20 Dec 2021

Alternatives are Tough

I wrote a lot about inflation in 2021 for pretty obvious reasons. I also wrote that bonds are difficult investments to own right now because the expected inflation rate over the coming decade is more than the current interest rates. After receiving a lot of inquiries about bond alternatives like REITs, utilities, and the like, I wrote an article shooting down those too. This article is a variant on that… Read More

15 Nov 2021

Inflation Runs Hot

This past Wednesday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released the Consumer Price Index (CPI) data for October, which showed inflation on consumer goods growing at a rate not seen in thirty years. This concerning trend is illustrated in the chart below. The orange line tracks the annual growth rate of the CPI since the 1960’s. This line includes all prices and categories. The white line tracks the same index, but… Read More

1 Nov 2021

The Trouble with Tesla

Over the years, I’ve missed some wonderful returns on stocks that I thought were too expensive. I was an Amazon customer starting in 1999 (you can find your ENTIRE purchase history on the site), two years after they went public. I might have missed ‘the ground floor,’ but I was worried about their valuation. Tesla is another company. I know several people who bought them when they came out, and… Read More

27 Sep 2021

Is China’s Evergrande Our Lehman Brothers?

The big selloff last week centered around a massive Chinese real estate developer, Evergrande, which is almost certainly insolvent. Although not many folks around here (including me) had ever heard of Evergrande, the company is the second-largest developer in China and ranks 122nd on Fortune’s Global 500. According to Wikipedia, in 2020, Evergrande reported revenues of $78.4 billion and profits of $1.25 billion, which is a fairly slim profit margin… Read More

14 Jun 2021

Drawdowns in Retirement, Part Deux

Last week’s Insight about the risks associated with so-called bond alternatives with higher yields prompted a lot of feedback, which I always appreciate. Here’s the article in case you missed it. One curious reader asked a great question: what if we allocated some of the bond money to a few of these higher-yielding options? That was enough to send me down the rabbit hole, looking at all kinds of higher-yielding… Read More

7 Jun 2021

Drawdowns in Retirement

This past week, I was meeting with a client and the discussion turned to the low yield bond environment. The client has a pretty common question – isn’t there something that yields more? The answer is yes, there are a lot of things that yield more than the investment-grade bond market. We could buy junk bonds, emerging markets bonds, or other questionable issuers. These kinds of bonds aren’t inherently bad,… Read More

24 May 2021

Betting Big on the Future

Some of the hottest exchange-traded funds (ETFs) over the past few years come from the ARK family of funds, founded and run by famed investor Cathy Woods. The ARK funds are a series of theme-based ETFs that seek to find the early companies in a variety of emerging fields including robotics, space exploration, genomics, fintech, and 3D printing, among others. I can’t say that I’m very familiar with the ARK… Read More

10 May 2021

Our Yale Education; Remembering David Swenson

David Swenson, the pioneering manager for the Yale Endowment passed away last week, after a long battle with cancer. Swenson is among the few investors that will receive an obituary, along with other legendary investors like Warren Buffet, Peter Lynch, Bill Gross, and George Soros (Soros is complicated because he’s one of the most incredible investors of all time, but is mostly known for his political views and activities, which… Read More

26 Apr 2021

Derivatives in Your Portfolio

Last week, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) ran a gripping article about a mutual fund that blew up due to problems with derivatives in the fund’s portfolio. You can read the whole article by clicking here, but let me start by sparing you of wondering whether you have it: not with us; our portfolio management software doesn’t even recognize the ticker. The thrust of the story is that the fund,… Read More

15 Apr 2020

Junk Bonds in Today’s Market

Yesterday, I discussed corporate bonds, and how their yield tells us something about investor risk appetite.  You can read the article here. The same thing applies to non-investment grade bonds, which are also called ‘high yield,’ or less pleasantly, ‘junk bonds.’ The first chart below is exactly like the first chart in yesterday’s article, but also includes the yield on junk bonds (in yellow) in addition to Treasury bonds (in blue)… Read More