Dec 012016
 

More Millionaires 

The best way to make a lot of money is to work for the mint. 😄 But even if you don’t, chances are your finances have been improving. About 25,000 Canadians became millionaires in the past year according to a report released last week by Credit Suisse. The bank claims that there are currently 1,117,000 individual adults with net assets exceeding US $1,000,000. 😀 We normally see studies of Canadian millionaires based in $CAD, but this study uses $USD to define millionaire status. These kinds of wealth studies are telling, but they tend to underestimate real net worth because participants may forget, or choose not to disclose particular assets such as their precious metals, art, collectables, jewelry, etc. Many of these items such as gold can be acquired anonymously with no paper trail. I think the real number of millionaires is quite a bit higher.

Based on its forecasts in the growth of Canada’s GDP and equity market capitalization, Credit Suisse expects the number of millionaires to increase by 50% to 1,680,000 in 2021. I hope one of those new entrants will be me. 🙂

But 2021 is still five years away and a lot can happen since then. I believe low interest rates are the main cause of asset price inflation which has resulted in so many new millionaires in recent years. But a pull back could be right around the corner. Let’s take a look at history.

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Between 1988 and 1990 much of the world was in recession with riots breaking out in the UK. 10 years later between 1998 and 2000 we had the Asian financial crisis and the dot-com crash. 10 years after that between 2008 and 2010 we had the great recession with the Lehman and AIG panic, and European banking crisis. They say history doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes. And I am certainly seeing a pattern here. 🙂

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Nov 282016
 

The Sunk Cost Trap

We all try to make rational decisions based on the future value of objects, investments and experiences. But the truth is that our decisions can sometimes be tainted by the emotional investments we have put into them over time. The more we are invested in something, the harder it becomes to abandon it. This is known as the sunk cost fallacy.

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It’s what a lot of gamblers do. They throw good money after bad, thinking they can turn their luck around. But it usually doesn’t work out for them. Whenever we buy stocks there’s a chance that our investments will drop in the future because the business has fundamentally changed. This is especially true for tech companies like Nortel or Nokia. Both companies fell from grace for different reasons. When investments don’t work out some investors pull out, while others continue to hold on hoping their shares will bounce back some day. Knowing which is the wiser decision can make all the difference.

In dilemmas such as this, it’s best to consider the current circumstances and opportunities. And then make a decision based on forward looking expectations. 🙂 By estimating the economic consequences of holding or selling an investment at the present time we can eliminate our emotional biases accumulated from the past.

Similarly in economics and business, a sunk cost is a cost that has already been incurred and cannot be recovered. Some business owners will mistakenly refuse to mark down their older inventory because they don’t want to sell it for less than what they paid for themselves. But the original cost of the goods is now a sunk cost, which means the money has already been paid and is irrelevant to making present decisions. Instead of focusing on selling the inventory at a loss, they should think about the opportunities cost and the best alternative strategy going forward. 😉

Some people even double down on their investments or ideologies when faced with evidence that goes against their previous actions or beliefs. This can be very self destructive if they don’t realize what they’re doing.

Sunk cost applies to many other aspects of society as well. For example, some unhappy couples feel like they’re stuck in a bad situation because they’ve already invested so much time into their relationships. But if they’ve already tried and can’t make things work then similar to investing, maybe it’s better to cut their losses and bail. As the comedian Louis CK once said, “One day one of your friends is gonna get divorced. Don’t go ‘Oh, I’m sorry!’…No good marriage has ever ended in divorce. If your friend got divorced, it means things were bad. And now, they’re better.” 😀

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Random Useless Fact:

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Nov 242016
 

Comparing Finances

Money is like a lot like religion or politics; everyone has a passionate opinion about their own personal finances, but it’s not always easy to talk openly about it without social consequences. For example, the company I work for discourages open discussions about compensation and benefits. This makes sense from a corporate point of view because of the loss aversion theory. Psychologists and behavioral economists have found that we tend to feel loss about twice as intensely as we experience gain.

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We can imagine how this will play out if two employees were to find out that one of them was making more than the other. The worker making less would feel twice as bad about his job as the other worker would feel good. So this would lower the overall morale in the workplace and create negative sentiment towards management. 🙁 Furthermore, some people have a cognitive bias known as the Dunning-Kruger effect where they think they’re more competent than they really are, which could lead to misunderstandings.

