Core Couch Potato portfolios
New to DIY investing? These four simple Core Portfolio approaches give you several options to get started.
New to DIY investing? These four simple Core Portfolio approaches give you several options to get started.
Tangerine, an online bank and a division of Scotiabank, was first to offer Canadians simple and lower-cost index-based mutual funds.
For those who want to go with the classic portfolio of 60% equities, 40% bonds, there’s the Tangerine Balanced Portfolio, which was launched in January 2008.
The bond component of the portfolio helps to mitigate the riskier equities component. For example, when the combined stock markets (Canada, U.S. and International) declined by more than 50% during the financial crisis of 2008-2009, the Balanced Portfolio declined by just 25%. This balanced asset allocation can make it a lot easier for investors to stay the course during market turbulence.
If you want a lower-risk portfolio, opt for more bonds. If you want a higher-risk portfolio (with greater growth potential), choose one with more stocks, as shown below.
Core Balanced Income: 30% bonds, 70% stocks
Core Balanced: 40% bonds, 60% stocks
Core Balanced Growth: 25% bonds, 75% stocks
Core Equity Growth: 0% bonds, 100% stocks
Start by completing the online questionnaire on the Tangerine investment site that evaluates your goals, risk tolerance and time horizon. It will then recommend the most suitable portfolio for you based on your answers.
The Tangerine Core Portfolios are mutual funds, which means there are no fees when you buy or sell. That can make them attractive for those who are starting out with smaller amounts. That said, the historical performance demonstrates that the portfolios have been wonderful investments and would be suitable for many, even those with larger portfolios.
The Management Expense Ratio (MER, which is the percentage fee that comes off the top of your investments before you see any returns), is 1.07%. That is a 50%-off sale compared to a typical Canadian mutual fund. In addition to lower MERs the Tangerine funds will have a very low trading expense ratio, known as the TER. For Tangerine Core portfolios, the MER is 0.01% or 0.02%, while actively managed mutual funds can generate significant trading fees that are often in the area of 0.20% and more. A passive approach can also help keep a lid on those TERs.
While performance has been quite strong for the Tangerine Core Portfolios, their 1.07% fee level is high compared to other Couch Potato offerings. In response, the bank created Tangerine Global ETF Portfolios, which have lower management fees of 0.65%. The total MER, including taxes and TER, will likely take the fee level to 0.72%.
This is another welcome addition to the Canadian Couch Potato family, and are available at the following three risk levels:
The Balanced ETF Portfolio is 60% stocks and 40% bonds
The Balanced Growth ETF Portfolio is 75% stocks and 25% bonds
The Equity Growth ETF Portfolio is 100% stocks
Note that the Equity Growth Portfolio should be limited to those with a long time horizon (read: younger investors) and a high risk tolerance level.
At Tangerine you will have access to Investment Advisors from Monday to Friday, usually from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Most clients will execute their own buys and sells online. But keep in mind that both these Tangerine options are managed portfolios.
Like Tangerine, TD bank also offers index-based mutual funds with some very reasonable fees. That said, the assets are offered in four individual baskets, so you need to create your own portfolio and do your own rebalancing.
This approach requires slightly more effort than Tangerine’s ready-made portfolios, but the fees are also lower than Tangerine’s. MERs for the TD e-Series funds range from 0.28% to 0.45%, so a blended portfolio would have an estimated MER of 0.40%, compared to Tangerine’s 0.72% to 1.07%, depending on the type of portfolio you choose (Core or Global ETF).
Below are the four TD e-Series index mutual fund offerings, which you can combine in any proportion, from cautious to aggressive. A balanced 60% equities/40% bonds portfolio, for example, could have the following allocation:
TD Canadian Bond Index Fund-e (TDB909): 40%
TD Canadian Index Fund-e (TDB900): 20%
TD U.S. Index Fund-e (TDB902): 20%
TD International Index Fund-e (TDB911): 20%
If you currently hold the TD e-Series by way of EasyWeb, the online banking platform that allows you to buy mutual funds you can continue to hold. That said, there was a recent change announced stating that you would no longer be able to add to those holdings. You would have to open up a discount brokerage account and purchase through that platform. There would be no fees for the purchase or sell orders.
