One of my “money philosophies” is to focus on nurturing the goose that lays the golden eggs.  In this parable, a farmer had a goose who laid a golden egg on a daily basis.  The eggs were valuable and allowed the farmer to live a modest, but fullfilling, lifestyle. Even though life was good, the farmer turned greedy and assumed that there was much more gold inside of the goose.  Sadly, upon killing the goose the farmer discovered that it was just like any other goose, destroying their passive income, and lifestyle, in the process.

How does this story apply to personal finance?  It’s follows the strategy of preserving capital (the goose) while at the same time, spending the interest (the golden eggs).  If you build a diversified portfolio big enough so that it distributes sustainable (preferably increasing) dividends, or interest, to pay monthly expenses, then that portfolio is distributing what I call “forever money”.  Providing that the portfolio is full of companies that have a long history of paying uninterrupted dividends, and the holdings are not sold off to pay for stuff (killing the goose), the golden eggs will likely last you for the rest of your life.

While this money philosophy may not be for everyone, it’s a safe bet for those who are aggressive savers, considering early retirement, and comfortable with leaving a financial legacy. This strategy provides a steady source of income even during times of market volatility and encourages investing over the long term.  Perhaps most importantly, this strategy does not require the selling of assets to fund retirement during a bear market which can potentially cripple a retirement portfolio.

The upside of this strategy is that the money will last forever.  The challenge is also that the money will last forever.  The portfolio will continue to grow over time but will be passed on eventually.  The challenge is determining what to do with a large lump sum in your estate plan.  Some will pass it onto their kids, while others have committed their wealth to charitable organizations.  But that issue is for another article.

Between my RRSP, TFSA and a non-registered dividend portfolio,  I’ve managed to build a modest dividend portfolio yielding about 4%.  We’ve recently created a corporate portfolio which will also pay distributions.  The overarching goal is to build a portfolio (dividend stocks and other assets) that will distribute enough income (golden eggs) to pay our monthly expenses.  As it stands right now, that would require a portfolio value of around $1.5M with an annual distribution yield of 4%.  We have a long way to go before reaching that portfolio value, but it is something to work towards.

What is your plan?  Do you plan on building a portfolio (or assets) that will last forever?


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I like thinking in terms of this parable. Its a clear example of why thinking in the long term and taking care of those things which are most likely to pay off in the long run is the best.

I’ve always thought that this was a great financial strategy and one that I’m following as well. Once you hit that crossover point where your investment income more than covers your expenses you’re financially free! I’m a long ways off from getting 60k/year in investment income but as you say this is a long term strategy and one that I think more people should consider. Thanks for sharing.

In the past, I wanted to build a multi-million dollar portfolio and live off the dividends, but now I think it’s more realistic to simply live off the capital. I don’t want to spend an extra 5-10 years trying to get to my desired dividend income stream when I could be living off a mix of dividends and capital and retire much sooner.

I am trying to build an investment portfolio we can live off, but if we can’t make it big enough, then we’ll have to live off some of the capital. I’ll run out of time to build it eventually.

I am similar to Robb in that I’ve previously thought about living strictly off the dividends of a large portfolio. But I think a mix of capital and dividends is ideal to achieve more of a balance (ie. not delaying retirement in order to have a significantly larger portfolio)

I don’t think it has to be this or that; live only off the income or draw down the capital. It’s a spectrum.

Build as large a portfolio as you reasonably can, retire when it’s reasonable and the right time for *you* to do so, then try to minimize capital depletion but don’t rule it out, and don’t build a plan that requires you to draw it down to meet basic funding goals.

I’m 61 and have been retired for just over a year. I didn’t have any company pension plan. I’m a DIY investor and it didn’t dawn on me until early last year that I could setup a dividend income portfolio that would generate the required income to live off.

I did a full portfolio re-org (~150 trades in 14 months). I was fortunate that I got a number of dividend generating securities “on sale” with the taper tantrum last year. I sold all my bonds except for PHN High Yield Bond Fund. I also sold most of my mutual funds (just kept CI Sign High Income and RBC Cdn Equity Income).

I now hold a collection of 25 dividend stocks, 1 ETF (FIE), and the 3 mutual funds. My portfolio generates 90k of income per year so I’m actually in saving mode still and am buying more stocks with the excess. 22 of the 25 stocks have had a dividend increase since the start of 2013 so this bodes well for dividend growth.

