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.

If you thing this post has any value, please show your appreciation by clicking the Google Plus (G+) button close to the title of this article. 

Happy investing!

IDERA’s intention for Embarcadero’s development tools

I just received the email below from IDERA\Embarcadero. Overall it means they plan on moving forward with Delphi and the other development tools in their portfolio.

I wanted to share the news in case you haven’t heard.

Customer and Partner Welcome from IDERA

Dear Sir/Madam,

I am Randy Jacops, the CEO of IDERA, Inc. You likely saw the press announcement of IDERA’s recent acquisition of Embarcadero Technologies. Here is a link to the announcement if you have not seen it.

We welcome you to the IDERA family and look forward to continuing Embarcadero’s history of market leading products for data professionals and developers. I’m writing this letter to introduce IDERA and explain why we are excited to own Embarcadero.

IDERA serves over 10,000 customers around the world with performance monitoring solutions for databases, applications and technology infrastructure. We believe database professionals have an outsize impact on overall technology performance and describe our focus as database-centric. Our products enable rapid identification and remediation of performance problems across the technology stack as well as providing unique security and compliance capability.

I became CEO in 2013 and during my tenure have focused the company on long-term customer relationships built on innovation, quality, and ease of use. I strongly believe a successful software company starts with a focus on driving customer success via:

    High quality software – complete testing with significant automated code coverage
    Ease of use – simplified user experience, particularly the install/upgrade process
    Application speed – minimal wait time, robust scalability, and real-time analytics

A software company that delivers these metrics will have generally happy customers. Delivering prioritized innovation and features on a reliable schedule advances the relationship from generally happy to customer success. IDERA prioritizes investment to reflect these goals and we will apply the same philosophy to Embarcadero’s products.

As you know, Embarcadero has two unique product families: 1) heterogeneous database modeling, administration, and performance and 2) application development solutions for multiple platforms. Over the years, Embarcadero also built a roster of over 10,000 customers and millions of users, serving nearly the entire Global 2000. Embarcadero operates globally with offices and partners in nearly every major country.

Embarcadero’s database modeling, administration, and performance tools complement IDERA’s products with minimal overlap in functionality and business purpose. By combining the two businesses, we will offer data professionals a comprehensive solution to manage, deploy, and protect data across the company. We will seek customer feedback on integration between the solutions to ensure we adhere to our core product values of simplicity of use, quality, and scalability.

For Embarcadero’s development tools, we acknowledge this is a new opportunity for IDERA. I have seen some chatter on our community forums and received direct questions from customers on IDERA’s intentions for the product line. I wish to emphasize the tremendous value we perceive in development tools. As applications proliferate across multiple channels and platforms, the need for tools to build the next generation of applications will soar. Concepts such as the Internet of Things or proximity awareness in applications did not exist several years ago. Today, everybody recognizes the opportunity in building applications for equipment that simplifies and advances society. We believe the winners in the application development market will focus on the developer and differentiate with speed to market, ease of use, and pace of change. All of these things perfectly align with IDERA’s view of product and customer success.

To that end, we formed a new leadership team that will focus exclusively on Embarcadero’s development tools and growing the business via innovations and opportunistic M&A. Atanas Popov, a longtime colleague of mine, has joined Embarcadero to lead the team. Atanas will focus his attention on growing the business and investing to attract more customers to our solutions. We believe there is significant opportunity in Embarcadero’s development tools and we look forward to working with you to prioritize our investments.

Finally, Embarcadero invested for years to build a robust and reliable reseller/partner network. Many companies aspire to building such a network but the time and effort required eventually discourages most. However, if a company perseveres and delivers a healthy reseller and partner business, the impact and potential is significant. Embarcadero has dozens of active and significant global partners. Maintaining a healthy reseller/partner network requires more and better product and a steady stream of potential customers interested in buying. We expect to introduce IDERA’s broader product family to Embarcadero’s partners and also plan to leverage IDERA’s talented marketing team to refine messaging and advance dialogue with prospects. We believe some modest changes and investment will expand the universe of opportunities for our partners who serve a global customer base.

From an ongoing communication standpoint, we believe in publishing our product roadmaps to active customers and maintaining dialogue with customers interested in contributing. We believe user communities deliver significant customer value and will continue investing appropriately. We also believe that change facilitates innovation and increases value for our customers. We will remain committed to these principles and look forward to working with you to improve every day and help you capture expected value.

If you have questions, please feel free to contact me directly ( With over 20,000 customers, it’s not practical to maintain a direct dialogue with every customer, but we will respond to questions. Most importantly, we will communicate future product roadmap reviews, webinars, and related content you will find interesting. I encourage you to participate in all these sessions to ensure a mutually valuable relationship.

Thank you for your business and I look forward to the future.


Randy Jacops

How to recharge (top up) the Nauta Internet in Cuba?

Cubans can now access email directly from their cell phones and connect to public WIFI points within the island to browse the Internet. This service is called Nauta or Nauta Internet.

The Nauta service can be requested in one the ETECSA’s commercial offices in Cuba. Nauta is a pay as you go service, which means you require a Nauta balance linked to your cellphone before you can send/receive emails and connect to the public WIFI access points.

Note that cell phone balance and Nauta balance are not the same. Basically, cell phone balance is the credit that you can use to make calls, send SMS/MMS and check the email in a cell. The Nauta balance is strictly used for Internet navigation in the public WIFI access points, using the browser of your phone or any app that connects to the Internet.

The problem with WIFI navigation in Cuba is that you have to physically go to a public WIFI point. Usually these places are located in public parks. Cubans don't have WIFI at home.

It is quite interesting to see lots of Cuban people gathering in these WIFI points to talk to their families and friends abroad using an app like IMO that allows them to make video calls and chat over the Internet.

This alternative of using the WIFI to call family and friends abroad has very little privacy, because you are in a public place where anyone passing by can hear what you are saying. Still, it is way cheaper than the regular telephone calls.

A Nauta Internet account can be refilled online using a credit card or Paypal. I live in Toronto, Canada and my mom lives in Cuba.  I recharge her Nauta account through Ding; so that she does not have to spend her money.

I have used Ding (previously called Ezetop) for a long time (over 6 years) to top-up the cell phone balance of my mom in Cuba. I know the service is excellent and with the lowest prices out there.

I want to emphasize again that cell phone balance and Nauta balance are not the same. Both balances can be topped-up (recharged) using Ding. 

If you want to know how to recharge the cellphone balance then click here. Otherwise, if you are interested in recharging the Nauta Internet balance, just keep reading this post.

To recharge the Nauta balance of a person in Cuba you will need the Nauta email of the person in question; which looks like this: With that email at hand, just click here  and go to Ding. From there just follow the steps and recharge the Nauta balance. It is pretty easy.

If you think this article might be useful to others, please, share it by clicking the Google Plus (G+) button at the beginning of this post.

If you want to read this article in Spanish follow this link: ¿Cómo recargar la cuenta de Nauta por Internet?

Additionally, since we are talking about cells and phones in Cuba, you might be interested in checking out the articles below: