Duane Ledgister’s tips on distractions for investors, the value of volunteering and more

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In this installment of My MoneySense, the vice president and portfolio manager at Connor, Clark & Lunn Private Capital shares how he conceptualizes money and finances.

Duane Ledgister’s tips on distractions for investors, the value of volunteering and more

Photo courtesy of Duane Ledgister

Who is Duane Ledgister? As vice president and portfolio manager at investment counselling firm Connor, Clark & Lunn Private Capital in Toronto, he helps clients achieve their long-term goals. We asked him about his personal money values for this installment of My MoneySense.

Who are your investing heroes?

Those with whom I’ve worked in my career—some of the brightest, most practical and sensible people, both in life and in their approach to investing. The lessons they taught me were to always keep a perspective on what is happening around me when everyone is losing theirs. Tune out the noise. Also, to have a discipline—mine is diversificationand focus on your process and stay committed to it through markets’ ups and downs.

How do you like to spend your free time? 

Travel foremost, and spending quality time with friends and family. Sports, like skiing, snowboarding and physical fitness, are a big part of my routine. I’m committed to volunteering. I sit on the national board of directors for Ronald McDonald House Charities. It’s very dear to my heart. Our work enables families to focus on their children’s health rather than financial stresses. And I’m the co-founder and an investment committee member of the Black Opportunity Fund. It’s a long-term endowment fund committed to combatting issues of systemic racism by empowering Black community-focused charities and entrepreneurs for success, through investment of capital and lending options. Our goal is to empower the Black businesspeople, philanthropists and leaders of the future.

If money were no object, what would you be doing right now?

I love what I do for a living—I wouldn’t change that. I love who I work with and the clients I have. More money would mean the freedom to do more of what I love: volunteering, travelling, eating well, spending time with friends and family—and in exotic destinations.

What’s your first memory about money? 

My maternal grandparents were strong influences. I believed they would be in my life forever, and in many ways they have. They taught me important and practical lessons: how to save money, only pay for what one can afford, how to have a great relationship with money and control it. That left an impression. I try to share this advice with clients.

What’s the first thing you remember buying with your own money?

I bought a go-cart. I was so proud when I drove it for the first time around the high-school track, and I felt like a Formula 1 racer. I learned it’s never about the money; rather, what money will allow one to do. I take the same approach with clients—money is the freedom to attain goals or manage circumstances.

What was your first job?

I had a paper route for The Toronto Star, allowing me to buy and collect Marvel comic books. After reading them, I stored them in comic book bags, thinking one day they’d be collectibles. I still have them. I was an investor even then. That’s foresight: Start early.

What was the biggest money lesson you learned as an adult? 

Time is on our side—use it wisely. Diversify. Do not have all your money in one basket and take on too much risk. This key lesson kept me from trying to find the “home run” investment win. Diversification and time are on our side. 

What’s the best money advice you’ve ever received?

To have a plan, focus on the goal and block out the noise distracting me from my plan.

That didn’t mean that I didn’t have fallback options in case the primary plan didn’t work out the way I thought. Simply, I was taught to have focus and adjust if necessary. I believe that should be applicable for anyone, especially as it relates to managing finances. It became even more critical for me, the more career success I had and the less time I had.

What’s the worst money advice you’ve ever received?

During the dot-com tech wreck of 1999/2000, some “bright” people convinced me to invest in technology. I was early in my career, and luckily, I couldn’t risk much. Run when you hear: “It’s different this time…” It’s never much different. I learned you don’t need to take on as much risk. Rather, be diversified and start early, and goals are achievable.

Would you rather receive a large sum of money all at once or a smaller amount of money every week for life?

A large sum of money at once. If invested wisely and prudently—in a diversified way, with a mix of public and private market alternative investments—it is easy to accomplish one’s objectives over the long term. Imagine, at 7% return, one’s large sum doubles every 10 years.

What do you think is the most underrated financial strategy?

Focus on the rate of return that you need, not the return you want. Clients don’t need to take on as much portfolio risk as they think to attain their objectives. We tend to be more risk-averse than we think, especially if capital has come from the sale of a prized asset, such as a family business.

What’s the biggest misconception people have about growing money?

Growing money is about three things: 

  1. the rate of return of one’s investments, 
  2. the amount of time one invests for, 
  3. and the amount of money one invests over time. 

Investors have influence and control over the two latter factors. As my family taught me, focus on the things in life that you can control, and you will be better off. It is a parallel lesson for growing wealth.

What’s the first major purchase you made as an adult? 

A car: a VW. I really ruminated on the purchase, because it was such a major investment and I wanted to make the right decision—practical versus flashy. 

What’s your take on debt?

Make as much of it as tax-deductible as possible—while generating a return at the same time. I call that good debt.

What’s your most recent splurge?

A painting by the Jamaican Canadian artist Owen Gordon. I am very committed to supporting the arts and Black culture. My family has roots in Jamaica. When I met Mr. Gordon, he connected with me and my family history and the stories of my childhood. Whenever I walk into my house, it’s the first thing I see. It’s bright, colourful, diverse, enlightening and joyful all at once. It serves to remind me of who I am, and my relationships with family, friends and clients.

What is the last money-related book you read? 

Billion Dollar Whale: The Man Who Fooled Wall Street, Hollywood, and the World by Tom Wright and Bradley Hope. How shocking is it that bright people can be defrauded when they want to believe in magical sales pitches? People get caught up in the story, and very often the investment sales pitch that sounds too good to be true is too good to be true. Do your homework, get references and stay informed on a regular basis with your advisors.

What is something you always have in your wallet?

I don’t carry a wallet. But I do carry a credit card, bank card, ID and cash. I learned from the blackout in 2003, when no cards worked, to always have cash. It really can be king.

What is your favourite possession? 

I’ve collected several photographic works by emerging Canadian artists in support of Casey House, the Toronto AIDS hospice. My passion is to support emerging talent—whether artists or young grads in my industry. Casey House represents the core of what’s great about the city of Toronto—generosity of care, kindness, compassion and being ahead of its time. 

What’s your next money goal?

Whether to buy real estate or not. The investment needs to be sound. Given my roots, and that I love the outdoors and sun, my spouse and I are tempted. It’s something to plan for.

My MoneySense quick questions

Rent or own?

Own. Always own an asset that appreciates over time. 

Buy or lease?

Lease. I like to have as much capital invested in assets that provide a return, versus depreciate, as possible.

Save or invest?

Both. Saving is investing—investing is saving. I believe investing is saving over a longer period, with a preferential rate of return for that longer time horizon. 

Budget or not? 

I think of it more as planning, having measurable objectives and goals. A budget helps break down a long-term goal to more manageable short-term tasks and behaviours. That type of planning is important because it creates focus from a diverse list of objectives into manageable tasks and items.

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