Close Menu
Creating Freedom Through Financial Independence


Should You Invest For Income Or Growth?

April 28, 2018

Lately, I’ve seen some confusion in the Financial Independence community, about different investment strategies.

After deciding they want to invest in shares, some are unsure if they should invest for growth, or income.  It’s a big decision after all.

Now, many of you will already have in your mind which side of the fence I sit on.  But others may actually be surprised at my answer.


The Two Main Strategies

Simplifying, most of us investing in the sharemarket for early retirement are following one of these philosophies…

Index Funds:  Based on owning a portion of the entire market, being globally diversified and having the majority of our returns come from capital growth.

Dividend Investing:  Following an approach like Peter Thornhill advocates.  Basically, owning a large basket of dividend-paying companies, being somewhat diversified (though not necessarily globally), and focusing on our dividend income.

(See my in-depth interview with Peter Thornhill here)

Now, when some people are trying to choose which one they prefer, there’s some incorrect assumptions I’d like to clear up.

Firstly, I wrote an article relating to this topic before.  So feel free to go back and read my post on Dividend Investing, to see what I had to say.  Grab a cuppa, because that’s a long one!

Today’s version is a bit different…


Income Investing Assumptions

Assumption 1:  Investing for dividends means aiming for high-yield.

That’s not quite true.

The Thornhill approach is not really about buying high-yielding stocks.

Now, it can mean companies with high-yield, low-growth, or it can mean low-yield, high growth.  And in the case of how the old LICs like AFIC and Argo invest, a mix of both.

Either way, it’s about investing for a growing dividend stream over time, rather than depending on price growth from the market.

As I’ve mentioned before, this way your investment returns and retirement income is much more focused on fundamentals (being company earnings and dividends) as opposed to share prices, which are more volatile and unpredictable.


Assumption 2:  Anything but indexing is trying to beat the market. 

In most cases yes, but not all. 

Investing in the old LICs, such as AFIC, Argo and Milton, is a very passive endeavour.  Indeed, the LICs themselves do very little buying and selling.  Most of the time, they’re simply passing on the dividends they receive from the portfolio.

Because many people in the market have different goals and preferences, we shouldn’t assume they’re all trying to swing for the fences.

Making a decision to hold only dividend-paying stocks is a preference I have.  And it might mean we earn a return that’s similar, or maybe even less than the market average, but with a higher dividend component.

In any case, the old LICs aren’t that much different to holding VAS – the Vanguard Australian Shares Index Fund.  VAS still has a very wide variety of dividend-paying stocks, along with a bunch that don’t pay out any dividends.

Since LICs operate as a ‘company’, they can retain earnings and this allows them to pay out a more progressively increasing dividend over time.  So even if they receive lower income for a year or two, they can usually still pay us the same level of dividends due to this structure.

This is part of the appeal of LICs, along with some other things, which I wrote about here.


Assumption 3:  Investing for income means no growth.  

Absolutely not.

In fact, my strategy (well, Thornhill’s) is incredibly reliant on growth.  But it’s growth in company earnings and dividends that matters to me, not capital growth from share price movements.

Perhaps I should’ve used the proper term before.  The true name for this strategy is Dividend Growth Investing. 

As the name suggests, it’s a strategy wholly focused on dividends, that grow, over time.  So even though the up-front income or yield is still important, without growth, this strategy would be terrible.

You know why?

Because living on this income stream means it needs to increase steadily over time with inflation, ideally, a bit more than that.  So if the dividend payments stayed the same, your income is actually shrinking in real terms, as the cost of living slowly goes up.

While the growth doesn’t need to be much, 2-3% would suffice, the growth is essential!

Over the long term, the Australian market has had roughly the same returns as the US.  Historically, the US has experienced higher growth with lower dividends.  And our market has paid higher dividends, with slightly lower growth.  Both having solid growth, adding up to the same returns since 1900.

Importantly, growth is crucial for all sharemarket investors.  Whether we realise it or not, we’re all hoping for the same thing.  For all those companies and the market as a whole, to generate higher earnings into the future.

Without higher earnings, dividends won’t grow.  And without higher earnings, share prices won’t grow.

