Mar 162020
 

Opportunity for the well prepared

Well it’s finally happened. The record breaking 11 year long bull market has come to a screeching halt as stocks tumbled more than 30% in the fastest pace ever recorded. Last Thursday the TSX dropped 12% in a single day, the most in recorded history. But this should come as no surprise if you’re an avid reader of this blog. We saw this coming miles away. 😀

I began warning fellow investors two years ago explaining the early signs of an economic downturn. But since there were no red flags I didn’t expect an immediate market correction. Here’s an excerpt from that 2018 post.

Playing a strong defense game

So how did I prepare? Well last summer in 2019 I shared my thoughts on which asset classes would likely perform relatively well in a low interest rate environment. I wrote that adding defensive investments would make a lot of sense going into 2020.

So I had called out bonds, real estate, and precious metals as good assets to have, at least in the short to medium term. This is partly why I started to look for a rental apartment to purchase last fall.

Finally I warned readers several months ago of 10 signs that an economic downturn was just around the corner. My suggestion was not to sell everything and wait for the crash to happen, but instead to rebalance and reduce market risk. Here’s the final paragraph from that post.

planning ahead can protect the downside

Which brings us to the present. Both Canadian and U.S. stock markets are down about 20% year to date. Oof. 🙁

It’s a good thing we had time to prepare for this downturn since the signs were plenty and hard to miss.

So let’s see how my prediction and planning paid off so far. 🙂

  • As of writing this post gold is up 7.5% so far this year in $CAD.
  • Bonds have done well. The iShares Canadian Universe Bond ETF (XBB.TO) has returned +2% year to date.
  • Real estate is on the rise. We can use the Canadian Apartment Properties REIT (CAR.UN) as a proxy for residential real estate in Canada. This REIT has gone up 4% year to date. Personally, my new real estate purchase is earning me 6.25% a year in net rental income, after all expenses. Furthermore, the median rent price in the city of my new condo is up 15% this year. 🙂

As I said last year, governments will go deeper into debt, print more money, and all of this will benefit holders of bonds, precious metals, and real estate. Owning these types of assets – which I have about $500K in right now – will add stability to a portfolio during a major stock market correction. The key is to use economic data to align my investments in order to limit downside risks. 🙂

 

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Jun 192019
 

Dale Jackson retired at the age of 55. He didn’t win the lottery or start his own successful business. He just worked and saved diligently throughout his career as a media journalist, most recently known for writing investment articles for BNN Bloomberg.

He explains how he achieved early retirement in a recent interview. Here are some highlights below.

  • Keep an eye out for opportunities

Jackson explains that “opportunities come along for every generation.” Most of the time economic recessions are seen as bad times. But it’s actually an opportunity to speed up the retirement process. Asset values are down so we can buy more stocks at a discount. Interest rates are low so we can pay down the mortgage faster. Another example he points to was in 2011 where the Canadian dollar was worth more than the U.S. dollar. That doesn’t happen often. So with the suggestion of his financial advisor Jackson sold CAD to buy USD and that was one of the best currency trades any Canadian could have made during this past decade.

  • Diversify your holdings

Speaking of buying US dollars. It’s not enough to simply hold other currencies. We have to keep our money constantly working. Jackson says that Canada isn’t big enough to make up a diversified portfolio. But the United States is. 🙂 Buying U.S. companies in USD is highly recommended, especially when TFSA and RRSP allow for US dollar accounts. He uses the following graph to explain how over the past 10 years the resource-heavy Canadian stock market index (TSX Composite) has advanced only 55% while the S&P 500 in the U.S. has more than tripled in value! Uh oh. Poor Canadians.

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Dec 212018
 

Stock markets are down around the world in December. The Nasdaq Composite which is a barometer for tech companies has fallen 15% so far this month. Top economists and investors have been sounding the alarm for months on an economic recession. A New York Times survey discovered that 48% of business leaders at the Yale CEO Summit expected a recession to strike by the end of 2019. It said this finding was the “direst yet,” and shows just how worried companies are about an imminent recession. 😮

The S&P/500 is already in a bear market, which means it has dropped at least 20% from the last highest point. The Canadian S&P/TSX Composite index is only down 18% since its high point in July. But it could very easily enter bear market territory by next week.

Recently 82% of corporate CFOs surveyed in the Duke Global Business Outlook saw a recession starting before the end of 2020. But nearly half of them believe it will actually occur by the end of 2019.

