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Time management is essential to monitoring a 47 position portfolio. My 1st comment concludes with "Rich-unck:xx hrs"; I uncheck from the article to avoid repetitive comments, nonsense, and (most) arguments. I extend another XX hrs when I respond to a question or comment...I also respond to all PMs.
BACKGROUND My journey as a self-directed investor (SDI) began in 1973, and resulted in financial independence at age 52, which also allowed me to retire from corporate life the following year (Feb 1995).
I have no special knowledge not attainable by others who also dedicate themselves to the study of the economy, market, and stocks...I could cease all portfolio management today, and place it with a professional manager; however, I enjoy the psychic and financial rewards. Alternatively, I could become a passive investor via mutual funds and/or index ETFs (those works too! ). With few exceptions, As a rule, Rich only discusses his IRA here--it is only a portion of his and Joyce’s investment assets.
INVESTMENT PHILOSOPHY If you ‘lived for today’ over the past 5 or 6 decades, you better invest in lottery tickets. The most probable path to a financially secure retirement is the product of an investment program (either active or passive) started when relatively young; living on less than all your after-tax income (saving means delayed gratification); and either self-directed or via professional management, adopting a sensible strategy suitable to age and comfort zone. There is wisdom in flexibility, diversification, and not being life-long wed to any strategy. It is appropriate to take greater risk for greater rewards (sensible growth stocks) when younger, as those are our lowest earnings years combined with our highest expense years--in the years between early investment and retirement, investments in solid growth companies can double 8 times or more.
There is time to adjust allocations to a more conservative strategy when closer to retirement. Never assume you have an information edge over the professionals. Time-in-the-market is your principle advantage. When/if you become interested in dividend stocks, never forget both price return and dividends compound, and price more so.
Financial independence is achieved when one has sufficient confidence his/her lifestyle will not change significantly, regardless of the potential depth or breadth of decline suffered by their portfolio--including a prolonged series of bear markets such as 1929-37. True, the recent 18-month bear market ending mid-2009, was deep--but also too brief to consider its lack of widespread dividend cuts to be as proof a portfolio of dividend-payers won't suffer income losses in a more prolonged decline (i.e., no portfolio is "dividend bulletproof").
The balance of this profile is lengthy, and likely not helpful to passive investors who simply go along for the ride, their portfolios bobbing up and down like flotsam in the ocean; their course always subject to the whims of winds, waves, and trends...THIS IS YOUR ONLY WARNING!
PORTFOLIO GOALS Now in my 70s, it’s no longer appropriate to engage in the growth strategies applied in wealth accumulation. As a more conservative investor, 100% of his portfolio consists of dividend-payers. 95% of positions have investment grade credit ratings (the lone exception is a REIT).This combination, along with having companies in 10 of the 11 S&P GICS sectors (none in Materials at this time) provide a measure of diversification. This IRA portfolio holds no bonds, though bonds and other investments are held elsewhere.
Maximizing total return and wealth preservation are mutually exclusive. A key observation: Having the capacity for risk is not the same as having the tolerance for it!
Rich’s objective is now a ‘smoother-ride’ that levels out the market’s peaks and valleys (limit losses, trim notable excess valuation). That smoother ride in an all-equity portfolio cannot be achieved without active management and continuous monitoring of positions--therefore TIME is an essential input to his portfolio management. Active management does not’ means frequent changes, as it is not unusual for a quarter or more to pass between a trimming or sale (nonetheless, when a company fundamentals change, or a mistake is made, corrective action is taken.)
STRATEGY SINCE 2008 Rich targets both legs of TOTAL RETURN (distributions + price change). His Growth & Income strategy often focuses on VALUE investing tactics applied to dividend-payers. Value investors seek out unpopular, companies most investors are avoiding (i.e., fundamentals have declined but credit rating is strong, BoD has implemented a rational recovery plan, and the dividend not in danger). Value investors seek to be paid to wait for other investors to recognize the stock’s value and assign it a greater share price. In any event, value stock or growth stock, Rich always seeks a ‘margin of safety’--no shares are bought at prices >FV, and his margin of safety is derived from dividends paid, price appreciation, and rising FV over time.
