June 2020 Update

Investing takes patience, vision, and reflection.

Patience, because more often than not, there is no “quick money”. There isn’t a big score to find, so the best way is to invest frequently, steadily, and build up your capital over time.

Vision, because an investor has to have a goal, to know where they are going. My investment goals are not the same as your investment goals – I may have three kids, a dog, and a pool, and only need $2,000 a month to live because my spouse makes more than me and we live in a lost cost of living area. Conversely, I may have no kids, a spouse who makes less than me, prefer to drive high end automobiles, and live in a high cost of living area, so I need $6,000 a month to live. Everybody’s vision of where they need to be is different.

And finally, investing requires reflection. One must always be reviewing the portfolio—but not obsessively—to ensure that they are still on the path they started out on. More important: they must ensure that the path they started out on is still the right path to be on. Life changes, and as such, your vision should change. It is only with reflection—on your investment results, and your investment needs—that you can determine how well, or poorly, you are doing as an investor.

The first two items I have been doing fairly well at. While I have not published a portfolio update in nine months (the last being in my September 2019 update), I have been patiently investing my cash, and my vision has not changed. But what I have failed to do is monitor and reflect on my portfolio. This is even more important now, given the current state of the world, and the economy. But part of publishing a portfolio update is that it forces me to reflect on how the portfolio is doing, and the results of my investment decisions. And that brings us to today…how have things been going?

As to be expected, the first half of 2020 has been abysmal:

Monthly Performance Summary as of June 2020

The COVID-19 issues in February and March sent the markets into a tailspin, and it has taken me four months to get the total portfolio returns back to a point where I am exceeding my benchmark: June 2020 had a 2.2% return vs. the benchmark 1.5% return. Things look even worse when reviewing the trailing twelve month returns:

TTM Performance Summary as of June 2020

The benchmark has been beating me handily, with total fund hovering around a 5.0% loss for the 12 months ending June 2020, vs. the benchmark yielding a 3.0% gain during the same period. The biggest laggard is my tax free account, with the biggest drag being High Liner Foods which is sitting at -47%. High Liner has been having a hard time recovering since they cut their dividend earlier this year.

However, total fund income is only one dimension of measuring performance. First and foremost, I am a dividend investor—nay, a dividend gangster! My focus is on passive income, so regardless of how well I am doing from an overall returns perspective against the benchmark, what I really care about is how well my passive income is doing against the benchmark. Put another way: have my investment decisions for the total fund beat, or been beaten by, the passive returns if I had only invested in the benchmark?

Income TTM Variance Percentage as of June 2020

Looking at the trailing twelve months, I have beaten the benchmark, and that is the true measure of success. So for every $100 I would have made in the benchmark, my own portfolio made $117 (+17%), over the past twelve months. Reviewing the past year, every month I have beaten the benchmark on a trailing twelve month basis.

The only other item of reflection is my asset mix:

Total Fund Mix as of June 2020

As of mid-year, I am still overweight in equities, and all other asset classes are well below target. With that in mind, over the next few months my focus will be on investing in Vanguard’s VRE.TO REIT to increase my exposure to that asset class.

In summary:

  • Total fund performance has lagged the benchmark on a trailing twelve month measure
  • Over the same period, total fund passive income has exceeded the benchmark by 17%
  • The total fund is still underweight in the fixed income and real estate asset classes

Even with the sub-optimal allocation and the current state of the economy, given that passive income is still exceeding the benchmark—even with the dividend cut of High Liner Foods and CAE Inc. (discussed here)—I’d consider the past nine months a success.

Onwards and upwards!

How I Made $100 in 1 Hour (…or, how to make the best use of your emergency fund)

With the COVID-19 crisis, the need for an emergency fund has become increasingly evident. Unemployment has hit some spectacularly high numbers, with as many 2mm jobs lost in April in Canada (source), and as many as as 1.5mm individuals in the US filing for unemployment benefits (source). Employment Insurance—in Canada at least—is not meant to replace your entire income, but merely to supplement it. And to complicate matters some folks only get the Canada Emergency Response Benefit which amounts to $500/week ($2,000/month). Recent indicators show that in some cities that $2,000 barely covers rent, and in Toronto it doesn’t even cover it based on numbers from rentals.ca, which peg the average rent at $2,103 in Toronto for June 2020 (see chart at end of article)

