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Dirty market timing and cash
Old 08-18-2013, 10:02 AM   #1
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Dirty market timing and cash

http://boards.fool.com/navigating-fo...spx?sort=whole

This is from the Motley Fool Berkshire board. The consensus on the board seems to be that the overall market is very overvalued, so if you hold a broad market mutual fund you may want to do some market timing, selling the overall market and increase cash, then buying back in when the market is more reasonably valued.

I understand that most folks who own index funds don't want to try to time the market, but it might be worth doing this time to mitigate the risk 10-20 years of flat overall market returns.
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Old 08-18-2013, 10:38 AM   #2
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At the nadir of the financial crisis, I doubled down and had about 86% of my total net worth in equities and about 14% in cash. I believed in my head I was doing the right thing, but my stomach was in knots and I had to take anti-anxiety meds for a couple months. (In hindsight I DID the right thing, but it wasn't worth the stress.) So as the market recovered, I moved toward an asset allocation I felt I could live with for life, come early retirement or anything else. I now have about 50% of my net worth in equities and the rest is diversified among CDs, private lending, real estate, cash, etc. I'll just ride it out at this point. Though the market is probably over-valued, that doesn't mean it can't get more over-valued, like in the late 90's.

On another note, since you brought up BRK, I sold the vast majority of it a few months ago. The reasoning is that Buffett himself has stated that BRK will not outperform the S&P by much going forward due to its size, and Buffett himself is getting up there in years and not likely to drive the train for that much longer. I have no idea who these guys Todd and Ted are that are being groomed to take over, but I do not believe for a second they'll have the cache, connections, intestinal fortitude, etc. to be the next Buffetts. In fact, when Buffett started, he didn't have that much pressure. He dealt with a few private investors who knew and trusted him. For Todd and Ted, the bar is much higher. They'll be inheriting the investment portfolio of a publicly-traded behemoth and every move they make will be scrutinized with a WWBD (what would Buffett do?) mentality. I think I'll sit that one out and just remain 50% in index funds, collect my dividends, and ride the market's ups and downs.
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Old 08-18-2013, 10:41 AM   #3
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I understand that most folks who own index funds don't want to try to time the market, but it might be worth doing this time to mitigate the risk 10-20 years of flat overall market returns.
So are you selling (or have sold) all your equities?
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Old 08-18-2013, 11:00 AM   #4
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I understand that most folks who own index funds don't want to try to time the market, but it might be worth doing this time..
It's that "might be" qualifier that always gets me when it comes to market timing - along with the historical inability to accurately predict what markets will do in the future.
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Old 08-18-2013, 11:01 AM   #5
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At any given time or valuation, you can find seemingly convincing articles recommending buying or selling equities, especially now in the Internet age - the number of "experts" has grown exponentially! Some will be right, some will be wrong and both due to chance as much as anything. Not that it matters, but valuations were a lot higher going into the dotcom downturn, and there were lots of experts still recommending getting in.

If you're a long term investor you know the rewards of ignoring this kind of "advice" has paid off handsomely - in the long run. If you're a short term investor, good luck timing the market. The odds of success have been poor, even for pros much less amateurs like most here (self included).

Best of luck whatever you decide, it's your money and your financial future...
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Old 08-18-2013, 11:05 AM   #6
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I understand that most folks who own index funds don't want to try to time the market, but it might be worth doing this time to mitigate the risk 10-20 years of flat overall market returns.
Just this once? Market timing can be a horrible strategy for many of us, even just once. I know it doesn't work for me at all. My crystal ball is so unreliable.



True rebalancing (only according to specific criteria in a written financial plan) does make sense to me but I already did that in May, and do not need to do it again quite yet. [Edited to add: actually, I just checked and my planned equity allocation of 45% is now 44.93%. That's about as right on as it gets.]

If/when my AA once again gets out of balance enough to exceed those criteria, believe me, I'll follow your advice.
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Old 08-18-2013, 11:36 AM   #7
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I have to write that another dirty market timing newsletter writer does not agree. See e.g. LOL!'s Market Timing Newsletter for the latest.
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Old 08-18-2013, 11:40 AM   #8
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I have to write that another dirty market timing newsletter writer does not agree. See e.g. LOL!'s Market Timing Newsletter for the latest.
Yes, be aware that "LOL!" responds to many threads that mention market timing, by citing the above link to his thread instead. You can also find many other threads on market timing by using our search functions.
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Old 08-18-2013, 12:17 PM   #9
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My investment philosophy is pretty much set and forget. IMHO, market timing is foolish unless you have a very well calibrated crystal ball. Just my two cents.
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Old 08-18-2013, 12:21 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cardude View Post
TMF: Navigating for the next decade / Berkshire Hathaway

This is from the Motley Fool Berkshire board. The consensus on the board seems to be that the overall market is very overvalued, so if you hold a broad market mutual fund you may want to do some market timing, selling the overall market and increase cash, then buying back in when the market is more reasonably valued.

I understand that most folks who own index funds don't want to try to time the market, but it might be worth doing this time to mitigate the risk 10-20 years of flat overall market returns.
This is about like asking about gay marriage at the Southern Baptist Convention. You can be pretty sure what you will hear.

