MONEY – Asset Allocation

The original article on money management lead to a relevant number of question on the specific topic of Asset Allocation. To build up on this fondamental, I decided to share some examples of Asset Allocation, starting with the one that I use. Such allocation can entirely be done via ETFs.

Please let me know any question or suggestion.

DISCLAIMER: I AM NOT A FINANCIAL ADVISOR. PLEASE LOOK FOR A QUALIFIED AND REGULATED FINANCIAL ADVISOR BEFORE MAKING ANY INVESTMENT DECISION. THE ALLOCATIONS STATED IN THIS ARTICLE IS FOR ILLUSTRATION PURPOSE AND CAN NOT BE CONSIDERED AS FINANCIAL ADVICE.

Before giving any example of allocation, there are two rules that stand true among highly successful investors.

Rule number 1: you need to diversify the risk in your portfolio and can not rely on a single asset class, regardless of your personal preference

Rule number 2: limiting downside risk is fundamental. Remember the asymmetry between loss and return (If your portfolio loses 50% of its value, you need 100% performance to get back to where you were.). Preserving a significant secured bucket and looking for asymmetrical risk/reward are two ways to use this rule.

Next Allocation (end of July 2018 rebalancing)

Risk Bucket – 65%

Traditional Equities – Benchmarks only – 30%

US: 6%

Europe: 6%

Japan (FX Hedged): 3%

EM: 10%

China onshore: 5%

Macro Trends – 20%

Solar – 5%

Robots – 5%

China Tech – 5%

Illiquid EM – 5%

Alternatives – 15%

Real Estate – 3%

Commodities – 4%

Crypto: 8%

Defensive Bucket – 35%

Fixed Income – 30%

* US Gov (Nominal and Infla Adjusted): 10%

* Europe Gov (Nominal and Infla Adjusted): 10%

* EM Gov (Local currencies): 10%

Cash – 5%

* USD: 5%

MONEY – the only rule you need to know to get rich

I read countless books on Investment, Business or Entrepreneurship. Each successful individual has indeed a deeply personal and specific story, this is what makes the reading interesting. However, when it comes to Wealth Management or Wealth creation, there is a single golden rule: to get and remain rich, you need to buy assets.

I’ll borrow the definition of Asset from Robert Kiyosaki (if you never encountered this name, I recommend you get yourself a copy of Rich Dad, Poor Dad). An asset is something that puts money into your pocket, without requiring you to work. On the flip side, a liability is something that gets money out of your pocket while you sleep. See the difference?

An asset can indeed take many form. It can be stocks, real estate that you get a rental income from, a company, some intellectual property (such as a book) or even a YouTube channel.

Why your job is not an asset? When we work we trade our time against money, hence we are actively processing some tasks. That makes you somehow an asset for the company’s shareholders.

Studying rich people, you quickly realise that they direct a significant amount of their revenues to buying assets. Did you know that most of Bill Gates wealth for instance is not made of Microsoft shares or cash?

It does not matter if you have very little savings. The only rule you need to follow is actually to dedicate some amount of your revenue to buy assets. Over time, these assets will generate cash-flow (revenues) that will contribute to your financial freedom.

Let’s recap with that simple video from Robert Kiyosaki:

Read this post on passive income to get to know more about assets you can buy.

MONEY – Passive Income – reflections on new ways of making a living

[work in progress]

Why am I interested in passive income?

I am primarily interested in passive income not for the purpose of making additional money on top of my job but for the freedom it can potentially give. I consider passive income as an opportunity to break from the traditional day job and to dedicate more time to the people and the passions you love the most.

Let’s define passive income first. Passive income is the ability to earn money while you’re not actually performing a task. Another way is to understand what is is not: an active income is a trade of time against an wage, based on qualification or abilities.

They are countless examples of passive income strategies for instance investing in stock market and order property rental, but also books, online courses or even a blog or a YouTube channel. Thanks to Internet the ability to generate passive income is reachable too many across o’clock

Tim Ferriss books have inspired thousands to change their lifestyle, some of them through passive income.

Finding your own passive income strategy

I categorise passive income in two subsets first one is passive income link to your passions where are you actually perform something that you enjoyed doing. You can create a frame to incorporate an element of cash flow generation. The second subsets is purely based on making money. Taking the stock market as an example: investing in stocks would be the later m but if you were write a blog about investments and you happen to generate revenues thanks to the ads, that’s the first subset. Both can come in different scales and ambitions.