So no matter your preference, clearly, we’re all barracking for the same team!


Income or Growth?

I think it’s really the wrong question.  Why do income and growth investments have to be different?

Instead of focusing on income or growth…I focus on income growth.

Readers know I’ve chosen the dividend approach, but it’s not about yield or growth in isolation – it’s both. And to label it properly, it’s Dividend Growth Investing.

To repeat:  It simply means investing for the purpose of a growing dividend stream, rather than primarily capital growth or total return.

If company earnings grow, so do dividends, and therefore the capital value (share price) will eventually follow. It’s about not relying on share prices, but rather the growing income.

So the point being, if your income is growing faster than inflation, who cares what the share price is doing?


Wait, I like Indexing.  Can I still be a Dividend Growth Investor?

Yes, most definitely.  You’re employing a winning long-term income strategy already!

It’s merely a mindset shift.  Instead of focusing on share prices, simply start focusing on the growing dividends your index funds are paying out.

Notice how you receive those regular payments, which increase almost every year, regardless of what the market is doing.

The dividend payments from US and Australian corporations should rise steadily over time, rewarding investors, and providing a wonderful growing income stream to live on.

So, those two strategies I listed above, are not really that different from each other.  Indeed, two people could have the same portfolio and think of themselves as following a different strategy.


Finding the balance

There’s another thing to consider.

In general, when investing in sharemarkets – a high yield investment will likely mean low dividend growth.  And a low yielding investment, will mean high dividend growth.

Notice how I didn’t say capital growth?  Because it doesn’t bloody matter.  It’s just a distraction, so forget about it.  The price will follow the company earnings and dividends over the long term.

Anyway, we need to decide how much income/growth we want.

Unfortunately, there’s far too many variables to please everyone.  For people on a higher tax rate, investing for a lower yield but higher dividend growth rate is more appealing.

Or, if we have a very long way until retirement, the higher growth rate can work out better.

Some of us will have a low income spouse.  And some readers may have a different situation or even be retired, so tax is not a burden.

For those of us investing solely in Australian shares, franking credits cover the vast bulk (if not all) the tax payable.  Because of this, many of us are happy to accept a lower rate of dividend growth, for a solid income today.

Whatever we do, we should look to invest with a long-term income stream in mind.


Example 1:  Higher Yield, Lower Dividend Growth

Let’s pretend for a moment.  Say we have an 7% return locked in for the next 15 years (a reasonable journey to Financial Independence).

Let’s take an Australian LIC, with a dividend yield of 4%, fully-franked, and dividend growth of 3%.  We’ll assume a tax rate of 37%.  Not the highest, and not too low – seems fair.

This dividend yield after-tax on day one is 3.6%.

Putting $10,000 in here would provide $360 yearly income, after tax.

After the 15 years, that first parcel of shares, is earning $561, after paying 37% tax.  The income grew by 56%.  Not too bad.

But remember, in retirement you’ll likely be paying very little tax.  Under current rules, the excess franking credits will be refunded, meaning a boost to income.


Example 2:  Lower Yield, Higher Dividend Growth

For this example, we’ll use the Vanguard International Shares Index Fund (VGS).

Right now, the yield is 2.3%.  We’ll assume tax of 37%, and dividend growth of 5%.  This gives us a total return of just over 7% per year.

On day one, the income from a $10,000 purchase is $230, or $145 after tax.

After 15 years, the yearly income on this parcel of shares is now earning $301, after paying 37% tax.  The income has grown by over 100% in this scenario because of the higher growth rate.  But it still hasn’t caught up to the first example.

Now, some of you may be saying it’s not a fair example, due to the franking credits for Australian shares.  So, let’s even discard the franking credits for a second.

The first $10,000 would earn a dividend of 4%, or $400.  Less tax of 37%, leaves $252.

After 15 years, the yearly income would be $623, or $392 after paying 37% tax.  Still quite a bit ahead of the high-growth option.


Another Example…

Let’s say that for the next 20 years, International shares were going to have a total return of 9% per annum.  Made up of 2% dividend yield, plus 7% earnings/dividend growth.