I am assuming that you can still get set up by way of an in-branch TD advisor if you’re a TD client. Check back in this space, I will look into these recent changes.
For non-TD clients you might take a pass here and instead go for an ETF portfolio option, which is about half the cost of the TD e-Series funds.
One of the greatest leaps in Couch Potato investing is the introduction of one-ticket ETFs. Investors can enter one ticker (ticket) symbol and receive a managed globally diversified ETF portfolio that matches their risk tolerance and time horizon. The fees are in the range of 0.20%. That’s about one-tenth the cost of a typical actively managed Canadian mutual fund! And they are automatically rebalanced, which means less work for you.
Investors are loving it—these all-in-one ETF options are one of the fastest-growing segments of the ETF market, having increased to more than $4.5 billion within about two years.
The choice between high-fee mutual funds and the 90%-off sale of a one-ticket option? Let’s call that a no-brainer. It makes you wonder why the majority of Canadian investors are still invested in high-fee products.
The one decision you do have to make is which all in-one ETF is most suitable for your goals, time horizon and risk level. And you’ll need to press the buy button yourself. As such, this option is for the self-directed investor.
One-ticket asset allocation ETFs are offered by iShares, Vanguard, BMO, TD, Horizons, and other ETF providers. Check out the MoneySense Best all-in-one ETFs ranking and you’ll see that most of them hold seven or eight individual ETFs from different asset classes.
While the Tangerine and TD e-Series approach will consist of Canadian, U.S. and international stocks combined with Canadian bonds, the one-ticket ETF portfolios offer additional diversification, namely U.S. and international bonds including U.S. treasuries and high yield bonds. This provides some useful additional diversification, in my opinion.
On the stock or equity side, a few one-ticket ETFs get more adventurous, straying from traditional passive-market ETFs. They might shade in a few active ETFs that focus on low-volatility, dividend or technology stocks. There is nothing too extravagant or exotic in that type of mix, but they could lead to some underperformance or outperformance compared to plain vanilla indexing.
For a more traditional portfolio approach, choose Vanguard, BMO and iShares asset allocation ETFs. You’ll see more off-script options from TD and Horizons; the latter even offers a tax-efficient one-ticket solution, which is handy for non-registered (taxable) accounts.
Strongly consider your tolerance for risk (be very honest with yourself!) and your time horizon. Then use the following portfolio risk table to help you select the most appropriate one-ticket ETF.
|Time horizon||1-2 years||3-5 years||5-7 years||7-10 years||10+ years|
|Risk level||No risk||Low||Low-medium||Medium||Medium-high|
|Stock to bond ratio||None||70%-80% bonds,
|Portfolios||Cash and GICs||iShares XINC||iShares XCNS||iShares XGRO||iShares XEQT|
|Vanguard VCIP||iShares XBAL||Vanguard VGRO||Vanguard VEQT|
|TD TOCC||Vanguard VCNS||BMO ZGRO||Horizons HGRO|
|Vanguard VBAL||Horizons HBAL||TD TOCA|
*This table is to be used as a starting point for risk assessment. You might consult an advisor or planner to gain a professional opinion. Risk levels are my own and based on industry averages This table does not constitute investment or financial advice. The portfolio asset allocations presented are not tailored to any particular investor’s circumstances.
Investors might also complete the online portfolio selector at Tangerine and the risk assessment tool at Vanguard. You will receive a suggested stock to bond allocation. You then might match your average suggested risk assessment to your asset allocation selection.
There is no guarantee of returns for any of the given periods. It is possible that stock and bond portfolios can fail for extended periods.
MoneySense or the author are not responsible for any investment decisions or losses based on portfolio selection.
Please ensure that you understand investment risks and know your risk tolerance level.
If you’re comfortable buying, selling and rebalancing funds, you can build your own ETF portfolio. This is the most cost-effective Couch Potato approach, with MERs that are as low as 0.08%, and portfolios in the 0.20% range. As with all the Couch Potato options, at a minimum you’ll want your ETF portfolio to include Canadian, U.S. and global equities, as well as Canadian bonds.
