Episode 27 starts with a quick note from Meb. It’s a week of freebies! Why? Meb is celebrating his 10th “blogiversary.” (He’s officially been writing about finance now for a decade.) Be sure to hear what he’s giving away for free.
But soon the interview starts, with Meb asking Porter to give some background on himself and his company, as Porter’s story is somewhat different than that of many guests. Porter tells us about being brought into the world of finance by his close friend and fund manager, Steve Sjuggerud.
This conversations bleeds into Porter’s thoughts on how a person should spend his 20s, 30s, and 40s as it relates to income and wealth creation. But it’s not long before the guys dive into the investment markets today, and you won’t want to miss Porter’s take. In essence, if you’re a corporate bond investor, watch out. Porter believes this particular credit cycle is going to be worse than anything we’ve ever seen. Why? There’s plenty of blame to go around, but most significantly, the Fed did not allow the market to clear in 2009 and 2010, and it means this time is going to be very, very bad. Porter gives us the details, but it all points toward one takeaway: “There’s going to be a big bill of bad debt to pay.”
Meb then asks what the investing implications are for the average investor. This leads to Porter’s concept of “The Big Trade.” In a nutshell, Porter has identified 30 corporate offenders, “The Dirty 30.” Between them, they owe $300 billion in debt. His plan is to monitor these companies on a weekly basis, while keeping an eye out for liquid, long-dated puts on them that he’ll buy opportunistically. He’ll target default-level strike prices, and expect 10x returns – on average. Meb likes the idea, as the strategy would serve as a hedge to a traditional portfolio.
Next, the guys get into asset allocation. Porter’s current strategy is “allocate to value,” but for him that means holding a great deal of cash. Meb doesn’t mind, as wealth preservation is always the most important rule. This leads the guys into bearish territory, with Porter believing we’ll see a recession within the next 12 months.
This transitions into how to protect a portfolio; in this case, the guys discuss using a stop-loss service. Porter finds it invaluable, as most people grossly underestimate the risk they’re taking with their investments, as well as their capacity to handle that risk. He sums up his general stance by saying if you don’t have a risk management discipline you will not be successful.
Next, the guys get into the biggest investing mistakes Porter has seen his subscribers make over the years. There’s a great deal of poor risk mitigation. He says 95% of his own subscribers will not hedge their portfolio. Meb thinks it’s a problem of framing. People buy home insurance and car insurance. If we framed hedging as “portfolio insurance” it would probably work, but people don’t think that way. He sums up by saying, “To be a good investor, you need to be good at losing.” Porter agrees, pointing out how Buffet has seen 50% drawdowns twice in the last 15 years. If there’s a takeaway from this podcast, it’s “learn how to hedge.”
There’s far more, including what Porter believes is the secret to his success. What it is? Find out in Episode 27.
If you’re ready to dive straight into the deep end, Episode 26 is for you. The guys waste no time, starting off with complicated topic of currencies. Jeremy takes issue with the currency-stance belonging to some former, unnamed Meb Faber Show guests. Specifically, he challenges the idea that currency hedging is expensive. Not true, he says. It’s only “selectively” expensive. You can actually get paid to hedge certain currencies. He gives us more details, leading to his overall takeaway: You should be hedged a lot more than you are. Meb then asks about any rules that might be applied when using a dynamic currency-hedging strategy. Jeremy gives us his thoughts, telling us when we want to be hedged versus when we don’t, as well as two good signals to use – interest rate differentials and momentum. Where are we overall today? Well, Jeremy says that there is no country so cheap that his shop would take their hedge ratio to zero. Eventually, Meb switches the topic to factor investing. Jeremy gives us his take, noting that minimum vol is where things are most expensive. The guys then discuss factor investing as it pertains to the bond space – in essence, moving away from market cap weightings. Why is that important for bond investing? Well, do you want to give the most weight to the countries issuing the most debt? Unlikely, but that’s how market cap weighting works with bonds. Next, Meb steers the conversation toward liquid alts, specifically managed futures. That’s followed by a great discussion on corporate buybacks. Gotta watch out for that dilution from new share issuance. Interestingly, it turns out that buybacks are largely a U.S. phenomenon. Jeremy agrees, but points out some spots around the globe where that might be changing. As we near the end of the show, Meb asks about the opportunities Jeremy sees going forward. His response in a nutshell? “People are underinvested overseas.” There’s plenty more, including an asset class that is coming up on being down a whopping six years in a row, as well as how Meb hacked a VPN service that enabled him to watch the last Super Bowl from a tiny village in Japan. How’d he do it? Find out in Episode 26.
