Collaborating & Connecting: Update on Part Three of My Mission

I started The Loonie Doctor just a little over six years ago. It has been a passion project for me to both learn more about finance and also to share that with other Canadian professionals. I have detailed why I am doing this elsewhere. However, it can be distilled down to my mission statement. This past year, I have been focused on developing the third plank of my mission. Recently, I decided to take that a step further. Find out why, how, and what that means.


  • Empower Canadian professionals to proactively take charge of their financial lives.
  • Inspire my colleagues to use that power over their time and money: To have a fulfilling life and career. To lead and expand their impact on their families and communities.
  • Collaborate & Connect with others who share this mission.

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From the people that I meet in real life, and online, I can tell that I have been making an impact on the first two planks of my mission. To empower and inspire. I just want to take a quick pause to thank the Loonie Doctor super-fans whom I have chatted with via email and at live events. Hearing your stories keeps me doing this and empowers me to push forward. Inspiration and empowerment flow in both directions. Plus, I share them with my wife and kids who have tolerated me spending countless hours doing this over the last few years.


Fellow Physician Educators

This past year, I have been focusing more on the third plank. I made some great videos with Dr. Stephanie Zhou of Breaking Bad Debt, appeared on the Beyond MD Podcast, and delivered curriculum in collaboration with medical schools and staff associations across the country. Our missions are aligned and it has been a privilege to work with other colleagues rowing in the same direction.

It has been heartening to see the number of grassroots physicians and their staff associations honing in on this aspect of physician wellness. And finally, recognition of the impact that strong financial muscles have on realizing our full potential as clinicians, family, and community members.

There is still work to be done and definitely better coordination across the country would help. Sadly, the CMA went backward on this by axing the Practice Management Curriculum. Ironically, a focus on physician wellness was cited as one of the reasons. Seriously.


The vacuum has been re-created.

Vacuums get filled, and I am concerned that we’ll regress back to the days of the financial industry driving education for our students and early-career physicians. Based on who is paying and their agenda. Rather than who will provide the best evidence-informed education targeted to meet our needs.

That said, there are also financial industry experts that do align with that. Integrating them while knowledgeable physicians truly lead the agenda and vet the material is critical. Hence, I have decided to move The Loonie Doctor on to its next phase of collaboration.

I have been much more cautious about collaboration with folks in the financial industry. One of the reasons why high-income professionals can struggle is because they are also prime targets for sales. Whether the prime objective is adding value to our lives and financial accounts. Or their own.

That skepticism is healthy. Companies exist to make profits. Advisors get paid for their services. They should! However, the best companies and advisors do that by filling a need and providing great value to their customers. In fact, they obsess over it.


From Industry Collaborators To Colleagues

I have been having interactions with other educators who work in the financial industry over the last couple of years. It started with inquiries about some of the obscure nuances of investing and taxation that I obsess over. We have found ourselves looking at similar questions and producing similar material. Trying to use the best possible evidence and analysis to answer pragmatic questions. From a perspective that we, as end-users, can relate to. I now think of them as my colleagues too – just from the growing financial education side of my practice.


Benefits To My Blog & Audience

Collaborating with my financial professional colleagues has helped me to dig a little deeper, uncover really hard-to-find information, and better analyze it. The way that my industry colleagues approach problems and the resources they have at their disposal has also really highlighted where they can add value. Not only to the blog for those who want to become better DIY investors. But also to my audience that uses advisors. Or are advisors themselves.

You must lead your financial team, but most of us use various advisors and services as part of that. The best advisors can be hard to spot and still require vetting. I can’t possibly do that on a grand scale at this point. Not to a degree that I would be comfortable with. The strength of The Loonie Doctor “brand” is that I am really a physician looking to help others do better financially and then leverage that power for a broader impact. I could quickly kill that by explicitly, or implicitly, endorsing providers that I don’t know well enough and turn out to be not-so-great.

My bar is that I would have to be comfortable recommending them to my friends or family members. The ones that I actually like. There are lots of good providers out there that do meet that criteria. However, I have decided to be even pickier while I expand my collaboration with the industry in a small deliberate way.

I am allowing a few sponsors on the site. That means that they pay for a banner ad, and/or to publish the occasional sponsored post. Before I introduce them, I want to tell you what my ground rules are. This is not only to reassure you that my blog remains a trustworthy resource. My priority. It is also to discourage the emails that I get from those looking to become a sponsor while clearly not fitting my criteria.


