Monday, 7 October 2013

Debunking 5 Common Investor Dilemmas

FORBES | 2/13/2013

Hundreds of investors ask me questions each year about the dilemmas they confront. Their worst problem? Uncertainty. They are traumatized and become emotional or confused to the state of inaction. Even worse, they try to solve a short-term problem in a way that hurts them financially in the long run.

My solution is to keep it simple: Buy the stocks of great companies at reasonable valuations.

Here are five everyday investor dilemmas and my easy stock solutions.

Dilemma: You need cash flow, but it’s a scary world. A ten-year Treasury pays just 1.8%. If you are prepared for some risk, junk bonds pay about 5%, but they tend to get whacked when interest rates rise. Same with lower-yielding but higher-quality corporate bonds.

I have long advocated a safer approach if yield is what you crave. Buy big-cap stocks. I like America’s largest wireless carrier, Verizon (VZ, 44), which has a 4.75% dividend yield. With Verizon, you can expect single-digit growth from a diversified group of consumer and business offerings, plus a boost from added wireless spectrum.

Like any stock, Verizon isn’t immune to short-term volatility, but in the long term it will deliver. It’s cheap at 1.1 times annual sales and 15 times my estimated 2014 earnings. Beats T bonds by a mile.

Dilemma: The Federal Reserve is printing money, and the country’s going to hell. Your daughter just got a nose piercing and a facial tattoo. The prospect of inflation has you terrified. How can you invest in the ugly realities of neo-America?

Not with gold—it doesn’t actually do anything, and during 85% of its long history it has lost money. Do you flee America? Poland is doing great, but the language is difficult. Mexico? Better take your gun.

The solution, of course, is to diversify globally, and one of the best ways I know to stave off inflation is buying in Deutschland. The Germans have little tolerance for inflation. I like Germany’s fast-growing SAP (SAP, 80). It’s the global market-share leader in enterprise software for business operations and customer relations.

Crowd-think sees faltering growth due to competition. That was also the view one, three, five and ten years ago. Don’t fall prey to the doubters—the stock sells for 20 times my estimate of 2013 earnings with a 1.2% dividend yield.

Dilemma: Your other daughter—the good one, from wife No. 2—is adorable, just 7, and you want to put away something for her college years that she will appreciate.

In a decade we may think back on Facebook as a great fad, but Coca-Cola KO +0.11% (KO, 38) is a stock with staying power!

It’s truly one of the original global buys, but it’s as American as apple pie. It should continue to grow at low rates until long after your daughter proudly gives you grandkids. It sells at 16 times my 2013 estimated earnings with a 2.6% dividend yield.

Dilemma: You’re intrigued by exciting, fast-growing emerging markets, but you’re also worried about terrorists, drug dealers, corruption and lousy roads.

Buy Ecopetrol (EC, 61), one of the largest petroleum companies in the world, based in Colombia. But don’t worry about Colombia’s narco issues. Ecopetrol is an experienced local operator. I last recommended it Sept. 21, 2009 at $26, but it should continue to prosper. It sells at 13 times my estimated 2013 earnings.

Dilemma: how to find another great stock despite a well-diversified portfolio.

Buy Walt Disney DIS +2% Co. (DIS, 55), the world’s largest media firm by revenue. It’s big and easy to understand. Slow growth, but superbly managed and diverse in its field, and by definition fun! It’s just 13 times my estimated September 2014 earnings with a 1.4% dividend yield.

Money manager Ken Fisher’s latest book is Markets Never Forget (But People Do) (John Wiley, 2011). Visit his home page at

No comments: