Connect with us

Company

The one instance when you should ignore Warren Buffett

Published

on


A reader recently wrote to challenge my belief in diversification, citing a couple of accomplished investors who said, in effect, that anybody who diversifies an investment portfolio must be an idiot or a moron.

The statements came from billionaire entrepreneur and television personality Mark Cuban and from Charlie Munger, vice chairman of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway
BRK.A,
-0.66%

 
BRK.B,
-0.20%
.

If they are right, then I’ll plead guilty, because I’m a firm believer in diversification — both for myself and for almost all the investors I’ve helped over the past half-century as an adviser and educator.

Diversification is one of the most important steps every investor should take. Tons of evidence is on my side — and I’ll share some of it with you.

Warren Buffett is chairman and chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway and is probably this century’s most widely admired investor. He provides investors with what I think is a mixed message about diversification.

On the one hand, he runs a multinational conglomerate holding company that owns a portfolio of interests in media, real estate, transportation, food, insurance, housing, clothing, retail, aerospace, banking, utilities, restaurants and technology — among other things.

That list does not make a strong case against diversification.

On the other hand, Buffett has been quoted repeatedly over the years as putting down the concept of diversification.

For example: “Diversification is a protection against ignorance. It makes very little sense for those who know what they’re doing.” Instead, Buffett recommends index funds for most investors, especially ones that follow the S&P 500 index
SPX,
-0.36%
.

I’ll return shortly to the notion of “those who know what they’re doing.”

But first, let’s look at Berkshire Hathaway: Since 1965, the company’s stock has compounded at more than 20%, and that’s the story most investors know.

However, that history goes back 56 years. Let’s look at some more recent results.

At Morningstar, I found the following comparisons, which use the Vanguard 500 Index Fund
VFINX,
+0.58%

as a proxy for the S&P 500, as of Dec. 14, 2020:

Most recent five years: S&P 500 15.3%; Berkshire Hathaway 11.7%.

Most recent 10 years: S&P 500 13.8%; Berkshire Hathaway 10.9%.

Most recent 15 years: S&P 500 9.5%; Berkshire Hathaway 9.3%.

Berkshire Hathaway certainly has diversification, with full ownership or stakes in about 50 companies. Those stakes were carefully chosen by Buffett.

But the company’s returns in the recent past have failed to match those of the S&P 500, which includes 10 times that many companies, including plenty of dogs.

One thing I know is that even a 0.5 percentage point increase in return can easily be worth $1 million to an investor over a lifetime.

In the past five years, Berkshire Hathaway lagged the S&P 500 by more than seven times that much. In the most recent 10 years, the difference was nearly six times that much.

In these comparisons, more diversification (500 companies) had a higher payoff than less diversification (50 companies).

There’s a second element here, one that can also be worth $1 million or more over an investing lifetime: Active management vs. passive management, as in index funds.

Millions of investors are drawn to the lure of active managers who seem to have “something special.”

Recall Warren Buffett’s statement that diversification “makes very little sense for those who know what they’re doing.”

Confident that he knows what he is doing, Buffett does not practice full diversification. But over the past 15 years, his knowledge did not produce superior returns.

I used to give regular talks to high-school students, and my talk included this question: Would you rather invest like a millionaire, or like a poor person? These young people were all smart enough to want to emulate millionaires.

Poor people, I told them, typically invest in a few stocks, while millionaires invest in thousands of stocks.

Today any investor can own parts of hundreds or thousands of companies through low-cost index funds and exchange-traded funds.

Just for fun, think back 15 years ago, to the last weeks of 2005. Imagine somebody had suggested that Berkshire Hathaway should replace everything it owned with one simple investment: an index fund tracking the S&P 500 index.

Most people would have scoffed at such a ridiculous idea, and the majority of Berkshire Hathaway shareholders probably would have sold their stock and taken their money elsewhere.

When it comes to active managers, Buffett is as good as they come. But the natural optimism of human nature tricks our brains into thinking we know more than we actually do. I don’t think Warren Buffett is immune to that.

As an investor and a teacher, my job is to harness the probabilities of success.

Nearly a century of investment returns tells me that a diversified portfolio of stocks and asset classes is much more likely to pay off than a portfolio that relies on a much smaller number of stocks chosen by managers who, in Buffett’s words, “know what they are doing.”

