Portfolio Business Plan - 2015

by: Bob Wells

I believe strongly that every self-directed investor needs to craft a personal business plan for their portfolio.

This plan should ideally address individual investment goals and guidelines under which positions are bought and sold.

I present for your review and comment my personal plans which includes a number of changes for the year ahead.

This month marks my third anniversary as a Seeking Alpha contributor. I continue to find the experience to be fulfilling. If you are a regular follower you know that in the past three years I have written often on the importance I place in having a portfolio business management plan to guide buying and selling decisions as a self directed investor. I am pleased to have heard personally from so many of you who have followed this suggestion. I great to hear how much your personal plans have help take some of the emotions of investing and are helping to improve your investment decision making.

In my last quarterly portfolio review found here, I outlined the many changes in my portfolio which came about in part by recent events in the energy sector. A number of tough decisions were made. These events led to the need for further changes to my portfolio business plan.

As I've done each time in the past, I present our up-dated plan for your comments and suggestions for further improvement. Items in bold represents recent changes to the original plan. As part of the plan I have also included a step-by-step description of how I personally review the portfolio on a monthly, quarterly and semi-annual basis.

Business Name: Wells Family Retirement Income Portfolio

Goal: Generate a steadily increasing stream of income paid solely from the growing dividends generated by high quality, recession proven companies with a track record of five or more years of providing safe and growing dividends.

Our target is an increase in income from dividends and dividend growth at least twice the rate of inflation, while continuing to grow portfolio capital. Target dividend growth for 2015 will be 6%, resulting in a 6% increase in retirement income generated by the portfolio by the end of 2015.

Business Model Strategies:

Stock Selection:

Use the current Champion, Contender, and recession proven Challengers (NYSE:CCC) Lists as principal shopping list when considering new equity purchases.

Alternative: Select stocks from Safe Dividend Stock document generated from year by year back testing of Dividend stocks from 2002 to 2011.

Give priority to stocks that meet both standards.

Require the following from any stock selected:

Minimum projected yield of 1.5Xs that of the S&P 500 Index at the time of purchase.

Positive annual total returns in four of past five years.

Increased dividend payout in each of past five years.

An understandable and sustainable business model with meaningful competitive advantages, also called a "moat."

Good fundamental business metrics. Low debt. Low payout ratio, or one below average for that sector. Strong credit rating - reflected by investment grade credit of BBB+ or higher for most equities. BBB+ and above is preferred for MLPs and REITs with BBB the minimum for new purchases.

Stock Valuation

Buy only stocks with "Fair" or better valuations.

Consider multiple sources of value assessment (FastGraphs and Morningstar) when seeking to determine value. Buy stocks with a current payout ratio of under 70% or one in line with its peers.

Buy stocks that meet the Total Dividend Return (TDR) rule a/k/a the "chowder rule" This requires yield plus Five year Dividend Growth Rate (DGR) to total 12% or more. In the case of utilities including tel-cons, MLPs and REITs, the total needs to be 8% or more. The chowder rule score is located in Column BX of The CCC spreadsheet.

To help insure capital preservation, est. five-year growth figures will be examined and compared for all stocks under consideration. As a minimum standard, only stocks with minimum growth equal to inflation will be considered. Ideally stocks with estimated five-year earnings growth twice that of inflation will be selected.

A watch list of stocks of Dividend Champions, Contenders and Challengers with investment grade credit, a minimum yield of 2.7% and meet the Total Dividend Return (TDR) rule standard a/k/a chowder rule shall be maintained at all times and revised quarterly.

This edited list of all Dividend Champions, Contenders and Challengers will serve as an informal benchmark and shall be referred to as the Dividend Growth Income Index (NASDAQ:DGII).

A full year-by-year performance back test for each stock will be conducted and maintained going back to 2002 or in the case of Challengers the earliest date possible prior to purchase. Results will be used when considering new holdings or adding to existing holdings.

Portfolio Construction:

Aim for a well rounded portfolio. Diversify across sectors, industries, geographies, and different ranges of yields and growth rates.

Between 45 - 50 will be the minimum number of stocks owned at any time.

The portfolio should maintain an overall beta of less than 0.7, helping insure 30% or more less volatility than the general market. This serves as a substitute for the use of 30% bonds often recommended to help manage reduction of principal during bear market conditions.

Be alert to position sizing. Initially Investing an equal initial amount in each stock is the norm. Stocks yielding 5% or more shall be purchased initially in an amount not to exceed 1% of the value of the portfolio. Adjustments may be considered as price change, yield decline and perceptions of risk and reward change.

Be alert to sector size. No sector should represent more than 25% of the portfolio holdings. Do not be concerned about equal sector representation. Since this is an income generating portfolio favoring low beta, the following four sectors are likely to be underweight: Industrial, Material, Technology and Consumer Discretionary.