An emergency fund is one of the foundational blocks of a good financial plan. Our good friends at reddit tag it as the second thing you should do, after budgeting, and financial gurus such as Dave Ramsey set it as the first thing you should do (truthfully, Ramsey has it as the first and third things, the third being a bigger emergency fund). By now we’ve all heard the news of people being underwater, businesses suffering, and general anxiety of not knowing where your next paycheque is coming from. But if you have six months of expenses saved away, you can live virtually stress free for at least a few weeks while things settle down. Personally I follow the six month approach to an emergency fund, which is roughly 13 of my net paycheques, since I get paid bi-weekly (26 times per year). This means that if I am out of work, notwithstanding unemployment insurance, I have at least half a year of savings to draw down from.

But, just because you can’t touch the money, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have it work for you.

Conventionally folks would stick the emergency fund in a High Interest Savings Account. Current rates (as of June 2020) have HISA rates between 1.69% and 2.00% according to our friends at ratehub.ca:

Bank Rate
EQ Bank 2.00%
ScotiaBank 2.70% (tiered)
Alterna 1.69%
Oaken 1.65%
Tangerine 2.80% (for first 165 days)

The challenge is that if rates crumble, it won’t be long before HISA rates fall as well.

I’d like to lock in my interest rate, but at the same time, keep my emergency fund liquid. To accomplish this I reframed my emergency fund not as a 13-week buffer (~180 days), but as two 90-day buffers:

  • Take half of my effective emergency fund (90 days worth of expenses), and invest it in a 90-day GIC.
  • If something were to happen, I would have the remaining 90 days worth of emergency funds to leverage, and by the time those 90 days were up, the 90-day GIC would have matured.

This method allows me to lock in rates, not worry about rates falling, and most importantly: guaranty liquidity of my emergency funds.

I opted to open a 90-day GIC with EQ Bank because at the time it had the best 90 day rates available. The entire process took me about an hour (opening an account, transferring funds, and then purchasing a GIC). But that one hour of work netted me a little over $100 in interest from the GIC, which in my mind was worth the time and effort.

Onwards and upwards!


rentals.ca June 2020 Rent Report

rentals.ca June 2020 Rent Report

Portfolio Updates – March 2019

  • Major rebound since the last quarter
  • Overall, now exceeding the benchmark again
  • Passive income still doing well

Monthly Performance Summary

Like many investors in the market, there was a major correction following the dismal performance of Q4 in 2018. Overall the general trend has bee upwards, as illustrated in the monthly performance graph below: every single portfolio posted positive gains, even the margin portfolio which typically has negative gains due to the GE options.

This is a great story to tell as it reinforces the notion that when the waters get choppy, one must stick to their principles and ride out the storm. Also, it puts timelines into perspective: if I panicked—and did not remember that I have a very long (10+ year) time horizon, I may have pulled out of the market in December when everything was dropping and missed out on some great gains. It is also nice to see that, except for March, I beat my own benchmarks in January and February; in March we technically “did” beat at an 1.8% return vs the benchmark 1.7%.

From a trailing twelve-month perspective, things are looking positive as well. The total fund line (solid black) is now trending above the benchmark line (dotted black). The biggest TTM performer is the Certificated portfolio, but I attribute that to the large bump in November 2018 which is bringing up the TTM overall for that one portfolio; from the December 2018 update:

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.


Passive Income

Income continues to be strong quarter over quarter. As expected, there was a “loss” in January when measured against the benchmark, but this is nothing new: since the benchmark is composed of ETFs which typically pay quarterly, there are large payouts only four times a year. This compares to my actual portfolio which is made up of various quarterly and monthly dividend payers, which are staggered throughout the year yielding a smoother distribution of income.

The better view is the TTM which smooths out the bumpiness of the benchmark income:

Sadly, the overall trend has been flat/decreasing. This warrants some additional investigation—which I hope to get to in the following weeks—as I have made little change to the composition of the portfolio. However, there are a handful of ETFs which are not necessarily always non-decreasing (i.e. flat or increasing), which may be dragging the TTM numbers down. That said, overall, we are still beating the benchmark which is the ultimate goal.

