W03: How do you invest?

This is a Discussion Post related to the third week of 522.

How do you invest? This week we’ve looked at how new ventures are pitched: perhaps you can imagine yourself as the person being pitched to? Whether with bank accounts, mutual funds, stock markets, casinos or lotteries, everyone has a unique risk profile. For me, I focus on investments where I have the best chance to contribute to a ‘win’, such as I enjoy renovating houses, and funding my own startups, and investing my time volunteering for non-profits. Given whatever time, money, etc, you might have to invest, can you describe your investment strategy, and what you’re looking for in terms of ROI (Return on Investment)? Try to think in terms of what would need to be in a ‘pitch’ to get you interested.

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61 responses to “W03: How do you invest?”

  1. EmilyChen
    If I were to imagine myself as an investor, I would split my money into 3 parts, one part for savings, one part for investment in stable companies on the stock market, and one part for higher risk startup companies. To invest in the stock market, I would choose to invest in companies that will provide a good return over many years. For me, the likelihood of the company to weather good and bad economic times is important, and it’s also important for me that the company provides cash dividends every year. This way I can secure passive income, and hopefully one day, that value will amount to enough that I can use it for riskier re-investments. That way I am using the money I earn from the stock market for investment instead of using my own personal savings. If time and money is out of the question, I would want to be an angel investor and invest in start-up companies. When listening to a new venture pitch, I would probably be most interested in the CEO and top management team, and I would be more interested if they are a young and energetic team. I would observe closely for the attitude of the CEO when presenting their pitch. Are they passionate about what they do, can they address the market gap or the problem they are trying to solve well, and can they respond to adversity with positive attitude? Even though I think it’s important for the company to know how they plan on making money, I think the attitude of “we are determined to find answers” is even more important. Plans can be made, but if the team gives up at the first sign of difficulty, the company will not survive past it’s first year. I would also be more likely to invest in a field that I am familiar with, or if I do enough research about it, I would grow to understand. So, the pitch needs to very quickly and in a simple way help me understand what their product is, and what problems they solve. Lastly, I think it’s important to know if the team is clear on know how much money they require, and how they will use this money. If they can give a clear projection, then I would be more confident in their ability to execute their plans and not let their imagination run wild while running the company.
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    1. johannes dirk wielenga
      Hey Emily, Your last point really strikes a chord with me and is the reason I feel somewhat bewildered by the idea of being an EVA. It’s one thing to hear a great idea and want to invest in it, but I would really want to know what my money is being spent on, precisely. I have no experience in this field but as an AVA (Armchair Venture Analysist) for Dragons Den, I do see people consistently throwing about wild valuations that the Dragons disagree with… it happens more often than not. Sometimes the Dragons ask what the money will be spent on and either they do not get a straight answer or, at best, it’s ambiguous. All of this scares me as an investor, and if I WERE an investor, it would probably be the thing I was interested in the most, even during an elevator pitch. My simple questions at the end of a pitch: Why is it my money that you want, and how do you plan to spend it?
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  2. julio palacios
    I would definitely say that I am a cautious investor. A novel approach to investment I sometimes take is assessing how much knowledge or understanding of the pitch or product I am bringing into the conversation. I tend to take a step back and review the amount of knowledge I have on the given situation. For instance, if I were to play any sort of game at a casino, I’d evaluate my proficiency in the game. Theoretically, the more proficient and knowledgeable I am at the game, the better I am able to mitigate the unknown factors or the risk associated with it. Situations where I am in a position where the only information I have on a topic (be it receiving financial advice or being sold to by a car salesman) is being provided to me by the person pitching tends to feel like the most risk. Situations where I do not know anything on the topic or cannot add any value to my own understanding of it, are tricky. Often, I would seek time to go off and do my own research and if that option was not made available to me it would act as a red flag towards the situation as a whole.
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  3. JamieTooze
    Having young family I am an extremely conservative investor, so in the most common sense of the word “investment’ I stick to RRSP’s and RESP’s. That said, as I get older, I am starting to realize that time and energy are also very valuable commodities and they too need to be carefully invested. A few years ago, I started to restructure my life, and now I invest my time and money (when discretionary spending is available) in my health, my wife and kids’ personal development and in seeking out positive experiences for my own growth. My investment strategy is this: 1) Increase my physical activity with my friends and family. My family has cut the tv cable and we’ve all chosen one activity that excites us. I have reawakened my passion for hiking, fishing and camping and combined the three into backcountry angling because it gets me outside with some very cool people – my family. 2) We are cultivating our relationships with our friends, colleagues and classmates. Being generous with our time has provided us with an ROI we’ve never anticipated. 3) Personally, I am not only embracing change and uncertainty I am seeking it out even if it is unsettling. My grandfather used to say, “don’t curse the darkness, light a candle.” So anything that can help me develop these three areas in my life catches my interest. Now, if I could only get my daughters to bait a hook my life would seem perfect – at that moment.
    ( 6 upvotes and 0 downvotes )
    1. Feng Mao
      Hi Jamie, I agree with you about investing time on personal development, improving physical health and spending time with family and friends. Even since this year’s Covid 19, I’ve realized more and more that there is nothing important than having a good health and having your love ones around you who are also in a good health. I have two teenager aged daughters, beside RESP my husband and I also have invested a good amount of money on their interests. When they were little we registered them into many activities to give them opportunities to find their favorite ones.
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    2. Jessica Daicos
      While your comment could lead to thoughts of, “ok that’s great, but we’re talking about making money,” I’ve come to realise recently just how much investing in health and a supportive network actually is actual a financial investment. My work plan is to be sort of permanently semi-retired. I enjoy working; I think I will enjoy working well into retirement age. But I also take ‘gap years’ every few years and want to choose projects that internet me personally and professionally. However, while discussing work futures with a friend, she mentioned that she would rather not be teaching anymore but desperately needs the pension because she doesn’t expect her health to hold up much more than another decade (she’s 40). My values already hold me to being a healthy, active person, but I realised here that investing in my health is particularly necessary if I want to be able to have this kind of work/life flexibility and choices. I am also making assumptions that I will be able to work and supplement my investments. So, in this way, health really is a financial investment, both in terms of hopefully not incurring health-related costs and in the ability to earn an income long-term. Similarly, cultivating relationships is also a financial investment–how many times have connections made things happen professionally, or provided personal favours that have saved you money? Your relationships will be stronger if you aren’t in them for favours and financial gains, but it’s impossible to deny the potential returns on a strong social and professional network.
