Opinion

Run Rich Run

Pros Versus Casuals

One of my favorite events at the NFL Combine is when NFL Network’s Rich Eisen runs the 40 yard dash.  He uses the Run Rich Run event to raise money for St. Jude’s.  It also helps give perspective to just how talented the athletes at the combine are.  Viewed on the field of play, athletes usually don’t look all that different from one another so when someone sees that Denzel Ward is 5’11” and 180 pounds, they may be tempted to think, “I could compete with that guy!”  No, you could not.  Eisen runs a 6-second 40.  Ward is at 4.3 seconds.  Rich provides the average fan a service that should be available in every sport.  I want to see an average guy swim against Michael Phelps or a group of randoms take on an Olympic curling team. Seeing the difference between a professional and an amateur on screen is helpful. …


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How Yale Beat the Market

The Yale Endowment released their 2017 report, taking a victory lap over their 20-year returns.  In their hubris, the endowment’s management team let slip the secret to beating the markets.  “[A]ctive management can be a powerful tool for institutions that commit the resources to achieve superior, risk-adjusted investment results.”  If only Harvard had thought to commit the resources to achieve superior, risk-adjusted investment results! What’s happening here is two of the planet’s greatest active managers disagree about passive investing.  Warren Buffett says most individual and institutional investors would be better off indexing.  Yale’s David Swenson argues that institutional investors with the resources to do so should just pick good funds. Check out this gem of a footnote in the report: “Yale’s 106.3% venture capital return over the past twenty years is heavily influenced by large distributions during the Internet boom. Since such a calculation assumes reinvestment of proceeds from the…


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My “Bad” Personal Finance

“Dad, can we go speed?” I always wondered if my kids would be like me.  So when William asked that question on the way to swimming lessons, I knew I could check that box.  Yep, this kid inherited the car gene.  My dad is a car guy.  By today’s standards (I enjoy driving stick), I am a car guy.  And now it seems the next generation has the bug.  What’s this got to do with personal finance?  Cars are one of the biggest targets for personal finance bloggers.  If you’re trying to live the FIRE (financially independent, retire early) lifestyle and do the whole retire in your 30s/40s thing, a car can be a huge burden on this journey. Car FIRE The FIRE crowd isn’t necessarily against cars so much as car payments.  Their arguments are air-tight and their logic is flawless.  Yes, it makes sense to buy a used…


alright

Has the Dow Left You Dazed and Confused?

Let’s set aside the fact that the Dow Jones Industrial Average is a flawed measure of the overall stock market.  The media, your parents, and their parents have all accepted the Dow as the standard.  Besides, over time the Dow does move in line with the overall market.  So instead of arguing semantics, let’s talk about the headline: a 4-digit drop in the Dow today along with a 600+ point drop on Friday. While the average person associates the Dow with the overall market, we should also recognize that the media loves the Dow because of the potential for attention grabbing headlines.  To paraphrase Wooderson in Dazed and Confused: That’s what I like about the Dow, the points get bigger, but the size of the returns stays the same. On average, the S&P 500 experiences a drawdown of 14% every year.  If we apply that average to the Dow, it would…


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2018 Outlook

I’ve been meaning to post an outlook for 2018, but I kept putting it off.  Between the holidays, a sick kid, and my belief that calendar year outlooks are dumb, procrastination has been beating my will to write.  No more!  Here are my predictions for 2018: If you have been investing for 10+ years, your 10 year return number is going to look a ton better at the end of 2018 Donald Trump is going to collaborate with Democrats going into the mid-term elections Bitcoin and crypto-assets will rally hard, then have a huge correction at year-end To be honest, those second two predictions are garbage.  The first one, however, is the stealth story of the year. Ten Year Returns If you’ve been investing for over ten years, your ten year return number is going to burst higher.  Why?  The S&P 500 lost 37% in 2008 and that year is…


ESG

Doing Good While (Hopefully) Doing Well

Each year, BlackRock’s Chairman and CEO, Larry Fink, writes a letter to CEOs of “leading companies” in which BlackRock’s clients are shareholders.  Last year’s letter encouraged long-term thinking in the context of a world that is increasingly focused on short-term volatility.  This year’s letter strikes a similar tone, but goes a step further in mentioning environmental, social, and governance (ESG) matters as factors CEOs should be considering in their long-term strategies.  Socially responsible investing (SRI) is gaining traction among investors.  Is this just kumbaya investing or is it for serious investors, too?  Why would anyone do this?  On the other hand, why would anyone NOT do this? The Basics ESG and SRI are sometimes used interchangeably, but they are different.  SRI is the broad overarching investment thesis of the movement.  ESG filters this mandate through three lenses, environmental, social, and governance.  SRI is open to personal interpretation just like the…


cheating

Are You More Likely to Cheat with Bitcoin?

I recently spoke with a client who wanted to know what could go wrong with bitcoin.  We talked about bitcoin and the monetary system (not a risk now, but who knows in the future) as well as black market applications (greenbacks work just as well or better here).  The question stuck with me, though.  What could go wrong?  I remembered attending a session at an IMCA (now the Investments & Wealth Institute) conference with Dan Ariely and something clicked.  Ariely’s research suggests that the further we get from money, the higher the likelihood that we will cheat. Check out his TED talk here.  He performed an experiment where subjects were given a limited amount of time to complete a number of math problems and would get paid based on the number of problems they completed.  Subjects who handed in their papers got an average of 4 problems correct. Lots of…


gummis

Bears, Beats, Bitcoin

In honor of my favorite vignette from The Office… Question:  What kind of bear is best? ‘Tis the season for market predictions (and forgetting last year’s predictions).  The optimists predict low single digit returns for equities.  The bears predict bear things.  Which means no one expects even decent stock market returns.  Now more than ever it makes sense to hold a portfolio that doesn’t require you to predict the future to be successful. Bears Eat Beets Schwab’s Jeffrey Kleintop points out that while stocks have gone up every month this year, so have earnings. Battlestar Galactica Bitcoin is going bananas yet again.  Charlie Bilello has tracked bitcoin sentiment via Twitter polls at major milestones which is fascinating.  He also occasionally marks bitcoin’s “market cap” (or whatever you want to call it) which has hit $214 billion.  OMG!  That’s more than Home Depot!!! Calm down, Apple’s cash hoard is around $270…


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My Favorite Posts This Week

I try to share good posts via Twitter.  A bunch of people were writing solid stuff this week:   A Little Knowledge is Dangerous – Nick Maggiulli – Surprising stat about survival rates for people lost in the wild.  Kids six and under have a surprisingly high survival rate while one of the lowest is for kids seven to twelve.  Younger kids follow their instincts.  Older kids overthink and panic.  This maps over to investing in that knowing a little bit can lead to devastating over-confidence. Is Robert Shiller Right that Passive Investing is Dangerous? – Cullen Roche, Chicken Farmer – This is a sensible layout of one argument in the active/passive debate, pointing out that the sides often aren’t even debating the same points. How to Deal with Market Moving News – Ben Carlson – Binary thinking and single variable analysis are killers to long-term portfolio success. Backtested Strategies:…


Bitcoin Mine

Moar Bitcoin!

After my last post about Bitcoin, I got a lot of, “So… Bitcoin?”  No one has a concrete opinion on this thing except the evangelists, but everyone wants to discuss it.  Skeptics seem more concerned about staying in their lane than dragging down crypto – they don’t understand it, they don’t need it, and maybe it smells a bit fishy to them. I think crypto is an elegant solution in search of a problem and I am constantly reminded of the early internet.  We didn’t see the use of the internet at first, but today it’s a basic utility.  Here’s how I’m looking at Bitcoin right now. What is the Purpose? It’s a way to store wealth.  This is particularly handy if your centralized currency authority is devaluing/confiscating.  With fewer institutions between transacting parties (basically just the network), Bitcoin is a fast and cheap way to send money to someone…