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May 31, 2018

An Appreciation Of ShareClubs

by David Stanley

David StanleyIt occurred to me recently that the ShareClub movement in Canada has been going now for over 20 years. That, I think, is worthy of some recognition. As you may know, the ShareClub concept was conceived by Dale Ennis, the Founder and first Editor of the Canadian MoneySaver. He found through talking with subscribers that their biggest need was for “Discussion groups where you can talk with like-minded individuals in a low-key, no-pressure atmosphere."

Dale designed these groups so they wouldn’t be confused with investment clubs, which are specifically aimed at enhancing stock-market returns. "We decided to make ours educational groups, and that's why we use the term ShareClub." It is useful to consider the MoneySaver as the investment text and ShareClubs as the laboratory where, through mutual discussions, we can see how these ideas can be applied.

In a recent MoneySaver issue I counted close to 50 clubs listed across Canada, and I’m sure there are more. The only clubs shown are those still seeking members since once they are full they stop advertising with the magazine. I believe their popularity is because they fill a need in the investment landscape unmet by financial advisors. The opportunity for like-minded individuals to discuss personal finance seems to only exist in these personal settings.

It is rather surprising that the ShareClub concept has grown as much as it has. You might think that with the advent of the internet and the concept of cocooning, social participation would decline. In Canada this seems not to be the case. According to Statistics Canada the percentage of Canadians who are part of a group, organization, or association is on the rise, increasing from 61% in 2003 to 65% in 2013. Seniors and women are two groups becoming more engaged in joining various civic groups.

How many people have been associated with ShareClubs? If we make some assumptions about numbers of clubs, how long they have been active, and what the average turnover is, it is reasonable to say between 2500 and 4000 Canadians have participated in ShareClub activities. Thanks to Dale and all the volunteers for making a real change in financial literacy in Canada. I have frequently run into former members who have told me how much the ShareClub experience has changed their financial lives for the better.

What does the future hold for ShareClubs? One of the changes I see developing in Canada is the advent of robo-advisors. A robo-advisor is a set of on-line tools that, based on the replies of the client to a series of questions, provides a rebalancing portfolio consisting mainly of ETFs designed to meet the requirements of age, risk-tolerance, and investing goals, all for a minimal fee compared to traditional financial advisors and without human intervention. A Globe and Mail article says the average age of Canadians using this service is around 45 years. I don’t have much to say about the suitability of these products since the marketplace will decide their future, but I do wonder if any of these clients miss the personal touch they might (or might not) have enjoyed before. Robo-advice is a new concept and we have not gone through a significant market decline since they have been around. I’m thinking robo-advisees might welcome the comfort of a ShareClub when the going gets rough.

I feel very confident that with the continued support of Peter Hodson, Lana Sanichar, and the Canadian MoneySaver team the ShareClub concept will continue to thrive. If you are new to investing or would just like some support with your planning, consult the directory in the front of this magazine to seek a club near to you. Can’t find one? Consider starting your own. It is a worthwhile thing to do and doesn’t require a great deal of your time. Contact Lana and she will be glad to provide some assistance. And don’t forget, ShareClubs are not just about investing. All aspects of personal finance are discussed such as insurance, estate planning, retirement issues, etc. There are no fees, no obligations, no money mingling, and no prerequisites other than a desire to learn and contribute. ShareClubs are run by volunteers and are not open to those who would try to profit by selling investment products.

Today’s investors have access to powerful tools that were not available before. But I think they need more than that. If you are interested in the topics featured in the MoneySaver and would like to be able to share your thoughts about personal finance and investing, then ShareClubs are for you.


David W. Stanley, Guelph, Ontario