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The Final Nail in the Coffin for Mutual Funds

The mutual fund industry has been facing headwinds for years. First, the industry became too big. So dominant were the biggest funds, they couldn’t invest without moving the market themselves.

The next problem for mutual funds was the advent of the ETF. ETFs hollowed out the high-fee actively managed equity fund industry.

I wrote about these problems here in November of 2006:

I write often that the majority of mutual funds offer no compelling reason for investment. Here’s a double shocker for you. Of the top-ten largest equity mutual funds, seven come from one family. How could one management company capture so many places in the top-ten-size race? Must have pretty spectacular performance, right? That must be the reason. Well, performance has been fine, but the single compelling reason these funds sit at the top ten in size is that all seven have 5.75% front-end sales loads. Sales pressure gets big results. The majority of fund sales for load funds are made by salesmen to unsophisticated investors. No knowledgeable investor would invest in a load fund.

The second big surprise is that I now think ETFs have come closer to being in a position to overwhelm the mutual fund industry. For the ETF industry as a whole, it is a little early in the game because, as yet, not all the chairs at the table have been filled. The fixed-income side needs to broaden out a lot. I especially hope that Vanguard will substantially broaden its ETF menu. I would guess that within a year I will be able to give the green flag to the ETF industry as the lead horse in the long-term race between ETFs and the mutual fund industry. There will be a select group of mutual fund groups that will continue to prosper as the ETF industry hollows out the mutual fund industry.

Holding back ETFs’ complete domination of the fund industry has been an SEC rule that forced companies offering ETFs to apply for “exemptive orders.” Because ETFs weren’t technically allowed to exist, companies intending to operate ETFs had to be granted an exception.

Today, with more than 2,200 ETFs in the marketplace, the SEC has finally voted to adopt a new rule to modernize their regulation. The commission announced:

The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced that is has voted to adopt a new rule and form amendments that are designed to modernize the regulation of exchange-traded funds (ETFs), by establishing a clear and consistent framework for the vast majority of ETFs operating today.  The adoption will facilitate greater competition and innovation in the ETF marketplace, leading to more choice for investors.  It also will allow ETFs to come to market more quickly without the time or expense of applying for individual exemptive relief.  In addition, the Commission voted to issue an exemptive order that further harmonizes related relief for broker-dealers.

“Since ETFs were first developed over 27 years ago, they have provided investors with a number of benefits, including access to a wide array of investment strategies, in many cases at a low cost,” said SEC Chairman Jay Clayton. “As the ETF industry continues to grow in size and importance, particularly to Main Street investors, it is important to have a consistent, transparent, and efficient regulatory framework that eliminates regulatory hurdles while maintaining appropriate investor protections.”

The modernization of the ETF industry is probably the final nail in the coffin of mutual funds. You can see in the chart below the magnitude of investors’ move from mutual funds to ETFs. But ETFs aren’t much better today. The ETF industry has grown so large; it is facing some of the same issues I noted about the mutual fund industry in 2006. Today, investors are better served by developing a portfolio of dividend-paying stocks, rather than investing in the index ETFs that have become so popular.

If you need assistance in building a portfolio of dividend-paying stocks, fill out the form below. A seasoned member of the investment team at my family run investment counsel firm will contact you to explain our individual stock investing strategy and how you might benefit from it.

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Here’s What to Look for As Markets Enter an Election Year

Election years have historically been good to stock market investors. It is now one year away from Election 2020, and market participants are hanging on every word from the candidates. Here’s what I wrote about election year markets back in November 1991:

Remember Tom Mix?

All the great old black and white Western movies of the 1950s, like Tom Mix, featured patented three-part bank robberies that went something like this:

Scene 1: The bank is robbed. Bad guys ride out in a cloud of dust and the chase is on. Scene 2: Bad guys split—one-half to an arroyo or cottonwood grove; one-half to a box canyon. The posse rides by and misses them. Scene 3: After a short and quite harmless wait, the gang unites and rides off in the opposite direction the posse has taken, finally ending up at the shack (how often did movie makers of the 1950s use that same old shack?), where the strong box is shot open and the loot split among the gang.

Those black and white westerns were a lot of fun even though the three-part bank robberies didn’t change much from one show to the next. Maybe it was the repetition that made us so comfortable with Tom Mix, The Lone Ranger and the like.

THE INVESTMENT CYCLE GOES THROUGH THREE STAGES

I want you to look at investing in a similar three-part fashion. There is considerable similarity, in fact, between the old posse-chases-the-gang and the investor-chases-profits in the financial markets. Let me show you how to position yourself in the three-part investor drama that goes like this:

Scene 1: The chase is on. Stocks and fixed-income investments offer bargains when yields are high, P/Es are low, interest rates are high and beginning to decline, inflation is on the wane and a recession is at its nadir. The marketplace begins to react to lower interest rates, lower inflation and the first signs of business recovery—and bonds and stocks advance sharply in price. …

Scene 2: The temporary hideout stage is now in place. Investors are clearly nervous and have pulled off the path to wait. And there is reason for nervousness. CD rates and money fund rates have collapsed. The yield on the Dow—it has never ended any calendar year in history below 2.95%—is only 3%. Little looks enticing in the investment markets. Fine—that’s exactly how stage two always looks. It is the old where-do-I-go-now? quandary. The answer is not difficult. Just ask yourself what that old gang would have done in Tom Mix’s Westerns. You take a break and rest up for the sharing of the spoils that will come your way in stage three of the investment cycle. You let the posse ride by.

President Bush Holds One of the Four Keys to Future Profits

Scene 3: But can you count on a scene 3 to pull you through? Where’s the shack, and who’ll shoot the lock off the strong box for you? Sure you can count on scene 3. You see, President Bush has an election year coming up. What do we know about election years? That incumbent politicians want to be voted back for another term in office.

