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Playing the market by the books

Peggy Whitta, 61

Occupation

Retired civil servant

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The portfolio

Royal Bank of Canada, Bank of Nova Scotia, Canadian Natural Resources, Telus, Valeant Pharmaceuticals, Imris Inc., Cameco Corp., NorthWestern Corp., Westshore Terminals, Phillips Hager & North Bond fund.

The investor

Peggy Whitta took early retirement from the government when she was just 46, and since then investing has become a major pastime for the Kenora, Ont., woman. She began by buying a few mutual funds and reading a lot of books, and very quickly a light came on. "It's easy to learn quite a bit about investing yourself, because it's not rocket science."

How she picks stocks

Early on, Mrs. Whitta saw similarities between a lot of mutual funds, such as the fact that many hold stocks in common, in particular the big banks. She also likes stocks that pay a dividend. "If you're not making any capital gains, at least you're getting paid, and dividends are also a sign of a strong company." She doesn't spend much time looking at financial statements. "Unfortunately with our system in Canada, companies can juggle the books a bit and report whatever they want in some respects because of all the grey areas."

Her asset allocation

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Mrs. Whitta has about 40 per cent of her portfolio in fixed income, largely through the Phillips Hager & North Bond fund, thanks to its low MER of just 0.59 per cent. She also used the fund company's 10-sector list to check her own diversification.





Best move

One of Ms. Whitta's long-term favourites is Canadian Natural Resources, which she's held for about 10 years. "We'll always need the big oil companies."

Worst move

The very first stock Ms. Whitta bought was Abitibi back in 1996. "We didn't know anything about it but my husband had worked there and it pretty much went way down and never recovered," she recalls. "But that's okay, because it taught us not to run into things."

Advice

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Ms. Whitta notes the discrepancy between how many people hesitate to spend $30 on a book about investing, but are happy to deal with a financial adviser without understanding what they are paying in fees. "Try and learn a little bit about investing so that you're not intimidated when you go to these so-called advisers."



Special to The Globe and Mail

Want to share your strategies? E-mail tony.martin@sympatico.ca

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