Weekend Reading – Keeping Investing Simple

Weekend Reading – Keeping Investing Simple

Hi Readers!

Welcome to a new Weekend Reading edition, the keeping investing simple edition.

First up, some other reminders and some recent content in case you missed it:

I highlighted some key things you need to know about when it comes to the upcoming and new Tax-Free First Home Savings Account (FHSA).

A big thanks to Jon Chevreau for asking about my take on this account in a recent MoneySense column here:

How retired parents can use the FHSA to help their adult children

Last weekend, I highlighted how much Canadians and Americans generally have saved up for retirement (so you can compare as you wish).

So much retirement income planning can be geared towards couples or partners. So, I helped a reader out. A reader wrote to me and asked me: I’m 45 and single – is it possible to retire at age 55?

Here is that case study in detail.

Weekend Reading – Keeping Investing Simple

Have you ever heard the old adage, Keep It Simple Stupid Silly (KISS)?

This is a more modern, blunt interpretation of a much older philosophy, Occam’s Razor, which states that usually the simplest solution is the correct one. This philosophy goes even much further back… 

This principle goes back at least as far as Aristotle, who wrote “Nature operates in the shortest way possible.” 

We should too, when it comes to saving and investing. 

That maturity comes with awareness, knowledge and experience though.

I know, I’ve been there and done that – and messed up a few times now and then!

Keeping Investing Super Simple (KISS)

One trick you can try, to see if you’re keeping things simple at your house, is to read aloud your investing elevator pitch. If you cannot describe your investing style in the shortest way possible, that is clear and concise, you may not have a good approach (yet). 

I believe your ability to share your investing philosophy, easily and readily, is a good indication that you’re on a good path – one that’s tailored to you. 

Further still, you might find in honing your investing elevator pitch that your investing approach may or may not include the words of who manages your portfolio – it may exclude the need for an expensive financial advisor, someone trying to beat the market or just sharing the merits of indexing unto themselves. For the latter, to be the market with lazy, passive investing, you don’t need a money manager in my opinion. You can simply invest in some low-cost, diversified ETFs – yourself.

There are absolutely some complexities that many fee-only advisors and planners can support investors on. I’m in full agreement with that and always have been. But the hiring and maintenance of a professional money manager these days, given the depth and breath of low-cost ETFs available to any investor within a few clicks is an incredible advantage to every retail investor like you and me.

You don’t have to invest like your neighbour, or me, for that matter.

I’ve mentioned that 1000s of times on this site.

I run this site to share my story, my/our journey, with the good, the not-so-good, and the in-between.

I believe I’m a better investor for taking matters into my own hands, even with some mistakes on the way. 

I suspect you’ll feel the same if you do too…if not already done.

I believe there are three major cost obstacles DIY investors need to be mindful of, and must overcome, to Keep Investing Super Simple (KISS).

  1. Structural / institutional costs. These are the commissions and fees associated with the products or services you buy and use from others including your brokerage. Pay those fees routinely at your peril. Keep all structural costs as low as possible for as long as possible. 
  2. Tax / taxation costs. This is what our government takes from your wallet, in the form of taxable income and/or investment income. Keep your interest-bearing, dividend-bearing, and capital gains-bearing investments in the right location.
  3. Behavioural costs. This is the money you lose based on poor behaviour such as market timing, jumping in and out of stocks or products, and/or chasing the next fad. Plans come before products. Find your “whys”, define your plan, adjust it but also stick to it again and again as you refine it. 

My elevator pitch goes something like this:

I’m a dividend growth investor that also invests in low-cost ETFs for extra diversification. 

I can then go on to share at my dinner party (only if someone asks!! – LOL) how and why I invest in dividend growth stocks, what factors I look for in owning some companies for my portfolio, what benefits this investing approach helps me with, and why low-cost, diversifed ETFs are a bit of my icing on the income growth cake.

Whether you invest in real estate or not, have a plan. 

Should you decide to go with private equity as investing path, have a plan.

Striving to be an entrepreneur, by investing in yourself and your company, have a plan and mind any taxation as a cost obstacle if/when do you decide to invest inside your corporation.

Just want to index invest? Go for it.

At the end of the day, and I say this sincerely friends, I don’t care what you invest in.

I just hope you meet your goals and do it your own way. 

Anyone else saying something else is likely trying to sell you something and/or push their agenda. Proceed with caution. 