In all cases, value or growth, Rich selects well-established dividend-paying companies having a high-probability of growing earnings (growth of earnings is ESSENTIAL to growth of price and dividends). He tends to be flexible, forward looking, reactive to changing fundamentals, and willing to admit a mistake so action follows.
SDI is not easy, success is not assured, and in recent decades, advice from academics, and investment coaches, almost universally recommend index funds. Those NOT having the prerequisite time and interest are unlikely to develop the requisite skills for stock investing--thus the probability strongly suggests most newbies would be better served by indexing (Ben Graham wrote favorably of indexing). However, when done successfully, self-directed stock investing can offer rich psychic and financial rewards.
CORE PORTFOLIO Presently, +/-30 equities. Core holdings dominate at about 65% of total portfolio positions. Favored are traditional, large- and mid-cap, low-beta, best/near-best in class, institutional-owned, moaty, dividend-paying, value and growth stocks, having investment-grade debt ratings, and representing the consumer staples, healthcare, utilities, and telecom sectors.
OPPORTUNISTIC PORTFOLIO The remaining 15+ positions consist of equally well-known dividend-payers found among widely-owned cyclicals, such as financial, industrials, consumer discretionary, technology, real estate, and energy sectors are sensitive to the economy. In an expanding economy, cyclicals typically grow their earnings (and dividends) faster than do the typically slower-growing core companies. But because the reverse is also true, in a contracting economy, these positions are intended to be heavily trimmed to preserve gains as the economy peaks and shows evidence of decline. Some are susceptible to quite significant price declines when Mr. Market assumes their will suffer reduced earnings, and sometimes dividend-freezes/cuts, in anticipation of those events.
Rich is sometimes fully-invested, but unlike some, observes no such rule. Building a large cash cushion at the front-end of a correction/bear market (-20%) provides the dry powder required to both cushion the market's decline, and also creates the cash required to purchase excellent companies at below FV prices (without having to sell a position he wants to keep!).
TRIMMING POSITIONS When positions in either portfolio become significantly overvalued, they are trimmed by 5-10%, and the proceeds applied to fairly valued companies before the (almost always) temporary gift of over-valuation reverts to the price mean. If the position continues to advance, and absent other information, the position will be trimmed again. Added benefits to selective trimming include (1) serves as a more sensible method of rebalancing (as opposed to automatic--professionals do not use such a meat cleaver); (2) reduces the position's remaining Capital at Risk (which may suggest room for additional shares within an otherwise full position), and (3) provides the necessary dry powder to buy other shares at FV or below.
OTHER INTERESTS As we age, the importance of family grows. Rich has long volunteered in his community; over the years has served with distinction as member/chair of a number of advisory committees. Assisting others on SA is also a source of satisfaction and fulfillment.
Finally, having been blessed by years of excellent investment performance, Joyce and Rich have long been avid world travelers, and have visited over 60 countries over a span of 30 years (his SA avatar reflects the Taj Mahal in his sun glasses). They reside in Michigan--for 9 months of beauty, bliss, and family, and thoroughly enjoy wintering in equally beautiful Naples FL--for 3 months of sunny warmth and relaxation.
Life is good--it's been an unbelievably awesome ride!
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%) stocks with no dividend growth, low yield (<3%) stocks 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 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 mostly in the REIT sector, with the major exception of the CHS preferreds (CHSCL etc).
• 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. Those were not the best investing decisions I ever made. 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 indeed spectacular. 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, and more recently REITs, 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, the EDGAR web site, and Excel. I get ideas from the many informative articles by (among others) the following (in no particular order): Bill Stoller, 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, Preferred Stock Trader, Norman Roberts. Favorite commentators who are not yet authors include Elliot Miller, Paul Leibowitz, mbkelly75, surfgeezer.