In all cases, the most important is to put the right amount of initial work on to kickstart the engine.

Personal interest based passive income strategies

Let’s focus first on personal interest based passive income. Idea is to leverage on something you are genuinely interested and passionate about and produce content. Chances are that across the Internet few hundreds of people that share the same interest. Let’s see you enjoy baking, why not putting your favourite recipes on a blog or shooting little clip with your smart phone and upload it on YouTube?

Examples of personal interest based passive income:

  • YouTube channel
  • Blog
  • E-books
  • Affiliate marketing

Business based passive income

As for this category you’re not trying to leverage on any specific passion you may have but looking to tap an opportunity. Real estate can be put in that subset.

Examples of business based passive income include:

  • Stockmarket investing
  • Real estate rental
  • Shipping goods
  • Professional blog
  • Online courses

The content generating step is crucial And often overlooked has people spend most of their interest in trying to get the content viral. Indeed that would be an important step but content comes first.

Take a moment to listen to this podcast episode by Tim Ferris about single people business generating over seven figures revenue – here.

About kit.com

I am a fan of the website kit.com that helps you to build recommendations and integrates automatically all the elements of affiliate marketing. I use this primarily to build up and share reading lists. As reading is a main passion and activity for me, I always enjoyed recommending books to my friends and kit enables me to do it on a much higher scale.

MONEY – Investing: practical thinking from investor friends and trading floor experience

This post is not intended to be used a financial piece of advice. Please always consult a regulated financial advisor before taking investment decision. I am not qualified to tell you what investments are relevant for your personal situation.

Investment in the stock market are an important element of my financial freedom and passive income strategy. This post is about my experience as an individual investor to start and maintain my portfolio. I was able to generate recurring income over the last years, leveraging on simple principles and my professional experience. Yet, I realized that it takes much less time and effort that I initially imagined it would be. Here is the story.

Few years ago, despite spending most of my days surrounded by successful professional investors, I realized I had never really started to take care of my own money. As I finally started my journey as an investor, I documented it via my previous blog. This page is a digest of what I learnt and the principles I follow.

Before going forward, if you are serious about setting you investment portfolio, make an (very small) investment to build up your knowledge in this field with two books Tony Robbins’ Unshakable and Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad Poor Dad. I am confident these two books will give your the necessary knowledge and set you on the financial freedom road.

Personal investment Principles

  1. Think long term
  2. Diversify
  3. Keep it simple
  4. Do your research
  5. Accept the truth

1. Think long term: making money over a short period of time and being systematically right about your assumptions is something that almost no professional fund managers are even able to do. That means you have to accept that you will not be able as an investor to make systematically significant short-term returns. Having said that, over the long run, stock markets have an upward trend and compounded interest (from stocks dividends or bond coupons) will add-up to generate additional capital.

Consider that over the last 90 years the American stock market annualized return as displayed by the S&P500 is above 9%. I am sure that strikes you as being much higher than any deposit that your bank can offer. The trick here is the timeframe: 90 years. Individual investors may be able to capture significant average return with much higher probabilities if they increase their time frame: contrary to your job, you can’t expect regular payout increase.

Another reason why I use long-term thinking is that I wish to benefit from global trends. Several leading Private Banks recommend to their very wealthy clients to rely on global long-term trends as a compass for their investment. Let’s consider the Private Banking giant UBS, which is recommending to invest in companies linked to Automation and Robotics, Education services, Emerging Markets healthcare or Energy Efficiency. Don’t you think that these industries shall enjoy a significant growth cycle from where they are now? But can you say when? Isn’t next year or would it be in ten years time? My personal answer is that I do not mind, as my ultimate conviction is that such industries will eventually go though a very strong cycle. It does not matter which industries you actually have the highest convictions on. As for me, I believe automation will be a significant driver of growth and transformation, that is why I decided to invest in BOTZ US ETF. Solar energy is also a conviction play, that is why TAN US ETF is also part of my portfolio. Another long term strategy I use is to invest in emerging markets – see next paragraph.

Emerging markets – unlocking long term value

Before we start, let me highlight that there are actually two major risks you need to be aware before you invest in emerging market: companies (be it through stock or bond) present a higher level of risk, due to local regulation and domestic markets realities, second (and too often overlooked by investors) the currency may depreciate, which mean that although the asset value may appreciate, your actual investment return in your reference currently (let’s assume USD) may be negative. Having said that, I am a strong believer in Emerging Markets and the represent a significant part of my portfolio.