We have some great guests lined up in the coming weeks, so we figured we’d squeeze in another Q&A episode. This week, Meb is back from traveling yet again, this time to The Caymans. The show starts with Meb giving us highlights from the trip, as well as one low-light (waking up one morning to find a welt on his head, and hoping it isn’t Zika). This transitions into a topic recently covered in one of Meb’s blog posts; of all the animals that people find most terrifying, lions and sharks are near the top of the list. But statistically, lions and sharks are responsible for only a tiny amount of human deaths per year. You know what kills 725,000 humans per year – yet few fear (until recently)? Mosquitos. Similarly, many investors are terrified about the outcome of the U.S. Presidential election. But this election isn’t likely to “kill” a portfolio. On the other hand, you know what is? The mosquito known as “fees.” Eventually, the conversation gravitates toward listener questions. A few you’ll hear Meb tackle are:
- What are some of the best ways and resources to learn about markets and investing?
- (Dovetails into…) Why don’t we hear Meb discuss single-stock fundamental analysis more often?
- What does the typical day look like for Meb and other successful investment professionals? Habits? Amount of reading? How much sleep? And so on…
- How does an investor tell the difference between an investment strategy that’s simply “out of favor” (and therefore, underperforming) versus a strategy that has truly lost its effectiveness (and underperforming)?
- One of the variables in Bogle’s formula for estimating returns is dividend yield. Why wouldn’t you substitute shareholder yield instead?
- What are the pros/cons of protecting the downside by buying puts versus using trend following?
- Assuming an investor is a huge risk taker and can handle it, should he put all his money in the asset class with the highest expected return – for instance, be “all in” Russia?
As usual, there’s lots more, including Meb’s upcoming travel schedule. He’s going to be in Orange County, New York, Richmond, and D.C., so drop him a line if you’ll be in the areas. All this and far more in Episode 25.
Episode 24 brings us back to our most controversial episode format: the “solo Meb” show. Listeners seem to either love and loathe this style of show. If you fall into the “loathe” camp, it’s a short episode so the pain is limited. But hopefully you will listen, as Meb dives into the fascinating, and possibly timely, subject of bubbles. The quick takeaway? Using a trend following approach would have helped you reduce drawdowns as popping market bubbles ravaged portfolios. And this would have helped you achieve investing’s main goal: surviving another day. Meb then dives in, first defining bubbles, then referencing three of the most famous bubbles in history: the South Sea Company bubble, the Mississippi bubble, and the Dutch tulip mania, each of which saw drawdowns of 90%. Meb dives deeper into the South Sea Company bubble. In short, the South Sea Company was a huge pump-and-dump scheme – catching none other than Sir Isaac Newton in its carnage. From here, Meb discusses strategies for capturing the upside of bubbles while protecting yourself from the fallout. One solution? Trend following, using the 10-month simple moving average. It does a great job of reducing volatility and drawdowns, and improving returns. Meb ends the show by revisiting the South Sea Company bubble, this time putting an actual figure on Newton’s losses, and comparing them to what a trend follower would have made. What’s the difference? Find out in Episode 24.
