Dear Clients and Prospective Clients:
Before the next ten years of successful stock market investing gets away from us, we at Smead Capital Management would like to remind everyone that the purpose for investing is to build wealth to enhance future purchasing power. If you watch investment shows on T.V. or read investment magazines, newspapers or websites, you’d think that the object of the game is to be smart. However, let’s look at some of today’s key topics to see what is currently considered dumb and smart in the investment world. Then, let’s ask if they build wealth over long periods of time.
Ultra-Smart—Sitting in Cash, preferably U.S. Treasuries.
Those who were smart in 2008 held inordinate parts of their assets in cash or treasuries and missed some part of the stock market’s horrendous decline. They earned anywhere from 3% interest to as low as 0% toward the end of the year. It can be a very smart strategy in the short run, but has always been blown away as soon as everything returns to something more normal. We believe when normality returns those who sat in cash will have to stare longingly at the portfolios of their “dumb” friends who sat through abusive declines in the value of their blue chip stocks to get long-term returns averaging 10%.
Smart—Trading in and out of stocks.
Wade Cook hasn’t been out of business that long, but it is hard for you all to remember his advertisements which told people to “cash flow” their stocks. He said, “Buy a stock at $1 and sell it at $2, wait for it to go back down to $1 and do it again.” Wade spent time in jail for his misrepresentations, but the “Fast Money” people or Jim Cramer’s followers won’t. You’d have to be pretty “dumb” to sit through last year’s volatility when you could have been trading the enormous market swings (mostly down swings, they fail to mention). I think that if you add up the gains and losses, commissions taxes and you find that trading almost never builds wealth (unless your Charles Schwab).
Smart—Participating in highly sophisticated and esoteric asset classes.
Commodities, hedge funds, private equity, emerging international markets, short selling and the like always look and sound smart because of the exclusivity and complexity. The exclusivity and complexity contributes to dramatically higher participation costs (a leading cause of wealth destruction) and who knows if anyone ends up building wealth (see Bernard Madoff).
Gold was $1000 an ounce when I was in college 30 years ago. It is $870 today. Am I missing something?
Dumb—Buy and Hold Blue Chip Stocks.
How could anyone be so dumb as to buy and hold the finest companies in the world like Disney or Microsoft or Nordstrom? Don’t they know that we have the worst recession since the 1930’s? Don’t they know what Professor Roubini says? Haven’t they been in China with Jimmy Rogers? Didn’t they see how bad it was last year?
Dumb—Buy American Stocks
Everyone knows that the smart people are investing in China and emerging markets! They must know that Warren Buffett will be wrong this time (NY Times Op-Ed Oct. 16, 2008—Buy American, I did). Didn’t he get wealthy?
Dumb—Leaving your stocks to your alma-mater.
I love reading the stories of the elderly man or woman who leaves their stock certificates to their favorite charity. A schoolmarm who left the school millions or the guy who left the Union Gospel Mission thousands and thousands of dollars of utility stocks buried under his mobile home. It was never gold or trading techniques or complex investments they left, it was common stocks.
At any given time the best investments can look smart or dumb depending on when you look and where we are in the market. However when traditionally solid wealth creation disciplines are challenged, it could be time to get excited. We love what we do at SCM and we hope you all join us in this worthy and hopefully wealth building endeavor.
Happy New Year!