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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Feb 022017
 

How High Can the Dow Go?

The Dow rose from 7,000 to 20,000 points over the last 8 years. And that doesn’t even account for the dividend payments. By using financial leverage my portfolio managed to outperform the market every year since I started buying stocks in 2009. 🙂 Borrowing to invest is risky. But if I continue to maintain a diversified portfolio of real estate, stocks, and fixed income investments, then it is very likely that my assets will grow overall in value over time. So as long as I can borrow money cheaply I will continue use leverage. It’s all about expected market return vs the cost to borrow. In my previous post from last year I explained how rich people create wealth. Using other people’s money to enhance investment gains proves to be a very effective method. I currently have about $50,000 of available funds remaining before I risk getting a margin call. This gives me quite a large safety cushion. As long as I keep an eye on this number I should be able to withstand the market cycles.

Breaking the 20,000 barrier was a huge milestone for stock investors. But can the Dow Jones continue to climb even higher? The answer may be found in American football. 🙂 Believe it or not the outcome of the Super Bowl game this weekend could have an impact on the stock market’s performance for the remainder of 2017. This idea is known as the “Super Bowl Predictor.” The predictor states that if an original NFL team wins the Super Bowl, then the Dow index will increase over the next year. Otherwise, the stock market will fall. So far this indicator had been bang on every year since 2008, except for one time. So if we want the Dow to hit 20,000 again and continue to grow this year, we better hope the Atlanta Falcons win this weekend. 😀

Anyway, since equity valuations and price/earnings ratios appear to be worryingly high, I decided it’s time to be more cautious with my money. So as I see the growing risk of a bubble forming, I have turned my attention towards alternative investments that do not correlate with the stock market. That’s why today I present a new addition to my asset column.

It’s P2P lending! 😀 Hurray! This makes a total of 10 different asset types I own. And most of them produce a stream of passive income for me! 🙂

Liquid’s Financial Update

*Side Incomes:

  • Part-Time = $900
  • Freelance = $800
  • Dividends = $800
  • Interest = $600
*Discretionary Spending:
  • Fun = $200
  • Debt Interest = $1200

*Net Worth: (MoM)16-12-networthiq_chart-nov

  • Assets: = $1,083,200 total (+33,200)
  • Cash = $1,100 (-700)
  • Canadian stocks = $139,200 (+4100)
  • U.S. stocks = $85,900 (+2700)
  • U.K. stocks = $18,600
  • RRSP = $75,000 (-100)
  • Mortgage Funds = $30,400 (+200)
  • Peer-to-Peer Lending = $20,000 (new!)
  • SolarShare Bonds = $10,000
  • Home = $270,000 (+7000)
  • Farms = $433,000
  • Debts: = $496,200 total (+16,700)
  • Mortgage = $185,200 (-300)
  • Farm Loans = $191,400 (-400)
  • Margin Loans = $59,300 (+300)
  • TD Line of Credit = $16,000  (-700)
  • CIBC Line of Credit = $27,500 (+18,000)
  • HELOC = $16,800 (-200)

*December Total Net Worth = $587,000 (+$16,500 / +2.9%)
All numbers above are in $CDN. 

January has traditionally been a very positive month for my net worth, and this year is no different. This is thanks to the phenomenon called the new year’s bump. I used the average inflation rate of 1.6% to increase my home’s value and rounded the number to $270,000, which is $7,000 higher than the previous year. Stock markets held up well this January, despite a slight pull back over the last couple of trading days.

I will write more about my new venture into the world of peer-to-peer lending in a future post. But it’s basically a fixed income investment in the form of debt financing. Compared to stock market, P2P investments have a low correlation with stocks and are less volatile. However, this doesn’t mean they’re less risky. I invested $20,000 to start. $2,000 came from personal savings, while the remaining $18,000 was borrowed, which is why both my asset and debt have grown this month. I plan to slowly pay down the new debt while I wait patiently for my new asset to grow. This is the same basic strategy I used for all my leveraged investments in the past. 😉

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Random Useless Fact:

It can be quite difficult to tell if a tiger is pregnant, or just fat.

 

Jan 302017
 

How to Find the Best Financial Planner

Financial planning can be simple, but it can also be very nuanced. So who is the best person to help you create your perfect financial plan? The answer is simple.

That person is you. 😀 Here’s why.

Unlike a meal plan or other short term aspirations, a financial plan isn’t an event that you can predict and design a specific result for. Financial planning is more of an ongoing process, with assumptions and approximations. Money is a part of life, and as long as we’re alive, we’ll need to make plans for it. 🙂 Financial professionals can give us guidance, but who will look after our money when they move, or retire? The best financial planner for you is you because you are always with you.

Give a man a financial plan and he’ll probably be okay until his plan needs to be adjusted. But teach a man to make financial decisions for himself and he will be free to explore the endless possibilities on his own.

A Few Analogies to Financial Planning

Who’s the best person to write up a business plan? The entrepreneur of said business, of course.

Who’s the best person to create a road trip plan? The person who’s organizing the road trip!

Who’s the best person to design a personalized career plan for Alex, who’s about to graduate high school? The answer is Alex.

In each of these cases the “plan” is based on future probabilities and assumptions with an approximate outcome in mind. As time progresses, events in reality will replace those assumptions chronologically. Adjustments will have to be made to each plan, but the overall goals are maintained. The company may alter its business plans due to unforeseen market forces. Road closures may force the road trip to take a detour. Alex may change his mind about his major in college.

Plans don’t have to be made alone. Individuals can consult business planners, school counselors, or other professionals. But it’s ultimately the responsibility and the decision of the individual to create the best plan for him or herself.

That’s why the best person to create, update, and adjust your financial plan, is you. Nobody knows you better than yourself. 😉

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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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Jan 232017
 

Beating the market isn’t necessarily hard. We don’t have to outperform everyone else. We just have to do better than the average. By picking individual stocks my investment returns have either matched or beaten the S&P/TSX Composite index every year since I started investing. 😀 But in today’s post I will explain why that doesn’t actually matter.

When Using Debt to Invest Pays Off

Most readers can recall that my Saskatchewan farmland value has been growing at incredible rates year after year. I’ve disclosed my stock performance many times in the past. And owning real estate in Metro Vancouver for the past 8 years has also helped to boost my net worth. However, beating the market is easy when leverage is used during a bull market cycle. Borrowing money to invest will always increase one’s investment gains, as long as the investment returns are higher than the cost to borrow, which luckily has been the case for me since I began investing. 😉

But what kind of returns would I be getting if I hadn’t used any financial leverage? Since I no longer hold any leveraged accounts at TD, there is no margin to exaggerate this account’s performance. 🙂 I have not been meticulously keeping track of my portfolio’s internal rate of return (IRR.) However, we can use the next best thing, which is a performance chart from TD.

Here’s a look at my non-leveraged portfolio for the past 3 years. It appears that my annual return was 11.57%. 🙂

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