Saturday, June 8, 2019

Growth Stocks In The Bedokian Portfolio?

Being a dividend investor, and knowing growth investing is of a different slant, I was asked a few times on my take of having growth stocks in The Bedokian Portfolio. I had mentioned that The Bedokian Portfolio caters to growth, dividend and a little bit of both.

Before I give my opinion, let us take a look at the basis behind growth and dividend (or income) investing.

It’s About The Returns

Investing 101: Returns = Capital Gains + Income

Capital gains, as we know it, derives from the price appreciation of the asset. Income is either the dividend/coupon/interest that is paid out from holding the asset.

Growth investing focuses more on the capital gains component and investors in this school of thought pay attention to companies that are growing fast and/or in high-growth sectors such as technology and pharmaceuticals. New and upcoming companies, sectors/industries and countries/regions also belong to the growth category.

Dividend investing, on the other hand, emphasizes more on the income part. Dividend investors prefer this investment style as there is a deemed constant income stream from their assets. Companies from established sectors such as banks and utilities, and REITs pay out periodic dividends. Bonds, too, belong to this group as they pay out regular coupons.

Balancing Growth And Dividend Investing

For me, I would see the growth-dividend divide as a form of higher profitability versus longer sustainability. Growth investing gives higher returns but may not be sustainable (i.e. what is the next growth sector to go into after I had cashed out my gains? And can I repeatedly get the same returns?), while dividend investing provides realised returns from income almost constantly but are typically lower than growth’s in a given period.

The best, of course, is to strike a balance between these two, and there are three main ways on going about this: balance by age, balance by weightage or a mix of both.

Balance By Age

In most investment literature, it is encouraged that young investors in their 20s and 30s to have an aggressive portfolio, which means a majority of it is made up of equities. The Bedokian Portfolio has a suggested mix catered to this group in the form of 40% equities, 40% REITs, 10% bonds, 5% commodities and 5% cash1. Since growth comes from equities, the entire 40% could be dedicated to it, with the REITs and bonds providing the income stream. As one gets older, the growth equities will be reduced to 35% and eventually 20%, if going by The Bedokian Portfolio’s age category2.

Balance By Weightage

If a complete growth component in your equities portion is unsettling for you, then you may want to consider having a 50-50 split (or any other ratio) between growth and dividend, and make this ratio fixed throughout your investing life. With the variety of securities and financial instruments available, you can work out a number of combinations (e.g. 50% dividend ETF and 50% growth ETF). 

Balance With A Mix Of Both

This balance features elements from the above two sections, and in gist by having a higher proportion of growth equities to dividend equities during the younger years, and increase the latter component as you get older, while reducing the overall equities proportion in your Bedokian Portfolio simultaneously.

1, 2 – The Bedokian Portfolio, p72

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Recap: Why Diversification Is Important?

These past few weeks had been tumultuous: the trade war was still ongoing between the United States (U.S.) and China; telecoms giant Huawei was bearing the brunt of the clampdown by the U.S.; and just recently the U.S. president had tweeted, against expectations, that Mexico would be the subject of tariffs.

The equity markets, which are deemed to be sensitive to such macroeconomic and geopolitical events, took a dip. If you are at a loss at this juncture, you could read up an earlier piece on what to do when a trade war happens. On top of that, I will show you another way to go through the storm, and that is diversification.

Diversification Is A Natural Hedge

Experienced investors and traders often use hedging strategies to minimize their losses and risks. Derivative financial instruments such as futures, options and contracts for difference (CFDs) are the common tools used for hedging. Short-selling (or shorting) a counter is another way. While they have their good uses, I would not recommend the above hedging strategies if you either do not understand them and/or not sure how the markets are going to move next (which is next to impossible).

Though some may see diversification as a very slow hedging tool, it does work to a certain extent and it is simple to understand. What makes this possible is this thing called correlation, which is how various asset classes, regions and countries, sectors and/or companies would move in relative with one another. However, for this to work optimally, you must have a portfolio with different asset classes (not just equities only) to begin with.

Using the Bedokian Portfolio’s five asset classes and taking a cue from my go-to portfolio analysis tool Portfolio Visualizer, let us look at the correlation of the various ETFs representing the different asset classes and cash in the U.S. market from 1 Jan 2019 to 31 May 2019:

Vanguard Total Stock Market ETFVTI-0.64-0.490.06-0.08
Vanguard Real Estate ETFVNQ0.64-0.280.560.22
Vanguard Total Bond Market ETFBND-0.490.28-0.230.21
SPDR Gold SharesGLD0.060.560.23-0.64

Fig. 1: Correlation table of the five Bedokian Portfolio asset classes, 1 Jan 2019 to 31 May 2019. For full set of data see here

As with the fluidity of the financial markets, such correlation numbers are not hard fixed to one another and will change. Sometimes the asset classes may seem positively correlated, but there are other times where they are negatively correlated. The main gist is all of them correlate with one another differently, and that is why diversification is a natural hedge, since the aim is also to minimize risks and losses.

A caveat though; there is no such thing as a 100% foolproof hedge. If there is such, I would really want to know what and how to do it.

A Hedge For Passive Investing

Passive investors make use of the natural hedging in diversification by rebalancing their investment portfolios. 

Equities coming down due to the trade wars and tariffs? No issue. Let us see how things are like in my next rebalancing date. If my equities portion is below my benchmark, I can just either sell those asset classes that are above their benchmarks and buy more equities, or with my cash injection I would simply adjust the portfolio back to their respective proportions.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

The Gold Conundrum And The Thing About Portfolios

After my piece on gold silver ratio was published, one of my acquaintances read it and asked me this question: is gold (or commodities in general) really necessary for The Bedokian Portfolio?

As usual, my response is: it depends.

Elaborating on my answer, I shall use the Portfolio Visualizer (seems obvious that this place is becoming my go-to site) to carry out a simple back test, with three versions of the US Bedokian Portfolio and benchmarked to the Vanguard 500 Index Investor, representing the US equity market.

  • Bedokian Portfolio 1 (Portfolio 1): The balanced Bedokian Portfolio; 35% equities, 35% REITs, 20% bonds, 5% commodities (gold) and 5% cash.
  • Bedokian Portfolio 2 (Portfolio 2): We shift the 5% component from gold to equities, hence 40% equities, 35% REITs, 20% bonds and 5% cash.
  • Bedokian Portfolio 3 (Portfolio 3): We shift the 5% component from gold to REITs, hence 35% equities, 40% REITs, 20% bonds and 5% cash.

The period covered is from 1994 to 2018, as 1994 is the earliest year that REITs data is available on the Portfolio Visualizer site.

Fig. 1a – Portfolio returns, table view, 1994-2018. Inflation is not factored in.

Fig. 1b - Portfolio returns, graphical view, 1994-2018. Inflation is not factored in.

From Figures 1a and 1b, in terms of returns, the balanced Bedokian Portfolio lost out to the other two alternatives, which in turn trail badly against an all-equities portfolio. Risk-return (Sharpe and Sortino ratios) and volatility wise (standard deviation), the balanced portfolio had a slight edge over the rest.

So can we say do not add gold? Not so fast.

What if we use the period between 2001 and 2010? This decade covered the aftermath of the dot-com bust, the subsequent super bull, the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) and the follow-up recovery.

Fig. 2a – Portfolio returns, table view, 2001-2010. Inflation is not factored in.

Fig. 2b - Portfolio returns, graphical view, 2001-2010. Inflation is not factored in.

Interestingly, the balanced Bedokian Portfolio gave the most returns, yet still scored well in risk-return and lower volatility than the rest.

By now you may be wondering: these numbers are just hindsight statistical play, and I could just find a favourable period to prove my point. Yes, in a way that is correct, but what if in real life there was really a person who had a 10-year investment plan starting from Jan 2001; the gold allocation would had given additional returns (and lower volatility and better risk-return ratio) if he/she decided to withdraw all at Dec 2010 as compared to the rest. 

In my ebook I had stated that commodities are a form of insurance against market volatility1. Though in the examples of Figures 2a and 2b, the difference of protection was not much, but at least it proved its insurance role.