So today we have two lessons in one: First, diversify. Second, use passive management instead of active management.

Index funds relieve investors like us from the burden of “knowing what we’re doing.” Index funds let us do well — in fact they almost guarantee it — despite our ignorance.

Here are the very worst 40-year compound returns in several U.S. asset classes over the past 92 calendar years, from 1928 through 2019:

• Large-cap blend stocks (the S&P 500, in other words) 8.9%

• Large-cap value stocks 8.8%

• Small-cap blend stocks 10.7%

• Small-cap value stocks 11.6%.

To repeat: Those are the worst long-term returns.

Each of those asset classes is accessible to today’s investors in low-cost index funds and ETFs.

Buffett seems to believe that “knowing what you’re doing” involves picking stocks and businesses.

My own definition of “knowing what you’re doing” includes diversification, using passive management, and understanding asset classes such as the four I just listed.

For any investor with several decades left, a terrific portfolio can be built with equal parts of ETFs or index funds representing those four asset classes. That’s simple and inexpensive. And history suggests it carries a high probability of success.

To my mind, that’s the opposite of what a moron would do.

Richard Buck contributed to this article.

Paul Merriman and Richard Buck are the authors of We’re Talking Millions! 12 Simple Ways To Supercharge Your Retirement.



Source link

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Company

Is it ethical for cruise lines, venues, schools or Broadway to restrict entry to people not vaccinated against COVID-19?

Published

on

By


It has begun.

Travel and entertainment could be limited for those who choose not to get vaccinated. Venues are left with a moral quandary: Should they refuse patrons? Some colleges have already introduced a mandatory vaccine policy for in-person classes, and public schools are closely watching their states’ lawmakers to see if similar policies will be introduced there. Is that fair?

Although airlines are not requiring passengers get vaccinated, many countries are asking travelers for proof of vaccination for entry. But there have been tests. This week, the first fully vaccinated flight took passengers from Florida to New York to reunite families. Those on board said they wanted to do everything within their power to reduce their risk of exposure.

Restaurant workers in New York are required to get a vaccine: A former employee at the Red Hook Tavern in Brooklyn, N.Y., was fired for refusing to get vaccinated. But the people who eat in restaurants do not require a vaccine. Vaccinated workers are protecting themselves and the patrons, but who are unvaccinated patrons protecting?


‘Restaurant workers in New York must get a vaccine. But the people who eat there are not. Who is protecting whom?’

Celebrity Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Royal Caribbean
RCL,
-3.16%

and other lines all require adult passengers to be vaccinated before boarding. In fact, investors reacted positively to Norwegian Cruise Line’s
NCLH,
-1.04%

 move to require vaccinations for passengers last month.

In the fall, private and public schools will also ask whether children aged 12 to 15 should be vaccinated. Public schools will follow state guidance; all 50 states have some kind of vaccine mandate, although no U.S. state has yet made the coronavirus vaccination mandatory; only 44 states and Washington D.C. grant religious exemptions, and even fewer colleges do.

While some institutions are restricting in-person college tuition to vaccinated students, there is no legal precedent to know how courts will view a dispute between an unvaccinated student and his or her college. As one attorney previously told MarketWatch: “If a student chooses to come to an institution, they agree to abide by the rules.”

Broadway audiences, like cruise-line passengers, tend to skew older. On Tuesday, Charlotte St. Martin, president of the Broadway League, the industry’s national trade association, told The Daily Beast no decision had been made on mandatory vaccination cards for audience members, “but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t be considered.”

The bottom line: Passing on the vaccine goes against the advice of both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization, and makes the goal of herd immunity all the more elusive. It’s hard to blame cruise lines, colleges and possibly even theaters for restricting access to the unvaccinated when governments implement the same policies at their borders.

Why should those who choose not to get vaccinated be denied access? Writing in the Miami Herald, Jacob M. Appel, director of Ethics Education in Psychiatry at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, turns question around: Why should the vaccinated restrict their movements, and refrain from group activities, to protect those who refuse to get vaccinated?

