Home

The Year of UPedNESS*

Leave a comment

money kids

I’m excited. I can’t help it.

It’s not easy to admit out loud that you like money. But I do.

All that “Money is the root of all evil” and “Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed” weighs on my sense of guilt.

But you know… I already feel guilty about everything I do, say, and eat in today’s world of rampant guilt-shaming.

I could be a Jewish mother… Oy vey iz mir.

So thank you, I know I’m not perfect. *shocked face*

If I was to make a resolution for 2020, it would be to repel the inner sense of guilt that pounds many of us, like a tsunami wave striking warm, sandy shores.

I’ve even come to admire and like mega-billionaires Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. They harbour a sh*tload of money, and yet, they have a heart and a desire to make the world a better place using their money as a resource for all people.

My heart wants money AND my heart desires to make the world a better place. Those two shouldn’t be mutually exclusive.

guilt trip.jpg

Let’s get started, shall we?

If you don’t care about money and your financial future, well …. you might want to toddle off and get yourself a latte or green tea or something that is totally unrelated to numbers and money. This post perhaps isn’t for you today.

Right… now I know you haven’t left me, because, of course you DO care about your years ahead and want to know what you’ll do with those delicious mega-millions you’ve saved and invested. Am I right? I said, am I right?

This is my annual $$ letter describing my occasional successes… and oh-so-rare (ha!) failures where it comes to investing. Welcome!

Last year when I pulled this money blog post together, I used a lovely sweet term that I adore. FUCKedUPedNESS.

FUCKedUPEedNESS described my investment acumen over the 2018 year.

I sang a lot of “crying” songs in 2018… (I’ll Do My) Crying In The Rain, Grown Men Don’t Cry, Cry Me A River… you get the idea. Bottom line: I lost money on the markets.

No need to cry this past year, for 2019 was a year of financial sunshine, lollipops and rainbows cascading out my back-end and the word now reads: UPedNESS!

The year of all things screwy except investing.

Despite all the tariff battles and other nasty economic troubles, I found big profits in APPLE, MICROSOFT, ROYAL BANK, STARBUCKS and DISNEY.

Five years ago I was buying Apple at $99 per share, today it sits just above $300 a pop. Over that time, quarterly dividends have added a delicious shot of income along the way too.

Please go out and buy another iPhone and/or Apple Watch and make me a happy dude!

apple watch xmas.jpg

This is the good news that made 2019 a banner year in the markets.

Of course, I made/make spectacular blunders too.

My purchases of PIZZA PIZZA and B&G FOODS (yup, the folks who bag up your Ho Ho Ho Jolly Green Giant veggies), GILEAD SCIENCES (Hepatitis C cure), L BRANDS (how could Victoria’s Secret lead my manly eyes astray?!), IBM (yes even venerable IBM has been a stinker!) have made me look like a novice figure skater who spends more time on his ass than upright.

I try to learn from my missteps and get back up and attempt another Triple Lutz.

Here are a few words I shared with my kids recently (I invest a few dollars on their behalf as well) in the “financial” letter I send to them each year:

This end-of-the-year letter is so much more enjoyable to write than last year’s. Hallelujah!

But why you ask?

Of course you know why… the financial returns in ALL of your accounts (and mine too!) are significantly improved over last year.

And while I’d like to accept accolades and praise for my investing prowess, as Warren Buffett said: “A rising tide raises all boats”. Despite uncertainty in all directions, markets as a whole have risen bigly in 2019.

The one thing I will accept credit for is keeping risk levels low in all of our accounts by only purchasing shares in well-run, low’ish debt, profit-making companies. And almost all pay a reasonable and rising dividend as a bonus. High flyers and hot tips are not in my playbook.

So… how did I fare this year? *drum roll*

The average return across my RRSP, TFSA and Locked-in RRSP was… +24.6%. This compares much more favourably to last year’s losing -1.8%.

Investing is a game that’s best viewed from 10,000 feet… no over-the-top glee when the short-term returns are positive and no deep-in-the-dumps despair when they turn downwards (as they always will).

So here’s the view of my investment returns from 10,000 feet.

  • 1 year              +24.6%
  • 3 year avg.     +10.3%
  • 5 year avg.     +10.2%
  • 10 year avg.   +14.6%
  • 12 year avg.   +15.4%
  • 18 year avg.   +14.6%

In the 18 years (I’ve been investing far longer than this) that I’ve maintained reasonably accurate records of my investing process and proceeds, I’ve sadly ended 3 of those years with a negative number looking back at me.

