Your Complete Guide to Index Investing with Dan Bortolotti

Your Guide to the (Even More) Perfect Portfolio

2017-12-02T21:11:01+00:00 September 30th, 2013|Categories: Book reviews|Tags: |40 Comments

Perfect Portfolio 2013I’m pleased to announce that the 2013 edition of The MoneySense Guide to the Perfect Portfolio is now on sale. The book is available wherever you would buy MoneySense magazine, including newsstands at Chapters, Shoppers Drug Mart, Walmart and Loblaws. You can also order it online at the Rogers Publishing e-Store. The book retails for just $9.95, or about the cost of a single ETF trade at your discount brokerage. We’re hard at work on e-book versions for Kindle, Kobo and Apple devices and I’ll let readers know as soon as these are available.

This is the third edition of my guide for do-it-yourself index investors, which was first published in 2011. Most of the content is the same—the fundamentals of smart investing don’t change—but this edition has been thoroughly updated. The most significant change is the final chapter, which now includes a version of the ETF All-Stars article I wrote for the February/March issue of MoneySense. (The full article is available in PDF format from the Rogers Publishing e-Store for $2.99.) This includes a list of 21 ETFs that can form the building blocks of virtually any Couch Potato portfolio.

Because some excellent new ETFs were launched in 2013, I made a change to the Global Couch Potato model portfolio. Rather than using the iShares MSCI World (XWD) for both US and international equities, the book now recommends the iShares S&P 500 (XUS) and the iShares MSCI EAFE IMI (XEF), both of which were launched in April.

According to Murphy’s Law, Vanguard went on to launch several other new funds in August, just days after the book went to press. When I make the next update to my model portfolios (likely in the new year) I will probably include a couple of these ETFs: the Vanguard U.S. Total Market (VUN) will surely replace the S&P 500 for US equities.

This gives me another excuse to remind readers why it’s important not to dwell on product choices when putting together an investment plan. I’ve already heard from someone who bought the book and had a litany of questions about the ETFs in the model portfolios. After we exchanged a couple of e-mails he admitted he hadn’t actually read the book: he’d just flipped to the end to learn which funds to use. Bad idea: putting products before process is a guaranteed recipe for failure as an investor. Besides, buying the book and not reading it hurts my feelings.

To celebrate the launch of the new edition, I’ll send a free copy to five readers who enter the random draw below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. John Smith September 30, 2013 at 8:20 am

    Only twitter users are eligible for the contest ?

  2. Canadian Couch Potato September 30, 2013 at 8:39 am

    @John: No, you can enter by logging in and then clicking “Enter Your E-mail.” Tweeting gains you an additional entry.

  3. Edwin September 30, 2013 at 10:06 am

    Congrats on the new edition Dan! I bought last years edition and loved it. Will definitely recommend this to all my friends.

  4. Richard September 30, 2013 at 11:50 am

    Interesting note on the pricing… I wonder if you can arrange deals with the cheaper brokerages so their customers can get it for the price of a trade there. Questrade would have to be free + ECN fees. Might be a fun way to get some more attention :)

  5. Kenny September 30, 2013 at 1:46 pm

    I look forward to being able to purchase the ebook. I’d like to ask that you please consider releasing it DRM free. DRM only hurts paying customers, while doing nothing to prevent versions from appearing online. For the ebook to be readable the ‘DRM version’ has to contain both the encrypted content and the decryption key. Logically it makes no sense.

    Personally I’d like to read it on my HP Touchpad running WebOS, but if it contains DRM then I have to go out of my way to strip the DRM off the book first.

  6. WS September 30, 2013 at 6:49 pm

    Can I get this book from public library? Thanks!

  7. Chris September 30, 2013 at 7:04 pm

    Hi Dan,

    I look forward to picking up this updated version of your book! I have the hard copy from last year, and bought 2 additional copies for close friends/relatives, but I have been wanting to get it for my Kindle too. I now have a reason.

    I do have a somewhat newbie question that you did touch on a little here. I am hoping you could shed some light onto. For someone who is already invested in index ETF’s in a couch potato portfolio; if a newer, and ostensibly better product comes along, what is the best way to get into it?

    To use the example in your article, if I am in XWD, but would like to diversify my portfolio down the road to separate US and Int indexes (VUN and XEF). When it comes time to rebalance, should I sell my entire holdings in XWD, and plop all that money into the new indexes on the same days trading, or do I just stop buying XWD and start buying respective amounts of VUN and XEF from now on?

    Would appreciate your opinion on the matter. :)

  8. Canadian Couch Potato September 30, 2013 at 7:43 pm

    @Chris: Thanks for the note, and for the feedback on the book. My suggestion would be to wait until the next time you were planning to add new money to the account, or your next rebalancing date. Then I would just sell the old ETF and buy the two new ones immediately. No point in cluttering up the portfolio to save a single trading commission.