Hold no more than 4% of the portfolio's value in a single stock, with 2% or less being the norm. No single stock position yielding 6% or more should represent more than 1.5% of the value of the portfolio. When any position exceeds 3%, consider selling the excess and re-deploying the proceeds.

Make opportunistic switches from one stock to another if such a swap will upgrade the portfolio. The expected frequency of such exchanges is low.

The major focus of our portfolio strategy is total dividend return - dividends and dividend growth not share price. The portfolio will usually be 95% or more invested. Generating a steady and growing income stream from dividends remains job one.

Dividend Reinvestment:

Our goal is for retirement income to be supplied solely from dividends and dividend growth. As such dividend reinvestment will likely be rare. Our goal remains to enjoy our dividend income while we preserve capital for future generations.

When reinvesting dividends, consider new positions designed to improve the portfolio in one or more of the following dimensions: yield, dividend growth, or diversification.

Selling Guidelines:

Investigate and seriously consider selling a stock for these reasons:

  • It cuts or freezes its dividend. Sell immediately upon learning of a dividend suspension.
  • It becomes seriously overvalued as determined by a current dividend of under 2% or a combined evaluation by Fast Graphs and Morningstar. Re-capturing and re-investment of capital gains will likely be the first step.
  • It underperforms an average of stocks in its sector and sub sector in total returns (price + dividends) for three years running. Sector ETFs can be used to assist in making this determination.
  • It incurs a price loss in excess of 10% and maintains such a loss for a quarter, and where such a percentage represents a loss significantly greater than similar stocks in that sector or industry. If losses increase into the next quarter, suitable replacements will be carefully evaluated. A stock can continue on "probation" as long as it is showing a price improvement.
  • Plans are announced to split or divide the company and clarity is not provided by the company with respect to the dividend.
  • Acquisition announcements are made and clarity is not provided by the company with respect to the dividend.
  • Announcements of an investigative inquiry.


Monthly Review - Estimated Time - 30 minutes to 1 hour

The first of each month download a new copy of Dividend Champions, Contenders and Challengers using this link. Next clip on Changes Tab at the bottom. Check for any stocks, which cut or froze its dividend or was acquired that month. Consider possible replacement for stocks cutting dividend from the Dividend Growth Income Index. In the case of a freeze, consider a period of probation as the first step, where yield is 5% or more. Conduct a performance review the next quarter.

Quarterly Portfolio Review - Estimated Time - 3 to 6 hours

  • Measure the Portfolio's overall progress toward the overall goal of maintaining stable growing income and capital preservation.
  • Record monthly dividend income for the portfolio.
  • Note dividend increases for each quarter.
  • Measure performance for any stock "on probation."

Measure success in this manner: Do a quick check to see if this quarter's income from dividends exceeds that of the same quarter last year. If it does, celebrate with a cold one or two. If it doesn't, make appropriate adjustments based on stated guidelines and portfolio objectives.

Semi-Annual Portfolio Review - One Additional Hour

Check for any changes in credit ranking.

Check for changes in payout ratio.

Decreases in credit ranking and increase in payout ratio, can be early signals of problems that could lead to dividend freezes or cuts. Monitor more closely as the first step.

Neither the Dow or the S&P 500 will be used as a measure of the success of the portfolio. Each sector will be individually examined and serious underperformance by portfolio holdings in that Sector will result in an exploration to see if an exchange for other DG equities within that Sector Index have the potential to further strengthen income stream and capital preservation.

Research Resources


Year by Year Performance Back test - Just go to the Morningstar website. Put in a ticker. Go next to the Performance Tab on the Grey bar. After you click on Performance click on the Expanded View - Light Blue Tab. You now have a ten-year performance on your stock year by year. If you purchase a stock at a yield higher than its 10 yr. average you create yet another layer of safety. While conducting your ten-year history, average out the yield recorded for each year. If the current yield is higher than its 10 yr. average that is yet another indicator that it is a fair or better value.

Stock Credit Rating - Link provided here

Stock Value Rating - Two star suggests the stock is overvalued. Three star suggests the stock is fairly valued. Four stars suggests the stock is undervalued.


Portfolio - click on portfolio tab to access current family portfolios

Dividend Increase information - click on Market Currents tab. Next click on Dividends.


Information on stock value and so much more (sign in required). Paid service. Billed at $9.95 per month.

There are three basic sections that need to be fully reviewed:

Fast Facts

P/E - Is it at or below Normal P/E

Dividend Yield- Needs to be 1.5Xs that of S&P 500 Index or higher

Normal P/E Ratio

S&P Credit Rankings - Should be BBB+ or better

Debt Cap - Lower the better

Performance Results

Dividend Growth- Look for steadiness and current figures twice inflation

Dividend Payout Ratio - Under 70% a good indicator of room for dividend to grow·

Estimated Earnings and Return Calculator

Projects a stock's earnings growth - and therefore its increase in fair value - forward for 5 years, using consensus earnings growth forecasts.

· Gold Lines represent the range - High and Low of "Fair Value"

· Upper Blue Lines represent the range of "Over Valued"

· Lower Blue Lines represent the range of "Under Valued"

Make certain to never over pay. Purchase only when stock is fair value or under.

Consider reducing position size and taking profits for any stock in the top range of over-valued.

Dividend Champions, Contenders and Challenges (CCC LIST)

Access through link provided above

Dividend cuts and freezes - click on Summary tab at bottom of the spreadsheet. Review any Deletions as this means a dividend has been cut or frozen.

Dividend Growth Rates - Columns - AL-AP on spreadsheet

Look for steadiness. Trending up - good

5 Yr. Estimated Earnings Growth Rates - Column PG

Look for a rate twice inflation

Payout Ratios - Columns S and T

Dividend Yield - Column I

Beta - Column CG

Chowder rule- a/k/a total dividend return rule - Column CB

For retirees who are Self Directed Investors, I believe strongly that consideration needs to be given to what happens should the principal investor be unable to continue to manage his or her portfolio. In other words, it's important to have a portfolio legacy plan in place.

My goal in drafting Legacy Guidelines remains to assist family members in fully understanding my preferred approach to investing and how I envision it might be maintained for future generations. In the comments section of earlier articles on drafting our legacy plan, many of you expressed your personal struggle with this same topic. Some have reluctantly considered ETF options, although they don't personally support such an approach. Like many of you, I too have considered ETFs as an option. My concerns in suggesting this approach remain the following:

  • Inconsistent distributions.
  • Greater chance of reduction of income due to dividend cuts as a result of severe market pullbacks.
  • Most are cap weight not equal weight.
  • Lower yield requires selling stocks perhaps during down markets.
  • None mirrors our mix of large cap, REITs, MLPs and BDCs.
  • Increased costs and fees.

I am recommending and including as part of our estate plan that should I be unable to continue active management of our portfolio, that our portfolio at the time be maintained in the "Buy and Monitor" manner described below in the section Legacy Guidelines.


Robert Wells will be responsible for the day-to-day management of the portfolio. Should he be unable to perform those duties management responsibility will fall to his wife who will be assisted by their oldest daughter.

Should this occur, The family portfolio as designed should be maintained and modified according to the following instructions in order that it continue to produce a growing stream of income to support my wife during her life time and serve the family for generations to come. I would ask that the instructions as outlined be honored during the lifetimes of myself and my wife.

The first modification instruction is to sell the portion of the portfolio currently invested in "low conviction" stocks. These funds are to then be re-invested in the five existing portfolio holdings offering the best combination of current value, dividend yield and dividend growth rate. Priority should be given to those with the distinction of being Dividend Champions.

A list is attached of trusted Dividend Growth investors whose counsel can be sought to assist with decision making.

A simple review of each month's list of Dividend Champions, Contenders and Challengers should be done the first week of each month to determine if any stocks suffered either a cut or suspension of their dividend. Should that occur, the stock should be sold within 30 days and the dollars redeployed into either existing holdings or those on the current watch list. Again consider those holdings offering the best combination of current value and dividend yield. Priority should be given to those with the distinction of being Dividend Champions.

A review should be conducted each quarter.

  • Record quarterly dividend income for the portfolio.
  • Note dividend increases for the quarter and whether they are on track to meet or excess annual goal
  • Measure performance for any stock "on probation." Place any stock with loss totaling 10% or more on probation and check for change in performance the next review. Further action if necessary should be in accordance with the plan.

You know my commitment to helping insure you each have a stronger education in proper investing than I enjoyed until reaching my 60's. We have established for each Grandchild a college investment savings account. I hope to have talks with each as they grow about the account and how it works to help support their future.

I know that each of you enjoy employer supported 401K investment plans. Some are restricted to mutual funds. Others offer a range of options including stock and bond ETFs. I strongly encourage each of you to contribute to your company plan in the manner that insures you receive the complete company match to those funds.

I have established several small investments accounts with Motif Investing each embracing a unique approach to investing. This has been done to foster discussion and provide a stronger foundation for your further investment decisions. I encourage you to establish your own accounts on Motif in order to further test ideas and approaches.

Most of all I hope that you each embrace as I do the importance of establishing for your own families a personal portfolio business plan that helps to guide your future investment decisions. Our current portfolio business plan has been provided for review and modification.

Disclosure: The author has no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. The author wrote this article themselves, and it expresses their own opinions. The author is not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). The author has no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.