Archive for the ‘Investor Behavior’ Category
One very very sharp reader of my blog sent an email to me, and here is what it said:
Aren’t these 2 philosophies opposites of each other? If the market prices correctly based on all available information, how can the stock price be different from the expected dividend? Aren’t these 2 prize winning economists speaking in opposites?
As far as investment philosophy is concerned, I am solidly in the camp of Nobel Prize winner Eugene Fama and Vanguard founder Jack Bogle. They both believe that the market is by and large efficient, and there is no point in picking stocks.
Most of my money is in broad-based passively managed asset class funds, but I do set aside 5% just to have some fun with and right now I only have three stocks in my fun account.
I bought SWY last November after going to the Chicago Booth Entrepreneur Advisory Meeting. From the meeting, I learned that big retailers routinely write off their inventory at a huge loss. The reason being that they can not control demands as they have little information about the needs of the individual consumer, though they can usually make a rough guess on aggregate needs.
I noticed my wife had been shopping at Safeway more and more. After a little digging, I found out Safeway had set up a technology system to track each individual’s needs and price sensitivities. Then it can make targeted offers to shoppers like my wife that unfailingly brought her back over and over. I recalled my earlier meeting and realized they would save tons of money just from better inventory management.
OK sure, I can understand his point. Why invest outside of the US when the US markets already account of 40% of world capitalization? “The U.S. market is so well-diversified already that combining it with global markets doesn’t really matter,” so said Fama.
However, I think it actually does matter ….
Proportionally, the US market is getting smaller. Right after the second world war, the US market accounted for 70% of world capitalization, now it only accounts for 40%. For a country that boasts only 5% of of the world’s population, this is still exceptionally high.
For the foreseeable future, there are better than even odds that the combined markets outside of the US will grow faster than the US market will do alone. Why forego those opportunities?
The diversification benefit you’d get is certainly not negligible either. During the so-called ‘lost decade’ of 2000 to 2009, the US market, as measured by the S&P 500, had a net loss of 9.1%, while international developed markets went up by an anemic 12.4%, but emerging markets went up by a whopping 154.3%.
It would have made a bog difference if you have a piece of emerging markets in your portfolio.
He accurately pointed out, “If I spent like that, I would be bankrupt in a few years.” He believes so strongly that the US is going the way of national bankruptcy that he has moved substantial amounts of his money overseas and has invested a great deal in gold.
I happen to believe that gold is the most unproductive of assets, since it does not generate dividends or interest and it actually costs money for upkeep in a safe in a Singapore bank.
On top of that, by throwing so much money into gold, one could over prepare for a disaster that is very unlikely to happen and thereby miss out on all the opportunities to grow wealth in this country.
But I still need to explain why the US won’t go bankrupt anytime soon. Here are two explanations:
There have been 17 government shutdowns in history. Today I asked my intern Taro Taguchi to analyze the market performances subsequent to shutdowns.
Using the closing price prior to the day of government shutdown as a base line, he found on average, the market rose 0.97% in one month, 2.38% in three months and 13.42% in a year.
If we isolate the 5 most severe shutdowns that lasted more than 10 days, the picture is a bit worse, but not by much. On average the market fell 4.19% in one month, fell .18% in three months and rose 9.63% in a year.
These historical precedents confirm my gut feeling that a government shutdown is really no big deal, as far as the market is concerned.
More worrisome is the upcoming debt ceiling fight. There is no precedent of US default to guide my outlook on this, but the longer the government shutdown lasts, the deeper heels get dug in by both parties and the more likely a default. Nevertheless, I’m still thinking that will also be a storm in a tea cup.
The bottom line is these are issues beyond our control, there is no point worrying about them. If worst comes to worst (ie default,) and the market should drop 20%. That’s actually great because then we can buy shares at a discount!
1. “The gross revenues for the financial services industry in 2010 were $1.129 trillion. That year, total US financial assets stood at $50.38 trillion, meaning that the financial services industry as a whole is skimming 2.25% a year out of everyone’s wealth.” This is an excerpt from a post on Wealthcare Capital entitled “Investment Expenses – The Other Millionaire You Make.” How about I help you cut those expenses by half?
2. Shocking! Shocking! Your elected representatives want the financial industry to continue ripping you off!
3. Ike Devji wrote a piece “Investment Fraud Red Flag for Physicians.” It is packed full of useful tips. I have one thing to add though, never work with a broker, regardless how clean his or her broker check record. These people are not legally obliged to watch out for your best interest.