If my words don’t help, that’s OK, it’s just how I think about things…

Consider this simple sketch art from Carl Richards who is far more famous than I will be, author of the One-Page Financial Plan and more:

Keep Investing Super Simple - Goals and Happiness

Source: Behavior Gap.

From Carl’s recent newsletter in my inbox:

“Pretend you live in some magic fantasy world where all of your dreams (according to the investment industry) come true, and you actually beat an index every quarter for your whole life. Congratulations!

So here’s my question: You landed in Shangri La, according to the financial industry. You beat the index. But you didn’t meet your goals. Are you happy?

The answer is “No.”

Now let’s flip that scenario on its head. The worst thing in the world happens to you (again, according to the investment industry). You slightly underperform the index every quarter for your whole life. But because of careful financial planning, you meet every one of your financial goals. Let me repeat the question: Are you happy?

And the answer is obviously… “Yes.”

Stop worrying about beating indexes. Focus instead on meeting your goals.”

More Weekend Reading – Keeping Investing Simple…

A reminder after 80,000 published personal finance books, there is no perfect portfolio nor perfect plan. 

Money Basics (on Medium) highlighted their love of Canadian banks, in the backdrop of more U.S banking calamity of late. Getting paid today, with the expectation of future, higher income tomorrow, seems to be where the love is coming from:

“Most Canadian banks are paying out dividends from 4%-6% these days, and are consistently increasing that dividend. For example, National Bank over the last 10 years has increased it’s share price an average of 9.5% per year while increasing it’s dividend an average of 7.8% per year.”

Historically, as readers may know, some Canadian banks along with telcos and energy pipelines typically find their way into Beat the TSX top-10 picks every year. 

Beat the TSX

Nice post by Dale Roberts on going defensive with your portfolio, to play offense over time.

Using defensive sector ETFs for the Canadian retirement portfolio.

Impressive dividend income update from Dividend Hawk including many stocks that simply continue to pay bills month after month and quarter after quarter for him…

“This net passive income of €1,066.42 means that I received a reasonable €38.09 every day or €1.57 per every hour during February, no matter what I did. After two months, these numbers are €43.34 per day and €1.81 per hour.”

Nice FIRE-life update by Chrissy at Eat, Sleep, Breathe FI.

Seems smart to be moving non-reg. assets to the TFSA, over time, if/when you don’t need that income for living expenses of course. I see many retirees doing the same thing. It’s all about smoothing out taxation. 

“Transferring from our non-registered accounts to our TFSAs also helps to decrease our tax liabilities in the future. Since we’re currently in a low tax bracket, we’ll pay less tax on our capital gains now than if we wait until later.

When our RRIF minimums get larger and we start receiving CPP and OAS, it’ll be much harder to minimize taxes. So, we’re taking full advantage of the next 15–20 years to shift our money around tax-efficiently. (Yet another benefit of FIRE! 🔥)”

I’m a fan of Stocktrades.ca and we share similar (although slightly different) investing approaches – which is great IMO. We were on the same wavelength when researching this subject recently: they looked at the average net worth of Canadians by age category. How might you stack up at your age or in your region?

I liked this hedged vs. unhedged ETF explanation if you need to decide on this from Jon Chevreau’s site. 

Related to debt management, Another Loonie exclaimed his investment loans are now costing him $500 each month. Is there a solution?

Interesting site from a reader of mine…around halfway down the article you can toggle the sex and age prompts to see how short, or hpw long, your candle is per se – in theory of course. 

Years You Have Left to Live, Probably | FlowingData

Save, Invest, Prosper!

If curious, check my Deals page – partnerships and discounts to help you make the most out of your money.

Check out my partnerships with:

  • Dividend Stocks Rock
  • 5i Research
  • StockTrades.ca
  • LegalWills
  • Borrowell 
  • and more!

Have a great weekend!


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.

23 Responses to "Weekend Reading – Keeping Investing Simple"

  1. Hello Mark. Thank you for your post.Over the years we have built our investment portfolio mainly around a group of quality dividend paying stocks that have been held for decades. Through the ups and downs of market volatility small purchases were made as funds became available.( We still own the first equity purchased -BNS- from the 1980’s ) Other stalwart type equities were added as years went by, taking advantage of tax favoured opportunities in our RRSP’s and TFSA’s. To us, it was important to decide on a worthy goal ( ours was to secure a reliable, dependable and increasing income flow in retirement) and then go for it. Don’t be discouraged or panic , choose strong ,quality equities with a solid record, are investment grade and let them work for you. Mike

    1. Great stuff, Mike. I’ve been very fortunate to run this site and hear back from many successful DIY investors over the years. They’ve decided to take matters into their own hands and also tax advantage of the RRSP and more recently the TFSA to build wealth, and steady income.

