ETFs and dividend stocks built to last for your portfolio

ETFs and dividend stocks built to last for your portfolio

Almost as good as cookies and cream, I believe ETFs and dividend stocks can exist in harmony in your investment portfolio.

What are some of the best ETFs to build your portfolio with?

What are some dividend paying stocks to consider owning for growing income?

Read on and find out!

Why low-cost, diversified Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs)?

It’s easy to see the love affair with Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs). They can be a super cheap, low-cost way to passively invest in the market. With low-cost, diversified ETFs, you can also get what is considered to be “the only free lunch” that comes with investing – diversification. Nowadays, you can own thousands of stocks from around the world with just one ETF product.

These are the best all-in-one ETFs to consider owning!

The Best all-in-one Exchange Traded Funds

From my point of view, I gravitate to equity ETFs pretty much exclusively in my portfolio because I believe going-forward, this asset class will continue to provide the best returns over a long period of time with the least amount of risk. Yes, absolutely, there are risks with owning equity ETFs. However, that risk comes in the form of short-term market volatility which is the price you pay for long-term growth. 

Why dividend paying stocks?

It’s also easy to see the affinity to dividend paying stocks – I’ve owned a number of them for 11+ years. 

While a high and a consistent total return is always a good goal when it comes to your portfolio, dividend paying stocks can offer equally high returns, tangible cash flow to investors and some capital appreciation as well. In fact, by owning dozens of established companies from different sectors that have a long history of paying consistent dividends, you can build a generous passive income machine. This passive income machine can also continue to grow thanks to routine dividend increases.

You can always see how I built my dividend income portfolio here.

I continue to keep this dedicated Dividends page updated about my income journey to semi-retirement.

Are there ETFs and/or stocks that are built to last for your long-term portfolio?

I believe there are, and the list is here below!

ETFs built to last for your portfolio

If you’re going to be an equity investor, I don’t believe you can get rid of market volatility. Volatility is essentially the ride you need to take given investing risk and reward are related: the more investing risk you take on, the more potential reward.

You can however reduce some of the volatility that stocks will shove you way, using these guidelines, and why ETFs help:

  1. Consider dollar cost averaging when you buy stocks – although I believe making lump sum purchases are usually best.
  2. Diversify your equity investments – this is where ETFs can provide built-in diversification. 
  3. As you diversify your holdings, keep a long-term investment timeline for your stocks. Think in years or decades (not months) as part of a long-term buy and hold and buy some more approach!

Without any further delays – beyond those all-in-one ETFs above – here are some of my favourite ETFs to buy and hold and buy some more of!

Best ETFs built to last for your portfolio

VTI in your RRSP*

The Vanguard Total Stock Market Exchange Traded Fund (VTI) invests in more than 3,000 U.S. stocks. While you cannot control what the U.S. stock market will do you can control your money management fees, and this ETF has industry-leading rock bottom costs. 10-year returns on this ETF at the time of this article are outstanding. See chart below.

ETFs and Dividend Stocks

Source: Vanguard. 

I consider this ETF an excellent product for your U.S.-dollar RRSP.

Disclosure: I’ve owned VTI in our portfolio for about a decade now. 

VXUS in your RRSP*

Own the world outside the U.S. economy with the Vanguard Total International Stock Exchange Traded Fund (VXUS). This product gives investors broad exposure to major stock markets around the world, ex-United States, with holdings from ~40%+ Europe, ~20% Emerging Markets, and ~30% Pacific Markets. You’ll own more than 5,000 stocks outside the U.S. with this product.

Not a fan of U.S.-listed ETFs to invest outside Canada? Consider these funds:

Vanguard All-World ex-Canada Index ETF (VXC)

iShares Core All Country World ex-Canada Index ETF (XAW)

With XAW in particular (I bought this ETF to increase my international diversification), I enjoy access to ex-Canada assets given a good portion of my taxable account and our TFSAs are only in Canadian dividend paying stocks.

Lessons learned in diversification – reducing my Canadian home bias

*A reminder U.S.-listed ETFs (and stocks) held inside an RRSP escape withholding taxes of 15%. U.S.-listed ETFs like these trade in USD $$ so having a U.S. dollar RRSP minimizes foreign exchange charges and you can take advantage of currency fluctuations.

For Canadian-listed ETFs, if you don’t want to select Canadian dividend paying stocks like I do, to cover the Canadian market, I believe the following products should top your considerations for long-term growth:

  • XIU or XIC (from iShares) or VCN (from Vanguard) or ZCN (from BMO) to name a few.

