Tuesday, January 24, 2012
INVESTING IN BAD TIMES!
The current investment climate is about as bad as it gets when you look back over an extended time period. Canadian investors have watched as equities vary between days of terror (huge market drops) and days of despair (slow death via multiple days of small declines). The odd good day or week in the markets seems to just tease us for what might have been had we invested in the 90’s instead of this century! Even the old standby, the Money Market Fund, has proven to be neither safe nor profitable. We lamented the lost decade for equities from 2000 to 2010, and then started the new decade with negative equity markets for 2011.
So what can we do and what should we do!
1- We CAN stop adding to the problems by making poor decisions about our investment strategy. The typical investor in a MF or ETF Index fund will make significantly less than the fund itself over the course of a typical year. That is because investors jump in and out of the equities market based upon the current emotions they are feeling. Studies show that this undisciplined approach will cost investors up to 4% less return than a mutual fund would make on average. Professionals do NOT jump in and out of the markets based upon emotions. They follow an Investment policy Statement (IPS) that outlines the minimum and maximum percentages of equity that MUST be held in the portfolio. For those that wondered about the definition of “rebalancing” a portfolio; that is the term used for bringing a portfolio in line with its IPS guidelines. Without an IPS you CANNOT rebalance your portfolio!
2- We CAN stop pretending that the folks who make a good living managing investments have an ability to predict what stocks will go up or down next week or next year. Professionals can help you select stocks which have good balance sheets and good management in place. They can also help you ensure your portfolio is well diversified. Other than that, professional stock traders are of little use unless they can provide insider information (which in general is illegal). In 2011 the consensus forecast of investment managers in Canada was for stocks to outperform bonds and commodities. It will come as no shock that a) they were wrong, and b) they have made the same forecast for 2012. In fairness.....they eventually will be correct just based on the law of averages!
3- We CAN reduce the fees we pay. With investor returns at historic lows we cannot continue to give a guaranteed 2-2.5% return to investment salespeople. If markets were to provide you with the 4%-5% returns we expect in the near future, a fee of 2.25% would be 45-55% of your total investment return. In years where markets drop, like 2011, the fee just increases your losses. If you negotiated a fee of 1.25% you would be giving up only 25% of the same return forecast! If you used ETF Index funds you could reduce the fee drain to a fee of .25% and have only a 6% fee drain.
While markets are certainly tough it does not mean we cannot do better. A little effort, some simple strategies and a calm demeanour can go a long way to lessening the pain of being an investor today!
If you need an IPS then ask an independent (non-selling) firm to customize one for you!