Thursday, June 9, 2011

Success #2: Rebalancing RRSP TD e-Series Mutual Funds for More Exposure

Last year, I recognized that my mutual fund fees were too high, and I switched my units over to the TD Canadian Index and TD Canadian Bond e-Series mutual funds. Since then, my investments have been doing well. However, I decided that since the S&P/TSX Index focuses a lot on financials, energy and mining, it might be a good idea to broaden my investment exposure. After all, true couch potato index investing states that one should invest in everything and diversify as much as possible. The S&P 500 (which the TD US Index e-Series fund tracks) has a pretty good balance across sectors that I wasn't exposed to with just the Canadian Index fund. I also decided to allocate a little bit of my portfolio to the TD International Index e-Series fund to get some exposure there as well.

Overall, I decided on the following balance between e-Series funds: 40% TD Canadian Bond, 30% TD Canadian Index, 20% TD US Index and 10% TD International Index. I did some reading on the experiences others had had with rebalancing their TD e-Series funds, and I came across a very useful spreadsheet:

If you Google search for switching fees regarding the TD e-Series funds, you will find many forum posts discussing the issue. I seem to have found an approximately equal amount of people that say the mutual fund units are First In, First Out (FIFO) and some say Last In, First Out (LIFO). With e-Series units, one cannot sell them before 90 days have passed since purchase without incurring a penalty fee for frequent trading. This includes units purchased through a Pre-authorized Purchase Plan (PPP). If the units are sold FIFO, that would mean that the most recently-bought units would be sold first. If the units are sold LIFO, the least recently-bought units would be sold first.

In my case, the units seem to have been sold LIFO, where the oldest units were sold first. I have made PPP purchases in the last 90 days, but the full dollar amounts that I transferred to the two new funds correspond exactly with their book values. I didn't see any kind of fee of 2% of the transfer balance.

Since I now have four different e-Series funds, I tried to figure out how I could contribute to them evenly, while keeping my RRSP contributions fairly low. I don't want to contribute too much to my RRSP since I'll have to start paying off my university student loans next year, and I still have one year of school left to do (tuition to pay, books to buy, etc.). Before, I contributed the minimum PPP amount ($25) to each of my two e-Series funds every month. Now however, I have 4 funds to contribute to. Even with the minimum PPP amount, I would be paying $100/month into my RRSP to contribute to each fund equally. This is more than I can handle, so I tried to see if there was an "every two months" option on the PPP form on TD EasyWeb's website. There wasn't, so I decided to call them and see if they could set something up for me. Unfortunately, whatever options are on the web form are the only PPP options. So I guess for now, I'll leave my two PPP transactions as is, and re-balance some of the units of those funds to the other two every 90 days or more.

Something strange I noticed about the e-Series funds is that I both sent an email and then an eService message to TD with regard to my PPP inquiry, and in both cases the reply was that "we are not trained in mutual funds, please call TD". I thought the point of e-Series funds was that they were to be managed online and online only. I really hope they don't try and revoke my e-Series agreement, but if they do, I'll point out how I tried twice to contact them through online means.

Thursday, June 2, 2011


In the past few months, I've been reading and learning about how to do fundamental analysis of a stock to determine its growth or value potential. I did some analysis of a few stocks listed on the TSX, and I came up with 15 potential growth candidates. I haven't done any deeper analysis yet, just some initial weeding out of stocks that didn't fit my basic criteria.

I decided to create a new portfolio in Google Finance and add my 15 hopefuls to it, just to see which ones outperformed the others. I added hypothetical transaction data to each stock so that the cost basis was around $500 for each one. This is my personal minimum amount to invest in a stock, since it makes brokerage fees around 1% of the total amount being invested. All in all, my hypothetical cost basis was around $7,700. In the two weeks since I started the portfolio, it has gone up to +3% and is now around +1.6%. While it's true that two weeks is a very short time frame for growth investing, I realized something as I checked on the portfolio every day.

I have read many times before how diversification in a portfolio is essential for mitigating concentration risk. I didn't actually realize the true value of diversification until I saw it in action. The worst of my 15 picks is currently down $62. However, my overall portfolio is up by $63. Just under half of my picks are in the red by small amounts, but from diversifying across multiple stocks I have managed to keep the overall portfolio value positive.

Since this is all hypothetical, it's purely for the sake of learning on my part. However, it made me re-examine my current strategy for my real stock portfolio. Up until now, I've been working on building a dividend growth portfolio. The dividend growth strategy is a valid strategy, however it takes a fair amount of capital before the dividends start to really pay off. The dividend growth strategy also takes patience, which I don't seem to have when I say that I'm considering switching strategies.

I have two excuses for moving away from the dividend growth strategy for the time being. Firstly, my whole investing experience so far has been all about learning as much as I can, both by reading about the vast amount of things there are to know about investing, and also to learn by doing. Learning investing through hands-on experience was my inspiration for starting this blog in the first place. Secondly, as I mentioned above, it takes a significant amount of capital to earn meaningful dividend amounts through a brokerage account every so often. It's a little different if you buy shares direct and can hold fractional shares, but that's not the case for me.

So after taking a good look at my diversified pretend portfolio, I saw the true power of diversification and the role it plays in growing your money. Since I have a very limited amount of money to invest with, I decided to try and grow my account more efficiently and effectively. Perhaps a few years down the road when I have more income available and a larger balance in my TFSA, I can consider re-implementing the dividend growth strategy.

If I want instant diversification and my TFSA is a discount brokerage account, what's the first thing that comes to mind? ETFs! I did a little research on what types of ETFs are available on the TSX, and what sectors and market caps they cover. I came up with a few choices and put them into a new hypothetical portfolio in Google Finance. Then I scrolled down to the portfolio performance window, and checked off the box for comparing portfolio performance with that of the S&P/TSX index. As it turns out, my ETF choices outperform the S&P/TSX by almost 10% over the past 12 months! I have yet to examine the risks associated with each ETF, and I also need to decide what percentage of my portfolio each ETF should occupy. I'm excited to try out a new strategy, and I've now given you fair warning for the types of posts you might see on this blog in the near future.