Reaching $150k in 20 months since Day 1

The last time I hit the milestone of injecting $100,000 into the stock market was sometime in March.

Fast forward 5 months, my capital invested has exceeded $150,000 in August:

All together, I am still sitting on a few thousand dollars of paper loss. Since I have a long investment horizon, I’m not particularly fixated on my current paper loss (only 3% of total portfolio cost). Despite the broader stock market rebound, 65% of my stocks are still down from their pre-March highs.

Self-selected Stocks

A couple of months ago, one of my endowment policies became due and I found myself with an instant amount of cash to deploy in the stock market. I deployed a certain portion of it and still have a significant amount left in cash. Coupled with my monthly budget for investing from my income, I’ve invested over $50,000 in 5 months.

Prior to discovering the benefits of investing in the stock market, I put my extra cash with insurance companies by buying endowment policies. Endowment policies were suitable for me then as I was looking at growing my savings in some low-risk instruments.

However, I realised that I could tolerate more risks, and the 3-4% projected yield at the maturity of these policies no longer satisfied my risk appetite. Why take a 3-4% yield when I could have 5-6% yield on dividends by investing in Reits, for example? I still have 3 more endowment plans, with one maturing next year and the last maturing in 6 year’s time.

My stock portfolio comprises of 60% Singapore stocks, 24% US stocks, and the remaining 16% China/HK and Malaysia stocks.

Top 3 worst performers: (1) Eagle Hospitality Trust, (2) SATS, (3) Comfort Delgro.

Top 3 best performers: (1) Mapletree Industrial Trust, (2) Digital Realty Trust (USA), (3) Frasers Centrepoint Trust.

All you need for a lifetime of successful investing is a few big winners, and the pluses from those will overwhelm the minuses from the stocks that don’t work out.

Peter Lynch

Dividends collected to date for year 2020: $3806.50 (Average $475.81 per month)

I’m basically a value investor in search of stable dividends but I’m beginning to look at owning some growth stocks. During this time of the pandemic, Singapore shares seem to be underperforming as compared to US and China stocks. Just look at how tech stocks have rallied since March. I kick myself now for not getting my hands on such stocks as Apple, Amazon and Alibaba in March when I had the opportunity and money to deploy. Anyway, I see growth investment mixed in with my dividend-paying stocks as a good way to create a more diversified portfolio

MoneyOwl

I began investing with MoneyOwl in July 2019. The investment portfolio consists of Dimensional Global Core Equity Fund and Dimensional Emerging Markets Large-Cap Fund. Of the 5 portfolios offered, I’ve chosen the most risky portfolio where the asset allocation is 100% global equities and 0% bonds. My time-weighted return for this portfolio is a decent 5.2%.

From MoneyOwl website

Syfe

I invested with Syfe primarily because of its one of a kind 100% Reits portfolio that tracks the SGX’s iEdge S-Reit 20 Index. The top 5 Reits (Ascendas, MLT, MIT, MCT & Keppl DC) represent slightly more than 50% of the entire portfolio of 20 Reits.

I like it that I can just regularly contribute to this portfolio and reap the benefit of dollar cost averaging. I don’t have to think much about transaction fees, rights subscription and reinvesting my dividends … I just let Syfe take care of all these for me. My all-Reit portfolio’s time-weighted return is -2.69%. In 15 years, with monthly deposits of $400, this portfolio might grow to $125,200.

I also invested in Syfe’s Global Automated Risk-Management Investments (ARI) portfolio. Through this instrument, I am investing in a blend of equity, bonds and commodity ETFs. Syfe’s proprietary ARI engine automatically manages my portfolio to maintain my chosen risk level (22.3 out of 25 max). This portfolio’s time-weighted return is -14.22%. It needs to do better. In 15 years, with monthly deposits of $300, I can expect the portfolio to grow to $217,400 (most likely scenario).

Comparing both the 100% Reits portfolio with the Global ARI portfolio, the latter provides a greater growth trajectory, owing I suppose, to the use of the SPDR S&P 500 ETF (24.32%) and the Consumer Staples Select Sector SPDR Fund (21.21%).

If I were to invest 2k in the Global ARI portfolio every month for the next 15 years, which is very doable, I would have become a millionaire with a portfolio that amounts to 1.3 million. 3k per month for 15 years or 1.5k per month for 20 years, I would have grown the portfolio to 2 million.

