Why my goal to live off dividends remains alive and well

Why my goal to live off dividends remains alive and well

Some time ago…yours truly wrote a controversial post about the intent to live off dividends and distributions from our portfolio.

Some time has passed on that post by my thinking and goals remain the same – as least in part for semi-retirement!

Read on to learn why my approach to live off dividends remains alive and well this year. 

Yes, dividends matter (to me)

First, let’s back up to the controversy and offer a list why some investors couldn’t care less about my approach.

  1. The trouble with any “live off the dividends” approach is that you’d need to save too much to generate your desired income. Fair. 
  2. Dividends are not magical – there is nothing special about them. Sure. 
  3. A dollar of dividends is = a one-dollar increase in the stock price. True. 
  4. Stock picking (with dividend stocks) is fraught with under performance of the index long-term. I’m not convinced about that. 
  5. You can never possibly know long-term how dividends may or may not be paid by any company. Fair. 

In many respects these investors are not wrong. You do need a bunch of capital to generate income, dividends are part of total return and stock picking to some degree opens up opportunities for market under performance.

And the negativity doesn’t stop there…

  • Advisors will argue your investing world starts to shrink if you demand 2% or 3% (or more) income from your portfolio – dividend investing leads to poor diversification. 

My response to this: I don’t just invest in dividend paying stocks.  

  • Advisors will argue picking dividend paying stocks may lead to negative outcomes.

My response to this: while I believe markets are generally efficient, I also believe that buying and holding some dividend paying stocks (while there could be market under-performance) does not always mean market-underperformance. I may or may not at any given time trail the market index. iShares ETF XIU is my Canadian benchmark.

You can read up on the premise of benchmarking here. 

  • Advisors will argue against owing dividend paying stocks are a stable source of income.

My response to this: well, until I get dozens of dividend decreases and/or all my companies stop paying dividends, let alone stop increasing them from time to time, I will continue to believe dividends are a source of income – dividends are not always guaranteed!

  • Advisors will argue that dividends and share buybacks and other forms of reinvesting capital back into the business can be equally shareholder friendly.

My response to this: well of course that makes sense. I have never said I favour dividends over share buybacks or capital appreciation!

But you know what?

The ability to live off dividends (and distributions from our ETFs) will be beneficial for reasons and many more…

  • I continue to believe there are simply too many unknowns about the future. Having ample capital for our financial future will give us many options – dividends or not. 
  • If we are able to keep our capital intact we don’t need to worry as much about when to sell shares or ETF units when markets don’t cooperate.
  • “Living off dividends” is my form of forced savings – there is motivation to reach our $1 million portfolio goal and spend the income from it – leave the capital intact for a few years. I intend to spend the dividends or distributions from our portfolio only in the early years of semi-retirement. 
  • I don’t necessarily believe in the 4% rule. It’s impossible to predict next year let alone 30 more years. 
  • I’m conservative as an investor. Seeing dividends roll into my account help me psychologically to stick to my investing plan.
  • Dividends are tangible money I can spend if and when I choose without worrying about stock market prices or gyrations.
  • I agree with other investors – including many dividend investors – dividends seem to be more stable as part of total return than the hope of capital gains. I mean, has the TSX really gone anywhere for the last 10 years???  Yet my dividend income has gone higher and higher thanks to reinvested dividends. 

TSX 10-year

Image via Yahoo Finance

  • It is my hope dividends (and capital gains) can work together to help fight inflation. As consumer prices rise, as the cost of living rises, the companies that deliver our products and services will rise in price along with them.
  • I like dividend paying stocks for a bit of the “value-tilt” they offer. 
  • Canadian dividend paying stocks are tax-efficientWith my RRSP growing more with U.S. assets, I tend to keep Canadian dividend paying stocks in my TFSA and inside my non-registered account.  In a taxable account Canadian dividend paying stocks are eligible for a dividend tax credit from our government.  This means taxation on dividends are favourable, it is a lower form of tax; lower than employment income and interest income.  This will help me in the years to come.

Owning a $1 M investment portfolio has always been a huge audacious goal of mine and I never thought I would get there many years ago.  Fast forward to today, this goal is actually within reach in the coming years.  We’re getting there, slowly, thanks to investing in many dividend paying stocks in Canada and the U.S. (and using some low-cost ETFs that pay distributions for extra diversification).