A new graph I am viewing is the overall distribution of passive income between taxable, tax deferred, and tax-free accounts:

The green bar (green is good!) is passive income which will never be taxed, and it is that bar that I wish to grow over time. The trend has been increasing, and soon I hope to have 20% (if not 25%) of total passive income be tax free within the next 12 months.


Sadly, due to competing priorities, I have been unable to invest much new cash into any of the portfolios, so the asset mix is at the whim of the wider markets. Real estate and fixed income are still lagging considerably, and I expect to see that trend maintain itself for at least another 12 months until I can infuse a large amount of capital back into the fund.

Closing Remarks

Overall the quarter did well, simply by staying invested and not worrying about the hem and haw of the wider markets (e.g. forum commentary!). That said, I do expect a drop in passive income in the coming months as I had to liquidate some of the portfolio to pay off 2018 income taxes.

Onwards and upwards!


Portfolio Updates – December 2018


  • 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.

(Source: bigcharts)

Passive Income

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.

Closing Remarks

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!

Portfolio Updates – June 2018


  • 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.

Passive Income

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.

Closing Remarks

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!


2018 Goals and 2017 Review

The blog has fallen somewhat behind the past few months, and for good reason. In April 2017 the Baby Dividend Gangster (BDG) entered my life, and the past nine months has been a whirlwind tour of sleep loss, stress, laughter, tears, joy, and everything in between. But now that he is nine months old things are slowly stabilizing where I can start to focus on some of my other activities, such as this site.

The best place to start would be to review the 2017 goals, and see how we fared.

2017 Goals

Goal #1: Increase TFSA Contributions

My goal entering 2017 was to contribute at least $20,000 to my TFSA. I’m happy to say that I beat that goal by 35%, contributing over $27,000 to my TFSA. I had actually exceeded the goal by more than that, but had to take some money back out of the TFSA mid-year for some miscellaneous expenses, so my net contributions put me right back at 35% over my goal.

Goal: Exceeded!

Goal #2: Minimize Taxes

We met this goal during the mid-year write-up.

Goal #3: Rebalance my Total Fund to my Target Allocation

My targets are 55% equity, 20% real estate, 20% fixed income, and 5% cash. Unfortunately I didn’t meet this goal: I actually increased my equity position from 73% to 76% in F2017 — mainly due to the overall stellar performance of the markets. I’ll continue to work at investing new capital into fixed income and real estate through F2018 to meet my target allocation.

Goal: did not meet. 🙁

Goal #4: Increase Passive Income by 5%

My plan was to increase total passive income across all accounts by 5%, to roughly $7,400 in F2017. Total passive income for F2017 came in at $7,700, beating the goal by roughly 6%!


Goal #5: Update and Expand Investment Research

I was going pretty strong in my analysis by mid-year, but have slowed down since BDG was born. I’ve only published three articles since my June 2017 update:

All in all, I exceeded my goal, but I am not impressed with my slowdown the past few months.

Goal: Exceeded!

2018 Goals

So, where does that leave us for F2018?

As I said above, I’ve been lacklustre in updates the past few months (but for good reason!). I’ve also let most of my portfolio run on auto-pilot, and have been investing new capital straight into the Vanguard REIT, VRE.TO. My intent was to move excess cash into VRE.TO to increase my real estate exposure to support 2017 Goal #3. But whichever way you look at it, I haven’t been paying much attention to my investments as of late.

Goal #1: Re-focus on Blog Updates

As a target, I’d like to get back on track to publishing at least four updates per year (i.e. quartelry) on the portfolio. I’ve also got a backlog of ideas to write on, so I’d like to get those out as well. To that end, I would like to target at least 16 articles this year (one per month, plus an additional one per quarter for portfolio updates).

Goal #2: Increase Passive Income by 5%

This year’s passive income goal is $8,100/year.

Goal #3: Focus and Revisit Research

All in, my portfolio currently contains 52 individual companies and/or ETFs. Some of those I haven’t actually done research on, and some companies I have done research on but not invested in (e.g. Richelieu). Goal #3 will be to re-focus my analysis on the companies I own in the portfolio, and publish quarterly updates on each of those to stay current.

