Your Complete Guide to Index Investing with Dan Bortolotti

iShares Launches All-in-One ETF Portfolios

2018-12-24T08:14:14+00:00December 24th, 2018|Categories: ETFs and Funds|Tags: |46 Comments

Back in February, writing about the newly launched Vanguard’s asset allocation ETFs, I asked why it had taken so long for someone to create an ETF version of the traditional balanced index mutual fund. Now, just 10 months later, Canadian investors who want to build an ETF portfolio with a single trade can choose between two excellent options.

This month, BlackRock Canada launched two one-fund solutions of their own: the iShares Core Balanced ETF Portfolio (XBAL) and the iShares Core Growth ETF Portfolio (XGRO). Like the Vanguard products, these new funds hold several underlying stock and bond ETFs to create a fully diversified portfolio.

Unlike their Vanguard counterparts, however, the new iShares funds are not brand new products. Rather, they’re a reboot of two older funds: the iShares Balanced Income CorePortfolio Index ETF (CBD) and iShares Balanced Growth CorePortfolio Index ETF (CBN). These ETFs had been around since 2007, but they never gained meaningful assets, probably due to their relatively high fees (about 0.75%) and confused strategy (non-traditional indexes, sector funds).

The revamped versions are far more appropriate for Couch Potato investors, as they include only cap-weighted index funds covering the major asset classes. XBAL has a long-term target of 40% bonds and 60% stocks, while XGRO is more aggressive with 20% bonds and 80% stocks. The overall asset mix is broken down as follows:

Asset classXBALXGRO
100%100%
Canadian bonds32%16%
US bonds8%4%
Canadian stocks15%20%
US stocks27%36%
International stocks (developed)15%20%
Emerging markets stocks3%4%
Source: BlackRock Canada

According to the funds’ literature, “it is not expected that frequent changes would be made to [the ETFs’] long-term strategic asset allocation and/or asset class target weights,” which suggests there will be no tactical shifts based on market conditions. That’s good news, since these shifts usually add no value.

Popping the hood

Let’s take a look at how these two ETFs are built, including their individual components and the strategy used to combine them into a diversified portfolio.

The underlying ETFs used to get this exposure includes a combination of Canadian and US-listed funds:

Canadian bondsiShares Core Canadian Universe Bond Index ETF (XBB)
iShares Cdn Short-Term Corporate + Maple Bond Index ETF (XSH)
US bondsiShares U.S. Treasury Bond ETF (GOVT) *
iShares Broad USD Investment Grade Corporate Bond ETF (USIG) *
Canadian stocksiShares S&P/TSX Capped Composite (XIC)
US stocksiShares Core S&P Total U.S. Stock Market ETF (ITOT) *
International stocks (developed)iShares MSCI EAFE IMI Index ETF (XEF)
Emerging markets stocksiShares Core MSCI Emerging Markets Index ETF (IEMG) *
* = US-listed ETF

None of the foreign currency exposure is hedged on the equity side, so any appreciation in the Canadian dollar will negatively affect the ETFs’ returns, while a falling loonie will give them a boost. This is a good long-term strategy: the research is clear that in Canada equity portfolios with exposure to foreign currencies actually have lower volatility than those that try to hedge this risk.

On the bond side, however, all of the US-dollar exposure is hedged. This, too, is the right strategy to use with fixed income. (For more on why it’s important to hedge currency exposure in fixed income, listen to my recent podcast interview with Todd Schlanger, one of the architects behind Vanguard’s asset allocation ETFs.)

As for rebalancing, this will likely be done regularly using new cash flows, which are likely to be significant as the revamped ETFs attract new investors. If that’s not enough, BlackRock says the ETFs “would not be expected to deviate from the asset class target weights by more than one-tenth of the target weight for a given asset class.” In other words, if the target for Canadian bonds is 32%, the fund would be rebalanced if that asset class was over- or underweight by 3.2 percentage points.

iShares vs. Vanguard: How do they differ?

If you’re already familiar with Vanguard’s asset allocation ETFs, you’ve noticed that these new iShares offerings are quite similar to the Vanguard Balanced ETF Portfolio (VBAL) and the Vanguard Growth ETF Portfolio (VGRO), right down to the names and ticker symbols. But the iShares ETFs have a few differences in strategy:

No international bonds. The fixed income allocation of the iShares ETFs is made up of 80% Canadian and 20% US bonds, with no allocation to international bonds. The Vanguard asset allocation ETFs, by contrast, includes a blend of Canadian, US and global fixed income.

More corporate bonds. The Vanguard ETFs use only broad-market bond funds, which include mostly government bonds and a smaller amount of corporates. The new iShares funds tilt more toward corporate bonds by adding XSH as about 20% of the Canadian fixed income allocation, and by splitting the US component equally between Treasury bonds and corporates. This makes the iShares funds slightly more risky than their Vanguard counterparts, though all of the bonds are investment grade (no high-yield bonds).

A different mix of Canadian, US, and international equities. XBAL and XGRO allocate a greater share to US stocks (45% of the overall equity allocation) compared with their Vanguard counterparts (40%). The share allotted to Canadian stocks is correspondingly lower at 25% of the overall equity target, compared with 30% in the Vanguard funds.

In both the iShares and Vanguard products, overseas stocks make up about 30% of the equity allocation, but emerging markets make up a smaller proportion in XBAL and XGRO compared with VBAL and VGRO.

Here is the approximate breakdown in each fund:

Equity asset class  XBALVBALXGROVGRO
Canada15%18%20%24%
US 27%24%36%32%
International (developed)15%14%20%19%
Emerging markets3%4%4%5%

Lower fee. iShares has always been very competitive on fees, and with these new ETFs they have undercut Vanguard by four basis points: the new funds both have a management fee of 0.18%, compared with 0.22% for VBAL and VGRO. (This includes the fees on the underlying ETFs: there is never any double-dipping on fees in “funds of funds.”) Once taxes are added to that management fee, expect the MER of the iShares funds to be about 0.20% or 0.21%.

Before you buy

I’ve done my best to help investors compare the strategies of the iShares and Vanguard all-in-one ETFs, which leads to the obvious question: which one is a better choice?

Based on what we know about their strategies and costs, I have no strong preference for one over the other. They are all excellent products, and they’re likely to perform very similarly over time, with any variance being the result of randomness and not any structural feature.

If you’re doing more comparison shopping, here’s an important thing to be aware of: because XBAL and XGRO are new mandates for ETFs with a relatively long history (their predecessors were launched 11 years ago), their past performance history is entirely meaningless. As of November 30, 2018, for example, XBAL’s webpage reports an annualized return of 7.41% over the last 10 years. But this performance was what the old CBD racked up with a completely different strategy, so it has zero relevance going forward.

If you’re interested in seeing how the XBAL and XGRO strategies would have performed in the past (using index data minus the ETFs’ current fee), my colleague Justin Bender has backtested both the iShares and Vanguard asset allocation ETFs and published the results on his Model ETF Portfolios page.

Justin’s backtest suggests you can spare yourself any hand-wringing over the iShares vs. Vanguard decision. Over the 20-year period ending November 30, the performance of the comparable ETFs was within a couple of basis points in both returns and volatility.

Avoid a New Year’s surprise

Just one more caveat: if you’re attracted to XGRO and you’re planning to invest in a taxable account, do not buy this ETF until January 2019. That’s because the new mandate of the fund resulted in significant capital gains being realized as the old holdings were sold and replaced. When ETFs and mutual funds realize gains, they pass these along to unitholders at the end of the year. That means if you buy these ETFs in late December, you’ll pay taxes on the capital gains realized before you owned the units—it’s like being handed the bill for dinner at a restaurant even though you showed up after dessert.

iShares has estimated that the capital gains distribution for XGRO will be a whopping 6.84% of its net asset value. If that number is accurate, a $10,000 purchase (about 500 shares) could result in a capital gain distribution of $684, half of which would be taxable at your marginal rate. You can avoid this tax trap by waiting until the new year to purchase the ETF. (iShares does not expect there to be a similar capital gain distribution for XBAL.)

