JohnBlog

Lend me your mind's ear — communications and portals

Posts Tagged ‘diversification

Investing: ‘What ifs’ and ‘maybes’ lose out to long-term planning

leave a comment »

Back in August 2011, I posted Don’t Panic. plan

I took a look at investor psychology in the face of negative sentiment on the markets. In It was the best of times (for dividend investors), I outlined how well dividend-payers did over the last few years. The markets have done very well for the dividend-centric.

So what’s an investor to do, now?

Interesting U.S. market stats

Bob Pisani, of CNBC, points out some interesting information regrading U.S. markets:

Most notable among the trends was a near-record pace of fund flows last week into equity funds.

Stock mutuals saw $19 billion come in, the highest since 2008 and the fourth-biggest in the 12-year history of tracking the data, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

The latest American Association of Individual Investors survey registered a 46.4 percent bullish reading during the same period, well above historical averages, while those expecting the market to be lower in six months fell to 26.9 percent.

Finally, the CBOE Volatility Index, or VIX, a popular measure of market fear, is at a subdued sub-14. A declining VIX usually means rising stock prices.

(Read More: Why VIX’s Recent Plunge May Be Bad for Stocks)

About the only areas showing caution were safe-haven money market funds, which saw assets grow to $2.72 trillion on an influx from institutions, and commodities, which had outflows of $570 million.

The most popular reason among traders for all the optimism is basic relief that the U.S. made it through the “fiscal cliff” scare relatively unscathed.

If that’s the case, the looming debt-ceiling battle and a likely lackluster earnings period could offer perilous counterweights.

So, what’s an investor to do?

The reality is, if you know who you are as an investor, and more importantly, where you want to be, none of this should rattle you. But it should make you think. Trading the media is something some do, and some do it very successfully, but most don’t. And that’s why investors must plan.

When planning for a year, plant corn. When planning for a decade, plant trees. When planning for life, train and educate people.

— Chinese proverb

Warren Buffett plans. Why not you? After all, planning is a form of self-reflection and self-education.

The metric of the past and planning for the future

It may be wise for investors to reassess their investing plans, to decide if their plan is capable of meeting their goals and then have the courage to sail on the course they’ve charted. If past is prologue, then the last couple of years have rewarded the longer-term planners for wading through the ‘what ifs’ and ‘maybes’ and sticking to the fundamentals.

The market hasn’t had a 10 per cent correction in a while in the U.S. While we all watch, we have to wonder at the market’s resilience while remembering why we hold assets that act as ‘insurance’ against revaluations. Any correction should be incorporated into your plan and taken advantage of. But a 2 or 3 per cent drop from an all-time high is hardly a correction. Having some cash on hand when markets have hit recent highs is rarely a bad idea.

The market hasn’t seen a traditional correction in almost three years. Majority sentiment would have seemed against this phenomenon three years ago. We will have a correction at some point. No one can be sure of the degree of the next correction. But does this alter your planning?

Planning empowers you in the face of ‘peril’

It’s best if you incorporate the possibility of a correction into your plan. Because, at some point, the stock markets will correct.

In a world gone into overdrive, where the short-term seems like the long-term to some, authentic long-term planning may be the most valuable commodity.

The markets are like anything else with respect to planning. And the markets are one of the best barometers of human psychology. ‘Perilous counterweights’ need to be part of your planning.

We’ve all heard that in the long-term risk gets reduced by time-in-the-market. In the meantime, knowing your tolerance for risk is crucial. What we can learn from the period from August 2011 to now is that risk happens in so-called ‘safe’ investments, too.

The broad markets have outperformed cash. At some point, markets will correct. Maybe that process has started. Markets correct. This is part of what makes a bull market healthy. And corrections are the reason why we should use proper asset allocation in our portfolios.

One thing is sure. It was better to be in-the-market than it was to be in cash in the time period we looked at above.

No one owns the patent on the future. No one ever knows the exact nature of the next correction. It’ll be interesting to see what the next six months holds …

A plan we can live with is part of what keeps people happy as investors over the long-term. So that we can sleep and dream of sheep.