      Like you, I decided about 15 years ago in my early 30s to try and build an income-oriented portfolio to support semi-retirement with.

      I like your thinking and advice to myself and others:

      “Don’t be discouraged or panic, choose strong, quality equities with a solid record, are investment grade and let them work for you.”

      I hope to do just that.

      Cheers, Mike!

  2. Surprised me that AQN was still in the BTSX with the dividend cut but they are hanging in there as per Matt’s site
    Below is per G&M site
    YIELD DIV PRICE (Mar 24/2023)
    TSE:AQN Algonquin Power & Utilities Corp 5.36% $0.59 $11.00
    Own some but don’t think I am in a hurry to buy any more right now after the div cut.
    At any rate I am out of dry powder as I have to save up to meet my withdrawal obligations later this year.


    1. Ya, the way BTSX works though (ideally) is regardless of what happens you buy and hold throughout the year, and then re-balance the stocks every January. Most DIY investors I know, including Matt, have no intention of selling assets every year that systematiclly but if you did, followed BTSX strictly, the results are there for sure.

      I don’t have much cash to invest but I did buy more TD and CNQ recently. More details in my next monthly dividend income update 🙂

  3. Loved the post Mark! keeping it simple is a must in life and for sure in investing, and like you said it never compare your success to indexes and to others because each one have a different risk tolerance and I know myself I don’t like to take big risks and I like to stay conservative in the way I handle my investments and it works for me and I see the progress every year.
    I’m getting a new car in couple of weeks ( been waiting for 8 months now ) and I know the debate about how buying a new car always end up as a bad investment , maybe it’s but hey I worked hard and I can afford it and on top of that I need it so why not right ? 🙂 it’s not always about saving every penny you earn at least for me it’s always that balance in life that I look for.
    Have a great weekend.

    1. Thanks, Gus!

      Ya, you gotta live your life. What did you order for a new car?

      I figure if you can afford it, but buy what you wish even if it isn’t the best financial decision. Life is short.


      1. Nothing fancy Mark, I’m getting the Toyota corolla hatchback XSE for about 36K , I just love the style and the reliability to bad they have a hybrid version but the wait is about 2 years !!! Insane.
        Yes life is to short and it’s not about saving every single penny for retirement because what we’re physicaly beeing able to do today we can’t do it next year so a good balance is the best I think.

        1. Nice!

          Yes, life is about balance. If you had $50k in student loan debt at age 25 and you bought a new car, probably not the best choice but that certainly isn’t you! 😉

          Seems like a great car.

  4. Hi Mark,

    A timely post for me. I was recently offered a second introduction to a portfolio manager from one of the Big 5. I met him previously in 2015. Truth be told, in hindsight I should have turned everything over to him back then. Yes, I would have paid 1 – 1.25% in fees but I never would have made the disastrous mistakes I made between 2015 and 2019. Had I made the decision to hand things over to him he would have returned an average of 9%, net of fees, and I would have been in a position to retire much, much earlier.

    Fast forward to early March 2023 where we met again. I follow his blog, I read with keen interest every week what his take is on the markets and where he thinks the economy is heading. He has good instincts and a track record to match. But, today I’m a different investor with a focused strategy. I have a rock solid foundation of (mostly) BTSX stocks with a split fund and a closed end fund rounding out the portfolio. Gone are the days of me watching BNN and trying to pick the next Venture star (although truthfully, I continue to hold one with fingers crossed).

    We’re about to break $45k in annual dividends/distributions across all accounts and my forecast predicts they will grow to about $67k annually by our target retirement date, excluding new investments. Somewhere between now and then my DPSP and a couple of growth stocks will also get converted to dividend payers, which I expect will get the total annual income to where I want it to be.

    The progress is real, and the forecasted results seem tangible. Will I achieve 9% average annual growth? I don’t know; how can anyone know?

