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Samantha Sykes, senior investment advisor with Sykes Wealth Management at Raymond James Ltd. in Toronto, worries that people are getting bad advice from so-called 'finfluencers' and others without proper qualifications.Supplied

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In the Behind the Advice series, Globe Advisor asks 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.

Samantha Sykes, a senior investment advisor with Sykes Wealth Management at Raymond James Ltd. in Toronto, talks about money lessons her parents taught her growing up, an operating room incident that confirmed her decision to work in finance, and her biggest money mistake as a young assistant on Bay Street.

Describe your early experiences with money.

My parents taught me the importance of thinking about what you spend your money on, saving for the future and giving to charity. They each came to Canada from the Caribbean with little money and made a success of themselves; my dad is an eye surgeon and my mom is a nurse. They met while working at the same hospital in Toronto and then moved our family to Winnipeg when I was three years old.

My parents did everything to ensure my brothers and I had everything we needed growing up – and that we stayed grounded. I started receiving an allowance when I was 11 and would put the money in a savings account. I would then track my deposits in a little bank book, which I still have. The rule was if I wanted to buy myself something, like magazines or lip gloss, I first had to put $1 in my bank account and $1 toward a charity.

How did these early experiences influence your money habits growing up?

It showed me the value of automatic savings and following an easy strategy to manage my money. In my teens, I wanted a car very badly. My parents only allowed me to get one because I had saved up enough money to contribute to the loan payments. I also promised to use the car to help take my little brother to school and some of his extracurricular activities. It showed me the power of saving to achieve a larger goal that was more meaningful than buying small or disposable items.

What’s the biggest money mistake you’ve made?

I was 24 years old, working as an assistant at a brokerage house and, a week after I got my trading licence, I was asked to place a large order for a long-standing client. It was my first trade. I was full of confidence, as many people are when they’re in their 20s. Without asking for help, I put in the order for Sysco Corp. SYY-N and walked away for lunch. I returned several minutes later to an apoplectic boss. The order I was supposed to place was for Cisco Systems Inc. CSCO-Q. Luckily, the client didn’t lose money, and it turned out to be more of an administrative debacle to untangle. Still, I learned from that day forward it’s okay to ask for help and that there are no stupid questions – especially when managing clients’ money. That experience is burned into my brain.

What decision around money and investing made the greatest impact on your life?

My decision to become an investment advisor was a big leap of faith. Growing up, I didn’t see many people managing money, especially women, never mind women of colour. I did know that I loved people, problem-solving and technical analysis. It wasn’t until I started working on Bay Street that I realized wealth management was something you could do for a living, combining not just investing but financial planning.

What did you want to be before deciding to become an advisor?

When I was growing up, the preferred options for a successful career as a West Indian girl were a doctor or lawyer. However, those options narrowed in Grade 9 when my dad invited me to sit in the operating theatre as part of Take Our Kids To Work Day. I watched him make an incision into a cornea and immediately passed out. It was the end of that career path for me. To this day, my dad still says, ‘You could still be a surgeon if you tried hard.’ I love you, dad, but no thanks.

Years later I wrote my Law School Admission Test and got accepted to a few law schools but deferred my acceptance for a year, unbeknown to my parents – at least until this article is published. My passion has always been working with data, relating to people and having flexibility and variety in my schedule. But even while working as an assistant at a brokerage house, I wasn’t sure I chose the right career. As a backup plan, I went to culinary school at night for a couple of years. Years later, after obtaining some new certifications, I became an investment advisor and certified personal financial planner and never looked back.

What do you worry about?

Besides my children, I worry about the public distrusting accredited, qualified financial advisors. It keeps me up at night. There are so many ‘finfluencers’ and self-proclaimed money coaches out there who have been able to achieve online in weeks and months what many investment advisors who are regulated by the Canadian Investment Regulatory Organization have been chasing for decades, which is the eyes, ears and hearts of Canadians looking for help with their finances. Am I jealous? I guess I am. I’m also not surprised. As regulated professionals, there are limits to what we can say or do. What I worry about is people getting bad advice from the countless people who don’t have the qualifications to give sound financial advice.

What are you best at when it comes to your own finances?

I don’t get emotional about the market’s ups and downs. I stay invested. I see market volatility as the fee we pay to have our money in the market. The longer we can keep our money invested in a diversified portfolio – and ignore the noise – the lower the volatility fee will become over time.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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Tickers mentioned in this story

Study and track financial data on any traded entity: click to open the full quote page. Data updated as of 21/05/24 4:00pm EDT.

SymbolName% changeLast
Sysco Corp
Cisco Systems Inc

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