Welcome to the Million Dollar Journey March 2011 Net Worth Update. For those of you new to Million Dollar Journey, a monthly net worth update is typically posted near the end of the month (or beginning of the next) to track the progress of my journey to one million in net worth.  If you would like to follow my journey, you can get my updates sent directly to your email.

Last month, a regular reader noticed an inconsistency with my HELOC/Investment loan balance.  The reason for this is that I’ve simply been increasing the account balance to by a few hundred dollars a month (for the capitalized interest) and not using the actual numbers.  The result was that I overstated my debt by a small margin but I’ve corrected it for this update.  If you take a look though, the significant increase is due to a recent transfer of $10k to my Smith Manoeuvre trading account.  The reason for the transfer is that the trading account is running low on cash due to adding new dividend positions to the portfolio.

In addition to adding new positions to my leveraged investment portfolio, I’ve also found some good use of some of the cash sitting in the RRSP account.  The combination of a strong Canadian Dollar with a few large U.S dividend stocks being offered at near 52 week lows is enough to convince me to deploy some of that stagnant capital.

Other than that, there’s not a lot to report other than being grateful for another consistent month of growth.  A combination of portfolio growth along with savings increases are the drivers of net worth growth these days as paying off debt will no longer make a difference (I plan on keeping the investment loan for a while).

On to the numbers:

Assets: $ 605,448.00 (+2.94%)

  • Cash: $4,500 (+0.00%)
  • Savings: $55,000 (+7.84%)
  • Registered/Retirement Investment Accounts (RRSP): $109,400(+1.30%)
  • Tax Free Savings Accounts (TFSA):  $26,900 (+1.13%)
  • Defined Benefit Pension: $33,600 (+1.20%)
  • Non-Registered Investment Accounts: $11,800 (+1.72%)
  • Smith Manoeuvre Investment Account: $72,500 (+17.89%)
  • Principal Residence: $291,748 (+0.00%) (purchase price adjusted for inflation)

Liabilities$65,000 (+16.18%)

Total Net Worth: ~$540,448 (+1.55%)

  • Started 2011 with Net Worth: $505,800
  • Year to Date Gain/Loss: +6.85%

Some quick notes and explanations to net worth questions I get often:

The Cash

The $4,500 cash are held in chequing accounts to meet the minimum balance so that we pay no fees (accounting for regular bill payments – ie. our credit card bill). Yes, we do hold no fee accounts also, but I find value in having an account with a full service bank as the relationship with a banker has proven useful.


Our savings accounts are held with PC Financial and ING Direct. We usually hold a fair bit of cash in case “something” comes up. The “something” can be anything that requires cash such as an investment opportunity that requires quick cash or maybe an emergency car/home repair.  We also need cash to cover any future tax liabilities.

Real Estate

Our real estate holdings consist of a primary residence and REITs plus a rental property. The value of the principal residence remains valued at the purchase price (+inflation) despite significant appreciation in the local real estate market.


The pension amount listed above is the value of both of our defined benefit pension plans.  I basically take the semi annual statement and add the contribution amounts (not including employer matching) on a monthly basis.

Stock Broker Accounts

Another common question is which discount broker do I use?   We actually have accounts with multiple institutions.  I’m hoping to reduce the number of accounts that we hold in the near future.  Here is a review of some of the more popular online stock brokers.

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Congrats FT, the net worth keeps climbing! I’m assuming you bought some U.S. dividend payers…well, don’t leave us in suspense, what did you buy?

Nice work again! I feel though that you are overly conservative with your ‘savings in case something comes up’. Especially since you are debt-free. You already know extremely well what you are doing but I can’t resist mentioning: You should consider the RESP, it’s like a TFSA but with a 20% bonus (and some restrictions). You can also make your 2011 RRSP contributions right now based on a (conservative) estimate of what you will earn this year. And what’s left can go in your non-registered investment account. When faced with an emergency, your HELOC + your non-registered money + your TFSA + your Smith manoeuver investments are all available (in decreasing order of interest), even though the timing might not be perfect. You also seem to have all the proper insurance coverage. Remember in an emergency you don’t always need all the money on day 1. I just went through a job loss which put me out of salary for a year, with a wife in maternity leave and 2 childrens. I just tapped a little bit in my Heloc and didn’t have to sell any investments at a bad timing. This of course is valid mostly for people like you and me with frugal habits and no debts.

Abbott Labs, they were one of the good-to-great companies. That’s a solid pick, and you can’t go wrong with Proctor and Gamble either.

This is your first dip into the U.S. with this portfolio, correct? Do you have some inside your RRSP too?

Congrats FT!

2.5% for me in March, a good savings month and my TFSA did quite well. I have a large proportion invested in oil stocks…a good hedge against high gas prices!

On 30 March 30, 2011 you wrote ” The combination of a strong Canadian Dollar with a few large U.S dividend stocks being offered at near 52 week lows is enough to convince me to deploy some of that stagnant capital.”
Question : I understand some banks now offer RRSP accounts in each of the Canadian and US dollar. The broker I use does not offer a US $ designated RRSP account . But upon closer examination I learned that the brokers zaps exchange spreads 2, 3 or 4 times for one US $ transaction.
For example : say you sold your holding in JPMorgan Chase (JPM on NYSE) . And at the same time you bought Cit shares (C on NYSE) .
Upon settlement of your JPM sale, this broker converted the US$ proceeds to C$ at a rather disadvantageous rate. Then , the broker converted back to US$ , again at horrible bad rate for client , to pay for the Citi shares. In one simple call, on exchange alone client loses about 12% .

Surely there must be some way around this ? Broker says ” Well, you know everything has to in C$ .” But at least 2 banks in Ontario offer to maintain RRSP in both accounts . Is the broker not up to date ? Or is a transfer away from broker the only solution?

That forced currency exchange that most of the big banks still pull is borderline criminal imo. My brokerage lets me trade and hold in USD, rather than converting twice for 1 trade. The alternative is to do a wash trade, but just based on the hassle they force you to go through I would pick a better brokerage myself….

One of my better months in a while… 30k increase in net worth, a 2.44% bump. Lots of different things came together this month… I wouldn’t be suprised if this is our best month of 2011.

I’m tempted to go all-in on equities, but my luck is such that this move might signal the market to tank. ;)

I believe Quest Trade allows you to either deposit CDN or USD into your leverage account. It will be seperated, and you can use either one, to purchase either TO or NYSE stocks (If I understand it correctly).
Obviously the best thing to do would be goto the bank, now is an awesome time, and exchange $1k-5k from cdn to usd. Than transfer that money into your brokerage account.
Whenever you want to purchase a US (nyse) equity, you use your USD cash element of that account; Vise-Versa for Canadian.

Can anyone confirm if I have this right? I am thinking of buying some USD off of someone (for a much better exchange rate than banks offer) and get $1,000 USD for LESS than $1k cdn (for example). Than when I transfer funds from my USD checking account, into my brokerage account, it remainds as usd.

And good work FT yet again, $1kk here you come.

Congrats again! How does it feel to be debt free?

(besides SM debt), should have added that to the above question.

Again, great stuff Frugal. You continue to impress me!


I’m up 1.84% this month and 5.5% for the year. I was disappointed with 5.5% for the year, but then I noticed it’s only April, so not too bad.

Congratulations on being debt free!

Hey Frugal,

First of all, congrats and keep up the great work!

Second, can you talk a bit about your criteria for dividend stock selection? I’v enoticed that both Ensign and Mullen have been performing phenomenally, but prior to reading about them here on MDJ they weren’t even on my radar as potential dividend picks.

Did those two companies just have a lot of cash on the books and a low P/E or something? What criteria lead you to purchase them?


@Future Money-Bags, If I’m understaning your psot correctly, you are right. Quatrade allows you to keep separate balances and they will use the native currency of the exchange you are trading on.

The best way I’ve found to do currency exchange with Questrade though (for larger amounts) is Norbert’s Gambit. I recently purchased BMO on the TSX and simultaneously shorted an equal “value” of BMO on the NYSE, then had Questrade journal my TSX shares to the NYSE (no cost, took a couple days) and cover my short with those shares. Net cost was 2 trade commissions ($9.90 CAD) versus the regular 0.5% exchange fee ($50 on every $10k).

@Frugal No kidding! Great strategy, and well done!

Thanks for the reply.

Great job MDJ! I’ve been thinking of getting some good US dividend paying stocks too.. might as well take advantage of these record lows while we can ;)

Thanks for sharing. You are motivation for me to keep plugging along. Who doesn’t want to be a millionaire!


You’re like the energizer bunny (product placement ad?)… you just keep on going and going.

We were up 2.47% MOM, 21.99% YTD, and 44.44% YOY.

Last year at this time, March was up 17.84% and 21.74% YTD so Q1 has been good for us in 2010 and 2011. Q1 in 2009? Ugh….


Yes, that is the prime reason why we’ve gone up so dramatically. I’m starting to explore options now… dipping my toe in the water.

Looks like our next $1M in NW will happen in only 17 months.