Now The Thing About Portfolios…

Bringing in a related point, in my opinion there is no best strategic asset allocation-based investment portfolio around (and yes The Bedokian Portfolio is no exception). Each one of them has its own strengths, weaknesses, best and worst performance at different points in time and differing duration. So in summary, there could be one portfolio that is good at some moments, but not all of the time.

Yet I would like to emphasize that having a diversified portfolio of various asset classes still trumps a one-asset-class-only portfolio, especially in managing returns and risks at the same time.

And I shall end off with this disclaimer: past performance is not an indication of future results.

1 – The Bedokian Portfolio, p37

Assumptions on Portfolio Visualizer Data

Asset class representations used in the data: Equities = U.S. Stock Market; Bonds = Total U.S. Bond Market; REITs = REIT, Commodities = Gold; Cash = 1-month Treasury Bills. All dividends are reinvested and transaction costs (e.g. commissions) are not included.


To see the results (Figures 1a and 1b) in its entirety for the 1994-2018 period in Portfolio Visualizer, click here.

To see the results (Figures 2a and 2b) in its entirety for the 2001-2010 period in Portfolio Visualizer, click here.


Standard Deviation –

Sharpe Ratio –

Sortino Ratio –

Saturday, May 4, 2019

What Star Wars Can Teach Us About Investing

Today is Star Wars Day.

For this post, I will pull out nine famous quotes from the science fiction movie franchise and relate them to our real-life investment experiences.

#1: “Do or do not. There is no try.”

Yoda uttered this line while training the protagonist Luke Skywalker in The Empire Strikes Back

The key gist here is commitment. When learning about investing, or conducting your fundamental analysis, have determination and focus while carrying out the tasks. Do not do things half-heartedly.

#2: “You must unlearn what you have learned.”

Again from Yoda while teaching Luke in the same movie. 

It is refreshing to re-read some of the investment basics that we had gone through. Who knows, putting on that newbie hat again might spark some other points of view that we may have overlooked back then. Also, after a period of investing, most of us are quite into our own style and methodology, but it is good that if we could look at other alternatives and try to incorporate some of their pluses to ours to make it better.

#3: “Fear is the path to the Dark Side.”

And again, from Yoda, but this time from The Phantom Menace, while speaking to Anakin Skywalker.

Fear is one of the powerful emotions felt by humans, as it is the instinct to trigger the “fight or flight” response. While this is useful in physically dangerous situations, in the world of investing, this is a big no-no. The important thing is to stay calm and take stock of what is going on, before deciding on your next move. Engulfed by fear, and chances are your portfolio will go to the dark side, of losses.

#4: “Great, kid. Don’t get cocky.”

Han Solo told this to Luke in A New Hope, after the latter had shot down an enemy spacecraft.

It is common for new investors to feel euphoric and confident after getting their first positive returns. However, if this “high” continues, overconfidence will set in, and this could be detrimental in subsequent investment analysis and decisions. Be happy, yes, but everyday is not a Sunday, so stay focused and resume your everyday routine.

#5: “Now, be brave and don’t look back.”

This was said to Anakin by his mother, Shmi Skywalker, just before the former left home to train to be a Jedi, in The Phantom Menace.

It is natural that we do look back at our decisions and wonder if they are good or bad. Whatever it is, it was over and we have to make do with it. Lamenting on past investment decisions, such as ‘I should have sold it at a higher price’ or ‘I was following this counter but did not go in. Now it went up above my valuation’, is not healthy. Leave this baggage behind and focus on the present.

#6: “Who is the more foolish? The fool, or the fool who follows him?”

Obi-Wan Kenobi quipped this in A New Hope.

This is akin to herd mentality, or some might say “jumping on the bandwagon” or “fear of missing out”. Be it an asset class, a sector, a region/country or even an individual share/bond, there are times when it becomes hot, everybody will want to have a piece of it. Sometimes it is better to take a breather and find out what is it all about before making that jump. To quote another phrase from a song: “Wise men say only fools rush in”.

#7: “Stay on target.”

A pilot muttered this while flying towards the attack target in A New Hope.

There are aims and objectives when starting off an investment portfolio, such as to have an $X amount of portfolio generating Y% of yield when I reach age Z. Investing is a long journey, at least 10 years in my definition, so please do not stray from your course unless absolutely necessary.