I’m just your average guy with simple tastes and I think this shows the “living off income” approach can work.


Don G, I like your approach. Thanks for sharing! I was always curious about how someone would/could go about switching to a dividend strategy in a relatively short time like that. Cool! I’ll still focus on cheap index funds for now, but I can see myself doing something like that some day.


@Don G do you mind me asking how big your investment portfolio is in $ (the 25 dividend stocks + remaining bonds and mutual funds) and how much income you make off them a month?

@Sebastien – As a bit of history, I didn’t pay much attention to my investments until around 2002 when I was almost 50 years old. Up until then, I was only in mutual funds. I maxed out my RRSP each year including alternating with a spousal RRSP (my wife was a stay at home Mom). This investment approach was fine for me as I didn’t have any time as I travelled a fair amount for work and wanted to spend the rest of the time with my family.

The kids hitting university coincided with the market downturn in 2001-2002 which gave me both time and motivation for my investments. I did some research but still stayed in mutual funds (but found some great ones with Chou, Saxon, etc)..

I didn’t buy my first stock until 2009 when I got a discount brokerage account.. I then ramped up my effort but was still looking mainly for growth and total returns and was still mainly in mutual funds. In early 2013, I did the dividend income conversion. Also, up until then, I had been DRIPping everything. I converted to strictly cash payouts in early 2013.

The moral of the story is that it is never too late to start. I also think that it is better to be in index funds and/or etfs when you are younger and worry about the dividends later. (so I agree with your approach).

@debt debs – Investment portfolio is now ~1.8M, It’s up 220k 2014 YTD and was up 162k last year. Obviously, the dividend stocks have been on a tear lately but who knows how long that will last.

Monthly is just 90k/12. I don’t pay too much attention to that as I have a cash reserve and just transfer extra cash from the various RRSP and non-reg accounts accordingly. I haven’t used any of the TFSA income and just buy more shares every once and a while with it. (as an aside, I love TFSAs and sure wish they were around earlier. I think they should be maxed out first before putting anything into an RRSP).

I know I have been very fortunate with my timing but am pleased as punch with how it worked out. I think it’s really important to focus on other stuff when you’re young and that’s why I think passive investing like index funds and etfs is a better alternative in those years.


Couple observations…

Is it a Canadian thing to be overly focused on “safe” financial/investment strategies? Anyone have any long-term comparisons between dividend portfolios and capital gain/growth portfolios?

Of course the huge benefit to dividends is the tax-free limit, $48,000, I think. Get your lifestyle expenses below this and you are laughing.

re: “The upside of this strategy is that the money will last forever.”

Perhaps for your lifetime, yes. But not much long after that. Many studies have shown that a high degree of generational wealth does not last. Right out of the gate (into the grave?), your Golden Goose will be slaughtered and divided between your heirs…and who knows what they will do with it.

I want to be like commenter Don G. with that passive income. :)

FT, I’m with you. I want a portfolio that I can live off of, not necessarily draw down the capital from. The reason being, who knows what the future holds. I think a margin of safety is required. I guess I’m very conservative.

Based on my recent math, 2 x 20-year or more pensions + a paid off home + a > $1 M investment portfolio should do it. The goal is age 55 for all three. I’m counting on the investment portfolio to yield 4%. Anything more is gravy, as is CPP and OAS.

Lots can happen in 15 years or so, we’ll see how things come together but it’s worth striving for.


@Don G ~ thanks for that info. You’ve got a nice big portfolio. We’ve only got 0.7m right now but also 250K in debt and 0.5K in primary residence. Shooting for 60K before tax annual income so will need between 1.0M and 1.4M, depending on CPP. Husband is 61 and I am 54. Will have our debt paid in 2018 so H can retire. Then renovate and downsize home so I can retire by 60, unless I get one more year syndrome.

@My Own Advisor

Mark ~ with 2 pensions and CPP / OAS as play money, 1M portfolio sb more than enough, no? I would have thought less. How much annual pre-tax income are you shooting for and is that with CPP/OAS or without?

Our family is hoping to live off of a pension that is expected to cover 75% of my pre-retirement salary and hopefully a dividend portfolio to cover the remaining 25%. We also have Roth IRAs and a 457K plan but will try to hold of tapping into those as long as possible in an effort to preserve our wealth for future generations. Wealth preservation is another reason our family has grown to love the idea of living off our dividends and preserving the portfolio value as opposed to the traditional 4% withdrawal rule.

