The Great TFSA Race

From gutsy plays to safe bets, the seven biggest winners of our Tax-Free Savings Account contest share their wealth-building investment strategies.



From the December/January 2014 issue of the magazine.



When MoneySense decided to run a contest billed The Great TFSA Race this fall, the goal was simple. Anyone who was legal age and had money to invest in 2009 when the Tax-Free Savings Account was first introduced has had equal opportunity to grow their money. If you invested wisely, you could have much more in your TFSA than the $25,500 you were allowed to contribute over the years. We wanted to find out who had the biggest TFSAs and hear stories about hot stocks, big trades and huge windfalls. We weren’t disappointed.

Of the dozens of Canadians who entered the Great TFSA Race, we talked to the top seven investors, who kindly revealed their strategies, holdings and the endgame for their TFSA money. We picked the winners strictly by the total sum they held in their accounts on September 27, the contest cutoff date. Some, like Jim Nykyforuk of Kelowna, B.C., were aggressive risk-takers and held only a couple of small-cap stocks. Others, like Paul Boughey of Cambridge, Ont., were slow and steady TFSA investors focused on methodically building a steady income stream for tomorrow.

No matter what strategy they pursued, each of the top seven has an investment tip or two to share. But keep in mind that for many of them, TFSAs are just a small part of their total portfolio—often just 3% to 5%. So they’re comfortable taking some risk in the knowledge that they have safer investments elsewhere: mainly RRSPs, company pension plans or non-registered accounts.

Investing in a TFSA clearly comes with some sweet tax benefits. “It’s important to properly allocate your portfolio for tax reasons,” says Toronto chartered accountant Mark Goodfield. “Some people think of a TFSA as a good place to hold the higher-risk stocks in their portfolio. They’re looking for big gains because those gains are tax-free and that’s a big advantage.” The downside to this approach is that any capital losses aren’t deductible.

If you’re looking for a winning TFSA strategy, read on and be inspired. But before you buy anything, do your own research, review your short- and long-term goals and consider talking over your plan with an adviser. Then see if you can follow in the footsteps of these TFSA contenders.

Here’s how they won the race:

Penny-stock investor: Jim Nykyforuk, 38, Kelowna, B.C. – $300,000

Small-cap turned dividend investor: Dale McSween, 64, Cornwall, Ont. – $61,700

Bottom-feeder turned income investor: Jean, 80, Sarnia, Ont., and his financial planner Jeff Burchill – $72,212

Value investor: Nathan Moncrief, 26, Winnipeg – $60,500

Micro/value investor: Jin Won Choi, 31, London, Ont.  – $50,876

Conservative income investor: Paul Boughey, 49, Cambridge, Ont. – $48,300

Risk- averse DIY income investor: David Boult, 57, Stittsville, Ont. – $46,350

7 comments on “The Great TFSA Race

  1. Pingback: Tax Free Investing – TFSAs 101 | My Own Advisor

  2. I think MoneySense does a disservice to its readership focusing on high-risk investment results or even the conservative ones that only have a 50% probability of success. It would be nice to see some articles on option strategies that deliver income and have a higher probability of success and at a lower risk. Unfortunately you can’t implore these strategies in registered accounts because of politicians implementing idiotic rules restricting investors to only high risk one-sided option strategies. So true risk-averse income investors are forced to invest outside of registered accounts.


  3. Pingback: Is Your TFSA Rocking? « The Passive Income Earner

  4. I agree, I think its irresponsible for a publication like this to include highly speculative “investing” such as going big or “all in” in a small cap mining stock. Jim N’s win does nothing more than to tempt a newbie investor to “gamble”


  5. Are the statistics about TFSA performance made available publicly? I would like to know how many TFSAs there are with balances over $100k right now, and so on.


  6. TFSA is tax free growth like a home, but without the expenses of a home. Anyone at all serious about retirement planning needs a TFSA, its better than a RRSP as there is no inflation taxes, no gains taxes, no dividend taxes….its free to GROW. And if you need $14k for a roof job in retirement, less tax bumps.

    Historically for me, it would have been cheaper to pay taxes and do TFSA decades ago than my RRSP….as my RRSP has become a tax trap. This isn’t possible with a TFSA.

    (RRSP tax trap, you saved/gained so much, taxes gone up and tax tables never pace real inflations, and have other incomes large enough, you are guaranteed to pay more taxes out of an RRSP than you deferred in).


  7. RRSPs was the only way for us (husband & me) to have saved some money by way of rrsp loans, otherwise savings (3 children, way back in 70’s) was just not possible! Now we’re “paying for having saved for the future” – it’s true that something thatseemed too good to be true—- IS too good tobe true!
    So now, we’ve “bought” into the TFSA, but unfortunately don’t have enough knowledge on which investment advisor to go to– the kind that won’t sell a host of products to me! Help! anyone there?


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