My criteria

Products or services aligned with the best evidence. For liquid publicly-traded markets that means low cost and diversified investments. Either tracking a broad index or a quantitative approach focused on factors that are supported by strong and pervasive evidence.

Producers of high-quality educational material. My audience will see right through an infomercial or puff piece. In contrast, they will gobble up well-researched, deep, actionable material that is well-written. I can add the corny jokes as required.

Focus on customer service. The last thing I want is for you to get turned off from making a good financial decision, like using a discount brokerage, by bad customer service. Especially, if that pushes you into the arms of those who focus on a slick sales experience rather than your optimal outcome.

Focus on the best customer outcome. Not geared to selling products that don’t provide the best outcome, but make fat profits.

I retain editorial control. This is vital to make sure that the content will appeal to my audience and add value. It also helps me to enforce the other criteria.


Honestly, the sponsors that I have chosen to work with are 100% behind these criteria. In fact, they like that I have them. It is in their own best interests to produce trustworthy high-quality material that is associated with their brand. They too have already worked hard to build trust through criteria aligned with my own.

I will likely allow a couple of more sponsors on the site over time. However, I am going to keep it very exclusive. I don’t want a bunch of annoying ads and fluff pieces distracting from the high-quality content, beautifully crafted memes, flow diagrams, and my irreverent sense of humor.

This is probably old news and unsurprising to those who have plunged the depths of The Loonie Doctor. However, it is worth pointing out to those who are new here. My partnership with Qtrade helped considerably with the development of my DIY Investor Hub. I discuss why I chose to work with Qtrade in developing it here.

If you use any of the Qtrade Logos on my site to open accounts, then I get a small referral fee at no cost to you. You also get their best promotional offers.

However, the biggest boon has been that I was able to build an Interactive Guide – with step-by-step instructions, embedded just-in-time educational material, and screenshots. I was also able to streamline some of the tasks that people find hard to do. Like opening a corporate investment account or opening an informal trust account. By using a platform that I know well, I can also better help people get unstuck, as a DIY investing mentor.

It is also inevitable that people will have hiccups on their DIY investing journey and need customer support. I have been around the discount brokerage block a few times and I know that Qtrade’s customer support is excellent. Others doing more comprehensive assessments also agree, like Surviscor and The Globe & Mail.

I am a big proponent of ETF investing. A simple, low-cost, diversified, and effective way to invest. There are multiple great providers out there, and I don’t think you’d go wrong using ETFs from any of the Big 4 providers in Canada.

However, a few things pointed me to collaborating with BMO ETFs.


Canadian-Owned & Oriented

One aspect is that they are Canadian-owned. That makes zero difference to me from an investing standpoint. However, as an educator, they have been producing Canadian-oriented content in a bit more depth than Blackrock and Vanguard. The big US-based companies generally piggyback their Canadian sites onto the material from their US ones.

I am not joking when I say that I want a sponsor to add high-value content to my blog. I guess, I could just have more generic content. However, there is already plenty of American stuff out there and this Canadian focus is where my blog adds value.


Solid Products

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You probably know that I think taxes matter to high-income Canadians. BMO ETFs have conventional ETF products that pay attention to that.

For example, their ZDB discount bond ETF. Their ETFs covering foreign markets (like ZEA and ZEM) also hold stocks directly rather than just acting as a wrapper for a US-listed ETF.

That reduces foreign withholding tax issues. I teach my kids about this every Halloween.


Real Value-Add Educational material

All of the ETF providers make educational content. However, BMO ETFs has been making content that aligns with what I make in content and style. You can check out their ETF Market Insights page to see what I mean. There is some good basic material but also some deeper dives into how ETF investing works. Their sponsored posts will do that too. The first one is next week and is about ETF liquidity. A topic I have tried and failed at taking on in the past on my own. There are more great posts in the pipeline.

When I started my blog, I definitely had a DIY bias. I still do. However, I also realize that most of us work with various financial advisors. My core curriculum is intended to help you manage the parts of your financial life that you can. Plus, also get the most out of the people you hire to help with the rest. For the DIY investor, that may be a fee-only advisor.

For someone who will do better with a turn-key full-service advisor, they must be providing good value for the money being spent. PWL knows where that value lies and has focused on it relentlessly. I know this from a long-standing relationship that started with my own DIY investor education and has evolved into some serious collaboration.


A long-standing commitment to investor education. For its own sake.

