Why I Became Serious About Money

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About 7 years ago I was on top of the world. I was doing well in my career, and I had recently gotten engaged to my girlfriend. Paying for the wedding wasn’t a huge concern since I had been saving for a long time, plus I had been making steady RRSP contributions so I figured I was doing just fine.

I suppose you could say I became serious about money a few years earlier since I knew the engagement would come eventually. I wasn’t very happy with the services that my bank was providing at the time so it didn’t take much convincing to move my money to an investment firm when a former co-worker of mine became a financial advisor.

My advisor had slick presentations, was always in communication and he made me feel rich. He seemed like a completely normal person. He outlined a plan for me and invested my money in a few mutual funds, best of all the fees were minimal. I had complete faith in him, but fortunately for me, a random encounter saved me from a lifetime of fees.

serious about money

Thanks to a stranger

For a little while, I was obsessed with the site Redflagdeals.com and would frequent the message board on a regular basis. One of the forums covered personal finance and in there was a thread where a member was asking about the services of the investment firm where my advisor worked. I wrote about how thrilled I was with the service and that I wasn’t really being charged much so it was worth switching.

A few other members started to give their input and started to talk about the high management expense ratios (MER), but I was adamant that I wasn’t paying that much because that’s what my advisor told me. I took him at face value, this was supposed to be a friend after all right?

A random stranger privately messaged me and explained to me what MERs were and how I was definitely paying them. He took the time to explain how MERs worked and how they would affect my returns in the long run. Deferred sales charge (DSC) was also a new term that he introduced to me; if I wanted to pull my funds out I would lose some of my money. Of course, he encouraged that I check on my own and to call the firm’s customer service line to find out what my fees were.

Getting serious about money

I called my investment firm and inquired about the fees, they confirmed that the funds I was invested in had an MER and DSC. After the initial shock, I realized it was time to get serious about money. My advisor didn’t technically lie to me, he did get paid a tiny commission, which was part of the bigger MER. He also never mentioned what a DSC was since I never asked, to be fair, I should have done my due diligence.

I decided to ask my advisor about the fees and lack of transparency and he responded with he could switch my portfolio to more aggressive funds if I wasn’t happy with the performance. That was totally irrelevant to my questions so I took it to a level above him and provided evidence that my advisor had deceived me. There was a quick internal audit, and I had my deferred sales charges waived with the condition I do not further seek compensation, nor do I speak about the firm or advisor involved in public. This is why I’ll never publicly disclose which firm I was with or who my advisor was.

Final word

It was pretty clear to me at that point that the only person that would care the most about my money was me. I took the time to educate myself and put myself on the path to where I am now. That being said, I now recognize that it’s just fine to get a little help if you’re uncomfortable becoming a do-it-yourself investor. You could also work with a fee-only financial planner which is totally worth your money. Just know that everyone needs to get serious about money one day.

About Barry Choi

Barry Choi is a Toronto-based personal finance and travel expert who frequently makes media appearances. His blog Money We Have is one of Canada’s most trusted sources when it comes to money and travel. You can find him on Twitter:@barrychoi


  1. Mike Ross on June 14, 2016 at 5:15 PM

    So, obviously you were with IG.

    • Barry Choi on June 14, 2016 at 5:21 PM


      My exit agreement states that I’m not allowed to publicly discuss who I worked with. I can neither confirm nor deny your statement.

  2. Courtney B on June 22, 2017 at 4:10 PM

    I have some stuff through investors group. Any idea what fees there would be if I transfered out resps for my daughters and my RRSP through work

    • Barry Choi on June 22, 2017 at 4:22 PM

      Hi Courtney,

      With the RESP you would need to find out if there are any deferred sales charges (DSC) fees. You can either ask your advisor or look up the fund’s prospectus.

      With your work funds, it’s the same thing. That being said, is your work offering some kind of match by investing via Investor’s group?

      In both cases you want to look into the Management Expense Ratio (MER) of the funds you’re in. 2.5% is the average, but it’s considered quite high. If you plan on switching, you need to find a lower cost option that fits your investor profile. This can be easily done by yourself or by using a robo advisor.


  3. Courtney B on June 22, 2017 at 5:34 PM

    Okay great yes I use Wealthsimple already for my own contributions, Tfsa and RRSP. But my work does the rrsp matching and they were recommended. I’ll ask about switching to another institution. I will look into the prospectus.. Thank You

    • Barry Choi on June 22, 2017 at 5:39 PM


      RRSP matching is always to your advantage. If your employer allows you to invest with anyone, I would totally make a switch.

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