Will I eventually spend the capital from my portfolio?

Of course I will. It wouldn’t make sense for us not to do so!

But with a “live off dividends” mindset I can do it on my own terms with enough dividends and capital gains. 

Why my goal to live off dividends remains alive and well summary

This site continues to share a journey that includes how passive dividend income can fulfill many of our retirement income needs – whether that might be covering our property taxes, paying our utility bills, delivering enough monthly income to cover our groceries, fund some international travel or all of these things combined.

I firmly believe our focus on the income that our portfolio generates, instead of the portfolio balance, is setting us up to deliver some decent semi-retirement income as part-time work approaches. 

Our goal to live off dividends to some degree is alive and well.  

What’s your take on my plan?  Should I simply own ETFs instead?  Tell me what you think!


85 Responses to "Why my goal to live off dividends remains alive and well"

  1. Thanks for this article. I know it is dated but it re-affirmed my plan (which is what yours was in 2018). Live off dividends. We broke through the 1M barrier a while back and we’re getting ready to retire. The dividends (from banks, telco’s, utilities et al) are a HUGE source of what we hope to be able to spend in retirement. We hold no bonds. I view BCE and Telus as equivalent to bonds – most advisors disagree and that’s fine. It works for our risk tolerance. Sure the price can fluctuate and Telus did cut their dividend in the past but the tax advantage is tremendous. Our retirement (we are in our late 50’s) has been delayed by COVID…we can’t travel so might as well work but when we get to a “new normal” that allows travel and many of the things we saw before Feb 2020 then we’re both retiring.

    I particularly liked your comment “ well, until I get dozens of dividend decreases and/or all my companies stop paying dividends, let alone stop increasing them from time to time, I will continue to believe dividends are a source of income”. I see dividends as a hedge against inflation. That “I” word is likely coming back….grrrrrr.

    Again your article re-affirmed my plan for which I offer my thanks. Keep up the good work.

    Best – Marty

    1. Nice to hear from you Marty. $1 M invested is a big chunk of money I believe.

      Yes, I’m biased, but I do believe in various companies that pay dividends – but total return does matter. Dividends and ETF distributions will be our primary source of income in a few years. We plan to hold $0 bonds but instead keep a modest 1-years’ worth of expenses in cash at time of semi-retirement in a few years. That’s the plan anyhow….

      Sorry about your retirement delays but I suspect others who want to travel are also in the same boat!!

      I also see dividends as a hedge against inflation. What might you hold/own as inflation ramps up? Thoughts? Telcos, REITs, other?

      1. Hi Mark, I am pretty diversified across the sectors right now. I didn’t think I was so I plugged everything into a spread sheet and was surprised how balanced I was! I do have some REIT’s but only two small positions. I’m a bit worried about high housing costs (too fast too soon) although I do enjoy their distributions.

        I agree dividends are an excellent hedge against inflation, IMHO, as long as the underlying company is a good business model and well run. I have a bias for banks and railways. As for the banks, well they are in the business of making money. Of course OSFI has put a halt, for now, on dividend increases however I think that eventually will be lifted. Let’s face it, we love our bank dividends.

        Another area I like for inflation is oil. I have some oil (CNQ and OVV) and may add to these positions (IMO is a good one to). Although with the push to “green” that may play out differently however with the pent up demand for travel vacations the airlines and cruise ships will need a lot of fuel.

        Also on inflation, which arises from increased spending, which means more goods are being consumed. How to you move those goods? Railways. CNR has increased it’s dividend for 25 straight years and I doubt they will stop doing that although you never know. When the economy is booming we need to move goods. When the economy retracts people still need to eat and goods have to move as well. And their moat is HUGE and the payout ratio is 46% so plenty of room.

        I’m not a gold bug, I was years ago and it cost me. I know it is a traditional hedge but I wonder if crypto is not the new gold standard – at least until the South Sea Bubble repeats itself. I have put a small amount in crypto currency, I view it as speculation only and it is in a TFSA so if it rockets north I can partially exit play with the house’s money after that and not get hit (thank you Jonathon at Findependence).

        Your site has helped me a lot and thank you for what you continue to do.

        Best Marty.

        1. I see banks and railways as consistent returns via both dividends and capital gains. In fact, CNR is on my buy list again for this year.

          I will also buy a bit more AQN. In fact, I did when it was recently remaining under $19.

          Oil seems to be a good hedge as well. I only own SU as my oil hedge.

          The shift to green has to happen, our planet depends on it for future generations.

          “When the economy is booming we need to move goods. When the economy retracts people still need to eat and goods have to move as well.”

          I also love CNR for this reason: coast-to-coast-to-coast network. I don’t know how you replicate that.

          Gold is very cyclical so I don’t own it. I have yet to put a small amount in crypto but I’m not ruling it out. I guess I would like to invest in businesses that are more tangible.

          Thanks for sharing your insights Marty, stay in touch!

  2. Congratulations Mark, you have done a good job with your portfolio, plan and website.
    We use a little different approach to to our non-registered account as the income isn’t needed yet. Instead of re-investing dividends automatically, we have a line of credit that we use to buy dividend stocks that we feel are undervalued. We only have to pay the interest monthly and the interest is tax deductible. Recently we bought a good bunch of Enbridge, Capitol Power and Canadian Natural Resources. The dividends were pretty juicy.
    We’ve used John Connolly’s method of determining average yield and other metrics to determine what to buy. If there is nothing that sparks our interest at any time, we pay down the loan. This gives us the ability to buy a meaningful amount of the stocks when we feel they are undervalued.
    The portfolio currently pays us $45,500 a year and is growing.
    Out TFSA’s are invested in private companies and high growth tech companies and are worth over $300,000 today. We will be selling these in the next few years and we will be investing in dividend growth stocks for income when I stop working totally. We bought $6,000 worth of PKI when TFSA’s first came out. A pretty good return. Also bought 38 shares of Shopify when cheap. Still hold both. The TFSA’s and non-registered accounts are held in a discount brokerage and are self administered.
    Our registered accounts are managed by a full service brokerage which we negotiated the fee down below 1% and they have done an excellent job with them. Also we get a lot of advice in regards to estate planning, tax planning and he also knows what we have in the discount brokerage.
    While this approach won’t be for everyone, there are parts that might be for them.
    Currently I work only in the winter now and have the rest of the year to enjoy our hobbies and life in general. Financial independence. It works!
    Keep up the good work.
    Appreciate the reads and Merry Christmas?

    1. Good to hear from you Pete.

      We turned “off” all DRIPs in our taxable account a while ago since I was tired of doing the adjusted cost base thing. Now, I just let dividends come in and I make the odd purchase every few years strategically.

      No doubt, some frothy yields with ENB and CPX in particular. Happy to own both.

      “The portfolio currently pays us $45,500 a year and is growing.”
      That is impressive…

      We’re not quite “there yet” but the snowball is growing regarding the taxable and TFSAs as you read in my monthly updates. I suspect I’ll invest in a bit of XUU or XAW inside the TFSA in 2021, maybe some AQN as well.

      Geez, TFSAs over $300,000 today is outstanding. You’re likely into double-digit returns easily there.

      Congrats on your FI. “It works” and I hope to join you in the coming years!

      Happy Holidays,

  3. I get the appeal of living off dividends since spending cash is easier than selling ETFs to buy goods but index investing is so simple and effective its hard to pass up.

    I find the beauty of it is that when I have some left over money somehow I just plow it into the same ETF I always buy. No thinking involved. Its beautiful.
    Also yeah the 4% rule is weird but the whole point is that its been through some insane time periods of recessions or hyper inflation. Even though we don’t know the future its unlikely to be worse than anything that has ever happened before.

    1. I do too Leif…re: “Live off dividends”. The reality is you can sell units/shares and create your own dividend.

      Less perceived risk. The beauty of this approach is it removes timing for me and therefore has very little emotion. This allows me to behave accordingly which is a benefit to my financial well-being.

      How is your portfolio coming along? Are you FIRE yet or close? We’re probably about 5 or so years away from semi-retirement and part-time work.

  4. My positions are mostly high quality dividend paying stocks, like yours. In this market, I find myself torn between selling some of these positions, and using some of the cash I have to buy more. But so far, I’ve resisted both and am staying the course. I too feel there is more downside coming, so am not quite ready to put the cash to use.

    1. Personally, I also think there is more downside coming. If I’m right, I will buy more of what I own. If I’m wrong, I’ll continue to save up my cash and buy when I feel things are right. Either way, I think I win 🙂

      Thanks for being a fan Alfred and keep us posted.