      ( 1 upvotes and 0 downvotes )
      1. Alice Shin
        Jessica, I find your comments on investing in our health insightful. Our health truly is the critical component of investing in ourselves, and our ability to work, personally and professionally develop, see the fruit or our investments and ultimately reach our goals is all predicated on our physical and mental capacity to carry it all out. I feel for your friend who is experiencing health issues, but am glad she has that pension to depend on. Not only do we need to cultivate our physical health, but also our mental well-being, during covid, and beyond. In a world where distancing and digital transformation will define the new normal, we need to focus even more on building our social and professional networks moving forward. This will take more effort I’m suspecting, but building and maintaining relationships with like-minded people and professionals as well as keeping friends and family close are all crucial investments.
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  4. Michael Saretzky
    First off let me apologize if this sounds sad or sappy. This is the sad part, in regards to financial investments we, my wife and I, really invest very little. We have our house, which we do invest a little, making sure things keep up to date and such. Then our only other financial investment is our children’s RESP, which is all run through the bank, we choose the level, but they choose where to invest it. As our children are still quite young, we have chosen the higher risk investments, but as they get closer to graduation that we will be much more cautious. Now for the sappy part, I invest time. Moving to Alberta at the height of the boom and into a small oil town, really made me be aware of how important time was for parents. I recall one teacher who gave an assignment of cooking a family dinner and eating it together, and a grade 9 student said that wasn’t possible, as they do not eat as a family. Both my wife and I attempt to spend a lot of time with our children, whether it is helping with school work or cooking with them or creating LEGO. Furthermore, rather than investing our money on stocks and such (which I definitely want to do some time), we have spent a lot on experiences with our family. I also invest a lot of time with and for my students. This may be learning about new practices or technology or just getting to know them.
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    1. Tamara
      Hi Michael, I agree with you about investments and if you sound sad or sappy, then I am too! My husband and I don’t have much in terms of financial investments either, as our priorities center around investing time with our family- as we also invest our money rather on family experiences. Ex: This year our big family investment is a motor home- we are hoping to buy one this winter/ early Spring! We also have RESP‘S set up for our girls and also invest in fixing up our house when we can 🙂 Being that our kids are so young (and they grow up so fast), we both just feel we need to live in the moment with them and just enjoy them rather than always stressing and planning for the future.
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      1. Michael Saretzky
        That is awesome that you are getting a motorhome, that is something we talk about each summer. I am sure there will many great experiences with that.
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    2. Michael Saretzky
      I realized that I didn’t really touch on ROI. For things such as my house, by keeping on top of any issues, my wife and I hope that it will be something that will help us with retirement. However, the more important ROI would be the investment of time. One of the biggest concerns is setting my children up for the future. By spending time with them, I do hope that they are willing to come to us when making decisions as they get older and are less likely to be peer pressured to make poor choices as they get older. Also, with investing in their future with the RESP, I do hope that they can find a career that they enjoy doing. Although we joke about them becoming doctors and engineers, it is so important to find a career that you enjoy and allows you to enjoy the things you want to in life. Similarly, with the time I invest with my students, it is quite similar, I want to help set them up for the future, whatever that may hold. I recall one student who was quite academic and he came into my foods class and I actually made him the manager of the school concession, he also came on a Europe trip where we did cooking lessons. He has now graduated from culinary school and is working his way through the ranks of restaurants, and I would not be surprised to hear of him owning his own soon. Knowing things like this is what I am looking for in returns.
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    3. EmilyChen
      Hi Michael, sounds like you are a great father and you care deeply about your children’s overall well-being. With the kind of trusting relationship you are building with your kids, I’m sure they will be able to come to you when faced with problems or when they need someone to talk about important decisions. After reading this, I think I should try to keep a better balance between work time and spending quality time with my kids!
      ( 1 upvotes and 0 downvotes )
  5. AmandaKong
    I tend to be quite careful in my financial investments where I often make decisions in consultation with a financial advisor. A risk analysis is favored as I rationalize base on numbers. A “successful pitch”, therefore, has to make financial sense to me. I would look at ROI (Return on Investment) in terms of sales revenue which is more rational and the impact of pitch product or service on the community which is more subjective.  Besides financial profit, it is equally important, to determine whether this pitch would benefit its intended consumers. I imagine in the field of education, I would be drawn to educational pitches that enhance both teacher and student learning. The pitch needs to make professional sense (Would schools benefit? Would a teacher use this? Would students respond positively? Would school administration purchase?) and financial sense (Is the market ready? Are there any existing competition? What are the sales?). I also have to be able to offer value as an Educational Venture Analyst (EVA) which was explained in this week’s readings. If I cannot offer any expertise, it does not make sense to invest in this pitch. There is also the inevitable passion and grit aspect in an enticing pitch. I would be attracted to a pitch that comes from an individual with a strong sense of passion and integrity. Their story and professional experience come into play as I believe we are drawn to building relationships with others. If the individual can sell their passion to me, as an investor, they are likely to win me over. In other words, the pitch must speak to me personally, as a teacher investor. The value of the pitch must be a genuine attempt to improve the current education system. 
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  6. adrian wheeler
    This is a really interesting discussion concept. I’m going to take a somewhat different approach and break down the three different types of capital and how I do/would invest them. Types of capital: There are three basic types of capital. Financial (what we are most familiar with), Human (for a business, their workforce. For an individual their education, training, etc.) and social (the connections between individuals). Each type of capital has distinct advantages and an excess of one can be transformed into another (ie: tuition -> degree = financial capital -> human capital). Financial: I currently invest my financial capital in two ways. First, is traditional investments (in my case stocks) I focus on businesses I am familiar with and can foresee an opportunity (When it became clear COVID was becoming a real threat I bought Zoom stock. This worked out very well). The second way I invest financial capital is in return for human capital. The most obvious is this program. I’m paying tuition and taking courses in an effort to obtain education which I can hopefully leverage for more financial capital down the road. Human: I invest my human capital primarily in exchange for financial and social capital. I leverage my education and experience daily at work and am compensated in return. In addition, I use my acquired skills (social, technical, artistic) to meet others, build friendships, community and a network of people I can trust and rely on. Social: Social capital, for me, is an ends in and of itself that helps me achieve some form of self actualization. With that said, I do leverage the social capital I have build in professional contexts (read: professional connections) to bolster all three forms of capital. Working with a team can help elevate all included and lead to raises down the road. Connections with other students (study buddies) can lead to higher marks and more human capital and your connections can introduce you to new people that add to your existing social capital. I realize that the above is very conceptual, but hopefully it underscores the fact that its important to invest in all aspects of your life, not just your stock portfolio.