#8: “Difficult to see. Always in motion is the future.”

And we are finally back to Yoda, who said this to Luke in The Empire Strikes Back.

As I have always mentioned countless times, we really do not know what the future holds. We may have past and present data (i.e. the Force in our context), but these provide at most a guesstimate. In my opinion a guesstimate is still better (and more prepared) than a wild stab in the dark wearing a blindfold.

#9: “The greatest teacher, failure is.”

This last one is from Yoda (who is full of sensible quotes if you know by now) to Luke in the latest Star Wars movie The Last Jedi.

Failure is one of the biggest bugbears one could face in life, but it is also a good lesson to learn from. Pick up the pieces, learn from them and move on. Do not let just a few bad experiences put you totally off from investing. Strength is not from winning all the time, but also from climbing up when you are down.

Unfortunately, there is no lesson to be shared from the most famous quote of all: “No, I am your father”.

May the Fourth be with you.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

The Gold Silver Ratio

The gold silver ratio (GSR for short) is the number of ounces (oz) of silver required to buy one ounce of gold (i.e. price of 1 oz silver / price of 1 oz gold). It is used by gold and silver traders to determine when to buy or sell the two precious metals. 

Unlike most other ratios where there is a generally accepted number or a range of numbers, the GSR has none. One oft-quoted number is 17.5, which is the amount of silver to gold in the Earth’s surface. However, based on the last 30 years or so, the ratio did not even hit that number, and the lowest was back in 2011 where the GSR was slightly above 301.

Though these two are precious metals and have a high positive correlation with each other (0.79 between 2007 and 20182), the GSR swung wildly between the 30s and 80s during the said period, and as of now it is about 80-plus3.

Gold and silver are two of the three assets for the commodities component in The Bedokian Portfolio4. If your portfolio has only gold or silver, then you can take this article as knowledge. If you have both, then read on.

Gold And Silver Are The Same, Yet Different

Chemically, gold and silver belongs to group 11 in the periodic table of elements, along with copper, meaning they have similar properties such as good electrical conductivity and are used for coinage. Their current usage, however, differs with each other. Silver is used more in industrial applications, such as electronics and photography, while gold, though there are some industrial uses for it, is mostly used for jewellery and for investment purposes.

From a portfolio viewpoint, looking at both, you can say that they are akin to sectors within the equities asset class. Just like financials and consumer staples, they could be positively correlated but both can be up and down separately for certain periods of time.

GSR As A Rebalancing Tool

We know that rebalancing involves selling the overpriced and buying the underpriced to balance our portfolio back to its asset class allocation. Likewise, we can make use of GSR as a rebalancing tool for gold and silver within the commodities portion. The tricky part is what would be the “magic number”, which unfortunately there isn’t any.

If you have some trading background, you could employ technical charting such as trends and signals. However, for the not-so technically inclined (like myself), you could use a moving annual average of past GSRs, something like how I would do it for the indices in my 10-30 Rule in my ebook5.

Let’s say I want to use a 3-year moving annual average, so I would take the GSR at the beginning and ending of 2016, and get an average value for that year. I repeat for the years 2017 and 2018, and then I will average these three numbers to get the final average number, and that will be my “magic GSR number” for 2019. When 2020 comes, I will get the 2019 figure and average it together with 2017’s and 2018’s, and I have another new “magic GSR number”. 

This is just one method. You can choose any number of years for your moving annual average, and/or you can choose to obtain the GSR from different points within a year instead of twice, like three times for the case of half-yearly (1 Jan, 30 Jun and 31 Dec) or five times for quarterly (1 Jan, 31 Mar, 30 Jun, 30 Sep and 31 Dec). Furthermore, instead of one number, you can have a tolerance range (e.g. plus 10, minus 10).

You may be wondering, “I already have a 50-50 allocation of gold and silver in my commodities. I could just rebalance according to these fixed percentages. Do I still need GSR to guide me?”

And my answer is: it is up to you.


