The following information has been taken from the book: “The Roaring 2000s Investor • Strategies for the life you want” by Harry S. Dent, Jr.
IN ALL OF MY BOOKS on investment, I have talked about the importance of having a competent and objective financial advisor. That mean someone who represents you, not the investment products. In other words, not a salesperson. That means someone who can integrate your entire financial-planning process, effectively and efficiently, to meet your highest life goals. Before you consider whether you should be investing on your own through a discount broker or using one of many financial advisors, from insurance agents to stockbrokers to financial planners to CPAs to tax attorneys, ask yourself these questions. This may be a bit painful, but it should prove very useful if you will just stick with me for a few pages.
Do you have the discipline, the expertise, the time to analyze your own financial and life goals and to stick to such a plan? Do you understand insurance and risk management, from home to casualty to auto to disability to life insurance? Do you clearly understand and monitor your fixed annual and monthly expenses, as well as your variable weekly and monthly ones, so that you can reasonably project, manage, and monitor your finances? Including planning for those unexpected contingencies in life, ranging from health crisis to auto maintenance to roof repairs?
Do you understand the ever-changing tax laws and how you can best defer taxes or avoid them or plan for them in advance? Do you know what a charitable remainder trust is and how it could give you income for life with tax advantages while benefiting the nonprofit institution you value the most? Would you know how to set up your own charitable foundation that is like an unlimited IRA or 401K plan and draw a salary for life while serving your most cherished causes? Do you know how to roll over your 401K plan when you leave your company and how long you have to do that without losing the tax benefits?
Do you understand how to measure the tax efficiency of a mutual fund or index fund? Do you understand what turnover means and how it affects your taxes from the fund you invest in? Do you know what the current capital gains tax laws are or the advantages of capital gains over ordinary income? Or how long you have to hold an investment to get capital gains advantages? Is it the same for your house as for your stocks? How much can you borrow against your house and still deduct the interest on your tax return? Does this apply to your vacation home? What restrictions are there on that interest deduction if you have a higher income? What is the alternative minimum tax? Are you subject to it even if your income isn’t that high?
Do you know what a variable annuity is or what is so variable about it? And how a variable annuity could allow you to never pay taxes on your investment income? Or why it is different from a fixed annuity and what is so fixed about it? What is variable universal life and what does life insurance have to do with deferring taxes or avoiding estate taxes? Do you understand how to evaluate whether a variable annuity has greater advantages over buying stocks or funds and holding them for long-term capital gains? Or how your rate of investment return in that vehicle, whether higher or lower, affects that decision? Are municipal bonds the best way to avoid taxes just because the interest is tax-exempt? Is that interest tax free for federal taxes or for state and local as well?
Do you understand how to scientifically combine different investments to optimize your returns versus your risks? Do you understand the difference between long-term and short-term bonds or high-yield and low-yield bonds? Are junk bonds as risky as they sound? Are stocks always more risky than bonds? Do you understand the difference between growth and value stocks? Do you know how large a large cap stock is or how small a small cap stock is? Is a mid-cap stock halfway in between? Do you understand when small companies and large companies do better and why? Does the Russell 2000 or the Russell 3000 best measure the performance of small cap stocks? Does the S&P 500 or the Dow best measure the performance of large cap stocks?
Do you know how to evaluate the 9,000-plus mutual funds that are out there? Do you know what a unit investment trust is? Do you understand the specific differences between mutual funds, unit investment trusts, and index funds? We have been told that S&P 500 index funds are beating most mutual fund managers. Has this always been the case? Will it be the case in the future? Everyone wants the highest returns from investing, but do you understand that the most of the highest growth stocks and mutual funds experience the greatest downturns when the market turns sour?
Do you know that many investors who claim they won’t sell their stocks or funds in a 10% or 20% correction actually panic and do so? Did you panic between late August and mid-October of 1998 and then miss the incredible rally in stocks that followed? Or did you panic in late 1997 if you held Asian funds? Or in the corrections of 1994 or 1990? Or in the extreme correction of 1987? If you weren’t an investor then, imagine that the stock market is down 40% in a matter of weeks and many of the best experts are claiming this is the next 1929 crash. Would you have sold right near the bottom? Or would you have had the courage to buy at that point?
Do you understand how to evaluate the risk or volatility of stocks and mutual funds? Do you know what the Sharpe ratio is and ow it measures risk and volatility? Have you ever heard of other risk measures, such as M-squared or beta or standard deviation? How could a deviation be standard? Do high-risk stocks and funds always to down more than the market? Or could they be considered high risk even if they tend to go up more than they go down? Why would you mind if they tend to go up more than they go down? Why would you mind if your fund went up most of the time and didn’t go down worse than the market when the market did correct? How do you measure that?
When you invest in a large cap value fund or a small cap growth fund, do you understand a concept called style consistency, which measures whether the fund manager is investing in the type of stocks he or she claims to be consistently over time? How do you know what you are investing in when you buy a fund? Would you want to invest in a fund that has a great track record but a new manager? How would you determine the track record of that new manager or find out if he or she has a proven track record in past funds? How old is the fund manager? Are younger managers better than older ones? Are two managers better than one?
Is a five-star fund always the best one to invest in? Should you put more weight on the 1-year, 3-year, 5-year, or 10-year track record of a fund? Should you use the ratings of Morningstar, Lipper, or CD Weisenberger for evaluating mutual funds? Have you ever heard of CD Weisenberger? Have you measured the fund you are considering versus other funds in its category for return and risk, or are you just measuring it versus the S&P 500?
Do you understand the demographic, technology, and political factors driving most of the booming and busting countries around the world? Can you even name most of the countries around the world or their leaders? Is Mark Mobius a movie star who looks like Yul Brynner or an international fund manager? What is his actual track record, or do you like him because you’ve seen him regularly on TV or in magazine ads? Is that a good reason to trust him as in investment manager? Why are the interest rates in Japan so low yet its economy is still slowing? Could Hong Kong boom even if Japan continues to decline? Will there be a war between North and South Korea?
What are the derivatives? Do you understand how hedge funds often use leverage and why they got in trouble in late 1998? Did you believe the news when it said that the failure of such hedge funds could cause an international crisis in late 1998? If that scared you, did you miss the incredible rally in stocks that followed such news into early 1999?
Do you understand why stock valuations rise when interest rates or inflation rates fall? Why does that occur? Aren’t stocks just supposed to measure the future earnings potential of the company? Do you understand the “time value” of money and how future earnings are discounted back to “present value”? Do lower inflation and interest rates affect large company or small company stocks more? Why would that make a difference?
Do you understand what the relative strength of a stock or mutual fund or sector is? Do you understand what accumulation ratings mean? Who is accumulating and why? Would it matter to you who is buying a fund or stock, what major funds or institutions, and why is that important? If large mutual funds are buying a stock, is that a good sign of momentum or a sign of overvaluation? Do you understand how liquid a stock is or what “the float” means? It could make a big difference in whether you can easily buy or sell those shares when you need to! Do you understand what insider trading means and whether it is a good or bad sign? Do you understand the difference between a market that is rising with expanding breadth or declining breadth and what that means?
Do you understand puts and calls or what the put-to-call ratio means? Is a high put-to-call ratio a good or bad sign for stocks or the stock market? What are oscillators and what do they mean for signaling when the market may be peaking or bottoming? Is it better to buy a stock when it is down or when it is soaring? Is value or momentum investing better and in what type of stocks or mutual funds? How do you measure valuations on stocks? P/E (price to earnings) ratios or price to sales or price to book value? Are Internet stocks overvalued? Should valuations today be higher than in the past or is this a sign of the next great bear market?
What does volume of trading have to do with the prospects for stocks? Would you rather buy a stock that is breaking above old highs on lower volume of trading or higher volume of trading? What is high or low volume in trading anyway? Is rising volume more important in downturns or upturns? Is it the volume on the Nasdaq or the New York Stock Exchange that matters more? What is Elliot wave theory? Is it more bullish if a stock rises in two waves up or three waves up before pulling back? What does the Fibonacci ratio say about how far a stock or stock market index may correct before it advances again? How do you tell if a stock that is falling is good value for buying or a dog?
*And here’s the biggest question if you are making your own investment decisions. Have you beat the S&P 500 over the past 5 or 10 years?
Look at your track record in total and objectively. The chances are very high that you haven’t, especially since the most professional investment managers have failed to do so. And you are probably investing on a very part-time basis without the leading-edge technologies or specialization in education and training. If you think you have discount trading costs, think how much lower these high-volume professionals get when they trade.
Do you know the answers to most of these questions? Very likely not! That’s why I asked them! The point I am trying to make from extensive experience in the investment industry is simple. Investment and wealth building, although very simple in principle, are almost as complex as health care and medicine. You may be able to understand the simple principles of diet and exercise and become more involved in building your own health. But it takes the expert advice of a doctor and many technicians and experts to back your doctor up. Your doctor is your browser, and all of the experts and medical institutions and suppliers are the servers. Would you want to go to a discount doctor or a discount surgeon if you had a serious heart problem? Would you be likely to know you had a serious heart problem if you didn’t go to a specialist?
The financial services industry is a complex, knowledge-intensive industry that has a very high impact on our well-being, almost as much as health care. Therefore, we should take our wealth-building process seriously and not casually assume that we can do it on our own in our spare time – as many of us have much spare time! If you are investing on your own and making your own decisions, you should first ask yourself if that really makes the most sense. If you are beating the S&P 500 over time and you have the competence and you enjoy doing this and you have the time – then you can follow the principles in this book and proceed ahead. If not, you should consider finding a very good financial advisor, a competent and well-meaning professional.
Note that I am implying that you need one human browser to integrate all of your financial planning needs. If you have many advisors in the different aspects of investing, insurance, taxes and cash and credit management, then you will not have a coherent and integrated plan.
jlangva September 10th, 2017
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