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David O’Leary’s financial planning firm, Kind Wealth, has been in the news lately because it’s offering free consultations to people suffering financial hardship in the pandemic. Mr. O’Leary has done something else of note lately – he’s written an account of how he declared bankruptcy at age 25.

It’s essential reading for anyone whose finances are in disarray now, or who was in trouble even before the pandemic hit. We can all find ourselves in situations with money that can bring on feelings of shame and embarrassment. Mr. O’Leary shows you how to move on from that and do better.

His story starts with him as a cocky young investor who builds an investment portfolio worth almost $500,000 with $200,000 of borrowed money. The stock market crash of 2000-01 hit him hard. By May 2003, at age 25, he was telling his parents that planned to file for bankruptcy on $189,518.02.

His money problems haunted him to the extent that in 2009, a job fell through when the potential employer found the bankruptcy in doing some background checks. But eventually, the feelings of shame faded. He’s now a well-respected financial planner helping other people take control of their money.

Take a lesson from Mr. O’Leary if you’re feeling embarrassed about your money problems. Move forward, take action and then forgive yourself. Anyone who says they haven’t made mistakes with money is lying or delusional.

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Rob’s personal finance reading list…

Three ways the pandemic will change retirement

Financial-planning author Alexandra Macqueen looks at how the financial market and economic disruptions caused by the pandemic will require a rethink of retirement planning. Debt, annuities and the concept of early retirement are all covered here.

Are weddings a waste of money?

Someone posted this question in light of how the pandemic is disrupting so much in our lives. “Needless to say, this whole crisis has really opened my eyes to the importance of taking our finances seriously, and I am now starting to wonder if having (aka paying for) a wedding is a horrible idea in this economic climate that is certain to only get worse for the next couple of years.” Many, many replies to sort through.

The good, the bad and the ugly of car insurance rebates

This CBC report highlights how some car insurance companies have take a customer-friendly approach of reducing premiums while people drive less as a result of physical distancing, while others have not.

ETFs in the March stock market crash

A review of how exchange-traded funds holding assets like Canadian and U.S. stocks, real estate investment trusts, corporate bonds and preferred shares fared in the market downturn.

Ask Rob

Q: I look forward to your ETF Buyer’s Guide. I was wondering about how you choose the ETFs to include in your lists.

A: To build the list of exchange-traded funds listed in the ETF Buyer’s Guide, I use these criteria:

  • Track record: I prefer funds that have been around at least five years and thus have come through some market ups and downs.
  • Core investments: Only funds suitable as foundational portfolio building blocks are included, which means those covering bonds and Canadian, U.S. and international stocks. No sector or theme funds.
  • Performance: Funds with extreme volatility – on both the up and down side – are avoided. Also, funds with consistently weak performance.
  • Size: There is no strict minimum asset size, but small funds that aren’t attracting money tend not to be included.
  • Fees: There is no specific fee cut-off, but higher-cost funds are viewed with skepticism.

Do you have a question for me? Send it my way. Sorry I can’t answer every one personally. Questions and answers are edited for length and clarity.

Today’s financial tool

If you’re buying a home or renewing a mortgage, the daily mortgage rate report on RateSpy is a must-read. Tells you who’s cutting and raising rates.

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