Feb 202017
 

For buy and hold investors, some like to actively pick and choose individual assets to buy, while others prefer to invest in the entire market. But which is a better investment strategy? Similar to a cronut, the answer is simple, but may not be obvious.

passive vs active

Which Investment Style is Better: Passive or Active?

The Cronut is a pastry that combines together a croissant and a doughnut. It was invented by New York City pastry chef Dominique Ansel and is trademarked. You should try one if you ever visit NYC. 🙂 They cost $5 each. But you can also find cronut knockoffs in Mexico that are much cheaper than the real thing, so you don’t peso much. 😄

Anyway, why is this relevant to investing? Because much like a cronut, the better investing strategy between passive and active, is not one or the other, but both. 😀 By combining individually selected assets, and index funds into one single pot, we can create the ultimate investment portfolio. This takes advantage of low-cost index funds, while adding alpha (excess returns) in certain segments of our portfolio. 😉

So how can we implement this? First, we actively pick and choose specific investments in the areas that we have extensive knowledgeable about. Then use the passive investing method to buy index funds for all other asset classes that we have insufficient knowledge about.

For example, I selected individual farms to buy in 2012/2013 because I knew how to look at soil quality, flood risk, earnings potential, etc. Therefore, I knew how to find undervalued land. Historically speaking higher quality farms appreciate faster than lower quality ones so I made sure to only buy farms above a certain quality. Farmland funds however, invest in all quality land. As a result I have outperformed every farmland or agricultural based ETF I could find on the stock market. So within the context of this asset class, passive investing would not have done me any good.

On the other hand, when I decided to get into the United Kingdom stock market last year, I decided to buy a low-cost stock market ETF. European stocks are beyond my comfort zone. I wasn’t about to perform due diligence on all 250 stocks of the FTSE 250 index. So that’s why I invested in a broad market UK index fund instead which contains those 250 individual stocks. 🙂

This is why self knowledge is very important for investors. We should try to use our strengths and specific knowledge to produce better than average outcomes in certain types of industries or asset classes. Then we can aim for average market returns in all other areas that we do not understand. Overall, this should give us a higher investment return than either a completely passive approach (which will give us average market returns), or a completely active approach (which will most likely result in under-performing the market.)

But in order for this combined investment approach to succeed we have to know the limits of our knowledge and capabilities.

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Feb 162017
 

A survey done a few years ago found that 34% of people rely on winning the lottery as a legitimate retirement plan. 😐 #smh. I’m no financial expert, but when it comes to aggressively planning for one’s retirement, playing the lottery more frequently probably isn’t the best strategy.

But of course some people can get very lucky, like Jane Park, who lives in the U.K. When she was 17 years old she bought her first lottery ticket and won the jackpot of £1 million. That’s roughly CAD $1.6 million, or USD $1.2 million. What did she do with her new found wealth? First, she spent £4,500 on a boob job. 😄 Then she purchased some properties, a Louis Vuitton handbag, and a chihuahua, because why not? 🙄

But it appears her lucky situation had unintentional consequences. At 21 years old today, Jane explains that winning the lottery has actually made her sick. That is to say, “sick of shopping for designer goodies.” She is also “struggling to find a genuine boyfriend who isn’t after her money.” Jane says that despite her wealth people don’t seem to understand her stress of being a millionaire. She says despite her material possessions her life feels “empty and without purpose.” Damn. Poor girl.

“I thought it would make it ten times better but it’s made it ten times worse. I wish I had no money most days. I say to myself, ‘My life would be so much easier if I hadn’t won.’” ~ Jane Park

But don’t feel too sorry for her just yet. Jane is currently thinking about suing the lottery company for giving her the money and ruining her life. She claims that the company should not be selling lottery tickets to 17 year olds because someone at that age can’t handle so much money. Again, I’m no expert. But if money caused her to feel empty and without purpose in the first place, then I’m not sure suing for more money is going to help her situation. 😄

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Random Useless Fact:

There was record snowfall this year in parts of Canada

This is what Vancouver looked like a week ago.

Feb 132017
 

Some psychologists believe that you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with. Whether this is accurate or not, the truth is we are influenced by everyone around us to some degree. This is why it’s important to surround ourselves with positive and highly productive people. Our environment should work for our success, not against it. 🙂

It’s not that we should trivialize or avoid negative people. We can treat everyone with the respect they deserve. But it would be beneficial to us if we make a conscious effort to spend more time with successful people. For example, to reach my goal of becoming independently wealthy I like to surround myself with friends who have the following personality traits.

  • They can see the big picture.
  • They don’t make excuses and know it’s up to themselves to make things better if it’s important enough to them.
  • They have or plan to have lots of resources, ie: wealth.
  • They are optimistic about the future.
  • They are curious about the world.

This is just my personal list I’ve thrown together. But there are many different definitions for what a high quality or successful person is. Of course if you work in the music industry, then you should surround yourself with “creative” people. We should also be aware of our biases. Being surrounded with too many “like minded” friends may trap us in an echo chamber of similar opinions. Doing so could make it difficult for us to expand our knowledge.

