How to prepare for market corrections and advances

How-to-Prepare-for-Market-Corrections-and-Advances

By Adrian Mastracci

Special to FindependenceDay.com

Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.” —Jim Ryun, Olympic runner

We’re working our way through the fourth quarter 2017. Many stock indices have been hovering near their tops and often keep making new highs. Daily headlines are typically a mixed bag of fears and optimism. They are often interpreted as indications of possible changes in market direction.

Some themes really stand out. For example, NAFTA talks are topics du jour in the US, Mexico and Canada. The United Kingdom is wrestling with Brexit implications. German politics are entertaining altering the seating arrangements.

Many stock indices hover near their tops and keep making new highs.

China faces pressures from increasing debt levels. US tax cut battles keep marching along. Several faces will soon change at the US Federal Reserve. Rising interest rate discussions send chills down the spines of borrowers. These few points alone are forceful enough to create trepidation in investor minds. You will have no difficulty finding headlines for every investment neighbourhood.

As a result, investors develop itchy fingers that want to migrate to the safety of the sidelines, whether it’s beneficial or not. Of course, these investors that have the need for action will make the crucial timing calls on what to buy or sell. Everyone should know by now that timing the markets is a low percentage approach, fraught with many dangers.

My Observation

This brings me to one important observation. Wise investors are in the habit of investigating what it takes to be well prepared for both market corrections and advances. They have at least sketched out a rough game plan for each case on the back of the napkin. Something to get started, aiming for the right path. I encourage you to become conversant with what you would likely do with stocks and bonds during bullish and bearish markets.

Most investors that think in this fashion prefer to have some framework of how to approach the uncertainties that come their way. Just some simple ideas are required to get started. The best news is that today’s planning is being conducted while stock prices are high.

Finding the motivation to be informed is a welcome initial step. Perhaps, discussions with your investment professional will shine more light on what actions are in your best interests. Reconfirming your family risk profile is also time well spent. Hopefully, these efforts lead to more disciplined planning for the precious nest egg. The main mission is to reach and deliver your retirement objectives.

Seasoned investors are well aware that diversification and rebalancing strategies are part and parcel of this logical planning approach. I cannot emphasize that enough as nobody knows where the markets are headed or when a directional turn comes around the curve. Bells do not ring when the time is ripe to make portfolio changes. Neither at the top, nor at the bottom.

My Recommendation Read more

The Single Best Investment

 singlebestThe Single Best Investment: Creating Wealth with Dividend Growth, is the title of a classic investment book first published in 2006 by Lowell Miller, who heads Miller/Howard Investments.

It came to my attention via Wes Moss, who I interviewed for an upcoming MoneySense column, whose book You Can Retire Sooner Than You Think we reviewed here at the Hub. I mentioned the book in passing last week in this MoneySense blog last week. That blog focused on asset allocation but provided a big hint about Miller’s philosophy: there’s no place for bonds in Lowell’s investment worldview.

The book’s first chapter sets the tone in its title: Say goodbye to bonds and hello to bouncing principal. Like many stock believers and bond haters, Miller takes it as a given that the investing environment generally includes inflation. Since “safe” investments like t-bills, bonds, money market mutual funds and CDs (Certificates of Deposits in his native USA; known as GICs in Canada) are all “poor investments because what they give is less than inflation takes away.” Read more

How my novel harness-race betting strategy relates to investing

Harness racing. Racing horses harnessed to lightweight strollers.

Go horse #5!

Here’s my latest MoneySense blog, which bears the headline When dividend investing trumps a balanced portfolio.

That’s an accurate depiction of the content but here at the Hub we’re sticking with the more offbeat headline used above. Because this column really does begin with a true story about harness racing in Florida.

How can that possibly relate to asset allocation and dividend investing? Click the above link to find out, or the Hub’s version below. And yes, the happy winner depicted below clutching a winning ticket is my wife, Ruth Snowden.

She’s known in her industry by that name. When we got married more than a quarter century ago she was concerned I might take offence that she didn’t want to use my surname in business circles. My response won’t surprise those who know us: “Honey, you can call yourself whatever you want as long as you pay half the mortgage!”. Of course, the mortgage has long been paid off, consistent with the Hub’s philosophy that “the foundation of Financial Independence is a paid-for home.” Read more

Lifestyle Rebalancing

Pretty scary markets the last few weeks! Here’s my latest MoneySense blog, entitled A different kind of rebalancing. It looks at the topic of rebalancing not just from an asset class perspective but also from a lifestyle point of view. Mind you, it was written in the summer and recounted what I was doing in the spring when markets were still moving to ever-higher records.

