Putting Canadian Mutual Funds To The Test

Thomas Edison was dubbed a wizard when he created the electric light bulb.

The Wright Brothers became American icons when they flew the first airplane.

But when John Bogle created the first index fund in 1975, it was labelled Bogle’s folly. That a passive collection of stocks could outperform most professional money managers was considered a joke.

Now, nobody’s laughing.

Vanguard’s Total U.S. Stock Market Index, thanks largely to its popular, lean-cost structure, is now the largest fund on the planet.

Because most money in stocks is actively managed, the average professional trader earns the return of that given market, before fees. After adding management costs, the majority underperform their benchmark index.

But you can’t buy a benchmark index – not exactly. You can purchase index funds and exchange-traded funds. But they also charge fees. Do they beat actively managed funds after doing so?

Taking indexing theory to the street, let’s see how some of Canada’s fund providers compare with indexes you could actually buy.

Read the rest of the article from the Globe and Mail here.

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Andrew Hallam

I’m a financial columnist for Canada’s national paper, The Globe and Mail, as well as for AssetBuilder, a financial service firm based in Texas. I’m also the author of Millionaire Teacher: The Nine Rules of Wealth You Should Have Learned in School (2nd Ed. Wiley 2017) and The Global Expatriate’s Guide To Investing: From Millionaire Teacher to Millionaire Expat (Wiley 2015). My mission is to educate, motivate and inspire people on basic retirement planning and best practices for investing, using evidence-based strategies. I'm happy to comment on your questions. However, please read the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and the Comments Policy.

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13 Responses

  1. Matt says:


    I dont understand the 10-year Avg Return % for the funds in the graphic at the bottom of your article, when I compare them to other indexes in Vanguard. For example, the TD e-series US Index has a 4.86% annualized return, where Vanguard’s Total Stock Market Index has a 8.11% annualized return for the past ten years. Similar differences exist for the International equities.

    Are the number after some kind of tax on annual sales and distributions?


  2. Francis says:

    I think you just prove that these “active” RBC fund are just index fund in a closet, the lag is pretty much the difference in fee.

    • Francis,

      That’s often the case. But if you look carefully, some of them would have beaten the market before fees. And others would have been hammered. Check each of them individually. I’m about to write about CIBC’s funds next. And they look a heck of a lot worse. Sad that people buy them, isn’t it?

      • Jamie says:

        Hi Andrew,

        Do you think the fact that the average consumer isn’t financially literate is the main reason why banks don’t bother pushing great products like the TD eseries funds? I mean, I remember walking into TD to purchase them and the Financial representative looked at me as though I was asking him to purchase some sort of derivative instrument that nobody understood. Even moreso, he asked why I specifically wanted the Eseries funds and not their more readily available TD funds… It seemed obvious to me, the cost effectiveness of the Eseries is the cachet…

        Thank you for your book it lead me to a better way to manage my money.



  3. Jeanne says:

    Hi Andrew,

    I have recently chanced upon your book and am interested to start index investing. May I just get your opinion about the Lyxor UCITS ETF MSCI World on SGX? Will it be suitable to be used as a world stock index fund?

    Thanks in advance!


  4. J says:

    Hello Andrew,

    First off, I have really enjoyed reading your book. Thank you for enlightening and educating me!

    A question for you related to your model portfolio linked in the article. I see the portfolio contains both Emerging Markets and Established Markets Index Funds. Why own both of those and not a Total International Index instead? I am going to be setting up an indexed portfolio based on your guidelines in the book and have been weighing whether the overall Total Int’l Index is the best option vs. a split between Established and Emerging (or just Established, like you I believe as I think I saw you have VEA).


    • Hi John,

      It really doesn’t matter whether you split the international between developed and emerging, or just go with total international. More importantly, controlling your emotions year in and year out will have the greatest effect on your investment performance.


  5. Liam says:

    Hi Andrew,

    I have a DBS Vickers account, and I am looking to make my initial purchase to start my portfolio

    I read that you have advised against buying from the NYSE bcause of the extra charges on etfs, which market would you recommend as the lowest cost for British expats (maybe all non US expats)?


  6. Irene says:

    Just a bit confused about the 10 year numbers. When I check the stats for each fund mentioned on the Globe and Mail’s website, I see different percentages for the 10 year avg than in your article. Am i looking in the wrong spot?

    RBC equity states 6.26%, your article says 6.5.

    RBC US equity is 2.4, your artice says 2.70


    • Hi Irene,

      That article was written a couple of months ago. If you saw 10 year returns today, they would be slightly different because they would have different starting and ending points.



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