If you are a DIY investor, you have probably heard of some of PWL’s key educators. Justin Bender is behind the Canadian Portfolio Manager blog. A go-to for high-quality DIY investor educational material for longer than I’ve been blogging. Same with Dan Bortolotti and the Canadian Couch Potato. Ben Felix and Cameron Passmore have been running the Rational Reminder Podcast for at least five years. It is dedicated to exploring the best evidence and academic literature behind financial planning and investing with the goal of helping people make better financial decisions. Ben also has his great Common Sense Investing YouTube videos.


Focus on evidence-based investing & where they provide real value.

So, why would a full-service advisory firm support all this DIY investor education? It seems weird at first glance. However, it makes perfect sense when you consider where they aim to provide value. Where the evidence supports it. That is in helping clients set goals, execute their plans effectively, and coach them along the way. The ability to save, invest, and stick to a sound plan has a major impact on the outcome.

In contrast, they feel that the “investing equation” has largely been solved well enough that the best value they can provide is to follow an evidence-based approach. Theirs is a little more sophisticated, using DFA funds. They have relatively low cost (MERs in the 0.2-0.3%/yr range) and use a quantitative approach to tilt with factors expected to yield a premium beyond basic market exposure (and more than the MER) over long time periods. Those factors are supported by a large body of financial academic literature.


Comprehensive planning for high-income professionals.

This is exactly the audience that I interact most with. What sets PWL apart here is that they take a critical approach to optimizing investing, taxes, estate planning, and life balance. The evidence supports a service and strategy-based approach rather than a product-focused one. They have actually contributed to the development of that evidence base in Canada. I frequently reference their work on TFSA vs RRSP vs Corporations. Their recent white paper on permanent insurance is another example. A product they could make a lot of money promoting, but critically examined instead.


We have been collaboratively working together already.

All of this overlap in interests and philosophical approaches has made PWL and I natural collaborators. In fact, Ben and I found ourselves working on the optimal compensation problem for incorporated professionals at the same time. They built in-house software to optimize corporate cash flow and tax planning as I was doing the same. Except mine doesn’t stress test with thousands of Monte Carlo simulations! We compared notes and gave each other ideas that I think improved what each of us was doing.

Following that, we have been secretly plugging away on a massive educational project aimed at Canadian professionals since the Spring. The Money Scope Podcast. We have a trailer up and running. It is going to be awesome and we are having fun making it. Like a colonoscopy, the prep is the most difficult part.

Well, if you made it all the way to the bottom of this post, you have shown the stamina that I have come to expect from my readers 🙂 I hope that you will see this as I do. One of those win-win-wins that leaders strive for.

A win for you with some carefully vetted expert additions to my content.

A win for my sponsors who will get exposure to a highly valuable and engaged audience that their services are tailor-made for. They aren’t pushing products, but high-quality content in the hopes that you will recognize the value beneath that. Click the banner ads to show you care about what we are doing here, and check them out more for yourselves. The ads will be unobtrusively in the right margin (desktop) or at the end of posts (mobile) to not distract from the content.

A win for our community. This blog has required a massive outlay of time and some money to run. As I mentioned at the beginning, there is still a vacuum in good financial education for Canadian professionals and small business owners. A group of smart motivated people who can make a massive impact if they have strong financial health. I plan to keep investing in growing this resource as a fulcrum to leverage that impact. Fill the vacuum by collaborating and connecting with others. There are forces with deep pockets looking to fill the vacuum for their own reasons, but this will help me to compete.

10 comments

  1. SO excited for the new podcast!!!!
    Your content is very much appreciated, thank you for taking the time to share your knowledge with the physician , and broader, community.

    1. Thanks Msquared! The more people we can reach, the better. Ben and I are really stoked about The Money Scope Podcast too. We’ve had fun making it together and it is going to be awesome. It is kind of a “podcast plus” and pulls together a lot of our curriculum work. More to come in the next few weeks.
      -LD

  2. Mark,
    As someone who has communicated with you via the blog as well as via email, I would like to offer my sincerest gratitude and appreciation for everything you do for the MD community .Your prompt response to my queries is really very very much appreciated.
    I admire and agree with your ” purpose” and wish you continued success in your continuing endeavours. I have two sons in the medical arena and they are very fortunate to have access to this sort of information at the start of their careers. 40 years ago the whole focus was on ” tax shelters” sold by promoters, 100% of which were pure junk. This generation of medical professionals is very fortunate to have acess to this sort of information like your blog. I am now familair with concepts such as CDA, eRDTOH and nRDTOH, CDA, eligible and non-eligible dividends etc which lead to regular animated discussions with my wife ! Your pictorials explaining the inner workings of what happens to investment income in a corp are priceless ! Keep up the great work and more power to you and all the other collaborators you have mentioned in the post.
    Regards,
    Lyndon

