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This is what a typical DIY investor looks like:

  • Logs into his or her account often – daily or weekly;
  • Trades infrequently – usually 10 times or less per year;
  • Too often overlooks exchange-traded funds – mutual funds are a more common holding.

These nuggets and more come from a recent survey of 2,000 do-it-yourself investors that was conducted for the Ontario Securities Commission. Are you a DIY investor wondering how normal your habits are? Then read on.

The stock-trading boom among retail investors over the past year has been well-documented, but the survey suggests the typical DIY investor isn’t a big-time trader. Forty-three per cent of survey participants said they made 10 trades or less per year, 31 per cent said 11 to 50 trades and only 10 per cent said 51 to 350 (the remainder of investors traded more frequently or didn’t know how often they traded).

As for signing into investment accounts, 25 per cent said they did it on a daily basis, 28 per cent said weekly and 20 per cent said monthly (the remainder did so less often).

While trading via mobile device has become trendy, 56 per cent of survey participants said they place a majority of trades on their computer, and 21 per cent said they did most trading on a mobile phone. Online brokers took a lot of flak for poor service via telephone in recent months, but only 11 per cent of people in the survey said they primarily traded by phone.

Forget any ideas you have about DIYers being risk junkies. In the survey, 45 per cent of participants classified themselves as being willing to accept moderate risk. A little more than 40 per cent were either conservative or very conservative, and 11 per cent classified themselves as aggressive.

Online brokers typically offer a wide variety of different orders for investors buying stocks, but market orders (where the investor accepts the current market price when buying and selling) and limit orders (a ceiling price on purchases, or a floor price when selling) were tied for most popular.

The survey’s most surprising finding might be that mutual funds were the most commonly held investment by DIY investors. Sixty-three per cent said funds were part of their portfolio, compared with 59 per cent mentioning individually held stocks, 35 per cent listing guaranteed investment certificates and 31 per cent mentioning ETFs and real estate investment trusts. As much as ETFs have been in the news in recent years, it’s clear that a lot of DIYers have yet to try them.

One thing that is not typical for DIYers is trading on margin. Only about 20 per cent of survey participants said they traded with money borrowed from their broker.

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