We know that for sure. And what do voters hate most when heading out to vote? Crowding their way through long lines of the unemployed. And those in the unemployment lines like queuing up for the dole even less than they like voting for the incumbent. George Bush knows all about election year politics, as does Federal Reserve monetary maven Alan Greenspan. What’s the tonic? Why, lower interest rates.

Since the election of 1952, the average S&P 500 performance in an election year (the 12 months from the first week of November in the preceding year to the first week of November in the election year) has been 8.2%.

You can’t always depend on an election year though. In that time, there were three election years in which the S&P 500 fell in value. Those were 1960, 2000, and 2008. You’ll notice quickly though that none of these elections had an incumbent president running. The incumbents, Eisenhower, Clinton, and Bush, were all finishing their second terms. You may also notice that in each of these three years when the stock market lost value in an election year, the opposition party candidate won the election.

Despite the historic strength of election year markets, you should maintain vigilance in your investment portfolio. Avoid unnecessary risks and focus on income and compound interest. If you need help focusing on what’s important in investing, sign up for the client letter from my family run investment counsel firm, Richard C. Young & Co., Ltd. You can sign up by clicking here. The letter is free, even for non-clients.

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Big Macs or Sit-Down Service

Today, you can lend $10,000 to the U.S. government, which just closed its books for the year with a deficit of almost $1 trillion, and lock in an income stream of about twelve dollars per month for the next decade.

That’s enough to treat yourself and the wife to a couple of Big Macs once a month. But if McDonald’s keeps raising prices, a couple of years from now, you may need a buy-one-get-one coupon to treat the wife.

The interest payments on government bonds are fixed, and are so tiny today they don’t even keep pace with the massaged inflation numbers reported by the Labor Department.

Of course, nobody is forcing you to lend the Treasury Department money. The savvier choice might be to invest $10,000 in shares of Clorox. Clorox will pay you double what the Treasury Department is willing to fork over, and they will likely give you a pay increase every year you are a shareholder.

Filet and lobster won’t be on the menu, but you might be able to afford a joint with sit-down service.

The chart below compares the dividend yield of Clorox to the yield on 10-year government bonds. The trade-off today is an easy one.

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There are Two Ways to Avoid Investor Overkill

I wrote in March 1991:

Listen to me and listen to me hard as I tell you that investors miss the boat over and over because (1) they insist on timing the market, (2) they insist on investing with emotion keyed to events of the moment, and (3) they steadfastly refuse to buy when news is bleak. It’s the old buy-high-sell-low game again and again.

Most investors regularly equate action with profits. But you don’t want a lot of action in your portfolio and you only need to follow a handful of indicators and a handful of investments. Most investors simply cannot help themselves, and that leads to Investor Overkill. The eye is just not kept on the ball. Make it easy on yourself—follow my advice and follow it today.

I don’t have all the answers. No one does. But I have built my own family portfolio to a seven figure level from ground zero by practicing the very basic slow-and-steady-wins-the-day disciplines I bring to you monthly. I started without a dime (no exaggeration) back in 1964, and I have spent 26 [ed. note, now 55], as a professional investment advisor practicing what I preach.

Investment Overkill still exists today. There are two ways to avoid it:

  1. Keep your investment plan simple. Don’t try to do too much. As an individual investor you lack the resources and time your competitors, institutional investors, can call into battle against you at any time.
  2. Hire a professional investment advisory to help you achieve your investment goals.

You can get a better understanding of the value offered by an investment advisory by signing up for the monthly client letter from my family run investment counsel firm, Richard C. Young & Co., Ltd. The letter is free even for non-clients. Signup today by clicking here.

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Do You Have the Tools to Carry Out Your Investment Plan?

I regularly meet investors who are going it alone. They are overwhelmed with choices and have little or no investment planning experience. Back in December of 1986, I told investors that they need a game plan and the tools to carry it out. I wrote:

“’It was an overcast day.’…Everything on the beach came to a halt…When he passed out 40 Redsand volleyballs,…’it looked like it had rained radioactive bowling balls.’”

These graphic quotes from Bruce Anderson’s recent “Shoptalk” column in Sports Illustrated describe the beach scene at Manhattan Beach, California when Olympic volleyball star Steve Timmons’ newly designed, shocking yellow volleyballs were passed out.

It was a great article on Steve and his new sports product. Steve Timmons has become somewhat of a Southern California volleyball legend. With his Grace Jones-style red flattop and standing 6’5”, Steve, like his shocking yellow volleyballs, is hard to miss.

I was initially drawn to the Timmons article because I am a long-term volleyball fan and had just recently spent time watching professional volleyball at Laguna Beach. The Sports Illustrated article described the U.S. Olympic team MVP and gold medalist as a “terminal” player, the type of player who is so dominant that “when he hits or blocks a ball, the point is usually over.”

A “terminal” player—strong words with meaning going beyond the world-class player volleyball circuit. The word terminal has a finality to it that few words possess. We would all like to view ourselves as having the ability to drive home the terminal point. One place that such a skill would be most beneficial is in the financial markets, a place where everyone wants to be a winner. But to possess the skill of the “terminal” player takes more than desire.

You need a game plan and the tools to carry it out.

My family-run investment counsel firm can help you develop a game plan and carry it out. If you would like to be contacted by a seasoned advisor who can help you set and achieve your investing goals, please fill out the form below.

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Four Ways to Win the Investment Horse Race

In 1993, Julie Krone became the first, and still only, female jockey to win the Belmont Stakes. As Julie, riding Colonial Affair, rounded the first turn, they sat in sixth place. A horse named Antrim Road had dashed out way ahead, taking a big risk with a fast pace.

