Net Worth Update_ 2020 Mid-Year Review

It’s time for my biannual net worth update where I share all of the numbers on my quest to reach millionaire status by the end of this year. It’s not going to be easy, as the global pandemic has impacted everyone’s finances to some degree.

I want to start by acknowledging how incredibly fortunate we are to be in good health and have the ability to earn an income working from home. Despite the odd grumbling about home schooling and cancelled travel plans, we know how lucky we have it and are grateful every day.

Remember plans? We had plenty of them heading into 2020. After quitting my job back in December, we hoped to spend much of 2020 travelling around Europe, the U.K., and Victoria. We managed to squeeze in a trip to Maui for a week in February before travel restrictions were put in place indefinitely.  

As for our finances, well it’s been a year of transition. My wife and I originally planned to pay ourselves dividends from our online business. But then I had the opportunity to take the commuted value of my workplace pension, which came with a large cash payout. So, we shelved the dividend plan and decided to live off the pension payout for the remainder of the year.

I opened a locked in retirement account (LIRA) to house the remainder of the pension payout. I can’t touch this money until at least age 55 and it’s currently invested in the Vanguard All Equity ETF (VEQT).

The cash payout was more than we can spend this year and so I stuffed $30,000 into my TFSA to fully max it out for the first time since 2011. That felt good!

We also maxed out the small amount of available contribution room in both my wife’s and my RRSP.

How have my investments fared? Stock markets fell more than 30% in March, the fastest decline of that magnitude in history. But investments found a bottom on March 23 and have climbed steadily(ish) ever since. My RRSP is down 6.12% on the year while my TFSA is down 2%.

Finally, I opened a corporate investment account to start to invest excess business income beyond what we pay ourselves (nothing, this year) and beyond our operating float. I’ve included this new account in my net worth update to be completely transparent with how our finances are set up.

Now, let’s look at the numbers.

Net worth update: 2020 mid-year review

Total Assets – $1,070,597

  • Chequing account – $5,000
  • Savings account – $85,000
  • (New) Corporate investment account – $30,000
  • RRSP – $215,662
  • (New) LIRA – $140,875
  • Defined benefit pension plan – $0
  • TFSA – $81,625
  • RESP – $53,435
  • Principal residence – $459,000

Total Liabilities – $194,261

  • Mortgage – $194,261

Net worth – $876,336

You may have noticed the large amount of cash in our savings account right now (up from $35,000 in my last update). A good chunk of that is leftover from the cash portion of my pension payout and will be spent by the end of the year.

Now let’s answer a few questions about the way I calculate net worth:

Credit Cards, Banking, and Investments

We funnel all of our purchases onto a couple of different rewards credit cards to earn points on our everyday spending.

Our go-to card is the discontinued Capital One Aspire Travel World Elite MasterCard. We have a grandfathered version that pays 2% back on every purchase and comes with a 10,000-point bonus each year.

*Cardholders have received notice that the 10,000 bonus points have been axed and the 2% reward on spending will be reduced to 1.5%. In other words, time to find a new card.

Our secondary card is the Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite Card, which we use for non-Costco groceries and gas. Finally, we look for the best credit card sign-up bonuses and time our large annual spending (car and house insurance) around these offers.

Our joint chequing account is held at TD, along with our mortgage and kids’ RESPs. My wife has her own chequing and savings accounts at Tangerine. Our high interest savings account is held at EQ Bank, which pays 2% interest.

My RRSP and TFSA are held at the zero-commission trading platform Wealthsimple Trade. My LIRA is held at TD Direct, and the new corporate investment account is held at Questrade. My wife’s investments are held at Wealthsimple.

RRSP / LIRA / RESP

The right way to calculate net worth is to use the same formula consistently over time to help track and achieve your financial goals.

My preferred method is to list the current value of my RRSP, LIRA, and RESP plans rather than discounting their future value to account for taxes and distributions.

I consider a net worth statement to be a snapshot of your current financial picture, so when it comes time to draw from my RRSP/LIRA and distribute the RESP to my kids, my net worth will decrease accordingly.

Principal Residence

We bought our home in 2011 for $425,000 and developed our basement a few years later, increasing its value to $450,000. The next year I bumped up the market value by 2 percent (which is still less than its city-assessed value), but the local real estate market has since flattened – with nothing selling in our price range – and so I’ve left the value at $459,000 for the past three years.

Final thoughts

COVID-19 has certainly thrown a wrench into our plans and most likely killed any hope I had of reaching the million-dollar mark by the end of 2020. Still, this was always a stretch goal – something to strive for over the last 10 years. I won’t get kicked out of the personal finance blogger guild if it takes a few extra months to make it.

Again, we’re so fortunate to be able to get through this pandemic with a few mild annoyances while still improving our financial position. The same can’t be said for many other Canadians.

Have you managed to keep your finances on track in 2020? Let me know in the comments.

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14 Comments

  1. Rick on July 1, 2020 at 7:48 am

    Great work Rob, keep chipping at it and in no time you guys will be at the elusive 1Mil achievement.

    Three qs- 1. Does WS trade not support a corp investment account? Why Questrade I’m thinking? And how do you put your money to work within the Corp? VEQT as well? And the 30k is before tax obviously (ie. only Corp tax paid business income).

    2. I lease a car (personally) but use it 90% for work commute – I am an incorporated consultant as a result can write off car expenses (lease, gas, etc) against business income. Lease is for 40 months. Should I be considering the total lease value (18,000 or so) as liability? That is how Toyota Canada at least reports it on my credit file but I consider it just like a property rental – 40month contract paid monthly. What do you think?

