Can we predict future returns from the past?

Can we forecast future returns from past results? The short answer is we can’t.  But there is a rational reason why equity markets outperform long-term.

The S&P, Dow Jones and Nasdaq, as an example. is just the biggest stocks in America.  The biggest firms though, change over time.  There is a survival of the fittest at play here.  With the exception of GE, no original company on the Dow Jones is still on it today.  The same thing applies to the UK FTSE100. It is just the 100 biggest firms in the UK, and the FTSE 250 is the biggest 250 firms in the UK.  

As we become more innovative, it gets harder and harder to get on the index and be one of the biggest firms in your country.  It was considered innovative 200 years ago to have invented a three wheeled car, after horseback went out of fashion.  These days, you might need to invent a car which is the most fuel efficient in history or can fly, to break into the top 100 companies in the US as a new company!

So the market is self cleaning.  Most businesspeople are confident about their own business growing, The same dynamic doesn’t exist for property or gold.  The supply of gold is quite stable, and demand goes up and down.  So it fluctuates, not losing or gaining a lot of value over long periods of time.  Ever the biggest gold bugs say gold is a good store of wealth, meaning it holds its value.  It does hold its value, but it doesn’t grow by much.

Housing has outperformed gold, especially since the 1980s, but the dynamic isn’t completely different.  Housing stock is relatively stable, unless a government decides to go on a huge house building program.  Demand is stable in smaller towns, and going up in big cities.  Long-term, the market can’t exist without first time buyers. As many first time buyers can’t buy now, there is only so far the market can go. 

So the conditions for growth exist in equities, which simply don’t for these assets.  If stocks are ever down over a 50 year period for the first time in history, moreover, then we are all in deep trouble.  No asset would be safe and democracy itself and the institutions we have gotten used to would be in trouble.  

This is because if stocks underperform for a short period of time, then sure other assets such as cash, gold or property can outperform without risking the whole system collapsing.    Stocks have underperformed before.  But the fact that the Institutions of the United States almost collapsed during the Great Recession, despite the fact that asset prices increased in real terms within a decade due to the deflation, should tell you what would happen if something much worse happened.  

Your property wouldn’t be safe from theft or confiscation if the economy was so bad in 2068 that the largest companies aren’t more efficient then than in 2018!  Your cash my not be worth much due to government efforts to stimulate this 50 year recession, and how much would government bonds be worth?

Barring a nuclear war or an absolute disaster, stocks will outperform other assets long-term.  If they don’t, we are all in trouble, and won’t gain from other assets if things ever got that bad.  

Adam Fayed – International AMG – [email protected]

Property vs Stocks: Why Property Outperformance is a Complete Lie

The following is a small sample from my book on the 6 steps towards financial freedom.  

Ask the average investor a question. Which asset has performed best in the last decades and historically.  Most would say property.  It simply isn’t true.

The only way you can beat the markets with housing is by going down the leveraged buy-to-let route but that is highly risky.  If interest rates rise or tenants don’t pay, a buy-to-let landlord may become bankrupt.  

This evidence would surprise a lot of people.  Ask the typical person in the UK, US or Canada which investment has performed best, and most people would say property.  The evidence suggests otherwise.  

Let’s look at UK house prices.  According to the Land Registry in the UK (http://landregistry.data.gov.uk/) the average property was 55,000 Sterling in 1995, and is now at 225,000 Sterling in 2018, representing a 309% increase.  Even if we don’t factor in the costs of up-keeping the house, which can be huge, the returns are poor compared to markets.  In early 1995, the Dow Jones was sitting at $3,900, and was sitting at $26,616 in 2018, representing a rise of more than 6.5X.  

Once you factor in the lower costs of a stock portfolio and the costs of up keeping a house, which can be substantial if it is a new kitchen or something else which is a big cost, the difference in returns are even bigger.

It isn’t just US markets either. The German Dax was 2,100 in 1995, and almost hit 13,000 in 2018.  The UK FTSE 100 hasn’t performed as well as US or German markets or the FTSE250.  It was sitting at 2,900 in 1995, and was at 7,800 in 2018. 

