Before I get to the book I want to share a little story. Something positive actually happened on Twitter. It turns out that Twitter doesn’t have to be carnage pit filled with trolls. There’s a nice guy on it and his name is Todd Wenning (@ToddWenning).
A while back I read Harriman’s New Book of Investing Rules. The book is 500 pages of wisdom by some great investors. There are some well-known names and less familiar names like Todd. The investors profiled range in style and strategies. One of the articles in the book was written by Todd Wenning (@ToddWenning). I really enjoyed Todd’s piece and I reached out to him on Twitter to let him know.
Todd was a man of his tweet. I did received his book, Keeping Your Dividend Edge, and I was more than happy to read it. See, something positive came out of Twitter.
I like Todd’s philosophy on investing and dividends. His thinking really resonated with me. Invest like you are buying a business. Study the business, study the fundamentals, figure out the competitive advantage, and can you make a reasonable assumption that the company will be able to maintain its success for a decade or more to come. Focus on the long-term and get paid in growing dividends and capital appreciation.
Todd’s book is about dividend investing. It’s a short read with approximately 120 pages. There’s nothing wrong with a small read. It’s actually refreshing. The book doesn’t waste your time. It’s delivers on content. It goes straight to the point. It’s concise and clear. Just the plain blue cover signals no b.s., no hype.
You will become a better investor if you read this book and actually apply it’s principles. You will. Todd didn’t reinvent the wheel here. Dividend investing has been a staple strategy. But what Todd did is to remind us of the art of dividend investing.
I feel that dividend investing is a lost art. Or investing for income in general. Most income investors are doing it wrong. It’s like health. Everybody wants to be fit and healthy but they are doing it wrong by buying into trends and taking short-cuts. I feel it’s the same with income/dividend investing. People are approaching it the wrong way.
Investors are turned off by blue chips dividend payers because of the low ~2% yield so they chase high-yield stocks. We live in a world where investors are buying bonds for capital gains. The world has turned upside down. The most probable cause is the 10-year plus of ultra low interest rates is distorting financial markets. It’s been a tough stretch for savers in need of yield. Another cause is buybacks as the preferred way to return money to investors.
You can’t just invest for the dividend. If you don’t do your homework it could led to trouble. Dividends should be part of a grander strategy. A good strategy should include dividends as a part of total performance. It’s a key component of long-term share price movements. You can’t guarantee a dividend because a company doesn’t have to pay one, but with the right analysis you can have pretty good idea if they will pay one and raise it over time. If you aim for let’s say a conservative 6% to 7% annual return (S&P Index has returned 10%+ in the last ten years). With a 3% yield you have accomplished half your returns. One aspect of dividends I like is that it’s a tangible returns. It’s a real return. It’s real cash that you receive. And I like cash because it allows me to allocate more capital.
Dividend investing is about patience. Focus on the long-term. Focus on the business. Focus on the fundamentals. Focus on the cash flow because that’s where dividends are from. Dividends need to come from cash produced by the company (not accounting earnings).
Dividends are not a magic pill. A company can’t guarantee a dividend because unlike a bond, there’s no obligation to pay. Dividends can be cut. We have seen blue chips like GE, Pfizer, and more recently Vodafone slash their dividends. A company might take on too much debt and get in trouble. The share price of the company you invested in can languish, or worse disappear. Taxes could be an issue if not handle properly. Todd’s book has a whole chapter on avoiding dividend cuts. Usually the main reason is the lack of sustainable free cash flow. If a company can’t covert a dividend with free cash flow, they need to fund the payouts with cash on hand, debt, or asset sales. Expect trouble if that happens.
The holy-grail of dividend investing success is the compounding effect. The combination of the increased in value of your stock (capital gain), dividends, and growing dividends reinvested that creates bigger dividends, that gets reinvested can turn your investment into a snowball what creates wealth.
In case it wasn’t clear by now Todd makes the case for smart dividend investing. In case you need to read it again, if you want success in the stock market you need a long-term patient approach. Dividends helps you focus on the business. It helps you focus on the fundamentals of the business. It helps you forget about the daily gyrations of the stock market. I have no clue what the stock market is going to do, so it would be more profitable to forget it and concentrate on trying to find the right stock to buy. Dividends also help you take hit. If you have an investment that is down 15% (because it happens) and the business is sound, you have your dividends coming in and an opportunity to buy the business 15% cheaper.