XIU in your RRSP or TFSA or taxable account

A great consideration for your portfolio is the iShares S&P/TSX 60 Index Fund (XIU). This Index is comprised of 60 of the largest (by market capitalization) and most liquid securities listed on the TSX. XIU is also very tax-friendly in a taxable account.

Should you even be investing in a taxable account?

ETFs in a Model Portfolio

Of the above ETFs, I believe the best ones to put inside a TFSA are the Canadian-listed ETFs, including those like XAW that hold international assets. Yes, there will be foreign withholding taxes deducted but withholding taxes should not be the primary reason to drive asset holdings.

Here is a low-cost model portfolio to consider – a three-fund solution with some bonds for buffer:

ETFMER – TFSAMER – RRSPMER – Non-Reg
ZCN0.06%0.06%0.06%
XAW0.53% (0.22%  + 0.31%*)0.53% (0.22%  + 0.31%*)0.26% (0.22%  + 0.04%*)
ZAG0.09%0.09%0.09%

*Shows the estimates of foreign distributions withheld based on the tax treaties associated with those countries the ETF invests in.

Here is another, more tax-efficient model portfolio to consider using U.S.-listed ETFs:

ETFMER – TFSAMER – RRSPMER – Non-Reg
ZCN (CAD)0.06%0.06%0.06%
VTI (US)0.29% (0.03% + 0.26%*)0.03%0.03%
VXUS (US)0.72% (0.09% + 0.63%*)0.31% (0.09% + 0.22%*)0.31% (0.09% + 0.22%*)

*Foreign Withholding Taxes. 

Are there individual stocks built to last? In my opinion, in Canada, yes.

Dividend stocks built to last for your portfolio

Taxable Investing

If you have investments in a non-registered account/taxable account as well as investments in RRSPs and TFSAs, I believe it could be best to hold the foreign investments in the registered accounts (RRSPs in particular) and keep those Canadian stocks that pay eligible dividends in the non-registered account. 

This is what I do for my asset location. This way, I can also take advantage of the dividend tax credit while I earn that juicy dividend income.

What specific dividend stocks should you own?

There is no magic bullet when it comes to investing – owning ETFs and some selected stocks does not guarantee investing success. Your behaviour matters – a lot! Yet as part of a disciplined long-term investing approach, I do believe you can build tremendous wealth by following this path: owning a mix of ETFs and dividend paying stocks as a hybrid investor.

The following list of Canadian stocks could each make up 5% of your total non-registered portfolio or overall portfolio. I personally wouldn’t have too many stocks in my portfolio over 5% in portfolio value but your mileage may vary! I answered that question and posted it on my FAQs page. 

I have highlighted these Canadian stocks because most pay a good dividend, they are established companies with built-in diversification (beyond Canadian borders) and when combined/collectively, they could also deliver a healthy growing income stream of cash beyond the returns of XIU, XIC, ZCN or a comparable Canadian-indexed ETF.

Meaning, you might even beat the Canadian index.

Can you beat the index? Yes!

The benefits of a 6-pack portfolio are here!

Benefits of The 6-Pack Portfolio – Review and Giveaway

Disclosure: I own most of these Canadian stocks below:

Financial:

  • Bank of Montreal (BMO)
  • Bank of Nova Scotia (BNS)
  • TD (TD)
  • CIBC (CM) 
  • Royal Bank (RY)
  • National Bank (NA)
  • Sun Life Financial (SLF)
  • Manulife Financial (MFC)

Pipelines:

  • Enbridge (ENB)
  • TC Energy (TRP)

Utilities:

  • Fortis (FTS)
  • Emera (EMA)
  • Algonquin Power (AQN)
  • Brookfield Infrastructure Partners (BIPC/BIP.UN)
  • Brookfield Renewable Partners (BEPC/BEP.UN)
  • Capital Power (CPX)
  • Canadian Utilities (CU)

Telecommunications:

  • Telus (T)
  • Bell (BCE)

Other companies in other sectors:

  • Nutrien (NTR)
  • Canadian National Railway (CNR)

I believe there are many advantages of this hybrid approach – using Canadian dividend paying stocks and owning low-cost ETFs for extra diversification:

  1. minimal or no money management fees in the case of owning individual stocks.
  2. you can own the largest stocks in Canada (historically) and obtain built-in diversification.
  3. you can achieve additional diversification via ex-Canada ETFs. 
  4. reduced volatility with stock diversification in some sectors like utilities.
  5. this harmonious buy and hold approach reduces panic-selling and reduces portfolio costs due to misbehaviour
  6. this approach is tax-efficient (i.e., hold Canadian dividend paying stocks in taxable account and low-cost ETFs including U.S.-listed ETFs inside RRSP).
  7. stocks can help protect against inflation.
  8. holding Canadian-listed ETFs avoids currency conversion charges or the need for Norbert’s Gambit. Alternatively, use the Gambit to buy your U.S.-listed ETFs like VTI periodically.

