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Yield curve is blaring loudest recession warning since 2007 (bloomberg.com)
251 points by tempsy 20 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 335 comments

My favorite investment advice, courtesy of Mr. Money Mustache:

"Suppose you’re just starting out as an egg farmer, and your goal is to build up a nice, profitable business. You want to build up a flock of hens so big that they are eventually producing thousands of eggs per month. Enough to live off for life and retire.

You buy your first 100 hens, and they get right to work. You allow those eggs to hatch so more hens can be born, and you also continue to buy hens from the farm supply store. Suddenly your phone rings and it’s Farmer Joe down the road. “The price of hens has just dropped by 50%! You’ve just lost five grand on those hundred hens you bought last summer!”

Is this a sensible way to think about it?

No, of course not. You’re happy that hens are cheaper, because now you can build your egg business even faster.

Stocks are just like hens. They lay eggs called “dividends”, which are real money that can either flow automatically into your checking account, or automatically reinvest itself to buy still more stocks...There’s only one time you care if one of your shares is down: on the day you sell it."


This is true if you’re buying stocks (hens) for eggs (dividends) — which is true for me because I’m one of those rare cash-flow investors.

But I fear that the vast majority of investors are price speculators, not dividend farmers.

Interesting, which stocks should I invest in for dividends?

VYM or SCHD. VYM tries to mitigate risk through diversification while SCHD tries to mitigate risk through a screening and selection process. VYM comes with a slightly higher dividend (3.14% vs 2.93% for the 12 month yield). They are both highly rated on Morningstar.

Last week I literally set-up up all my automatic investing since we sold our previous home and made a profit, allowing us to become financially stable. I did 75% in a SP500 index and 25% in an intermediate bond market index. Every month I will put $500 split accordingly into those funds. This is after maxing out our IRAs. Not saying this is the best strategy but simple split with the mindset of keeping the money in there long-term e.g., over 10 years.

Does it suck seeing the money we just put in there drop? Yes. Though I know I am in it for the long haul, not the get quick rich approach or attempting to time the markets.

Is there a bond market app that you use to easily find and track bonds?

I'm unsure.

Index funds with low expense costs are my personal strategy. While I'd love to retire now (early 30s), my realistic goal is to retire at 59. The plan I have now with moderate ROI allows that - patience while staying the course long-term with your financial plan is key.

A few ideas for you to run with: Bond Funds, Preferreds (PFF,JPS), Business Development Companies (ex: GSBD), REITs, Munis, Utilities.

Some traditional companies also have lowish dividends, but they will of course compound over time, usually old-fashioned companies like banks or airlines. A good place to look is Warren Buffet's portfolio.

I've been subscribing to- and mirroring the holdings of the model portfolio(s) in Morningstar DividendInvestor for over a decade now with great success. (I'm an early retiree.)


Utility companies historically pay high dividends. Also companies that are in trouble pay higher dividends. You probably should avoid the latter.

As always speculators will die. This has been the case for millenia.

So you’re saying cash flow investors are immortal?


I meant their speculative portfolios will die (probably).

I keep my YOLO options portfolio at 1% of my net worth. Gambling money.

Chickens' eggs are worth way more in proportion to the chicken than dividends are to a stock. The only way you're capturing appreciable amounts of money in dividends is with a very large portfolio. This kind of advice doesn't help folks trying to build a portfolio from nothing because $25 in monthly dividends doesn't really do or mean much.

I mean, of course don't try to time the market, but this story only further propagates the lie that everyone(tm) can make money on the stock market without gambling aggressively

In the long run it's only dividends that matter.

Using Robert Shiller's long term stock market data we find that s&p returns without dividend reinvestment is about 2%, after inflation. With dividend reinvestment it's about 6%. That's a 2x difference in 20 years.

>In the long run it's only dividends that matter.

Stock buybacks are a thing, and are generally better than dividends for the owners of stock since they can choose whether or not to have a taxable event.

Yeah a stock buyback is just a fancy dividend, automatically reinvested.

Unless the stock price boost from the buyback is temporary.

Why wouldn't it be permanent? You permanently reduced the number of outstanding shares in the company. All things being equal, having less outstanding shares would mean each share is worth more.

I guess you could argue that maybe the buyback was a bad decision (ie. sacrificing long term gains for short term gains), but the logic could be applied to dividends as well.

Say we're talking about company X, currently valued at $20/share. X buys back half of their outstanding shares, resulting in their valuation going to $40/share.

Six months or a year later, the business cycle turns a bit causing all stocks to go down, the business environment changes to make the business less attractive (buggy whip manufacturers are no longer a growth industry), an outside event (tariff changes?) costs X money, or X's CEO publicly abuses a service worker causing X to be disliked by the market. In whatever case, the valuation of X which was still about $40/share goes down to $30/share. Or $15/share.

The share price of a stock has essentially no attachment to anything in the real world, and can and will fluctuate according to real-world events, whims, or just randomly.

But wait, where did company X buy their shares from? They must have bought them from somebody. Therefore somebody got that money. Moreover, your shares in the company increased. If you had 1 share to start with, after the buyback you have the equivalent of 2 shares. Your "dividend" is the extra share, which the company bought for you using the cash they would have otherwise paid out.

"But wait, where did company X buy their shares from? They must have bought them from somebody. Therefore somebody got that money."

From investors. At the current market price; i.e. closer to $20/share than $40/share. Keep in mind two things: the person who sold the share doesn't get any further income from that share, unlike a dividend, and the company won't buy back shares if they believe the shares are fairly- or over-valued. They only buy back shares if they think the stock prices is too low.[1]

The buy-back only acts as a "dividend" to those who sell after the buy-back has raised the stock price, not to those who sold into the buy-back.

"Moreover, your shares in the company increased. If you had 1 share to start with, after the buyback you have the equivalent of 2 shares. Your "dividend" is the extra share, which the company bought for you using the cash they would have otherwise paid out."

Uh, are you confusing buy-backs with stock splits? Before the buy-back, you have one stock share. After the buy-back, you have one stock share, which represents a larger share of the corporation's earnings and book value. Bought-back shares disappear[2]. Your "dividend" is the difference in price of that one share before and after the buy-back.

And the price of that share is free floating, moving according to market forces.

[1] In theory. Ideally. They can also do so to manipulate the stock price, the strike price of management options, and other things that are generally bad for investors. Stock buy-backs have a legitimate purpose, to signal to investors that management considers the stock price to be too low. They're not a substitute for dividends.

[2] They go into the company's treasury, where they can be re-sold later to raise money without affecting dilution, IIUC.

All things aren't equal because the company doesn't have the money it used to buy back and cancel the shares any more. If the shares were appropriately priced before then each outstanding share is worth about the same after.

>the company doesn't have the money it used to buy back and cancel the shares any more

As opposed to the money that it used to pay the dividends?

>If the shares were appropriately priced before then each outstanding share is worth about the same after.

Right, but now you paid some number of share holders to exit their positions. It's the equivalent of buying $10 worth of stocks and giving it to you as the "dividend", rather than giving you $10 cash.

It's temporary because these companies create shares every month to give out as incentives to their corporate suite.

...which are both predictable and included in the company's income statement ("stock-based compensation" is a line item).

Stock prices move based on unexpected information. If you've done your homework on the company's fundamentals, dilution from stock-based compensation has already been factored into earnings per share.

(Bad acquisitions are another matter - a much more common failure mode for dumb companies is to blow a lot of money on acquisitions and then fail to integrate the acquisition in a way that increases the bottom line.)

> In the long run it's only dividends that matter.

Strong disagree. I put my money into other companies because those companies create more money with that money than I can.

I don't give money to companies for them to give it back to me. I give money to companies because their investment decisions are superior than my investment decisions.

Amazon can spend $5000 on new computers (and make more than $5000 back) in the long term. Better than anything I put $5000 in on. All shares are created from either the Initial Public Offering (which raised money for the company), or secondary offerings (an additional raising round after the IPO).

Suppose you give money to a company in return for a share of stock. The company does spectacularly, becoming bigger than Amazon and Brazil, combined! (That was a joke.)

The company, however, never pays a dividend. Eventually, the world changes and the company makes a few missteps, and then one day, bang! The company is bankrupt and your share is worthless.

Now, you could argue that you made money when you sold the share, but the guy who bought it didn't. Without dividends, the stock market is a zero-sum game. In fact, it's the world's biggest Ponzi scheme, with money coming in from new investors being used only to pay out to past investors.

> Eventually, the world changes and the company makes a few missteps, and then one day, bang!

That's not how bankruptcy works.

Kodak, Sears, K-Mart have proven that it (typically) takes years, maybe even decades, for a dying company to go bankrupt.

> The company is bankrupt and your share is worthless.

That's also not how bankruptcy works. Your factory equipment will be sold to the highest bidder, and your shareholders will be given the money that was left-over (after bondholders and suppliers are paid).

> Without dividends, the stock market is a zero-sum game.

Also a false assertion. The stock's price is most commonly tied to the equipment, land, and other resources a company holds.

If the equipment, land, and resources "suddenly" become worthless, then yes, the company is worthless. But in practice, land, equipment, and resources have real value. And that real value, is often above-and-beyond the cash value of those resources.

Tesla paid $5 Billion for the Gigafactory 1. I think it was a bad purchase, but the shareholders own the Gigafactory. I would never buy Tesla shares, because I think Tesla overpaid for their equipment, the land, and the workers at that site.

Tesla was ONLY able to buy the Gigafactory 1 because a pool of investors brought together $2+ Billion in 2014 (a secondary offering). The bond market handled the rest of the debts needed to build the factory.

As long as the Gigafactory 1 makes more than $5 billion over time, then Tesla will be a good buy for its shareholders and its managers.

(Unfortunately, Gigafactory 1 was a bad buy for Tesla and Panasonic. But that's another topic....). Most importantly, Tesla shareholders own a stake in that factory (and every other piece of Tesla). If it weren't for Wall Street organizing things, the Gigafactory 1 would never exist.

That's the power of the market: to conjure up $5 Billion out of nothing but the hopes-and-dreams of millions of investors, to hopefully make a factory that will hopefully make enough cars to be profitable.

And guess what? If Tesla goes bankrupt, those investors are happy that Tesla tried. So the market is very far away from a "Zero Sum" game. Go and ask any Tesla investor if you don't believe me. The vast majority are bought into this "changing the world" story, and are willing to lose money over it.

some of the individual tesla stockholders might be bought into the "changing the world" story. but i don't think it's the 'vast majority' as you claim.

plus most of tesla is owned by institutional money: pension funds, sovereign wealth funds, mutual funds. i can guarantee that money very much cares about economic outcome.

most tesla shareholders are NOT the fanboys as you claim.

Haha can confirm, am happy to lose money on TSLA, given what they've already done.

Yup, its a bit annoying when I argue against them, but its a point-of-view that I've begrudgingly accepted. In any case, its a "correct" way of thinking, especially when a company is still doing a lot of secondary offerings and needs the money (like Tesla).

Factories won't build themselves. It doesn't matter if you're Google / Facebook buying servers, Tesla building factories, O buying houses, or even Disney's entirely virtual intellectual property (Marvel / Mickey Mouse / ownership of cartoon characters + movie characters). Shares are a share of the company. Owners of those shares are literally the owners of the servers, factories, or houses (or other "assets") that these companies own.

To build new assets usually requires money, and that money was provided at some time by an IPO raising money for a company. That's what a share fundamentally is.

"Your factory equipment will be sold to the highest bidder, and your shareholders will be given the money that was left-over (after bondholders and suppliers are paid)."


""If a shareholder sees a company they own shares in has filed Chapter 7, it is near certain they’ll receive nothing," [Lynn M. LoPucki, a professor at the UCLA School of Law and the founder of the UCLA-LoPucki Bankruptcy Database] said. "If they see a company has filed Chapter 11, it's highly probable they will receive nothing.""


"Although a company may emerge from [Chapter 11] bankruptcy as a viable entity, generally, the creditors and the bondholders become the new owners of the shares. In most instances, the company's plan of reorganization will cancel the existing equity shares. This happens in bankruptcy cases because secured and unsecured creditors are paid from the company's assets before common stockholders. And in situations where shareholders do participate in the plan, their shares are usually subject to substantial dilution."


"Also a false assertion. The stock's price is most commonly tied to the equipment, land, and other resources a company holds."


No. No, no, no. When you buy any financial instrument, you are giving someone money now in exchange for a (hopefully larger)[1] sum of money to be returned to you later.

The majority of the millions of Tesla investors can believe anything they want, but I'll guarantee you that Baillie Gifford & Co, Capitol World Investors, the Public Investment Fund, Vanguard, Blackrock and the other 926 institutional investors that own 56.27% of TSLA shares (https://www.nasdaq.com/symbol/tsla/ownership-summary) do so because they expect to get more money out of the company than they put in.

You will find some investors define the "value" of a share of stock to be the net present value of the sum of the portion of future earnings the share represents. That's wrong; it's actually the net present value of the dividend stream plus any residual paid to shareholders when the company is wound up. (And yes, I've actually owned shares in companies that paid out on being finalized; I'd recommend against it as it confuses the daylights out of your broker's account tracking stuff. It took years to get the 0-value shares off my holdings list. The one interesting thing you will notice is that when a company announces the intention to do that, their share price immediately moves to be somewhere near their distribution value divided by the number of outstanding shares.) You will find exactly no one serious who defines the value of a stock to the company's book value, for any company that is a going concern. (Special situation investor note: if you find a company whose shares are worth much less than their book value per share (minus "intangible" parts of the book value, which are worthless), you may have found a good investment. Cough, cough, GME.)

The bottom line is that if you give money to a company in, say, an IPO, and that company never pays a dividend, they will eventually go out of business and you will get approximately nothing. You will have made a bad investment. The only hope for you, personally, is to sell your shares to some greater idiot and let them ride the shares down to worthlessness. That is very much a zero-sum game: any money you gain selling your share is lost by someone else. (Wait---the initial investment. It's actually a negative sum game.)

[1] Insurance is a special case. That I'm not getting into here.

I'm talking about data since 1870 till the present (courtesy of Robert Shiller). It shows very clearly that dividends > price action over periods of 20yrs or longer.

You have an opinion against data.

> You have an opinion against data.

And when your data runs contrary to Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and tons of other points of data in today's market... I think its reasonable to question the data. Is data from 1870s still relevant today? The USA was still on gold + silver (silver standard!!), and the Fed didn't even exist yet.

Case in point: maybe your data is only relevant during the times when the gold standard was still being followed (before the 70s, when Nixon finally ended the gold standard).

The economy of today's market is grossly different than 1600s era Dutch traders.

There's nothing new in the markets. Tech is the new Nifty-Fifty:


Are those companies bad? Probably no. Will they plunge and be available at a steep discount? Quite likely.

one could argue that the stock market of today is vastly different beast from that of 1870, or even comparing to 1970.

Markets have existed for a long time. The Dutch were trading stocks in 1600s already. It's actually more likely that it is still the same thing.


They even had options, called "opsies".

Doesn't really make sense when you consider some amazing stocks (ie: Berkshire Hathaway) that have never given a dividend.

They reinvest it for you, it's a holding/portfolio company (P/B ~= 1). Also BRK buys back its stock.

But, again, you need to making enough money from dividends to be able to reinvest. What about the guy with a $1,000 portfolio, or all the retail rubes with small portfolios on Robinhood?

If your income is lower than spendings then you can't invest as successfully as someone who has the opposite situation. More income = more money, what's weird about that?

A $1000 will not get you anywhere. You can maybe turn it into $2000 after inflation within 5-10 years, on average.

Amazon stock doesn't pay any dividends, and they don't buy back shares.

Therefore, your statement "only dividends matter" must be incorrect since Amazon stock has a non-zero value.

The price of Amazon stock is ultimately supported by expectations of future dividends. The same is true for other stocks too, of course.

Whether or not the company has paid out dividends in the past is a good predictor of whether they'll do so in the future, but it's not the only such predictor. Having accumulated a mountain of cash but using it to invest in the business (buildings, equipment, and other productive assets) is another. Probably better, at least in some sense/cases.

The other way in which the stock is supported is by other people's expectations of other people's expectations of future dividends, and so on. I.e., speculation. Still tied to dividends, just in an unhealthy and volatile way.

This. Right now, Amazon has about 40 billion dollars of cash and is generating another 10 billion a year and growing. Shareholders don't mind companies investing in future earnings but once they start having too much cash on hand signaling they don't know what to do with all of it, they will start clamoring for share buybacks and dividends just like what they are doing with Apple and Google who have had too much cash on hand.

I would make a large bet that Amazon will announce a share buyback and/or dividend in the next 5 years.

Or it's underpinned by the value of controlling Amazon and its wealth, rather than the expectation of dividends.

Ultimately, value of a stock rests on the expectation of future earnings of the company.

Really ? That's one of those things that is "obviously true", but if you go back to the 80s and measure ... it's not true (back then it was a very low multiple of bankruptcy sale value of the company. Something like 1.2, 1.3 times that, or for a bad company 0.8). So this is something that became true, really in the 90s, and has been true for 25 years or so now.

That of course means that it's not actually a law of economics, the way it's always presented. And I must confess myself reluctant to believe this is a permanent situation.

Sure, the present value of an asset is the discounted sum of future cash flows.

But if there is no expectation that shareholders will actually receive any of the future cash flows, then there are zero future cash flows to discount.

Berkshire Hathaway is one of the most successful stocks of all time and they have never paid dividends.

Yes they have through stock buybacks which are just a more tax efficient way of paying dividends. Also, they're so limited on investment ideas, he's even considering a 100 billion dollar stock buyback [0].

[0]: https://qz.com/1611997/warren-buffett-hints-on-timing-of-big...

Interesting, thank you.

Amazing analysis, only problem is n=1.

n >> 1

84 companies in the S&P 500 index do not pay dividends.


I prefer the Buffett version:

"A short quiz: If you plan to eat hamburgers throughout your life and are not a cattle producer, should you wish for higher or lower prices for beef? Likewise, if you are going to buy a car from time to time but are not an auto manufacturer, should you prefer higher or lower car prices? These questions, of course, answer themselves. But now for the final exam: If you expect to be a net saver during the next five years, should you hope for a higher or lower stock market during that period? Many investors get this one wrong. Even though they are going to be net buyers of stocks for many years to come, they are elated when stock prices rise and depressed when they fall. In effect, they rejoice because prices have risen for the "hamburgers" they will soon be buying"


I love this post.

