Welcome to the Million Dollar Journey March 2019 (Q1) Financial Freedom Update – the first update of 2019!  If you would like to follow my latest financial journey, you can get my updates sent directly to your email, via Twitter or Facebook, and/or you can sign up for the monthly Million Dollar Journey Newsletter.

For those of you new here, since achieving $1M in net worth in June 2014 (age 35), I have shifted my focus to achieving financial independence.  How?  I plan on building my passive income sources to the point where they are enough to cover our family expenses. That is, our goal is to reach $60,000 in passive income by the end of 2020 (yikes, that’s less than two years away!)

Here is a little more detail on how we came about the $60k per year in passive income:

Financial Goals

Our current annual recurring expenses are in the $52-$54k range, but that’s without vacation costs.  However, while travel is important to us, it is something that we consider discretionary (and frankly, a luxury). If money ever becomes tight, we could cut vacation for the year. In light of this, our ultimate goal for passive income to be have enough to cover recurring expenses, and for business (or other active) income to cover luxuries such as travel, savings for a new/used car, and simply extra cash flow.

Major Financial Goal:  To generate $60,000/year in passive income by end of year 2020 (age 41).

Reaching this goal would mean that my family (2 adults and 2 children) could live comfortably without relying on full time salaries (we are currently an one income family).   At that point,  I would have the choice to leave full time work and allow me to focus my efforts on other interests, hobbies, and entrepeneurial pursuits.

Previous Update

In the 2018 year-end update, despite the stock market volatility in the last quarter of the year, we still showed solid progress in exceeding our goal of $45k/year by reaching $46k in annual dividend income.  In fact, we took advantage of the market decline to add to solid dividend paying positions. 

It’s motivating to see the passive income number climb closer to our “cross-over” point.  That is the point in time when our passive income meets our expenses.  As our annual expenses are in the $52k-$54k, we are hopefully going to hit the coveted cross-over point sometime in late 2019. 

Here are the numbers in my previous financial freedom update.

December (Q4) 2018 Dividend Income Update

 Account Dividends/year Yield
SM Portfolio $7,200 4.35%
 TFSA 1 $3,350 5.03%
 TFSA 2 $3,500 5.83%
 Non-Registered $3,150 4.91%
 Corporate Portfolio $19,500 4.05%
 RRSP 1 $6,800 3.07%
 RRSP 2 $2,600 2.67%
  • Total Invested: $1,156,341
  • Total Yield: 3.99%
  • Total Dividends: $46,100/year (+6.10%)

Current Update

The bull market came roaring back in the first quarter of 2019, especially dividend stocks.  Bull markets are great in that portfolio values jump (along with net worth). 

However, while young investors are in the accumulation phase, bull markets aren’t necessarily a great thing.  It means that quality dividend companies are more expensive, which may impact longer-term returns.

Personally, I like to buy quality dividend companies when their valuations are attractive.  In other words, when they are being sold off (ie. dip).  Although I didn’t invest a lot of capital over the past quarter, I did deploy some into the following positions:

  • iShares MSCI All Country World ex-Canada (XAW) 
  • Canadian Apartment Properties Real Estate Investment Trust (CAR.UN)
  • Bank of Montreal (BMO)
  • CIBC (CM)
  • TD Bank (TD)

As dividends are the main focus of my passive income pursuit, there is a large dependence on the market. While there are merits to this investment strategy, there are also substantial risks – particularly dividend cuts.  

Already this year, there have been significant cuts in two of my positions, SNC Lavalin (SNC) and Dorel Industries (DII.B). Fortunately, these were smaller positions within my overall portfolio.

The goal of the dividend growth strategy is to pick strong companies with a long track record of dividend increases.  In terms of dividend increases, Q1 2019 has proven to be lucrative for dividend growth investors.