  9. Que October 1, 2013 at 12:13 am

    Great work Dan! I already have a couple people in mind that would appreciate the book.
    When are you going to change the portfolios on this website? Re: XWD
    Thanks, Que

  10. TJ investor October 1, 2013 at 12:18 am

    To all of those who are concerned about spending $10 on this book, I bought the first edition on a whim, and it was worth every penny and more. In hind sight, after reading it, I would have paid much more. I didn’t feel right about the performance I was getting with my financial advisor for over 10 years, but I never could figure out an alternative that I was comfortable with (I wasn’t interested in making investing my second job). I’ve read several financial/investing books over the years and this was the first one that actually gave me an action plan to follow and a way out. I’ve been recommending it ever since I’ve read it.

    Dan, I really like the recommended ETF and Mutual fund lists. I’d like to screen out funds myself to compare against what you have picked, just to feel more comfortable with the choices. Can you recommend a short list of the best screening tools that you use? Some of the ones I’ve used seem too limited.

  11. Be'en October 1, 2013 at 3:03 am

    I read the first publication that came out in 2011 and loved it!

  12. Canadian Couch Potato October 1, 2013 at 9:45 am

    @TJ: Thanks for the support. I don’t use any screeners when selecting my recommended funds. I examine them individually and make my choices based on strategy, cost and tracking error.

  13. Canadian Couch Potato October 1, 2013 at 10:01 am

    @Que: I’ll update the portfolios at the beginning of 2014.

  14. TJ Investor October 1, 2013 at 12:17 pm

    If there are over 1,500 Canadian and US ETFs available, how do you narrow the choices down. I can’t see you examining them ALL individually?

  15. Canadian Couch Potato October 1, 2013 at 12:41 pm

    @TJ: I’m interested only in broad-based, mostly plain vanilla funds. That eliminates about 95% of what’s out there. I’ve been doing this long enough that I can weed out a lot pretty quickly.

  16. Jason October 2, 2013 at 11:09 am

    Dan, I converted to a couch potato one year ago and have no intention of changing this strategy. I have a rebalance date saved in my Outlook calender, I only invest 5% in stocks with value, save regularly, don’t care to keep up with the Jones’s and I follow your website weekly. Based on this, what new information is in your book that isn’t already discussed on this website? (I’m guessing I’m not your target market but wanted to see if I’m missing something)

  17. Canadian Couch Potato October 2, 2013 at 6:47 pm

    @Jason: If you’ve already implemented a strategy successfully I don’t imagine you will learn too much from the book. It’s more suited to people who are just getting started, or those who jumped in too quickly and now have a lot of questions about how to manage their portfolios going forward.

  18. JohnZW October 2, 2013 at 6:49 pm

    I own a iBook previous version already. But I like the printed book, so just picked up one from the super store near my home.

    Good guideline book, compact and easy to refer to.

    I also recommend “A Random Walk Down Wall Street” and “The Four Pillars of Investing”

  19. Profiteer October 2, 2013 at 10:02 pm

    After reading last year’s edition, I had enough knowledge and confidence to pass on what my advisor had to offer. Ultimately, my actions led to saving a bundle in fees. The Guide to the Perfect Portfolio is a must-have!

  20. claire October 3, 2013 at 1:23 am

    I just bought your book too at Indigo. It took 2 clerks to find it because it wasn’t in the financial self help section. Strangely enough, they had them in with the magazines since it is sorted as an addendum to the Money Sense magazine.
    Question, Dan. What are your thoughts on preferreds. I have ZPR – 1-5 year laddered.

    Thanks for all your coaching on ETFs

  21. Canadian Couch Potato October 3, 2013 at 7:28 am

    @claire: Thnaks for buying the book, and sorry for the confusion. It has always been sold like a magazine model rather than a book, which is why we can afford to charge just $9.95. (I did indicate that in the post: “The book is available wherever you would buy MoneySense magazine, including newsstands at Chapters, Shoppers Drug Mart, Walmart and Loblaws.”)

    I’m agnostic about preferreds. They are discussed on page 62 of the book. I think they can play a role in non-registered accounts as more tax-efficient substitute for corporate bonds. They are much harder to justify in registered accounts.

  22. Brian October 4, 2013 at 11:54 am

    Purchased the book through Rogers e-Store! Thanks Dan.

  23. SJB October 5, 2013 at 2:16 am

    I’m currently living overseas but there’s no shipping option outside of Canada. Is there a way I can get this book without a Kindle, Kobo, or Apple product while living outside of Canada? (like a simple pdf download or international shipping option?)

  24. Canadian Couch Potato October 5, 2013 at 3:01 pm

    @SJB: I’m sorry but Rogers hasn’t made any provisions for overseas orders. As you can imagine, these would apply to only a very small number of people.