If you’re a factor-investor, Episode 23 is for you. In fact, about 10 years ago, Gregg actually trademarked the term “multi-factor” in the use of mutual funds. Meb asks Greg which factors they use. It turns out “price-to-anything” isn’t bad. The conversation gravitates toward the behavioral side of investing, leading Gregg to an interesting comment: “Sometimes the best investment strategy isn’t the right investment strategy.” He goes on to illustrate by saying how if we bought nothing but small cap value stocks and held them for the next 50 years, we’d look back and realize that such a strategy would have been one of the most successful ones anyone could have chosen. The problem is the volatility of that strategy is off the charts, so most investors can’t see it through. In many ways, the experience of investing is as important to us as the outcome. Meb agrees, referencing a recent article detailing how Harvard’s endowment has posted a small loss over the last two years and some folks at Harvard are finding this totally unacceptable. But that’s to be expected with factor investing. As Gregg says, the whole concept of factor investing is to be different than the average investor. Next, Meb asks how to put together value and momentum. Turns out, there are lots of ways to slice this. Greg tells us to start with diversification, then differentiate across risk factors, tilting toward those factors that are well-rewarded for taking the risk. The guys then touch on factor investing in real estate, followed by top-down investing (Gregg doesn’t really adhere to top-down), then they move on to losses. We all know this intuitively, but huge losses can scar people – even to the point they never come back. So one of the keys to avoiding this is diversification. This bleeds into the topic of written investment plans. Gregg agrees that nearly no one has a written plan (though it would be great if they did). There’s far more, including currency hedging and smart beta factors. The episode winds down as Meb asks what advice Gregg might have for young investors who have only been exposed to the past 7 years of bull market. What’s Greg’s answer? Find out on Episode 23.
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.
Episode 17 starts with the guys from ReSolve discussing how they view asset allocation and top-down investing. They start with the global market portfolio which is the aggregate of what every investor in the world owns, yet interestingly, nearly no individual investor allocates this way. They then adjust the global market portfolio by striving for balance, specifically, risk parity. They discuss how leverage enables an investor to scale risk and target a specific volatility level, therein equalizing the portfolio. Risk parity gets you to start thinking about risk allocation instead of capital allocation. And this is helpful as “you’ve always got something killing it in your portfolio…and always got something killing you.” The topic then moves to valuation. The guys from ReSolve tell us how they see today’s market—near the peak of a cycle and expensive relative to history. What does this mean for returns over the next 10-20 years? They think 1-2% real. This leads to a discussion about the Permanent Portfolio and its pros and cons in various markets. Then Meb doesn’t miss the chance to bring up gold, as he suggests Canadians love their natural resources (ReSolve is based in Canada). Next, Meb asks the guys their thoughts on currencies. Here in the U.S., it’s rare that we factor currencies into our investing decisions, but it can be more of an issue for many non-U.S. investors. The conversation circles back to risk parity, this time in the context of bonds, and where yields might be going over the next 5-10 years. There’s plenty more, including managed futures, assorted risk premia, and an announcement from the ReSolve guys about a new service offering. What is it? Listen to episode #17 to find out.
Big news today! This isn't our usual podcast. Instead, Meb has an announcement for his listeners. It's only a few minutes long, so don't miss this one!
Episode #16 is another “Listener Q&A” episode. With Jeff asking follow-ups, here are a few of the questions Meb tackles:
- Given low bond yields, what asset would you suggest holding in a trend following strategy while in “cash”? Would you stick to short-term bonds, diversify with several bond funds, or actually hold cash?
- I struggle with a way to screen for quality. I just listened to your podcast with Pete Mladina and he alluded to profitability as a factor. Have you done any work here?
- Do you believe that the development of smart beta (momentum, value, low vol…) will kill the edge of these factors?
- It’s difficult to distinguish signal from noise when evaluating different indicators, such as forward PE versus TTM PE. What suggestions do you have for evaluating the myriad indicators out there?
- I just came into a lump sum of money. Is there any research on the best way to invest it into a pricey market? All at once? Average in? Buy on the pull-backs?
- Should your primary residence count toward your asset allocation and portfolio?
- What do you mean by rebalancing taxable accounts by cash flows?
There are many more questions that touch upon topics including currency exposure, tweaks to shareholder yield, and the effects of hefty fees. All this and more in Episode 16.
Meb tries something new in Episode 15. In “audio book” style, he walks listeners through his latest research piece: The Trinity Portfolio. “Trinity” reflects the three pillars of this investing approach: globally-diversified assets, weightings toward value and momentum investments, and active trend-following. On one hand, Trinity is broad and sturdy, rooted in respected, wealth-building investment principles. On the other hand, it’s strategic and intuitive, able to adapt to all sorts of market conditions. The result is a unified, complementary framework that can relieve investors of the handwringing and anxiety of “what’s the right strategy right now?” If you’re an investor who’s struggled to find an investing framework able to generate long-term returns that make a real difference in your wealth, Episode 15 is for you.