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    1. Michael Saretzky
      I really like your breakdown Adrian. You did a great job explaining them as well. I could see them being displayed in a three-circle Venn Diagram, as there is definitley some crossover. That is awesome you saw the potential of Zoom!
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      1. adrian wheeler
        Thanks Michael, I think its really important to understand how different types of capital interconnect. Too often we focus solely on financial capitol and forget that there are other meaningful ways to invest in ourselves.
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  7. Tamara
    I’m going to start by saying that I don’t take risks lightly or often and I am a horrible gambler. I like sure things and guarantees- which makes all my investment decisions difficult. There are two things that I am usually always willing to invest in and that is my Family and my Career. When deciding to invest time or money into anything, it needs to first and foremost be something that will allow me to keep doing the things I love. For example, after having kids, I chose to invest my time into my family and take time off from my career for 2 years. When I did go back, it was only part time so that I still have time to raise, take care of, and teach my daughters (rather than have someone else do it at daycare). Another example is choosing to invest my time and money in the MET program; hoping the ROI is me being able to work outside the classroom as a tech coach/ teacher leader. I am happily still reaping the benefits of investing time into my family as the return on investment has been huge! This time has allowed me to become close and connected with my daughters and allowed me to see each milestone and moment of their growth; I would not trade that for anything in the world. While my long term ROI remains to be seen with my MET program, I am enjoying the short term benefits of the investment that have allowed me to translate some of the knowledge and skills that I have learned directly to my job.
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  8. ryan valley
    My greatest concern is how I invest my time to get the most ROI. All other investments flow from the critical decisions about where time is allocated. For example, I can spend time researching companies to invest in, and then buy their stocks, or I can save time and buy mutual funds. Knowing that I only have so much time in a day, I do both, delegating some savings to experts to invest for me and some to companies that I have researched and believe in. If time and mental energy were infinite, I would diligently analyze every report a company I invest in published and listen to each investor call. I enjoy doing this because it also “gamifies” saving, providing exciting rewards and motivational losses. I believe losses are of utmost importance, and the losses I have had have always led me to be better and smarter at anything I am doing, ultimately leading to greater financial capital. For example, I have co-founded several companies and non-profits, but the first company I ever started with a friend was a catastrophic failure, which was probably the best investment I ever made. It was a painful and fully immersive real world business education unfolding before my eyes in real time. I will never make the same mistakes again that I did, and it is because I know “why” not to. I know what happens when you do not properly differentiate or define your target customer well enough. I think failure and losing is really important and is something I would look for in any entrepreneur I wanted to invest in. Business students often “know” these kind of things, but rarely do they “understand” them. I would never let someone burn through my money that does not know what it is like to watch their own money burn and identified the exact reasons why. With non-profit ventures I look for passion of founders, and I like supporting people who care about a cause and are personally invested in ending whatever issue their organization is working to address. I invest whatever time I can into my community and help causes I care about for free with projects that would normally cost them thousands of dollars like websites and video production. I invest in people, I give a lot of time to catch ups, coffees, and other chats with the people in my life and work hard to expand my circle and invite others in. Relationships are probably the most enriching and mutually nourishing investment in my portfolio. Finally, I invest heavily in myself, through MET and other professional development activities, I am constantly stretching my own vision of my life and sense of self to becoming more. Not doing more, but becoming more. Becoming closer to actualizing my own potential and exploring the vast possibilities of interacting with the world and people around me. This investment strategy has paid off well for me as it leads me to do better quality work more efficiently, leading to happy clients and employers, and subsequently financial gain and reduced stress in life.
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    1. kevin ohearn
      Hey Ryan, You have some interesting points. I fully agree that losing and making mistakes is one of the best ways to learn. As Nelson Mandela once said, “I never lose. I either win or learn”. This principle holds true for most things in my life except for financial investing. I have done some research into smart investment strategies and have found strategies that are “good enough for now”. Finding time to pursue one’s interests is limited so you must always pick and choose where you spend your time. Thanks for your insights.
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    2. Rachel
      Hi Ryan! I share your view in investing myself through different training and education path. Though I must say that the returning doesn’t always show in a more obvious manner. At least in personal experience, I find this type of investment is similar to buying stocks – it takes time before you really see any result. It is important for me to invest in something I agree with, meaning I stand by its practice. Since I’m a rather conservative investor, I’m not looking for a quick return so when I invest in something, I tend to avoid anything that seems too good to be true.
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    3. Erica Hargreave
      I could not agree more with regards to passion and caring, although for me that is not limited to non-profits. My years have taught me that a non-profit does not necessarily doing good or putting others or the non-profit before yourself. Sadly, there are many on the leadership side of non-profits that pay themselves handsomely while taking advantage of others for as minimal a return as possible. Alas this often makes me more skeptical of non-profits, causing me to investigate them deeper before either investing time or money there.
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    4. tara davis
      Hello Ryan, I appreciate the honesty in your post when you write, “I would never let someone burn through my money that does not know what it is like to watch their own money burn and identified the exact reasons why.” I am not a business student, but I invested a small portion of my personal savings and a large portion of my time and energy into an adventure tourism business with a friend. I am no longer involved in this business because we had different goals for the business. I wanted to scale the business and focus our energy on the areas of the company where we had the greatest return (e.g. attracting foreign tourists who pay USD$) and he did not see the value in dropping other clients and commitments (e.g. Colombian clients) in order to meet this goal. It was a challenging balance to strike as the comapany’s operational success was contingent upon the relationships built within communities. We respectfully had differences, so I decided to return to Canada. I relate to your statement about how you what happens when you do not properly differentiate or define your target customer well enough. In a successful venture, the addressable market is smaller than the initial idea of the market. I think any successful business will know their potential customer inside and out and this not only help them reach this customer, but it will give them the sustainability to adapt their service to meet this customer’s needs. As a teacher, I always put students first. Who are my students? What are the needs of my students? How will I reach them so they will learn? How can I help them to be a life-long learner? I can only imagine how this must apply in the business world. Who are my customers? What are the needs of my customers? How will I reach them so they will get the most out of my service? How will I help them to become a life-long customer?
