My three criticisms regarding the TULF portfolio are include below in italics, with my counterarguments in normal font.
1. Lack of sector and geographical diversification
Once you’ve filled up your portfolio with telecoms (4 candidates), utilities (5 candidates), and financials (12 candidates), you're left trying to identify low-yielders with above average dividend growth potential in the 28 remaining companies. Since Mr. Connolly fails to define what he considers a low-yielding company, it's fair to focus on the lower yielding half of the 28 remaining companies in search of candidates that would provide above-average dividend growth and sector diversification.
Although a couple of the larger utility companies and financial firms that Tom recommends have exposure outside of Canada, limiting a portfolio to TULF companies would expose you heavily toward the small, resource-centered Canadian economy. Personally, I aim to keep at least 30% of my investment capital dedicated to international equities in order to provide better geographical diversification.
Going through the 87 companies in S&P/TSX Dividend Aristocrats Index
, I came up with some names to include in portfolios that would provide some geographic and sector diversification:
Sample geographically diversified portfolio: T: Telus (most international Canadian telecommunication player), U: Algonquin (or Fortis, or Emera would provide US exposure), F: Bank of Nova Scotia (Latin and South America exposure) or Brookfield Asset Management (global exposure, but a lower dividend yield), L: Magna (international exposure to vehicle manufacturers)
Sample portfolio to provide sector diversification: F: Onex (multisector holdings), T: Telus (health exposure in addition to telecommunications), U: Capital Power (producer and energy trader), L: Dollarama (general retailer)
Although achieving strong geographic and sector diversification is going to be a challenge with only 87 Canadian based companies to choose from, the sample portfolios above show promise in at least providing some geographic and sector diversification.
2. Identifying low-yielders who can and will grow their dividends quickly is difficult and not necessarily relevant
Accurately identifying low-yielders who can continue to grow their dividends at a fast rate for an extended period of time is as difficult as timing the market. These special types of companies are even harder to find in the small and often domestically focused Canadian market. Furthermore, I have yet to see a valid case made from a mathematical standpoint of why including low-yielders in a portfolio is necessary. Assuming you get very lucky and select a company currently yielding 1.0% that can grow dividends at 20% for 10 years, your yield on cost would grow to 6.2% at the end of the period. In contrast, if you pick a company currently yielding 5%, that grows their dividend by a paltry 2% over 10 years, you end up with the same yield on cost of 6.2%.
Metro Inc.: Yield at Dec 31st = 1.6%, 26 year streak of raising dividends, 1-yr div growth = 12.5%, 5-yr return = 22%
Candian National Railway: Yield = 1.6%, 25 year streak of raising dividends, 1-yr div growth = 7.0%, 5-yr return = 73%
Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc.: Yield = 0.8%, 11 year streak of raising dividends, 1-yr div growth = 19.0%, 5-yr return = 38%
Brookfield Asset Management: Yield = 1.2%, 9 year streak of raising dividends, 1-yr div growth = 12.5%, 5-yr return = 88%
Open Text Corp.: Yield = 1.8%, 8 year streak of raising dividends, 1-yr div growth = 6.7%, 5-yr return = 81%
Keeping in mind that the 5-year returns presented above don't include dividends, the benefit of adding these low-yielding stocks to a portfolio becomes obvious: potential for large total returns.
3. Energy vs Utility Companies?
While Mr. Connolly suggests removing cyclical stocks such as energy and mining companies, he goes onto say TransCanada (classified in the Energy sector) was the first stock he owned. I also find it odd he advises against including energy companies and yet dedicates a whole category for utilities. There are blurry lines and high correlations between energy and utility companies. For instance, Enbridge Inc is classified in the index as an Energy company which would make it ineligible for the TULF portfolio. However, living in Quebec, Enbridge is viewed as a utility company by its many natural gas customers who pay their monthly bill to Enbridge subsidiary Gazifere. By discounting an entire category of companies he deems to be cyclical, Mr. Connolly leaves the investor with an even smaller potential universe of companies from which to select.
The best way I can think of to support Mr. Connolly's argument to include utility companies, and remove energy companies, is to compare the performance of indices representing these two sectors (which I did using www.barchart.com).
TSX Energy Capped Index ($TTEN) 5-year Performance: -37%
TSX Utility Capped Index ($TTUT) 5-year Performance: +47%
It's hard to argue against 84% outperformance over the past five years. Although I do think a longer time frame would make for an even more meaningful comparison.
Before wrapping up, I can think of a couple more bonuses for the Canadian TULF portfolio:
- Four stock portfolio is easy to construct, follow, rebalance yearly and would have low transaction costs
- Strict criteria can help automate decisions
Does your portfolio include all of the TULF components?