Goal #4: Publish the Dividend Gangster Dividend List

I had started in June 2017 with my initial post of dividend updates, but didn’t publish anything after that. The past year I have been compiling a dividend database for Canadian companies to help me in my research. For 2018, I’d like to get this list published on a periodic basis.

There you have it! It will be an exiting year to see how well I can meet those goals!

Onwards and upwards!

2017 Goals: Mid-Year Checkpoint

As we pass the halfway mark of this year, it’s time to review the goals that I originally laid out in January.

Goal #1: Increase TFSA Contributions

My target for this year was to cut my TFSA contribution room in half. Going into this year, I had a little over $40,000 in contribution room, so to cut that in half meant I had to invest at least $20,000 into my TFSA. I’m happy to say that so far this year I have beaten that goal by 35%. Moreover, if I am able to maintain this pace, I will have completely used up all of my contribution room, meaning next year I would start with a fresh $5,500 limit.

Keep in mind that the funds transferred into my TFSA were not necessarily net new cash – much of it was moving holdings from my margin account to my TFSA to reduce my tax burden. Regardless of the source of money transferred in, the net result is that any gains from inside my TFSA will be tax free, forever.

Goal #2: Minimize Taxes

I’ve managed to completely eliminate about 98% of my margin account holdings, by moving all of my US investments into my RRSP, and all of my Canadian investments into my TFSA. One downside to doing this is that if I have any losers in my portfolio, I will no longer be able to use the capital losses to offset any capital gains. But, that shouldn’t matter…All investments in my TFSA are exempt from capital gains taxes, and any (capital) gains in my RRSP won’t be taxed until I retire years from now. So the loss of a tax write-off is more than made up for in the gain in no taxes.

Goal #3: Rebalance my Total Fund to my Target Allocation

I had intended on revisiting my IPS this year, but haven’t had a chance yet to do so. Sadly, I haven’t had a chance to do that yet, nor rebalance my portfolio. Luckily I still have six months to do so!

Goal #4: Increase Passive Income by 5%

One goal was to increase my passive income by at least 5%, and that could have been done organically (i.e. through dividend increases), or accretively (i.e. through purchasing of additional shares). At the end of last year, my projected annual passive income was over $6,000. As of June 30, 2017, my projected annual income is has gone up by 20.15%, or $7,400. The source of the gains was both organic and accretive: dividend increases accounted for 28.10% of the overall gain, and accretive gains (i.e. new investments) accounted for 71.91% of the gains.

But wait, it gets better.

Because all of my investments are now in tax advantaged accounts, I no longer pay taxes at the moment on any of those investments. Assuming a marginal tax rate of 35%, that means I am currently avoiding over $2,600 in taxes!

Goal #5: Update and Expand Investment Research

Finally, I wanted to increase my investment research, by researching at least four companies this year. To support this goal, I started writing articles on Seeking Alpha, along with articles on this site. To date, I have written 12 articles on this site, and 9 on Seeking Alpha:

I have certainly passed my target of 4 companies to research!


To summarize, so far this year I have completed 4 of my 5 goals:

  • Increase TFSA Contributions: Exceeded!
  • Minimize Taxes: Complete!
  • Rebalance: Not yet started.
  • Increase passive income: Exceeded!
  • Update and Expand Research: Exceeded!

The rest of the year will be spent on re-formalizing my IPS, and continued research.

What about you? How are your investment goals going?

Onwards and upwards!

I Invested on Thursday and Lost $352 on Friday

..but I’m not worried.

I recently published an analysis of Magna International, and concluded that the stock was very undervalued, to the tune of 26%. Following my own advice, I picked up 100 shares in my Tax Free Savings Account on Thursday February 23, 2017. Following that, on Friday February 24, 2017 the TSX composite was down 1.57%, its biggest drop in 5 months. I had picked up Magna for an average cost per share of C$59.95 including commissions, and on Friday it had closed at C$56.43/share, a 5.87% drop in a single day; this equating to a C$352 cash loss in 24 hours.