Long-term thinking, patience, and persistence are qualities which should pertain to investors. Dividends delivers on these fronts. Keeping Your Dividend Edge deserved a place on your investing book shelf.
I read the book Metro 2033 by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky. For a change, I read of piece of fiction. Metro is an international best-seller and deservedly so. Metro 2033 was originally published online in Russian for free because it was rejected by the conventional publishers. The book became a hit and an English version of Metro 2033 with its sequels Metro 2034 and Metro 2035 are available. The books were also adopted in a video game format, Metro Redux (includes both 2033 and 2034), and Metro Exodus just came out. The games are first-person shooter survival horror but I haven’t had a chance to tried it out and they do look good. Point your weapon and blow up stuff. Kotaku has a review of the Exodus here. There’s also discussion of a TV series or a movie. I hope a TV series format is adopted because there’s just so much stuff to cover that I don’t think a 2 hour movie would do justice. But again look what at what they did with The Lord of Rings trilogy or Harry Potter.
Metro 2033 is based in the Moscow Metro in a not so far future (2033) after the nuclear weapons blew up the world. I didn’t know this, but the Moscow metro system is one of the world’s largest (196 stations) and it’s also used has a nuclear bomb shelter. Moscow is ready for nuclear war. Here’s a map of the Moscow Metro:
They also have another “secret” metro, Metro-2, that supposedly runs parallel to public one. Apparently it’s only for special government function. The Russian government has neither denied or confirmed its existence.
There’s a lot in this book. A lot. Artyom, the protagonist, has a mission that caries him across the metro. Each station has its own story. Artyom has various encounters with communists, neo-nazis, cannibals, cultists, bandits among others. All these people are leaving underground and they don’t really like each other. The book is very ambitious and quite an achievement for a first novel. I was intrigued to learn about the author. It would be fun to have a conversation with the author to learn more about his aspiration for such a book. Here are a couple interviews with Dmitry Glukhovsky:
In some interview he mentioned the video games Fallout having an influence on him. I played the originals (Fallout 1 & 2) when I was a kid and absolutely loved them. There are some difference however. Fallout presents the post nuclear apocalypse world as rough, tough, but playful and cheerful. Metro presents the post nuclear as rough, tough, gritty and dark. One version is Americanized and the other is Russianized. In Fallout exploring the world is the fun part. In Metro you don’t leave you station. In Fallout, a mutant can become your friend. In Metro you avoid monsters. Fallout is for a younger audience. Metro is for a more mature audience.
The post-apocalyptic theme might seem over-exploited. It’s really in vogue right now with all the zombie shows/movies/games coming out. Metro is not another run of the mill product. Dmitry did not simplifying the theme and the tone of his work is not water down. This is not a series for idiots. It’s complex. It’s high-quality. I believe that by not trying to be a mass-market product, by not trying to be everything for everyone, Dmitry has built something extremely solid that became has became a massive international best-seller.
The success also led to the creation of the Metro universe. There are over 100 books published in the world of Metro written by authors all over the world (*link in Russian).
This is a good franchise. My reading pile is growing and I will try to get them the rest of them. I don’t know when but I will.
I just recently found out that Charlie Munger was interviewed by Ruth Porat, CFO Alphabet Inc. I found a set of notes from this blog: http://d0j.blogspot.com/2016/09/notes-from-charlie-munger-talk.html. The notes are from 2016. Despite the weird formatting, it looks legit and it’s Charlie in the picture. However I can’t find any video evidence of this. Usually Google Talks are recorded, available on Youtube with 40 views. There’s nothing on Google either (I even tried Bing in case Google was suppressing results). It appears to be a private talk. If anybody know more about this feel free to share.
Other business: I got back from the Fairfax AGM and have a ideas for a couple new posts in the coming weeks.
I made a copy of the notes below just in case they get lost on the Internet. It seems to be the only copy I could find.
Charlie Munger notes from Alphabet interview. Sorry for the formatting. It’s straight copy and paste from the website.
