Permanent Portfolio Review

Dear Mr. Market:

Simple allocation ?

In a year where the stock market has provided zero safe places to hide…you may have changed, the markets certainly have, but one thing has not; the Permanent Portfolio.

We’ve reviewed the Permanent Portfolio before but believe it’s time to check in and provide an update on how it’s doing relative to the broad markets now as well as chime in on whether the strategy still has merit going forward. For some quick background, our first original review was written in June of 2013 (click here to see that). Most recently we revisited the topic with an update in November of 2020 (click here) as we climbed out of one of the wildest years in world history amidst a global pandemic.

If you didn’t hit the embedded article links above, the Permanent Portfolio is pretty simple at face value. The Permanent Portfolio is a seemingly basic portfolio allocation strategy created by investment advisor Harry Browne in the 1980’s and outlined in his book Fail-Safe Investing back in 2001. Here’s the secret (simple) sauce and how each asset class should do during repeatable economic cycles:

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The Stock Market Indicator that you won’t hear about…

Dear Mr. Market:

We’ll open this letter to our friend “Mr. Market” by stating one thing that will be very obvious in six to 12 months. 90% of people reading this article will have gotten it wrong. It’s not your fault though…it’s the way our minds are wired and the content we’re constantly being fed.

Regardless of your current market strategy it’s times like this that will test the most patient of long-term investors. We’ve written about this countless times but no matter what the sage counsel or stock market adage is, you should be rattled right now. We could be like most “perma-bull” financial advisors and try to data mine for all the reasons to stay calm or share positive anecdotes to convince you that now is the time to invest; it won’t matter though. Putting “lipstick on a pig” won’t help you nor the current market environment. Bad news and reasons to panic will be the headline for the weeks to come and there will seemingly be no safe place to hide.

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31 Reasons to Sell Stocks… (or maybe not)

Dear Mr. Market:

Have we started off the year with enough things to worry about? The 2020s have seen more than any horror script one would ever want to draw up. We’ve had an unprecedented global pandemic, a massive stock market crash, and now a war….and we’re just two years in! We’ve constantly reminded people that the stock market always has a boogey man hiding in the darkness. Even in the proverbial “good times” people have a natural tendency to feel as though the party will end at some point. To that point…they’re partly right; the party doesn’t necessarily end but it certainly takes a break before resuming.

Today’s article will be rather short, even though there is much behind it (and of course more to come as this story develops). We often talk about people having short memories but don’t think that the Ukraine and Russia conflict just started last week. Click here if you need to catch up on a conflict that’s been in flux since February of 2014. The point of our “letter to Mr. Market” today, however, is on what to do with your investments.

Much like Baskin-Robbins ice cream and their 31 flavors, we found a chart that you need to take a look at; it may not be as soothing as an ice cream cone but it can do wonders for how to put things into context. Below we’re sharing a chart that really want you to take some time to zoom in and reflect on each incident. How did you feel during each one? Were there any that you completely blew off or thought they were overhyped? Conversely, which one scared you the most into actually selling?

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Jim Cramer and Stock Picking Performance… Booyah?

Dear Mr. Market:

It’s that time of year. Everyone has some stinkers in their portfolio and in a taxable account it’s a great time to evaluate whether one should offset that loss by taking some gains on your winners. If you followed any of Jim Cramer’s advice this past year you have some serious evaluating to do! The aim of this article is not a hit piece of Mr. Cramer but simply a word of caution and a reminder that (1) stock picking is often a futile endeavor and (2) If you are indeed going to follow someone’s picks it’s important to track them prior to blindly buying the next set of recommendations.

We begin by refreshing you on an “oldie but goodie” from the Dear Mr. Market archives. Please click here for some background on Jim Cramer and an article we wrote in 2013.

Below you will see a sample of his picks from the beginning of 2021 and how those picks have fared since. Yikes!

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I got in at the top of the market…Now What?!?

Dear Mr. Market:

It’s over.

The “fat lady is singing”, the alarm bells are ringing, and you are literally the last dunce in the room who decided to get into the market at the all-time high. Now Mr. Market shows you what real pain looks like and sells off like nobody has ever imagined.

Let us preface this article by stating it’s worth bookmarking and revisiting for those times when you may be rethinking your investment time horizon or just how much risk you truly are able to take on.

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Economic Outlook: The voice and face behind Dear Mr. Market

Dear Mr. Market:

We’ve written you hundreds of letters over the past decade and on occasion it’s nice to put a face with the name! Last week, Matt Pixa of My Portfolio Guide, LLC, was given the honor and opportunity to present an Economic Outlook to the Seal Beach Chamber of Commerce.

