2010-2019: Financial reflections of the last decade

2010-2019: Financial reflections of the last decade

Geez, another decade gone. Time flies.

Personally, professionally and financially, it’s been a great decade. I feel so grateful for what I have.

While I’ve put a fair amount of work into my career, my relationships at home and beyond, and various hobbies and pursuits over the years, I’m humbled when I reflect upon how much has actually happened over the last decade.

Here are my reflections, mostly financial ones, from 2010-2019.

2009 ish – 2010

I can’t really recall the definitive date that I wanted to launch My Own Advisor but my first post was 10-years ago this month (December 2009). That utterly, most basic post (published as I learned about website management) highlighted my recent plunge into investing via owning more Canadian dividend paying stocks – money we had after we sold our rental condo in the city.

While I was always passionate about personal finance and investing, curious about wealth building, I never really thought I should run my own blog until I realized it would be an excellent way to chronicle my thoughts, my failures, my success stories and mostly importantly, maintain my accountability as an investor.

Little did I know then what the blog would be now, and how much of an enabler it would be to our financial success…

2010

Much like household spring cleaning, I focused on cleaning up my portfolio in the spring of 2010. I ditched my pricey mutual funds (along with duds in my wife’s portfolio) as I became far more knowledgeable about the power of dividend investing and low-cost Exchange Traded Fund (ETF) investing.

I bought more shares in companies like Bank of Nova Scotia (BNS) and Bell Canada (BCE), companies I have held and bought more shares of ever since.

I also remember calculating our net worth later that year, after we moved into our former home just outside of Ottawa. Although I didn’t post it on this site, I recall in my late-30s we were already millionaires on paper with our combined assets. Our new home was worth north of $500k even though we had a bunch of debt. We had a modest amount of Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) assets. I had/still have a growing pension at work, so does my wife. TFSA (Tax Free Savings Accounts) were just taking off, and we maximized contributions those accounts as soon as we possibly could.

These are great things you can do with your TFSA.

I decided to use my/our TFSAs for a dividend investing account. I’m glad I did, more on that in a bit. 

2011

As 2011 rolled out, I continued to read up about dividend investing and what that approach could provide in terms of wealth building – even though I was already on that investing path.

I read books like The Single Best Investment for affirmation and posted reviews of these books to remind me how to invest.

The Single Best Investment

The more I wrote, the more confident I became in my investing skills. So much so, I quit the mutual fund industry for good and had fully transitioned my portfolio (along with my wife’s) completely away from mutual funds into a basket of dividend paying stocks and low-cost ETFs.

It felt like I was really on to something special…

2012

By 2012, I made my monthly dividend income updates a habit on the site. I reported on how my Canadian dividend portfolio might continue to rise over time if I stuck to what seemed to be a very boring investment plan:

  1. Buy and hold these dividend paying companies and REITs.
  2. Reinvest dividends paid. 
  3.  Do nothing.  Wait.  
  4. Reinvest dividends (again) when they are paid next month or next quarter.  
  5. Wait some more.  Watch more income roll in.  Reinvest dividends again.
  6. Rinse and repeat until wealthy.

Could investing be this simple I wondered?

Beyond investing in Canadian dividend paying stocks in my non-registered account and TFSAs, I also strived to max out my RRSP, and sought to buy more U.S. stocks and ETFs for our RRSP accounts to diversify away from the Canadian dividend payers I had become so fond of. I bought Procter & Gamble (PG:US) that year and have held that company ever since. Of note: the dividends generated by PG alone now churn out more than $500 USD per year in tax-deferred money.

2013

While articles will continue to surface on the RRSP vs. TFSA investing debate, I learned almost a decade ago now that ultimately depending upon what you do with the RRSP-generated refund, that’s what settles the debate for good.

From this post:

“Based on my personal investment plan, I feel the TFSA ultimately trumps the RRSP as a retirement vehicle even though I contribute to both every year.   All the money in the TFSA is mine to keep, grow and manage with no tax consequences. The RRSP refund is great but it’s actually temporary; you need to give it back at some point. This makes reinvesting the RRSP refund year after year absolutely critical in my opinion to optimize wealth building – to take major advantage of an essentially long-term but not permanent government loan.”