This is why income, net worth, and other topics related to personal finance are often seen as taboo. We are told to not compare ourselves with others. But pretending to live in a bubble can alienate us from the rest of the world and become self destructive over time. In reality it can be very advantageous to compare our income, investments, and expenses to everyone else around us. Here are some reasons why comparing personal finances is useful.

  1. You can get the best deals. You compare employee benefits when choosing whom to work for. You compare prices when shopping. You compare company profits when choosing which stocks to buy. So by knowing what your co-workers are earning you’ll get a better grasp of what your labor is worth. By knowing how much your friends spend on cars you’ll have a better idea of where to find the best car deals for yourself.
  2. You can see the big picture. By comparing your finances with others, you will be able to determine for sure if things are really expensive, or you’re just poor. 😛
  3. You can improve your own finances. By comparing your financial progress to others you will be able to learn from different people over time. You will know who’s really good at budgeting, and who is the most successful at investing. You can then apply newly learned practices to your own life.

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Nov 212016
 

Why I Sold 100 shares of Canopy Growth Corp (CGC)

About a year ago I wrote about buying 300 shares of Canopy Growth Corp (CGC:TSE). It is a federally regulated cannabis producer. It caught my attention last year when it became the first marijuana grower in North America to graduate from a venture exchange to be listed on a major exchange (the TSX.) This strengthens the sector and is expected to bring Canopy Growth to international institutional investors. 😀

Last year the company was making about $5 million in revenue, but now it’s making closer to $20 million a year. This figure still falls short compared to the sales of most other TSX listed stocks but it goes to show how quickly this company has grown. The share price more than quadrupled from $2.50 in last November to over $10.00 today. 🙂 Woohoo! This calls for a…

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Clearly investors are euphoric over this stock. Canopy Growth has the first mover’s advantage and it’s the largest player of its kind in the budding pot industry. But as a long term investor, I can’t just blindly buy into the hype. I also have to consider the sustainability of the stock’s growth over a long period of time, and Canopy Growth’s track record is currently too narrow for me to get an accurate assessment. I recently reviewed my position in CGC, and decided the stock is now overvalued by 50% compared to its fundamentals. So last week I sold 1/3rd of my holdings in it at $12.10 per share.

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Back when I purchased this stock at $2.55/share the price was still worth the risk. But the CGC’s valuation today is a lot higher. The stock is currently trading at a 2018 forward price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of 448 times. This kind of multiple isn’t unheard of for small and fast growing companies, but a lot of things in the future will have to go right for Canopy Growth to justify it’s currently market capitalization of $1.5 billion. It would be great if the U.S. were to follow Canada and legalize recreational marijuana usage at the federal level, but that could still be decades away if it happens at all. The current shares are factoring in a market that is much larger than what exists today.

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Nov 172016
 

Asset Allocation

Many investors use a common rule of thumb to help with their asset allocation. They simply hold a percentage of stocks equal to 100 minus their age, and put the remaining amount in fixed income assets. So for a typical 30 year old millennial, 70% of his portfolio would be in equities, and the rest (30%) would be comprised of bonds and other relatively safe investments. Determining stock allocation based on age is an effective strategy to gradually reduce one’s investment risk over time. 🙂

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But this 100 minus age guideline is starting to become outdated because people are living longer, and bond yields are at historical lows. So we can modify the rule to be more suitable for the current times. For example, we can increase the baseline to use 110 minus our age. Those who have a higher risk tolerance than average can even go with 120 minus their age. Also, men have an average life expectancy of 80 years old in this country, while women can expect to live to 84. Since women live about 4 years longer than men on average, they would probably have higher costs in retirement than men. This means ladies have an incentive to be a little more aggressive with their asset allocation, especially during their working years compared to guys, assuming all other factors being equal. 🙂

Keep in mind that this guide to asset allocation speaks only to financial assets within a liquid portfolio. It’s also important to consider real estate, geographical diversification, taxation, idiosyncratic circumstances, and other factors when building a balanced portfolio. The 100 minus your age rule isn’t right for everyone, but it’s a good place to start for those who are just starting out to invest. 😀

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Random Useless Fact:

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