Thursday, September 13, 2012

Rule #15 Don't try to "Beat the Market"

Do you know the only thing that gives me pleasure? 
It's to see my dividends coming in. -John D. Rockerfeller

Have you ever heard anyone talk about beating the stock market?  Its what hotshot investors talk about at cocktail parties.  What they mean is that if the stock market has an annual return of 10% in one year, they have had a better return than that 10%.  Very impressive indeed!  They will try to achieve this by building and adjusting a stock portfolio, mutual fund portfolio, or with index funds.  Beating the market is all well and good if the market goes up, but what if the market goes down? If the market has a loss of 5% the next year and the investor only lost 3%, then they have also beaten the market because they have done better than the market has done that year.... but people don't tend to brag about losing money "Yeah! I only lost 3% this year!".  The market (and by market I mean Dow Jones Index, S&P 500 index, or TSX index etc...) has historically returned 8-12% returns annually but those numbers are smoothed out over decades of data, so you certainly couldn't count on a 10% return every single year... as has been the case the last decade.  One thing about measuring returns in the market this way is you only realize these returns when you sell the investment... and that brings on the issue of timing, and few people have mastered that.

I don't really care if I beat the market or not.  Beating the market is not my objective.  I am not in competition with the market, My objective is to build a portfolio that will eventually result in me being financially independent.  Who cares if you beat the market if the market has lousy or negative returns?  If the market loses 25% in a year, I feel no pride in only losing 20% that year.  And if the market were to make 25% in one year, its ridiculous for me to worry that I only returned 22% instead.  I feel this "beat the market" mentality is a waste and makes people take their eyes off the prize, or chase capital returns instead of stable cashflow.  People shop around for stocks or sectors hoping to get a winning year or to follow advisors or mutual funds because they have a few good yearly returns.  That just seems dumb to me.  I prefer a system that provides stable and somewhat more predictable results.

We have our own metrics.  We don't compete with the market, and we sure as hell dont try to beat it.  Our goal is to grow our cash-flow on existing assets by 8% a year... We get this by reinvesting the 3-5%-ish dividends that we get in cash-flow and then plan on a 4+% increase in dividends annually.  We generally don't pay much attention to stock prices once we own the stock because they tend to fluctuate due to world and political events rather than be based on actual company financial metrics.  Tracking growth of cashflow is pretty easy to understand and we don't have to follow the stock prices or compare with how the market is doing.  In fact, since we are reinvesting dividends to buy more stocks for cash-flow, we don't mind when the market takes a dive because it means we can pick up good stocks with even higher yields than before.

Every year for the last 10 years, our cashflow from existing assets has increased.  Every year! And Every year it has gone up above the rate of inflation.  The lowest growth rate was about 5% in 2009 and the highest has been about 15%.  Thats a pretty good record if you ask me.  This year is turning out to be a good one, we expect about a 10% increase in total this year if we keep going the way we're going.  Three quarters of our dividend producing stocks have increased their dividends this year and the rest probably will within the next 3-6 months, and we just keep rolling those dividends back into the portfolio buying more cash-flow-producing stocks, furthering the compounding.  This increase also does not include any new monies that we put to work in this strategy.  Include the new monies, and our conservative leveraging strategy and we're increasing our cashflow above our 8% per year target relatively easily.  Do I care how this all compares to what the stock market performance is doing these days?  No, I don't.

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