To reduce the transaction costs (see definition below) associated to the investment, a broad emerging markets tracker could be useful. A well known tracker is the Vanguard FTSE Emerging Market (VWO UP) that is a global Emerging Markets Equity benchmark. I personally use this tracker in my portfolio.

Many investors are eyeing to Chinese onshore market, as one of the potentially most attractive Emerging Markets. I am a strong believer in Chinese economy over the long run due to the transformation the country is undergoing and the development of a middle class on a large scale. To access this market, one may use the tracker called China AMC CSI 300 (3188 HK). I personally use this tracker in my portfolio.

Investors may also overweight specific countries that they are confortable with or particularly knowledgeable about such as Russia or Vietnam (you can find trackers for most countries).

Another area of interest for Emerging Markets could be to Fixed Income securities. Here it becomes even more important to consider the currency risk. I personally stick to bonds issued by Emerging Markets governments (so called Sovereign bonds) as I don’t have sufficient knowledge of local realities to identify specific opportunities. An investor interested in domestic currencies may look for the VanEck Vectors J.P. Morgan EM Local Currency Bond (EMLC UP) or if he would favor USD denominated ones, he could elect Vanguard Emerging Markets Government Bond ETF (VWOB UP) . I currently use the former.

Unless you have a specific knowledge about Emerging Markets, it may be quite a risky decision to put any money on this asset class. Make sure you are getting advice from qualified professional.

2. Diversify

After reading the previous section, you may imagine that my portfolio is a mix of technology and emerging markets, concentrating a very high level of risk. That is why the second principle is probably the most important of all: diversify.

Asset Allocation may sound to many as a fancy word, but this is nothing more than splitting your investment into different buckets that serve different goals. To me, it is probably the single most important rule of the money management game. This diversification is consistently implemented by all investors I read about. Additionally, building up a “safe” bucket shall be a priority and I encourage you keep adding to this bucket if and when you manage to make money on more risky investments.

Let’s bring to the table one of the world’s most respected investor, Ray Dalio, founder of the Hedge Fund Bridgewater. After decades of successful investment, even such a manager came up with the conclusions that it would close to impossible to predict market movements and decided to rethink his approach to investment. He looked of a way to build a portfolio that he would hold for the long term and that could do reasonably well across different economic cycles. The backbone of this work is diversification across different types of assets. By diversifying enough the portfolio, Dalio and his team believe that the All Weather approach is sustainable over the long run, to the extend that Dalio’s personal trust money is allocated to such portfolio.

The below screenshots are directly from Bridgewater’s website (see sources section for the link). In the first one, you will see the different risk adjusted return of the different asset classes. What Dalio is trying to explain is that over the long run you do not give up returns by diversifying to asset classes than have lower historical return: you will be potentially able to extract more sustainable returns thanks to diversification.

This second illustration is how Ray Dalio simplified the view of economic cycles and associated different asset classes to each scenario. This approach to economic cycles (and their two major drivers) help to select asset classes that benefit historically from such scenarios. By pulling them together, Bridgewater team anticipates to be always able to provide from the ongoing economic scenario.

At this point in time you may wonder how you can invest in Bridgewater All Weather fund. Also it would be indeed an attractive idea to many, unless you are extremely wealthy, there is little chance that you will be able to join the hedge fund investors as the minimum ticket size is significantly high. Yet, you can indeed be inspired by Dalio’s work to build up a robust portfolio. By studying the All Weather fund I decided to add Inflation Linked Bonds to my own investment (both USA and Europe government bonds for me).

Can cryptocurrencies be part of an investment portfolio? Cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Etherium gained a lot of popularity with investors since 2017. Although they bear quite a high level of risk, such investments have so far been quite uncorrelated with traditional markets. Bitcoin or Etherium, the flagship cryptocurrencies, can be then considered as elements of diversification. I personally chose to add both to my portfolio for this exact purpose. How can you buy Bitcoins or Etherium? One of the simplest way it to use Coinbase, a leading exchange that allows you to buy using your credit card. Use this link to receive some additional coins after you first transactions.

