- Q4 crushed my portfolio, with a 7.6% loss, even though over $5,000 in cash was added
- Due to the huge drop in market values, my allocations are closer to target than earlier in the year
- Passive income up 21.8% year over year
It’s periods like this that I am happy I am a “buy it and forget it” type of investor. Long gone are the days where I would monitor my portfolio constantly and start freaking out about drops in the market; if I was still in that mindset I probably would have started selling pretty early in December 2018.
Monthly Performance Summary
The last quarter of 2018 was brutal for the portfolio. Overall, I completely missed benchmark targets: where the benchmark was down 4.0% for December, the portfolio was down 6.1%, which is roughly 50% worse than the benchmark. Even looking at the quarter as a whole, the fund was down 7.6% vs the benchmark 6.4% — not quite as bad as December, but no matter which way you cut it the fund was down.
The portfolio that lead the way in Q4 was the Certificated Portfolio, and the huge spike in November can be attributed to Emera which gained 10% in November – and since that holding is the largest in the Certificated portfolio—at 24%—that 10% increase pulled the rest of the portfolio up with it. Another big winner was CAE which jumped quite nicely, spiking from a 12% gain in October to a 31% gain in November. Even after the December crash, the certificated portfolio managed to break even, with only a $1.00 variance between Q3 and Q4. Regrettably, the Certificated portfolio only accounts for 3% of the total fund, so even with its stellar performance it wasn’t enough to pull the rest of the holdings up.
No, the biggest drag on returns was the RRSP portfolio, which lost 8.6% over the quarter. This was followed by the LIRA which lost 6.8%, and right behind that was the TFSA which lost 6.7%. What’s interesting is that the LIRA portfolio tracks the benchmark (a variant of the Couch Potato portfolio), and the benchmark was only down 6.4% in the quarter – I attribute the variance there (6.8% vs 6.4%) due to rounding, and being constrained to purchasing whole shares, not fractional. The “rounding friction” leaves money on the table since the LIRA cannot stay 100% invested at all times (e.g. if I receive $35 in dividends but the stock is re-invested at $30, I am leaving $5 on the table, uninvested).
In my June 2018 update I mentioned that GE was a drag on the portfolio as well. Not surprisingly, GE was a large drag in October 2018, losing a little over 70% of its value in that timeframe, but for the other two months of the quarter it was flat.
The above graph illustrates the month over month declines when measured against the trailing twelve-month metric. Even more disconcerting is that over the course of Q4 I invested an additional $5,000 in the fund. So even with an absolute increase of $5,000, the fund still lost 7.6% over the quarter, but I still plan on staying the course, the reason for that being passive income.
For the half year update, I spoke of Aecon being one of the key drags on the portfolio. As I had hoped, when speculators jumped off of the merger wagon the price rebounded nicely in the latter half of 2018.
So, the total fund lost a lot in the last quarter, in fact it lost 7.6% — even though I added money. However, as this is a dividend focused fund, a paper loss does not mean much to me when measured against realized gains.
So, even though on a total returns perspective the we did 50% worse than the benchmark (a loss of 7.6% vs a loss of 6.4%), as you can see from the above graph, actual income was much greater than the benchmark. Even though it looks like the benchmark did better in October (which it did, by about $600), in December the fund outperformed the benchmark by over $800. All in all, for Q4 the fund brought in $2,400 vs the benchmark $1,800. And the picture is even better when we revisit the trailing twelve months:
Total income for 2018 is north of $9,200, compared to the benchmark which was a little over $7,500. On a year over year basis, passive income also increased by more than 21% over the same time in 2017. Also, from my 2018 Goals List (link), my goal was to increase passive income by 5%, or to over $8,100 per year. I have more than exceeded that goal, which is a win! I’ll re-iterate what I said in July:
All things being equal, I would rather beat the benchmark on passive returns than on total returns, reason being that I am creating an income fund, not a capital gains fund.
The other saving grace is that, because equities did so poorly in Q4, the overall allocation to equities dropped, increasing the exposure to fixed income and real estate.