ETFs and dividend stocks built to last for your portfolio – how do I invest?

Established readers will know I own many of those Canadian stocks above and I own a few low-cost ETFs for extra diversification. Canadian stocks go in the taxable account for the most part. In our registered accounts, specifically our RRSPs, we are buying more low-cost ETFs over time. We’ll continue this investing approach as we strive for semi-retirement in a few years.

At the end of the day, I think if most investors can invest regularly, continue to keep their money management costs low, diversify, avoid tinkering with their investments, and hold more equities than bonds, chances are they will be rewarded many, many years from now.

Thanks for reading ETFs and dividend stocks built to last for your portfolio. I hope this information above helps your investment strategy 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, I've surpassed my goal and I'm now investing beyond the 7-figure portfolio to start semi-retirement with. Find out how, what I did, and what you can learn to tailor your own financial independence path. Subscribe and join the newsletter! Follow me on Twitter @myownadvisor.

41 Responses to "ETFs and dividend stocks built to last for your portfolio"

  1. Great post Mark.

    VTI & QQQ for US here
    VXUS for international
    Stocks & Reits for CDN

    Have started a position in XGRO and over time will likely move more assets here for a simpler/cheap equity and FI solution.

    Reply
    1. Very smart on your part. Happy to own VTI and QQQ. Will try and add to either in 2022.
      I like XAW as you know for some international flavour but certainly VXUS more focused on that!!

      XGRO is a great fund and hard to go with that balanced/growth approach for years ahead.

      Reply
      1. Deane Hennigar (RBull) · Edit

        Thanks. I rebalanced and sold about 25% of my VTI over the last month with equities running up to stay within my allocation targets.

        Party on.

        Reply
        1. Nice problem to have, VTI has been on a tear over the last few years. Glad I didn’t sell any in my wife’s RRSP although I did adjust my RRSP at bit over the years by moving around VYM > VTI then to BLK and some others. Happy I bought BLK when I did in June 2020!!

          That said, I hope to buy more VTI or QQQ in 2022. Out of RRSP room now. In savings mode. Boring I know!

          Reply
          1. Deane Hennigar (RBull) · Edit

            I suppose I could have let it run but I wrote a IPS for a reason and we were up around 76% so time to rebalance. Kept all CDN & VXUS same. Eventually I expect to get to 85% equities, as OAS/CPP draws nearer but who knows what markets will do.

            Nice decision on BLK. As you know I switched VYM adding to VTI, and a touch of QQQ. Boring is good re savings/investments. Ditto here.

            Reply
            1. Yes, I got lucky on my BLK timing. Now fully out of VYM completely with purchase of BLK, BEPC. Got a few hundred shares of VTI, only 1% of portfolio in QQQ but that will do for now until I buy more in 2022. 🙂

              YTD my CDN stocks are up almost 25%. Monster year.

              Reply
              1. Deane Hennigar (RBull) · Edit

                Nice on timing and on CDN performance.

                I only have about 1.5% in QQQ. Will buy more eventually and could see having another 5% there. I did buy some REET as a diversifier and inflation fighter. Also bought some VWO to pump up emerging but so far not working. LOL

                Had to get calculator out to isolate CDN stuff. After accounting for TFSA contributions and unregistered divvy withdrawals we’re up ~23.6% on CDN. I’m overweight Canada now and underweight US; international and FI on track.

                Ready to go with TFSA in 2022, and a little build up in unregistered. Have to decide on RRSP withdrawal. Did about 40% of normal in 2020 and about 30% so far in 2021. Need to get back on it to avoid bigger taxes later.

                Reply
                    1. Gotcha. Saving mine now for 2022. That, and RRSP contributions for early next year.

                      I figure I’ll need $12K for TFSAs or $13K if they bump it? (inflation).
                      Then another $20K for RRSPs.

                      So, need to save a bit to have $32K ready to roll.

                    2. Deane Hennigar (RBull) · Edit

                      It’s possible limit will be raised after 3 yrs and inflation bumping up. The ruling political party may be a factor.
                      I’d like to dump about 20k into unregistered and 12-13k into TFSA, but want to watch my asset allocations.