    3. What is your situation with Insurance (life and health)? I personally believe insurance is a scam. Any pointers to optimize insurance coverage?

    • Robb Engen on July 1, 2020 at 12:34 pm

      Hi Rick, thanks! WS Trade only supports RRSP, TFSA, and individual (taxable) accounts at this time. Otherwise I would have put my LIRA and Corporate Account there. Wealthsimple (the robo) does support both of these, but you get the model portfolios rather than a self-directed one.

      When the account eventually gets approved from Questrade (40+ days and counting now) I will invest the funds in VEQT. Yes, before taxes. The plan would be to grow this account to several hundred thousand and then take dividends as needed in retirement.

      I would consider your lease as an expense and not as a liability. Yes, similar to a property rental.

      As for insurance, I don’t believe it’s a scam at all. Yes, you hate to pay the premiums, but you’re glad it’s there if you need it (or at least your beneficiaries are). I have a 15-year term life insurance policy with a death benefit of $600,000.

      Still shopping for health insurance coverage for our situation, which is apparently hard to find (husband and wife co-owners, no employees). But I do believe that health insurance isn’t really insurance – it’s an employee benefit in most cases. I don’t have those benefits now so I have to pay for prescriptions / dental in full and out of pocket. No big deal, we just budget for them.

      • Ron Sigal on July 1, 2020 at 8:40 pm

        Robb, you should start a PHSP (Private Health Services Plan). This will enable you to use pre-tax corporate funds to pay your family’s medical expenses.

        I look forward to reading about your choice of credit card to replace the Capital One Aspire Travel World Elite Mastercard; I am facing the same decision.

        • Robb Engen on July 4, 2020 at 4:29 pm

          Hi Ron, this is what I’ve looked into and from what I’ve learned I don’t believe we can set up a PHSP until we start paying ourselves a salary. We’ll likely do that next year when things ‘normalize’ so hopefully we can get one set up then.

      • Rick on July 1, 2020 at 8:45 pm

        Do you have an article published or have pointers/considerations while obtaining term insurance, ‘watch out for’ kinda items apart from of course the most cost effective monthly payments?

  2. Joel on July 1, 2020 at 7:55 am

    Congrats Robb – that’s awesome!

    I’ve done ok during the pandemic and managed to continue to add to my savings without too much disruption. I took a market hit, but am pretty much back on track now and managed to pickup some pretty good dividend paying deals.

    I peaked over 1mil April 2018 and am about 1.35 now and looking to make major work changes in 2024 and moving to completely self employment. I’m 52 so a fair bit older than you.

    Take care Robb!

    • Robb Engen on July 1, 2020 at 12:36 pm

      Hi Joel, great to hear from you. Glad to hear you’re holding up well during “these times” and have managed such a great improvement in net worth. Financial freedom gives you options to work on your own terms and it sounds like that’s in the cards for you soon.

      Cheers!

  3. Malcolm Fredrick Palmer on July 1, 2020 at 11:34 am

    We use FIE in Qtrade as a super savings account. The end of the month payout goes into our regular high interest savings account and next month we transfer all of our spare cash into Qtrade FIE. We keep about $1,000 float for emergencies, etc. If you did the same thing, you could earn about $90,000 x 8% annually or about $600 per month.

    • Robb Engen on July 1, 2020 at 12:40 pm

      Hi Malcolm, thanks for sharing. I’m normally not a fan of monthly income funds as, while the payouts look generous, much of the income is Return of Capital which erodes the share value over time.

      In our case, we need a good chunk of that savings for living expenses for the remainder of the year so the market is the last place I’d put it. FIE share price is down 20% on the year.

  4. Roger F on July 1, 2020 at 11:48 am

    Rob, congratulations, you’re looking good! My wife and I are in our 70’s, so very different situation to your family. We started RRSP mutual funds 30-35 years ago with a fund company (back then there were no other choices, no Questrade, no Wealthsimple etc.). If I were starting today we would be in ETF’s.
    Our funds have done pretty well with dripping but for the first time in all these years we made a big change because of Covid. Four of our six funds had Dividend in their titles and it seemed to me that many companies will be reducing or eliminating dividends. Two months ago we switched them to Equity and Growth funds and have done well. Some day I’ll do a “what if” we had not switched to compare the results.

    • Robb Engen on July 1, 2020 at 12:45 pm

      Hi Roger, thanks for the kind words. It’s so important to diversify investments, not only across the globe but to also hold growth, value, small cap, etc. rather than focusing on one type of investment (i.e. dividends).

      What’s interesting about the current market is everyone keeps talking about how dislocated it is from the economy but in reality the market is being held up by the big tech companies like Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Alphabet, and Shopify here in Canada, which have all performed incredibly well this year.

      We know throughout history that the top performing companies are responsible for the lion’s share of market gains. That’s why, while some companies will go bankrupt and others will reduce or eliminate dividends, the market as a whole can continue to chug along.

  5. Fausto Alvarez on July 5, 2020 at 9:26 am

    Is VEQT a good option to invest in non- registered account? Worry abouth the holding taxes

    • Robb Engen on July 5, 2020 at 11:13 am

      Hi Fausto, it’s totally fine to hold VEQT in a non-registered account as the foreign withholding taxes can generally be recovered by claiming the foreign tax credit on Line 405 of your return. The non-recoverable portion works out to about an extra 0.02% in costs.

      Check out Justin Bender’s foreign withholding tax calculator here: https://www.canadianportfoliomanagerblog.com/calculators/

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