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    5. shaun holma
      Ryan, I appreciated a key takeaway that I think should be included in any discussion on capital and education: the implications of failure. I, like you, have tried to navigate the turns of sole-proprietorship but never having had the returns I wanted. What the experience has given me, however, was the opportunity to engage in self-reflection. Without this time to evaluate my experiences, I would have found it difficult to move forward in my career goals. Yes, this reflection period allowed me to gain clarity on my future goals: but more importantly, it gave me perspective anew. Having the experience of operationalizing (e.g., designing, delivering, marketing, strategizing, assessing, selling, and branding) myself and my service have helped me vanquish my insecurities to try it again. As people have long known, there is no substitute for experience.
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  9. kevin ohearn
    Like many of the responses so far, my investment risk tolerance is pretty low. I guess that is why I’m not a venture capitalist and usually stay out of casinos. Generally, I stay away from risky investments and instead put most of my savings in a slow growing yet relatively safe account. For me, making 7-8% growth on investments each year is enough. I feel that I have a similar strategy when it comes to time management. I am less willing to invest a significant amount of time in a particular endeavour unless my chances of receiving some sort of reward or compensation are high. For me, ‘consistency’ of reward is more important that ‘quantity’ of reward. For example, take exercising for an hour. I think this is a great time investment. Although the ‘quantity’ of reward one receives from a one-hour workout is not so large, the consistency of reward is extremely high. In other words, a one-hour workout will always make you feel a little bit better. For a pitch to get me interested, it would need to focus more on the high probability of success than the size of the potential payout. I am very sceptical when it comes to my money and my time. Therefore, I am usually not willing to open my wallet or my calendar unless it is for a guaranteed win.
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    1. Erica Hargreave
      Chuckling. I stay out of casinos for the same reason, Kevin.
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  10. Vijaya Jammi
    Adrian’s approach to the concept as he stated above, and his three types of capital is excellent! Every human does invest energy, time, money and abilities for further gains in human experience, social relations and financial strength as he detailed. Although we are not conscious, we really are investors and can continue to invest. All it takes is interest in life, strong faith and belief in what we do. As for financial investment my strategy would be to invest in things that would insure 3p’s (peace, positivity and prosperity) This would mean that I will not invest in risky ventures and ventures that aim mainly at commercial gains and compromise common good. And, of course I would invest for growing my financial capital as long as ‘the means justify the end’.
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    1. adrian wheeler
      Hi Vijaya, Thanks for the kind words! The concept of social, human and financial capital comes from Social Network theory, a branch of Sociology (in which I hold an undergrad degree). If you are interested in learning more about social network theory take a look at “Understanding Social Networks” by Charles Kadushin.
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  11. Feng Mao
    Adrian’s idea of three types of capital resonates with me. I feel human and social capital are concepts where once we apply ourselves we could see a tangible difference. On the other hand, financial investments frequently fall beyond our full control. One can do research and learn stock investment strategies but big picture events that guide the markets, such as the pandemic, are well beyond any one person’s control. Personally I think a good investment is something where I need only invest money and leverage someone else’s work to grow my investment. I also prefer to invest in something that I can see and touch. With these in mind, buying properties can be a good investment since properties can be rented out with the rent paying down the mortgage. I would also dedicate a small amount of capital for higher risk investments to reap potential returns without risking the rest of the capital. If I were an education venture analyst, I would think an elevator pitch too short to be able to make an informed decision. A venture pitch could draw my interest but if I am going to invest a good amount of money then a proper and viable business plan would be the best. That said, I would also follow the MVP style as well if I had extra money to assume elevated risk. Living in China I see many businesses come and go in very short amounts of time; people test their ideas and once they find that it is not working they would move on to the next idea. Beside a good pitch, I also think the personality of the entrepreneur would also be very important in order to develop a good feel about that person before deciding to invest my money in their ideas.
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    1. adrian wheeler
      Hi Feng, I really appreciate your kind words however I can’t take credit for the three types of capital. That concept (specifically, the introduction of social capital to the more traditional notions of human and financial capital) comes from comes from Social Network theory, a branch of Sociology (in which I hold an undergrad degree). If you are interested in learning more about social network theory take a look at “Understanding Social Networks” by Charles Kadushin.
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  12. raafa abdulla
    For me a good investment is on things that have limited quantity. For example, investing on real estate or precious metals will return higher profit because simply the more people buy, the less quantity is available for others. Hence, the higher price it will reach over time. People will always need lands to live in and the metals (specially gold) are key elements in electronics. So, I would not invest on technology itself but on the material the is used to produce this technology. Electronics are always evolving and some companies be very successful at a certain time then withdraw due to other competitors. That’s happened with NOKIA with their cellphone productions. They had a very successful phase during 2000’s but then they withdrew as Apple and Samsung started entering the Market. I found it hard to invest even on big companies for a long term because we don’t know when they will stop innovating.
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    1. Rachel
      Hi Raafa, I think you touch upon a very important point here and that is innovation. Innovation comes in different ways and depends on the company’s marketing strategies. If a company wants to focus on a niche market with limited quantity, innovation will be on product creations while a company that decides to focus on everyday item would focus on innovation in reaching to the target audience. From an investor’s perspective, I agree that it can be a terrible idea when a company stops innovating because that could mean that it becomes too comfortable in its current market.
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  13. Alice Shin
    I appreciate everyone’s comments! It’s helped me think about what I invest in and what I’m looking for in an ROI. I am a bit of a contradiction when I comes to investing – I am relatively low /balanced risk when it comes to stocks, yet I am willing to take risks on starting my own business / freelancing. I, too, have taken part in a few start-up ventures in the past 1.Run-of-the-Mill Mutual Funds I too invest in balanced funds in RSP’s and TFSA’s due to their tax-efficiency and the lack of bandwith to research stocks. As long as the returns are comparable to its peers, I’m good. 2.Consulting I have invested in my Employee Benefits Consulting firm. It’s a different experience investing in your own business (a.k.a. working full-time with little or no income) but as I established myself, I became accustomed to putting down money first in order to get a higher payout later and managed the cashflow in between. I’m happy if I make more than I would at a job. 3.Sweat equity I have participated in start-up companies investing my time and expertise. One lasted 2 years but we did not get very far in the end. I had a few more start-up experiences and with each subsequent opportunity I learned to size up the founders very quickly. The last one took 1 wk (she wanted me to do up a gov’t grant but wouldn’t sign off on any kind of compensation plan for me). Would I offer sweat equity again – probably, but the ROI will have to be clear, I’d have to fully trust the founders, and I’d need to be compensated in some way or another along the way. Basically, what any EVA/Investor would be looking for from a given venture (10X? maybe…) 4.Diversification is Good, but Cash is King Which leads me to diversification not only for investments, but skills and experience (again MET). When something like Covid strikes, you have to be able to pivot. It has also taught me Cash is King! I plan to ‘invest’ in a relatively healthy emergency fund that will give me some room to maneuver – or invest – as needed. 5.Social Capital Much of my social capital is spent on family and friends: helping my sister with her twins or housing my other sister when she was in between jobs, taking care of my mother after a couple of surgeries, making meals for people who are sick. I have volunteered for not-for-profits in the past helping organize fundraisers, scholarships for high-risk kids, etc. and I need to figure out a way to do more of this moving forward. The ROI is ultimately belonging to a community of good people who help and take care of each other while affecting positive change in one way or another.
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  14. Alice Shin
    I appreciate everyone’s comments! It’s helped me think about what I invest in and what I’m looking for in an ROI. I am a bit of a contradiction when I comes to investing – I am relatively low /balanced risk when it comes to stocks, yet I am willing to take risks on starting my own business / freelancing. I have also taken part in a few start-up ventures in the past 1.Run-of-the-Mill Mutual Funds I too invest in balanced funds in RSP’s and TFSA’s due to their tax-efficiency and the lack of bandwith to research stocks. As long as the returns are comparable to its peers, I’m good. 2.Consulting I have invested in my Employee Benefits Consulting firm. It’s a different experience investing in your own business (a.k.a. working full-time with little or no income) but as I established myself, I became accustomed to putting down money first in order to get a higher payout later and managed the cashflow in between. I’m happy if I make more than I would at a job. 3.Sweat equity I have participated in start-up companies investing my time and expertise. One lasted 2 years but we did not get very far in the end. I had a few more start-up experiences and with each subsequent opportunity I learned to size up the founders very quickly. The last one took 1 wk (she wanted me to do up a gov’t grant but wouldn’t sign off on any kind of compensation plan for me). Would I offer sweat equity again – probably, but the ROI will have to be clear, I’d have to fully trust the founders, and I’d need to be compensated in some way or another along the way. Basically, what any EVA/Investor would be looking for from a given venture (10X? maybe…) 4.Diversification is Good, but Cash is King Which leads me to diversification not only for investments, but skills and experience (again MET). When something like Covid strikes, you have to be able to pivot. It has also taught me Cash is King! I plan to ‘invest’ in a relatively healthy emergency fund that will give me some room to maneuver – or invest – as needed. 5.Social Capital Much of my social capital is spent on family and friends: helping my sister with her twins or housing my other sister when she was in between jobs, taking care of my mother after a couple of surgeries, making meals for people who are sick. I have volunteered for not-for-profits in the past helping organize fundraisers, scholarships for high-risk kids, etc. and I need to figure out a way to do more of this moving forward. The ROI is ultimately belonging to a community of good people who help and take care of each other while affecting positive change in one way or another.
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    1. Jessica Daicos
      I share your feeling of risk-tolerance contradiction. I think it’s that I don’t like to give money for nothing: putting money on a roulette table and losing it one spin, betting on a win but getting a place, gambling on a stock and seeing your investment vanish. I had money a minute ago. Now I don’t. And I don’t have any goods or experience to show for it. I don’t like that. Yet, overall, I live my life in a way that is quite favourable to risk. For example, I turned down a good, secure teaching job during COVID to throw myself into my MET, spend time building a portfolio and committing to exploring a career change. For me, I think it comes down to the first part of your point #4: my investment strategy is diversification. For stocks, it levels the ups and downs (I am particularly partial to index funds). Investing in a diversity of education and experiences makes me more employable and skilled at managing change. Until recently, my global connections guaranteed me always a place to go and be able to earn money (COVID made me realise that true diversification means investment in the local too, which I had neglected). I like the resilience, options and opportunities that diversification provides. That said, I do need to learn more about investments and financial planning. It has been a 2020 goal for me, and this topic has been a good nudge to continue building my financial literacy.
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    2. RyanSilverthorne
      Dear Alice, I can definitely relate to your profile when it comes to investing. I love everything about new ventures as it feels more like it is in my control, even if it is technically a big risk. With socks etc. I simply find myself disengaged and afraid to take risks as I doubt my level of understanding about markets and shy away from putting the time in. Your point about diversification of skills and experience is also well taken. Taking this course is an example of me walking out of my comfort zone. Though I love business I am by know means someone with a strong academic background in it and feel this can help me in my future which may take multiple paths.
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  15. Erica Hargreave
    For me, investing in an idea is dependent on the following criteria: – does it stand to be a force for good, around something I am passionate about? – is it a creative and fun tool to learn or create with? – does it solve a problem that myself or my students have been encountering? – is it an idea of my own or my team’s that keeps tickling at my synapses? – do I like the people behind it? – do I see the potential for growth with it? Success for me here, does not necessarily mean a financial pay off, but instead could involve learning, making new connections, or opening the door to new opportunities.
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    1. Jessica Daicos
      Well said as always, Erica. I agree completely. The ROIs I’ve looked for have come down more to personal growth and enjoyment than finances. I would, however, like to build on this mindset. I have been meeting more and more people who are social entrepreneurs and I am interested in how positive, creative, interesting work can also generate income. Until I discovered this I had very little interest in money and business, but now I aim to learn more about how to do/invest in good work that I value AND also make a profit.
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      1. Erica Hargreave
        You are articulating exactly what got me interested in the startup world, Jessica.
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        1. Jessica Daicos
          Have you heard of SheEO? It was started by Canadian Vicki Saunders to counter the fact that “women receive 2.2% of venture capital globally and represent 51% of the population.” The model of SheEO is that women (and non-binary) “Activators” contribute $1100 each, which is pooled together and loaned out at 0% interest to 5 women-led ventures voted on by the Activators. The loans are paid back over five years (with an incredible success rate) and then loaned out again, creating a perpetual fund. SheEO’s goal is to reach 1 million Activators, supporting 10,000 women-led Ventures with a $1B perpetual fund. (https://sheeo.world/faq/#ActivatorFAQ) It’s an alternative way of looking at “investment”, moving away from investing for financial return and towards supporting meaningful ventures that create positive impacts. I was at a conference that Vicki spoke at (she seems amazing) and she said even girls in school have created clubs, each chipped in some money and participated as a group to vote for ventures to support that way. It’s a pretty cool model… IF you’re not concerned about growing your personal wealth out of it. Ventures can also apply for the loan, so that could be a great resource too.