I did not publish an update for Q3, but even compared to Q2 he balance is better: Equity exposure dropped from over 70% to a little over 60%, and fixed income and real estate increased as well. The $5,000 of additional funding I spoke of earlier primarily went to VRE.TO to increase my real estate exposure, and the plan is working.
However, I am still a far cry from my target allocations. 2019 will be focused on pouring more money into real estate ETFs to force that component of the portfolio up. With concerns over interest rates, etc., in Canada, I actually expect real estate prices to drop, which means I may be able to pick up real estate ETFs on the cheap over the next twelve months.
I’ve been very lazy the past 6-9 months, with work and fatherhood taking the majority of my time. That laziness somewhat worked in my favour as I was pretty oblivious to the drop in my portfolio until I sat down to crunch the year-end numbers; I simply wasn’t paying attention to the financial news. Since my focus has been on increasing real estate exposure, any free cash flow I had went straight into VRE.TO.
My concerns about a drop in the passive income from paying off my car did not really materialize. I was worried about the loss of $250 in passive income, but due to my aggressive investing in VRE.TO I made up the difference on the other $5,000+ I had invested.
The bigger question is what I will do this year. For now, I am cleaning things up and looking for gaps in the portfolio, including re-initiating coverage on companies I used to research before; at the very least, to ensure that they are still good investments. A challenge with being a passive “buy it and forget it” investor is sometimes you get antsy when you are not doing anything. Next steps will be to revisit my 2018 goals, plan 2019 goals, and see where that takes me.
Onwards and upwards!
- Lack of Aecon buy-out triggered large drop
- TTM income still > $8M which puts us on track to meet our 2018 goal
- Asset allocation still skewed towards equities
Monthly Performance Summary
As I mentioned in my last update, I purchased some GE call options which expire in January 2020. Those options continue to be the biggest drag on the portfolio. Other than that, the Canadian Government blocked the potential takeover of Aecon which I spoke of in a previous post. When the acquisition was first announced Aecon surged 22% in my portfolio, and since then it has dropped back down to “normal levels”. So, while my net gain on Aecon is practically flat, I did experience a material drop in the portfolio in May.
Interestingly, on a month over month basis both the LIRA and EPSP portfolios are lagging the benchmark, which is odd because those two portfolios are couch potato portfolios, as is the benchmark; one would think that they should be tracking each other. However, the variance could be attributed to a few factors:
The LIRA has not been rebalanced in some time, and there is now some tracking error. The portfolio is overweight a few percent in VXC and underweight 5% in VAB. There is also a growing cash position. The portfolio is due for a manual rebalancing soon.
The EPSP portfolio is combined couch potato and shares of my employer through the stock purchase plan. The stock purchase plan is approximately 33% of the portfolio so the remaining 67% is couch potato. But that means that the 75% equity is skewed, and not a perfect tracker to the couch potato.
On a TTM perspective we have been diverging more and more away from the benchmark. The benchmark TTM for June 2018 is 9.96% whereas the total fund is only 3.77%, a whopping 6% spread. Again, a large percentage of this can be attributed to the material decline in the margin portfolio due to the GE options. The other factor is that the certificated portfolios contain Riocan, and H&R REIT, both of which cut their DRIPs earlier this year, resulting in a drop in both holdings. Since REITs are large proportion of the certificated portfolio, insofar as those positions drop, the overall portfolio drops, increasing drag on TTM returns.
As always, passive income is the primary objective of my portfolio.
Passive income has been “okay” the past few months. As expected, non-quarter months (i.e. January, February, April, May) beat the benchmark, but this leveled out on the quarter months (March, June). The reason for this is that VCN and VXC, which are key components of the benchmark, only pay realized returns once a quarter, but the actual fund has dividend payments and distributions scattered throughout the year. But what we really want to see is the TTM passive income, in the following chart.
The good news here is that I am still beating the benchmark. All things being equal, I would rather beat the benchmark on passive returns than on total returns, reason being that I am creating an income fund, not a capital gains fund. Based on that metric, TTM for the benchmark was around $6,750, whereas our fund broke the $8,000 mark. More precisely, I gained 21% more passive income than the benchmark. All in all, that is an impressive feat in my view.
Last but not least, allocation remains a key point of concern.
