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Investor Clinic

Help! I want to be a DIY investor, but where do I start? Add to ...

My wife and I have decided to become do-it-yourself investors. Do you know how I could find a local investment group for DIYers? I have done some looking on the Internet but can’t find anything.

You may want to find out if there’s a ShareClub in your area. Canadian MoneySaver magazine came up with the concept and maintains a list of ShareClubs across Canada. You can find more information at canadianmoneysaver.ca under “clubs and events.”

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ShareClubs are not the same as investment clubs. With the latter, investors usually contribute to a pooled account, and buy-and-sell decisions are made collectively.

With ShareClubs, on the other hand, all members make their own investing decisions and look after their own money. Investment clubs can be a great way to learn about investing, but some people prefer the less formal ShareClub approach.

“The principle behind a ShareClub is the sharing of investment skills, data and know-how,” reads an article on canadianmoneysaver.ca. Because investors don’t pool their money, ShareClubs can also avoid hard feelings that occasionally arise with investment clubs.

“When things go wrong (as in asset losses) investment club members begin to point at each other. The blame game starts.”

If you can’t find a ShareClub in your area, you can always start one yourself. David Stanley founded a ShareClub in Guelph, Ont., 15 years ago, and it’s still going strong.

“There were maybe 10 people that showed up at the first meeting,” says the retired University of Guelph professor. The club now has more than 100 members; it saw a spike in interest after the 2008 financial crisis prompted people to start paying more attention to their finances.

The club, which meets once a month in a room at the university, attracts people from all walks of life and skill levels.

“When I started this I thought it would be mainly white Anglo Saxon males close to retirement. Boy was I surprised,” he says. “The gender split is about down the middle. We’ve had grad students, we’ve got people who are 80 years old. There are people who are, or were, truck drivers, physicians, professors, the whole gamut.”

There is “a fair amount of hand-holding” for new members, he says. Popular topics of discussion include exchange-traded funds, dividend stocks, tax-efficient investing and how to become a DIY investor.

Keeping a ShareClub going can be a challenge, especially if it’s not located in a city with a sizable population. Frank Attobelli ran a ShareClub in Bolton, Ont., for a few years before it disbanded.

“I live in a small town and there simply aren’t enough people that are interested,” he says. “I wish I had more people. I really love the stuff.”

To keep things interesting, Mr. Stanley occasionally brings in guest speakers or asks members to make presentations. For instance, a member who had returned from China talked about investment opportunities in that country. The club also holds occasional pot luck dinners.

If you’re thinking about starting a ShareClub, Mr. Stanley recommends you write to Canadian MoneySaver and ask to have your contact information added to its list, so people will know how to find you. ShareClub members are encouraged to subscribe to the magazine.

Follow on Twitter: @johnheinzl

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