Reader Questions – Saving and Investing Updates

Reader Questions – Saving and Investing Updates

I appreciate hearing from you and receiving your saving and investing questions!

I acknowledge our saving and investing approach might not be suitable to everyone yet I firmly believe things are working out for us over time – thanks to some multi-decade personal finance discipline:

  1. We killed our mortgage along with saving money every month for investing. 
  2. We continue to keep our investment money management fees very, very low over time.
  3. We stay invested as much as possible.
  4. We keep a (growing) healthy cash balance as we consider semi-retirement. 

Potentially any of the above can work for you too!

Saving and Investing Updates

While I originally posted this article back in 2022 and updated it again last year, I wanted to update this post since things change over a year, including more recent saving and investing questions in my inbox to answer!

(Reader questions are in bold, my answers follow.)

Mark, can you remind me how you built your dividend income portfolio? What stocks you own and why? Are you buying any more stocks in 2024?

No problem!

This is how I built my dividend portfolio along with some low-cost ETFs. See link here.

How I built my dividend portfolio

These are some of the stocks I/we own and why here.

In a nutshell:

  • People love their internet and cell phones, so I own telco stocks. 
  • For the most part, people like electricity and they also want to heat and cook in their home(s), so I own utility companies and energy companies.
  • We need to ship things around our country, so rail companies make sense. We also need to manage waste and recycling too, so those are good lower-yielding and higher-growth stocks to own.

You get the idea. 🙂

In terms of 2024 purchases, we’ll see. I’m still very bullish on oil and gas, energy stocks in general so potentially more purchases in that area but otherwise we’re saving up cash. That is aligned to our April update below. 

2024 Financial Goals – April Update

Mark, I notice your dividend income updates keep going up over time. How is that possible? Can you comment on that for me? I assume that’s probably because: 1) you invest new money, and/or 2) you reinvest all your dividends and distributions often and/or 3) you’re counting your dividend or distribution increases as well. Is that all correct?

Pretty much but with some clarifications…

My/our dividend income is going up over time thanks in part to new money added and/or when dividend increases occur. 

You might recall we stopped all DRIPs (Dividend Reinvestment Plans) that we report on so moving forward, the income will largely go up (or down) if/when the following occur:

  • I buy more stocks, increasing the stock shares that pay dividends or distributions. 
  • Dividend raises or special dividends occur.
  • No dividend cuts occur (thereby lowering our projected annual dividend income).

Here is out latest update and I’ll publish April in a few weeks…

March 2024 Dividend Income Update

Mark, I read your post about how much do you need to retire on $5,000 per month or $60,000 per year with great interest – that’s my target! Honestly though, do you think most Canadians can either save that much up OR could even retire on that with higher inflation?

Thanks for reading and here is that post you referenced in case others want to read it too!

How much do you need to retire on $5,000 per month?

In terms of your first question, my answer is “Yes” assuming Canadians embrace some of the long-term investing discipline I referenced above.

In that case study, my case study couple needed the following saved up by age 50 to spend $5k per month throughout retirement, rising over time:

  • x2 TFSAs = $300k total.
  • x2 RRSPs = $800k total. 
  • x1 Joint Non-Registered Account (Rebecca from case study) = $250,000. 

= $1,350 million. 

These seem like very BIG numbers in many accounts, I can appreciate that, but like I mentioned in my answer above, you don’t actually need to save that much money for retirement since time invested and the power of compounding does much of the work for you… Using a very quick rule of thumb, your portfolio is likely to double in value every 10 years or so thanks to compounding power alone assuming you earn about 7-8% return. 

As for your second question, “it depends”!

I know some retirees that live on $4,000 or so, per month, debt-free, quite nicely. 

Here is a good example of retirement on a lower income:

Can you retire early on a lower income?

I know other retirees have told me they couldn’t possibly imagine living on less than $6,000 or $7,000 per month. 

I wrote years ago I believe it depends on what you spend to determine your “enough number”.

I still feel that way today.

Consider what you spend for your enough number

I also like this sketch 🙂

How much is your enough

Reference: The Behavior Gap.

Mark, you write about semi-retirement often – are you going to pull the trigger later this year (in 2024)? What is your updated/desired spend? 

Thanks for your questions!

Pull the trigger in 2024? We’ll see. I hope to share some more news on that in a few months.

In terms of our desired spend, I figure if we keep doing what we are doing, I’m very confident we can spend our desired $70,000 to $75,000 per year with 3% sustained inflation for the coming decades now that we’re mortgage free.

