Give Me Back My Five Bucks

How I started investing: Part 2

This is Part 2 of a 3-Part series in how I started investing. If you’re new here, please take a moment to read Part 1: The Beginning!

In this blog post, I’m going to talk about how I got started managing my own portfolio, as well as the mistakes (and small wins) I made along the way in creating my own DIY investing strategy. :)

DIY Investing

So in Part 1, I left off by talking about how I had just learned about Management Expense Ratios (MER) and the existance of the TD e-series Funds from a blog. As soon as I felt like TD Canada Trust was taking more money away from me than necessary with the high MER on the Balanced Growth Fund they had gotten me to invest in, I made it my mission to try and keep as much of my own money as possible.

After doing a bit of research, I decided that the TD e-series Funds were the right product for me to invest in. The funds seemed straight forward enough, and I was excited to get started! However, because the TD e-series Funds aren’t really managed by TD, it was a huge headache figuring out how to switch my account over (especially because there was very little information on the internet about e-series funds at the time). I’ve talked about my issues with TD a lot on this blog, but finally figured it out.

Related: How to set up a TD e-series account

To be honest, when I finally got my account set up and was able to buy e-series funds, I didn’t really know what I was doing. I just started reading about each fund, and randomly purchased ones that sounded interesting. At one point, I had 9 funds in my account: CDN Money Market, Canadian Index-e, U.S. Index-e, European Index-e, Japanese Index-e, CDN Bond Index-e, International Index-e, TD Dividend Growth, TD Balanced Growth.

You’ll notice that I ended up buying another TD fund with a high MER – Dividend Growth. Why did I do that? I have no idea. So you can start to see that even though I was mostly investing in low-fee mutual funds, I was still pretty lost at this point.

Getting help

I continued contributing to these funds over the next couple of years, building my portfolio up to the point where I had almost $40,000 in 2011. It felt great to see my money grow, but at the same time I was questioning whether or not I was on the right path for my goal of early retirement and financial independence. I didn’t have a strategy, and it really started to bother me.

So I made it my goal to start reading articles about investing. I wanted to read all that I could about mutual funds, ETFs, stocks, and some sort of basic investment strategy for someone in my position. But instead, I found myself researching investment advisors instead. Up until that point, I didn’t believe in paying for someone for financial advice. I figured I was young enough to do my own thing through trial and error. And besides, I had the basics down. I knew I was invested in the right mutual funds, and I had the basic understanding of what I needed to do. But nobody had ever seen my investments before, and I began to crave direction and validation.

After looking into investment advisors for a few weeks, I decided that I wanted a “fee-only” advisor, because I was confident that – once given a plan – I could execute it myself. Luckily, through my previous gig with the Toronto Star, my editor asked if I wanted to be a guinea pig and get complimentary advice from a fee-only financial advisor. Of course I said yes immediately. It was perfect timing.

A Rebalancing Act

Above, I mentioned I was invested in 9 different funds at the time:

  • Asset allocation
    • 91.7% stocks
    • 2.7% bonds
    • 5.6% cash
  • Geographic allocation
    • 51.6% Canada
    • 24% U.S.
    • 24.4% International

In speaking with the financial advisor, I learned that while my geographic allocation was good, my asset allocation was too risky. He recommended rebalancing to 70% stock, and 30% bond funds. He also advised that my portfolio was over-diversified. By a lot. For example, the allocations contained in both the European and Japanese Index-e funds were also contained within the International Index-e fund. He also called me out on investing in that Dividend Growth fund, which boasted a lame 2.03% MER. Whoops.

The financial advisor told me that I should simply my portfolio from 9 mutual funds down to just 4, and suggested this allocation:

  • 20% Canadian Index-e
  • 25% U.S. Index-e
  • 25% International Index-e
  • 30% CDN Bond Index-e

It all made sense to me, so I took his advice (to this day, I’m still invested in those 4 mutual funds with that exact percentage allocation). I continued to invest in my TD indexed mutual funds for the next two years, and it wasn’t until 2013 that I took the next step in my DIY investing strategy and branched out.

Part 3 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. It’s really neat to hear about your growth as an investor Krystal! These days I’m considering going back to a financial advisor myself after going the DIY route for a bit. I’m pretty confident that I would have done better with a good advisor than I would have by myself at this point. I’ve haven’t done terrible (better than GICs, bonds, etc), but I could have done a lot better considering how strong the markets have been.

    I also skipped the TD eSeries even though I knew about them and went straight with ETFs for some reason. Not too sure why I did that because it is much easier to contribute to the eSeries on a regular basis.

    Live and learn!

  2. Really interesting to hear your journey with investing – I know I was worried at first about the wrong choices I made originally, so it’s comforting to see others go through similar journeys. I now know the check the fees and buy/sell spreads, which is a good lesson to learn :)

  3. Tawcan says:

    Thanks for sharing your experience. I did use TD e-series as well but after a few years of educating myself I’ve moved onto buying individual stocks and index ETF’s. I like ETF’s rather than e-series because I can buy and sell on the same day and know exactly what the price is. With e-series there’s always a bit of delay.

    Looking forward to part 3 of your journey.

  4. Kapitalust says:

    Hehe 9 funds is a lot and looks like you got some solid advice on paring it down to the basic 4 E-Series funds!

    ETFs are next if you ever want to go deeper down into the rabbit hole of investing! :D

  5. Andy says:

    Have you discovered MoneySense’s Couch Potato Portfolio? It could save you many miles.

  6. Michelle says:

    I love reading about people who are investing, because I am relatively unfamiliar with it and don’t know where to start. Thanks for sharing!

  7. squasher55 says:

    A super article, Krystal. As someone who invested in Canada for many year with little success, but now lives and invests in the USA, I have discovered that Canadians pay the highest investing fees of any country in the World. Andrew, the ex-Canadian teacher and author of ‘Millionaire Teacher’, has investigated these expenses for many countries. You are on the right track…looking forward to part III. Here is the Andrew webpage for those who may not have read his material, plus he has a new book coming out soon:

  8. Great article. I also started investing in a TD fund that had a MER of over 2%. In fact I think ti was the dividend growth fund. It didn’t grow at all when I had it – the market index beat the fund each year that I owned it

  9. Ron B says:

    I really would like to do the passive investing thing and am reading up as much as I can on it.
    Thanks for writing about it too, Krystal.

    My question is how can you find out which stocks each online brokerage carries or do they all pretty much carry everything? If I can I’ll just stick with my bank’s brokerage, iTrade, but if it makes sense then I will look elsewhere.

    I think I’ve found what iTrade carries but do you have to get an account at each brokerage to find out what they carry? Sorry for the newbie question in advance.

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