Want to contact me? Go here.

creative-commons.png

This work and all work on this blog is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Want more information? Posts related to:

Asset allocation

Rebalancing

Diversification

Related:

Don’t Panic! << JohnBlog — johnrondina.wordpress.com

Image: Flickr/J’roo

One sector is the loneliest number when it comes to investing

leave a comment »

Will all the gold that glitters glitter less?

Will all the gold that glitters glitter less?

My last post, One stock is the loneliest number when it comes to investing, made the case for why you shouldn’t own one stock as an investor. Diversification is an important part of your investment planning.

Similarly, today’s activity in the gold market, and really, the last few years, has demonstrated why single sectors present significant dangers to investors who overweight them.

Gold is having a massive down day. It’s dropped nearly 10 per cent as of this writing — in one day — the most since the early 1980s.

The writing was on the wall a long time ago. In Gold riot, I discussed why gold had much risk built into it for investors, especially when few were talking about this risk.

Here’s a quote from Warren Buffett as posted on my blog from a few years ago:

Buffet on gold:

“(Gold) gets dug out of the ground in Africa, or someplace. Then we melt it down, dig another hole, bury it again and pay people to stand around guarding it. It has no utility. Anyone watching from Mars would be scratching their head.”

Ah, the Ziggy Stardust gold analysis …

In Fortune, Buffett recently said:

“You could take all the gold that’s ever been mined, and it would fill a cube 67 feet in each direction. For what that’s worth at current gold prices, you could buy all — not some — all of the farmland in the United States,” Buffett said. “Plus, you could buy 10 Exxon Mobils, plus have $1 trillion of walking-around money. Or you could have a big cube of metal. Which would you take? Which is going to produce more value?”

A very, very interesting illustration …

Anyone who paid attention to the wisdom above, to the valuations that Buffett drew attention to, would have known that there was huge risk in gold.

Forget all the reasons you’ve heard over the last few years for why gold was a great buy. History has proven that reasoning wrong.

GLD

The movement of gold as reflected by the SPDR GOLD TRUST (GLD)

As in many things, now that the stratospheric valuation in gold has been beaten down badly, gold is cheaper (down almost 18 per cent year-over-year). What the future holds is unknown. But what hasn’t changed is the following:

  • Single sectors expose you to great risk if you haven’t built a well-diversified portfolio
  • “Hot money” moves fast and takes few prisoners when it leaves a sector

Gold may be much cheaper now than it was a few years ago, but gold is only a compelling buy if the future shows it to have been cheap. Meanwhile, are there other companies out there that are actively engaged in producing goods or services that will have a better chance of creating value in the future?

By way of comparison, from gold’s peak a few years ago, the returns on dividend-payers in the U.S., Canada and globally look spectacular. The “fear trade” (buying gold) has been a poor investment.

Markets will correct. It’s inevitable. You can do your part protecting yourself by making sure you have a diversified portfolio.

Do you?

Click here for more about bonds/fixed income investments.

Click below for more about asset allocation and reallocation strategies:

Get the balance right

A simple way to arrive at the right asset allocation for your portfolio

Plan like a pension fund manager when it comes to your investment portfolio

Let’s think about assets

Asset allocation: Diversification is king

Click here for articles about dividends/dividend-payers.

Click here for a collection of articles about investing.

Follow me on Twitter, by RSS or sign up to receive posts via email, top sidebar to the right.

//

Written by johnrondina

April 15, 2013 at 2:35 pm

One stock is the loneliest number when it comes to investing

leave a comment »

recordThe U.S. markets have had a great run this year. They may be entering a phase of correction as I write.

Some stocks affect markets more than others.

Falling back to Earth

Remember Apple — everybody’s darling? Have a look at a post  from back in April, 2012.

What goes up spectacularly, can come down spectacularly

Over one year, Apple fell nearly 40 per cent from its peak. While Apple may have done very well long-term, if you held Apple over the last year, you’re investment dropped 40 per cent from its high. It acted as a drag on the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq just as it lifted both during its run. That’s 40 per cent of your investment or very nearly the amount the broad markets came down during the financial crisis, an amount that caused many investors to rethink their risk tolerance.

