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VRIF Review: Vanguard Retirement Income ETF Portfolio

Last updated Dec 29, 2020

Do you need steady and predictable income when you retire?
If you’re looking for a passively managed portfolio Exchange-Traded Fund (ETF) for your retirement income, the VRIF Vanguard Retirement Income ETF Portfolio might be an ideal solution for you.
VRIF is part of Vanguard Canada’s popular asset-allocation portfolio series. It is the latest offering by Vanguard, and it launched for trading on the TSX on September 9, 2020.
Let’s take a closer look at the new ETF in my Vanguard VRIF ETF review to help you determine whether the ETF is a good choice for you.

All-In-One ETFs have grown 62% in AUM in each of the last three years (2017-2019).

Vanguard Logo Transparent

Review of: Vanguard VRIF

Use: All-In-One ETF

Wealthawesome Score: 4.8/5

Summary: Vanguard VRIF is a well-balanced and globally diversified retirement income ETF portfolio for Canadian retirees.

What is Vanguard VRIF ETF?

The Vanguard Retirement Income ETF portfolio is the latest all-in-one ETF portfolio launched by Vanguard. It is a globally diversified ETF portfolio that is designed to maintain a target of a 4% income stream for unitholders

The 4% is based on the total of your VRIF holdings, and it pays you the amount divided into monthly installments for each year. 

The new ETF portfolio complements the existing suite of Vanguard all-in-one asset allocation ETFs. However, it differs from the others in several ways. It is a tax-efficient income stream that you can hold in both taxable and tax-sheltered accounts like a TFSA or RRSP. 

It takes on a total return approach through an approximate asset allocation of 50% equity and 50% fixed income. It allows Vanguard VRIF to disburse payments from capital appreciation and portfolio yields to maintain its targeted 4% annual payouts. 

When it comes to other all-in-one solutions, investors had to sell ETF units as necessary to meet their spending needs. Otherwise, investors would have to rely on smaller quarterly distributions that would earn them around 2% per year. 

VRIF introduces a predictable monthly income stream to help investors meet their monthly expenses without worrying about rebalancing or selling ETF units. 

How do All-In-One Portfolios Work?

All-in-one ETF portfolios are extremely well-diversified, low-cost, and simple to use portfolios that make life easier for investors than managing a portfolio of multiple holdings. All-in-one portfolios can seem too good to be true for DIY investors because they completely take over buying and selling ETFs to provide you with a regular income in your portfolio. 

Holding multiple ETFs requires more involvement and a deeper understanding of the ETFs. With more than 5,000 (and increasing) ETFs available globally, creating a reliable ETF portfolio can be quite overwhelming unless you are an expert. 

Additionally, a self-constructed portfolio cannot guarantee you a steady payout. This is an advantage unique to all-in-one ETF portfolios like Vanguard VRIF. 

If you are looking for retirement income, actively managing an ETF portfolio might be the last thing on your agenda for your golden years. An all-in-one ETF could be a much better choice for you compared to creating your own ETF portfolio, especially if you want to spend less time investing. 

What does Vanguard VRIF Invest in?

Vanguard VRIF seeks to provide you with the benefits of a complex structure in a convenient solution for you. It is a broadly diversified ETF portfolio that can be essential in safeguarding your assets during volatile market conditions. 

It pays you a regular monthly income, and it comes with full transparency about what it invests in. It aims to achieve a balanced 50% Fixed Income and 50% equity split. 

VRIF Asset Allocation

VRIF Review

VRIF Review

The Vanguard Retirement Income ETF portfolio seeks to provide you with a combination of consistent income with the possibility of some capital appreciation. The ETF portfolio achieves it by investing in both equity and fixed-income securities in roughly equal proportions. 

VRIF Vanguard ETF Allocation

In this section of my Vanguard VRIF review, I will give you the asset allocation to underlying Vanguard funds. The low-cost retirement income ETF consists of eight existing low-cost underlying Vanguard index ETFs, including four Vanguard equity ETFs and four Vanguard fixed-income ETFs. 

