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Tips for Self-directed investing in Canada

Written by Stephen Hoenig
Reviewed by Emily Gardner
While investing your money can seem like a very daunting task to reach your financial goals, managing your own investments is actually easier than you may think. With today’s technologies, it’s actually easier than ever before to self-direct your own investments and take control of your financial future.
Table of Contents

    That said, DIY investing isn’t necessarily black and white, either. Before you begin with self-directed investing, there are a few things to consider. 

    When it comes to self-directed investing, accessibility isn’t an issue. What you do have to consider, though, is what platforms and brokers you’re going to use. It’s also important to consider what types of investments you want to consider. This will allow you to start to do research before you even begin investing. 

    How Self-Directed Investing Works

    In Canada, there are a few different ways you can invest. One of these is called self-directed investing. How self-directed investing works is that investors choose and manage their own investment profiles. So instead of having an investment manager control your investments for you, you control them yourself. That said, though, while this isn’t super difficult, research and planning are involved to ensure that you make the correct investments.

    When it comes to being a self-directed trader, there’s more to it than just hitting a few buttons and making money. Time and thought do have to go into your trades. There are some key ways to help you do this.

    Do Your Own Research

    When it comes to investing, the most important thing is knowledge. Before you make an investment, do your research. Find the history of the investments, the risk factors and anything else that will affect its trade value. Making the most informed decisions can be the difference between financial gain and loss. 

    Develop an Investment Plan

    Before you begin investing, it’s important that you lay out a plan. This means figuring out what types of investments you want to start investing in and how you want to diversify your portfolio. Once you’ve done that, you can begin to look at the investment options themselves. 

    Understand Trading Fees

    Another important thing to remember when controlling your own investments is trading fees. These are the fees charged whenever a trade is made. The more often you trade, then the more trading fees you pay. Each brokerage and trading platform has its own trading fees, so finding a brokerage that works for you while having reasonable trading fees is important. 

    Learn the Basics of Trading

    Once you have done your research on different trading options and created a diversified portfolio, you want to learn the basics of trading. Trading involves making the most informed decision based on the information you have. That information allows you to reduce your overall risk. That said, you want to be careful how often you trade when you’re trading. Learning the basics of trading as well as a few strategies to increase your odds, can help you make trading decisions now and in the future. 

    Keep on Top of Financial News

    Once you’ve started trading, it’s important that you keep an eye on your investments. One way to do this is by keeping track of financial news. This will help you to decide when the right time to purchase a new investment is or to get rid of one you already have. It’s a common investment strategy among experienced investors. 

    Regular Monitoring

    Unfortunately, when you manage your own investments, it’s not just a one-time process. You need to keep track of them in order to increase your chances of earning a profit. Even if something is a good idea when you purchase it, the securities market is volatile, so keeping track of everything you own is vital. This is also vital for making new purchases. It can help you determine the right time to buy. 

    Options for Investing

    Once you enter the world of investing, there are plenty of options to choose from. It’s important that you have a mix of different types of investments to help mitigate your losses and increase your chances of profit. Here are some of the more popular options for diversifying your portfolio. 


    ETFs, also known as exchange-traded funds, are investment funds as well as enchanted-traded products. They can hold different investments such as stocks, bonds, currencies, debts, futures and precious metals. Plus, like many other investments, they can be traded on stock exchanges. 

    Mutual Funds

    Mutual funds are similar to ETFs but slightly different. These types of investments are investment funds made up of funds from different individual investors in order to purchase securities. It consists of a portfolio of stocks, bonds or other securities and is managed by an investment manager. 


    Bonds are generally a low-risk investment, depending on the type of bond you purchase. Essentially bonds are like a loan from the investor to the borrower. When you purchase a bond, you’re lending money to the bond issuer, who then will pay it back to the investor with interest. This makes these types of investments fixed-income investments. 


    GICS are guaranteed investment certificates. These are generally low-risk because they offer a guaranteed investment return over a certain period of time. These are most commonly issued by banks and trust companies. How they work is you invest your money into a GIC. Once your money has sat in the GIC for the agreed-upon term, you’ve earned the interest rate that was also agreed upon. The only downside to GICs is that you can’t access the funds until the term is up. 


