Last updated: Mar-18-2019

Pape’s aggressive TFSA portfolio
3/18/2019 9:53:28 PM
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Wealth Builder
Gordon Pape writes on common-sense wealth-building strategies.

By Gordon Pape  | Monday, June 01, 2015



Tax-Free Savings Accounts (TFSAs) have become immensely popular since they were launched in 2009. And now, with the increased annual contribution limit of $10,000, they are even more so. One of the reasons may be that they are extremely flexible – they can be used for any purpose from building emergency savings to stock market day trading (although the tax people may come calling if you’re too successful at that). That’s why there is no one-size-fits-all model TFSA portfolio. How you invest depends on your objectives and your time horizon. So the Internet Wealth Builder Aggressive TFSA Portfolio that I launched in March 2012 is definitely not suited for everyone. It is intended for readers whose goal is to maximize tax savings by investing in a small, low-cost portfolio of domestic and international ETFs. Here's a re-cap.

All the ETFs in the portfolio are equity-based; there is no fixed-income component in this portfolio. This makes it higher risk and therefore only suitable for investors who can handle volatility and have a long time horizon. This is definitely not a model to use if you are saving for retirement, a child’s future education, or a major purchase to be made within five years.

Here’s a look at the ETFs in the portfolio with some comments on how they have fared since my last review on in the Nov. 19 issue of Internet Wealth Builder. Results are as of mid-day on March 25. Prices have not changed materially since then, so my comments stand for the purposes of this Fund Library post.

iShares Core S&P/TSX Capped Composite Index ETF (TSX: XIC). This ETF tracks the performance of the S&P/TSX Composite Index. The index hasn’t been doing much of anything lately and the performance of this ETF reflects that. The shares are down by a nickel since our last review but that was made up for by distributions of $0.31 per share, giving us a small gain of 1.1% since our last review.

iShares S&P/TSX Small Cap Index ETF (TSX: XCS). The slump continues for Canadian small cap stocks. The shares of this ETF lost another 3.5% during the latest period, dropping from $15.34 to $14.80. The two quarterly distributions totaling $0.13 could not make up for the loss. The net result is that this ETF is in negative territory by a small margin.

iShares U.S. Small Cap Index ETF (CAD-Hedged) (TSX: XSU). In contrast to the sinking Canadian small cap market, the U.S. counterpart did well. The share price advanced 9.4% during the period plus we received a distribution of $0.20 per share for a total return of 10.2%. This fund’s name has changed but it still tracks the Russell 2000 Index.

iShares Core S&P 500 Index ETF (CAD-Hedged) (TSX: XSP). This large-cap index ETF chalked up a modest gain of 1.7% since our last review in November. The S&P 500 Index, which this fund tracks, has been bouncing up and down, setting new records and then retreating. We received one year-end distribution of just over $0.19 per share.

BMO Nasdaq 100 Equity Hedged to CAD Index ETF (TSX: ZQQ). This fund provides exposure to the top 100 stocks on the Nasdaq exchange. It gave a credible account of itself during the latest period, adding $0.62 to the price and paying a year-end distribution of $0.465 per share for a total return of 3.3%. That’s less than we saw previously, but this ETF still ranks as the number-one performer in the portfolio.

iShares MSCI EAFE Index ETF (CAD-Hedged) (TSX: XIN). This fund invests in large-cap companies from developed countries in Europe, Asia, and Australasia, hedged back to Canadian dollars. It’s really a Canadian replica of EFA, which trades in New York and which should be your choice if you don’t want the hedging feature. XIN had been a laggard but did well in the latest period with a gain of $2.47 per share plus a distribution of about $0.30 for a total return of 12.2%.

iShares MSCI Frontier 100 ETF (NYSE: FM). This ETF tracks major companies in Third World countries from Nigeria to Vietnam. It was hard-hit by the collapse in oil prices however the loss was tempered by a year-end distribution of US$2.98 per share. Still, the net result over the latest period was a decline of 6.9%.

iShares MSCI Emerging Markets ETF (NYSE: EEM). We added 25 shares of this emerging markets fund in April 2014 when it was trading at US$41.57. The shares did well for a few months, topping US$45 last June but then went into a long decline as investor concerns grew over the short-term prospects for emerging markets. The price is down US$1.30 since November, which was partially offset by a year-end distribution of US$0.535 per share.

We received $2.13 in interest from the cash balance in a high-interest savings account.

Here’s a look at how the portfolio stood at mid-day on March 25. The Canadian and U.S. dollars are treated at par, and commissions are not taken into account.

Comments: The portfolio has gained 4.1% in the four months since it was last reviewed at the end of November. That’s an acceptable performance in the context of the markets we have experienced. The U.S. small cap, Nasdaq, and EAFE components were the main contributors, which once again highlights the merits of diversification.

Since inception three years ago, the portfolio is ahead 34.1%. The average annual compound rate of return is 10.27%, which is at the low end of our 10%-12% target range.

Changes: We won’t make any changes to the basic composition of the portfolio. It offers a good mix of Canadian, U.S., and overseas securities plus large and small-cap stocks.

We don’t have enough cash in most cases to reinvest our accumulated distributions, with one exception. We will add to our position in XCS while the price is down, in anticipation of an eventual turnaround. We have enough cash to buy 10 shares at $14.80, for a total cost of $148. That will leave us with $6.48 in retained distributions.

Remember that small purchases are for modelling purposes only. If you want to reinvest your distributions, the most cost-efficient way is by using a dividend reinvestment plan.

Here is the revised portfolio. We will invest the cash of $702.59 in a high interest savings account paying 1.1%. I will revisit the portfolio again in Internet Wealth Builder September.

Gordon Pape is one of Canada’s best-known personal finance commentators and investment experts. He is the publisher of The Internet Wealth Builder and The Income Investor newsletter, which are available through the Building Wealth website.

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Follow Gordon Pape’s latest updates on Twitter @GPUpdates.

Notes and Disclaimer

© 2015 by The Fund Library. All rights reserved.

The foregoing is for general information purposes only and is the opinion of the writer. Securities mentioned carry risk of loss, and no guarantee of performance is made or implied. This information is not intended to provide specific personalized advice including, without limitation, investment, financial, legal, accounting or tax advice.

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