4. A very succinct piece in Physicians’ Monday Digest about How Rising Interest Rates Would Affect You.
5. Taxpayers beware, AccountingToday has a piece on tax deductions expiring in 2014.
Also see Top Ten in July.
I had a fun conversation with a prospective client who I lost a few months ago. He actually got me to create an investment plan for him, then he shopped around and found an advisor who charges less.
He then had the gall to call me back and ask whether I think he is paying too much for his new advisor. Here is what he said.
My advisor puts me in low cost ETFs and meets with me every quarter. But otherwise he does nothing with my portfolio, so what exactly do I pay him $15k for?
I know this gentleman has a sizable portfolio, and $15k means a fee of well below 1%. So I told him what I thought.
The fee is very competitive.
The advisor did the right thing by putting his money in low cost EFTs.
- Doing nothing with a portfolio is the only right thing to do!
You would probably go with the large cap growth since “large cap” sounds a lot safer than “small cap,” and “growth” sounds a lot more promising than “value.”
To prove how wrong you are, I did a study of the relative performances of these two styles in the eight decades between 1931 and 2010. Here is what I found.
In 2009, he had a windfall of $1m. He asked a lady who had sold him a bunch of annuities where he should put his newfound cash. He further told her he was already up to his neck in annuities so he wanted to take some risks.
The agent pointed him to a celebrity business. Basically, some hollywood celebrity was trying to start an online gaming business, and needed $30m to do so.
My client went to their presentation and was mesmerized by the income projection. Then, when he saw that one of his relatives was a minority partner in the venture, he was totally sold. He signed a check for $1m on the spot.
He might as well have flushed it down the toilet.
Here is what he did wrong.
It is well established that investors’ sense of risk reward is shaped by immediate past experience.
However, investing based on immediate past experience is like driving while only looking through your rear view mirror. It’s a disaster waiting to happen.
The proper way to think about risk reward is to see investing as a risk taking occupation. When there are more job openings than job seekers, wages will rise. When there are many job seekers chasing too few openings, wages will be lower. It’s just simple economics.
In academic circles, this wage of taking risk is called risk premium.
1. ThinkAdvisor highlighted a Maryland study which showed that states which pay the highest fees to Wall Street (for managing pensions) have the lowest returns. That says it all about Wall Street. No wonder Rick Ferri wants you to steer clear of actively managed funds.
2. Reuters Money reported how Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) can be used as retirement savings accounts. This information is especially useful for small business owners and self-employed individuals who tend to neglect their retirement savings and face high deductibility in their health insurance. Here is the garden variety of ways they can save for retirement.
3. DIY Investor Robert Wasilewski encountered a bear while hiking. He survived to write about it, but he mused that the same reactions that kept him in the gene pool will surely “eliminate you from the investment pool.”
Last night I was “wasting” time on Google+, when I stumbled upon Joe Udo’s blog where he had written about how he made an 11.3% annualized return with P2P lending. The next thing I knew, it was past midnight and I just had spent three hours eyeballs deep in the subject.
Let me first tell you what P2P lending is. P2P stands for person-to-person or peer-to-peer. P2P lending is the practice of lending to strangers, enabled by technology and the web.
The two leading companies in this arena are LendingClub and Prosper. Between the two of them, they’ve enabled nearly $2 billion of lending between investors and borrowers. However, that still pales to the total US consumer credit of $1 trillion.
I am super excited about P2P lending! Let me tell you why.
When I write a blog post, I like to drive home one and only one point at a time.
In my last blog post, the point I wanted to make was that cost matters. In case you didn’t notice, not only did I reduced my new client’s cost by 85 basis points, I also reduced the number of funds in her portfolio from 39 to 4.
With such a small numbers of funds, is the portfolio diverse enough?
Emphatically yes. In fact, it is much more diversified than the previous portfolio of 39 actively managed funds.
What I use are asset class funds; DFQTX holds all 5000+ stocks traded in the US equity market; DFTWX holds all foreign stocks; DFGEX holds all domestic and foreign REITs and of course VBTIX holds all bonds. With these four portfolios, you are holding all of the world’s productive assets. How much more diversified can you get?
Recently, I visited a prospective client in New Jersey. He is currently a client with Fisher Investments, and his advisor told him never to rebalance since that involves market timing.
I have to hand it to this financial advisor for recognizing that market timing is an unproductive endeavor, but he is so wrong about rebalancing that I am compelled to write this article.
Rebalancing is not a market timing activity, it is calendar-driven or condition-driven. For instance, you may decide that you will rebalance your portfolio on January 1st of each year or whenever an asset class allocation is off by 20%.