|Archived Articles • 2007|
We spend the year accumulating wealth. Now is a good time to share it with those who are less fortunate. Donations of listed securities such as stocks and mutual funds no longer attract any capital gains tax plus, as before, you get a tax receipt for the full market value. See A time for giving: Act like a saint but think like an investor.
Bring Fresh Eyes to Your Portfolio in 2008 [WSJ, 30Dec07] [If link is dead, search Archive for "clements", then select 12/30/07 article.] Think differently in 2008. Looking for a New Year's resolution for tomorrow evening? Forget exercising or dieting. Instead, next year, throw out the conventional financial wisdom and commit to looking at your portfolio with fresh eyes. On that score, here are nine suggestions."
Tattered Standard of Duty on Wall Street [NY Times, 23Dec07] "Today, in the midst of the mortgage mess, we see people breaching their fiduciary duty and getting away with it. A few may lose their jobs and wander off to a wealthy retirement. But the ordinary stockholders of the banks and mortgage companies are staggered. Entities that sought a marginally better return on their money and were sold exposure to the CMOs are pauperized because of the losses. And there are reports that Wall Street is expecting $38 billion in bonuses this year."
Why Do I Bother to Battle? [BFMRC, 13Dec07] "Because, in the mutual fund field, no one else in the system is battling to bring back our traditional values of trusteeship and our high promise of service to investors. Someone’s got to do it. By the process of elimination, I got the job."
'Be prepared for a lot of bumps' [Fortune, 17Dec07] Q&A with John Bogle. "What's the best investing advice you've ever received? It was the best advice and the earliest advice. I was working at a brokerage house one summer while in college, and one of the guys who was another runner at the firm delivering securities said, 'Let me tell you all you need to know about the investment business.' I said, 'What's that?' He said, 'Nobody knows nuthin'.' That sounds cynical, but we don't know what the markets hold, certainly not in the short run. We have no idea." More Q&A
How to Beat the Next Bubble [WSJ, 16Dec07] [If link is dead, search Archive for "clements", then select 12/16/07 article.] "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. As stocks collapsed earlier this decade, investors vowed never again to be so reckless. Yet, within a few short years, folks were rolling the dice once more, this time flipping condominiums and making massive bets on rental real estate. You've got to wonder: How could this possibly happen?"
Solutions to market regulation faults sought [Toronto Star, 08Dec07] "Ontario securities regulators and law-enforcement authorities are failing in their mission to protect investors... Internationally, Canada's financial and investment credibility continues to be eroded. Here's a breakdown of six inherent problems in the system and possible solutions."
Chasing performance hurts load mutual fund investors, study finds [Financial Post, 06Dec07] "We find that investors who transact through investment professionals using conventional distribution arrangements experience substantially poorer timing performance than investors who purchase pure no-load funds... No-load index funds are the only funds found to show no evidence of poor investor timing."
Why the OSC so rarely gets its man [Toronto Star, 01Dec07] "More than 450 employees work at the Ontario Securities Commission. About 40% are paid more than $100,000 a year. Their dismal track record begs the question: What on earth are they doing?... 'We found the enforcement in Ontario was pathetic. Canada is a first-world country with second-world capital markets and third-world enforcement'... 'international embarrassment' "
Insurance giant: We overcharged [Toronto Star, 01Dec07] "Faced with a class-action lawsuit on one flank and the risk of a reduced credit rating on the other, a leading life insurer has admitted it may have charged excess fees that hurt customers' investment returns... The gap in annual returns between the S&P 500 (in U.S. dollars) and the Can-Am [S&P 500 index] Fund has been far more than 2.5 percentage points [its management fee]. The average annual difference for calendar years 1996 to 2001 was 4.85 percentage points, according to figures from Morningstar Canada."
