Digital investing is all about having the freedom to attend to your portfolio whenever and wherever you are using a phone, tablet or computer.
But if you’re a retiree, you may have needs that are a bit more earthbound than being able to trade stocks on the fly. Here are a few features of specific interest to retirees in choosing a digital broker. These features aren’t the kind of things brokers brag about in their marketing, but they can make a difference in making it easier to manage a portfolio:
Offer free paper copies of account statements:
Paper is old school, but it’s easy to retrieve from your files if you want to check on something that happened in previous months or years. For some, paper might also be easier to read.
Brokers that offer no-cost paper account statements include CIBC Investor’s Edge, Desjardins Online Brokerage, HSBC InvestDirect and RBC Direct Investing. Brokers that offer zero-cost paper trade confirmation slips include BMO InvestorLine, CIBC Investor’s Edge, Desjardins Online Brokerage, HSBC InvestDirect, Interactive Brokers and RBC Direct Investing.
Offer third-party GICs online:
In a registered retirement income fund (RRIF) account, it’s helpful to keep two to three years’ worth of withdrawals you’ll need in something such as guaranteed investment certificates or a savings account. That way, you don’t have to dip into hard-hit stocks or equity funds if there’s a market pullback.
GICs are a good option for parking this money, because they typically offer better rates than investment savings accounts (see below), which are another place to store cash.
Brokers that have an online platform to order GICs from issuers beyond their own related banking operations include BMO InvestorLine, CIBC Investor’s Edge, CI Direct Trading, Qtrade Direct Investing, RBC Direct Investing, Scotia iTrade and TD Direct Investing.
Availability of a choice of investment savings accounts:
ISAs are basically savings accounts that trade like a mutual fund or exchange-traded fund. They’re more liquid than GICs, but typically have much thinner interest rates. Wait until interest rates start rising, though. ISA rates should climb when that happens.
Some brokers force you into buying their house ISA mutual funds by not offering competing products. Brokers that do not offer a choice of ISAs include RBC Direct Investing and TD Direct Investing.
In the 2022 Globe and Mail digital brokerage ranking, brokers were asked if they offered access to a pair of investment savings ETFs, the Purpose High Interest Savings ETF (PSA-T) and the CI High Interest Savings ETF (CSAV-T). Those that answered with a no include BMO InvestorLine, RBC Direct Investing and TD Direct Investing.
More for retired DIY investors: The digital broker ranking this year includes information on which brokers are most helpful for managing a RRIF account online.