In the June issue of MoneySense, I wrote a feature that profiled three Canadian families who wanted to overhaul their investments and start fresh with low-cost ETF portfolios they could manage on their own. The idea for the story came about after Justin Bender and Shannon Dalziel of PWL Capital in Toronto approached me last December with an offer for charity: in exchange for a donation to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, they offered to help budding Couch Potatoes put together an investment plan and build ETF portfolios in a discount brokerage account.

The idea turned out to be hugely popular with readers—not only did Justin and Shannon get more inquires than they could handle in December, they received another wave of requests after my MoneySense article appeared. This isn’t too surprising, since very few fee-based investment advisors offer services for DIY investors. And while financial planners are happy to put do-it-yourselfers on the right track, many are not licensed to even recommend specific funds, let alone help you actually build your portfolio.

Now Justin and Shannon have decided to offer their DIY service to other index investors. For a one-time fee, they will:

  • clarify your short-term and long-term financial goals
  • determine an appropriate asset allocation, based on your required rate of return and risk tolerance
  • assist you in reducing or avoiding deferred sales charges on your current mutual funds
  • suggest the most tax-efficient accounts for your investments (RRSPs, TFSAs, non-registered)
  • design a custom ETF portfolio and assist you in  making the necessary trades to implement it in your online brokerage accounts (including currency conversion)
  • provide a rebalancing schedule you can use to maintain the portfolio

The service is available to investors across Canada, as most of the work can be done by phone and email. However, please keep in mind the following limitations:

  • Investors should be in the accumulation stage of life—that is, building their wealth rather than drawing it down in retirement.
  • They must have no more than $500,000 in investable assets.
  • Investors must have relatively uncomplicated situations: business owners, US citizens, or others in special circumstances require additional planning that is outside the scope of this service.
  • The planning advice will pertain to liquid assets only (stocks, bonds, cash) and not rental properties, cottages, or similar investments.
  • Clients are responsible for collecting and supplying their personal financial information (assets, liabilities, pension details, RRSP contribution room, etc.). Justin and Shannon will provide downloadable forms and checklists to help.

The cost for the service is $2,750 (plus HST or GST). That assumes you already have a discount brokerage account and any funds you want to transfer from other investment advisors have already been moved there. If you need help with this step, too, Shannon will set up the new accounts and handle the transfers if the client agrees to make a tax-deductible $500 donation to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

I suspect that some potential DIYers will think the fee sounds high. For what it’s worth, while I was working on the MoneySense feature I saw first-hand the extraordinary amount of effort it takes to do this properly. All of the families who worked with Justin and Shannon agreed they could not have done it on their own. One of them wrote the following:

“I was feeling overwhelmed and intimidated with the DIY process by the time I found Justin and Shannon. They broke the transition down into manageable chunks, provided frequent contact and encouragement, offered understandable explanations to all my questions, never made me feel pushed or hurried into anything, and left me feeling confident that I will be able to maintain my new portfolio on my own. Their service was invaluable to me.”

Think about this way: if you have as little as $150,000 in high-cost mutual funds, you’ll recover the cost of this service in one year or less, and you’ll save thousands of dollars going forward. You’ll also avoid the costly mistakes that many new DIY investors make and get the confidence that your Couch Potato plan is on solid footing.

To learn more, contact Justin Bender at [email protected], or (416) 203-0067.

Disclosure: PWL Capital is an advertiser on Canadian Couch Potato. However, I do not receive referral fees from any financial advisor.