Wandering From the Path? | Monthly Portfolio Update - August 2020
Midway along the journey of our lifeI woke to find myself in a dark wood,for I had wandered off from the straight path. Dante, The Divine Comedy: Inferno, Canto I This is my forty-fifth portfolio update. I complete this update monthly to check my progress against my goal. Portfolio goal My objective is to reach a portfolio of $2 180 000 by 1 July 2021. This would produce a real annual income of about $87 000 (in 2020 dollars). This portfolio objective is based on an expected average real return of 3.99 per cent, or a nominal return of 6.49 per cent. Portfolio summary
Vanguard Lifestrategy High Growth Fund $733 769
Vanguard Lifestrategy Growth Fund $41 794
Vanguard Lifestrategy Balanced Fund $78 533
Vanguard Diversified Bonds Fund $110 771
Vanguard Australian Shares ETF (VAS) $216 758
Vanguard International Shares ETF (VGS) $64 542
Betashares Australia 200 ETF (A200) $237 138
Telstra shares (TLS) $1 540
Insurance Australia Group shares (IAG) $6 043
NIB Holdings shares (NHF) $5 532
Gold ETF (GOLD.ASX) $121 976
Secured physical gold $19 535
Ratesetter (P2P lending) $8 998
Bitcoin $177 310
Raiz app (Aggressive portfolio) $17 421
Spaceship Voyager app (Index portfolio) $2 759
BrickX (P2P rental real estate) $4 477
Total portfolio value $1 848 896 (+$48 777 or 2.7%) Asset allocation
Australian shares 41.5%
Global shares 22.6%
Emerging market shares 2.2%
International small companies 2.8%
Total international shares 27.6%
Total shares 69.2% (5.8% under)
Total property securities 0.2% (0.2% over)
Australian bonds 4.4%
International bonds 8.9%
Total bonds 13.3% (1.7% under)
Gold and alternatives 17.2% (7.2% over)
Presented visually, below is a high-level view of the current asset allocation of the portfolio. [Chart] Comments The portfolio has increased in value for the fifth consecutive month, and is starting to approach the monthly value last reached in January. The portfolio has grown over $48 000, or 2.7 per cent this month, reflecting the strong market recovery since late March [Chart] The growth in the portfolio was broadly-based across global and Australian equities, with an increase of around 3.8 per cent. Following strong previous rises, gold holdings decreased by around 2.2 per cent, while Bitcoin continued to increase in value (by 2.5 per cent). Combined, the value of gold and Bitcoin holdings remain at a new peak, while total equity holdings are still below their late January peak to the tune of around $50 000. The fixed income holdings of the portfolio continue to fall below the target allocation. [Chart] The expanding value of gold and Bitcoin holdings since January last year have actually had the practical effect of driving new investments into equities, since effectively for each dollar of appreciation, for example, my target allocation to equities rises by seven dollars. New investments this month have been in the Vanguard international shares exchange-traded fund (VGS) and the Australian shares equivalent (VAS). These have been directed to bring my actual asset allocation more closely in line with the target split between Australian and global shares set out in the portfolio plan. As the exchange traded funds such as VGS, VAS and Betashares A200 now make up nearly 30 per cent of the overall portfolio, the quarterly payments they provide have increased in magnitude and importance. Early in the journey, third quarter distributions were essentially immaterial events. Using the same 'median per unit' forecast approach as recently used for half yearly forecasts would suggest a third quarter payout due at the end of September of around $6000. Due to significant announced dividend reductions across this year I am, however, currently assuming this is likely to be significantly lower, and perhaps in the vicinity of $4000 or less. Finding true north: approach to achieving a set asset allocation One of the choices facing all investors with a preferred asset allocation is how strictly the target is applied over time, and what variability is acceptable around that. There is a significant body of financial literature around that issue. My own approach has been to seek to target the preferred asset allocation dynamically, through buying the asset class that is furthest from its target, with new portfolio contributions, and re-investment of paid out distributions. As part of monitoring asset allocation, I also track a measure of 'absolute' variance, to understand at a whole of portfolio level how far it is from the desired allocation. This is the sum of the absolute value of variances (e.g. so that being 3 per cent under target in shares, and 7 per cent over target in fixed interest will equal an absolute variance of 10 per cent under this measure). This measure is currently sitting near its highest level in around 2 years, at 15.0 per cent, as can be seen in the chart below. [Chart] The dominant reason for this higher level of variance from target is significant appreciation in the price of gold and Bitcoin holdings. Mapping the sources of portfolio variances Changes in target allocations in the past makes direct comparisons problematic, but previous peaks of the variance measure matches almost perfectly past Bitcoin price movements. For a brief period in January 2018, gold and Bitcoin combined constituted 20 per cent, or 1 in 5 dollars of the entire portfolio. Due to the growth in other equity components of the portfolio since this level has not been subsequently exceeded. Nonetheless, it is instructive to understand that the dollar value of combined gold and Bitcoin holdings is actually up around $40 000 from that brief peak. With the larger portfolio, this now means they together make up 17.2 per cent of the total portfolio value. Tacking into the wind of portfolio movements? The logical question to fall out from this situation is: to what extent should this drive an active choice to sell down gold and Bitcoin until they resume their 10 per cent target allocation? This would currently imply selling around $130 000 of gold or Bitcoin, and generating a capital gains tax liability of potentially up to $27 000. Needless to say this is not an attractive proposition. Several other considerations lead me to not make this choice:
The problem may solve itself as portfolio grows - Growth and continued investments in the portfolio will tend to reduce the variance caused by gold and Bitcoin. The asset allocation targeting approach I adopt has seen continued contributions to equities, reducing the ability of these alternative assets to add to future variance.
Falls in Bitcoin or gold values will also solve the problem - Conversely, price falls in Bitcoin or gold will tend to reduce the variance issue, and such price falls have significant precedents, with for example Bitcoin holdings falling to a value of around $50 000 as recently as January 2019.