How about `hot` property markets such as London or some markets in Canada? What we can see is the same pattern.  There are some years they outperform markets, and they have certainly performed better compared to housing in smaller cities, but they haven’t outperformed markets overall, once costs are accountant for.  

As the figures below show, even the super hot London market has slightly underperformed the US markets in common currency.  Once costs such as Stamp Duty (the UK tax for buying a house) and paying for repairs is taken into account, the US Index has outperformed London Housing.  

Type of Asset

1995

                 January 2018 Percentage Change not adjusting for costs of real estate
London House Price

107,590

739,297

+587% Sterling Profit
US Dow Jones Index                              $3,900                            $26,616 +582% USD Profit.  Over 600% Sterling profit.

That isn’t to say that housing can’t beat the markets over a 5, 10 or even 15 year period. The US is a prime example of this. In America, real estate prices increased by 56% between 1999 and 2004, whereas the S&P produced -6%. Over a 25 year period though, from the start of 1980 until 2004, home prices increased by 247% excluding the aforementioned costs, whereas the S&P increased by more than 1000%.  Even in the ten largest US cities, housing underperformed.  Since 2004, the housing crisis of 2007-2008 and subsequent strong equity market performance, the gap has widened

Canada has been one of the hottest property markets in the world.  If you ask the average Canadian or overseas investor, they would assume it had outperformed stock markets.  If we look at the prices of Canadian real estate from 1994 until 2016, we get the following results:

Asset class Price 1994 Price 2016 Percentage gain
Average selling price for detached house in Vancouver $368,800 $1,470,000 299%
S&P/TSX Composite Index $368,800 $2,006, 272

444%

US S&P 500 $368,800 $2,716,520

636%

It is human nature to be a bit egotistical and assume we know more than the average investor, and therefore can spot opportunities in the market.  I am sure there are some people reading this who have made 1000%+ percent on property.  

It is true that you can find properties that outperform the housing market and stock markets, in the same way you can find individual stocks, such as Amazon or Google, that have outperformed the general market.  Certainly many investors in bitcoin have felt smug recently as well!

This is a risky approach, however.  There are so many unknown unknowns and known unknowns, that it is close to impossible over a 40-50 year career to have a good chance to beat the market.  

The fact you can buy thousands of companies cheaply around the world on the stock markets indexes, is a much safer option than relying on 1-2 shares or 1-2 houses.  It sounds obvious, but the culturally ingrained nature of property makes many blind to this fact.  

Finally, let’s consider another factor.  There really isn’t as such thing as a good debt.  Debt is like a noose around your neck, which stops you retiring early or doing the things you want to do.  So even if you do well with leveraged property, those benefits will only come after a significant amount of time, mired in debt.

For anybody with multiple properties already, it makes a lot of sense to sell, and leave just 1 family home maximum. You may just be able to retire or semi-retire on a beach somewhere!

Extra reading:

  1. DIY Investors – why do they tend to fail?
  2. How to become rich by investing 

Financial Planning and Pensions for Expat Teachers

Last time I spoke about the needs of oil and gas workers.  Teachers overseas are in a similar position in some ways but in a different situation in other words.  The following points were made about oil workers but also applies to education:

1.  Health Insurance 

Your employer should provide this.  However, almost all insurers for expats, won’t cover pre-existing conditions at a reasonable rate if you haven’t already been insured through them.  In other words, if you have a contract in 2018 and are insured by AXA through your company, if you lose your job in 2020 and got cancer or a heart attack in 2019, you won’t be able to easily get insurance to cover those conditions unless you are part of a group scheme.  So spending 1%-2% of your insurance on your own health insurance makes sense.

2.  Income protection due to ill health

The average age for expats claiming illness insurance is 43-44 in Asia, not 54 or 64! Oil and gas has it’s stresses just like all jobs, but also some specific threats to your health.  Like on health insurance, protecting your income if a disability or serious illness occurs, can be incredibly cheap, provided you don’t already have pre-existing conditions.  

