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Because of the heavy volume of e-mail we receive, we cannot provide personal responses. But all questions we receive will be read and considered.

Brokerage fees
Where to begin?
Corporate class funds
CPP dilemma
Brokerage fees
How much is the usual cost to have a broker purchase a stock? Does $250 sound excessive?  L.R.
Full-service brokerage firms typically have a minimum charge ($150 is the rate at one company I deal with). That amount can increase depending on the size of the trade  the more money thats involved, the higher the commission. Ask your broker for a fee schedule.

Discount brokerage firms charge much less  some advertise trades for less than $10. But of course they dont offer any advice either.  G.P.

Where to begin?
I am a beginner in stock investing and I would like to know if you could recommend stocks with which I could begin (between 10 and 15). The reason I am asking is that certain analysts are saying that there are no more opportunities, as most stocks are expensive and also the markets are now too high. In other words, unless you have a lot of money there are no more possibilities for now. I am very lost with all I hear and read!  Pierre L.
I understand your dilemma but if you wait around for stocks to become cheap again you could wait a long time. Heres my advice in this situation.

For starters, focus on quality. Anyone who does not already have a stock portfolio in place should begin with core companies. By this I mean industry leaders that are going to retain that status for the foreseeable future. Typically, these firms will have a history of solid revenue growth, increasing earnings per share, regular dividend hikes, and a clean balance sheet.

issues that I regard as core include Bank of Nova Scotia, BCE Inc., Brookfield Asset Management, CN Rail, Enbridge Inc., Fortis Inc., Intact Financial, Suncor Energy, and Teck Resources.

In the U.S., look at AT&T, American Express, Boeing, General Electric, Google, MetLife, United Health Group, Wal-Mart, Walt Disney and Wells Fargo.

Any combination of those stocks is a good starting place for a portfolio.

Build the portfolio over time  say six months to a year. With indexes setting new records, its not a good idea to rush out and spend all your cash at once. You could end up buying at the top of the market. Instead, decide on which stocks you want to own and then gradually build a position using dollar-cost averaging. Keep some cash in reserve to take advantage of any market correction.

Always keep in mind that youre investing for the long term. When you make your decisions, dont worry about what the markets will do next week. Rather, ask yourself which companies are likely to be thriving a decade from now while rewarding you in the interim with dividends. If you base your stock choices on that kind of analysis, you wont go far wrong.  G.P.

Corporate class funds
My question relates to investing outside an RRSP. I understand they have these corporate funds that can save you taxes but I am not sure what they mean. Could you explain how it works and suggest a few funds? Also can ETFs can do the same?  Mike C.
Corporate class funds have become quite popular but they are mainly suitable for people who like to switch a lot. Several funds are set up under a corporate umbrella, hence the term corporate class. This allows investors to move money among these funds, for example from a stock fund to a bond fund, without triggering capital gains tax liability (hence the tax savings). In fact, you will be taxed when you eventually sell your position. Corporate class funds simply postpone the day of reckoning, albeit perhaps for many years. Many major fund companies offer this option. Ask your financial adviser for suggestions. I do not know of any corporate class ETFs.  G.P.
CPP dilemma
I am a boomer in my late 50s. I have heard a lot about CPP payments from my friends. Some of them have decided to apply for their CPP at 60 instead of 65 because they feel the fund may be gone soon or fear the government may cancel such payments in the near future. Is there any validity in this point of view? When is the best time to apply for CPP benefits? We have limited funds saved and need the CPP to survive.  Janice D.
The CPP is not going anywhere bad. Actuaries have concluded the fund is sound for at least 75 years, which is long beyond the time any of us need to be concerned. As for when to apply, if you truly need the money then do so when you turn 60. However, the longer you delay, the larger your pension will be to think it through carefully.  G.P.

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