As the horses came into the far corner, Cherokee Run took the lead, and still, Julie and Colonial Affair remained in sixth place. Then as they turned for home, Julie’s patience paid off. The five horses ahead of her had risked it all and gotten tired.

Julie had conserved energy and came on strong in the end to win. Finishing second and third were Kissin Kris, and Wild Gale. All the way back at ninth sat Antrim Road, who had risked it all with the big start. I wrote about Julie in October 1993:

A Heavyweight at 95 Pounds.

As Julie Krone made the final turn for home in the Belmont Stakes, she realized she was about to capture one of the horse racing’s most prestigious Triple Crown events. Later, sitting proudly in the winner’s circle, the enormous self-confidence of this 4’ 10-1/2” jockey was clearly visible to even the most casual admirers and well-wishers.

Self-confidence has made this diminutive young lady a champion. When you consider the massive energy of a 1200-lb. race horse at full gallop, it’s not hard to have the greatest respect for a 95-lb. rider with the confidence to rise to the pinnacle of her sport.

My goal each month is to give you the strategies you need to generate the same level of confidence in your investing s Julie Krone displays in the fast and dangerous sport of thoroughbred horse racing. The development of confidence takes time. It takes dedication. It takes consistency. With consistency comes confidence.

LANDMARK RESEARCH ARGUES AGAINST MARKET TIMING

Recently published results by Professors Chandy and Reichenstein of the Universities of North Carolina and Balor, respectively, show the consistency of long-term returns on the S&P 500. The professors found that by omitting the best 50 months of performance from the stock market’s 1926-1987 return, absolutely all the S&P’s gains for the entire 61-year period are wiped out. Being out of the market during much of the 50 months would have been a killer to a portfolio.

One of my foundation tenets is that you should not attempt to time the market. Stay fully invested at all times; do not trade in and out. This does not mean that you should not minimize risk (always your first job) and maximize potential total return (appreciation and dividends or interest). You do this by properly diversifying your portfolio to reflect (1) the stage of the economic cycle, (2) momentum in interest rates and inflation, (3) interest rate spreads between fixed-income securities of differing maturities and (4) the current yield of common stocks in general.

These four criteria are objective, clear signs that require no work from you. You do not base your decisions on guesstimates of the future. And you certainly do not engage in market timing.

A steady approach is best for both jockeys and investors. Don’t beat yourself in the investment race by creating volatility in your portfolio with market timing. You may miss out on the best days the market has to offer.

If you would like to learn more about the steady investment approach used by my family run investment counsel firm, sign up for the free client letter email alert from Richard C. Young & Co., Ltd. Each month you’ll read an update on our investment philosophy. The alert is free, even for non-clients. You can signup by clicking here.

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This is the Most Persuasive Test of High-Quality Investing: Does Your Portfolio Pass?

Of all the ways you can test the holdings in your portfolio, Ben Graham codified what he called the most persuasive in his book Intelligent Investor. Companies paying dividends for 20 consecutive years were first on Graham’s list of high quality. I explained high quality to readers in August 2007, writing:

Laurent & Villchur…

Back in 1967, Acoustic Research’s demonstration room on Mount Auburn Street in Cambridge, Massachusetts, was ground zero for state-of-the-art high fidelity. My experiences in Cambridge led me to buy the Acoustic Research AR3 speakers and AR turntable that I am playing today, four decades later, as I write to you. And I am also using the same Dynaco PAT-4 preamplifier and Dyna Stereo 120 power amplifier that first powered my AR3s 40 years ago. AR’s founder Edgar Villchur and Dynaco designer Ed Laurent were the legendary forces behind this ground-breaking equipment. Today, as I play Johnny Lytle’s The Loop, Jack McDuff’s Tough ’Duff and The Beatles’ Sgt. Peppers, the sound from vinyl is every bit as warm and enjoyable as it was with my earliest AR/Dynaco experiences back in the 1960s.

Vinyl for Warmth

CDs were never collectible and never matched vinyl for warmth. I own a number of high-fidelity systems, including a dearly priced and excellent Conrad Johnson-based reference system. But for day-to-day listening, I turn on my AR/Dynaco system and records—no question about it.

45-RPM Tops

All of this, of course, flies in the face of music industry hype for CDs and downloads, the ultimate in a low-fidelity music experience for the masses. While perfect for jogging and the Wal-Mart experience, this is not high fidelity. And the cherry on the cake of my musical high-fidelity experience for you is the revelation that sound from a properly mastered 45-RPM record is best of all. If you ever saw the classic 1982 movie Diner, you may remember the scene in which Shrevie utters, “Every one of my records means something.” Vinyl was and remains the way to go. What I find most encouraging is that young listeners are coming into the vinyl market every day.

Treasured Since 1934

As I write to you today, the single investment book on my desk is the same book that was on my desk when I began in the investment business at Clayton Securities in 1963. Graham, Dodd & Cottles’ Security Analysis is as treasured as it was since its first edition in 1934. Like high fidelity, the guts of investing have really not changed so much through the decades. Compound interest, value, and patience are still the key. Ben Graham was fond of saying, “One of the most persuasive tests of high quality is an uninterrupted record of dividend payments for the last 20 years or more.” In his Intelligent Investor, Graham followed up with, “Indeed, the defensive investor might be justified in limiting purchases to those meeting this test.” Nothing has changed.

Dividends Since 1893

Coke began paying a dividend in 1893, Exxon in 1882, GE in 1899. Things sure have gotten different, haven’t they?

