Archive for the 'Investing' Category

A Productive Use of Time

A book review by Jim Kilgore CFP® and Bill DeShurko

There are thousands of books on the market aimed at individual investors who are attempting to go it alone and invest on their own.  Whether that be for retirement or some other financial goal, investing is a challenge… because the market does not always go up!

In Why Bad Things Happen To Good Investments, William Hepburn walks the reader through some of the most important concepts to understand regarding investing and managing risk.  He explains why buying a basket of stocks, mutual funds, or ETF’s and holding them forever does not always have the intended result and gives many examples where an active investment strategy can be superior to the buy and hold strategy.

We are in the business of investing and financial planning and we have read hundreds of books on investing over the years.  Mr. Hepburn’s writing style is such that anyone can read this book and understand the concepts he is trying to teach.  The book truly is written to the amateur investor looking to educate themselves on how to do it wisely.  Mr. Hepburn does not use a ton of heavy math and statistics and he is still able to explain things concisely. That said, there is much information in here for the experienced professional and individual alike.

Jim: One of the quotes I really enjoyed from the book was the following “There is an old saying on Wall Street that bulls can make money and bears can make money, but pigs and sheep get slaughtered.  The way to protect yourself from these emotional risks is to have systems and the discipline to stick with them.”

I think my favorite part of the book is how Mr. Hepburn explains to the reader over and over how Wall Street says one thing to the individual investor about how to invest, but does something entirely different with their own money.  If for no other reason, you need to read this book about how Wall Street does not have your best interest in mind, but rather their own. (Bill: especially if you think you are learning anything useful from watching the “business” news channels all day!)

Chapters 16 and 17 on Hedging and stops are invaluable to helping an individual investor and professionals alike limit the downside in their portfolios and is worth the price of the book by itself.

Bill: I’d also add that I first met Mr. Hepburn at an investment conference back in the 1990’s when you were a pariah in the industry if you recommended anything but buy and holding Morningstar ranked 5 star mutual funds. Well before that strategy was debunked, Will was a leader in the field of active portfolio management in the independent investment advisor arena.

As investment professionals, we highly encourage both do it yourself investors and those working with advisors to read this book. We don’t think you’ll be disappointed. Remember:

“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

Mr. DeShurko is the Managing Member of 401 Advisor, LLC an independent registered investment advisor. Jim Kilgore is an Investment Advisor Representative of 401 Advisor, LLC. They are also  registered representatives of Ceros Financial Services, Inc. (Member FINRA/SIPC).  Ceros is not affiliated with 401 Advisor.  The views expressed are those of Mr. DeShurko and do not necessarily reflect those of Ceros Financial Services, Inc., its employees or affiliates.

Past performance does not guarantee future results.  There is no guarantee that any investment or strategy will generate a profit or prevent a loss. 

401 Advisor Podcast

Bill and I take great pride in providing you with relevant and timely information regarding the market and the economy.  Which is why we are excited to announce we have just released the first episode of our podcast on PodBean, and within the next few weeks we will also be on iTunes and Stitcher.  PodBean is a very popular podcasting platform and they have an app available for download in the App Store for iPhone and so does Android.

The goal of the podcast is to deliver the same relevant and timely content in a different format for people who would rather listen than read.  It also gives you the opportunity to stay connected with us on your daily commute or if you want to listen while you are doing some work around the house. 

The plan is to have one episode per week where we give our insights on the market, economy, retirement savings, taxes, estate planning, or one of the many topics pertaining to financial advice.  Then, a second episode that will be more of a question and answer format, where we will answer your questions you send us through email.  Send your questions to jim@401advisor.com and will answer them as they come in.

I hope you will like and subscribe to the podcast so you can get notified of the newest episode.  I have provided a link below, so you can try it out.

https://www.podbean.com/eu/pb-ffe5b-d97cf1

Bill and I want to thank you for your support, and we hope to hear from you soon.

Jim

“Lies – damn lies – and statistics”

I love statistics. My favorite book is “Money Ball” by Michael Lewis about how Billy Beane turned around the Oakland A’s baseball team with the help of Paul DePodesta. The two combined to rethink how to evaluate talent – removing the “gut feel” of a scout and replacing it with a new look at the performance statistics that really mattered. Since their system came up with different attributes than most other talent evaluators, they were able to acquire good players “on the cheap”. His team did make it to the American League Championship game, but not to the World Series. But it was still quite a turn around.

