Market Crash Lessons

What Next?

I’m trying to encourage my kids to save & invest while they are young. As usual, Dad’s advice turns to muck pretty much right off the bat. The markets tanked. I tell them, with great confidence & authority, that it’s just noise. To keep on saving & investing. That they’re just buying the good stuff on sale now. Listen to Dad.

There are lots of experts out there with advice on how to handle market losses. I must admit, I’m not one of them. I failed my biggest test back during the dot-com crash. I sold off all but one of my holdings then. The only one I held onto went to zero. All the stocks I sold would have made me money. Had I held onto them! What do you think I learned from that experience?

Stay out of the market, it’s just a lottery? Yeah, I did that for a while. Too long a while. But no, that’s not it … the lesson I seem to have learned is to be afraid of selling anything!

Nowadays, rather than chase what’s hot, I buy what’s not. Most of my investments are in bigger, bluer, dividend-growth companies. Or in ETFs that hold companies like that. But that doesn’t make a downward spiral any more enjoyable. Turns out big blue-chips can go down too. I have the same dilemma today: I don’t know if I should sell, hold, or buy more. Not knowing, I do what I do best … nothing! My stocks just sit there, showing red, & I do nothing. The automatic DRIP adds new shares on dividend pay days. I don’t need to do anything with that either.

I have neither the quant skills nor the psychic ability to figure out what happens next in the market. Instead, I’m trying to get more comfortable just doing nothing. It reminds me of the few times in my career where the future of my employment was at risk. When I lost my jobs back then, I had no other sources of income. But I survived. Between the individual stocks & ETFs I own today, I own little pieces of hundreds of companies. What are the chances they’ll all fire me at the same time & kill the dividends? Pretty slim, I think.
What are the chances that they’ll all go to zero? While there are no guarantees, that’s pretty unlikely too.

For a lazy & conflicted investor like me, it was almost a relief when I came round to thinking that doing nothing might be best. I still worry every time I see the market drop further. I wish I could just stop looking. I can’t. But, so far, I’m sticking with the do nothing strategy.

Only time will tell if if I can keep on doing that. And if that was the right thing to do. Especially for the sake of my kids! 😜

Hurricane Investing

Sunset After Fiona

We were very fortunate during Hurricane Fiona & suffered no loss or damage. Our power went out around 5am yesterday but it was back on again, just shy of 6pm, the same day. There are still hundreds of thousands of people without power, & worse, in Atlantic Canada. I hope things get back to normal for everyone quickly. Here, I’m looking at my small challenges of yesterday from an investing perspective.

My power is delivered by a division of Emera (EMA) & they had proactively engaged the assistance of power workers from neighbouring provinces & states in anticipation of the challenges that Fiona would bring to our doorstep. Fortis (FTS) was similarly preparing for events in PEI & Newfoundland. My Telus (T) cellphone remained my only source of information throughout the day & I was able to pick up the latest news from CTV Atlantic on my phone. CTV Atlantic is owned by the media division of BCE Inc. (BCE). A division of that company delivers my internet & cable TV services too. My home is heated by natural gas that comes from a division of AltaGas (ALA) & Enbridge (ENB) also has natural gas delivery infrastructure on the east coast. I filled up ahead of time but, during less stressful times, my local gas station is also a good stop for a coffee & a sandwich at the Circle K convenience store. This is operated by Alimentation Couche-Tard (ATD). Most of us gassed up ahead of the hurricane. Canada’s energy & pipeline companies (CNQ, SU, TRP & many more) all keep us moving. Emergency workers & us regular folk all need to be able to get to those in need, to family & friends, during & after an event like this. Though all the supermarkets in the immediate vicinity were closed, we found a Sobey’s about fifteen minutes away that was open & fully functional. Sobey’s is owned by the Empire Company (EMP.A). There were very few coffee shops open &, even in normal times, everyone is always desperate for a coffee. Those few Timmy’s that still had power had long lineups. Very long lineups! Tim Horton’s is part of Restaurant Brands International (QSR). While it’s always useful to have some cash, all the bank cards seemed to be working at any location with power. The banks (RY, BNS, TD, BMO, NA, CM) were doing their thing during the hurricane too.

Insurance providers, healthcare businesses, construction companies all have a part to play at times like this but I’ll stop now, you get where I’m coming from, eh? Sometimes, the companies we complain about during “normal” times are the ones we depend on when times get tough. I used to complain about paying the price for the products or services that these companies provide. But I moan a whole lot less when I truly need them. And, as a shareholder, the perspective changes too. I tend to complain less when I own a piece of the business. That doesn’t mean we can just buy shares in any company we like, any time we like. Nor does it mean that we can just buy shares in any company that we complain about. While many of these companies fulfill needs that are important to how we live our lives, we still need to figure out if the company offers value to us as an investment going forward.

Fiona made me think a little differently about some of the stocks in my portfolio. I don’t directly own shares in all those mentioned above, but I do hold many of them. And it wouldn’t surprise me if the missing ones are in an ETF I own.

Fiona is finally moving on. Thankfully. Here’s hoping the recovery process goes well for all those impacted by her passage. Stay safe out there.

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.

Growth vs Income Investments

Crypto, NFTs, or Boring Old People’s Stuff!?!

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 …

Income Stream with Dividends & Distributions Reinvested

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 …

Income Stream with Dividends & Distributions Removed for Living Expenses

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.