How about a course on Investing for Beginners?

You’re unhappy with the investing advice you get from your bank or broker, but you don’t feel confident about your knowledge and skills. Maybe it’s time to take an introductory course.

Learning about investing can help you become a do-it-yourself investor with an online brokerage account. You can start buying individual stocks and signing up for dividend reinvestment plans.

When you know more about investing, you can also have better conversations with financial advisers. It helps to understand the lingo and be able to describe exactly what you want.

My nine-week course at the University of Toronto campus starts on Sept. 12. Here’s a link for those who want to register or recommend it to others.

It’s the eighth year I’ve taught the course. We had more than 80 students enrolled last fall, a record number, in a big theatre-style classroom. There’s always room for more people.

You’ll learn about markets, products, advisers and regulators with me and interesting guest speakers. Mary Anne Wiley, head of iShares Canada, is booked for this fall. Doug Melville, head of OBSI (Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investments), may appear again as he has in recent years.

Each week, I prepare detailed handouts for students and send emails with interesting links. And I’m always ready to answer your questions.

There are no exams or written essays, but a few hands-on learning projects are assigned each week for those who want to try them.

Here’s what John, a student in last year’s class, had to say at the end:

Ellen, I’ve enjoyed your lectures very much; I know I’ll miss my Thursday evenings learning about investing and taking control of my investment portfolio.

I’ve expected my broker to look after my stuff. Truth is, they care more about their MERs.

It is somewhat scary to take over the portfolio, but certainly I think that I, like any interested and responsible investor, must overcome “the fear” and start looking at the portfolio on a regular basis and ask questions.

And those MERs? Oh yes, they are in my cross-hairs! I’ve got a meeting
with my broker next week.

John is referring to the Management-Expense Ratio, a shorthand term for the cost of investing in mutual funds. MERs are fairly high in Canada, attracting the attention of regulators.

Here’s a link to a discussion paper on mutual fund fees. And here’s my column on the need for change.