Reading more books, following other bloggers more, gaining more insight into what makes great investors tick were critical building blocks on my path to financial growth. There is simply some investing advice that never goes out of style!

2014

By early 2014, we had made annual financial goal setting at priority. Those goals focused on a combination of debt repayments (mortgage), continuing to max out contributions to our TFSAs, and striving to contribute more to RRSPs over time. While my RRSP was not yet maxed out yet of contribution room, I was getting very close. Our balancing act of debt payments and investing was working well. It also allowed us to keep some money left over for some international trips every now and then.

Throughout the 2010s, my wife and I were fortunate to visit Argentina, Costa Rica (twice), Puerto Rico, Scotland, Portugal and Barbados for international travel. Beyond that, there were dozens of trips to the U.S. (Chicago, Phoenix, Fort Lauderdale, New York City, Washington D.C. to name a few) along with a few trips out west to Vancouver, Kelowna and Whistler, BC.

I’m looking forward to seeing what future travel adventures are in store…

Catamaran Barbados 2019

From our catamaran cruise in February 2019 in Barbados.

2015

We finished the calendar year of 2015 by earning almost $12,000 per year in dividend income from the various dividend paying stocks we held inside our non-registered account and TFSAs. The quick math told me assets combined in these accounts were delivering almost $1,000 per month in additional cash flow.  But, we didn’t spend a penny of that money – that year or going-forward.

Instead, all dividends and income earned was reinvested via dividend reinvestment plans (DRIPs) to buy more shares with our discount brokerage commission-free.

By early 2016, the dividend income machine I worked so hard at building in the previous 5-6 years was now well-oiled and running along smoothly. I had cemented my plan to try and “live off dividends” in future years and largely ignore any portfolio value.

2016

A successful financial plan isn’t all about investing, far from it. It’s about general savings, risk mitigation, having ample insurance and more.

This is why in 2016, we were thrilled when we had saved up $10,000 for our emergency fund – and have largely kept it at that level ever since. 

With the emergency fund in place, debt payments and sometime mortgage pre-payments going along smoothly, I started to branch out and learn more about investing from others. I talked to Ross Grant about his Beating the TSX strategy to see what I could leverage from successful investors that have “been there, done that”.

I created my Retirement page to highlight other stories and case studies from successful investors. I will continue to do so!

During 2016, I recall thinking that some form of early retirement might be in our financial future should things continue to go well. I mean, dividends were compounding away without lifting a finger. Debt was going lower. My job was secure. I had my health. I remember thinking I was very fortunate. I remain very fortunate.

2017

After another successful year of investing, I wondered if I or anyone else actually needed any more investment advice.

A reader used to comment on my site to say he could distill 80,000+ personal finance books into two simple messages:

  1. Live below your means.
  2. Keep doing #1 as long as possible.

He is right of course.

But that didn’t stop me from reading more books, interviewing more authors, giving away more books on this site on the subject of financial independence and more.

Decades ago, I had always dreamed of owning a $1 million portfolio for an early retirement. By 2017, while we certainly hadn’t reached that mark yet with combined assets I could see we were getting closer. Our simple buy and hold and reinvest dividends and ETF distributions approach seemed to be working very well. Passive income was moving higher. So much so, we ended the calendar year 2017 earning $15,150 in dividend income from our accounts excluding our RRSP assets.  

2018

In late-2017, we signed paperwork to move back to the city and by early 2018, we owed some considerable money for down payments on our pre-construction condo. I wrote about our housing decision made, to downsize here.

Although we had saved up considerable money for this purchase in advance, we needed to borrow money to fulfill our purchase agreement. Moving back to the city was going to be a big but welcomed change for us. I was already starting to calculate the savings we could yield from it:

  • The ability and flexibility to walk to work, groceries, entertainment and more within a short 20-30 minute stroll.
  • We could sell one car, keep only one car; likely save $300 or more per month.
  • We would have much lower monthly utility bills in a smaller place.

Even with a line of credit to pay down and a mortgage to carry, with the stock market rolling in recent years, my daydreaming about early retirement or some form of financial freedom continued. Maybe that destination could even be accelerated by living in a smaller place, with less stuff to buy and repair.

I figured with our current rate of mortgage debt repayments while continuing to invest the way we do, semi-retirement in a few years at age 50 might even be within reach.

Towards the end of 2018, I re-established my investing approach to readers and told them any dreams to “live off dividends” to a degree remained alive and well.

Dividend Income December 2018

I ended 2018 by sharing how investors might be able to master their money in the upcoming year – tips I would follow myself. I try and eat my own cooking as much as possible.

2019

When I did the math, we ended up with $17,221 in dividend income from our non-registered account and two TFSAs at the end of 2018 – a number that was undoubtedly going to climb higher in 2019 if I continued to follow the same approach.

Coupled with our RRSP assets with more U.S. stocks and more U.S. ETF units like VYM in particular, the goal of owning a $1 million portfolio across all accounts we own was getting even closer. It remained very motivating to see that number climb thanks to recent investing returns. Even still, I figured realizing that goal would be a number of years away. Heck, I only predicted the stock market would climb a few percent in 2019. I had no idea what returns were actually in store…

Thanks to some great reader questions, I completed some case studies with some fee-only-planners to help others determine what their “enough number” might be. In one particular case, it was interesting to read about how this couple with $1.2 million saved in their 50s, but no pensions mind you, could easily spend $40,000-$50,000 per year from their portfolio without fail to age 100.

Assuming our basic spending needs would not exceed that (for condo property taxes, condo fees, utilities, groceries and more) this meant realizing our $1 million goal with some part-time work (and future workplace pensions to draw from) would likely be “enough” for us.

Retirement is such a fickle word. I reflected on that word immensely this summer, including what some form of retirement actually means to me. I concluded I never really want to retire per se. Rather, as long as my health (body and mind) are always willing, I would simply like to work on my own terms. That’s what I’ve really been striving for in recent years – FIWOOT if you will – Financial Independence Work On Own Terms.

With that defined, I assured myself that our path to financial independence had been fully clarified. We just had to keep doing what we are doing.

To those that wish to pursue any form of financial independence, I shared the six phases you need to work through yourself.

As 2019 comes to a close

As 2019 comes to a close in another couple of weeks, while we’re not yet at our dream-like $1 million portfolio goal nor debt-free those milestones are right in front of us.

Financial Reflections

Should the stock market continue to go up in 2020, say 10%, we’ll reach our investing goal. Something that seemed so distant a decade or more ago will occur. That reader who distilled 80,000+ financial books into a one-liner was right – by continuing to live within my means and paying myself first, everything else will take care of itself with time.

Regarding the debt, it’s in the low 6-figures now. In another year, it should be 5-figures. Slaying the debt dragon is another goal that is not that far away.

A decade seemed to pass in the blink of an eye but upon reflection I know I thoroughly enjoyed it. I can only wish for the next decade to be just as fruitful. It’s incredible to look back and see how far we’ve come.

Thanks to our health first and foremost, we’ve taken advantage of good paying jobs, maturing our professional careers; improving our financial acumen with time. Some deep investing knowledge has been an enabler to financial success. Financial security should be around the corner.

My site was established ten years ago to hold myself to account for various personal finance decisions – decisions I continue to struggle with but also thrive from. With this decade coming to a close, with giving back top of mind during any holiday season, maybe you’ve learned something about personal finance or yourself for that matter by reading my site.

It is my hope for the coming decade that more health and happiness will occur on our financial independence path. And I definitely hope the same for you too 🙂

Mark

My name is Mark Seed and I'm the founder, editor and owner of My Own Advisor. As my own DIY financial advisor, we're inching closer to our ultimate goal - owning a 7-figure investment portfolio for semi-retirement. We're almost there! Subscribe, join the journey to learn how I'm getting there and how you can get there too! Follow my on Twitter @myownadvisor.

72 Responses to "2010-2019: Financial reflections of the last decade"

  1. Congrats on not just a great decade for yourself, but for inspiring so many others, and giving a bunch of us drunk nut jobs across Canada a place to read and learn!

    I look forward to the next decade, and hopefully some beers in person soon!

    Reply
  2. Awesome recap Mark. Increbily well done.

    I’m sure it is very inspiring for you to look back at this and consider all the people that you’ve helped making their lives and finances better too.