    1. Thanks Lyndon. I have very much enjoyed our interactions. It is very helpful to get perspectives from those a little further done the road. My kids are coming up on the start of their careers in the next few years (not sure doing what yet). I think that the next generation coming through has enough challenges from the cost of living, and taxation angles. Hopefully, this blog will at least give them the advantage of avoiding some of the costly mistakes or better tackle the parts they can control.
      -LD

  3. Dear Mark,
    Thanks for this notice. I appreciate the transparency and the thought that has gone into these corporate partnerships. At first glance I like the brands you have connected with. I am especially impressed with the PWL team. Their website and materials are excellent.
    I (& my family) owe you a great deal. You gave me the education and confidence to go DIY a few years ago and cant imagine going back. You have literally saved me an insane amount of money (>$50K) but more importantly, have empowered me. Beyond the savings, I have found many shortcuts and missed opportunities on the accounting/tax side as well.
    Keep it up!

    1. Thanks Cowtowncutter! That is great to hear of your success. I am please to have played a part, but you still had to do the learning and execute. Exactly my mission and I’ll keep plugging away at it and trying to expand my reach.
      -LD

  4. Curious about PWL and their value proposition. I contacted Justin Bender previously. They use dimensional funds which cost .3% roughly. Their fees start around 1% and go down with higher assets.

    JB wrote a number of articles on DIY and an index portfolio would cost much less. So I didn’t understand the value of their services despite his explanation. Any thought ?

    1. Hey JB,

      I think the value proposition for any advisory firm is going to lie in the services rather than the investments.

      So, one aspect is minimizing the drag on investment returns from the fees of the investment products. Most funds will generally match market returns minus the MER over long periods. I actually like the Dimensional funds in this regard. The 0.3% is low as funds go and they are factor-weighted. I haven’t written too much about factors on the blog yet, but they should return above general market returns over long time periods. So, that may more than compensate for MER and make the net drag close to zero relative to a regular market-weighted approach.

      In terms of service value, this is where it varies wildly by individual. There is some evidence around this, but it is not direct or iron-clad. I wrote about advisor value vs cost a bit generally. There are a few major areas where I think the potential value lies. If you are less likely to set targets and invest regularly without automation and external accountability, an advisor helps and that means more time in the market (and returns). People who use advisors may tolerate a higher equity allocation than those who don’t (and higher expected return if they are handling that risk). They may prevent you from buying/selling at bad times due to emotions and stay systematic (the average behavioral gap of retail investors is ~1.5%/yr, but may be much less with asset allocation ETFs). With a complex situation, tax planning becomes much more important, and there is some value there. Zero if simple, but maybe 1%/yr with a large corporation and multiple account types. Same with estate planning. Planning an efficient safe drawdown over time requires some finesse and advanced software.

      Those are all things that you can learn about and potentially handle. An asset allocation ETF makes it pretty easy for most people. I have been providing a lot of education about even the tougher topics here. For someone keen and disciplined enough to do this all on their own, they are better off doing that. If less so and more complex, then the savings of using an advisor to plan and execute it properly may offset costs and free up time. Whether that is enough to offset the fees depends on the fees and where you sit on that spectrum. A fee-only advisor could provide much of this support for those willing and able to do the mechanics of the portfolio management. It can be hard to find one really good at the complex situations with corporations etc. though.

      I have an obvious bias towards DIY ETF investing and maybe using a fee-only planner. Still, it surprises people, but we may end up at PWL when I am older. I am thinking mid-60s. At some point, my mental sharpness and interest to do this may fade and/or my wife’s and I may be better off out-sourcing. I would want to build a relationship with people I trust to do a good job long before then so I wouldn’t wait to my seventies. I will teach my kids how to manage their finances and invest, but I don’t want to put the pressure and relationship complexity on them managing it all. It is still a long ways off for me, but I am mulling it around. I am debating between PWL vs fee-only for that. The debate being I would not want a one-person firm who could sell or retire (but the fees would be lower) vs larger one with some permanence (but more cost) when I get to that stage. In the meantime, my plan is to DIY and grow as big a portfolio as possible unencumbered by extra costs, and hopefully then actively shrink it before the age of 65-75 by spending, giving, and gifting. That will shrink costs in absolute dollars if I use a %AUM advisor later 🙂

      -LD

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