Over the years of running various sites, and including this new venture here at Cashflows & Portfolios in the last two years, the founders (Mark and Joe) have received many requests to share what our portfolios looks like, why, how we’re investing and what companies we are thinking about buying more of over time as DIY self-directed investors.
Well, to help answer some of those questions respectively, we’re going to have this pillar post today on this site now that reveals our top-5 stocks in our portfolio. Read on!
Why DIY Investing?
Gosh, where do we begin…
Let’s start with the academic stuff.
Odds are (by now via our site or other popular personal finance sites) you likely know when it comes to investing, you usually get what you don’t pay for.
Read that again: with investing, you usually get what you don’t pay for.
This means, when in doubt, you can consider index investing in a simple all-in-one low-cost fund or a few low-cost, diversified funds, as you wish.
Here is one of our pillar articles on that subject:
The financial industry and money managers that work within it may argue that trying to pick/and hold any individual stocks should be best avoided like a plague on your wealth – so let’s go with that for now and assume that is always true. That means, individual investors should avoid any individual stock selection just like any other forms of investing. We’ve actually heard that some forms of investing, beyond indexing from a licensed financial planner no less, is not even an investing strategy at all. Yup, they said that. Again, let’s run with absolute truth for now.
This makes index investing, not just the best way to invest but the only way to invest.
You can read more about index investing here and why it can work wonders for some, no doubt!
A key takeaway for you from that article is this from us:
Your portfolio is much like a bar of soap. The more you mess with it, the smaller it’s likely to get.
So, based on that premise, if the index is all that matters to track and invest with, then there is little need for an advisor or money manager to do the work for you. You don’t want them touching your bar of soap.
If identifying yesterday’s winners is easy work but there is no way to consistently predict what tomorrow’s good stock will be – then indexing remains the only way to invest. That can be easily managed by you.
To buy an index fund, based on that assumption, you don’t need a financial advisor nor money manager involved because even passive money management by someone else on your behalf can be considered a wasted cost.
Based on the impressive list of low-cost indexed ETFs available on the market, there should be little reason to succumb to paying any unnecessary money management fees.
As one planner and Chartered Investment Manager (CIM®) puts it when it comes to his costs on his site:
“My minimum, for new clients, is household investable assets of $300,000 and I charge a 1.5% AUM fee, which covers all my services. This rate is my maximum and goes down as total assets break the $500K mark, then the million dollar mark and so on. Do the math and typically my average clients are paying $5000+ per year for my services.”
Is index investing worth that cost to you? $5000 per year, every year?
This is just one example but only you can decide.
Why not DIY Investing?
Ultimately nobody cares more about your money than you do. We’d like to help of course by providing objective information. There is never any cost for any blogpost content or reply to a comment on this site. You are welcome to agree or disagree with us. We are open to opinions. You can also challenge us in how we invest, but the proof is in our respective processes and results. We know many DIY investors that visit us have similar results. 🙂
We believe to have proficiency in most things in life, it comes down to the right mix of traits and behaviours. In no particular order of importance:
- You need the desire to learn and improve.
- You need some knowledge in the subject matter.
- You need time, to incubate and change your ways.
- You need the right temperament – to stay true to your approach if/when mistakes happen.
My Own Advisor argued a few years ago with some 80,000+ personal finance books on the shelf, you might not need any more financial advice. Instead, follow this quick e-book:
- Book introduction: Spend less than you make.
- Chapter 1: Save and invest the difference. Invest in mostly low-cost products. Consider diversifying your investments.
- Chapter 2: Avoid active trading. Celebrate falling stock prices – buy more when stocks fall in price.
- Chapter 3: Disaster-proof your life with insurance, where needed, to cover a catastrophic loss.
- Book conclusion: Rinse and repeat for the next 30-40 years.
That’s our e-book! 🙂 But we might still write one for our site here!
That’s the basics within 80,000+ personal finance books in just five bullets.
Putting DIY investing into practice
We’re not proponents of avoiding index funds. Far from it. We like some indexed funds. We own some indexed funds. We have done so respectively for well over a decade.
We simply believe there are other ways to invest.
Money managers and devout index investors will point to expensive mutual funds and active management debates as triggers to leave active money management behind. That’s good. We’ve read content that goes like this: even over long periods of time, random chance dictates that some active managers will beat the market due to fate and luck rather than dependable skill. How do you know which it is?
Well, unlike active mutual fund managers where most studies point to, you do not need to be some star fund manager in Canada, with your own portfolio, to meet your financial goals. Meeting your financial goals is all that matters anyhow. We simply want to you to meet your goals.
We believe to do so, you do need a few of the following attributes like any committed passive investor might claim:
- Invest in many stocks in many sectors.
- Stay the course/avoid trading.
- Celebrate lower prices to get your stocks on sale.
