A follow up to my post –  Commodities

So this is a requested post I received via email. The original post is here where I talked about commodities etc. As with any finance advice I give on this blog these are my opinions, I am not a financial advisor. The person emailing me acknowledged this and the spirit of the email was more along the lines of “Well what are you doing then?” for a portfolio.

I told the person I would use my email reply and post it here as well so others can see. I am not going to list the specific funds I use, again this isn’t a financial advisors blog. I am a finance professional yes but I am not a certified financial planner so keep that in mind.

First, I am 52 years old. I have been investing since 1992. The majority of my assets reside in my 401K that I have rolled over from successive companies over the years. I am also debt free. Now this is important because while I invested for years, most of those years was at a lower than normal investment rate as I took that money and used it to pay off my mortgage. Approx. 35% of my net worth is the equity of my house. 50% is in retirement accounts, 10% is in a brokerage account that is designed to produce dividends the balance is cash.

So how does this break out exactly?

  1. I have 6 months of my current monthly expenses sitting in a money market account that gets .5% interest. This is an emergency fund.
  • 70% of my retirement accounts I use the “bogle” strat. I use index funds with low fee’s and loads. All of these are long term investments and have provided me with stellar returns. The fund names aren’t critical as long as they track correctly to the index:
    • 75% into an S&P Index fund
    • 20% International
    • 5% bonds

All of the funds in item 2 are investments I have held for several years in some mutual fund for or another.

  • 20% of my retirement is in 2 aggressive growth mutual funds. These focus on small cap funds and I monitor this grouping very closely. I “flip” this 20% often when I make good returns and then shop for new funds in this category.
  • 10% of my retirement is in a precious metals and commodities mutual fund. I have had the same one for years now it’s OK. This is a hedge really but I wanted to be in different parts of the market so I got one fund that invests in several commodities.
  • Brokerage account: this is all about passive income. I invest in singular stocks and mutual funds that have a long term track record of paying dividends. I keep reinvesting the dividends into more shares. The goal here is to build a big enough foot print to provide a good quarterly payout that I will use to supplement my income in retirement. I have many investments here which cumulatively add up to a good chunk of change. However singularly aren’t much.
  • Cash: I have another 3-6 months of expenses sitting in a debit/eft/checking account. This is what I call my “living” account. I want a coffee it comes out of here, gas, groceries. This is where my salary is deposited every month and I disperse from here to my other accounts.

So this isn’t very complex. Most of my wealth is tied into index funds and the equity of my house. The house equity of course isn’t liquid I am sitting on it but having bought the home decades ago the appreciation of the house has made it worth a nice chunk of change and paying it off early meant I saved on interest payments.

As I age this break out will change. When I am 62 I plan to collect Social Security and stop working for a salary. Ideally I will continue to work for health benefits, we’ll see. At that time, I will be shifting the break out and consolidating many of the asset classes into more capital preservation friendly vehicles that generate interest income. Ideally CD rates will be higher, and if they are I will look into them.

CD’s will never outperform the market but the extremely low risk is very attractive as I start to get into my 70’s and enact my legacy planning (for kids and grandkids). Keeping in mind the whole time I will still be living and spending and generating some income.

Anyway, as requested that’s where I am at on my investment portfolio. Thanks for coming by and supporting my blog I really appreciate it.

Commodities – Should you invest?

For the first time in a long time we have inflation to the point where it is materially affecting multiple financial sectors. Bonus tip: Anytime oil prices rise, it affects pricing on nearly all consumer products. We also have the artificial inflation of the stock market due to interest rates being kept at historic low levels for over a decade. On top of that you had the pandemic that decreased production and you had governments stimulate with increase payments to individuals. These two factors alone cause inflation, less products and more money = product price increases.

Now before I get to far into this let me give you the normal disclaimer. I am a finance professional with 30 years of experience. These are my opinions based on years of observation, any decisions you make pertaining to your personal financial choices should be done so with a great deal of research beyond my blog posts.

Disclaimer out of the way, what does all of the reality of the first paragraph mean? It means commodities will increase. Oil, Precious metals, specific produce items wheat as an example. Does this mean they are a good investment? Yes, and no, first the no. Buying them now would break the basic principal of investing and wealth building (buy low sell high), you would be buying at a high, don’t do that.

Yes, because a diversified portfolio is a good thing. If you had gold in your portfolio at the start of the pandemic (3.1.20 roughly) it was trading at 1497.00 US per ounce. 2 years later? 1944.00 US per ounce that’s nearly a 30% return. Oil, wheat, Silver you can go figure it out, they are mostly up. The point here is you are seeing these items increase because the market is changing. The war in Ukraine effects commodities, specifically Wheat as Ukraine is a huge Wheat producer but what happens when markets change (with the many factors listed in this narrative) commodities tend to rise.

There is no sure thing in investing, its always a rollercoaster.

Ideally what you want to do is use the current financial climate as notice on how to diversify your portfolios going forward. Gold as an example, will come down. Should you go heavy into gold when it does? No, you should consider SOME gold though. 2-5% of your portfolio is what I recommend to family & friends buying at a low (I use 3-5 year price averages myself). Wheat will be another one that spikes soon, keep an eye on that.

Overall, commodities are a useful buttress for lower stock values. If you weren’t in commodities prior watch the prices in 2022 it’s going to be a good year to gauge your comfort level with commodities. Just like stocks it’s a gamble, but sometimes when you gamble you win and had you bought Gold (as an example) years ago and stayed with it, you would have a spectacular sell opportunity now to make some great gains.

Always be diligent when investing and don’t close your mind off to any specific sector of the markets. A diverse portfolio that takes a long term view on investments is prudent. Commodities are a big driver in markets (look at oil prices), ignoring them as investments isn’t the smart play. Nor is using a large % of your investing resources and putting that into commodities. It’s a sell position now. Take your gains if you have them and remember the simple phrase “buy low sell high” should always be paramount.

Source for Gold comparison:

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Finance – 3 tips to deal with this downturn

Inflation is real, gas prices in the U.S. will be 4.00 a gallon soon. Russia has invaded Ukraine; jobless claims rose in January. We are in a down turn period, these happen regularly. Is this a market correction? Partially, meaning a lot of the market has been inflated due to low interest rates so high amounts of capital were parked in stocks as CD rates were so low. The fed hasn’t raised rates enough to pull capital out so a true “correction” isn’t in play IMHO.

Covid shutdowns dramatically impacted the supply chain. On top of that governments subsidized citizens with money so you have the perfect storm of more cash in the economy and less goods. This always equals inflation when this occurs. The question becomes how long does it last? My initial guess was by the end of 2022 things would begin to even out. The mask mandates and locks downs are winding down, even with them in place people got covid. We have a war now, that’s a new circumstance.

I think this will go the same way the Crimea annexation went. A lot of saber rattling, sanctions and the people of Ukraine suffer. Simply put, Ukraine is not part of NATO and beyond the current president’s son’s income, there are no strategic interests of the U.S. at stake. It’s by no means a good situation but the predictions of WW3 and doom I think are very exaggerated (but not impossible). So we have a lot factors in play here, 2022 is going to be a down year economically. As I am writing this I think the market is down approx. 9.5% for the year and we aren’t finished with the 1st qtr. yet.

War sucks

How do you deal with it? I am going to give you 3 quick tips below that will help you navigate this down turn.

  1. Emergency fund: This should normally be 3-6 months of expenses; you now default it to 6. This is to help you weather inflation. If an emergency happens it’s going to cost, you more now than it did in prior years. Beef up your cushion.
  2. Secure your income sources: Down turns affect companies as well and if this extends to long (2 full qtr.’s) many companies will be looking to decrease expenses which usually means layoffs. Now is the time to make yourself as valuable as possible to your current employer. You should additionally be focusing on alternative income sources (side hustles) and if you had an idea now is the time to get it rolling.
  3. Hyper budget: This is a term used to really control spending. When things are good spending isn’t a big deal unless it’s a ridiculous expense. You should really be watching your budget closely and being very precise in your spending habits. This isn’t a long term effort here but for the next qtr. (3 months) really be sensitive to your spending habits and cut back where you can.

This slide will turn around, they always do. It’s not a matter of if it’s a matter of when. The only scenario where this continues to get worse and doesn’t improve is if the war in Ukraine expands. If Russia invades a NATO country, then all bets are off. You’re going to have much larger problems then a 6 month down cycle if that happens. For now, based on my experience I am betting on the side of a quick conflict and occupation and the damage economically to everyone outside of Ukraine subsiding in 6 months max.

That sucks for people in Ukraine, I don’t want this to seem unsympathetic to their plight but this is a finance piece not a political one. The U.S. every 20-30 years engages in a similar war (50’s Korea, 70’ Vietnam, 80’s Panama, 90’s Iraq, 2000 Afghanistan) so you have those historical markers to gauge the financial impact. In all cases markets and economic indicators dipped, commodities increased and the world has economic down turns for 2-6 months before things leveled off. I see that happening here, our economic issues are more than Ukraine. We were due for a correction, right now we are nearly at a -10% market for 2022 I think this trend will continue through the summer.

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How to navigate the stock market roller coaster

The markets have been volatile for the last week or so. Inflation, Ukraine, Omicron lots of factors go into this. Let me say clearly that I am a finance professional with over 30 years of experience. I am not a financial advisor and anything you see here is my opinion only. Have I seen something like this before? Yes, I have. Markets have crashed many times in the last 30 years. While I wasn’t investing at the time I am old enough to remember inflation in the 70’s. Many of you are seeing inflation for the first time and are shocked at its impact.

First let me say that I think the markets have been artificially inflated for decades now due to U.S. monetary policy. Keeping the fed rate so low for so long has forced many investors into the market that wouldn’t have necessarily gone in before. Getting .25 of a % of interest at a bank is a killer, even the most cautious investors can’t stomach that kind of return. So right off the bat I think there is a 10-15% inflation of the market (approx. 3-4K points in the dow) due to fed policy, likely more.

Now it’s also true that over the last few decades many companies have created immense wealth and broadened their services. The market isn’t a complete illusion, these companies have value based on market share and branding. So how do you navigate the stock market roller coaster?

You don’t.

Am I contagious?
You don’t ? Is that the best this guy can do?

I know, not the complex detailed answer you wanted but the key to wealth building is consistent investing. If you jump every time there is a dip in the market you will not make a lot of money. Statistically the market normally returns approx. 8% a year. This link shows you the statistical return break down for 147 years…. Yes, we have that much data.

If you want the simple facts here it is: 101 years shows a positive return, 46 years showed a negative return. So statistically the chances of you suffering through concurrent negative years is low, the market usually bounced back. Additionally, if you continued to invest in those down years purchasing your assets at a lower price you balance out the actual cost of your portfolio to you when purchasing in high years.

The trick has been and always will be, when you need to convert the assets to usable currencies (when you sell). If you need to sell now, you are most likely going to take a loss. Now only you know when your sell date is. Mine is approx. 10 years. In the next 10 years I will begin to take my gains with sell offs and move my investments into more principal friendly investments. The older you get the less window you have for the sell, always be mindful of when you will need the money.

So you don’t do anything unless you are at a point you need the money. Otherwise stick with your investment plan. The likelihood of a multiyear down cycle is very low (it is possible). My instinct tells me 2022 is going to be a highly volatile year and it will not be for the faint of heart for investors. Many people can’t take the risk, it’s too stressful. I completely understand. For me, this is a buy opportunity and I am happy to keep accumulating assets at a lower price now to balance out the assets I have that were purchased in peak markets.

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Some important facts to remember about our current inflation

So I have talked about it on my blog and it is the next boogie man to present itself which is great news for institutional media. They have to have something to scare you with, Trump is gone, Covid is clearing up (WATCH OUT FOR VAIRANTS!!!!!) and there are no wars so we get inflation. Should you be concerned about inflation? Yes, on a scale of 1-10? 3 -4. Inflation kills economies over the long term if (a big if) wages stagnate. If inflation is 3% annual and wages increase 2.5% annual your net to consumer is .5%. In one year that’s survivable. Over 10 years? That’s a problem.

Here are a couple of quick facts to remember about the current inflation situation in the U.S.

  1. The Economy was forced to slow down: We can argue why Walmart was open but local store X wasn’t, or why healthy people were precluded from doing what they want. We can’t argue that government closures and shutdowns due to covid had an adverse effect on production.
  2. Production decreased due to Item 1: Less cars were made, saw mills didn’t produce boards, ammunition production was decreased. And on and on…. The shutdown created a negative production situation as demand did not decrease concurrently due to government stimulus.
  3. Money still flowed: Yes, many people lost their jobs, but government printed money to subsidize those losses. So you had some money, or the same (maybe you worked from home) but you had less places to spend that money.
Maybe Bitcoin is the answer?

So what you have is companies forced to close and the economy slowed. This wasn’t part of the natural business cycle. As a result, less goods were produced, and people lost work, and government printed more money to get to those people. It’s the perfect scenario for short term inflation. Want another example? More people are on the roads now that things have opened up, gas prices go up. Why? Because refining gas was slowed during the pandemic because people weren’t traveling.

Again these are all short to mid-term issues which should begin to clear in the “new normal” my guess is by the start of the 4th qtr. (10.1.21) at the latest. Now anything can happen from now until then. A war, another pandemic, a massive oil spill, political upheaval so there are no guarantees. That said the underlying driver of capitalism is still very powerful, supply and demand. I want something, you have it we make a deal.

Inflation is the new boogey man, many of my younger readers have never experienced it or have read about it in the abstract in places like Venezuela or Liberia. It’s highly unlikely that, that kind of long term sustained inflation hits western economies because of supply and demand inherent in capitalism. Could it happen? Yes, if one of the 3 items on my list continues to happen, even in small doses. Don’t be pulled into the fear mongering, it is a click driver and most rational people can see that. Inflation is here yes, is the world ending because of it? No

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3 questions you have to answer before you invest in Crypto Currencies

Yes, today is another finance piece. As with all financial information given on this blog I want to stress that these are my opinions only. You should do as much research as you need to make sure you are educated and comfortable before making any financial decisions. I have been working in finance for nearly 30 years, I have a lot of experience and knowledge but I am one person, and I don’t know you.

Now disclaimer out of the way let’s talk a minute about crypto currencies. Unless you have been living under a rock you know generally what these are. Let’s get the formal definition out of the way first.

  What Is Cryptocurrency?

A cryptocurrency is a digital or virtual currency that is secured by cryptography, which makes it nearly impossible to counterfeit or double-spend. Many cryptocurrencies are decentralized networks based on blockchain technology—a distributed ledger enforced by a disparate network of computers. A defining feature of cryptocurrencies is that they are generally not issued by any central authority, rendering them theoretically immune to government interference or manipulation. Source:

What does that mean in actual application? It means simply that groups of people agree that a virtual currency is worth “X” that group can be you and I, or you, me and your friend Rachel, or the 3 of us and 8 million other people. We can then exchange this currency for goods and services like you would any other currency (like dollars or pesos). It is virtual though, you don’t carry it in your wallet and it is not backed by a government.

Is this guy serious?

That’s how crypto is used, as an investible commodity though should we begin to entertain the notion of investing in crypto’s to diversify our portfolios? The answer is yes, with caveats, three questions need to be answered first.

  1. Are you risk averse? Simply put, does the risk of losing money scare you? Cryptos are a new asset class, unregulated and highly volatile. Yes, you can make a lot of money, you can also lose a lot.
  2. Do you already have a diverse portfolio? Are you just starting to invest, or have you been investing for years with a good spread of mutual funds, cash, other assets?
  3. Do you understand what Crypto is and how it works? Beyond my article have you used it yourself and understand its current application and can logically think about its future application?

These three questions are critical. If you answered yes to question 1, you should not invest in crypto. If you answered no to question 1 move on the question 2. If you answer no to question 2, you should not invest in crypto build up your other asset classes first. If you answer yes to question 2, go to question 3. If you answer no to question 3, do not invest in crypto. If you answer yes, green light go for it.

Summary:

Question 1: Yes Answer = Do not invest in Crypto. No Answer = Move to Question 2

Question 2: Yes Answer = Move to Question 3, No Answer = Do not invest in Crypto.

Question 3: Yes Answer = Go ahead and invest in Crypto. No Answer = Do not invest in crypto.

This is a very simple formula/questions that should provide you with very basic guidance to whether or not you are ready to invest in crypto. Like any financial advice, do as much research as you can and always trust your instincts.

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