With a growth rate of 7%, the dividend income would double in roughly 10 years.  And after 20 years, dividends would have doubled again.

This means, after 20 years, your yield on cost would be around 8%, because the dividend income has doubled twice.  You with me?

Now, let’s say Australian shares were going to have a total return of 7.5% per annum.  Made up of 4% dividend yield, plus 3.5% earnings/dividend growth.

With a growth rate of 3.5%, the dividend income would take roughly 20 years to double.  So after this time, the investor would be earning around 8% yield on their initial investment.

I’m also ignoring tax in this scenario, which would actually boost the result for Aussie shares, because of franking credits.

So what does this tell us?

Well, even with a higher total return, and twice the rate of dividend growth, it takes roughly 20 years for the income from International shares to catch up with the income paid by Aussie shares.

Of course, for investors who aren’t fussed with income, this wouldn’t matter.  But for those of us who are trying to build our dividend income for early retirement, this is a big deal!

You can do a few scenarios with the numbers for yourself.  But I come away with the following…

Most of us are aiming to become financially independent relatively quickly – at least within a decade or two.  So, I think investing for a decent yield, which grows, makes the most sense.

Obviously, it’s easy (well, I think so) to get excited about the dividend income on offer here in Oz.  And with the strong yields and franking credits, it makes for a solid income on the road to, and during, early retirement.

And it’s more tax efficient than you might expect.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t invest in International shares.  You should, if you want to.  It just takes a while for that income to get going, that’s all.

Depending on your time-frame and personal tax rates, you may be better or worse off investing overseas.  But it also provides more diversification, since your dividends will be sourced from many, many more companies.


Closing Thoughts

Although there’s variations on the name, the most accurate name is Dividend Growth Investing.  Mostly, for simplicity, I called it Dividend Investing earlier on.  Same same 🙂

Hopefully this post has helped explain my thinking a bit more.  And we should now have a clear image in our mind what this income-focused strategy is all about.

Further, if you find any folks unsure of whether to invest for income or growth, now you know what to tell them, or at least, where to point them.  In my mind, the answer is we should invest for income growth.

Whether you’re an index fund investor, or a pick-your-own-stocks type investor, you can still use this strategy.  Because it’s merely a mindset shift.  And a welcome break from the zig-zagging, headline-grabbing, erratic movements of share prices.


36 Replies to “Should You Invest For Income Or Growth?”

  1. To me the ultimate growth asset is real estate… yes shares can provide awesome growth but selection is a lot harder….real estate has the power to magnify even meagre returns due to power of leverage.. something that is not really safe or doable with shares…

    If I had to look at shares as a growth asset then I would probably go outside of ASX 150… for anything within the 150 index provide great value but smaller companies is where real growth is…of course that means self education becomes even more important…

    1. Thanks Money Turtle. I used to think this way too about real estate, but have changed my tune in recent years. We’ve invested heavily in real estate and still hold many leveraged properties, by the way.

      There’s quite a few things that drag down those ‘return on equity’ figures, and in any case is not a sustainable way to retire early – you end up needing to sell and switch to other investments to get a half decent income. I get the growth argument, and while it can work, I don’t believe it’s as reliable and rosy as many claim. I touched on some of the issues here in this post, and especially in the comments.

      Yes you’re spot on, the smaller end of the sharemarket is often where the higher growth companies are. I don’t consider myself to have any skills in this area, so happily outsource this by investing in certain LICs with a long history (20 years) of solid performance.

      As I said though, these days I focus on the income growth from investments, not growth or income from different places 🙂

        1. Not a recommendation, but some small-company focused LICs among the more popular are Mirrabooka (MIR) and WAM Capital/WAM Research (WAM/WAX). These days I don’t feel a massive need to own small growth companies as most of the larger LICs do own a group of small stocks as well, and fees are far lower.

          Alternatively, for those who just buy the index fund – VAS – it has exposure to 300 stocks, so there are heaps of small companies in there. By buying the index, you don’t have to rely on a manager to choose the best small companies, as those companies grow and prosper they’ll become a bigger part of the index, and the ones that do poorly will simply fall out of the top 300.