But to the point, one thing that Money Ball highlighted is that statistics, by themselves don’t suggest a course of action. Statistics need to be interpreted. What is important or relevant is most times open to debate and still subject to human bias. Thus the interpretation that statistics (and I will qualify with misused statics) are nothing more than damned lies!

For the past several years, and especially last year the financial media and talking heads insist on talking down the economy and raising the specter of the imminent recession/market crash. Had an investor listened, they would have missed out on one of the best years ever in terms of the S&P 500’s return. Despite my more paranoid nature, we stayed pretty much invested throughout the year. I attribute this decision to focusing on the statistics that matter to the market and ignoring those that don’t.

One example is debt. And in this case, I am only talking about consumer debt. Analysts spend a lot of time talking about the volume of debt. With debt levels at record highs, a recession is most certainly around the corner. Instead they should be talking about the number of dollars consumers spend on servicing the debt. And only then, in relation to the dollars available to make those payments. Debt does not become an economy wide problem unless increasing numbers of people can’t make their payments. Below is a graph from the St. Louis Federal Reserve that shows the historic amount of household debt payments as a percentage of disposable income (after tax income).

While the percentage is rising, it is currently near an average level of the last 40 years or so and well below pre financial crisis and tech wreck levels.

What this tells me is that the consumer is pretty healthy. The economy is still nearly 70% consumer driven, and the consumer relies on debt. Debt servicing payments have room to grow, especially if incomes continue to rise.

What Does Matter?

The corollary to the debt is too high argument is that, if interest rates increase rapidly debt service costs will rise and the graph above could start looking ugly soon. Yes, and if monkeys start falling from the skies. I grew up in the 1970’s, the years of double-digit inflation, (inflation is what drives interest rates higher). 90% of economic thought at the time revolved around inflation. Inflation was talked about more than debt is today. I was schooled on inflation. I too am paranoid about the prospects for inflation. But guess what? It is just not on the horizon. Remember one phrase – global capacity utilization. There is just no price pressure on anything that can be manufactured overseas. Country of origin doesn’t matter. And the world is full of unemployed people that will work for a lot less than Americans. The Steve Jobs of the business world will continue to pay sustenance level wages to women and children around the world as long as a sustenance level wage is the only alternative to no wage.

Where we do see inflation is in services. Tradesmen are in high demand and so far, you can’t fly in a plumber from China to remodel the bathroom and then fly them home for less than the cost of the local plumber! But such services are still a small enough part of the overall economy that they haven’t had a major impact on the overall national numbers.

What are we Watching?

In addition to the graph above we have a systematic approach to looking at the economy. A non-emotional statistics driven flowchart of steps taken to interpret data. We look at things that history and economics say really matter. Things like money supply – the biggie! Not the yield curve that everyone else is obsessed with, but the forward yield curve and for the market it’s always all about future earnings.

As we have transitioned into a new calendar year remember too that 2020 is all but in the books for the stock market. While the election process is likely to cause more than normal volatility, the market’s focus has turned to 2021 and that crystal ball is still pretty hazy.

The best advice we offer, is the same advice: Make a plan and stick to it, that way you are not emotionally reacting to the story, and the bad statistics, of the day.

For a plan for your portfolio we are always here to help.

Bill DeShurko, President and Portfolio Manager

James Kilgore, CFP

Ofc: 937.434.1790 Bill@401Advisor.com or Jim@401Advisor.com

Investopedia Q & A

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WILLIAM DESHURKO’S ANSWERS
How can a nontraditional college student gain more income to provide for a brighter future?
Well you could try and win the lottery, search www.ancestory.com for an unknown rich relative, or marry rich. Rule those out and your best alternative is to get that degree… Read More
Are qualified dividend paying stocks a reliable source of passive income for retirement?
Yes…Yes…and Yes!!! Not only are taxes lower on dividends then an IRA withdraw, but think of it this way; if you take regular distributions from a mutual fund within your IRA,… Read More
Does rolling over 401(k) funds to an IRA for charitable contributions satisfy my RMDs?
Regardless of the purpose, you can always roll over a 401(k) plan investment into a rollover IRA without paying taxes. Since the money is not taxed at this point and remains… Read More
How would rolling over my 401(k) to a Traditional IRA affect my contribution limit for 2017?
Rolling over a 401(k) plan account will have no effect on the amount you can otherwise contribute to a regular or a Roth IRA. Congratulations, you have a nice start on… Read More
Should I hold on to a temporarily suspended stock?
Well, if its been suspended, you don’t have much choice! Once the stock begins trading again, you will need to make that decision. My suggestion is to do as much… Read More
What should we do with two mature IRA CDs?
I see some form of this question all the time, and it is confusing. An IRA is not an investment, it is a tax designation that applies to virtually any… Read More
I received a lump sum pension when I retired. Can I roll this lump sum into a 401K or IRA?
You can roll it into an IRA and defer taxes until you make withdrawals. If you already received the money, you have 60 days from the receipt to deposit it… Read More
Are penny stock mutual funds a solid aggressive investment?
You assume that an “aggressive” mutual fund will make you more money than a less aggressive mutual fund. Why? Aggressive means more risk. Risk means there is an increasing possibility… Read More

Dividend Investing

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401 Advisor, LLC specializes in building client portfolios using dividend paying stocks due to their long term history of providing superior returns over non dividend payers. I recently contributed to an article posted by U S News on their web site. The article highlights warning signs that a stock may be cutting their dividend in the future.

Opening Remarks for 2015

TOW

I recently had a conversation with a client about the strategy for his account in 2015. He indicated that since the market is at an all time high, he expects the market to crash by the end of summer as the Fed raises interest rates. And he would like to adjust his holdings accordingly.

Many of you are probably nodding your head in agreement with this sentiment.

However, please let me remind everyone, that if it was that simple and obvious to predict the economy, let alone the market with that much accuracy there would be many more rich people walking around than there are today! The only thing that is certain, is that what seems “certain” rarely is!

Case in point is a part of an email I received from Fuller Treacy Money, their comment of the day. For those who want the short version it is this: the article sites two economists from Harvard. They are very well known and respected economists. They have nearly opposite opinions.

The point I hope is obvious, if such esteemed economists with the same background, see the world so differently, how can any of us, without the resources and time to study these things as professionals do, be so sure that our opinions will be the ones that in fact pan out in the year ahead?

We just don’t know what the future holds and the best investment strategy is to listen to what the market tells us as we go along, use tried and true investment strategies, and always be aware…and have a strategy…for when things do change!

Below is the piece from Fuller Treacy.

A standing-room only crowd packed a hotel ballroom on Jan. 3 to hear…Professors Lawrence Summers of Harvard University and Robert Gordon of Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, defend their views.

“Just because we have 5 percent growth doesn’t mean we are out of the woods,” Summers, a former Treasury secretary and senior White House official, told the American Economic Association meeting in Boston, alluding to the U.S. economy’s pace of expansion in the third quarter.

He rattled off a variety of reasons for caution. Among them: the risk of financial bubbles, the difficulties the Federal Reserve may face in raising interest rates back to more normal levels, and continued excess capacity in Japan and Europe.

Summers also compared the euro area’s situation today with that of Japan in the late 1990s, before it slipped into a deflationary funk, and warned that the U.S. could be in for an extended period of a “dismal growth rate below 1-1/2 percent.”

Fellow Harvard professor Greg Mankiw took issue with that gloomy prognosis as far as the U.S. is concerned. In particular, he highlighted the improving labor market, where unemployment is at a six-year low and wages have begun to rise.

“We are returning to normalcy,” said Mankiw, who is also chairman of the economics department at Harvard in Cambridge, Massachusetts and a former chief White House economist.

Another Raise

One of our more popular holdings, McDonalds (MCD) has come under a bit of pressure lately  both in the media and on Wall Street. After reaching a high near $102 a share in May of this year the stock price has dropped to below $90 a share in October. The media has pounded their menu saying that the younger millennials are avoiding MCD for healthier alternatives. And yet Ive doggedly held their stock in many  client accounts.

While the jury is still out, we are starting to see the reasons for holding and our continued purchase of MCD. First, MCD is held in our Dividend and Growth strategy accounts. Their dividend has been above 3% even at its peak price. More importantly the dividend has been increased for 38 consecutive years and in this area MCD did not disappoint  they announced a 5% dividend increase payable to shareholders at the end of November. This brings their current yield to 3.59% as of market price on 11/6/2014 and annualizing the dividend.

Part II of my thesis is that McDonalds is still a cherry job for anyone in advertising. Their contract has to be one of the largest in the advertising world. Money buys the best and the brightest. MCD will find a way to come back into the good graces of the fast food consuming public. Surveys are already showing some in roads from campaigns such as this social media campaign that coincides with the relaunch of the McRib sandwich.

