Top Five Investing Articles for Individual Investors Read in 2020

Tags

, , , , , ,

As the end of 2020 looms, I wanted to share a recap of the five most viewed articles I have written over the past year.  Additionally, I have included the top viewed article of all time on my investing blog.  Individual investors have consistently been coming back to that one article.

  1. Before You Take Any Investment, Advice Consider the Source – Version 2.0

Here is a link to the article:

https://latticeworkwealth.com/2019/09/18/investment-advice-cognitive-bias/

This article discusses the fact that even financial professionals have cognitive biases, not just individual investors.  I include myself in the discussion, talk about Warren Buffett, and also give some context around financial market history to understand how and why financial professionals fall victim to these cognitive biases.

  • How to Become a Successful Long-Term Investor – Understanding Stock Market Returns – 1 of 3

Here is a link to the article:

https://latticeworkwealth.com/2019/09/23/successful-long-term-investing/

It is paramount to remember that you need to understand at least some of the history of stock market returns prior to investing one dollar in stocks.  Without that understanding, you unknowingly set yourself up for constant failure throughout your investing career.

  • How to Become a Successful Long-Term Investor – Understanding Risk – 2 of 3

Here is a link to the article:

https://latticeworkwealth.com/2019/09/25/successful-long-term-investor-risk/

This second article in the series talks about how to assess your risk for stocks by incorporating what the past history of stock market returns has been.  If you know about the past, you can better prepare yourself for the future and develop a more accurate risk tolerance that will guide you to investing in the proper portfolios of stocks, bonds, cash, and other assets.

  • Breakthrough Drugs, Anecdotes, and Statistics – Statistics and Time Series Data – 2 of 3

Here is a link to the article:

https://latticeworkwealth.com/2019/11/20/breakthrough-drugs-statistics-and-anecdotes-time-series-statistics/

I go into detail, without getting too granular and focusing on math, about why statistics and time series data can be misused by even financial market professionals.  Additionally, you need to be aware of some of the presentations, articles, and comments that financial professionals use.  If they make these errors, you will be able to take their comments “with a grain of salt”.

  • Breakthrough Drugs, Anecdotes, and Statistics – Introduction – 1 of 3

Here is a link to the article:

https://latticeworkwealth.com/2019/11/11/breakthrough-drugs-statistics-and-anecdotes-investing/

I kick off this important discussion about the misleading and/or misuse of statistics by the financial media sometimes with an example of the testing done on new drugs.  Once you understand why the FDA includes so many people in its drug trials, you can utilize that thought process when you are bombarded with information from the print and television financial media.  Oftentimes, the statistics cited are truly just anecdotal and offer you absolutely no guidance on how to invest.

Top of All Time

Are Your Financial Advisor’s Fees Reasonable?  Here is a Unique Way to Look at What Clients Pay For

Here is a link to the article:

https://latticeworkwealth.com/2013/08/07/are-your-financial-advisors-fees-reasonable-here-is-a-unique-way-to-look-at-what-clients-pay-for/

This article gets the most views and is quite possibly the most controversial.  It is currently at over 100,000 views and counting.

Individual investors compliment me on its contents while Financial Advisors have lots of complaints.  Keep in mind that my overall goal with this investing blog is to provide individual investors with information that can be used.  Many times though, the information is something that some in the financial industry would rather not talk about.

The basic premise is to remember that, when it comes to investing fees, you need to start with the realization that you have the money going into your investment portfolio to begin with.  Your first option would be to simply keep it in a checking or savings account.  It is very common to be charged a financial advisory fee based upon the total amount in your brokerage account and the most common is 1%.  For example, if you have $250,000 in all, your annual fee would be $2,500 ($250,000 * 1%).

But at the end of the day, the value provided by your investment advisory is how much your brokerage account will grow in the absence of what you can already do yourself.  Essentially you divide your fee by the increase in your brokerage account that year.  Going back to the same example, if your account increases by $20,000 during the year, your actual annual fee based upon the value of the advice you receive is 12.5% ($2,500 divided by $20,000).  And yes, this way of looking at investing fees is unique and doesn’t always sit well with some financial professionals.

In summary, I hope you enjoy this list of articles from the past year.  If you have any investing topics that would be beneficial to cover in 2021, please feel free to leave the suggestions in the comments.

