Month: September 2019

The Hidden Trade-off: “Risk-adjusted Returns”

canstockphoto28830461

You surely have noticed this by now: we disagree with conventional ways of doing many things. Modern Portfolio Theory (MPT) forms the theoretical underpinnings of a lot of investment practice today, without adequate understanding of its deep flaws.

MPT defines volatility as risk. We believe, as Warren Buffett does, that volatility is just volatility – the normal ups and downs – for long term investors. So one common practice is to promote the advantages of getting 80% of the market returns with only 50% of the risk (for example). This supposedly is a superior “risk-adjusted return.”

But you could use the same statistical methodology to show that it may cost you about one third of your potential wealth in 25 years to have a 50% smoother ride on the way. For an investor with $100,000 in long term funds, this might be a $250,000 future shortfall. The question might be, “What fraction of your future wealth would you sacrifice in order to have less volatility on the way?”

The idea of sacrificing future wealth is a lot different than the idea of reducing risk. But they are two sides of the same coin. This is the hidden trade-off in superior risk-adjusted returns.

Our experience is that people can learn to understand and live with volatility. We believe investors get paid to endure volatility.

Of course, our philosophy is not right for everyone. Volatility is easier to tolerate for investors with a longer time horizon. But we believe everyone should see both sides of the coin before making a decision to forego significant potential future wealth for a smoother ride, less volatility, along the way.

Clients, if you would like to talk about this or anything else, please email us or call.


Content in this material is for general information only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

All investing involves risk including loss of principal. No strategy assures success or protects against loss.

Letters To Our Children #6: Investing, A Tale of Three Buckets

© Can Stock Photo / kevers

We talked about human capital, the traits, characteristics and skills you possess which others value. This is the source of your earning power. When you spend less than you earn, you develop savings. Our topic today is how to manage those sums.

Think of having three buckets. The first one you have is short term. This is where you go to find money to deal with emergencies. You also use the short-term bucket to save for annual expenses like real estate taxes or insurance premiums. This bucket must be stable and liquid, to provide money when you need it. Returns are secondary.

On the other end, you have a long-term bucket. If you ever hope to retire instead of going to work every day, or accumulate wealth for other long-term goals, you need one of these. Unlike the first bucket, this one may endure more volatility in the hopes of garnering higher returns over a long time horizon. You should plan on not tapping this bucket except for those long term goals, short of an emergency which can be met no other way.

Naturally, the third bucket is in between. You may have goals for things that happen in a few years, on an intermediate time horizon. It might be for a major purchase like a boat or camper, to meet educational expenses for a child who is a few years away from college, a down payment on a home you intend to buy at some point in the future.

Not surprisingly, the third bucket may balance stability and higher returns with a middle of the road approach. This is in between the strategies of the short-term bucket and the long-term bucket.

There are other aspects of investing that we will explore in future letters. But the idea of three buckets is a helpful way to understand the functional purposes of investing. You will need to know something about the basic kinds of investments, styles of investing, some tax considerations, and the options available in retirement accounts.

Clients, if you would like to talk about this or anything else, please email us or call.


Content in this material is for general information only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

All investing involves risk including loss of principal. No strategy assures success or protects against loss.

Our Digital Communications: 4th Anniversary

© Can Stock Photo / iqoncept

As we complete four years in the world of digital communications, it makes sense to take stock. What have we gotten done, where are we headed?

We began with three thoughts. We had the intent to be able to communicate at the speed of light when events demanded – sort of a civil defense system for times of stress. And we wanted to communicate with all of you each week about our current thinking on a wide variety of topics. Finally, make available a complete archive of our philosophy and strategies, for you to find and read on your schedule, available 24/7.

We worked out a way to deliver these things with a combination of three methods. Nobody needs to access all three, but we can reach more of you by being more places.

228Main.com hosts our blogs, nearly 400 already published, one or two new ones each week. Daily posts in social media offer additional features, plus links to the blog articles, comments about developments in our thinking, and weekly short videos. And weekly email newsletters provide links to the new blog posts and videos, along with schedule notes.

We love the way you forward emails or like or share our Facebook or Twitter posts. Some of your friends and relatives have gotten to know us this way, at their leisure, with no threat of us bothering them with unwanted approaches (as if we ever would!) The 21st century is a great place to live if you like to communicate.

We are working on consolidating selected blog posts into books, thinking about a YouTube channel to make our video library more searchable, and continuing to explore new ways to communicate.

21st century communications played a key role as we met the challenges of the last few years. But instead of being a pale substitute for the way we had done business before, we learned that more communication is just plain good for you and good for us.

If you would like to talk about this or anything else, please email us or call.