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Value of advice: “I lost big in the stock market. Will I have to delay my retirement?”

Middle aged man speaking on the phone and reading the newspaper

The value of financial advice: An MD-guided process​. This series from MD Financial Management (MD) illustrates financial situations faced by Canadian physician households, along with our planning process to solve problems and help you achieve your personal goals. While these composite case studies do not portray any single individual, they do reflect real-life conversations MD Advisors* have with physicians and their families every day.

At 42, Kevin's career as a physician is in full swing. He practises emergency medicine at a community hospital, and he’s known by colleagues for his sharp sense of humour as much as for his composure in a fast-paced specialty.

Outside of work, however, Kevin has been struggling personally and financially. The pandemic has dealt a double blow: the death of his father, who was a victim of COVID-19, and massive losses in the stock market crash of 2020.

The challenge: “I made a big mistake with my money. Have I ruined my chances of early retirement?”

Kevin didn’t shy away from investing as global stock prices tumbled in March 2020. A DIY investor since his early 30s, Kevin feels he has been successful in picking stocks that realized dramatic growth.

As the world slowed to a halt, Kevin took a risky gamble with his investment portfolio, which is essentially his retirement fund. He sold everything on the downturn, expecting stock markets to fall even lower in the grip of a once-in-a-century pandemic. In his mind, he would buy back low and then gain big from the eventual recovery. Kevin had always hoped to retire at age 55 and avoid the burnout he fears in his profession, and this move would accelerate the plan.

But the timing couldn’t have been worse: Kevin sold on March 23, 2020, the very bottom of the market, and the recovery began almost immediately. It was a gut-wrenching mistake, just as the stress of the novel coronavirus was bringing extra pressure to work amid an influx of COVID-19 cases.

And then the pandemic got personal. Kevin received a call from his 80-year-old father’s retirement home: his dad had tested positive for COVID-19. A lockdown meant weeks of virtual visits. When his father’s condition worsened, Kevin was called in to spend time by his bedside, to allow a final goodbye.

Kevin wants to step away from work for a short time as he comes to terms with his father’s death. He knows he also needs to do something with his investments, still parked in cash since March 2020, but he’s not sure what. Did a bad trading decision blow his chance at taking an early retirement?

The numbers: Kevin's financial picture


March 2020








Corporate account



House in small town (shared with live-in partner)



Inheritance (share of his father’s $1.2 million, split among three siblings)







The analysis: An Advisor’s fresh eyes

Kevin recognized that he was “not OK,” and needed time off to see his brothers and settle his father’s estate. To confront his financial paralysis, he turned to Stephanie at MD Financial Management, introduced to him by a mutual friend as someone who could offer unbiased financial planning advice.

A man without a plan. After their first conversation, it became clear to Stephanie that Kevin had been investing without a plan or a safety net for a long time. He spoke about market fluctuations, researching stocks, and aiming for the highest returns. But he had no ground rules; he had not defined his short- or long-term goals, risk tolerance, or expectations on rates of return. When stock markets became volatile, he went for broke. He took more risk than was necessary to finance his early retirement.

An unexpected inheritance. Kevin was emotional as he talked about his father’s death. He feels guilty about receiving an inheritance. He and his brothers had no clue their father still had much money — $1.2 million after final taxes were paid. They’d urged him for years to travel and visit family in England, but he always said he couldn’t afford to. They assumed he had just enough to get by on and offered to help financially. Everyone was extremely upset to learn he needn’t have lived out his last years so frugally.

A need to imagine the future. More than anything, Kevin wants to take a break from ER life for a few months and start piecing together a clearer plan for his future. With no plans to have children, he and his partner, Sebastian want to be able to travel and spend more time together — free from Kevin constantly being on call. They love the small community they live in. Kevin's partner is an artist, and they’ve talked about opening a gallery to showcase local talent.

The plan

“Kevin was embarrassed about his decision to sell, and about hesitating to reinvest with so much cash in hand,” Stephanie said. “He needs to get past the guilt, regain confidence about his financial future, and envision a happy life ahead of him.”

Create a better balance of risk and return. “We dug deeper into why he was investing, and his thought process,” Stephanie continued. “It was less about savings for retirement and more about maximizing returns, regardless of risk. In our planning process, we defined two things: how much money he needed to achieve his goals, and an investment strategy to weigh risk.” Stephanie suggested reinvesting a set amount of cash weekly, over a couple of months. Kevin would have the option of increasing that amount to take advantage of any market dips. He could have a large component of his retirement portfolio professionally managed, while managing a smaller proportion himself to get the hands-on investing that he craves.

Readjust the retirement date. After taking this financial hit, Kevin is afraid that his plan to retire at 55 is shot. Rather than rule out early retirement entirely, Stephanie suggested he could ease into retirement in two stages. If he could work part time starting at 55 and still earn $200,000 a year for five years, he could round out his retirement portfolio by age 60. Given his specialty in emergency medicine, he could likely find work as a locum or take short-term assignments. They also discussed an estate plan. Kevin doesn’t have children or dependants, so leaving money to charity and to his three nephews could be a way to “pay forward” his inheritance and honour his dad.

Reorganize investment accounts. Stephanie recommended reorganizing Kevin's investment accounts — what investments he holds where – with tax-efficiency in mind. Unfortunately, the capital losses Kevin suffered inside his RRSP and TFSA (i.e., his registered accounts) can’t be used to offset capital gains in other investments. That’s why most people make sure to hold their most aggressive investments in their corporate accounts, where capital losses can be set against capital gains. But the experience gave him a new appreciation of the financial planning process, and the value of advice. He has opted to work with an investment advisor for the majority of his investment portfolio while continuing to invest a small amount independently.

Follow your goals to know what’s best for your investments

There’s more to wealth than the investments you choose: once you engage in a financial planning process, you’ll be guided by a consistent strategy. This will help you reach your short-term goals and your long-term ones, and have the means to achieve the lifestyle you expect retirement.

*MD Advisor refers to an MD Management Limited Financial Consultant or Investment Advisor (in Quebec), or an MD Private Investment Counsel Portfolio Manager.

The above information should not be construed as offering specific financial, investment, foreign or domestic taxation, legal, accounting or similar professional advice nor is it intended to replace the advice of independent tax, accounting or legal professionals.