to remember you’re in it for the long haul. And the only way your money can grow is if you invest it. Something to think about. :)

  • Banks DON’T have your best interests at heart. That’s been a hard lesson to learn. Kudos to you for jumping in feet first to investing. I’ve got to clear my debt before I can get serious. I had a mutual fund at one point but cashed it to pay off debt. Stupid I know, but it made sense to 21 year old me.

    • Just keep tackling your debt, Jenn! You’re going to get there. And the best thing you can do for yourself is keep working at getting it down to $0. Cheering you on from here! :)

  • Don’t beat yourself up over not saving – you are doing a stellar job considering your age and are certainly learning from your mistakes! I’m 30 and have only invested in a few stocks here and there that my Dad has recommended, and we are just now looking into putting our money into an ETF. We’re nowhere near your level of wealth and also have a crapton of money we have to pay down in student loans (think 3x the total debt you had) so in my book you are well ahead of the game!
    As I mentioned we are looking into investing in an ETF and now I have to do my research so that we don’t get charged up the wazoo for management of that account. Any suggestions on a company to go with? I’ve heard sharebuilder is pretty good but honestly don’t know much beyond that.

    • Hmm, are you in Canada or the US? I’m guessing US… if so, take that question to Twitter! But in Canada, I hear Questrade is the way to go.

  • This is very similar to where I am right now, and its definitely encouraging to hear that some one else thinks that its a good plan! I’m a beginner investor and really like the Tangerine Index Funds. Before opening one I talked to my big bank (CIBC) and was really confused because they didn’t seem to disclose anything. I even brought the Tangerine fact sheets and asked if they had anything similar, but they didn’t. As little as my investing knowledge is, I like that the info’s available with Tangerine.
    I basically only have my CIBC account so that I can visit a branch to withdraw loonies, for laundry, haha.

    • Haha, I’m with you there too, Jessica! I still have my Coast Capital chequing account for the few transactions I do in-person each year.

  • I wouldn’t knock yourself for investing conservatively when you were starting. Too many beginning investors put their money in stocks (usually through a mutual fund) and then the market pulls back, they lose 25%+ on paper, they sell so they really do lose 25%+ and then they never want to go near the stock market again.

    Personally, I think it’s a good idea to start with a base of GICs and only gradually add equities once you’ve got $10-25 000 saved up. I’d also suggest most people should start with their TFSAs unless they are in the third income tax bracket. Most people need to have a cash cushion in case of job loss, a required move, illness etc.

    The Tangerine funds have been rated very well by analysts and so have the TD e-series funds. For investors with enough to open a discount brokerage account (about $15000 RBC DI to $25000 CIBC IE, BMO IL) , the Mawer balanced fund also gets good reviews.

    It’s funny how many of us feel intimidated to talk to even the bank branch reps about RRSPs and TFSAs. I think that fear factor may be what makes so many of us just sign up for whatever mutual fund they are pushing at us.

    • Well, they are sales people, and definitely know how to push products… I don’t like talking to them, still, and I *know* how to say “no” now! So I totally get why people don’t want to talk to bank branch reps. Good thing we can all chat on blogs, social media, etc. eh? :)

  • Hi! Forgive me for sounding confused, my lack of knowledge popping up here. Isn’t $27,634 a lot of money to drop into an RRSP? I thought if you go over the deduction limit you’re taxed super heavily. Granted, I don’t know your limit, but I just genuinely don’t know how that works.

    • It wasn’t technically considered a contribution, because it was just a transfer from one retirement account to another. So, no big tax break for me, haha. Good question, though!

  • I admit even though my financial planner and my husband (who has made learning about investing one of his hobbies) explain it to me over and over again, I really don’t understand, nor care to understand all the ins and outs of investing. My husband always says, “what will you do if I die?” and I tell him at that point I will learn. What I know is that I am a moderate risk and he is a high risk, so this gives us a balanced portfolio. I know roughly how much money we have (my husband checks it often – almost daily , I am a once a quarter kind of girl). I have a basic understanding of the dividend funds. I also know, we are well on our way to having a comfortable retirement. I know how much we invest a month as well.

    If/when I need to, I am sure I could learn more, but I am happy not adding this to my plate at this time. I know my husband does have our best interests at heart (he said his goal was to make sure I would have a very comfortable life after he dies – I come from a family with the longevity gene). I will focus on the other aspects of money, spending and other savings.

    Good for you for learning all about it and not trusting the banks to tell you.