One, is indeed, the loneliest number

You should never hold just one stock, no matter how well it’s done. Sure, you can do very well, but what some forget is that your risk goes into the stratosphere with your investment.

Apple as case history

Apple’s downturn presents a strong argument for diversification.

Steve Job’s heirs were being advised to sell Apple and diversify even before Apple hit an all-time high. But that story didn’t capture much attention.

One is the riskiest number

The reality is, that in investing, one is the riskiest number. There’s a reason most investment professionals own anywhere from 30 to 300 stocks or more in a broadly based portfolio. Broad indices may even go as high as 500 stocks (S&P 500) or 1,000 or more (Russel 1000).

Grow slow**

And this is why diversification is so important. While it’s true everyone’s a winner while they’re winning, it’s also true that spectacular runs in individual stocks can come to an end.

Apple’s future? Unknown. But principles of diversification are well-known, tested over time, and retested. There are aberrations, but even better, investors sleep at night when they know their risk tolerance.

As Apple stalled, the broad market accelerated

We may be overdue for a correction. U.S.-based indices like The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) hit a record while the broad S&P 500 fell from its nominal high recently. Both indices have performed very well.

Both indices were bargains after ten years of relative underperformance, especially compared to the Canadian market and a soaring Canadian dollar. After the financial crisis, and the ensuing market correction, few wanted U.S. stocks (or any equities). But they were extremely cheap.

Is big better?

As money came out of Apple, the broad markets took off. We’re not just talking big … Apple had reached monolithic proportions. Articles like this are often a warning to investors. A warning that often goes unheard.

Can’t you just see Tim Cook breaststroking through cashmoney? I can.

— The Atlantic

Was Apple absorbing a lot of investment capital? Considering the huge cash position Apple held (over $100 billion U.S.) was that capital being used well or was it being used as a buffer against the inevitable slide in Apple stock?

Investors looked out at investment opportunity, increasing competition for the iPhone and decided to take profits and put their money in more companies in different businesses. After all, while some may argue the opposite, does any country create lasting success through the overwhelming dominance of one company in its markets?

The history of antitrust law would say no. You be the judge.

You’re risk tolerance may be severely tested only once every ten years, but when it is, what you thought you knew about yourself can change as fast as the passage of that ray of light that just went by but left the sun eight minutes ago.

Click here for more about bonds/fixed income investments.

Click below for more about asset allocation and reallocation strategies:

Get the balance right

A simple way to arrive at the right asset allocation for your portfolio

Plan like a pension fund manager when it comes to your investment portfolio

Let’s think about assets

Asset allocation: Diversification is king

Click here for articles about dividends/dividend-payers.

Click here for a collection of articles about investing.

Follow me on Twitter, by RSS or sign up to receive posts via email, top sidebar to the right.

* Based on an average basket of Canadian dividend-payers

** Recent activity in gold adds fuel to a philosophy of owning dividend-payers during tough times, the dangers of volatility for investors who haven’t diversified and the perils of overweighting one speculative sector or stock, no matter how “safe” the crowd thinks it is

Written by johnrondina

April 8, 2013 at 2:35 pm

Stocks, bonds and what? People need to learn more about investing

leave a comment »

Financial literacy or a pair of shoes?

Last year I blogged about financial literacy in Canada.

Statistics about kids and adults are a little worrying when it comes to financial literacy. From new data, Americans aren’t much different. Studies show people need to do a lot more to become financially knowledgeable.

Juggling the egg

I recently overheard this: “What’s in your portfolio?”

Blank stare, and then: “I own XYZ.” (One of the biggest stocks in the U.S.)

That’s it. XYZ. Nothing else.

But wait! XYZ’s done great! It should go up forever or even longer.

Hmmmm … The thing is:

Those are the two “it’s different this time” ideas that have humbled investors since stock markets were born. Short-term thinking … People forget that the XYZ’s of this world have been a long interchange of different companies throughout investing history.

Do you really want one egg dictating your financial future?

Investing without diversification is potential financial suicide. (Or at least financial Russian roulette.)

Momentum is a marvelous thing when it’s on your side. But your worst enemy when the tide changes.

Ask former RIM, Palm, Nortel, Enron, Lehman Brothers investors.

If this had been your only stock, how would you have felt? What would have happened to your portfolio?

Know what you know:

Find out what you don’t know

According to the Investor Education Foundation of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s study in the U.S.:

  • 67 per cent rated their financial knowledge as “high”

but,

  • Only 53 per cent answered this question correctly:

True or false: Buying a single company’s stock usually provides a safer return than a stock mutual fund.

I doubt that most of these respondents were momentum traders trading single stocks. It’s more likely that the majority had no idea that this is one of the most important rules of wealth creation: Diversification.

  • Only 6% got the above question wrong, choosing “True.”

But,

  • 40% said they didn’t know the answer, and 1% declined to answer

Ouch.

Maybe it was just an anomaly.

Let’s try again:

If interest rates rise, what will typically happen to bond prices?

Rise? Fall? Stay the same?

No relationship?

  • Just 28 per cent answered correctly

Yes, they will usually fall.

  • 37 per cent didn’t know
  • 18 per cent said bond prices would rise if interest rates rise
  • 10 per cent said there’s no relationship between bond prices and interest rates
  • 5 per cent said bond prices would stay the same
  • 2 per cent said they preferred not to answer

Becoming a statistic can have long-term complications

Looking at these stats shows there’s a lot of financial illiteracy out there.

It’s a crime that financial literacy is not taught in high schools.

— Michael Finke, professor of personal financial planning at Texas Tech University/co-developer of the Financial Literacy Assessment Test, part of Ohio State University’s Consumer Finance Monthly survey.

(In Canada, things are changing.)

Can teachers help?

When asked about six personal financial planning concepts:

  • Fewer than 20 per cent of teachers and teachers-in-training said they felt “very competent” to teach those topics
  • Teachers felt least competent about saving and investing

   — 2009 survey of 1,200 K-12 teachers/prospective teachers National Endowment for Financial Education

What do you do if teachers don’t feel competent to teach financial literacy skills?

Governments …

  • Need to focus on helping teachers get these skills

or

  • Need to bring in outside help to assist in improving financial literacy skills

Agencies are doing their part in both the U.S. and Canada to raise awareness around financial literacy. They can’t do it alone:

  • Parents need to teach their kids about debt

But parents need to understand the dangers they’re trying to warn their kids about.

The consequences to our economy and economic future of financial illiteracy are immense. Championing long-lasting positive changes for kids (and adults) is important.

Those shoes were made for walking (but they could really cost you)

Study after study has shown that adults will spend more time focusing on buying a pair of shoes (or other purchase) than they will on their financial future.

Is this the legacy we want to leave our kids?

Find out more about diversification:

You don’t need to listen to Warren Buffett (if you’ve allocated your investment portfolio properly)

A simple way to arrive at the right asset allocation for your portfolio

Get the balance right

Plan like a pension fund manager when it comes to your investment portfolio

Asset allocation: Diversification is king

How to be a smarter investor

Is it better to have invested, and lost, than never to have invested at all?

leave a comment »

Well …

It certainly helps you achieve your investment goals if you own investments that have a chance of getting you to your destination.

Take a look at the following charts and ask yourself two questions:

  • If you had bought during the major dips, would it have benefited you?

and

  • How would you have done with your money in low interest instruments according to the charts below? *

Example fund vs. 1-year GIC

Example fund vs. 5-year GIC

It’s clear that the most conservative investments wouldn’t have served you as well since the inception of this fund. What investors would do well to remember is that GICs lock your money in until maturity while mutual funds, ETFs and stocks are more liquid, generally.

Not to mention:

  • If you had bought during the dips

and

  • If you had rebalanced regularly

… you’d have done better than the chart shows since you would have lowered your cost or ACB and generally bought lower and sold higher.

So …

Do you have a plan, a strategy?

What is it?

Remember a few weeks ago when the news about Europe was so bad that optimism seemed naive?

I’m paraphrasing myself from a previous post. I talked about learning to harness your fear. There are always reasons you can find for Armageddon if you look hard enough.