If neither of these happen, there may be bigger issues to solve - The only scenario where neither of these alleviating factors occur is should gold and Bitcoin continue to rapidly appreciate compared to other assets, in which case it is difficult to see the value of reducing exposure now.
Does Bitcoin even fit the asset allocation model? - Bitcoin in particular is not a well established or accepted asset class as yet, so it may not be appropriate to apply traditional allocation rules to it - it may be functioning more as a hedge or option against extreme states of the world. Linked to this is the high degree of volatility in Bitcoin. Adopting too tight a target on Bitcoin holdings would potentially see a need to buy and sell Bitcoin frequently, where my intention is to actually never purchase any more.
This approach is a departure from a mechanistic implementation of an asset allocation rule. Rather, the approach I take is pragmatic. Tracking course drift in the portfolio components As an example, I regularly review whether a significant fall in Bitcoin prices to its recent lows would alter my monthly decision on where to direct new investments. So far it does not, and the 'signal' continues to be to buy new equities. Another tool I use is a monthly measurement of the absolute dollar variance of Australian and global shares, as well as fixed interest, from their ideal target allocations. The chart below sets this out for the period since January 2019. A positive value effectively represents an over-allocation to a sector, a negative value, an under-allocation compared to target. [Chart] This reinforces the overall story that, as gold and Bitcoin have grown in value, there emerges a larger 'deficit' to the target. Falls in equities markets across February and March also produce visibly larger 'dollar gaps' to the target allocation. This graph enables a tracking of the impact of portfolio gains or losses, and volatility, and a better understanding of the practical task of returning to target allocations. Runaway lines in either direction would be evidence that current approaches for returning to targets were unworkable, but so far this does not appear to be the case. A crossing over: a credit card FI milestone This month has seen a long awaited milestone reached. Calculated on a past three year average, portfolio distributions now entirely meet monthly credit card expenses. This means that every credit card purchase - each shopping trip or online purchase - is effectively paid for by average portfolio distributions. At the start of this journey, distributions were only equivalent to around 40 per cent of credit card expenses. As time has progressed distributions have increased to cover a larger and larger proportion of card expenses. [Chart] Most recently, with COVID-19 related restrictions having pushed card expenditure down further, the remaining gap to this 'Credit Card FI' target has closed. Looked at on an un-smoothed basis, expenditures on the credit card have continued to be slightly lower than average across the past month. The below chart details the extent to which portfolio distributions (red) cover estimated total expenses (green), measured month to month. [Chart] Credit card expenditure makes up around 80 per cent of total spending, so this is not a milestone that makes paid work irrelevant or optional. Similarly, if spending rises as various travel and other restrictions ease, it is possible that this position could be temporary. Equally, should distributions fall dramatically below long term averages in the year ahead, this could result in average distributions falling faster than average monthly card expenditure. Even without this, on a three year average basis, monthly distributions will decline as high distributions received in the second half of 2017 slowly fall out of the estimation sample. For the moment, however, a slim margin exists. Distributions are $13 per month above average monthly credit card bills. This feels like a substantial achievement to note, as one unlooked for at the outset of the journey. Progress Progress against the objective, and the additional measures I have reached is set out below. Measure Portfolio All Assets Portfolio objective – $2 180 000 (or $87 000 pa) 84.8% 114.6% Credit card purchases – $71 000 pa 103.5% 139.9% Total expenses – $89 000 pa 82.9% 112.1% Summary What feels like a long winter is just passed. The cold days and weeks have felt repetitive and dominated by a pervasive sense of uncertainty. Yet through this time, this wandering off, the portfolio has moved quite steadily back towards it previous highs. That it is even approaching them in the course of just a few months is unexpected. What this obscures is the different components of growth driving this outcome. The portfolio that is recovering, like the index it follows, is changing in its underlying composition. This can be seen most starkly in the high levels of variance from the target portfolio sought discussed above. It is equally true, however, of individual components such as international equity holdings. In the case of the United States the overall index performance has been driven by share price growth in just a few information technology giants. Gold and Bitcoin have emerged from the shadows of the portfolio to an unintended leading role in portfolio growth since early 2019. This month I have enjoyed reading the Chapter by Chapter release of the Aussie FIRE e-book coordinated by Pearler. I've also been reading posts from some newer Australian financial independence bloggers, Two to Fire, FIRE Down Under, and Chasing FIRE Down Under. In podcasts, I have enjoyed the Mad Fientist's update on his fourth year of financial freedom, and Pat and Dave's FIRE and Chill episodes, including an excellent one on market timing fallacies. The ASX Australian Investor Study 2020 has also been released - setting out some broader trends in recent Australian investment markets, and containing a snapshot of the holdings, approaches and views of everyday investors. This contained many intriguing findings, such as the median investment portfolio ($130 000), its most frequent components (direct Australian shares), and how frequently portfolios are usually checked - with 61 per cent of investors checking their portfolios at least once a month. This is my own approach also. Monthly assessments allow me to gauge and reflect on how I or elements of the portfolio may have wandered off the straight way in the middle of the journey. Without this, the risk is that dark woods and bent pathways beckon. The post, links and full charts can be seen here.
https://preview.redd.it/vs9skcucdep51.jpg?width=960&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=ef2a99d9a6e5aa67bd68294cc0fff429bd9dde08 Institutional investors typically have strict requirements in terms of risk management and compliance with applicable securities laws and regulations. They usually allocate only a small part of their investment portfolio to new asset classes such as Bitcoin, primarily with the purpose of investment portfolio diversification. Currently, institutions can either buy Bitcoin directly or get indirect exposure through available Bitcoin investment products. Institutional investors typically have direct exposure to Bitcoin using cryptocurrency exchanges and OTC trading desks.
Institutional Exposure to Bitcoin
https://preview.redd.it/n790vo6fdep51.jpg?width=960&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=0f16172602bedf1446071516277f9dab9e48139a Many institutional investors still do not have exposure to Bitcoin because of the regulatory uncertainty, lack of reliable valuation models, and high market risks. At the same time, institutions are interested in allocating capital to Bitcoin because it’s not highly correlated with traditional asset classes and has generated outstanding historical return. Institutional investors typically do not have in-house expertise in the Bitcoin market and prefer to have indirect exposure to Bitcoin using currently available investment products, such as Grayscale Bitcoin Trust (GBTC) and crypto hedge funds.
