Saturday, November 22, 2014

Are You Ready for the Fastlane?

The Millionaire Fastlane by MJ DeMarco is unlike most personal finance books. DeMarco explains that the road to significant wealth isn't through saving and scrounging, or trying to deprive ourselves of lattes, but it is through entrepreneurship that great wealth is made. He mentions that most personal finance gurus are quite wealthy, however they didn't attain their wealth from the same advice they peddle, such as "pay yourself first" and "save 10% of your income" (most attain their wealth through writing books). Although this is still good advice, it's not how the affluent gained their wealth.

So the "fastlane" to wealth is entrepreneurship. One of DeMarco's quotes that stuck with me is that "to make millions, you have to affect millions." I think this quote sums up entrepreneurial success, successful businesses help solve problems for a lot of people. They provide a service or product that's in demand.

Building a successful business is incredibly difficult and may not be for everyone. It's important to get into business for the right reasons, which DeMarco says is to help people solve their problems. Going into business just for the money will inevitably lead to failure.

The premise of what DeMarco is saying is true, vast wealth is held by a select few who have risked their livelihood on an idea that their service or product was something the world needed. The reality is that the majority of the population is risk adverse and would never want to attempt to start their own business. There's nothing wrong with that, however it's important to note that you won't be travelling down what DeMarco calls the "fastlane" to financial freedom, but the "slowlane."

Here's a video book review:

Monday, October 13, 2014

Common Stocks and Uncommon Profits

In our quest for investment knowledge it is best to learn from the best.  Renowned investor, Warren Buffett, has said that his investment style is 85% Benjamin Graham and 15% Philip Fisher. This naturally leads us to wonder, what is Philip Fisher's investment style? In Philip Fisher's 1958 publication Common Stocks and Uncommon Profits, he distills his wisdom from a career as a securities analyst.

First of all Fisher sees stocks as part ownership in companies and thus they should be analyzed as such. One key lesson Fisher shares is the way he gains knowledge about companies he's considering investing in. He calls his method the "scuttlebutt" method. The scuttlebutt method is a way of learning about a company through the business grapevine. After thoroughly researching the fundamentals of a company, Fisher would start asking questions to people with knowledge about the dealings of the company such as competitors, customers, former employees, suppliers, etc.. This is a way of gathering information that may not be accessible by reading annual reports and helps paint a picture of the company's economic future. The scuttlebutt method seeks a deeper understanding to what makes the company a success, or uncovers any alarm bells signaling upcoming dangers.

Also, within Common Stocks and Uncommon Profits is Fisher's 15 key questions which he asks about the prospective investment:
  1.  Does the company have products or services with sufficient market potential to make possible a sizable increase in sales for at least several years?
  2. Does the management have a determination to continue to develop products or processes that will still further increase total sales potentials when the growth potentials of currently attractive product lines have largely been exploited?
  3. How effective are the company's research and development efforts in relation to its size?
  4. Does the company have an above average sales organization?
  5. Does the company have a worthwhile profit margin?
  6. What is the company doing to maintain or improve profit margins?
  7. Does the company have outstanding labour and personnel relations?
  8. Does the company have outstanding executive relations?
  9. Does the company have depth to its management?
  10.  How good are the company's cost analysis and accounting controls?
  11. Are there other aspects of the business, somewhat peculiar to the industry involved, which will give the investor important clues as to how outstanding the company may be in relation to its competitors?
  12. Does the company have a short-range or long-range outlook in regards to profit?
  13. In the foreseeable future will the growth of the company require sufficient equity financing so that the large number of shares then outstanding will largely cancel the existing shareholders' benefit from this anticipated growth?
  14. Does the management talk freely to investors about its affairs when things are going well but "clam up" when troubles and disappointments occur?
  15. Does the company have a management of unquestionable integrity?
Fisher elaborates on each question, explaining the importance of the question and the answer he is looking for. If the answer to a majority of these questions are favourable than it is likely that the investment has great long-term growth potential.

Today Philip Fisher would be labelled as a "growth" investor since he seeks capital appreciation in companies with long-term growth potential. In some cases he may even prefer a company that doesn't pay a dividend so that profits can be re-investing into the company financing its growth. In this case the belief is that the company has the capability to grow faster than the gains the investor could obtain investing elsewhere.

Common Stocks and Uncommon Profits is a classic investment guide and should be on the book shelf of any do-it-yourself investor:

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Valu-Mart Student Discount on Tuesday 10% Off, Waterloo Ontario

As of September 2014, the 10% student discount at Valu-Mart in Waterloo, Ontario has changed to Tuesdays.

Tips to save on groceries:

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Welcome to the World of Income Investing

Yes, You Can Be a Successful Income Investor by Ben Stein and Phil DeMuth is a great introduction to income investing. This book covers the basics income investments available to investors which include:
  • Bonds
  • Stocks
  • Preferred Stocks
  • Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITS)
  • and Annuities
Armed with this knowledge you can start to build your own income producing portfolio. One of my goals is to completely replace my earned income with passive (portfolio) income. I've estimated that in order to do that I'll need a portfolio worth approximately $800,000. Although this sounds like a lot, reaching this goal will become easier as the portfolio grows. This is because the income the portfolio produces grows as the portfolio grows, accelerating its growth (given that you reinvest all the income that your portfolio produces).

One important thing to note is that as your income portfolio grows you should be investing in lower risk income options, such as bonds. My recommendation would be to invest aggressively at first, when your portfolio is relatively small, then over time as your portfolio grows invest into safer, lower yield investments. As you're closer to reaching your goal it will be more about capital preservation than growth.

Here's some advice from Ben Stein:

Sunday, May 4, 2014

The Most Important Thing - Book Review

"The Most Important Thing" by Howard Marks is a bit of a misnomer, it should be entitled the "Most Important Things" since he covers an important investing topic in each chapter. Overall this is a great book for any value investor. Marks does a great job of explaining the philosophy of value investing and understanding investment risk.

The following excerpt succinctly describes value investing:
 "The relationship between price and values holds the ultimate key to investment success. Buying below value is the most dependable route to profit. Paying above value rarely works out as well.

What causes an asset to sell below its value? Outstanding buying opportunities exist primarily because perception understates reality. Whereas high quality can be readily apparent, it takes keen insight to detect cheapness. For this reason, investors often mistake objective merit for investment opportunity. The superior investor never forgets that the goal is to find good buys, not good assets."

And in this paragraph Marks describes investing defensively to minimize risk:
"Risk control and margin for error (when price is below value) should be present in your portfolio at all times. But you must remember that they're "hidden assets." Most years in the markets are good years, but it's only in the bad years-when the tide goes out-that the value of defense becomes evident. Thus, in the good years, defensive investors have to be content with the knowledge that their gains, although perhaps less than maximal, were achieved with risk protection in place...even though it turned out not to be needed."

Here's a brief clip where Marks describes overconfident investing:

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Index Fund Investing

There are a lot of options out there when it comes to investing your money. The RRSP deadline has recently passed and those of us who have contributed to our RRSP's were probably bombarded by a ton of choices. Index funds are your best choice when it comes to keeping investment costs and portfolio turnover low, which is the key to investment success.

 A good example of an index fund portfolio is to own three indices:
  1. Candian Bond Index
  2. TSX Composite Index
  3. Dow Jones Industrial Index
The amount you allocate to each will depend on a few factors such as your risk tolerance and your time horizon for your investment. More weight should be towards bonds and less to equities (stocks) if you are risk adverse or if the money is needed relatively soon. A rule of thumb is to use your age as the percent allocated to bonds, i.e. the younger you are the more you should have invested in riskier (potentially more rewarding) equities.

The key is once you've chosen your allocation, you rebalance your portfolio no more than once a year to maintain the same allocation (thus forcing you to buy low and sell high). As your portfolio grows in size it may be advisable to add a few more indices such as a European Index or Japanese Index, this will add another level of diversification to your portfolio and a few more asset classes to rebalance.

Just watch this short video and hopefully you'll agree that index funds are the way to go:

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Brown Bag Savings

Hi frugal friends,

sorry I haven't been posting cash saving tips lately. Since finishing school and entering the "real world", I've been trying to climb the corporate ladder.

One bad habit that I've been getting into is eating out. I find that after working a full day it can be difficult to make dinner, let alone prepare something for lunch the next day. However, eating out is one of the biggest expenses and getting into the habit of eating out less can save you tons over your career. I remember living on $30/week of groceries when studying, that's a lot of Kraft Dinner and eating beans out of the can.

I found this great little video on how to save more on brown bag lunches. The girl in this video is easy on the eyes too!