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In the Behind the Advice series, we ask advisors about their relationship with money from a young age, lessons learned over the years, and how their experiences influence the advice they give clients today.
Rebecca Teltscher, portfolio manager at Newhaven Asset Management Inc. in Toronto, talks about her difficult childhood, how it forced her to get smart about money, and the personal and professional benefits she gained from buying a particular retail stock:
Describe your first money lesson.
My mom was in an abusive marriage with my dad for 28 years. I remember as a kid telling her, ‘Just leave him.’ One of the reasons she stayed as long as she did was because she had no financial independence. The house was in his name. She wasn’t working and had no access to her own money. The final straw was when she was at the grocery store checkout and couldn’t pay because my dad removed her name from their joint bank account. I was 13 then, so old enough to understand what was happening. I saw how difficult it was for her to start over, including getting a job after not working for many years. It was then I realized the importance of financial independence and financial literacy.
How did your upbringing influence your relationship with money?
My parents came to Canada as refugees with limited means. Growing up, I didn’t learn anything about saving and investing. Everything I learned was self-taught later on. It put me behind others financially but also made me appreciate the value of money and the importance of preserving hard-earned capital. Not having the financial stability or comfort to depend on my parents made me more risk-averse with my money.
What’s your biggest money mistake, and what did you learn from it?
I wish I had opened my tax-free savings account when that program launched in 2009. I didn’t do it until I moved to Toronto in 2013. It was a mistake because, if I had better saving habits earlier on, my husband and I might have been able to afford to buy a home sooner. Instead, after losing out in several bidding wars that drove the prices higher, we ended up in a smaller townhouse north of the city.
What decision around money and investing made the greatest impact on your life?
I still own the first stock I bought in 2011, Dollarama Inc. DOL-T. My mom inspired me to buy the stock indirectly. She rebuilt her career by working at a daycare and then opened her own daycare in our basement in Montreal. One of her favourite activities was going to different dollar stores in our neighbourhood to buy arts and crafts for the kids. After a while, she would start complaining that all the little discount stores were turning into Dollaramas, like it was a bad thing. It sounded like a good investment idea to me. I bought the stock at a time when retail names were being hit because of the threat of Target opening stores in Canada. We know how that ended up. Dollarama shares have done well since then. The stock pick also helped me get my first portfolio manager job in Toronto in 2013. Ryan Bushell, who hired me at that firm, is now president of Newhaven, where I work today. So, Dollarama has been good to me in more ways than one.
What do you worry about, personally, around money?
Most parents want to give their kids more than they had growing up. I had a difficult childhood and don’t wish anything like that for my own kids. However, people tend to have a different appreciation for things they pay for themselves than if it’s given to them. So, I worry about doing too much for my kids. For example, I want to pay for their university education, but I question whether they’ll have the same work ethic if it’s free rather than paying for it themselves.
What did you want to be before becoming an advisor?
I was a competitive gymnast as a kid and thought I would be a gymnastics coach, but that dream went away for various reasons. In high school, I discovered I was good with numbers and studied engineering initially at university. I later switched to finance. I was interested in investing and felt I would never get bored because there’s always something to learn. That remains true to this day.
What advice do you have for others who want to be an advisor?
I encourage more women to get into this industry. Women can offer a unique perspective. Early in my career, I remember recommending Costco Wholesale Corp. COST-Q as a good stock to a group of men. After a while, I realized that none of them had been in a Costco before, so they didn’t have the same perspective as I had. Costco has turned out to be a very good stock over the years.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
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