  5. Mark, I’m curious – as you believe darker days are coming, are you considering reducing exposure to stocks in the near future and then re-investing when it is darker (i.e. timing the market) ? Or, are you staying the course ?

    1. I’m absolutely staying the course Alfred. If and when my plans change I will let folks know since I want to be transparent about my journey. How are you handling recent market volatility?

  6. “in order to generate $90,000 per year in dividend income”

    The problem with this kind of thinking is that a typical baby boomer retiring at 67 and some are even working to age 70. At that age one simply doesn’t need anywhere near 90 grand a year to live on much less that much in dividends.
    The other issue of course is life expectancy. 13 years for the average man and 17 for women*. More important is health, most baby boomers will start to slow down in their 70s and stop completely in their 80s. Few continue to travel beyond that. An uncle told me the best years are 60-70 after that it’s all downhill.

    *got those numbers from a course I took here in Germany so Canada may be slightly longer/shorter

    1. Retirement planning would be very easy if we all knew when we would die! Health is really the true wealth. I hope to have it well into my 80s but I would agree – no major international travel will likely occur then.

      1. Ha Ha ain’t it the truth eh!

        My think was influenced somewhat by end of life planning, how much money will you need for things like nursing car hospital care etc. I asked my brother about this and he said, inspite all the negative press, he had not complaints. Healthcare/nursing care was quite good.

        The other factor for you Mark is you want to retire well before the traditional age which means your money needs to last longer and you’ll want more because you’ll have health as well as wealth!

    2. IMO, a person focusing on creating a substantial income from assets in retirement isn’t as likely to be a person still working later in life. They are likely to have stopped earlier and enjoy the fruits of their labour, unless they just love to work. I believe in looking at spending plans/needs being more important than arbitrary income numbers.

      In Canada typical retirees are younger ~61 and typically have longer to live in retirement~ 21-25 years, but of course these numbers can vary a lot and completely change the financial story. People must plan accordingly and for increasing longevity IMHO.

      I do agree with your point that the gogo years are likely to be when you will both want to spend and be able to enjoy more activities that cost money. I am way on the active side for my age (probably vs most ages), but I can see some change in not being able to just do everything I took for granted even 10 years ago.

      So right Mark, health (physical and mental) is the true wealth.

      1. If I and my DH both working until 60, we should be able to have more than $90K dividend income. But as everybody said here, health is the true wealth. Our jobs are stressful and I would like to retire before 60.

        My goal is retiring 4 years from now. Time is flying, it’s already one year from when I was aiming to retire in 5 years. I think we are still on track although the market is down. If we keep calm and rational and keep buying with the cash on hand, a down market might increase our chance to retire in 4 years.

        The biggest variable I can see is not the market, but the job stability. If one of us out of job during next 4 years, then the plan has to change.

        1. “If I and my DH both working until 60, we should be able to have more than $90K dividend income. But as everybody said here, health is the true wealth. Our jobs are stressful and I would like to retire before 60.”
          Hopefully your plan can be realized. If stress or job loss occurs earlier you may still be able to do fine, just on a litttle less. This was us.

          “If we keep calm and rational and keep buying with the cash on hand, a down market might increase our chance to retire in 4 years.” It will be hard but you may be right, if history is any indication.

          1. I think with a job full of challenges, it will be most likely more stressful. But meanwhile, it’s also more interesting and enjoyable. When I had to choose a new career upon arriving Canada as a new immigrate, I chose the more challenging one. But the older we are, the less suitable we become for this kind of job I guess.

            Yeah, it will be super hard to conquer our fear with a down market. Hopefully I will have enough courage to do so.

            1. I would love a job that is both challenging and rewarding – not one where I feel I’m fighting upstream. New changes coming in 2019. That’s my plan!

              Darker market days are coming May. Thoughts? Or am I just too pessimistic?

          2. Yes, stressful is more interesting and ultimately rewarding for sure I found. Good for you with taking on more challenge. Certainly thats helped you get to the good place you are now.

            There will be others on here likewise, so will interesting to see how many want to hide, commiserate or support when it gets darker in the market.

          3. @Mark, I don’t think you are too pessimistic, I also think darker market days are coming. I believe many others think so too. It’s just that nobody knows exactly when and how dark it will be.