Institutional Demand for Bitcoin
https://preview.redd.it/5s4ry32idep51.png?width=673&format=png&auto=webp&s=9c8885104377d9ed4f79a12b0f67efe1f292e6a8 Genesis, one of the largest Bitcoin lender and OTC liquidity provider, has issued Q2 2020 report where crypto market trends are discussed. Based on this report, the institutional demand and participation in the crypto space is growing substantially. Here is Genesis’s statistics for Quarter 2 2020: $2.2B in crypto loans has been originated. For comparison, this is a 324% increase in loan originations from the same quarter last year. Genesis had $1.42B total active crypto loans as of June 2020. $5.25B of spot volume has been traded through their OTC desk. $400M derivatives volume traded since June 1, 2020.
Conservative Investors Allocate Capital to Bitcoin
Here is how to play the altcoin game - for newbies & champs
I have been here for many previous altcoin seasons (2013,2017 etc) and wanted to share knowedle. It's a LOOONG article. The evaluation of altcoins (i.e not Bitcoin) is one of the most difficult and profitable exercises. Here I will outline my methodology and thinking but we have to take some things as a given. The first is that the whole market is going up or down with forces that we can't predict or control. Bitcoin is correlated with economic environments, money supply increases, safe havens such as Gold, hype and country regulations. This is an impossible mix to analyze and almost everyone fails at it. That's why you see people valuing Bitcoin from $100 to $500k frequently. Although I am bullish on the prospects of Bitcoin and decentralization and smart contract platforms, this is not the game I will be describing. I am talking about a game where you try to maximize your BTC holdings by investing in altcoins. We win this game even if we are at a loss in fiat currency value. To put it another way:
If you are not bullish in general on cryptocurrencies you have no place in investing or trading cryptocurrencies since it's always a losing proposition to trade in bubbles, a scientifically proven fact. If on the other hand you are then your goal is to grow your portfolio more than you would if holding BTC/ETH for example.
Bitcoin is the big boy
How the market works is not easily identifiable if you haven't graduated from the 2017 crypto university. When there is a bull market everything seems amazingly profitable and things keep going up outgrowing Bitcoin by orders of magnitude and you are a genius. The problem with this is that it only works while Bitcoin is going up a little bit or trades sideways. When it decides to move big then altcoins lose value both on the way up and on the way down. The second part is obvious and proven since all altcoins from 2017 are at a fraction of their BTC value (usually in the range of 80% or more down). Also, when BTC is making a big move upwards everyone exits altcoins to ride the wave. It is possible that the altcoin market behaves as an inversed leveraged ETF with leakage where in a certain period while Bitcoin starts at 10k and ends at 10k for example, altcoins have lost a lot of value because of the above things happening.
We are doing it anyway champ!
OK so we understand the risks and just wanna gambol with our money right? I get it. Why do that? Because finding the ideal scenario and period can be extremely profitable. In 2017 several altcoins went up 40x more than BTC. But again, if you don't chose wisely many of them have gone back to zero (the author has first hand experience in this!), they have been delisted and nobody remembers them. The actual mentality to have is very important and resembles poker and other speculative games: A certain altcoin can go up in value indefinitely but can only lose it's starting investment. Think about it. You either lose 1 metric or gain many many more. Now that sounds amazing but firstly as we said we have the goal to outperform our benchmark (BTC) and secondly that going up in value a lot means that the probability is quite low. There is this notion of Expected Value (EV) that poker players apply in these kind of situations and it goes like that. If you think that a certain coin has a probability let's say 10% to go up 10X and 90% probability it goes to zero it's an even bet. If you think that probability is 11% then it's a good bet, a profitable bet and you should take it. You get the point right? It's not that it can only go 10X or 0X, there is a whole range of probability outcomes that are too mathematical to explain here and it doesn't help so much because nobody can do such analysis with altcoins. See below on how we can approximate it.
How to evaluate altcoins
A range of different things to take into account outlined below will form our decision making. Not a single one of them should dictate 100% of our strategy.
It's all about market cap. Repeat after me. The price of a coin doesn't mean anything. Say it 10 times until you believe it. I can't remember how many times I had conversations with people that were comparing coins using their coin price instead of their market cap. To make this easy to get.
If I decide because the sky is blue to make my coin supply 100 Trillion FoolCoins with a price of $0.001 and there is another WiseCoin with a supply of 100 Million and price of $1 then FoolCoins are more expensive. - Alex Fin's Cap Law
This is done usually in the stock world and it means that each company has some fundamental value that includes it's assets, customers, growth prospects, sector prospects and leadership competence but mostly centered in financial measures such as P/E ratios etc. Valuation is a proper economic discipline by itself taught in universities. OK, now throw everything out of the window!. This kind of analysis is impossible in vague concepts and innovations that are currently cryptocurrencies. Ethereum was frequently priced at the fictional price of gas when all financial systems on earth run on the platform after decades (a bit of exaggeration here). No project is currently profitable enough to justify a valuation multiple that is usually equal to P/E in the thousands or more. As such we need to take other things into account. What I do is included in the list below:
Check Github. You need to make sure there is active development for the platform and it's a very bad sign if the project is either keeping the code closed source or even worse there is simply no development. No projects are "complete".
Check Website. If the website is written in bad English the Chinese google translate type it means that they are not serious enough to produce an unbreakable decentralized project. If you can't write English you can't change the world, period. That's a deal breaker.
Check Team's Linkedin. Numerous projects have either fake Linkedin accounts or the team is comprised mainly by unexperienced employees that are even shown to be working in other companies currently.
Check backers. Projects that have Binance, Coinbase or Silicon Valley VC funds backing them are way more legit but way more overpriced too!
