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Her well-timed buys have risen fourfold in her TFSA

Vicky Olsen, 55

Occupation: Occupational health nurse, in Calgary

Portfolio: Newalta Inc., Compton Petroleum Corp. and General Electric Co.

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Investor's background "My husband and I started with $600 of Guardian Enterprise mutual funds in 1982 in our RRSPs," says Vicky Olsen. "We have added the maximum every year since to our own RRSPs and to a spousal RRSP."

"With our financial adviser, we have obtained an average return of 5 per cent over the last seven years with a good mix of stocks, mutual funds and laddered bonds. Currently, we are moving from mutual funds to individual stocks."

TFSA up fourfold Ms. Olsen has been doing very well in her Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA). In less than a year, it has risen to more than $20,000 from $5,000 (as confirmed by her brokerage statement). The key to the performance seems to be having the courage to buy stocks during the depths of the bear market in 2009.

"I hadn't invested on my own before I opened the TFSA. I made my own choices after doing a bit of research and getting some advice that mostly I never followed."

"My husband owned Nova Chemical shares for many years and they seemed to go up and down quite regularly in the $20 to upper $30 range. When the Nova shares dropped dramatically to under $5 I started to consider buying it. I thought there was a lot of potential for Nova to go back up again."

"I bought 1,500 Nova Chemical shares at $1.49 on Feb. 4. A few weeks later there was a takeover offer and I sold 500 of the shares at $6.66," she reports. The rest were sold in July for $6.91.

On March 18, she bought 1,000 shares in Newalta Inc. at $2.68 (now over $7). "I noticed they had a good track record and their stock was quite low compared to the year before."

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She then bought 3,000 Compton Petroleum shares at $1.02 on March 24. They are trading below her purchase price.

"I bought 560 GE shares on July 13 for the dividends and growth potential and was lucky enough that it was on a dip downward to $10.89. The price is now over $15."

Best move "Buying Nova Chemicals when it was about the lowest."

Worst move
"Not selling Nortel when it started to go down. I sold the last of it at under $2."

"Do a bit of research and be comfortable with what you have bought."

"If you want to buy a stock, put in a buy order at the market price. Do not put in a price limit of a few cents less because the price will not go down when you want it to and the opportunity will be lost."

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