What about inflation? If your divi yield is too high you arent getting the capital growth to maintain the yield for 30 years of retirement?

@debt debs,

I figure we need just under $60k after-tax in today’s dollars to retire how we want to. Add in inflation, that’s close to $75k in 15 years, again, after-tax.

I’m not counting on CPP and OAS, again, the government can change its legislation anytime. I’m counting on me :)

@My Own Advisor

Thanks Mark. Maybe I am being too optimistic with my 50K after tax projection. Anyways, it is what it is. I guess I will continue working beyond 60 if I have to.

John Bogle’s “The Little Book of Common Sense Investing” offers some view on speculative gains versus dividend gains. Overall a good, approachable read.

Personally, I like the idea of not drawing down our accounts. The goal is ultimately $1.3M to live on the passive income alone.

We are already well into retirement, but used a similar approach.

While working, I was not much interested in investing but did invest the maximum allowed for my wife & I in RRSPs. This went into GICs, mutual funds government bonds and a few individual stocks. I used a full service broker and my wife the local bank. At that time, interest rates were high and somehow we accumulated about $1million when I retired at 64. My wife retired a year later and by time we wound up a small home business, we had about $1.2million.

We switched to DIY investing and reading about the so called safe withdrawal rate of 4%, I decided to aim at earning 4% or more in interest and dividends on any investments. At that time we could do that even with GICs. But now, with interest rates so low, fixed income investments with 4% yield are hard to find and no doubt have higher risk. Equities have done well, so our % FI has dropped. But, if we have another 2008 like crash, it will be back where it should be :(

Don’t discount the CPP/OAS. For us, that provides about $30k pa in indexed pension income. 4% of our $1.2million would provide another $48k for a total of $78k between us. Low taxes due to dividends (no FI in taxable accounts) and enough for our relatively modest lifestyle.

What has happened, is that despite the market crash in 2008, our portfolio has increased to close to $1.9million. This due to the total yield of the portfolio being higher than the div/int yield. We are now both over 72 and had to convert our RRSPs to RRIFs which have a compulsory withdrawal rate. We don’t spend much more, but we do need more income in order to pay the high taxes on the RRIF withdrawals. Our taxes are a LOT higher than when we first retired and about equal to our total CPP/OAS. But that safely leaves us 4% of $1.9million to live off tax free, which isn’t that bad.

Our portfolio has a good percentage in the stalwarts of the TSX. Banks, telecoms, utilities and energy. It is enlightening to look at the Total Return of some of those stocks to see just how well they have done. There is a site that will do that for you: For Canadian stocks add .tsx to symbol and if symbol has a suffix like .UN, then use a dash. For example XYZ-UN.tsx.

In summary, try earn more in dividends and interest than you intend to draw. Growth in equity side should take care of inflation.

This is a bit off topic but I’d like to comment on Graham’s comment on the RRIF withdrawals and taxes. It’s pretty easy to end up with a large dollar amount in your RRSP and can result in clawbacks and larger than expected taxes when forced to convert to a RRIF. I think it’s worth having a plan to withdraw a certain amount from the RRSP before it has to be converted to a RRIF. My wife and I started doing that this year and did “in kind” transfers to our non-registered accounts, We are paying taxes this year that we really don’t need to in order to save more tax down the line.

Another point worth noting is that I really think the TFSA is fabulous and for most people is a better savings vehicle than the RRSP. .


, I’m not sure the financial legacy will be that large. Sure, there will (hopefully) be some money but should either my wife and I fall into ill-health in our old age for a long period of time, we’ll need the $$ for the nursing home.

With an aging population, the demand will be high and the supply will be low.

All that to say, I think working towards your $1.5M portfolio value that should spin off an annual distribution yield of 4% is a great goal, something to aspire to. If you also spend a bit of that capital along the way, with a paid off home, you’re really set.


Hmm, this is interesting.
Because I can get about $48,000 tax-free dividend income in Ontario from a non-registered account, isn’t this better than my RRSP, where withdrawing that amount would cost quite a bit??
This should be a Million Dollar Journey analysis, no?


Keep in mind that you’ve already paid tax on the money you put into that non-registered account (since it was funded with after-tax money) .. so yes, pulling out of your RRSP would be more costly, but only if you didn’t get a tax break when putting that money in the RRSP in the first place.