This keeps me humble. We should all stay humble. And kind.

Highest one year return +67.5% (2009)… Lowest one year return -37.1% (2008).

Going forward into 2020, I’m searching high and low for bargains in which to park some dollars. While I continue to hold the shares of my “winners” (above), the idea of purchasing more at these levels is just not very attractive.

On the other hand (there’s always another hand, just watch Fiddler On The Roof), a few quality companies that come close to making me pull the trigger are :

  • Canadian Tire (CTC) 
  • McKesson Corp (MCK)
  • Amazon (AMZN) 
  • FedEx (FDX)
  • ABBVIE (ABBV) 
  • Manulife Financial (MFC)
  • CVS Pharmacies (CVS)
  • Whirlpool Industries (WHR)

But for now… I’d rather hold some extra cash until markets subside a bit.

I’ve said here before that my long-term investing goal is to bring in a batting average of 15% returns. That number comes and goes of course, but over 10 to 18 years, I get around the bases in the manner that I’m aiming for.

I’ll never be Babe Ruth. I’ll never be Bill Gates or Warren Buffett.

But also, I’ll never stop dreaming in lots of directions, and looking for a fine balance between my world’s opposing cultures of self-interest and giving to others.

Remember that investing in life is about time, money and energy. Take a few deep breaths and choose your investments with intent in all regions of your life.

I wish you well in your drive for material comfort in 2020, and also… I hope you find a way or two of giving back in some material way to others. Yeah, this is just me being a sh*t disturber and perhaps… pushing you gently over the cliff-edge of guilt (along with me)…

Cheers to you for another year of stupendous UPedNESS!

upedness.jpg

 

 

 

 

Are You High or HIGH? A Half Year Investment Toke …

Leave a comment

How is marijuana stock sold on the stock market?

 

Buy high … sell higher.

 

marijuana stocks

BANG! Welcome to the second half of 2019.

Intermission is now over … I hope you’re enjoying the popcorn and red licorice because now it’s back to work!

And this week I’m taking a change back – yes, today I speak to the numbers’ nerds – from the art of music … to the science of investing and personal money management.

It would be easy to reverse that last sentence to say the science of music and the art of investing and personal money management. There is a bit of alchemy in there when you think about it closely.

So … how were your first 6 months of 2019? I mean financially.

Are you looking richer or poorer today than where you were when you were watching the Rose Bowl and Disney parades on January 1? I hope at least that your champagne headache has receded.

Let’s dig in here. Money is important in all our lives.

We all need shelter. We all need food. We all need Netflix… OK nix that last one …

The investment start to 2019 has been a refreshing change from the doldrums of 2018. And it’s extraordinarily amazing given that 2019 is becoming the Year Of The Tariff.

The U.S. (ie. Trump) vs E.O.E (EveryOne Else) – except Russia and North Korea – has become an economic World War III.

Every little whiff of tariff (and there are huge flatulently wafty whiffs out there) in the breeze sends a Freddie Kruger fear of financial oblivion throughout the world.

That’s what’s called the macro look …  but most of us are way more interested in the microscope take on our own treasure chests.

treasure chest

HEADLINES and highlights

If you bought a van-full of BEYOND MEAT shares in 2019 (I stayed well away from this helium balloon of swelling revenues but inert profits), you now own a non-meaty 18-Wheeler-full of $$ booty and a one-way ticket to Animal-Friendly heaven.

I shake your hand in Vegas-style “lucky” admiration.

Who said money couldn’t buy happiness for a cow or chicken?

But to be a yellow pea? ARMAGGEDON!

Next: If you made a similar altruistic purchase of LYFT shares, the ride-sharing company that drove away with investor money after listing at $72/share and have since dropped a bit more than 10%, well … patience is your best bet as you wait for the next UBER ride my friend.

And of course, there is huge interest and anticipation of the smoke-and-oil POT stocks. Marijuana is becoming legally legit more broadly with each passing month. The acrid reefer scent has become more common than the stench of day-after beer sweat.

All the major players in alcohol and tobacco are gobbling up weedy chunks to keep their interest in intoxication at sky-high levels. Marijuana is going to soar for years to come, but for investors, sticking out your thumb for a ride and hoping that none of these companies are financial serial killers is a big challenge.

This isn’t an area where I can guess the winners with any aplomb, so I think I might be more interested in those others who fly high resulting from pot sales: like takeout pizza (Dominos), chocolate (Hersheys) and potato chip makers (Pepsico).

munchies

Of course I also have some of my own favourites (Disclosure: I own each of these in my own account) that aren’t crazy expensive (relative to their earnings) like Apple, Penske Automotive, Great-West Life, Bank of Nova Scotia, CVS Health, Whirlpool, FedEx, Enbridge, Magna International. All great companies with a sweet kiss of dividends.

Alas, in today’s blog, I’m not making any personal BUY recommendations because quality companies – in BIGLY numbers – are out there… but the share prices for purchasing this quality have swollen just a bit too large to make a BUY and then hope to make a healthy return over the short-to-medium term.

And finally, keeping my toes to the fire … *drum roll* … my own investment return so far this year to the end of June comes to +12.9%.  This is actually lower than the returns of both the TSX 60 (+15.0%) in Canada and the Dow Jones Composite in the US (+14.8%), but of course, higher than the best Canadian 5-year GIC rate of 3.25%.

My fingers are crossed that The Year Of The Tariff doesn’t spell disaster over the 2nd six months of 2019… or …

or… I might have to make a MAJOR purchase from a Marijuana company … nope, not the shares… the product!

Willie w pot

Happy Money And The Gift Of Time

Leave a comment

Stock market.jpg

6:30 am Pacific Time.

Every weekday at 6:30 am (Toronto and New York stock markets fire up at 9:30 Eastern time) I log onto QTrade and check the share prices of stocks in my own accounts, my wife’s accounts, and each of my kids’ accounts.

It’s a numbers’ obsession. It’s a money obsession.

When markets wake up feeling depressed and downcast and I see my lifetime cache of dollars slowly circling the drain in a downward spiral (like a good part of last year), I catch a lonely grey sensation, rub my eyes and forehead, and remind myself that stock markets are bi-polar … doom and gloom one moment, sexy exhilaration the next.

Yes Larry, This Too Shall Pass.

money in toilet.jpg

And then, on other mornings, I sip from my steaming cup of latte – the frothiness on the surface forming happy little animal clouds –  and jump up and down inside when everything is floating upwards (like this year so far), the $$ in my accounts gliding up the x and y axes of the graph like a jet roaring upwards and away from the runway at 250 kph.

Yup, on these good days, I silently kiss myself for the wonderful assessments I’ve made of the various companies that comprise these portfolios. I feel like a clone of Warren Buffett. (Then I remind myself: A fool is wise in his own eyes. King Solomon)

It’s energizing and exciting. It’s Happy Money.

Or it can be.

Let’s face it, we need money only slightly less than we need oxygen and sleep and sex.

Happiness gets a boost in my world when there’s an increase in money… and … when there’s an increase in time.

OK, we all know that time will never increase, which is why it is so valuable for those of us mortals (everyone) that will revert to dust in too short a time frame.

Which brings me to today’s book tip (more valuable than any hot stock tip I might offer):

Happy Money: The Science of Happier Spending… (Elizabeth Dunn/Michael Norton)

My eldest daughter, a pretty smart cookie, went to a talk by the book’s female author in Vancouver and suggested I take a look at the book.

The bottom line message the authors send our way is to spend money on things that will actually bring us more joy in our lives.

  • Buy Experiences
  • Make it a Treat
  • Buy Time
  • Pay Now, Consume Later
  • Invest in Others

I won’t go into great detail about the contents here, because I’m gonna use my time to enjoy the experience of playing my guitar.

A couple of small examples that might send you on your way to happy money?

I savour the flavour and texture of a morning latte… hot, sweet and frothy. Caffeine wet dream.

But I know if I quaff this sensual treat every day it loses its delicious lustre. I become desensitized to its yumminess.

So… I consciously decide to regularly go for a day or two and sip milky tea or regular coffee instead – both enjoyable in their own right, but not so sumptuous.

When I return once again to a creamy latte, I’m transformed and delighted (Aside: this is why daily sex can be a bad choice too! … just sayin’).

Another example. When I travel, I avoid last minute bookings even though the money savings can be substantial. A healthy dose of the joy in travelling comes in the form of anticipation … the daydreamy visions and expectations that float through my head as I conjure the people, the sights, the scents and tastes costs me nothing and yet adds exponentially to the overall enjoyment of the upcoming journey.

Money is a passport to time. Money gives me the freedom to help others and explore regions of personal passion, like music and nature, running, cooking, and even for this Number’s Guy… investing in the stock market.