Are Your Financial Advisor’s Fees Reasonable? A Unique Perspective – Retirees

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I started off this examination with a brief introduction to this question.  You can see that discussion by clicking on the following link:

https://latticeworkwealth.com/2020/01/13/are-your-financial-advisor-fees-reasonable-introduction/

As promised, I will start by using retirees as the individual investors.  The hypothetical example is meant to get you thinking about the reasonableness of investing fees and how they affect you reaching your financial goals.  Of course, I will discuss the same topic but using those individual investors who are saving for retirement.  But now, let’s dive into our discussion of this topic by focusing on those individual investors already in retirement.

Example for Retirees:

If you are retired and not independently wealthy, you are in the wealth distribution phase of your life.  There are some retirees that are permanently in the wealth preservation phase.  Wealth preservation simply means that an investor has enough money to live comfortably, but he/she does not need to deplete his/her investment portfolio.  Furthermore, this investor does not really try to increase the value of his or her investment portfolio.  A retiree in the wealth distribution phase of life is the most common example.  This investor is gradually depleting his/her investment portfolio to pay for living expenses on an annual basis.

Since this person is not working anymore, (thus has no income from work, and longevity keeps getting longer), he/she needs have an investment portfolio that is somewhat conservative in nature.  Therefore, it is not reasonable to expect to earn 8.0% per year.  A more common target return might be 5.5-6.0%.  If you are working with a financial professional who charges you 1.0%, you need to earn 6.5-7.0% on a gross basis in order to get to that target net return.  Now the long-term historical average of stocks is about 9.5%, so the higher your AUM fees are, the more weighting you will need to have in stocks and away from bonds and cash.  Well, we have already gone over that, and most individuals that present information will stop there.  I want to take this even further though.

Let’s say you are a current retiree with $1 million that you are living on an additional to Social Security income.  You have a target return of 5.5% to fund your desired retirement lifestyle, and your Financial Advisor charges you a 1.0% AUM fee.  Thus, you will need to earn a 6.5% return gross to reach your bogey.  Now I would like to put in the twist, and I want to do a thought experiment with you.  Your Financial Advisor will sit down with you and assess your risk tolerance and ensure that the investment recommendations made are not too aggressive for you.  If you cannot take too much volatility (fluctuation in asset prices up and down over the short term), your financial professional will reduce your exposure to equities.

Now let’s look at our example through the lens of economic principles.  If you just retired and are 65, you have one option right away.  You can simply invest all your retirement money in 10-year Treasury notes issued by the Department of the Treasury.  Treasury notes are free to buy.  All you need to do is to participate in one of the Treasury auctions and put an indirect bid in.  What is an indirect bid?  An indirect bid is simply saying that you would like to buy a set dollar amount of notes, and you are willing to accept whatever the market interest rate set by the auction is.  What is the yield on the 10-year Treasury Note right now?  The 10-year Treasury closed at 1.85% on January 13, 2020.  When you go to a financial professional, he/she is selecting investments in lieu of you simply purchasing the 10-year Treasury Note.  Keep in mind that US Treasuries are among the safest investments in the world.  They are backed by the full faith and credit of the US government.  Stocks, bonds, real estate, gold, and other investment options all have an added degree of risk.  With the additional risk, there is a possibility for higher returns though.  How does this relate to your 1.0% AUM fee?

Think about it this way:  why are you paying your Financial Advisor?  You are paying him/her to select investments that can earn you more than simply buying a US Treasury Bill, Note, or Bond.  As an investor, you do not want to just settle for that return in most cases.  With that being said though, you can just start out there and forget it.  You do not need to engage a Financial Advisor to simply buy a 10-year US Treasury note.  This means that you are paying the Financial Advisor to get you incremental returns.

In our example above for a retiree, your target investment return is 5.5%.  If you can earn 5.5% during the year, the incremental return is 3.65% (5.50%-1.85%).  Remember that you are paying the Financial Advisor 1.0% in an AUM fee.  Therefore, you are paying the Financial Advisor 1.0% of your assets in order to get you an extra 3.65% in investment returns.  Well, 1.0% is 27.4% of 3.65%.  Thus, you are essentially paying a fee of 27.4% in reality.  Now your financial professional would flip if the information was presented in this way.  He/she would say that it is flawed.  The mathematics cannot be argued with; however, I will admit that many folks in the financial services industry would disagree with this type of presentation.

