Sep 232019
 

The lump sum or monthly dilemma 

When it comes to investment timing there are generally two recommended strategies – either invest all the cash immediately, or break up the total amount to invest in regular installments. For example, if you receive a $12,000 bonus on January 1st, should you put all $12,000 into the stock market as soon as possible, or invest $1,000 per month over the course of the entire year?

The answer, statistically speaking, is to invest the entire amount right away. This is because the stock market rises about 3/4 of the time over a typical 1 year period. So a pattern of investing as early as possible, will over time, yield lower buying prices than dollar cost averaging which spreads the capital over the course of 12 months.

However, the difference in performance isn’t very dramatic. Investment management company Charles Schwab published a study comparing these 2 strategies along with a few other ones. They gave $2,000 at the beginning of every year to 5 hypothetical investors, each with a different timing style. They are as follows.

  1. Timing the market perfectly by investing the full $2,000 at the stock market’s lowest point of the year, every year.
  2. Invests the $2,000 at the very beginning of each year.
  3. Uses dollar cost averaging, dividing the $2,000 evenly by 12 and investing once a month.
  4. Timing the market in the worst way possible, investing $2,000 at the peak of the market each year.
  5. Investing in government T-Bills and other cash equivalents that are safe instead of the stock market.

Here is how much money each investor built up after 20 years.

how investment timing works

As we can see, investing a lump sum as soon as possible yields slightly better results than splitting up the amount and investing gradually month by month. 🙂 This is true using older periods as well. The study further analyzed all 68 rolling 20-year periods dating back to 1926. In 58 of the 68 periods, the rankings were exactly the same.

In conclusion, if you plan to invest in the stock market, your best move is to invest the entire amount immediately. Don’t split up your capital to gradually invest it over time. Dollar cost averaging will probably set you back instead of help you. The earlier you take the risk with your money the more time it will have to grow. 🙂

Here are some questions to sum up today’s blog post.

  • The TSX just reached a record high last week on Sept 17. If you have money to invest now, should you wait for a small pullback before jumping in?
    Answer: The data would suggest no. Believing that lower stock prices are just around the corner is a terrible mindset to have, financially speaking. As a case study, the Dow Jones index in the U.S. reached over 120 all-time highs just in the 2010s alone so far. It’s quite common for record highs to be followed by more record highs. The last investor in Charles Schwab’s study stayed out of the market and ended up with the smallest portfolio after 20 years. Many renters in Toronto missed out on the real estate boom over the last 2 decades because they were waiting for home prices to drop since 2000. Waiting for any correction is generally not a good idea.
  • Are there times when it’s better to dollar cost average rather than invest immediately?
    Answer: Yes. If you don’t already have a large pile of money saved, then dollar cost averaging (DCA) is better than waiting until you save up enough for a larger lump sum investment. The simple lesson is the sooner your money is invested, the better. 🙂
  • Does timing the market work?
    Answer: In most cases, no. In the study above, after a 20 year period, the perfect market timer amassed only 6.5% more wealth than the investor who put money to work right away. Market timing can easily go wrong. The worst market timer in the study ended up with 12.6% less than the lump sum investor. So the risk is not the worth the potential reward to time the market.

 

 

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Random Useless Fact:

The goal of golf is to play as little golf as possible.

Apr 062017
 

A New Way to Measure Your Success

There are varying degrees of success and many different ways to define it. For example, in order to be a successful frequent flyer, you will probably need a lot of connections. 😀 And if you’re trying to lose weight, success is all about mind over platter, and winning that Nobelly Prize. 😄

how much do you value your free time?

Financial success is often evaluated in terms of income or wealth. But I often argue that time is our most precious resource. Unlike money, all our days are numbered. So given this reality, perhaps the best way to evaluate our success is to find out how much we value our free time. 🙂 This can be done with the following steps.

  1. Think of an activity that is neither pleasant nor unpleasant to do for you. It also can’t help you gain skills or make you smarter.
  2. Determine the minimum amount of money you would charge to perform that service for 1 hour for a stranger.

This mental exercise will reveal how much you value your time at an hourly rate. 🙂 For example, services I can provide that I neither like nor dislike include slowly folding laundry and walking around town for no reason.

I would have gladly accepted $20/hour to fold laundry 10 years ago. But things have change now. I would not give up my free time for any amount less than $40/hour today, because I can offer valuable skilled labour. Furthermore, I’m 10 years closer to death so there has to be an added premium on the remaining time I have compared to the past me. Due to simple economics, the fewer days I have to live, the more valuable those days are to me.

In a way, $40/hour is an indicator of my level of success in society. Perhaps a doctor or lawyer would value their free time at $120/hour. This wouldn’t be surprising given their place on the social economic ladder. It is not only a measure of their immense human capital compared to mine, but also their financial status.

How the Value of Time is Tied To Success

As self sustaining adults, the value of our free time should be the lowest at the start of our careers. But over time this value should increase to keep up with our growing human capital. Over time our demand for time is increased, and demand for money is reduced because we can earn money easier and more quickly.

