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  • A Real Dividend Growth Machine: Q1 2014 Review [View article]

    I began investing around your age but with far less wisdom and discipline. That I was able to retire in 2012 (in my early 50's) having used only a total return / mutual funds approach all those years was really more luck - and timing! think 2008 vs. 2012 - than skill.

    I admire your maturity, your focus on both saving AND investing, and your grasp of compounding through reinvestment. You're far ahead of most 30-somethings, in my view (my own kids included - will be forwarding your article in the hopes it spurs them to action).

    Kudos and congratulations. Looking forward to future updates.

    Apr 17 07:38 PM | 2 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Constructing And Designing The Stock Portfolio That's Just Right For You: Part 1 [View article]
    I second the comment by OnTheRock about the new S&P credit rating feature on FAST Graphs. It's saved me the extra step of going out to the S&P web site for every company I track.

    As a one year subscriber to (basic) FAST Graphs, I have to say I'm only now starting to understand (and use advantageously) the full power of the tool. It's a powerful addition to my SDI toolkit - and confidence level on valuation.

    Looking forward to Part 2 of this series.

    Apr 17 06:12 PM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment
  • April Showers Bring... Dividend Growth, Joy And Fun! [View article]

    Happier, too. :)

    Apr 17 11:58 AM | 3 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • My KISS Dividend Portfolio: 1st Quarter 2014 Update [View article]

    Brilliant. Your best update yet - probably because it crystallized some of my own (scattered) thinking about the "middle game" on my own two year old, mostly established DG portfolio.

    I am an early retiree, so my portfolio needs to perform both now and for the next 30 years. So, your revised buying criteria, and especially your additional sell trigger (trimming stocks 2+ years ahead of earnings) resonates completely. Realized I had been moving in that direction myself. I now need to update my portfolio plan, and act accordingly.

    Congrats on your successful DGI investing and may it continue - and you continue writing about it. :)

    Apr 15 10:56 AM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment
  • First-Quarter Portfolio Review: There's Change On The Way [View article]

    I really like the direction you're headed, and agree it's important for DGI retirees investing for income to have a good mix of dividend payers and dividend growers.

    I currently hold 30 of your 50. I sold my DRI recently, not a SWAN stock for me. Sold WM a few months ago due to tepid dividend growth.

    Hated to lose the yield and income but took some profits trimming (or swapping out) a couple overvalued satellite positions, sufficient to cover the DRI and WM income loss a while.

    While I did top off a few core positions on the dip late January / early February, I'm mostly holding the DRI and WM proceeds as cash waiting for some better valuations. I figure I can afford to be patient for a couple more months at least. :)

    Still holding LEG, but like DRI and WM it's not a high conviction stock. I look forward to your next installment on your own "low conviction" holdings!

    Apr 11 02:20 PM | 3 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Actually It Is All About Total Return...Totally! [View article]
    Amen, Bob! I come here to escape MPT. It is overwhelming and ubiquitous everywhere else.

    Just because some - a very, very small minority - investors choose to use DGI instead of MPT (and share ideas and results here) does not mean we don't "get it." It simply means we have chosen a different path to meet a different set of goals.

    Apr 10 07:59 PM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment
  • April Showers Bring... Dividend Growth, Joy And Fun! [View article]
    "Of the many reasons I like DGI, I think the fun factor ranks No. 1."

    Now THAT'S a "factor model" I can get behind. :)

    Thanks for the enthusiastic and (as always) inspiring article, Mike.

    Apr 9 12:08 PM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment
  • Actually It Is All About Total Return...Totally! [View article]

    I followed a total return approach from 1992-2012. My retirement assets were locked in a company 401(k) with limited investment options, trading fees were high, and I had little time to do the proper diligence or monitoring in the absence of widely available internet info or a community like Seeking Alpha. So I paid the management fees, contributed the max every year (plus company match), rebalanced annually to stay diversified across 6 or 7 domestic and international stock and bond funds, reinvested (because I had to), and let it accumulate tax free. Through two market meltdowns, I kept contributing, and in 2012 was able to weather a layoff and take an early retirement, having built a sufficient nest egg. But, frankly, I attribute that success to LUCK more than skill. Through two decades of total return investing, I was entirely dependent on the whims of Mr. Market. Had I been laid off in 2008 instead of 2012, the outcome would have been very different.

    Not saying total return is a bad strategy for someone in accumulation. It’s just I was lucky enough to have ridden one of the strongest extended growth cycles ever, then roll it tax free to a self directed IRA. Generally, for me at least, “luck” has not been a good (or reliable) strategy. :) This is why I became a dividend growth investor. Sure, I'm happy my DG stocks are doing well in this extended bull market. But I won't fret a downturn as I did when my portfolio lost 40% of its value in 2008-2009. My income will continue to rise and I'll be able to add to my core DG holdings at lower prices.

    If I were starting accumulation today, I would use DGI for at least 70% of my portfolio (except small caps, emerging markets and possibly bonds). It was not easy to turn on a dime as a new SDI two years ago. Again, I was “lucky” that 2012 and 2013 were stellar years for equities so my learning curve mistakes have not been too costly. Just wouldn't want to count on being lucky a third time....