    After much contemplation I accept that my approach may or may not be as good as his but I can’t ignore the axiom that rarely does an active portfolio manager (and he is very, very active) beat the market consistently. My fate is too tied to the Canadian market but that’s the bed I’m willing to lie in with it’s pros and cons.

    Wish me luck!

    1. I wish you luck, of course, but you don’t need it.

      Incredible work: “We’re about to break $45k in annual dividends/distributions across all accounts and my forecast predicts they will grow to about $67k annually by our target retirement date, excluding new investments.”

      That progress is very real and keep me posted!

    2. Your on the right track now James. It almost never works out with an advisor. You said you could have achieved 9% with him. How can you be sure? did he tell you that? Our annual gains from 2015 to 2019 were 13.45% average. I believe in keeping it simple. For us that means we stick to equities only. We have 30 companies and have not had to make any significant changes for years. Dividend income keeps rising and we have not started taking CPP or OAS.

      1. Thank you for the vote of confidence! We are not as diversified as you but we’re doing well. In re-reading Chrissy’s quote from Carl Richards” I take solace.

        “Stop worrying about beating indexes. Focus instead on meeting your goals.”

        This sums up exactly how I decided to keep on my own path. I’ll be quite content and secure in realizing the goals we have set for ourselves and I will not fret if it could have been better or we could have arrived there a bit sooner. It’ll come.

        Thanks so much for your insights! As always I appreciate the reader engagement.

  5. Great post Mark, a good reminder to us that simple does not mean simplistic. A well chosen and balanced ETF portfolio (or mix of dividend stocks and ETFs) that you can stick to, will trump anything that is unnecessarily complicated – for the very human behavioural reason that complexity invites tinkering, tinkering invites behavioural biases (recency bias), and behavioral biases invite under-performance.

    Philosophy class over, I used to agonize over which was the best stock or fund, what was the optimal asset allocation, and should I have slices of REITs, small caps, momentum stocks, etc. It was overwhelming and unhelpful. Once I embraced the simplicity of a couch potato strategy, I realized the ‘effort to outcome’ ratio suddenly swung back in my favour and I felt a great sense of relief. Both Dan Bortalotti and Ben Carlson have written about this in their work, noting that many investors feel the need to add complexity as their portfolios grow. You don’t NEED any more complexity at $2,000,000 than you did at $200,00, but as you mention, it becomes more important at the $2mn mark to pay attention to costs, taxes, and behaviours.

    1. That’s the way I see it too. re: you don’t NEED any more complexity at $2,000,000 than you did at $200,000 or even $20,000. Find a path, a reasonable one whereby you understand benefits and risks and stick to it – tweaking over time.

      I’ve learned over the decades from others as well that good behaviour trumps all. You don’t need to hire any money manager to tell you that, like most things in life.

      Have a great weekend,

  6. As always, you’ve shared lots of great reads. I especially love the quote from Carl Richards: “Stop worrying about beating indexes. Focus instead on meeting your goals.”

    Very well said, and such a great way to help instill calm and rationality in investors. (Both key traits for successful investing!)

    BTW, thanks for the mention. I hope you enjoy your weekend, my friend!

  7. In my investing journey I have 2 main behavioral philosophies, keep it simple and ride the rollercoaster no matter what the market does (don’t sell stocks, invest like you own the business). I only invest in 7 holdings. 55% is in the BMO US High Quality ETF (Top holdings are Nvidia, Microsoft, Apple, Meta, Home Depot, Visa, United Health, Johnson and Johnson, Mastercard, Eli Lilly and Alphabet). 45% is distributed in 6 Canadian Dividend Grower Stocks (ATD, BN, CNR, IFC, NA, and RY). I will keep this portfolio for many years as I feel that total return is the most important (capital gains plus dividend growth). I have no problems selling shares in retirement and I will always keep at least 2 years of cash on hand at minimum to fund my retirement. For me, it’s not a perfect plan, but it’s simple, easy and doesn’t require much work to maintain. I love the keep it simple philosophy.

  8. So many great points in this post Mark. “Plan comes before product” is so important. We’ve talked before about having a Personal Investment Policy Statement that lays out your plan. And when you have a plan it’s much easier to avoid shiny object syndrome and chasing the next big thing.

    1. You’re an outstanding example Maria of someone that doesn’t follow a traditional path of investing yet have done exceptionally well at it – kudos! I hope all is well with family!


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