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Old 07-21-2011, 12:44 PM   #21
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Well, where to start . . .
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Ask any Japanese retiree how B&H has worked out for them. The Nikkei 225 index is currently about 72% below its 1990 peak. If you bought & held starting in 1990, you currently have about 1/4 of your account left. That's a TWENTY YEAR SWOON with no end in sight. What would happen to your retirement plans if that happened in the US markets?
I guess I'd regret having put all my money in stocks, and in US stocks at that. And I'd regret having invested all my money right at once, right at the peak. That's probably why most people don't do that. And, do tell where your money is supposed to be when you are out of the market. If you believe folks who see higher interest rates coming (nearly everyone) then it's dangerous to be in long-term govt securities. If you believe we're in for a bout of serious inflation (as you said, things are going to be different from now on) then cash doesn't look so good.
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Old 07-21-2011, 12:59 PM   #22
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A wise observation. Of course, any money you have in stocks, in any international market, is susceptible to similar downturns. If your proportion of stocks is so small that you wouldn't care about a 70% loss in value, good on ya. But let's say your portfolio contains 50% stocks. Would you be happy with a 35% loss to your portfolio? Would you be happy with that 50% losing value or at best going sideways for decades? If so, you're in great shape.

But if you'd prefer to protect yourself against huge market drops, regardless of the size of your stock position, then in my opinion a defensive strategy is better than a close-your-eyes-and-hope strategy.
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Old 07-21-2011, 02:36 PM   #23
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Partly because I am not sure I would stick with it through thick and thin.
Take the time to improve your market-timing discipline, and you should be able to stick with it all the way until you go broke.
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Old 07-21-2011, 04:13 PM   #24
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Your money already **IS** in play if you're doing buy & hold. You're just leaving it totally exposed to market disasters.

IMHO, anybody who assumes buy & hold is going to make you rich in the next 20-30 years is delusional. B&H has worked pretty well in the past 100 years, but the game has changed. The US (and the world) is not in the economic position it was in for the last 100 years. You cannot assume the markets will continue working the way they worked in the past -- especially the recent 1980-2000 past.

Ask any Japanese retiree how B&H has worked out for them. The Nikkei 225 index is currently about 72% below its 1990 peak. If you bought & held starting in 1990, you currently have about 1/4 of your account left. That's a TWENTY YEAR SWOON with no end in sight. What would happen to your retirement plans if that happened in the US markets?

And it very easily could. Our current financial mess is a much bigger version of what happened in Japan in the 1990's, and the US govt's response is too close to a carbon copy of what Japan did in the 1990's. (And what the US govt told them, at the time, was the wrong thing to do. Too bad we don't follow our own advice.) Furthermore the Japanese markets tanked in the midst of an unprecedented roaring bull market in the US and many other countries. What might it look like if the US markets went into a similar tailspin, in the mist of a global recession?

So it is my very strong opinion that B&H is NOT going to perform well in the near future. At best the markets might go sideways like they have for the past 11 years. I think you need to practice defensive investing.

I don't recommend jumping in & out like a flea on a griddle. That can be done very successfully, but only by talented professionals who focus on it. But there ARE ways to make sure you don't get massacred if the market tanks.

Here's a very simple example: once a month, calculate the average monthly closing price of SPY, the S&P 500 ETF. If the past month's *low* price is higher than the average, buy SPY. If the past month's *high* price is lower than the average, sell.

Look what this would have done for you in the last 11 years:



When the market tanks, you're out. When the market peaked in 2000, this would have gotten you out about 15% from the absolute top, and you would have sat on the sidelines (in tbills or whatever) while the market dumped 50%. Then you'd have gotten in again 25% off the absolute bottom, rode it up, ducked most of another 57% dump in 2008, etc. Instead of going sideways for 11 years, with gut-wrenching drawdowns, you would have made about 84% profit.

Furthermore you'd have caught about 90% of the 1980-2000 bull market with this strategy. You don't lose anything by following it.

