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The “Last Post”


The “Last Post” is a bugle call played in the British Army to mark the end of the day’s labours at the close of a day of battle.

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Dear Reader,

This is my last blog post. For a while at least. And for a ‘couple reasons.

First, I think some (not all) blogs have a life-span – a best-before date. Since 2007 I’ve posted about 200 blog posts and published nearly 30 articles. Maybe I’ve said what I have to say. And frankly I’m running out of ways to say the same things. So unless or until I find a new or better way to say what I’ve already said or have something different to say, it’s time to take a step back.

Second, I’ve taken on new career responsibilities. I now work for Her Majesty’s Government. Moving from the private sector to the public sector means different standards regarding social media policy. I’d rather not make a claim here that differs from house views or say something here that has potential to be misconstrued.

PIAC

Having said that, I intend to update the Pension Investment Association of Canada (PIAC) composite asset mix. It’s the thesis for this blog. If an Individual Investor doesn’t have a personal investments plan, then they can piggy-back off of the work that Institutional Investors do by mimicking the composite asset mix of PIAC members. If an Individual Investors portfolio asset allocation is significantly different from the PIAC mix, then a good question to ask oneself would be … Why?

I also intend to update this blog’s Tools and will add Planning Tools. (Meanwhile see here).

A Few Recommendations

Subscribe to Dan Bortolotti’s blog Canadian Couch Potato. Take a close look at the model portfolios.

The Globe and Mail’s John Heinzl has written extensively on the tax advantages of the Canadian Dividend Tax Credit (DTC). The significance of the DTC’s tax advantage should not be overlooked.

Use Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs). Mutual funds did a great job in their time but they are yesterday’s news. ETFs are a better way. With a hand full of ETFs the Individual Investor can build a diversified portfolio across asset classes, regions and currencies. (Again, see the Model portfolios above).

Do you know your returns? Use this tool to calculate them. Gauge your performance with Historical Annual Return Data.

Do you have a plan? Planning is easier than you think. See here and here. Some planning tools are available here and here. Once you develop overall Financial Plan then use the CFA Institute Investment Policy as a guide to the planning and implementation of your investment program and as an objective barometer during market disruption that can help avoid knee-jerk trading.

Do you know your asset allocation? If you do nothing else, get your asset allocation right. Approximately. At least in the ball-park. As a start, mimic PIAC’s asset allocation. It is widely accepted that asset mix is the major contributor to both portfolio return and risk. Asset mix gets the Individual Investor in the ballpark. It’s really tough to screw up from there.

Do you Dollar-cost-average? It’s forced savings and it turns market volatility into an advantage.

Do you Re-invest income and dividends? Make math and time work for you. Compounding is King.

Do you Re-balance? Make volatility work for you. Buy low and sell high before regression to the mean.

Do you Embrace Market volatility?

Everything moves relative to Treasury rates – Scott Richard, Wharton practice professor of finance.

Surely after declining for 32 years, interest rates are headed higher. Even the suspicion of higher rates is causing volatility. Expect it. Plan for it. Embrace it. But recall the words of Douglas Coupland in The Gum Thief … “If you don’t have a spiritual practice in place when times are good, you can’t expect to suddenly develop one during a moment of crisis.” Similiarly, you can’t expect to build or adjust an investment game plan during a time of market volatility (You can’t buy fire insurance during the fire). It simply won’t work.

During market disruption is the time for implementation.

When opportunity presents itself, the Individual Investor must be prepared. See here and here. It works. We won’t know how well it works for some time (years) but buying on sale seems to work for Charlie Munger – I think it will work for you and I too.

So, build a plan. Know what you want to buy (in my case, I built an ETF wish list), determine the price you are willing to pay (like after a 10% correction, say), keep cash or short-term bonds (dry powder) available and then … then you wait. The waiting part can take months, maybe years. (The folks at GMO are willing to wait years). Place a price alert with your discount broker so you don’t have to watch the market daily. When the market comes to your target, your discount broker notifies you and you pull the trigger.

“Then you live with it.” – Clint Eastwood as The Stranger – High Plains Drifter.

Thanks for your support these many years.

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Doug Cronk CFA PRM is a Pension Investment & Risk Management Officer

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16 Comments Post a comment
  1. Have been away for a while, but your blog was the most rational and pertinent for me. Many thanks for sharing your expertise.
    Theo.

    Like

    February 2, 2015
    • Hey that’s great feedback. I’m happy you can make use of the concept. I’ll add to the tools over time and update the PIAC asset mix annually.

      Like

      February 3, 2015
  2. Thank you for your posts over the years. Presenting the PIAC composite asset allocation has really influenced my own approach to allocation, along with the way you teased it apart and suggested ETFs that would help us adapt it for our own purposes. You have performed a great service to the investing public. Russ Sawatsky

    Like

    December 17, 2014
    • High praise indeed. Much appreciated.
      It’s surprising (to me) how close my own personal portfolio is to the PIAC composite.
      Thanks for your support.

      Like

      December 17, 2014
  3. anthony monaghan #

    Thanks Doug for your for your teaching and wisdom over the last few turbulent years. Your advice to your readers has been invaluable. Anthony

    Like

    December 16, 2014
    • Thanks.
      My hope is that some lessons work for some investors because I think we can all expect more turbulence. It’s all about interest rates.
      Good luck.

      Like

      December 17, 2014
  4. Gordon Ross #

    Thank you for your perspective and experience, Doug.

    Jason Zweig of the Wall Street Journal once defined his job as “to write the exact same thing between 50 and 100 times a year in such a way that neither my editors nor my readers will ever think I am repeating myself. That’s because good advice rarely changes, while markets change constantly.”

    If you just edit and update this post a few times a year to remind us, we will all be very happy.

    Gordon Ross, CFA

    Like

    December 16, 2014
    • Ha.
      I was this close to quoting Jason Zweig.(Even tho’ he’s never once quoted me …)
      Will keep the blog active. Will update PIAC composite asset allocation. Will update Tools and Planning resources.
      Thanks for your ideas and support.

      Like

      December 16, 2014
      • Gordon Ross, CFA #

        You think well and know the truth.

        Like

        December 16, 2014
  5. Juan Refrito #

    Thanks for all your posts, Doug. I’ve learned a lot from your rationale and approach. Cheers.

    Like

    December 16, 2014
    • Now that’s awesome feedback. Thanks for visiting.

      Like

      December 16, 2014
      • Juan Refrito #

        Just curious: Will you be leaving the blog active, as an online archive of sorts, or shutting it down?

        Like

        December 16, 2014
      • Will keep the blog active. Will update PIAC composite asset allocation. Will update Tools and Planning resources.
        Thanks for visiting.

        Like

        December 16, 2014
  6. eric.burkle@shaw.ca #

    Many thanks, Doug Cronk, you have been a great help. EB

    Like

    December 16, 2014
  7. Dixie #

    So be it ! Enjoy the rest . Congrats on career change !
    Dixie

    Like

    December 16, 2014

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