For the past four years, I’ve been thinking about investing differently with my dividend stocks. In fact, as soon as I started dividend investing, I thought of adding this strategy to my portfolio. But I couldn’t. It wasn’t the right time for me. This summer could be the right time. This is why I’m sharing my new dividend investing strategy with you today.


I’m Going to Buy on Margin


As you know already, the bulk of my portfolio is an RRSP (a Canadian tax sheltered investment account) where I can’t use margin borrowing. Starting this summer, I should have some extra cash to invest outside my retirement plan. This is why I thought of starting to use a margin account. The margin allows you to borrow money based on the value of your holdings. In other words, we are talking about leveraging. I know, this is an evil world in the investment industry. Most people think that the concept of leverage was created by financial advisors for financial advisors. When you think about it, if a client who doesn’t have money can borrow (so the advisor makes money off the interest) and invest (so the advisor makes also money on the investment fees), it’s the best of both worlds… for the advisor! But I’m not an advisor trying to sell you leveraging, I’m just going to explain how I intend to put my strategy in place.


How a Margin Account Works


A margin account works in a simple manner. Your broker is willing to lend you money at a variable interest rate to increase your buying power on the stock market. The more you invest, the more you can borrow. Most brokers will establish different categories of investments and give you a % of its value for each of them. For example:

Penny stocks (under $2): broker will give you 50% margin

Regular stocks (over $2): broker will give you 70% margin

Mutual funds (any kind): broker will give you 50% margin

Bonds (municipal, gov’t): broker will give you 90% margin



If you invest $1,000 in Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) which qualifies as a “regular stock”, the broker will allow you to borrow 70% of this amount to invest in the stock market. Therefore, you will benefit from an additional $700 to invest.


The Magic Doesn’t Stop Here


When you think about it, after using the $700 to buy more shares of JNJ, your account will show the following:

Net account value: $1,000 ($1,700 – $700)

Stock value: $1,700

Margin: -$700

Available margin: $1,190 – $700 = $490


Where the $1,190 is coming from? It’s coming from the margin account rules. The Broker allows you to margin 70% of whatever is invested, no matter where the money is coming from. But what happen if you invest the additional $490 left on the margin? Silence….


I wanted to start with this example to show how many people get it wrong: You must not start with the 70% of what you invest. In this example, what you should understand is that the broker requires you to invest 30% and borrow 70%. Therefore, the maximum you can invest with $1,000 in cash is…. $3,333.33. You can either divide $1,000 by 30% or you can keep doing the calculation by investing what is left from the margin each time to invest from it and you will get to the same number.


If you want more details, there is an excellent explanation on the Questrade website about margins and how they work.


Get the Dividend to Pay for the Interest


According to the Questrade website, their interest rate for a small margin account is prime + 3%. Therefore, you are paying a 6% interest rate at the moment to borrow money from them. The interest is charged on the amount borrowed. Let’s assume you borrow the maximum from your $1,000. This makes a margin of $2,333.33 (will discuss margin call in another post). The yearly interest on this amount is $140.00. If you take the $140 and divided by the total amount you have invested ($3,333.33), it requires a dividend yield of 4.20% after tax to pay for your interest.


When I think about it, I understand that this year, my leveraged portfolio will probably fall short in dividend yield to cover the interest. On the other hand, my current portfolio is paying about this yield in dividends after only 4 years. The interesting point about leveraging is that the dividends grow faster than the interest rate!


I’ll go deeper into my strategy in the next article but I wanted to hear from you about the idea of leveraging first.


What do you think?; am I going to make lots of money or simply throw my hard earned cash into a deep hole and never see it again?





Disclaimer: I own shares of JNJ



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May 6, 2014, 5:58 am

I tried leveraging through a margin account about 20 years ago and it didn’t work out. I think it’s a very dangerous investing strategy. When you get that first margin call, you start losing sleep, etc. It’s an almost sure way of losing money quickly. The question is why do it?

May 6, 2014, 10:31 am

Don’t do it. You are taking risks with borrowed money!

If prices and yield drops, and you cannot repay, then the bank will take your colateral and sell it at market value.

This means your original investment is wiped out.
Without margin you could have waited out the dip.
Once the bank closes the collateral you are done, even if the market recovers later.

May 6, 2014, 11:50 am

Hello Michel, Bram,
my answer is: to make more money :-) I would not borrow the maximum amount as I know too well how a margin call can be brutal.

I think the idea is to keep some cash in the account to make sure you don’t fall short. I’m not 100% to go ahead with this strategy yet, but this is definitely something on the table right now.

May 7, 2014, 12:33 pm

The market seems too high right now to margin. It’s probably a good idea when the market is down, but is it the right time now?

May 11, 2014, 4:18 pm

I’ve used margin successfully in two accounts. With interest rates relatively low, the math can work in your favor. I haven’t pushed margin borrowing all the way, though. I like to see the margin loan not go above my available capital. So, in your example, I would borrow until the margin balance shows -$1,000. (Note that I’m not using margin in DivGro).

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