Here is a table that breaks down the asset allocation. 

Asset Class ETF Weight
Canadian Equity Vanguard FTSE Canada All Cap Index ETF (VCN) 9%
Canadian Aggregate Fixed Income Vanguard Canadian Aggregate Bond Index ETF (VAB) 2.0%
Canadian Corporate Fixed Income Vanguard Canadian Corporate Bond Index ETF (VCB) 24.0%
Emerging Markets Equity Vanguard FTSE Emerging Markets Call Cap Index ETF (VEE) 1.0%
US Fixed-Income (CAD Hedged) Vanguard US Aggregate Bond Index ETF CAD-Hedged (VBU) 2.0%
US Equity Vanguard US Total Market Index ETF 18.0%
Developed ex-North America Equity Vanguard FTSE Developed All Cap ex North America Index ETF (VIU) 22.0%
Global ex-US Fixed-Income (CAD-Hedged) Vanguard Global ex-US Aggregate Bond Index ETF CAD-Hedged (VBG) 22.0%

The Vanguard VRIF Asset Allocation is also geographically diversified. Here is the geographic breakdown of VRIF’s asset allocation: 

  • Canada 35%
  • United States 20%
  • Developed ex-North America  44%
  • Emerging Markets 1%

The ETF is an even split between geographically diversified stocks and bonds. 

Vanguard VRIF 4% Income

Vanguard VRIF offers a unique quality of providing its investors with a steady 4% income that it pays out in monthly installments. The ETF will create 60% of its cash flow through actual income from the underlying assets and 40% of it from capital gains. 

The basic target of the fund is to maintain the 4% payment level. A steady income is generally challenging to achieve, but VRIF will sell stock and bond shares to achieve the 4% payout. 

The total return approach for retirement funding allows the fund to guarantee a fixed income. In most cases, it will sell shares of stocks and bonds that increase in price. VRIF essentially harvests capital appreciation on your investments to create your retirement income at a steady rate. 

Since VRIF will be providing you with a steady income using capital appreciation, it is unlikely that you will see overall capital growth. Vanguard said that they can anticipate instances of capital returns through VRIF as rarely as once in ten years. 

VRIF Vanguard Sector Weighting

VRIF Review

Vanguard VRIF MER

The Management Expense Ratio (MER) represents a combined total of the management fee, operating expenses, and any taxes charged to a fund for a particular year. Unfortunately, the fund is too new to determine its MER. 

However, we do have a figure for the management fees. 

VRIF’s management fees before taxes are 0.29% before taxes. The MER could possibly remain within a reasonable range like other Vanguard all-in-one ETFs and remain much lower than the standard MER for mutual funds in Canada. 

Vanguard VRIF Performance

Vanguard VRIF is a very new fund. It means that there is no past performance that I can present for you here. 

As of October 14, 2020: 

VRIF Review

Vanguard VRIF Holdings – Top Stocks

VRIF Review

Vanguard VRIF ETF vs. Other Vanguard ETFs


VGRO is Vanguard’s Growth Portfolio ETF. It is similar to Vanguard VRIF and consists of many other existing Vanguard ETFs. VGRO is also a self allocating fund that you don’t need to rebalance yourself. 

The main difference between Vanguard VGRO and Vanguard VRIF is that VGRO has more of an aggressive approach, and it tilts towards capital appreciation. It aims for an 80% Equity and 20% Fixed-income asset allocation. VRIF targets a 4% consistent income for its investors. The fund aims for a 50% Equity and 50% Fixed-income asset allocation to achieve its target. 

Read my full VGRO review here


VEQT is a part of Vanguard Canada’s popular portfolio series. It is useful for a set-it-and-forget-it strategy for ETF investors like Vanguard VRIF. However, it has an entirely different approach to it. Vanguard VQET is a passive all-equity portfolio ETF. 

VQET seeks to maintain 100% equity and has a more aggressive approach compared to VRIF. It entails having a high-risk tolerance and is not ideal for investors seeking fixed retirement income. Vanguard VRIF has a 50/50 split between Equity and Fixed-income. 