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          1. Erica Hargreave
            What a great idea!
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    2. RyanSilverthorne
      Spoken like a true educational entrepreneur Erica. While it may sound cliche, good educators don’t get into the industry for the money, in my opinion. That is not to say there is anything wrong with making money in the industry but I can’t imagine me in any educational venture that isn’t focussed on helping the profession. What we do is a lot of work and to do it well requires an extreme amount of passion.
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      1. Erica Hargreave
        So very true. Sometimes I think things might be easier for me if I was a bit more fiscally minded, but that is not what makes me happy or what drives me.
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  16. RyanSilverthorne
    I would have to admit that I am a cautious and infrequent investor when it comes to stocks, mutual funds etc. This has not been for a lack of effort and as I get older I am truly making an effort to expand my knowledge by taking tips from my more successful siblings and building savings for my young daughter. It’s interesting because I do consider myself an entrepreneur. I literally created my own professional development company to promote Adrienne Gear (well known literacy expert in BC) workshops as well as many other presenters. However, while it may be hard to believe my end goal was never money with these ventures. I considered it an investment, but not in the traditional sense. The company literally started because I am an expat and during the summer there is little to no professional development available in BC. I was the head teacher of my school in the middle east at the time and I saw starting this as an investment in myself as an eager educator to learn, an investment in my teachers who I believed could help elevate our school and an investment in my future as a leader. Years later I can say creating the promotional company did not make me more wealthy (certainly not directly) but there is no doubt it helped my career and my goal of becoming a BC Principal. With that said I have always been very involved and a fairly loud voice in the BC Offshore community. This has led to several initiatives, including the formation of a coalition of BC Offshore schools that share resources across mutual platforms and negotiate with educational technology companies as a group to lower operation costs. When my Principal days are over I do not expect to be done with education. I do have a plan to become a consultant, advising on opening up Canadian curriculum schools across the globe. While I certainly need to do more research my investment strategy, though I’ve never thought of it as such, is to invest in what I am passionate about. Education is what I am most passionate about. Luckily the startup costs for an educational consultant business are not high, but the investment of time is depending on how large one wants their business to become. My “pitch” to individuals wanting to invest in a school would be greatly dependent on my past experience in running schools in different cultures and contexts. It would include my vision for how I believe education should be and the progressive nature I believe to be necessary. I know doubt have a long way to go before I am ready to begin this journey but just thinking about it does make me feel like I am “investing” in a future beyond my current role and stage in life.
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    1. Erica Hargreave
      No question about it, you are an educational entrepreneur too, Ryan. You can hear the passion and excitement in your writing. What is your company called?
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      1. RyanSilverthorne
        Hello Erica, The company is called Offshore Education Collaborative. You can find the link to my website below: http://www.offshoreeducationcollaborative.com/
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  17. Yannick Wong
    My investment decisions are driven based on a few factors: 1. I’m young 2. I’m poor 3. I have a steady full-time job This translates to a high tolerance for risk, as I seek to maximize my profits in order to pay off my student loans and get my life started. If I end up losing, I’m not losing much, and with income from my full-time job, I would be able to make back what I lose relatively quickly. This is why I typically go for high-risk, high-reward options like day-trading penny stocks. My flexible, work-from-home job means that I can spend time doing that when the market is open and do the rest of my work when the market is closed. It would be difficult for me to invest in a venture at this point because I don’t have enough money, and the turnaround time for these ventures is way too long to suit my immediate financial needs.
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  18. tara davis
    There are three key questions around early stage investing: the person, the market, and the time How good is the founder In the early stages of a company the CEO/Founder matters more than anything. Everything is hard. Very hard. If it weren’t hard, someone else would have done it. So most of the early stage diligence I do is on the person to make sure they can pull it off better than anyone else Are you amazed by them? Are the people they recruited exceptional? or just good? Reference checks Do 30+ reference checks if you can. You want to hear from everyone that they are exceptional Can they sell? Can they convince you of their vision clearly and in a compelling way. They’re going to have to sell customers, and investors, and employees to join their crazy mission. If they can’t convince you they can’t convince anyone else. Market Size If they pull this off, how big could it get? I want to see it be able to be enormous if it goes well. Market size is simple: Market size = (number of potential customers) * (how much they’d pay for the product) Potential customers People often talk about the size of the possible market and they over count it. Who are their actual customers? Who are the actual people who would buy it. For example, lets look at an online tutoring business. People might say well our market is every student in the country… sounds good. But if you dig into it, its only high school students, not elementary or college. And if you dig in further, its only high school students who can afford $50/hour tutoring, which cuts it down further still. And its only students studying math, which brings down the number further. The ACTUAL addressable market is smaller than the initial idea of the market How much they’d pay sense check this. Does this price change the potential customers? Why Now Why is now the time for the business to exist. There are lots of smart people out there, so why is this moment in time the time to build the business they’re proposing. If there isn’t something meaningful about this moment then it probably isn’t as good an idea as you thought it was. There are three key questions around early stage investing: the person, the market, and the time How good is the founder In the early stages of a company the CEO/Founder matters more than anything. Everything is hard. Very hard. If it weren’t hard, someone else would have done it. So most of the early stage diligence I do is on the person to make sure they can pull it off better than anyone else Are you amazed by them? Are the people they recruited exceptional? or just good? Reference checks Do 30+ reference checks if you can. You want to hear from everyone that they are exceptional Can they sell? Can they convince you of their vision clearly and in a compelling way. They’re going to have to sell customers, and investors, and employees to join their crazy mission. If they can’t convince you they can’t convince anyone else. Market Size If they pull this off, how big could it get? I want to see it be able to be enormous if it goes well. Market size is simple: Market size = (number of potential customers) * (how much they’d pay for the product) Potential customers People often talk about the size of the possible market and they over count it. Who are their actual customers? Who are the actual people who would buy it. For example, lets look at an online tutoring business. People might say well our market is every student in the country… sounds good. But if you dig into it, its only high school students, not elementary or college. And if you dig in further, its only high school students who can afford $50/hour tutoring, which cuts it down further still. And its only students studying math, which brings down the number further. The ACTUAL addressable market is smaller than the initial idea of the market How much they’d pay sense check this. Does this price change the potential customers? Why Now Why is now the time for the business to exist. There are lots of smart people out there, so why is this moment in time the time to build the business they’re proposing. If there isn’t something meaningful about this moment then it probably isn’t as good an idea as you thought it was.