    1. VFV is a great product. I believe it trades in Canadian dollars and VFV is the Canadian version of U.S. VOO. So, using VFV in a non-registered account withholding taxes will apply (15%) but they are recoverable when investors file their tax returns. In an RRSP or TFSA withholding taxes will apply with VFV – which will increase the cost of owning this product. Thanks for the comment.

      Reply
  2. Yes, I do own VGG as well as CUD which is similar but hedged against US dollar. A combination I really like is VGG and VEF (FTSE DEv ex NA – hedged) along with corporate strip bonds. What do you think ?

    P.S. I am in the process of revamping my RRSP portfolio – could you possibly share highlights of what you own in your RRSP ?

    Thanks!

    Reply
    1. I think for folks that do not want to invest in dividend paying stocks individually, VGG on the U.S. side and XIU on the CDN side, as two examples, are good ETFs to own. Again, not a recommendation, just a comment from me.

      Here’s a post on how I manage my DIY portfolio Paul. This is not a recommendation, just some insight. My RRSP is becoming more indexed with a U.S.-listed ETF like VTI over time. That’s my plan anyhow.
      https://www.myownadvisor.ca/how-i-manage-my-diy-stock-portfolio/

      Reply
    1. I have considered that one Paul. Like most dividend ETFs however, if you own the top-10 or top-15 stocks that largely acts as a proxy for the fund and you don’t have to worry about the fund fees while getting similar returns. The yield on this is also less than VTI, which means you’re getting less diversification with VGG and less yield.

      That said I won’t rule it out eventually. Do you own VGG? Thanks for your question.

      Reply
  3. What is the problem with FTN-15% and DFN-10%, I have never seen these high dividends stocks recommended nor commented. They are my most profitable FERR stocks!

    Reply
    1. I personally wouldn’t invest in them (FTN or DFN) since those yields will come down eventually, no? I say this because I don’t see how 14% yield is sustainable. Drop me a line ARGI and let me know 🙂

      Reply
      1. The yield of DFN, FTN, etc. is sustainable as long as the total return of the stocks held maintains the average. It is a leveraged fund, so it only needs to earn an average of 10% in growth and dividends (total return) to pay the 14% yield. It is now four years since your reply to ARGI and DFN currently has a 13.35% yield and recently declared it 186th consecutive monthly dividend. All it is doing is monetizing the total return of the stocks held. If the average dividend yield of the underlying stocks is 4% it only needs 6% in growth (+ a bit for fees) which is quite feasible. The current YTD of XIU is 16%. If that were leveraged 50% the return on capital would be 32%. After the cost of leverage at 5.25% that leaves a net return of 26.75%, over double that of DFN. The difference is in the down years when XIU is negative, DFN still pays as it builds up a surplus in the good years. It works somewhat like an annuity, paying the same every year regardless of what the market does.

        Reply
        1. Hard to believe where the time goes Brian…

          DFN has paid a ridiculous yield for some time now…I honestly can’t believe there hasn’t been a haircut with 13% yield.

          Do you hold this is in a taxable account or registered account?

          Reply
          1. I agree, the yield looks ridiculous when compared to the 4% yield of the stocks it holds. The yield of DFN though, is not the same as yield from dividend stocks. The yield from dividend stocks comes from earnings which comes from business operations. Leveraged capital gains and dividends are repackaged as yield for holders of DFN.

            You mentioned wanting to buy CNR in a recent comment. CNR has had annual capital gains exceeding 10% the last five years and the dividend yield is currently 1.8% which makes a total return of close to 12%. Leveraged funds like DFN only need a total return of 9% to pay a yield of 12% or 13% yield due to the use of leverage. If 4% of that 9% that is needed comes from dividends (Canadian banks pay about 4%), only 5% is required from capital gains, which most blue chip stocks can deliver annually.

            Comparing DFN and CNR at dividendchannel you are better off holding CNR. While the yield of DFN is considerably higher, there is little to no price growth, so CNR wins in the long run, even with a yield of 1.8%.

            While the yield of DFN seems high, the return from CNR is actually higher, but it is a mixture of capital gains and dividends while the return from DFN is only dividends as the share price remains about the same.

            Investors in DFN will have a lower return, but in exchange they get a stable monthly income without having to sell shares to get it. As far as taxation goes, the yield from DFN is taxed, at least in 2018, as a mixture of eligible dividends (85%) and capital gains 15%.

            Reply
            1. As yes, so you’re basically swapping capital gains + getting the dividends = yield. Even then, that seems crazy high.

