I haven't looked into the Q&A box for a while, so let's remedy that now. Here are some of the more interesting questions that you've sent along in recent weeks.
Q - Can you help your readers and me with this question that my financial planners at TD Bank either cannot or won't answer. TD Dividend Growth Fund pays a measly 0.6 per cent dividend. The fund is primarily invested in Canadian banks and other high dividend stocks. I recently sold all of these funds and invested the money in mostly Canadian banks, Arc Energy, Potash Corp., and three REITs. My average dividend is 4.96 per cent. So my question is where do the dividends go when they are paid to the mutual fund holding the underlying stocks? My opinion is there is no transparency and it makes me think fund holders are getting ripped off, especially when they are charging more than 2 per cent management fees. – Roy B., Welland ON
A – Mutual funds and ETFs don't have to pass through all the dividends they receive to unitholders. Some of that money may be used to pay the fund's fees and administrative costs while some may be held as cash assets for reinvestment purposes.
Anyone who wants to use funds for income should check two things. First, what is the payment frequency and what yield has the fund generated over the latest 12 months? Second, is the distribution at a level that enables the fund to sustain or increase its net asset value? If the NAV is constantly being eroded, it means you are being paid with your own money.
Q - About a year ago, Google split its shares. Investors now own C shares (symbol GOOGL), which are soaring, and A shares (symbol GOOG) which are lagging somewhat. What's the difference? – Jean-Guy G.
A - The company is now called Alphabet, although the trading symbols are the same. Both classes of shares are up considerably from the time of the split in 2014. GOOGL has been the better performer because they are voting shares, whereas GOOG shares have no vote. The stock market puts a premium on voting rights. However, the real power is vested in the B shares, which have 10 votes each. They are not traded publicly and are owned by the company's founders and chief executives, thus assuring them of on-going control.
Q – I am contributing lump sums to my RRSP once every few months. But some of the holdings have grown significantly. How do you suggest I invest these profits? Should I add proportionally to each holding? Some of the holdings are up so much that the returns are not that attractive any more. Should I buy something safer such as Mawer Balanced Fund or PH&N funds? Thank you. – J.S.
A – Glad to hear you are doing so well. However, I can't offer specific advice as to how you should reinvest your profits. That depends on a variety of factors such as the portfolio balance, your age, risk tolerance, etc.
What I can say is that it's not a good idea to have a large percentage of an RRSP in two or three assets. If that is the case, then you should take some profits and diversify into other securities. You mention Mawer Balanced Fund, which is a good choice for conservative investors. The fixed-income funds from Phillips, Hager & North (PHN) are also worth considering.
Remember that the closer you are to retirement age, the less risky your RRSP should be.
Q – What are your thoughts on iShares Short Term Strategic Fixed Income ETF (XSI-T)? – James C.
A – For starters, the name is misleading. This is a fund of funds that holds units of several iShares fixed income ETFs. Some of these underlying funds are short term in nature, such as the iShares Floating Rate Index ETF (XFR-T). But some are not, such as the iShares U.S. High Yield Bond Index ETF (XHY-T), which is the second largest position in the portfolio. As a result, the fund has a higher risk profile than would be expected from a traditional short-term bond ETF.
This fund has been in existence for less than a year so we don't have much performance history to work with. What we have is mediocre; over the six months to Oct. 31 the ETF lost 1.7 per cent, which was much worse than the peer group.
Distributions are paid monthly so the fund offers good cash flow. Recent payments have been running about $0.06 per unit, which would project to a yield of about 3.8 per cent over a year. However, the ETF has not been generating enough profit to cover those payouts so we've seen erosion in the net asset value.
I don't see much here to like but many investors clearly think otherwise. The fund had over $216-million in assets as of Nov. 25. Frankly, I think there are much better places for that money.
Q – We have Inter Pipeline Ltd. in our RRIFs and our adviser is suggesting that we replace it with BMO Tactical Global Equity ETF. He says this would give us more growth. We would appreciate your thoughts on this. – Carolyn V.
A – This is an apples and oranges comparison – a single stock versus a mutual fund that invests in a portfolio of ETFs from BMO and other providers. Moreover, this fund is very new, having only been launched in April, so we have no history by which to judge its performance.
What makes this recommendation especially unusual is the fact the new fund will pay distributions only once a year and we don't know how much that amount will be. Presumably you bought Inter Pipeline for cash flow (the yield at the time of writing was 6.7 per cent) and not for growth.
If growth is in fact your primary objective, then I suggest looking for a fund with a proven long-term track record, not one that is just out of the starting gate.
If you have any financial questions you'd like answered, please send them to me at email@example.com. I can't promise personal responses but I will post those with the broadest interest in this space from time to time.
Gordon Pape is Editor and Publisher of the Internet Wealth Builder and Income Investor newsletters.