When it comes to investing, this is what I believe in:
- ALWAYS CREATE INCOME: make income on all your investments, (even if you don’t need the income now), – it makes the ride smoother and your mind calmer and this all leads to more wealth;
- COMPOUND AND GROW YOUR INCOME: compound income where possible, (the impact will only be revealed about 5 years or later down the road in any meaningful way), and choose stocks with the tendency to increase their dividends;
- BE SAFE: limit your stock exposure or make sure you have some protection in place to guard against any financial drawdown that inevitably occurs. It is not the corrections in the market that hurt you but you reaction to these jolts. Having protection creates better reactions.
- KEEP YOUR FEES LOWER THAN AVERAGE: In Canada the average investor pays around 2.10%. If they are exclusively in mutual funds then more in the 2.4% range. You can quite easily reduce your overall costs by using Exchange Traded Funds and individual stocks, even if you hold some speciality mutual funds.
- FEES ARE NOT THE BIGGEST PROBLEM YOU WILL FACE: having the lowest possible fees is only really important when you are looking to match or even beat the main stock markets. Then it is crucial, at least on paper.However. I strongly believe – and backed up by thorough research – that fees are secondary problems. You can still lose more money in the market by buying during the good times and selling/switching/conserving your cash (whatever your rationalization is) during the poor times. So a pure concentration on reducing your fees comes after only your risk tolerance is matched to your portfolio.
- INVESTORS CAN BE STRONGER OR WEAKER THAN THEIR INVESTMENTS: this can be a tough concept for some to grasp, but you can severely under-perform the investment you are in by buying after the run-up in prices. In contrast you can beat the average returns of your investment by being a buyer when it is not easy to be a buyer or by just holding on for a long time.This is the reason why some people with GICs beat returns on people who invest in mutual funds even if the long-term track record of that mutual fund is much, much higher than what a GIC returns. It is all about the Investor.
- BUYING LOW AND SELLING HIGH IS INCREDIBLY HARD TO ACHIEVE: It is the pinnacle of achievement when it comes to investing, but it is applauded so much because it is quite a rare feat. I know that most investors do worse, on average, than the bond or stock markets they are investing their money in via so many different investment vehicles. So buying higher and selling lower is really more the average experience.
- OUR BRAINS ARE AGAINST US: This chronic failure by the majority is not due to stupidity on our part, but emotionally and socially the odds are against us. Our brain structure demands action in times of stress: (my portfolio is down!….this investment is horrible and hasn’t made any money for over 2 years now! Or more often….this investment doesn’t seem to be doing much of anything, is there anything better?)We have lizard brains. Deal with it.
- PLEASURE IS OUR DOWNFALL: It certainly doesn’t help that all advertisement by banks and mutual funds focus on the investments that have ALREADY done well. Our brains are lead by pleasure and we seek comfort in our investments. Comfort that the returns lately have been positive and that the news in that sector is rosy. This equates to high prices, however.Negative returns and disastrous headlines will drive everyone else away from that sector and causing lower prices. But it doesn’t feel good. So I don’t invest.
- THE PARADOX OF INVESTING IS THAT TO GET DECENT RETURNS WE HAVE TO ACT IN A WAY THAT IS INHERENTLY DIFFERENT THAN OUR NATURAL IMPULSES: We don’t want to hold investments that have lost money and we don’t want to buy into sectors, (Europe/Japan/USA/Gold…you name it), that the TV commentators are blaring on what a disaster it is.
You know why we venerate Warren Buffett (well besides the $70B+ dollars he owns)? Because he is an investment freak of nature. He is able to see things differently and act so much different than what we do. So in late 2008 his message was – Buy USA! Now who did that? Not me. You?
So understand the difficulty of investing. It can make you a lot of money, but you need to put a Plan and Protection and Time in place to see successful results.
My Investment Rules
Investing for many people can be volatile, expensive and stressful. According to Dalbar’s Quantitative Analysis of Investor Behavior (2012) the average investor’s returns—both in the stock and bond markets—are dismal and consistently under perform the broad markets.
My core belief, learned through many years of practical experience, is that investors have to fight and win two battles to succeed in order to grow their wealth. The least important battle is the one everyone concentrates on – picking the right investment – but I vehemently feel this is less important than possessing correct investor behaviour. You can buy high and sell low on an excellent investment and still produce miserable returns.
My approach is to ensure that how my investment choices perform join well with how you really are as an investor. The better the experience then the more money you will make over the long-term.
So in order to connect better with your investments I practice these 4 fundamental rules when constructing portfolios for our clients:
I like fixed-income investments that create an income flow of at least 5% or greater on average and I love growing dividend income from blue-chip stocks. I also ensure your accounts are primarily protected from rising interest rates and are as tax-efficient as possible.
I charge for my advice, either directly or via the products I sell, but unlike most advisors I have no weekly/monthly sales targets and have mean operations that allow me to create portfolios that are considerably cheaper than the average mutual fund portfolio.
I rarely use investments that have redemption penalties or that lock your money away for a long period of time. By being flexible and having low transaction costs, you can shift easily in case of market changes. Don't get stuck in an investment when it is better to move on.
By minimizing stock involvement, (or having some form of lessened risk in place), and increasing income cash-flow, you decrease the chance of buying-high and selling-low. Less volatility means better investment decisions and the potential to make more money.