Equity is still a dominant force in the overall fund, weighing in at north of 70%, well above the 55% target. For the next six months I will be focusing on increasing real estate exposure:
- This will add some more balance to the portfolio
- From a passive income perspective, REITs provide a better opportunity than fixed income
- REIT ETFs are a cost effective addition to the overall fund since I can buy ETFs through Questrade for next to no commissions.
The first six months of the year have not been stellar, but they have not been necessarily bad either. At an aggregate, the losses I experienced were expected (e.g. Aecon dropping, GE dropping). But, as a long-term investor I am not overly concerned. I have literally decades for Aecon to increase back in value, and my GE options have over 16 months before expiry which gives plenty of runway for them to recoup any paper losses.
A bigger concern is passive income over the next six months. 3% of the portfolio was reserved to pay off my car in August of this year (the final “balloon payment” from my finance arrangement with the car dealership), which will mark a material loss on the liquid portion of the portfolio since those funds were in my TFSA account. That drop will also remove $250 of passive income from the overall portfolio; not a large amount but it does represent 3% of overall passive income.
As it stands, the TTM passive income positions me to meet my 2018 passive income goal of $8,100/year. However, if we take 3% off of that, I will miss the goal. My hope is that by investing aggressively in REITs to re-balance the portfolio, the higher yield on REITs will make up for the lost passive income.
Onwards and upwards!
In my last post I spoke about re-focusing on blog updates, and that includes periodic reviews of portfolio performance. Because I’ve been behind in blog updates in general, it took me a while to key in the last four months of returns to see where we sat at year-end. But, the numbers are in!
- Total returns for the year 10.98% vs. benchmark of 10.70%
- Passive income for the year in excess of $7,700, beating last years total by 11.51%
- Assets under management growth of 26%
Monthly and Annual Performance
The biggest drag on monthly performance for the past quarter was the purchase of some GE options following GE’s announcement to re-org. From a long-term perspective I believe GE will pull through and ultimately increase share price. Based on that, I’ve purchased some call options which expire in January 2020. However, since that purchase GE has plunged even deeper: when I purchased the call options the market price was ~U$20, and it is now hovering at the U$15 mark, a 25% drop. The options have dropped in a similar fashion. However, I am not overly concerned. That particular position accounts for only 0.14% of the overall portfolio, so even a material loss of 25% amounts to an insignificant drop in the overall scheme of things.
My employer has also been doing relatively well lately, so my EPSP and DC pension plan with the company have been performing well. My DC is actually a model of the couch potato portfolio–similar to the LIRA–so for the most part it moves in lockstep with the benchmark.
On a year over year basis, we came in at 10.98% for the year vs. the benchmark return of 10.69%, so we just barely beat the benchmark. At the end of 2016 we had come in at 10.63% vs. a benchmark return of 7.27%. So we did not beat the benchmark as much as we did last year, but we still beat it. To me, that is a win.
Passive income for the year came in at $7,700, which beat my goal of increasing by 5%.
Reviewing the historical data, things are shaping up like I thought they would. The large drop in 2016 was mainly due to liquidating a large chunk of the portfolio to purchase a house. Since then, I have been aggressively working to increase overall income. To date, the work seems to be paying off (no pun intended).
My asset allocation did not improve much year over year. In fact, it got worse.
Total allocation to equity went form 73.15% in 2016 to 76.37% in 2017. I’ve invested the majority of new capital into REIT ETFs, primarily Vanguard’s VRE, to increase my real estate exposure. However, even with that, my real estate exposure decreased from 11.35% to 10.94% year over year. The primary driver for this was the overall increase in the value of my holdings: put simply, my stocks appreciated more than my real estate holdings. Taking the long view this is not a bad thing, however I still have some work cut out for me to rebalance this year.
Total Returns Since Inception
All in all, the total fund came in at 10.98% for 2017, which has pulled the nine-year compounded return down from 12.35% in 2016 to 12.20%:
A 12.20% per year return is nothing to scoff at, so I am generally happy with the way that things have been going.
In terms of pure assets under management, total assets under management have gone up by 26% year over year. Of the growth, 37% was organic (i.e. growth in holdings, dividends, favourable exchange rates), and the remaining 63% was accretive (i.e. new invested capital). I’m happy to say that I have finally broken the quarter-million mark in AUM, since the portfolio now holds north of $310M.