If you want to get crazy with it, you can short SPY when the market's headed down. (Unfortunately it doesn't work to hold SH, the inverse S&P500 ETF, due to obscure reasons having to do with the way they formulate the ETF.) That will MAKE you money while the market's dying. But I know that's outside the comfort zone of most people here. The idea of this approach is just to tell you when to sit on the sidelines, to help you avoid getting killed like the Japanese B&H investor.

Now to be honest, our hapless Japanese investor still would have lost money since 1980, even using this approach. But he would have lost only about ¥2300 per N225 share, instead of the ¥29000 he would have lost by hanging on. In other words, instead of losing 72% of his account, he would have lost only about 6%. If he'd been brave enough to short the market when the system told him to, he would have MADE about a 40% profit on his account. (And that's without compounding, just trading a fixed size.)

No doubt everybody is going to chime in that this is all curve-fit to the past data, and it couldn't possibly work in the future. It's true that I tested it on past SPY data, though a 12-month average is hardly a difficult choice. BUT the results on the Nikkei were totally "out of sample" -- I didn't look at the Nikkei at all when I came up with this. If it cut the Nikkei losses from 72% to 6%, don't you think it's worth considering?

It's not rocket science. It's just saying "when the market goes down hard, you'd rather not be sitting there squirming while your account implodes."

If you believe in the religion of B&H, and you're sure that nothing can possibly beat it -- then good luck to you. I think you'll need it. Better hope we don't go through what Japan did.
Actually, I want my money in play at all times (such as following an Index), but only to my target asset allocation. Otherwise, during the upswings if I was trying to time the market, what if I time wrong and miss the opportunity?


There is a difference between strictly buying and holding vs buying and rebalancing to target percentages. During the 2008 meltdown, if you got gun shy and said, "No Mas" out of the market or not buying anymore, you would have missed out. On the otherhand, if you stuck to an approach to get your allocations back to proper percentages even when the market was tanking, in the end you would have been rewarded.
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Old 07-21-2011, 04:41 PM   #25
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But there ARE ways to make sure you don't get massacred if the market tanks.
I don't see a need to quote your whole post, but I think you ommitted something.

How long have you followed this strategy (not backtesting, but actually buying and selling based on these indicators) and how is it working for you?
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Old 07-21-2011, 04:49 PM   #26
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IMHO, anybody who assumes buy & hold is going to make you rich in the next 20-30 years is delusional. B&H has worked pretty well in the past 100 years, but the game has changed. The US (and the world) is not in the economic position it was in for the last 100 years. You cannot assume the markets will continue working the way they worked in the past -- especially the recent 1980-2000 past.
I enjoy reading about investor & consumer psychology, and I especially enjoy reading these types of comments.

It impresses me that the human mind can observe 100 years of historically random returns and assume that (1) they're not just random but even somehow "work" to enrich us, and (2) that they won't work anymore.

In other words, "This time it's really different. And this time I really really mean it."

As SamClem has also observed, I don't know anyone who invests all their worth in just one index for two decades solely for the pleasure of getting the crap pounded out of them. What might be more enlightening is a financial research paper analyzing the effects of a diversified portfolio which is occasionally rebalanced. Even if a Japanese investor put it all in their own country's assets I suspect that some diversification, rebalancing, and reinvested dividends would've managed to outperform the Nikkei.

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A wise observation. Of course, any money you have in stocks, in any international market, is susceptible to similar downturns. If your proportion of stocks is so small that you wouldn't care about a 70% loss in value, good on ya. But let's say your portfolio contains 50% stocks. Would you be happy with a 35% loss to your portfolio? Would you be happy with that 50% losing value or at best going sideways for decades? If so, you're in great shape.
But if you'd prefer to protect yourself against huge market drops, regardless of the size of your stock position, then in my opinion a defensive strategy is better than a close-your-eyes-and-hope strategy.
Come to think of it, there's:
3) The number of not-yet-retired ERs who feel that the retired ERs aren't doing it right.

Before you respond to that comment, if you haven't already then you might want to read Taylor Larimore's "majesty of simplicity" comments on the Bogleheads board.
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Old 07-21-2011, 05:01 PM   #27
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But Gary it is buy, hold and rebalance. I agree if you just hold then you don't get the advantage of selling some high flyers and buying some bargains.

