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Investment Q&A

Not investment advice or solicitation to buy/sell securities. Do your own due diligence and/or consult an advisor.

Q: Hi team!
I am considering a hybrid portfolio of either (A) 80% ETFs and 20% individual stocks or (B) 80% in an All-in-one ETF (VEQT/VGRO) and 20% individual stocks. I understand there may be foreign withholding tax considerations on the Vanguard All-in-one ETFs depending on the account type in which it's held and I'm wondering how significant this actually is.


- Which accounts out of RRSP/LIRA, TFSA, RESP, and Non-Registered would US listed ETFs be a better alternative due to this foreign withholding tax drag?

- At what account value would the tax drag from these withholding taxes be material enough to warrant buying individual ETFs (ex. VT, VTI, XUU, XEF) instead of using an all in one fund (VGRO or VEQT)?

Trying to avoid losing 15% or more of any US/foreign dividends due to unrecoverable foreign taxes if possible!

Thanks for your great work!

Read Answer Asked by Davin on August 29, 2022

Q: What are the Can ETFs that cover the main US ETFs, like SPY? And what are their mers?

What are the advantages of using these Canadian versions?

Do you still require W-BEN forms if you buy these?

Thanks for all your help.

Read Answer Asked by Mark on October 28, 2021

Q: Good afternoon,

Looking for some general guidance.

I currently have 25% of my portfolio in CAD-listed US ETF's - 14% XUU, and 11% ZSP. I have a few questions for you guys....

1. Would you ever put just 25% in (either) ETF or do you like that fact theyre different (I think you recommend no more than 15% per ETF max? is that correct?). I'd see the advantage of all-in one being better for DRIP'ing but think you (and me) prefer diversification.

2. I would like to add more American holdings in general (maybe 8% more to get to 33%). I am mostly interest in CAD-ETF's to achieve this. Would you view XQQ or XUS as a way to add some 'torque'?

Thanks for your help.

Read Answer Asked by Jeff on August 20, 2021

Q: My sister just pulled out of Questrade's Robo account to a self-directed account. She planned to buy basic 4 index ETFs in order to keep things simple (XIC for Canadian (30%), XUU for US (35%), VIU for Europe (20%), and VEE for emerging markets (15%)).

However, when the funds appeared, we found two thirds of it was in CAD and one third in USD. It seems inefficient to convert it back to CAD and buy those funds. So we're thinking of buying the US equivalent ETFs for XUU and perhaps VIU and VEE.

Can you give us the US equivalents of these funds. If you have any advice on our strategy here or the funds I've mention (eg. whether iShares or Vanguard is preferable in these areas) feel free to add your wisdom which I so much value as a member.

Read Answer Asked by Kevin on August 09, 2021

Q: So I'm a lot less diversified than I thought and have something like 35+% of my investments in Tech. I have a good deal of money in XUS, XUU, and XAW. I thought I was getting diversification, but I didn't realize how heavily weighted in Tech (25% or more) these ETFs were. A few smaller investments (SKYY, IGV, GOOG) put me far more into the Tech space than I realized.

What's the best way to invest in broad ETFs without being so heavily invested into Tech? I feel like 20% is already a high weighting for this sector

Read Answer Asked by Michael on March 16, 2021

Q: Currently have 25% of my portfolio in XUU. I am interested in increasing my US exposure up to 30% though. My question is do you have any problem with 30% XUU or would you possibly split it in to two? Eg ZSP and something else? Note - I would prefer a Canadian listed ETF but if you think there is a better American option I'm willing to listen.....

Read Answer Asked by Jeff on August 04, 2020

Q: Good afternoon. Buy and hold investor. Currently hold 20% XUU, 15% VIU, 5% VEE in portfolio as my non-Canadian equity holdings. What would the pros and cons be of selling them and putting it all in to XAW, and would you recommend such a move? I only re-balance once a year as it is. Thanks for your reply.