Evolution of an Investor [portfolio.com, Dec07] "It wasn't exactly the career he’d hoped for. Once, he confessed to his boss his misgivings about the performance of his customers' portfolios. His boss told him point-blank, 'Blaine, you're confused about your job.' A fellow broker added, 'Your job is to turn your clients' net worth into your own.' Blaine wrote that down in his journal... One day, someone may look back and ask: At the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st, how did so many take up financial careers on Wall Street that were of such little social value?"
How to lose $9 trillion in a bull market [Money 29Nov, 07] "In 1982 the total value of the U.S. stock market, as measured by the Wilshire 5000 index, was $1.2 trillion. The index has since returned an average annual rate of 13.3 percent - enough to turn that $1.2 trillion into $28.2 trillion. Yet the value of Wilshire stocks, as of Sept. 30, was $18.7 trillion, meaning investors earned far less than 13.3 percent a year. Did $9.5 trillion disappear? And how can investors earn less than their investments?"
The 10 commandments [Globe and Mail, 21Oct07] "When The Globe's investment columnist Rob Carrick wants clarity in confusing times, he turns to the investment lessons he's learned from legends in the field."
OSC targets shady marketing claims [Toronto Star, 10Nov07] "Many investment counsels and fund managers are misleading potential clients, securities watchdogs say. Marketing materials for wealthy individuals, charities and pension plans sometimes make selective, unsubstantiated or baseless claims, the regulators say. So, the Ontario Securities Commission has spelled out new guidelines."
Commission-based model undervalues advice [Investment Executive, Nov07] "Advisors offer a valuable service to investors. Indeed, we believe that it is so valuable that they should be explicitly compensated for it by their clients, rather than allowing it to be devalued through a system of centrally planned and controlled compensation."
One mouse click and $1 dollar goes to War Child Canada "One mouse click can help war affected children worldwide! For the week of November 5th through 11th, TrackItBack will be donating $1 to War Child Canada for every Canadian click that comes through their website... This initiative is proof that companies can make an impact in the lives of war-affected children."
Make It to the End With Money to Spare [WSJ, 04Nov07] [If link is dead, search Archive for "clements", then select 11/04/07 article.] "Retirement presents all kinds of pitfalls, including rotten markets, rapid inflation and living longer than expected. To cope with these risks, you have three key tools: interest-paying investments, stocks and products that generate guaranteed lifetime income. What's the best way to use these tools? Here are four strategies."
Dishonest dealers unlikely to pay fines [Vancouver Sun, 27Oct07] "From December 2004 (when the [Mutual Fund Dealers Association] began taking enforcement actions) to June 30, 2006, the association assessed $8.45 million in fines, but collected only $2.65 million, all of which came from a single member, Investors Group, to settle a market-timing case. During the same period, the association assessed $131,500 in costs, but collected only $50,000. Once again, all of that money came from Investors Group as part of the same market-timing settlement. Thank God for Investors Group, otherwise the MFDA would have batted zero."
Advice from the index-fund mastermind [Bankrate.com, 22Oct07] "Q. What is the most important piece of advice you have for someone who is new to investing?
A. Rely on simplicity; own American or global business in broadly diversified, low-cost funds... The [Vanguard] management company is owned by the funds; its profits, now running about $12 billion a year, are largely rebated -- 98 percent or something -- to our fund shareholders in the form of lower expenses."
BCSC finds fund salesman guilty of fraud [Globe and Mail, 18Oct07] "This case represents one of the most callous and audacious frauds this province has seen. Thow preyed on his clients by offering them non-existent securities and instead using the funds to support his lavish lifestyle. He took their money and betrayed their trust. He has left a trail of financial devastation and heartbreak."
Black Monday and Black Swans [Bogle eBlog, 12Oct07] "Changes in the nature and structure of our financial markets—and a radical shift in its participants—are making shocking and unexpected market aberrations ever more probable. The amazing market swings we’ve witnessed in the past few months tend to confirm that likelihood. While the daily changes in the level of stock prices typically exceed two percent only three or four times per year, in just one recent month we’ve seen 8 such moves. Ironically, 4 were up, and 4 were down. Based on past experience, the probability of that scenario was... zero."