I use FAST Graphs heavily for valuation research. Since my pivot toward REITs, FAST Graphs has done a similar pivot. I never consider an investment before first consulting FAST Graphs. Thank you Chuck.
The best investment advice outside of Seeking Alpha have 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 REIT common. 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 REIT commons, 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 carefully in the carry trade. A glaring mistake was selling JNJ when it languished for several years.
Subsequent to my disenchantment with mortgage REIT common, I discovered mortgage REIT preferreds, along with preferreds and baby bonds in general. I have decided that mREIT preferreds are a reliable source of steady income and I own some.
• Some ongoing portfolio stuff
The target dividend growth rate for our entire portfolio was formerly 5%. With our pivot to higher current income at the expense of higher future income, this target is not realistic, and I now hope for 3-4% growth.
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 methodology 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: we recently sold some of our health care REITs in favor of data center REITs, which leaves us with: CONE, DFT, DLR, EPR, LTC, NSA, O, OHI, STAG, WPC
consumer staples: we recently sold our positions in most consumer staples to invest in preferreds with much higher current yields, leaving the one stock that should never be sold: MO
financial: GBDC, GSBD, HTGC, MAIN, TCPC
baby bonds: HTGX, NEWTL, TCCA, TPVZ
preferred: AGNCB, AGNCP, AHT-F, AHT-G, CHSCL, CYS-B, DFT-C, DLR-F, GAB-G, GGZ-A, HT-D, LXP-C, MNR-C, NLY-C, STAG-B, VER-F
Prospective additions: none currently; I plan to buy more CHSCL at the right price
Charles (Chuck) C. Carnevale is the creator of F.A.S.T. Graphs™. Chuck is also co-founder of an investment management firm. He has been working in the securities industry since 1970: he has been a partner with a private NYSE member firm, the President of a NASD firm, Vice President and Regional Marketing Director for a major AMEX listed company, and an Associate Vice President and Investment Consulting Services Coordinator for a major NYSE member firm. Prior to forming his own investment firm, he was a partner in a 30-year-old established registered investment advisory in Tampa, Florida. Chuck holds a Bachelor of Science in Economics and Finance from the University of Tampa. Chuck is a sought-after public speaker who is very passionate about spreading the critical message of prudence in money management. Chuck is a Veteran of the Vietnam War and was awarded both the Bronze Star and the Vietnam Honor Medal.
On October 31st, 2014, I retired. Turned in the keys to the company car, gave them my computer and my account lists and joined the ranks of those who "slipped off into the sunset." I never thought in retirement that I would be this busy. It's fun. Time with the grandkids, time to perfect my cooking skills, and time to travel and check off the things on my bucket list. I should have done this a long time ago.
Dave Fish is Executive Editor for The Moneypaper and co-manager (since 1999) of the MP 63 Fund (Symbol: DRIPX), a fund that invests exclusively in companies that offer Direct Investment (or Dividend Reinvestment) Plans. He is also the author of the U.S. Dividend Champions spreadsheet (and PDF), which is updated at the end of each month...and lists companies that have increased their dividend payout for at least 25 consecutive years. (Separate tabs list "Contenders" that have increased their payouts for 10-24 years and "Challengers" that have increased their payouts for 5-9 years.) http://dripinvesting.org/Tools/Tools.asp
I spend most of my time reading through annual reports looking for a small-cap stock to feature in my monthly edition of "The Conservative Investor Digest." That is where you can find my best work, and that is where I focus my research. You can become a subscriber here: https://gumroad.com/l/HmqJx
I run the long-term investing website "The Conservative Income Investor" which can be found at: www.theconservativeincomeinvestor.com
I'm a computer programmer and teacher of computer programming. I am self-employed, and manage my own SEP/IRA and investments for retirement.
