It’s a question that I am asked with regularity. Readers will email or comment on articles “all of this ETF stuff is great, but how do I set this up for retirement?” Robb Engen of Boomer and Echo will, uh well, ‘echo’ that sentiment.
And it’s true, if you google creating a retirement portfolio with ETFs you get digital crickets. There’s not much out there in the blogosphere or on the sites of the major financial institutions. Articles that have headlines that suggest they are about to give some ideas on building an ETF portfolio for retirement usually stop short or discuss creating wealth for retirement.
So hey, I’ll give it a go. I’ve put in way too many thousands of hours studying asset allocation and retirement and retirement funding models. My sister who is a wonderfully dedicated primary school teacher ‘observes’ that I am a ‘hyperfixator’ or at least that I suffer from hyperfixation. Got kids? You might see some of that hyperfixation when they fire up that Xbox. Hey, as a Microsoft MSFT shareholder it’s my duty to disclose and provide you the link to the Xbox site. Hyper fixate away, kids.
Is this investment advice? Well not really.
Of course, nothing on this site is concrete advice. Use the information and ideas to form and shape your own opinion. If you’re a self-directed investor you should know what you’re doing. You should understand your personal tax situation plus currency conversion charges and withholding taxes. You should know what goes where with respect to RRSP vs TFSA vs non registered amounts and accounts. Discover the most optimal order on how to harvest your assets with respect to account types. Know when to take CPP and OAS. You should know how much you can comfortably spend each year. There is the need to understand estate planning, hold the proper insurance and know how to set up your beneficiaries.
Yes, I just listed a whole bunch of stuff in areas where you have partial or no understanding. I know, thanks for nothing eh. I never said this self-directing thing is easy. So what do you do?
Seek retirement and investment advice.
You can still possibly self-direct your investments in the end if you have the knowledge and you understand your risk tolerance level. But I’d suggest that you contact an experienced fee-for-service financial planner who has expertise in the retirement arena. With a fee-for-service advisor you will pay as you go. You can pay by the hour, or perhaps pay a flat fee for the evaluation and plan. You might then set off on your own to build the portfolio with all the right pieces in the right place.
I’d also suggest that you read my review of Retirement Income For Life: Spending More Without Saving More. That’s a wonderful staple read for retirees and retirement planners. The author, Frederick Vettese, was the chief actuary at Morneau Shepell.
The 7 ETF Retirement Portfolio.
In this article How to Create a Retirement Portfolio with Exchange Traded Funds, I offered that we don’t have to do anything ‘too fancy’. Simplicity works. The basic fundamentals of a well-balanced Balanced Portfolio might very well do the trick in retirement. In that article you’ll also find some help on what goes where. But of course you’re going to get some help in that regard, right? 🙂
For now, I’ll just offer the asset mix. The portfolio will rely on the growth of stocks with the support of bonds and a slight income booster. Once again, it is my opinion that we do not need to ‘live off of the income’. I actually think that is a trap that will close too many doors, and it will not allow us to hold enough of that growth engine known as stocks.
For this portfolio I offer Dividend Growth and High Yield Dividend ETFs. I also include the asset class known as REITs, real estate, for the US and Canada. Here ya go, in a conservative 50/50 model that is close to 50% stocks and 50% bonds. You may decide to go more aggressive or more conservative with your stock to bond allocation.
Keep in mind some of these assets are in US dollars and belong in US dollar accounts.
You can find assets such as the Vanguard Dividend Appreciation fund in Canadian dollars as well. Here’s the link to the U.S. Dividend Achievers Appreciation Index ETF (CAD Hedged) – ticker VGH.
You’ll find an International Canadian Dollar REIT option in the new balanced portfolio post. Investors/retirees might also consider US long term treasuries that you’ll find in that new balanced portfolio. BMO offers those treasuries in US and Canadian dollar funds.
Here’s the updated 2021 returns for that retirement ETF portfolio.
What About Cash, GICs and that Annuity?
Yup. you might start with a very generous and guaranteed fixed income core. Most retirees are very conservative for very good reasons. Keep in mind that while secure income is good, and feels great, many retirees will need enough growth to combat that longevity risk and the inflation risk. Remember we might lose spending power by about 3% per year. That can add up over the decades. And you might live to age 85 or 90 or 95.
Purpose also released a revolutionary pension-like offering for those who have missed out on any company pension options.
Here’s my review of the Purpose Longevity Pension Fund designed to pay out at 6.15%, and increase as mortality credits kick in – the early-deceased fund those with exceptional longevity.
On how much you might be able to spend if you need to maximize portfolio income please have a read of my guest post on Boomer and Echo, here’s The 4 Percent Rule. Is There A New Normal For Canadian Retirees? I then followed up with this article on Seeking Alpha.
Breaking rules of thumb.
Keep in mind that the rules of thumb are guidelines and are made to be broken, especially when those stock markets break. We might need to bend those rules of thumb. Frederick Vettese suggests we might need a flexible or dynamic spending plan in retirement. That said, things might also continue to go swimmingly.
Be prepared to spend more or less.
The above ETF Portfolio mix might continue to deliver returns in the area of 5-6% over longer periods. That’s certainly not a growth portfolio. Again, you should know the math on how much growth is required to beat off inflation and longevity risk.
You might be able to create a GIC ladder that pays you in the area of 3%. You can have a look at Tangerine for the rates of the day. You might also consult ratehub.ca.
If your ETF Portfolio is delivering 6% annual (estimated not guaranteed of course) your return component might look like this for every $100,000.
- Guaranteed income: $1500 annual
- ETF Income: $3000 annual
You’re within that 4.5% spend rate. Once again, if you build up that guaranteed income component by way of annuities, that overall spend rate might get a boost. You might have a read of Pensionize Your Nest Egg from Alexandra Macqueen. If you then add more equities to your ETF Portfolio mix you might give that portfolio spend rate a boost.
If you have any questions concerning building an ETF portfolio for retirement, please fire away in the comment section. I’ll get some experts to stop by to answer any specific questions.
If you’re interesting in contacting a fee-for-service advisor, I can throw a few names your way. Use that contact form.
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