    Happy Savings!

    • Hey, if you guys have a system that works, that’s all that matters! I don’t think I’ll ever be able to hand over control of my finances now, haha… but it’d be nice to find someone who is interested in this stuff, too. :)

  • Great post! So interesting to see your journey all in one place (after following your blog for years)

    The Tangerine funds are rad, I really like them. I have an RRSP one, but most of my TFSA + the rest of my RRSP is in stocks & ETFs with Questrade… but you know me, risk-loving ;)

    I do like your idea of 1 RRSP and 1 TFSA. Simplifying everything is one of the reasons I moved from common stocks to index ETFs (also because I feel I’ll take my gambles outside of market investing, so I had to keep that money as safe as possible!)

    • I opened my Questrade account yesterday! Hmm, so that adds an account to my otherwise simplified portfolio, haha. But now I can go back to some of your old posts, and learn a few new things. :)

  • Great post! My real mistake was investing in GIC’s at too young an age, not really the place for aggressive growth. But pretty much all my RRSP’s in mutual funds I told them Aggressive Growth even though the advisors didn’t like me saying that. I always got – are you sure? It’s worked so far though.
    Some of the TD funds have insane MER’s, my advisor tried to get me to switch to some of their new funds and they’re 2.5% MER – OUCH! I guess I’m just used to the below 1% fees of my work plan :)
    I too also consolidated all my TFSA’s this year and moved them from Tangerine to Meridian Credit Union. Tangerine is not impressing me anymore which I knew would happen when Scotia took them over, so in a few months, all my money will be gonzo from them.
    I need to get back to educating myself more about investing this year as I’m about average with my knowledge.

    • I’m just curious: what about Tangerine isn’t impressing you? The way they are running their business, or how your funds were performing? I only asking because my investments are wayyy up… like, impressively so. I can’t imagine moving my money anywhere, right now.

      • Just remember, past performance is not how one should evaluate an investment, especially an index fund! They’re up because the markets are up (and the CAD is down).

        But yes, also curious as to what’s disappointing about Tangerine… My guess is it’s in terms of interest rate.

        And Michelle, you also have a book crying out to be read on the matter ;p

  • I feel like when you write posts, it always seems to be the perfect timing. ;)

    I have been trying to do a lot research myself and I think I’m around the level you’re at. I made the same mistakes too except my MER is close to 2.0% which is insane. But I’ve been wanting to read about investing before I move my money. I had also been looking into the tangerine accounts based on couch potato so I’m glad to get feedback on this.

    One thing to think about, RRSP’s do get taxed when you take the money out but your income will be much lower when you retire. Since you’ll be in a lower tax bracket, you will not get taxed as much as people seem to think. It’s still worth putting money into RRSP’s because you will receive more money when doing your tax return than what you’ll pay when you retire. Another light bulb moment for me, was when I realized if I contribute enough to put my income in the lower tax bracket (15% instead of 22%), I will also receive a larger refund.

    • I’ll definitely put money into my RRSPs, and know about how I’ll be taxed at a lower rate one day. I would just rather max out my TFSA first, as you pay 0% tax when you withdraw from that. ;)

      • The big thing with the RRSP vs TFSA for me is that even if you remain in the same tax bracket in retirement, you will have to pay that tax on all the growth made by your investments. If I put $100K into my RRSP and get the tax back, great, but if it grows to $200K now I have to pay tax on all of it. If that same $100K of investments inside a TFSA and grew to $200K it would be like being allowed to earn $100K in CASH and not pay tax. Hard to argue with that point!

        • The only time that doesn’t work is if you planned on living off the same amount when you retire, therefore being in the same tax bracket. Most people don’t need as much money when you retire because your mortgage should be paid off and as you age people tend to spend less. You also wouldn’t require to save anymore money because you already saved to retire. So you’ll still get money from a tax refund (or not owe the government) more than what you’ll have pay back in retirement.

          Now that being said I still like the idea of a TFSA for let’s say vacations or a major house repair because then I wouldn’t have to claim that part as my income.

        • Dayle, if you’re at the same tax rate for contributing and withdrawing, the RRSP and TFSA are equivalent (including the growth), but that assumes that you put more in the RRSP (i.e., put in pre-tax money, or contribute the refund, and the refund’s refund, etc.).

          So for example if you’re in the 40% tax bracket both at contribution and withdrawal, you could put $1000 in your TFSA, or $1667 in your RRSP (which gets you a $667 refund so you’re only out-of-pocket $1000 in after-tax savings). Let’s say they both double.