            I plan to continue to buy more stocks while the market going down until I am fully invested. But I am not sure whether or not I have the courage to stick to this plan. I guess couple years from now we will see.

            I also have various problems with my current job. Overall, yes, I think it’s challenging and rewarding as long as one is up to the challenges.

        2. Health is absolute wealth May. I’m learning this more and more. 4 years from now? That would be great…I hope you nail all your goals with your husband.

          Very hard to see what the market or economy or job market will be in 6 months, let alone 4 years. I agree. Jobs change, then plans change too. Stay tuned for my post tonight on that 🙂

  7. Hey Mark, to your point about the TSX not going anywhere for the past 10 years – that’s one of the struggles I had with a Canadian-only dividend investing approach. It’s easy to get seduced by the dividend tax credit and forget that a portfolio made up of strictly Canadian blue-chip stocks (what are there, 20-30 good ones?) really lacks diversification.

    I know you take a hybrid approach, which makes sense. You can take advantage of the tax credit and keep your income in Canadian dollars while still getting global diversification from your U.S. and International ETFs.

    Keep doing your thing!

    1. Agreed Robb, there are only about 20-30 stocks worth owning for dividend income; rising dividend income and the rest you are hoping for capital gains.

      Bang on about the U.S. listed ETFs inside my RRSP for broader diversification and growth inside the RRSP. I hope to own more U.S. assets inside the RRSP in the coming years since I’m trying hard to diversify out of Canada now.

      I will do my best!

  8. I like Don G 🙂
    I like Don, have more Divs than needed – to pay our living expenses. (I have no GICs, RRSPS or any fixed income – just Divs). I never worry about any Divs being cut (partly because every stock I own has never – in their recent history ever cut their Divs and partly because if they did cut – my life doesn’t change anyways). I also agree that a few stocks are a buy on the TSX – right now. When I look at the TSX over the past 10-20 years – their is not much growth – but the Blue Chip Div payers continue to increase their Divs. So Dividend Investors do well investing in the TSX – this way!
    I don’t have much of a cash wedge. Partly cause the monthly Divs provide more cash than needed. Plus, I have a LOC (untapped) in case the world is ending. Lets not forget if the TSX falls by 40% or more – For Sale Signs Light Up!. With no cash – what to do? How about a Margin Account! Why have none of you set one up – to be ready for when the real Sale begins?

  9. Okay, I have a question, what’s plan B if dividends get trimmed back? I am sometimes more concerned when I see/read what may be overly exuberant plans with no backup.

    1. Hey Lloyd

      No plan B. We have more than twice the needed dividend income and we keep a large cash wedge on top of that. The stocks we hold are generally blue chippers like RY, TD, BMO, BNS,, BCE, T, AQN, EMA, FTS, PPL, BIP.UN,, etc so I highly doubt any dividend cuts (but we could easily handle quite a few). If anything, the only thing I see is that some might slow dividend increases (like EMA has done).

      I’d also like to add that this is not an “overly exuberant plan”. It has been very carefully thought out and I’m totally confident in it.

      May – we do plan on leaving a large inheritance. Our two kids and families have been a major source of enjoyment for my wife and I and we think they all deserve bonus dough. It’s really nice to be able to dish some out now while we can see how happy they are to get it and put it to good use.


      1. Sorry Don. I was targeting that towards the “younger” crowd. I think most of us *oldsters* are not as susceptible to a major market correction for the most part. Having said that, I’m sure there are more than a few that would be hurting and I’m not convinced that some are not considering the “what if”. Furthermore, there have been cuts to dividends recently (AX.UN, ALA, a couple of energy co., BEI.UN, GE, probably more). I know I’ve gotten caught up in the constant and consistent dividend raises in the recent past but I just don’t see how that can continue.

        1. Hey Lloyd

          Roger that. I saw your comment right under mine and assumed it was a reply to me. I had always figured me, you, Rbull, etc had quite similar investing strategies.

          I have seen that there have been a few dividend cuts and the next couple years should be interesting on the dividend investing side (and actually markets in general). Having said that, this is starting to feel a bit like the 2013 taper tantrum when I did our switch to dividend investing and that sure the heck worked out well. We’re fully invested now so not buying but I’m convinced that buying in the next couple weeks will work out very well over the next 2-5 years.