Regarding Don G.’s comment above on early withdrawal from RRSPs or RRIFs. This would apply mainly to those who for one reason or another will have a low tax rate between retirement and compulsory RRIF withdrawal.

We were in that situation and did make withdrawals. However, affect was not that great. Reason being that once you reach about $40k (from memory) in taxable income, you are already in a high tax bracket. I think we each withdrew about $5-10k per year while staying in a mid tax bracket. After 5 years or so, our registered accounts had still grown, but perhaps not to such a degree.

So, yes, this is something to consider IF you are in a low tax bracket between retirement and RRIF withdrawal.

It’s interesting to look at you as a case study because I’m on a very similar path, just a decade behind/younger.

Still mixed between drawing down capital (once a big enough pile has been accumulated) or sustaining and growing the capital. With the fortune of having fairly generous pension plans, it’s possible to entertain the idea of drawing down capital.

But I lean towards not drawing down capital. I’ll just have to continue following your journey to see how/what you are doing to get ideas. Thanks for being the proverbial case study!

I disagree with an income approach to investing. With a total return approach, you need to save less money, and you have a more diversified portfolio, efficient portfolio. If you are relying mainly on dividends from stocks, remember dividends dropped 50% in the 1929 crash, so you need a lot of capital for this strategy.

@Grant: that was kind of my question as to wether income/dividend investing is play-it-safe Canadian way of investing?

I invest to make the most money possible (total/absolute return), not merely to cover expenses (dividends), even when I’m retired. Perhaps thinking of it as ‘cash flow investing’ makes it more palpable.

Investing for dividends requires either a lot of capital or a lot of time, but not necessarily both.

re: “The overarching goal is to build a portfolio (dividend stocks and other assets) that will distribute enough income (golden eggs) to pay our monthly expenses. As it stands right now, that would require a portfolio value of around $1.5M with an annual distribution yield of 4%.”

Consider this:

Portfolio = $1.5 million
Expenses = $60,000
Dividends = 4%

Let’s extrapolate a bit just for the fun of it:

You are a young intelligent investor who calculates your household will require the above numbers in retirement, the same ones FT gives.

Assuming a 40 year investment period, 1974-2014 (age 25-65)*, how much capital will the young investor require at the onset to reach those numbers?

Total return of the S&P500, dividends reinvested, for that timeframe is 11%. Buying the index in 1974 provided a dividend yield of 3.4% which has grown into a current 7.6% yield.

The young 1974 investor would need to plunk a one-time sum of $12,000 ($60,000 in 2014) into the S&P index and forget about investing for the rest of his/her life. The nest egg is now only $800,000 but the higher yield provides the same dollar value pay-out. Also begs the question of safety-conscious Canadians — would you rather have a higher yield or a larger portfolio value?

Would make sense to go work in the oil patch for 2-3 years when you are 18, save, invest, and then “retire” @25.
(Must be Opposite Day for me to be cheerleading the stock market!)

*(I’ll assume you could theoretically invest in the entire S&P500 index in 1974 even though you could not; for the fun, remember? ;) )

@SST: I wouldn’t say that dividend investing is a “play it safe Canadian way of investing”. It is a strategy used all over the world. It works well, and prior to the mid 1980s was the easiest low cost way of investing in stocks. But since the introduction of low cost index funds and ETFs, indexing has been shown in many studies to be the most efficient way of building wealth. But for those who like to go the dividend route, that works well also. You might be interested in a research paper Vanguaard published on the topic of total return versus income only in the withdrawal phase.

@SST: The S&P has a yield of 1.89%, not 7.6%. $800,000 in the S&P will yield $15,000 a year, not $60,000.

Required rate of return is but one risk profile factor to consider. The other is capacity for risk. The “golden egg” is more analogous to an annuity in retirement then it is to a 4% dividend return. Minimum living expenses in retirement need to come from a true “golden egg” i.e.: pensions, annuities, and other risk free fixed income assets. A 1929 or worse world calamity is very possible. In one’s retirement risk profile: capacity for risk is primary which it isn’t so much in younger years of investment accumulation. Ask yourself if during a financial calamity if companies suspend or reduce dividend payments will you be able to meet your minimum living expenses if all your investment is in equities?

@Grant — the S&P “shares” bought in 1974 would now provide a yield of 7.6% (37 per 485 share) vs. 3.4% (16.5 per 485 share) when first purchased = $60,000 on $800k.

re: “…indexing has been shown in many studies to be the most efficient way of building wealth.”
Yes, without a doubt it does just that. But as I stated, building of that wealth via dividends requires either a whole lotta capital or a whole lotta time, and since Time = Money — it’s capital intensive either way.

