Give Me Back My Five Bucks

How I started investing: Part 1

Often I’m asked to write posts about investing. I haven’t wanted to write about investing on this blog because I’m afraid of giving wrong advice. I’m obviously not a professional, but at the same time I think a lot of you have been in my position before: in your twenties, wanting to start investing, but not really sure where to start. Right? So I’m more than happy to share my story about how I started investing, the problems I ran into along the way, and how I taught myself to manage my own portfolio (it’s an ongoing process). :)

So here’s Part 1 of a 3 Part series.

Part 1: The Beginning

When I graduated college in 2006 I was 23. I owed over $20k to student loans and credit cards. Debt was my first priority, but I knew I wanted to start saving as well – even if it was just a little bit. I was making about $30k/year so I was only able to put aside $50/month ($25 into an Emergency Fund, and $25 into an RRSP) – but it really helped me establish a pattern of saving. And in the future, when I was finally out of debt, saving was already something I was used to doing. It made the transition from making payments on my debt, to making payments into my savings account pretty seamless.

When I first decided I wanted to save for retirement, I was really clueless. There wasn’t a lot of information out there on the internet that I could understand, and there were only about 4 or 5 Canadian PF blogs out there. All I knew was I wanted to start saving for my future, but I didn’t know how to start. So I went to TD Canada Trust (my only bank at the time), and spoke to someone about opening up an RRSP mutual fund account.

I remember sitting in her office, feeling very intimidated. I wondered what she thought of me, and the fact that I could only afford to save $25/month. But everyone has to start somewhere, and she was helpful in answering any questions I had. We went through a questionnaire to determine my risk-tolerance level, and eventually she signed me up for the TD Balanced Growth Fund (MER of 2.24%).

After that meeting, I was really pleased with myself because it seemed like this was the first step to becoming financially savvy. It made me feel grown-up to be investing in my future, and I became obsessed with tracking my little mutual fund’s progress. I set up a spreadsheet and tracked its performance on a daily basis. Seriously.

I understood that I wasn’t going to need the money for at least another 35 years, but I didn’t really get what 35 years meant. I wanted to see my money start to grow immediately. So I continued to check on my mutual fund on a daily basis. My stomach would drop every time my fund wasn’t doing well, and I’d cheer whenever it was doing well. This went on for about 6 months before the stress became too much and I told myself that 35 years = 13,000 days, and there was no way I could continue on like this. I needed to chill out. So I did. :)

It was about a year later that I first heard about the TD e-series Funds. I remember reading about it on a blog, and the big discussion was around Management Expense Ratios (MER) and how bad they were. I remember a few people referencing the TD e-series Funds in the comments and acknowledging how low their MERs were, and how they were likely the best mutual funds around.

When I went to check the MER on my Balanced Growth Fund, I was horrified and a bit embarrassed. How dare TD take so much from me! I felt like they were stealing profits from me, and the more I looked into the TD e-series Funds, the more I wanted to give it a try. Not just because I wanted to get away from funds with high MERs, but because I really wanted to learn how to manage my finances on my own. I wanted to know where my money was going, and I wanted to be doing it myself. The idea of DIY investing was really starting to appeal to me.

Part 2 coming soon…

Author: Krystal Yee

I’m a personal finance blogger and marketing professional based in Vancouver. I’m a former Toronto Star (Moneyville) columnist, author of The Beginner’s Guide to Saving and Investing, and co-founder of the Canadian Personal Finance Conference. When I’m not working, you can usually find me running, climbing, playing field hockey, or plotting my next adventure.


  1. This sounds like EXACTLY where I was six months ago. I’m invested in Tangerine balanced growth, and I seriously check my investments every day. I know I’ll chill out once the novelty wears off. Can’t wait for part 2!

  2. Alicia says:

    Ditto what Jordann said! I bought Tangerine Balanced mutual funds and I seriously had a spreadsheet that kept track of the unit price per day. What a waste of energy on my part. And it just stressed me out for no reason.

  3. Liquid says:

    I had a similar experience when I began investing. I started with a high MER mutual fund. I think it was called the monthly dividend income fund. But then decided to go with the TD e-series funds instead. Never looked back since :) I also do a bit of stock picking for fun. I find that investing can be addicting sometimes, especially if the market is going in the right direction lol. Thanks for sharing. I like reading about people’s first investments.

  4. Jenny says:

    My first investment was also a mutual fund. My dad told me to get it so I did. Similar to you, I researched some more about investing and read about MER. So I got rid of the mutual funds and started investing in individual stocks!

  5. NZ Muse says:

    Look forward to this! I recently started investing in a couple of funds (outside of my retirement funds) and have decided to basically set and forget – still feel so clueless.

  6. I am looking forward to your part 2! I had a similar experience with my first time at TD bank, I have to agree that it is pretty intimidating, especially when my bank account only has a very low balance! I am still buying the TD mutual funds at the moment :P I am just dragging my feet to look into the TD e-series (I am also considering starting Questrade account).

  7. Kapitalust says:

    Gotta watch out for MERs and it’s great your curiosity went beyond just holding the original TD mutual fund.

    Investing is very unique to each investor. As long as one is willing to learn and knows who they are, DIY investing is totally the way to go.

    Looking forward to part 2!

  8. Fiona says:

    Thanks for posting this! I just recently got my first “career” job and have been wanting to learn how to invest my money. I look forward to reading the next part. :)

  9. Thats pretty much exactly how I started out investing. I put money into a TD mutual fund that focused on dividends. I didn’t realize that the MER was nearly 2% and all the fees ate up any potential returns. It under performed compared to the market and I ended up selling and going the DIY route

  10. Kiat says:

    It is good to start investing early and make mistake, only through making mistake then you will become a better investor. When you are young the mistake made is usually left costly than when you are older.

  11. Thank you for posting something about investing. I am a newbie on investing so I am looking forward to your posts. Good luck to you!

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