          TFSA: $1000 grows to $2000, nothing more complicated than that — you have $2000 to spend in retirement.

          RRSP: $1667 grows to $3334, withdraw and pay 40% tax, and you’re left with $2000 to spend.

          If you only put $1000 in your RRSP in the first place (e.g. because you then go and spend the refund), when you could put $1000 into your TFSA, then the TFSA will be better. (with the caveat that you got to spend more in the present with the RRSP)

    • Woo hoo! Now if only the Canadian dollar could do a little better, so the conversation didn’t move me down so many notches on the list. ;)

  • I too made the rookie mistake of setting my risk-tolerance too low in my twenties, but at least we were saving for the future at all.

    If you do a meetup in Victoria, perhaps you’d consider partnering with the Dollar Divas? It’s a great organization with a similar mission and I’m sure those ladies would love to hear your story!

    • Wow, I didn’t know this existed! And I actually know Saira! Well, we used to work in the same gov’t office together… I’ll definitely reach out to her. :)

  • An unfortunate beginning to investing for most young people. I used to work for a big bank and I can tell you I used to push the $25 / month into an RRSP without really explaining to the person what their options were. My appointments were stacked one after the other and I needed to hit numbers so I wanted to get to the next client who potentially would help me hit my targets.

    I would try to follow up with them and try to get them back in when they would accumulate hit the minimum investment threshold but usually by then they had bounced one of their payments or had transferred out because they didn’t get any real advice.

    I wish basic investment principles were taught in high school. Principles like risk tolerance and what that really means when talking about short, medium and long term goals. It really bugs me when I hear an early investment story like yours.

    I like the Tangerine funds, they hold strong companies and 1% isn’t the worst MER you can find out there. I personally prefer buying ETFs that have similar holdings and the fees are way under 1%. I opened a TDwaterhouse discount brokerage account and just buy after I’ve saved my 10% of salary per month.

  • I’ve made some financial mistakes too (obviously, like getting into debt), but I’m so glad I started investing at age 19. I didn’t invest much at the time either, but I put it in a lifecycle fund for target date 2050 (the farthest out one they had at the time). So it was more risky since I was young and my date was farther out than lots of peoples. Live and learn!

  • Thanks for this post. It is really interesting to read about another person’s journey in investing. I am just starting to learn about my current investments and figure out if I am happy with them or not, but I know that I haven’t been saving nearly enough. And I am sure that once I learn about the MERs of my current investments, I’ll probably be quite disappointed that I didn’t learn earlier…

    • I’d suggest finding out what it is ASAP! That information will probably help push you to keep researching and eventually move your money somewhere else.

  • Wow Cait, you are killing it! The more I read about PF and other PF bloggers lives, I realize just how many financial mistakes I have made – but hopefully won’t continue to make. I really want to invest a little to learn about the process and my comfort with risk, but I’m having a hard enough time just getting my TFSA to a reasonable level.

  • Oh… how I wish I’d known (and acted on) this stuff 30 years ago! Now… we’ll, compound interest is no longer my friend. :-)

    Even if you don’t think you’ve got much to show for it now, you most definitely will in the future. You’ve built a strong financial foundation. No matter what else happens that will underpin your future more surely than anything else you do.

    Very well done!

  • Good for you Cait! I feel like this number is impossibly far away for me but I know I’ll get there I’m hoping for postive networth by next year. We have an RESP for kiddo but other than our ER fund, no other savings. Being 30 it scares me a little that I have nothing to save for retirement but then I remind myself that we’re currently putting between $2,000-$2,500 per month onto debt which we will be able to soon redirect to long term savings (liking Tangerine RRSP’s but not sure yet). You’re an inspiration lady :)

    • Hey, you guys only have a few more years to push through, and then you’ll be saving wayyy more than me each month! Can’t wait to watch it happen. :)

  • Hi Cait,

    Glad to hear you are starting to feel better. We have made some of the same mistakes, but I am still working to fix mine. I was inspired and encouraged by my parents to contribute to an RRSP at an early age so when I started university at age 18, shortly after my first ‘real’ job, I started contributing a similar amount each month. But little did I know that I was only contributing to an RRSP savings account that didn’t hold Any investments! I only realized this when I moved my RRSP over to TD in my early twenties. They set me up with a mutual fund with a very high MER. I have stopped contributing to it and instead contribute to the same fund you do with tangerine. I will be moving everything over to Tangerine in the near future and would love to look at TD e-series later this year since we have increased our retirement savings. I try not to reflect too much on my past mistakes – you live and learn!