Fifteen ways to reduce your 2007 taxes [Deloitte, Oct07] "Fall is always a good time to take stock of one’s tax situation. As several weeks remain before the end of the year, now is the time to review your 2007 transactions and make any necessary adjustments. Tax planning is always an issue, whether you work, are retired, operate a business directly or operate a business through a corporation. Here are fifteen ways, among others, to save on taxes for 2007."
Investor Education Month is great, but these sites will help you learn every day [Globe and Mail, 09Oct07] "A spot for more experienced investors is the Financial Webring Forum, where an active participant with the online moniker Bylo Selhi maintains his own website focusing on mutual fund investing. This site is full of links to articles about finance and educational material aimed at the cost-conscious do-it-yourselfer."
$1.4B tax scams nail donors [Toronto Star, 29Sep07] "Canada's coffers have been cheated of more than $1.4 billion by scams that provided taxpayers with inflated charitable receipts they used to reduce their income tax... At least 106,000 individual Canadians are learning the Canada Revenue Agency considers these schemes a sham, and wants to claw the money back. Some also are being hit with major financial penalties."
Bill Moyers talks with John Bogle [PBS, 28Sep "We've become a financial economy which has overwhelmed the productive economy to the detriment of investors and the detriment ultimately of our society... Banks, money managers, insurance companies, certainly annuity providers. They're all subtracting value from the economy... It's just gotten totally out of hand. My estimate is that the financial sector takes $560 billion a year out of society."
Lee-chin in the land of the Thow affair [Financial Post, 17Sep07] "Two years back, Thow departed from Berkshire and is now based in the United States. He has left a wake of misery with clients who claim they are owed more than $30-million... This isn't the first time Berkshire has dragged its feet involving compensating clients affected by its financial advisors... The Thow situation is an acid test for the MFDA,... a national self-regulatory organization that regulates the distribution side of the Canadian mutual fund industry."
Bogle: 'Hope Will Return' [Business Week, 17Aug07] "So I'm a stay-the-course person... I'm very comfortable when these things happen. I don't much like them...You pay a price for all this and we're paying the price now... I'm an indexer. I own the market. And I'm happy. Markets come and go."
Vanguard Diehards Know the Secret [Morningstar, 21Jun07] "Recently I had the privilege of attending the Diehards VI Reunion in Alexandria, Va. I won't go through a recap of what was said, because that has already been ably done. I do want to reflect on some of the more important overarching principles that were conveyed."
Minutes from the Diehards VI Reunion [11-12Jun07] Last week Bogleheads met in Washington, DC for their sixth annual get-together. Here's a summary of proceedings, including Q&A with Jack Bogle, Bill Bernstein and several others. [HTML version]
Improving the Average of the Average Investor [WSJ, Jun07] "My only quibble is that Mr. Bogle takes an overly negative position on Exchange Trade Funds (ETFs)... Mr. Bogle complains in The Little Book of Common Sense Investing that ETFs are inimical to the basic purpose of indexing. He laments: 'What have they done to my song, ma? They've turned it upside down.' In certain respects, though, the ETF-class of indexed shares has made his song even better."
Exchange traded funds feed many [Contra Costa Times, 11Jun07] "ETF held up to a brokerage firm's mirror reads 'FTE — Feeding Trough for Everyone.' According to John Bogle, the founder of Vanguard, ETFs have generated a 16,000 percent profit, in at least a few cases, for those who invested the seed capital to get them off the ground."
Having 'fun' in market is costly [dailyrecord.com, 03Jun07] "Q: What will happen to all the stockbrokers, money managers, analysts and — especially — financial writers if everyone just buys index funds?