          In any case, I’d lean towards keeping it simple. Hope that helps.

  2. while i really enjoyed the post, i ve eventually let go and chosen to invest into index through interactive brockers. i m still struggling to read their statement. i m at the stage where i focus on the threw things i understand: low fees, diversify and have the highest savings rate possible.
    as for the return, all might be theorical after all?

    1. Thanks grogounet. Sounds like a wise plan. The future is unknowable, the best we can do is stick to some basic principles that hold up well over the long term and an approach we can stick to.

      I haven’t used that particular broker, but I’ve heard their platform is not very easy to use. I use CMC and it’s nice and simple, and recently I’ve started using SelfWeatlh as well, which seems fine so far.

  3. Great post and subject matter…
    I invest for income but have a balance of stocks that have growth and pay good divvies. Its about balance, I also have term deposits which offer safety and have the usual popular LIC’s, ETF’s that offer early retirees income, a degree of safety but probably not too much growth. The ideal stocks for me are something like Macquarie Bank which offers some growth, good divvies as well as a degree of difference with other bank stocks . You have to have some growth stocks in a income portfolio to keep up with inflation unless you reinvest some of your divvies. Most income investors are set and forget investors which I am to a point as I have my core group of income stocks but I also take a active approach and keep a bit of money aside for projects like Dividend Stripping and the odd spec stock that I am looking to make a profit on from a growth angle….it brings me in some extra money and also keeps you in the game ,keeps the skills sharp and its good for the old brain when you get it right. So I am a dividend growth investor too but with a bit of mayo on the odd investment….

    1. Cheers Mark. Interesting approach!

      I’m trying to keep it simple really, so I don’t want to be using too many strategies at once. Just one good investing philosophy is enough for me!

      Growth is essential, absolutely. I believe the old LICs will still keep pace with (or outpace) inflation as they have for many, many decades, even though they do lean towards stocks with higher income and lower growth. Other than that, the index (VAS), despite being similar, is sure to capture all the big winners from the top 300 in the future.

      Thanks for sharing mate.

  4. Great message Dave – far too many different labels and words to describe a basic overarching principal –
    growing your assets and income over the long run.

    When you peel it all away, you get to the crux of it which you summed up: “The price will follow the company earnings and dividends over the long term”. There are plenty of different ways to build up a portfolio of income producing assets over the long run, but earnings need to grow, otherwise asset values and dividends can’t be supported.

    Some people like to try and get there a little quicker by seeking undervalued shares or other strategies, but this can lead to a slippery slope of getting caught up in the short-term and over-trading if you’re not careful!

    1. Thanks Frankie.

      You’re spot on mate – I think we tend to lose the point when there’s too many names for the same thing flying around. I felt I had to explain as I’d seen the confusion come up a couple of times recently!

      It’s a good point you make – if we try to speed it up, we can f*&% it up, haha.

      It’s all very basic (the approach), it’s humans that make it complicated I think. Easy to understand, harder to keep it simple and actually follow it. Humans tend to think good investing is probably complex, the fancier the better. I think the most boring approach is probably the best. Couldn’t have told me that 10 years ago though!

  5. Dave,

    That’s definitely sound advice. And i’m currently following it for the most part by having the majority of my portfolio in the big 3 LIC’s (say 60%). On the other hand, i stock pick the rest of the portfolio in more speculative growth type of investments (ROBO etf, emerging markets, speculative small cap tech focused…). As Marc Andreeson says, software is eating the world so i feel i need to keep some diversified exposure to this global theme. And it is quite hard to get exposure to the technological sector on the ASX (Aconex has been bought…).
    Australia does income stocks very well (from a yield and tax perspective) so i focus on getting that out from the local market. And off course i keep goof amounts of cash.

    1. Thanks for sharing your approach Dave. That’s quite interesting. I tend to shy away from speculative stuff altogether. Maybe I’m too boring, but it’s just not for me!

      While it’s true technology is seemingly eating the world, in my view, the best way to benefit from that is by owning all the largest already dominant tech companies through an international index fund. If new concepts are developed and prosper, those companies will eventually be reflected in the index. I don’t own it personally at this stage, but it’s in my super.