          Take her easy

          1. No problem Don. I’m waaaay more conservative than you. We’ve got two moderate DB pensions back stopping us and I pulled out $400+K from the market last fall and put it in GIC/terms within the RRSPs. The TFSAs are still 100% equity and we’re sitting on a whack of unregistered cash. I’ve been watching this retraction and I’ve been (and still am) tempted but I think I’ll hold off for a bit. Everything is still DRIPping so still accumulating shares. As long as the farm still generates income I don’t see me pulling much of anything out of the RRSPs yet. Maybe 10-15K a year if I can get it out within the lower tax bracket.

            1. “As long as the farm still generates income I don’t see me pulling much of anything out of the RRSPs yet. Maybe 10-15K a year if I can get it out within the lower tax bracket.”

              Seems smart to me Lloyd. As long as you are meeting your needs – you’re good!

        2. Lloyd, I agree that most of us oldsters (retired) or those that post at least, seem to be reasonably prepared for a major downturn. Although I’m thinking the younger crowd (those acumulating) should be cheering for a big downturn to keep building assets at lower prices. I’m thinking they’re still working and aside from job loss won’t really be susceptible to a correction. Or am I missing your point?

          1. I’m not sure I *have* a point. I just get concerned when I read a lot of stuff about how “easy” it is and how nothing “ever” goes wrong. The market can be a cruel beast if one is not careful and getting into the mindset that because something has not happened in recent memory it will then never happen can be risky. This can be applied to the housing market as well. Irrational exuberance can be just a short hop away from panic.

          2. Interesting about the word “stagflation”. I see Poloz used that as well in todays Globe (can’t link) when warning of serious potential global outcomes from China/US trade wars. I share these concerns especially when you have an infantile mind pushing a lot of the buttons.

      2. Hi, Don, I can totally imagine how happy your kids and their families are getting gift from you and your wife. I would be very happy to help my kids if I were as capable as you in my retirement time. I just don’t want to take this as mandatory while I am planning for retirement. Once I figure I can die broken I will consider myself to be ready to retire. But we might continue to work after that. We will see what will happen a few years from now.

        1. Hey May

          We certainly didn’t plan on things working out this well when I was still working. After the 2008-09 financial crisis, I figured I’d be working past age 65. The smartest couple things we did was to stay fully invested through the crisis and then converting to dividend income/growth investing in 2013, dumping all our mutual funds.

          As an aside, in mid-2012, I quit my regular job, formed a sole proprietorship, consulted part time for an extra year, and then fully retired in mid-2013. This gave me more time to focus on our investments. It took quite a bit of work with a few iterations and a few BIG mistakes (eg: oil & gas producers – bought a few in 2013-2014 and sold all by early 2016, some for a profit but 3 huge losses – BTE, LRE, SGY) to come up with our current plan but we’ve been settled into it since early/mid-2016 and it’s working beautifully.

          The plan is certainly not for everyone as we don’t hold any fixed income or GICs, just 100% TSX equities (see my 1::22pm post). As many other posters have said, one of the biggest things to do is understand your risk tolerance and then to put some thought into a plan that you think might work for you and “tweak” it as needed.


      3. Some would say a bold plan but a very good one. I’m biased though. A basket of dividend payers should continue to reward investors in Canada for decades into the future. I mean really, if all those companies stopped paying dividends, very worse case, you could sell and realize the capital gains which is an efficient form of taxation anyhow!

        In Canada, do we really see:
        -banks like RY, TD, BMO, BNS, BMO, CM and NA all going under at the same time?
        -telcos like BCE, T – see above?
        -utilities like AQN, EMA, FTS, BIP.UN – see above?
        -pipelines like ENB, IPL, TRP – see above?

        Yes, there might be the odd dividend freeze, the odd dividend cut but that’s the entire point – you own many stocks so a few cuts offset increases and you’re still rollin’ in the income.

        Thanks for the comment Don.

        1. “I mean really, if all those companies stopped paying dividends, very worse case, you could sell and realize the capital gains”

          I’d give that train of thought some more thought Mark. If these companies cut dividends, what are the odds the stock value will hold?

  10. I don’t think I will live off only with dividends/interests/distributions. Living off only with dividends will end up with a big inheritance. While it’s nice, I don’t think it’s necessary. So I want the dividends covering the basic (bare bone) living expenses, and I will live off on both dividends and selling some investments.