    • Oh man, I’m so mad at your bank for not telling you the RRSP savings account didn’t hold any investments! But you’re right, you live and you learn. Definitely get your money moved out of that fund with the high MER fast, though. I’d definitely look at the TD e-Series!

  • Hi Cait,
    I am happy to hear you are okay.
    Get worried when you don’t stay in touch with us all.
    Sigh….mother of two young women your age….

    • Aww, well then you’re the first person I’ll tell this to: I’m only going to post once/week for a while! Every Monday. I’m trying to get a ton of other personal writing done, but I’ll be here every Monday with a long, thoughtful post. :)

  • I really enjoyed reading this article, it’s nice to hear of the progress people are making when you’ve been reading them for some time now :)

    I resonated with a few things you mentioned – not having much knowledge of investing and trusting the bank has my best interests in mind & not saving enough (the year I made the most I regretfully saved the least I’ve saved in a given year – go figure!)

    I’m also in the process of consolidating multiple accounts I had opened for multiple goals. I think I’ll be better off having everything in order / simplified as you have when I’m done.

    Congrats on your Net Worth that’s great for your age

    • Good luck consolidating your accounts, Jaye! It feels so good to have just a few accounts to look after/consider. :)

  • I think it’s awesome that you started investing when you did! We all have things we wish we’d done differently, but you really did well by starting early. I’m all for consolidated accounts too. I like having everything all in the same place and all working towards the same goal. Makes it easier for me to see progress and visualize the future.

    I hope 19-year-olds are reading this and will take your advice! I was absolutely not thinking about personal finance at age 19… :).

    • Yea, I’d much rather have one account that shows one big number than multiple accounts with smaller numbers. There must be some psychology to that, but it just makes me feel like I’m actually making progress and working towards something bigger!

  • Thanks for this, Cait! I actually have an RRSP appointment this afternoon so this is a timely read! I’m usually pretty bad for only making a lump contribution to help myself out a tax time, but now that my student loan is paid off I think I’m also going to set up some automatic payments to take the burden off myself.

    Question: How difficult is it to move your RRSP to another institution? I always imagine it to be a serious hassle, but I’d love to be wrong!

    • Hi Sara – it’s pretty easy. You need to first setup a new rrsp account with your new bank, financial institution or discount broker, fill out a T2033 form. Your new institution should help you fill it out and even send in the form for you. If you have a good amount in there you could also ask the new institution to pay any transfer fees. There are a lot of good posts if you Google “transferring rrsp to another bank”. Lots of good tips that could save you money on fees and mistakes. Good luck!

      • What Edgar said – it’s REALLY easy. Just note that your current bank will probably charge you a $100 fee (maybe less, but that seems to be the average) to do the transfer. You can *sometimes* talk your new RRSP holder into paying the fee. It’s still worth paying, in the long run though, if you’ve found your money has barely moved in its current fund.

  • Hi Cait,

    Just came across your blog – great to hear your experience about the beginning of your journey into investing. There our so many people in our age demographic that are intimidated to make their first investment. It’s something I’ve been passionate about for a long time and I’ve recently started a blog to encourage and educate others. I was actually planning on getting into ETFs in my next article. They are a good alternative to mutual funds, offering similar performance, greater liquidity, and often much cheaper fees. Some brokerages even offer free trade fees on select ETFs. I believe they are definitely the future of the industry on the retail end.

  • I was searching for reviews about Tangerine the other day and I came across your blog. I am pretty much in the same situation right now. I am in the process of consolidating my RRSP accounts with different banks into one account with Tangerine and my TFSA accounts with Coast Capital. I just opened my account with Tangerine. I used your orange key by the way so you will get 50 bucks soon. Win win situation there.

  • This is awesome. I am starting my investing and savings late (32) and this is a huge help. I am excited to start and will be following your advice and blog.

    Thank you.

  • Your blog is great! Thanks for sharing your personal finance journey :)

    Have you found the CSC course worthwhile? I’m about to self-pace through NYU Prof Aswath Damadoran’s 2015 Valuation Class on Youtube with the accompanying text. It’s probably a bit further ahead than where I’m at but it’s free!

    FWIW I’d been wanting to compose a post of my own investment journey, your post here was great motivation to do it!

Comments are closed.