One of my favorite ways to value altcoins that is based on the same principle in the stock market is to look at peers and decide what is the maximum cap it can grow to. As an example you take a second layer Ethereum solution that has an ICO and you want to decide if you will enter or not. You can take a look at other coins that are in the same business and compare their market caps. Thinking that your coin will outperform by a lot the top coins currently is overly optimistic so I usually take a lower valuation as a target price. If the initial offering is directly implying a valuation that is more than that then there is no room to grow according to my analysis and I skip it. Many times this has proven me wrong because it's a game theory problem where if many people think irrationally in a market it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. But since there is opportunity cost involved, in the long run, getting in initial offerings that have a lot of room to grow will pay off as a strategy.
In 2017 the sexiest sector was platforms and then coins including privacy ones. Platforms are obviously still a highly rated sector because everything is being built on them, but privacy is not as hot as it used to be. In 2018 DEXes were all they hype but still people are massively using centralized exchanges. In 2020 Defi is the hottest sector and it includes platforms, oracles and Defi projects. What I am saying is that a project gets extra points if it's a Defi one in 2020 and minus points if it's a payment system that will conquer the world as it was in 2017 because that's old news. This is closely related to the next section.
Needless to say that the crypto market is a worse FOMO type of inexperienced trigger happy yolo investors , much worse than the Robinhood crowd that drove a bankrupt company's stock 1200% after they declared bankruptcy. The result is that there are numerous projects that are basically either vaporware or just so overhyped that their valuation has no connection to reality. Should we avoid those kind of projects? No and I will explain why. There are many very good technically projects that had zero hype potential due to incompetent marketing departments that made them tank. An example (without shilling because I sold out a while back) is Quantum Resistant Ledger. This project has amazing quantum resistant blockchain, the only one running now, has a platform that people can build tokens and messaging systems and other magnificent stuff. Just check how they fared up to now and you will get the point. A project *needs* to have a hype factor because you cannot judge it as normal stocks that you can do value investing like Warren Buffet does where a company will inevitable post sales and profitability numbers and investors will get dividends. Actually the last sentence is the most important: No dividends. Even projects that give you tokens or coins as dividends are not real dividends because if the coin tanks the value of the dividend tanks. This is NOT the case with company stocks where you get dollars even if the company stock tanks. All that being said, I would advice against betting on projects that have a lot of hype but little substance (but that should be obvious!).
How to construct your portfolio
My strategy and philosophy in investing is that risk should be proportional to investment capital. That means that if you are investing 100K in the crypto market your portfolio should be very different than someone investing 1K because 10% annual gains are nothing in the latter while they are very significant in the former. Starting from this principle each individual needs to construct a portfolio according to how much risk he wants to take. I will emphasize two important concepts that play well with what I said. In the first instance of a big portfolio you should concentrate on this mantra: "Diversification is the only free meal in finance". In the case of a small portfolio then this mantra is more important: "Concentrate to create wealth, diversify to maintain wealth". Usually in a big portfolio you would want to hold some big coins such as BTC and ETH to weather the ups and downs explained in previous paragraphs while generating profits and keep progressively smaller parts of your portfolio for riskier investments. Maybe 50% of this portfolio could be big caps and 10% very risky initial offerings. Adapting risk progressively to smaller portfolios makes sense but I think it would be irrational to keep more than 30% of a portfolio no matter what tied to one coin due to the very high risk of bankruptcy.
The altseason is supposedly coming every 3 months. Truth is that nobody can predict it but altcoins can be profitable no matter what. Forget about maximalists who are stuck in their dogmas. Altcoins deliver different value propositions and it makes sense because we are very far from a situation where some project offers everything like Amazon and we wouldn't even want that in the first place since we are talking about decentralization and not a winner takes all and becomes a monster kind of scenario! Some last minute advice:
Stay out of paid telegram/discord pump groups. They are deadly for your wallet.
Avoid jumping on overhyped coins that have pumped massively during the last days without any very important news.
Don't keep coins in obscure exchanges for too long or you will get burned with certainty.
Stop thinking that your coin will 1000x and overtake Bitcoin!
P.S If you find value in reading this and want more weekly consider subscribing to my newsletterhere
Global internet / internet everywhere is being worked on with Space-x "StarLink", thousands of satellites connecting everyone globally to the internet. Therefore infrastructure for the digital currencies,
Too private makes it ideal for illegal activities. / Can't be controlled as easy, taxed as easy.
All of the above is a partial list of factors devaluing the Dollar and trust in it from several ways and views. At the end of the day it has a huge amount of enemies, that are all looking for ways to get out of it. Some of what I'm seeing personally.
Prices are outpacing wages.
Education is required for a good job vs how things used to be, jobs are getting more technical for same wage value.
Real Estate has been rapidly climbing in price, even homes that haven't been remodeled. A $80,000 home in my area is now $180k in the last 6-7 years. Wages haven't moved.
Rents have been climbing with the real estate prices.
Taxes have increased on said real estate
Insurance cost are up
Repair costs are up
It is a death spiral for the working person, where it used to be "No more than 30% of your wage going to housing" It is now well over 50%....Just look at this recent post in Frugalhttps://www.reddit.com/Frugal/comments/ifqah1/is_it_normal_for_a_third_to_a_half_of_you?utm_source=share&utm_medium=web2x&context=3 This death spiral I foresee getting worse. And historically any "tax" / regulation cost will just be passed down to the consumer in form of increased prices until people / businesses move elsewhere as we've seen in several cities around the US. So what can we do? Buy Gold! Silver! Bitcoin! Stocks! I hear people roar, They aren't exactly wrong as history shows... but have you considered the 30-40% tax on the "gain"? Even when that asset buys the same value before tax? What if the government makes it illegal like the 1933 order: 6102 Where you couldn't own gold for nearly 50 years? You're frozen out, or even out on taxes (which will likely be more strict and controlled later in time). I'd say Invest in things that will
Help you be independent
Can help you save
That you will use anyways in normal living
Things that can be productive not only for you, but for others $
Bonus points if its easy to trade off / has demand
Extra bonus if it is durable (lasts many years)
Helps your health
Metals are the next step when a person has plenty of the above. You get to a point where you have hundreds of thousands, if not millions that you need to condense into something real. It is all about the savings or productivity gain of the investment. For instance I would wager that many preppers have gotten more use / value out of a $800 clothes washer than a $800 rifle. (have you ever had to do manual laundry???) Sure the rifle will hold value...but it often doesn't pay you back with time / what it saved and / or what it has produced during its life unless you are using it. Same can be said of security cameras, a generator, a tractor, trailer, garden, tools, ect. Look at history even, in countries that have experienced hyperinflation people that already had tangibles they regularly use were way ahead. It could even be honey, a tool, extra maintenance parts, can of food, that bottle of medicine, a computer to keep your intel on point, (cough # PrepperIntel plug) use of your equipment to do or make something for someone. Real Estate is good too, it rides inflation well and has many ways of being productive. Your metals could be sitting there like the rifle, and could be subject to hot debate and laws. Meanwhile that garden is paying back, chainsaw is helping saw up wood, or your tractor is helping a job, your tools just helped you fix something / saved you much loss, Your security stopped a loss not by a person, but an random animal stealing things. Or that $25,000 solar array is paying you back by the day in spades...while making you independent...running all your tools you're using to make things to sell, and even heating / cooling some of the house with the extra juice while places around you experience rolling blackouts. You were even smart and took the current 24% tax benefit the government has saving you $5000 on it for batteries. Don't get me started if you have an electric vehicle with solar... I'm rambling at this point...and all those stealthy / direct and passive background savings...even if the crap doesn't hit the fan. So anyways, With out of control central banks and big governments, digital currencies, How do you think it will play out? Are we heading to dystopia?
Lines of Navigation | Monthly Portfolio Update - July 202
Our little systems have their day; They have their day and cease to be - Tennyson, In Memoriam A.H.H. This is my forty-fourth portfolio update. I complete this update monthly to check my progress against my goal. Portfolio goal My objective is to reach a portfolio of $2 180 000 by 1 July 2021. This would produce a real annual income of about $87 000 (in 2020 dollars). This portfolio objective is based on an expected average real return of 3.99 per cent, or a nominal return of 6.49 per cent. Portfolio summary
Vanguard Lifestrategy High Growth Fund - $716 680
Vanguard Lifestrategy Growth Fund - $41 103
Vanguard Lifestrategy Balanced Fund - $77 788
Vanguard Diversified Bonds Fund - $111 667
Vanguard Australian Shares ETF (VAS) - $202 336
Vanguard International Shares ETF (VGS) - $54 872
Betashares Australia 200 ETF (A200) - $230 058
Telstra shares (TLS) -$1 785
Insurance Australia Group shares (IAG) - $6 449
NIB Holdings shares (NHF) - $5 316
Gold ETF (GOLD.ASX) - $124 756
Secured physical gold - $20 070
Ratesetter (P2P lending) - $9 881
Bitcoin - $173 010
Raiz app (Aggressive portfolio) - $17 258
Spaceship Voyager app (Index portfolio) -$2 619
BrickX (P2P rental real estate) - $4 471
Total portfolio value: $1 800 119 (+$34 376 or 1.9%) Asset allocation
Australian shares - 41.1%
Global shares- 22.2%
Emerging market shares - 2.2%
International small companies - 2.9%
Total international shares - 27.3%
Total shares - 68.4% (6.6% under)
Total property securities - 0.2% (0.2% over)
Australian bonds - 4.5%
International bonds - 9.1%
Total bonds - 13.6% (1.4% under)
Gold - 8.0%
Bitcoin - 9.6%
Gold and alternatives - 17.7% (7.7% over)
Presented visually, below is a high-level view of the current asset allocation of the portfolio. [Chart] Comments The portfolio has substantially increased this month, continuing the recovery in portfolio value since March. The strong portfolio growth of over $34 000, or 1.9 per cent, returns the value of the portfolio close to that achieved at the end of February this year. [Chart] This month there was minimal movement in the value of Australian and global equity holdings, There was, however, a significant lift of around 6 per cent in the value of gold exchange traded fund units, as well as a rise in the value of Bitcoin holdings. These movements have pushed the value of gold holdings to their highest level so far on the entire journey. Their total value has approximately doubled since the original major purchases across 2009 to 2015. For most of the past year gold has functioned as a portfolio stabiliser, having a negative correlation to movements in Australian equities (of around -0.3 to -0.4). As low and negative bond rates spread across the world, however, the opportunity cost of holding gold is reduced, and its potential diversification benefits loom larger. The fixed income holdings of the portfolio also continued to fall beneath the target allocation, making this question of what represents a defensive (or negatively correlated to equity) asset far from academic. This steady fall is a function of the slow maturing of Ratesetter loans, which were largely made between 2015 and 2017. Ratesetter has recently advised of important changes to its market operation, and placed a fixed maximum cap on new loan rates. By replacing market set rates with maximum rates, the peer-to-peer lending platform appears to be shifting to more of a 'intermediated' role in which higher past returns (of around 8 to 9 per cent) will now no longer be possible. [Chart] The expanding value of gold and Bitcoin holdings since January last year have actually had the practical effect of driving new investments into equities, since effectively for each dollar of appreciation, for example, my target allocation to equities rises by seven dollars. Consistent with this, investments this month have been in the Vanguard international shares exchange-traded fund (VGS) using Selfwealth. This has been directed to bring my actual asset allocation more closely in line with the target split between Australian and global shares. Fathoming out: franking credits and portfolio distributions Earlier last month I released a summary of portfolio income over the past half year. This, like all before it, noted that the summary was prepared on a purely 'cash' basis, reflecting dividends actually paid into a bank account, and excluding consideration of franking credits. Franking credits are credits for company tax paid at the company level, which can be passed to individual shareholders, reducing their personal tax liability. They are not cash, but for a personal investor with tax liabilities they can have equivalent value. This means that comparing equity returns to other investments without factoring these credits can produce a distorted picture of an investor's final after-tax return. In past portfolio summaries I have noted an estimate for franking credits in footnotes, but updating the value for this recently resulted in a curiosity about the overall significance of this neglected element of my equity returns. This neglect resulted from my perception earlier in the journey that they represented a marginal and abstract factor, which could effectively be assumed away for the sake of simplicity in reporting. This is not a wholly unfair view, in the sense that income physically received and able to be spent is something definably different in kind than a notional 'pre-payment' credit for future tax costs. Yet, as the saying goes, because the prospect of personal tax is as certain as extinction from this world, in some senses a credit of this kind can be as valuable as a cash distribution. Restoring the record: trends and drivers of franking credits To collect a more accurate picture of the trends and drivers of franking credits I relied on a few sources - tax statements, records and the automatic franking credit estimates that the portfolio tracking site Sharesight generates. The chart below sets out both the level and major different sources of franking credits received over the past eleven years. [Chart] From this chart some observations can be made.