    Congratulations and best wishes for the coming decade.

    Reply
    1. A decade really does fly by…

      Thanks for your readership and support of the journey. It’s been fun interacting with other passionate investors.

      Mark

      Reply
      1. It sure does fly by!

        You’re welcome. I’ve been around just over 5 years I think.

        Enjoy following it -(true wisdom offered); and learning from the site and from others and maybe offering something usefull at times.

        On another note I see Genworth has announced another special dividend 2.32/share payout Dec 31, since the Brookfield takeover is confirmed. The third one since June for a total of 4.17/share in special dividends. Kinda crazy from a company that I was having second thoughts about over the past year with house prices, mortgage vulnerabilities, consumer debt etc. So far glad I hung in. lol

        Reply
        1. Geez, hard to believe we’ve been emailing back and forth for that long.

          Genworth eh? I still don’t own that one. I was always concerned with mortgage risks/defaults with that but they keep pushing on. No end in sight for the housing market….yet.

          From G&M:
          https://www.theglobeandmail.com/business/economy/article-canadian-home-sales-rise-for-ninth-consecutive-month/

          “The increase in sales came as the national average price for a home sold in November was about $529,000, up 8.4 per cent compared with a year ago. Excluding Greater Toronto and Greater Vancouver, the average price was about $404,000, up 6.9 per cent compared with last year. The MLS home price index rose 2.6 per cent year over year to $638,300. Price gains also saw regional variances, with the Greater Vancouver benchmark price down 4.59 per cent from a year ago and Prairie home prices also down, while Greater Toronto saw gains of 6.52 per cent, Greater Montreal had gains of 8.72 per cent and Ottawa registered gains of 11.45 per cent.”

          I know for a fact Ottawa is on a tear…

          Brookfield is one helluva company. I don’t own any BAM.A at this point but I do own what they own, a few hundred shares of BIP, BEP, and BPY.

          Mark

          Reply
          1. Yeah, hard to believe that long. I know it because I remember where I was – in Texas and it was before then. I only own BPY and BIP.

            Crazy numbers.

            Reply
  3. Great post, Mark, and congratulations for all your achievements over the last decade.

    I like the short summary financial planning pearls. Here’s my favourite.
    1. Spend less than you earn.
    2. Invest the difference in a sensible, low cost manner.
    3. Avoid debt. (non mortgage debt, and don’t go overboard on the mortgage)

    All the best for the next decade and beyond.

    Reply
    1. Grant, I appreciate your objective points of view and insights.

      Those are great pearls of wisdom!

      Best wishes to you and family for 2020 and beyond too.
      Mark

      Reply
  4. Congratulations on your decade anniversary as well as your personnel achievements. I would like to thank you for many years of useful information and personal enlightenment. Your plain, down to earth and no secret agenda attitude is like a breath of fresh air in this forum.
    Have a safe and Happy Holiday Season.

    Reply
  5. Congratulations Mark. You have both done well over the last decade. You have developed this site into the best one that I follow. After following your blog and reading Henry’s book, I have been transitioning to your dividend approach from the Couch Potato portfolio I used when I was working and too busy to devote more time to investing. Now that I am retired, I really appreciate those dividends in my tfsa and non registered accounts.

    Thanks for your help. I look forward to your future postings. Best wishes for the holidays and for the future years.

    Reply
    1. Very fortunate Jan, thanks for your readership.

      Certainly “my way” via dividend investing and some low-cost ETFs might not work for everyone but I confess it is a path I have gravitated to and been successful at to date, largely because I stuck to a plan I believed in.

      I know for a fact I love those dividends rolling in and seeing my income grow with time. Hopefully 2020 is more of the same.

      Happy holidays to you Jan,
      Mark

      Reply
  6. Congrats on an amazing decade of not only your personal success, but also inspiring, educating and encouraging many Canadians, including myself, to be more financially savvy.

    Reply
    1. Thanks May. It’s very nice to get to know readers online/here in comments section and interact with like-minded folks that want to use money as a tool to better their lives and their family’s well-being. That’s you!

      Best wishes,
      Mark

      Reply
  7. Hey Mark

    Congrats on a fantastic decade for your finances, your blog, and your life in general, and all the best in the 2020s.