Read my full VEQT review here

VRIF Investing Alternatives

All-in-one portfolios might not be for everyone. Here are a couple of good alternatives, and how they compare to portfolio solutions


A robo-advisor has a similar investment philosophy as the VRIF portfolio would. They also invest in several ETFs to match your risk tolerance and investment goals.

Robo advisor fees will be higher than the VRIF M.E.R, but you also get access to human advisors whenever you need it.

Read a full review on Wealthsimple, the leading robo-advisor in Canada here.

Do-it-yourself (DIY) Investing

You can build your own portfolio with a discount brokerage or trading platform. Check out an online brokerage like Questrade.

You’ll be spending more time rebalancing your investments and researching what to purchase, but the fees will be lower.

Read a full review of Questrade here.

Who Should Buy Vanguard VRIF?

You should consider investing in VRIF if: 

  • You want an all-in-one balanced investment portfolio that gives you globally diversified exposure to stocks and bonds.
  • You do not want to spend time rebalancing your investments.
  • You want to earn a fixed income from your portfolio for your retirement without much need for capital growth.
  • You find the 50% Equity and 50% fixed-income security allocation suitable for your risk tolerance and investment goals.

How to Buy Vanguard VRIF ETF in Canada

There are several ways you can invest in the Vanguard VRIF ETF Portfolio in Canada, but I personally use the discount broker Questrade.

Questrade also allows you to purchase ETFs for free on its platform. If you trade stocks, you can open an account at Questrade, and get $50 in free stock trades.


Vanguard has long been a favourite investment company of mine, and I’m glad to see the VRIF doesn’t disappoint. 

Vanguard VRIF is an excellent ETF for Canadians nearing retirement. VRIF is a simple solution for investors who do not want to create and manage their own balanced portfolios. 

Additionally, the fund provides you with a reliable and stable 4% fixed-rate income – a quality almost impossible to achieve with a self-constructed ETF portfolio. 

Vanguard is one of the top ETF providers in Canada changing how Canadians meet their investing goals. To round off my Vanguard VRIF review, I’m giving it a Wealth Awesome stamp of approval for investors seeking fixed income with some capital appreciation chances. 

VRIF review

Christopher Liew, CFA

Christopher Liew, CFA

Author Bio - Christopher Liew is a CFA Charterholder with 11 years of finance experience and the creator of Read about how he quit his 6-figure salary career to travel the world here.


  1. Joanne Cooper

    Very informative article…. Quick question – Is there a similar investment vehicle available in the U.S. Market. I am not able to purchase this ETF from my U.S. Ameritrade account.

    Thank you

    • Christopher Liew, CFA

      Hey Joanne, you might want to try something called the Vanguard Target Retirement Fund which is based in America, but it depends on your situation. I’m afraid that my expertise is mostly in Canadian products so try to do a little more research on that.

  2. Wendy

    I am new at this. If I was to put $100,000 into VRIF …what kind of taxes would I pay on the $400 month income? thanks

    • Christopher Liew, CFA

      Hi Wendy, it depends on the type of account you put it in. If it’s a TFSA, it will be $0 tax. But if it’s a normal account, you’ll be paying your normal tax rate on any investment income earned.

      • Wendy

        talking taxable accounts ..

        So … $4000 on $100,000 is taxed as normal income? is there no break for dividend income that you get monthly? or is the monthly payment not considered a dividend in VRIF?

        Would the taxation be the same for vbal or vcns?

        If a person bought the exact same ETFs that make up VRIF …. would the taxation be the same? I was originally looking at a 3 ETF portfolio.


        • Christopher Liew, CFA

          Hi Wendy, yes the $4000 would be taxable. There isn’t a break if it’s a monthly dividend, but there are different tax rules for dividends vs normal income (it should be a slightly lower rate). Whether it’s VRIF, VBAL, or VCNS, this will apply. If a person bought the exact same ETFs that make up VRIF, the same also applies. Hope this helps, and always check with a tax professional if you are unsure!


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