Reflecting on Investment Year 2008



Reflecting back on Year 2008, I think it will go down in history as a very significant turning point in the economy of United States. I also think that, due to events in Year 2008, other developed and emerging economics will evolve in different way. By different way I mean with reference to how it interacts with US economy. For the last few decades US economy was the engine of growth for world economy. Moving forward, this status will be challenged depending upon how US policy makers deal with the aftermath of events in 2008. While US business environment is still very much entrepreneurial, it remains to be seen how it will adapt to the new economic environment. History shows it has always adapted. Time will tell if it does this time also? By no means I am professing dooms day scenario, all I am saying is things will be different than what/how it used to be. How different, I do not know.

On the subject of investment performance, blogosphere is filled with differing opinions, views, solutions, rants, etc. Cribbing about economy and blaming financial community will not give me a good portfolio performance. We all make mistakes. The key is learning from our past mistakes and adapting. I believe what individual investors like me need to do is look at their own investment strategy and processes, put it in the context of current state of economy, evaluate against your goals, identify shortcomings, and adapt accordingly. Having said this, I spent some time measuring my dividend portfolio performance against my objective. Here I am discussing few important ones that I believe has significant impact on my dividend portfolio.

(1) Continuing to Stick with My Investing Process

Year 2008 was a very good test case to show me that my investing process works for me. It continues to suit my needs, my risk profile, and my long-term objectives. All of my performance metrics (such as dividend cash flow, yield on cost, annualized XIRR, and portfolio value) continue to do relatively better than my S&P500 benchmark. Year 2008 did show few kinks in my investment process which I am going to address in year 2009. The two significant issues were (1) lack of appropriate risk metrics; and (2) continued changes in market whacking my asset allocation.

(2) Risk Management should be tied to Objectives

The general off-the-shelf prescription of using diversification and asset allocation for portfolio risk management is becoming a cliché. Year 2008 showed that for individual investors perhaps none of them works. For my dividend portfolio, the primary objective is to generate increasing passive cash flow. With all the dividend freezes, suspension, and cuts, I realized the need for appropriate metrics for measuring risk for dividend cash flow. I am introducing the limit that dividends from a given company should not exceed 5% of the total portfolio dividends.

(3) Asset Allocation will be Effective only with Rebalancing

Establishing the risk management metrics for the portfolio is only a first step. It is necessary to also identify the execution method. So far my approach was to stop investing in a given stock after I reached limits of my allocation metrics. However, 2008 showed me that it is important to sell partial positions to rebalance rather than stopping investments. Sell the partial position and use the money to invest in other opportunity on waiting list. However, this is contrary to long term philosophy of buy and hold. I am still pondering what is appropriate for my dividend portfolio. Please leave your views or suggestions in comments section as to how it should be managed for dividend-based portfolio.

(4) Remove an Apple Gone Bad from the Basket

I should be willing to sell a stock if it does not meet my buying objective or when its fundamental position has changed. Like a rotten apple spoils the whole basket, one stock could be a drag on your portfolio performance. Buy and hold should apply only until the stock is meeting its objective in the portfolio. I sold Citigroup – dividend cuts, worsening position, new management, and management appears clueless. I removed Bank of America from dividend portfolio (dividend cuts) and moved to value portfolio (continuity in management team, positioning for long-term growth, and management taking steps).

(5) Continue to Watch CNBC (and Mad Money)

Watching CNBC has a great entertainment value. It is really fun to watch analyst after analyst coming and creating sky-is-falling scenarios (and offering solutions). Additionally, if interpreted with a sane mind, it tells you exactly what not to do. Do not panic, they are paid to create these scenarios.

The above points are the ones which I believe has/will impact my portfolio management process. These learning are for my process and may not be same for others or may not be applicable to others. If you have any other unique learning or what changes you made to you process, please send me via comments section or email at dividendtree@gmail.com.

3 Responses to “Reflecting on Investment Year 2008”

  1. Dividend Tree says:

    JJ: Thanks for stopping by. I love when CNBC folks argue. It gives something to laugh at.

    Regards,
    DT

  2. Jae Jun says:

    Nice post. I was laughing at number 5 as I watch it on my phone and find CNBC to be a joke.

    On several occasions I just have to turn it off because I couldn’t stand 5 guys yelling at each other simultaneously about something so obvious.

    You don’t need 5 Wall Streeters yelling their opinion on GM. I could conclude that it is a bad investment. End of story.

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