Episode #22 is another “Listener Q&A” episode. Meb has been traveling again, this time giving several speeches. So we start the episode with Meb giving us the highlights from his most recent talk in Vegas, in which he details four mistakes that investors are making right now. Next, we get into our listener Q&A. Meb tackles:
- Is shareholder yield a smart beta factor in its own right, or is it a combination of factors?
- Should a shareholder yield strategy outperform portfolios with size, value, and momentum tilts?
- Is there a reason why Meb rarely talks about adding small caps to a portfolio?
- What are the merits of investing in ETFs versus bonds directly?
- Can sentiment indicators be used to add tangible long-term value to a portfolio?
- How does Meb define risk, a term he uses quite often?
- While certain global countries with low CAPEs appear attractive, if the U.S. entered a correction, wouldn’t those foreign countries follow, negating the decision to invest there?
There’s plenty more, including talk of gambling in Vegas (and counting cards), Meb’s high school reunion, and some of the worst investment losses Meb ever suffered (think “biotech” and “options”). Hear it all in Episode 22.
Episode 21 starts with a “thank you” to Michael, as it was his advice on starting a podcast that got “The Meb Faber Show” off the ground. But Michael and Meb quickly turn to Michael’s expertise, trend following. This is how Michael summarizes it: “We don’t know what’s going to happen. We can’t make a prediction worth a damn. The market starts to move, whatever that market might be. We get on board, and we don’t get out until it goes against us and we have an exit signal.” They then turn to the infamous “turtle” story. It involves Richard Dennis, a great trader from the 1970’s, who made his first million by about age 25. By the early 80’s, he was worth about $200 million. Around this time, the movie “Trading Places” came out (two millionaires make a bet on the outcome of training a bum to be a financial whiz, while taking a financial whiz and, effectively, turning him into a bum). Richard felt he could similarly train a financial no-nothing, turning him into a great trader. Richard’s partner felt it wouldn’t work. So they made a bet. How’d it turn out? Three or four years later, the group Richard trained had made, on aggregate, around $100 million. Meb then suggests that a profitable strategy such as trend following, that seems to work, should attract lots of investor dollars in the long run. So why then doesn’t trend following have more “big money” institutional investors using it? Michael points toward drawdowns – “the scarlet letter of trend following” – even though buy-and-hold has plenty of drawdowns too. The guys then agree that all investing is purely speculation. We like to believe there’s more certainty, but that’s not the case. They then bring up a quote from Ed Seykota: “Win or lose, everyone gets what they want out of the market. Some people seem to like to lose, so they win by losing money.” Michael tells us this is true not only for investing, but life as well. Next, Meb asks about Michael’s podcast, which results in a great recap of how Michael got started and how he grew it to be the success it is today. The guys then discuss the mass of great investing content out there, for example, the hours of great interviews from Michael’s podcast—where is a new listener supposed to start? It’s overwhelming. Michael gives us his thoughts. This leads to Meb’s latest entrepreneurial business idea (which some listener should run with and make lots of money). There’s plenty more, including the guys touching on sensory deprivation, yoga/meditation, and of course, what each of them find beautiful, useful, or downright magical – Michael has about seven for us. What are they? Find out in Episode 21.
Episode #20 is another “Listener Q&A” episode. Meb starts by telling us about his frustration after doing a guest panel on CNBC earlier in the morning. (Hint: questions about The Fed tend to annoy Meb…also, if you ever chat with him in person, do not refer to a 1% market move as a “major” move.) But soon we change gears, and Meb answers questions including:
- When following a trend strategy based on a 100 or 200-day moving average, is the idea to buy/sell on Day 1 of the broken trend? Or is it more nuanced?
- Is there some magic number of days (when following a trend strategy) that is the right length?
- (The above questions dovetail into a conversation about the #1 mistake the majority of investors make when using a trend following approach – expecting it to be a return-enhancing strategy.)
- What are good trend strategies for sideways/chainsaw markets?
- How about combining a momentum strategy with a simple 10-month trend strategy?
- When looking at managed future funds, aside from cost, any thoughts on what might warrant choosing one fund over another?
- (This dovetails into an interesting admonition from Meb in which he suggests listeners should do their own homework on issues like this—after all, if you don’t fully understand a fund’s strategy and have your own reasons for buying it, how will you know whether a 20% drawdown reflects a bad strategy, bad execution, or just bad luck?)
- Can you earn a 10% CAGR with Dalio’s All Weather portfolio without fear of a major drawdown?
- (This dovetails into a question about asset allocation – does it really dominate long-term returns? A listener thought he heard a difference of opinion between Meb and a guest on a past episode.)
There are more questions, including one hand-written and mailed to Meb by a college student. He wants to know what qualities, skills, and abilities Meb looks for in new hires at Cambria, as well as what unique skills a college grad should bring to his/her employer. What’s Meb’s answer? Find out in Episode 20.
Episode 19 is a fun, unique episode, delving into the connection between “more money” and “more happiness.” Turns out, Jonathan has literally written the book on this complex relationship. Do you know what studies suggest is the “line in the sand” for annual income, separating happy and unhappy people? Good chance it’s lower than you think. But why? Jonathan tells us. That dovetails into a discussion about how people should spend their money in order to optimize their happiness. It turns out that spending our money on “experiences” with important people in our lives produces far more intrinsic happiness than money spent on “things.” Next, Meb leads the discussion into familiar territory – investing. Jonathan notes two major traps most of us fall into when investing: 1) overconfidence, and 2) loss aversion. These two Achilles Heels tend to inflict significant damage to our portfolios. So what’s our best defense? Jonathan gives us his three-pronged strategy. The topic then moves to portfolio construction, with Jonathan noting how his own approach has changed from a U.S.-centric, core-holding starting point to a global-market-portfolio starting point. Next, they move to a topic less discussed on the podcast: retirement. Jonathan gives his thoughts on withdrawal rates, portfolio management strategies in retirement, and even timing suggestions on when to start taking Social Security. There’s far more on the show, including what studies say about the effect of kids on happiness, why we need to flip our advice to our children (instead of “pursue your passions early in life” it should be “work your butt off early and save, so you can pursue your passions later”), and finally, specific action steps you can take right now to be a better investor. What are they? Find out in Episode 19.
Episode 18 is packed with value. It starts with Meb asking Rob to talk about market cap weighting and its drawbacks. Rob tells us that with market cap weighting, investors are choosing “popularity” as an investment criterion more so than some factor that’s actually tied to the company’s financial health. What’s a better way? Rob suggests evaluating companies based on how big they are instead (if you’re scratching your head, thinking “size” is the same as “market cap,” this is the episode for you). Is this method really better? Well, Rob tells us it beats market cap weighting by 1-2% compounded. Then Rob gives us an example of just how destructive market cap weighting can be: Look at the #1 company in any sector, industry, or country – you name it – by market cap. Ostensibly, these are the best, most dominant companies in the market. What if you invest only in these market leaders, these #1 market cappers, rotating your dollars into whatever company is #1? How would that strategy perform? You would do 5% per year compounded worse than the stock market. Now slightly tweak that strategy. What if you invest only in the #1 market cap company in the world, rebalancing each year into the then-#1 stock? You’d underperform by 11% per annum. Meb then moves the discussion to “smart beta.” Why is Rob a fan? Simple – it breaks the link with stock price (market cap), enabling investors to weight their portfolios by something other than “what’s popular.” But as Rob tells us, there are lots of questionable ideas out there masquerading as smart beta. The guys then dive into valuing smart beta factors. Just because something might qualify as smart beta, it doesn’t mean it’s a good strategy if it’s an expensive factor. Next, Rob and Meb turn their attention to the return environment, with Rob telling us “People need to ratchet down their return expectations.” All of these investors and institutions expecting 8-10% a year? Forget about it. So what’s an investor to do? Rob has some suggestions, one of which is looking global. He’s not the perma-bear people often accuse him of being. In fact, he sees some attractive opportunities overseas. Next, Meb asks Rob about the idea of “over-rebalancing.” You’ll want to listen to this discussion as Rob tells us this is a way to amp up your returns to the tune of about 2% per year. Next up? Correlation, starting with the quote “The only thing that goes up in a market crash is correlation.” While it may seem this way, Rob tells us that we should be looking at “correlation over time” instead. Through this lens, if an asset class that normally marches to its own drummer crashes along with everything else in a major drawdown, you could interpret it more as a “sympathy” crash – selling off when it shouldn’t; and that makes it a bargain. Does this work? It did for Rob back around ’08/’09. He gives us the details. There’s way more, including viewing your portfolio in terms of long-term spending power rather than NAV, the #1 role of a client advisor, and even several questions for Rob written in by podcast listeners. What are they? Listen to Episode #18 to find out.