This is from my latest Financial Independence Update.

Financial Independence Update - My Own Advisor - Cashflow April 2024

Image: from Cashflows & Portfolios projections work. 

Mark, I know you get a 42% income boost by deferring your Canada Pension Plan (CPP) benefit from age 65 to age 70. Are you going to take CPP at age 65 or age 70? Is that factored into your financial independence plan?

That’s in our plan. See chart above related to “Government Benefits”. 

We’ll probably take OAS benefits at age 65.

My projections work focuses on about 50% MAX CPP at age 65 but we are very likely to take CPP at age 70.

I’ll keep you posted!

What are your thoughts on inflation? Is higher inflation here to stay?

Yes, I’ve been planning for that since late-2021: This is how I’m investing for higher inflation.

I believe modest levels of inflation are likely to persist throughout the rest of 2024 and into 2025. 

As you approach semi-retirement, are you going to change your portfolio? Own more ETFs? Own more stocks? Own more bonds? Other?

Well, I/we have no plans to own any bonds near-term for sure. 

However, I can see us doing the following more and more:

  1. Own more low-cost ETF XAW for diversification beyond Canadian borders inside our registered accounts.
  2. Increasing our cash position such that if we need/want to make any registered withdrawals from our RRSPs in particular, in the coming years, the cash will be there for that and we won’t need to sell any equities/stocks at all.
  3. Investing in more Canadian dividend paying stocks in our taxable accounts when we feel the time is right to do so. 

Do you invest in any preferred shares?

Actually, I do not. This is the reasoning behind that.

Mark, love the site. Any advice for millennials?

You bet. Read this free ebook and follow those key principles. 

Millennials Can Get Rich Slowly – If You Can

How often do you check your portfolio?

Probably about once per week or at least every two weeks – largely to tally my growing dividend income. Ha.

Readers, keep your questions coming. I enjoy trying to keep up to every email, every comment and every interaction on X with me.

In future Reader Questions editions, I’ll dive deeper into sharing just how much total income I think our portfolio could generate, and what we need to earn, to start semi-retirement with. 

Thanks for reading and sharing. Drop me another question or comment below!

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.

35 Responses to "Reader Questions – Saving and Investing Updates"

  1. Certainly if you have a disciplined approach , when it applies to investing for your retirement, you will be rewarded. Mark, your results so far validate that !! :o) I would also tender that caution should be used when you assume that investment returns will make up for, lets say, reduced contributions from yourself. I have been investing for retirement since 1980. I do a very simple analysis each year to gauge my ROI. I look at what I money I saved and invested for that year, then see what the value was on December 31.I compute the rate of return. Very simple. Then I take the average of that number as the years pile up. I found over 40 years, my ROR was 5%. I suggest that you need to contribute more and save a bit more because ROR won’t fill in that much. I started thinking I will probably work for 40 years, and I may be retired for 30 years. Really, the money I earn while working, should be averaged over those 70 years. In other words, I need to save more dollars from those good earning years to fund the retired 30. Mark, your disciplined approach seems to be very rock solid. It may be hard for the average person to achieve. I suggest that setting higher savings goals should be promoted too.

    Reply
    1. Thanks, John. I hope I will be ready to make the leap in a few short years!

      My base-case for my/our own projections is 6% RoR annualized over decades and 3% inflation sustained.

      Since I have been My Own Advisor, inflation has fluctuated quite a bit but my overall returns are certainly higher than 6%. Will the future be as lucky? No idea, but a mix of dividend income + global ETFs should earn 6% over decades.

      I also run some projections for us that include 5% returns + 3% inflation, and we remain “fine” so that’s helpful too.

      I appreciate the kind words about our disciplined approach, I guess I am that way a bit when it comes to investing, I just figure I’m the only one that cares about doing well financially – nobody else. Except for my wife. 🙂
      Mark

      Reply
  2. Hi Mark,

    I enjoy reading your ‘common language’ posts as well as reader’s questions, and have learned a lot from MyOwnAdvisor.

    I understand the adage that only fools try to “time the market”, but it seems that many prices/values, including the all-in-one ETFs, are currently at all-time highs (or very close to it). I have some cash in my RRSP and I find myself hesitant to pay top prices for XEQT or your favourite, XAW. I am also in my early 60s., so I am concerned about a pull-back lasting a couple of years. I will also have a good DB pension.