      Hard to resist the home ground advantage of dividends and franking here for sure!

  6. Hey Dave,

    Another great article, love your enthusiasm!

    I would love to hear your thoughts about the possible changes to the taxation rules that may impact LICs. In my understanding even long term LIC investors are considering diversifying their investment approach into different structures (to also include ETFs).

    What are your thoughts on this?


    1. Thanks Luka!

      It’s a good question, probably worthy of a blog post. Yes, if the changes came in, it wouldn’t be great, but the old LICs are still an attractive vehicle – just a bit less efficient for shareholders on lower tax brackets vs holding an index fund. It does make them somewhat less appealing though, depending on the person this may be a big deal or not. I sit somewhere in the middle.

      I’ll continue to hold and buy LICs, but I will also very likely add VAS. Some will choose one or the other, I’ll probably choose both – they both have their benefits.

      That’s the short answer – will work on an article for this. Thanks for reading mate, and for the idea 🙂

  7. I have been thinking this over and over. I have 2 portfolios, the larger is mainly LIC’s and a few well known companies paying dividends that are 100% franked – all divvies reinvested. The other portfolio is indexed international ETF’s – pretty much set and forget.

    Question: Do you favour only dividend shares that are 100% franked or do you also hold dividend shares that are not franked or partially franked – if so, why?

    1. Good question. But no I have no preference for whether a share is fully franked or not. The main point is, I always compare yields on a gross basis, so if a share has franking I’ll include that when comparing it to an unfranked share.

      For example, if I look at Wesfarmers on a 5% yield fully franked, it’s really a 7.1% yield. I can compare this to a property trust paying 7.1% which is unfranked. To me, they’re basically the same yield. This perception changes if refunds are abolished of course because we’re in low tax brackets. They’re both equal for tax purposes. If you’re on the lowest tax bracket you’ll get 7% net yield, if you’re on the 48% bracket, you’ll get 3.36% net yield. Using gross yield is the easiest way to compare.

      Yes we do hold a few shares that are unfranked because I simply think about it like this: Yield + Growth = Total Return (more or less). Hope that makes sense.

  8. Hi Dave, I love reading all your posts.
    I have just started investing in LICs recently and wondered how often should I buying the parcels to increasing the capitals to maximise the return and minimise the ongoing fee by using SelfWealth ($9.5 each percel)? For example, investing $2k every 3-6m or should I wait till the accumulation of 5K-10K then invest?
    Appreciate your thoughts and view.

    1. Hey Mr Gum Gum – thanks!

      Every couple of months is perfectly fine, whether it’s 2k or 5k doesn’t matter, considering the brokerage cost is just under $10. I know some people like to wait longer and make the cost as small as possible, but I personally find it more motivating to purchase more regularly because it means our ‘annual dividend income’ is constantly increasing 🙂

      1. I agree investing sooner makes sense… Assuming a 4% annual dividend yield, $3,000 invested would return $10 per month on average. Therefore $2,000 invested will recoup $9.50 brokerage cost in about 6 weeks. Of course the money invested would no longer earn bank interest, however a growing dividend income with franking credits is infinitely more desirable than receiving interest on savings taxed at one’s marginal rate and eroded by inflation.

  9. Hey Dave , newbie here but trying to get my head around it all. Currently have a small portfolio of WMI AND VGS. Looking at growing a portfolio With regular accumulation of LIC AND index funds. I was wondering what you think of growing a portfolio where you aim to have dividends coming in each month via different investments- apart from the benefit of seeing your portfolio grow month over month do you see any benefits to this. I am unsure of whether to keep buying more of the same or look at other picks. Cheers Michael

    1. Hi Michael, good question.

      I’m not bothered with aiming for a monthly income, that will lead to more holdings than is necessary and likely mean investments that are chosen more for when they pay dividends as opposed to because they’re the investments you really want. I would simply concentrate on the holdings you like. The reason is, in retirement you’re going to need to keep cash on hand anyway as a buffer for in between dividends and in case of dividend cuts in a recession. So given you’ll have cash on hand the monthly income won’t really matter as you’ll still earn the same amount over the course of a year. Hope that helps.