Read Answer Asked by Jeff on April 23, 2020

Q: I am beginning to swing trade ETFs. Which do feel more closely mirrors the SPY since one cannot buy the SPX? Feel free to mention others I may have excluded but should be considered.
Putting aside any tax implications or type of account (ie: registered vs non-registered)
Considering the state of the C$ and the price of oil, it would seem more logical to go unhedged , what are your thoughts?

Read Answer Asked by Larry on April 06, 2020

Q: From a tax perspective, does it make a difference where I hold XUU? I'd like to put it in a non-registered account but I'm wondering whether there is a tax benefit to put it in my RSP.


Read Answer Asked by Robert on January 20, 2020

Q: Dear 5i,

XUU has a reported MER of 0.07% and consists of 4 underlying US ETF holdings.
Is an investor paying two layers of MER's when owning XUU?
Vanguard has a competitive ETF called VUN which has a surprising higher MER
of 0.16%. Which ETF would you recommend and why?


Read Answer Asked by Ian on November 19, 2019

Q: I have been investing in ETFs for several years, using a simple 5 ETF portfolio which includes VCN (27%), XUU (27%), XEF (19%), XEC(7%), and ZAB (20%). When I use the portfolio analytics, the suggested ETF portfolio includes about 15 ETFs. Just wondering what if the added complication of the additional funds is worth the effort. I assume that yours has better downside protection as it reduces some of the concentrated sectors and perhaps has better returns? My portfolio has grown in size over the past years so I am ok with the additional work to manage the portfolio, just wanted to better understand why.


Read Answer Asked by Everett on September 03, 2019

Q: Good morning 5i,
In the interests of simplifying my financial affairs for those who may have to look after them at some point, I have been moving in the direction of efts in my rif accounts on the US side. Up to this point I haven't considered doing the same for Canadian stocks, for two reasons: One is the capital gains that must be paid, as they are in a taxable account for the most part. Second, because of the fear that Canadian efts, like the Canadian economy, concentrate on only a few sectors. I thought, therefore, that I could simply make up my own etf out of individual companies that I buy. I can see, though, that one could suffer a real loss if one of these blew up, something like SNC Lavelan, which had previously been a staple in Canadian portfolios until recently. Also, there is the difficulty of managing these stocks by someone else, not used to doing so. I could approach it over a number of years to avoid some of the capital gain problem. So, I was wondering what you thought of this move in general? Also,I would appreciate your view on the relative dangers of holding Canadian efts? Which Canadian efts would be the best, general market or more focused? Appreciate greatly your reflections on this question.

Read Answer Asked by joseph on July 26, 2019

Q: Hi 5i,
The majority of my portfolio (70% - i.e. everything non-Canadian) is invested in XAW & XUU, which I add my savings to regularly to keep my geographic allocations where I want them.

I will shortly be receiving a sizable (to me) lump sum from the sale of a small business and will be putting most if not all of it into my portfolio. My question is about currency hedging on ETFs like the ones I use. I don't have any hedged investments now. I've read everything I can find on the subject and it seems smarter money, especially with long term investment horizons, stays away from these hedged options.

I know that fact alone probably answers my own question. But, with a sizeable one-time contribution, I cant help wondering if our current 75/76/77 cent dollar might be hovering at its lows, and maybe hedging should be considered? Looking for your opinion on that subject, and also how you feel in general about the two ETFs noted above. Any better suggestions?

Thanks so much!

Read Answer Asked by Ryan on November 02, 2018

Q: Please correct me where I am wrong, but these two ETF's track the same index (un-hedged US total market), but in spite of XUU having a lower MER, VUN seems to be the more popular choice, as well as seems to have a higher amount of daily trading volume. Any idea why?

Read Answer Asked by Jeff on September 26, 2018

Q: Hi Peter and Team

What Canadian listed ETF would you recommend today for US market exposure for the TFSA of a thirty year old with a long term time horizon? Would your answer be any different if it was for an RRSP where the 15% US withholding tax was not an issue? There seem to be hedged and nonhedged versions of all of them so would you recommend a hedged version now with the USD so strong?

Thank you!

Read Answer Asked by Mary on November 18, 2016