MCD is a great example of an investing concept I will come back to in future posts: the difference between buying a company and buying a stock. Stock buyers look for price appreciation in the near term. The media is created for stock traders. Investors like the Warren Buffets of the world buy companies.  Companies generate cash flow that is unaffected by stock price that allows them toraise dividends by 5% even when their stock price slides by 12%.

While Im not happy with the stock, I am happy owning the company, mainly because they pay my clients a 3.59% dividend while we wait for their stock to turn around. And next year we will likely get another raise.

Market update

Money pasteThe stock market has had a five week “correction” followed by a one week recovery – that recouped 70% of the corrections losses. While sentiment has seemingly shifted from an extreme doom and gloom outlook over the past few weeks, statistically the stock market retests its lows about 67% of the time. Meaning we will likely give up this week’s gains.

aWhile I remain cautious, we did buy a couple of holdings for our portfolios this week. Notably P&G for our dividend strategies. P&G is THE dividend aristocrat based on its history of paying a dividend every year since the mid 1890’s (that’s not a typo!). P&G just hasn’t been cheap enough to meet my criteria. Yesterday I gave in and took a position across our dividend portfolios. P&G released earnings this morning and we were rewarded with a 3% gain in early morning trading.

Our growth portfolios are also seeing changes. We will focus more on individual stocks as we rotate into the “Buy in October” seasonal strategy.

I’ve also added an article on the bond market that was published yesterday at horsesmouth.com. The main takeaways are 1. While the stock market can’t decide if the economy is too strong (meaning the Fed will start raising interest rates) or too cool (economy drops to recessionary levels) the bond market seems pretty convinced that the economy will continue in the “just about right” pace. And 2.  Even if the Fed raises short term rates, longer term rates aren’t likely to keep pace. While the economy is growing it is too soft to support a sharp rise in long term interest rates. While Fed action could spark a recession it is likey  4- 5 years out. My caveat to that is Europe. Major European bank failures will roil our market and economy. PDF:  Horsesmouth _ Bonds

The take away is this. Many advisors are recommending clients move into short term bonds as a defensive move against rising rates. However, the bond market is telling us that intermediate bonds – in the 8 – 10 year maturity range may actually be affected less if the Fed starts to raise short term rates.

Spooked Markets: Is This the Correction?

Horsesmouth | William DeShurkoHere is an article that posted on www.horsesmouth.com today.

One advantage technical analysis has over fundamental analysis is that it should take the emotion out of investment decisions. Graphs and charts don’t lie, they are what they are. And what they are now is pretty darn ugly. For a full review read the entire article can be downloaded: Spooked Markets.

The short summary is that we have been selling our more aggressive holdings for a month now. We will be moving all 401(k)’s 50% into a cash position, raising another 20% cash in our Growth” strategy and will likely look to hedge our Dividend strategies with a “short” ETF.

 

Market Outlook

cantin1For sometime now we have remained fully invested, but very nervous. Starting in mid-September, I have been cutting back on our risk exposure. Our Seasonal Growth model has been in more conservative (lower beta) equities since May. In addition we are now about 25% in cash as well. For our Dividend portfolios I started moving out of some of our more cyclical stocks in September as well. While we may look fully invested, the Toews High Yield Fund is currently 100% in cash. Additionally I continually look at our holdings and am only looking to buy stocks that are particulary cheap.

For those that enjoyed this week’s red moon/lunar eclipse, you might (or might not) enjoy this bit of stock market history from thedailypfennig.com:

“As it happens, we find ourselves smack in the middle of an astronomical/market phenomenon known as a “Puetz window.” In the early 1990s, researcher Steve Puetz looked into eight epic market crashes — starting with Holland’s tulip mania of the 17th century, ending with Japan’s meltdown in 1990 and  including the U.S. crashes of 1929 and 1987.

Turns out every one of them took place within a few days of a full moon/lunar eclipse. And each time, that  lunar eclipse took place within six weeks of a solar eclipse. (We’ll spare you the suspense: A solar eclipse is
coming up on Oct. 23.)

Puetz ran the numbers and concluded the odds of these circumstances being sheer coincidence were 127,000-to-1.

We leave it to others to debate the validity of the “Puetz window” as a useful forecasting tool. We’ll note here the current one continues through the end of the week. We’ll note further that while epic crashes tend to occur during Puetz windows, not every Puetz window results in a crash.

The next Puetz window, you wonder? Early next April. About six months from now.”

 

(photo from nasa.gov)

bill@401advisor.com • 937.434.1790

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Charles H. Dow Award Winner 2008. The papers honored with this award have represented the richness and depth of technical analysis.

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