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In this new series, Behind the Advice, 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.
Trixie Rowein, senior portfolio manager and financial advisor with PAX Portfolio Advisory at Raymond James Ltd. in Edmonton, discusses her brush with entrepreneurship as a child growing up in Edmonton and offers advice for women looking to pursue a career in finance.
What was your first money lesson?
I grew up in Edmonton, near Commonwealth Stadium, home to the Edmonton Elks football club and a venue for other large events such as concerts and shows. On event days, my family let stadium-goers park on our lawn and driveway. I would stand outside our house with a sign saying, ‘Parking for $4,’ and my dad would let me keep 50 cents for every spot we filled. I was seven years old then and would save the money I earned to buy snacks at the corner store. I learned that the more parking spaces we filled – and there were up to eight we could fill for each event – the more treats I could buy. More money also meant more choices of what to buy. It was my first lesson in entrepreneurship.
How did that experience influence your saving and spending habits as you got older?
It inspired me to continue earning my own money. I started babysitting at age 10, delivering flyers at age 12, and when I turned 14, I got my social insurance number. I used it to get a job working in retail at a local mall. I worked in retail throughout high school. When I graduated, I used some of my savings to visit my relatives in Chile for three months. It was an amazing experience.
I continued to work in retail while attending university, and for about six months, I also got a job as a waitress. I was working two jobs and going to school, which became overwhelming. I was spreading myself too thin. So, while I was making more money, it affected my health, school work, and time with family and friends. I decided to stick with the retail job because the hours were more reasonable. I later worked at a car rental agency until I finished my degree.
What was your biggest money mistake, and what did you learn from it?
I started investing in 2000, the year the tech bubble burst. The market dropped again in 2001 after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. That bear market lasted about two and a half years. I was invested in just one stock at the time because it was all I could afford, and it went down. I learned the importance of diversification. The good news is that I started to diversify after that and continued investing regardless of the market ups and downs, which has worked out very well for me – and my clients.
What are you best at when it comes to your finances?
I’m good at spending less than I earn. I preach this to anyone who will listen. If you spend less than you make, you will have less to worry about.
What do you worry about?
I worry about people spreading themselves too thin to help others. I see this with parents and grandparents who want to help their adult children buy a home or pay for other big-ticket items. But I worry they could sacrifice their retirement and other financial goals to help others.
What aren’t you good at when it comes to money?
I’m not very good at spending money on myself. I like to spend more on family and friends, but, sometimes, I’m afraid to treat myself even when I can afford it. I think that comes from my parents, who immigrated to Canada from Chile during the coup d’état in the mid-1970s. They worked hard and saved their money to give me and my siblings a good life here.
What did you want to be when you grew up – and why did you decide on a career in finance?
Early on in high school, I wanted to be a psychologist because all my friends would tell me their problems, and I enjoyed listening and trying to help. In high school, a teacher pointed out I was good at math and computers. She suggested I pursue a career in one of those fields. I ended up studying finance at university and took the Canadian Securities Course. Once I graduated, I landed a job as a junior investment advisor. Interestingly, being an advisor also involves some elements of human psychology. We often help clients understand the different human emotions that can impact their investment decisions.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to be an advisor?
A closed mouth doesn’t get fed. So, if there’s something you want, you need to ask for it. This can be especially hard for women, given we’re in a male-dominated industry. My advice is to ask for internship opportunities, ask someone if they’ll be a mentor, or if there are any part-time opportunities. If you don’t ask, you’ll never know what might be possible.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
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