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What is self-directed investing?

June 7, 2024
min read

You don’t have to be an expert to create your own investment portfolio – but it does take some research! Here’s a beginner’s guide to help you get the ball rolling.


Want to pave your own path in personal finance? Then you might be curious about self-directed investing, also known as DIY investing.

Self-directed investing is when you manage your own portfolio instead of having an advisor (or a robo-advisor) manage it for you. Using an online brokerage, you can:

  • Develop your own investment strategy.
  • Buy and sell different asset classes, including stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and ETFs.
  • Monitor and adjust your portfolio, all online.

If you’re thinking about investing online, you’ve come to the right place! We sat down with Christine Zalzal, SVP, Head of Online Brokerage & Digital Wealth at Qtrade, to talk about how to get started with Qtrade Direct Investing®:

What is self-directed investing?

If you’re confident in your financial knowledge, consider self-directed investing; it allows you to take advantage of lower fees and put your knowledge to the test!

You have a wide range of investment options available to you, and it’s up to you to decide how to allocate and diversify your funds.

“Self-directed investing gives retail investors the ability to buy and sell securities at a very low transactional cost,” says Christine.

A retail investor describes someone who is a non-professional investor or individual investor.

“Through Qtrade’s platform, they have access to a wide range of investment classes – including GICs, bonds, ETFs, and more.”

Cambrian partners with Qtrade, consistently ranked as Canada’s #1 online brokerage. With low trading fees, industry leading tools, and a seamless user experience, Qtrade gives you the tools to invest with confidence!

Here’s how it works:

  1. Open an account with an online brokerage of your choice.
  2. Deposit funds into your account.
  3. Decide where and how to invest your money.
  4. Update your portfolio as needed.

To get started, you need to choose an online brokerage to invest with. This is the platform you’ll use to buy and sell stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and ETFs.

Next, you can start investing in a registered or non-registered account. A registered savings plan (like an RRSP or TFSA) offers unique tax benefits that help you keep more of your investment gains in your pocket.

The right account for you depends on your goals for that investment account, whether it’s funding your retirement or saving up for your first home. Learn more about the different types of registered savings plans.

Is self-directed investing right for you?

It takes time and research to invest on your own, but for some, the total control and lower fees are worth it! Other investors enjoy the process of researching companies and investing in ones that align with their values.

With a self-directed account, you can start by investing smaller amounts until you build the confidence to make larger transactions.

The benefits of a self-directed account include:

  • You can enjoy the independence of developing your own investment strategy, with total control over how and where your money is invested.
  • With an online brokerage like Qtrade, you’ll have low trading fees on the investments you buy and sell.

What kind of support is there for self-directed investors?

With Cambrian’s partner Qtrade, you can access customer support via phone or email.

You can speak with a representative for expert support whenever you need help. They can resolve problems you may have with your account or point you in the right direction for educational resources.

“Part of our service mentality is to help our investors do better. That’s why we focus on education and building financial literacy with our investors,” says Christine.

“On our website, we provide information and research to help investors build their education and confidence.”

If you need more guidance, you may feel more comfortable working with a Financial Advisor or investing through Qtrade Guided Portfolios®.

Should you open a guided portfolio or a self-directed account?

“Guided portfolios and self-directed accounts are both digital solutions through Qtrade’s online platform," says Christine.

"They’re similar in terms of how you access the account and the user experience you have with it - but the difference is with that with the guided portfolio, you have a little extra help making investment decisions."

A guided portfolio automatically rebalances to meet your investment goals. It’s a “set it and forget it” approach, whereas self-directed investing requires more active decision making.

“If you’re not ready to do it all on your own, a guided portfolio is a great middle ground between working with an advisor and a self-directed investing.”

Which one is right for you? To answer that, ask yourself the following questions:

  • How would you describe your knowledge level about investing, the market, and finances in general? Do you consider yourself a beginner or an expert?
  • How much time can you dedicate to doing your own research and adjusting your portfolio?
  • Do you want to manage your own portfolio, or would you prefer some guidance with your investments?
  • Are you clear on the investment goals of the account?
  • Do you feel confident that you’ll stick to your investment goals in the face of market volatility?

If these questions made you reconsider whether you’re ready to invest on your own, you may be better suited to working with an Aviso Wealth Advisor at Cambrian or opening a Qtrade Guided Portfolio®.

“Plenty of self-directed investors also work with advisors!” says Christine. “The two aren’t mutually exclusive.”

“As your life grows and evolves, you may find you need an advisor to help you make financial decisions. It all depends on the complexity of your financial situation and the stage of life you’re at.”

How to make well-informed investment decisions!

When you’re managing your own investments, it’s important to ensure you’re referencing accurate information and keeping up to date on market trends - that way, you’ll make informed decisions, not emotional ones.

Make educated choices by researching the market and learning all you can about investments!

Through Cambrian’s Financial Literacy Blog, we publish new articles every week, covering different topics in personal finance. From investing basics to managing debt, we’re committed to sharing free financial education with our members. Check back weekly for fresh content!

You can also check out the Qtrade Education Centre, which features articles tailored for new and seasoned investors alike.

Take control of your financial future

Ready to start managing your own investment portfolio? Through our partnership with Qtrade Direct Investing®, we offer our members the ability to start their self-directed investing journey with confidence and ease.

Take advantage of an award-winning platform to achieve your financial goals. Open your account today!


Mutual funds and other securities are offered through Aviso Wealth. Online brokerage services are offered through Qtrade Direct Investing. Aviso Wealth, Qtrade Direct Investing, and Qtrade Guided Portfolios are divisions of Aviso Financial Inc.

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