      1. Thanks mate I appreciate your response. Good rationale. Do you recommend Peter Thornhills book for the novice investor or is it to “heavy” – I have read a little about his thoughts on margin lending with interest as we will be soon selling out PPR and renting until we build (i know – bad financially but what we have decided). Do you have much of an opinion on ML and its use in buying LIC’s?
        Can’t get enough of your blog. Cheers mate!

        1. Sorry I missed this comment – thought I replied but I guess not!

          Yes the Thornhill book is great for beginners I think, very easy to understand. The videos are also a good starting point.

          On margin loans, generally I’d say they can work but there’s not that much value in it – the rates are generally a bit high. I wrote more in depth about using debt for shares here.

  10. Hi Dave,

    I’m a fan of your blog and got a lot out of it. Thank you. I have a question on your examples above that lower yield, higher growth in your second example wouldn’t catch up with that of the higher yield, lower growth in your first example after 15 years. My maths faculty is not that great, so just thinking in a fuzzy way, did you take into consideration that on a per share basis, the one with a higher growth would be worth a lot more after 15 years due to higher growth. This would impact on the calculation of the return after 15 years because if we based it on the initial cost per share, the higher growth one would obviously lose out if we don’t factor in that it would have grown much more than the low growth one. Could you please clarify? Thank you.

    1. Thanks Michael!

      The ‘value’ of the shares has been ignored. I’m simply focusing on the cashflow received, because that’s how I prefer to approach shares, versus the selling off method.

      The total return is the same for both in the example, so it doesn’t really matter – it’s just that most of your return would’ve come from capital growth instead of cashflow. That’s a fine way to invest, but for those wanting to create an income stream for financial independence in 7-15 years, I think the one with a higher income return and lower (but still decent) growth is often a more suitable choice.

      If you’re planning to sell off the international shares, then that is another matter altogether and the higher ‘value’ would be important. I can’t really comment much on that as it’s a large topic in itself and not an approach I’m taking.

      Basically, which one is ‘worth more’ is not a critical factor in my choice. It’s which one spits out the higher income in the timeframe that I’m selecting for FI. But other people have different approaches of course. Hope that makes sense 🙂

  11. Hi SMA,
    Thanks for the great article!
    I know you are not really interested in capital returns but rather dividend income.
    I do wonder however, the effect paying taxes on a higher dividend yield would have over a 10-15 year timeframe on the total portfolio value.

    For higher yielding stocks a larger portion of the total returns comes from dividends which, are of course subject to tax during the accumulation phase.

    Higher growth stocks pay less dividends so pay less tax along the way.
    I wonder what affect this might have on the total value of the portfolio after say 15 years.
    (Maybe the company will pay tax on the retained earnings so that will be reflected in the share price?)

    My thinking….
    For example you essentially pay your tax rate on dividend income received. Lets take someone paying 30% tax:

    Option 1: Higher yield, low growth (say 5% gross dividend)
    This person will pay away about 1.5% of their dividend return (30%)

    Option 2: Lower yield, higher growth (say 2%)
    This person will pay away only 0.6% (again 30%)

    Option 2 leaves more money in the portfolio to compound over the accumulation phase.

    I am interested in growing an income stream too more than capital growth but don’t want to totally ignore the total portfolio value.
    I am just wondering what effect this would have and if you have thought about it?
    Maybe I need to fore up excel.

    Thanks SMA for all your hard work – I am really enjoying reading your blog!

    1. Hey Scott, great to hear you’re enjoying the blog!

      Remember though that in Australia, franking pays most of the tax so there’s not a lot of tax to pay on dividend income. For example, take a 4% fully franked yield. If you pay 37% tax, there isn’t much tax to pay because franking covers 30%. The after tax yield is 3.7%. You’ve lost 0.3% to tax. In the low yield international shares example of 2% yield, you’d lose perhaps 0.7% tax on a rate of 37%.