3. Life cover. 

If you have kids or dependents such as elderly relatives or a partner who doesn’t work, you need life insurance.  Insurance though is dead money if nothing happens.  Therefore, it makes sense to get as many benefits as possible, for the lowest possible price.  If you can get your income, life and health insured for 5% of your income, it is a non brainer and helps you sleep at night .

4. Income

If you are 55+ and are thinking about retirement, you should think about how your investment portfolio (which is hopefully relatively big by now) will fund your retirement.  What income options exist?

5. Property at home or abroad

This is part of estate planning and inheritance, but depend that, investing in property doesn’t always make sense.  It can do, depending on the area, whether you can find a buyer and so on. Expat mortgages can be reasonable and arranged.  

6.  Your current pension or savings

 How well is it performing?  Do you have too much money in the bank earning close to 0% or an underperforming portfolio?

In addition to the above, teachers have additional considerations, including the below:

1. Teaching isn’t the most lucrative occupation, but back home the pension benefits are substantial.  It isn’t usual for a teacher to get a pension of 17,000-20,000GBP, in addition to the state pension of around 10,000 pounds.  To put that in perspective, a teacher earning 27,000-30,000GBP in retirement would need a retirement post of over $1M if they did it privately.

2. Teachers overseas in international schools usually have bigger salaries, but less pension benefits.  This makes saving, and saving from a young age, important, to ensure you have parity or better with your peers back home.  If you are 30, investing $500-$800 may be enough to provide you with a good retirement come 60-65.  If you have left it until age 45, in comparison, you may need to invest $1,500+

3.  Unlike expats in certain functions in oil and gas, teachers can often get at least part-time work at 65 or even 70.  An expat teacher who is 65 needs to carefully consider how they will fund retirement, including part-time income. Nobody knows when their health will go, so this shouldn’t be an excuse for a younger expat to delay, but if you are in this unfortunate position, you need to see much your current pot could be worth on a monthly basis and then decide how many hours you need to work. 

[email protected]iamgltd.com – for more questions about this article.

Financial Planning and Pensions for Expat Oil Workers

If you have any questions about the above, my contact details are  [email protected]

Oil and gas is one of the biggest expat sectors in the Middle and Far East, and beyond.  Quite a large amount of expats in this sector, from my experience, have complex financial and insurance needs which in some cases are specific to their sector.  I look at a few below:

1. Complex Pension situation/considerations 

Some expats are part of company schemes.  However, like most FTSE 100 companies, BP and Shell have huge pension deficits.  They aren’t alone.  Despite the recent spikes in prices, the number of companies that have gone bankrupt or slashed their pension schemes, has gone up sharply in the North Sea, Far and Middle East and beyond.

This means that it makes it imperative to consider whether to transfer your pension overseas.  Often the benefits of doing so are huge, and can be done through some of the UK and world’s largest pension providers which have been approved by HMRC and other tax authorities.  EU nationals working overseas, especially Dutch, Belgium and Irish citizens, are also entitled to similar benefits.  For German, Nordic and and other expats, it can be more difficult.

If you don’t already have pension arrangements, this makes saving for a pension even more important.  The lifestyle of oil and gas, with 6 weeks on and off very common, make bad spending habits very common.  It isn’t uncommon for expats on huge packages to spend it all!  As age discrimination happens more commonly in many Asian countries than in the West, it might happen whereby you lose your job or contract isn’t renewed due to age. 

2.  Health Insurance 

People in oil & gas should take protection against ill health and income particularly seriously, especially in some job functions.  Your employer should provide health coverage, of course.  However, almost all insurers for expats, won’t cover pre-existing conditions at a reasonable rate if you haven’t already been insured through them.  In other words, if you have a contract in 2018 and are insured by AXA through your company, if you lose your job in 2020 and got cancer or a heart attack in 2019, you won’t be able to easily get insurance to cover those conditions unless you are part of a group scheme.  So spending 1%-2% of your insurance on your own health insurance makes sense.

3.  Income protection due to ill health

The average age for expats claiming illness insurance is 43-44 in Asia, not 54 or 64! Oil and gas has it’s stresses just like all jobs, but also some specific threats to your health.  Like on health insurance, protecting your income if a disability or serious illness occurs, can be incredibly cheap, provided you don’t already have pre-existing conditions.  

4. Life cover. 

If you have kids or dependents such as elderly relatives or a partner who doesn’t work, you need life insurance.  Insurance though is dead money if nothing happens.  Therefore, it makes sense to get as many benefits as possible, for the lowest possible price.  If you can get your income, life and health insured for 5% of your income, it is a non brainer and helps you sleep at night.

5.  Income 

If you are 55+ and are thinking about retirement, you should think about how your investment portfolio (which is hopefully relatively big by now) will fund your retirement.  What income options exist and their associated risk and reward is important.

6.  Property at home or abroad.  

This is part of estate planning and inheritance, but depending on that, investing in property doesn’t always make sense.  It can do, depending on the area, whether you can find a buyer and so on. Expat mortgages can be reasonable and arranged.  

Also depending on how many days a year you are on the rig, this will affect whether you are considered a resident or not.  As an example,  if you spend more than 90 days a year in the UK, even if you live in the Middle East, this will sometimes affect whether you are considered an expat for property and investing purposes.

7,  Your current pension or savings.  

How well is it performing?  Do you have too much money in the bank earning close to 0% or an underperforming portfolio?  The academic evidence suggests time in the market is more important than timing the market, and therefore waiting too long to use your money productivity is a long-term mistake, regardless of the short-term.

 

 

Stock Picking vs Index Funds: Is Stock Picking Ever Rational?

Please contact me at  [email protected]  if you have any questions about this article or questions in general.

Consider something for a moment.  If you stock pick (individual stocks) rather than buying funds, you have an 80%+ chance of not beating the market over a 5 year period. That goes down to about 98%+ over a 40 year + investment career.  There are many reasons for this. 

Even small costs of buying and selling build up.  Good short-term returns, moreover, increase egos, and complacency comes into play. One of the biggest reasons is that the information is all there transparently, so there is no such thing as a free lunch. Remember, all the information about companies is publicly available and there are people whose job it is to look at this information and weight the pros and cons of all that information.

Take tech as an example.  It was true in the 1990s that those IT geeks who correctly predicted the future, could have made tones of money. Certainly early investors in Facebook or Amazon did.  However, it would have been madness to put a significant percentage of your wealth in Amazon in 1995. A rational investor can only make decisions based on the information he or she has available at the time.  Predicting the future is almost impossible and those who get it right once, probably won’t next time. This is something cryptocurrency advocates should know too well, considering many believed in hyperinflation and a depression as bad as the Great Depression 5-10 years ago. 

There are so many unknown unknowns and know unknowns for all companies, and especially start-ups. If Amazon’s CEO would have died 20 years ago, or there would have been a huge scandal or employees would have joined a competitor on mass, the company would never have succeeded.  Who knows, maybe Amazon almost went bust early on before they publicly revealed information which only becomes a legal requirement once it goes public.  And more to the point, even though tech has on average done well over the last 20 years, most tech firms have gone bankrupt. 

Buying the market and a broad basket of companies isn’t speculating.  It is just assuming that, like always, in the long-term, the biggest 100-200-300 companies in the US or elsewhere will be worth more money in 10-20-30 years than today.  So regardless of whether in 2050 most of the S&P is financial services, law, consumer goods or even bitcoin mining companies (i doubt that though!), an investor who buys the market will profit.  They just won’t profit as much as somebody who invests 100% of their wealth in the one coin that beats the market!  One of the reasons the average DIY investors only makes on average 4%-5% per year when markets have gone up (historic average) 10% per year, is because they assume they are smarter than others due to `research`.  

It is human nature to think you are smarter than the average, but the academic evidence is clear that enhanced knowledge won’t allow you to consistently beat average market returns.  You will almost certainly beat the market some years, but on average, you will lose long-term.

This whole mania around cryptocurrency is another case in point.  The price could go up or down, but very few people (or any) are buying `a basket of coins` which tracks the average price of the market.  Instead they tend to buy 1, 2 or a maximum of 3 coins. This means, that even if the market increases in the future, many people in the market are engaging in something akin to stock picking.  

Let’s say somebody owns one coin, and that coin is implicated a political scandal after a dictator stashes and it is subsequently outlawed across numerous countries, then the price will go down.  Not to mention, let us imagine for a second the coins become a victim of their own success, they do become a threat to the state’s ability to raise revenue, and therefore becomes a libertarian’s dream.  State regulation will hammer the price.  I have heard some people say the ridiculous phrase that `regulation can’t affect the price`.  That is silly.  Let’s give an extreme example now.  Let’s say in 2019 there is a terrorist attack funded by some of the coins, as terrorists use it to fund themselves.  If there is a popular backlash and the coins are banned globally or even just in the OECD, the price could go close to $0.  Every time a new regulation is announced, the price goes down.  It could be made an illegal offence to own or trade any coin tomorrow or the day after tomorrow, in an extreme event.

The price of bitcoin and other coins may skyrocket, but that doesn’t mean that an investor is irrational to say no to it in 2018.  It is pure speculation and at best should represent 5% of a portfolio if somebody can’t resist the temptation.

3 common financial misconceptions

Having lived overseas for around 7 years, I find the following, and not completely exhaustive list, are the biggest misconceptions many expats and locals have about finance:

1. Stock Markets are more risky than real estate and provide lower returns

Equities are more volatile than real estate in developed countries, but on average, it is a fact that if dividends is reinvested, stocks tend to outperform real estate in the long-term. I am not quite sure where the idea comes from, and found it quite perplexing when people started panicking about a week ago when prices went down 10% (after increasing about 300% since 2009!)

With the exception of London and some top spots, most houses are now cheaper, adjusted for inflation, than 10 years ago, according to the BBC. Even top performing markets such as Canada saw lower gains for real estate against stock prices.

Perhaps it is part of primitive human nature to like something you can touch such as gold or property? Or perhaps people don’t adjust for dividends or don’t calculate the hidden costs of property, which tends to be higher than equities?  Either way, people can have a screwed view.  Volatility and stability are different things.

Property can be a good investment but can only compete with stock markets if you go down the leveraged buy-to-let route.

2. I have enough for retirement

90%+ of people don’t.  Ultimately, you can only take about 4% a year from a lump sum.  $1M sounds like a lot of money to most people, but based on $1M, you can only take out about $40,000 per year.  That is unless you are close to death, don’t care about inflation eroding the gains and possibly running out of cash and/or not having much to leave your kids.

Many wealthier expats who are used to spending a lot of money assume they have enough, but how realistic is it to live off $5000 a month in retirement if you are used to $25,000 as an example?  You should aim for 70% of your previous income to be replaced in retirement, and it is best to not rely on illiquid assets such as rental yields for retirement income.

As an example, if you currently are spending $50,000, you should aim to have at least $35,000 in retirement, which means you need to have around $900,000 on day 1 of retirement.

3.  I should only deal with somebody I know

Many people are with a financial firm because they are friends with the owner, or have been referred to him or her.  That is fine, but sometimes switching can save you thousands or even $100,000 or more, compounded, over a lifetime investing for retirement.  As point 1 shows however, this point is connected to human nature.

People are far more cynical about strangers than they need to be, with some surveys suggesting that respondents believe that there is only a 50% chance of getting lent money returned, when the real figure is 80%-90%.

Manipulative people tend to gradually gain your trust, so apart from a few vulnerable old ladies, most people are not conned by the cold approach.  To the contrary you are more likely to do your homework and be more objective, and less emotional, if you compare 2-3 offers from people you don’t know and have zero feelings for.

If you have any questions about this article please contact me at [email protected]

Why the wealthy spend less on luxury: the 70/30 rule in finance

Last year I started to take fitness and lifestyle more seriously.  Quite a few experts I know talked about diet being more important than exercise.  As exercise makes us feel hungrier, and it isn’t realistic to sustainably try to starve yourself, I was told most fitness coaches tell their clients they need to change eating habits.  

Therefore, 70%-75% of the progress people make in terms of their weight will be down to diet, and only 25%-30% relates to exercise.  This surprised me a bit, and I am sure surprises many people.

It got me thinking.  One of the things I have noticed since being in the finance industry is that many high-income individuals aren’t wealthy.  

I know numerous people who are worth $2M on an income of $50,000 and others have close to zero wealth but are on huge expat packages.

One person I know has consistently made $15,000 per month after tax for about 20 years in South East Asia, and yet has only about $100,000 to his name.

How can this be true?  Well, the truth is good spending habits are actually the biggest source of wealth, compared to earning more.  Michael Jackson was close to bankrupt despite earning around a billion dollars in his careers.

That is not to mention the effect of compounding.  Even though markets historically go up and down, on the whole, they tend to increase over time.  The US Stock Market, the S&P, has averaged a return of 10% before inflation and around 6.5% after inflation.  This benefits people who are consistently disciplined and start investing at a young age.

Take a simple example of somebody who starts investing at age 22 for 40 years. Let’s say they save on average $100. If they get average historical returns, their account will be worth about $264,000 in today’s money when they are 62.  

If they save $500, the account will be worth $1.3M and $1,000 would lead to $2.6M in today’s money at the age of 62.  In reality, even a very well-paid person who has had bad spending habits will struggle to accumulate $1M-$3M if they start investing in their 50s.

Consider an even more startling statistic.  Let’s compare two people who are investing $500 a month and they both get an unexpected lump sum of $100,000 due to inheritance.  

Person 1 invests only $500 per month but spends the 100K, whilst person 2 invests the 100K and the $500 monthly.  In 30 years, person 1 would have around $588,000 in today’s money.  Person two would have $1,350,000 in today’s money…..a difference of $750,000 in real terms by delaying consumption and well over $1M if you don’t factor in inflation!

Perhaps it is unsurprising that many reports suggest that the rich are less likely to buy luxury goods.

The above is a sample from the 6 steps to financial freedom book.

Extra reading 

  1. How to get rich investing

Generali Vision Review: Charges and Problems

Generali Vision was perhaps the most commonly sold savings plan in the expat market, until a few years ago.  But is the plan worth taking out, and what should somebody do who has the plan?

The plan is a regular contribution plan, which can be taken out for as little as 5 years, with 25-30 years also common.  In general, the plan should only be taken out if the person intends to contribute for the full term.  This is because the charging structure is high.  A breakdown of the charges can be found below:

Fees linked to the initial period:  0.3%-2.75% depending on the year of the plan and the term taken out. For example, on a 25 year plan, the charges are 2.75% for the first 5 years, 2% for the next 5 years and 0.3% for the next 15 years.

Fixed monthly fees:   £3

Admin charges:  1.5% annually

Bid/offer spread: (the difference between the buying and selling price) – 0%-2%, only if internal funds are chosen is it 0%.

As you can see, the charges are quite high.  However, if somebody contributes to the plan for every single month without exception, a bonus will be added to the account.  In practice, this means that the plan is expensive (around 4% per year in fees) unless the person contributes every month, in which case the bonuses will reduce the fees to around 1% per year.  Loyalty bonuses are only available on plans of at least 10 years.   On a plan of over 10 years, a loyalty bonus of 5% of any premiums paid will be levied to the account.  After 30 years, somebody saving $500 a month, can `earn` up to $9,000 in bonuses, which essentially is just reducing the fees.

As few people are told about the way the fees and loyalty bonuses work, many customers stop contributing early, therefore not qualifying them for the bonus.  So what should somebody do who has this plan?  If they have been contributing every month, they should be careful before cancelling or stopping payments.  A review should be made, carefully looking at the costs of doing so.  If somebody has already stopped payments and therefore cannot qualify for some of the loyalty bonuses, cheaper and more flexible options exist in the market.

Finally, many brokers levy 2 or more additional fees to the account, which can further reduce fees.  If somebody wants to keep a plan, it may pay to get a review of the account, and see if a better solution can be found.
If you have a Generally Vision plan and want a review, don’t hesitate to get in touch via [email protected]

Life Insurance for Expats in Thailand, Singapore, UAE and beyond. How much life Insurance do you really need?

We all know that anybody can die at anytime, and if you have a dependent, you will want them to be looked after if tragedy strikes.  Even if you don’t currently have children, you might in the future, or might have an elderly parent.  So how much life insurance do you really need?

A good, and basic, rule is to assume that a lump sum from life insurance will yield the beneficiary 4% per year for the rest of their life.  In other words, $100,000 will yield $4000 per year, and  $1M will yield $40,000 and so on.  This does depend on numerous assumptions, of course.  How conservative your loved ones are with money is one consideration, and how they invest the money after the death.

Before deciding on how much life insurance to get, also consider how much debt you have and savings.  Imagine you have person 1, who has a partner who needs $50,000 of yearly income.  This person also has $500,000 in assets that can generate an income such as shares and cash.  Such a person should aim to get $750,000 of life cover, because 50,000×25-500,000 = $750,000.  Now consider person 2 is in the same situation, but they have $50,000 of debt.  In which case, $800,000   of life cover is more sensible.

Of course, these are only rules of thumb. If somebody has an elderly frail parent who is 95, one clearly doesn’t need 25 years of life insurance.  In addition, if one has a partner who is likely to be able to generate their own income, or can partially rely on income from the state, that will also lower the amount of cover needed.

As you can ascertain by now, how much life cover you need is not simple.  That isn’t an excuse for putting it off, however. Be prepared if the worst happens.

Please contact me at [email protected]  if you have any questions on this article

Asset Allocation Strategy

Let us consider, for a moment, some facts. 1). There are many different asset classes such as property, bonds, commodities and equities. 2). Some of these asset classes are liquid and some are illiquid. 3). Nobody can, for certain, predict the movements of financial markets despite the fact that markets have historically risen over time.

These points are important, because it is safe to assume that sometime in your life, the financial markets will be down 10%, and quite possible, as much as 50%. This does not need to trouble long-term investors who can ride out the volatility, and is especially good for those that have cash lying around.

However, sensible asset allocation not only reduces your risk, but it also gives you a chance to benefit from the downsides as well. Let’s give an example of government bonds. Government bonds produced by the US Government and other developed and mature economies are one of the least volatile asset classes.

They usually barely outperform inflation, because investors do not demand much of a risk premium on such a safe asset. It is true, therefore, that bonds over the long-term do not yield as much as financial markets. Whereas the S&P and Dow Jones has historically yielded around 6.6% after inflation, which compounded has made them the best performing asset class, government bonds have yielded barely above inflation.

So why should investors consider bonds? Well for one, having some bonds in your portfolio cushions the blow of any market falls, as bonds usually go up during financial crashes, as they are seen as a safe heaven. Just as importantly, bonds allow you to buy equities cheaply during the crash.

Consider the following portfolio. The value is worth $100,000. 75%, or 75,000, is in international equity markets, and 25%, or 25,000, is in government bonds. Now imagine there is a market crash. The equities go down by 20% to $60,000 and the bonds have risen to $26,500 in the wake of the crash.

Now the portfolio is worth $86,500 and the bonds are worth $26,500 of that, meaning that the bonds are now worth more than 30% of the portfolio. This is important, because investors can now sell 5% of the bonds and buy equities at discounted prices, or even buy another 5-10% if markets fall further. Using this strategy, even if the market only recover back to there previous level, the investor will have more than the original $100,000, because he or she bought at discounted prices when the market fell.

Of course, investors can only make such a trade if their investments are liquid and there are no hefty exit charges for leaving funds. Nobody can sell physical art, property land or many commodities in a day or probably a week, and selling a fund which has a 5% exit charge does not make sense. This illustrates the importance of having a relatively liquid portfolio, where assets can be moved freely, quickly and cheaply from one asset class to another. It means that rational, medium and long-term investors, can actually look forward to buying at lower prices, which will help returns.