Right now? Not so much!

The dawn of the “light advice” investing model

You may have heard the phrase “robo-adviser” but as implemented in Canada, the phrase “light advice” may be more appropriate.

Read more here in my column in the Financial Post.

For purposes of continuity and “one-stop-shopping” I’ve included the piece below, and added the minor clarification that Wealth Simple has now received regulatory approval.

NauvzerBabul

Nauvzer Babul, founder of smartmoneyinvest.ca

The term robo-advisor has come into widespread use in recent months, with a handful of firms starting up in Canada.

The model for this is Palo Alto, Calif.-based WealthFront, founded in 2008. It describes itself as an “automated investment service.” It assembles portfolios of passively managed exchange-traded funds (ETFs), matching client investment objectives and risk tolerance to the ETF selection, with appropriate asset allocation and regular rebalancing.

The fees are low: nothing on accounts below US$10,000 and after that it bills clients monthly at a rate equivalent to 0.25% annually of assets under management (plus the fees of the underlying ETFs, many of which are from Vanguard).

Subscription-based Couch Potato service

One of the first Canadian equivalents is Toronto-based NestWealth.com, launched by Randy Cass starting in Ontario and set to roll out nationally this year. I call this a “subscription-based Couch Potato service.” Cass got the idea from watching his son watch the subscription-based Web TV service, Netflix.

For $80/month (or $40/month for those under 40) customers can “subscribe” to a service that chooses and monitors a portfolio of ETFs — selected from Vanguard Canada and Black Rock Canada’s iShares families. As with similar services, NestWealth will worry about asset allocation and rebalancing.

Wealth Simple now approved

Awaiting regulatory approval — now received — is Michael Katchen’s WealthSimple, a “light advice” model that takes a more traditional approach of levying an annual asset-based fee of 0.5%, which will be above and beyond the underlying fees of the ETFs themselves. Fees taper down with higher amounts of wealth.

SmartMoneyInvest.ca about to launch

Also about to launch is another Toronto-based firm called Smart Money Capital Management, which will operate on the web as www.smartmoneyinvest.ca. Founder and managing director Nauvzer Babul told me in an interview that “no one in this space calls themselves robo advisors. The term was coined in the United States, where everything is very automated. My goal is to be between that and where we are in the Canadian investing space, where there is advice and a person to meet with. Clients can speak with live people who try to understand their risk tolerance and understanding, then develop a portfolio around that. There’s definitely human interaction.”

At least in the Canadian model, “light advice” seems a better description than “robo-advisor.” In any case, fees will be higher than what do-it-yourself (DIY) investors would pay buying their own ETFs at discount brokerages (perhaps aided by some fee-for-service advice from a human financial planner). On the other hand, fees of these automated or semi-automated portfolio management systems should come in well below “wrap” programs offered by major Canadian financial institutions and certainly below the Management Expense Ratios (MERs) of most actively managed retail mutual funds sold in Canada.

In other words, a DIY investor might pay just the MERs of the underlying ETFs, meaning somewhere between about 0.10% and 0.55%, depending on the products chosen. Wraps and DSC mutual funds typically come in between 2.5% and 3% or a tad above that. So you can figure a typical robo-advisor or light advice service should come in somewhere between 1% and 1.5%, including the MERs of the underlying ETFs.

In the case of Babul’s firm, the annual asset-based fee charged is 0.45%, on top of the underlying ETFs, so the total portfolios should come in around or slightly below 1%, all in.

Retail investors take on too much risk picking stocks

What kind of value can investors derive from such a service? Babul provides an interesting response, drawing on his 13 years of investment banking experience at BMO Capital Markets, which he left three years ago. In managing its derivatives business, Babul developed an intimate understanding of risk management. He noticed that retail investors tend to take on more risk than institutional investors. “I believe individuals picking individual stocks are taking on too much risk. Many institutional investors are more index-based than stock-pickers because they don’t want to be exposed to undue systematic risk.”

Babul’s goal is to invest clients in diversified global portfolios of ETFs. “We’re not trying to beat the market, but just create a diversified portfolio that adequately manages their risk tolerance.”

I ask whether there was a time when Babul ever believed in market timing and stock-picking.

“Yes.”

“What changed?”

“I saw my portfolio’s performance.”

 

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