      Franking is a quirk of our tax system and not included in long term sharemarket returns when comparing markets. So I don’t think it’s fair to say that we pay 1.5% or something tax on our dividend income…that’s just not true. None of this is to say that Aussie shares are superior, just that they are more tax efficient than people sometimes assume. I wrote about this a little more here –

      International shares are more growth oriented so if you have a long time horizon before you want the income, then you’d get higher capital growth this way and perhaps that could work out better, and also depends on tax rates. So to some extent it depends how you want to calculate it and what returns you assume for each market.

      Hope that explains my thinking a little more. Both Aussie and international shares (indexes) are a solid option and they offer different things.

  12. Hi Dave,

    I have only started to read about investment in shares, LICs for income growth with intent to become Financially independent and create an option to retire early but I am still struggling to understand what are the basic steps that one has to take in terms of buying – options of which broker would it have to be, how to buy, what to buy and so on… are you able to point out if there is an article that you have already written about this or provide your response on how could a newbie navigate through the nuances involved when one is willing to take action but is unsure how to and the platform that can be used.

  13. Hi Dave,
    Thank you for a very well researched and written article.
    What are your thoughts about building a portfolio of 40-50 individual stocks spread across sectors rather going for a LIC? I am thinking companies that are in the top 25 in the all the LICs, plus others with a high ROIC and good track record of paying increasing dividends. I did a backtest of such a portfolio in Sharesight with a buy date of April 2020 (when I bought some AFIC) and it beats all the LICs by 15%. Admittedly this is too short a timeframe, but going back 20yrs would not be realistic as CSL was $21 then.
    Since it is largely a buy hold strategy there would be a significant brokerage cost at the start and not much thereafter, and more importantly no ongoing fees. Argo fees have crept up from 0.15% to 0.16% over the last couple of years – negligible, but an indication of the future?

    1. Hi YS. I’ve had this question before, and honestly, I don’t think it’s a great idea. The time involved, admin, tracking, updating holdings over time means it’s probably not even close to worth it, even if results are a little better (which is highly debatable over a long period of time).

      No, I don’t think the MER increase is a sign of things to come at all. Fees will stay low and probably fall over time as LICs and index funds both get bigger, meaning the DIY approach will ‘save’ even less.

      If you want to pick stocks, out of interest or you think you can do better, that’s a different question. But if you’re basically replicating the LIC, then I really wouldn’t bother. Hope that helps.

  14. Thanks Dave, you’ve got a point. The only thing about a LIC that is less that appealing is that they withhold a part of your dividend to ‘smooth’ their payouts over time. I’d rather have the cash in my pocket than theirs, i.e. have $100 dividend this year and $0 next year than have $40 this year and $40 next yr. There are probably other reasons for this that are not clear to me yet.

    1. If you don’t like dividend smoothing, simply buy an index fund or some other type of ETF where all cash must be paid out each year. An Aussie index fund will pay a somewhat similar level of dividends. The reason LICs do that is most shareholders appreciate a relatively stable income stream over time, with retirees being their main shareholders. Keep in mind, the profits they retain are basically reinvested into he portfolio, it isn’t just held in a big pile of cash that gets bigger and bigger (just like other companies do when they pay out less than 100% of profits).

  15. Hi Dave, I just read this article and I think that its principles remain sound. How do you think this article has aged, and would you still agree with the principles? Maybe the only thing that would have changed is that just buying VAS is the way to go (moving away from LICs)?
    Thanks and grateful for your thoughts.

    1. Hey Stan. I do still agree with the principles. My approach hasn’t really changed all that much aside from more a bit more indexing and diversification. But I still focus predominantly on the dividend income from our shares and that’s the metric I’m most interested in watching over the years.

      Not sure if you read it, but there was a later post which outlines some evolution to the strategy:

      Hope that helps 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

See All
  • Strong Money Survey Results

    I share the findings from surveying my audience.  See how wealthy the average Strong Money reader is, how much income they earn, and find out the most common money worries.

  • The Power Of Deliberate Spending

    Why deliberate spending is my favourite money management style.  What it really means and how you can use it as your situation and priorities change over time.

Download the Free Guide

10 Steps to Financial Independence