    Even without living off dividends, with dividends covering basic living expenses, combining with a cash edge, I think it still allows me not selling investments in market bottom.

    1. I know we won’t either May. I know we’ll eat some capital eventually…but this is a great way for me to stay focused on the cash flow my portfolio generates vs. some “artificial” loss today that I wouldn’t bother to realize.

      We believe dividend income should cover most basic expenses + work part-time within 10 years for sure (before age 55) + pensions + CPP+OAS in our 60s +.

      Time will tell if our plan will work out. That’s the beauty of the future – we have no friggin’ idea 🙂

    2. I share your thinking. Although have not yet gotten close to that point. Some of it is being conversative and some is tax shyness.

      Next year will be hitting 60 and planning for our biggest spending years 60-70 and if lucky with health and finances maybe to 75. Which should mean opening the taps.

  11. As I’ve posted previously, I’m 65 and have been retired for 5.5 years without any company pension plan and my wife and I live entirely off our dividend income and my CPP & OAS. We have always stayed totally invested in around 25 TSX dividend income/growth stocks + 2 ETFs. It’s all mainly in 5 sectors – banks, utilities, midstream, telecom, and REITs. No fixed income or GICs at all. 100% equities but no tech, commodities, consumer, oil & gas producers, etc. They’re too volatile for me and their yield tends to be lower.

    As I was retiring, we converted from total return investing to dividend investing. 2013 was a very good year to do this so we did have good timing on our side. Since retiring, the value of our portfolio is 25% higher now than then and we have also withdraw the cash we need to live on as well as some for an early inheritance to the kids so the actual total return is higher than the 25%. We take all our dividends in cash, no DRIPs. This gives us more control over the extra cash.

    This shows that dividend income/growth investing can work.

    As an aside (and the main reason for posting this), I think many of the dividend stocks are at or near a terrific buying opportunity especially after tax loss selling season ends. I’ve also done our buying in 2-4 increments per stock and after Christmas could be a great time to start picking some up for those that are in that position. Take this with a grain of salt (as you should with all blog comments), but I currently think that BIP.UN, ENB, KEY, and TD are all looking very good as buys.


    1. Yes, it does seem like some stocks are getting rather cheap. Pipelines are taking an absolute beating now. IPL is very cheap. ENB is low. TRP is beaten up too. The list goes on.

      I think you’ve done very well Don and I hope to be a point like you eventually: “live entirely off our dividend income and my CPP & OAS.” Geez, wouldn’t that be great.

      I suspect the next bear market will test many investors. Stay in touch to let us know how you cope!

  12. Great post Mark. It’s a good example of how looking strictly at the numbers and what is theoretically most efficient / highest returns, isn’t the whole story. There’s that comfort level, stress level, and ability to ride out the storms that has to be factored it. And as you’ve shown, the qualitative/personal preference and quantitative side aren’t always in sync and that’s just the reality that we each have to deal with and choose the best fit for us.

    1. Thanks Kornel. Always good to hear from you. There is absolutely a psychological benefit and I don’t mind writing about that. Personal finance isn’t about doing what other people tell you to do – it’s also about understanding your DNA make-up and making the best decisions with that and many other factors in mind.

  13. Looking at only a 10 year period for the TSX doesn’t mean much, though. The US market has been on fire for the last 10 years, but was flat the previous 10 years. That’s why we need to diversify. Developed markets have similar returns over the long term, but are not highly correlated in normal times. So with high valuations in the US market and low valuations in the Canadian market, returns over the next decade of the two markets could look very different over the next 10 years. So, yes, I think you should own ETFs (just kidding). We all need to follow the strategy we are most comfortable with.

    1. Fair point my friend. TSX = dog for the last 10 years. S&P 500 = star.

      It could be very different “this time”. Any guess on what the next 10 years might deliver? I would like to think people will still need houses/apartments to live in (REITs); utilities to heat and cool their homes; banking to save and invest their money and more in Canada. I’m happy to invest in U.S. ETFs like VYM or VTI after that 🙂

  14. Retired for the last 5 years or so our strategy is almost exactly your plan. We’ve instructed our broker (self directed Investorline) to covert all dividends to cash. From there, our monthly RRIF payments go directly to our checking account. No work at all on our part…we simply forget about it. Occasionally, I confirm there is enough cash to cover 6 to 12 months of payments. Because our dividends do not completely cover the payments we take out, I do occasionally have to sell something…but so far the overall gains always edge up higher. (Maybe not this year?) Life is better with a plan!!