 Remember that you started out with $1 million.  You could have gone to the bank and gotten cash and hid it in a safe within your residence.  AUM fees are always presented by using your investment portfolio as the denominator.  In our example, your investment fee is 1.0% ($10,000 / $1,000,000).  I urge you to think about this though.  Does that really matter?  Of course, the fee you pay to your Financial Advisor will be calculated in this manner.  But what are you paying for in terms of incremental returns?  If you want to calculate what you are paying for (the value that your Financial Advisor provides), the reference to the starting balance in your brokerage account is moot.  It is yours to begin with.  You have that money at any given time.  Therefore, it should be removed from the equation when trying to quantify the value your Financial Advisor provides in terms of investment returns on your portfolio.

Now remember that I said your target investment return was 5.5%.  The long-term historical average of stocks is approximately 9.5%.  If you choose to simply allocate only enough of your investment portfolio in stocks and the rest in cash to reach that 5.5% target, you will select an allocation of 53.0% stocks and 47.0% cash (5.5% = 53.0% * 9.5% + 47.0% * 1.0%).  Note that I am assuming that cash earns 1.0% and that you can select an ETF or index mutual fund to capture the long-term historical average for stocks.  Now your financial professional is working with you to select an investment portfolio that achieves the 5.5% target return, and their investment recommendations will be different than this hypothetical allocation.

The hypothetical allocation achieves your target return with a simple choice of two assets (an ETF or index mutual fund and a money market).  Keep in mind that you will normally have a portion of your portfolio allocated to fixed income.  The 10-Year US Treasury note is trading around 1.85% as of January 13, 2020.  If you allocate your portfolio to 60% stocks, 30% 10-Year Treasury Note, and 10% cash, your expected return would be 5.5% (5.5% = 49.0% * 9.5% + 41.0% * 1.85% + 10.0% * 1.0%).

Whatever your Financial Advisor is charging you in terms of fees, you need to make that percentage more in your total return on a gross basis such that your net return equals your target return.  In our example above, the assumed AUM fee was 1.0%.  That investment fee means that you must earn 6.5% on a gross basis because you need to pay your Financial Advisor 1.0% for his/her services.  After the fee is paid, the return on your portfolio needs to be 5.5% on a net basis.

So, how much weighting do stocks need to be in your portfolio to ensure that your overall returns are 5.5% after paying your AUM fee?  The answer is 62.5%.  Why?  The expected return of your portfolio is 6.5% (6.5% = 62.5% * 9.5% + 27.5% * 1.85% + 10.0% * 1.0%) before fees.  Given the average retiree’s risk tolerance at age 65 or older, many individual investors do not desire to have a portfolio with 60.0% or larger allocated to stocks.  The more salient observation is that the individual investor had to increase his/her stock allocation by 13.5% in order to pay the 1.0% AUM fee.  This increased allocation to stocks significantly increases the risk of our hypothetical portfolio.  And keep in mind that the historical, long-term average of stocks is just that.  It is an average and rarely is 9.5% in any given year.

But what if we could find a Financial Advisor that only charges 0.5% AUM fee?  How would that change our example above?  So, we now need to earn a gross investment return of 6.0% rather than 6.5%.  The new portfolio allocation is 55.0% * 9.5% + 35.0% * 1.85% + 10.0% * 1.0% = 6.0%.  Our main takeaways here are that the allocation to stocks only increases by 6.0% (55.0% – 49.0%), and this portfolio has a stock allocation less than 60.0%.

Now let’s look at some actual historical data.  The S&P 500 Index did not have a single down year since 2008 if we looked at the subsequent five years of stock returns.  The returns for 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012 were 26.5%, 15.1%, 2.1%, and 16.0%, respectively.  The average return over that span was 14.9%.  As of December 31, 2019, the S&P 500 Index was up 31.5% for 2019 including the reinvestment of dividends.  Now I am by no means making a prediction for 2020.  However, I wanted to drive home the fact that, if your Financial Advisor sets up your financial plan with the assumption that your stock allocation will earn 9.5% on average, any actual return lower than that estimate will cause you to not reach your target return.  What is the effect?  You will not be able to maintain the lifestyle you had planned on, even more so if there are negative returns experienced in stocks over the coming years.

Essential/Important Lesson:

Let’s look at the next five years starting in 2015.  A five-year period covers 2015-2019.  If you start out with $1,000,000 invested in stocks and plan on earning 9.5% per year, you are expecting to have $1,574,239 at the end of five years.  Let’s say that the return of stocks is only 4.5% per year over the next five years.  You will only have $1,246,182 as of December 31, 2019.  The difference is $328,057 less than you were expecting.  The analysis gets worse at this point though.  How can it get any worse?

