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I am very pleased to report that the service problems at online brokerages have eased considerably. I’m glad DIY investors have less stress in their lives and that the daily torrent of reader-complaint e-mails about brokers has pretty much stopped.

A new survey issued by the Ontario Securities Commission helps document how bad broker service levels were late last year. Of the 2,000 survey participants, one in 10 had difficult accessing or logging into their account as a result of technical issues with their broker, and 17 per cent had an issue in entering or completing a trade. There was no mention of long waits to speak to a live representative by phone, a common cause of reader complaints.

The data on service problems would very likely have been worse if the survey had been done in January or February, when trading volumes and the flow of complaints from readers peaked. The boom in online trading was driven by soaring stock markets, pandemic lockdowns that left people glued to their computers and mobile phones, and the availability of savings in households where spending was down.

The survey found that 10 per cent of DIY investors opened their account during the pandemic. A lot of attention was paid to trading that was influenced by posts on social media, but only 13 per cent of survey participants said they consider posts on social media and online message boards as important sources of information. More recent DIY investors and frequent traders were most likely to use social media.

Three quarters of investors in the survey said they make 50 trades or fewer per year, which suggests that an active minority of investors drove the recent spike in trading volumes. What do DIY investors own? In a bit of a surprise, 63 per cent said mutual funds. The classic profile of a DIY investor is someone who disdains mutual funds because of the high fees.

Just under 60 per cent of DIY investors own individual securities like stocks, 31 per cent own exchange-traded funds and real estate investment trusts. Twenty-one per cent have traded cannabis stocks, 19 per cent have traded junior (speculative) stocks, 14 per cent have traded leveraged or inverse ETFs, 9 per cent have traded crypto assets.

The survey also indicates that 60 per cent of do-it-yourself investors are men and 40 per cent are women. Investing is more urgent for women because they make less money than men, they more often sideline their careers to look after family members and because they live longer and thus need more retirement savings. There should be at least as many women DIY investors as men.

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Rob’s personal finance reading list

Giving money with a warm hand

In this article, financial advisers discuss how they guide clients through the matter of helping adult kids buy houses, which comes up a lot. Giving money with a warm hand means giving financial assistance while you’re alive, rather in your will.

Former burglars talk home security

A summary of a thread on the online forum Reddit in which people who used to break into houses offer security tips. Some good ones here, especially on hiding keys. We had our house broken into many years ago. Avoid if possible.

Best credit cards tied into loyalty programs

A list of cards to consider if you want credit-card reward points you can use in loyalty programs such as Air Miles, Scene and more.

Fighting the motherhood penalty

A well-researched take on the penalty women pay in earnings when they step out of the work force to raise children, and some thoughts on what to do about it.

Ask Rob

Q: Should I stay a millionaire renter?

A: Heck, yeah. It’s a terrible time to buy a house. Prices soaring, people blindly bidding by the dozen for houses. Check back if there’s a correction in house prices.

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

An online will provider called Epilogue is offering a free social media will, which would help you plan what happens to your social media and online presence when you die.

The money-free zone

A Twitter account called big boy list mcgee is going through Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 best albums and commenting on each in an unassuming, direct way that will have you going back to these albums to re-listen (or not).

Video of the week

This TikTok video sums up the frenzied state of the housing market to perfection.

In case you missed these Globe and Mail personal finance-related stories

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