    Stocks are a form of security used by companies to earn capital for their businesses. That said, they’re essentially selling shares of their company. However, the return or loss of these shares depends on the performance of that company. 

    Precious Metals

    Precious metals are pure metals that are worth a high economic value. With precious metals, the value fluctuates, so you can purchase at one price and then sell at a higher value. Examples of precious metals are:

    • Gold
    • Copper
    • Silver 
    • Platinum 
    • Palladium

    Brokerages for Direct Investing

    Once you’ve decided to begin investing yourself, you want to find the brokerage that works for you. In Canada, there are quite a few online brokerages that offer diversified investing with reasonable fees. You can also transfer funds directly from your bank account to these brokerage accounts in order to fund your investments. 

    Just because these are online brokerage accounts, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t regulated though. These platforms are regulated by the Canadian Investment Regulatory Organization which protects your funds. This is similar to the Canadian Investors Protectors Fund, which protects funds held by member investment dealers.


    Questrade is one of many online discount brokers that allows you to open a new account and start managing your own portfolios. They offer tax-free savings accounts and RRSPs as account types to invest in. You also have plenty of investment products to choose from, including ETFs, mutual funds, stocks, options and foreign exchange. Their fees are relatively low as well. They offer different fees for active traders and self-directed traders. They also don’t seem to have any annual fees. Plus, all you need to do is create an investor profile to get started investing with lower fees. 

    Questrade also offers market data to help you manage your self-directed accounts. While many other online trading platforms offer this, Questrade does it all a bit differently. They offer market data packages. You can purchase these packages based on the types of investments that are related to you. For those trading stocks on the stock market, this data can help you make informed decisions regarding when to sell stocks on trading platforms. 

    Type of AssetSelf-Directed Fees
    Stocks$0..01 per share (min of $4.95 max of $9.95)
    ETFsFree to buy; $0.01 to sell (min of $4.95 max of $9.95)
    Options$9.95 plus $1 for contracts
    BondsMin $5,000 purchase
    GICsMin $5,000 purchase
    Product Precious Metals$19.95 USD/trade
    IPOs and New IssuesFree to Buy
    International Equities1% of trade value
    Mutual Funds$9.95 / Trade
    FX and CFDsSpreads as low as 0.08 pips


    In Canada, Wealthsimple is considered the cheapest online trading platform, but it does have a limited selection of trading options. The trading options they offer are cryptocurrency, options, stocks and ETFs. That said, you’re able to buy over 9,000 stocks and ETFs commission-free. 

    With Wealthsimple, you have the option of three different investment groups. There are Core, Premium and Generation. The Core is the best investment option for beginners and requires a minimum balance of only $1. Premium requires an investment of $100,000 in assets, and Generation requires $500,000 in assets. These are more geared towards those who have investing experience. 

    Here’s what the Core program includes:

    • 0% commission on stock trading
    • 2% trading fees for crypto
    • 0.5% management fee on managed investment accounts
    • 4% interest on your cash account balance
    • Instant deposits up to $50,000
    • Customer support
    • $2 USD/trade on options contracts

    Interactive Brokers

    Another very popular online trading platform for self-directed investors is Interactive Brokers LLC. With them, you can invest globally in:

    • Stocks
    • Options
    • Futures
    • Currencies
    • Bonds

    They have access to 27 currencies, 30 countries and 150 markets, including major North American exchanges. They also can access market conditions 24 hours a day, 6 days a week. 

    Investing With the Top 5 Banks

    While discounted brokerages are a great option, they aren’t the only ones. Many banks and financial institutions in Canada also offer self-directed investing with individual accounts and joint accounts. Let’s take a look at what these online brokers offer. 


    With RBC direct investing, there are plenty of investment options. They offer simple investing for beginners as well as advanced trading tools. You can trade online or with the app, and you have access to the online investing platform as well as the trading dashboard. 

    The accounts you have access to invest in with RBC registered accounts which are RESPs (Registered Education Savings Plans), RRSPs, First Home Savings Accounts, Tax-Free Savings Accounts and RRIFs. You can also have non-registered accounts, including cash accounts, margin accounts, and non-personal accounts. Your investment options are stocks, options, ETFs, mutual funds, GICs, bonds and gold and silver certificates. RBC has reasonable fees as well.