As Buffett has said, “Wide diversification is only required when investors do not understand what they are doing.” Thus perhaps the popularity of index investing is the result of too many people with money in the stock market who do not understand what they are doing. A rather frightening scenario if you ask me.

Each to their own.

@SST. I think what you are talking about is yield on cost, but that’s a misleading concept because it ignores all the years of compounding in between. If you own 485 shares of VOO it pays you an annual yield of $15000, not $60,000. It’s what it yields in today’s $s that matter. If you spent 7.6% of your $800k each year the money would not likely last the average 30 year retirement, especially if you suffered early poor equity markets.

It’s true that Buffet is one if the very few people who can beat the market. Seeing most people can’t beat the market, that’s the beauty of index investing. You don’t need to understand stocks. You just buy the market index and rebalancing according to the plan. As Buffet also said “if you look in the mirror and do not see Warren Buffet, buy the index.”

If the current S&P is paying a $37 per “share” dividend, that works out to (37×485) = $18,000 per year.

However, the initial 485 “shares” would have grown in number due to 40 years of reinvesting dividends — think DRIP.

The initial and ONLY capital outlay was $12,000, so the years of compounding are not being ignored.

70% of the now $800,000 portfolio is the result of dividend reinvestment.

I’m far too lazy and disinterested to figure out what the average cost & yield of forty years of reinvesting would be, but I’m pretty sure it’s going to be closer to 7.6% than 1.9%.

I think I follow you…. How many shares do you own now?

Now that the capital intensity issue has been addressed, I’d like to bring up another point:

“If you build a diversified portfolio big enough…”

Doesn’t matter how big your portfolio is, if it’s all in stocks it is not diversified at all.

What needs to be diversified are the “drivers”, strategies, markets, and lastly product.

But then that brings us right back to many Buffettisms.

I’m not sure what you mean by “S&P currently paying $37 per “share” dividend’ but if you own $80000 of VOO, an ETF that tracks the S&P, which has a yield actually of 1.76%, you would get an annual yield of $14000. It doesn’t matter if the initial investment was $12000, what matters is today’s yield of $14000 on today’s value, $800,000, of that initial investment. The current yield is 1.76%, not 7.6%.

If you had bought the Vanguard Index Fund at inception, Aug 31 1976, your yield on cost would be a about 89%. The current yield is 1.64%.

Had you invested invest $1,470 in Aug 1976, you would have about $80,000 today (11.09% compounded annual growth over 38 years (the stats are all on vanguard’s websitre). There may have been very high fees on this back in the 1970s but I can’t be asked to go and check. The $80,000 today yields $1,312 in income today or 89% yield on cost. VOO did not exist back then, only the bog standard mutual fund.

*US dollars, I can’t bother to go and recaluculate in C$


This is my first post as I just discovered this blog and I am so pleased to find that there is a ‘wealth’ of information available here. I recently sold my investment condo in Toronto as I had a feeling that it was time to do so and I now have 100k and I am trying to decide what to do with it.

I don’t pay income taxes as I do not make enough money (bartender for years = low income/cash) so an RRSP doesn’t make sense for me. I own a duplex and a townhouse and the income is modest so my annual income is still below a taxable rate. The only other investment that I have is a small mutual fund. I purchased the townhouse with money that I had in my HELOC on the condo so I was able to claim the interest.

I was looking into buying a 4plex but as I always have to pay 35% down because I don’t make enough money to buy it, that means that all of my 100k plus another 19k would be in the property. The annual income (including the principal portion paid off) would be approx $33,393.20 (including all exp’s vacancy, r&m, interest, etc.).

I am also considering the TFSA and putting in the full $31,000 but I wouldn’t have a clue what to buy to put into it.

Any opinions and suggestions would be most welcome. The general response will most likely be talk to a tax specialist or a financial planner but they (most that I have spoken to) don’t think outside of the box and are unfamiliar dealing with someone with my situation.

My financial knowledge is rudimentary at best but I realize that money is needed for the future and that is my goal and the earlier the better.

Thank you

Hi Paula,

I’d suggest you talk to a fee only financial planner

who can put together a financial plan and help you with what to invest in, using low cost products. Don’t go to bank – they will just sell you their high cost propriety mutual funds.