Unfortunately we can’t change the cards we’ve been dealt. But we can make the most out of our situations by developing the best environment for us to thrive. Part of this means choosing the right people to surround ourselves with. We can’t control what other people think, but we can manage our social circle, and choose who to hang out with. 🙂

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Random Useless Fact:

Even though the children below are born from different parents, they are actually siblings, genetically speaking.

 

Feb 092017
 

I recently watched an HBO documentary called “Becoming Warren Buffett,” which features the life of the man himself. The show gives viewers an extensive look at Buffett’s achievements, struggles, and challenges with his career, and probably more importantly, with his personal relationships.

Buffett started making money at a young age selling gum door to door, and delivering newspapers. He began trading stocks in his early teens and started college when he was only 16 years old. Today everyone knows him as the investment guru who is currently worth about US $72 billion, which makes him the second richest person in the world, right behind his close friend, William. 🙂

becoming warren buffett review

The documentary covers his family background and personal relationships. It felt like I was watching an honest biography about Warren. For the first time ever I got an inside look at the day to day events and lifestyle choices of Warren Buffett. It has been a real eye opener! For example on his way to work in the morning, he often stops by a McDonald’s and orders a Sausage McMuffin.

Doh! :/ No wonder I’m not rich yet. This whole time I’ve been ordering the Bacon ‘N Egg Bagel like a peasant. If only I had known his secret earlier. 😛 Below are some other important lessons I learned from watching “Becoming Warren Buffett.”

  • Live close to work. It takes Warren only 5 minutes to drive to his office everyday. And he’s been taking the same route for 54 years! Not wasting much time on commuting is why he gets so much done.
  • Be smart. Warren admits that he’s wired in a way that gives him an advantage over others when it comes to understanding businesses. He was always good with numbers starting at a young age and learning about the financial markets comes easily to him. Unfortunately for some, intelligence is largely genetic.
  • Read a lot. Every day Warren goes to work and reads books, newspapers, financial reports, or various other material for 5 to 6 hours.
  • Have role models in your life. In the documentary Warren said, “the best gift I was ever given was to have the father that I had when I was born.
  • Develop your own inner scorecard. Don’t let other people’s standards and expectations define who you are or what makes you succeed or fail.
  • Learn from people you trust. Business partner Charlie Munger helped Warren realize that in order to build immense fortune, it’s better to look for great businesses at reasonable prices rather than okay businesses at cheap prices.
  • Develop focus. Warren believes this is the most important quality to have if you want to be successful.
  • Have patience. The biggest factor to making money is time. Warren says you don’t have to be smart to become wealthy. You just have to be patient. 🙂

If we keep in mind these simple guidelines from Warren then I’m sure his wisdom will have an impact on our lives. Depending on different sources, Warren appears to have either an ISTJ or INTJ personality type. This mean he is a rational planner who likes to keep to himself most of the time. As an INTJ myself I understand what it’s like to live inside one’s own head sometimes. It’s probably why I can relate to his investment philosophy. 🙂

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Random Useless Fact:

Feb 062017
 

Index investing is a great way to build long term wealth. It’s simple to implement, convenient, and you are guaranteed to make the same returns as the market, minus any fees. But is it right for everyone?

Taking a closer look at Index Investing

How Indexes Are Managed

There’s a common theory that retail investors shouldn’t try to beat the market since it’s almost impossible to do over time. But I’m not sure this is true. The “index” isn’t the holy grail of stock selection. Some folks from the S&P Index Committee sit in a room and decide which stocks to include in their index based on a set of criteria with arbitrary measurements. It would be preferable if prominent investors such as Ray Dalio or Warren Buffett were on this committee, but they aren’t. Lol.

The S&P/TSX Composite index is made up of 250 stocks, chosen by the committee. It’s intriguing how only 250 stocks are selected out of the possible 1500+ on the entire Canadian stock market. The methodology for selecting stocks to be included in an index contains guidelines for minimum weight in the market, price per share, market cap, and sufficient liquidity requirements. The index is reviewed quarterly and all Index Securities that, in the opinion of the Index Committee, do not meet certain requirements are removed. And for the S&P 500 stock market index in the United States, anywhere from 25 to 50 changes are made every year. It’s basically a handful of people getting paid to actively manage a list of stocks that they believe represents the overall equity market.

The Paradox of Index Investing

From what I’ve heard, the whole idea of index investing is to match the market’s performance using a passive methodology. But if picking individual stocks will underperform the market most of the time, according to the mainstream, then how can index investing work if it’s based on a managed list of stocks that is updated every quarter based on the decisions of some individuals on Wall Street? Why are they more qualified to pick stocks for the index than let’s say, personal finance bloggers? 😀

I don’t think it would be hard for a handful of competent value and dividend investors to get together, create their own list of 250 stocks, and then beat the S&P/TSX Composite index. Last year Nelson from Financial Uproar hosted a stock picking contest for personal finance bloggers. There were 14 participants, including myself. Our average investment return for 2016 was 30%. We beat all the major indexes in both Canada and the U.S. Since an index is meant to represent the average of the stock market, then all we had to do to beat the market was to just be better than average. 😉 Easy peasy.

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