Three Investment Credo from the Past

When I started investing there were a few simple rules that were told to me, and they still ring true to me. These three investment credo used to be the de facto standard, but not today.

Old Investment Credos

Don’t Invest It, If You Can’t Lose it

A little strong-worded, but the sentiment rings loud and true to me as an old-time investment credo. You should not be investing any money that you must have to live (just as you should never gamble that kind of money either). It doesn’t matter what kind of sure-thing (to borrow from gambling again) that you think you might have, if you can’t lose it, don’t invest it!

This isn’t wrong, just ask anyone who invested in Nortel, Bre-X, Enron or other great industrial failures. The likelihood of losing all your money may not be likely, but it is still quite possible. Risk and how to deal with that Risk is the most important part of your investing plan.

Invest for the Long Term

That one is more of a platitude than actual advice, but getting across the point that whatever investment plan you choose, it should be for long-term growth, not short-term pop. If your investments stumble early on, do not simply bail on them (unless you knew it was Nortel, then bail) because they have gone down a little. If you did the research and are confident that you made the right choice, stick with it (but don’t ride the bomb into the ground either).

Index investing seems to fit this model well. You are investing at a macro level (i.e. buying a whole index), which suggests you are in for a long period. I don’t think long-term investing is such an antiquated concept.

You Want Safety, buy GICs

I am sure some of my readers might ask, What is a GIC? Guaranteed Investment Certificates are the only thing you can buy on the market that will go up in value, (unless there is a catastrophic economic failure). This growth is low now, 1.4% for 18 months, higher as interest rates go up (back in my day GICs could be bought at 15%). This (and no not bonds) is the only way to get guaranteed growth. If you must have the principal at the end of your investing period, this is the only thing you can buy.

As interest rates climb back to a less stimulated level, GICs may make a comeback with investors, but where is the profit for the Banks for these investments? We shall see if investment “experts” engage this concept again.

Ask your investment expert about these concepts, see if they poo-poo them. These ideas aren’t sexy or exciting, but they do still make sense.

 

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“It’s not quite what I had in mind” (Financially)

Translation: “What the bloody hell is this??!?”

It's not quite what I had in mind

Someone please buy me this shirt (my size is XL)

For those of you who don’t know Very British Problems, sorry for the rudeness. There is even a series on Netflix to explain things better.

What does this have to do with money? Everything!

How many times have you talked to a financial planner or an investment broker and they hand you their final report, you cannot tell me you did not think:

“What the bloody hell is this?”

yet, you most likely said something much more, socially acceptable like:

“Could you explain to me your reasons behind this?”

or better still, if you really get a dose of backbone,

“It’s not quite what I had in mind.”

Seriously, this has never happened to you? I had one investment person tell me, “There is this new interesting stock that you should look into, it has got some really good press, it’s called BRE-X“. Even I (at the time pretty much as naive as a new-born babe when it came to investing) knew this was dodgy. I had another chap try to convince that Enron would be a good place to put my hard-earned money.

Never, ever, feel that you cannot be incredibly blunt with folks when it comes to your money. Do not tip-toe around folks’ feelings when your hard-earned income is involved, say what you mean, no need to be rude, but, no need to be overly vague either. You worked hard for your money, stand up for it.

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Financial Long Shots

I was reading a very interesting piece on “Chico” (actually Leonard or “Chicko”) Marx and his lifetime (and his gambling addiction). The most telling statement about this addiction was:

Chico’s gambling was actually a very serious addiction. When the Marx brothers were filming their movie A Day at the Races in 1937, Groucho noticed Chico placing a bet on a horse that was scheduled to lose a race in the film’s script. “Are you crazy?” Groucho asked incredulously, “That horse is going to lose the race. The script says so.”

“I know,” Chico replied, “but I couldn’t resist. The odds were fifteen to one.”

A Day at the Races

A Day at the Races at Amazon

You might laugh at that, but I have spoken with investors who have had the same odd views on “long shot investments”. If you invest in enough of them, they will eventually pay out, is their credo. That kind of a “system” is what built Las Vegas (on the money lost using those same systems).

You think I am mistaken? How does one explain Pets.com or some of the other interesting “Internet bubble” stocks of the 90’s ?

Some people are simply adrenaline junkies, they want to feel “alive”. If you want to feel alive, run marathons, help the poor, volunteer, but don’t make stupid decisions because you have a hunch things might turn out big (unless of course you are willing to lose all the money you are using).

Do you know why long shots, are long shots? Mostly, due to the fact that they are not supposed to win.

Anybody have any stories of long shots gone wrong? Any gone right ?

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Up Selling in Banking

My wife went in to our Bank last week (the brick and mortar version), to cash a cheque. She decided to do this at a teller, and she stood in line for this privilege. As she got to the teller, suddenly she was accosted by the teller, asking about how our family investments were being handled, and whether we had an investment advisor.

Upselling financially

You want fries with your GIC?

Mrs. C8j has learned the answer to give, and she simply stated that we take care of our own investments and we were happy with that, however, evidently that was not good enough for this teller. My wife came home with a glossy brochure, and, a flyer about Financial Planning Week, along with the name of a “Financial Planner” who could help us out. I realize this is the bank attempting to “drum up some business” for their Financial Planning income stream, but it is another reason (for me) to stay away from my local branch.

As usual, I should thank TD for giving me more content to rant about, since without them I am not sure what I would be writing about.

Given I feel I have a smart and sophisticated readership, I’d like to give you folks some homework. I do plan on sending an e-mail to this planner and possibly going to visit with him to research how the system now works, however, what kind of questions should I be asking?

Questions to Ask Your Financial Planner

So far, I have a couple of obvious examples:

  • How do you earn your pay ? What is the difference between you and a fee-based financial planner?
  • What licenses, credentials or other certifications do you have?
  • Could I see a sample financial plan?
  • What makes your client experience unique?
  • Given I have a pension, what kind of a retirement plan do you think I should have?
  • Do you still make money if I lose money?

Am I missing other great questions to ask?

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Active Investors Fight Back

At an undisclosed “family eatery” in Ottawa an argument broke out between warring factions of the Financial Blogging world, when Active Investors felt they had been pushed over the edge and fought back against the “… oppressive no fun antics of passive investors…”. What was supposed to be a civil discussion about current events and economic trends dissolved into a “Pier 6 Donny Brook”, when the subject of whether Active Investors could “beat the market” consistently.

One combatant stated, “I have had enough of all this, invest carefully, and grow your wealth safely stuff that is being espoused.  Did Buffett passive invest? Did JP Morgan? Did my Uncle Ralph? NO! they bought individual stocks and they got filthy stinking rich!”.

The staff at the local “watering hole” were taken aback by the antics of these alleged “Money Experts” and their crude commentaries such as:

  • “… active investors calculate their growth using slide rules!”
  • “… passive investors drive below the speed limit on the highway because they are satisfied not using the full speed potential!”
  • “… why would anyone not want to have the exhilaration of buying high and selling low?”
  • “… you need to lose money to make money”
  • “… passive investing is for losers who just can’t make a decision!”

And many other comments that cannot be included as they are far too crude in nature.

April Fools Alert!

Well part of the story is true, the N.C.F.B.A. did have a lovely dinner.

April Fools!

 

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