Uninterrupted streams of dividends can lead to a cascade of compounding in your portfolio. Click here to learn more about the value of compound interest, and in particular the powerful Coca-Cola Story.

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Are You Confused by the Investment Hype?

As an individual investor, you may be confused by the hype and pressure aimed at you by the media and securities salesmen. The constant drumbeat of news, both good and bad, can create an emotional response from even the most stoic of investors. Couple that with many investors’ lack of experience, and trouble can erupt from portfolios during tough market times. In July 1993 I wrote:

You’re on the 15th Tee.

At the Four Seasons golf course in Nevis, West Indies, high in the lush green hills of this remote Caribbean island, you are overlooking the yawning expanse of a many hundred foot deep gorge. Where’s the pin? Where do you hit? You hit over the gorge to some unseen and distant manicured green. For novices, it would take small-arms fire to hit the other side of the gorge. But for you, the seasoned pro, it’s but a well-timed whack with your Wilson #3 wood. No problem, you’re on the green.

The challenge of this extraordinary hole on one of the world’s most beautiful golf courses is nothing to you, because you are disciplined and practiced, and you concentrate on your game.

Investing is much like golf. Discipline concentration and a practiced stroke are paramount to winning investors as well as to steady golfers. Think about it. Do you apply the same level of concentration to your every investment move as you would on a tricky 20-foot putt? Have you mastered a practiced, mechanical, unemotional approach to your investment program?

Discipline, confidence and a mechanical approach work every time and make sense in many avenues of life. One of my regular monthly goals here is to logically convince you of the value of these vital traits.

Invest With the Slow Ebb and Flow of the Tides

Like many investors, you may often be confused by events of the moment. Media hype and sales pressure are difficult hurdles to overcome. Here, you learn how to overcome emotion in investing. You learn how to harness the awesome long-term power of compound interest and to invest with the slow ebb and flow of the tides. Do not invest on each crashing wave of headline news. If it’s a good idea today, it will be a good idea tomorrow and the next day. Take it easy, relax and do not be an in-and-out trader or market timer. Be ruthlessly organized using the principles found here each month.

Invest with the comfort and knowledge that you have a disciplined, long-term strategy. I help you plot your investment map monthly. If you’ve been with me for many years, you know the consistent approach used month to month to month. Over my three decades of investing, I’ve developed a series of disciplines that work well for me, with high odds of success. Each month I stick to these and emphasize their long-term success for you.

You don’t have to face the emotional task of investing alone. You should seek the guidance of a trusted fiduciary advisor, who will guide you through the construction of an investment plan, and give you the confidence to stick with that plan when times get tough.

If you’d like a glimpse at what a trusted advisor offers investors, signup for the monthly client letter alerts from my family run investment counsel firm. Each month in the letter my son Matt, President and CEO of Richard C. Young & Co., Ltd., explains the ongoing strategies we employ on our clients’ behalf. The letter is free, even for non-clients, and you will receive an alert each month when the newest is available. Click here to sign up.

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How to Build 37% of Your Wealth in Just Ten Days

In the Spring of 1996, I explained how important just ten days of a 31-year period were to building 37% of their wealth. I wrote that March:

Market Timing Strategy—Bankrupt

Before I tell you what other funds I have bought this month and which funds I have on my short list for the next few months, I want to startle you, shock you, and convince you beyond any doubt that market timing is a bankrupt strategy whose time has never come.

Here’s the only example you’ll ever need to never market time again. T. Rowe Price put these numbers out a year or so ago. The original research was done by Towneley Capital Management.

If you invested $1 for a 31-year period (1963-1993), your $1 grew to $24.30 at year-end 1993. But if you missed just the 10 best trading days out of the 7,802 trading days, your $1 investment grew to only $15.40. That’s right, by missing just 10 days, your return was slashed by 37%. Do you know what percentage of the trading days we are talking about here? Less than one-quarter of one percent (0.128%).

Now then, if instead of only 10 days you missed the best 40 days of 7,802 trading days, your $1 grew to only $6.50. By missing just 0.51% of the total trading period, your return was slashed by an unimaginable 73%. How’s that for missing the boat?

OK, what if you missed out on just 1.15% of the trading days? Well, by missing just 90 of the total 7,802 trading days, your $1 made a glacier-like advance to $2.10. You would have been head-faked out of 91.4% of your long-term profits.

Still with me? The news gets worse—a lot worse. In-and-out trading necessitates not one, but two correct buy/sell decisions. It does no good to get out of the market advantageously unless you can also get back in advantageously—and both are low odds, big “ifs.” Furthermore, there is a substantial transaction penalty to pay on each and every buy and sell. You find commissions extracted from your hide. And you do not see the bid/ask spread that is also lost on each transaction.

Finally, in all non-tax-deferred accounts, a tax penalty will be extracted. And depending on your location, the onerous nature of state and local taxes along with federal taxes may be a back snapper.

Market timing is akin to trying to draw an inside straight in poker or to yank the mask off the Lone Ranger. Not good ideas—not good ideas at all.

You won’t be able to pick which days you earn your 37%, but if you remain invested with a balanced portfolio and a strong investment plan created with your advisor, you won’t need to. The market will do the work for you.

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This Decision Could Lead You to Financial Disaster

Odd things are happening in the economy right now. The most obvious is the recent destruction of oil facilities in Saudi Arabia. But there are also subtler, less obvious warning signs, including the first injections of liquidity into markets by the Fed in 10 years on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Couple that with the Fed’s lowering of the Fed Funds rate despite economic growth and low unemployment, and things appear uneasy. These are the times at which it would be easy to make an investment mistake. I wrote in July 1995:

“My name’s Marlow. General Sternwood wanted to see me.”