Grow your own? [The Gazette, 02Jun07] "Can an individual successfully do it themselves? The answer, according to experts interviewed for this story, is yes, provided they have the desire and devote the time to learn the principles of prudent investing. They also have to make sure they have the discipline to avoid hyperactive trading and control their emotions through market volatility."
Sidekick has sage advice of his own [Financial Post, 28May07] "There are two great shareholder meetings in May: the love-in at Omaha at which Warren Buffett, the legendary head of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., entertains and explains his investment philosophy; and a session in Pasadena, Calif., at which Charlie Munger, Buffett's 83-year old sidekick (he is vice-chairman at Berkshire), regales the troops from Wesco Financial Corp., an 80.1%-owned subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway. Munger is Wesco's chairman."
Calculate and compare costs for Vanguard ETFs and mutual funds [Vanguard, May07] "Compare Vanguard exchange-traded funds and the corresponding mutual funds to determine which investment has the lower costs in your situation and how those costs impact investment growth."
Few object to fund fees, so firms are adding more [Toronto Star, 09May07] "Why do Canadian investors put up with high fees? Why don't they switch to lower-cost funds (such as index or exchange-traded funds) or invest directly in stocks? Here are five reasons, in my view, why investors tolerate high-cost funds and fail to look for other options."
New draft says fund sector still world's most expensive [Toronto Star, 08May07] "Three professors who declared Canada's $690 billion mutual fund industry the most expensive in the world are sticking to their depressing findings. 'We have re-estimated our tests in many ways, and our results are robust,' Ajay Khorana, Henri Servaes and Peter Tufano have replied to several pointed criticisms from the lobby group for the Canadian fund industry."
Buffett says index funds better for most investors [Reuters, 06May07] "A very low-cost index is going to beat a majority of the amateur-managed money or professionally-managed money. The gross performance may be reasonably decent, but the fees will eat up a significant percentage of the returns. You'll pay lots of fees to people who do well, and lots of fees to people who do not do so well."
Sometimes the Stock Does Better Than the Investor That Buys the Stock [NY Times, 03May07] "Taken together, this research offers yet more support for the time-tested investment strategy of buy and hold. Anything that you think is news is old hat to the professionals. Trying to outguess the market is a sucker’s game."
Revolution or pollution? [Economist, 19Apr07] "Some worry that growth is getting out of hand, with valuations that recall the dotcom bubble. One ETF provider, WisdomTree, has seen the company's own share price rise by 80% over the past year, even though it is yet to post a profit. Concern is also growing that investors do not appreciate the risks of the ballooning array of niche ETFs. Because they are more thinly traded than flagships such as State Street's S&P 500-tracking SPDR, the world's most liquid share, it costs more to move in and out of them. Moreover, they may not be tracking their chosen market segments as closely as investors think."
Bogle on Investing [EconTalk, 09Apr07] "Investors put up 100% of the capital and take all the risk, but after managerial costs end up with only 20% of the return, with 80% going to the managers. Yet many investors still believe they can pick the smart managers and thus do better with a managed fund than with the average index fund. For investors, it's easy to look back but difficult to look forward. 'Performance comes and goes but costs go on forever...' Performance-chasing conventionally makes investor his own worst enemy. Typical mutual fund investor earns about 3 percentage points less per year less than the typical fund itself! Inflation eats away most of that, not to mention taxes."
The Executioner of Excellence [Efficient Frontier, Apr07] "For many years, I’ve been troubled by a conundrum: If mutual fund investors are not earning the market return, even adjusting for expenses, who is taking the winning side of their transactions? The yawning gap between dollar-weighted and time-weighted mutual fund data demonstrates just how far short John Q. Public falls. Amazingly, professionals, as represented by the managers of hedge funds, mutual funds, and pension funds, don’t do that much better. So, after Bogle’s Croupier collects his take, who is getting rich off the losers?"