Notes from the Charlie Munger Talk
Charlie Munger was interviewed by Ruth Porat, CFO Alphabet Inc earlier in the Mountain View campus today. Here are some (unedited) notes I jotted down:
munger: “What you have to learn is to fold early when the odds are against you, or if you have a big edge, back it heavily because you don’t get a big edge often. Opportunity comes, but it doesn’t come often, so seize it when it does come.”
take a simple idea and take it seriously to get a good spouse, you need to deserve a good spouse
the google culture is unique
what do you like about google culture?
you got more brain power
larry created a different culture
ruth “incrementalism leads to irrelevance”
charlie: not all companies keep growing. you cannot compound infinitely
berkshire hathaway is decentralized
we are similiar to google in how to accumulate money. we dont know what to do with it.
investing money is difficult
professional investment used to be simple and stupid in old days
when u compete with idiots you can do well
ruth “competition is one click away”
audience “which sectors are attractive to you”
folks that have momentum
if i had to buy one tech stock id buy google
the Chinese are hungry. the engineers are coming out of poverty
berkshire is like a swimmer that keeps swimming with or without the tide. we dont anticipate swings in the tide.
vc in 2000 took 100B
sam goldwyn — “Gentlemen, You May Include Me Out “
we own the biggest carbide cutting tools company
these israeli guys run it as fanatics
we dont know anything about carbide cutting tools.
but these israeli guys are winning
the culture they’ve created fosters winning
berkshire avoids mistakes by continous learning judging people has been crucial
our philisophy: if a guy can juggle 20 milk bottles, then why would we interfere?
a mistake we learned from:
guy we had from beginning from berkshire had cancer. we kept him. but he signed bad contracts. we learned from that. you dont want wrong compassion
advice for the young: underspend your income.
you may not get rich but you won’t do badly.
keep at it.
investing money is harder TODAY world today is radically different
you don’t have the time to find value stocks like warren used to.
ibm let gates put out software on their hardware. they lost. “it’s never going to be easy”
avoid the crazyness
crazy bubbles should be avoided.
“i want a fair advantage” you have to specialize to succeed
5-10% time to think of your hobbies
what i learned from other fields:
psychology was most important. “why is everyone so crazy” i was going to synthesize psychology with everything else i do.
psychologists on the other hand just focus on psychology.
but i’m trying to figure out how to use psychology in investing and everything else i do .
you have to be alert when the rare opportunity comes by. u have to have patience.
‘your opportunities are rare but you have to move’ said his great grandfather
few decisions get to be very important
venture capital is a bubble. there has been overpaying.
i dont understand computer software. i dont understand your culture.
but it can’t be easy
what we are good at: “we know how to buy businesses”
you need to be able to destroy your own idea.
you should be ok with making a dumb mistake
everyone is useful. he can always be used as a bad example
Memo from: Bognor Consulting Group. To: Santa Claus, North Pole hq, Lapland.
Thanks for asking us to have a look at your business model. Our staff have now recovered from their frostbite and have a number of significant suggestions for a revamp before next year.
First, the brand name. The business seems to use several different monikers, including St Nicholas, Santa Claus and Father Christmas. We suggest settling on one of the three. Father Christmas is clearly paternalistic and gender-biased. St Nicholas is too overtly religious. Santa Claus is a much more inclusive term. Once trademarked, there is a ton of money to be made from merchandising rights, particularly from greeting-card companies and department stores. Frankly, your intellectual property is an underutilised resource.
Making better use of it could help address your most glaring challenge: the lack of any revenue stream. Mince pies, carrots and glasses of brandy are not a sound basis of remuneration for a multinational organisation. And who pays for the raw materials needed to make the presents? Given the lack of paperwork about your funding, we are surprised that the authorities have not launched an investigation into money-laundering.
Next, the distribution system. We admit you have an excellent record to date. However, in attempting to deliver millions of presents from a single point over the course of one night, you have been flying by the seat of your sled. It would take just one injured reindeer or a chimney accident and the whole system would grind to a halt. It is far from clear how you co-ordinate your flights with air-traffic-control systems.
Outsourcing is the obvious answer. Amazon, Fed Ex and ups would do the job just as efficiently. If the chimney-delivery route is still preferred, then small drones may be the answer.
