Submitted by Steve Selengut
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In Value Stock Investing, Quality is Job One
How much financial bloodshed is necessary before we realize that there is no safe and easy shortcut to investment success? When do we learn that most of our mistakes involve greed, fear, or unrealistic expectations about what we own? Eventually, successful investors begin to allocate assets in a goal directed manner by adopting a realistic Investment Strategy… an ongoing security selection and monitoring process that is guided by realistic expectations, selection rules, and management guidelines. If you are thinking of trying a strategy for a year to see if it works, you're due for another smack up alongside the head! Viable Investment Strategies transcend cycles, not years, and viable Equity Investment Strategies consider three disciplined activities, the first of which is Selection. Most familiar strategies ignore one of the others.
How should an investor determine what stocks to buy, and when to buy them? Will Rogers summed it up: "Only buy stocks that go up. If they aren't going to go up, don't buy them." Many have misread this tongue-in-cheek observation and joined the "Buy (anything) High" club. I've found that the "Buy Value Stocks Low (er)" approach works better. A Google search produces a variety of criteria that help to identify Value Stocks, the standards being low Price to Book Value, low P/E ratios, and other "fundamentals". But you would be surprised how the definitions can vary, and how few include the word "Quality". In the late 90's, a well-known Value Fund Manager was asked why he wasn't buying dot-coms, IPOs, etc. When he said that they didn't qualify as Value Stocks, he was told to change his definition… or else.
How do we create a confidence building Stock Selection Universe? Simply operating on blind faith with one of the common definitions may be too simplistic, particularly since many of the numbers originate from the subject companies. Also, some of the figures may be difficult to obtain quickly, and it is essential not to get bogged down in endless research. Here are five filters you can use to come up with a selection universe of higher quality companies, and you can obtain all of the data inexpensively from the same source:
1. An S & P Rating of B+ or Better. Standard & Poor's is a major financial data provider to the investment community, and its "Earnings and Dividend Rankings for Common Stocks" combine many fundamental and qualitative factors into a letter ranking that speaks only to the financial viability of the rated companies. Potential market performance (a guessing game anyway) is not a consideration. B+ and above ratings are considered Investment Grade. Anything rated lower adds an element of speculation to your portfolio. A staff of thousands does your research for you.
2. A History of Profitability. Although it should seem obvious, buying stock in a company that has a history of profitable operations is less risky than acquiring shares in an unproven, or start-up entity. Profitable operations adapt more readily to changes in markets, economies, and business growth opportunities. They are more likely to produce profit opportunities for you.
3. A History of Regular Dividend Payments. The payment of regular dividends, and periodic increases in rate paid, are sure signs of economic viability. Companies will go to great lengths, and endure great hardships, before electing either to cut or to omit a dividend. There is no need to focus on the size of the dividend itself; Equities should not be purchased as income producers. A further benefit of using dividend payment as one of your selection criteria is the clear indication of financial stress that a cut communicates.
4. A Reasonable Price Range. You will find that most Investment Grade stocks are priced above $10 per share and that only a few trade at levels above $100. If you have a seven-figure portfolio, price may not matter from a diversification standpoint, but in smaller portfolios, a round lot of a $50 stock may be too much to risk in one position. An unusually high price may be caused by an unusually high degree of sector or company specific speculation while an inordinately low price may be a good warning signal. With no real structural size limitations, I feel comfortable with a range between $10 and $90 per share.
5. A NYSE Listed Security. I'm not sure that the listing requirements for the NYSE are still more restrictive than elsewhere, but it is helpful to be able to focus on just one set of statistics. Most of the data you will become interested in (Market Stats, Issue Breadth, and New Highs vs. New Lows) are reported by Exchange.
Your Selection Universe will become the backbone of your Equity Investment Program, so there is no room for creative adjustments to the rules and guidelines you've established… no matter how strongly you feel about recent news or rumor. Now you can focus on operating procedures that will help you diversify properly by position size, industry, etc., and on guidelines that will help you identify which stocks should be watched closely for purchase when the price is right. Keeping in mind that you want to sell the Equity Position at a target profit ASAP, you'll want to establish appropriate buying (and selling) rules. For example, I never consider buying a stock until it has fallen at least 20% from its highest level of the past 52 weeks, so I include those that are close or at this price level on a "Daily Watch List". Then, I select those that I would be willing to add to equity portfolios if they fall a bit more during the trading day. My actual "Buy List" changes every day in both symbol and limit price.
You will need to apply consistent and disciplined judgment to your final selection process, but you can be confidant that you are choosing from a select group of higher quality, well established companies, with a proven track record of profitability and owner awareness. Additionally, as these companies gyrate above and below your purchase price (as them absolutely will), you can be more confident that it is merely the nature of the stock market and not an imminent financial disaster… and that should help you sleep nights. By the way, never say no to a profit when the upward movement equals 10%, and… you'll be able to do it again, and again, and again.
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|Please read this disclaimer:|
Steve Selengut is registered as an investment adviser representative. His assessments and opinions are purely his own. None of the information presented here should be construed as an endorsement of any business entity; the information is only intended to be educational and thought provoking.
Risk Management: Income, 401k, and IRA Programs
Take a free tour of a professional investment managers' private SEP IRA program during ten years surrounding the financial crisis:
In developing the investment plan, personal financial goals, objectives, time frames, and future income requirements should all be considered. A first step would be to assure that small portfolios (under $50,000) are at least 50% income focused.
At the $100,000 level, between 30% and 40% income focused is fine, but above age 50, the income focus allocation needs to be no less than 40%... and it could increase in 10% increments every five years.
The "Income Bucket" of the Asset Allocation is itself a portfolio risk minimization tool, and when combined with an "Equity Bucket" that includes only Investment Grade Value Stocks, it becomes a very powerful risk regulator over the life of the portfolio.
Other Risk Minimizers include: "Working Capital Model" based Asset Allocation, fundamental quality based selection criteria, diversification and income production rules, and profit taking guidelines for all securities,
Dealing with changes in the Investment Environment productively involves a market/interest rate/economic cycle appreciation, as has evolved in the Market Cycle Investment Management (MCIM) methodology. Investors must formulate realistic expectations about investment securities--- by class and by type. This will help them deal more effectively with short term events, disruptions and dislocations.
Over the past twenty years, the market has transitioned into a "passive", more products than ever before, environment on the equity side... while income purpose investing has actually become much easier in the right vehicles. MCIM relies on income closed end funds to power our programs.
To illustrate just how powerful the combination of highest quality equities plus long term closed end funds has been during this time... we have provided an audio PowerPoint that illustrates the development of a Self Directed IRA portfolio from 2004 through 2014.
Throughout the years surrounding the "Financial Crisis", Annual income nearly tripled from $8,400 to $23,400 and Working Capital grew 80% $198,000 to $356,000.
Total income is 6.5% of capital and more than covers the RMD.
Managing income purpose securities requires price volatility understanding and disciplined income reinvestment protocals. "Total realized return" (emphasis on the realized) and compound earnings growth are the key elements. All forms of income secuities are liquid when dealt with in Closed End Funds.
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|Please read this disclaimer:|
Steve Selengut is registered as an investment advisor representative. His assessments and opinions are purely his own and do not represent the views of any other entity. None of his commentary is or should be considered either investment advice or a solicitation of business. Anyone seeking individualized investment advice should contact a qualified investment adviser. None of the information presented in this article is intended to be or should be construed as an endorsement of any entity or organization. The reader should not assume that any strategies, or investments mentioned are any more than illustrations --- they are never recommendations, and others will most certainly disagree with the thoughts presented in the article.