We Hear Just What We Want to Hear [WSJ, 08Apr07] [If link is dead, search Archive for "clements", then select 04/08/07 article.] "Think you're immune to confirmation bias? If you are a regular reader of this column, ask yourself this question: Why do you keep reading my articles? ... On the other hand, investing a little of your ego isn't such a bad idea. If you're going to stick with your portfolio at times of market turmoil, you need unflinching commitment. My advice: Develop a sense of conviction -- about your profound ignorance."
Rebalancing for Taxable Accounts [FPA Journal, Apr07] "While most rebalancing methods work about the same for nontaxable portfolios, rebalancing methods differ much more when taxes are involved."
Investment books to read [Toronto Star, 04Apr07] "If you want Canadian advice, check out a set of linked websites, at www.financialwebring.com, aimed at helping do-it-yourself investors. In particular, look at these sites... www.bylo.org, by a Toronto man using the pseudonym, Bylo Selhi, who adores John Bogle and seems to have collected every article ever written about index investing."
Bogle: Still scolding after all these years [Money, 20Mar07] "As an investor, you want to ignore the expectations market and instead just trust earnings growth and dividend yields to give you a return over time. And get cost out of the equation. The more your funds' managers make, the less you make."
Fund melding puts a significant spin on sector's results [Globe and Mail, 13Mar07] "Or, you can simply be a streetwise investor who mentally accounts for survivorship bias whenever you see figures comparing how the average fund in a particular category did against its benchmark stock or bond index. Whatever average numbers you see, discount them by a small amount to reflect the shoddy results achieved by funds that were wiped off the map."
How Good People Make Bad Investments [WSJ, 11Mar07] [If link is dead, search Archive for "clements", then select 03/11/07 article.] "Investing isn't hard work. And that's just one of the problems. For many folks, managing money is an exercise in frustration. We summon the skills that work so well in the rest of our lives, apply them to the financial markets -- and end up with lackluster results. Here are just some of the qualities that help us at home and at the office, but leave us flailing around in the stock and bond markets."
10 ways not to sabotage your financial well being [Area Developer, Mar07] "Have you ever wondered why doing the right thing or behaving as we 'should' is usually the most difficult choice? Especially when it comes to handling our finances, there is almost always a less emotionally challenging path than the one that is 'in our own long-term best interest.'... As it turns out, there is actually a scientific explanation for such behavior. Blame it on old (psychological) wiring and the fact that, 'at least from a scientific perspective,' we are really not as modern or 'evolved' as we may think we are."
When the Wolf Is Polite Enough to Knock [WSJ, 04Mar07] [If link is dead, search Archive for "clements", then select 03/04/07 article.] "You have been warned. Like a thunderclap in the distance, Tuesday's 416-point plunge by the Dow Jones Industrial Average served notice that rough markets may lie ahead. I have no idea whether we'll get those rough markets. But consider Tuesday to be a great gift. You have been reminded of your risk tolerance -- and, should you decide to lighten up on stocks, you still have the chance to get out at lofty prices."
Only third of fund managers beat index [Globe & Mail, 02Mar07] "Over the last five fund years, actively-managed Canadian equity funds reported an annual return that fell, on average, 3 percentage points below the index, the credit rating agency said. Since 2001-- the first year S&P in Toronto began collecting the data -- less than 11 per cent of actively managed Canadian equity funds have beaten the TSX index."
Diversify to shrug off bad days like these [Toronto Star, 28Feb07] "If you're in a properly diversified portfolio, you wouldn't notice what happened today. If you were uncomfortable, you had better take a close look at your portfolio. We might have more bad days like this. People chase after products, but they should be looking at the process. Only the product chasers were hurt today."
History Is Bunk [Slate, 21Feb07] "As the fine print... notes, past performance 'cannot guarantee future results.' In fact, to put it in plainer language, past performance is nearly worthless as a predictor of future results. Any firm that argues, therefore, even indirectly, that a mutual fund will do well because it has done well is taking advantage of your natural tendency to be too impressed by the past."
Professor Says Cut Back on Retirement Savings [RealAudio] [WBUR, 20Feb07] "Zvi Bodie, a professor of finance and economics at Boston University, says Americans are saving too much for retirement."
Performance of Index vs Active Portfolios A 15-year (ending 31Dec06) performance comparison between portfolios comprised of the median actively managed funds versus similarly-weighted portfolios of index funds. As in all previous years going back to 1998 — before, during and after the infamous technology bubble — the indexed portfolios continue to beat active by a substantial margin. How does your portfolio measure up?
Are you saying no to free money from your employer? [Globe and Mail, 15Feb07] "Many employees don't use their group RRSPs at all, despite the fact that employers typically match their contributions by anywhere from 25 to 150 per cent. Check out this factoid from insurer Sun Life Financial, which acts as the administrator for group RRSPs covering almost 500,000 employees. Yesterday, the company issued a press release saying only 230,000 of these people are using their group plans."
'Value' Strategies [WSJ, 09Feb07] "ETFs, simply put, are index funds that can be traded in the financial markets. In fairness, if they are not traded, they can often be the equal of the classic index funds. If they operate at lower expense ratios and provide potentially higher tax efficiency, they may provide the same diversification at even lower costs (provided that the initial brokerage commissions are amortized over a substantial span of years). In this format, used in that way, ETFs are solid competitors to their classic forebears."
How to Survive Retirement -- Even if You're Short on Savings [WSJ, 17Jan07] [If link is dead, search Archive for "clements", then select 01/17/07 article.] "Clearly, we need to come up with strategies that retirees can both afford and find palatable. My suggestion: Think about your retirement in two acts, the period until age 85 and the period after... I am not claiming the two-act retirement plan is ideal. But if you're short on savings, it will give you a fair amount of income, your heirs will inherit a decent sum if you die before age 85 and, if you live longer than that, you should be comfortable enough."
It's checkup time for your portfolio -- and adviser [Globe&Mail, 11Jan07] "The biggest financial mistake you make in 2007 could be to assume everything's great in your portfolio just because you have an investment adviser and the markets are coming off a great four-year run. If you can find a spare 30 minutes or so, grab some of your account statements from the past year and do a quick review to make sure both your portfolio and your relationship with your adviser are in good shape. What should you be thinking about? Here are 10 potential points of contention."
Some brokers oversell ETFs' virtues [Financial Post, 11Jan07] "Some brokers and portfolio managers now specialize in ETFs and have built a business around them... By the time the ETF specialists pile on their fees and commissions, their clients are paying just as much as they'd pay to invest in actively managed funds, to buy what amounts to a hodgepodge of index funds."
Don't Buy the "10 Hot Stocks for 2007" [Slate, 09Jan07] "If your New Year's resolution was simply 'rebalance my portfolio of low-cost index funds,' you are displaying more investment wisdom than all of the magazines combined. Whatever you do, do not buy the 10 Stocks To Buy Now, at least not because you read about them in some magazine. If you want to buy the magazine, fine, just don't buy the stocks."
Don't Get Hit by the Pitch: How Advisers Manipulate You [WSJ, 03Jan07] [If link is dead, search Archive for "clements", then select 01/03/07 article.] "We are all, I regret, under the influence. Unscrupulous financial salespeople can often persuade even well-educated folks to sink huge sums into rotten or fraudulent investments. Indeed, over a quarter of adults have fallen prey to a scam -- investment or otherwise -- at some point in their lives... How do these salespeople pull it off? Below are seven common tactics. But here's what is striking: Even ethical financial advisers use these tricks."
Take the time to tinker with your finances [The Gazette, 02Jan07] "The beginning of the new year is an ideal time to take a look at your finances and make at least a few low-pain changes that can pay huge dividends over time. Here are 10 suggestions humbly offered to help improve your personal finances."