At the same time, Magna announced its fiscal 2016 results, some highlights of which include:

  • Record 2016 sales up 13%, well above 4% growth in global light vehicle production
  • Record 2016 diluted earnings per share from operations increased 9%
  • Record 2016 cash generated from operating activities of $3.4 billion, up 45%
  • Returned $1.3 billion to shareholders in 2016

To sweeten the news, the dividend was hiked to U$0.275/share, up from U$0.25/share, a 10% increase.

To sum things up:

  • The market dropped 1.57% in a single day
  • My investment lost 5.87% in a single day
  • Magna had a record year
  • Magna increased its dividend 10%

Days like this only go to emphasise the importance of a long-term view. The market will always go up and down, and there is really no way to time things out (I’ll ignore the technicians in the audience). If I had a crystal ball, I would have waited 24 hours before pulling the trigger on my trade, and by now I would have been up 2.23% week-over-week, instead of down 1.54% week-over-week. Alas, I’m a Dividend Gangster, not a Dividend Clairvoyant. My original investment thesis stated that:

  • Magna had a strong dividend history (26.97% CAGR over the past 6 years, when measured in USD Dollars. When measured in CAD dollars the dividend is a little wonkier (in the favour of Canadians) as it has to take into account currency fluctuations)
  • Magna was undervalued to the tune of 26%

With the 10% increase, Magna is continuing to maintain the course of a strong dividend player. Even though the price dropped (like a rock!), it is still undervalued, and still has plenty of upside before reaching its Graham number.

Now, a novice investor might have panicked on the Friday when the market dropped, and sold off on the Monday. Let’s take a look at the stock performance over the past few days, and see where we’ve landed:

Date Price (CAD$) Gain (Loss) for the Day Gain (Loss) Since February 23
2017-02-23 $59.20
2017-02-24 $56.43 (4.68%) (4.68%)
2017-02-27 $57.18 1.33% (3.41%)
2017-02-28 $56.79 (0.68%) (4.07%)
2017-03-01 $58.00 2.13% (2.03%)
2017-03-02 $57.86 (0.24%) (2.26%)
2017-03-03 $58.06 0.35% (1.93%)

If a novice had sold immediately after the drop on Feb 24 (i.e. they sold on Monday Feb 27), they would have lost 3.41%, or $2.02. If they had held until today (Mar 3), they would only be down 1.93% or $1.14. How would they know when to sell? How would they know why to sell? The short answer is: they wouldn’t! And that is what differentiates an investor from a trader. The former does not panic at the drop in price in the short term. Guess what happened between February 23, 2017, and February 24, 2017?

  • The price dropped 4.68%
  • EPS rose 12.02%
  • Book value rose 7.19%
  • The dividend rose 10.00%
  • The dividend payout ratio increased from 17.23% to 17.82%

So except for the dividend payout ratio, some of the key per share metrics improved, and the price dropped. If the EPS went up, and the dividend went up, and the book value went up, and the share price went down, that screams “buying opportunity”! However, the general trend of the market on that one day pushed most stock prices down, including Magna. If anything, I wish I had some additional capital kicking around: I would have doubled down on my position in a heartbeat.

As investors, more importantly, as dividend investors, we have to keep our eye on our 3-year, 5-year, 10-year, and 20-year goals… A minor blip in stock price shouldn’t shake us, it should drive us to invest more of our capital. The classic quote from Baron Rothschild is to “[b]uy when there’s blood on the streets, even if the blood is your own.” Now, I didn’t have blood of my own that day (because I was investing in my TFSA, if I had leveraged my line of credit, the interest to purchase the stocks would not be tax-deductible)… But nonetheless, while a market downturn is bloody, but it is also an opportunity.

Onwards and Upwards!


  • Fundamental figures are in US currency
  • Share prices are in Canadian currency
  • My ACB was C$59.95, which was based on an intra-day price; the values listed in the historic pricing table are the CAD close price

I Need $14,000, or, Budgeting in 2017.

