Investing in Everyone's Future

8 tough questions to ask your potential investment advisor

During my career I’ve been interviewed several hundred times by potential clients.  In almost every case during the interview the prospective client runs out of questions very quickly.  Investors just don’t know what to ask.   You can find many good questions with the aid of a Google search and every advisor will be able to answer them.   But what about questions that could separate the good from the exceptional? It would not be an exaggeration to state that skill and knowledge of your investment advisor can have a significant impact on your future.   Ideally what you’re looking for is someone who can guide your assets smoothly in good times.  Then, not be surprised and unprepared during the bad times.  You’re not looking for perfection as it doesn’t exist. Take most sales pitches with a grain of salt, the interviewee may sound convincing but how do you really know?  You have to ask the right questions and below are a few that should help your process. These questions are really designed to be directed to professionals who actually manage client assets such as RIA’s or portfolio managers. If you’re interviewing a Financial Planner  they may not be able to answer one or more.  FP’s are commonly generalists and defer client assets to products such as mutual funds, insurance or Exchange Traded Funds so they may not have the necessary expertise. “Are you a fee based advisor or do you work on commission?” Commission-based advisors or brokers may not follow your investments performance as compared to a fee-based advisor.  In general, they’re salespeople who represent a brokerage firm. Fee-based...

When is a good time to sell?

When is a good time to sell? (Answer: not now) March 2017 Summary: US equity markets remain in a strong uptrend which shows no signs of abating. Markets that have broken out from multi-years of trendless behavior can last for quite a while and deliver significant returns. So at this point we need to sit tight and let the rally continue and grow our equity. I will continue to allow our good performing stocks run as far as they’re trends remain intact. Almost all the activity in your accounts is related to the laggards and losers as I have minimal patience when better options present themselves. Our focus remains on the two best performing industries: Semiconductors and Finance. In addition, I’m seeing a change in character in two industries thought to be in the dumpster: Solar and phones companies (Specifically, Canadian Solar -CSIQ, America Movil -AMX and Nokia -NOK). If any of these stocks are genuinely in a new upward long term trend they would likely be home run stocks, but time will tell. Treasury bonds and interest rate related securities continue to act poorly and are to be avoided. This poor action is a positive sign for stocks as they’re a sign of a healthy economy. _________________________ Markets and economies are cyclical and you can add recessions/bear markets to the death and taxes mantra of sure things we’ll experience. In these letters in the past I’ve generally focused on the economy or interest rates as a tool to identify high risk environments. So, in this letter I want to spend a little time on what I call our...

Our Kiva.org loan portfolio

Perhaps that I feel some works of charity should not be hyped.  I’m very old fashioned in that regard and view that charity should not come with strings nor attention but times are changing.  I’ve always admired when an athlete or celebrity engages in some charity but demands there be no publicity.  May the angels come to your rescue if you publicized all-time hockey great Bobby Orr spending an afternoon with a Cancer stricken child and family in his own home. That being said, I’ve been asked to mention that since April 2015 a portion of our client fee’s have been donated to Kiva.org The current administration’s view of withdrawing financial aid to needy countries and causes places everyday people and organizations to fill in the gaps.  I expect we’ll see some form of activist funding to fill in the gaps voided by new administration policies for the Arts, Planned Parenthood, school lunches, homelessness, military family support, climate change and technology, LGBT rights, etc. We’re just doing our bit. If you never heard of Kiva.org they’re a non-profit micro lender for small borrowers around the globe.  They offer funding to vast array of borrowers and purposes in some of the most dangerous and remote parts of the world. Quarterly, we allocate a portion of our collected client fees and assign them to Kiva for loans.   When the loans are repaid (some do default) the funds are recycled to new loans.  In my mind there is no “profit” in these loans and we don’t intend to ever reclaim the funds.  We intend to let them recycle through the Kiva system indefinitely. We’ve made...