46 Comments

  1. Peter Forint December 24, 2018 at 9:44 am

    Thanks for sharing (yet again) your analysis and news of another new offering. All the best in 2019!

  2. Canadian Couch Potato December 24, 2018 at 10:40 am

    @Peter: Many thanks, and all the best to you as well!

  3. Daniel December 24, 2018 at 12:06 pm

    Thank you for the article! What if we’re already heavily invested into existing ETFs, and we want to switch over? Wouldn’t that trigger capital gains outside of a taxable account? I can see this working inside a registered account, though, where we can switch over with only a few transaction fees.

  4. Kyle December 24, 2018 at 12:31 pm

    Would the iShares version be better in an RRSP from a foreign withholding tax perspective as they are holding the US based ETF’s?

  5. David December 24, 2018 at 1:34 pm

    What Are the advantages of using your 3 fund model portfolio versus using one of these options?

  6. elisa December 24, 2018 at 5:53 pm

    Where can one purchase these etfs.

  7. melwin December 24, 2018 at 7:13 pm

    Thanks for sharing the news! Would XGRO and VGRO be considered identical properties from taxation standpoint? If one were to book losses in one and invest into the other on same day, will it raise a concern at CRA?

  8. Canadian Couch Potato December 24, 2018 at 8:00 pm

    @Daniel: Yes, switching your ETFs in a taxable account would potentially trigger capital gains.

    @Kyle: US-listed ETFs are only exempt from foreign withholding taxes in RRSPs if they are held directly. The “wrap” structure of the Vanguard and iShares products means you would pay the withholding tax if you hold these ETFs in an RRSP or a TFSA. (In a non-registered account they would be recoverable.)

    @David: Using individual ETFs would allow more customization (different mix of stocks and bonds, the option to use Canadian bonds only), asset location strategies (choosing to hold all equities in the TFSA and bonds in the RRSP, for example) and would be a bit cheaper.

    @melwin: VGRO/XGRO are definitely not identical properties for tax purposes: they have completely different holdings.

  9. Scott December 25, 2018 at 10:19 am

    Thanks for this early Christmas present. Lookingn at the fund sheets for both new iShares ETFs it appears that the lower MER has yet to hit those sheets. Still north of 70 basis points. Both ETFs are eligible for dividend reinvestment (DRIP) and pre-authorized cash contributions (PACC) — minimum of $50/month — two nice features. I am going to check with my brokerage firm to see if I can set up a PACC and what the cost would be. The iShares literature seems to suggest that I can avoid incurring “additional brokerage commissions and service fees” using their DRIP and PACC features. I have been building a couch potato portfolio with TD e-series mutual funds and am now transitioning to the 3rd couch potato portfolio using ZAG, VCN and XAW. I guess my question is why would I not simply use the iShares options of either XBAL or XGRO? One ETF, no need for rebalancing, the DRIP feature and a PACC feature for systematic contributions. More time to be on the couch. That said, perhaps XBAL and XGRO are a good fit for registered accounts but not as good for non-registered?

  10. Sd December 25, 2018 at 9:33 pm

    @Scott As Dan said in the above comment, using separate ETF’s allow for more flexibility and customization than a one-fund ETF. I have heard that one-fund ETF’s are better in registered accounts due to their tax ineffiency. Between using a one-fund ETF vs. VCN, XAW and ZDB in taxable accounts, I hope the latter is more tax efficient because that’s what I’m doing now.

  11. Investor Noob December 26, 2018 at 10:41 pm

    Apparently we are heading towards a bear market, which is good for young investors like me. My TFSA has TD e-series mutual funds and I plan to switch them to ETF’s in a few months, when the portfolio gets large enough. When I sell the e-series funds, I could be selling them at a loss, but that probably means that the ETF’s I intend to buy will also be low (VCN, XAW and ZAG), so technically I haven’t really “lost”… I think. In this scenario, could I use the capital loss for tax loss harvesting?