Devotees of the classic black-and-white Hollywood films now hear original wording from Raymond Chandler’s 1939 movie, The Big Sleep, introducing a new CD produced by Charlie Haden.

Haden, viewed by many as today’s dominant voice in jazz bass, recently integrated to stunning effect a lead using the nostalgic Warner Bros.’ Fanfare theme music and the Marlow spoken word line as preludes to his own original composition Always Say Goodbye.

Always Say Goodbye was inspired by the few times Charlie felt he had not properly said goodbye to friends or family who, unknown to him at the time, he would never see again.

Haden’s thoughtful weave of Hollywood movie, theme music nostalgia and his own original composition reflecting his agony over failing to say goodbye built an emotionally charged piece of music that has rewarded him with the Down Beat International Critic’s Award for jazz album of the year.

In Always Say Goodbye, it was emotion that helped Charlie Haden win success. Unfortunately, in the world of investing, unlike musical composition and execution, emotion can be the trigger to financial disaster not success.

Responding to market movements emotionally or irrationally is possibly the worst mistake an investor can make with his money.

To give you an indication of how emotional a bad day in the market can get, imagine two scenarios. In both scenarios, you’re a 67-year-old who has $1,000,000 saved for retirement.

In the first scenario, imagine you have put $50,000 cash in a briefcase, and you’re headed along a crowded street to your bank to deposit it. Suddenly someone grabs the briefcase and runs off, never to be seen again. You never even had a chance to say goodbye. How emotional would you be? If you’re like most Americans your heart is pumping, you’re breathing heavily, you’re scared, and you want your money back.

In the second scenario, imagine your $1,000,000 is invested in the stock market, which drops 5% in a day. On paper, you’ve lost $50,000. On average since 1928, the S&P 500 has fallen by over 5% in a single day about once every year-and-three-months. If you panic, get emotional and sell everything in the face of this loss, you’re no better off than when the thief stole your briefcase. That money is gone forever.

The difference between scenario one and scenario two is that in the second scenario if you have confidence in your investment plan and an advisor to guide you through the turbulence of markets, you have the opportunity to avoid an emotional mistake, to avoid financial disaster, and even to get your money back.

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Witness the Raw Power of Diversification

Diversification isn’t only a tool to minimize losses when assets fall in value, it has the power to actually increase your return while lowering risk. Here’s how I explained it in December of 2015 (with the chart and associated text updated to 2017):

Calculating the Efficient Frontier

You need to look at your asset deployment from the top down, focusing on diversification between stocks and bonds. My Efficient Frontier display shows you the power of diversification. Note the left-to-right uphill slanting curve that initiates with a position of 100% bonds and terminates with a position of 100% stocks. We have made our calculations using the Merrill Lynch 7-10 Year U.S. Treasuries Index and the S&P 500 total return index from Young Research for the period of 1977– 2017. We calculate the Efficient Frontier by using annual returns and assuming annual rebalancing.

Draw 1% per Quarter

Where is your best fit along an Efficient Frontier? To answer, you must first establish your ability to absorb risk in the hunt for returns. For decades I have written that in retirement, your target should be a 1% per quarter draw from your portfolio, and not a penny more. This does not mean, however, that you should not position yourself to potentially exceed 1% per quarter returns. Your actual return over any quarter will be controlled largely by the climate of the financial markets at the time, which neither you nor I control. And the climate itself will be determined by the stage of the economic and monetary cycles. I have studied these cycles over five decades and keep you updated regularly. The winter stage of the upside economic and monetary cycle is here, to be followed by a period of discomfort in the economy and the financial markets.

If you need help creating a well-diversified portfolio, fill out the form below. If you do, a trusted senior member of my family run investment counsel team will contact you. You will be offered a free, no-obligation portfolio review and an explanation of how we can help you achieve your investing goals.

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With This Plan You Can Save More in 8 Years than in 32 Without It

In October of 1999 I explained why there is only one right way to save; early and often. I wrote:

Compound Interest: Your Key to Wealth

Here’s an example of the power of compound interest that I hope you will pass on to your children and grandchildren.

We have two hypothetical investors, Chad and Tad. Chad starts right out of his MBA program investing $1,200 a year starting at age 25 through the time he is 32-years old. He makes eight $1,200 investments. Chad then oddly becomes a monk, ending his savings days. Assume just a modest 9% annual return through age 64, just pre Chad’s 65-year age retirement from monkdom. Chad’s eight years of savings ($9,600) and 40 years of compounded interest provide a final balance of $227,390.

Tad, on the other hand, spends his early years as a ski bum in Telluride and doesn’t start saving until he is 33. But from age 33 until age 65, Tad is able to save $1,200 a year from his job as wildlife conservationist in the remote reaches of Montana. He puts away $1,200 a year for 32 years, giving him a total savings of $38,400—four times the contributions Chad made in only eight years of savings before monkdom. Tad’s balance at the same 9% assumed growth rate is $214,560. Even though Chad invested $1,200 a year for only eight years early in his “career,” because of 40 years of compound interest, Chad’s final savings total beat Tad’s, who diligently socked away the same $1,200 a year, but for a long 32 years.

Such is the power of compound interest. Save early. Save often. And do not compromise your capital. When you lose 50%, you must make 100% on your next investment just to get even. And at that, you have a zero return. That’s stinko math in my book.

So after just eight years of early saving, Chad used compounding to save himself more than Tad could in 32 years of trying to play catch up. Put the power of compounding to work in your portfolio. Investing in companies with generous dividends, and records of regularly increasing those dividends is a bedrock strategy of my family run investment counsel firm.

If you would like to discuss how a dividend-centric investment plan could work for your retirement, please fill out the form below. You will be contacted by a seasoned advisor from Richard C. Young & Co., Ltd. and given a free, no-obligation portfolio review.

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Don’t Be Shaken Out of the Market on Bad News

There are many investment maxims worth repeating, but one especially important today is don’t be shaken out of the market on bad news. Those are the ten words of advice I gave to investors back in June of 1991 in the midst of a recession, and I haven’t found a reason yet to doubt their value.

I told readers then:

The best time to make money in the business cycle is when recession is in place. Interest rates always decline during a recession, just as they have in the present one. And the stock market always explodes with its biggest cyclical gains during the heart of recession.

When was the low for the Dow in the current business cycle? It was last October with the Dow reading below 2400. Many investors busily sold common stocks last August as military hostilities broke out in the Middle East. That, of course, is the kind of move that kills nervous investors in every cycle. You don’t want to be a seller on bad news, and you certainly don’t want to trade out of stocks in a weakening business environment. Open your history book and you’ll find that every recorded bull market started in the teeth of recession.

Recently I began a monthly business cycle review asking “Is America on the Doorstep of Recession?” My answer today is no, but I hope you will follow along with me as I examine the evidence each month.

Don’t be shaken out of the market on bad news. Remain invested or you’ll miss the market’s best performance.

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Can You Double Your Money in a Year? Fail at this, and You May Need To

Can you double your money in a year? Not many people can. But if you lost 50% of the value of your portfolio, that’s exactly what you would need to do just to make it back to even.

If the prospect of trying to double your money sounds unappealing, I suggest you try not to lose that much in the first place. On this topic, I wrote in November 1994:

Unchanged Since the Twenties

According to BBC television, the Classic Coke bottle, the VW Beetle and AGA Cooker are the three finest industrial design achievements of the 20th century. You know the Classic coke bottle, you know the VW Beetle, but the AGA Cooker?

Contemporary stoves pale by comparison to this handcrafted, cast iron cooker that quickly becomes the heart and soul of any kitchen it inhabits. Available in a handful of vibrant enameled color, the heavily insulated, gas-fired AGA has no temperature controls and is always on.

In most kitchens, 80% of cooking is done on the stove top and 20% in the oven. With an AGA, the reverse is true—80% or more is done inside. Externally vented ovens prevent cooking smells from returning to the kitchen, while gentle radiant heat produces superb cooking results—never, ever dried out.

The AGA works on the principle of stored heat within the well-insulated cooker; your job is to simply choose the temperature you want from one of four separate ovens.

This timeless, handcrafted work of beauty, functionality and simplicity was designed over 70 years ago and remains virtually unchanged since the 1920s. For more info on the incomparable AGA Cooker, [visit www.aga-ranges.com].

Timeless describes the AGA’s design, and timeless is the first word I use to describe my investment principles for you. I hope you will embrace my timeless set of investment principles; they will allow you a lifetime of investment rewards.

As a serious, long-term investor, I want you to always consider risk before profits. Never forget, when you lose 50% on an investment, you must double your money next time out just to get even. And even then, you have earned zero return.

Reducing risk in your portfolio is the best way to prevent wild swings that could generate losses you can’t come back from. Focusing your efforts on diversification, dividends and interest, and on companies in industries with high barriers to entry can help you reduce risk in your portfolio. It’s hard to double your money in a year, but it’s easy to get started on reducing risk in your portfolio today.

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The Three Best Retirement Decisions I Ever Made

In April of 2004, I explained to readers three decisions about retirement that I was very happy to pass on. I wrote:

Long ago, I made three decisions that I am happy to pass on to you regarding retirement: (1) Don’t. (2) Live in a warm weather state. (3) Live in a warm weather state without a state income tax and with a homestead exemption. My clear choice for #2 and #3 was and is Florida. We’ve been homestead exemption Key West residents since 1992.

Debbie and I have traversed the complete 360 degrees of Florida. We don’t travel inland much. After all, if the choice is being near the water or not, it’s a no brainer, don’t you think? In that I write specifically to business owners, retired investors and conservative investors soon to be retired, all can benefit from my ongoing Florida intelligence seeking.

You probably want to stop working eventually. And you may enjoy the cold weather. And you may even enjoy the mountains more than the water. Even if you disagree on the three points I explained back in 2004, it’s important that you find the right retirement plan for you, and that you begin working towards it today.

If you need help achieving your retirement goals, my family-run investment counsel firm can assist you. If you fill out the form below, you will be contacted by a seasoned member of my staff, who will discuss your retirement plan with you, and provide you with a free, no-obligation portfolio review. We can help you achieve your retirement goals, even if they are different than mine.

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The Final Richard C. Young’s Intelligence Report

After meeting monthly strategy report deadlines since 1978, I have decided it’s time to switch gears.

The name Intelligence Report will survive, but with no contribution from Richard C. Young.

Instead, I am transitioning aggressively to full-time research on behalf of private clients of our family investment management firm, Richard C. Young & Co. Ltd.

In this expanded venture, I will completely shift away from common stock mutual funds. I will concentrate laser like on Dividends Around the World from domestic and foreign common stocks with track records of increasing dividends for at least the last decade.

The Return of Young’s World Money Forecast

Supporting my international intelligence gathering and research efforts will be the return, after nearly a four-decade hiatus, of Young’s World Money Forecast (YWMF). I will be using YWMF techniques, gathered on Wall Street in the late sixties and early seventies, to provide breaking trends years ahead of the crowd. Here I am looking at a mix of inference reading and anecdotal evidence gathering based on my annual over 15,000 domestic miles on the road as well as at least two research forays to Europe each year.