    Following through on buying (or switching from a Big 5 bank online trading platform to WealthSimple, etc) is my challenge. I have read that inertia is a roadblock for many newer or curious DIY investors, so I am interested in your feedback on this topic.

    Also, if holding cash in registered account, what is the best way to generate some interest income? I currently use RBC Direct Investing and will make larger buys infrequently to offset the per-trade fee.

    Thank you in advance.

    Reply
    1. Very kind, Ron. Thanks for reading. I really enjoy engaging with other DIY investors. It’s fun for me…

      Well, the way I see it, yes, XEQT, XAW, VEQT, QQQ as well are at “all time highs” but the other way to look at it is these are the best prices available now. Meaning, if you buy into some reasoning that the market is efficient, all key information is already “priced” in then, then today’s price is the best price.

      Now, one could argue you’d want to buy XEQT, XAW, VEQT, QQQ, etc. cheaper but the challenge is we don’t know when cheaper is nor how long cheap stays around.

      Personally, I just keep buying.

      I can appreciate you might be concered about a pull-back, it could last a few years, so a good defense is bonds, cash wedge/cash ETFs, etc. that should deliver a healthy 4-5% even if interest rates do go down a few basis points. Congrats on the good DB pension. :))

      I have no concerns with all of the big 5 online brokerages or Wealthsimple or Questrade. All have pros and cons.

      I recall for RBC DI, a fund to consider is RBF2010 or RBF2020. You can call the brokerage and ask them some details about what you are looking for:
      https://www.rbcroyalbank.com/products/isa/_assets-custom/pdf/RISA-Interest-Rate-Sheet-ENG.pdf

      Maybe just make sure/confirm the funds have no loads/fees to purchase. 🙂

      Hope that helps a bit!
      Mark

      Reply
    2. Hi Ron,
      I use RBF2010 (Canadian $ savings account) & RBF 2014 (US $ savings account). No fee to buy or sell & no fee for holding a short time regardless of the warning that pops up when you buy or sell. I have used both of these for years. There are various fund codes for different RBC entities that are available through different channels. The RBF2010 & RBF2014 are available to RBC Direct Investing account holders.
      Current rates are RBF2010 = 4.55%, RBF2014 = 4.90%.
      See https://www.rbcroyalbank.com/products/isa/ for details.

      Reply
  3. Francois Chamberland · Edit

    Excellent information, as always, Mark.
    A fall 2021 report of the OECD says Canada will be the worst performing advanced economy over 2020-2030 and, taking the long view, it also predicts Canada will be the worse performing economy until 2060! Of course, long range predictions are not certain, but predicting a stagnating economy for over a generation obviously makes clear that the economic fundamentals are not right in this country (lots of wealth redistribution but not much wealth creation here). I know this is not one of your standard questions, but any thoughts on where successful investors should store their wealth/invest abroad in the years to come? I know Canada has among the safest banks in the world (https://gfmag.com/banking/worlds-safest-banks-2023-global-100/), but when push comes to shove, I fear the federal government may simply expropriate without compensation successful investors’ savings. Many thanks

    Reply
    1. Thanks for this, Francois. I would happen to agree that our economic fundamentals are WAY off.

      My thinking, personally, is I own enough Canadian stocks and I am slowly diversifying more into the global ETF market and have been doing so for some time. I own XAW ETF as a low-cost ex-Canada / beyond Canada diversifier and that ETF + a few others that invest beyond Canada are a growing % of my portfolio.

      I will continue to own Canadian banks, pipelines, utilities, etc. since they appear to be more bond-proxies/income-proxies than growth. I do hope things will change for our country and it’s not too late for an overhaul of our tax system amongst other key changes to streamline any government activities. Just my opinion. 🙂

      Mark

      Reply
  4. Hi Mark
    I have been trying to find the answer to this question for a while now. My wife is retiring next September and I’m retiring in 5 yrs. We plan to build up our cash wedge to $100,000 over the next year. Three quarters of this money will be spent over the next 5 yrs for some house repairs and a newish vehicle. Our tfsa is maxed and we don’t want to use our rrsp money yet. So our plan is to put the money in a non- registered account. Since we will need the money short term, it will be in hisa or gic, but that is not very tax efficient. How can we be more tax efficient in a non-registered acc? I read about Horizon swap funds last weekend but not sure if this makes sense. Just to make things more I interesting, we are both self employed. So when my better half retires, we will split my income between the both of us.