  12. Vizzy23 December 26, 2018 at 10:43 pm

    With the XGRO and their pre-authorized purchase plan, would we even need robo advisors?

    I am considering switching from a roboadvisor to Questrade and just buying XGRO or VGRO. I have made consistent contributions for the last two years, have a 30+ year investment horizon and the recent market drops have not scared me away.

    However, if I do switch from a roboadvisor to Questrade, wouldn’t I be “selling low” on the investments in the roboadvisor? Would it be better to put new contributions to Questrade, leave the funds currently in the roboadvisor and only transfer funds when they are back in the gain column?

    Thx!

  13. Canadian Couch Potato December 27, 2018 at 9:19 am

    @Scott: MER is a backward-looking number: it reports the fund’s management expense ratio over the previous 12 months. So the full MER of these new funds still reflects the old fee. This will be updated to reflect the lower costs in future financial statements.

    @Investor Noob: If you are transitioning from an expensive portfolio to a cheaper one with a similar asset allocation, then the timing of your decision is irrelevant. As you’ve noted, you may be selling low, but you are also buying low (or buying and selling high in a bull market). As for tax-loss harvesting, this is only relevant in a taxable account, not in a TFSA.

    @Vizzy23: I think you’re right that the these one-ETF portfolios are an appealing alternative to robo-avisors. One thing I would verify, however, is how well the iShares PACC program works. Not every brokerage supports this, so check it our before you commit. With Questrade and its commission-free structure it’s less useful anyway. As for the timing of this decision, see my comment to Investor Noob above: it is irrelevant.

  14. Brad B December 27, 2018 at 6:32 pm

    Hey Dan

    stellar article!

    why such the big difference in gain today for XGRO over VGRO (dec27)

    XGRO 18.21 CAD +1.36 (8.05%)
    VGRO 23.11 CAD +0.63 (2.80%)

    the holdings are pretty similar, weightings are slightly different, but 5.25% better for XGRO today?
    has it fully converted from CBN to XGRO yet?

    cheers!

  15. Angie December 27, 2018 at 11:25 pm

    Hi Dan,

    Can you please advise if VGRO, VBAL, VRE are good for taxable accounts? they are all wrapped structure funds, tax inefficient as one of the reader post above. Is it true?

  16. Canadian Couch Potato December 28, 2018 at 7:50 am

    @Brad B: Whenever you see something like this you can be almost certain it’s an error. As you note, VGRO and XGRO are similar enough that they will not deviate by huge amounts on a single day. The figure for XGRO is clearly wrong: the ETF did not gain over 8% in one day. The actual figure was much closer to VGRO’s gain.

    @Angie: VGRO and VBAL are generally fine in a taxable account, if not ideal. You can make an argument for holding the different asset classes in different accounts for better tax-efficiency, but one-fund solutions are not designed for optimizers. For the record, the wrap structure of these ETFs has no effect on their tax-efficiency in non-registered accounts (only in RRSPs).

  17. Greg December 28, 2018 at 1:08 pm

    Dan I thank you for your keeping up your good work keeping so many of us informed with your website and podcasts, Your tip on not purchasing XGRO until 2019 is much appreciated. The very best of the season and Happy New Year to you, your family, friends, and colleagues.

  18. Canadian Couch Potato December 28, 2018 at 2:46 pm

    @Greg: Many thanks for the kind words, and all the best to you and yours as well!

  19. Paul G December 28, 2018 at 5:54 pm

    I second Greg on thanking you for your good work and keeping us apprised of happenings in the etf space.

  20. Angie December 28, 2018 at 9:25 pm

    Hi Dan,

    Thanks for the information you provided. Another question, I bought VRE in the past but have been wondering if I should switch to XRE or ZRE. As both of them have higher yield/dividend than VRE. However both of them also have higher MER and turnover ratio than VRE. What is your suggestion?