Very interesting scenarios of the future indeed!

However, I do take such rosy predictions with a huge pinch of salt. Nobody knows what the future is like 15 years from now. There might just be another more severe pandemic or a world war that will utterly destroy the world financial market as we know it today, who knows?

I’m considering switching one of these portfolios to Syfe’s Equity100 portfolio because it uses the Invesco QQQ ETF to achieve a growth and large-cap tilt. At least 43% of the Equity100 portfolio will consist of the QQQ ETF. The top 5 ETFs form about 90% of the Equity100 portfolio’s composition [QQQ, Consumer Staples Select Sector SPDR Fund (XLP), iShares Core S&P 500 UCITS (CSPX), iShares MSCI EAFE (EFA), and Health Care Select Sector SPDR Fund (XLV)]. I need time and wisdom to evaluate this option.

The stock market has rallied significantly since the beginning of the pandemic. In fact, the S&P 500, in recent weeks, has closed at new heights since the coronavirus pandemic was declared in the USA in February. It is truly one of the most amazing recoveries on record. Nevertheless I’m mindful of the great divide between Wall Street and Main Street, and the fact that a great deal of optimism has been priced into the market at this moment.

____________________

In July, I got a 5% increase in my salary. Peanuts … but still I should be thankful especially when many have lost their jobs, or taken a pay freeze or substantial pay cut.

That 5% pay rise comes in handy when it comes to Kiddo #1’s education i.e. IP-school fees, and also tuition costs. The teaching pace in Kiddo #1’s school is really accelerated, and Kiddo #1 is falling behind in two subjects, hence the need for private tuition. I’m paying about $200 per week for private tuition … so expensive! But I’m willing to help Kiddo #1 “survive” in this school that for over 100 years have taken in the cream of the crop of all Primary 6 pupils. Yeah, whatever the cost.

If only I could put this $800 per month into the stock market … oh well.

The most valuable investment we can make is in our children’s education. When we make education a priority, we give our children opportunity. Opportunity to learn at higher levels than their parents were able to learn; to earn at higher levels than we were able to earn.

Martin O’Malley, Former Governor of Maryland and Mayor of Baltimore

Disclaimer: I am only an amateur investor and nothing you read here on my blog constitutes financial advice.  I write here to detail my investments, strategies, and analyses.  Feel free to read at your own risk.  Should you need financial advice, consult a licensed financial advisor.

April Investing Activities and Thoughts on Current Market Frenzy

Success in investing doesn’t correlate with IQ once you’re above the level of 125.  Once you have ordinary intelligence, what you need is the temperament to control the urges that get other people into trouble in investing. 

Warren Buffet, 1999.

Counters bought in April

Micro Mechanics @ $1.45

Netlink NBN Trust @ $0.88

Fraser Centrepoint @ $1.75

Mapletree Commercial Trust @ $1.64

I’ve never spent so much money in the stock market until March and April this year.  Thanks to the pandemic, many stocks have become very attractive in prices.  Nevertheless, it was quite unsettling even as I made my purchases … should I wait for prices to drop further … will prices go south after I’ve made my purchases?  

That’s the thing about investing, there is no way of knowing if the stock price will go up or down at any one point in time.  Thus, having a plan and sticking to it help me to weed out the uncertainties, keep perspective during this tumultuous time in the stock market, and stop me from making heat-of-the-moment decisions (e.g. the recent speculation on Biolidic).

Here are the stocks that I plan on maintaining in my FOREVER portfolio:

(Non-Yellow: Already accumulated)

With the 4 purchases made in the month of April, my Forever portfolio is now 2/3 complete.  I still plan on accumulating the following as planned:

Ascendas

Ascendas India

Keppel DC

MapleT Logistics

Valuetronics

Vicom

I’m also considering adding Fraser Logistics and iReit Global to my watchlist.  I might also switch out Vicom with SBS Transit (already accumulated).  

Thanks to the recent rebound, the overall portfolio has improved and registered a positive XIRR of 0.35%.  The question on most people’s mind is, has the market already bottomed out and is now on the ascent?

Depending on who you ask, you are going to get different answers.