Well, if you were planning on 9.5% returns from stocks per year, the next five-year period 2019-2023 needs an excess return to catch up.  Thus, if your starting point on January 1, 2015 is $1,000,000, your financial plan is set up to have $2,478,228 as of December 31, 2023.  If you are starting behind your estimate in 2019, the only way you can make up the difference is to have stocks earn 14.7% over that five-year period which is 5.2% higher than the historical average.  As you can see underperformance can really hurt financial planning.  The extremely important point here is that a 1.0% AUM fee will cause you to be even further behind your goals.  Remember that the illustration above is gross returns.  You only care about net returns and what your terminal value is.  Terminal value is simply a fancy way to say how much money is actually in your brokerage account.

Are Your Financial Advisor’s Fees Reasonable? A Unique Perspective – Introduction

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

This brief article introduces the topic for this article.  Since I will be looking at the issue of the reasonableness of investing fees from the viewpoint of individual investors saving for retirement or currently in retirement, I will devote separate articles to these groups.  Our journey will be an exploration of whether or not the fees you are paying to a financial professional are reasonable.  Furthermore, we will examine how the expenses affect your overall investment performance and reaching your financial goals.

Most financial professionals are charging clients based upon assets under management (AUM).  The most common fee is 1%.  For example, the fee for a $1 million portfolio would be $10,000 ($1,000,000 * 1%).  Now you have heard me talk about the importance of keeping fees as low as possible.  Essentially you are trying to maximize your investment returns each year.  If you have quite a few needs, a Financial Advisor usually can provide a number of different services and advice.  For example, you also may need assistance with legal and tax advice.  Additionally, you may have more complex financial planning needs.  Financial professionals will assist you with portfolio allocation always.

With that being said, I am going to look at AUM fees in a way that you may not be familiar with.  A significant number of induvial investors do not need all the services that financial professionals offer (e.g. tax planning, trusts, charitable giving, and more).  I can tell you already that the financial services industry is not happy with and/or does not agree with this presentation.  However, my only goal (the overarching goal of a good portion of my blog too) is to help you and provide you with an argument that may finally give you the impetus to manage your own investments or think seriously about working with a financial planner that charges fees on an hourly basis or a flat fee.

I also encourage you to read The Wall Street Journal newspaper for October 5, 2012.  On the bottom of the Business & Finance section, Jason Zweig discusses the many conflicts of interest that Financial Advisors have.  FINRA (a Self-Regulatory Organization comprised of all brokerage firms) issued a 22,000-word report about fees, conflicts, and compensation of Financial Advisors.  Oddly enough, the words “advice” and “investing” showed up less than 10 times.  The financial services industry is concerned about this matter, so you should take note and learn much more about what you are paying for.

Here is a link to the above article:

https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10000872396390443493304578038811945287932

The next article will start off with individual investors that are currently in retirement.  Then another article will come out which discusses the same ramifications for individual investors that are currently saving for retirement.

Happy New Year, Beginning Thoughts, and Information for International Viewers

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I am looking forward to sharing more information regarding investing, finance, economics, and general knowledge about the financial services industry in 2020.  I am hopeful to increase the pace with which I publish new information.  Additionally, I am happy to announce that I reached viewers in 108 countries in all six continents.  Countries from Japan, France, Germany, and Russia to Ghana, Colombia, and even Nepal.

Since the number of my international viewers has grown to nearly 30% of overall viewers of this blog I wanted to allocate a short potion of this post to the international community.  Some of my comments are most applicable to the US financial markets or the developed markets across the globe.  If you are living in a country that is considered part of the developing markets, I would strongly recommend that you seek out information in your country to see how much of my commentary is applicable to your stock or bond market and situation in general.  It is extremely important to realize that tax structure, transparency of information, and illiquidity of stock and bond can alter the value of what I might say.  During the course of the coming year, I will attempt to add in some comments to clarify the applicability.  However, as the aforementioned statistic regarding the global diversity of viewers of this blog suggests, I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge that I will not hit on all the issues important to all international individual investors.

I encourage you to take a close look at your portfolio early on in 2020.  It is a perfect time in terms of naturally wanting to divide up investing into calendar increments.  As you listen to all the predictions for the New Year, I would encourage you to look at your personal portfolio and financial goals first.  The second step is to always look at that economist’s or analyst’s predictions at the beginning of 2019.  Now I am not implying that incorrect recommendations in the previous year will mean that 2020 investing advice will be incorrect as well.