The level of franking credits has grown substantially over the past ten years - from a total of under $1 000 per year to around $8 000 annually.
Recent years have seen a particularly high accrual of franking credits - such that by value, over half of the total value of franking credits has been received over the past three financial years.
These credits now constitute a significant element in total realised returns - in the last financial year the value of franking credits represented a 12 per cent boost to the total level of cash distributions, and over the past two years they have contributed around $8 000 each year to the total level of after-tax returns. This is the equivalent of the portfolio paying nearly $700 per month in tax liabilities.
The key reason for the rapid growth over the recent decade has been the increased investment holdings in Australian equities. As part of the deliberate rebalancing towards Australian shares across the past two years, these holdings have expanded. The chart below sets out the total value of Australian shares held over the comparable period. [Chart] As an example, at the beginning of this record Australian equities valued at around $276 000 were held. Three years later, the holding were nearly three times larger. The phase of consistently increasing the Australian equities holding to meet its allocated weighting is largely complete. This means that the period of rapid growth seen in the past few years is unlikely to repeat. Rather, growth will revert to be in proportion to total portfolio growth. Close to cross-over: the credit card records One of the most powerful initial motivators to reach financial independence was the concept of the 'cross over' point in Vicki Robins and Joe Dominguez's Your Money or Your Life. This was the point at which monthly expenses are exceeded by investment income. One of the metrics I have traced is this 'cross-over' point in relation to recorded credit card expenses. And this point is now close indeed. Expenditures on the credit card have continued their downward trajectory across the past month. The three year rolling average of monthly credit card spending remains at its lowest point over the period of the journey. Distributions on the same basis now meet over 99 per cent of card expenses - with the gap now the equivalent of less than $50 per month. [Chart] The period since April of the achievement of a notional and contingent form of financial independence has continued. The below chart illustrates this temporary state, setting out the the extent to which to which portfolio distributions (red) cover estimated total expenses (green), measured month to month. [Chart] An alternative way to view the same data is to examine the degree to which total expenses (i.e. fixed payments not made on credit card added to monthly credit card expenses) are met by distributions received. An updated version of this is seen in the chart below. [Chart] Interestingly, on a trend basis, this currently identifies a 'crossing over' point of trend distributions fully meeting total expenditure from around November 2019. This is not conclusive, however, as the trend curve is sensitive to the unusual COVID-19 related observations of the first half of this year, and could easily shift further downward if normal expense patterns resume. One issue this analysis raises is what to do with the 'credit card purchases' measure reported below. This measure is designed to provide a stylised benchmark of how close the current portfolio is to a target of generating the income required to meet an annual average credit card expenditure of $71 000. The problem with this is that continued falling credit card spending means that average credit card spending is lower than that benchmark for all time horizons - measured as three and four year averages, or in fact taken as a whole since 2013. So the set benchmark may, if anything, be understating actual progress compared the graphs and data above by not reflecting changing spending levels. In the past I have addressed this trend by reducing the benchmark. Over coming months, or perhaps at the end of the year, I will need to revisit both the meaning, and method, of setting this measure. Progress Progress against the objective, and the additional measures I have reached is set out below. Measure Portfolio All Assets Portfolio objective – $2 180 000 (or $87 000 pa) 82.6% 111.5% Credit card purchases – $71 000 pa 100.7% 136.0% Total expenses – $89 000 pa 80.7% 109.0% Summary One of the most challenging aspects of closing in on a fixed numerical target for financial independence with risk assets still in place is that the updrafts and downdrafts of market movements can push the goal further away, or surprisingly close. There have been long period of the journey where the total value of portfolio has barely grown, despite regular investments being made. As an example, the portfolio ended 2018 lower than it started the year. The past six months have been another such period. This can create a sense of treading water. Yet amidst the economic devastation affecting real lives and businesses, this is an extremely fortunate position to be in. Australia and the globe are set to experience an economic contraction far more severe than the Global Financial Crisis, with a lesser capacity than previously for interest rates to cushion the impact. Despite similar measures being adopted by governments to address the downturn, it is not clear whether these are fit for purpose. Asset allocation in this environment - of being almost suspended between two realities - is a difficult problem. The history of markets can tell us that just when assets seem most 'broken', they can produce outsized returns. Yet the problem remains that far from being surrounded by broken markets, the proliferation appears to be in bubble-like conditions. This recent podcast discussion with the founder of Grant's Interest Rate Observer provided a useful historical context to current financial conditions this month. One of the themes of the conversation was 'thinking the unthinkable', such as a return of inflation. Similar, this Hoover Institute video discussion, with a 'Back from the future' premise, provides some entertaining, informed and insightful views on the surprising and contingent nature of what we know to be true. Some of our little systems may well have had their day, but what could replace them remains obscured to any observer. The post, links and full charts can be seen here.
https://federationofglobalmerchants.com/2020/08/14/gold-and-silver-where-do-they-go-from-here/ Investors know by now that one of the leading indicators of an unstable and unpredictable stock market is a surge in the price of precious metals like gold and silver. In February, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the markets officially entered a recession, even though just months later several of the major indices have reached all-time highs. It was a brief dip into recessionary territory, but this sort of volatility is what gives investors hesitation in putting their money into the stock market, rather than something that is perceived to be more stable. Gold future contracts are selling well above $2000 per ounce for the rest of 2020 and well into 2021 as well showing that investors are confident that gold will continue to rise in price. Silver is also surging reaching new all-time highs on a daily basis. So investors may be curious as to how to get into this red-hot market, especially as the markets continue to fluctuate. Gold: For centuries now gold has been literally the ‘gold-standard’ of currency and wealth. Dating back all the way to around 40,000 B.C. in Spanish caves, gold is a naturally occurring element that has both fascinated and lured people for as long as barter systems and wealth has been recorded. Currently, gold is enjoying its highest valuations in history as investors flock to the stability of the precious metal through various streams. So what is the allure of gold and why is it so stable? Warren Buffett once said, “Gold is a way of going long on fear.” That is quite a statement from perhaps the greatest investment mind of our generation. But what does this mean for the novice investor? Even the most successful blue-chip stocks can crash. Obviously the more prominent and profitable companies with mega market caps will not crash as easily as smaller companies, but given the volatility of the pandemic, we can see anything happen. But as stock markets fluctuate on a daily basis, the price of gold remains mostly stoic. Not as manipulatable as stock prices, gold is as steady as it gets for investors. What makes gold so stable? It is a combination of factors, first and foremost, it is a physical and tangible element which makes it possible for people to store and stockpile. It does not corrode or wear down over time, making it durable and ensuring that the value remains. There is also a finite supply of it in the world. This reinforces that it will always keep a certain level of valuation as the supply is kept in check. Today, as the Federal Reserve tries desperately to pump money into the American economy to stave off a global recession and keep companies afloat. Printing more American dollars helps in the interim, but it is a temporary band-aid for the bigger problem. As more of the dollar gets created the more it gets devalued as a form of currency. This is another reason why gold is skyrocketing. The two valuations always work inversely to each other, so as the greenback continues to plummet, the price of gold will continue to surge which makes perfect sense if one thinks about it. The value of gold is priced in American dollars per ounce, so if the value of an American dollar retreats, the cost of gold will rise in response. So how can investors take advantage of the current state of gold? In the age of internet investing, there are plenty of ways to invest in gold or anything in that matter. Most American platforms give inventors the ability to buy fractional shares of companies. While this comes in handy for expensive stocks like Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN), Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOGL), or Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA), it also allows investors to diversify their funds across multiple companies to form a basket approach to an industry. There are also plenty of ETFs or Exchange Traded Funds, available for investors to consider. These funds have the diversification of a mutual fund or index fund, but trade like individual stocks. Here’s a few of the better gold ETFs to consider if you are looking to get into the industry:
IAU – iShares Gold Trust: One of the better known gold ETFs out there, iSHARES is a reputable brand with great overall market performance. The fund has returned over 17% to inventors already this year, and with the price of gold projected to continue to rise, this fund should keep delivering for investors into next year.
DGL – Invesco DB Gold Fund: Another well known and reputable ETF, the Invesco Gold Fund has slightly higher fees than iSHARES but has also had a slightly better return so far this year.
IAUF – iShares Gold Strategy ETF: Another iSHARES ETF, this one has parts of IAU, as well as gold futures contracts, to get a long term forecast of the price of gold so the investor gets exposure to a wider range of gold options.
There are dozens of other ETFs available for investors that cover everything from miners to the finished products. Mining company stocks are another great way to get exposure. As the demand for gold increases, these mining companies should see a rise in their revenues and eventually, their profits as well. These changes will be reflected in their stock prices and we have already seen some of this already this year.
ABX – Barrick Gold: One of the largest gold mining companies in the world, this Canadian company has seen healthy gains in their stock price so far in 2020. Over the last 52 weeks, Barrick investors have enjoyed a 131% increase in stock price. With mining projects ongoing in Canada, America, Australia, South America, and Africa, Barrick has already announced that it is on track to achieve guidance this year despite closures from COVID-19.
FNV – Franco-Nevada Gold: This stock price rose almost 15% in July alone. Franco-Nevada operates as a funding company to gold mining companies, rather than actually doing the mining themselves. Sustainalytics, a guidance and analysis company, rated Franco-Nevada number one amongst 104 precious metal companies.
NEM – Newmont Goldcorp: The largest gold stock by market-cap and the only stock to trade on the S&P 500, Newmont is probably the safest company for gold investors to invest in. On top of steady returns and low volatility in the stock price, the company pays a fairly healthy dividend as well.
With gold at all-time highs, we can begin to question how high the precious metal may go. With a second wave of the coronavirus making its way around some parts of the world, and America, still making its way through their initial wave, the uncertainty that exists in today’s markets may continue into 2021. Some Wall Street analysts have forecast gold to rise as high as $10,000 per ounce, but that seems like a little ambitious. Gold has just recently hit all-time highs at $2000 per ounce and to imagine that it can run up another 500% in the next few years seems far-fetched at this point in time. That would require the markets to enter an extended bear-market, which of course is possible after a decade of a bullish run, but it would also require the American dollar to continue to be further devalued. Gold is pegged to continue to rise for the rest of this year though and well into 2021. That means investors and analysts are foreseeing a further devaluation of the American greenback as well as continued volatility in the markets and economy. Is gold a safe haven? Some people believe it is, but if you are an investor that enjoys high returns over long periods of time, investing in precious metals may not be for you. Investors love the stability of gold but the returns are never astronomical, with the last few months being an exception. It helps to have a portion of your portfolio dedicated to precious metals to diversify and protect you from any sudden market corrections, but investors should not be looking at gold as a short-term way to get wealthy. Silver: The other precious metal that has been flying sky-high of recent months is silver, the eternal younger brother to gold. Mined from silver-ore, it is a highly malleable metal that was once valued higher than gold by the Ancient Egyptians. Today, it is relatively low in price per ounce compared to gold, reaching all-time highs recently of just under $30 per ounce. Silver is another stable alternative to gold, and at lower prices, it may be a little more affordable for the novice investor to jump into. Like with gold, silver has an inverse relationship to the American dollar, and to all currencies in general. Again, this is another reason why silver is hitting all-time highs right now, with silver future contracts predicting a steady rise to mirror gold, well into 2021. There is also something that Wall Street calls the gold silver ratio, which is exactly what it sounds like: the ratio of the price of gold per ounce to the price of silver per ounce. This ratio has historically moved together, which makes logical sense if both precious metals are independently moving inverse to paper currencies. Historically, the gold and silver prices do move together though as the general ratio has been in the range of 17:1 to 20:1. Silver also has numerous ways for investors to get involved in, including silver mining and production companies, as well as the ever popular silver ETFs. These Exchange Traded Funds have gained popularity amongst retail investors in recent years as a way of purchasing a diversified product as a single equity with low costs, and no trading fees if your platform allows it. Here are a few of the better performing silver ETFs that investors can look into adding to their portfolios if they are interested in the precious metal:
SLV – iShares Silver Trust: Probably one of the better known silver ETFs, this is fully backed by silver bullion and coins held in a vault. While usually fairly steady, this ETF has enjoyed a 52-week increase of 152% with much of that coming in the last few months.
