My Portfolio Asset Allocation – Part 5 (VDY)

This is a multi-part series exploring in-depth each of the individual allocations I have in my B&D investment portfolio.

In today’s post, I’ll dig into VDY which is the stock ticker symbol for the FTSE Canadian High Dividend Yield Index ETFI’ll talk about:

  • what it is
  • the actual allocation in the portfolio
  • why I hold this in my B&D portfolio
  • fees/costs to hold it
  • the income it pays me
  • its growth potential
  • which investment vehicles (TFSA, RRSP, LIRA, non-registered account) I put this ETF in
  • Alternative ETF(s) for tax loss harvesting purposes
  • the future of it in my B&D portfolio

Information provided is considered accurate and up to date at the time this post was published.

What is it?

Unlike the broad based index ETF VCN discussed in Part 4 of this series, VDY is a more specialized based index ETF that is managed by Vanguard (Please note I have no affiliation whatsoever to them, I just hold it as part of my portfolio. I just chose this one to invest in). They define it as follows in their Fact Sheet and on their website:

Vanguard FTSE Canadian High Dividend Yield Index ETF seeks to track, to the extent reasonably possible and before fees and expenses, the performance of a broad Canadian equity index that measures the investment return of common stocks of Canadian companies that are characterized by high dividend yield. Currently, this Vanguard ETF seeks to track the FTSE Canada High Dividend Yield Index (or any successor thereto). It invests primarily in common stocks of Canadian companies that pay dividends.

At the time I write this, there are 47 different securities that make up this passively managed index. As with VCN, there is a heavy concentration in the financial sector (54.1%) and energy sector (28.4%). 

Vanguard defines the risk for this ETF as follows: 

Vanguard has rated the volatility of this ETF as medium. This rating is based on how much the ETF’s returns have changed from year to year. It doesn’t tell you how volatile the ETF will be in the future. The rating can change over time. An ETF with a low risk rating can still lose money.


Why Hold it in my b&D portfolio?

I  grew up in Canada and my tax residency continues to be there as well. In many cases, an investment portfolio will typically hold a certain percentage of its portfolio in investments from their home country. Typically, that’s called having a home country bias. Especially when there are tax advantages to doing so.

When it comes to holding Canadian equities, I get to take advantage of the Canadian Dividend Tax Credit which was previously discussed in prior posts in this series related to VSB, MFT, and ZPRDone correctly, taking advantage of this tax credit equates to paying no income tax whatsoever on around $50,000 if your only income was from eligible Canadian dividends. 

Like with VCN, even though a Canadian index ETF like VDY cannot compete with the likes of an index ETF tracking the S&P500 in terms of long term capital growth, it does hold its own when it comes to its favourable tax minimization benefit.

Having said that, if the Canadian dividend tax credit disappeared, I’d be reconsidering holding something like VDY. I don’t personally see any major tax changes occurring ongoing though. If that happened, people would not want to continue investing in Canada when they have easy access to U.S. equity markets. That would likely cause a great deal of harm to the Canadian economy if it did occur.

the associated fees/costs

The one fee I always look at is the MER (management expense ratio) and the ETF provider, like Vanguard, has an obligation to provide what it is so investors understand the total cost of owning this type of investment. It’s defined as follows:

The management expense ratio (MER) is an annualized measure of the cost charged to investors, to invest in a fund. It is calculated by dividing the total of the expenses charged to manage and operate the fund by the total assets of the fund. The expenses include the management fee paid to the fund manager and operating expenses (taxes and administrative costs). The MER is calculated as a percentage of the total assets under management for the fund (AUM).

For VDY, the MER comes in at 0.22%. Therefore, for every $1,000 invested, they charge me $2.20 annually. Compared to many index ETFs, this is a pretty competitive MER, especially when considering the favourable tax treatment on its dividends. Versus a potential MER of 2%-3% on many mutual funds translating to $20-$30, $2.20 is considered an acceptable cost.

income Received from this etf

As mentioned earlier, VDY pays out mainly Canadian dividend income. Occasionally, over the years, there have been some capital gains declared along with return of capital however it seems to have been kept to a minimum. That means for most of every dollar earned (assuming it’s in your non-registered account), you get a Canadian Dividend Tax Credit and reduce the amount of income tax owing. 

For the occasional capital gains and return of capital, it seems to be mainly due to internal shuffling of the ETF. As much as it’s a passive index, some equities fall off and others are added to the index and the ETF has to match all this. Capital gains still have a favourable tax treatment so as much as I avoid unnecessary selling of securities in my non-registered account, I accept that ETFs need to be doing this type of shuffling each year or every few years and that it has an impact on my overall taxable income.

