Save. Spend. Splurge.

How to start investing 101: The Checklist

I am hearing a lot of: “I’d like to start investing but I don’t know how!”

I know it can be overwhelming, so here are the steps I’d recommend to everyone in general:

  1. Save aside $25 – $100 to invest (or more!!!)
  2. Open an RRSP or TFSA account with your bank
  3. Deposit the money you saved into that account as cash
  4. Buy a mutual fund / ETF / stock
  5. Wash, rinse and repeat steps 1 – 4

That’s it. There is nothing more I can say, and that’s the checklist.

You gotta start at some point

I get that it’s overwhelming, but putting it off today, tomorrow, next week/month/year, just compounds the problem, but in a bad way. If you don’t start now, when will you start?

At some point you have to do something about it. And only you can do this, not anyone else. How much longer can you really keep talking about it, asking yourself and saying to everyone around you: I want to start investing, but I don’t know how, before you actually do something about it?

Real World Exercise:

Mark today’s date on a post-it, and when you have purchased your first mutual fund / ETF / stock, then mark the date at the bottom of that post-it.

Now how long did it take you to do this?

Was it really that difficult?

It’s annoying. It’s paperwork. It’s thinking: Do I select RRSP or TFSA? What does Margin mean? But just GOOGLE IT. Or ASK someone to help you, and GET IT DONE.

I know people who have sat on their money for YEARS. LITERAL YEARS. And in a fit of panic, decided they needed to invest it, so what did they do? They didn’t open an investing account or anything, they decided to buy a home because it was something physical, something they could see/touch/shop for, and it made “sense” to them rather than diving into the (relatively) simple world of investing.

Instead of learning about it, they purchased an asset and took on a massive amount of debt for it, rather than starting slow and buying investments. Then you have the other groups of people who don’t have massive amounts of money, who are just simply not buying any investments because they’re thinking they’ll buy a home and become landlords because it makes sense to see and touch your investment.

The thing is …. Investing is like riding a bicycle: Once you know, you know… and it becomes like second nature, but if you never get on the damn bike to begin with, make a few mistakes and then take off the training wheels, you’ll never learn how to ride. But instead of just not knowing how to ride a bike, you’re now going to end up never being able to quit your job any time you want, and will constantly worry about money and your health as you age. Is that what you really want for your Future Self?

You only need to get through 3 main hurdles to be set for life

The first hurdle is to open the account and all that paperwork.

The second hurdle is CONSISTENTLY saving the money to throw it into the account.

The last and final hurdle is and then the last hurdle is learning and refining what you want to buy and how.

Then you’re done. FOREVER. This is it. Your knowledge will never leave you. It is not difficult to start, it is not complicated, you aren’t trading options or doing any high finance stuff, you’re just saving your money into different investing buckets.

You don’t need to “know it all” to start

You just need to open an account, fund it with some money, and start. Then figure it out as you go. There’s no need to be perfect from Day One, NO ONE IS.

There are literally thousands upon thousands of articles out there on what all of this stuff is. No one article will individually say to you: Sherry, you need to do these exact steps in your life and buy these exact investments. Absolutely NO FREAKIN’ ARTICLE will ever do this. You can pay for coaching or individual help, but really, you can do this yourself with a bit of Googling as well if money is an issue for you.

You don’t need to be rich to start

Start with $100/month. Or less. Just start. Any amount is better than $0. It’s a myth that you need to have a ton of money to start investing. I think the minimum purchase in mutual funds is $25 if I am not mistaken. It is not more than $100 for sure.

But what do I sign up with?

So many options out there. If you want the cheapest one with the most options, I’d personally recommend Questrade. It isn’t the easiest to use / most Millennial-friendly one, but it certainly is the cheapest and most flexible out there.

Otherwise, if you want to just throw money into an account and buy from a limited range of mutual funds to eliminate the anxiety of choice, I like:

But what do I buy?

This is where you have to do Hurdle #3 and research on what you want / think is best.

Start here: Investing for all my posts.

I also wrote an investing book for Canadians here, plus have a pre-recorded Canadian Investing course here. It’s from 2020 but the info is all still relevant.

What are you waiting for?


  • Aisha

    Thanks for this reminder Sherry. I’m graduating soon and thanks to the loan freeze I’m able to save for that payment over time which frees up some money for investing!

    • Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      Oh yes – that loan freeze was quite a good thing for all of you!! And if the interest rate is low (under 5%, even 4% I’d say), it’s technically a better idea to invest instead of paying it off. My loans were up to 7%, which was truly distressing.

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