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Million-dollar-plus TFSAs seem like unicorns: wonderfully magnificent, yet completely unreal. Yet the latest data from Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) show these monetized, magical beasts do exist.

As of the 2016 tax year, 30 individuals held tax-free savings accounts (TFSAs) valued at $1-million or more. These investors are also incredibly rare, accounting for 0.002 per cent of the 13-million Canadians with a TFSA.

Still, the fact that they’ve amassed so much wealth underscores the potential of the TFSA, says Robin Speziale, a do-it-yourself investor and author of Market Masters: Interviews with Canada’s Top Investors.

Simply put: “The TFSA is a great way to build wealth.”

And yet “some people still don’t know that they can invest in stocks within a TFSA,” says Mr. Speziale, who maximizes TFSA contributions yearly.

Rather, many Canadians invest conservatively, using the TFSA as an emergency savings account, according to a BMO survey from earlier this year. In fact CRA data reveal the average size of a TFSA (2015 tax year) was about $15,000 – a far cry from the maximum contribution of $57,500.

So it’s safe to say millions of Canadians might need some investing tips to pump up the growth in their TFSAs. With that in mind, here’s a look at how a few bloggers and do-it-yourself (DIY) investors have done with theirs. They may not have million-dollar accounts, but their approaches have still led to high-double-digit – even triple-digit – returns.

Robin Speziale, author and blogger at

TFSA value: about $105,000

No need to invest in penny stock to swing for the fences. Rather, Mr. Speziale suggests sifting through some of Canada’s largest stocks by market capitalization, as listed on the S&P TSX 60. Some may prefer to pick the highest dividend yielders or those with a history of high dividend growth.

But “one can ignore dividend yield altogether, and instead shortlist TSX 60 companies based on highest return on equity (ROE),” says the 31-year-old Toronto business consultant. “I’ve found a correlation between a company’s return on capital and its share price performance.” The strategy has proven fruitful. Some of his top performers are winemaker Andrew Peller Ltd., up about 66 per cent, and Constellation Software Inc., up 63 per cent.

Dan Kent, DIY investor and co-founder of (a resource for DIY investors)

TFSA value: about $26,000

Mr. Kent hasn’t focused much on investing in his TFSA until recently, hence its rather diminutive value. Still the Calgarian, who is an electrician by day, switched from a dividend strategy to a higher risk factor with a growth-strategy portfolio last fall that includes biotech and cannabis companies.

“The average return I have made on my TFSA during my dividend years was around 8 per cent, including dividends,” the 28-year-old says. “When I transitioned to a growth model in September, my return for 2017 finished off at 15 per cent.”

So far this year, his portfolio is up 30 per cent led by biotech company Parkland Fuels Corporation, cannabis producer Canopy Growth Corp., parka-manufacturer Canada Goose Holdings and e-commerce company Shopify Inc.

Tim Stobbs, blogger at Canadian Dream: Free at 45, and author

TFSA value: about $93,000

Thanks in part to the growth of his TFSA, Mr. Stobbs achieved his goal of retiring at 45, five years ahead of schedule. The former chemical-engineer-turned-author has taken a fairly conservative approach to stock picking, selecting large-cap Canadian companies that pay a dividend – only with a twist.

“We mirror our choices for investment off of our monthly bills,” he says about his and his wife’s TFSAs. “We pay a mortgage, so we bought stock in a couple of banks, and we pay the power bill, so we bought a couple of utilities – stuff like that.”

Among his holdings are RioCan REIT, Dream Office REIT, Rogers Communications Inc., Husky Energy Inc. and Manulife Financial Corp. The Regina resident’s best performer has been Algonquin Power and Utilities Corp., which he bought when “its shares plummeted, and then shot back up again.”

While he is still tinkering with his TFSA, Mr. Stobbs expects growth to be limited in the future, as he draws upon its roughly 4-per-cent-plus-dividend yield for income to cover lifestyle expenses.

Mark Seed, DIY investor and blogger at

TFSA value: about $80,000

Mr. Seed has also focused on dividend-paying Canadian stocks. They may not provide fast growth. But their modest capital expansion and high-yield income relative to bonds are ideal for his TFSA’s intended goal: paying for retirement.

“While you might hit the jackpot using your TFSA to hold penny stocks or junior mining companies or pot stocks, that approach is full of speculation and risk,” says the Ottawa-based project manager, 44.

A dividend strategy involves risk, too, he notes. But “it has delivered strong returns over time.” So while “investors can try and hit a home run … I think they’ll find their account will be larger if they focus on hitting singles and the odd double.”

His two main holdings for the past five years have been utilities provider Fortis Inc. and Bank of Montreal, which he purchased for just over $60 a share. Its share price is now more than $100.

Jesse Lavoie, DIY investor and IT consultant

TFSA value: about $100,000

What’s most remarkable about Mr. Lavoie’s TFSA is that he contributed only $20,000. The rest of the value is all gains. And if it weren’t for him withdrawing $50,000 recently to pay off debt and cover housing costs, his TFSA would be upward of $150,000. That’s a 750-per-cent return.

“I’d say about 80 per cent of my strategy involved investing in cannabis companies,” the 26-year-old Winnipegger says. He adds the rest of his TFSA is managed by a boutique Winnipeg firm called Haven Wealth Management. “It’s done very well for me, too.”

Still, his biggest winners have been those involved in Canada’s mushrooming legal marijuana industry, including Aurora Cannabis Inc., which he purchased for $1.63 and sold at $5.60, and Namaste Technologies Inc., which he purchased for 25 cents and sold at $3.78.

“My best piece of advice is once you have the money, don’t blow it,” he says. “You could buy a flashy car when you’re 26, or you could re-invest the money and your 60-year-old self will be much better off for it.”

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