  21. Raphael December 29, 2018 at 12:03 am

    Maybe a dumb question, but if someone wanted for instance a 30% bond and 70% stock portfolio, they could buy a 50/50 mix of XBAL and XGRO, right? So with a bit of math, one should be able to get any ratio of fixed income and equity between 40:60 and 20:80…

  22. Dan D December 29, 2018 at 2:24 pm

    Hi Dan, and Happy New Year! Thanks so much for everything you do for the community. Not all heroes wear capes.

    How would VCNS be expected to fare in a taxable account? The higher allocation to bonds is worrisome, but with interest rates having trended higher in recent years I want to say it’s not as bad as it would have been a few years ago. Is that a fair statement?

    Also any idea why iShares didn’t come out with a clone of VCNS along with their new offerings.

  23. Canadian Couch Potato December 30, 2018 at 12:53 pm

    @Dan D: Many thanks for the supportive words!

    VCNS is not ideal in a taxable account, but you are certainly correct that the recent increases in interest rates mean that the problem of premium bonds has become smaller than it once was. Depending on your need for liquidity, I think it may be better in a taxable to account to combine VGRO or XGRO (which are 80% stocks) with a GIC ladder and a high-interest savings account.

    For example, if you have $100,000 and want an allocation of 60% fixed income and 40% stocks, you could hold $50K in VGRO and $50K in GICs (or, say, $40K in GICs and $10K in cash for liquidity) and achieve that asset mix. This would not only be more tax-efficient but also significantly cheaper.

    As for why iShares did not launch a version of VCNS, I think the main reason is that XBAL and XGRO were adapted from existing ETFs: adding a third to the family would have meant creating a new ETF from scratch, with the all the cost that involves. VCNS is also, by far, the least popular of the Vanguard funds, so there was little incentive to do so.

  24. Aslam December 31, 2018 at 11:55 am

    Hi Dan,
    As usual, this has been a great information for which we are thankful to you. My money is invested with Sunlife Financial through my previous employer defined contribution plan. Since, I have left the company and my age is over 55, I can move the money to other institution or select other options within Sunlife. Sunlife has developed standard options to select such as Balance, Growth etc., using 4-5 different funds such as Leith Wheeler Canadian Equity, Aberdeen Global Equity funds and others. The total management fee charged by Sunlife of Balance or Growth option is between .42 to .48 %, where as if invest in VGRO or VBAL the maximum MER would be .22%.
    I can see reasonable saving in fee if I move my money into funds like VGRO/XGRO. Plus, Sunlife underlying funds being active funds leading to more taxes due to more active management. However, I am trying to understand what could be the benefits of keeping my money invested in actively managed funds described above rather then moving into simple funds such as VGRO/XGRO?

    Aslam

  25. Canadian Couch Potato December 31, 2018 at 12:19 pm

    @Aslam: The only advantage of staying with your current plan, in my opinion, is convenience. Transferring the accounts to an online brokerage, setting up the portfolio, and then maintaining it will take some significant effort, especially if you have never managed your own portfolio before. It sounds like the fees you’re paying now are very low by the standards of actively managed funds, so as long as the portfolio is well diversified and has an appropriate amount of risk it doesn’t sound like there is any urgency to move it.

  26. William January 1, 2019 at 3:46 pm

    If rebalancing isn’t done with new funds, I assume this will cause capital gains for owners?

    In a similar vein, what happens when swap based all in one ETFs rebalance? Are capital gains sometimes caused?

  27. Canadian Couch Potato January 2, 2019 at 7:44 am

    @William: Yes, all of these one-fund portfolios (including those using swaps) can pass along capital gains to their unitholders if they need to sell holdings to rebalance. But that is not an inherent drawback: an investors who chose to hold the individual ETFs instead would face the same issue, although perhaps with a little more flexibility. As long as the ETFs are experiencing decent cash flows I would expect that any capital gains distributions would be small.

  28. Nathan January 3, 2019 at 3:30 pm

    XBAL and XGRO are commission-free, for buying and selling, at Qtrade.