My plan this year, other than the goals mentioned in my last post, is to stay the course. Except for the gamble on GE I took, as a whole the portfolio has grown considerably. Here’s hoping for another good year.
Onwards and upwards!
Time for the quarterly results review!
Highlights for this quarter:
- I’ve increased my payroll contributions to take advantage of employer matching, which should result in some instant returns
- TTM passive income came in at $6,500, beating the benchmark TTM passive income of $6,000 by 8%
- Asset allocations are still out of whack
Let’s start off with the monthly performance summary:
This has been a rough quarter; in fact, the past five months have been rough. We have underperformed the benchmark since February, and in the tail end of the summer both the benchmark and my own total fund returns were in negative territory. That said, I did not let this deter me; if anything I went deeper into the market at that time and picked up additional shares of Aecon, Ryder, and Vanguard’s REIT index (VRE). As evidenced by the graph, in August we started to drift upwards again, and as of this quarter we are now exceeding the benchmark again.
One important thing to point out is that the margin portfolio is composed entirely of US stocks at this point; in fact: it is composed of a single US ETF, that of HYG (iShares high yield US ETF). I keep this ETF mainly as a way to generate passive US income for any time I travel to the US. You’ll notice that June, July, and August, had negative returns for that portfolio, and those negative returns were primarily a reflection of bonds dropping in the US at that time, as well as a weakening Canadian dollar against the US dollar. Finally, as expected the LIRA portfolio closely matched the returns of the benchmark — this makes sense since the LIRA and benchmark both track the Canadian Couch Potato strategy. That said, as the LIRA portfolio is only 25% of the aggregate portfolio value, it is only a small contributor to overall returns.
On a trailing twelve month view, we are still relatively in positive territory. We have lost the monstrous 20% TTM returns from earlier this year, but are still coming in at a respectable 7.5%, which is virtually a match to the benchmark. Again, these aggregate TTM returns are being pulled down by the US only margin portfolio.
Of course, month over month returns are one thing, but as an income investor, total passive income is the key metric. The following two graphs show the story there:
The rolling month over month passive income is not that impressive: we have lost to the benchmark virtually every month. However, as discussed last time, this is mainly an artifact of timing. Illustrated in the second graph, TTM income is still relatively strong, and beating the benchmark by ~$500.
You’ll notice that there is a bit of a discrepancy from the March report: in March we reported less than $6,000 in TTM income, but now that number has been exceeded. I had inadvertently excluded some passive income from the certificated portfolio, and from my work DC pension plan, which adds to overall tax-deferred income. The latest numbers paint a rosier picture. That said, I also mentioned a concern with passive income dipping due to a large withdrawal in 2016 to help purchase our new home — that is still a going concern, as we are nowhere near the $8,500 TTM passive income that was occurring in 2015.
Finally, there is the issue of portfolio allocation:
While I have been aggressively investing any spare capital into my tax-free account, and purchasing iShares REIT ETF–VRE.TO–I have not made much of a dent in the allocation. I am still grossly over-allocated to the equity sector, and as such the focus will continue to be on building up the real estate exposure of the portfolio. I plan on doing this by continuing to allocate spare capital into VRE.TO, H&R REIT, and RIOCAN, as the opportunities arise.
While many Canadian’s experienced a stellar summer, they did not experience stellar markets. However, even in down times the important thing is to stay the course, and take advantage of market downticks if you can, by deploying any excess funds you have into the market while prices are suppressed.
Onwards and upwards!
Quite some time since I last posted, and the markets have been a bit of a roller coaster. The last of my statements have finally come in, and I’ve been able to compile the first quarter results for my portfolio.
The total fund T3M (trailing three month) return was 4.94%, dragged down primarily by my EPSP portfolio.. While this portfolio is a relatively small amount (less than 1% as of this quarter), it is a visual drag, as illustrated by the huge negative orange bars in the graph. The benchmark T3M was 4.06%, so I am still beating my benchmark, which is the ultimate goal (otherwise, why would I bother doing the work of picking my own investments?).