Performance update on the Vegan Growth Portfolio

I should get around to doing this more often as we are in the minority when it comes to investment advisors willing to post portfolios and returns.  I’ve advocated for years that retail investors don’t have to settle for the returns offered by indexers and robo-advisory firms.  Robo’s are cheap but you won’t receive what we offer in terms of returns and bear market protection. The Vegan Growth Portfolio is a name we use to describe the concept of investing with Vegan perspective.  Its a diversified portfolio that usually has about 30 holdings when fully invested.   When our indicators tell us that when stock market risk in unacceptable due to the potential for recession we reduce our stock holding and focus on Treasury bonds or cash. Collective2.com offers a unique opportunity to create a mirror portfolio of our client holdings in the Vegan Growth Portfolio.   In other words, the same day we buy or sell a stock for our clients we also buy or sell it in the VGP.  The price may differ by a small amount but the Vegan Growth Portfolio shown on Collective2.com is close approximation to our client accounts. As you can see we are soon arriving to the important 5-year return milestone.  As of 2/24/2017 the compounded annualized rate of return is 17.3% which is net of all fees and expenses.  The gross (before fees) return is 18.8% per annum. We respectfully ask when a potential client’s first question revolves around fee’s is which would you prefer:  Make 4%-6% net at a indexer or robo-advisor like Betterment or our returns which charge more?...

In Loving Memory

In loving memory of our dear girl Alexei who passed away today from cancer at just 5 1/2 years old.  Many thanks to Dr. Boo and the caregivers at Colorado State University Veterinary hospital, we did all we could to help her. Our ranch and family will never be the...

Reflections On A New Era

The next four years could be a bit awkward especially for new readers.   One might assume that I applaud the Trump Presidency but my political and social views are of secondary concern.  My role is to interpret the direction and behavior of policies and markets and hopefully be on target. Quick Summary of 2016: One year ago our base case scenario was the economy and markets were rolling over into recession and that downside risk of stocks was much greater than the potential upside.  This proved to be the correct assumption as many categories of stocks (especially Value stocks) were in full-fledged bear markets.  We avoided a sharp 15% decline in January-March and the Brexit decline in July.   During the April-May period forward looking economic data began to improve sharply and the recession was avoided (first time for such a turnaround since 1985).   While I deeply regret lagging the major indices in performance this year, the risk/reward last Spring was disproportionally negative and preservation of principal is always my #1 priority.   2016 will represent an economic mid-cycle bottom which supports the prospects of acceleration in 2017. Below is a basic trend model which uses the 12 month moving average (ma) of the S&P 500.  When the SPX is above the 12 month ma the trend is bullish/positive.  Moves below the 12 month ma indicate a potential change in trend and a time for caution.  It’s not perfect but when combined with an eroding economy the results can be devastating to the Buy and Hold investor not paying attention.       And then there was the election…… We’ve now...

The false virtue of simplicity

When markets rise inexperienced investors want to buy and hold and view simplicity within investing as a virtue. When markets fall investors wish their adviser had a risk strategy that raised cash which by default increases transactions and complexity. A few $8 trades can save tens of thousands of $ and allows you to buy in after the bottom. You can’t have it both ways. Brad...

Waiting for the fat pitch

Our mean reversion strategy has reached the point where a low risk entry point can be made but we continue to wait.   Rising poll numbers and increasing odds for the Republican candidate continue to put pressure on US markets.  Markets can continue to increase their oversold status by becoming more so but that may also mean a stronger resulting rally. Should the Republican candidate win next week I would expect a sharp woosh down in US stocks and the USD.   At some point there will be stability where new positions can be established. Since everyone seems to be concerned with the negatives, there are important positives to consider: The 50 day moving average of the SP500 remains above the 200 day moving average and GDP growth is accelerating (These are not bear market conditions). Since the newsletter being sent to clients two days ago our cash position has increased to 50%+. Should HRC win the presidency I’d expect markets to stabilize after the election.  In the meantime high cash levels will be maintaned. november-2016-client-letter Brad...