6:30 am is one small part of my weird but Happy Money time.

Happy Money.jpg

 

 

F*** What????

2 Comments

FuckedUpedness.jpeg

FuckedUpEdNess!

There, I said it… forgive me but… YAY!!

It’s a word I’ve anxiously saved and hoarded all of last year to make use of, so please excuse my bold application, but at last, its time has come.

And really, using it to describe my own actions (and those of the Man Down South) makes it OK to use, doesn’t it?

I’m writing this week’s post with a slightly rosy hue burning my cheeks (not the ones I’m sitting on!).

I spend a not-inconsiderable amount of time each day, week, and year, examining and studying, then finally purchasing (and selling) tiny amounts of publicly-traded companies in both Canada and the US.

My long-stated goal has been to swing a bat with care and sagacity to bring about an average return of about 15% on my accounts and those I advise on.

Each year (mostly), I happily highlight my investment acumen in the cases where I’ve made some head-swelling choices, and to be fair, grimly excoriate my less well-chosen trades on the markets.

BUT! The big bold F word above tells you which direction my choices have driven this past year… a Thelma and Louise skid off the steep cliffs of investment return. NEGATIVE!

Because I act as a kind of amateur investment advisor to my kids, I’ve already sent them each a letter of (FuckedUpedNess) apology and mea culpa for the bad news I wrought in their accounts that wasn’t so bad until … the final month of the year when the wheels were violently ripped off this market money wagon… CRASH!

To be a little gentle on myself, I know that all North American markets took a big haircut on the year. To be a little less gentle on others, I feel exasperated and irked with the Man Down South.

trump buck.jpg

But blaming others just isn’t healthy. I won’t go down that road. Please please please help me to not go down that road.

I know from lengthy experience that markets aren’t a solid, joyous ride up the rollercoaster…. on occasion, there is an underwear-staining heart-thumping tear down a steep track that we must expect.

OK… brass tacks … what’s all this FuckedUpedNess fuss about?

The bottom line: the return on my investments for 2018 was a sub-standard -1.76%.  My first down year since 2008. By comparison, the S&P 500 (the broad U.S. measure of markets) dropped 4.4% in 2018 and the TSX Composite fell 8.9%.

I hate it when I see my net worth sink even a little. When you invest on a serious level, net worth has a rough correlation with net self-esteem!

OUCH!

A negative result is different now than before.

I’m finding out in a non-fictional way today that negative returns have a real-life impact on a Retiree’s (there’s that nasty “R” word!) world… the regular bi-weekly paycheque has gone AWOL and is no longer a credit to balance the debits! The teeter-totter has lost one of its players.

But I’ve long known that a job is only one source of income. The American IRS suggests the average millionaire has seven sources of income. We should all strive for multiple streams of $, yes?

OK, enough delay… it’s time to pony up and share my results over the short and longer-terms.

I’m definitely no Warren Buffett when it comes to investing – the multi-billions keep slipping from my hands – but I’ve carried out my role in an OK kind-of-way over time, and more importantly, I love the pursuit, the challenge.

So here are my cumulative annualized returns over the past decade (to shrink my head a tiny bit, I’ve added in year 11 as that was the year of the big 2008 slide… a harrowing -37.1% return):

  • 1 year     -1.8%
  • 3 year     +6.1%
  • 5 year     +6.8%
  • 10 year   +19.7%
  • 11 year   +14.5%

Only over the 10 year period have I attained the pinnacle (15%+ returns) that I’ve been climbing towards. Clearly, my goals have outshot my reality. I’m not giving up!

And for this past year, I’m putting my investing acumen and self-accolades in the FUCKEDUPEDNESS column.

Guess I’ve gotta keep working on my swing (maybe I just haven’t reached my 10,000 hours of mastery yet). I hate those years when I strike out.

I don’t want to have to pull out that F word again next year!light sabre bat.jpg

 

Money, Music, and Confidence

Leave a comment

Baby pullup

Certain things come easy in life. Other things hard. Sound familiar?

There are intersections that bring together my areas of interest and passion, encouraging and reinforcing the sensation of confidence.

Money and music are areas of ease and comfort for me… like the sensation of wearing a warm knitted cardigan on my outdoor deck on a mild spring day like today, crayola-yellow sunshine filtering through the wool into my skin, red-winged blackbird trills and chickadee chirps ringing me in a quiet, happy symphony.