    Scotia’s list of commission-free ETFs still shows the former ticker symbols.

  29. Canadian Couch Potato January 3, 2019 at 3:39 pm

    @Nathan: Thanks for updating. I can confirm that Scotia iTRADE is currently charging commissions on XGRO and XBAL (even though CBN and CBD were commission-free). Not sure whether they will change this in the future.

  30. Guillaume January 4, 2019 at 9:03 am

    If anybody is interested, I just contacted Questrade to inquiry about BlackRock iShares and their Pre-Authorized Cash Contribution (“PACC Plan”). “Questrade does support this and you can enroll in PACC.”

    Obviously, I understand that ETFs are free to buy at Questrade but this PACC will force me -not- to time the market.

    Questrade Agent (3:44:01 PM):

    To enroll in the PACC program, please complete the following steps:

    1. Ensure that you currently hold an eligible ETF in your Questrade account. Only Canadian BlackRock iShares that trade on the TSX are eligible.

    2. Complete a separate enrollment form for each ETF to be registered with the PACC program. The form can be found here:
    http://media.questrade.com/downloads/accounts/add_PACC_enrollment_form.pdf
    Due to government regulations and guidelines, we are required to have the original, hard-copy form returned to us and not an electronic copy. For reference, Questrade’s mailing address is:
    Questrade Inc.
    North American Centre
    5700 Yonge Street, Unit G1 – Ground Floor
    North York, ON M2M 4K2 Canada

    3. Provide Questrade with a scan of your void cheque or stamped direct deposit form. You can scan and upload the document to: myQuestrade > Account Management > Upload Documents.

    4. Ensure that you have sufficient funds within your bank account for a monthly PACC withdrawal at least five business days before the end of the month

    5. Allow ten days before the last business day of the month for the initial PACC enrollment.

    The enrollment time frame is the last point there. Please allow ten days before the last business days of the month for the initial PACC.

  31. Jim January 4, 2019 at 9:26 pm

    Would it be silly to switch or invest in both?

    I have VGRO in my portfolio but the lower XGRO fees seem attractive.

    Is there any sense in either switching or just devoting future contributions to XGRO instead?

  32. Canadian Couch Potato January 5, 2019 at 10:59 am

    @Jim: Switching funds to chase a slightly lower MER is usually counterproductive. The difference in cost (0.04%) is only $4 per year on every $10,000 invested. The transaction costs alone would eat up more than that.

  33. Mo January 5, 2019 at 2:50 pm

    Is XGRO ideal for an RESP if I lump pay $2500 per year? Or is there a better option like a high divedend fund etc ?

  34. OttawaGuy2 January 6, 2019 at 10:41 am

    @Canadian Couch Potato — as per your comments about “Switching funds to chase a slightly lower MER is usually counterproductive.” I guess it mainly depends on your fund holding institution/broker. I believe if portfolio is big enough and broker does not charge lot in transaction fee ( example Questrade – ETF sells – max fee is 9.95) then switching may be worth it.
    I am holding individual ETFs (ZAG (10%), VCN(30%) and XAW(60%) and was thinking to switching to XGRO. Any thought on this?

  35. Canadian Couch Potato January 7, 2019 at 7:57 am

    @OttawaGuy2: Your situation is quite different, since your goal is to simplify the portfolio by moving from three ETFs to one, not to reduce costs (your current portfolio is likely a little cheaper than XGRO). In that case, I would never argue with the decision.

  36. James Allen January 10, 2019 at 12:08 pm

    Great article Dan and may I say excellent comments and responses too. It’s good to see comments that are sensible and questioning. I bought VBAL earlier last year and have been happy to see it has outperformed VGRO. I am now considering moving more funds from other ETFs over to VBAL in order to simplify my holdings.

  37. Oldie January 10, 2019 at 5:20 pm

    If I hold XGRO in a taxable account, would any dividends from the Canadian component be stripped out separately from a reporting viewpoint to be treated favourably tax-wise?

