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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Jan 262017
 

It finally happened. The Dow index broke 20,000 points for the first time in history. It’s never been so high before. If the stock market was a rapper, it would be Snoop Dog. 😀 With valuations being stretched so much it’s important to be very selective about what investments we buy now. One wrong move and we could accidentally buy a stock that is nearing its peak.

Lowering Investment Risk With Covered Calls

So after looking at my options, 😉 I contributed some money into my TFSA earlier this month and purchased 200 units of BMO’s Covered Call Utilities ETF (ZWU.) This is enough to make it DRIP.

A covered call is an options strategy which generates income for investors, even in a bear market. We basically sell a call option on a stock that we already own. In doing so, we receive some money called a premium. 🙂

Related post: How to write a covered call (buy/write options) 

Option strategies have slightly different risk considerations than owning a stock directly. For covered calls, we always get to keep the premium. But if the stock goes above the strike price, we have capped the gains we can make. Call options can reduce our risk because if the stock falls, then at least we’re getting paid to wait until it climbs back up.

This is why covered call strategies work best on low volatility stocks that are not expected to move up or down a lot. Essentially we want the stock to remain steady, or grow slowly. But most of the profit should be made from the juicy premiums. 🙂 I do not believe utility and telecom stocks can continue to grow at double digit rates, given how expensive their valuations are.

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Dec 152016
 
How to invest in the united kingdom

The United Kingdom has a long history of innovation and creativity. The television, programmable computer, telephone, Mini, and even Calculus are all British inventions. The British government was the first to create a revolutionary missile called the civil servant – it doesn’t work, and it’s nearly impossible to fire.😄 The U.K. also gave us David Beckham, Adele, The Beatles, Emily Blunt, and Christian Bale (heh). By the way, if you ignore the looks, wealth, charisma, and success, then there’s no real difference between me and Christian Bale. 😉

England is such a fascinating country and I’ve always wanted to invest there. But I’ve never found the right opportunity to do so, until now. 😉 With a cheapened currency and rising government bond yields, the U.K. is looking relatively attractive for foreign investors. So a few days ago I invested £11,000 in the U.K. stock market! I think the British would approve of my decision. 🙂

London, England is home to the world’s largest global financial center. Despite the rainy weather, its enduring popularity and rich history make London one of the most sought after cities to live in.

In today’s post we will explore why Great Britain may be a good place to invest in, how to do it, and what we can expect in the years to come. 🙂

Top 3 Reasons to Invest in the United Kingdom

Keep in mind these are my personal reasons and may not apply to everyone else’s situation.

  1. Geographical diversification. Back in 2014, the United States stock market represented 36% of the world’s total stock market cap. But according to the Wall Street Journal, it has recently climbed past 40% after Trump won the U.S. election.But this trend cannot go on forever because the U.S. doesn’t have special privileges regarding innovation, profit growth, or stock market returns. Nearly all of my financial assets are in North America. Investing in the U.K. gives my portfolio some international exposure.
  2. Cheap Pound Sterling. The British Pound (GBP) has recently become one of the most undervalued major currencies in the world. A couple of months ago the Pound fell to a 31 year low compared to the USD. So during my entire life so far, there has never been a better time to buy the Pound Sterling than this year. 🙂
  3. Decent historical returns. Here’s a look at how the FTSE performed over the last 25 years, compared to the Russell 3000 in the U.S. It’s nothing spectacular, but a 200% return in 2.5 decades isn’t bad. 🙂

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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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Oct 312016
 

Last month I blogged about opening up a new Interactive Brokers account to invest in stocks. I’ve received some reader’s questions since then. So in today’s follow-up post, I’d like to discuss the following topics. 🙂

  1. How to Open an IB Account
  2. How to transfer funds between your bank and IB
  3. How margin accounts work with IB
  4. How to enter a stock trade
  5. Overall thoughts and Review of Interactive Brokers

1) How to Open an Interactive Brokers Account

To begin the process of creating an IB account, go to https://www.interactivebrokers.com and choose the “OPEN ACCOUNT” option near the top right of the page. Then follow the online instructions.

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Sometimes Interactive Brokers may need to verify your identity before you can start using its service. This means you’ll have to take your ID to an accredited professional such as an accountant or doctor and get them to guarantee your identity. This happened to me. So I took my Driver’s License to a notary public and paid $35 to verify my identity. This extra security measure makes it more difficult for criminals to open fake trading accounts under someone else’s name.

2) Transferring Funds to Your IB Account

There are 2 ways to deposit funds into an IB account.

  • Fund Transfers. Use this to deposit cash into the account.
  • Position Transfers. Use this to transfer your current stocks & balance from an existing account at another brokerage to IB.

For example, in my case I used the Position Transfer method because I wanted to move my existing stocks from TD to IB. Make sure to choose the correct settings when creating the transfer instructions. For the transfer method, choose ATON if you are transferring from a Canadian broker like TD. For the transfer type choose “Full” rather than “Partial” if you want to make a complete switch like I did. Choose the correct institution and your account number that the portfolio will be transferred from.

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I noticed that TD Direct Investing breaks up Canadian and U.S. margin accounts. So I had to put in 2 separate transfer orders; one for my $CAD account, and another one for my $USD account. If both instructions are not entered around the same time then TD will reject the transfer instructions because the pair of accounts must move together. Transferring funds from TD to Interactive Brokers will take about 1 week. TD charges a $135 fee for closing an account, which will happen automatically once all the funds have transferred out.

Getting money out from your IB account is more straightforward.  🙂 Just use the Fund Transfers option again. But this time, choose to withdraw funds, and select the currency. Then choose a method such as Electronic Funds Transfer.

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Then enter your bank’s information like its transit and inst. number, as well as your personal account number. After a few business days the money will deposit into the bank account of your choice. The deposit description at your bank will say something like “INTERACTIVE BRO MSP.”

3) Using Margin Inside an IB Account

Interactive Brokers allows traders to buy stocks on margin. This means you can borrow money to buy stocks using your existing holdings as collateral. In the past I’ve described how margin accounts work, and walked through how to execute a trade on margin, so I won’t go into that here. This section will be specific to using margin with IB.

Interactive Brokers calculates margin based on Regulation T for US accounts, and CDN margin rules for Canadian accounts. The maintenance margin is the amount of equity which must be maintained in order to continue holding a position. If this number is too low then traders will risk getting a margin call. The actual calculations for the maintenance margin requirement depends on a number of different factors. So the effective maintenance margin is often within a range between 30% to 40% depending on the makeup of your securities. In my case it’s about 35%. This means that at least 35% of my stock holdings have to be covered by my own money. In other words IB will lend me no more than 65% of the value of my portfolio.

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