Advisor: How I turned my hobby into a career
By the time he was 19, Ed Bootle had already served several years in the military, putting him ahead of most people his age in terms of life experience. And aside from a wealth of experience, his time overseas let him accumulate literal wealth — which he saw as an opportunity that shouldn’t be wasted.
“I came home with a bunch of money in my pocket,” he said. “Instead of spending it like most young people would, I wanted to get the best bang for my buck, so I started to investigate personal finance.”
That’s when he started to amass a different kind of wealth: knowledge of personal finance. He learned different strategies to save, pay less tax, and make more money from what he had. “I started off by buying this thing called a mutual fund in 1993, which was a very strong year for the market,” he said. “I made close to 30% of my income that year just from that investment in Canadian equities.”
What had started as his hobby became an active interest, and later on became a career. In 1997, he started his professional career in finance. Today, he holds the CFP as well as the FMA designation, and is the principal at Bootle & Associates with Investors Group in Alberta. The firm manages between 135 and 145 million dollars for individuals, businesses, and professionals, many of whom he treats as friends. New clients generally learn about his practice through referrals or the financial literacy seminars it conducts at universities and colleges.
“I don’t sell anything,” Bootle said. “I’m here to give advice and direction on every opportunity, and let them know what I think they should do; common sense will sell itself. Sometimes they’ll have other preferences for emotional and other personal reasons, and I’ve got to respect that. But we’ll ultimately agree on what the best option is.”
The need to explore financial opportunities that drove Bootle as a young man lies at the core of his practice today. After getting to know his clients as people and assessing their situations, he provides guidance on the different ways they can better themselves financially. He and his team also emphasise that there’s no single best way to grow the money in your pocket; the best plans often involve different moving parts.
“The money we can save through smart financial planning, good tax advice, or good debt management advice is as important as the rate of return projected in investments,” he said. “What you keep in your pocket, at the end of the day, is what really matters. The difference is that tax strategies or debt reduction strategies tend to be more guaranteed than investments.”
Of course, tax strategies are solid as long as the regulations and laws they’re based on don’t change. Like many financial advisors, Bootle is concerned about the current government’s push to overhaul the tax system.
“I can’t go anywhere without having a conversation about taxes,” he said. “There are changes everywhere, from taxes to TFSA and RRSP contribution limits, and even corporate and small-business tax changes. And in Alberta, we’ve seen drastic alterations to personal income tax rates in the last couple of years.”
When it comes to investment, Bootle tends to stress the importance of rebalancing portfolios. While many might be tempted to just ride the continually rising markets, he sees value in actively watching out for opportunities that can be exploited — in good times and in bad.
“We haven’t experienced volatility for an extended period of time,” he said. “Everybody’s aggressive when the markets are going up, but they’re not as aggressive when the markets are in decline. Educating people and making sure they take full advantage of opportunities is going to be a challenge when market volatility returns.”
In times of change, clients and investors alike tend to default to a state of fear. That’s when they most need reassurance and a sense of stability. “Advisors have to own their advice and be confident in their education, especially if they have a CFP designation,” Bootle said. “They’ve got to be there to provide advice, and not run when the markets correct; people need guidance throughout the entire business cycle. And when they tell clients they’ll do something, they have to do it.”
It’s definitely a challenge for an advisor to be reliable and steadfast, especially considering the number of different clients that need comprehensive support. But eventually, the years and decades spent planning, working, and taking hold of opportunities can help clients reach their goals — and that’s a payoff that Bootle always looks forward to.
“Once in a while, I actually see a plan come together for clients we’ve worked with for the last 15 or 20 years,” he said. “Occasionally they would say ‘I never thought this was actually going to happen when we first sat down 20 years ago’ … to me, that’s probably the most fulfilling feeling.”