Thus far in 2019, the Canadian portion of my portfolio has received raises from:

  • CU.TO (7.5% increase)
  • RCI.B (4% increase)
  • MRU.TO (11% increase)
  • CNR.TO (18% increase)
  • XTC.TO (6% increase)
  • BIP.UN (7% increase)
  • BCE.TO (5% increase)
  • SU.TO (17% increase)
  • GWO.TO (6% increase)
  • TRP.TO (8.7% increase)
  • RY.TO (4.1% increase)
  • MG (11% increase)
  • BNS.TO (2.4% increase)
  • CAR.UN (3.8% increase)
  • TD.TO (10% increase)
  • CM.TO (2.9% increase)
  • ATD.B (25% increase)
  • PWF.TO (5% increase)

As previously mentioned, I didn’t do a lot of buying this quarter due to the rising market.  However, the dividend raises really made a difference resulting in over $1,000 in additional dividend income.  To put this in context, an extra $1k in dividend income is like buying $25k worth of dividend stocks that pay a 4% dividend.

I must admit that there is great comfort in seeing dividends coming in on a consistent basis and even more gratifying in seeing a company raise their dividends.

Most of the new purchases were made in my corporate account which generates the bulk of the dividend income.  For those looking for an update on my wife’s dividend account which follows pseudo dogs of the TSX strategy, there has been very little change. 

With this strategy, you typically buy the highest yielding blue chip stocks on the TSX (removing old income trusts) and ride it out for the year.  I will admit that I have been a bit lazy this year and have not rotated any positions.  However, very little change would be involved.

Despite this, the portfolio (in case you are wondering, with Questrade), generates a consistent dividend and is currently producing $3,300/year.

As you can see in detail below, over the last quarter we have increased our dividend income from $46.1k to $48.2k which represents a 4.56% increase quarter over quarter and within 80.3% of my goal ($60k).  

In our overall portfolio, here are the current top 10 largest holdings (besides cash):

  1. Fortis (FTS);
  2. Emera (EMA);
  3. Enbridge (ENB);
  4. TransCanada Corp (TRP);
  5. Bell Canada (BCE);
  6. Canadian Utilities (CU);
  7. Telus (T);
  8. Royal Bank (RY);
  9. iShares Core MSCI All Country World ex Canada Index ETF (XAW); and,
  10. Bank of Nova Scotia (BNS). 

March(Q1) 2019 Dividend Income Update

 Account Dividends/year Yield
SM Portfolio $7,500 3.96%
 TFSA 1 $3,500 4.54%
 TFSA 2 $3,600 5.03%
 Non-Registered $3,300 4.42%
 Corporate Portfolio $20,600 3.73%
 RRSP 1 $7,000 2.75%
 RRSP 2 $2,700 2.37%
  • Total Invested: $1,332,522
  • Total Yield: 3.62%
  • Total Dividends: $48,200/year (+4.56%)

As you can see, a strong market rally can really make an impact on a portfolio ($1,156,341 vs $1,332,522).  However, as mentioned, I’m not too focused on the market value as I’m more interested in the passive income.

Through a combination of deploying cash and collecting those juicy dividend increases, this quarter has been fairly productive with a 4.56% bump in dividend income.  What’s really encouraging is that out of the $2k bump in dividend income, over $1k came from dividend increases alone.  This is a good start to the year with the goal of exceeding our cross-over point in 2019.

Not only do I enjoy watching the dividends flow into the account, I’m also a big believer in compounding returns (see how compounding can make you rich).  In other words, the dividend cash is deployed into more income-producing stocks which then further increases the income of the portfolio, which is then used to buy even more stock.  See how compounding works?  It’s only a matter of time before the snowball gains momentum and develops a mind of its own.

I welcome corrections/volatility as it gives investors in the accumulation phase a chance to buy quality companies (or index ETFs) at better prices, potentially increasing long-term returns.  

If you are also interested in the dividend growth strategy, here is a post on how to build a dividend portfolio.  With this list, you’ll get a general idea of the names that I’ve been adding to my portfolios.  

If you want a simpler investing strategy that outperforms most mutual funds out there, check out my top ways to index a portfolio.

There you have it, the first update for 2019. Even though we are only three months in, the portfolio continues to produce dividend increases which are proving to be significant.  At this pace, we should be able to reach the coveted “cross-over” point before the end of 2019.  Stay tuned!

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