Investing

No Picture

Chasing Risk

  I read the Howard Marks memo last weekend and you should, too, if you haven’t already.  The memo got me to revisit some of my investing viewpoints.  It’s easy to listen to the same investment philosophy on repeat.  My fear is that one day I’ll look up and find that everyone’s streaming their investment philosophy on their phones while I’m listening to a walkman.  So I read everything I can.  Howard Marks is one of the very best.  He’s usually a bit cerebral for me, but the latest memo is perfect.  I ran out of highlighter halfway through my first read. Right off the bat he lays out four conditions that he sees in the market: unusual uncertainties, low prospective returns, high asset prices, and rampant pro-risk behavior.  I don’t agree with him on the first two points, but asset prices do seem high.  I have a man-crush on…


As Seen On TV Asset Allocation

As Seen on TV Asset Allocation

I want to saw a boat in half, then tape it back together and take it out on the water.  I didn’t know I wanted to do this until I saw a commercial that runs during Cleveland Indians games.  The spokesperson could be the dad on any sitcom, straight out of central casting.  This enthusiastic Everyman uses a miracle tape to fix everything from underwater leaks to boats that have been sawed in half.  I have absolutely zero need for this stuff, but I feel compelled to buy some.  Why?  For the same reason we have to talk certain clients out of an As Seen On TV Asset Allocation. Universal Theory of Infomercials My wife has a universal theory of infomercials.  She says the key to a good infomercial is to take something simple and make it look like rocket science.  Sure, your current knife can cut a tomato, but…


Markopolos

Outsourcing to an Absentee Investment Committee

They say there’s no such thing as a stupid question.  They are wrong.  Ask stupid questions, get stupid answers.  The Let Me Google That For You website is the perfect passive-aggressive answer to many stupid questions.  Rather than simply answering the question, LMGTFY provides a link that walks through the steps to google the answer.  For example, “How much does a polar bear weigh?”  Why do I bring this up?  As I have mentioned in other posts, sometimes all the due diligence you need can be found with a quick Google search.  Harry Markopolos says he’s uncovered some huge due diligence mistakes by the Boston Transit Authority (MBTA) and at least some of them would have been avoided with a quick internet search. Harry Markopolos If you’re unfamiliar with Harry Markopolos, he’s a modern day Cassandra.  Markopolos warned about the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme for years before it collapsed.  The authorities…


Product or client first

This Weekend’s Fiduciary Test

The first phase of the Department of Labor’s fiduciary rule went into effect on Friday.  This is the rule that mandates that your financial advisor must act in your best interest.  The whole thing doesn’t go live until 2018, but it will be interesting to see who makes what kinds of changes in the meantime.  Some have rushed to comply.  Others are banking on the Trump administration to overturn it. The Test I was particularly interested to hear whether the local AM station’s annuity salesman would change up his schtick this weekend.  He has an hour on Sundays to make his pitch in his non-threatening monotone.  The focus is on potential returns of the annuity (really the change in income the annuity would pay – very different from change in total value).  There’s always some sort of bonus and guarantee that you can’t lose money.  What’s not in focus is…


Two Numbers

Two Numbers You Need to Know

How much is your electric bill?  What about media (cable, Netflix, etc)?  Or your phone bill?  You probably have at least a general idea, and if you had to know the exact number, you could find it relatively easily.  The two numbers you need to know in investing are how much are you paying and how did you do.  This sounds so easy, but for too many people, it’s difficult to track down.  The crazy thing is that investment companies are often reluctant to disclose this information.  Can you imagine calling the electric company to ask how much you paid last month and they wouldn’t give you a straight answer?  Or if you asked how much electricity you used and they would only tell you how much your individual appliances used?  That is what happened to Wall Street Journal reporter Andrea Fuller when she called her investment company and asked about fees….


Browns Draft

Don’t Turn Your Portfolio into the NFL Draft

The NFL draft reminds me of picking investments.  Lots of hype followed by second-guessing every pick.  It’s nice to acquire new talent, but the key to investing is to avoid a bust. Don’t Overthink It Leading up to the NFL draft, the experts on ESPN make and revise their mock drafts on a weekly, if not daily basis.  This is somewhat insane considering that player data isn’t changing that rapidly.  There is no daily combine.  There are no more games.  Similarly, your financial situation doesn’t change enough day-to-day for you to need to remake your entire portfolio.  While NFL scouts obsess over hand-size, vertical leap, and benchpress reps, you will be tempted by newly available financial data.  Sharpe ratios, Greek letters, and max drawdowns are only the beginning of the statistics you can dig up.  Just like the NFL, the minutiae can blind you to overall greatness. Have a process…


News as drama

Three Trades Based on This Week’s Headlines

The two big news items this week are the French election and US tax reform.  There was also a big shakeup in the House of Mouse as Disney’s ESPN laid off a significant amount of on-air talent.  What’s the best way to trade this news?  If you read this blog with any regularity, you already know where this is going. French Election France’s establishment parties got the boot as nationalist Marine Le Pen and centrist Emmanuel Macron advanced through the first round of voting.  This continues a global trend of shaking up the political status quo.  As in other recent elections, volatility picked up before the election only to drop once the results were reported.  While Le Pen is seen as a populist wild card, Macron is expected to win handily in the next round.  Many expect Macron to add a stable presence to contrast President Trump’s boat-rocking. The trade: No…


Why settle for average

Settling for Average

Settling for Average Capital Group is pushing back hard against the passive investing crowd.  They make the case that some basic screens (low expenses, manager investing in their own fund, etc) can reveal good managers.  I agree with that.  The screens I use at Fairway are kind of hilariously basic relative to the universe of modern portfolio theory statistics and Greek symbols I could choose from.  You really don’t need to layer on too many filters before you get a list of a dozen or so good managers in any particular asset class.  What I do take exception to is the ‘Why settle for average?‘ argument they put forward.  The Capital Group folks are some of the brightest folks around and yet this is the tagline?  I tackled this last year here and here.  I also posted a direct response to the Capital Group marketing here. The latest Capital Group marketing…


No Picture

Don’t Buy the Next Amazon

THIS STOCK COULD BE LIKE BUYING AMAZON IN 1997!  So reads the ad disguised as a headline on Yahoo Finance.  Here’s the thing: you don’t want to buy the next Amazon. Clicking on the ad takes you to a wall of text.  The performance is stellar.  The method is so easy an idiot could do it.  Two idiots say as much in quoted testimonials.  This is a no-brainer.  Then comes the catch – just subscribe to the newsletter. Disguising ads as news headlines is what finally pushed me off of Yahoo Finance.  I clicked the ad today (google took me to the site while looking for news on a company) because I’ve seen this same ad for years.  Either there’s a new Amazon every week or maybe, just maybe these guys are full of it. Don’t Buy The Next Amazon Amazon is up 43,000% (for real) since IPO.  Why wouldn’t…


An Anniversary and Some Words on Garbage

This week marks the anniversary of the bull market whether you measure from the intraday bottom on 3/6/2009 or the day’s closing bottom on 3/9/2009.  It’s not as simple as all that, though. After a 19% annualized gain or over 300% cumulative, it’s hard to ignore claims that the market is over-valued.  Sure, the doom and gloom folks have been saying that all the way up, but it’s getting harder to find statistics that don’t show the market at least fairly valued.  JP Morgan’s David Kelly shows P/Es slightly above historic averages, but the Shiller CAPE is really elevated. Some things to keep in mind After a long run, it feels like we are due for calamity or at least a pullback.  We’ve already had a pullback – four of them, in fact.  And we only need to look at last year to remind ourselves that the market’s rise was…