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    1. Siobhán McPhee
      I agree with you Tara that the idea of time is really important, and why now. I would add though that often there are similar products out there at any one time, but some are more successful than others. Why is it that Zoom took off with the pandemic even though Skype and Skype for Business had been doing the same for years previous to Zoom? I think there is something about how a product is presented at a certain time as well as it being the ‘right’ time if that makes sense.
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  19. tara davis
    Note: My post was originally formatted as an outline, but this did not translate once posted to the blog. It is from the perspective of a venture capitalist. I hope you find it helpful as I asked advice of a friend who is a successful venture capitalist in order to make a contribution to this discussion that was as “real world” as possible.
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  20. Joyce Lo
    An investment is when a resource is spent to receive something in return for that resource. I consider my resources (i.e. money, time, energy, skills) to be limited so I am a rather cautious investor. In trying to raise two young boys, one of whom has special needs, all my resources are very valuable. I invest in: my children’s RESPs, RDSPs, and education; my family’s health and well-being; my studies in the MET program; and my work as a teacher. My investment strategy is mainly to put in what it takes to help prepare for a better future, whether it be for my family, health, education, and career. For my ROIs (Return on Investments) I hope for the following: – The growth in RESPs and RDSPs will help support my children and help provide for their financial needs. – A well-rounded education will allow my children to explore their interests and develop skills to reach their potential. – Good health and well-being will allow us to live and experience different life stages together. – Acquiring more knowledge and skills will help me be a better educator and advocate for people with disabilities. If a new venture is pitched to me, I will be interested if it will solve some of my problems. In addition, passion needs to be evident in the person describing the pain point (the problem the venture is addressing) and their solution (the new product or service that resolves the pain) needs to be focused and viable.
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  21. markmpepe
    The Oxford Languages definition for “invest” is to “expend money with the expectation of achieving a profit or material result by putting it into financial plans, shares, or property, or by using it to develop a commercial venture,” and “provide or endow someone or something with (a particular quality or attribute).” This definition makes think of my three types of investing: personal finance, time and effort, and investing in ventures. 

In a personal financial sense, I’ve been contributing to my RRSP investments for many years, and have recently been in a position to contribute to TFSA, mostly using ETFs. I would like to see those investments grow steadily, and safely, while I keep contributing. I remember reading somewhere that Warren Buffet made most of his billions after the age of 60. So this type of investment for me is the very long game. The ROI would have to be great because it is my retirement, but I would also hope to continue investing and making money during that time. Then I think about investment of time and effort. This is investing time and effort into things such as health and education, for example. With health, it’s to keep us at a healthy baseline, to not develop any sort of conditions or ailments. To even exceed baseline by pushing ourselves to maybe go for a regularly scheduled day hike, run a 5k, or participate in CrossFit. With education, it’s what we’re all doing here in the MET program. To become better educators, go up the pay scale, and learn new skills to keep us ahead of the curve. This is also a long game investment for me. The ROI would be a long, healthy, and happy life. Then there is investing in ventures. I am not a venture capitalist, but with my very limited knowledge I would investigate the following before putting in capital: * Who started this venture? I would like to know if the founder has experience, or if a partner, or backer, does. * Are they filling some sort of gap in the market? If there’s a similar product, does this venture do something different? * Who is their target audience? Is there anyway to find out, or know, if that audience is fickle, would they return. Is there data? * How would, or do, they generate revenue? I would even try to find out if they’re in the red, and how long would it take for them to get in the black at their current revenue generation. * What is their growth plan? Is it to meet a certain number of clients, customers, and have a certain amount of employees? * What are other investors saying, or who else has invested? Digging around a company’s website one might find other backers. In order for a pitch to get me interested I would like to see the following: enthusiasm, a finished or near finished product, data, a growth plan, and other backers. To add another Warren Buffet attributed quote, “invest in that company if you would want to own it.” This would be a medium term of investment for me. The ROI would have to be enough for me to reinvest in this venture, or use that return to build, grow, and invest in other ventures. Like I said, I am not a venture capitalist, but these are what my instincts told me to look out for. I’m interested in seeing everyone’s thoughts.
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  22. shaun holma
    My investment strategy is thinking in terms of how the venture-in-question is distinctively valuable; that is, how it separates itself from the competition by showing superiority. Ideally revealed in the unique selling proposition, I would look for a venture that stands out from a likely crowded field. A presentation that demonstrates its value towards something I care about, the experience it brings to others, its shelf-life, and evidence that the pitcher credible are some of the key points I look for in a pitch. I think of myself as a person who goes for a victory, and not necessarily the gold. I rarely buy lottery tickets, but on those occasions I do, my focus is not on the multimillion jackpot. Rather, I’ll play the odds of me winning a much smaller prize. Juxtaposing this strategy with the approach I would take as an EVA, I would be very skeptical of ventures promising me a new life. Lastly, I like a sense of control over investment. Although I think certain registered plans serve a purpose, I feel there are quite a few regulations investors must follow when they seek their return. Not wanting to work around time restrictions, incremental pay-outs, and taxes, I also seek alternatives to the traditional methods of investing. For instance, my family returned to Korea (at least in part) to get a better return on our money. The country has a unique real-estate system that allows people to lease a home by paying a lump sum, usually for periods of two years. In exchange for the lump sum, the lessees do not have mortgage or rent payments, and their principle is returned in full after the expiry of the lease. The saving from not having the said payments outweigh any benefits we would get from a common registered plan while still affording us a sizeable amount of financial control.
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  23. SallyB
    I’ve never thought of myself as an investor, but I do fancy myself to be an entrepreneur… someday. After reading through the comments, I understand there is a certain flexibility in thinking about what an investment is. One recurring theme is “time”. We each have a finite amount of time to invest in ourselves, our families and projects so it makes sense to seek efficiencies across these investments. As an EVA, I would start by asking these questions: • Is this something I find personally interesting/exciting? • Can I contribute anything to it or learn from it? • Will it save people time, or “give” them time back? • Does it improve the quality of the time we have? • Why is now the moment in time for this business? (taken from Tara) To further borrow from Tara’s breakdown, the qualities of the CEO/founder and the market are also critical considerations but I think, for me, time is the most valuable asset, and it would weigh heavily in any investment decisions I might make. (However, I’m also thinking that there may be an inverse relationship to “disposable income” and “time”- that is, if I have more money to invest perhaps I care less about time as variable, and vice versa)
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    1. Siobhán McPhee
      I really appreciate your focus on time Sally. I would say that technology in general has created an ‘illusion’ of saving time when for the most part it adds more distractions! I would love to hear more from you as we go along if you have thoughts on how technologies might actually help us ‘slow time’ – a contradiction I think about a lot!
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  24. Josh Wood
    The initial discussion prompt allowed me to broaden my view of investments, as I often focus on financial investments when discussing the topic. After some reflection, a ​snapshot of my investment strategy would look like this: Money – My financial investments are diversified, medium-risk (large time horizon) and automated. Of course my main goal in terms of ROI is increasing capital, but using a robo-advisor and low cost ETFs I save a significant amount of my time where I can invest elsewhere. Time – As a father of two, working full time and completing my masters, I AM BUSY! When I invest my time, I want the positive impact to be significant (the lives of others/my family, or personal gain). Personal Growth – Through education, experiences and my health, I strive to grow/improve my skillset and health. Again, I look for opportunities or activities that will be high impact, meaning the ROI is as high as possible per unit of time. Personally, a pitch about a potential investment must mention time. With only so much to give, I look to optimize this resource any chance I get.
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  25. Siobhán McPhee
    Education as a ‘conservative investor’: Until the pandemic I would have classed myself as a conservative investor in all aspects of my life: that is in how I invested my savings but also in how I invested in my career. I followed a path that I found ‘safe’ and predetermined. The pandemic has taught me that nothing is guaranteed and so I have ‘ventured’ out into trying to be a risker investor. This is not to say that I throw caution to the wind, but I do do my research and at the same time make a calculated risk. We can never mitigate for all possible risks, and if we look at the most successful entrepreneurs we see that they failed a number of times before a successful idea or investment took off. As I said I have also been very cautious in the realm of my career which is fine, but I found myself not feeling satisfied. Society has constructed a sense, at least in my opinion, that the most important task is to gain security in employment and a pension. I am not questioning that as humans we do need stability, but nothing ventured nothing gained. I really see this in the field of educational technologies where educators are very slow to embrace change because they have taught and done things the same way for years – that is the way they were trained and why would they do otherwise. It is why the field of startups is so fascinating to me as there seems to be a clear passion and a lack of fear of failure (well at least the knowledge that not every venture will succeed). I have struggled for years in how to bridge this excitement in risk taking, exploration and curiosity with the status quo educational institutions. It is ironic in a way because education should be about exploration…
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  26. Simin Rupa
    Am I an investor? I would say yes, in every way I can think off. I invest in my students time and energy. I invest in my house with sweat equity, financially through a TFSA and RRSP and lastly hobby-wise with Crowd Funding sites being frequently visited. Investing has changed and so has my relation to it. Growing up in a single-family house, saving and penny-pinching was the way of life. I didn’t realize it wasn’t normal until very recently. When I got my first job my father would take my money and invest it in his stock portfolio, when I hit 18 with my TFSA I suddenly had a rather handsome sum. Since then I have continuously paid into that. Choosing security in mutual funds and ETFs over the risk of independent stocks and the NYSTX. Recently I opened my RRSP and chose a medium growth, of 7%, too afraid of the risk. However, I have restructured my TFSA. I’ve stepped away from this structured investor, into more company-based and index-fueled stocks and it has been incredible. I take some of my “fun money” as i call it and invest in peoples ideas and board games, hoping ot see an endresult and sporting their dreams is a great combination. Being an investor is a path that I walk slowly but am growing in comfort.
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  27. Lyon Tsang
    I’ve been trying to invest in MYSELF by gradually building up better habits and routines. I don’t expect anything great to happen overnight, but there’s value in the “journey” too… With the pandemic, I’ve mostly just been stuck at home with nothing much to think about besides work, NBA basketball, and takeout. I guess my way of coping with the dullness of this new “reality” is finding ways to get value out of the situation: – better sleeping habits, now that I don’t have to commute – setting time aside for personal interests (like writing), AND making an effort to apply these skills (recreation, work, courses) – planning / daydreaming for the future It all looks a little obvious and vague on screen, but this sort of mindset HAS helped me see each day as an opportunity to get a little better. It’s like challenging yourself to find some fun in the mundane…
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  28. luke pereira
    My investment strategy was in myself around 4 years ago in trying to get an undergrad before I turn 40. I reached that goal and and also now onto continuing education such as MET. While covid has disrupted much of our lives, for me atleast with no family or kids, I was able to forge my path to learning and education quickly and strategically in the last year and half. Because i owned another property, I i had previously invested in renovations and rented it out in the summer. The earnings paid for my tuition and this sort of investment in myself solidifies my management of my professional development outside work, and it is paying off within my employment also. When it comes to online investments for funds, I am conservative and as one of the previous posters, Julio Palacios, mentioned earlier on if you do not trust yourself in understanding investing, just because others are jumping on, when market is low, does not mean I have too. Risks are too great. Same goes with buying homes in a hot housing market.
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  29. analesa crooks-eadie
    My investment strategy lately has been into my children. That is where most of my time and money seems to be going. Traditionally, I am fairly conservative when it comes to investing money. Safe investments with a range of 5-10 ROI appeal to me the most. To answer the question specifically, a pitch would need to be in an area that I have some knowledge about, be beneficial to one or more of the following; teachers, parents, students, children. The more that the product appealed to me, the less assurance I would need with the financial ROI. I like to be a part of things that I am passionate about. For me, my investment would be guided more by my heart than my wallet. However, a promising financial forecast would be a bonus!
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  30. Connie Sim
    I have a keen interest in stock investing. I used to invest in real estate but later on, as life becomes unpredictable and we decided to move halfway across the globe, property investment does not seem to be the wisest thing to do. Now, on top of this MET course, I spend most of my leisure time and energy learning about investment strategies. I would say that doing the MET course is definitely my best investment. In all honestly, I can’t clearly see the MET’s “ROI” at this point of time, but learning has enabled me to have a greater clarity of life- in contrast with occasionally feeling overwhelmed by trying to decide if a stock has good fundamentals and reading stock charts.
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