Market timing is dumb.

I put money in the market if it's going up, I put money in the market when it's going down. Always be saving.

I have a question and I'm sorry but where I am from, investing in the stock market is not really a big thing so I am really not educated in the matter. Am I dumb for holding on to some cash for when the market inevitably falls down so I can start my investing career with cheap stock?

I plan to just put around 10% of my income every month in it and just let it accumulate, but I have this nagging feeling crash is set for 2020. I have 2021 set as a hard cap if it doesn't fall until then, I plan on buying stocks, but until then I do plan on saving the 10% to be able to buy more when and if it falls.

So, am I dumb with this strategy? Am I better off just starting now and not keeping it in a savings account with a real low yearly yield?

Edit: don't want to pollute the comments so adding it here, thank you for your insights guys! :)

Your risk with holding onto your cash until a downtown is that the crash won't be more than the rise. The market will need to crash to below current levels for this strategy to come out ahead.

A lot of people have been waiting for a crash for years. People on 2013 were saying that the bull market couldn't last much longer, and here we are in 2019.

At the end of the day, it's a bet on the market. Personal investment is 80% regret-minimization so make your bet but hedge against it somewhat.

Excellent and concise explanation. Thank you.

No, you're not dumb for holding some cash/CDs/other liquid equivalents. But make sure you're getting at least 2% interest at Ally/Marcus/one of the other online banks. That said, I wouldn't go 100% cash, even if you think it's going to crash in the next year - the Fed can probably keep the music going a lot longer than you think it can. I'd set up an asset allocation and stick to it. Here's a rather conservative one, if you're worried: https://portfoliocharts.com/portfolio/golden-butterfly/

Or this one, based on Bridgewater's All Weather portfolio: https://portfoliocharts.com/portfolio/all-seasons-portfolio/

I'd try to understand them before you choose one, though - your asset allocation is one of the most impactful investing decisions you'll ever make. Gold is very divisive, for example, so if you want to go with one of these that includes it, I'd understand why. (It's unproductive, but it's generally anti-correlated with a lot of other assets, which is increasingly rare, and can be very helpful when rebalancing).

The one exception some people have to dollar-cost averaging (investing a fixed amount regularly) is "I have a giant pile of savings and I want to buy into the market". Some people advocate still putting it all in right away and investing for the long term; others advocate gradually moving into investments, such as investing 20% a year for five years.

Either way, though, you should start investing that 10% of your income; the only question is what to do with what you've already saved. You could, for instance, match that 10% every month from your existing savings. That way, you're not dumping a pile of money into stocks all at once.

(Also, in case you don't already have a specific plan for investing: index funds with very low overhead, such as Vanguard's VTSAX.)

> I put money in the market when it's going down

The only problem is when the market is going down, most people are losing money. Therefore, people don't have any excess funds to invest when its technically the best time to invest (when the market is going down).

How is money being lost? I buy 100 shares of company X for $10 ($1000). The market tanks and now I can buy 100 shares of company X for $1 ($100). You could say that I now have 200 shares of the company that are worth $200 (a $900 loss), but the market will recover (it always has in the past) so when those shares are again worth $10 I can sell them for $2000. The only way people could lose money is if they sell when the market is down, but you don't sell when the market is down - that is when you use cash or other investments that are not subject to market fluctuations.

Take a look at the Nikkei 225, it still hasn't recovered from its high in 1991.

Your assumption is we have infinite growth on a finite planet, which unfortunately is not the case. Eventually the party will be over, and you'll be left with the tab.

> infinite growth

Assuming growth is linearly correlated with resources. It's not, wealth can be created though cognitive effort i.e. software engineering.

> finite planet

Assuming humans are bounded to Earth for growth.

The markets are the collective reflection of humanities productive efforts in the form of currency. Saying that growth will cease to exist in the future is the same as saying humanity will cease to be productive, a bet I am not personally willing to make.

Doesn't it seem odd that this one example is used every single time people want to make this argument? This is the sort of "the exception proves the rule" situation. Extremely long down periods in established economies are so uncommon that we really only have this one example to use over and over.

>Your assumption is we have infinite growth on a finite planet, which unfortunately is not the case

You're arguing against an implicit faith in the civic religion of infinite growth, and the cognitive dissonance this causes.

When the market is going down, you at least get more shares for the same quantity of dollars. It's like stocks are on sale.

That is an awful way to think about it.

At any given instant, you are about to start investing in something. You may have to stop investing in something else to do it. Your goal at any instant is to maximize the profit of your next few moments of investing. An effective strategy for you MAY to go long, as you describe, holding on to an investment for a long time. But that doesn't mean it's the most effective strategy for everyone.

The farmer may do better to unload his hens, live off of cattle for a few years, and then move back to hens.

No, it really isn't. You're trying to time the market, which is about as reliable as gambling unless you intend to dedicate your entire life to it. The parent post is correct, recessions are opportunities to buy what you were going to buy anyway at a cheaper price and get more for your money, provided of course you don't need the money for other purposes in the near future.

Recessions are opportunities to buy... if you have cash. If you were long in the market at the peak, then you don't have any cash. If it's something you were going to "buy anyway", then you'd have already bought it... unless you were holding cash and trying to time the market. You can sell something, and buy at a discount, but only by selling something at the same discount.

I believe that's what the parent meant. At any given moment your money is somewhere: stocks, cash, bonds. You transfer from one to the other when you feel the time is right for it. In that sense every move is market timing.

That does imply that most people shouldn't move their money very often. Do some research, buy and hold, and don't worry overmuch about whether you bought near the top or the bottom. Put new money (e.g. salary) into something with low overhead, like an index fund, unless you've got good reason to think you can do better with a specific choice of stock.

If you find a bargain, buy it. But buying bargains is a matter of timing: it's only a bargain if it goes up eventually.

> You can sell something, and buy at a discount, but only by selling something at the same discount.

Most people sell labor or knowledge for 20-50 years during their lives. Pretty much continuously. So during a recession you can spend some of the money you get from your labor on stocks that are "on sale".

Except that - as we (hopefully) learned with the last recession - you're significantly more likely to be outside the "most people" category in this case, because layoffs tend to happen when companies have less money.

Unless you lose your job during said recession and struggle to find another.

Yes, if you don't have money to invest, you cannot invest. What's your point?

The point is recessions aren’t opportunities for everyone and can be extremely damaging. If you have to spend that 50c on the dollar, you’re doubly screwed. You don’t get to buy at a discount and your savings are depleted much faster - twice as fast actually.

Well, for one, if you have a solid idea that the market is going to crash, and that you're going to soon not be able to invest more, and that in fact you're going to have to draw down your investments to survive, then now is a better time to sell than later.

That's a lot of ifs, but that's precisely what we're discussing - how best to behave in different circumstances. "Always hold" isn't the best answer in all circumstances, despite what many in this thread are saying.

You're conflating things that shouldn't be conflated.

1) Your goal in investing

2) Heuristics to achieve that goal

The goal is to maximize your investments over a time, as I stated. Yes, you're absolutely right that holding is a phenomenal heuristic. But that doesn't mean it's always the correct thing to do.

Your goal at any instant is to maximize the profit of your next few moments of investing.

This is only true for short traders or others who measure profits on a horizon measured in hours or less. For everyone else, the chicken example is pretty good, though the feasibility depends on the timescale over which you will be investing.

> Your goal at any instant is to maximize the profit of your next few moments of investing.

Not at all. My goal with investing is "How do I get a good return on investment in the next X amount of time?", for various values of X that tend to be as long as reasonably possible.

> The farmer may do better to unload his hens, life off of cattle for a few years, and then move back to hens.

The comment you're responding to gave an example of hens dropping in price. That's the worst time to unload them. Trying to time the market is a great way to buy high and sell low.

This entire question is predicated on the firm belief that hens are about to drop in price.

This would be the best time to unload them, if you don't have a long hold philosophy.

The comment in question said "The price of hens has just dropped by 50%!". That's a bad time to sell.

If you can predict "the price of hens is about to drop" more reliably than the market can, that would make you exceptionally rare. And if you don't already know and have evidence that you can make such predictions reliably, the safe bet is that you can't. Many people try, and fail, and end up buying high and selling low.

There are a plethora of investing choices, including not investing. Bitcoin, Gold, Bonds, etc. If someone is investing in HENS right now, it's not unreasonable to suggest they may want to change their strategy for the next couple of years.

Similarly, if someone is planning on planting SOY, I'd try to talk them out of it.

Would you seriously not try to talk someone out of planting soy?

> The farmer may do better to unload his hens, life off of cattle for a few years, and then move back to hens.

This is only true if the farmer can predict the future.

This whole discussion is based on an indicator that people believe is yelling at us "the price of X is about to fall".

There's always some indicator which yells that, I don't see any reason to believe this one over any of the other ones.

There's been a consistent drumbeat since the end of the great recession that "the next big drop is coming, just look at this chart!". Spoiler alert, they were all wrong.

Most likely not wrong. Simply too early.

They were absolutely wrong. Their claim was that a specific line on a chart held deeper meaning, despite having no basis in science. They were totally incorrect.

Don't let these charlatans off the hook, they largely have no idea how the market works.

