The Investment Scientist

Well, two weeks ago I got an email from Investopedia, an encyclopedia website for personal finance and investment. The email told me that I was recognized as one of their “Top 100 Influential Advisors” in their inaugural ranking.

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Let me just say I was very skeptical. I’ve gotten emails like that before, sometimes even from reputable magazines, telling me that I had been selected in their top financial advisor rankings. They then would go on to ask me to buy advertising, or make a payment to retain my listing in their top advisor rankings.

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Investment-Planning_Lump-Sum-vs-Dollar-Cost-Averaging.jpgRecently, I shared a true story in which I set up a client’s 401k plan five years ago with periodic (bi-weekly) contributions and equal investments into both a US stock index fund and an international stock index fund. Despite the fact that the US index (fund) has outperformed the international index (fund) by a huge margin: 86% vs 29% over the last five years, my client now has more money in the international fund than in the US fund. What gives? I invited my readers to think about it and give me their explanations. Now it’s time to reveal the answer: it’s dollar cost averaging!

Let me show you a stylized example in a three time-period world. There are two indexes. Index A goes from 100 to 105, then 110. Index B goes from 100 to 80, then 100. It’s clear that index A dominates index B since the total return of index A is 10%, that of index B is 0%. Yet an investor who makes equal $100 periodic investments in both index A and B will have more money in B at the end. Here is the math …

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If you look at this chart covering the last five years, the red line representing the US market and blue representing international markets, which market do you think would have made you more money? It’s a no brainer right? The US market went up nearly 90%, while the international markets went up less than 30%. Of course it’s the US market, right?


I thought so too until I reviewed a client’s 401k account recently. I set up his account about five years ago. 

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Identity-Theft.gifOne day two years ago, I got an email from a client of mine. In a very concise manner, he told me he was in Singapore for a business deal and he needed to wire $500k from his investment account to a bank account in Singapore.

To raise the money, I would need to sell some of his highly appreciated investments. I didn’t want him to be surprised by capital gain taxes, so I replied with an explanation of the tax implications.

After that, I was ready to wire the money, so I sent him a short message: “You know our standard procedure, any time a client wants to move more than $10k, he needs to call me to tell me in his own voice.” I totally expected my phone would ring right away.

Instead, I got another email: “I am in Singapore, I don’t have a phone with me, take this email as my authorization to wire the money.”

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www.usnews.jpgAfter the Comey firing and the dropping of a few other shoes, there is enough talk about the similarity to Watergate that piques my interest to study the stock market’s reaction during the Watergate period.

The Watergate period started with the arrest of five burglars breaking into the DNC offices located in the Watergate Hotel on 6/17/1972 and ended with Nixon’s resignation on 8/8/1974. I split that time period into three different stages.

  1. The early stage: from 6/17/1972 to Nixon winning re-election on 11/11/1972.
  2. The middle stage: from 11/11/1972 to 10/20/1973 when Nixon fired Archibald Cox and abolished the office of the special prosecutor. Attorney General Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William D. Ruckelshaus resigned. The day’s events are commonly known as the Saturday Night Massacre.
  3. The final stage: from 10/20/1973 to 8/8/1974 when Nixon resigned.
The chart below is the S&P 500 during whole Watergate period … Read the rest of this entry »
This morning I got an email informing me that I was identified to receive “The Five Star Wealth Manager” award.
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Am I super excited about this recognition?


This is not the first time I’ve gotten this type of email. In the past, I have received similar emails from both strangers and people claiming to represent well-recognized publications like Barron’s and Forbes. They all told me that they wanted to recognize me as the best wealth manager/financial advisor/financial planner in the country, or in my state, or in my city, or ever born. Read the rest of this entry »

The US market ended the month of March with the PE10 at 29.02. The PE10 is a stock market measurement devised by Nobel Prize winner Robert Shiller to measure the extent of market over-valuation or under-valuation. The long-term mean of the PE10 is 17, so the current level is nearly twice the long-term mean.

There have been only two other instances in history when the PE10 was this high, one in July, 1929 and one in February, 1997. It’s very interesting to study these two instances to frame our expectations of future market returns.

In both instances, there were two or more massive market corrections in the subsequent 20 years, but the market trajectories were vastly different. See the chart here :
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In the 1929 instance, the market peaked two months later while in the 1997 instance, Read the rest of this entry »


Michael Zhuang is principal of MZ Capital, a fee-only independent advisory firm based in Washington, DC. He is also a regular contributor to Morningstar Advisor and Physicians Practice. To explore a long-term wealth advisory relationship, schedule a discovery meeting (phone call) with him.

You may also get his monthly newsletter, or join his Facebook page for regular wealth management insights. Michael's email is info[at]

Twitter: @mzhuang

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