Mr. Market Meets his Match! Introducing the Columbus Adaptive Asset Allocation Strategy

Dear Mr. Market:th-9

Guess what? You win. Yes…Mr. Market, you win! It won’t take another bear market or adding further gains to recent stock market highs for you to prove to us that no matter what the environment is you are going to make fools out of many brilliant people.

The beauty of your victory (at least for you) is that there will always be a market and a debate to engage in. The age old argument of “Active versus Passive” will rage on indefinitely.

Active Money Management (hands on approach with the goal of beating markets and taking advantage of short-term price fluctuations)

In one corner we have the ‘crystal ball crowd’ that thinks they can outsmart you and time the stock market. “Buy low and sell high”, right? If only it were that simple and if only someone could get it done successfully more than once. Mr. Market has us human beings in the palm of his hand because he knows we all have one thing in common; we’re emotional creatures! Some of you will read or hear news and act on it. Worse yet…you’ll rely on your gut instincts or a “hunch” because after all you were right once before. You are Mr. Market’s perfect candidate…Take another sip of false confidence and brace yourself for his eventual knockout punch which you won’t even see coming.

Passive Money Management (hands off approach with a goal of matching markets by using index funds/ETFs and not reacting to every market move)

On the other side of the room is the buy and hold crowd (or sometimes the ‘buy and forget’ group as we like to call them). Sure…on one hand a true investor should indeed be patient and allow an investment to pan out over time. Some clever sayings come to mind such as “It’s about ‘time in the market’ not ‘timing’ the market.” While we lean towards this overall investment philosophy there are times when it can go drastically wrong. If you have a lump sum or healthy chunk of cash right now and we’re at all-time stock market highs, do you just dump it all in right now?

So this leaves us to ask what the ultimate answer is to the question: Which is best…Active or Passive money management?

The foundation for any well performing portfolio is its asset allocation. We’ve written extensively about this before but over 90% of a portfolio’s performance is determined by how it’s allocated. Another way of looking at this is that you could pick poor individual investments (stocks or funds) but be in the right areas (asset classes) and do just fine. Like all things in life there needs to be a balance between discipline and the ability to adapt to changing environments in order to truly be successful. We believe we have found this with an Adaptive Asset Allocation Strategy.

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Over the past year My Portfolio Guide has been working with Dimensional Research and its development of the Columbus Adaptive Asset Allocation Strategy. We are proud to announce a formal engagement with them and in doing so will be exclusively offering the Columbus strategy to our clients as part of our investment platform.

The Columbus Adaptive Asset Allocation Strategy is a quantitative methodology that is designed to adapt to the markets as they constantly change. While it’s suited for clients seeking equity like returns, one of the primary goals of this strategy is to minimize drawdowns during rough markets. It’s ideally positioned for portfolios over $100,000.

What’s under the hood of the Columbus Strategy? 

First and foremost, as big fans of ETFs we wanted a strategy that would be able to use widely recognized ETFs that were liquid and also in most cases commission free under our Institutional arrangement with TD Ameritrade. The strategy consists of a universe of 15 ETFs representing major asset classes. It rebalances once per month and can invest in up to eight ETFs depending on what the algorithm is positioning the strategy for relative to the market environment. Click this link  Columbus Strategy Overview to learn about which specific ETFs it uses as well as some unique aspects to how we have set maximum exposure limits on each asset class.

It is possible for the entire portfolio to take an extremely defensive posture and only be in one asset class (cash). The strategy dynamically adjusts and rates each ETF on volatility, momentum, and the overall correlation of returns to the portfolio. We’ve long said that it’s easy to buy investments but very few people are adept at selling them. The proprietary algorithm in this strategy is primarily designed to reduce the risk of huge drawdowns while still trying to capture market upside when appropriate. The main goal is to achieve the most optimal risk-adjusted return.

Behind the Numbers: (Performance and most recent Monthly Rebalance)

Speaking of returns…just how well has the Columbus Strategy performed? Not only is performance where the “rubber meets the road” but the summary below gives you a concise snapshot of how we’re positioned in September. (click link below to view)

Columbus Adaptive Asset Allocation Strategy – September 2017

We plan to report performance each month but in order to be fair to our loyal clients in the strategy…regular readers will see the rebalance on a one month delay. (we can’t give away the “secret sauce”!) If you’re interested in receiving the reports when they’re first published or want us to manage one of your portfolios using the Columbus Strategy contact us via phone at (888) 474-8433 or email your inquiry to info@myportfolioguide.com.

