Weekend Reading

Investing rules of Bernard Baruch

Bernard Mannes Baruch was an American financier and statesman. According to historian Thomas A. Krueger: For half a century Bernard Baruch was one of the country’s richest and most powerful men. Bernard Baruch has made millions in the US bull market in stocks since 1924. However, he started anticipating a Wall Street crash as early as 1927 and sold stocks short periodically in 1927 and 1928.

Baruch would reiterate his life lessons in a list of rules on how to invest. The list is pulled from the lessons he learned over a lifetime in the markets. Here are his ten investment rules:

  1. Don’t speculate unless you can make it a full-time job.
  2. Beware of barbers, beauticians, waiters — of anyone — bringing gifts of “inside” information or “tips.”
  3. Before you buy a security, find out everything you can about the company, its management and competitors, its earnings and possibilities of growth.
  4. Don’t try to buy at the bottom and sell at the top. This can’t be done — except by liars.
  5. Learn how to take your losses quickly and cleanly. Don’t expect to be right all the time. If you have made a mistake, cut your losses as quickly as possible.
  6. Don’t buy too many different securities. Better have only a few investments that can be watched.
  7. Make a periodic reappraisal of all your investments to see whether changing developments have altered their prospects.
  8. Study your tax position to know when you can sell to the greatest advantage.
  9. Always keep a good part of your capital in a cash reserve. Never invest all your funds.
  10. Don’t try to be a jack of all investments. Stick to the field you know best.

These “rules” mainly reflect two lessons that experience has taught him — that getting the facts of a situation before acting is of crucial importance, and that getting these facts is a continuous job that requires eternal vigilance.

Source: https://novelinvestor.com/bernard-baruchs-investing-rules/

2021 : Returns in the first half

Jon writes on his blog that for the most part, markets in 2021 have shown continued improvement on last year. In fact, the worst place to have money so far this year is cash. The U.S. and the broader international and emerging market indexes are positive year to date.

Investing in a world where everything seems to be working out — except “safe” bonds and cash — it can be tempting to tweak your portfolio. Why not move that money earning nothing into something much better? After the last six months, and the six months prior to that, Jon bets a lot of people are thinking exactly that. When thoughts like that pop into your head it’s always worth asking yourself a few questions.

First, am I taking enough risk to meet my goals? Building a portfolio is not an exact science. Uncertainty around the future makes that impossible. But it’s certainly plausible that some investors are taking less risk than they can handle. If you have less money in stocks than you’re comfortable with, can handle more risk and volatility, then maybe a change is warranted.

However, the alternative should also be considered. If you have more money in stocks than you’re comfortable with, reducing your exposure might be warranted. Successful investing has never been about getting the highest return this year. It’s about getting the best long-term return at risk you’re comfortable taking.

Second, am I making changes because I feel like I’m missing out? FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) sucks. It gets a lot of investors into trouble. Frankly, the returns other people and/or asset classes are earning in the market are irrelevant to what you’re trying to accomplish. If your portfolio is sound and doing what it’s set out to do, whatever is going on outside of that is a distraction. Ignore it. Far too many investors shoot themselves in the foot trying to chase returns.

Finally, it’s always good to ask what if I’m wrong? The correct answer is you lose money. Are you comfortable with that potential outcome? A sound portfolio is built with this question in mind. It also happens to be the last question anyone asks when markets are rising and everyone’s optimistic and appears to be making money. Much like today!

The heightened speculation that emerged in 2020, spilt into this year, and is ongoing. There are a lot of “brilliant” investors around more than willing to show off their quarterly gains. It’ll be interesting to see how long that lasts.

Jon concludes that when everyone’s optimistic and few think they can lose money, getting rich quick becomes the strategy du jour. Many will eventually figure out it has one tremendous downside. You lose everything. Until then hopes and dreams are driving pockets of the market for now.

