Sportscaster Jay Onrait's first job was as a kid, working at his parents' drugstore in Athabasca, Alta. His plan growing up was to follow in the family's footsteps and become a pharmacist. But after two years of studying sciences at the University of Alberta, and he says barely getting grades good enough to enter pharmacy school, Mr. Onrait took a major career U-turn and went to study broadcasting instead.
The former TSN anchor, who now has a show on the Fox Sports 1 network in the United States, credits his parents for encouraging him to pursue his chosen career. They also recommended he keep saving and investing his money, in case his career went sideways.
The author of Anchorboy, an autobiography, and his latest book, Number Two: More Short Tales from a Very Tall Man, spoke to The Globe recently about his investing style and why he'll never stop worrying about money – no matter how successful he becomes.
How did you first get interested in investing?
My dad taught me about investing and the importance of saving. He also had me read [David Chilton's book] The Wealthy Barber when I was 16. He got me to start contributing to an RRSP at 18. However, as good as my parents were at teaching me how to budget, I blew all of the money while travelling, going through hostels and bars in Europe in my early 20s. By the end of the three months, I ran out of cash and had to get my parents to wire me money.
Now that you have a big job at a U.S network, has your investing style changed?
I've never stopped being paranoid about money. If you're going to be paranoid about anything, I think money is okay. I will never stop feeling like this could all end any second and I better make sure I am prepared for it. I've had some ups and downs over the years. I was married in my late 20s and early 30s and got divorced, which was the ultimate wealth killer. I left that marriage with a couch and my RRSPs. Since then, I've built up my portfolio, including the pension I got while working at TSN for 12 years. I managed to do really well following the Couch Potato [guide to index investing]. I love it because I'm lazy, but I love investing.
What's in your portfolio now?
I have my investments from when I worked in Canada. Now that I'm in the U.S., I can't contribute to RRSPs, but I started my own pension through my production company. I also have an investment adviser here [in Los Angeles] and in Canada. We invest mostly in blue-chip stocks. I tend to pick stocks I understand, like Coca-Cola and the big banks, as well as Facebook and Google.
Are there sectors where you won't put your money, such as tobacco or fossil fuels?
I have no issue with any industry. I'm not that noble. I do wish I'd foreseen where oil and gas was going a few years ago, though.
What has been your best investing move to date?
Starting at such a young age. Although I can't take any credit for that. It was my dad forcing me, but I'm glad that he did.
What has been your worst investing move?
I invested in Apple before they split the stock. It was about $700 [U.S.] a share. I read about it possibly going up to $900 and it went down to about $550. It was only time something like that ever happened to me. Usually I'm more measured, but it was a good lesson.
Here's the mandatory sports question: What are the similarities between investing and sports?
With both, nobody gets great at it overnight. You think of Wayne Gretzky and all of the days in the backyard rink with his dad, and all of the work he had to put in to become great. I think investing is similar. Everyone wants it to happen so quickly. You look at the great investors like Warren Buffett – he's not a day trader kind of guy. The whole "buy and hold" philosophy is like sports; you have to be patient and keep practising, and in the long run it will pay off.
This interviewed has been edited and condensed. For this series, a high-net-worth investor has investable assets of more than $750,000.