Of course to complete this bucolic scene, a waft of fragrant cigar smoke from a Cuban Calixto is the topper. You can close your eyes, feel divine prickling down your spine, and know that there is heaven in the air.

Money and music feed my confidence.

First, Money.

While never in huge supply in my world (do you have enough? is there ever enough?), money has played a part in most of my life choices since I was a wispy little paperboy tossing rolled up Hamilton Spectator newspapers at the front doorsteps of east Hamilton denizens.

larry-spec-carrier-tiff

These early indications of my 10 year-old lad’s interest in investing have coursed through my veins, like a lively Riverdance, over the many years since.

I’m in a serene zone of comfort when I read annual reports and dig through financial statements. Yeah, I know, weird. Numbers’ nerd.

Maybe this is because professional earning capacity has never been one of my overwhelming goals, an arrow in my quiver.

I have complex fears of taking on jobs/careers that pay lofty salaries.

WTH? Well, it’s because an unease swells inside me like a nasty necrotizing fasciitis when Monday-to-Friday vocation impinges on my desire for flexibility and freedom.

I love making a positive contribution to our world, our economy, and the welfare of others, but I’ve always shrunk from becoming a minion to any one area of life, paid or otherwise.

Hence, the ability to have passive streams of income has been my target, the beautiful bullseye in my sights.

Passive income lets me exercise my ADHD “Madly Off In All Directions” bent of chasing diverse pathways, and still afford the occasional chocolate Fruit and Nut bar.

Investments in companies that produce a growing river of dividend payments are wonder drugs that alleviate the nagging anxiety of lack of flexibility or freedom.

Dollars that flow over the riverbanks into my bank account while I sleep are a sweet delicacy to be savoured, even though some days I sigh and wish the flood would speed up just a little bit.

Money Confidence.

Cat band

Next, Music.

Music too (not just listening, but playing too) has been a meandering thread throughout my life… sometimes tenuous and tentative, but always present like a quietly insistent heartbeat in the background.

In my early days, I sat in the basement of my family home while my teenage brother Gord and his pals set up their electric guitars and drumsets and pulsed out “(Sittin’ On The) Dock of the Bay” or “Satisfaction“. My brother’s friend Bill would let me play around on his baby-blue electric guitar when they took short breaks. Nirvana…

Soon, I was taking a few guitar lessons from a neighbourhood “Rocker”-lad with greasy-slicked hair. Next thing I knew, I was front and centre at the Glen Brae Junior High talent show crooning out a cover of the Bee Gees “Gotta Get A Message To You” on my very own electric guitar. I was hooked.

In my teen years, James Taylor, Carole King, Elton John, and John Denver seduced me while I learned acoustic picking, soothing my teenage fears and angst. You’ve Got A Friend was surely a song about my Yamaha guitar.

When you’re down and troubled
And you need some love and care
And nothing, nothing is going right
Close your eyes and think of me
And soon I will be there
To brighten up even your darkest night

Music is a conversation I have with myself, and then I share it with others.

Learning and practicing music takes energy.

The conversation I have within my musical self can be difficult and complex and sometimes energy draining, but then the opposite happens when I share it.

Sharing our music is where energy is produced. I see it over and over again when performers come off the stage. I feel the energy myself. The endorphins are hurricane winds that can take a day or two to subside.

Music Confidence.

Little child girl plays superhero. Child on the background of su

For sure, confidence isn’t a blanket that spreads over all areas of my existence. It’s a patchwork.

Put me in front of a car motor in need of repair or maintenance and watch me shrivel and shrink like plastic wrap in a flame.

Set me in a room with math whizzes or history buffs and watch me stumble and fumble over concepts and intricacies.

Place me in a card game or at a chess board with moderately competent players and know that my lack of skill and aptitude will mark me as the sucker in a flash. 

Give me a basketball and ask me to throw 3-pointers. Watch as I toss airballs and rimshots over and over.

Lacking Confidence.

Confidence is a part of what we call Happiness… confidence feeds my self-esteem, my sense of control and competence.

The knowledge that we have skills and passions… money and music… or tennis and Italian cooking… or bowling and winemaking… or sewing and ultra-marathon running… or genealogy and Irish dancing… offers us the feeling of purpose that helps make our days more luminous, more intense, more meaningful.

Maybe one day… maybe… the making of music will become a minor money-maker for me. Nah, probably not…

… but it doesn’t really matter… because money investment and music ability each feed me in ways that build a stronger inner nucleus of confidence.

confidence sound of music.gif