Episode 14 is easily one of our most interesting so far. While there’s great content about trend following, Eric and Meb also delve into the psychological side of investing. There’s a fascinating tension between what people say they want from investing, versus what they actually do. For instance, investors say that want diversification, but very few, in practice, are willing to implement a truly diversified portfolio. Why? The psychological trauma that people experience when they diversify (and watch parts of their portfolio draw down) is simply too painful. This leads into a discussion about one of Eric and Meb’s favorite ways to diversify a portfolio: managed futures. The numbers suggest managed futures are a fantastic addition to a portfolio. Eric ran an experiment with his clients involving portfolio construction. He presented clients the returns and volatility numbers of a handful of asset classes – without revealing what those asset classes were. 100% of the time, when presented blind, people chose managed futures as their core holding. Eric and Meb then move on to the returns of great fund managers like Buffett and Soros. Eric studied these managers with the thesis that they must have done something other investors are uncomfortable doing (which is the source of their long-term alpha). He concludes that this differentiator is actually “underperforming their benchmark.” Eric says Berkshire Hathaway is a “glaring” example. An investor in Berkshire would have underperformed the S&P more than half the time (over various time-periods), but would have made tremendously more money than investing in the S&P. This leads Eric and Meb back to the psychological side of investing, specifically, the pain of relative performance. Meb recalls the Buffett or Munger idea that it’s not greed and fear that drives the investment world; it’s envy. Meb then turns the focus toward playing defense, which leads Eric to tell us how few people realize the impact on their returns of avoiding drawdowns. Avoiding the big losers has more impact on your compounded returns than catching the big winners. In other words, defense is what wins championships. There’s far more: how 80% of all stocks effectively return 0%, while just 20% of stocks account for all market gains… a pointed warning from Meb to listeners about the fees associated with managed future “fund of funds”… and of course, plenty more on Eric’s trend following approach. All of this and more in Episode #14.
Stock picking is hard—really hard. Fortunately, there’s a simple strategy you could begin following today to improve your success. It’s simple to implement, takes just minutes of your time, yet has the potential to vastly improve your investing results. Sadly, if you’re like the average investor, you don’t even know it exists. So what is it? Well, consider the world’s star hedge fund managers – the Buffetts, Klarmans, and Teppers – the guys with average yearly returns in the upper teens and twenties. What if you knew what they were investing in right this second? Logic would suggest if you invested alongside them, you too could post their extraordinary returns. Well, it turns out, the option is available to you thanks to the SEC and Form 13F. This is a form professional fund managers with more than $100m in U.S.-listed assets must fill out. Best of all, it’s available to the public, providing you and me a way to “peek over the shoulder” of some of the world’s most successful investors. Of course, there are some issues with this strategy. For instance, there’s a 45-delay in reporting, there can be inexact holdings, and the biggest one – the fluctuating success of your chosen manager. Bill Ackman’s recent debacle with Valeant certainly comes to mind. No, it’s not easy; a 13F investing strategy takes dedication. Many of the star managers who post amazing long-term returns can actually underperform for years at a time. Would you stay invested alongside them long enough to ride out those barren stretches? Or would fear and second-guessing shake you out? Turns out there are a few ways you can improve your chance of success. Find out what they are in Episode 13.
If you’re a dividend investor, Episode 12 is for you. Yes, historical market data tells us that dividend stocks outperform the broad market. But that’s where too many investors stop. That same historical market data suggests we can improve our dividend-strategy returns—significantly—by a few tweaks. What are they? Well, paying dividends is just one of several ways that corporate managers can return profits to shareholders. They can also buy back stock and pay down debt (a subtler form, but valuable nonetheless). Together, we call these three returns “shareholder yield.” Shareholder yield provides investors a more holistic perspective on the degree to which corporate managers are sharing profits with investors. So when an investor limits his or her analysis simply to dividends, he/she runs the risk of overlooking companies that might be returning major profits to shareholders—but in less visible ways than dividends. That’s a problem because it turns out, when we combine these three yields, this “shareholder yield” strategy has posted better historical returns than dividends alone. How much better? Find out in Episode 12.