As buy-and-hold and buy-some-more DIY investors for 15+ years each, we know what it takes to build a meaningful portfolio. The evidence exists. It also exists with so many of our clients we’ve worked with. They too, have built substantial 7-figure+ investment portfolios without any money manager involvement. They are proud of it and should be. They kept more money in their pockets 🙂
Over the years, like many of our readers and clients, we’ve read all the key papers that have discussed mutual funds and their underperformance – given that before costs, while there are both skilled and unskilled managers, even the skilled managers were not skilled enough to cover their own costs.
But as a DIY investor you have some powerful decisions most mutual fund managers will never possess:
- You can decide how many stocks in many how sectors to invest in. No big brother looking over your shoulder.
- You can decide to stay the course/avoid trading but the fund manager cannot since he/she has to demonstrate their performance and value somehow.
- You can decide when to celebrate lower prices to get your stocks on sale without manager, director or VP scrunity involved or based on other micromanagement decisions.
To paraphrase the index investing community, with no way to consistently identify skilled managers ahead of time, it just doesn’t make sense to believe that you have a good chance of finding one who will best a basic index fund over the long haul. So, when in doubt, take their advice: fire the money manager and index invest.
There are simply too many low-cost, diversified, easy-to-own ETF choices to build wealth with. With indexing – you don’t ever have to pay someone else to do your work for you.
In the spirit of going it alone, doing it yourself and being accountable for your own results, we both own various individual stocks in our portfolios along with some low-cost ETFs in our portfolios. In doing so, we feel we get the best of both worlds. In Canada, we own many of the top performing stocks for income, growth but ultimately total return. Beyond Canada, we index invest just in case for extra diversification for a world of stocks. We’ve long since fired our money managers. When in doubt, we index invest beyond Canadian borders because it is just so easy to do.
Our Top-5 Stocks
1. We both own TD Bank (TD).
Arguably one of our largest individual holdings respectively. Mark has been a shareholder since 2009. Joe has owned TD even longer. A great total return play historically and likely moving forward.
At the time of this post update, July 2023, TD has dipped in price and is down some 8% YTD.
Both of us are buyers if we can find the money to do so amongst other priorities, this summer!
Source: Portfolio Visualizer
2. We both own Telus (T).
We’ve purchased hundreds of shares over the years and continue to do so via dividend reinvestment plans, including a focus in each of our TFSAs for long-term compoudning power. We also like the long-term blend of dividend income raises and capital appreciation that Telus has offered. We believe this is an excellent income stock for any near-term or current retiree. We’ve both owned Telus for almost 15-years each.
Like TD stock, Telus has been hurt by higher interest rates.
In fact, Telus is only up about 6% at the time of this post, summer 2023, over the last 5-years. From a total return perspective, not great which again – presents a buying opportunity for us.
Source: Portfolio Visualizer
3. We both own Bell Canada (BCE).
Long before Telus set a course for its bi-annual dividend increases, both us were shareholders in Bell Canada (BCE) stock. BCE makes up close to 5% of our respective portfolios. Like Telus, we enjoy the long-term blend of dividend income raises and capital appreciation that Canadian telco stocks like BCE has offered. We continue to believe this is also an excellent income stock for any near-term or current retiree. Mark has owned BCE since 2010. Joe has owned BCE even a few years longer!
YTD, at the time of this updated post, BCE stock is flat for 2023. Moreso than Telus, BCE stock hasn’t moved much in the last 5-years either. A good reminder why you need some growth in your portfolio too since some stocks can remain flat for many years on end. Dividends are nice of course but total returns matter.
Source: Portfolio Visualizer
4. We both own Fortis (FTS).
Fortis owns and operates eight utility transmission and distribution subsidiaries in Canada and the United States, serving more than 3.4 million electricity and gas customers. The company has smaller stakes in electricity generation and several Caribbean utilities. Last time we checked, folks love electricity and power. We’ve both owned FTS approaching 15-years each.
YTD, like other stocks in our list, Fortis is flat at the time of this post. 5-year returns are however, much better.
Source: Portfolio Visualizer
5. We both own Brookfield Infrastructure Partners (BIPC).
Brookfield Infrastructure Corp. engages in the ownership and operation of infrastructure assets through its subsidiaries. Various business lines include transportation, data infrastructure, and energy. We believe infrastructure will be a long-term need and long-term growth story. The corporation entity (the “C” part) of BIP was created in early 2020. What happened was, investors that held BIP.UN (we both did) received one share of BIPC for every nine units of BIP.UN held. With the corporate entity (the “C” part) in BIPC now, that company became tax-friendly to hold in taxable Canadian accounts (and you could still hold BIPC as you might have done in your registered accounts too). As such, the long-term performance history of BIPC is rather new vs. BIP.UN. So, we’ve shown BIPC and BIP.UN performance below. We’ve both owned BIP.UN / BIPC for about a decade now – Mark a bit longer than Joe starting his ownership around 2012. (Mark finally wins at least one holding period in this top-5 stocks list over Joe. :))
YTD, BIPC is the only stud supporting the top-5 portfolio per se! Kidding aside, stocks go up, down and can stay flat for many years. It’s just the way it goes. When it comes to BIPC though, it has been a good growth story. The share price is up about 90% over the last 5-years.