    Reply
    1. Excellent on the cash wedge. Seems very smart to me!

      Our general plan is to:

      1. keep a bit of cash/cash equivalents for our upcoming RRSP withdrawals,
      2. keep a bit of cash inside TFSAs to pounce on equities when the opportunities arise, and beyond that,
      3. keep some cash + HISA/ISA in a taxable account to fund the near-term expenses.

      Canadian dividend paying stocks are more tax efficient (in taxable accounts) vs. bond-like income and even better than Canadian dividend stocks, capital gains can be tax efficient as well but that means you need to sell stuff.

      For us, it’s a balancing act for our taxables: cash/cash equivalents + dividend paying stocks.

      Smart call on splitting income as self-employed. I will be doing the same with any dividends withdrawn from our corporation in the coming years as well.

      Thoughts back?
      Mark

      Reply
    2. Thanks. I know some people who are taking their leave from Canada and moving their investments out of country. The economic decline in the last few years has been rapid and the passage a few years ago of the bail-in legislation has frayed some nerves. Ouch!

      Reply
        1. Indeed, I am planning to exit. Bought two properties abroad last year and getting ready. No worries, Mark, I will continue to read your excellent columns. ps – for those of you from Toronto who may be reading this, save yourself before it’s too late! Leave. This city is collapsing in just about every way imaginable (and I live in one of the nice neighbourhoods).

          Reply
          1. LOL, Save Yourself! 🙂

            Yes, I can appreciate the desire to leave and opportunity to leave. I am reading about this more and more – largely triggered by recent rounds of governemnt mismanagement. Too bad.

            I used to live in Toronto so I know the city very, very well. Ossington area for a few years, near Dupont. 🙂

            Keep me posted on your plans and where you end up!
            Mark

            Reply
  5. Hi Mark, In your answer above to what makes your dividend income increase, you mention that it is money added and dividend increases/special dividends. I have only received a special dividend from my CNQ stock a few years ago and I’m not sure how to handle it in my excel spreadsheet. I like to calculate my yearly increase based on real data (difference between dividend income this year and last), but since the special dividend may not be repeated next year does it make sense to include it in your growth percentage?

    Reply
    1. Hi Howard,

      I keep a spreadsheet that tallies on the recurring dividend and distribution income (say column A, for CNQ) and I simply have another column that includes any special dividends earned during the year (say column B, also for CNQ). The sum of A + B = total dividends and distributions earned during the year.

      I base my monthly reports on this site based on projected income, assuming no dividends increase, get cut nor I don’t invest another penny. So if no dividends increase, get cut, nor do I ever invest another penny – that’s the income I can rely on/it provides tangible money I can spend without touching the portfolio at all.

      To answer your question more directly:

      https://www.myownadvisor.ca/march-2024-dividend-income-update/

      “With the mortgage dead and the portfolio largely on autopilot, there is not much to update this month in terms of higher dividend income – but it did happen actually thanks to a special dividend in our accounts. That incrementally pushed our Projected Annual Dividend Income (PADI) higher…” So, I did include it for the March update but likely going forward I may not include any special dividends since those might not be repeated in future years.

      We might see more special dividends from CNQ again this year. 🙂
      Mark

      Reply
  6. Hi again Mark,
    Thank you for answering my question above. I am now in a position to open a non registered account and buy dividends. I understand the accounting of dividends can be a headache. If you are DRIPing, is there one brokerage that is better than the rest for helping keep things organized ? Or are you better off just to take the cash dividend? Thank you.

    Reply
    1. Hi Again Alice,

      Pros and cons of course to DRIPping in taxable account. I’ve had experiences with a few of them and they are all the same really – but I do recall TD Bank keeps track of your adjusted cost base and iTrade might as well.

      Here is an interesting article.
      https://www.adjustedcostbase.ca/blog/can-you-rely-on-your-brokerage-for-calculating-adjusted-cost-base-and-capital-gains/

      At the end of the day, you can DRIP (and keep track) or just take the cash dividend and reinvest it where possible.

