Nov 242017
 

For long term investors, earning 5% to 7% annual return (after tax) is a suitable target to aim for. But this is difficult to pull off today. The current expected returns of the financial markets are extremely low by historical standards. Traditional asset classes such as stocks and bonds are generally overvalued now.

Stock Market Expected Return = 3.2%

The Shiller P/E ratio is currently about 31 for the S&P 500 stock market index. This is much higher than the historical average ratio of 16. The Shiller P/E ratio is based on average inflation-adjusted earnings from the previous 10 years.  The inverse of the ratio (1/31) is how much the market is expected to earn for investors going forward.

Bond Market Expected Return = 2.3%

Here are some popular bond ETFs.

  • BMO Aggregate Bond Index ETF (ZAG) – Weighted Average Yield to Maturity = 2.34%
  • Canadian Aggregate Bond Index ETF (VAB) – Weighted Average Yield to Maturity = 2.28%
  • iShares Core Canadian Universe Bond Index ETF (XBB) – Weighted Average Yield to Maturity = 2.35%

As we can see, all their Avg YTMs are below 3%. The 10 year Canadian government bond is paying only 1.9% as of writing this post. 🙁

As a long term investor I don’t see the point of buying a bond that pays less than 2% interest when the Bank of Canada openly declared it wants to erode the Canadian dollar’s value by 2% a year. That effectively creates a projected negative real return on investment, 😮 ouch. This is why I stay away from ETFs like these which primarily hold low yielding government bonds. These funds aren’t necessarily bad investments. I’m just saying they’re not for me. We can find slightly higher yields in U.S. bonds, but not much better.

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Nov 092017
 

tl:dr. The answer is yes, Enbridge is a good buy. 🙂

Fair Market Value of Enbridge (ENB) 

Canadian pipeline company Enbridge is currently trading at around $47 per share. But based on Benjamin Graham’s formula for valuing stocks, which I’ve discussed before, the fair market value of Enbridge should be around $62.

Enbridge stock’s EPS is $1.96. The growth rate (g) is 10.5% a year according to Nasdaq.com. And long term high quality corporate bonds currently yield 4.1%, which represents the (Y) variable in the equation above. So we can see that (1.96x(8.5+2×10.5))x4.4/4.1 = $62

$62 per share is in line with what most analysts have determined as well. For example TD Equity Research recently posted a 12 month target of $62 for Enbridge. Here is the full research paper for anyone interested. This indicates that ENB may be oversold right now.

If Enbridge climbs to $62 per share that would be a 37% increase in total return. That’s pretty darn good! 😀 This is why I believe Enbridge is potentially oversold right now and is a good buy. 😀 Over the past decade ENB dividends have increased by 10% annually. Enbridge plans to continue growing its dividends by at least 10% every year through 2024.

Enbridge has one of the strongest economic moats of any company. Since pipelines require a lot of capital and regulatory approval, it’s not an industry where anyone can easily get in. Much like the railway industry, it’s pretty much an oligopoly without much competition.

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Oct 182017
 

Knowledge is not enough. It must also be applied.

Good financial advice is easy to come by, but not always implemented effectively. The tips and suggestions on personal finance blogs are, for the most part, pretty generic. Unfortunately most people would read a few articles and quickly become bored of the topic because they don’t get anything meaningful out of them. Only personal finance enthusiasts are committed to read new material about money regularly, because they know how to turn generic advice into a more personalized form of advice that is practical and effective. Let’s look at some examples of this below. 🙂

How to turn generic advice into personalized advice.

A good rule of thumb to follow is to spend less than we earn. Well, okay. That’s great. But this is generic advice. Most people will roll their eyes at something so obvious. To personalize this principle, we can find a way to apply it practically. For example, we can pay ourselves 20% of our income by transferring money to an investment account. This can be automated to re-occur every paycheck period. This insures that we always spend less than we earn. Setting up a systematic rule based approach before we even start to save will improve our odds of success. 🙂

Another generic advice is to look for value when investing. Once again, this is pretty good advice, but not practical. So let’s find a way to personalize it. For example, the capitalization rate of a house in Toronto, Ontario is about 3% which is not a great return on investment. But a similar house near Barrie which is a smaller municipality in the same province can have a cap rate of 4% to 5%. So by simply zooming out and looking at a broader area, we are able to find more opportunities for value. If we search countrywide, we will find more, and possibly better bargains, than in any single city.

My favorite generic advice is don’t put all your eggs in one basket. To personalize this we can determine which different asset classes we should hold in our portfolio, how much of each we should have, and find low cost index funds to satisfy each class. The 100 minus age rule is a good place to start when it comes to determining one’s asset allocation.

Generic advice is good. But personalized advice is always better. Generic advice tells us what to do given a certain situation. But personalized advice shows us how to do it, and how to make a practical plan to tackle any situation. 🙂

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Sep 272017
 

Understand Why You Invest Before You Invest

There should always be a goal, or objective attached to an investment. But not all investments require them to have the same goal. Here’s a list of some objectives, and how they’re different.