My personal investing goal is to own a portfolio of dividend growth companies such that:
1) The overall portfolio dividend income is sufficient to pay for all of my routine retirement expenses. I do not ever want to be forced to sell something to produce cash, especially when my asset prices are down. [I have no objection to occasionally choosing to sell something to pay for a one-time expense such as a vacation or a gift.]
2) The overall portfolio dividend income rises each year by more than the rate of inflation, so that my purchasing power does not erode over time.
I invest primarily in David Fish's lists of Dividend Champions, Dividend Contenders, and Dividend Challengers. See http://www.dripinvesting.org/tools for those lists.
I do not invest in MLP's or BDC's or CEF's or preferreds.
I maintain a free web site that contains dividend histories for all of David Fish's Dividend Champions, Contenders and Challengers: http://www.tessellation.com/dividends
Sorry I hide my true identity but I'm a physicist/engineer, native contrarian and idea generator. I am an eclectic dividend investor with motto "In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash" applied to companies I invest in.
I like to read /and read a lot - did you look on my SA photo 8-)? / including popular and academic investment books and papers. After 200+ books I concluded that many (but not all) finance academics failed to delivery a good science because they usually are more concerned about match between their models and limited (in time and place) data-sets than about underlying assumptions of their models. On another hand, finance practitioners such as fund managers have different goals than I (for example, they want to outperform or replicate market each single year while my goal is to have smooth income from my investment and I don't worry to underperform in a bull market) and to some extend more limited in their choices than I (for example, with micro- and nano-cap stocks). It gives a chance for me as amateur investor to compete successfully with professionals in niche strategies such as dividend investment (see http://seekingalpha.com/instablog/725729-sds-seductive-dividend-stocks/266502-why-i-m-a-dividend-zealot-jan-31-2012).
My real portfolio consists of more than 100 dividend growth (DG) and high yield (HY) high quality stocks of USA and foreign companies with good history of dividend payments. I cherry-picked these stocks from the end of XX century in accordance with my ideas on diversification for income-equity investors ( http://seekingalpha.com/instablog/725729-sds-seductive-dividend-stocks/4183595-an-estimation-of-dividend-growth-portfolio-size). I also maintain artificial so-called "poor"folio of dividend stocks I use for self-education about market.
I understand that DGI is mostly trust in company's Board of Directors consistency and that HYI is mostly disagreement with market sentiment but both styles fit my goals and mentality,
My investor edges are
i) critical scientific approach (used in natural science rather than in liberal sciences) to finance academics ideas and strong selection between useful and worthless findings;
ii) quite predictable proprietary model of dividend reductions forecast in near future (couple years) that I have delivered from mix of hardware engineering ideas and physics concepts with finance data and behavior signals that allows me to sell stocks before such unpleasant event, and that I continue to polish;
iii) independence in time frames and market exposures forbidden for many finance practitioners;
iv) analyses of companies that are too small for institutional investors.
I have couple excellent ideas in dividend investing I'd like to capitalize, so serious requests are welcome.
I rather put my thoughts and ideas in SA Instablog and comments than in articles (I'm pretty busy/lazy/English-incompetent to perfect an article) but in all cases all standard disclaimers are applied. One of good things I have learned in Intel, that decision should be data driven. So I try to supply my ideas and thoughts with most relevant data. I love old Russian writer and dramatist Anton Chekhov principle "Brevity is the sister of talent" and think it is even more important nowadays with ocean of information in front of any investor. So, I try to follow this principle in my SA instablog and comments but please remember that "If I have more time, I would have written shorter".
Being a scientific journals referee I have a bad habit to find few weak points in almost any manuscript, so I probably too critical in some comments but I hope the article authors excuse me. I prefer communicate via SA email rather than inside comments (I usually turn off "Track new comments on this article" feature SA has). So send me a SA email if you have a question or would like to discuss my point of view.