OK, we're approaching the end of the year. Let's take stock of where we stand, economically and financially.
The Toronto Stock Exchange 300 Composite Index is trading at 4,255. The Dow Jones is at 3,908, while The S&P 500 is at 459.
Oops... that was 20 years ago, when we started writing Dollars and Sense. It was a different world then, and a million things have changed. But we still have the same name on this personal finance column.
Back then, the term "sub-prime" described a cheap cut of steak. The bank rate was around 12 per cent and long-term Government of Canada bonds could yield 11 per cent, guaranteed for 30 years. My personal computer cost $3,300, down from $5,500 five years earlier. It could calculate almost as fast as your current handheld calculator, but nowhere nearly as fast as the smartphone in your pocket.
I was a lot younger then. It is possible you were, as well. My kids were just starting elementary school and now they are accomplished, self-sufficient adults who make their parents very proud.
In making the rounds of seasonal parties this past week, seven different people have said to me, "I can't believe you keep coming up with things to write about each week."
They're not half as surprised as I am.
Let's look at a few other things that have changed and what has stayed the same during the last 20 years.
Today, there is unlimited information available with a mouse click on every topic, especially investing and personal finance.
But, as we used to say at Wellington West, "Information is free. Knowledge is priceless."
My goal in two decades has been to help you cut through all the noise and unnecessary facts and opinions, and help you get in touch with your own innate wisdom and common sense. To the extent that has been beneficial to you from time to time, I am grateful.
For me, it has been a very rewarding experience, to get feedback and encouragement from people, literally in all walks of life. We have ruffled a few feathers along the way and got some angry responses, but life would be pretty boring if everyone always agreed.
The challenge of finding something worthwhile to write about each week has been the biggest test for me. However, the required research and the need to develop clear thinking about so many diverse topics has made me a much better financial counsellor and adviser.
The true value of a financial planner is to be a skilled and knowledgeable generalist, so Dollars and Sense has been a great and a continuous help, forcing me weekly to get better at what I do. That's a good thing.
The deadlines and distractions have driven my staff crazy from time to time, and I owe tons of credit to my faithful proofreader and confidante Sheril Kowerko, who has saved me from many embarrassments in the last 20 years. Thank you!
Dollars and Sense was likely a big part of my being given the honour last month of being named a FELLOW of FPSCTM by the Financial Planning Standards Council of Canada.
This is to recognize behaviours in support of the ideals of the financial planning profession and contributions to public education on financial literacy.
Some things have definitely not changed. The keys to financial success remain:
1. Spend less than you make.
2. Invest the difference intelligently and consistently.
3. Don't do anything stupid (such as overspend, go into debt to finance lifestyle or take big risks).
That's all there is to it. That's why my job is so simple.
Thanks for letting me hang around with you in the newspaper for two decades.
Here's to one or two more.
All the best!
David Christianson, BA, CFP, R.F.P., TEP, is a financial planner and adviser with Christianson Wealth Advisers, a vice-president with National Bank Financial Wealth Management, and author of the book Managing the Bull, A No-Nonsense Guide to Personal Finance.