Stalks and bonds

Several years ago I swore off relationships forever. Long story short, I’m crap at them and at some point the joy simply goes out of beating one’s head against a brick wall.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I found myself in the middle of a breakup last week. This time, however, the soon-to-be-ex in question was not a drug dealer, an OCD yoga addict, someone impersonating a heart surgeon, or a “buff 136-pound running addict” who turned out to be a 350-pound woman with a beard.

No, this time it was my investment advisor: after two years of epic Fail on his part, it finally became painfully clear to me that he had to go.

I must first explain here that when I say I have an “investment advisor,” I don’t mean to imply that I am one of those über-tanned Beautiful People with expensive teeth & hair who swan around the country club saying “Darling” and talking about their holidays in Tuscany.

Rather, I have (like most of you, I suspect) a modest stash of cash (even more modest, as of 2009, but never mind) that I am assured is safer with an investment advisor than tucked in a Folger’s coffee can under my bed. After an unhappy stint attempting to invest through a bank (motto: You’ll be sorry!), I did a bit of research and decided to park my remaining shekels with a well-known Canadian company I’ll refer to here as Bledward Blones.

Over the next several months, my new advisor helped me extricate the scattered remnants of my finances from the bank (which I’ll call Canada Mistrust), consolidate it and invest it in things that will, in theory, allow me to eat premium dog food, rather than store brand, after I retire.

All went reasonably well until this fine gentleman decided to concentrate exclusively on his really wealthy clients (the expensive-teeth-and-hair people I mentioned above) and offload lesser schmucks like me onto a green young stripling I’ll call Tyler. Smiter though I am, I bear him no malice; I sometimes have to pick and choose between larger or smaller clients in my own business, and c’est la vie.

Anyway, thus began what quickly became a strange and rocky relationship. During the “courtship phase,” young Tyler would call me every couple of weeks, usually on a Saturday afternoon while I was in line at the grocery store, eager to “chat” about my finances. I have few “finances” to speak of, as I said, and I hate chatting, so I would patiently reply, “If you don’t stop bothering me, son, I am going to come to your house in the dead of night and put a dachshund down your pyjamas. Now bugger off.”

Undeterred, like Pepe le Pew, he then took to sending me letters by post, this time from both himself and his receptionist (the improbably named “Bong”), exhorting me to come in and chat with them in person. “We haven’t heard from you in a while,” the letter would say plaintively. “Bong and I feel now is a good time to come in and talk about any changes you may have in your financial situation.”

Aside from the issue of being asked to discuss my finances with a receptionist, I also felt pretty sure that Bong and Tyler were probably uninterested in my particular “changes” at this juncture, which consisted of buying a slightly more expensive brand of kibble for my cat (“It’s the hairball formula,” I imagined telling them in a stage whisper, leaning confidentially across the desk) and getting a birthday cheque from my mom. I began to play “hard to get” in earnest, and Tyler’s entreaties went to voice mail and the shredder.

However, I was not all frost and iron: a couple of years ago I was laid off and, recognizing that this was in fact an actual Tyler-worthy Change in My Financial Status, I rushed to the phone and wasted no time bringing him up to speed. And when I found a new job a short time later, our young hero was again the first to know. Both times, he was so excited I swear he screamed like a girl.

Fast forward now to December 2009, when I finally paid off my car (a.k.a. the Money Toilet) and decided to begin contributing my freed-up cash to an RRSP once again. I could hear Tyler’s hands shaking with excitement as he penned the appointment into his calendar. As I drove to his office on the fateful day, I idly wondered, would he present me with flowers? Chocolates? Or would he weep and gnash his teeth, rend his shirt and tearfully demand to know how I could be so cold, so unfeeling?

Of course, he did none of the above, which is just as well since I dislike roses, don’t care for chocolate, and cringe at emotional displays. Instead, he proudly presented me with a full-colour multi-page printout over which he and Bong had laboured for weeks, he said, detailing how much cash I could have by retirement age if I contributed… ALL… of my monthly income to an RRSP.

There was a moment of fuddled silence on my side of the desk, during which I blinked rapidly and wondered whether this was Tyler’s idea of payback for my coy indifference to his overtures. Or whether Bong had dropped LSD into my coffee. Or Tyler’s.

Dr Phil would probably have called this a deal-breaking moment, or at least another huge red flag indicating that my relationship with Tyler (and his with reality) was in serious trouble. And in hindsight I realize that it was. But I am a) a polite Canadian female, and b) next to ignorant about investment options other than the Folger’s can mentioned above, so I simply blinked a bit more and let it pass. We settled on a monthly contribution schedule that would also allow me to enjoy other luxuries such as paying rent and buying food, and the RRSP was duly set up. We shook hands and I went on my uneasy way.

A couple of months passed without incident; all was eerily quiet on the Tyler and Bong front. Imagine my surprise, then, when his number appeared on my call display ten days ago. It’s coming up to tax season, though, and I was feeling expansive after a pleasant lunch, so I picked up the phone.

“Hi, it’s me!” he said, giggling. “You’re on my list of naughty people I need to talk to about opening an RRSP!”

I held the phone at arm’s length and stared at it like it had just excreted a Pomeranian onto my desk. What the…?

Using careful, simple language, I reminded my young nemesis that I had done this exact thing (opened the RRSP, not pooped a Pomeranian) just eight weeks ago, in person, at his office.

“Oops. I guess I forgot to enter that into your file,” said Tyler. “Ha ha.”

So, that was it. Tyler and I are finished. Not being the sentimental sort, however, I am over it and have already taken up with a new man.

On the minus side, he is also with Bledward Blones. Like everyone else in the finance industry, Blones exacts a steep penalty for terminating business with them and until my lottery numbers come up, I simply cannot afford to cough up. So, Mormon-like, I have simply chosen a new consort from among the believers. Better the devil you know, I suppose.

On the plus side, however, my new man has a wife and two lovely children.  Their pictures are on his desk, under his impressive array of framed certificates, and I find this comforting, as it means he will not be calling me, forlorn, to chat on long Saturday afternoons, or offering to show me his impressive… ahem… spreadsheets.

Also on the plus side, he has already found and corrected some of Tyler’s more glaring errors and reversed the charges involved.  And we have drawn up a pre-nup that limits his phone time and face time with me to something below the level of “stalker.” And… he has asked me to drop by his office this week, at my convenience, as he has a “surprise” for me. I can only hope it’s Tyler’s head on a platter.

So life is good again – for now. But I am playing it cautious this time. We’re still in the honeymoon phase, after all. I’ve got my Folger’s can at the ready, just in case.

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