Now the cost of entry to egg farming is 50% what you experienced and competition doubles as new firms can compete at rates below the margin you need to be profitable given your higher cost of entry. Although you also benefit from cheaper hens you are unable to contest with new firms and could go out of business as your original debt to buy hens becomes unsustainable.

In other words, external forces are unpredictable. Although not always the most profitable, proper risk and market assessment of an industry, its trends, and possible future are important considerations when launching a new endeavor. However, if we all knew hens were about to drop to half price tomorrow nobody would be buying today decreasing demand and ballooning supply until the prophecy is self fulfilled.

Another commenter pointed to this: https://awealthofcommonsense.com/2014/02/worlds-worst-market...

tl;dr: Even the worst market timer would do well to just hold on to stock.

Or you use a robo-investor which does the above for you, and then your only decision is, "Do I invest more in the market or pull money out of the market?" That's where the question becomes as simple as the chickens metaphor.

I don't think robo-investors do that. They rebalance your portfolio (and that too not very often), and buy more of the cheaper stuff, so more in line with your GP than your parent comment.

Yes and No. For single equities this is true. But if this means a markets are going to turn, credits are going to dry up, and demand is going to plummit, then you are going to have massive problems, in your egg company.. customers might default, your creditline might disappear, and your customers might see eggs as an unwanted luxury, when they can just eat dirt..

There are plenty of stocks that don’t pay dividends.

Moreover living off the dividends and not the principal assumes you have vastly more savings than most people manage to do. For most people, they should anticipate to run down their principal in retirement, not just interest and dividends.

This depends completely on each individual's circumstances (level of income, your resident country's tax regime/pension rules) but I think many HN readers are in a fortunate position to be able to build up sizeable enough pension pot in 15-20 years, which at retirement can provide a modest income based on 4% yield - without touching the principal.

> ... which at retirement can provide a modest income based on 4% yield - without touching the principal.

You're doing yourself a financial disservice if you focus on dividends. Total returns are more important:

* https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UpXI_Vd51dA

There is no financial difference between have $1000 in stock and $40 in cash dividends, and having the stock go up to $1040 and you then selling $40 dollars' worth of principal.

Treating the $1000+$40 as "better" than $1040 is a form of mental accounting:

* https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mental_accounting

Do a search for "dividend myths".

true, though from a tax POV they are treated differently in many countries

Which would only apply in taxable accounts though.

The majority of people probably are using tax-sheltered accounts and are primarily saving for retirement, or their kid's education.

If anyone can max out all of those, and pay their cost of living, they're (a) doing quite well for themselves, and (b) probably a small portion of the population.

The advice to not focus on dividends but on total returns is geared toward the general public, who probably don't want to get into the minutiae of tax laws. :)

Ah, I fully agree here. The comment I made about 4% yield was once you are at retirement and want a low volatility portfolio, not on your way there.

Maxing out your annual pension allowance - as I said it depends on your personal circumstances, however I think many people on HN mid/late career will have no difficulty there

That analogy is problematic because it makes no connection between the price of hens and their perceived ability to generate wealth.

Further down the blog post (now linked), he looks at historical data which suggests that dividends remain relatively constant despite fluctuations in stock price.

This is why recessions can be good for the young and employed.

If the price of eggs drops 50% once you're retired, then you might be in a lot of trouble.

If you're still invested in something that can lose 50% of its value when you're retired, you should rethink your investments.

You're not wrong, but it's a matter of balancing risk, which is the point of having an allocation towards equities (stocks) and fixed income (bonds).

Recoveries have generally take up to 2-3 years, so if you have that much of your portfolio in cash and GICs, you can weather a downturn without having to touch your equities:

* https://www.myownadvisor.ca/cash-wedge-opening-investment-ta...

One suggestion, which is not popular, is to take a portion of your retirement savings and buy an annuity: enough to cover your day-to-day expenses. This way, regardless of what your invested portfolio is doing, food and shelter (rent/property taxes) are covered. You would consider the annuity as part of your fixed-income ("bond") portion of your portfolio.

The problem is that stocks can crash for two reasons: 1) business cycle, and 2) secular economic weakness. In the latter case, that value isn't coming back. Imagine, in terms of your example, that the price of hens dropped because the government passed a law mandating veganism. Would you be wise to buy more hens in this situation?

The advice assumes you're investing in an index fund or something equivalent; the market as a whole, amortized, goes up. Individual companies may be a different story.

That itself assumes that the index measures the full universe of all economic activity.

Innovation and startups are themselves evidence that over long (decades) time scales, this isn't true. When a company in the index falls on hard times and folds, where did its revenues go? Frequently, it's to some startup that was privately held until a couple years ago. By the time it IPOs and gets included in the index, much of the wealth has already been generated, and its inclusion in the index is a transfer of wealth from passive investors to the founders, angels, and VCs who funded it when it was far from a sure bet.

A similar situation would occur if a younger generation decides that stocks in general are a scam and that they're going to put all their money into cryptocurrencies. I've met 20-somethings who actually say that; if enough of them believe it, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, and all the old folks whose retirements are in indexed 401(k)s end up holding the bag as those investments become worthless and a younger generation ends up inventing a whole new financial system.

> all the old folks whose retirements are in indexed 401(k)s end up holding the bag as those investments become worthless and a younger generation ends up inventing a whole new financial system

If the world's investments cease to be made in actual companies, in favor of a meaningless commodity, we'll have much bigger problems.

All currency is a meaningless commodity. What matters is how it modulates the flow of real goods and services. A wad of cash is meaningless except as a claim to a share of someone's future productivity, after all.

"Investing" in bitcoin is like collecting stamps. It doesn't create any value for anyone.

Investing in Joe's Can Factory allows Joe to make more cans.

It creates value for other Bitcoin investors, some of whom might cash out or directly spend crypto building a business. In principle, Joe's Can Factory could be funded by 100 bitcoin which Joe acquired years ago, and the social fads which drove up the price directly enable that.

Of course, right now, the only thing practical to fund with cryptocurrency is a cryptocurrency or internet business, none of which provide truly useful or necessary services

> I've met 20-somethings who actually say that; if enough of them believe it, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, and all the old folks whose retirements are in indexed 401(k)s end up holding the bag as those investments become worthless and a younger generation ends up inventing a whole new financial system.

This is not a problem. If cryptocurrencies become widely used and the associated business accumulate significant market value, major market indices will rebalance in such a way to include cryptocurrency businesses and the passive index investor will be fine.

In fact, it doesn't matter if the future is in crypto, plastic or tulips; equity index investors will be fine.

The mechanism by which the major market indices will rebalance to include cryptocurrency (or any other new form of major economic activity) is that they will sell large amounts of equities at the current price supported by non-index buyers, and they will buy large amounts of cryptocurrency at the price demanded by non-index sellers. That price functions as a large transfer of wealth from index buyers to non-index sellers who bet right on their particular investment thesis. Future price gains (after rebalancing) require that future investors continue to demand more of the indexed securities than other non-indexed securities.

Basically, the index fund itself becomes a bet that the future will look much like the present, at least qualitatively, and that future investors will demand the same categories of securities as present ones do. If the future looks dramatically different from the present, then people who bet correctly with their particular version of the future reap the spoils, at the expense of all index fund investors.

(I should note that this is explicitly the purpose of indexing - by giving up the possibility of above-market returns and settling for market returns, you can eliminate the need for fees. If you believe that being average is good enough, this is a good bet. If you believe that the average person is going to get screwed and bad financial things will happen to the lots of people, why would you want to be them?)

> they will sell large amounts of equities ... and they will buy large amounts of cryptocurrency

More likely they will buy new crypto focused companies (Coinbase IPO) or that existing firms will adopt crypto based business lines. The investment is firms innovating, rather than the value of the underlying instruments or technology they use.

That's entirely possible too, but the problem (for index fund shareholders) is identical if the securities involved are "private preferred stock" rather than "tokens on the Ethereum blockchain". They're still growth opportunities outside the indexed universe that siphon from value opportunities inside the indexed universe, which the index fund can only legally purchase once much of the growth has already occurred.

Index funds strike me as a very bad idea. They reward unprofitable ventures just for being in some index. Buying into an index fund, therefore, is buying into a class of systemically overpriced assets. Yes, backtested, index fund investment does well---but that's because you're backtesting into an era before everyone was bleating "buy index ETFs!".

Between weird investment strategies, the length of the current boom, and the very low interest rates at the peak of the boom, this coming bust is going to be a massacre. I'm honestly not even sure whether the system as a whole will survive it.

Index funds basically delegate "price discovery" to the activity of other investors, and just assume that the market price is the right one.

This works as long as there are enough non-index investors trying to outsmart the market by actively trading.

And there will always be active traders setting prices, because it is profitable to do so.

> I'm honestly not even sure whether the system as a whole will survive it.

The question then remains the same while changing. Do I invest in the market, or in canned goods?


I suspect incredible funds are overinvested (as occurred to many popular labelled investment strategies from the past).

But although you might get better returns picking the next strategy, you probably would do fine with index funds.

And timing the market has always been a loser strategy (except for a few lucky or skilled outliers).

Did you ever look at Japan? Still not back to the all time high decades ago.

Don't invest exclusively in Japanese stocks.

> Stocks are just like hens. They lay eggs called “dividends”,

The general advice of not worrying about market dips/corrections is good. Even if you only invest at market peaks, if you stick with it and don't sell, things will turn out pretty well:

> Meet Bob.

> Bob is the world’s worst market timer.

* https://awealthofcommonsense.com/2014/02/worlds-worst-market...

The specific advice of going after dividends is not as prudent, as one should (especially with retirement savings) go after total return:

* https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UpXI_Vd51dA

There are a whole bunch of myths that have sprung up over dividends:

> Dividend Myth #1: Companies that pay dividends are inherently better investments than those that don’t.

> Dividend Myth #2: Dividend investors are successful because they select excellent companies and buy them when they are attractively priced.

> [Total of six myths.]

* https://canadiancouchpotato.com/2011/01/18/debunking-dividen...

> if you stick with it and don't sell, things will turn out pretty well

I think that thinking is at fault, at least in part, for the massive loss that's pending in terms of a deep market correction, because it's valuing based on growth and not on fundamentals.

If you can sell eggs for 10 cents each, you have a cap on the price of chickens. Now you can adjust this for future growth but you still have a limit in the fundamentals of getting a return on your money.

But when you invest ignoring that, you might do well for a very long time. As chickens go from $500 to $1,000 to $10,000, etc. more people see it and join in, pushing the price higher. In the end, it's a Ponzi scheme. You'll only do well if you get out before it comes crashing down.

Notwithstanding the Schiller P/E, it's kind of hard to figure out when things are overvalued, and the average person has not time to track things.

On 2018-12-24 the S&P 500 tanked, and a lot of people were freaking out:

* https://awealthofcommonsense.com/2018/12/buying-when-stocks-...

* https://awealthofcommonsense.com/2018/12/5-thoughts-on-the-m...

* https://awealthofcommonsense.com/2018/12/the-forgotten-bear-...

And then they went up, and then hit an all-time high a little while ago, and there seems to be a bit of a swoon now (2019-08).

For most people, the best thing to do is ignore the news, and put away a little each month automatically ("pay yourself first"). Dollar cost averaging is a thing that works well in most situations.

If you are leveraged, then you may or may not be able to pay back your loans depending on the price and demand for the eggs you are selling. If the price of hens have fallen, it could be because there are too many hens or demand has fallen because the price of eggs has fallen.

For us, if stocks get too weak, the boom might be over and our ability to retain and obtain jobs that pay as much as they do now is very much in jeopardy.

I was once building a new computer. I got 2x 32MB memory sticks, for something like a grand. When I bought there were a few places listing them for an impossibly low price, like $100. A month or two later, EVERYONE was selling them at $100.

The average investor shouldn't try to outsmart the market. But, if there are indications the price of hens is going to dip dramatically, it may be worth delaying that big purchase.

A month ago I sold a sizeable amount of real estate. I will quit my job in 6 months (resulting in lower cashflow).

Do I buy as many hens as I can right now?

I heard of studies that lump sum investing is better than dollar cost averaging two thirds of the time, but I’m quitting my biggest income source soon. What is one to do in this case?

Dividends alone don't pay out that much on average. The main value of holding onto stocks is in selling them for more later. Dividends alone are probably not a good reason to buy and sit on stocks.


Look at that. US Stocks with dividends reinvested: 6 million dollars. US Stocks without dividends reinvested: 200 thousand dollars.

Are you saying investors prefer stocks that pay more dividends? That's a different issue. I think there's a misunderstanding here.

My T and GIS beg to disagree.

Well as someone whoes has bank in Tokyo, I find it's difficult to invest in US stocks without paying withholding taxes.

Where do other international investors like ones from Singapore, Hong Kong invest? And what vehicles they use for minimizing taxes as an international investors.

I've USD cash in bank, so if USD falls in value my wealth is erroded overnight. Can someone suggest what I should be doing?

Well in the case of stacks, the expected dividend (price of the eggs) also dropped by half. So yes, you really are poorer when you bought those expensive hens compared to someone who buys them at the reduced price.

That's not how dividends work. Dividends are related to how much profit/cash the company has, and how many shares are outstanding. The price of an individual share doesn't effect that, only issuance of new shares and changes in cash flow.

Shares frequently crash in conjunction with economic pullbacks, which mean lower revenue/earnings for companies, which means less spending by those companies, which means lower revenue/earnings for other companies, and layoffs, which means lower earnings for workers, which means less spending, etc etc.

Shares of individual companies also frequently crash for reasons totally unrelated to economic pullbacks, and thus none of those things are guaranteed to happen simply because a share now costs less.

Sure, but I assume we're generally talking about index/portfolio investing here when we talk about stocks in general?

Wall Street Bets follows this philosophy - it's only a loss if you sell.

If you were planning on buying more chickens tomorrow, you might be inclined to wait instead if the price is falling. Especially if the cost of hens relative to eggs is near an all-time high.

All time high has nothing to do with what the value will be anytime tomorrow. If you can't predict the value for the next day, what is the point of waiting to time the market. Besides, even the worst timers of the market do pretty well with disciplined investments.

It doesn't matter, that's the point. They are laying dividends that you wouldn't otherwise accumulate because you WAITED.

What if the (expected profit per chicken)/(cost of chicken) was close to the return on a riskless asset, like a government bond? Wouldn't the farmer be more inclined to park money there than take the risk of buying more chickens?

If you're a proper farmer you probably have a big loan, if the price of hens drops 50% the only one calling will be the bank to foreclose on your farm.

Only if you are using your hens as collateral for the loan, which isn’t very likely. As the hens are just overhead, the banks are more interested in the value of your farm (eg related to the price of eggs you are selling).

I wholeheartedly agree with the principle here, but not all stocks pay dividends, so it's not precisely fair to compare them to hens in that way.

The problem is just that your dividends are halved if the yield percentage don't double after the stock has halved.

This is, by far, one of the stupidest things I've ever read on this site.

If the hens stopped laying eggs at the same time the price of them dropped by 50%, I'd be asking myself why I didn't keep my money in a mattress.

This is a bad analogy. Hens are a relatively cheap, rapidly depreciating asset that require constant maintenance and will cease to be productive in a few years. The capital cost of the hen itself is essentially negligible. Of course you don’t mind when they get cheaper.

This is completely unlike stocks, which you can hold forever at no cost, and whose output, on average, goes up over time.

If we need to make an analogy to something non-investors can relate to... well, it’s pretty tough. Which is probably why there are so many different opinions out there about how you should feel in response to various events.

Let’s assume you believe a recession is coming. What’s your investment strategy to protect yourself?

Two recessions ago (2001-2002) i invested in REITs through the stock market. It worked really well and I doubled, but it turned out I just got lucky with exit timing because they were pump and dump schemes and I got out coincidentally just before the “dump”. I even got a payment from the class action lawsuit against them a few years later.

So, what’s an actual sound strategy if you think a recession is coming?

I'm in this boat. I've had too much cash sitting in a money market account for a couple of years in anticipation of a recession. I feel like the corporate tax cuts might have kicked the can down the road a little.

It's a weird spot to be in and I'm still not sure what to do. I've lost a decent amount of money to inflation and opportunity cost. The feeling is as strong as ever but I know that macro trends aren't things anyone can accurately predict.

I know there are better things I could do with the cash in the meantime, but I haven't done the research. I didn't really expect to be sitting on cash for such a long time. Would love to hear anyone's advice.

FWIW people have been calling the top since as early as 2013. There is every reason to believe that there will be a recession tomorrow, but I also would not be surprised if this expansion extends into the early to mid 2020s.

If you have this feeling now, and have had it for most of the current expansion, you might want to consider the possibility that your gut sense of whether there will be a recession is just broken, and whether you should stop listening to it. Because I guarantee you it's going to be telling you to get out of the market two or three years after the next expansion starts, and who knows how much money you're going to have left on the table by the time you're done with that one.

I've only been holding out since ~2017, but I definitely see your point. I know I'm probably being irrational by continuing to hold out, and I'm suffering a bit from the sunk cost fallacy. I guess I'm irrationally avoiding the situation where I held out for two years, only to buy in at the top, and look like a total doofus.

Do not listen to these people who constantly tell you to “just invest now, it’ll average out, etc”. Go with your gut. Cash is a position. Know when and how to use it to your advantage.

If you know how to do this you should be making bundles of money trading other people's money. If it's your own money and you don't have any particular reason you think you have a deep insight don't fall into the trap of thinking you see patterns where they don't exist. Our brains pattern match way too much. Retail investors with actual insight into markets have to be one in a million or less.

You can make great money with this method. It’s called buying low and selling high. It’s how the majority of non-leveraged investors make their fortunes. Just need to wait for the next down cycle. Everything is cyclical.

I know a guy who is in a very similar situation, although he's been holding out since about '15. IMO, what looks smart is doing the thing that has the correct risk/reward tradeoff, even if you happen to lose the bet.

Holy shit! In the past 5 years, the S&P 500 has returned 50% just counting stock price and not dividends reinvested. Talk about sunk costs, even the SP 500 only dropped 50% during the great recession.

You're telling me! I've been begging him to get in but he just can't get over the mental hurdle. The really astonishing thing is that he doesn't have a problem holding on to the stock grants his employer issues him. ?????? You can lead a horse to water . . .

People seem to be saying a) hold the cash and wait or b) put it in the market. There is a compromised path that exposes you to both scenarios (though by definition eliminates your ability to get the maximum possible upside).

Compromise: Put your cash in, for instance, Betterment's new 2.69% savings account so that it's at least earning reasonable interest for 2019. CIT online bank is another alternative at 2.4% for over $50k. Both are FDIC insured.

Take 10-30% of your cash holdings, divide by 12 and dollar-cost average your way into the (potentially bulging) market by making identical sized investments every month.

If we see a crash soon you've limited your downside exposure. If we keep growing you've exposed yourself to some upside. Recalibrate in a year or so.

It depends on what your plans are for the money.

If this is long-term savings, I would invest it all into a balanced portfolio as soon as you can and forget about it - there are many portfolio examples out there that only use a few 'total market'-style ETFs, as an example. I too have sat on cash at times during the last couple decades and it has cost me a lot of returns. Trying to time these things is basically like gambling and it will drive you crazy.

If you plan to use the cash in the short-term or it's emergency savings, I would personally keep it in cash to protect the principal. High yield savings accounts or short-term treasuries will at least provide some inflation protection.

While I agree with this, timing can be really important. Large ETF's sell blindly when people take money out of the ETF's. So a sell on ETF, means quality and not quality stocks are sold. So don't buy ETF's on the multi year down...

ETFs, the index ones most people use anyway, just track the market and do so very closely. There's no market timing effect from buying or selling the ETFs.

Don't time the market. Set up a long term investment thesis /strategy and allocate funds accordingly... Always. In good times or bad.

People are saying buy the S&P500 index when it’s at a 17x P/E ratio. Currently it’s at a 20.5x P/E ratio.

> I've lost a decent amount of money to inflation and opportunity cost.

You also obviously know that one ride on the S&P 500 from a relatively low point, will bury such inflationary losses in dramatic fashion. And one bad ride down from these heights could easily cost you the better part of a decade to fully recover. First do no harm, don't lose money; don't chase or try to force returns. Patience plus money is the critical combination to being positioned to pounce on opportunity. Most people lack the cash when the opportunties are plentiful (eg 2009-2010). And you don't need very many big broad hits (like riding the S&P to a triple over six years out of the great recession) across a lifetime, only a few.

> I know there are better things I could do with the cash in the meantime

This deep into an expansion (10 years at that), I'd say that now is exactly the time to hold the line on your patience. The stock market is seeing close to flat earnings growth and its multiple is very high, combined with everything else it certainly appears to be an out-of-gas scenario. We would need to see rather extraordinary earnings growth - and soon - to buffer the earnings multiple this market is carrying. And we're also not seeing macro economic growth like you would want to see, to feel confident in the market moving much higher than it already is. In the late 1990s we were seeing 4-5% growth (18 straight quarters of 4%+ growth in the late 1990s), now 2% is more common. China was an engine for the world economy for ~15 years; that is now over. Where's the next engine? There may not be one in the near future.

A large share of this market climb the last few years has been nothing more than multiple expansion, it's not coming from an organic surge of earnings growth and productivity growth (the tax cuts were a big part of it, which wasn't organic; that adjustment spike is over). I consider this a very dangerous market based on growth rates & multiples (Warren Buffett appears to also hold that belief, based on his net equity selling and refusal to deploy Berkshire's epic $122b in cash; few have consistently navigated such circumstances better than Buffett, whether 1999-2000 or 2007-2008, he has a rigid wiring for it based on the value available to be purchased with capital; his spidey sense is tingling, clearly).

I'd suggest you stick to being patient, wait for a better price vs value environment, and or for another major financial opportunity that comes along in your personal life. Lacking the capital to seize on opportunities when they become abundant, is a truly terrible trap to be stuck in, infinitely worse than the modest inflationary mouse nibbling at your capital now.

Others will note something about not timing the market. Keep in mind this is absolutely not about timing a market. It's about being unwilling to dramatically overpay for what you're buying (eg paying a 30x multiple for zero growth on various blue chips). It's calculating value for price. That is not a matter of timing, it's a matter of deciding what price you're willing to pay for what value you get. Buffett for example isn't a market timer (he points this out at every opportunity, going back many decades); rather, he has fairly strict rules about what he's willing to pay for what value he gets. Being unwilling to overpay is not about timing or guessing, it's about having rules for what you're willing to pay for what you get.

You're telling someone to time the market... and then say, "I'm not saying time the market."

Note that the person you're responding to has quite literally lost lots of money by sitting on cash. And you're saying, "keep sitting on cash!"

Not only that, but you're recommending cash at a time when central banks are creating more cash -- which is precisely the wrong time to hold lots of cash.

Everyone else is giving investing advice, so I'll throw in something different: pay off your debts. It's better to have some assets and some debts than it is to have no debts but low assets. But if you really think that your assets are about to decrease in value, you might as well use them now.

Yup, if, say, you have a mortgage at 3.5%, paying principal off early is ~equivalent to a 3.5% risk-free rate

The risk free rate is the interest rate you’re paying on loan minus interest that would be earned in a FDIC insured saving account (around 2.1% currently). Can use money market or high yield corporate bonds yields too.

If you’re an educated, skilled professional who isn’t living a risky life, paying off a 3.5% mortgage is way too risk averse in my opinion. If you’re that worried, save 24 months of mortgage payments/expenses in a savings account, but if you’re not able to bounce back with even some income in 2 years (assuming you didn’t overbuy and aren’t paycheck to paycheck), then something has gone horribly wrong and you probably need to worry about more pressing matters than mortgage debt, like securing food.

Quantitatively you're right. Qualitatively it is more complex than an Excel spreadsheet can reveal.

Which is to say, what you're saying makes financial sense, but people aren't robots, and we have negative feelings associated with debts/financial liabilities. For example a lot of people worry about losing/changing jobs exactly because of these kind of financial burdens.

If being "mortgage free" gave people more confidence to take more risk (e.g. change jobs, take a work-break, start a business) it could ultimately still be more beneficial than the alternatives, even if the maths doesn't show that.

Paying off a mortgage also reduces your liquidity, which is a risk itself.

The post above was contrasting it against medium or higher risk investments, so in both cases your liquidity is compromised. Leaving it as cash (or near-cash) is even more conservative than paying off a mortgage.

How so? Cash is mobile, cash lets you move, invest, make changes to your life. Paying off a home ties you down, and you don’t immediately get evicted for missing a mortgage payment.

My point is % return is not everything. I would gladly give up a 1.5% return in exchange for the ability to up and move when I need to, or respond to emergencies such as legal/health/family/political and resource instability/etc.

And paying off a mortgage improves your ability to move when you need to or respond to legal/health/family/etc issues. You're now "ahead" on mortgage payments allowing you to miss several without incurring penalties, giving you more flex while not incurring proportional loss from inflation as you would with near-cash holdings.

By definition, paying off a mortgage reduces liquidity. As a store of value, real estate is less liquid than cash, and many other types of assets. There is no way that exchanging a more liquid asset for a less liquid asset (giving up cash to gain equity in a home) improves one's ability to "move when you need to".

Also, there is no reason to assume home values in general protect against inflation better than savings accounts or other "safe" investments".

Only if you completely ignore the mortgage itself. The mortgage puts you into effectively negative liquidity as you have to meet the liability using liquid assets. By paying it off and gaining a home you can sell you've increased your liquidity relative to the mortgage but not relative to raw cash.

But as I said above raw cash (or near-cash) is even more conservative than mortgage repayments.

> Also, there is no reason to assume home values in general protect against inflation better than savings accounts or other "safe" investments".

History gives us a good reason to believe that. Cash depreciates. Homes on average appreciate.

I believe most lenders require you to make a payment each month regardless of whether you've paid extra or not. I don't have a mortgage yet but have read this. Really odd, in my opinion.

I agree that paying early improves your ability to move, though. You're less likely to be "underwater" (lose money) selling the house with more equity.

The question is - what else would you do with the money?

I wouldn't stick money in a low-interest mortgage if I was willing to tolerate some risk for a better return. Paying down a mortgage @ 3.5% is not a 'great' investment as you've pointed out, but the key is that it's risk free AND a better return than other no-risk investments (cash).

You may want a no-risk investment if you plan to use the money in the short-term after liquidation, say for another home purchase/deposit.

If you want zero risk you will not get much or any return. Your only options are high yield savings, CDs, and extremely short term treasuries/bonds (e.g., EE or I bonds).

Small correction, EE and I bonds are long term bonds (20 years to get the value doubling on EE bonds, which is the only reason to own them, but the implied ~3.5% of that makes them very competitive with other long term options atm). But the general point of your comment is right, 3.5% risk free isn't bad at all compared to most options.

You're right, I should have used "and" instead of "e.g." there for the EEs in particular.

I-bonds are not necessarily long-term bonds, other than the 12 month non-liquidity window up front. No?

Good point, I-bonds can be redeemed after 12 months, but they have a 3 month interest penalty if you redeem them before 5 years. But that's really not bad at all. So they're long term in that they guarantee their base rate for a long time, but are unusually liquid in that they can be redeemed very flexibly.

I really like those two bonds. I guess that's why they're limited to $10k/yr each :-)

It’s even more favorable than that given the mortgage interest tax deduction.

That's irrelevant for the vast majority of Americans today due to the TCJA changes. It'll be interesting to see the final numbers when the IRS publishes the statistics, but it was estimated that 90% of households took the standard deduction in 2018.

Not if you can deduct the mortgage interest. At a 32% marginal rate your 3.5% mortgage only costs you 2.4%. At that point you'd be better off putting the money in a high yield CD or savings than in mortgage principal.

Don’t forget to account for taxes when evaluating the CD rate as well! Compare apples to apples.

Does "debt" include car payment here as well? Even if it's at a 0.9% interest rate? I only carry that as debt right now since it was about 30k in total that I didn't want to pay in cash.

At 0.9% you're better off sticking the extra money in an Ally savings account. That's basically free money at that rate; use it.

Paying off a 0.9% debt when 2.5+% savings/CDs are available risk-free is silly.

I'm not an experienced investor but I'd highly recommend these books (ignore the titles, they sound cheesy but the information is great):

Warren Buffett's 3 Favorite Books (light technical): https://www.amazon.com/Warren-Buffetts-Favorite-Books-Intell...

Warren Buffett Accounting (heavy technical): https://www.amazon.com/Warren-Buffett-Accounting-Book-Statem...

Podcast by the guys who wrote these: https://www.theinvestorspodcast.com/

Proper strategic asset allocation. There are strategies that work no matter what happens, such as the Ray Dalio's All Weather Portfolio:


The standard approach of 60/40 stocks/bonds is not enough if you can't stomach 30% losses. And don't even think about going 100% stocks if you can't stomach 50% drops.

You probably thought this was obvious, but I just want to clarify for others what "works" means. It doesn't "work" in the sense of performing as well as, e.g., 100% stocks. It's actually not even close, for most start and endpoints. But if you buy at the top and want to sell at the bottom, this portfolio will not lose nearly as much value as stocks would.

All Weather works just as good as 60/40 (in the sense of returns) with way way less volatility. See my backtest link. It's also known as the risk parity portfolio.

100% stocks, while usually performing better, is not suitable for most investors. And yes that probably means you reading this comment. They will not be able to hold in times like 2008, they will sell instead of buying more.

As "The Intelligent Investor" puts it: "Look into the mirror. That is the biggest risk you have - yourself.".

I know I can't stomach 100% stocks (even 75% is very very scary) so I will probably never do that.

I'm not sure whether I can or I can't. I guess I'll see. I'm in the fortunate position of having more than twice as much as I need for a very comfortable retirement already, and also of working for a company that hired and gave raises through the last recession. Knowing that even with a 50% decline I'll still have more than enough might make it easier for me to ride out the bad times than most people.

The thing that's tough for me to stomach with the all weather portfolio is how much worse its results are in good times. If I had been invested in that since 2012 rather than my current asset mix, I'd have had only 33% as much growth as I have done during that period. Even backtesting against the peak in 2008, the all weather gives only about 80% as much growth to today.

It is a personal choice. But IMHO too many people went 100% on stocks. Not everyone has Warren Buffett's incredible mentality to buy in downfalls.

About returns FOMO: in 1999 risk meant to bump into someone who makes more money day trading stocks. In 2003 it was owning stocks :)

By the way, "recession" doesn't mean the same thing as "stock market crash". The definition of a recession requires GDP to go down for two consecutive quarters. Although there is some correlation it's still completely possible for GDP to go down while the market goes up. So even if you correctly predict a recession, you won't necessarily be able to predict the market.

Defensive ETFs (consumer staples, health care, utilities) along with diversified bonds. Investors also tend to migrate toward dividends during a recession. Note that health care is not as safe given the political climate.

A few funds from the above to consider: VDC, FUTY, BLV, BND, VIG

Vanguard Prime Money Market (VMMXX) or Ally Savings account. My money will be in VMMXX just because I already had a Vanguard account open.

Should get you ~2.2% return and getting your money out is relatively easy. IIRC you can even write checks against the account.

+1 to the Vanguard money market fund. It’s been best in class for the last 10+ years.

It depends on your goals. Are you retiring in the next 5 years? If not, you mostly don't care. Odds are you aren't going to time the market perfectly and you might as well stay the course.

If you think you can time the top, invest in gold and bonds.

... but that's probably a dumb thing to do.

Instead I'd recommend staying in the market at all times, and diversifying. A good one is Ray Dalio's All Weather Portfolio:


All personal opinions and not advice but you can go topish to bottom and back to even on the 2009 recession in around 2 years, and that was a bad one. So if your investment horizon is in the +10 year range you can pretty safely just keep on trucking, dollar cost averaging will work it’s thing, if anything maybe buy the bottom with reserves.

I don't know if "pimp and dump" was deliberate or a typo, but it's a beautifully accurate phrase.

Let's say your strategy is right and that if you could accurately predict a downturn, sell equity and buy REITs.

The lesson to learn from last time is not to avoid REITs but to choose higher quality ones. Buy high quality US Core (USRT) and residential (REZ) and if you want to diversity further (REET) is 1/3rd global. Ive also left out ICF, REM, IYR. Blackrock alone has plenty of ways to stick your money in real estate.

Why REITs before a downturn? Looks like USRT took a beating in the last crisis

The theory goes something like this: In a recession investors tend to have a "flight to quality", which usually means buying more government bonds, which pushes their interest rates lower. REITs tend to have relatively higher yields, so in comparison to government bonds, REITs become more attractive and their prices go up as well.

In 2008 all real estate valuations were crushed due to the nature of the crisis, but real estate has historically been a pretty stable asset class in recessionary environments.

Right, perhaps real estate won't be such a focal point of the next recession (beyond a few bubble areas).

So in terms of recession proof REITs - commercial or residential?

Careful on some of those ETFs. Even the residential one is only 50% residential, (its nearly a third health care.) And the global one is 15% residential (its second biggest sector behind retail, and ahead of office, diversified, industrial, specialized, health care, hotel and resort.)

They are more diversified than their names may imply. You may end up with odd overlaps if you dont look at their underlying sector breakdowns.

I wasnt arguing it was a good strategy, I took part of the assumption that it was, as the premise.

it was moreso that just cuz you got lucky and got in and out of a scam at the right times, that in and of itself doesnt invalidate the strategy itself.

And like the other person commenting said, the 2008 crash was a real estate crash.

What is your goal, when you say "protect yourself"?

What is your timeline for your investment? Are you putting money in or taking money out? Do you want your temporary losses to be as low as possible throughout the decline, to make money on the decline, or to have the largest gains three years after the recession ends?

Isn't the obvious answer cash/gold? Timing is everything though, recession incoming could 6 months, 18 months or 10 years away. And depends on your investment goals (EG if you're in your 30s and have it in a pension best let it be).

Cash? What about the gov... I mean, the central bank printing money?

In a recession, cash is king. Everything loses value relative to the U.S. dollar.

>So, what’s an actual sound strategy if you think a recession is coming?

If you've made intelligent investments you believe in long-term, then the best strategy is to do nothing. Sit tight and wait it out, whether the recession lasts 1, 3, or 8 years.

Cash, or gold would seem to be the answer but this is not the case. Invest a larger portion in bonds. Historically stocks and bonds are negatively correlated, and if stocks go down bonds go up, but at the same time both grow over time

You might want to look into "inverse short etf's". I personally don't invest in them because it requires a sizable position to make meaningful profit, and timing is very hard.

I understand what you're getting at, but this this horrible advice to the OP. Timing is not just "very hard", is extremely difficult, arguably approaching impossible depending on who you ask. I guarantee for the investor at the level of asking "What should I do in times of recession?" market timing IS impossible.

In addition to this request ... my main concern lately is inflation. My suspicion is the next major North American crisis will be inflation. I see this already with housing prices in hot markets (SF, NY, Vancouver, Toronto) and the wages for high-tech workers in those markets. A good salary went from $150k to $500k a little bit too quickly, IMO (but maybe I'm just a grey beard and my sense of time is skewed).

Given that the already low interests rates are likely on their way back to zero, and given China does not seem keen on continuing to fund the US through bond purchases (why would they if the US is engaging them in a trade war?), it seems high inflation is one possible result.

What is the investment strategy in times of high inflation?

To answer your question, if you're expecting a jump in inflation that others don't see coming, the key is not to own debt. Stocks can take a short term dip on inflation because it's bad economic news, but in the long run businesses will end up operating with proportionally higher revenues and expenditures, and as a result end up with proportionally higher stock prices. Real estate should go up proportionally (at least in theory). Gold sometimes jumps as people get into a "run for the hills" panic mentality. Debt, however, will be paid back in a now less valuable currency, so you'd be locked in to an inflation adjusted loss.

Now to answer the question you didn't ask: most people who study the matter are more worried about deflation than inflation in the developed world, and making your whole investment strategy a big bet that economists, hedge-fund managers, and world leaders know less about the economy than you (and/or the pundits you see on TV) is usually not the way to go. Picking a boring mix of stock and bond index funds and sticking with it often serves people better.

Generally, gold performs well in high inflation. Stocks and Real Estate have a much shakier track record there.

Buying Bitcoin

Almost all of bitcoin's lifetime has been after the last recession, so I am really curious about what'll happen here.

Sell stock to pay off debts. I just took out $50k from a ROTH IRA (all contributions not earnings so no penalty) to do this.

I don't know anything about investing, but I keep thinking that if I had extra cash I'd short Google :D

Seriously though, anyone with experience have opinions on this?

Historically, you'd lose everything. Maybe the future is different, but I suggest staying far away from stock picking and especially shorting.

I don’t invest in tech stocks because they are far too volatile. :)

Assuming a recession is definitely coming, soon, buy triple levered S&P 500 shorts. You better know exactly when "soon" is though.

The market can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent.

to feel better or to perform better?

feeling better: 100% cash. let the feeling of safety wash over you as the market continues to climb while you bathe in risk-free dollars (that are always depreciating due to Fed policy, but whatever). eventually, use your expertise in market timing to identify the hour the market bottoms out; scoop up assets at bargain levels.

perform better: stay in the market, knowing that there are many more recessions ahead of you, that you can't time the market, and that time in market is by far the best predictor of long term performance. understand that if you aren't retiring soon, recessions are sort of like sales: the same companies still produce the same assets (Apple still makes hardware, ...), they're just valued less due to silly emotions.

of course, if you're retiring soon or don't have outside income you may want to get out of stocks and into bonds, depending on your appetite for risk.

To perform better, do you think buying in now when you're already sitting on cash would be a smart move?

Assuming a recession hits in the next two years, and I'm able to invest at a considerable discount, wouldn't it be better for performance to wait? Are these assumptions bad?

notice the implicit assumed negative event in your statement. why should we assume that a 2 year window is anything near appropriate for the next recession?

you seem to be falling prey to a psychological tendency that optimizes for protecting against loss rather than missed potential opportunity:


as well as market timing, which is the simply asinine idea that you can pick the "best" moment to invest.

instead, i'd frame the issue thusly: what upside am i missing by sitting on cash for 2 years? or 10 years? or until i'm ready?

you and everyone else necessarily fall into one of two categories: those who believe past performance has some effect on future performance (even slightly), or do not.

if you do not believe past matters, then you necessarily have no insight into what strategies are optimal, so there's no way to answer your question. you should just do whatever your heart tells you, i guess, which may include 'wait 10 years for the market to drop, losing out on 10 years of gains'. that hardly seems rational to me.

if you do believe that past performance is indicative of what to expect in the future, let's consider an example.

practically, if you live in the US you can generally invest a certain amount of money each year in your retirement plan. for example's sake let's say that's capped at $5200. and let's also assume you want to hit the cap.

you could invest $5200 on Jan 1. historically, this is the optimal strategy for long term performance, but it is vulnerable to periods of decline inside those years.

you could also use dollar cost averaging to, say, invest $100 every week * 52 = $5200. you still hit the cap but you "average" the risk over the entire year, so that if Jan 2 the market goes to 0 you aren't left with nothing, trading off the fact that you miss out on the upside of the year as well.

so just generalize that to your own timelines and amount of money. you can do 100% today, which mathematically based on the past is the optimal solution, but get ready for some gut busting potential failures. or smooth out risk by investing small sums periodically. the tradeoff is that smaller sums don't get the same gains as the large sum would.

Do people remember the "taper tantrum" or the correction in 2016? A curve inverted then (2016) too, and there was a lot of market volatility. There were even calls that "we're due for a recession!"


Then in 2017 and 2018 we saw record profits, low unemployment, and general economic gains all around.

Well, "record profits, low unemployment, and general economic gains" are precisely what happens before a recession. That's not to say that they're indicators of an immediate recession, but that's just the nature of the boom and bust cycle. If the profits were low and unemployment were high, then we're already in a recession.

They always do well when the economy is overheating, and gains are driven by paper rather than real-world value. At some point people chicken out, cash in their paper gains, and you have a bust. And then the cycle repeats.

That cycle has happened dozens of times, and at some point in the cycle people start saying, "No, this time we've figured out how to keep things even, the gains are all real, and we'll never have a bust again." And then there's a bust... though when, exactly, is hard to forecast. Just beware of "this time it's different" talk: maybe this time it is, but it has a lousy track record.

This reminds me of a 'myth' I have heard about ICEs ( internal combustion engines ) : the minutes before they blow, they run really really nice.

"everything works until it doesn't". That's true, but not terribly useful advice.

All while taking on massive governmental debt.

This is false. [1]

The federal debt/gdp ratio has hardly changed in the past few years.

The state + local government debt/gdp ratio has declined substantially over the last few years.

The government, as a whole, is paying its debts down (Or not expanding them, as the economy expands around it.)

If there's too much money sloshing around, it's not because Uncle Sam opened the checkbooks. It's because interest rates are near-zero.

[1] https://www.usgovernmentdebt.us/state_debt

As someone who has spent a long time researching personal investing, this is the correct answer.

keeping 100% cash is not risk-free if feds keep lowering dollars we could run into inflation and hyper inflation. so keeping cash could be the riskiest thing to do in that scenario!

Interest-yielding savings accounts and treasury savings bonds such as I-bonds and TIPS can provide some measure of protection against inflation.

Move into cash, so you're ready when the market drops.

How do I know when the market drops that's it's the bottom?

You don't. You can wait for obvious signs (government interventions), but if you wait for that, it won't be the bottom anymore. Better to just wait until the bleeding stops. Don't try to time the market exactly.

Here's the funny thing about recessions - they're usually predicated by some exuberance somewhere, and when it bursts it then ripples to the rest of the economy.

1930 was the stock market, 2000 was the dot com, 2007 was real estate (there's a bunch of recessions in between I'm skipping because I'm less familiar w/ them).

This time around...there's actually NOT a lot of exuberance. People are still scared and not getting ahead. Unemployment is at record lows but wage growth is stagnant, meanwhile people's basic expenses have exploded through the roof. Who has money to spare on stupid fads & bets? People are just trying to afford housing, healthcare, and education.

I feel like a lot of the talk around recession is simply people EXPECTING a recession and reacting accordingly, which will cause some downturn but won't impact the fundamentals of people buying shit in the economy.

I'm not saying we won't ever have a huge recession again, of course we will, but I don't see a current real indicator of it.

>I'm not saying we won't ever have a huge recession again, of course we will, but I don't see a current real indicator of it.

What? Are you just ignoring to ignore real estate bubble 2.0 (empty properties kept by speculators but at the end of the tunnel the price will implode when nobody has money to buy), the average length of car loans exceeding 5 years as people push out for lower and lower monthly minimums because they otherwise can't afford those $50k trucks, and other elephants such as medical and student loan debt?

The funny thing is people are doing all that with resignation rather than exuberance this time around, at least that’s the zeitgeist I perceive.

I’m guessing the fact that they’re doing it is the significant part, but it does feel different to earlier times.

> This time around...there's actually NOT a lot of exuberance.

I'd argue that you're scoping exuberance only to consumers. If you define exuberance a bit more broadly, there's lots of irrational behavior in corporate debt right now. This could be a result of super low interest rates and unchanged expectations from fund managers, but it's less obvious than homeowners buying a third and fourth house because they can. Corporate debt might not seem to be able to topple an entire economy, but we don't really know how widespread those ripples could go. If corporate debt dries up, businesses stop expanding and jobs could be at risk.

One example, if I'm understanding the exuberance idea right, is tech valuations like Uber - in the billions, but also can't make a profit.

Corporate debt is the driver of the next recession. From the debt fueled growth of Chinese business to the exploding pension funds of Europe. That's where the exuberance is.

You may be interested to know that the stock market is more overvalued than in 2008 (CAPE), and home prices are also higher than then (Case-Shiller).

There is some exuberance in the corporate credit. How does Uber survive for so long, selling dollar bills for 70c.

What about when you normalize for the current low interest rate environment?

That is a good question that I don't know the answer to. Warren Buffet says that according to him "if interest rates will stay this low then stocks are dirt cheap".

But, Europe and Japan also have zero interest rates, and you don't see such high CAPE valuations there.

> This time around...there's actually NOT a lot of exuberance.

It's always in the best interest of the people who benefit from a bubble to make such driving factors less visible, so the bubble can continue longer - and hindsight is, as they say, 20/20.

Which is to say... just because you can't see the causes yet, doesn't mean that they're not there. The Fed is happily handing out cash and people are borrowing large amounts of it to shuffle around while they can. There are lots of areas where people are making what normally would be considered risky bets which keep paying off because the economy is strong, and they just leverage themselves in the extreme to take advantage of that.

So whether it's another real estate collapse or another SV-funded startup collapse or some other kind of collapse that isn't yet apparent, after the other shoe does finally drop we'll be kicking ourselves for not noticing how bad things had gotten on the way there.

There's a lot of exuberance lately in areas that benefit from low interest rates; housing (again), corporate debt (this one is huge), and sovereign debt (another big one).

Over the last few decades, we seem to have a boom-bust debt cycle of sorts, and it doesn't seem to be abating at the moment given what we're seeing with the Fed, yields, and debt.

How about private equity? It's not something that makes mainstream news often, but it's a bubble that many are expecting to burst. It's a massive market that relies on heavily leveraged borrowing and is tightly integrated with the well being of the economy. Just like the mortgage market of 2007.

How is it possible that basic expenses are through the roof (I agree with this) but its not reflected in inflation? It doesn't make sense to me. I'm not an economist, is there something I am missing or misunderstanding? Housing costs are through the rough but everything else is stable?

I generally agree and promote this sentiment. However, you are confusing bubbles popping with recessions. You can have standard recessions without bubbles.

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