Obviously the Columbus Strategy boasts some impressive returns. Back testing the strategy to May of 1998 you’ll note it returned +10.51% annualized returns versus the S&P 500 at +9.37%. Comparing it to a more diversified benchmark we have chosen to track it relative to the GMO Global Asset Allocation Fund (GMWAX) which over this same time period returned +3.92%. The main reason this strategy has grabbed our attention is not just for beating the markets long-term…but rather on how well it played defense during turbulent times. The Columbus Strategy had drawdowns under -10% relative to the Global benchmark at -31.87% and the S&P 500 at -51.49%!

What about during REALLY bad markets?! (Dot-Com Crash and the Financial Crisis)

Side stepping one or two rough stock market patches usually is at the core of hot marketing strategies. A real strategy is one that can exhibit repeatable characteristics in all sorts of different crises and especially so during ones that were brutal. Perhaps there are no two better examples than the Dot-Com Crash and the Great Recession/Financial Crisis of 2008. Columbus_Historical_Events_Analysis on how the Columbus Strategy did during those historical events. It’s remarkable how the portfolio shifted to less volatile asset classes such as cash/money markets and Fixed Income (bonds/treasuries etc). For a more detailed look and an overlay versus the S&P 500, specifically look at pages 3 and 4 in the above link. Lastly, we’ve also had this strategy back-tested* for other unique events such as the stock market crash of 1987. Contact us for details if you’re curious about a specific time period or market event.

*Keep in mind that for some older back tests the strategy had to use proxies for the ETFs since many did not exist at that time. For your reference click this link to see a list of those proxy funds Columbus Proxy Mutual Funds Universe .

In summation, we’re extremely proud and excited to offer this dynamic investment strategy! Our next report on the Columbus Adaptive Asset Allocation Strategy will be an update at the end of the month. You’ll see a report tracking how a $1 million portfolio is performing using this exact strategy. Again, seeing actual trades and real-time rebalancing will be reserved for our clients but feel free to inquire for more details or get set up to have your account managed professionally. Obviously not every investor is a match for this type of portfolio management but we would bet that it likely beats what you or your current financial advisor are offering you now!

Have a great remainder of the month and see you next time!

Managed Futures: 5 Questions to Understand

Dear Mr. Market:

What’s your plan for when the stock market goes down? Is this plan the same for when bonds go down? Over the last several years of this bull market we have gradually prepared for this inevitable event by establishing a strategy in advance as opposed to one that is reactionary or emotional.

After reading this article we ask that you do something different the next time the sky is falling. Tell yourself that before the next market crash you won’t have fear, panic, or emotions guide your strategy but rather follow an intelligent plan.

One way to hedge your portfolio against serious drawdowns is by using alternative investments such as Managed Futures. The following five questions are from an interview by US News with Cliff Stanton, CFA and Co-Chief Investment Officer at 361 Capital:

What are the potential benefits of investing in futures?Cliff_final

The primary benefits that managed futures strategies offer are: Continue reading

Westcore Fixed Income & Bond Market Interview

Dear Mr. Market:

th-3We certainly spend a lot of time writing to you about the stock market and all the twists and turns it brings investors. Today, we have the pleasure of mixing things up a bit as we dive into something far larger and more intricate than the stock market; we’re going to talk about the bond market!

On a recent trip out to Denver, CO My Portfolio Guide had the opportunity to meet with Troy Johnson, CFA and Director of Fixed Income Research at Denver Investments. We were able to ask him and his team several questions about the bond market and how they’re navigating it in these interesting times.

My Portfolio Guide: First and foremost, thank you very much for making yourself and your team available. As you know, we own positions in the Westcore Plus Bond Fund as well as the Westcore Municipal Opportunities Fund. We understand your team was awarded a Lipper Award. Without necessarily giving us a pitch on your firm, could you briefly expand on the recent accolades?

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Westcore: The Westcore Fixed Income funds won the Lipper Fund Award for best fixed income small fund group for the three-year period ending November 30, 2016, placing first out of 74 eligible fund families. The award was granted based on Lipper’s measurement of risk- adjusted returns across our multiple fixed income fund offerings. We believe that winning the award affirms the soundness of our approach across multiple strategies as well as the hard work and talent within our fixed income team.

My Portfolio Guide: Excellent, and congratulations on the awards and success. Related to this, could you share your opinion on what makes your firm or approach different than some of the larger bond shops?

Westcore: We utilize an investment approach that emphasizes income and security selection rather than a focus on trading. This generally results in a heavier weighting towards credit oriented issues that offer enhanced income. We recognize rigorous fundamental research is a necessary component of such an emphasis and differentiate ourselves within that process in the following manner: Continue reading

REITs: How to Potentially Increase Portfolio Returns without more Risk

Dear Mr. Market

th-1Raise your hand if you would like the opportunity to increase the returns in your
portfolio without taking on more risk? There is indeed a way to help accomplish this and it’s not just by balancing between the two major asset classes of stocks and bonds; take a look at the third largest asset class there is: REITs (Real Estate Investment Trusts)

Most investors have little to zero exposure to REITs and they may be surprised to learn how important they can be to a healthy portfolio. This article will give you a better understanding of why adding REITs into your portfolio could improve your diversification, dividends, and ultimately your portfolio performance.