To help you with a potential way to look at the outlook for positioning your portfolio of investments, I recently published a summary on the topic of rebalancing a portfolio.  You can find the link below:

https://latticeworkwealth.com/2019/12/14/rebalancing-investment-portfolio-asset-allocation/

Now, there will always be unknown items on the horizon that make investing risky.  You hear that we need to get more visibility before investing in one particular asset class or another.  It usually means that the analyst wants to be even more certain how the global economy will unfold prior to investing.  I will remove the anticipation for you.  There will only be a certain level of confidence at any time in the financial markets.

One can always come up with reasons to not invest in stocks, bonds, or other financial assets.  The corollary also is true.  It can be tempting to believe that it is now finally “safe” to invest even more aggressively in risky stocks, bonds, or other assets.  As difficult as it might be, you need to try to take the “emotion” of the investing process.  Try to think of your portfolio as a number rather than a dollar amount.  Yes, this is extremely difficult to do.  But I would argue that it is much easier to look at asset allocation and building a portfolio if you think of the math as applied to a number instead of the dollars you have.  Emotional reaction is what leads to “buying high and selling low” or blindly following the “hot money”; that is when rationality breaks down.

Here is an experiment for you to do if you are able.  There are two shows I would recommend watching once a week.  The first show is Squawk Box on CNBC on Monday which airs from 6:00am-9:00am EST.  The second show is the Closing Bell on CNBC on Friday afternoon which airs from 3:00pm-5:00pm EST.  You only need to watch the last hour though once the stock and bond markets are closed.  Note that these shows do air each day of the week.  Now depending on whether or not you have the ability to tape these shows first and skip through commercials, this exercise will take you roughly 12-16 hours throughout the month of January.  You will be amazed at how different the stock and bond markets are interpreted in this manner.

When you remove the daily bursts of information, I am willing to bet that you will notice two things:

Firstly, Friday’s show should demonstrate that many “experts” got the weekly direction of the market wrong.  It is nearly impossible to predict the direction of the stock market over such a short period.

Secondly, Monday’s show should illustrate what a discussion of all the issues that have relatively more importance are.  However, this is not always a true statement though.  Generally though, financial commentators and guests appearing on the show will have had the entire weekend to reflect on developments in the global financial markets and current events.  Since the stock, bond, and foreign exchange markets are closed on Saturday and Sunday, there is “forced” reflection for most institutional investors, asset managers, research analysts, economists, and traders.  The information provided is usually much more thoughtful and insightful.

I believe that the exercise will encourage you to spend less time attempting to know everything about the markets; rather, it may be more helpful to carefully allocate your time to learning about the financial markets.  After you devote your time to watching CNBC in this experiment, I recommend one other ongoing personal experiment.  Try picking three financial market guests that appear on CNBC during January and see how closely their predictions match reality.  You might want to check in once a month or so.  I think that this exercise will show you how futile it is to try and time and predict the direction/magnitude of the stock market and other financial markets too (e.g. bonds and real estate).

Best of luck to you in 2020!  As always, I would encourage anyone to send in comments or suggestions for future topics to my email address at latticeworkwealth@gmail.com.

Rebalancing Your Investment Portfolio – Overview

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

With the end of the year fast approaching, it is an excellent time to discuss the concept of rebalancing one’s investment portfolio.  The simplest definition of rebalancing is the periodic reallocation of an investment portfolio back to the original percentages desired.  The fluctuations of the financial markets over time will inevitably alter the amount of exposure in one’s investment portfolio to different types of assets.  The jargon in the financial services industry is your asset allocation

These changes may cause the portfolio to be suboptimal given an individual investor’s financial goals and tolerance for risk.  Knowing about rebalancing is so important because it is one of the most effective ways to eliminate, or at least reduce, the emotions surrounding investment decisions that affect even professional investors.  Additionally, numerous academic studies have concluded that 85% of the overall return of an investment portfolio comes from asset allocation.