People want stability. At times, markets and the business cycle are anything but stable. Above, you can see that during the worst stock market correction in most of our lives, an example of a balanced, dividend-based portfolio outperforming the most conservative of investments, GICs, by  four times or more.

When the doom and the gloom gets really thick, many investors feel paralyzed. But that’s exactly when great investors look for opportunity.

During the doom and gloom, markets often decide to have a good bounce.

Isn’t that counter-intuitive?

Actually, it’s pretty normal. If there were no walls of worry to climb, there’d be no bull markets. In “Wait a minute. There’s some good news re the markets?” I blogged about how investors often miss the opportunity in the end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it scenarios.

I posted some stark stats in “Why you should consider new investments now”.

Since we’re supposed to be strategic about long-term investing, let’s ask ourselves a question again:

When the market takes a substantial dip, is there more chance that it’ll rise or keep falling on average?

In “Don’t Panic”, I also talked about managing fear while investing. Learning to harness your fear is important in sports. Imagine you’re taking a penalty. It isn’t easy to stand there and score in front of 70,000 people.

Why should it be any different when you invest?

What’s the market going to do?

No one knows. There are a lot of educated guesses, research, charting, but no one knows.

Accept it.

Just as, if you decide to start a business or enter into any kind of relationship, there’s no 100 per cent satisfaction guarantee.

Business, economic news, the process of investing, continues to flow. It’s a river. There are rapids. There are waterfalls.

There may even be a couple of Niagaras out there.

But if you look at history, you’ll see that there were always those who pushed and went further. For every time you encounter end-of-the-world-scenarios, you’re going to see that someone steps up, looks at the recent correction in the market and says:

Hey, there may be some value here.

Accept the psychology of the market. But get a plan.

Is the bad news over?

Here’s what I said in that previous post:

We’ve come through a tough time. We’re not out of the woods yet, but if you’ve been sticking to a sound investing plan, you’ve taken advantage of the weakness in the market.

The bad news about being an inactive investor in 2011

If you had been sitting in cash only:

  • You missed a very nice rise in the bond markets

and

  • A great opportunity to reallocate investments to stocks

You might have taken advantage of a great time to buy equities at lower prices and participated in the rise of the bond markets.

Or, you might have asked the more unlucky question:

What happens if the world ends?

It might be better to ask:

What happens if I think strategically about my investments?

What happens if the world doesn’t end?

Want more information?

Click here for more about bonds and fixed income investments.

Click below for more about asset allocation and reallocation strategies:

Get the balance right

A simple way to arrive at the right asset allocation for your portfolio

Plan like a pension fund manager when it comes to your investment portfolio

Let’s think about assets

Asset allocation: Diversification is king

Click here for articles about dividends/dividend-payers.

* Example fund chosen out of large bank balanced funds with a dividend bias. Fund used purely for illustrative purposes with a time period of less than ten years since the effect of the financial crisis should have been greater during this period.

Chart source: Globeinvestor.com

You don’t need to listen to Warren Buffett (if you’ve allocated your investment portfolio properly)

leave a comment »

Warren Buffett came out and highlighted the risk in bonds recently. He pointed out that long-term, stocks have a lot less risk than currency-based investments like bonds.

Stocks or bonds? Maybe both

Backing Buffett, the S&P 500 has had it’s best February since 1998. The S&P/TSX 60 has hit a five-month high.

Sadly, RRSP contributions are hitting lows just as the markets have taken off.

There are many reasons RRSP participation has declined: difficult economic times, fear generated by stock market volatility and the effect of demographics are just a few.

If some investors are avoiding the stock market because of fear stemming from the financial crisis, it’s cost them this year. If this becomes a long-term trend, it will cost people in retirement.

In “Bonds: Why you should love the unloved investment”, I discussed the role bonds play in a diversified, balanced portfolio within the context of stock market corrections.

Since the financial crisis, investors have seen a bull market in bonds as people bought “safer” investments like bonds.

But bonds tend to rise when interest rates decline. If interest rates don’t continue to decline, the return on bonds will be limited.

Considering today’s already low rates, is it likely that they’ll continue to decline?