Please note that taxation does change if the dividends/distributions from VCN are tax sheltered or tax deferred. The investment vehicle (e.g.: TFSA, RRSP, LIRA, non-registered/cash/margin account) that houses the ETF will determine which tax situation applies.

Growth potential for this etf

From my personal experience, VDY has been a medium growth ETF.

Placement in Investment vehicles

I’m a Canadian with tax residency in Canada so investment vehicles and tax treatments are related to Canada. I currently have a TFSA, RRSP, LIRA, and a non-registered account which is also known by many as a cash account or a margin account

Legally minimizing and/or deferring the greatest amount of taxes possible is the primary criteria I use to decide which investment vehicle to house an ETF. Since I have a TFSA, RRSP, LIRA and a non-registered account, I use a 3 level filter which is below.

PRIMARY: TFSAs are for investments with the highest capital growth potential as it offers tax-free compounding and any withdrawals made are tax free as well. 

SECONDARY: The non-registered account takes up any of the surplus that doesn’t fit in the TFSA. Also, any investment income that has preferential tax treatment such as capital gains (as I write this, only 50% of capital gains are taxable) or is eligible for the Canadian Dividend Tax Credit should be going in this account.

TERTIARY: RRSPs/LIRAs take up any of the surplus that doesn’t fit in the TFSA and the non-registered account. Therefore, the lowest growth investments would be found here  as well as investments with the heaviest taxable income generated (in most cases, that would be bonds). The benefit of an RRSP/LIRA is that any income taxes owing are deferred until I decide to withdraw from them. The full amount withdrawn is taxable in the same way as employment income. Any taxes paid at withdrawal are based on whatever tax bracket I fall into for that particular calendar year. Therefore, compounding can occur tax free until then.

Based on the above criteria, in which investment vehicle(s) do I currently have VDY? 

I actually hold this ETF in my non-registered account, same as VCN. Three reasons for that. 

First, I have the room in my non-registered account. 

Second, it’s a medium growth ETF and therefore I would not hold it in my TFSA as I have higher growth ETFs house there.

Third, the favourable tax treatment when it comes to the dividend. Same goes for any capital gain that could occur (e.g.: if I need to sell a portion of it for rebalancing purposes).

tax loss harvesting strategy

Tax-loss selling (or tax-loss harvesting) occurs when you deliberately sell a security at a loss in order to offset capital gains in Canada. You can then use these losses to offset your taxable capital gains. This applies to the non-registered account only. The other investment vehicles (TFSA, RRSP, LIRA) are not eligible for this.

In Canada, the last day in a calendar year for tax-loss selling is typically the third to last business day of the year (not counting any statutory holidays that could happen between then and the end of the year). If you sold at a loss on or before that date, you’re able to deduct your loss against your gains in that calendar year. However, you can also carry your loss back for the previous three years to offset capital gains or carry it forward indefinitely to offset future capital gains.

Also, beware causing a wash sale. This can also be called the superficial loss rule. What this means is that if an investor buys back a security within 30 days of selling it, then they are not permitted to claim the capital loss for tax purposes. Failing to obey the 30-day rule will result in the capital loss being disallowed for tax loss harvesting. To avoid this, I would buy an ETF similar to the one sold but measured on a slightly different index. A wash sale can also occur if you sell in one investment vehicle (e.g.: your non-registered account) and buy that same ETF in another (e.g.: your TFSA) so be careful to not do that within the 30 day period.

As mentioned earlier, VDY is an ETF that tracks the FTSE Canadian High Dividend Yield Index.

Therefore, I would consider XDIV that is an ETF managed by iShares which tracks the MSCI Canada High Dividend Yield 10% Security Capped Index. One thing of note for XDIV. I personally feel VDY is a superior ETF however to avoid a wash sale and respect the 30 day rule mentioned above, I would only hold XDIV for the full 30 day period and then move back to VDY. On the plus side XDIV only has an MER of 0.11%.

The future of this etf

This a core holding in my B&D portfolio. As mentioned above, so long as the favourable tax treatment continues to be available, no changes for VDY within the asset allocation of the portfolio is being considered.


So that’s my overview of the ETF VDY that currently holds an allocation in my B&D portfolio. Please let me know what you think. Was the overview useful? Was anything missing? I’m happy to hear all feedback.

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