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The 2020 personal finance columns that generated the most response from readers covered the benefits of delaying the start of CPP benefits as late as age 70. Not far behind was a column on the deplorably long waits for online brokerage clients who want to speak to a live representative by phone.

I’ve had dozens of e-mails from readers complaining about waits of up to two hours, with some calls just cut off. A lot of the frustrated clients are seniors who need to talk to a live rep about their registered retirement income funds.

Via social media, I have seen some investment advisers make the point that a quick response to phone calls is part of the value you get from dealing with full-service firm as opposed to an online broker. This got me wondering – are DIY investors who can’t get through to their broker by phone open to a switch to a human adviser? Help me understand what’s happening by taking this quick poll.

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A few points to consider if you’re angry about bad phone service from online brokers:

  • Long waits are a result of a surge in demand to invest that was caused by the stock market rally back from the March crash; phone queues will shrink when stocks stop rising.
  • Full-service firms will answer the phone right away, but will your adviser pick up and give you the attention you want?
  • Online brokers generally have account minimums or $1,000 or less, whereas advice firms may have six- or seven-figure minimums; smaller accounts are sometimes given lower levels of service at full-service firms.
  • Depending on the adviser, you might need to earn an extra 1 percentage point in returns to offset the cost of advice; will the adviser bring enough value to justify that?

Online brokers are hurting their brand with bad phone service, but there’s much more to choosing between DIY and full-service advice than phone response times.


Subscribe to Carrick on Money

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Rob’s personal finance reading list

The list of affordable cities for housing is shrinking

With small cities leading, housing prices are on the boil from coast to coast. Hot housing is no longer a story in Toronto, Vancouver and a few other spots. This is a story I’ll be following closely in 2021.

The 20 most important laws of personal finance

One of my favourite investing bloggers offers a list of personal finance laws to live by. This one get you thinking: “Saving is more important than investing.” Also, this one is key – “Automate everything.” Bonus link: A list of proven ways to save money in the year ahead.

The 0-per-cent mortgage

Negative interest rates in Denmark mean you can get a 20-year mortgage with an interest rate of zero. Negative rates are unlikely in Canada, and we would see them only if the economy was a disaster.

If you have to pay back CERB…

A credit counselling agency’s take on what to do if you have to pay back money received from the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, or CERB.

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Ask Rob

Q: I’m in retirement and feel that I’ve a comfortable nest egg. However, watching all that has happened in long-term care homes and retirement homes, I’m wondering how much is enough to secure a comfortable final phase of my life. I’m hopeful that when the time comes (many years from now), these homes will be better managed and monitored. Those expectations will come with a cost attached. Any rule-of-thumb calculation you would suggest?

A: I recently interviewed Karen Henderson of the Long Term Care Planning Network about the cost of long-term care homes and home care. Details here.

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.


The money-free zone

Have you tried these? My favourite pandemic desk candy. That is, candy you keep on your desk for ready access.

Handout


ICYMI

What I’ve been writing about
  • How much should Lucy and Lance save to live comfortably and pay for care in later life?
  • Nine resolutions that can make for a better year for your finances in 2021
  • Pandemic brings lifestyle change for Gatineau man, 28, who earns $38,400 and has a mountain of debt (for Globe Unlimited subscribers)

More Rob Carrick and money coverage

Subscribe to Stress Test on Apple podcasts or Spotify. For more money stories, follow me on Instagram and Twitter, and join the discussion on my Facebook page. Millennial readers, join our Gen Y Money Facebook group.

Even more coverage from Rob Carrick:

Are you reading this newsletter on the web or did someone forward the e-mail version to you? If so, you can sign up for Carrick on Money here.

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