I am a retired investor with market experience going back to the 1960s. I was a software engineer for 42 years, and currently do some part-time consulting, which lets me contribute to a Roth IRA. I am not an accountant and not a financial professional.
My wife and I have established a set of guiding principles for our investment life:
• Change is the only constant in life. Everything in this plan is subject to change.
• Never touch your principal. Wealth is built and maintained by not spending it. Wealth is the primary buffer between ourselves and blind chance.
• Exploit folly, do not participate in it (thank you, Chuck Carnevale). Do not follow the crowd, which is more often than not wrong.
• A portfolio is like a bar of soap – the more you touch it, the smaller it becomes. Do not be a trader.
• Own assets, avoid liabilities. Assets generate income. Liabilities generate expenses.
Based on these principles, we have established two investing goals: 1) sufficient current income with a comfortable buffer, and 2) increasing future income to maintain our buffer.
Our primary investing goal is to generate sufficient current income to cover that part of our living expenses not covered by pensions, with a comfortable buffer. We are retired and depend on investment income to meet a significant minority of our living expenses.
As we age and get closer to the end, current income becomes ever more valuable, and future income becomes ever less valuable. This reality informs all of our investing decisions. However, we know that inflation will cause our income needs to rise, so we also plan for increased future income, which is our second investing goal.
To meet our current and future income needs, we rely on 2 Social Security pensions, 1 private pension, a consulting retainer, income generated by investments, and fully paid up long term care insurance.
It is common to allocate a retirement investment portfolio with some percentage in stocks and the balance in fixed income, such as 60/40. We look upon our pension income as the equivalent of fixed income, with the added benefit that Social Security is indexed to the CPI. In the past we owned no fixed income and had no plans to do so in the future. The future has arrived and we have discovered baby bonds and preferred stocks, and we like the higher current income we can get from these investments. We have therefore started to redirect some of our investment capital into these investments, and as a result our investment income is now greater than it would have been otherwise.
We categorize dividends and interest as income, and capital gains as return of capital, not income. Therefore, our goals are to be met from dividends and interest only.
Investment income currently meets our primary investing goal. We invest in a blend of mostly medium yield (3%-6%) stocks with medium dividend growth, a few high yield (>6%) instruments with no dividend growth, low yield (<3%) stocks and funds with high dividend growth. and fixed income securities with yields in the range of 5%-8% with no growth.
We expect our medium yield and low yield stocks and funds to provide the income growth needed for the future, our second investing goal.
We currently own common stocks, preferred stocks, and bonds. Our portfolio requires regular attention to avoid possible dividend cuts and deletions. As we age, our mental faculties are in decline, and we will become increasingly less able to perform portfolio monitoring intelligently. There will come a time when we will need to use some form of income oriented index ETFs to carry the income generating burden.
We want to behave like landlords and collect rents, but without the risks and demands of owning real estate directly. Dividends and interest are our rental income, and as once-removed landlords we expect to own real estate investment trusts (REITs).
We want our non REIT income to be generated by long-lived, steady companies that provide products and services that we all need regardless of the economy, and thus can be relied upon to provide steady, and steadily growing, income. This requirement points primarily at consumer staples stocks. We own some of the best consumer staples stocks, such as mighty MO, and plan to own one or more ETFs that concentrate on the consumer staples sector of the S&P 500. Our preferred shares are almost all in the REIT sector.
• Some of my investing history
During much of my working years I used technical analysis (TA) to invest in individual stocks (I was an early fan of Joseph Granville and I bought an Apple II in 1980 because Granville brought out OBV software for the Apple at that time), and I speculated with short selling and commodity trading. Later I invested in stock mutual funds and ETFs for total return, with inconsistent results, and no comprehensive plan. Being a software engineer in a lead position left little time or energy for serious investing skills development. In 2005 I had pretty much given up on getting market beating results, and felt that I was getting too old and too close to retirement to continue swinging for the fences, so I decided to buy a variable annuity that guaranteed a minimum return of 6% per year, compounded, with the upside limited only by the performance of the mutual funds offered for investment. I decided to let the insurance company bear the market risk for me. I also had a 401k plan at work to which I contributed the maximum and got the company match. A year or so before 2008 I used a retirement investing projection tool provided by Fidelity, which said the worst returns I could expect in retirement were positive but not spectacular, and the best were hard to believe. At that time I was invested in mutual funds and ETFs through my 401k and the variable annuity and had not directly owned stocks since shortly before the start of the great bull market in 1982 (Granville famously missed the whole thing). I thought, with a bit of skepticism but not much, that I was set. We all know what happened in 2008-09. That experience put me off Monte Carlo simulations and Modern Portfolio Theory for life.
When I retired I converted my 401k to a rollover IRA brokerage account and invested in ETFs. I thought I was being appropriately conservative but also ready to capture capital gains by investing in VIG and VCSH.
Then I found Seeking Alpha, and then - thank my lucky stars - David Van Knapp, and the DGI light went on. I had spent most of my adult life thinking I was smarter than most people by relying on TA, and then later letting the insurance company assume market risk. I remember learning about the 200 DMA when I was in my 20s, which is a long time ago, and thinking how revolutionary this idea was and how I should be able to use it to my advantage. Fortunately for me and my family, I also was pretty good at software engineering, so I had a reasonable retirement nest egg accumulated when the time came. With the concepts and methodology of dividend growth investing, I now have sleep well at night investments that just keep on churning out increasing income, something that could never be said about using TA.
I started with DGI too late in life to commit totally to low yield, high growth stocks. I hope to capture the double compounding of DRiP investing with that part of my portfolio that is low yield, high growth.
We have recently (Nov 2014) rolled over all of the variable annuities into brokerage accounts. We now believe that we can get sufficient income from our dividend investing strategy, and we want to retain ownership of the annuity capital.
• Tools and Teachers
Tools I use include the CCC list, F.A.S.T. Graphs, Morningstar Premium, BigCharts, the EDGAR web site, longrundata.com, and Excel. I get ideas from the many informative articles by (among others) the following (in no particular order): Chuck Carnevale, Brad Thomas, Ron Hiram, David Van Knapp, David Fish, Robert Allan Schwartz, Dividend Growth Investor, Dividends4Life, David Crosetti, Tim McAleenan Jr., Reel Ken, Bret Jensen, Alan Brochstein, Chowder, Dane Bowler, Bob Wells, BDC Buzz, Scott Kennedy, Bill Maurer, Darren McCammon, Richard Shaw, Bruce Miller. Favorite commentators who are not yet authors include Elliot Miller, Paul Leibowitz, mbkelly75, surfgeezer.
Useful shortcuts to dividend stock valuation are the Tweed Factor and the chowder rule. Like F.A.S.T. Graphs, 'a tool to think with', these are 'rules to think with'.
Tweed Factor: fair P/E = yield + 5 year dividend growth rate
chowder rule: current yield + 5 year DGR >= 12%; 8% for utilities, MLPs, REITs
The best investment advice outside of Seeking Alpha has been 'The Intelligent Investor', ‘Securities Analysis’, and 'The Single Best Investment'.
• Some historical portfolio stuff
My DGI portfolio was started on 2011/4/20 with CTL, which I have since sold. It was a beginner's mistake. Subsequent mistakes were MLPs, and to a lesser extent, mortgage REITs. I did not allow for any circumstance that could cause WTI to fall as far and as fast as it has, so I lost money on MLPs. The prolonged flattening of the yield curve, plus the persistent markdown from NAV for the mortgage REITs, has made these unappealing as long term investments. Now I keep my distance from anything that is dependent on commodity pricing, and I invest very little in the carry trade. A glaring mistake was selling JNJ when it languished for several years.
• Some ongoing portfolio stuff
The target dividend growth rate for our entire portfolio is 5%.
I use yield on cost to allocate our investments so that each position in aggregate generates approximately the same amount of income. I learned the basic method for doing this from a comment on a SA article. SA is a wonderful resource! I have published an SA Instablog that describes the method: http://seekingalpha.com/instablog/902946-be-here-now/4581516-portfolio-allocation-for-equal-income-from-each-position-using-excel
• Current portfolio:
equity REIT: CCP, DFT, DLR, EPR, HTA, LTC, O, OHI, STAG, VTR, WPC
consumer staples: GIS, MO, PEP, PM
financial: GBDC, GSBD, HTGC, MAIN, TCPC
baby bonds: HTGX, NEWTL, TCCA, TPVZ
preferred: AGNCB, AHT-F, DFT-C, GAB-G, GGZ-A, HT-D, MNR-C, PSA-C, PSA-D, VER-F
consumer staples: RHS, XLP
equity REIT: ESS, SKT
Technology: ADP, MSFT
Industrial: APD, MMM, RTN
baby bond: ARU, MSCA, TCCB, VTRB
preferred: DLR-G, STAG-C
I use mostly individual stocks and ETFs but also hold a very small selection of mutual funds.
My personal portfolio has over time moved more towards easy maintenance, decently yielding stocks and ETFs but I can still become excited over a great small cap idea. :) But ideally I want a portfolio that can mostly handle itself for an extended period of time and that I don't have to worry about should something happen that keeps me from attending it regularly. Therefore I subscribe to some kind of core & satellite approach and I currently probably have too much of a satellite and rather want to add to my core.
I am a semi-retired Systems Engineer and Project Manager of Spaceborne Remote Sensing and Weather Instruments which I have been designing building and testing for 37 years. I have worked as a technician, staff engineer, department manager and project technical director for large aerospace companies and well as as an independent contractor and most recently as an employee of a small contracting/consulting company directly supporting NASA, NOAA and NIST projects.
I have a degree in Physics and completed undergraduate coursework in business administration before switching to physics.
I have been self managing my portfolios since late 2008. I have multiple 401Ks, IRAs, a SEP and an after tax brokerage account. These accounts are with Vanguard, Fidelity and Charles Schwab.
I rolled a pension with a 5 year payout period (60 equal installments) into an IRA from Dec 2008 - Nov 2013. The present early 2015 total portfolio value is just over 2 times my total pension rollover amount. My 401K and IRA investments are a mixture of Foreign, Domestic and Bond mutual funds as well as Foreign and Domestic pure growth and dividend growth stocks in accordance with my portfolio "business" plan. My annual dividend income is nearly enough to cover all of our living expenses now. While my dividend income is running about 2 years behind my plan of achieving 80% of my 2008 income by the end of 2014 my average total return is within 1% of the S&P 500 over the past 5 years as of April 2015.
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