3. Keep it simple

Unless you have a lot of time on your hands and a passion for stock market, I believe it is best to keep your portfolio very simple and to adjust marginally on a regular basis. In practical terms, for me I observe two rules:

  1. Whenever possible, prefer trackers to individual stocks
  2. Review the portfolio only quarterly (you may even prefer a longer timeframe)

The reason for preferring tracker is that it helps you to gain exposure to a significant number of equities or bonds via a single trade. It also removes you from most corporate actions (administrative requirements when you are holding a stock, such a voting rights for instance). As for the number two, there are many fact-based evidence that support it, but my favourite story comes from a portfolio manager I met in 2014 and shared with me that over the last fours years, each year he would set-up in January an allocation strategy for the year and try to stick to it all year long. Yet, every year, due to market new or specific information, the portfolio manager ended up marginally changing the strategy, trying to capture short term profits. As he wanted to assess how much these deviation form the strategy was eventually bringing to the return, he realized that they only ended-up in negative or minimal contribution, while most of the time increasing the risk position. If even a full time portfolio manager (with a successful track record) admits difficulty to capture long-term profit, I consider than I would rather dedicate my personal time to other things than marginal adjustments to my own portfolio, that’s why the quarterly review works for me.

4. Do your research

There are everyday thousand of “hot” investments or “bargain” deal on the market. That’s a fact. Yet, as an individual, by the moment you are made aware of it, the real investment opportunity is probably gone as professional investor already stepped in and pushed the price higher. That is why, regardless of whatever you read in the news or online, you need to spend time and get proper advice before pulling the trigger on an investment. I can not recommend enough that you look for a qualified professional advisor, that could save you a lot of money.

While doing your research, try to always understand “why” the opportunity is there. Also spend time looking at the fee element

5. Accept the truth

I have lost money on some transactions and I will lose money on future ones. I bought some trackers too late (already went up) and bought expensive ETFs while similar cheaper one were available. My view is that when it comes to investment you can’t get it perfect but it matters more to start early and to start somewhere, building your knowledge and experience in the process than actually waiting and waiting, reading countless books, looking for the Graal “ever-winning” strategy… All these delaying excuses are in fact the expression of our fear to fail. I had the same fear, despite working on a trading floor, I could not stand the idea of taking risk with my previous money, granted of long and hard working months for my company. I was wrong and today I am grateful to my friends who mentored me through the first steps of setting-up my investment portfolio. Another consideration put me on the track: inflation over the long run erodes the value of your savings. In other words, cash tend to depreciate over the long run, hence the purchasing power you may end up with will be actually less than what it was when you initially saved the money.

If you have read the post until here, you probably know more than most people how to start an investment portfolio aiming at generate recurring income and wealth appreciation. Yet, I strongly recommend you keep building your knowledge on investment by treating yourself the two books I recommended earlier, Tony Robbins’ Unshakable and Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad Poor Dad. These bestsellers will help you to build up the concepts mentioned here and give you practical examples of portfolios, that you can potentially replicate. I also maintain a list of books that help me with money management and investments.

Taking action – the most important step

After I published an earlier version of this post, I got the following feedback from a friend “I read your post. I want to invest into ETFs. What shall I do now?” I would encourage you to take those steps:

  1. Find a licensed and registered financial advisors (it can be the wealth management arm of your commercial bank)
  2. Ask your usual commercial bank for their brokerage offer
  3. Compare the offer with a couple of flagship brokers available in your country
  4. If the prices are in the same price range, I would recommend that you start investing using your commercial bank’s offer. That is how I started and I decided to branch out when I increased my investment size and had more experience
  5. Work with the advisor to build a diversify portfolio – you can leverage for instance on the above content from Ray Dalio if that fits your situation
  6. Smart small – see the first trades as an investment in knowledge, as if you were paying for a course
  7. Take your time: research shows that investors prone to frequent rebalancing on average end up losing money. Be patient and set-up a quarterly of even less frequent review
  8. Don’t forget to build a SAFE bucket. No matter how smart you are and how much information you have, all asset classes are subject to significant market downturn.

Definitions

Transaction cost: the fees investors are charged, on top of the price of the asset, while buying and selling an asset. For instance, the fees that your broker may charge you when you buy a stock, or the rebalancing fee in your portfolio. These transactions are charged based on the number of transactions hence a simple way to limit them is actually to limit the number of orders (buy or sell) to a efficient minimum

Sources

S&P Returns over last 90 years: https://www.cnbc.com/2017/06/18/the-sp-500-has-already-met-its-average-return-for-a-full-year.html

UBS Global Long term investments https://www.ubs.com/global/en/wealth-management/chief-investment-office/key-topics/long-term-investments.html

Bridgewater All Weather fund https://www.bridgewater.com/research-library/the-all-weather-strategy/