As I am an income oriented investor, the following graphs are somewhat more important, as they illustrate the going concerns for the portfolio (e.g. a stable, growing, cashflow).
Passive income for the quarter came in at 7.70% under the benchmark. How much of this is due to timing, and how much is due to selection, is a different story. The income power of the portfolio is something that I am watching more closely.. I liquidated a large percentage of the portfolio in May 2016 to purchase our new house, so by the next quarter, we will see what the one year run rate of passive income is. As you can see from the charts, passive income has been generally trending downward, and March was the first month that we did not break the $6M mark in over a year. This does concern me, especially since we broke the $7M mark in 2016 at this time.. But given the percentage of the portfolio that was liquidated, I am not surprised.
Presently the portfolio is in the accumulation phase, as I push as much spare cash as I can into my various accounts, to start building up a sufficient capital base to generate large amounts of passive income again. That said, this build-up will also provide me with an opportunity to revisit my allocations:
Equity exposure is still in the high seventies (~75%), which is surprising since I have been pushing virtually all spare cash into real estate ETFs (primarily VRE.TO) to increase my real estate exposure. The lack of relative growth in real estate is not due to real estate performing poorly, but it is a reflection of equities performing relatively stronger than the real estate sector.. While I have invested an additional 2% of capital in real estate, real estate itself went down by less than 1%…which means that even though I have put capital in, the equity growth is overshadowing the real estate growth! I am not going to look a gift horse in the mouth, but this does mean that I will continue to move more capital into real estate in the coming months, primarily through VRE.TO, HR-UN.TO, and REI-UN.TO.
Onwards and upwards!
Overall, I have been pretty happy with the January performance when observing paper (i.e. non-realized) gains, but passive income fell short when compared to the benchmark.
Total fund returns were 1.26%, vs. the benchmark of 0.52%, which represents a more than 2× gain over the benchmark! This is also evident when we look at the trailing twelve month performance:
Here, you can see that on a trailing twelve month basis, total fund is up 15.79% vs. the benchmark 9.99%, which represents a 58% differential!
In absolute terms, the biggest gainers were Brookfield, Philip Morris, and BMO, which accounted for 54% of the overall gains in the period. On a percentage gain basis, Sun Life, Bank of Nova Scotia, and Telus, topped the list in gaining 45.42%, 23.49%, and 17.30% respectively.
However, while the non-realized gains were impressive, as I mentioned above, passive income was lacking.
Overall, the benchmark passive income was $1,811.80, and my own passive income was less than half of that; in fact, my passive income came in at 60.50% under the benchmark. But, this was to be expected. Recall from my December 2016 update:
That said, I expect to see a huge spike in January 2017 in the benchmark, mainly due to timing. You’ll notice that December had a very low benchmark income number, and generally speaking, March, June, September, and December, should be roughly equal in benchmark passive income. Because my benchmark is composed of ETFs, those ETFs did not pay anything in December 2016, and instead paid many of their distributions in January 2017 — so any missed income from December should catch up to us in 2017.
So, the spike in January 2017 was to be expected, but I did not expect the spike to be so drastic. This huge upset also affected the TTM passive income numbers:
Not quite as bad as the monthly results, but on a trailing twelve month basis, we are still running at 1.97% less than the benchmark. As I have become more aggressive in investing idle cash in ETFs, I expect this trend to reverse in the coming months.
Finally, starting with this post I will be monitoring my asset mix compared to my target asset mix. As to be expected, I am very heavily weighted in pure equities. You’ll also notice that the majority of my funds are tied up in my RRSP and LIRA. As part of my 2017 goals I mentioned increasing TFSA contributions on the order of $20,000, and I’ll also use these contributions to pair down equity exposure, systematically increasing my fixed income and real estate exposure through ETFs.
Finally, in a previous entry I mentioned that I was running severely over budget for 2017, when comparing my projected spend to my actual income. In fact, I was projecting a deficit of $14,000. To that end, I have been rigorously monitoring my spending habits, and I’m happy to say that in January I came in at 3.51% under budget. This is not a significant amount, but anything under budget is a gain in my view.
|Month||Actual Spend to Budget Variance (lower is better)|
A big chunk of this decrease was due to not having to buy gas in January (hooray for public transit!), and cutting down on entertainment expenses (e.g. music, movies, and books). However, February is looking a little bleak, as some expenses that I avoided in January will definitely come up in the next month (e.g. I will need to buy gas in February!).
