How We Invest

How We Invest

After 1,600+ published articles on this site let alone the 38,000+ comments, I figured it would be time to write a pillar post about how we invest – to recap our financial journey and summarize where we stand. I’ll keep this post updated as things change over time. I’m sure they will!

I look forward to your comments and your own commentary about how you invest and why. πŸ™‚

How We Invest

Personal finance is personal is a frequent refrain on my site for many good reasons. No two investors are the same. All individuals and households have different goals, different tolerances for risk, different spending plans/desires, and so much more. 

A common theme for most wealth-builders however is we all want to see our money or investments grow. There are many ways to accomplish this of course: private equity, real estate, investing in yourself, grow a business, invest in stocks, and so on. The idea that someone prescribes how you must invest is foolish in my opinion – in the same way someone tells you how you must spend your money. Those decisions are up to you and can be very unique but hopefully they are also informed decisions at the same time.

Boring money advice

Source: Behavior Gap, Carl Richards.

Investing in my opinion is a very different endeavour than saving. Investing is largely the process of putting money away / buying an asset for a long period of time for the expectation of a gain. Savings is money set aside for near-term spending. Savings are sometimes guaranteed but investments are not. This makes investing riskier than saving money – it’s the price of admission to compensate you for the expectation of a gain, for the risk you take on.

Years ago, I began my DIY investing journey by selling off expensive mutual funds in 2007-2008 and instead started moving our assets into the following key directions:

  1. Owning dividend paying stocks for income and growth, coupled with,
  2. ETFs that deliver appreciation.

In addition to #1 and #2 above, we kept some cash for the “what ifs” in life. We built an emergency fund and we keep that balance intact today. 

Reference:

We did it – why we have a $10,000 emergency fund

Over our DIY investing years including the “early days” around 2008-2009, I’ve owned various stocks but traded very little. Some stocks have cut dividends, some stocks have split shares and then subsequently moved higher in price, delivering more shareholder value over time. Other stocks have been acquired and with a few stocks, I’ve sold some off since they no longer fit into my/our long-term investing plan. 

Reference:

Then and Now – Johnson & Johnson (JNJ)

With our ETF journey, we’ve owned bond ETFs, dividend ETFs and some plain-vanilla broad market ETFs here and there too. In recent years, since 2016 in particular, we’ve started to simplify our portfolio – own more of this all-in-one ex-Canada ETF that should deliver long-term price gains beyond the basket of hand-picked Canadian stocks we own. 

Then and Now – XAW

Rather than zero-in on any one stock for huge gains, although stock concentration is the real way to get wealthy as the super rich showcase (!), my investing style is much more conservative and measured. We diversify our stocks whereby no one stock holding is >5% of our personal portfolio value (give or take) and we have avoided any one stock reaching 10% of our portfolio. We will invest this way just in case any one stock as good as it may seem at the time doesn’t perform well long-term…

In your investment plan, diversifying your portfolio could mean investing in many different geographies, industries, and asset classes (stocks, bonds, real estate, etc.) – although we no longer invest in any real estate beyond our primary home. 

Reference:

How much real estate should you have in your portfolio?

To potentially smooth out your investment returns over time you could put your money in many investments that are uncorrelated with one another: stocks and bonds are a good example. Many DIY investors I’ve observed over the years have been very successful at meeting their goals with some sort of 60/40 stock/bond split or 70/30 split. That could work for you as well…

While in the early investing years, we owned some bond ETFs, I’ve since kicked those bond funds to the curb and decided to invest in mostly equities instead. 

Reference:

Then and Now – Revisiting the need for bonds

This is because stock market fluctuations are not always my biggest risk as I get older – my investing behaviour is. Many DIY investors find it difficult to stick to their investing plan, and while I have struggled at times with that with stocks tanking at times in price, I’ve become better at celebrating falling stock market prices as reasons to buy more equities when they go on sale. 

That said, I am preparing for a stock market correction. They can and do happen. 

How long do stock market corrections last?

As we get older, while cashflow remains king we also sleep better at night by increasing our cash / cash equivalents position. It helps us with our own psychology with money.

β€œWe do it because cash is the oxygen of independence, and – more importantly – we never want to be forced to sell the stocks we own.” – The Psychology of Money

How much cash you want to keep is personal too.

How much cash should you keep?

How We Invest as of summer 2024

So to recap, how we invest for the last few years including how we’re investing today:

  • We keep a bit of cash as our emergency fund. 
  • We invest in many Canadian (and some U.S. stocks) for income and growth. 
  • We invest in a few low-cost ETFs for growth. 
  • We don’t own any REITs.
  • We don’t own any bonds. 
  • We have maxed out our TFSAs and RRSPs with contribution room. We focus and prioritize contributions to our TFSA over the RRSP while working full-time.
  • We are growing our cash / cash equivalents position over time for extra financial security including when we’re not working at all.

We also have no debt. We own our home and we’re very fortunate to own a new car too.

Mortgage free!!! Now what???

I will continue to keep this key page updated listing some of our favourite stocks.

I also keep this page updated that lists our preferred low-cost equity ETFs and why we own them.

Our plan is to remain invested in mostly equities for the long-term. We will continue to own a mix of stocks and ETFs for that. We will grow our cash position over time. We hope to remain out of debt. We will continue to minimize money management fees that make other people wealthy. 

How we invest is reflected in our Financial Independence journey that shows no signs of slowing down. 

I hope the same for your journey.

Financial Independence Update

I look forward to learning about how you invest in any comment or update below and I’ll keep you posted as things march on here as well. πŸ™‚

Thanks for your readership.

Mark

My name is Mark Seed - the founder, editor and owner of My Own Advisor. As my own DIY financial advisor, I'm looking to start semi-retirement soon, sooner than most. Find out how, what I did, and what you can learn to tailor your own financial independence path. Join the newsletter read by thousands each day, always FREE.

22 Responses to "How We Invest"

    1. Thanks very much for your readership, Rick. πŸ™‚

      I used to own REITs, REI.UN, Summit REIT, etc. and others but I found the high-yields while OK did not offer any growth and subsequently, I found I needed a better balance of income and growth in my portfolio if I really want to have a sustainable portfolio. We own our condo as well, so that’s enough real estate risk for me.

      Reference:
      https://www.myownadvisor.ca/how-much-real-estate-should-you-have-in-your-portfolio/

      Nothing wrong with REITs, you can avoid being a landlord in doing so, rather, I just found there are better ways to meet my financial goals long-term with a blend of common stocks + low-cost ETFs. I’ve been investing this way for many years and slowly simplifying my portfolio over time with that plan in mind.

      Here are other links you’ve probably already found on my site:

      https://www.myownadvisor.ca/dividends/

      https://www.myownadvisor.ca/etfs/

      All my best and happy to hear about your financial journey as well.
      Cheers,
      Mark

      Reply
  1. Thank you for consolidating all the information in a single article.
    I have been following you for several years, what you have written resonates with my way of thinking. It has taken me years to understand and dedicate myself to investing, saving and making space for the things that are important to me.
    This year I have been doing a reorganization of my finances. I also have a hybrid between stocks and ETFs, the latter I just started acquiring them 4 years ago..
    It’s a slow process, but so far it’s working.
    Great article! πŸ‘

    Reply
    1. Very kind, thanks very much and yes, probably a good time to recap everything over the last 15 or so years of DIY investing!

      Congrats on the reorganization of your finances – very important stuff and lots of understand and make decisions on for sure. It’s a very personal process but it can be a rewarding one.

      Mark

      Reply
  2. Hi Mark, I enjoy reading your posts and do see some similarities. We have been retired for 12 years, never owned bonds and dumped most of our REITs about five years ago. We do hold a few in our TFSAs. We are basically 100% stocks in our registered and non registered accounts. We have been buying covered call ETFs in our TFSAs which a lot of people disagree with but we like the tax free income and every January so far we have put all of the previous withdrawals back in plus the annual contribution. Some of our non registered holdings we’ve had for years for example NA is up about 375%, not all of our stocks are this good since we transfer in kind each year from our registered to non registered accounts. We are planning on cash withdrawals only from our registered accounts and having them depleted in the next three years so we can continue traveling and having fun. Then we will start are CPP and OAS. Our journey is taking a turn financially to prepare for CPP and OAS so I’ve been doing more reading to prepare. Thanks for the reading.

    Reply
    1. I see similarities, back, Denis!

      Thanks for your comment and readership.

