Thursday, 23 July 2009

How can investment returns be improved?

How to improve on my returns on my investing?

Always keep cash for emergency use. Also, always have cash for opportunistic investing. This is not a problem for those who have constant stream of cash incomes. For others, keeping cash:stock in the ratio of 25:75, gives a return quite close to those who are 100% invested into stocks.

Next, would be selecting the right stocks. Using my QVM method, we aim to select stocks that will give us good sustainable returns for a long time. We should aim for a return of 15% per year, if possible, and always going for high probability events that give high returns at low risks. Returns can also be sought from badly beaten down stocks (undervalued stocks) that will give great returns when they are repriced at fair values.

Maintain a concentrated portfolio. Bet big on those stocks you have conviction in. Do not over-diversify. The company specific risks are fully diversified when you have 6 stocks in your portfolio. An additional stock added to the portfolio after the sixth may lead to lower returns without the benefit of reducing further the risks. The market risks cannot be diversified, but can be partially managed through asset allocation.

It is important to manage the portfolio actively. This also incorporates asset allocation. There will be time when the market is bubbly, when one may need to pare down exposure to stocks, though, never completely. There will be times, when one's exposure to stock will be relatively high, especially at the end of a severe and prolonged bear market.

Always monitor the business of the stocks in the portfolio in your readings of the papers, business magazines, etc. Track their business performance every quarter through their regular financial releases.

Two active strategies are employed to improve on the returns of our portfolio. Firstly, the defensive strategy. This is to prevent harm to our portfolio. This occurs when the fundamentals of the business of the stock have deteriorated, sometimes suddenly, for various reasons. Another reason maybe "creative" accounting. In these situations, sell the related stocks quickly. Do not hesistate. Speed in selling is important in reducing severe damage to your portfolio, by limiting the losses.

The next is termed offensive strategy. Of 5 stocks one invest into, expect 1 to perform exceptionally well, 3 to be fairly well and 1 to do "not so well or badly". You have time to apply this strategy leisurely. There is no urgency as like the situation previously described.

Review and rebalance your portfolio at regular intervals. Perhaps, once per month or even less frequent than this. You may wish to sell or trim the stocks where the prices are too high, reducing the upside potential and increasing the downside risk. You may also wish to sell or trim those stocks where the potential for upside gain is assessed to be low. (Remember you aim for 15% return on an annual basis.) The cash derived from their disposals should be re-deployed into those stocks which have a higher potential for gain.

Sounds simple, but trust me, active investing and active management of portfolio are both challenging and take effort. However, the returns can be good for those employing a disciplined investing philosophy and strategy.

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