I need $14,000. There I said it. But how did I get here? What the hell happened? Did I go crazy at the tables at Casinorama? Did I pull a not-so-friendly Community Chest card in the real-life version of Monopoly? Did I go long the Mexican Peso when Trump was inaugurated? None of those I’m afraid…

One goal I did not mention in my previous post, was to have a well-defined budget. Truth be told, I had a budget planned out in 2016, and for the most part I stuck to it. Budgeting suddenly became very important when I became an independent consultant: as a contractor, you need to know exactly how much money you need, because this ultimately drives the lowest per hour cost that you can live with. If you charge too low, then you will not make enough to cover your regular expenses; so anything you charge over your minimum per hour rate is butter on your bread. Example: if I know that I need to charge at least $50/hour to cover all of my expenses (this includes my personal expenses, as well as corporate expenses), if I can find a contract which pays me $60/hour, assuming a 7.5 hour work-week and two weeks vacation, this means I suddenly have $18,750 more I can play with. But, if a contract paid me less than $50/hour, say, $40/hour, I would be short $18,750. But, I will save the per hour calculations for another post; today, we are here to speak about budgeting!

So, in 2016 I got into the habit of planning out my personal and corporate budgets to the penny. Budgeting is not easy task. You have to ask yourself hard questions, and you have to keep yourself to your budget. If you only budget $100/month for eating out, then you have to be damn well sure that you spend no more than $100/month on eating out! While this sounds easy in principal, it rarely is: easy access to credit, and convenience payment methods such as credit cards, tap-and-pay, paying with your phone, etc., make it all too easy to lose track of your spending.

The hard questions really revolve around what you need vs. what you want. Sure, I want to go out to a fancy restaurant every week, but is that something I need to do? Moreover, when you actually plan stuff out, you realize how much friction discretionary expenses cost you. Case in point: if you go to see a movie every other week, you can spend easily $390 on tickets alone (26 weeks @ $15/ticket). Factor in dinner that you will likely eat when you go out with your friends, the concession stand, gas/transit, etc., and you can easily get up to over $1,000 per year just on going to the movie! Now, consider what other frivolous items you spend your money on!

Our family is growing this year, with a wee one on the way, which will drive a slew of new expenses (diapers! building a nursery! strollers! diapers! baby food! diapers! did I mention diapers???). We also moved, I am 17 months away from paying off our family vehicle, and 53 months from paying off my rental property. When you take into account all of the negative cashflows (e.g. regular expenses, discretionary expenses, paying off liabilities such as mortgage and car, savings, investing), my net income is $14,000 short of my aggregate cash outflows; e.g. if my net outflows are $50,000, I am only making $36,000, $14,000 short.

What does this mean, practically speaking?

Well, when you are budgeting there are really two types of cash outflows:

  • Fixed / required costs
  • Discretionary costs

Examples of costs which I cannot avoid–no matter how much I would like to!–include:

  • My mortgage, and the interest on my mortgage
  • Car payments
  • Utilities (gas+water+hydro) and property taxes
  • Food
  • Pet care (food, vet)

Costs which are discretionary–I can simply not spend this money if I don’t need to–include:

  • Eating out
  • Buying books/movies/music
  • Donations (e.g. to the Toronto Humane Society, United Way, Kids Help Phone, etc.)

So, while I am “short” $14,000, this is purely from a budgeting perspective. Simply because I have $600 budgeted towards going to the movies/buying new music/buying new books, does not mean that I will have to spend $600. That said, I believe 2017 will be a year of frugality: instead of buying books, borrowing from the library. Instead of buying CDs, *cough* borrowing *cough* them from friends (or the library!). Driving less, etc. Ultimately, I would like to make a complete reversal, and instead of finding $14,000 in new funds to fund my shortfall, increasing my overall savings by some amount. These guys are hella inspiring in that regard! I would relish the opportunity to save 60% of my regular income, alas, that’s not going to happen anytime soon.

With that in mind, one more metric that I will be tracking on monthly basis is my personal budget, and how well I am tracking to it. My goal is to tighten my belt enough that I can avoid dipping into long-term savings to cover the $14,000 shortfall. One thing that I have gotten into the habit of doing is using cash instead of credit. In fact, the only things I use my credit card for at the moment are gas, and online purchases. But, if I am driving less, that implies I will be purchasing less gas, which means I will be using my card less. If I cut down on buying things online (e.g. books on amazon.ca), then I’ll be able to cut down on that avenue as well. Previously I was drawn to the siren song of bonus dollars and cash-back cards (such as the Tangerine Cash-back card, which gives 2% cash-back on three categories; if you are going to sign up for one, please use my referral ID, 16176076S1). However, the problem with cash-back cards is that you really have no idea what you’ve spent until the bill comes in the (e-)mail; on a regular basis I was getting hit with $1,000 bills without faintest idea as to where my money had gone. That said, my frugality principles for 2017:

