The biggest TFSAs in Canada

Our contest turned up winners and investment strategies that will amaze and inspire you

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From the January 2015 issue of the magazine.

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(Darren Hull/iStock)

(Darren Hull/iStock)

Everyone loves the thrill of a good race, and small investors are no different. That’s what inspired MoneySense to launch the inaugural Great TFSA Race last year. It was designed as a contest to see who has grown their investments the most since 2009, when Tax-Free Savings Accounts were introduced. Because everyone who was 18 or older at the time had exactly the same amount of contribution room—$31,000—it was a fair fight.

To find our winners, we went in search of investors who made big bets to grow their contributions into much more. How much more? Well, between the two of them, this year’s winning husband and wife team grew their investments into more than $1 million!

Anyone in the country could enter, and of the 60 or so Canadians who did so this year, we selected the six with the biggest balances as of October 31. In the pages that follow, our winners happily reveal their strategies and the endgame they’ve planned for their TFSA money.

Some, like Rick and Maureen O’Hanley Doucette of Kelowna, B.C., are aggressive risk-takers who held thousands of shares of only one penny stock for the entire six years. Others, like Nita Sproule of Calgary, are slow and steady investors focused on buying large-cap value stocks.

Just keep in mind that their TFSAs are a small part of their total portfolio—often less than 10%. So they’re comfortable taking big risks with the knowledge that they have safer investments in their RRSPs, company pension plans or non-registered accounts. “Still, in many cases, the bigger risk is simply keeping your TFSA money sitting in cash or GICs and forgoing growth, something that 80% of people who contribute to TFSAs do,” says Jason Heath, a certified financial planner in Toronto. That’s why Heath recommends that TFSA investors hold high-growth or income-generating assets to take full advantage of the tax break.

READ: 7 things you didn’t know about TFSAs »

We hope you’ll be inspired by these success stories. But remember that any investment with the potential for huge returns also comes with a lot of risk. Before you try any of these strategies in your own TFSA, do your own research, review your short- and long-term goals and consider talking over your plan with an adviser.

The Great TFSA Race 2015

1st place

Rick & Maureen’s TFSAs: $1M+

2nd place

Shafik’s TFSA: $262,000

3rd place

Philippe’s TFSA: $100,021

4th place

Nita’s TFSA: $88,062

5th place

Milan’s TFSA: $86,300

6th place

Jin’s TFSA: $70,474

10 comments on “The biggest TFSAs in Canada

  1. How is this in any way a fair race when a couple can win? That’s two people contributing.
    I also don’t think that the winners should be chosen simple based on numbers. It’s not encouraging people to either run in this race or to start a TFSA. Its sending out the message that only people with lots of money to contribute can benefit from starting a TFSA. I make a monthly contributions as a way of building a nest egg. Its something that I’ve been doing since university. I encourage all my friends (particularly those who are younger and have trouble saving) to start one. It’s difficult to see Rick and Maureen as an inspiration to start a TFSA since their balance is beyond what most of us can ever imaging saving.
    Plus isn’t there a prize associated with this challenge? Sounds like another example of the rich getting richer.

    Reply

    • Rick and Maureen have more than $500,000 each in their TFSAs which means they tied for 1st place. They did not contribute to the same TFSA. There was no prize associated with their win. All TFSA Race entrants (regardless if they were featured in the magazine) were entered in a random draw to win an iPad mini. Thanks for reading and for your comments everyone!

      Reply

    • ‘since their balance is beyond what most of us can ever imagine saving’ If you read the article they bought 100,000 at 10 cents a share, that is $10,000. They started with $10,000. and GREW it to $1million. They didn’t save a million. They did their homework. A lot of stock information can be found on the internet. It takes time, perseverance, and research. You have a choice, you can take charge of your money and learn how to invest or leave it in a money market account at a minimum interest
      rate.

      Reply

  2. All too often it is not the customer but the bank Investor who guides their customer into choosing the Bank’s very conservative and extra safe TFSA investments.

    Reply

    • Hear hear!!

      Reply

  3. From what I read, it seems that the most lucrative approach of boosting your TFSA account is by investing heavily in small cap stocks.

    I’m sure there are people at the bottom of the TFSA ranks that are very much hurting even though they executed similar strategies. I feel bad for those souls.

    Reply

  4. Congrats to these two intelligent people willing to take on a calculated risk and reaping the rewards. Instead of whining or complaining that the world isn’t fair, they took charge and made something big out of an opportunity. I have nothing but respect and admiration for their achievement here.

    Reply

    • A good article and achievement however I would caution readers that slow and steady growth is a worthwhile objective too (with far less risk!). This couple did their homework well and their calculated risk paid off but it could have gone the other way. A well diversified mix of investments inside your TFSA is a better choice for long term success.

      Reply

    • Everyone has the same opportunity to invest. However, not everyone has the resources or discipline to invest. Had we entered the contest we would have placed third – coming in somewhere between you third place and second place winners. This was done primarily with solid blue chip stocks and etfs with all dividends being reinvested. Time is what will work for the younger people who contribute what they can early on and as their circumstances improve they can contribute more. With discipline, it is not difficult to retire comfortably w/o relying on company or government pensions.

      Reply

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