Hardcore holdouts

The share of adults who want to “wait and see” before getting vaccinated — a category that has been gradually shrinking as the rollout continues — remained virtually unchanged last month (15%) compared to March (17%), according to Kaiser Family Foundation research. Republicans have been more reluctant to sign up for the vaccine, but that is slowly changing.

Perhaps talking openly about concerns, misinformation, resisting the urge to blame people for being hesitant, and refusing to toss around vaccine hesitancy as the latest political football has help, along with encouraging people to get their information from reliable, peer-reviewed journals. And, yes, perhaps the private sector has played a role too.

Vaccine rollout has not been a straight line. The 10-day federal pause in administering the Johnson & Johnson
JNJ,
-0.82%

 vaccine due to concerns over blood clots in a tiny percentage of the people who had received the one-dose vaccine only helped to harden the resolve of some people who were hesitant or unwilling to get vaccinated, health officials told the Wall Street Journal.


‘The ultimate goal is to crush the coronavirus as previous vaccines have wiped out smallpox, polio and measles.’

In the U.S., nearly 35% of the total population is fully vaccinated and over 46% have received at least one shot. On one side of the vaccine debate are health officials who decry the “pathologically narcissistic culture” in the U.S. and bemoan the luxury of declining a vaccine while millions of people around the world, particularly in hot spots like India and Ethiopia, are crying out for more vaccine doses.

On the other side are holdouts with ideological reasons, religious beliefs, medical conditions, concerns over side effects or who are just plain needle shy. Many will not be assuaged until the vaccines have 100% effectiveness or zero chance of side effects (as opposed to 0.00009%, in the case of the serious blood clots associated with the J&J vaccine).

Others who cry foul at being denied access to venues may cite a wrinkle in the moral and legal debate: That the vaccines from Johnson & Johnson, the Pfizer-BioNTech partnership
PFE,
-1.28%

and Moderna
MRNA,
+0.28%

 are all issued under emergency-use authorization, a faster process that’s less rigorous than full Food and Drug Administration approval.

That is a red herring for hardcore vaccine holdouts. Emergency-use authorization is used exactly for circumstances such as this — a global pandemic like COVID-19 and HIV/AIDS and, according to the FDA, “chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats including infectious diseases.” The backdrop to this public-health crisis: At least 582,791 Americans are dead from this disease.


‘Who would want an elderly relative to take a cruise unless everyone, staff and passengers, were vaxxed?’

But it’s understandable that people would have questions. “The first time the FDA issued an EUA was in 2005 for an anthrax vaccine, but just for military personnel. In 2009, the FDA issued the first EUA for civilians, so that Tamiflu could be given to infants during the H1N1 pandemic,” professors Christopher Robertson and Jeremy Greene wrote in a recent piece for The Conversation.

During the early years of the AIDS pandemic, protesters called on the FDA to speed the rollout of medication. Remember, AIDS effectively had a nearly 100% fatality rate. Very few people survived those early days before the arrival of antiretroviral therapy. Today, COVID-19 vaccines have a mountain of data, and strict safety guidelines for emergency-use authorization.

The ultimate aim is to crush the coronavirus as previous vaccines wiped out smallpox, polio and measles. But it requires participation. If you don’t want a vaccine, know that you put yourself and others at risk of contracting the virus. Brief flu-like side effects may be off-putting for some, but what is that compared to a patient struggling to breathe with the help of a ventilator?

If there were a fully vaccinated-only restaurant in my neighborhood? People would line to book a table, and likely marvel at their bold stance and, yes, the financial risk they would be taking. Who would want an elderly relative to take a cruise unless everyone, staff and passengers, were vaxxed? In 2021, one person’s conviction — however well meaning — could be another’s death sentence.



Source link

Continue Reading

Company

I bought my parents’ house at below-market rate — my sister wants me to give her $50K to build my mother an annex. Is that fair?

Published

on

By


My mother turns 81 this year. For years, she and my sister talked about building an annex onto my sister’s house so my mom could move in with her. My mom promised to pay for the addition.

Together, they hired an architect and decided to start construction. I was not consulted on any of this. As the pandemic set in, my sister’s contractor told her that lumber prices would rise, so she purchased lumber and kicked off the project.

Of course, when she went to my mom for the money to finance the addition, my mom didn’t have it. So now my sister has a bunch of lumber sitting on her lawn, and no money to pay the contractor.


‘To complicate matters, my stepfather decided he wanted to stay in their house, and not move to my sister’s house.’

It would have been easy to finance all of this by selling my parents’ fully paid-off house. But to complicate matters, my stepfather decided he wanted to stay in their house, and not move to my sister’s house.

So we came up with the idea of my getting a mortgage to purchase my parents’ house from them. My parents would split the money from the sale. My mom’s half would go to finance the addition to my sister’s house where my mom will live, and my stepdad’s half would be used to pay me market-rate rent so he could stay in their house for at least 15 years.

Unfortunately, I was unable to borrow as much as we needed. My parents lowered the price of the house below market value and gave me a gift of equity so that I could qualify for the loan.

When we set up trust accounts to manage the proceeds of the sale, my mom’s trust got $350,000 to pay for construction on the addition to my sister’s house, and my stepdad’s trust got $41,000 — not even enough to pay mortgage, taxes and insurance for 17 months, let alone 15 years.

COVID has, of course, sent construction costs skyrocketing. My sister has informed me that she now doesn’t have enough money to complete construction on the addition for our mom. In her mind, because my parents’ home was appraised at $800,000, my mom’s trust should get $400,000 from the sale.


‘My parents reduced the price of the house below market value and gave me a gift of equity so that I could qualify.’

In order to make up this balance, I would have to give her the remaining $41,000 from my stepdad’s trust (leaving him with nothing for rent), plus another $9,000 from my own pocket, and then I would have to come up with cash to make the mortgage payments on my own.

I get that my sister, through no fault of her own, doesn’t have the money to finish the addition — but I used every last scrap of my credit to finance the purchase of my parents’ home, and now I’m faced with there being no proceeds to finance the rent for my stepdad.

We are fighting about this pretty hard, and it’s bringing up a lot of resentments. My sister feels I’m being selfish because I got our parents’ house for a “song.” I feel resentful, because I never wanted the house and have constrained myself financially so the three of them could have what they wanted — and now I’m being asked to stretch myself even more.

There are arguments on both sides. My sister gets all the cash now to invest in the house she owns, which will go up in value. I get all the equity in our parents’ house, which is a great long-term investment, but one that leaves me cash poor and struggling in the short term.

Both parents have retirement funds, but my mom won’t contribute more to the building project, and I don’t have the heart to charge my stepdad additional money for rent when he’s already gifted me so much equity in the house.

How do we make this fair? Should I give my sister $50,000?

Signed,

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at qfottrell@marketwatch.com, and follow Quentin Fottrell on Twitter.

Dear No Good Deed,

There has been a lot of borrowing from Peter to pay Paul going on, but it looks like Peter and Paul’s resources have run dry, along with everyone else’s bank accounts. You all appear to have created a problem for yourselves and one another. In fact, this addition was a solution to a problem that did not exist. There are so many wrenches in the works, you are going to run out of wrenches.

The original plan was flawed in that your sister — and now, ultimately, you — are faced with the task of housing your parents under two different roofs. You are bending over backwards to help your parents, but your stepfather is staying put, and your mother’s finances did not support this grand plan. The people you are trying to help are not participating fully in the process.

Before I give you one solution, I have a few observations: Your sister and your mother hatched this plan together. They both need to take responsibility for that. Your stepfather refuses to cooperate with the plan. He needs to cop to that. You were presented with an opportunity to help and, yes, hopefully make some money. You need to own that.

But you are not responsible for your sister’s hasty financial decisions. So where does that leave you? My solution, as far as there is one to all of this real-estate maneuvering, is to treat the $50,000 as a gift to both you and your sister, and to give her half ($25,000). You are taking the risk and the financial burden of owning this home, so any appreciation you have is fair game.

The Moneyist: My boyfriend talked me into depositing my paychecks into his bank account, and paying for a car in his name. What can I do?

Hello there, MarketWatchers. Check out the Moneyist private Facebook
FB,
-0.57%

 group, where we look for answers to life’s thorniest money issues. Readers write in to me with all sorts of dilemmas. Post your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns.

By emailing your questions, you agree to having them published anonymously on MarketWatch. By submitting your story to Dow Jones & Company, the publisher of MarketWatch, you understand and agree that we may use your story, or versions of it, in all media and platforms, including via third parties.





Source link

Continue Reading

Company

My wife’s brother, 60, lives with his mom. He thinks the house belongs to him. What should happen after my mother-in-law dies?

Published

on

By


Dear Quentin,

My wife’s mother is 90 and in poor health. She requires 24/7 assistance. Her husband passed away about 20 years ago. She is still a wonderfully positive person, but the reality is that time is catching up to her.

The oldest son, 60, still lives at home. He recently retired from his job as a physical trainer at a local community college and has limited income, which I surmise is a small pension supplemented with Social Security.

For years, this living arrangement seemed strange to the four other siblings, but it became a blessing in disguise when their mother had a stroke 15 months ago. He provides daily care for her with the assistance of daytime care assistants, as well as my wife, who helps out three days a week.


‘He recently retired from his job as a physical trainer at a local community college and has limited income.’


— Concerned Brother-in-Law

Of the other four siblings, three are well-educated, successful professionals in their last decade of working careers, and one is the housewife of a retired successful professional. I believe all, except the son who lives at home, have planned very well for their retirements.

That’s not to say they wouldn’t want their fair share. My wife and I do not need any inheritance to enhance our retirements, and I will respect my mother-in-law’s decision without question.

My father-in-law left investments that now exceed $1 million, while the home is estimated to be worth around $600,000. The will divides all assets equally among siblings. The son who lives at home has slipped into the mind set that the contents of the home are his.

You can imagine some of the questions swirling among some of the siblings.

I went through the loss of my own mother. I was the trustee of her estate, and there was significant inequality in distribution. I know it can be stressful and divisive among siblings to deal with this subject.

The questions on the minds of the siblings are: Should they let him have the house or rent it? Should they make him pay for the house? What’s the right thing to do?

Concerned Brother-in-Law

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at qfottrell@marketwatch.com, and follow Quentin Fottrell on Twitter.

Dear Brother-in-Law,

I can imagine the questions circulating from house to house. But what they want, and what they think should happen, and what they think of their brother living at home is largely irrelevant.

Even if she were your mother rather than your mother-in-law, I would say the same thing: Of course, accept her decision. It’s her house, they are her possessions and it’s her money. No one — not even the son who lives at home — is entitled to it. Anything she decides to leave her family as an inheritance should be seen as a gift and, yes, the respective fortunes and living situations of her children may very likely be taken into account.


‘I suspect that there were many other times it was helpful for him to be there, at a time when none of his siblings had reason to notice.’


— The Moneyist

There is one area where she may need help: Making sure that she does not leave a mess behind where the siblings are forced to have a summit to decide what to do about their less-wealthy sibling who has lived in the family home all his life. He may or may not have the funds to buy his own home with his share of the inheritance. Alternatively, your mother-in-law could decide to leave him slightly more than his siblings to help him do this.

There are so many moving parts, and each family member will no doubt wonder how their mother’s will affects their own fortunes. They have, as you say, seen firsthand the advantage of having a sibling living at home in adulthood, and have watched him step up and help his mother after her stroke. But I suspect that there were many other times it was helpful for him to be there, at a time when none of his siblings had reason to notice.

There is no right or wrong answer. He appears to be the only financially vulnerable member of the family. All of this could and/or should be taken into account. Given that it has been his home and he has no other home, a life estate is one option. That way, the grandchildren can all benefit from the inheritance at a future date. Alternatively, assess the value of the entire estate and what it would take for him to have a smaller home.

The most important thing is to have a plan, and to not leave your brother-in-law homeless. Those two priorities should be mutually compatible.

The Moneyist: My boyfriend talked me into depositing my paychecks into his bank account, and paying for a car in his name. What can I do?

Hello there, MarketWatchers. Check out the Moneyist private Facebook
FB,
-4.11%

 group, where we look for answers to life’s thorniest money issues. Readers write in to me with all sorts of dilemmas. Post your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns.

By emailing your questions, you agree to having them published anonymously on MarketWatch. By submitting your story to Dow Jones & Company, the publisher of MarketWatch, you understand and agree that we may use your story, or versions of it, in all media and platforms, including via third parties.





Source link

Continue Reading

Trending