Fall 2021 Portfolio Deep Dive

Last updated on March 10th, 2023 at 10:52 am

Welcome to my portfolio deep dive for fall 2021! It’s been a long time since I shared the nitty-gritty of the accounts my wife and I own. Let’s do a deep dive and take a look at the shares we hold and how we’ve done in 2021 so far.

Our Investment Strategy

My wife and I both prefer to invest using ETFs. For us, ETF investing provides inexpensive, low-cost diversification and market-average returns. Also, with ETF investing, it’s just so much easier to get invested, manage your accounts, and stay invested.

Why is it easier to stay invested? Well, that’s because ETF investing is boring.

Since we don’t hold individual stocks, we never check the news looking for anything that could impact our investments. We don’t research company fundamentals, and we don’t stress about business models our future outlooks. And except when making a purchase (or writing a blog post), we essentially never check how our holdings are doing.

Instead, we allocate that mental and emotional bandwidth to other areas of our life, which has served us well.


The account I spent the most time on is my TFSA. As you may know, my wife and I’s main investing goal is to max out our TFSAs. As a result, pretty much all of our excess savings have been used to invest in our respective TFSAs.

I received a tax refund in February and used that to invest in my TFSA.

I started the year with about $29,000 in my TFSA. This amount has grown to over $56,000, thanks to consistent contributions and some decent investment gains. In total, I’ve contributed $24,500 to my TFSA in 2021.

I only hold four tickers in my TFSA. These are VCN (228 shares), VIU (590 shares), VEE (334 shares), and VUN (208 shares) — all popular Vanguard ETFs that I’m sure you’re familiar with.

By holding these four funds, I try to keep the combination of my TFSA and RRSP approximately in balance with my allocation goals for our entire portfolio.


Explaining my RRSP requires some background information. A few years ago, I had $25,000 dollars invested in my RRSP, with much of it in cash. I later used that money as part of my downpayment on our home via Canada’s Home Buyers’ Plan.

Later on, I started to add to my RRSP using a bunch of excess USD I had accumulated. Since late 2020, I haven’t considered investing any more of my funds into this account. Before the end of the year, I think I’ll need to make a small contribution of around $2,000 to start repaying my Home Buyers’ Plan.

Now my RRSP mainly holds 68 shares of VTI. I like VTI because it gives me a low-cost way to hold the U.S. total market, all while avoiding the (albeit small) drag of withholding taxes on my investment. The remaining amount is allocated to 8 lonely shares of VCN.

Wife’s TFSA

My wife started 2021 with quite a bit more money in her TFSA thanks to having some leftover cash after buying our house. Since then, she’s contributed religiously, adding over $23,000 in 2021 so far.

Like me, her goal is to max this account as soon as possible. And thanks to some impressive YTD returns (11.6%!), she’s well on her way.

Her investment strategy is more interesting than the plain-jane Vanguard ETF strategy I’m using in my TFSA. For one thing, she likes to invest in two great dividend ETFs I don’t hear talked about too often. These are the iShares Core MSCI Canadian Quality Dividend Index ETF (XDIV) and the iShares Core MSCI Global Quality Dividend Index ETF (XDG).

Although she primarily owns XAW, these two dividend-focused ETFs provide sizable dividends each month. So much so that she’s earned a cool $990 so far in 2021.

Margin Account

This summer, I opened a margin account with Interactive Brokers. My goal with this account has been to buy VEQT using my $25,000 personal line of credit from Tangerine. With every $5,000 deposit, I take out a further $3,500 in margin debt to buy even more shares.

This is made possible thanks to an extremely low LOC rate of just 2.45%. On top of that, Interactive Brokers has an attractive margin rate of less than 2%. Between those sources of funds, I have accumulated over $33,000 worth of VEQT shares thus far.

About a month ago I was actually up $800 in this account. Since the market has declined somewhat, I am now in the negative $251 when accounting for share prices and margin interest.

Total Portfolio

So far, we’ve earned $1,900 in dividends and $11,000 in total investment gains in 2021. As I mentioned in our recent net worth update, we’re on track for $2,400 in dividends by the end of the year.

The total portfolio allocation of our accounts is close to my target of 20% Canadian, 44% U.S.A, 24% international developed, and 12% emerging markets. I prefer to hold less Canadian equities than your standard VEQT — mainly because our economy is so small — which allocates 30% to Canada.

Thanks for Reading!

Thank you for checking out my portfolio deep dive for fall 2021. What do you think about our ETF investing strategy? I recently wrote a few articles that you may be interested in. This includes my guide comparing the TFSA to RRSP and my choice for the best preferred share ETF in Canada. Consider giving those a read if you think they’ll help you on your financial journey!

As always, please consider following me on social media or signing up for my newsletter if you’d like to be notified periodically (less than once per month) with a list of my recent articles.


  1. That’s so interesting that you and your wife a have different investing composition/ strategy in your portfolios- do you each do your own thing or do you invest for her accounts (I guess it depends on who likes doing the investing more?)

    I do my own thing but we also have a joint investment account my husband invests with.

    Love VTI, I’ve been buying it recently outside of my RRSP. I have a post on VTI coming up next week.

    You’re one of the few Canadians who have more invested in ex-Canada than Canada it seems! 🙂 (good for you!!)

    1. Thank you for the questions! My wife contributes to her TFSA and makes purchases all on her own these days. I helped the first couple of times, but now she’s confident doing it herself. She also picked out XDIV and XDG on her own because she likes that they’re low-cost, diversified, and pay sizable monthly dividends.

      I feel like whatever gets you enthusiastic about ETF investing is a good thing. So I encourage her to buy more XDIV and XDG, as long as she keeps her portfolio somewhat in balance with our overall targets.

      Thanks for stopping by GYM! I look forward to your new post on VTI!

  2. Great to see the numbers. However, I am kind of confused on why you are taking a margin on a margin. How are you evaluating the risk?

    Also, do you have emergency fund or all invested?

    I also got the 2.45% from Tangerine which I haven’t invested yet. Planning on keeping $10K cash as emergency and invest $15K in digital assets like TCAD which doesn’t grow in value but earns 12% annual yield. I think it is a safe approach (until it isn’t!)

  3. It’s not quite margin on margin, but yes it’s a lot riskier than purchasing investments with cash you have. The LOC isn’t callable in the same way that a margin loan is – if the market crashes, Tangerine won’t come knocking (ha!). I calculate that a 40% drop in the market would be enough to trigger a margin call. We try to keep less than $20k in cash, with about $10k being a conventional emergency fund and the other $10k being funds that are about to be invested or used to pay our mortgage or etc.

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