The thing that worries me is market trading by computers. Buy something and 843 microseconds or 17 seconds or 1 hour and 3 minutes later sell it. the market is now subject to forces that never existed.

That being said I still think BH&R makes the most sense.
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Old 07-21-2011, 08:45 PM   #28
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Look what this would have done for you in the last 11 years:



When the market tanks, you're out. When the market peaked in 2000, this would have gotten you out about 15% from the absolute top, and you would have sat on the sidelines (in tbills or whatever) while the market dumped 50%. Then you'd have gotten in again 25% off the absolute bottom, rode it up, ducked most of another 57% dump in 2008, etc. Instead of going sideways for 11 years, with gut-wrenching drawdowns, you would have made about 84% profit.

Who's going sideways? Many B&H are reporting that their portfolio's are at all time highs. Certainly mine is.

Instead of your market timing approach you could just have a diversified portfolio, buy & hold & rebalance and do basically the same or even better. If you look at 10 year returns for funds like vanguard small value (+100%), extended market (+112%), reit (+184), international (+79%) you'll see there's been plenty of money to be made by buy and holders.
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Old 07-21-2011, 08:57 PM   #29
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Here's a very simple example: once a month, calculate the average monthly closing price of SPY, the S&P 500 ETF. If the past month's *low* price is higher than the average, buy SPY. If the past month's *high* price is lower than the average, sell.
Thanks for sharing your methodology and your great post. Would you mind clarifying a question I have? What happens if the previous month's *low* price is higher than the average AND the previous month's high price is lower than the average? Would you simply keep the current signal?
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Old 07-21-2011, 11:17 PM   #30
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Actually, I want my money in play at all times (such as following an Index), but only to my target asset allocation. Otherwise, during the upswings if I was trying to time the market, what if I time wrong and miss the opportunity?
It's not 100% impossible, but it's very unlikely. If the market goes up, the average turns up. If the market goes mostly sideways, or crawls up really slowly, then it's theoretically possible to miss it. But in that case you're not missing much anyway, and your money is probably better off in a bear-market position like bonds. If there is a genuine "opportunity," this simple approach will catch it. That's how the math works.

You're worried about missing an up move. Why aren't you worried about *hitting* a DOWN move? Both will damage your final result.

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What happens if the previous month's *low* price is higher than the average AND the previous month's high price is lower than the average? Would you simply keep the current signal?
I assume you're talking about two different months there, otherwise it's not possible. If the low crosses over the average -- that is, if the just-closed month's low is higher, and the previous month's low is lower -- then you buy. (Or you switch into a more aggressive bull-market mode, however you want to handle it.) If the high crosses under the average, you sell.

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It impresses me that the human mind can observe 100 years of historically random returns and assume that (1) they're not just random
They're NOT random. Anybody who says they are hasn't studied it carefully, or they don't understand basic math.

That's simple to demonstrate. Coin flips are random. Over a large sample of flips, you converge to 50% heads. If the stock market was random, then with a large sample you should have close to 50% up days, or 50% up months.

I just did a coin flip simulation of 992 flips. In 10,000 trials of 992 flips it was never more than 5.8% away from 50%. But since 1928 there have been 992 months, and 58% were positive. That's many many standard deviations away from 50%, enough to be extremely certain it's not random. **70%** of all years since 1928 were positive.

There has been a strong and consistent -- NOT random -- upward bias in the market, even including the Great Depression.

Look at a log chart of the Dow and it's almost a straight line from 1932 to 2000. In fact the correlation between the Dow (log chart) and a straight line is 0.95. That is nothing CLOSE to a random process.



If it was random, the correlation would be near zero. If it was random, B&H wouldn't work. If it was truly random, NOTHING would work. There is no strategy that can reliably make money in a random market, unless you slant the odds. You're totally at the mercy of a random event, hoping for a string of heads.

Of course, even though the market has a strong upward bias **over the long term**, in the long term you're *dead*. The century-long uptrend doesn't help you much if it spends 40 years going sideways, or if it pulls a Japan on you. That's why I think it makes sense to improve your odds.