A little pullback once in awhile is normal. When you have nearly 10 years of financial growth it shouldn’t be a surprise when growth finally decelerates. That’s why it’s necessary to always maintain a recession resistant financial plan. 🙂

The writing has been on the wall for a long time. About a year ago I explained how we are near the end of an economic cycle, and by using some charts, I predicted that the next financial downturn will probably happen sometime between 2019 and 2021. So I’m in agreement with most of the business people surveyed above.

Instead of choosing stocks that are largely recession proof, the best way to protect ourselves from a falling stock market is to own other types of investments such as bonds or prime real estate. Continuing to earn a steady stream of income also helps bolster one’s financial situation. Only 1/3rd of my assets are in stocks. So despite the double digit stock market pullback, my net worth is only down about 1% compared to July.

It is hard to know whether this current trend will continue to push stocks further down, or if we will see a bounce back soon. If I had to guess, I think there is still some time to prepare before things start to look really bad. Here’s a chart that shows the change in corporate income tax the U.S. government earned over the last 50 years. ~Notice how just about every time the line drops below the 0 point and reverses direction we see a vertical grey bar? Well those bars represent times of recession (or shrinking GDP.)

corporate income tax

At this moment the U.S. could already be in the beginning of a recession. We won’t know for sure until the economic data is released many months later. But what we can determine right now is that the line has crossed below 0, and it hasn’t reversed direction yet. That’s why I think the next financial downturn will not be this year. 🙂

But in the meanwhile I am being weary and staying away from buying new stocks. It’s not a good idea to catch a falling knife, as a stock market in decline is most likely to continue falling in the immediate future. So I will be enjoying the holidays sitting on the sidelines. At the same time I am also not selling any of my stocks. And lastly I am continuing to pay down debts, saving up cash, and looking at bonds. 🙂

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Random Useless Fact:

Mar 202018
 

Most stock market investors will find it nerve-racking to see their portfolios drop by 50% or more. But a large stock market crash is usually beneficial for our long term finances and we should welcome a bear market sooner rather than later or even not at all. 😀

How an early stock market crash creates more wealth

During a stock market correction, all the new money we invest will be used to purchase assets at cheaper levels. 🙂 These investments can have more time to compound and grow.

Even if we somehow could avoid a bear market for the next 30 years, [our] retirement wealth would likely be substantially better if we instead experienced an immediate bear market. ~Mark Hulbert

Most people my age will probably retire around 60 years old. That gives us about 30 more years to save for retirement. I found a chart below, courtesy of Mark Hulbert from MarketWatch that shows how the timing of a stock market crash affects the value of a retirement portfolio. It assumes a constant annual rate of return for 30 years, except a brief period where the stock market crashes similar to what happened in the 2007/2008 global financial crisis.

The red bar at the far left of the graph represents the portfolio’s value at the end of 30 years if a stock market crash happens right now in 2018. The far right is when it happens near the end of the 30 year period. In all cases plotted on the graph, the average annualized return for the 30 year period is the same, which is 5.9%. The only difference is when that market correction occurred along the way. 😉

As we can clearly see, our portfolio’s value 30 years from now will be highest ($4.3 million) if a downturn happens immediately, and lowest ($1.9 million) if it happens right before we retire. Wow! We will have $2.4 million more if a major bear market breaks out now, rather than later, even when the overall annualized investment return is the same. That’s a huge difference. 🙂

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Feb 272017
 

New stock market highs aren’t that special. Here’s why.

Some people inaccurately believe that any time the stock market reaches a new high it must mean that we are near a peak, and it’s a sign that stock prices will probably fall soon. Many undisciplined investor may choose to pull out of the market when this happens. However doing so will almost always be the wrong decision. This is because stocks reach new highs all the time. And they usually go up even more in the following years.

This Bloomberg article explains that over the past 102 years from 1915 to 2017, the Dow Jones stock market index in the United States had hit 12 new highs every year on average. 🙂 That’s once per month. Another way to think about it is that the Dow experiences a new record high about 5% of the time. So it’s not really not that rare. 😉 The table below shows how the frequency of new highs are distributed over the decades.

If someone starts investing at age 30 and plans to live until 80, then he’ll have 50 years of time to invest in equities. Based on historical data for the Dow Jones, he will see roughly 600 new record highs during his investment duration. This is why selling stocks because we may have reached a new peak in the market is a very silly thing to do for long term investors.

Trying to sell high and buy low rarely works. Again, the facts clearly explain why this is the case. Over the same time period, (1915 to 2017), the one year average return for the Dow after it had reached an all-time high was 9%. The 3 year cumulative return was 21%, and the 5 year return was 32%. So even when stocks are at all time highs, they tend to move even higher in the years after. 😀

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