Well, it does seem like the market is no longer singing the blues, but crooning strains of “hallelujahs” and “glad tidings”.  Has the new bull market already started or is this just a series of dead cat bounces?  

Tens of thousands of people are hospitalised and dying because of Covid-19, graveyards are getting filled, the world economy has been substantially paused, Singapore is practically in lock-down mode (semantically, circuit breaker mode) and yet very strangely, people are flocking to the stock market.  The great disconnect between the rallying stock market and the economy’s slump is unmissable and certainly very perplexing.  

Here’s how I try to make sense of the situation:

The worst is behind us?

I think it is fair to say that for many investors the worst of the falls has already been “priced in”.  The stock market does not dance in step with the economy.  In fact, the stock market is always many steps ahead.  At the expectation of a downturn, investors begin to dump shares.  Hence share prices go south quickly while the economy takes its time to approach a recession.  By the time the recession arrives, all the bad news have been “priced in” and dusted.  At that point, investors are already looking forward to the recovery. 

But the thing is, is recovery even close to be seen on the horizon?  Let’s not forget that the government has yet to declare a recession which economists have been saying Singapore will be entering a recession in the 2nd half of 2020.

According to the latest MAS monetary policy statement published 30th March: The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a severe contraction in economic activity both in Singapore and globally, due to the combination of supply chain disruptions, travel restrictions imposed in many countries and a sudden decline in demand. The Singapore economy will enter a recession this year, with GDP growth projected at −4 to −1%.*

How long will this recession last?  Nobody knows for sure.  

Again from MAS: The Singapore economy will contract this year. GDP growth will eventually recover following the abrupt downshift in the level of activity, but there is significant uncertainty over the depth and duration of this recession.

We have been warned by the media that there will be more job losses and wage cuts in the months ahead.

So, good times are back?  We are in a V-shaped recovery, you say?  You might be right in your optimism, but I’m not so sure.  

Irrational Exuberance

It’s not difficult to see how people are getting optimistic.  The SG government is doing a great job handling the pandemic, the earlier complacency notwithstanding.  Local transmission is coming down (although transmission in the foreign worker dormitories is a different story), and we don’t have a high fatality number.  The government has come in with guns loaded to rescue the economy.  The Resilience Budget announced on 26 March, and the earlier Unity Budget, totalled 55 billion!  In the USA, they don’t fight the Feds; in Singapore, we don’t fight the PAP.

We all have confidence in the SG government to contain this crisis.  I mean, when it comes to resolving a crisis, nobody does it better than the PAP, and no one people can come together as united, and as quickly, as Singaporeans.  The circuit breaker period will most likely not be extended past June, some lockdown measures will be relaxed, kids will go back to school, adults will go back to work (after having their hair cut), shopping malls will see a lot more footfall, etc.  So with this level of optimism and the view that the worst is already behind us, coupled with the fear of missing out, investors begin to rush into the stock market and chase perceived gains.  

Yes, Singapore will open up … but to a very different state of affairs.

On restarting the economy, Mr Lee said in his May Day speech: After we bring down the number of new Covid-19 cases, we can ease the circuit breaker measures, and progressively restart our economy.  This will not be straightforward. We need to step up Covid-19 testing and speed up contact-tracing. And we must proceed cautiously, with safeguards, so infections do not flare up again. We have kept essential services going. But the rest of the economy will have to open up step by step, and not all at once. Some industries will open up earlier than others, and recover sooner. For example, those critical to keeping our economy going domestically. And those that keep us connected to the world and to global supply chains. Other sectors will have to wait, especially those which attract crowds, or involve close contact with other people, such as entertainment outlets and large-scale sporting events … Significant structural changes to our economy are likely. Some industries will be disrupted permanently. Companies will have to change their business models to survive. Some jobs will simply disappear. Workers in these industries will have to reskill themselves, to take up jobs in new sectors. But there will also be new opportunities, and new jobs created too

Mr Lee did say in an interview with CNN on Mar 29: By the time it (Covid-19) goes around the world, and then finally runs its course, I think that is several years, unless something happens to abort that process.**

Yes, the Singapore economy will open progressively but due to the length of time this virus will run its course, we are not returning to status quo ante any time soon.

If your employer is a responsible one, you might find yourself sitting 1.5 metres away from your colleague.

Restaurants will not pack diners in.

You might find empty seats on your left and right when you next enter the movie theatre.

Businesses will be making significantly lesser money or take a longer time to return to profit.  Some will go bust.  Dividends to share holders will either be suspended or materially reduced (some Reits have already cut dividends, ranging from 20% to 70%).

Also, with wage cuts and job losses mounting across the economy, many people will be spending carefully and investing circumspectly.

So really, do all that paint a nice rosy picture of the Singapore economy from now till the end of the year?  Not really.

The health of the world economy is fast deteriorating.  Economists are even saying that the world is possibly entering a period of depression.***   Trump is also threatening to reignite the US-China trade war to punish China for the mounting economic costs of the pandemic in the USA (actually, Trump is making China the scapegoat for his own failure in handling the health crisis). 

First, the Covid-19 pandemic.  Next, the collapse of the oil price.  And coming, a renewed US-China trade conflict.  Considering all these, is it fair to expect the recent recovery momentum in financial markets to recede and fade in the near future?  Maybe.  Can’t really affirm this in absolute certainty though.  Remember, the market is irrational.

Honestly though, should we expect another wave of cold front even as we see currently tender shoots of recovery in the Singapore stock market?  Will we revisit (or not) the low of March 23?  Are some investors getting ahead of themselves and throwing caution to the wind?   I don’t know for sure although I’m leaning on the view that there is further pain to come in the next half of the year.  

During this time when the market can swing either way, I need to be calm, patient and disciplined.  I’m neither optimistic nor pessimistic.  I want to approach investing during this period logically, rationally and cautiously.  In the midst of uncertainties as a result of the disconnect between the stock market and the local economy, having a plan for investing and a price list help … a lot.  I find it easier to live with a simple story line than one that is convoluted, i.e. if A happens just do B, rather than, if A happens in the absence of B, and C and D align, then execute E.  

In a perverse way, I do wish the low of March 23 to return just so I can snap up more stocks at those attractive prices.  Better still, a new low lower than that of March 23.  Will that happen?  Don’t know.  But should that happen, I’ll be singing a glorious song and visualising pots of gold as I put in my buy orders.

* https://www.mas.gov.sg/news/monetary-policy-statements/2020/mas-monetary-policy-statement-30mar20

** https://www.straitstimes.com/politics/pm-lee-coronavirus-could-take-years-to-run-its-course-world-must-brace-itself

*** https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/commentary/economic-depression-recession-is-ahead-roubini-12691926

Quarterly Portfolio Review (First of 2020)

The corona virus has upended lives and many a portfolio.  My portfolio has been bleeding for the past few weeks, and on the last day of March, the XIRR for the entire portfolio was -13.87%.  Details for the various portions of the portfolio as at 31 March:

XIRR (First Quarter, 2020)

SG NON-REITS: -13.67

SG REITS: -7.61

USA/CHINA: -14.53

CORONA: -84.73

It was painful to see the value of my investment sink from a 6-figure sum to a 5-figure amount.  Even so, I continued to pump my monthly salary, whatever I had left after meeting personal and family expenses, into the market.

Nobody knows when the market will turn around.  Nobody knows when the market will bottom out.  20/20, as the saying goes, only exists in hindsight.  Rain or shine, I intend to sit tight, stay invested, and ride this storm out.  In the meantime, I continue to collect dividends.

Dividends Collected (First Quarter, 2020)

SGD: $448.03

HKD: $251.50 (S$46.11)

USD: $228.08 (S$326.31)

Total: S$820.45

$820.45 is not a lot of money, just about enough to pay for my breakfast and lunch every day for 90 days.  I don’t withdraw the dividends for spending because I don’t need to.  I let the dividends grow to a sum sufficient for me to buy more lots of the stocks in my portfolio.  This will be a long-term strategy to compound my wealth.

The next 3 quarters this year will very likely see dividend earnings greatly reduced (already SPH REIT has cut dividend payout by 77% compared to the previous quarter). The world is undergoing a recession, and reduced, deferred or suspended dividend payouts are expected. 

The coronavirus has indeed put many dividends under the microscope, and companies have to cut or suspend dividends in a move to implement cost cutting, and protect their profit levels and balance sheets.  I want the companies I’ve invested in to survive through this crisis, rather than to demonstrate to investors their ability to maintain payouts.  If companies are still able to distribute dividends during this period, then all well and good.  If not, it’s fine as well.  Survival is paramount.

Under current circumstances, preserving the company’s operations and financial stability should take precedence over maintaining dividend payments.  Companies need to conserve cash now so that they have opportunities to ramp up operations and grow their businesses again once the last cell of the virus is wiped off from the face of the earth.  

To put things in perspective and by way of comparison, “… during the 2008 financial crisis and recession, 40 S&P 500 companies cut their dividends and 22 announced suspensions, according to S&P Dow Jones Indices. The following year cuts rose to 68, and there were 10 suspensions. However, 151 companies, or 30% of the S&P 500, did notch dividend increases that year as the economy emerged from recession and the stock market began its (recently ended) bull run.”*

Hopefully, when the virus crisis is over, when global economy recovers, dividend payouts will return to its pre-covid-19 levels.

The way I look at it, valuations for most companies have dropped.  The Singapore economy is not getting better, not any time soon.  Mr Lee has said in a speech that this crisis will last till the end of the year.  Mr Lawrence Wong also said the same.  Mr Heng has got the third round of covid-19 support measures in the form of the new “Solidarity Budget” under way.  The government does not utilise the reserves unless absolutely necessary. So, this virus crisis is indeed very serious and the government is dipping into the reserves to help pull Singapore through this crisis.

All these announcements and actions show that a recovery of the Singapore economy is nowhere near.  So I’m thinking, stocks will get cheaper in the months ahead as economic fundamentals worsen and investors feel more pessimistic.  I’ll keep buying during this prolonged sales period. I’m not convinced by the ‘cash is king’ mantra even for a time like this.  

The key during a crisis is to be (a) insulated from the forces that require selling and (b) positioned to be a buyer instead. To satisfy those criteria, an investor needs the following things: staunch reliance on value, little or no use of leverage, long-term capital and a strong stomach. Patient opportunism, buttressed by a contrarian attitude and a strong balance sheet, can yield amazing profits during meltdowns.

Howard Marks, The Most Important Thing Illuminated, p. 99

Lately, I’ve been avoiding social media that are investment related.  Basically I just want to cut out the noise.  I don’t want to go down a rabbit trail on a stock that someone had just gone rah-rah over.  I don’t want to feel bad because someone got a stock at a lower price than I did.  I don’t want to be distracted by conjectures on whether the bottom has been reached or the market is on a rebound. 

Studying past bear markets offers all of us an opportunity to learn. We can learn from what caused them as well as what worked and didn’t work in our responses to them. But it is also important to understand that no two bear markets are the same. We all tend to think that what happened in past bear markets, especially the most recent ones, will repeat itself, and that tendency can sometimes get us in trouble. So as you see all the comparisons to past bear markets you will see in the coming weeks and months, keep in mind that no two bear markets are the same, and we shouldn’t expect history to repeat itself exactly.  For long-term investors, staying the course during bear markets has consistently been a good decision, but predicting how they will play out is likely a losing game That is perhaps the most important lesson from past bear markets.

Jack Forehand, Validea Capital

I have my own plan and I’m going to stick to it: buy some when the price is right, buy more when the price dips further.

Whatever free time I’ve got, I devoted most of my time to my side gig and reading.

Yes, I have a side gig … well, had.  I’m a choral accompanist.  But alas, not anymore since social distancing measures were implemented across the island.  We were preparing for an Easter program, and I was so looking forward to presenting Faure’s Cantique de Jean Racine, Op. 11. I absolutely love this elegant choral miniature.  With some expat members leaving for their passport countries, this small group of singers was disbanded.    

What books have I read this quarter?

1. The Most Important Thing Illuminated. Howard Marks: This is a must-read after Graham’s The Intelligent Investor.

2. Think, Act, and Invest like Warren Buffett: Larry Swedroe

3. Last Man Standing: David Baldacci

4. The Christmas Train: David Baldacci

Tomorrow is the start of the Circuit Breaker. It’s going to be interesting having everyone at home. Prends soin de toi

* https://www.barrons.com/articles/dividend-cuts-are-inevitable-but-they-wont-necessarily-be-across-the-board-51584615602