Quote:
and (2) that they won't work anymore.
Much of that upward march was driven by huge external events: a rapidly expanding world economy; the emergence of the US as a world power; the growth of a thriving middle class; huge technological shifts such as the automobile, electronics, and computers; and the almost unlimited availability of cheap energy. While technology will continue to march on, those other conditions are not likely to repeat in the next 50 years.

Quote:
As SamClem has also observed, I don't know anyone who invests all their worth in just one index for two decades solely for the pleasure of getting the crap pounded out of them.
And obviously the SPY example was a simplification. While you certainly could trade it that way, that's not optimal. If you have any stock-selection skills, you should be able to beat the market. But no matter how good a stock-picker you are, you probably do better in a bull market than in a bear. If you DON'T have good stock-picking skills, then you probably hold index funds, and by definition those do badly in a bear. A flashing neon sign that says "BEAR MARKET" might help you to adjust your strategies to protect your assets and even grow them more effectively.

Quote:
What might be more enlightening is a financial research paper analyzing the effects of a diversified portfolio which is occasionally rebalanced.
Yes, I would find that interesting too. I haven't seen any studies of the results of rebalancing and I'm not quite sure how I'd test it.

Quote:
Come to think of it, there's:
3) The number of not-yet-retired ERs who feel that the retired ERs aren't doing it right.
You do it however works for you. I'm just trying to offer additional tools. I will point out, however, that the current ERs built much of their retirement boodle during one of the biggest, if not THE biggest, bull markets in recorded history. It would be foolish to assume lightning is going to strike again, soon enough to do us any good.
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Old 07-22-2011, 12:07 AM   #31
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A few thoughts. In some ways I agree with you, it is isn't that hard to spot near the bottom of bear market or the top of bull markets. I personal did a pretty good job getting out of tech stocks near the top in early 2000, and certainly wasn't shy about buying stocks in Q4/2008 and Q1/2009. Still I got in too early in 2003, and completely screwed up in early 2008, by aggressively buying financial stocks.

On the hand I think you maybe missing the benefits of annual rebalancing, which is primarily what is advocated on this forum and BogleHead. It isn't pure buy and hold, and just requires looking at one number your AA once per year. The Couch Potato portfolio has nice 6% annual return over the last 5 years with reasonably modest 11% standard deviation and suspect would have done even better with July 1 rebalance date than a Jan 1.

I also don't think is either wise or likely that anybody would say I got a sell or buy signal; I'm going to move all my cash to the stock market in next week. Or vice versa, I am selling all my stocks and buy bonds next week. Realistically the the most aggressive anybody should be is moving from 75%/25% AA to a 25%/75% AA. The real world retiree finances includes tax implications, having money in multiyear CDs with early withdrawal penalties. Given the sell signal, are you 100% out of the market now and more importantly were you 100% in equities in 2009?

Secondly, I should point there is large number of dividend income investor on the forum. In fact among the minority that invest in individual stocks, I'd say a majority of us invest primarily in dividend stocks. As long as dividend keep getting paid, I don't worry about the market dropping 30%, cause it doesn't really impact me. In fact about the beginning of the crash I was rather excited to see a blue light special on stocks. I had also in a dozen years of dividend stock investing never had had dividend cut, 2008/9 was a rude awakening into the fact that dividends can get cut.

To often the analysis of market timing strategy tend to forget the impact of dividend which make up 30-40% of the total long term return of both the US and International stocks.
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Old 07-22-2011, 01:01 AM   #32
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You do it however works for you. I'm just trying to offer additional tools. I will point out, however, that the current ERs built much of their retirement boodle during one of the biggest, if not THE biggest, bull markets in recorded history. It would be foolish to assume lightning is going to strike again, soon enough to do us any good.
I think you're pretty strongly focused on defending your points instead of considering other ideas.

I think much of your data is grounded in "recency" of the last 5-10 decades.

