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me and my money

Ernie Zelinski

Ernie J. Zelinski, 63


Author and publisher

The portfolio

Includes Encana Corp., Telus Corp., Cenovus Energy Inc., Suncor Energy Inc., Royal Bank of Canada, guaranteed investment certificates, TD Canadian Blue Chip Equity Fund and TD Dividend Growth Fund.

The investor

Ernie Zelinski was fired from his engineering job more than 30 years ago, and hasn't gone back to the 9-to-5 grind since. Instead, he has spent his time working a few hours a day on things that interest him and the rest of the day on leisure activities.

Mr. Zelinski didn't have a lot saved up. But then he borrowed some money from his mother and self-published The Joy of Not Working, followed by How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free and other books on "career success and happiness."

"These books have sold a total of over 750,000 copies worldwide and have generated over $1.5-million in pre-tax income for me over the years," reports Mr. Zelinski. The royalties (still flowing in) are what enabled him to pay off the mortgage and set up an investment portfolio.

Investment style

Before he published his books, Mr. Zelinski tried to turn his savings into a bigger fortune by speculating in junior oil stocks. Most of his capital was wiped out.

The experience left him with a strong aversion to risk. When the book royalties began to stream in, he put them into guaranteed investment certificates. They still make up "a good portion" of his investments.

"Later, I diversified into stocks," he adds. His exposure is mainly in "safe," blue-chip and dividend stocks. A smaller portion is in riskier stocks.

"Most financial advisers would likely describe my investment approach as 'scattered' or too 'conservative,'" says Mr. Zelinski. But it suits him fine: He doesn't care as much about returns as about preserving the capital on which his freedom rests. Nor does he want a high-maintenance, volatile portfolio that could interfere with his peace of mind.

Best move

It was investing money in self-publishing his books. "My philosophy is that the best investment anyone can make is creating intellectual property that provides residual income for years."

Worst move

Junior oil stocks in the 1980s.


"Save at least 35 per cent of pre-tax income and invest 80 per cent of what you save in GICs and dividend stocks. The other 20 per cent can go in riskier investments." For more advice, see