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Oct 062016
 

16-10-spend-less-with-inexpensive-hobbies

Why It’s So Easy to Overspend

We are all tempted by instant gratification to some extent. And thanks to poorly implemented public policies it’s now easier than ever to live beyond our means. When we run out of savings, we can simply use credit to continue buying what we want. At least that’s what I usually do. 😉

Once upon a time people had to work almost constantly to prepare, track, hunt, build, forage, and gather resources so they would have enough food to survive the winter. But now the average American only works 34 hours per week, according to the OECD. That’s 20% of their available time. In other words, people spend 134 hours each week sleeping, eating, and doing leisurely activities that don’t involve getting paid for labour. That’s a lot of time to kill.

We have so much free time on our hands we often have trouble deciding what to do with it. Businesses use this opportunity to target our wallets, which leads us to buy things we don’t really need.

The Advantage of Distraction

In order to prevent impulse purchases we simply need to distract ourselves and do something else with our time and attention. 🙂 The best way to do this is to find free or cheap hobbies that can take up a lot of time. For example, if we are already preoccupied with reading the latest Harry Potter book, then we are less likely to think about shopping. To put it another way, we spend money when we’re bored or have nothing better to do. This is why many workaholics tend to be frugal. They’re so busy with work, they literally don’t have the time to enjoy all the money they’re making, lol.

I recently came across this Reddit thread about affordable hobbies that anyone can do. I will share the top activities mentioned in the thread and add some of my own ideas. We sometimes overspend because we don’t have the willpower to walk away from something we want. But hobbies such as the ones below can distract us so we won’t even get the chance to think about shopping in the first place, and therefore, save money. 🙂

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May 092016
 

Time and Annual Returns

I recently watched an interesting YouTube video about time and the rate of return, by finance columnist Preet Banerjee. He explains the relationship between an investor’s time horizon and his or her rate of return. Here’s a question to illustrate an example. If our goal is to accumulate $100,000 by age 65, how much do we need to save per month?

Here’s a table that breaks down how much investors will need to put away each month depending on their current age and the expected rate of return. For example, we can see that someone at age 30 who expects their portfolio to return 4% a year should save $109 per month.

16-05-time-rate-return-yt-preet

As we can see, the rate of return is a much stronger factor for investors with a longer time horizon. The 20 year old still has 45 years until retirement and how much he has to save is heavily influenced by his average investment returns. On the other hand, the 60 year old investor only has 5 more years before retirement so most of his accumulated wealth will come from savings rather than from investment gains. This means he shouldn’t take on more investment risk and reach for higher returns since the his rate of return simply doesn’t matter very much. This is why I have a relatively high risk tolerance, even though some people don’t approve. It’s because I’m in my twenties and if I can get that higher rate of return on my portfolio now, my life would be so much better in the future. 😀

The other thing to note about the table is that time trumps rate of return in most cases. If one person starts to invest at age 40 and earns a 2% rate of return, and someone else starts just 10 years later but earns a 6% rate of return, then the first person would still come out ahead despite making 4% a year less. In other words if we start investing 10 years earlier than our peers, then that will have the same effect as outperforming their investments by more than 4% each year. Wow! Let that sink in.

We can also track our retirement progress with this information. For example if we plan to retire in 15 years we can use the AGE 50 row of numbers in the table above. Let’s say we want to accumulate an extra $300,000 between now and our retirement date. We know the table is based on an accumulation of $100,000. So to find out how much we need to save each month we just multiply the green numbers by 3, since $300,000 is 3 times $100,000. The tricky part is guessing which rate of return we are most likely going to see over the next 15 years, but I think 4% sounds like a reasonable assumption.

So start investing as early as possible and front load more risk to the earlier stages of wealth accumulation. 🙂

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Random Useless Fact:

16-05-half-Canadians-live-North-of-this-line

 

 

Aug 142015
 

Time – A Nonrenewable Resource

Is $700,000 enough to last you for an entire lifetime? Imagine you were given $700,000 and can spend it any way you like. The catch is you can’t invest or make any more money for the rest of your life. If you were forced into such a scenario would you spend your days differently?

Everyone already experiences this in the form of time. Most people are given about 700,000 hours in this world, plus or minus maybe 5% depending on gender, class, and geography. I’ve already used up about 250,000 hours of mine. That was valuable time I can never get back.

15-08-running-out-of-time

We are all humbled by time. Wealth is the ability to fully experience all that life has to offer. Money will only get us so far, but the rest is up to our internal discourse about how to spend our time. It doesn’t matter if we’re financially rich or poor. Everyone is ultimately limited by that 700,000 hours. Time is the ultimate equalizer.

All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” Gandalf

The important thing is to enjoy the things you’re doing right now. Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time. 🙂 Unless you enjoy attaching all your watches together to make a belt. Then that would be a waist of time. 😀

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