Jul 212016
 

Proper Portfolio Diversification 

Once upon a time a topiary artist invested all his money in shears and hedge funds. 😆 But he lost all of it because he wasn’t properly diversified. We diversify our assets so if one investment fails miserably it won’t drag down the rest of our portfolio with it. Owning 10 stocks is better than 1. But there comes a point when adding more stocks to a portfolio ceases to make a measurable benefit. Many experts suggest that optimal diversification is achieved when an investor holds 15 to 20 stocks spread across various sectors of the economy. 🙂

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So if our portfolio contains 100 different stocks in 10 different industries then we are properly diversified right? Hold the mayo. I would argue no. Although we have a wide range of stocks and sectors, we really only have one asset class – stocks. Common stocks represent equity in publicly traded companies. But if a business becomes insolvent then its equity could be completely wiped out. This is why we have other asset classes such as bonds, which gives investors some recourse in a liquidation situation.

Okay, so diversification means having a balanced portfolio of index funds with both stocks and bonds right? Well, not quite. The capital markets can be highly volatile and it operates on a system that isn’t always reliable. In 1914 the US stock market shut down for 4 straight months. 😞 More recently in 2001 the NYSE was offline again for several days. This means at any time investors could be locked out of the market without warning. So other than financial assets, we can also invest in hard assets such as real estate, private businesses, gold, or other commodities. Over the past 2 decades Canada has gradually lowered interest rates and loosened borrowing rules, which encouraged consumer borrowing. This made the cost of living more expensive, especially in larger cities. But those who bought homes in Toronto circa 1996 and kept it until now would have seen their home prices rise to keep up with, or even surpass the inflation rate.

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Jul 182016
 

Advantage of Long Term Thinking

There’s an advantage in the business world for thinking long term. If a company only makes short term goals then it will be forced to compete with many other businesses in the same industry. It doesn’t take a lot of foresight or planning to run a company for 1 or 2 years, so that’s what a lot of other competitors will do. But if a company is willing to invest in a longer period of time, such as 5 to 10 years, then it will gain a competitive edge because there are fewer companies that set those kinds of lofty goals. 🙂

For example McDonald’s owns the real estate of its fast food restaurants. Leasing might be cheaper in the beginning, but owning property directly is more profitable in the long run.

New video games that take a long time to create, such as the Grand Theft Auto franchise or The Elder Scrolls series are typically released once every 5 years or so. Not many game studios spend 5 years developing a single product so these types of games will often have less competition in their genre, and receive more favorable critic and user reviews due to their quality than other franchises which have a much shorter development cycle, such as Call of Duty.

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Netflix would have higher earnings if it focuses more on near term profit and not spend so much cash on creating new original content. But from a long term perspective its executives have decided that investing in additional content with more market penetration is better for shareholders in the long run, because there’s not a lot of other streaming services with that level of long term dedication to their brand. But Amazon.com is another company that thinks long term.

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Jul 142016
 

An Economy Based on Resources

Our current economic system can use some improvement. The government’s manipulation of currency, deficit spending, and bank bailouts are among many of the controversies that we have to deal with in modern times.

But I recently found out about an organization called the Venus Project that aims to replace the society we currently have with one that’s based on computer driven central planning. In this new hypothetical economy money doesn’t exist. 😲 The system will revolve around resources instead. The idea is that all the resources in the world belongs to everyone. And the way resources are used up and distributed is by a computer program. Right now we have enough food in the world to technically feed everyone, but poverty and hunger still exist. This new system would solve those kinds of social economic problems. A central artificial intelligence would keep track of all the oil, timber, fish, and other goods available, and it would manage the production and distribution of stuff in the most efficient and environmentally sustainable way so that everyone would have enough. In such an economy that is based on resources, there would be no use for money. 😕 The Venus Project also claims it will shorten the work day and raise the standard of living higher than what most people realize is possible.

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Although I agree that the status quo needs to be challenged I don’t think the Venus Project is the right solution. In fact, I don’t think its proposition is even possible at this time. There are a lot of concerns about the project that have yet to be addressed. Personally I don’t understand how an economy can even function without a price mechanism.

Money doesn’t just simplify life. It also bolsters stability in a market so we can budget in a predictable fashion. 🙂 Money can be anything as long as most people accepts it as a medium of exchange. It can also be used as a store of value.

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Jul 112016
 

Real Estate Incentives

Financial advisors sometimes get a bad reputation for not having their client’s best interest in mind. Many continue to earn commissions even if their client’s portfolio is losing money. But what about real estate agents? Their compensation structure is also heavily based on commissions. They often earn a percentage from the final sale of a home. For a homeowner looking to sell, the ideal situation is to sell his house for the highest price possible. So at first glance it would appear that both a homeowner and a real estate agent would have the same financial incentive; to get the best possible deal for the seller. 🙂

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But further investigation reveals that maybe that’s not really true. Let’s say a homeowner sells his house for $500,000 with the help of a real estate agent on a fixed 2% commission. This means the realtor earns $10,000 and the homeowner keeps the remaining $490,000. To keep it simple we’ll ignore taxes and other costs.

But maybe with some additional advertising, negotiations, and patience, the house could actually be sold for $510,000. 😉 But this is when the incentive structures begin to diverge. As the homeowner selling the house, an extra $10,000 from the sale price means adding $9,800 more to the bank. 😀 Most sellers would like to see that money, even if it means waiting an extra couple of weeks to find the right buyer. But a realtor would only make $200 off the extra $10,000. For most real estate agents, putting in the extra time and effort (and sometimes even money for ads) isn’t worth the extra commission. So if the homeowner stands to gain $9,800 while the agent would only receive $200, then clearly their incentives do not align very well anymore.

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Jul 042016
 

 New Milestone 

It has been a surprisingly eventful month in the markets. Volatility was high during the last week of June but in the end North American stock markets ended relatively flat. The Dow Jones was up slightly, but the Nasdaq fell. The TSX Comp in Canada dropped by about 1%. However my mining stocks performed really well so they lifted up the rest of my portfolio and I managed to make a 2.65% positive return overall according to my brokerage statement. 🙂 This has pushed my net worth to over $500K for the first time ever!

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Liquid’s Financial Update

*Side Incomes:

  • Part-Time = $1200
  • Freelance = $1500
  • Dividends = $600
  • Interest = $200
*Discretionary Spending:
  • Fun = $400
  • Debt Interest = $1300

*Net Worth: (MoM)16-05-networthiq_chart-may-2016-freedom35

  • Assets: = $993,500 total (+8,800)
  • Cash = $16,700 (+5200)
  • Stocks CDN =$116,600 (+2500)
  • Stocks US = $68,800 (-700)
  • RRSP = $72,300 (+1800)
  • Mortgage Funds = $23,100
  • Home = $263,000
  • Farms = $433,000
  • Debts: = $483,900 total (-2,500)
  • Mortgage = $188,300 (-400)
  • Farm Loans = $194,900 (-500)
  • Margin Loan CDN = $28,300
  • Margin Loan US = $25,100 (-400)
  • TD Line of Credit = $19,500  (-500)
  • CIBC Line of Credit = $10,000 (-500)
  • HELOC = $17,800 (-200)

*Total Net Worth = $509,600 (+$11,300 / +2.27%)
All numbers above are in $CDN. Conversion rate used: 1.00 CAD = 0.78 USD

A big help in June was the rise of commodity prices. The price of silver increased over 20%. My Silver Wheaton shares gradually went up from $18 to $30 per share over the course of the month. This change alone added about $2,000 of value to my net worth. Next month’s goal is to increase my gross assets to $1 million. 🙂

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Random Useless Fact:

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