Investment Objectives
  • Capital Preservation – To seek maximum stability for our investment by investing in assets that are associated with extremely low risk. For example, I usually have a couple thousand of dollars on hand.
  • Hedging – To take long or short positions of an asset in order to hedge or offset the risk of another asset. For example, I hold gold and silver to hedge against inflation, which is gradual devaluation of currency.
  • Income – To generate dividend, interest, RoC, or other types of income instead of capital appreciation. The peer to peer lending platform, Lending Loop, is a good example of this. My effective annual yield on the platform is currently over 10%. 🙂
  • Growth – To increase the principal value of our investments over time through capital appreciation. Investors can expect attractive long term gains but also assume relatively higher levels of risk. My farmland and growth stocks such as Amazon, Netflix, and Facebook, are all examples of this objective.
  • Speculation – To greatly increase the principal value of our investments by taking on substantially high levels of risks. Examples of this would be trading cryptocurrencies, or penny stocks.

Some investments could fit into multiple objectives. And much like anything else with personal finance, our investment objectives can change over time. But the important thing is to be mindful about what we want our money to do, and re-evaluate those objectives periodically (ie: annually,) based on our changing financial situations.

At this time my primary objective is growth. Most of my financial decisions are based on this objective. 😀 I’m willing to overlook short term gains in favor of maximizing the potential for long term total returns. Much of my choices, such as using leverage, makes sense when viewed in this context. But having said that, it wouldn’t be wise to rely 100% on a single investment objective. 😉 This is why about 20% of my net worth is allocated to investments that strictly produce income. Naturally over time, in preparation for retirement, my investments will focus more on income and capital preservation, and less on growth and speculation. 🙂

Whatever our investment objectives may be, the important thing is to make a decision. 🙂 As fund manager Sir John Templeton once said, “the only way to avoid mistakes is not to invest—which is the biggest mistake of all. So forgive yourself for your errors. Don’t become discouraged, and certainly don’t try to recoup your losses by taking bigger risks. Instead, turn each mistake into a learning experience. Determine exactly what went wrong and how you can avoid the same mistake in the future. The investor who says, “This time is different,” when in fact it’s virtually a repeat of an earlier situation, has uttered among the four most costly words in the annals of investing. The big difference between those who are successful and those who are not is that successful people learn from their mistakes and the mistakes of others.”

 

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Random Useless Fact:

 

May 222017
 

Some people are so debt averse they even refuse to borrow money when interest rates are at rock bottom. They save up for a 30% down payment for a home instead of 20% because they want to save on interest costs. This is despite the fact that Canadian mortgages only cost about 2.5% currently, or sometimes lower like in my case. These people also refuse to invest on margin. I’ve explained in the past how anyone with at least $10,000 can open an account with Interactive Brokers, put in some money, and safely borrow modest amounts of money at just 2% interest rate, with practically no risk of getting a margin call.

Can’t have it both ways

Yet, many people who are debt averse and won’t borrow money under any circumstances also believe in the 4% rule of investing. But this kind of thinking is contradictory. It’s silly to make the argument that paying down their mortgage is a guaranteed rate of return, but investing is uncertain and they can’t be sure they’ll make more than 2.5% return in the markets. While at the same time, also claim that the 4% rule is valid.

The four percent rule is a widely accepted rule of thumb used by many investors and financial experts. There are slightly varying definitions of it, but for the purpose of today’s post we’ll define it as the maximum sustainable rate of withdrawal from a retirement account each year without depleting the account itself. This is because 4% is considered a “safe” rate of withdrawal over the long run for a balanced and diversified portfolio.

So if a person really believes in the 4% rule and uses it as part of his retirement planning, then it would only be rational to consider borrowing money to invest if the cost to borrow is lower. The 4% rule says that this person will make at least 4% return on his investments per year on average. So if he always borrow money at less than 4%, then he is virtually guaranteed to profit in the long run! assuming the 4% rule holds true.

This is why I always buy properties using very low down payments, and use controlled margin borrowing to invest. Since I believe in the 4% rule, it would be illogical if I didn’t try to take advantage of low interest rates. If my margin or mortgage interest rate were to increase to 5% or 6% some day, then of course I would no longer take out new loans to invest. At that point it wouldn’t make sense to use leverage anymore. Sometimes it may seem like being debt free is more safe. But there is risk in being overly debt averse, the risk of not seeing perfectly good opportunities to earn higher investment returns.

Obviously just because a rule has held up in the past doesn’t mean it will continue to hold true in the future. Whether or not you think the 4% rule is valid is up to you. 🙂 But this principal can work with any other withdrawal rate. If you believe you can safely and sustainably withdrawal 3% a year, then you must also accept that your portfolio will return 3% a year minimum on average. You can then use this number as your reference point when deciding when to use leverage and how much.

 

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Random Useless Fact:

Some grocery stores have an aisle dedicated to strong, independent women. 😄