    I’ll add a vote for your site being my favourite blog and for you not having any hidden agendas and presenting the information in a clear and honest way. Lots of very interesting and enjoyable articles and terrific reader comments.

    Have a wonderful holiday season and all the best in the new year.
    Don

    Reply
    1. Wow, I like that vote!

      Thanks for your comments including the clear and honest feedback. I’m glad that comes through in the writing.

      Best wishes to you and family this holiday.
      Mark

      Reply
  8. Holy Macinaw Mark! How did you find time to write such comprehensive piece at this time of year; I barely had time to read it. 😂 You have been an inspiration to many with your down to earth explanations of some complex ideas. Time goes by so much quicker as we age. I think I have followed you pretty well from the beginning and I look forward to the next 10 years. Happy holidays to you and your able assistant (your partner/best friend/wife). 😀

    Reply
  9. I was late to the party, started following in 2018. Congratulations on your blog and following. The content you provide is excellent. Not easy to keep producing varied content and keep a social media following, all while maintaining full time job and keeping track of all your numbers….. Whoa.

    Reply
  10. Congrats on an amazing 10 years! You have not only realized your own personal success, but also inspired, educated and encouraged many others, including myself, to be more financially savvy. Keep up the great work for another decade hopefully. Happy holidays to you and your family and the best for 2020.

    Reply
  11. Congratulations on achieving a decade of direction to hands-on, DIY investors like us who are inspired by your insightful articles and the community that you have fostered.

    I discovered your blog only about 3 or 4 years ago and while I don’t often feel I have much of value to add to the threads, I enjoy reading every post and particularly like the respectful and highly informed questions, answers and points of view that are shared. I certainly have learned immensely here, and I regularly recommend your blog to friends and colleagues who are looking to learn and take control of their finances.

    Wishing you great success, health and happiness for 2020 and the next decade to come — may your capital gain, and dividends grow!

    Reply
    1. “I certainly have learned immensely here, and I regularly recommend your blog to friends and colleagues who are looking to learn and take control of their finances.”

      Wow, great stuff.

      I wish you the same BartBandy for 2020 and beyond. Here’s to more growth and dividend income over time!

      Reply
  12. Hey mark, awesome site, I read all your posts and comments. I’m learning more all the time from your site. Looking forward to the next 30 years!! Thx

    Reply
  13. Congratulations Mark on the past decade and hopefully the next one will bring more success for you guys.
    Thanks for all the effort that you do to help junior investors like myself 🙂
    all the best in the coming years !

    Reply
  14. Hi Mark,

    First of all congratulations on your past decade, I find your site really helpful for someone like me who has only started investing (self-directed) about 3 years ago. So far, I have cashed in my RRSP mutual funds with my bank and transferred the RRSP funds to a self-directed account. This is something I NEVER thought I would do. I didn’t want to touch it because it was “safe”. After reading one of your articles, I came to see that the bank was making more off of my investments than I was, and I was fuming a bit, so then I finally took the plunge (I was very nervous about doing this but I’m glad I did). And now I invest in what “I” want. If I lose money than it’s me losing the money not someone else taking it (but I’m doing ok). I am now on progressive retirement, and I’ve wondering about cashing in some of my RRSP money sooner so that I can add it in to my TFSA account and buy more dividend stocks. Since my salary is considerably less than it was and it wasn’t high before, I figure I won’t pay too much tax at the end of the year. I can’t afford to make major contributions to my TFSA, so I do have a lot of contribution room at this point. Just wondering what your thoughts are on this.

    Reply
  15. What an inspiration! I didn’t know you went to Barbados in 2019, sounds lovely. Thanks for allowing us to follow along on your journey.

    If you have almost a $1 million portfolio (my goal too but I’ll need 4 more years or more), your dividend yield is $17,000, what is your dividend yield? I assume you have a number of holdings in ETFs that have a lower yield?

    Reply
    1. We did 🙂 It was great and highly recommend it. Great food, people, beautiful beaches and more.

      My dividend yield for the stocks I own in my non-reg. + x2 TFSA (mine, my wife) is about 4.2%. Those three accounts churn out close to $19.6k now.

