Buyer’s guide to ETFs

Let’s start building your Couch Potato Portfolio.



From the November 2009 issue of the magazine.


Now that you know what to look for when choosing ETFs, we’d like to help get you started. These sample portfolios offer different mixes of ETFs for all kinds f investors. If you’re starting out, we recommend the Classic or Global Coach Potato, but if you have some experience with ETFs you may want to try some of the more sophisticated strategies. We’ve listed the ticker symbols of a number of Canadian and American possibilities in each asset class. All of them are good choices, but you should do your own research to determine which might be best suited to your investment strategy.

Classic Couch Potato Canadian-listed ETF U.S.-listed ETF
Canadian equity 33.30% XIU, XIC, or CRQ
U.S. equity 33.30% XSP or CLU VTI, IVV or SPY
Canadian bond 33.30% XBB
Global Couch Potato
Canadian equity 20% XIU, XIC, or CRQ
U.S. equity 20% XSP or CLU VTI, IVV, SPY
European/Pacific equity 20% XIN or CIE VEA, EFA
Canadian bond 40% XBB
High-Yield Couch Potato
Canadian dividend 25% XDV or CDZ
Canadian income trusts 25% XTR or XRE
Global dividend 25% CYH DEW
Canadian preferred shares 25% CPD
Conservative Couch Potato
Canadian equity 10% XIU
Global equity 10% XWD VT
Canadian preferred shares 10% CPD
Canadian real-return bond 20% XRB
Canadian corporate bond 20% CBO or XCB
Canadian government bond 30% CLF or XGB
All-Dressed Couch Potato
Canadian equity 15% XIU, XIC, or CRQ
U.S. equity 15% XSP or CLU VTI, IVV or SPY
European/Pacific equity 15% XIN or CIE VEA or EFA
Emerging markets equity 5% CBQ or XEM VWO or EEM
Real estate 5% XRE or CGR VNQ
Gold 5% CGL.UN or HUG GLD, IAU
Canadian corporate bond 20% CBO or XCB
Canadian government bond 20% CLF or XGB

56 comments on “Buyer’s guide to ETFs

  1. Would I be better to put foreign etfs in my RRSP and keep Canadian ones outside in order to take advantage of the capital gains taxation break and the dividend tax credit since the foreign stocks don't benefit from Canadian tax breaks? I would still try to diversify as in the couch potato strategy but treat my money as one big portfolio.


    • David: Yes, there are certainly tax advantages to holding the foreign ETFs in and RRSP, and if you have to keep some of your portfolio in a taxable account, Canadian equities are the place to start. You may find this post helpful:


      • Thankyou for the reply.


  2. Your posts are so informattive and helpful –
    A little confused re: CYH etf – would this be better invested in RRSP? Because of its global makeup of dividends would there be a withholding tax of 30% if invested in non-rrsp account?
    Thank you


  3. I think it would be helpful to post the average MER for each Couch potato fund……


  4. Hi: I have had our RSPS in the Global Couch Potato portfolio for about two years and have been quite pleased with the performance. My husband and I are now retired and will be drawing down money each year. I am wondering if now would be the time to switch the portfolio to the High Yield portfolio. Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks. Barbara


  5. Hi Barbara: If your retirement savings are in an RRSP/RRIF, there is no tax advantage to switching to a dividend-focused portfolio. However, you may want to consider making your asset allocation more conservative now, since you won't be able to replace losses in your portfolio. Note also that the portfolios on this page are out of date: XTR now exists in a very different incarnation.


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