  • Cash, not credit
  • Drive less, transit more; even easier since I have a TTC Metropass
  • Borrow, not buy, in the case of books
  • If I have to buy, buy used, through craigslist, Kijiji, or eBay (although eBay offers less and less in terms of bargains nowadays!)
  • Learn to say no: if a bunch of friends wish to go out, if I don’t have physical cash in my wallet, don’t do it
  • Look for cost cutting measures around the house

I’d be curious to hear what methods you are all using to cut costs, and generally have more savings on hand!

Onwards and upwards!

Investment Goals: 2017

It’s that time of year where we start looking at investment goals for the new year.

I didn’t really have any goals F2016, except to become a member of thediv-net.com, which I’m happy to say that I was successful in accomplishing! I also mentioned in several posts in F2016 that up until recently I had lost focus on my investment portfolio. Well, for F2017, I plan on changing that trend.

To that end, the goals!

Goal 1: Increase TFSA Contributions

I have been an infrequent contributor to my TFSA for the past 2+ years. To pay off my business school loan, and to purchase a new house with my family, I made some significant withdrawals. Taking into account the $5,500 contribution limit for F2017, I have a little over $40,000 in contribution room in my TFSA. My goal for F2017 is to contribute to at least 50% of that limit, or $20,000.

Goal 2: Minimize Taxes

My investments fall into five investment books: a taxable margin account, a tax-free account, a tax deferred account, a certificated account, and a LIRA. My second goal for F2017 is to minimize taxes by consolidating investments into my tax deferred and tax-free accounts, where it is sensible to do so.

Selecting which investments go into tax sheltered accounts is not a trivial task. On the one hand, moving investments from my taxable account will defer any taxes payable (in the case of my RRSP), or eliminate taxes completely (in the case of my TFSA). However, tax sheltered accounts have a disadvantage in that any losses cannot be used to offset capital gains. This means that I will have to take a close look at the investments to ensure they are good fit to go into an account where I am unable to do any tax loss harvesting. Put another way: I have to ensure I am comfortable (financially, and psychologically) to move investments, confident that they will not go down in value to the point where I sell them at a loss.

That said, Goal 1 and Goal 2 are complementary: by moving investments from my taxable margin account to my tax-free account, I can easily come within throwing distance of Goal 1.

Moreover, by moving my US investments from my margin account to my tax deferred RRSP, I will reap an immediate 15% cost avoidance: US based stocks are not subject to the (15%) withholding tax on US dividends, which means I will receive the full amount of dividends from my US holdings.

Goal 3: Rebalance my Total Fund to my Target Allocation

When I started investing in earnest in F2012, I had a very rigid target allocation. The past few years I have deviated very far from that. So my third goal (and arguably the most important) will be to revisit my investment policy statement, and determine the appropriate asset mix for my investments.

Goal 4: Increase Passive Income by 5%

As I am a dividend investor, passive income is my primary goal for investing. Following my December 2016 results, I will be baselining my F2016 income, with a goal of beating that income by 5% this year.

I plan on accomplishing this goal through three key strategic activities:

  1. Re-allocation. I know for a fact that my portfolio is overweighted in some areas. Once I complete Goal 3, I will be reallocating funds to other holdings, to increase exposure to some of my more successful dividend holdings.
  2. DRIP Investing. I plan on increasing exposure to DRIP investments, as they provide a frictionless vehicle for quickly growing dividend income.
  3. TFSA Contributions. As mentioned with Goal 1, I plan on increasing my TFSA exposure. This increase will undoubtedly bring more passive income into the total fund.

Goal 5: Update and Expand Investment Research

Many of my investment research posts are horribly out of date. As the calendar year is starting, many companies I follow will be releasing their annual results in the coming months. I plan on updating all of the companies I follow based on F2016 results. Moreover, I am targeting to analyze at least four new companies this year.

And there you have it; the F2017 goals! I would love to hear what everyone else’s goals are for F2017.

Onwards and upwards!