I published a three-part series of articles to define and explain the various nuances of rebalancing an individual investor’s investment portfolio several years ago.  However, I thought that it would be a great idea to bring it back as an updated version because the end of the year is fast approaching.  The first article covers the definition of rebalancing in its entirety.  Furthermore, the article looks at an illustration of how rebalancing works in the real world.  It offers an introduction to this important investing tool.  The link to the complete article can be found here:

https://latticeworkwealth.com/2015/07/16/how-to-rebalance-your-investment-portfolio-part-1-of-3/

The second article discusses a unique way to get assistance with rebalancing an investment portfolio.  Many of the largest asset managers in the financial services industry, such as Vanguard, Fidelity, and T Rowe Price, offer life cycle or target date mutual funds.  These mutual funds have a predefined year that the individual investor intends to retire.  Moreover, the combination of assets in the mutual fund is structured to change over time and become less risky as the target date approaches.

Since these mutual funds report their holdings on a periodic basis, any individual investor is able to replicate the strategy for free.  Plus, another feature is that an individual investor can be more conservative or aggressive than his/her age warrants according to the mutual fund family’s calculations.  The individual investor is able to pick a target date closer than the endpoint (i.e. more conservative) or pick a target date later than the endpoint (i.e. more aggressive).  For a more comprehensive discussion of this facet of rebalancing an investment portfolio follow this link:

https://latticeworkwealth.com/2015/07/29/how-to-rebalance-your-investment-portfolio-part-2-of-3/

The third and final article discusses the most advanced feature of rebalancing utilized by a subset of individual investors.  The investing strategy is referred to as dynamic rebalancing in most investment circles.  Dynamic rebalancing follows the general tenets of rebalancing.  However, it allows the individual investor to exercise more flexibility during the rebalancing process of the investment portfolio.  Essentially the individual investor determines bands or ranges of acceptable exposures to asset classes or components within the investment portfolio.

For example, a lower bound and upper bound for the asset allocation percentage to stocks is set.  The individual investor is free to allocate monies to stocks no less than the lower bound and no more than the upper bound.  Note that the bands or ranges are normally fairly tight and applies to the subcomponents of the investment portfolio, such as small cap stocks, emerging market stocks, international bonds, and so forth.  To learn more about this fairly complex aspect of rebalancing follow this link:

https://latticeworkwealth.com/2015/11/21/how-to-rebalance-your-investment-portfolio-part-3-of-3/

The articles above capture the vast majority of information individual investors need to know about rebalancing an investment portfolio.  It is good to get a head start on learning about or reviewing this topic prior to the end of the year.  The reason is that most rebalancing plans utilize the end of the calendar year as the periodic adjustment timeframe.

Top Five Investing Articles for Individual Investors Read in 2019

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

As the end of 2019 looms, I wanted to share a recap of the five most viewed articles I have written over the past year.  The list is in descending order of overall views.  Additionally, I have included the top viewed article of all time on my investing blog.  Individual investors have consistently been coming back to that one article.

1. Before You Take Any Investment, Advice Consider the Source – Version 2.0

Here is a link to the article:

https://latticeworkwealth.com/2019/09/18/investment-advice-cognitive-bias/

This article discusses the fact that even financial professionals have cognitive biases, not just individual investors.  I include myself in the discussion, talk about Warren Buffett, and also give some context around financial market history to understand how and why financial professionals fall victim to these cognitive biases.

2.  How to Become a Successful Long-Term Investor – Understanding Stock Market Returns – 1 of 3

Here is a link to the article:

https://latticeworkwealth.com/2019/09/23/successful-long-term-investing/

It is paramount to remember that you need to understand at least some of the history of stock market returns prior to investing one dollar in stocks.  Without that understanding, you unknowingly set yourself up for constant failure throughout your investing career.

3.  How to Become a Successful Long-Term Investor – Understanding Risk – 2 of 3

Here is a link to the article:

https://latticeworkwealth.com/2019/09/25/successful-long-term-investor-risk/

This second article in the series talks about how to assess your risk for stocks by incorporating what the past history of stock market returns has been.  If you know about the past, you can better prepare yourself for the future and develop a more accurate risk tolerance that will guide you to investing in the proper portfolios of stocks, bonds, cash, and other assets.

4.  Breakthrough Drugs, Anecdotes, and Statistics – Statistics and Time Series Data – 2 of 3

Here is a link to the article:

https://latticeworkwealth.com/2019/11/20/breakthrough-drugs-statistics-and-anecdotes-time-series-statistics/

I go into detail, without getting too granular and focusing on math, about why statistics and time series data can be misused by even financial market professionals.  Additionally, you need to be aware of some of the presentations, articles, and comments that financial professionals use.  If they make these errors, you will be able to take their comments “with a grain of salt”.

