Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Two Great Posts on Financial Page

Barry Barnitz' Financial Page blog is just a marvelous resource. The quality of the content is consistently very high. I'll link to two posts here and add just a few comments regarding the pdfs he links to.

First,

Financial page: Morningstar Year End Commentary Report.

Morningstar's numbers confirm what so many have observed as to how the markets are doing now. Large-cap value and small-cap value US stocks did very nicely in 2006 and continue to do quite well, though the small-caps may be cooling off some. Large-cap growth stocks are now performing about equally well as the large-cap value, and are valued somewhat cheaply, at least relative to some of their historic peaks of valuation. All of this implies that a portfolio with some value "tilt" is still working well, though the potential for improved large-cap growth relative to value in 2007 may be there. The beauty of it all is that, just as you would expect, value investing is looking just like one would expect, sort of the "man for all seasons," and growth, when it has its day, will likely give you plenty of time to work it in in a measured way, if you are into tactical or mean-regression anticipation approaches. Small-caps, likewise, if they go cold for a time, have pulled very well for a multi-year period, and a period of time when they trail their large-cap brethren can be handled well either in a strategic or more tactical way, depending on one's pre-meditated portfolio approach. Sticking to one's approach is the hard part!

The second post, What Moves the National Retirement Risk Index? gets into the real issue for us all. Will we be adequately funded for retirement? As a young man, I confess, I just couldn't get serious about thinking about retirement. I couldn't. Each day was full of things to do, and retirement might as well have been in the next century. It will be!

If you are young and reading this, congratulations. You can take small, easy steps now which can make a great positive difference in you future and the future of those you love. Put what you can into your 401(k) each month. Sweat over investing it well. Don't try to time the market by leaving your money in the money market fund or bonds choices until you see a bull market. You won't see it until it's well underway. If you got burned in the bear market, it's been over for four years now. You could have made some money, perhaps one hundred percent or more, just with some well-chosen, diversified equity holdings. If you've been very risk averse, expecting a terrorist dirty bomb attack or some other disaster, the news is that it did not happen. Live in hope, not fear. These are the years for you to grow your money. Sure, bear markets happen, but you, as a long term investor, do not have to sell. You can take the long view, stay invested, and pull ahead. Market timers, as a group, fall ever further behind. It is a fact of financial life. Successful market timing is the financial equivalent of searching for El Dorado. It is not there. But you don't need El Dorado. All you need are time and some good markets. Get some knowledge. Read up. Learn about the one thing that really, truly works over time. It is called asset allocation. It is like the proverbial wisdom of the book of Proverbs being cried out in the streets, and being mostly ignored because it is not "sexy", it is not fast, it does not lend itself to exploitation by billion dollar brokerages ravenously hungry for revenues, in the way that failed ideas like technical analysis and market timing and even (gasp) "active management" do.

If you are older and thinking that you may be underfunded, well you have plenty of good company. Understanding the problem is the first part of the solution. If you are underfunded, guard your good health, and get a good night's rest, and go to work, one step at a time, to move toward fixing things up. There is much that can still be done.

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