And there you have it: the first update for 2017. How did everyone else do?
Onwards and upwards!
My discount brokerage, BMO InvestorLine, only released statements to its clients on January 23; so the update for December 2016 has been incredibly delayed. But was the delay worth it? Given the data we have at hand, I would say yes! Key highlights:
- Passive income of $620, 350% over our benchmark
- Total passive income for 2016 of $6,627, 29% over our benchmark
- Total fund returns for December 2016 of 2.7% vs. benchmark of 1.2%
- Total fund returns for 2016 of 11.0% vs the benchmark 7.8%
Some stellar numbers! Let’s see how this looks on the graphs.
First up, you’ll notice that there is a new portfolio added, that of EPSP. I recently became a full-time employee of a major FI again, mainly to maintain stability of income, and now have access to their Stock Ownership program. This gives me a great way to receive commission free trades on a regular basis, directly debited from my pay, which results in regular, periodic investments into my tax deferred account. The EPSP portfolio is also responsible for the huge retroactive spike in November 2016. Overall, 4 out of 6 of my portfolios beat the benchmark, with only my LIRA and EPSP lagging behind. Overall however, the entire portfolio for December brought in a 2.7% return, whereas the benchmark returned only 1.2%: I effectively doubled the benchmark, and then some.
On a trailing twelve month perspective (i.e. all of 2016), I am generally happy with the results. Because I am heavily weighted in Canadian stocks, I did not experience as much of an updraft as some US investors since Trump won the election in November 2016, but overall my portfolio has been on a positive uptrend all year, ending the year at +11.0%, whereas the benchmark is only up 7.8% for the year; my portfolio beat the benchmark by over 40% in 2016. One point of pride: each and every one of my portfolios beat my benchmark; since each portfolio has a slightly different mandate, this is a great feat, which I hope to continue in 2017.
Of course, I am a dividend investor, so passive income is one of my key measures of success. What follows are the passive income returns for December 2016, as well as for the year.
These graphs look different from previous ones, but I believe they provide a simpler comparison of actual vs. benchmark income. For December we brought in over $600 in income, vs. the benchmark of $138. For all of 2016, we brought in $6,267, whereas the benchmark only brought in $4,859; a whopping 29.0% increase for the year.
That said, I expect to see a huge spike in January 2017 in the benchmark, mainly due to timing. You’ll notice that December had a very low benchmark income number, and generally speaking, March, June, September, and December, should be roughly equal in benchmark passive income. Because my benchmark is composed of ETFs, those ETFs did not pay anything in December 2016, and instead paid many of their distributions in January 2017 — so any missed income from December should catch up to us in 2017. A similar event happened in October 2016, where the benchmark returned zero passive income, but there was much higher passive income in November, when compared to July and August.
With the year at an end, I have also been able to calculate my forward income. In 2017, based on current holdings and current rates, I expect to generate $6,800 in dividend income, roughly 8.50% higher than all of 2016. As I mentioned in my investment goals post, I wish to increase my total income by 5.00%, which means I have to generate another $340 in passive income to make that goal. I feel this should be a realistic goal given the current environment, assuming I do not have to liquidate any holdings in the near term.
So there you have it: F2016 in a nutshell!
Onwards and upwards!
Before I begin, there was a minor issue with the October update benchmark numbers. I had made an error in the benchmark passive income: Vanguard’s VAB declared an October dividend, but the actual payment date was in November 2016. This means that my actual income in October surpassed the benchmark income by an even wider margin.
I’ll jump straight to the chase and say that November was a disappointing month. Odd, because following the winning of president-elect Trump, US markets were on a tear. Unfortunately, my Canadian holdings did not do as well.
The benchmark return was 0.912%, but my total fund was -0.413%, more than a 1% difference. My LIRA portfolio came in at a respectable 0.902%, and the 0.010% variance I can attribute to tracking error. The TFSA portfolio dominated at +2.522%, but my margin account was pummeled at -4.918%! Inspecting the margin account, this somewhat makes sense: it is 2/3 in Canadian equities, which came in at -8.898%, which was the primary source of the losses.
But, as a long-term buy and hold investor, you’ve got to take the bad months with the good months. My TTM is still exceeding the benchmark:
Total fund TTM is 7.989%, while the benchmark is 6.705%: so when you take into account all ups and downs over the past year, we are still doing pretty well.
Of course, let’s remember that I am a dividend investor, and that is where I count the majority of my returns. November was a good month: total income was practically double the benchmark income (97.514% more to be exact), and TTM income is also exceeding the benchmark, by 7.918%.
As I have just started to aggressively focus on my portfolios again, I don’t expect to have stellar returns in the short-term. However, as I plan out my F2017 goals, I expect that to change.
Onwards and upwards!
October was not a stellar month, but like a ship through a storm, slow and stead wins the race. Here are the graphs for October 2016.
On a monthly basis, I was trending below the my benchmark, The Canadian Couch Potato Assertive Portfolio. For October, that portfolio returned a gain of 0.02%, and the total fund return for my own experienced a loss of 0.70%. However, my certificated portfolio managed to beat the benchmark handily, clocking in at 1.74%, a clear winner.
On a trailing twelve month basis, overall I am still beating the benchmark. The Assertive Portfolio benchmark for the last twelve months returned a gain of 7.14%, whilst my total fund returned 10.20%, a handy 3+% increase over the benchmark. I expect this trend to stabilize over the coming months, as some of my large sales earlier this year to fund some major purchases start rolling off of the TTM calculations. But for now, my key Margin, Total Portfolio, and TFSA measures are beating the benchmark.
In September I set up automatic synthetic DRIPs in my LIRA account to automatically re-invest dividends as they become available. The synthetic drip allows me to constantly grow the portfolio whilst negating commission costs, reducing the overall amount of cash in the portfolio (which I consider a massive point of friction, since the cash sits there generating zero returns). October was the first full month of synthetic DRIP in the LIRA account, and as the months move forward, I expect the LIRA to exceed the benchmark, since the LIRA is investing monthly, but the benchmark is only designed to re-balance every six months (which is an accurate representation of what may happen in the real world).
Reviewing the passive income statistics, the benchmark portfolio returned $204.15 in passive income, and my own passive income exceeded that by 83.74%, which was a great accomplishment.
On a trailing twelve month perspective, I am still exceeding the benchmark in total passive income. Benchmark TTM passive income was $5961.89, and the TTM passive income of my own portfolio beat that by 4.40%. The makeup of my portfolio has changed since I started maintaining it on a regular basis again, however the weightings of major dividend players are still low relative to the portfolio as a whole. I expect TTM passive income to level off relative to the benchmark, but within the next twelve months I expect to be in a position to beat the benchmark on a monthly basis as I re-weight the portfolio for a more even income allocation.
I have set up a number of recurring OCPs to automatically invest in my certificated account on a monthly basis. Specifically, Telus, Emera, Fortis, and Bank of Nova Scotia are now receiving automatic contributions from my paycheque every month. While this is a drag on disposable income, because these are all strong dividend players, I expect the long term gains to far outweigh the short term pain of not having “play money”.
Onwards and upwards!
An investment portfolio is like a garden: you have to constantly maintain it to watch it grow. Otherwise it becomes overrun with weeds, and ultimately turns into an utter mess. Such is the state of my own portfolio…I stopped monitoring/caring for it on a regular basis in 2015, and this is the first month I have sat down to really review it, and see where it sits. Reviewing the historical performance against some benchmarks, things are dreadful. But, with some tender loving care, I’m going to right the ship and get back on the road to successful returns.
Before I begin, a note on benchmarking. I consider the Canadian Couch Potato, specifically the “Assertive” portfolio, as my benchmark. The reason being, if I had zero time to look at my portfolio, this is the portfolio I would assemble, rebalancing twice annually. In building some comparison returns, I have built a parallel portfolio as follows, based on the Assertive portfolio:
- Initial portfolio value is $100,000, with a seed period of May 2014.