If interest rates go up, the returns will become negative, and we might see the first correction in the bond markets since before the financial crisis.

Bonds vs. the S&P/TSX 60: The return of equities

Dom Grestoni of Investors Group recently said: “Rates are going to start rising, so if you commit to a 20-year bond at 2½% and the market rate goes up half a percentage point, you’re going to part with 30% of your capital.

We’re seeing valuations that are now discounted relative to the past 20 years, and interest rates are at record lows … Would you rather lock into a 10-year government of Canada bond paying 2.1%, with no prospect of growth, or buy a high-grade dividend-oriented stock, like a bank or utility, with yields above 4% … and that dividend is going to grow year after year.

Investors were underweight bonds as stock markets went from outperforming to underperforming during the financial crisis. Many may now be overweight bonds.

Both Buffett and Grestoni are trying to alert investors to this danger.

The mania is the message

Buffett would probably be happy if you didn’t need to listen to him. Some wise investors are already well-prepared.

How can you be one of them?

What Buffett was trying to counter are the manias that investors inevitably fall for. Sadly, most investors go for whatever investment vehicle has been getting the majority of cash flows.

Too many investors arrive late in the game.

Bad news burnout

The barrage of bad news has influenced investors: events in Europe, and other withering news grabbed all the headlines. Have people noticed that news has gotten more positive regarding companies, Europe and the outlook for stocks?

There are still threats amongst the opportunities. Financial news from Europe and the U.S. is mixed though better than it was.

Bonds?

There’s nothing wrong with holding bonds in a properly diversified portfolio. In fact, many managers hold bonds in their portfolios.

As mentioned in “Bonds: Why you should love the unloved investment”, many pundits were calling for a bond correction last year, and it turned out to be a great year to hold bonds.

But the same may not hold true in the future.

In Part Two, I’m going to discuss why having a plan benefits you when it comes to asset allocation within your portfolio.

Chart source: Globe Investor

Wait a minute. There’s some good news re the markets?

with 2 comments


It’s all bad news, right?

Nope. Surprise, surprise. And it’s on the upside.

Pour this latest data into your glass and see if it looks half-full.

Panic and pessimism may usher in a market rise (It’s happened before. It’ll happen again.)

Contrarians love all the bad news. To them, it means we’re closer to good news as they wait for the point of maximum pessimism. But maybe we’ve already hit that point?

  • Inventory levels in the U.S. are low.
  • Stocks look cheap. Compare U.S. equities to U.S. bond yields. Dividends look great and promise more than bonds currently.
  • In the U.S., the fall in housing prices and low financing costs have created the most affordable housing climate in decades.

When could “mean” be green?

All things revert to a mean, don’t they? Usually, when someone says it’s different this time, it’s exactly the same as last time.

  • Bonds have beat the pants off stocks over the past 10 years. The last time equities were performing like this was the 1970s. Since this is true, bonds have become overvalued relative to stocks.
  • It’d be an understatement to mention that investors are increasingly risk averse. Panic is prevalent — especially in the news. In the face of this: Corporations continue to show financial strength and profitability. U.S. dividend payments continue to rise paying investors to wait.
  • The market went through the roof last week at an agreement to agree to agree in Europe. Looks like a ton of pent-up demand. The will for the markets to go higher is there. But investors who weren’t already in the markets had little chance to get in. Things just moved way too fast. Sitting on the sidelines may leave the average investor sitting on the sidelines.

What will be the impetus for markets to rise?

If governments stimulate again, we could see a big push in equity markets. There’s value in the markets. Stick to your plan.

Filter out the noise. Focus on the facts. Find the candles burning in the doom and gloom.

How many times have you heard someone say: I wish I’d bought shares in XYZ Corp.? Isn’t it funny that when companies are at big discounts, only the few and the brave want to go shopping?

When it comes to the markets, it’s often looked darkest before the dawn. But the facts above may be the lantern to help light your way.

Updates:

Prem Watsa of Fairfax Financial sees value in the market in the guise of RIM and doubles stake

Frank Mersch of Front Street Capital says stock market’s showing value and is cheap

%d bloggers like this: