James Varga is a pilot, a socio-economist, an insurance agent and a finance expert. Now 60 and semi-retired, he said, he travels across the world for most of the year, while enjoying the Vancouver Island climate for the rest of it.
His wealth of life experience has led to great knowledge of investing, but Mr. Varga had to learn how to manage his finances and make his money work for him in order to get where he is today.
Why he started investing:
The story of how Mr. Varga started investing in stocks is a classic tale.
When he was 15, all Mr. Varga wanted was to be a pilot, but his father saw this as an opportunity for a different crucial life skill. Rather than easily fulfilling his son’s dreams by paying for his lessons, Mr. Varga’s father told him he would have to save up for it himself to learn how to manage his own finances.
“It was born out of necessity,” Mr. Varga said, lamenting on how he achieved his personal goals.
“I thought my dad was a real rotter at the time for not giving me access to some money for flight academy or for my undergraduate degree,” he joked. “But at this age now, I understand fully what he was up to.”
How he would describe his investing style:
When he first started investing, Mr. Varga took a lot more risks, he said, but his goals and style have changed over time as his portfolio has grown.
Some of the technical indicators Mr. Varga looks for in a company are dividend growth, expansion potential and income. He also carefully observes how companies manage their debts.
Mr. Varga’s winning strategy, though, is to prioritize companies who see success despite industrywide pressures or economic crises, such as the 2008 financial crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic.
“That’s a great little litmus test to see how durable [companies] are and how quickly they bounce back,” he said. “It’s easy to be a winner in good times, but in difficult times, it becomes a little more discerning how to pick it.”
His picks and why he picked them:
While Mr. Varga’s portfolio includes a diverse range of companies, he focused his picks for the Globe’s Investing Club on the energy sector.
His three picks are Tc Energy Corp. (TRP-T), the natural gas company which owns the heavily-debated Keystone XL pipeline, Enbridge Inc. (ENB-T), Canada’s largest natural gas distribution company and Greenlane Renewables Inc. (GRN-T), a provider of biogas upgrading systems with a growing international presence.
Mr. Varga said he chose Tc Energy Corp. and Enbridge Inc. because of their proven records and high enterprise values, which has put them in many pension funds.
As for Greenlane Renewables Inc., he liked the company’s increasing revenues and low debt, which leaves him optimistic for its future prospects.
Despite increasing global efforts and legislation that promotes a shift from fossil fuels toward renewable energy, Mr. Varga is not yet worried about the performance of these companies.
“But I wouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket in any sector.”