    1. Dividends from our unregistered acct are paid in cash and move to our bk acct.

      TFSAs and LIF drip. 1X payment /yr from LIF may be cash or in kind. RRSP dividends to cash for periodic withdrawal, or sometimes equities in kind.

      First 4 yrs of retirement easy to see withdrawals happen and still accts grow. This 5th year = no, and that may be even more true in ’19 and or ’20. At some point that will be right.

        1. Mostly luck. Although like I said the reversal has begun. Our income is growing so that’s good and a higher priority particularly doing rough patches and until capital comes into play.

    2. Life is better with a plan for sure Paul.

      Our dividends don’t yet cover all basic expenses. We figure that’s our $30K per year mark once we are debt free. That’s going to be a few more years from now but I’m hopeful our way of investing will get us there in 5-10 years. I’ll update the chart in another few weeks after I see what December dividends are like:

      Any plans for your TFSA in 2019?

    3. Hi all, just a question.
      I was told by our bank that we can’t have our dividends moved to cash at each payoutp?
      Am I missing something here?
      How do we do this?
      Thank yo all in advance!
      Happy holidays!


        1. As always, Thanks Mark

          Yes, I was told by a reputable bank that the dividends I get from a tfsa mutual fund can buy more funds, they can’t go to Cash.
          I guess it would be best to inquire again?
          Would I be able to move the dividends to a savings account within a TFSA as an example?

          Thanks Mark!


          1. Hi Perry,

            I’m not sure who you bank with or who told you that…but….whether you are dealing with mutual funds or ETFs – you should be able to direct your bank/brokerage to “take my dividends and distributions in cash”. Then you can move cash around as you please within that account or transfer cash out of that account while being mindful of various tax consequences.

            Happy holidays!

        2. Thanks so much for answering, you always come through!
          I will definitely be talking to the bank early in the new year!

          Thanks Again Mark!

          Have a wonderful holiday season!

          1. Best wishes Perry and let me know the outcome. Again, you should have these options with them:

            1) instruct them you want to take dividends/distributions in cash only
            2) instruct them you want to reinvest all dividends/distributions paid per stock or per fund, OR even
            3) instruct them you want to enroll the entire account (all funds, all stocks, inside RRSP, TFSA, etc.) in a dividend reinvestment plan.

  15. Generally I agree with utilizing a dividend/distribution strategy with a large part of my equity portion, for the beneficial reasons you listed. However the first part you listed is also true.

    Although being a conservative investor without pension in retirement I also utilize FI to generate overall cash flow.

    It’s clear your plan is working Mark for you so keep the gas pedal down.

  16. Mark, very good post as usual. I agree with your approach, although I’m more in favour of etf’s for the divvies (ie: Enbridge with a p/e of 44 would make me nervous). My plan is to have my core costs (food, shelter and transportation) covered by a small indexed DB pension, CPP and OAS with everything else funded by the divvies. Shouldn’t have to worry about killing the golden goose.

    1. Nothing wrong with a basket of low-cost ETFs churning out distributions and some growth. You’re base with an indexed pension, and also indexed CPP and OAS is largely ideal.

  17. Lots of good advice. I am also a dividend investor and my goal is to create my personal pension as my workplace and government pensions will not be enough to live on. Trying to invest 50% of my income and so far so good. I am not into FIRE though I love my jobs.

  18. I have also found that my dividend stocks have been relatively unscathed (touch wood) with the recent drop in the market. I am maybe down 0.1% overall in my dividend portfolio. At the end of the day, the blue chips always seem to do fairly well and seem to be less volatile.

  19. I think if your plan is working for you to achieve your goal then that’s the plan for you.

    I’d add one more to the list of benefits: Motivation. When I’m trying to lose weight and I see a weekly weight loss, I’m more motivated and encouraged. Seeing the dividends and distributions roll in consistently is a motivating factor regardless of market performance. Dividend increases is like candy! Granted, motivation is an emotion, but I doubt anyone can discount the motivation factor when it comes to achieving a goal.

    1. Geez…you’re fast…I just sent this one 🙂

      Totally agree with the motivation. Seeing my income go up over time regardless of what the stock market does or does not go is a HUGE factor in helping me stay the course.


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