Archive for May 13th, 2010

Post-Squid Investing Attitude Shift

Thursday, May 13th, 2010

I’ve done my share of speculative trading, but lately I’m no longer interested in dancing with the squid. At the moment I’m focused on my bond portfolio, and I’m trying to figure out how to be a *lender*, the old fashioned way, not a “bond trader”. I’d like to buy, hold to maturity, and sleep soundly at night without having to worry if a greater fool will turn up tomorrow to relieve me of my “paper” (now there’s a nice squid doublespeak term – a bond is a loan, a debt, an obligation which forces people to toil who otherwise might not – not just “paper”).

Looking at stocks, I was enamored for a while with the “Dividend Achievers” approach, e.g. the VIG or VDAIX fund. But the underlying “Dividend Achievers” index lost about 1/3 of its components in 2008-2009… Looks like dividend achievement is a bit unstable. Also, much of that dividend achievement is done with borrowing/leverage and may not be sustainable. And there are whole market sectors that need to experience destructive re-creation. I’m tempted to look more at low-debt, smaller companies (which respect their shareholders enough to pay at least some kind of dividend), with prospects for growth.

More philosophically: I don’t want to “own” something that “owes”. In my stock portfolio, I want to own things that produce, without being burdened by the high fixed costs of debt service… In my lending portfolio (bonds and bank accounts), I want to be owed, by those who don’t need my money, who I’m confident will pay me back, because they will amortize the debt and won’t need to roll the debt over. I want to be helping others do productive things and growing their way out of debt … not trapping them in it….

Lending needs to become more constructive, not predatory. And that means not giving the debt addicts another round, even when they ask for it.

And the ownership of stocks needs to be about rebuilding the real, physical, tangible, doing-cool-things economy, not speculative paper-shuffling.

Squid-Free Investing (small victories)

Thursday, May 13th, 2010

I’ve made some major progress this week in freeing myself from the squid-infested segments of the financial system.

The IRA is moving from Wells Fargo to Vanguard. My only remaining exposure to the huge TBTF banks is a small checking account at Bank of America and another account at Wells Fargo (used to pay our mortgage there). Total with the squid corps. is now just 2% of liquid assets. I can live with that.

Vanguard won my business by lowering their brokerage commission rates. We’ve had taxable accounts with them for 10 years, and love not being preyed upon.

Now I’m looking to reallocate 30-50% of my portfolio, which had been in a muni bond fund and some selected stocks. The muni bond market is suffering from too many credit-dependent entities in dire danger of a “Greece fire” should the bond market seize up again… which it may very well do, at least for those who are credit-dependent. I decided to focus my LENDING (not “bond buying” – more squid doublespeak there) more tightly on those who can amortize their debt instead of rolling it over…

On the minus side: For the next leg of my lending portfolio, I have set up a brokerage account with Fidelity since they offer the best commission rates on bonds (and at reasonable prices/yields). I’m still trying to find the catch behind their setup… one thing I’ve noticed is that their email “New Issue Offering” alerts are almost exclusively selling either squid bank CDs or squid corporate bonds (large financials). Where are the bond issues from healthy industrial and consumer corporations? Not a good sign!