Trader Profile
      
   
Sascha Hastings: 
"Investment research can be fun"

 

 

 

"I’m interested in real stuff that does real things for real people. And it must be a product or service that people will continue to need."

 

 

“Around February or March 2008, I started feeling that the stock market was out of control,” says Sascha Hastings, 41, who works as a freelance radio producer for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) and as a consultant for the “Hylozoic Ground” project, Canada’s entry to the 2010 Venice Architecture Biennale.

Throughout her career, she has been promoting the Arts in Canada, where access to savvy financial advice is not a big perk of that profession.

“I didn’t really know what it was about, because I hadn’t done any research. But it just seemed to me that everyone was chasing real estate that they couldn’t afford. Credit cards were out of control. I couldn’t see this continuing,” says Ms. Hastings.

“Then, I remember reading an article in The Economist warning about sub-prime mortgages. I didn’t know what they were, but they made me nervous. As well, the markets hadn’t had a major correction since 2000,” she adds.

So, she sold most of her equity-based mutual funds and temporarily invested in money market funds. She openly admits that she didn’t know anything about investing, but had better find out.

“I started online trading for two reasons. First, I didn’t like the idea of paying high fees to stock brokers. Second, I did like the idea of being able to buy stocks directly,” she says.

A relative newcomer to online trading, she has been trading online only since October 2008. Typically, she executes one or two trades per month. Like most buy-and-hold online investors, Ms. Hastings is saving for her retirement via RRSPs. And like most women investors, she classifies her risk tolerance as low-to-medium.

Here’s the real silver lining for Ms. Hastings.
he bought all her stocks at fire-sale prices after October 2008. It took her several months to select the stocks she was interested in, but now she says she spends only about one hour a week—maintenance mode—looking after her investment portfolio. 

Currently, all her holdings are stocks;  she holds no mutual funds, index funds, bonds, currencies, or ETFs.

Before buying any stock, Ms. Hastings does a lot of research.
Here are her criteria: “The company has been around for a while;  has a manageable debt load;  above average return on capital; above average steady returns on equity;  and a good dividend. And, of course, the price of the stock has to be attractive,” says Hastings. To her surprise, she actually enjoyed doing her own investment research.

“I must be able to understand their business. I’m interested in real stuff that does real things for real people. And it must be a product or service that people will continue to need,” she says.

Hastings’ other criteria is to diversify her stocks among Canadian, U.S., and international holdings. She invests in Asia and BRIC [Brazil, Russia, India, China] countries indirectly through U.S. and European multinationals, however.

One of the online tools that Ms. Hastings uses to help her make investing decisions is the American Value Line Investment Survey (www.ValueLine.com). Here’s a hot tip. The website quotes famous value investor Warren Buffett as having said of Value Line:  “I don't know any other system that’s as good.”

Ms. Hastings’ broker is Questrade, a recommendation from her brother. “They have the cheapest fees in the industry,” she says.

Hastings recommends three books to other newbie online investors:  The New Buffetology, by Mary Buffett and David Clark;  The Investment Zoo, by Stephen A. Jarislowsky;  and the classic The Intelligent Investor, by Benjamin Graham, originally published in 1949 and still in bookstores.

Here’s a pitfall Ms. Hastings advises against. “Because online trading technology is so easy to use, it’s tempting to check your portfolio several times a day. Don’t do it. Instead, go for quality companies. The quality of management matters,” says Hastings.