SIVR – Aberdeen Standard Physical Silver Shares ETF: Very similar to SLV but with lower fees, this is an ideal fund for novice and experienced investors to get into as they start to diversify their portfolios.
DBS – Invesco DB Silver Fund: Again another stable ETF for investors to get into, and another good performing one as well. Just as with their gold ETF, Invsco focuses on silver futures contracts for this fund, so it is a nice long-term play if investors are bullish on silver.
Just as with gold, investors can get a slice of the silver pie by buying shares of silver mining companies as well. Here are a few of the top silver mining company stocks that investors can look into adding to their portfolios.
PAAS – Pan American Silver Corp.: This Canada based miner is focussed on the exploration, development, extraction, refining, processing, and reclamation of silver. They operate mines in Peru, Mexico, Bolivia, and are developing more as well for the future.
WPM – Wheaton Precious Metals: Another Canadian based company that deals with miners of gold, silver, palladium, and cobalt. Wheaton is not a direct miner, rather they purchase these precious metals from other mining companies.
AG – First Majestic Silver Corp.: Canadian companies seem to be dominating the silver industry, and First Majestic is another of those. This company focuses mainly in Mexico for gold and silver.
Silver may never be as popular as gold for investors to keep track of but the two precious metals move in a synchronized fashion, and both are looked upon by investors as safe havens for their money when the market is in flux. The rest of 2020 seems like a wildcard right now, with many analysts expecting a further correction to the markets at any point. There seems to be an inevitability to a market crash of some sort, whether it is as big as the one that happened back in February and March, remains to be seen. Investors are looking at the precious metal industry to hold their funds to wait out any sort of correction or crash. If this does happen, we may expect a pullback in precious metals too as investors selloff to get back into some stocks at their low levels. Such is the ebb and flow of the economy during turbulent times like the current one we are in. At the same time, what if a market correction does not happen? Will the uncertainty continue or will investors feel relatively secure in the way the markets are progressing? This could cause a reduction in the demand for silver and gold, culminating in lower prices in the future. Of course this also depends on the Federal Reserve diminishing their rate of printing paper currency to bailout the economy, which does not seem like a reality in the short-term at least. Another point of contention for investors is the ongoing economical and political tensions between China and America. The two world powers have been feuding for the past couple of months over various things, but it escalated as China social media app Tik Tok gained popularity in North America. It was alleged that TikTok was sending data and information from mobile phones back to China, though nobody is sure of their intended use of this data. Regardless, the markets have stumbled several times lately because of this. Both sides have threatened economic sanctions and the banning of certain product use in each country. The prices of silver and gold have shot up as the tensions have escalated between the two governments, as investors flock to the precious metals. Many of the biggest companies on the major stock indices rely on China for materials or production, so any sort of breakdown in supply chains could cause an enormous change to their stock prices. An example of this is a sudden 5% correction in the price of Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), as it was thought that iPhone sales would decline if China’s chat platform WeChat was banned in America. There are other factors that may have an effect on gold and silver prices as well. In this modern economy, many of the retail investors have trended towards younger adults with a sudden influx of income. Popular platforms such as Robinhood combined with increased time at home during the quarantine, have caused retail investor usage to skyrocket during the pandemic. Many of these investors are more lured in by the shiny new objects of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. Perhaps we will start thinking of these cryptocurrencies as a modern day version of precious metals one day, as many investors and some analysts, believe that Bitcoin may be a safe haven in the future. Already, the price of Bitcoin has risen above $12,000 in August, mirroring the highs of gold and silver. If the demand for Bitcoin rises higher than the demand for precious metals, we may see an investor migration to cryptocurrencies rather than tangible metals. Conclusion: Gold and silver are staples of our global economy, and will continue to be so as long as the demand for precious metals exists. In times of uncertainty, gold and silver are viewed as safe relative to the volatility of the stock market. Sure, their prices can vary as well, but because they are tied to a less dynamic valuation that is based on an inverse relation to paper currency, their prices will not and can not fluctuate as much as the liquidity of individual stocks. As long as the world remains in flux, there will be a general feeling of instability, especially for global markets. A second wave of COVID-19 in the third or fourth quarter of 2020 could prove to be enough to push the markets over the edge and into another recession. The bull market has been rallying for over a decade now, with astronomical gains over the last few years, especially for sectors like the big tech FAANG stocks. Another factor to consider is what a Biden government could bring to the world if he is elected over President Donald Trump in October. A new government could ease some of the tensions with China, as well as within America itself. These are all big what ifs, and could all have potential impacts on the economy and the world. As long as all of these factors are up in the air, investors will be looking to gold and silver as ways of stabilizing their portfolios and protecting their finances from a potential market crash in the future.
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