5.  Breakthrough Drugs, Anecdotes, and Statistics – Introduction – 1 of 3

Here is a link to the article:

https://latticeworkwealth.com/2019/11/11/breakthrough-drugs-statistics-and-anecdotes-investing/

I kick off this important discussion about the misleading and/or misuse of statistics by the financial media sometimes with an example of the testing done on new drugs.  Once you understand why the FDA includes so many people in its drug trials, you can utilize that thought process when you are bombarded with information from the print and television financial media.  Oftentimes, the statistics cited are truly just anecdotal and offer you absolutely no guidance on how to invest.

                                       Top of All Time

Are Your Financial Advisor’s Fees Reasonable?  Here is a Unique Way to Look at What Clients Pay For

Here is a link to the article:

https://latticeworkwealth.com/2013/08/07/are-your-financial-advisors-fees-reasonable-here-is-a-unique-way-to-look-at-what-clients-pay-for/

This article gets the most views and is quite possibly the most controversial.  Individual investors compliment me on its contents while Financial Advisors have lots of complaints.  Keep in mind that my overall goal with this investing blog is to provide individual investors with information that can be used.  Many times though, the information is something that some in the financial industry would rather not talk about.

The basic premise is to remember that, when it comes to investing fees, you need to start with the realization that you have the money going into your investment portfolio to begin with.  Your first option would be to simply keep it in a checking or savings account.  It is very common to be charged a financial advisory fee based upon the total amount in your brokerage account and the most common is 1%.  For example, if you have $250,000 in all, your annual fee would be $2,500 ($250,000 * 1%).

But at the end of the day, the value provided by your investment advisory is how much your brokerage account will grow in the absence of what you can already do yourself.  Essentially you divide your fee by the increase in your brokerage account that year.  Going back to the same example, if your account increases by $20,000 during the year, your actual annual fee based upon the value of the advice you receive is 12.5% ($2,500 divided by $20,000).  And yes, this way of looking at investing fees is unique and doesn’t always sit well with some financial professionals.

In summary and in reference to the entire list, I hope you enjoy this list of articles from the past year.  If you have any investing topics that would be beneficial to cover in 2020, please feel free to leave the suggestions in the comments.

Breakthrough Drugs, Statistics, and Anecdotes: Three Things Every Individual Investor Needs to Know – Yield Curve Inversion and Recession – Part 3 of 3

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Here is the last article related to our discussion of observations by the financial media with only a handful of observations, statistics, and time series data.  The goal here is to provide an actual example to see what some of the pitfalls are.  Prior to starting that discussion, I wanted to provide links to the first and second articles:

The first article laid the groundwork for the idea that there are many misuses of statistics and related items which appear most everyday in the print and television financial media.  Here is a link:

https://latticeworkwealth.com/2019/11/11/breakthrough-drugs-statistics-and-anecdotes-investing/

The second article focused more on time series data and using the normal distribution to make conclusions and predictions about the financial markets.  As promised, I will be posting a more detailed mathematical article as a supplement.  However, the point of this article is only to make you aware of what to look for in general.  You do not need to feel the need to get very granular.  The audience that really wants more information has contacted me offline and is very small.  Here is a link:

https://latticeworkwealth.com/2019/11/20/breakthrough-drugs-statistics-and-anecdotes-time-series-statistics/

Now let’s begin our journey to sum up these two articles by using the specific example of a “yield curve inversion”.  First, what exactly is the yield curve?  Okay, we are going to keep this explanation simple.  The point of this article is not to become an expert on bond yields.  The yield curve is simply the interest rate (referred to as “coupon” in the financial jargon) of bonds at certain maturities.  For U.S. Treasury issues, you normally look at the interest rate on one-month, three-month, and six-month  U.S. Treasury Bills.  Then you add in one-year, two-year, three-year, five-year, seven-year, and ten-year U.S. Treasury Notes.  And finally, you have the thirty-year Treasury Bonds (otherwise referred to as the “long bond” in financial jargon).  Why bills, notes, and bond?  It is simply a naming convention for all U.S. Treasury debt less than twelve-months is a bill, between one-year and ten-years is a note, and anything greater than ten-years is a bond.  Once you know all those interest rates, you draw a line that connects all of those interest rates from one-month U.S. Treasury Bills all the way to thirty-year U.S. Treasury Bonds.