  25. Ross October 8, 2013 at 11:35 pm

    Hi CCP,

    Is this book/magazine available in hard copy? Your sixth comment above (Chris)
    refers to him having purchased it in this form last year.



  26. Canadian Couch Potato October 9, 2013 at 12:37 am

    @Ross: The book is only available in hard copy.

  27. Jas October 11, 2013 at 2:31 pm

    With all these new Canadian-listed ETFs with low MER that are now available, do you think it is still worth it to use US-listed ETFs outside of RRSPs (where it is advantageous because of the absence of witholding taxes)?

  28. Canadian Couch Potato October 11, 2013 at 5:45 pm

    @Jas: You can definitely make that argument. If you are comfortable doing Norbert’s gambit and your holdings are large, the US-listed ETFs are still worth it: in an RRSP for sure, but probably also a non-registered account. But most people probably don;t want to do that, and if you’re not able to reduce the currency conversion costs the Canadian-listed ETFs are much more attractive now than they were before the launch of VUN, XEF and XEC.

  29. Mike PQ October 11, 2013 at 8:04 pm


    I’m following this site for a few months now and I’m ready to jump in.
    I have around 120K in RRSP in 3 different accounts that I’m considering consolidating using the The Complete Couch Potato portfolio(CCPP) and 26K in TFSA that I’m moving to TD’s e-Series.

    I bought the previous version of the book in the kindle format. Good informative book.

    I have a few questions:

    Is it better to stick with the original CCPP and then update once the new one is release next year, or to wait a few months and start fresh?
    Based on some of your comments I was thinking replacing VTI with VUN and BMO Low Volatility Canadian Equity ETF (ZLB-T) for the Canadian equity portion.
    What do you think?


  30. Canadian Couch Potato October 12, 2013 at 12:02 pm

    @Mike: I definitely wouldn’t wait for my recommendations to change, and even when they do, I would not rush to change your portfolio. Any changes would be extremely minor. I can guarantee you I won’t be recommending low-volatility ETFs or anything that specialized. If I swap out ZCN it will be for VCN, but as I say, the two are virtually interchangeable.

    As for VTI vs. VUN, that’s really a matter of personal choice, too. In an RRSP VTI is more tax-efficient and of course it has a lower MER, but you’ll need to determine whether you’re able to convert your Canadian dollars to USD at a reasonable rate. If not, VUN is preferable.

  31. Adam January 3, 2014 at 8:46 pm

    I look forward to purchasing your book. Do you have plans for a 2014 version any time soon?

  32. Canadian Couch Potato January 3, 2014 at 9:07 pm

    @Adam: Thanks, I hope you enjoy it. No plans for a new version yet. The updates have been very minor in any case. The advice is pretty evergreen.

  33. mj January 20, 2014 at 3:40 pm

    Hi CCP
    Thanks for gr8 resources for newbies like me!
    Can you plz suggest 2-3 books for beginners with Canadian content. I get little confused when i see gr8 books from south but dont know how useful it can be for me who is most likely will go to TDe route. Thank you.

  34. Canadian Couch Potato January 20, 2014 at 7:32 pm

    @mj: My Perfect Portfolio book was specifically written to address your concern about reading US-oriented books on index investing. Andrew Hallam’s Millionaire Teacher is also a great choice:

  35. mj January 23, 2014 at 3:22 pm

    Went to shops to find perfect portfolio but its gone from stands. online order+shipping is only option i guess. But i did found latest stocks 2014 issue.Thanks.

  36. Tusky May 1, 2014 at 10:12 am

    I was in SuperStore the other day and happened to stop in the book/magazine section. I found all the other Money Sense investment books except yours. I have your 2012 book but I thought I would get a few copies for my cousins. It could be that they just can’t keep your books in stock.

  37. Canadian Couch Potato May 1, 2014 at 10:29 am

    @Tusky: Sorry you couldn’t find the book. They usually rotate the titles, so I am a bit surprised you found all the others at the same time. If you are interested in the book it is still available my mail or in e-book form:

  38. Ron B August 12, 2014 at 1:20 am

    Bought your book and now must reread it until I understand what to do. Time to dip into the waters of index funds and ETFs.

    I’m currently with Scotiabank so think I will give iTrade a look.

    Dan, thanks for the blog and book.

  39. AB May 3, 2015 at 9:46 pm

    Hi Dan,
    Just wondering if you may have any copies of this around. I had purchased a few and spread them around. I have a relative who had borrowed one of my copies and would like to have it again. I lost track to who I gave my copies. I wouldn’t mind getting 4 copies if possible.
    Thank you Dan

  40. Canadian Couch Potato May 3, 2015 at 9:52 pm

    @AB: Thanks for your interest in the book. Unfortunately it is now out of print and only available as an e-book.

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