An ETF based Balanced Portfolio for Canadians

I decided to build my own balanced portfolio to grow my hard earned money. No more mutual funds with expensive MERs neither miserable GICs nor saving deposits. For my portfolio I will be using ETFs, which have very low MERs and offer a degree of diversification.

I based my portfolio on the Millennial Portfolio presented by Garth Turner. Below I am listing the different weights per asset classes of the portfolio (taken as a quote from Garth’s blog post).

Canadian bond index ETF
Preferred share index ETF
Canadian equity index (large cap) ETF
US equity index (large cap) ETF
International equity index (large cap) ETF
REIT index (Canadian) ETF
So, what now? The next step is finding the corresponding ETFs for the different classes of assets. I researched a little bit about what ETFs to use and I selected the following ones:

Fixed income portion of the portfolio (40% in total):
  • Government and Corporate bonds: VSB – 16.5%
  • High Yield Bonds: CHB – 3.5%
  • Preferreds: XPF – 20%

Growth portion of the portfolio (60% in total):
  • Canadian Equity: XIC – 15%
  • American Equity: VSP – 20 %
  • International Equity (developed nations): XEF – 15%
  • Emerging Markets: XEC – 5%
  • Canadian REITs: VRE – 5%

I decided to use only large cap equity ETFs at the moment. I am building this initial portfolio with about $25k CAD, which is not too much. As the portfolio grows, I will consider more diversification by adding also medium and small caps into the mix.

I also decided not to add real return bonds to my portfolio at this moment (I will probably do so in the future). The reason for not adding real return bonds is that the FED is very likely to start rising the interest rate this month. If that happens, the long term bonds will be nailed. As it so happens, the real return bonds ETFs that I have found so far have very long terms. 

OK, now what? The broker of course. I decided to use Questrade

Questrade does not charge you when buying ETFs (well, ECN fees might still apply but that is not in their hands). It will charge you though when you sell ETFs (min. $4.95 / max. $9.95). You most likely will have to sell some ETF shares when rebalancing your portfolio, but that should not happen very often: maybe once or twice a year. 

As far as I can tell Questrade has the lowest commissions in Canada when trading ETFs. If you know of a better broker, please let me know with a comment below.

Questrade has some promotions for new users. With the Refer a friend promotion you can unlock cash bonuses upon opening an account online and making your first deposit.

  • $1,000.00 deposit unlocks a $25 cash bonus for you.
  • $10,000.00 deposit unlocks a $50 cash bonus for you.
  • $25,000.00 deposit unlocks a $75 cash bonus for you.
  • $50,000.00 deposit unlocks a $100 cash bonus for you.
  • $100,000.00 deposit unlocks a $250 cash bonus for you.

To use this promotion you need an active Questrade user to refer you. I would be very glad to refer you. Why? Well, because I get some cash bonuses as well by referring you :-) If you want me to refer you click this link. Great, now both of us are in the money! Thanks.

Disclosure: For a complete list of promotions click here.

The same goes for the selection of ETFs I made. If you think my selection sucks and have in mind some better alternatives, please, let me know as well. Your comments are very welcome.

Remember, I am an amateur investor and these are my first trades. So, everything that you read here, is to be used at your own risk.  I am neither a financial advisor nor an expert on this subject. I am a merely a rookie investor and I want to share my investing experiences on this blog.

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Happy investing!