  38. Canadian Couch Potato January 10, 2019 at 5:50 pm

    @Oldie: Yes, the “character” of the distributions (Canadian dividends, foreign dividends, interest) will be retained and will be broken down on your T3 slip.

  39. Miss Criss January 11, 2019 at 10:49 am

    I’m such a noob. I currently own XIC, which doesn’t seem to be doing very well. I’m now considering XGRO.
    However, I want to use my TFSA for this, but I’m confused by the withholding tax concept. Are either of these not suitable for a TFSA?
    I’m only 10 years out from retirement and so I’m looking for a decent return/div without too much risk.

  40. Nathan January 13, 2019 at 7:58 am

    Update: In addition to the offer from Qtrade, XGRO and XBAL are now available commission-free, per the terms of the offer, at Scotia iTRADE. Their public list of commission-free ETFs still lists the former ticker symbols, but previewing an order for XGRO or XBAL shows an estimated commission of $0.00.

    Question: Are the bond components of these iShares all-in-one ETF portfolios more tax efficient than Vanguard’s in a non-registered account? Also, would the TD e-Series Canadian Bond Index Fund – e (TDB909) be any worse in terms of tax efficiency than these all-in-one ETF portfolios from iShares and Vanguard??

  41. Canadian Couch Potato January 13, 2019 at 8:28 am

    @Nathan: That’s good news about iTRADE adding XBAL and XGRO to their commission-free list.

    I don’t think we can say much about the tax-efficiency of the bond components of these products yet. They’re too new. As a general rule I would say VGRO and XGRO (only 20% bonds) are fine in a taxable account, especially a small one. But I would start to look for better alternatives if you want to hold a greater allocation to bonds and/or if your taxable account is large.

  42. Nathan January 14, 2019 at 3:34 pm

    @CCP: XSH has been around since 2011, and since BlackRock has included it their all-in-one ETF portfolios, and I was wondering whether that short-term bond component would have any significant impact on the tax efficiency of XGRO. I am considering whether I can make myself behave (sit on my hands instead of tinkering) or whether I need to content myself with the slightly more expensive solution provided by an all-in-one ETF.

  43. Canadian Couch Potato January 14, 2019 at 3:45 pm

    @Nathan: According to the iShares website, the average coupon on XSH is 2.90% and the average yield to maturity is 3.07%. When the coupon is lower than the YTM it means there are very few premium bonds in the portfolio, which suggests very good tax efficiency. (This is the whole idea behind ZDB, for example: lower coupons means less taxable income.) So if your main concern is the tax-inefficiency of XSH, you have nothing to worry about.

  44. Ramanan January 15, 2019 at 10:13 am

    Incredibly useful information, clearly written and presented. Thank you so much for the on-going work you do to help everyone! :) Happy New Year Dan!

  45. Gerrard January 19, 2019 at 1:14 pm

    @CCP: I’ve been doing the 3 ETF portfolio (e.g.: ZAG, VCN and XAW) for some time but last year I started buying VGRO. I found that buying VGRO has greatly simplified my life and it results in contributions being done more often!

    I would like to convert everything which is in my TFSA, RRSP and Margin accounts into just VGRO.

    The question is, when converting large amounts (most of my portfolio) of ZAG, VCN and XAW what should I watch out for? Is there a right time of day to do it? I just want to know of there is anything to watch out for or if it’s just a simple process of selling everything and re-buying VGRO immediately

  46. Canadian Couch Potato January 19, 2019 at 1:34 pm

    @Gerrard: Because you are presumably not changing your asset mix significantly, timing will not be an issue if you complete the trades on the same day, so no need to worry about that. (But don’t do it on a day when the US markets are closed, as they will be this Monday, January 21.) You will lose a little on the bid-ask spreads, but it will be worth it in reduced costs and complexity going forward.

    If you’re selling in a non-registered account, remember there will be some tax consequences (capital gains or losses), but again, these are likely to be worth it when you consider the benefits.

    Good luck!

Leave A Comment