Friday, January 14, 2022

Short Takes: 2021 Investment Returns, Tax-Efficient Asset Location, and more

Before the pandemic, my wife and I used to travel south with a group of friends to somewhere warm during part of the Canadian winter.  In 2020, the pandemic cut this trip short a little, and we didn’t go in 2021 at all.  We were hopeful for 2022 and booked a place through VRBO under the terms that we could cancel for a full refund any time before Jan. 2.  When Omicron emerged we waited for a while to be sure, but most of our group decided against traveling, so we cancelled our booking on Dec. 29.  

Since then, VRBO and some sub-entity of theirs has put us through the wringer as we try to get our money back.  We’ve heard all the excuses: the woman who handles this is sick, she’s not in right now, we’ll have her call you back later.  They appeared to be screening our calls, so we started calling from different phones.  When we did get to speak to the woman who could help us, we got other excuses: the app I do this on isn’t working, our server is down, it will be done sometime in the next couple of days.  Somehow they were able to take our money on time but can’t manage to return it.

After 15 days of this nonsense, we’re about ready to give up on VRBO and dispute the charge on our credit card.  It’s disappointing that the goodwill of a repeat customer appears to have so little value to them.

Here are some short takes and some weekend reading:

Robb Engen goes over 2021 investment returns and mixes in some good lessons about sticking to a plan and not chasing past winners.  Canadian Couch Potato brings us the couch potato returns for 2021.

Justin Bender goes into even more detail on investment returns of different index ETFs.  I love the Charles Ellis quote, particularly the part about making portfolio changes with a sense of urgency: “Benign neglect is the secret to long-term investing success. If you change your investment policy, you are likely to be wrong; if you change it with a sense of urgency, you’re guaranteed to be wrong.” — Charles Ellis

Justin Bender
explains his “Plaid” asset location strategy.  It is genuinely tax-efficient on an after-tax basis and resembles my own portfolio.  It’s main features are that it seeks to hold stocks in RRSPs and TFSAs, and bonds in taxable accounts (when there is no additional RRSP or TFSA room available).  However, this strategy is only suitable for a small minority of DIY investors willing to do a lot of initial work to automate their portfolios.  Unless you enjoy spreadsheets or programming, odds are you’re better off holding the same mix of stocks and bonds in each account using an all-in-one ETF.  My spreadsheet calculates my annual savings from using low-cost U.S. ETFs and a tax-efficient asset location strategy compared to just using the same all-in-one ETFs in every account.  These savings are currently 5% of the annual amount I can safely spend from my portfolio.  This amount isn’t trivial, but it wouldn’t be hard to lose more than this by implementing a Plaid-like portfolio poorly.

John Robertson gives us a thoughtful review of Fred Vettese’s book The Rule of 30.

Big Cajun Man chronicles his challenges moving an account from TD to TD DirectLine.  This is consistent with my experience where banks maintain a wall between their expensive “regular” services and their discount services.

Andrew Hallam explains a dumb investment mistake even smart (and rich) people make.


  1. Thanks for including me this week. I think my biggest complaint is that the "agent" in the bank had no understanding of how to do this transfer, yet I HAD to go through her? I am still cleaning up the mess, but the transfer seems to have gone through.

    1. It's hard to imagine that such a transfer involves any difficult steps for the bank, other than the fact that it is unprofitable.