What are REITs and why use them? Continue reading

MPG Core Tactical 60/40: July 2015 Performance Update

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Dear Mr. Market:

Yes…the stock market is down. Your portfolio is down. There is no way it is not down. We just said the word “down” three times in a row. Get it? Everything is down.

If you have a decently designed and intelligently constructed portfolio you are actually DOWN more than than the overall stock market! What does that mean? Most people look at the Dow Jones as their benchmark. That’s what the media tells you every night as to what’s happened. The media reports on the Dow Jones as though it’s an accurate index to let you know how the stock market is doing. Nope….As you become a more savvy investor you will learn that that the Dow Jones is just an antiquated index that means nothing. Yep….we said that! The Dow Jones means zilch!

Make no mistake about it. This is one of the strangest and least predictable markets ever…

If, however, we were to tell you the Dow Jones was about to get blasted and go down to 6,000 (currently at 17,500) it would be easy to lead you down that road. There are plenty of reasons why the market will get hurt more. Ironically enough…we could paint just as equally convincing a story of how the Dow will go to 20,000! That’s where we’re at right now. When you can find two opinions so extreme regarding the end results, yet each has its merits, you’re in a very precarious market environment.

Continue reading

Don’t Neglect Bond Basics

 

Seesaw1Dear Mr. Market:

The equity markets typically dominate the headlines but recently there has been more and more talk about the Fed and where interest rates are going. Stocks are definitely a more intriguing topic as they can move very quickly in either direction and make a dramatic impact on investor’s portfolios. Future Fed activity will have an impact on what is often the most neglected portion of a portfolio – Fixed Income or Bonds.

Most investors spend a minimal amount of time with this portion of their asset allocation. It is often the textbook definition of a ‘buy and hold’ approach and why shouldn’t it be? For the last several years investors have accepted the fact that interest rates are essentially zero and this portion of their portfolio warrants little to no attention. While this approach has been adequate investors that subscribe to this approach could find themselves with losses in what they consider their ‘sleep at night’ portion of the portfolio. When and if the Fed makes any changes to their policy investors need to be prepared to make changes to this portion of their investment portfolio.

When rates do change the behavior of bonds can be explained using something that everyone has seen on a children’s playground…a seesaw or teeter-totter. It is based on a very basic concept – when one side goes up the other will go down. When using this analogy with Fixed Income, one side would have interest rates and the other would have the principal value of the bond or fund. As rates go down the principal would go up and if rates go up the principal would decline. Fairly straightforward…isn’t it? Additionally, the further away you are from the middle of the seesaw (fulcrum point) the harder your landing will be. This playground explanation paints a simplistic explanation of how the price of bonds is affected by interest rate changes but what should you focus on when it comes to your fixed income positions? Continue reading

MPG Core Tactical 60/40: October 2014 Performance Update


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Dear Mr. Market:

When it comes to flipping over a new page of your calendar we know you could care less what month it is! You, (the market) have no idea (or interest) whether it’s November or March. Unfortunately, we are all inclined to pay attention to the calendar because those that run our 24 hour media/news cycle get paid to make such an imprint on our brains.

October is a bad month for the stock market, right?

Wrong!

Again, we’re trained to think so. Sure, October has had some dates to remember… The month is famous for some market crashes like the “The Panic of 1907”, “Black Tuesday” (which kicked off the 1929 crash), and “Black Monday”, October 19, 1987, when the Dow Jones dropped 22% in just one day.

Ironically enough, most bad Octobers have been due to issues that came from September. Two of the three above listed crashes were delayed reactions from catalysts that kicked off in September; which historically actually brings more down markets than does October.

All that being said, we had a wild October with some long lost volatility! After the S&P 500 peaked on September 18th, it was all downhill from there until October 15th. The last two weeks of the month were the strongest since July of 2009. For those with short-term memories, that was right after the sky had fallen and nobody trusted any “bear market rallies”.

This time “it’s different” in that we haven’t seen a meaningful correction in years. The S&P 500 bounced back 7% in two weeks and in case you’re wondering…we’re once again bumping up against “overbought” conditions. This is the type of market that can absolutely make you insane. (more on this thought later…

Here’s the current summary of the MPG Core Tactical 60/40 portfolio mix, which is updated as of this writing (November 3, 2014).

Click here to compare our portfolio against the benchmark.

What adjustments did we make? Continue reading