A lot of new investors have found their way into the stock market since the pandemic started. My own kids included. It’s interesting to see the different strategies that these new investors are drawn to. I’m not surprised by their interest in the latest hot stocks. I’m not even surprised by their interest in crypto & NFTs. But I am surprised at how many are looking at high yielding funds. Some of the allure here seems to be wrapped up in visions of early retirement. I think I understand that one!
Are high yield funds a good approach towards achieving early financial independence? Are these funds good choices for those already retired?
I picked two funds that are popular with income investing groups to compare against the market. I wasn’t cherry picking here, I just went with a couple that are popular with some of the groups & blogs I follow online. Overall it came out as I expected, but there were some surprises in the detail. And the devil is always in the detail! For fun, I threw one of Canada’s big banks into the mix. Both fund selections are closed-end funds with high yields. The American-listed fund currently has a yield around 20% & the Canadian-listed one is about 10%. The bank’s dividend is a little over 4.2%.
Those are very different yield numbers but, let’s be real here, it’s hard not to like a 20% yield!
Usually, it’s older investors who are attracted to yield. There is a lot of psychological comfort in retiring with a portfolio that generates enough yield to live on. Without having to sell shares. Younger investors who dream of early retirement are usually more focused on growth. Once the target portfolio size is reached & retirement beckons, it’s then the focus switches to income. That seems to make sense. But some young investors, still in the accumulation stage, are buying these high-yielding funds long before they need an income stream. They are reinvesting the distributions during the accumulation phase & that makes for great income stream growth …
That’s pretty cool, eh? The big yielding funds are crushing the bank’s income stream. And all three are growing the income stream very nicely. But that’s with all the dividends & distributions getting reinvested. When you retire, whether you do that at a young age or at 65, the income stream is now used to cover living expenses. In other words, the dividend reinvesting may stop.
This is what happens to the income stream when you stop reinvesting the distributions …
That’s a very different picture now. The distribution from the very high yield fund is dropping with each passing year, the distribution from the Canadian fund is flat, & the income stream from the bank is increasing year by year. In 2022, based on the performance up to now, the bank will likely surpass the income stream from both funds.
Which of these would you like to have as part of your portfolio going into retirement?
Let’s look at something that might be more important for the young investor … portfolio growth.
Here is the CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) of the investments, compared to a low-cost ETF that tracks the S&P 500® index. This one shows the annual growth with all distributions reinvested. To be honest, none of these are too shabby, eh!
And this one shows the growth when the distributions are not reinvested.
In either scenario, going left to right, the better the return. When the distributions were reinvested, the lower yielding options still provided better returns. How could this happen? The US fund had a declining share price over those years. The Canadian fund share price finished 2021 slightly above the share price at the start of 2010. The bank & the index ETF provided the bulk of their returns from growth. I’m not suggesting that any of these investments are better or worse. That will depend on individual needs, which can also change over time. A young investor, with a long investing horizon, will usually have different requirements than an older investor going into retirement.
Even individual retirees will have slightly different needs. One retiree might maintain a growth focus on his personal investments because he has a decent DB pension. Just to maintain a standard of living, another might need a growing income stream to keep ahead of inflation, the big bank might appeal here. While a third might want to maximize income during the early retirement years, so high yield could be more important for this investor. Maybe her husband wants to go nuts travelling while they still can!
It’s possible that you’ll find any or all of the above investments in all three retirees’ portfolios. Though likely in different proportions.
I didn’t compare the results for other funds or stocks, nor did I look at the results over different time periods. When comparing investments, it’s worth checking from a variety of angles. It’s much more than comparing simple share price returns. Total return considers the share price appreciation (or not!) & the dividend income. Beyond that, consider the returns with & without dividends reinvested. This exercise is just one example of why these comparisons are important. Understanding the implications of different investments can help develop a stronger investing strategy. One that might better match what you are trying to achieve. But every contender for a spot in a portfolio should probably be reviewed from a total return perspective. Investigate & evaluate. Carefully!
For a young investor that can tolerate the roller-coaster ride of the market, over the timeframe this example covers, it looks like the advice of Messrs. Buffett & Bogle came out ahead. The index tracking fund provided the greater total return.
Important – this is not investing advice, it is for entertainment & educational purposes only. Do your own due diligence & seek professional advice before investing your money.