- Because the model portfolio uses VXC, which only came into existence in mid-2014, the first few months of the portfolio used 75% VCN and 25% VAB, and starting in July 2014, 50% VCN, 25% VAB, and 25% VXC. Realistically this no bearing on current analysis or future analysis, as July 2014 is more than twelve months back, and thus out of range for TTM calculations.
- The portfolio is rebalanced every January and July.
- Dividends are retained until the next rebalancing period.
- Each period of rebalancing incurs $59.70 in commissions: at $9.95/trade, this is for three sells, and three buys. This is representative of what I would pay at my own discount brokerage. I know that I may not do three outright sells and/or three outright buys (i.e. I may only add to a position), but this simplifies compiling the benchmark.
Moreover, because I am a dividend investor, I track a separate portfolio which projects what I would receive in dividends if my entire portfolio was invested in the Assertive portfolio. E.g. if my portfolio value were $500,000 in a given month, what the dividend income would be from the Couch Potato’s Assertive portfolio if I had the $500,000 invested in the appropriate proportions of VAB, VXC, and VCN, based on dividends for each of those ETFs for that month.
With a discussion on benchmarks out of the way, lets see the portfolio performance for September 2016, and the TTM (trailing twelve months) up to and including September 2016:
In total, I have five portfolios:
- Margin. My regular trading account. This is a non-registered account where I do the majority of my trading once my RRSP and TFSA are maxed out. I also have some US companies in here for US dividends, which I use to pay for any US purchases.
- RRSP. My RRSP account, which is the bulk of my portfolio. Locking in the majority of my dividend income in this portfolio is a smart move, since it prevents me from spending it or using dividends from those companies for day to day spending.
- TFSA. My tax free savings account portfolio, which I typically contribute to once my RRSP is maxed out.
- Certificated. This portfolio is relatively small, and is where I keep all of my certificated holdings. This portfolio is where I do all of my DRIP investing. All positions in this portfolio are registered directly in my name, and all companies hold fractional shares due to the nature of DRIP investing. Moreover, they are held directly at Computershare or CST Trust Company. Finally, I have regular monthly contributions to these positions via direct debit from my banking account; this is a great feature of DRIPs because I can purchase shares on a regular basis commission free, and take advantage of dollar cost averaging.
- LIRA. I have a locked in retirement account for when I cashed out my pension at one of my previous employers.
Each portfolio has a varying mix of sectors, and I also track the total fund return which is the total return of all portfolios. This is my main measure of success. Reviewing the above, my total fund on a monthly basis has been near or above the benchmark portfolio, with a dip in the most recent periods. You’ll also notice a big drop in the certificated portfolio in December 2015, mainly driven to a drop in Telus during that period. On a trailing twelve months perspective, total fund has been relatively good, picking up post-March 2016 after I started selling things off to pay for our new house: I had sold a number of laggards during that period, which boosted overall returns on a go-forward basis. The above also includes liquidating a large percentage of my portfolio to buy a new house earlier this year, as well as paying off my student loans in late 2015.
With regards to dividend income, these two charts tell the story:
You’ll notice that the income from the benchmark portfolio is somewhat lumpy; this is because the equity ETFs (VXC, VCN) only pay a dividend quarterly, whereas the fixed income ETF—VAB—pays monthly. Because of this, every quarter my total fund passive income is relatively lower than the benchmark. However, you’ll notice that the trailing twelve month total passive income is consistently relatively higher – this shows that overall, even though on some quarters I am lagging behind my benchmark, on an annualized basis (i.e. TTM) I am still ahead. Ergo, to date my own dividend choices have been better than those of the benchmark. The drop in relative excess dividend income starting in December 2015 was due to the selloffs mentioned above for paying down student loans, and a new house purchase.
Reviewing the historical results, things aren’t as great as I would like them to be, but they aren’t horrible either. A big challenge was that I sat on a large pile of cash and didn’t even do something as simple as investing that cash in a broad market index fund to generate some returns; it sat there as cash, generating literally 0.00% return for 6+ months! But now that I am refocusing, I’m looking to right those previous errors.
Here’s hoping October shapes up to be a little better.
Onward and upwards!