Sources: Portfolio Visualizer
Our Top-5 Stocks Summary
We could not be more clear: when in doubt, indexing is an excellent way to invest.
Buying and holding some low-cost equity ETFs are likely to do wonders for your wealth-building power combined with a high savings rate (i.e., by investing inside your TFSA, RRSP and then taxable account (where applicable) over time). We are fans of that.
But we have also decided as Mark wrote on My Own Advisor to unbundle any Canadian ETF or Canadian Dividend ETF for income and growth.
While that approach has risks it also has rewards and long-term potential upside. Only you can decide what is right for you, based on your goals, based on your investing style and matching your behavioural temperment.
Honourable Mention, not a stock but a low-cost ETF to own
We would be failing our audience if we didn’t mention another top holding in our respective portfolios.
In February 2015, iShares Core MSCI All Country World ex-Canada Index ETF (XAW) was launched as a means for investors to invest the following way:
- Earn instant and ongoing global stock portfolio diversification (beyond Canada).
- Keep investing costs low: a simple way to own US, international, and emerging market stocks.
- Stay the investing course: designed to be a long-term core holding.
Since inception, XAW has delivered a tidy 8%+ to investors (through a pandemic no less).
A competitor to XAW was actually launched in mid-2014: the Vanguard FTSE Global All Cap ex-Canada Index ETF (VXC). Since launch, VXC has returned just over 9% (also through the pandemic!)
We believe both ex-Canada ETFs like XAW and VXC are outstanding funds to own stocks beyond Canadian borders.
You might be wondering why one over the other, for both of us?
Well, historically based on the constitution of XAW, it has owned less U.S. assets and more international assets than VXC. So, if you’re going to follow the academic literature to the letter like some experts suggest, might as well get more international diversification beyond the U.S. market vs. less.
Interesting to see in the last few years, keeping a Canadian bias (XIU) has served you very well. The financial future is always a bit cloudy though!
Source: Portfolio Visualizer
Over time, we’ll keep updating this post to share some updates to our portfolio but we always share more details with our members in our membership forum.
Last but not least…
In the coming weeks, we hope to make some changes to our membership structure that will be even more tailored to DIY investors and self-directed retirement income planning.
Stay tuned for those details when we launch some new and exciting opportunities for all readers and subscribers!!
Need any help with understanding your cashflow or retirement income needs?
Developing and managing a well-diversified, investment portfolio, if executed well, is very likely to meet your retirement planning and your retirement income needs. Win-Win.
We know since we’ve seen SO much evidence over the years that DIY investors can do this and do this very, very well.
But asset decumulation is a bit more cumbersome – living off your portfolio. So, we provide time and services for that.
We answer client questions like:
- What registered accounts do I draw down first?
- How much income will my investments generate?
- Can I afford a large purchase like a new car or new house during retirement?
- Do I have any idea how long this income might last?
- What amount of taxes will my RRSP withdrawals incur?
- When should I take my workplace pension?
- Is it more beneficial to draw down non-registered money before RRSPs and TFSAs?
- And much, much more…
Knowing how to demystify the retirement income puzzle is not trivial work but it’s absolutely something we can help with – we continue to help clients every month!
If you need some help solving your retirement decumulation puzzle (i.e., how to efficiently withdraw from your retirement accounts), or figuring out if you have enough saved from any portfolio you’ve constructed we’re here to help answer those questions and more!
If you are interested in obtaining private projections for your financial scenario, please contact us here to get started.
Thanks for your ongoing readership and for sharing this site with others – our site is growing thanks to you!
Mark and Joe.
- Charts above are for illustrative purposes. Our individual stock returns might be higher than illustrated due to the holding periods involved, or lower at times. Such is the nature of individual stock selection. We expect this. As such, some stocks may beat or trail the index we select/we own depending on the investing period. We have benchmarked against one of our favourite low-cost ETFs in Canada: XIU (due to the blue-chip holdings XIU has). When in doubt, consider XIU for your portfolio! See great returns above if you do.
- None of these individual stocks are recommendations for purchase. Rather, we wanted to demonstrate that DIY stock investing in Canada can meet your financial goals and can be done without any money manager or financial advisor. Our clients are also proof of that too. Hundreds of them. Your mileage may vary.
- You can backtest some of your stocks and ETFs using Portfolio Visualizer. A free tool.
- We recognize DIY stock investing with indexing (i.e., hybrid investing) may not be for everyone. When in doubt, consider index investing. You can own a world of stocks in just one ETF these days. This way, you can still invest on your own, own a world of stocks, while saving big on advisor fees. We hope that no money managers were harmed by our post.