You seem to think that bull markets correlate to ER. While there may be a correlation >0.05, I doubt it's causation. LBYM and saving are far more correlated to ER. There are a number of ERs here who achieved their status on salary, starting their own businesses, real estate, rental property, or extreme frugality... and I suspect that the stock-market ERs are in the minority of the ER population.

I'll go a step farther and speculate that market-timing stock-market ERs are in the miniscule minority of the ER population. I suspect that the vast majority of market-timers will be working at least as long as the national average.

But, hey, I don't have to work it for me anymore. Good luck with whatever approach you feel "works" for you.
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Old 07-22-2011, 08:19 AM   #33
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I think most folks, when they start out investing in the market think, if only they can get in and out at the right time. Doesn't seem too complex. But like a lot of stuff, we realize only in theory it seems simple, but in practice not so easy.

If one has the time and extra money to try, have fun. But for most folks here, I bet that isn't the case.

I do enjoy reading about people's timing strategies though. They are interesting. Plus, I find that the strategies end up reinforcing my conviction to not try that myself
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Old 07-22-2011, 08:38 AM   #34
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I think you're pretty strongly focused on defending your points instead of considering other ideas.
Fair enough. But I don't think I'm the only one.

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You seem to think that bull markets correlate to ER. While there may be a correlation >0.05, I doubt it's causation. LBYM and saving are far more correlated to ER. There are a number of ERs here who achieved their status on salary, starting their own businesses, real estate, rental property, or extreme frugality... and I suspect that the stock-market ERs are in the minority of the ER population.
Oh, I never assumed people made their ER stash with trading wizardry. Hell, I did this for a living for a while, and yet (due to outside issues) a very small part of my too-small retirement stash came from market timing. In fact my stash would be much larger if I hadn't chickened out of the market in 1987, before I had any idea what I was doing. Live and learn.

But I'd hazard a guess that a very large majority took the money they made from LBYM, salary, business, etc, and put a good chunk of it in the market to try to grow it and create income. And I thought some of those folks might be interested in ways to increase their return from the market.
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Old 07-22-2011, 09:44 AM   #35
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And I thought some of those folks might be interested in ways to increase their return from the market.
P.T. Barnum said it best...
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Old 07-22-2011, 10:06 AM   #36
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Oh boy, another thread on my-way-is-the-best-way to invest .

I thought investing was suppose to be a dispassionate exercise.

But I guess it's not possible to separate our ego from our investment methodology.

My take...
You can succeed with some well researched market timing or buy-hold methods assuming you stick to your knitting.
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Old 07-22-2011, 10:08 AM   #37
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The people who really know the investing secrets (and no doubt they are out there) are not sharing them imho.
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Old 07-22-2011, 10:15 AM   #38
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....
But I guess it's not possible to separate our ego from our investment methodology.....
Seems like it - in my case it's because I'm afraid my method (striking for a modest high return from loans, a maximum dinky return from savings accounts, and a sustained monthly income from rentals) might not work out, leaving us living under a bridge. No one knows for sure that things will turn out ok and we are all whistling mightily as we circle the graveyard.... and hoping others will join our march or corroborate our choices.
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Old 07-22-2011, 10:24 AM   #39
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The people who really know the investing secrets (and no doubt they are out there) are not sharing them imho.
yep!!! ... if in the public domain they wouldn't be secrets.
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Old 07-22-2011, 10:28 AM   #40
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And I thought some of those folks might be interested in ways to increase their return from the market.
Well, believe it or not, over the last seven+ years it's just possible that there have been one or two other posters who have felt the same way and made similar statements. However for some reason they seem to have all drifted on to other things before sharing the ultimate results of their tempting strategies.

So make a real commitment and put your keyboard where your timer is. Start a thread in the stock-picker's forum, and post your trades for all to see.

Better yet, if your strategy supports the delay, then post the trades that you'll make in 24-48 hours and let the front-runners tell you how you're doing.

Show a little longevity and stick to it for 2-3 years. If you're "lucky" then you'll get a nasty bear market for you to show off your timing skills.

Similar to this thread on the "Should I pay off the mortgage?" question:
Covering a mortgage without losing your ass(ets).
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