      RRSP(s) are excluded. If I add in those accounts, I suspect our overall portfolio yield is about 4% – so if we reach our $1 M next year (???) in all accounts then roughly $20k (from non-reg. + x2 TFSAs) + $20k (from x2 RRSPs) = from $1 M invested.

      I have a a few lower yielding stocks and a few hundred shares of VYM now that bring the yield down a bit, but not much. Hovers between 3.9-4.3% pretty consistently.

      Cheers,
      Mark

      Reply
  16. Mark, yours is a great story!

    The nice thing about it is that your success is readily replicated using the same basic principles, and you chose to share your story. The feeling of being financially independent is wonderful, and helping others get there by sharing your experience is a legacy to be proud of.

    All the best in 2020.

    Reply
  17. If you were a dividend investor you missed out on some of the best gains in the history of the market vs if you were an index investor. What will the next decade hold? If vegas set odds for this the odds may be in favor of the dividend investor. But with all the quantitative easing that’s happening and likely to keep happening it’s hard to know for sure.

    Reply
    1. Well, I was a dividend investor and for the decade, my CDN stock returns were close to 8% annualized. The Canadian indexer would have only returned about 7% annualized. It all depends on what you own!

      Totally agreed B – so hard to know what the future might hold! Whatever is in store, happy investing to you for the next decade ahead! Got any plans?

      Mark

      Reply
      1. Oh canadian market….then you missed out on even more being overweight canadian. ‘The Market’ means S&P 500.

        Sounds like you took on more risk and only recieved a 1% premium to the index investor who incurred substantially less risk. But yes, to your one point, if a dividend investor buys 1 dividend stock and it beats the index yes technically the dividend investor outperformed. ‘It all depends on what you own’ indeed.

        My plans are to continue to cash in on american greed. Best of luck with the dividend thing.

        Reply
        1. Ha, “Amercian greed”. I hope to increase my exposure more to U.S. stocks in 2020 inside the RRSP. Thinking more U.S. healthcare B. Thoughts?

          What products are you owning to index with? VTI? IVV? Other?

          Cheers,
          Mark

          Reply
          1. Nothing special, ZUE/VOO with a bit of ZQQ/QQQ depending on the account type in mine and XUU/VTI in my wifes. 7% allocation to XIU and 15% in VB/XSU. I tinker more with mine but my wife’s is straight XUU/VTI. Our returns are near identical so I don’t know why I bother tinkering heh. The last decade has been absoloutely unreal from a total return standpoint.

            Reply
            1. I’ve considered XUU in my CDN RRSP to build up more U.S. assets but I guess it’s the same thing as buying VTI or VYM to a degree on the U.S. side. I simply avoid USD < > CDN $$ conversions with XUU. Thoughts?

              Big fan of XIU.

              Yes, total returns for the last 10 years are crazy really from the U.S. perspective. Makes me wonder if the next decade will be even close…

              I have a bias to owning more U.S. assets like VYM or potentially XUU or VTI or ITOT or other over time. It’s too hard to cherry-pick the U.S. market.

              Reply
          2. Statistically speaking over a long period of time hedging or not hedging hasn’t been proved to create better/worse profits. I hedge in my TFSA, and I dont hedge in my wifes TFSA. I’m retiring next year (41) but she’s retiring in 5 years or so (she’ll be 43).

            Reply
          3. I started young. I was buying american large cap mutual funds at age 18 with the money I made from my summer jobs. I simply followed the Andex chart which was hanging up in every bank office and financial planners office at the time. I never made over 40k/year until I was 30.

            Reply
    2. Do you mean dividend investors in the US? Yes, in the US market dividend investors did underperform the broad markets during the last decade because the value premium in the US market was negative during that time. Not so in the Canadian market – the value premium was strongly positive. Whether that continues in the next decade remains to be seen. Dividend investors also have more concentrated portfolios than a cap weighted value index fund, so will have a wider dispersion of returns – some better, some worse – so as Mark says, it depends on what you own.

      Reply
      1. Ah, maybe eh Grant? U.S. S&P 500 did very well over the last decade. Hard to know what the future holds – if only we all knew!?

        Any big plans yourself for 2020? Travel? Other?

        Happy Holidays to you,
        Mark

        Reply

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