Ha
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Old 08-18-2013, 12:22 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cardude View Post
TMF: Navigating for the next decade / Berkshire Hathaway

This is from the Motley Fool Berkshire board. The consensus on the board seems to be that the overall market is very overvalued, so if you hold a broad market mutual fund you may want to do some market timing, selling the overall market and increase cash, then buying back in when the market is more reasonably valued.

I understand that most folks who own index funds don't want to try to time the market, but it might be worth doing this time to mitigate the risk 10-20 years of flat overall market returns.
I'm not at all against market timing, but since when is the "consensus" right? If it were so simple one would just tally the boards quarterly and then go with the flow.

Have you tried doing a backtest of the consensus opinions? Did they get the 2008 call correct? How about the 2000 call? Any false calls in the last 10 years or so? That would be about the max time span to study internet boards I would imagine.

I have seen people talk about market timing being easy to develop looking backwards but warning about using it going forwards. This is bunk. Most people (almost 100% I would guess) making that statement have never done any studies and are biased against MT.
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Old 08-18-2013, 12:27 PM   #12
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I don't try to time the market, so pretty much ignored it, but the last Vanguard newsletter had a P/E chart on the back that said we were currently below the typical level. I think they said 20 was average, at we're at about 16. It's been much higher for some pretty long durations. So I question the collective wisdom on the fool board.
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Old 08-18-2013, 12:30 PM   #13
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I don't try to time the market, so pretty much ignored it, but the last Vanguard newsletter had a P/E chart on the back that said we were currently below the typical level. I think they said 20 was average, at we're at about 16. It's been much higher for some pretty long durations. So I question the collective wisdom on the fool board.
Does Vanguard have any incentive to keep clients invested? Does Vanguard have any incentive to encourage clients to withdraw their funds?

I know Vanguardliness is next to godliness, but still..

Ha
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Old 08-18-2013, 12:35 PM   #14
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The problem is whether we use the recent average P/E of the last 3 decades as the yardstick, or the really long-term P/E average over the last 140 years.

See: HULBERT ON INVESTING: P/E Ratios Aren't Always What They Seem - WSJ.com.

I do not intend to sell out of the market, but as I am trimming some stock positions due to their very specific and individual conditions, I am a bit reluctant to redeploy that cash to buy something else. So, my cash hoard has been slowly climbing.
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Old 08-18-2013, 12:36 PM   #15
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I wouldn't go so far to say that's the "consensus of the board". In fact, there is a post that references another thread in which the author proposes we are entering a long term bull market and those who were all in during/after 2009 shouldn't make a move at all.

I predict it'll either rain tomorrow or it won't.
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Old 08-18-2013, 12:45 PM   #16
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Does Vanguard have any incentive to keep clients invested? Does Vanguard have any incentive to encourage clients to withdraw their funds?

I know Vanguardliness is next to godliness, but still..
Yep, I agree Mr. Ha. There are spin forces at work there. I thought you couldn't argue with P/E, though, then I saw Mr. NW's post, hehe.
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Old 08-18-2013, 01:16 PM   #17
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I understand that most folks who own index funds don't want to try to time the market, but it might be worth doing this time to mitigate the risk 10-20 years of flat overall market returns.
I think that is what most of us are doing when we do our yearly/quarterly or whatever re-balancing act. That seems to be the safest market timing tool I know of. At most I might re-balance early. Nobody ever went broke taking a profit.
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Old 08-18-2013, 01:29 PM   #18
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My simple mind has me holding true to my 45/40/15 equity/bond/cash allocation. The cash may increase a little as I approach ER and want enough to bridge from 58 or so to age 62.
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Old 08-18-2013, 03:36 PM   #19
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People like me, who rebalance multiple times per year, have already sold a lot of equities and bought a lot of bonds, simply to keep our asset allocations in line with targets. That's an inevitable by-product of an ~20% rise in stocks in the past six months combined with the current weak bond market. I see no compelling reason to go beyond what I've already done, which would involve reducing my stock allocation below my target level. Doing so would put me at risk of eventually needing to repurchase stocks at a higher price in order to get back to my target. It's that sort of catastrophic mistake that gives market timing such a poor reputation.
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Old 08-18-2013, 05:21 PM   #20
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So are you selling (or have sold) all your equities?

No, I am not selling all my equities. I am not invested in a market index fund but instead in various companies that are not currently (IMO) overvalued. That post I referenced actually talks about NOT going to cash if you are invested in reasonably valued companies that will be able to grow earnings over time. I did sell all of the stock in an IRA account that I thought had gotten overvalued, but that was only 5% of my portfolio. The only way I can see going to 40-50% cash is if one of my bigger holdings hits my "overvalued" trigger.

My post was meant to be more of a thought experiment on what could happen and how we will deal with it rather than an actual prediction of what might hapoen. I would like to try to be ready for whatever the market throws me. For instance, how would your portfilio hold up as you draw down on it if the overall market goes sideways for 20 years? 30 years?
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