    Stocks$9.95 per trade ($6.95 with 150 plus trades per quarter)
    Options$9.95 per trade ($6.95 with 150 plus trades per quarter)
    ETFs$9.95 per etf trades ($6.95 with 150 plus trades per quarter)
    Mutual funds0% commission to sell, 1% of gross trade amount for buy or switch
    GICsCommission in quoted price
    Bonds$25 - $250 per transaction, show in quote
    Gold and Silver CertificatesGold is $28.95 plus $1 per ozSilver is $28.95 plus $0.10 per oz


    TD Easy Trade also offers some great investment options for investors looking to take complete control of their investments. They offer different investment options based on your experience as an investor, and they have pricing based on the type of trader you are, not the investment you’re purchasing. 

    As a standard trader with TD direct investing, stocks flat fee cost $9.99 to trade, and options are $9.99 per trade as well as $1.25 per contract. For active traders, the cost to trade stocks is $7, and $7 plus $1.25 per contract for options. Plus, all accounts include:

    • Exclusive research reports
    • Educational resources
    • Commission-free trades on mutual funds
    • Real-time market data and quotes


    With BMO investorline, you can manage your own investments online. That said, you also have the option to work with an investment professional. There are a wide variety of investment accounts to choose from, as well as different options you can choose from based on your risk tolerance.

    The different investment options offered by BMO are GICs, stocks, mutual funds and ETFs. While BMO doesn’t directly list the cost of trading, they do specify that most of their investments are commission-free.
    CIBC Investor’s Edge offers a wide variety of investments as well. Just like the other large banks we have discussed, CIBC offers a variety of investment accounts as well as investment options. These options include:

    • ETFs
    • Stocks
    • Options
    • Mutual Funds
    • GICs
    • Fixed-Income
    • IPOs
    • Structured Notes

    CIBC also offers reasonable fees. It’s $6.95 for trades on stocks and ETFs, $6.95 plus $1.25 for options, $0 on the money market mutual funds, and $6.95 on all other mutual funds. The rest of the investment options are commission-based.  That said, though, these are just basic investor prices. The prices differ for active investors, young investors and student investors. 


    With Scotiabank, there are plenty of different ways to invest. They have options for self-directed investing as well as investing with investment managers who provide investment advice to help you make your investment decisions. They also have a wide range of investment accounts and already created portfolios. 

    With Scotia iTrade, Scotiabank's online brokerage platform, you can create your own portfolios and manage your own investments. All you need to do is create your account and get started. The fees for itrade are based on what you invest in and how often you invest.

    Best Ways to Invest Your Money

    When it comes to investing your money, it can be slightly overwhelming. There’s no guarantee you won’t lose your money, so doing the research is important. This can help mitigate any risk and increase your chances of earning a profit. 


    When you’re looking into investing $1,000, there are plenty of options, but what works best for you depends on the risk you’re willing to take. That said, one of the best and most popular ways to invest your money is with a high-interest savings account.

    With this option, you earn money on the funds as long as they sit in the account, but you have access to them at any point. Even if you do choose to have other investment accounts as well, this is a great thing to have as part of your portfolio.


    When it comes to investing $5,000, there are plenty of ways to do so. That said, some of the most recommended ways to invest this amount are in ETFs, dividend stocks and growth stocks.

    However, if you aren’t quite comfortable with that, GICs are also a great option. You may have to lock in the funds for a period of time with a GIC, but you also have a guaranteed return. 


    If you’re looking to invest $50,000, how you choose to invest really just depends on your risk tolerance and if you want to diversify your portfolio or invest in one place.

    That said, having some of it in a savings account is always a good idea. So are GICs, retirement investments and even stocks. Splitting up the funds is the most recommended way to lower your risk and increase your chances of a return. 

    Is Self-Directed Investing Worth It?

    Whether or not self-directed investing is worth it or not is dependent on you. It just depends on how much research and time you’re willing to put in, as well as what types of investments you’re choosing to invest in.

    For simple investments, self-directed investing can be worth it because you have more control and the fees are lower. That said, if you’re struggling to understand investments and just aren’t sure where to start, then working with an investment professional could be the safest option. 

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