 

For Indian Investors, it is perhaps time to look beyond the local market

Asset Class % Total returns Q1 Q2 1H 2021
India 5.18 7.01 12.55
S&P 500 US 6.17 8.55 15.25
US IT sector 1.97 11.56 13.76
US Financials 15.99 8.36 25.69
US Healthcare 3.18 8.4 11.85

 

Based on MSCI Index Dollar returns

Source: https://novelinvestor.com/

How to Think About Investing Cash on the Side lines…

With markets reaching new highs, investors are wondering how to invest their cash. When it comes to deploying cash on the sidelines, there are no easy answers. Charlie Bilello wrote these pointers based on his study of US markets. These may be true for other markets as well.

Investing is just a game of odds and the historical probabilities up until now suggest the following: If you sit in cash over a 1-year period, you have a 30% chance of outperforming the market. If you sit in cash for 10 years those odds fall to 16%. Over 25-year periods, cash has yet to beat the US stock market.

Sitting in cash has an opportunity cost on average, and that opportunity cost increases with time (8% over 1-year periods, 1,297% over 25-year periods). If you are waiting for lower prices to get in, chances are you will get them (74% of the time), but you also have to be prepared to wait forever (26% of the time there’s no lower low). If you are waiting for a bear market (-20%) or more to get in at lower prices, you may never get that chance (only happens 21% of the time).

Slowly wading into the market via dollar-cost averaging has beaten a lump-sum only 32% of the time over 1-year periods and 27% of the time over 3-year periods. The longer the time period you spread that initial investment over, the lower your odds are of outperforming a lump sum today.

Timing the market based on valuation is not an easy task, and you have to be prepared to sit in cash for many years or even decades depending on your methodology. Had such a strategy been applied historically, it would have lagged buy-and-hold because equities with high valuations can still have positive (and cash-beating) returns over time.

Timing the market based on interest rates is not a strategy supported by the data which shows almost no correlation between the two variables. The notion that rising rates are “bad” for equities is a myth.

Does that mean everyone should just close their eyes and invest all their cash on the sidelines today in a lump sum? Bilello concludes most certainly not. Successful investing is about psychology more than anything else and if putting everything in today via a lump sum causes you to lose sleep at night, you will not be able to stick with that portfolio for a week, never mind next 20+ years. The portfolio with the highest expected return is completely irrelevant if you can’t handle its higher level of risk. Far better to be in a portfolio with lower returns that you can compound over 20+ years than one with a higher return that you are likely to abandon at the first sign of trouble. The goal for all investors should be to remain invested long enough to reap the enormous benefits of long-term compounding. That starts with finding a portfolio and a plan that is best suited to you.

10 Things You Shouldn’t Care About as an Investor

Ben Carlson writes that it is more important than ever to filter out the stuff you shouldn’t care about as an investor. Here are 10 things that fit the bill:

  1. How rich other people are getting. John Pierpont Morgan is attributed with the quote, “Nothing so undermines your financial judgement as of the sight of your neighbour getting rich.” There will always be people with more success, prestige, money and accolades than you. Easier said than done but not worrying about how much money other people are making can save you a lot of unnecessary stress and angst.
  2. What you paid for an investment. Picking stocks is harder than you think. Buy and hold is a terrific strategy for some stocks. For others, it’s the equivalent of an investor death sentence. I’ll just wait until I break even is a tough place to be as an investor because some stocks don’t come back…ever. There’s a fine line between being disciplined and being stubborn when it comes to investing.
  3. The amount of time and effort you put into your investments. In many areas of life, trying harder leads to better results. That’s not the case when it comes to investing. In fact, trying harder and paying more attention to your investments will often lead to worse results. There are no extra points for the degree of difficulty when it comes to the markets. Most investors would be better served doing less, not more.
  4. One year performance numbers. One year (or any shorter time frame for that matter) returns don’t tell you anything about yourself as an investor. Every investor will have good years and bad years. Diversification often looks silly over the short term. Risk management can seem useless. Luck can trump skill. You’re probably not as good or as bad as your short-term performance numbers suggest. Long-term returns are the only ones that matter.
  5. Your IQ. EQ matters more than IQ when investing. Yes, some level of intelligence is required but once you have ordinary intelligence, what you need is the temperament to control the urges that get other people into trouble in investing. There are plenty of intelligent people involved with the markets but not nearly as many who have control over their reactions. Intelligence alone does not guarantee success in the markets.
  6. Financial advice from billionaires. Ultra-successful people typically offer some of the worst financial advice. They’re simply too out of touch with normal people to provide useful advice. It’s also important to remember these people say stuff all the time that they don’t actually act on. You have to watch what they do, not what they say. And billionaires have the ability to make huge mistakes with their wealth and they’ll still be fine. If you make a huge mistake it’s going to hurt a lot more.
  7. How much you could have made if you would have only put $10k into… I hate these comparisons. These fantasies serve no purpose unless you know how to spot them ahead of time.
  8. Success in other areas of your life. Your biggest risk as an investor depends a lot on your personality, emotional make-up and station in life. The worst investors are often those who assume success in their career automatically translates to success investing in the markets. It doesn’t work like that.
  9. Timing the market perfectly. Investors waste far too much time trying to find the perfect entry point for their investments. That perfect entry point is only known with the benefit of hindsight. You’re far better off putting your money to work when you have some money to put to work and letting compound interest make up for any ill-timed purchases. It’s fun to look at returns from the tops and bottoms for certain markets or stocks but no one actually invests consistently at the peaks or troughs.
  10. Producing alpha in your portfolio. No one on their death bed has ever regretted the fact that they didn’t have a better Sharpe ratio (risk-adjusted returns). The whole point of investing in the first place is achieving your financial goals, not beating the market.

Investment lessons from David Booth

David Booth is Executive Chairman of Dimensional Fund Advisors that he founded over 40 years ago. It now manages more than $600 bn for investors across the world.  

Gambling is not investing, and investing is not gambling: Gambling is a short-term bet. If you’re picking stocks or timing the market, you need to be right twice — in an aim to buy low and sell high. Fama showed that it’s unlikely for any individual to be able to pick the right stock at the right time — especially more than once.  Investing, on the other hand, is long term. Investing, to me, is buying a little bit of almost every company and holding them for a long time. The only bet you’re making is on human ingenuity to find productive solutions to the world’s problems.

Embrace uncertainty: Over the past 100 years, the US stock market, as measured by the S&P 500, has returned a little over 10% on average per year but hardly ever close to 10% in any given year. The same is true of dozens of other markets around the world that have delivered strong long-term average returns. Stock market behaviour is uncertain, just like most things in our lives. None of us can make uncertainty disappear, but dealing thoughtfully with uncertainty can make a huge difference in our investment returns, and even more importantly, our quality of life.

Implementation is the art of financial science: The way to deal with uncertainty is to prepare for it. Without uncertainty, there would be no opportunity. We always emphasize that risk and expected returns are related, which means you can’t have more of one without more of the other. Make the best-informed choices you can, then monitor performance and make portfolio adjustments as necessary. Come up with a plan to get back on track in case things don’t go as expected. And remember, you can’t control markets, so try to relax knowing you’ve made the best-informed choices you can. Great implementation requires paying attention to detail, applying judgment, and being flexible.

Tune out the noise: If an investment sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Stress is induced when people think that they can time markets or find the next winning stock. There is no compelling evidence that professional stock pickers can consistently beat the markets. Even after one outperforms, it’s difficult to determine whether a manager was skilful or lucky. Consistently finding big winners is difficult, but everybody can have access to the expected returns that a diversified, low-cost portfolio can generate.

Have a philosophy you can stick with: It can be difficult to stay the investment course during periods of extreme market volatility. We will all remember 2020 for the rest of our lives. It serves as an example of how important it is to maintain discipline and stick to your plan. By learning to embrace uncertainty, you can also focus more on controlling what you can control. You can make an impact on how much you earn, how much you spend, how much you save, and how much risk you take. This is where a professional you trust can really help. Discipline applied over a lifetime can have a powerful impact.

What type of retiree will you be?

Mike Drak writes that the producers of retirement commercials would like us to believe that all retirees are the same. They aren’t. To be happy in retirement, we need a good handle on what our needs are—financially and otherwise—and then find ways to satisfy them each and every day. That might sound difficult, but it isn’t. To help get you started, here are the three general types of retiree Drak discovered during his research on retirement:

  1. Comfort-oriented retirees. These folks like to avoid stress, instead favouring a safe, predictable retirement. They no longer have any goals. Retiring was their big goal and, now that it’s behind them, they just want to rest and take it easy. Comfort-oriented retirees don’t need much to be happy. Just the basics will do, food on the table, a roof over their head and some level of financial security.
  2. Growth-oriented retirees. These retirees have a need to keep stretching, exploring, learning and experiencing new things. If they can’t do that, they aren’t happy. They’ve created a bucket list a mile long and plan on knocking things off that list for as long as they can. They have a hardwired desire to feel “significant” and a need for accomplishment and contribution. Their work nourished these needs, and they lost that source of nourishment when they retired. Until they can find a way of replacing it, they’ll always feel like something is missing in their life. Self-actualizers, even retired ones, are never satisfied with how things are. They’re continually setting new personal goals that will challenge and improve them, so they can realize their full retirement potential.
  1. Self-transcenders. Self-transcenders look for a cause, a need, a problem to be solved, something that they’re passionate about. This becomes their mission. They know it isn’t how much you give that counts, but rather how much love you put into the giving. Helping those who are struggling leads to the “helper’s high,” a feeling of intense joy, peace and well-being. Helping others gives self-transcenders a strong sense of purpose. When they have what they consider a purpose-driven retirement, they’re happier. They can sleep peacefully at night knowing that they did something to help others. They wake up in the morning feeling excited and wondering, “Who can I help today?”

Drak suggests that one should now ask self: What type of retiree are you? If one can answer that question, you’ve taken a crucial step toward a happier retirement.

Adopt to survive and thrive

Robert Vinall writes that there are two contrasting approaches to investing – one placing more weight on the future; the other on the past. They are a reminder that the optimal strategy is a function of the era you invest in. If you are in a market characterised by rapid and widespread change, it pays to be forward-looking despite the inherent difficulty of judging the future. If, on the other hand, you are in a market where the pace of change is slower and more localised, then it may simply be better to bet on reversion to the mean as the future is too uncertain and genuine change too infrequent.

The older generations of value investors invested based on the assumption that historical patterns of cashflow generation would reassert themselves – better known as “reversion to the mean” – seemed the better strategy. Many of the great investing track records were built by investing in stable, unchanging businesses when they went through a period of underperformance on the assumption that they would eventually recover. It was an approach to investing that was based on a good understanding of a company’s history and the assumption that the future would not look too different to the past. It worked far better than betting on companies with short histories and big plans for the future, and it seemed obvious that it would continue to.

When the investing era changes, older investors have to adapt, which in practice does not so much mean learning new tricks as unlearning old ones. The former is certainly easier than the latter as learning is fun, but parting ways with cherished ideas are painful. In one important respect though, there is an advantage to experience. When the nature of the market does change, it should, at least in theory, be easier for the investor that has lived through different types of markets to adapt than for the investor who has only experienced one type. The younger investor suddenly finds themselves in the position of the older investor without the benefit of having experienced a change in the market before.

To increase the chances of adapting to different markets, Vinall sees one big thing an investor should do and one big thing they should not. The single biggest thing they should do is commit to adapt. The single biggest thing an investor should not do is tie themselves to a particular investment style or geography or industry or any other categorisation. 

 

 

 

More accuracy

Big Risks

Big risks are easy to underestimate because they come from small risks that multiply.

Big risks are easy to overlook because they’re just a chain reaction of small events, each of which is easy to shrug off. A bunch of mundane things happen at the right time, in the right order, and multiply into an event that might look impossible if you only view the final outcome in isolation. Math is hard, but exponential math is deceiving.

Covid is the same. A virus shutting down the global economy and killing millions of people seemed remote enough for most people to never contemplate. Before a year ago it sounded like the one-in-billions freak accident only seen in movies.

But break the last year into smaller pieces.

A virus transferred from animal to human (has happened forever) and those humans interacted with other people (of course). It was a mystery for a while (understandable) and bad news was likely suppressed (political incentives, don’t yell fire in a theatre). Other countries thought it would be contained (exceptionalism, standard denial) and didn’t act fast enough (bureaucracy, lack of leadership). We weren’t prepared (common over-optimism) and the reaction to masks and lockdowns became heated (of course) so as to become sporadic (diversity, same as ever). Feelings turned tribal (standard during an election year) and a rush to move on led to premature reopenings (standard denial, the inevitability of different people experiencing different realities).

Each of those events on their own seems obvious, even common. But when you multiply them together you get something surprising, even unprecedented. Big risks are always like that, which makes them too easy to underestimate. How starkly we have been reminded over the last year.

Source: Morgan Housel

12 Things to remind yourself when markets go crazy

Ben Carlson reminds us that there has never been a better time to be an individual investor than right now. And things are only going to get better from here. The problem with having all of these options available at your fingertips is that it’s never been easier to experience Fear of Missing out (FOMO). FOMO brings about a lot of emotions — greed, envy, regret — that make it difficult to make level-headed decisions with your money.

So here are some things Carlson reminds himself when markets go crazy to put things into perspective:

  1. There is no such thing as a normal market. Uncertainty is the only constant when investing. Get used to it.
  2. The most effective hedge is not necessarily an investment strategy. The best hedge against wild short-term moves in the markets is a long time horizon.
  3. Your gains will be incinerated at some point. Investing in risk assets means occasionally seeing your gains evaporate before your eyes. Carlson says he doesn’t know why and he doesn’t know when but at some point a large portion of his portfolio will fall in value. That’s how this works.
  4. You still have a lot of time left. Carlson says he is still young(ish) with (hopefully) a number of decades ahead of him to save and invest. That means he is going to experience multiple crashes, recessions, bull markets, manias, panics and everything in-between in the years ahead. The current cycle won’t last forever just like the last one or the next one.
  5. Know yourself. One of the biggest mistakes you can make as an investor is confusing your risk profile and time horizon with someone else’s. Understanding how markets generally work is important but understanding yourself is the key to successful investing over the long haul.
  6. There’s nothing wrong with using a “dumb” strategy. Buy and hold is one of the dumbest investment strategies ever…that also happens to have the highest probability of success for the vast majority of investors. There’s no shame in keeping things simple.
  7. The crowd is usually right. Being contrarian will always make you feel like you’re smarter than everyone else, but the crowd is right more often than its wrong when it comes to the markets. Yes, things can get overcrowded at times but being a contrarian 100% of the time will lead you to be wrong far more often than you’re right.
  8. Markets don’t end. For years pundits have been proclaiming I’ve seen this movie before and it ends badly. Well, guess what? Markets don’t end. Yes, some companies fail but most of them keep right on chugging along, selling products and services, making profits and paying dividends. And the stock market isn’t going out of business anytime soon. No one knows how this movie ends because there will always be another sequel.
  9. Anchoring is dangerous. Whenever there are huge moves in the market it becomes tempting to play the anchoring game. What if I would have bought at the lows? What if I would have sold at the highs? No one is able to consistently get in at the bottoms and out at the tops. Hindsight makes it look easy but it never is at the moment. Buying when something is falling is hard to act on because it always feels like it’s going lower while selling when something is rising is easy but most of the time you’re wrong.
  10. You don’t have to be bullish or bearish at all times. Focusing on your own goals can release you from the need to always have an opinion on the next move higher or lower.
  11. You don’t have to invest in everything. Sometimes the stuff you don’t invest in is even more important than the stuff you do invest in. It’s never been more important to have filters in place to guide your actions.
  12. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing. There will always be someone getting richer than you in life and the markets. And with the advent of social media, that means people throwing this fact in your face constantly. This one is not easy but defining what a rich life means to you can help avoid unnecessary envy and regret.

Bull Markets

As equity markets around the world reach a new high, investors need to remember a few things about the bull markets. Here are some comments made by famous investors who have seen many bull and bear markets in their careers.

“Bull markets ignore bad news, and any good news is a reason for a further rally.” Michael Platt

“Gresham’s Law says that the bad money [paper] drives the good money [specie] out of circulation; this accurately describes human behaviour when people are confronted with a cost-free choice. I now believe this accurately describes people’s choice of investment philosophies, especially late in a bull market, when the sloppy analysis drives out the disciplined assessment, and when the grab for return overwhelms the desire for capital preservation.” Seth Klarman

“The longer the bull market lasts the more severely investors will be affected with amnesia; after five years or so, many people no longer believe that bear markets are possible.” Benjamin Graham
“In investor behaviour, particularly during the last stages of a great bull market, perception of risk and actual risk are at opposite ends of the spectrum.” Leon Levy

“People tend to forget about the importance of the price they pay as the experience of a bull market just sort of dulls the senses generally.” Charlie Munger

“Once a bull market gets underway, and once you reach the point where everybody has made money no matter what system he or she followed, a crowd is attracted into the game that is responding not to interest rates and profits but simply to the fact that it seems a mistake to be out of stocks. In effect, these people superimpose an I-can’t-miss-the-party factor on top of the fundamental factors that drive the market. Like Pavlov’s dog, these ‘investors’ learn that when the bell rings – in this case, the one that opens the New York Stock Exchange at 9:30 a.m. – they get fed. Through this daily reinforcement, they become convinced that there is a God and that he wants them to get rich.” Warren Buffett

“The further you get away from a bear market, the greater the number of people who have convinced themselves they can handle the downside – until the next time, of course. In the interim, if the indices are performing well, then you can bet that many investors – individuals and professionals, alike – are going to feel pressure to do whatever they can to ride the bull.” Steven Romick

“Never confuse genius with luck and a bull market.” John Bogle

“In a bull market, it is advisable to restrain one’s greed. There is an old wall street saying, ‘The bulls make money, the bears make money. But what happens to the pigs?’. You can’t make 101 per cent. You shouldn’t even strive to make 100 per cent. Your goal should be 66.6% of a big move. Get out and then reinvest in something that has been newly studied.” Roy Neuberger

“It’s just the nature of a rip-roaring bull market. Fundamentals might be good for the first third or first 50 or 60 per cent of a move, but the last third of a great bull market is typically a blow-off, where the mania runs wild and prices go parabolic.” Paul Tudor Jones

“Common stocks should be purchased when their prices are low, not after they have risen to high levels during an upward bull-market spiral. Buy when everyone else is selling and hold on until everyone else is buying — this is more than just a catchy slogan. It is the very essence of a successful investment.” J Paul Getty

“Very early in my career, a veteran investor told me about the three stages of a bull market. Now I’ll share them with you. The first, when a few forward-looking people begin to believe things will get better. The second, when most investors realize improvement is actually taking place. The third, when everyone concludes things will get better forever. Why would anyone waste time trying for a better description? This one says it all. It’s essential that we grasp its significance.” Howard Marks

Source: http://mastersinvest.com/bullmarketquotes