    Apr 8 01:35 PM | 6 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Dividend Growth Portfolio: Spring Checkup And Semi-Annual Review [View article]

    Excellent update and thoughtful comments (of which I'm sure there will be plenty more).

    I sold INTC for a nice gain when they failed to raise the dividend last fall. As a relatively new (2011-2012) DGI, it was an early test of my ability to "stick to the plan". INTC was never a core holding for me, although I had hoped it would be a longer term holding. As I owned MSFT and ACN in the tech space, I replaced INTC with WEC and NEE which have done well so far.

    I sold half my DRI last fall, as well, prompted not just by Barington Capital's activism, but by the less than compelling story, management, numbers and brand. I'll admit I was chasing yield with DRI. Not best of breed by any means, and their actions since October didn't change my view, so I sold the other half a few weeks ago for a small gain (not counting dividends paid). Holding as cash pending some better values on core holdings (to which I happily added during 1st week in Feb on the last dip).

    Continuing to hold SJR as it still meets my criteria and they are making sound moves in the wifi space in western Canada. Only a half position in SJR so my income is not too adversely impacted by the currency effect. Ditto on RCI, although there I've got a paper loss as they continue to react to competitive pressures and additional spectrum purchased at a premium. Holding but not adding RCI.

    Looking forward to future installments on your DGP!

    Apr 8 11:59 AM | 2 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Your Investment Returns: Don't Envy The Dows Or The Joneses [View article]

    Enjoyed the article.

    The day I switched from a wealth (total return) focus to an income focus was the most liberating in my 25 years of investing - because the Dow, S&P and other indexes became meaningless benchmarks.

    Now my primary benchmark is a reliable income stream sufficient to cover my expenses and keep pace with inflation. Secondary benchmark is capital preservation at the overall portfolio level.

    I don't track the indexes anymore, and wouldn't even know how to compare my results to anyone else's.

    It's a good feeling.

    Apr 7 05:22 PM | 8 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Total Dividend Return Will Guide My 2014 Investment Decisions [View article]
    Well put, Dividend Sleuth. That's exactly how I use the Chowder Rule.

    Not to put words in Chowder's mouth (he speaks so well for himself!), but I recall him earlier describing the Chowder number as a protective "moat" around his income stream. Hence the higher threshold of 12 for yields above 3% (15 for yields between 2-3%) where reliable income is less certain, and the lower threshold of 8 for utilities, MLPs, REITs where reliable income is more predictable.

    It's a metric, nothing more. And even Chowder says earlier in this comment stream that it's the last thing he screens for - after his other criteria are met.

    Mar 10 12:19 PM | 2 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Worried About Exxon Mobil? Are You Kidding Me? [View article]
    I've held XOM less than a year (basis $88), so don't have the decades of history many of the commenters here do.

    No argument from me that the XOM dividend is safe. But it is stingy compared to its big oil peers. For this reason, as a retiree and primarily an income investor, I hold only a half position in XOM, vs full positions in CVX (for DG) and COP (for yield).

    Mar 8 10:53 AM | 4 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Total Dividend Return Will Guide My 2014 Investment Decisions [View article]
    Hi, Bob,

    60 holdings at present. Would like to get that down to closer to 50 (give or take). As Chowder repeatedly says: focus on quality. Some of my picks, while decent CCC's, in retrospect added complexity but not useful diversification.

    I might add, my income and TDR are both up in 2014, even as I have unloaded satellite positions and redirected those funds (which did include some cap gains, but no new money otherwise). More importantly, I feel more confident about the stability, predictability and growth of the income stream.

    Mar 8 10:37 AM | 2 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Total Dividend Return Will Guide My 2014 Investment Decisions [View article]

    Excellent, practical, and eminently useful update (both this article and your recent Fourth Quarter Portfolio Review). Bravo.

    My life stage and goals are similar to yours, and, like you, I credit my plan for keeping me on track in my transition to DGI. Also like you, I started with primarily a yield approach but migrated to a mostly TDR approach.

    Being on a learning curve in 2011-12 as a new SDI, I cast a very wide net at first. Too wide - at one point 74 holdings. I have since been "concentrating" our retirement portfolio into fewer stocks of higher quality. Basically eliminating satellites that aren't pulling their TDR weight, rather than putting them on probation (and adding to core holdings instead). I sold INTC when it failed to raise the dividend last fall. Also unloaded TGT, CLX, WM, DOV, SYY and half of WMT. Not bad choices, just weren't meeting my TDR requirements.

    Thanks again for sharing your evolving path and results. It's always a learning experience!

    Mar 7 07:04 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • The Winter Of Our Discontent [View article]

    Beautifully written. Singularly terrifying. Should be required reading for every investor.

    As a recent retiree, I know the risks are enormous and the financially engineered market deck is stacked against me, the individual investor. All I can hope to do is to set modest goals, educate myself in order to manage the risks most important to me (among them, controlling my spending and protecting my income stream), and learn from history - which as you so eloquently point out, will undoubtedly repeat itself.

    Thank you for this important piece. It made me think!

    Mar 5 11:54 PM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment