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Ross Murray's Border Report
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Ross Murray
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is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at ross_murray@sympatico.ca
Posted 03.17.08
Stanstead, Quebec

ROSS MURRAY

Would you like a growth fund? Yeth, I would.

STANSTEAD, QC | If you're like me (and if so, there's hope by calling 1-800-YU-LOSER), you probably just loaded up on RRSPs to gain some relief on your income tax. And it's also quite possible your RRSPs were in the form of mutual funds, also known as Investing for Dummies.

And if you're like me (our support group meets every second Friday to coincide with recycling pick-up), you have no idea what you're investing in. Are the companies sound? Are they ethical? Are they exploiting labour? Are any involved in the processing of raisins? Because I don't like raisins.

So I did a little digging to find out what exactly my mutual funds were funding.

I started by looking into my Global Investment Fund, which invests in emerging companies in emerging economies. I knew this would be the most hazardous territory, both ethically and emergingly.

Sure enough, I discovered I had invested in an Armenian corporation called Zdnxaski Ltd. that extracts and disposes of toxins from leftover high school cafeteria food.

Fair enough. However, the way the company disposes of the toxins is by storing them in thousands of snowglobes and dispersing them to souvenir shops across the world. I have no problem with the international distribution of toxic waste. I just have a problem with snowglobes.

And then there was Perfidy Pulp & Paper in Paraguay, which describes itself on its website as an “environmentally friendly” industry that has “reduced greenhouse gasses by using minimal mechanical processing and only renewable forms of energy.”

What I learned, though, is that they accomplish this by hiring child labour to chew up bits of wood and spit them out to make pulp. Not just cruel and unethical but kind of gross.

Speaking of unethical investments, I was unable to find out much about my Securities Income Fund investments but I have a bad feeling about the one called Beelzebub Inc.

Likewise, I've always had reservations about our Income by the Fistfuls and Fast Fund but never more so than when I learned that the CEO of every corporation in the fund is some guy named Joey “The Spleen” Contralto.

Then again, at least these companies are making money. I can't say that for all of them. My broker informed me this year that my returns were down due to the volatile global market. I now know my investments lost money because they were moronic.

Consider, Eglemliyev Inc., a Turkish company that manufactures fez dispensers. Or Yuk-a-Muck Conglomerates which bankrolls roadside attractions like Don's House of Dustballs in Omaha and Squirrel World in San Plastino.

My Currency Fund turned out to be nothing more than people rolling coins down steep hills and placing bets on the outcome. (Though I must say I felt a certain pride in learning that our weighty Canadian Toonie was a consistent top-10 finisher.)

On the plus side, I was pleased to see that my mutual fund portfolio was virtually bereft of investment in artists, writers, musicians, newspaper columnists, and other chronic money losers. Unfortunately, a small portion of my Market Income Fund is tied up in stock options for a new line of cosmetics called “Margaret Atwood's Unreadable.”

So what have we learned from this? If you're like me (and if so, how's that rash looking these days?), you've learned that investing in mutual funds is a leap of faith. Or a leap of ignorance. Which is pretty much the same thing.

You therefore have two options.

First, you can select and manage your own investments. But who has the time and know-how to do that, not to mention the eyesight to read those teensy little stock numbers in the papers?

Second, you can ask your financial advisor to select only those mutual funds that are profitable, stable, and ethical. After all, banking people need a good laugh, too.

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