Now let us turn to working conditions. Basing your operation at the North Pole exposes your workers both to extreme cold and, thanks to climate change, melting ice. It is a health-and-safety (or should that be elf-and-safety) nightmare. Speaking of which, our human-resources department is unsure whether employing elves should be classed as an admirable diversity policy or discrimination against Homo sapiens. As with distribution, the operation could be outsourced. The elves could be retrained, perhaps as shoemakers.
Our team was also very concerned about animal welfare. Asking reindeer to fly around the world in one night, pulling a heavy load, must put an enormous strain on their physiques. One of the reindeer has a very shiny nose and we recommend immediate veterinary attention.
The next issue is data protection. You tell us you have a “list” which records whether children are “naughty or nice”. We are afraid that checking it twice is simply not an adequate safeguard. Children, and their parents, have the right to inspect the list to see whether they agree with your assessment. Even keeping the list is a breach of data-protection rules around the planet. And how are the data compiled? The fact that you see children when they are sleeping, and know when they are awake, suggests surveillance on an Orwellian scale. This must be stopped immediately. If you insist on pre-gift monitoring, simply look at the children’s Snapchat accounts. That should tell you all you need to know.
While we are on the subject, how do you know which families celebrate Christmas and which do not? In some jurisdictions, you may be liable to a religious-discrimination lawsuit.
We are also worried about succession planning. No insult intended but the white beard suggests you are past retirement age and your rotund physique does not bode well for your health. You need to hire a graduate, preferably from an Ivy League college such as Yule University.
The good news is that you do live up to many of the precepts of modern business theory. Just-in-time delivery, a flat management structure and a purpose-driven ethos are all things we recommend to other clients. And no one can say that flying reindeer are not “agile”.
Finally, we need to talk about the terms of our bill. Our expenses were considerable; have you seen the price of a first-class seat on Lapland Airways? Your offer of a train set and slippers was very kind, but we prefer a bank transfer. Mind you, if you could drop a hassle-free Brexit solution down the chimney, the people of Britain would be very grateful.
“We try to stick to companies gushing free cashflow. Huge returns on capital, meaning they deploy their capital well.
That avoids some of the value traps from ‘traditional’ value. I think that brings up the point – we don’t really think of value as low price-to-book, low price-to-sales investing. We’re actually valuing businesses based on cashflow, like a private equity investor would.
So if you’re trying to figure out what a company’s worth and buy it for less, at a bigger discount, that will never go out of favor even if value as defined by companies like Morningstar, which is low price-to-book or low price-to-sales investing. That may or may not stay in vogue. It may be out of favor sometimes, in favor, it may not even outperform the market going forward.
That doesn’t mean that much to me because those have been correlations that have worked with more than your fair share of companies that are out of favor. I imagine they’ll come back a some point. We’re actually valuing businesses based on cashflows. That’s what stocks are, ownership shares in businesses.”
Thank you to value investor François Denault for the find.
The interview is hosted by Louis Rukeyser, guests included one of the world’s best investor: John Templeton, Steven Einhorn and William Schreyer. It was taped just after the market crash on Black Monday October 19 1987. That day The Dow Jones index fell exactly 508 points to 1,738.74 (22.61%), it’s largest daily percentage losses in history. You can tell from their display of emotion that this was not a normal week. The show starts at 1:44 min and the host had to reassure the viewers that they “just lost money and not their life”.
I wonder how people would react today to a catastrophic drop this big. Just look at the hysteria when the stock market goes down 2%. I can’t imagine the punch in the stomach of 22% drop.
By the way in 1987 there was no recession at the time and the Dow finished the year in the positive.
It is a windy Tuesday in London and from a Canary Wharf skyscraper, Bruce Flatt, chief executive of Brookfield Asset Management, surveys a corner of his global empire.
Close by is Newfoundland, 62-storeys of homes for rent beside the Thames. In the distance, nestled among City of London towers, is 100 Bishopsgate, a 37-floor office building under construction. To the right, in fashionable Shoreditch, the 50-storey residential Principal Tower is taking shape.
What about the West End, which is studded with cranes? No, nothing there is big enough for Brookfield. “The sites are small and our advantage is scale,” says Mr Flatt.