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

March Madness: Final Four Investing Bracket 2015

basketball on cashWelcome to the fifth year of our March Madness Investing Bracket! This series of articles is always one of the most popular investing articles on the internet! We’re proud to admit that we were one of the first investing nerds to combine our love for the markets with the passion that college basketball brings!

It’s common knowledge that people love excitement and surprises. It’s also human nature to root for the underdog and many times those two themes can certainly play out on the basketball court as well as on the stock market floor. Much like two college basketball teams that never play each other our imaginations are swept up in wondering who will “win” between a relatively unknown investment or a popular stock that has the media in a frenzy.

You may be asking what does a basketball tournament have to do with managing your portfolio or the investment world in general? At first glance there might not be much but we thought we would have a little fun and couple it with some asset allocation parallels. After all, there are many folks who have simply thrown their hands in the air at one time or simply succumbed to the notion that investing is like educated gambling. There could be some truth to that depending on your approach…

For those of you that are not familiar with the NCAA and its annual basketball tournament there are 68 teams selected and each is seeded according to their results throughout the regular season and their relative rankings. Every March the NCAA holds a single elimination tournament to crown an undisputed champion. Part of the appeal of such a tournament is that theoretically any team that makes the “big dance” has a shot at winning it all. Each and every year there is a proverbial “Cinderella” team that surprises everyone including all the ‘so-called’ experts. Prior to the tournament there is always plenty of banter and opinion on who wasn’t invited or further arguments around the seeding of the teams that did make it. That’s where we see a parallel of sorts to investing and having to make decisions among the multitudes of investment choices. With so many investment choices available, there are also as many differing opinions.

In the “real” March Madness tournament this year there appears to be a hands down favorite with the undefeated Kentucky Wildcats. Hardly any office pool or basketball analyst is betting against such a heavily favored team. If they win it all it will be the first time in over 30 years that a team stays unbeaten the whole season. Our own version of this (using investment themes and choices) shares the premise that we have four very decent #1 seeds but there is no slam-dunk pick that everyone agrees on. For this reason, our 2015 bracket is perhaps as important as ever to understand that a dark horse could win it all…

Before we begin digging into each “region” of our bracket, let’s revisit something everyone claims they know but so very few actually follow with consistent discipline. (Asset Allocation)

If you have ever looked at a chart of all the different asset classes and how they perform year to year…there is rarely a pattern or consistent way to determine next years “winner”.

For the purposes our annual investing bracket we have “seeded” or ranked four major asset classes (like the regions) and chosen several individual picks within each. There is some basic science applied to this process. We consider how the “pick” did over the past 12 months and also how it has trended over the past three months. In some cases we gave a lower performing investment a higher seed if it was trending well with recent strength or was more consistent over a longer period of time.

Each asset class (Large Cap, Small Cap & Mid Cap, Bonds/Alternatives, and International) was ranked and seeded, then corresponding seeds were assigned to “picks” that we are either adding to the portfolio or establishing new positions in. Note that we’re not highlighting 68 new investments and will only discuss some investments that we are either actively involved in or looking to add to most portfolios.

OK…Let’s dig into some of the key match-ups and explain why our Final Four going into Q2 2015 looks the way it does (CLICK HERE to view our 2015 Bracket):

Large Cap

This is typically viewed as the ‘efficient’ asset class. 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

Experts and Amateurs are Wrong on REITs

REIT2Dear Mr. Market:

Well look at you! You’ve done it again…. haven’t you, Mr. Market? On countless past occasions you’ve managed to fool not only the average emotionally driven investor but also the seasoned professional. Now you’re doing it again with an area of the market that has fooled everyone; not just this year but for decades!

Investing in real estate may not seem like something you need to do within your standard “stock and bond” portfolio. Some may argue that your house is enough exposure to real estate and for most individuals it’s their largest investment so it should suffice. Your home is actually considered a “consumption good” instead of a pure investment. Although it’s likely to appreciate over time you will not receive income from it, it most likely has a mortgage attached to it, and if you need to sell 10% of it tomorrow you’re out of luck. Additionally there are many areas within real estate aside from what’s happening on your residential street. Commercial real estate, for example, makes up about 13% of the U.S. economy.

In 2013 almost every expert pounded the table and made intelligent sounding comments calling for investors to reduce exposure to REITs. These words of caution came after it was first announced the Fed would slow down its bond-buying program (Quantitative Easing). Conventional wisdom tells us that when interest rates rise REITs (and other asset classes like Bonds) won’t perform well. Unfortunately most of these comments came after the fact and REIT investors were hit hard in May of 2013. Those who listened to the stale news proceeded to sell their REITs as that “wasn’t the place to be”. Continue reading