Although I will not be making my portfolio management and specific dividend stock advice available at youngsworldmoneyforecast.com, I will be presenting regularly updated and customized information on all the dividend-paying stocks I’ve advised on over the years as well as input on every stock in the DOW 30. (Check back here regularly for date of site opening.)

A veritable treasure trove of intelligence will be at your fingertips daily—thanks to our unique $30,000/year database. You’ll feel as if you have arrived at a private investment club after all the years you have spent with me and the “monthly printed word.” Among the plethora of improvements you will experience with YWMF online is an enormous timing advantage. You’ll be able to access ongoing regular and actionable dividend stock updates from me in real time, rather than wait for the archaic snail mail. That’s one of the forward looking conclusions I came to when deciding to shut down my monthly deadline and dated in-the-mail effort.

My concentration will continue, as it has been over the decades, on strictly dividend-paying, dividend-increasing stocks. I, however, am making a clean break from the common stock mutual fund universe that I have been deeply involved with since the early sixties. Many of my long-time favorites have become too big for their own good or for that matter anyone else’s. Many funds have failed to keep up on many fronts, including expenses. I abhor the stupidity and self-serving interest of multiple portfolio managers. This dreadful and obfuscating transition has everything to do with dinosaur status and size limitations rather than you the investor. I will continue researching fixed-income and balanced portfolios, where I continue to find great value in individual manager input.

Ben Graham (the all-time dividend maven) was fond of stating: “One of the most persuasive tests of high quality is an uninterrupted record of dividend payments for the last 20 years or more. Indeed the defensive investor might be justified in limiting his purchases to those (stocks) meeting this test.”

The Road Ahead in Real-Time

Well there you have it—my transformation from delayed and printed monthly copy to a rapid-fire, digital presentation (not in audio or books, of course) is now in the exciting kickoff phase.

As my online dividend intelligence program develops steam, I will be able to refine and improve upon my efforts since I am no longer constrained by a once-per-month communication. What was especially frustrating was the obvious, but perhaps not fully recognized, 10-day delay from the time I finished writing Intelligence Report to the time you, as a subscriber, received my finished report.

Today and in the future, any time I have a breaking idea, it will be available for your use immediately at YWMF. That has to have a pretty good sound to you. It sure does to me.

Thank you for your years of loyalty. I have worked diligently for over five decades on behalf of private client investors just like you. It is exciting that we can all transition together to a whole new and powerful world of compounding, (more here on compounding) profiting and sleeping soundly investing in the high-octane power of long term Dividends Around the World.

Warm regards,

Richard C. Young

P.S. I wrote in the May 2015 issue of Intelligence Report about Ronald Read, who despite working as a janitor was able to use the power of compounding to amass an $8 million fortune by the time he passed at the age of 92.

Pumping Gas to the Tune of $8 Million

Hard to even comprehend, but this great story, courtesy the WSJ’s Anna Prior, recounts how Ronald Read accumulated an estate valued at almost $8 million. Mr. Read, who passed away at the age of 92, made a modest living pumping gas for many years at a Gulf gas station in Brattleboro, Vermont.

A Five-Inch Stack of Stock Certificates

How did Ronald Read manage to become a multi-millionaire? Mr. Read invested in dividend-paying blue-chip stocks. As Ms. Prior writes, Mr. Read took delivery of the actual stock certificates and “left behind a five-inch-thick stack of stock certificates in a safe-deposit box.” At his passing, Mr. Read owned over 90 stocks and had held his positions often for decades. The companies he owned paid longtime dividends. And when his dividend checks came in the mail, Ronald Read reinvested in additional shares. Apparently Mr. Read was the master of the theory of compound interest. Not surprising, his list of stock holdings included such dividend payers as Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ), Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG), J.M. Smucker (NYSE: SJM), and CVS Health (NYSE: CVS), all names I write about for you here. No high flyers for Ronald Read, and certainly no technology names.

Protect, Preserve, Patience, Perspective

Obviously Ronald Read had been a staunch practitioner of my PPPP theme, featuring the basics—Protect, Preserve, Patience, Perspective. This WSJ feature article hit the press at the perfect time for me and you, as I’ll now explain. For the first time since I created my Monster Master List—well over a decade ago—I have given the Master List of common stock names a complete overhaul. I have spent weeks in the process with the goal of giving you not only a roster of dividend payers but also a list where every core company has increased its dividend for a minimum of 10 consecutive years. I have rounded out the core list with a handful of special situation dividend payers.

Originally posted on August 14, 2017.

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Dividends Then and Now Are the Answer

I learned from Ben Graham nearly six decades ago that there’s no better way to assess an investment than the cold hard cash it returns to you in the form of dividends or interest. In September of 2012 I wrote:

While at Babson College, I studied Ben Graham’s Security Analysis. I still return to it regularly. In Chapter 35, Ben Graham writes, “For the vast majority of common stocks, the dividend record and prospects have always been the most important factor controlling investment quality and value…. In the majority of cases, the price of common stocks has been influenced more markedly by the dividend rate than by the reported earnings. In other words, distributed earnings have had a greater weight in determining market prices than have retained and reinvested earnings.” Graham concludes with, “Since the market value in most cases has depended primarily upon the dividend rate, the latter could be held responsible for nearly all the gains ultimately realized by investors.”

Always Keep It Simple

Made sense to me in the sixties and continues to make sense to me today. In fact, I attribute most of the success I have had in the investment industry to what I learned from Ben Graham nearly five decades ago.

If you haven’t already included dividends and interest as central planks of your investment strategy, I suggest you do so today.

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My Battle-Hardened Stock Market Strategy for the Worst of Times

In September of 2014, I explained to readers my battle-hardened strategy for dealing with the worst of times in the stock market. My strategy was inspired by Ben Graham, and I have used it throughout my 55-year career in investing. Here’s how it goes:

Ben Graham’s The Intelligent Investor was first published in 1949. I came in a little late in the game with my 1973 edition, which I have in front of me as I write. It is important to me that you and all of our management clients are able to sleep well, even during the periodic stock market busts that we all have to ride through from time to time. I never get out of the market; thus, I require a battle-hardened strategy to stay the course during even the worst of times. Ben Graham wrote, “An investment operation is one which, upon thorough analysis, promises safety of principal and an adequate return. Operations not meeting these requirements are speculative.” From day one, I have stuck to Ben’s foundation principle to the benefit of all our subs and clients.

Primary Concern: Conserve Principal

Ben built on his foundation principle by writing that truly professional investment advisors are quite modest in their promises and pretensions. As he noted, “The leading investment-counsel firms make no claim to being brilliant, but they do pride themselves on being careful, conservative, and competent. The primary aim is to conserve the principal value over the years and to produce a conservatively acceptable rate of return. Any accomplishment beyond that—and they do strive to better the goal— they regard in the nature of extra service rendered. Perhaps the chief value to clients lies in shielding them from costly mistakes.”

The Defensive Investor

I like to think that it is just this approach that allows our subscribers and clients to sleep well and remain comfortable that we are all on the same team. Part of the complete program is your portfolio balance. Ben Graham wrote, “We have already outlined in briefest form the portfolio policy of the defensive investor. He should divide his funds between high-grade bonds and high-grade common stocks. We have suggested as a fundamental guiding rule that the investor should never have less than 25% or more than 75% of his funds in common stocks, with a consequent inverse range of between 75% and 25% in bonds.”

With market volatility increasing, it’s time you reviewed your own strategy. You should consider a battle-hardened strategy that will protect you in the “worst of times.”

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Retirees Still Cannot Afford a Walloping

With securities markets in a heightened state of volatility, it’s a great time to ask yourself how exposed your portfolio is to risk. Most investors, if asked, would be able to provide little detail about the risks to their portfolio. If you find yourself unable to answer, that’s ok.

It’s Not Too Late, Yet

Now is the time to begin assessing the risk in your investment portfolio. If your holdings are not balanced to help you achieve your goals, you should begin shifting them as soon as possible, because, as I wrote in April 2017, retirees cannot afford a walloping.

Retirees Cannot Afford a Walloping

Back in 1989, I said, “let capital appreciation come as it will.” Unlike dividends, capital gains don’t show up every year. Since 1960, the S&P 500 has recorded 17 down years, with one of those down years coming in at a stomach-churning 38%, two in the 20%–30% loss range, and seven additional years that recorded double-digit losses. Retired or soon-to-be-retired investors simply cannot afford to get walloped with double-digit losses without a steady stream of dividend income to soften the blow. The last thing you want in a bear market is to be forced into selling shares at the bottom to fund living expenses. Steady, increasing dividends provide the cash flow and comfort necessary to ride out down markets. Investors who bail at the bottom decimate their portfolios and are forced into playing a game of “catch up” to get back to even.

You can see on my chart the return necessary to break even after incurring a loss. Losses act like reverse compound interest on your portfolio. A big loss requires an even bigger gain just to break even. To recover from the losses shown in black, an investor’s portfolio must produce the return directly to the right in blue. As you can see, a 5% loss requires a 5.3% gain to get back to even, while a 50% loss requires a 100% gain.

If you need assistance in rebalancing your portfolio, fill out the form below. You will be contacted by a seasoned professional from my family run investment counsel firm, Richard C. Young & Co., Ltd. who will perform a free, no-obligation review of your current portfolio.

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Most Investors Fail to Learn This One Thing

Through more than half a century of guiding investors in their efforts, the greatest failure I have seen is an inability to learn from history. Repeatedly market participants set unrealistic goals, use overly complex strategies in an attempt to achieve those goals, and inevitably fail. In February of 2013 I explained this phenomenon, writing:

The Needy Investor

Most investors, I’m sorry to say, are greedy, lack perspective and even a modicum of patience, and simply will not embrace the ultimate power of compound interest. I have found that too many investors fail to learn from history and attempt to use projected portfolio appreciation to make up for past beatings or to meet unrealistic spending targets. These investors are what I refer to as needy, and hope is used as their strategy. They eschew common sense and reality, and are always reaching and grasping at thin air. I have found it impossible to influence this group of investors and have long since given up the effort. Both a former Harley mechanic and my current Harley mechanic have told me that they were breaking down Harleys since they were little guys. I have watched what they do with amazement, much as I do with the many jazz musicians I have studied over the decades. Whether a Harley mechanic or a jazz musician, it’s an aptitude one is born with. The same is true for the intuitive investor. Investors like you have the propensity to do the right thing. Investors who are needy will never get on the right track.

Keep It Simple, Stupid

Your next step is on the fixed-income front. You want short maturities and short portfolio duration. On the equities side, you want solid, blue-chip dividend payers with a propensity for increasing dividends. You want entrenched blue chips featuring a high barrier to entry. You never deviate from such companies. You do not guess market swings and market-time. You swear you will be patient and not greedy. Am I clear here? You may be a genius or know a genius that has a better master plan than mine. Great. But four decades ago, Ron Hoenig hired me to work at his institutional research and trading firm where he told me that he specialized in the KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) principle. Ron turns out to have been correct at every turn, and today, on your behalf and mine, I continue to stick with the SIMPLE approach.

In your efforts to invest successfully, I can give you no greater advice than to 1) don’t be a needy investor who sets unrealistic goals, and 2) keep your investing strategies simple and understandable. It should not be difficult for you to explain your investment strategy to your 10-year-old grandchild, let alone your spouse.

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