      The accounting can be a small hassle but rather easy to get used to!
      Mark

      Reply
      1. Hi Alice,
        I was away from home when your question was asked, but reading it now, I want to add that yes, indeed, Scotia iTrade keeps track of your adjusted cost when reinvested dividends are added.
        You do not have to do any work in that regard. Good thing, because once you have ten or more stocks dripping there are a lot of transactions going on. They only thing I keep track of myself is when I purchase a stock in USA dollars; then I keep track of the date and the Canadian dollar exchange rate, to put the cost into Canadian dollars.
        I use iTrade and really quite like it. I closed my TD Direct Investing and moved that money to iTrade but since then I believe they have done many improvements. I also used Questrade and did not like that one at all. Everything was so difficult, but it did have lower fees for somethings. Now they say they cannot remove my name and personal details, ever. Just not to use it. Doesn’t seem right to me.
        t

        Reply
        1. Great stuff and thanks for sharing Barbara. I recall TD Direct Investing also keeps track of adjusted cost base now. Other brokerages are slowly supporting this as well – as they should – a great feature.

          Mark

          Reply
  7. Mark, you said “We are likely to take both CPP benefits at age 70. We are likely to take both OAS benefits at age 65.”
    Why would you not defer oas too? 36% more at age 70. Plus, if the clawback is in effect, wouldn’t you get to keep more of it if the payment was larger?

    Reply
    1. Thanks David. We might 🙂
      I don’t think any OAS clawback will apply to us, but it might if we defer to age 70. Also, there are no OAS survivorship benefits per se so we figure deferring only CPP makes the most sense. OAS is also tangible money we might need in our late-60s to spend and enjoy.
      That decision is about 25 years away for us so we can have some time since we plan on semi-retiring before taking any CPP or OAS benefits.

      Thoughts!?
      Mark

      Reply
  8. Hi Mark, what are your thoughts on buying an annuity at age 70 with 30% of your assets to create another income stream if you don’t have a defined pension plan? Thank you

    Reply
      1. I’ll add to this that I have frequently considered that, once firmly in retirement, I’d say age 70 – 75, if I no longer want to continue to manage the portfolio I would strongly consider turning the reigns over to a portfolio manager that I have met with a couple of times. Yes, I’ll pay his 1% fee every year but by then I hope it won’t matter, and it might be a small price to pay. Food for thought.

        Reply
        1. Ya, I hear that, support for when you get older and/or can afford the 1% AUM/Assets Under Management. I hope to avoid those fees myself and a consideration when you get older and don’t want to manage anything = an annuity = creating your own pension. 🙂

          Mark

          Reply
  9. Hello: In retirement for a number of years now we have been in the process of collapsing our RRIF(RRSP),paying some taxes and funding our TFSA with the withdrawals. In this way we transition to a more favourable tax treatment vehicle that is growing. In our TFSA mainly defensive ,quality, dividend paying/ growing companies are held with a long term perspective. In the event of unfortunate health circumstances the funds could continue, hopefully , to be held with minimal worries.Thank you for your insights and work on this blog. Take care. Mike

    Reply
    1. Mike, that seems very smart to me and that’s also a playbook with other successful retirees: moving RRSP/RRIF assets to TFSAs where possible.

      I appreciate your kind words and comments! 🙂
      Mark

      Reply
  10. Great article Mark, thanks for taking reader questions. Can you recommend a spreadsheet or tracker to keep stocks and dividends up to date and generate nice charts like you have of your monthly/yearly dividends?

    I’ve switched to a hybrid approach similar to yours and learned quite a lot from your blog and Henry Mah’s books.

    Thanks for the continued education!

    Reply
    1. Hey Charlie!

      Great to hear from you.

      I put a very simple spreadsheet on my Helpful Sites page – see top link:
      https://www.myownadvisor.ca/helpful-sites/

      I’m biased of course, but I’m a big fan of my hybrid journey since I feel I get the best of both worlds – growing dividend income and low-cost diversification via ETFs 🙂

      Let me know if you have any further questions please!
      Mark

      Reply
  11. ” I notice your dividend income updates keep going up even when the broader stock market is going down or sideways. How is that possible?”
    Why all investors (and especially those so-called financial advisors) are not aware of this aspect of investing for Income or dividends, has always stumped me. This is alone should encourage investors, to at least look into investing for income, and consider the advantages it has over investing for growth.

    Reply
    1. Ha. Well, I can’t speak for others Henry but certainly part of my ongoing motivation to stay invested, and buy more stocks over time, is because of dividends – the tangible income I can see and use!
      Mark

      Reply
    2. My thoughts exactly. One should do their homework before investing in securities. Fluctuating stock prices do affect your capital should you hold them. However, those up down or sideways price gyrations do not negatively affect your dividend income…unless you have a dividend cut on a rare occasion.

      Reply

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