OTTAWA – As students head back to class next week, shell-shocked investors looking for a little peace of mind may also want to hit the books to beef up their financial know-how and soothe their frazzled nerves.
The stock market is currently taking investors on a roller-coaster ride, meaning there has never been a better time to have an appropriate financial plan and the right investments in your portfolio.
Tyler Fleming, director of the Office of Investor Policy, Education and Outreach at Ontario Securities Commission, says it’s never too early — or too late — to improve your financial smarts.
“An informed investor makes for a better investor,” he said.
The OSC runs the GetSmarterAboutMoney.ca website to promote investor education.
The site includes tools and guides for both investing and financial planning, ranging from the basics of opening a bank account and building a budget to information about complex investments such as flow-through shares and hedge funds.
Dozens of investment and budget calculators are also available to help with planning how much money you need in retirement, determining how much your investment fees are costing you and whether you should pay down debt or invest.
The B.C. Securities Commission also runs a similar website at Investright.org, while the Alberta Securities Commission’s website offers links to courses in Edmonton and Calgary covering the basics of investing.
Robert Stammers, director of investor education at the CFA Institute, says understanding what kind of investor you are will determine what you need to know.
“If you’re a long-term investor, you’re really going to be more focused on learning about asset allocation — Where do I put my money to get the best return?” he said. “Diversification and risk management, those are the things that are going to get you to where you want to be.”
But investors looking at the short-term will want to look for more specific training.
“Someone like that is going to be more focused on how do I analyse the value of a company so I can understand if their stock is over or undervalued,” Stammers said.
To figure out what stocks to pick, you’ll need to learn how to take a deeper dive into a company’s financial information and how to evaluate it against other opportunities.
The Canadian Securities Course, a requirement for many financial services jobs, can provide the basics for active investors looking to learn how to manage a their own portfolios.
The securities course requires commitment with its 135 to 200 hours of recommended study time and $995 for the online course and PDF version of the textbook. But for the do-it-yourself investor looking to build a foundation, it is the industry standard.
If you’re working with an adviser, Fleming said it’s important to always ask questions if you don’t understand something.
It’s important to have an ongoing dialogue and discussion with your adviser for both parties to fully understand your financial objectives and how much risk you are comfortable taking, he said.
“It is also important for you as an investor to understand what it is that you are being invested in, the risks of it, etcetera. It really is intended to be a two-way conversation. “