We share it with you here and look forward to your feedback and questions!

PS- Click here to view the entire presentation but the “meat” of the show starts exactly at the 10 minute mark. Enjoy!

Investing & Diversification: When Less is More

Dear Mr. Market: download

In many of our letters to you we discuss the ups and downs of the stock market. In doing so, we often times will share basic knowledge and investing reminders to our readers to help guide them. Without question, even a rookie investor will have learned the simple advice of diversifying their portfolio. “Do not put all your eggs in one basket!”

While that “advice” is intuitive and seems to make sense, it’s mainly regurgitated by every financial advisor because of one alarming reason. Yes, on one hand it’s with the intent of managing risk but part of the dark reality is because most people (pros included) don’t know what they’re doing. This last sentence may sound harsh but our job is to be candid and also share ideas and truths that you may need to know yet not always hear elsewhere.

If you stop reading this article right now do yourself a favor and at least spend seven minutes when you have more time. The seven minutes we want you to spend are watching the following clip of Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger. Click here to view it and learn their basic belief that most investors over diversify and are simply “protecting themselves from ignorance”. Continue reading

Panic is never a strategy…

Dear Mr. Market:5 years

Today marks the anniversary of the stock market bottom 11 years ago. How ironic is it that on March 9th 2009, when the market and everyone in finance was curled up in a fetal position, we now are witnessing a market drubbing like we haven’t seen in years on that same anniversary date? For those with short-term memory lapses, 11 years ago the Dow Jones went from 14,164 in October of 2007 down to 6,547 on March 9, 2009. The “Financial Crisis” of that period effectively saw a -53.77% decline in the stock market.  What has ensued since then happens to be the longest bull market run in history. Continue reading

Keep Calm and Invest On

Dear Mr. Market:Unknown-4

We always chide you for having such a volatile temper. Your unpredictability is both alluring yet often makes the most intelligent person seem like an imbecile. What’s your next move? Who will you reward in 2020 and who will you punish?

As an investor, it’s always hard when the market is volatile. Do what you must to relax – deep breathing, a nice long walk, maybe yoga. Try to ignore the talking heads on the financial news channels. You’ll get through this. Now is not the time for rash action based on emotion.

What’s that you say? You’re not worried? Hasn’t the market been up nicely for the last year?

Of course it has, and that soothed a lot of the fears stock investors had coming off a rough end to 2018. But it actually has been volatile. It’s just that upside volatility naturally feels a lot better than downside! However, both can lead to bad decision making.

Think about how you feel as an investor today, as compared to a year ago. Odds are that last year you were questioning having too much stock exposure, and now you may be wishing you had more. Both extremes can be dangerous. Imagine you gave into your fear during the late 2018 correction, and lightened up on stocks “just to wait for more clarity,” or something along those lines. The S&P 500 zoomed out of the gates in early 2019 and was up over 20% by the end of July! Then it finished up better than 30% for the full year. Giving in to fear and waiting for clarity would have kept you from participating in that upside.

Now imagine you were a disciplined investor, following an asset allocation plan for the long-run. Say your target is 70% stocks / 30% bonds, and you (or your advisor) rebalance toward that allocation at set intervals or deviations. After December 2018, you (or your advisor) would have taken money from bonds and added to stocks, since the 70/30 balance would have been out of whack. Yes, you would have added to stocks during a period of high uncertainty! In hindsight it would have looked like a great timing move, but in reality it would have been simple discipline.

Unknown-6That brings us to today. The market has been up and worries seem low. Likely your stock allocation has gotten out of whack again, but this time to the upside. What is the prudent investor to do? Again, ignore emotion and follow your plan. If this means selling stocks to rebalance, so be it. Maybe your gut says, “let the winners keep running.” You could do that, but ask yourself how good your gut has been at timing the market in the past.

From an investor psychology standpoint, staying disciplined when things feel comfortable can be a good exercise for when the market inevitably goes a little haywire. Warren Buffett is credited with saying, “Be greedy when others are fearful, and fearful when others are greedy.” Good advice…but if you focus more on discipline than market timing, your decision-making will not be driven by either extreme.

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Where is the Recession?

Dear Mr. Market:Recession

Chalk it up to the “dog days of summer” but we haven’t written a letter to you in a while. Perhaps this is in part to the wild ride you’ve sent investors on since the whipsaw action and insane volatility we saw this past December. For those of us with short-term memory issues, the year ended in brutal fashion with the worst December in 80 years. If you sold out of your investments, threw in the towel and fell prey to your emotions, you then missed the best January the stock market has seen in 80 years. 

If you still haven’t paid much attention then perhaps the opening of this past week also hasn’t phased you…or should it?! Continue reading