      A few things:
      1. The more I talk to successful retirees, the more I learn from them that they all take on measured risks – they really don’t take on too many more risks than necessary – which makes sense.
      2. I also see many retirees taking advantange of new TFSA contribution room every year and funnelling registered assets from RRSPs/RRIFs to TFSAs, and/or moving RRSP/RRIF assets strategically from there to non-reg. for tax efficient dividends or capital gains (although the latter rules changed!).
      3. Finally, I see many folks delaying CPP and OAS (if they can?) to age 65 for each or even delaying CPP to age 70 which gives them more time to drawdown RRSP/RRIF assets and be potentially more tax efficient/keep taxation minimized before any forced RRIF withdrawals occur.

      All great things and things I think about when it comes to my own planning too which I’m sure will change over time.

      For now, I just try to keep saving and investing and increasing our cashflow for the future.

      Continued success to you including NA. I own that one as well which is 2% of our portfolio.
      Mark

      Reply
  3. Hey Mark another good read . I was late to the DIY investing . I had my own TFSA but payed for other investing . When I was about 56 I decided to start investing for income , it was a very dhort time before I took over all accounts 2 rsp , 1 Corp. I now have mostly Canadian blue chips with a few ETFs of different classes . It made life easy now turning 60 I’m glad I changed when I did . Keep up the great work

    Reply
    1. All good Jp. Everyone is on a different journey. We’ve owned various stocks, ETFs, bond ETFs, etc. over the years but as of around 2016-2017 and beyond we’ve really simplified things and there is more to come I’m sure!!

      I have no doubt that becoming a DIY investor has been good to you and hopefully more success is on the way over time too.
      Mark

      Reply
  4. Hi Mark,
    I am investing in canadian stocks ( TSX 60 ) and canadian-listed ETFs since 2022.
    I’d like to check with you that it is better to keep to optimize the tax treatment :
    1- TFSA , RRSP : ETFs, canadian stocks that generate growth ( not dividend-paying stocks )
    2- taxable account : canadian dividend paying stocks
    Thanks .

    Reply
    1. Hi Lili,

      Thanks for following and reading!

      Not advice, what I’ve also written about on my site a few times too, see link below, but low-yielding and higher growth Canadian stocks in a taxable account tend to be more tax efficient (re: for capital gains).

      Inside the registered accounts like RRSPs/RRIFs, TFSAs, LIRAs, etc. it doesn’t matter since you are taxed on income withdrawn (excluding TFSA) of course. πŸ™‚

      Reference from this page:
      https://www.myownadvisor.ca/dividends/

      “Q&A with Mark: What is your Asset Location?
      Generally speaking, this is what I keep where but this is not advice. Here are some guidelines with rationales below:

      Non-Registered/Taxable = mostly Canadian stocks.
      TFSAs = mostly Canadian stocks + XAW ETF.
      RRSPs and LIRA = some Canadian stocks, some U.S. stocks and low-cost ETFs like QQQ ETF.”

      Happy investing!
      Mark

      Reply
      1. Where is the best place to keep my ZSP ETF ( S&P 500 index ) ? RRSP if I understand well your post. And in my TFSA too ?
        Currently, it is in my taxable account because I have no place left in my registered .
        Thanks a lot for all.

        Reply
  5. Hi Mark, we are in our our mid-60s and, according to some conventional wisdom, we should have upwards of 60% bonds or cash equivalent in our retirement accounts. However, like you, we have no bonds, GICs or interest-bearing bank accounts in our portfolio and we are fully invested, living off the dividend payouts from our investments.
    It concerns me sometimes but have nevertheless continued on this same path for almost 20 yrs.
    How do you justify and handle this added risk?
    Just wonderin’ lol

    Reply
    1. Hi Peter,

      Nice to hear from you!

      Yes, conventional wisdom and rules of thumb are interesting but the more I talk to some very successful retirees – folks been there and done that – the less they seem to apply. πŸ™‚

      Ya, no bonds, GICs here – although we do keep savings in an interest-bearing account.

      I am aware of a number of readers that have more dividend income than they need to cover expenses but that’s a personal approach too.

      Rightly or wrong, it is my hope that my mix of dividend income + capital gains will cover most expenses in retirement. I will certainly know when I “get there” and beyond increasing my cash position over time, that’s all I am trying do to – try to stay out of my own way.

      Mark

      Reply

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