Episode 11 features the always-fun Sam Stovall. Sam starts by making an unlikely connection between Clint Eastwood and investing – “A man’s got to know his limits.” Being aware of his own limits, Sam put together a list of rules to help him win at the game of investing. He and Meb dive in, starting with “Let your winners ride, cut your losers short.” Easier said than done, as most of us tend to hold onto our losers, hoping they’ll come back, while selling the winners (prematurely) to lock in gains. “As January goes, so goes the year” is Rule #2. Sam compares investors to dieters looking for a fresh start every year. Rule #3 is a tweak on “Sell in May then go away.” It turns out that’s almost right, but not quite. The better strategy is “rotate rather than retreat.” Do you know the two sectors which historically will boost your returns if you’ll rotate into them during the summer months? Sam will tell you. Rule #4 challenges the idea that there’s no free lunch on Wall Street. According to Sam, there is. If you construct your portfolio in the right way, you can increase your returns without a commensurate increase in risk. “Don’t get mad, get even” is Sam’s fifth rule. Too many investors are losing money because their portfolios are overweight in a few bad picks. So don’t get mad, “get even.” In other words, look to shift your weightings to correct the imbalance. Rule #6? “Don’t fight the Fed, at least, for too long.” For all you bears over the last few years, this seems especially appropriate. Finally, #7 is Meb’s favorite: “There’s always a bull market someplace.” It turns out Sam and Meb share a fondness for rules-based investing. Sam has his own rules which help him identify these bull markets that are always happening someplace. What are they? Find out in Episode #11.
Episode #10 is our second “Listener Q&A” episode. This time, instead of spending the entire episode answering one question, Meb tackles many. Here’s a sample of a few of the topics you’ll hear him address:
- How should young investors balance low expected returns (ZIRP, U.S. CAPE, etc) with the need to invest young/early?
- How much should you allocate to your best idea or opportunity? You hear Charlie Munger talk about betting big on great opportunities. What is “big”?
- I get the gist of your global asset allocation strategy, but I’m not an expert on it. Does my lack of knowledge make it dangerous for me to invest this way since I don’t fully understand it? (As opposed to Peter Lynch’s mindset of “buy what you know.”)
- What does your (Meb’s) ideal portfolio look like right now?
- I’ve stayed away from low volume/liquidity ETFs I would like to own because volume is basically non-existent. Is that fear unfounded?
There are many more questions and answers, which dovetail into different topics including Meb’s thoughts on investing in private businesses, as well as several new business ideas which Meb would love to see an entrepreneur tackle. What are they? Find out on Episode 10.
“Do I have enough to fund my retirement?” “What’s the optimal lifetime asset allocation?” Those two questions, stemming from a recent academic paper written by Pete, help launch Episode 9. The answers point toward Pete’s solution for retirement challenges, something called “goals-based” asset allocations (as opposed a singular, static “all-in,” asset allocation applied to your entire capital base). In other words, your specific goal – say, college tuition, a second home, maybe a trust – dictates the asset allocation of the associated, earmarked funds. From there, Meb and Pete transition to a discussion on factor-based investing, starting with “term” and “market” factors. According to Pete, “Ninety-five, ninety-six percent of the return variation of all managers and funds in the Morningstar database are explained by…basic factors.” Meb then asks, “What are the best diversifiers to a traditional portfolio?” Hint: Pete’s response includes Meb’s “desert island” strategy. They then discuss whether individual smart beta factors such as “value” should be evaluated relative to their own historical valuation. Your own answer will likely reflect whether or not you believe markets are mean-reverting, a topic often debated. They then touch upon risk factors as applied to REITs before diving into a discussion of the Yale Endowment allocation. Pete tells us that Yale’s outperformance over the decades really boils down to just one thing: exposure to venture capital. The rest could be replicated in a factor-tilted portfolio. They wrap up with a reader question: “How do you know when your strategy no longer works?” Find out Meb’s and Pete’s answers in Episode #9.
Episode #8 marks Meb’s first “listener feedback” episode. We’ve received numerous bond-related questions from listeners, but they all tend to reduce to something along the lines of: “Bonds are hovering around historically low yields. Where do they fit in a diversified portfolio today?” Meb tackles the question, discussing Treasuries first, then expanding to global sovereign bonds – which, by the way, is the largest asset class in the world. In fact, a market cap weighting would suggest you have about one-third of your portfolio in global bonds. Instead, the average U.S. investor has around 0%. This leads to a discussion about using a value screen to help identify attractive global sovereign debt opportunities. Turns out you could be invested in a basket generating about 7% right now. Of course, you’d be investing in countries like Brazil, Russia, India, Turkey, Mexico... Could you do that? If you’re a yield-starved investor, it might be time to consider the question more seriously as U.S. bond yields may not climb to meaningful levels for quite a while. So as to U.S. bonds, will yields keep dropping? Or is it time to get out? Find out Meb’s thoughts in Episode #8.
With Brexit rattling the markets recently, it’s a good time to revisit the discussion of “black swans” (not that Brexit was a black swan, despite catching many investors off-guard). So what exactly is an investing black swan? And is there anything you can do to protect yourself from one? That leads Meb into a discussion of outliers – specifically, how your returns would look if you missed out on the 10 best market days, but also avoided the 10 worst market days. From there, we discuss a way to help protect your wealth from the biggest drawdown-days in the market. (Hint – it’s how Paul Tudor Jones avoided the ’87 crash, and something you can easily implement in your own account today.) From there we move to actionable takeaways for listeners – after an extended down-period, what markets and/or countries might be cheap and starting to enjoy an uptrend, which would make them good investments right now? And finally, you’ll hear how Meb just lost his entire Kansas wheat crop, destroyed by a fire from an exploded combine. Black swan event? Find out on Episode #7.
Do you know which three concepts most investors – retail and professional alike – get wrong? One is asset allocation; two is a bit different – it’s actually a lack of awareness of a type of investment that actually pays you to own it (confused?); third is a misconception about dividends and dividend stocks. Diving in, when it comes to asset allocation, different institutions and money managers often suggest significantly different asset allocations. So which allocation is the most effective? Turns out that’s the wrong question. There’s a far more important issue lurking here. Meb will tell you what it is. Next, we move on to a discussion few investors know about. It involves a way to be paid to own a fund. Interested? Finally, Meb risks alienating more than a handful of listeners by presenting an unorthodox perspective on dividend investing. But if you’re a dividend investor, you need to hear what he’s saying. Turns out there’s a tweak on a traditional dividend strategy that produced significantly better results when back-tested. Learn what this tweak is, and far more, on Episode 6 of The Meb Faber Show.
Meb starts by asking Jared to discuss a point from one of Jared’s newsletters: “If you think 2016 is the opposite of 1981, then you should do the opposite. In 1981, you should have bought stocks, sold gold, and bought bonds…” Jared gives us his thoughts, discussing how the landscape is far different now than in ’81, from heightened regulations to left-leaning policies. How should your portfolio respond? This dovetails into Meb and Jared discussing their “desert island” strategies (what would you invest in if you were about to be stuck on a desert island for 10 years). Then we hop to the Fed… Jared has a great quote “The Fed will pursue the path of least embarrassment.” He goes on to say how the fear of being embarrassed is the primary thing driving all the Fed’s decisions. What does this mean for their future decisions? They then switch gears, discussing a specific market bubble happening right now (it’s up 37% year-over-year). The problem is it’s going to pop – with “big implications for the global economy.” What is it? Find out on Episode #5.
What if you had perfect foresight and knew ahead of time which stocks would be the best performers? The reality is even if you knew this and invested accordingly, you’d still suffer gut-wrenching drawdowns along the way so painful (around 75%) that “even God would get fired as an active investor” if he was managing other peoples’ money. That’s the result of one of Wes’s studies which he and Meb discuss. By the way, with perfect foresight, you’d do about 28% a year, so what does that mean for those investment groups that want your business, claiming they do 35% or so a year? Then Wes says it’s not about volatility – it’s about protection against tail risk. That leads into a discussion on one of Meb’s favorite topics, managed futures, “one of the best diversifiers to a traditional portfolio.” There’s talk of Wes’s roboadvisor, timing factors, and Wes’s secret to getting the best prices on Amazon. All this and more on Episode #4.