As you’ll see in the sample portfolios below, you can include as little as two, three or four ETFs to keep things simple. The allocation of the ETFs should be based on your risk tolerance and time horizon—for example 20% equities/80% bonds for a conservative portfolio; 60% equities/40% bonds for a balanced portfolio; and 80% equities/20% bonds for a growth portfolio.
(If you’re not sure what your optimal allocation is, try using the Portfolio Risk Table in the “One-Ticket Asset Allocation” section to help match the appropriate ETF Couch Potato portfolio to your goals, time horizon and risk tolerance level.)
iShares Two-ETF Balanced Couch Potato Portfolio
iShares MSCI World Index ETF (XWD): 60%
iShares Core Canadian Universe Bond ETF (XBB): 40%
iShares’ “total market” global equity ETF (ticker XWD) includes equities from the U.S., Canada and developed markets all in one ETF. It is cap weighted, meaning that the most valuable (largest capitalization) stocks have the greatest weighting in their respective country index, and the individual countries’ stock markets with the most value also hold greater weight in the fund. (After an incredible run, it may be no surprise that the U.S. stock markets lead the index weighting at near 67% in 2021.)
Geographic weighing for iShares XWD, as of September 2021:
U.S. Stock Market: 67.5%
Developed International: 29%
Canadian Capped Composite: 3.1%
Numbers are rounded, include a small cash component and may not add up to 100%
Then you only need to add a Canadian bond ETF to complete your diversified Couch Potato portfolio. iShares Core Canadian Universe Bond Index ETF (ticker XBB) matches the FTSE index, which includes government and corporate bonds, with a mix of short-, mid- and longer-term bonds. The idea is to own the “total” investable bond market.
The MER fee is 0.48% for XWD and 0.10% for XBB, so the total MER for this portfolio is approximately 0.23%.
If you choose to not go the global cap weighting option you could choose a global ETF that offers more Canadian and International to the mix. You could look to XEQT from iShares and VEQT from Vanguard to create that 2-ETF Couch Potato Portfolio.
Vanguard FTSE Global All Cap ex Canada Index ETF (VXC): 57.5%
FTSE Canada All Cap Index ETF (VCN): 2.5%
Canadian Aggregate Bond Index ETF (VAB): 40%
Vanguard offers an equities ETF called VXC (All World, except for Canada). That means a Canadian investor could set up a low-cost, globally diversified portfolio of index funds with just three ETFs: VCN for Canadian equities, VXC for U.S./global equities, and VAB for Canadian bonds.
VAB follows the Barclays Global Aggregate Canadian Float Adjusted Bond Index. The idea is quite similar to the FTSE index in that it is an attempt to replicate the total Canadian bond market.
The MER fee is 0.26% for VXC, 0.06% for VCN, and 0.08% for VAB, so the total MER for this portfolio is approximately 0.14%.
BMO S&P 500 Index ETF (ZSP): 40%
BMO S&P/TSX Capped Composite Index ETF (ZCN): 2.5%
BMO MSCI EAFE Index ETF (ZEA): 17.5%
BMO Aggregate Bond Index ETF (ZAG): 40%
With BMO ETFs, you can cover the U.S. equities market with ZSP, which tracks the S&P 500 Index; Canadian equities with ZCN, which tracks the S&P/TSX Capped Composite Index; and international equities with ZEA, which tracks the MSCI EAFE Index. For the Canadian bond component, ZAG tracks the FTSE Canada Universe Bond Index.
The MER fee is 0.09% for ZSP, 0.6% for ZCN, 0.22% for ZEA, and 0.08% for ZAG, so the total MER for this portfolio is approximately 0.11%. You may choose to (more) equal-weight the U.S., Canadian and international equities with the above equity ETFs.
Registered Retirement Savings Plan basics you need ahead of...
Presented by CPP Investments
Find out which robo-advisor is right for you.
You can hold a wide variety of investments inside...
CPP Investments | Investissements RPC
Find the best GIC rates in Canada. Plus, everything...