              I would be worried about that personally! I’m very conservative as an investor though – probably why I own 30 CDN + some U.S. stocks + U.S. ETFs on top of that. What happens when capital gains fall? For a prolonged period?

              I like CNR. I wish I had enough to DRIP it. I think that would mean I would need some 300 shares or about $36k invested.

              Do you own a bunch of DFN?

              Cheers,
              Mark

              Reply
  4. Really a super solid list of Canadian and U.S. stocks mentioned. Any of these names can be a basis for a long term dividend growth portfolio. Of course, I’m still a big fan of the large Canadian banks with TD, BNS and RY in my ROTH. Happy to own many of the American stocks mentioned as well. Long term dividend investing doesn’t have to be difficult at all. Just stick to quality, long term dividend payers/raisers, diversify and be patient. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
    1. “Just stick to quality, long term dividend payers/raisers, diversify and be patient.” Agreed. Hopefully you’ll see a reflection of that in my latest dividend income update coming out later today. Thanks for the comment.

      Reply
  5. Mark,

    I always wonder how to balance between Dividend stocks and index funds. My RRSP around is TD eseries (canadian, US, International) equity and 20% e series bond. But, MY TFSA is not very big probably few thousand worth dividend stock from top list of few canadian companies. My question is what would you advise, are Index funds are good enough..Your website is loaded with information, whats your idea of hybrid investing, I always wonder how you distribute between dividend stocks and index funds. I just started making portfolio and would love to peek inside yours to see how you distribute it.

    Reply
    1. Thanks for reading Aki. Nothing wrong with TD e-series products. Low fees and good diversification.

      I only keep CDN dividend paying stocks inside my non-registered account and within our TFSAs.
      https://www.myownadvisor.ca/dividends/

      As for your question I cannot provide any advice on this site for many reasons but the quick answer is yes “index funds are good enough”.
      If you wish to take on more risk for potentially more reward you can invest in dividend paying stocks but the challenge will always be matching or beating the index with this strategy.

      My idea of hybrid investing the best of both worlds: dividend investing and indexing. I hold about 40 stocks for passive income/cash flow for (hopefully) early retirement in another 10 years and I index invest everything else for safety. I don’t hold bonds because I have a pension from work and because I’m very lucky to have it I consider that a “big bond”.

      Based on that post, there are a number of holdings in that article I own and probably always will unless the dividend gets eliminated.

      Reply
      1. I also think, its easy to invest in TD eseries or other ETF. As there is no fee and you can pretty much put 400$ every month. But, for buying something like TRP or individual stocks, you need to have atleast 1000$ aside..So instead of investing monthly it become once in 2 month or sometime more which requires discipline. Also, I cannot ignore the fact that people always like to look at 52 week bottom for buying which delays the investment.

        Reply
        1. I think you’re right Aki, probably good to wait until about $1000 to invest as to keep transaction costs low/close to 1%. I admit to trying to wait to the 52-week lows to make a purchase. I don’t always follow this advice but I try.

          Reply
  6. I prefer dividends over ETFs, but this is a great list all the same! 😛 Especially agree with most of your Canadian Stocks. Good choices. I think you went with classic choices for US, but can’t go wrong with them either!

    Cheers!

    Mike

    Reply
  7. We’re slowly getting into the index ETF world as well. Vanguard Canada has definitely upped their games when it comes to amount of different index ETF’s available for us Canadians.

    Reply
    1. Good question and I have been asked before but I don’t provide this information online since I already share many details about myself. If you want some more insight I can always drop you an email.

      Thanks for understanding!
      Mark

      Reply
  8. Investing in quality companies that have paid dividends for a very long time are great stocks to hold for the long term. These companies raise there dividends every year almost. The banks dividend raise their dividends during the financial crisis but kept the dividends the same.

    As far as ETFs go, they are a great vehicle for any one to get started in investing when they do not have a lot of money to start with. As if an individual buys commissions ETFs, providing the ETF price doesn’t move very much, will get a higher yield that what a savings account gets today.

    Reply
    1. As far as ETFs go, I think the ones I mentioned in the article are excellent starting points for most investors. The key is an investors savings rate. The higher, the longer, the better. Thanks for reading!

      Reply
  9. Those are some great picks..although I think if you own a VXC (and probably the same for XAW – didnt know there was a iShares product out to compete with VXC) – you wont need a VXUS, and might result in quite a bit of overlap. For my wife’s portfolio, we ended up with ZCN and VXC for equity exposure.

    Really like the mix of individual Canadian and US stocks as well.

    R2R

    Reply

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