Published in The National Post
July 21, 2001
Former child television star Adam Reid figures he learned everything he will ever need to know about investing from his grandfather. "Gramps has three golden rules," said the 29-year-old Ottawa native, who enjoyed
a four-year run as a cast regular on the children's sketch comedy program You Can't Do That On Television.
"Rule No. 1," continued Mr. Reid, adopting the strained vocal inflection of a man several decades his senior, "buy a solid company with a track record."
Starting at age 11 in 1984, Mr. Reid made about 25 episodes of You Can't Do That, which featured kids performing wacky skits and getting slimed with messy green gunk. The slime would fall on cue from the sky if a contestant uttered the words, "I don't know."
Mr. Reid's earnings per episode: about $1,000.
During the 1988 television season, the Ottawa-produced show, which debuted on CTV's Ottawa affiliate, CJOH Television, in 1979 and later became a hit on U.S. cable channel Nickelodeon, was placed on hiatus. But it was brought back the following year for the first of two final seasons, and Mr. Reid returned, this time as a writer.
With a portion of his income, Mr. Reid said he followed Gramps' advice and bought Coke.
"Now there's a solid company."
As he recalls, he invested $1,000 in stock certificates and wound up making about $500 in profit. He would have made more if not for the New Coke fiasco of 1985, he said, chuckling.
Eventually, when he was in high school, he discovered mutual funds. As a member of ACTRA, the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists, he had been investing in mutual funds for some time through the organization's registered retirement saving plan.
"But my dad and I, we decided to get into emerging markets. We thought we were just so savvy. You know, invest in companies that were being held up by crutches, essentially, and hope that they would at some point emerge."
As it turns out, the companies Mr. Reid bet on did not. "That ended up being just a lost cause."
Fortunately, he balanced his risky emerging-markets investments, made through Templeton, with some safer Trimark mutual funds that generated decent returns. "In the end, I never gained a lot and I never lost a lot."
But he did learn that it took a great deal of effort to be an informed investor, and he realized he had other interests that meant more to him.
"As a young kid, I was aggressive about the whole thing. I was fascinated about investing and I used to read the business section of the newspaper."
But with part of his You Can't Do That earnings, he had purchased a video camera, which turned out to be a life-altering decision. He and his friends began using the camera to shoot amateur films and, although he
initially had set his career sights on acting, his exposure to the action behind the camera made him realize he would rather write and direct.
That led to his enrolment in a four-year film production course at Toronto's Ryerson University.
To pay his tuition, he performed in the Komic-Kazes, a comedy troupe that played college and university campuses, and he acted, mostly in commercials. One of the spots he appeared in was a Heritage Minute public service announcement about Joseph Shuster, co- creator of the Superman comic series. He played
Upon graduating in 1995, Mr. Reid shot a documentary in return for a camera and computer editing system. Soon he was using the equipment to shoot television ads and music videos through his Toronto production company, Bullrush Productions. And with the money he earned, plus the sums he was garnering from directing assignments and acting gigs -- he appeared in Brain Candy (1996) and My Date with the President's Daughter (1998) -- he was again ready to think about investing.
This time around, it was not emerging markets that caught his attention but the tech boom. Even though he was in general loath to put his money into places he had not fully investigated, he could not resist a tip from
his uncle to buy Trionics Inc.
"To be honest, I missed the boom, but I doubled my small investment in Trionics."
Then he put his earnings in another Internet high flyer and lost it all. That was enough. "I said I'm not investing any more in stocks that I don't understand and that I don't care about."
Two years ago, fearing the market was ripe for a crash, he cleaned everything out of his mutual fund accounts and adhered to his Gramps' second rule: "You gotta buy land."
For $190,000, he picked up a two-storey Victorian-style row house with a backyard in a downtown Toronto neighbourhood.
"Because I'm an independent filmmaker, no bank would hold my mortgage. So I had to go to an independent broker."
Mr. Reid said the security of owning property suits him at this stage of his life. His current work projects include editing a documentary about 50 students who took a trip to Antarctica -- he has a 20% stake in the
project -- and flogging his recently completed short film, The Best Girl, to international film festivals. As well, he is half finished writing a feature film that he hopes to direct.
"The career I have lends itself to instability. You don't know when your next job will come, you're working on spec projects. I can't afford to gamble with my money. I'm also not interested I keeping a ton of money
under the mattress. I want to be able to go out for dinner and enjoy myself."
Nonetheless, old habits die hard. Last year, he dropped by the Bank of Montreal and opened a modest mutual fund account.
Oh, and in case you are wondering, his Gramps' third golden rule - - "You can never overcook chicken.