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The kind of investment advice people want varies depending on stock market conditions. In bad markets, people are eager to get the details right on basics like the proper mix of stocks and bonds for their age and personal needs. When stock markets are strong, people want validation for the trends, stocks and funds they've already set their sights on.

Lately, I've had people ask me about the following:

  • The suitability of bitcoin for a retiree’s portfolio (unsuitable);
  • A strategy of having 80 per cent of a young adult’s RRSP in Amazon stock and the rest in a dividend ETF (way too risky);
  • Selling bond ETFs to buy preferred shares (don’t – see below);
  • Whether an AI (artificial intelligence) ETF is a good buy right now (dunno – I’m not a big fan of sector funds).

I'm happy to take your questions on investing and offer some thoughts – just email me at, or use the link below in the "Ask Rob" section of this newsletter. But I also want to share with you a list of questions you can ask yourself about any investments or strategies you're considering to help clarify your thinking and minimize mistakes. The list was compiled by Ben Carlson, an investing blogger you've seen here before, because I think he's consistently on the money.

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Mr. Carlson's first question is the same one I ask people first when they seek investing advice: "What's your time horizon?" If you need your money in less than five years, stop thinking in terms of investments that will generate the most gains and start considering savings options that will protect what you've got.

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Rob's personal finance reading list…

Travellers, check out these credit cards
A recently updated list of credit cards that don't charge a 2.5 per cent foreign transaction fee when you buy things in the United States and internationally. Here's a recent column I wrote on the latest card in this small group.

The math that makes the case for long term investing
Your annual gains if you're just starting out in building a portfolio can be kind of disappointing. But wait until Year Twelve – that's when things start to get interesting.

Why you should give money to homeless people
A strong opinion piece arguing for helping homeless people with cash. "Don't just buy them a sandwich … They're not four. They have the right to spend their money as they choose – and it is their money, once given."

How not to get sucked into splitting a cheque when you eat or drink less
The trick is to be pre-emptive by asking for a separate cheque.

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Today's featured financial tool
Read reviews of different credit cards or write a review of your own on the CreditCardGenius website.

Ask Rob
The question: "[I] have lost money on my laddered five-year Canadian bond ETF in my RRSP. Do I sell at a loss or hold? Still need some income protection in my portfolio. Was thinking a shorter-term bond fund/ETF, or a preferred-share ETF."

The answer: A lot of investors are uncomfortable with their bond ETFs these days because the share price is coming under downward pressure as a result of rising interest rates. However, these ETFs remain an effective way to get protection against stock market declines and produce reliable income. A laddered five-year bond ETF is, in fact, a short-term bond ETF and thus is well-suited to today's environment. As rates rise, higher-yielding bonds will be cycled into these ETFs. Preferred shares are a good way to diversify the income-producing investments in a portfolio, but they're not a bond substitute. In the 2008-09 stock market crash, preferred shares were hit hard.

Do you have a question for me? Send it my way. Sorry I can't answer every one personally. Questions and answers are edited for length.

Featured Video
Tax specialist Janine Rogan answers the most-Googled income tax questions in 2017.

What I've been writing about

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– Mortgage renewals in 2018: Prepare for nasty rate surprises
– Rising debts explained: Mortgage plus daycare equals financial overload
– One bank dings clients who travel, while another lightens the load
– He's soon to retire – should he chuck his blue chip stocks and buy an ETF? (for Globe Unlimited subscribers)

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