Winter is coming and it has been a while since our last Open Book series. We try to be as accurate and transparent as possible to give you a proper idea of our finances. We attribute most of our success to our high savings rate and constant tracking of our progression with tools such as Mint or Personal Capital. By sharing our investment strategies and diversification strategy with you, we hope you will be inspired to save and invest even more and attain your goals quicker!
Saving more of your hard earn dollars makes (almost) any goal attainable. For example, becoming a millionaire is pretty attainable if you start early. If you wanted to reach the million by age 50 and started saving right out of college at 22 years old, you would only need to save $1,152 per month, that is not even the maximum 401k contribution! At 25, this jumps to $1,443 and by 35, you would need to be saving $3,439 per month. This assumes you would invest, and stay invested, over the whole period and average a 6% return, which is very attainable with an index fund portfolio like ours.
In our case, our goal is to retire 9 years from now, roughly 11 years after we first discovered financial independence was even possible. We are currently on track with over 29% of our objective saved up and invested as of today. We are mainly invested in broadly-diversified index funds and mainly using tax-advantaged accounts.
Below is a breakdown of our portfolio as of November 2017. We will do His and Hers so let’s start with my whole portfolio:
VTI ♦ 31% of my total portfolio is invested in the Vanguard Total Market ETF. I hold this exchange-traded fund, like all our other ETFs, in both my RRSP (401k) and TFSA (Roth IRA) with Questrade so I do not pay any capital gains tax nor do I get taxed on my dividends. Another great advantage of Questrade is that they do not charge any commission to purchase ETFs. For our American readers, we suggest Ally or Vanguard for easy, low-fee investing.
VCN ♦ 27% of my total portfolio is invested in the Vanguard FTSE Canada All Cap Index ETF. This is my little home bias. We are planning to retire in Canada and spend Canadian dollars in retirement so having this portion of my portfolio in Canada is a way to hedge against currency risk. Although the Canadian equity market is not nearly as large as some other markets around the world, I still allocate a good portion of my portfolio in it.
VWO ♦ 14% of my total portfolio is invested in the Vanguard FTSE Emerging Markets ETF. To balance out home bias and benefit from the ever-changing global economy, I invest a significant portion in emerging markets.
VBR ♦ 6% of my total portfolio is invested in the Vanguard Small-Cap Value ETF. I am slightly tilting my portfolio towards smaller caps since small-cap stocks averaged an annual return 2.20 percent higher than large-cap over the long-run. My biggest holding, VTI, holds all market capitalizations, from small to large, but I like to hold a bit more small-cap than the market’s weighting to (hopefully) increase returns over the long-term.
BND ♦ 5% of my total portfolio is invested in the Vanguard Total Bond Market ETF. We both chose to hold bonds to smooth out our returns while holding a certain security in case of emergency or opportunity. The reason we hold some bonds, although a very little percentage of our total portfolio, is to have flexibility. The flexibility to buy the dip if we feel like it. The flexibility to use it as an emergency fund if we go through our current savings. It will not save us from the next crash but again, what would?
&&& ♦ 4.5% of my total portfolio is invested in my Employee stock option. Since this is my current employer, I will not be sharing the exact name of this holding. Every week, I automatically invest in this Canadian bank stock and get a 50% match from my employer. I currently contribute to get the maximum match and sell whenever my position becomes too large.
VGK ♦ 4% of my total portfolio is invested in the Vanguard FTSE Europe ETF. This is a little bet to beat the US market over the long-term.
ETH ♦ 3% of my total portfolio is invested in different cryptocurrencies and tokens such as Litecoins and Etherium. I decided to play a bit in the cryptocurrency world with a few dollars to (maybe) strike the new Bitcoin. If this investment doubles, I will be happy. If it goes to zero, I will still be happy.
I might be crazy but this kind of play money will not affect me much but it is fun to have some skin in the game. I have been looking into a few different coins and tokens but with the recent Bitcoin raise (up almost 70% in the October alone), I have been paying extra attention to find the next big thing.
No one can guess the next Bitcoin or even know if Bitcoin will be up another 70% in a month from now but you cannot win if you are not playing. New coins now offer faster transaction time, new technologies, and a brighter future than Bitcoin so it’s dominance might come to an end. This is why I invested a tiny part of my portfolio into a few cryptocurrencies this month. This is a long-term play that could be very profitable if cryptos become broadly accepted over time. I will keep you informed of any developments over the next few months.
VEA ♦ 3% of my total portfolio is invested in the Vanguard FTSE Developed Markets ETF. This is an international, developed world index fund but I prefer focusing on the emerging markets since it is less correlated with my main holdings. I never sold this ETF but stopped contributing new funds to it at the moment.
VRE ♦ 2.5% of my total portfolio is invested in the Vanguard FTSE Canadian Capped REIT Index ETF. The American version of this ETF is symbol VNQ. Again, I never sold this ETF but stopped contributing new funds to it at the moment.
If all of this sounds too complicated, we suggest Wealthsimple.
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I always re-invest dividends and have automated most of my investment contributions at each payday. However, even with my new investment in cryptocurrencies, I still keep a strict asset allocation via ETFs and rebalance every year. In terms of asset allocation, I considered cryptos as part of the US Market since they are priced in American dollars.
|Current Asset Allocation||Desired Asset Allocation|
Using my desired asset allocation, we are looking at an average historical average real return (after inflation) of 8.8% since 1970 with a standard deviation (the risk factor) of 17.3%.
Source: Portfolio Charts
If we use the US Total Market as a benchmark (orange), my portfolio (purple) slightly over-performed over the past half-century. Past performance does not indicate future returns but I am optimistic about my chosen allocation.
Source: Portfolio Charts
Mrs. investment portfolio
My wife has a very similar asset allocation as me and has kept it very simple. She holds only 4 index funds with Vanguard (VTI, VCN, VWO, and BND) and only invests in her TFSA (Roth IRA).
|Mrs. Xyz Current Asset Allocation||Desired Asset Allocation|
For the past few months, the American market has been on a nice raise and our portfolio grew over 5% since we last shared this summer. This is some nice gains but we are not looking at it over the short-term. This is the main reason why we do not post monthly portfolio updates, we simply do not want to look at it too often!
Stay happy, invest plenty. Mr. and Mrs. Xyz.