Why do people focus on this?  Well, first, you would expect that interest rates for one-month bills to be lower than thirty-year bonds.  Think of it like this:  if your friend borrowed $20 and was going to pay you back at the end of the week or in three years.  What interest rate would you charge him/her?  Now a totally altruistic person would say nothing.  But let’s say you are trying to teach your kids the value of money.  Most people would charge a greater amount of interest for three years compared to one week.  The U.S. Treasury debt market works very similarly.  People who loan the government money for one month normally demand a lower interest rate than those people who are going to have to wait thirty years to get their money back.  When the economy is growing normally, the yield curve is called steep.  It goes from lower interest rates and gradually moves higher.  But that is not the only shape of the yield curve possible.

The other two are flat and inverted.  A flat yield curve simply means that interest rates all along the various maturities are pretty much the same.  Now, as our article will shift to, an inverted yield curve means that closer maturities actually have a higher interest rate than the very long-term maturities.  Why does this happen?  Well, most economists and financial professionals will tell you that the economy is slowing down and a recession is coming.  Why?  The last 7-8 recessions were preceded by a yield curve inversion.  Let’s take a look at the yield curve over time by comparing two-year U.S. Treasury Notes with ten-year U.S. Treasury Notes.  Keep in mind that we are taking a look at the difference between the two.  A number that is positive means that interest rates are higher for ten-year bonds and a negative number means just the opposite.

Here is a daily comparison from June 1, 1976 through November 6, 2019:

Daily Spreads - All Data

Here is the same comparison but on a monthly basis:

Monthly Spreads - All Data

I used a graph of the month difference (“spread”) to smooth out some of the volatility.  Now if you remember your economic history, you will notice that there are negative “spreads” that occur prior to a downturn in the U.S. economy.  Let’s focus on the yield curve inversion prior to the Financial Crisis.  As you can see, the yield curve was inverted at various times over the course of 2006 to 2008.  It took approximately two years from the yield curve inversion before the Financial Crisis hit in full force in September 2008.  Because this pattern has occurred before, economists and financial professionals appearing on television or writing articles have pointed to the yield curve inversion just recently.

But you should take a closer look at the latest inversion of the yield curve.  It is only a small difference and only lasted for a short period of time.  I will blow it up to investigate and will show November 1, 2018 through October 31, 2019:

Daily Spreads - 2018 to 2019

I had to use a one-year timeframe to even be able to get the difference in interest rates to show up.  So, for a period during August 2019 and September 2019,  there were a plethora of financial markets’ articles and television commentators who talked about how soon a recession would take place in the U.S. economy.  In fact, there were days when over 25% of the day’s coverage of financial market news focused only on this yield curve inversion.  Now, will the U.S. economy go into recession in the next 12-24 months?  Well, that is still an open question.  The main point is that the financial news media focus on things that have similar patterns for only a brief period of time.  Even worse though, financial “experts” who know very little about the bond market and economics start making predictions.  And, as I have said many times in the past, the financial news media rarely, if ever, invites guests back or has another article written about how wrong they were.

Lastly, you will sometimes here people say that there is a 30% chance that the U.S. economy will enter a recession in the next 12-24 months.  Where does that percentage come from?  Oftentimes, it is a “best guess”.  Unless you hear that same financial professional talk about a probity econometric model that came up with that percentage of recession probability, you should take the comment with a “grain of salt”.  Trust me though, most financial professionals are not running probit models when they tell you their opinion on this matter (related to an inverted yield curve or due to another topics/event).  In the supplemental article that is forthcoming, I will actually discuss a panel probit model that the Bank of International Settlements (BIS) just ran to look at the phenomenon of yield curve inversion preceding a recession in an economy.  It is not that the percentages derived are “correct” per se.  The important point is that they are not “pulled out of a hat” by someone.

I hope that this series of articles has been helpful in covering this important topic.  The main takeaway is that, whenever you hear or read about a financial market prediction, you should always look to see how many examples (observations) are being used.  If it is less than 30, you should not take it very seriously at all.  Additionally, any time series data that is trending upward or downward cannot be used to talk about the financial markets.  Remember you need to first-difference the time series data or adjust it in some other manner.  Why?  Otherwise, there may be correlations between two or more time series that just are not really there because the trend dominates.  (Please refer to the second article for more information in this regard).  So, please be more aware and skeptical of what you hear or read.  It is not that the information/prediction is totally wrong.  The salient thing is that it should be based on sound statistics and mathematics.