1, 3 – Goldprice. Gold/Silver.  (accessed 20 Apr 2019)

2 – Portfolio Visualizer. Annual returns correlation between GLD and SLV ETFs, 1 Jan 2007 to 31 Dec 2018. (accessed 20 Apr 2019)

4 – The Bedokian Portfolio, p36

5 – ibid, p119-120

Saturday, April 6, 2019

It’s That Season Again

SPH REIT had just declared their 2Q2019 results and dividends. For REIT investors, SPH REIT’s announcement marks the beginning of the so-called REIT CD (cum dividend) season, where in the next few weeks, we will see most of the S-REITs publish their finances and distributions for their quarter.

For dividend investors like myself, this period is “full-of-win” as you will know how much you are getting from your REIT portfolio. If you are carrying out the Bedokian Portfolio investment approach, the distributions received will be parked at the cash portion, ready for deployment into whichever asset class in the next rebalancing moment.

At the same time however, you will also need to review the REITs’ results for the quarter and comparing them with past performances. 

The numbers that you used months or years ago in selecting a REIT to invest may have changed today, such as the net asset value (NAV), weighted average lease expiry, gearing, etc. For SPH REIT’s case1, between 31 Aug 2018 and 28 Feb 2019, the NAV had changed from SGD 0.95 to SGD 0.94, and the gearing had increased from 26.3% to 30.1%.

Then again, numbers do not form the whole picture, and a holistic approach is required when conducting fundamental analysis. If you are vested in this REIT and if time permits, you can have a relook and then decide if you want to hold, sell or add more of it.

In the meantime, keep calm and collect dividends.

1 – SPH REIT. Financial Statements And Related Announcement: Half Yearly Results. 5 Apr 2019. (accessed 6 Apr 2019).

Friday, March 22, 2019

The SIA 3.03% Bond: The Bedokian’s Take

Another corporate bond is coming to town, and yes, it is the Singapore Airlines (SIA) 3.03% bonds. A few financial blogs had articles on it, so I shall just concentrate my post from a Bedokian Portfolio investor’s point of view.

Let us run through this bond using my conservative selection guidelines stated in my ebook1:

  • Bond is priced at par or discount: If you are applying for the bond at this stage and got it, it is considered as getting it at par (well almost. There is this $2 application fee which makes it slightly above par, but we will just let it be).
  • At least five years to bond maturity date: Pass, since the bond tenure is exactly five years.
  • Credit rating of “investment grade”: This is the gripe. According to the product highlights sheet2, it was stated that the issuer (i.e. SIA) and the bonds are not rated by any credit agency. We shall look at this later.

In conjunction with the selection guidelines, we still need to conduct a full fundamental analysis (FA), using the Bedokian Portfolio’s three-level FA approach, on SIA. However, we shall only highlight some of the important points from our own analysis as well as from other sources.

Company Level

First up we will look at SIA from an equity investor’s perspective. Key indicators pertaining to bonds (a.k.a. debts) will be the debt-to-equity (D/E) and current ratios, which are (from Yahoo Finance)is 40.03 and 0.5 respectively. Going by The Bedokian Portfolio’s equity selection guidelines4, that is not so good.

SIA, being in the airline industry, having a high D/E is the norm due to the capital-intensive nature (in fact, the issuance of these bonds are meant for the purchase of aircraft and aircraft related payments5). In the case of having high leverage, a strong cash flow is very important for the company.

Kyith from Investment Moats had detailed SIA’s financial information and cash flow, and concluded: Their financial position looks strong enough to pay the coupon payment”. He also highlighted that the non-current liabilities were mostly past bond issues and very little bank loans6.

Environmental Factors Level

The airline industry is very competitive and price-sensitive, period. A rise in air ticket prices will send customers to another airline that offers lower ones, ceteris paribus. This means for an airline that is not so cheap, it has to offer some other value-added services or experiences, which in other words, qualitative advantages.

SIA got the world’s best airline title, as well as best first class, best first class airline seat and best airline in Asia, as ranked by research firm Skytrax in the priod Aug 2017 to May 20187. Such awards are important as SIA can be seen as a premium in terms of quality, thus it may appeal to customers who does not only see price in choosing an airline. 

Still, SIA has an answer to price-only customers, in the form of their subsidiary Scoot.

Economic Conditions Level

Air travel has become part and parcel of travellers wanting to go overseas, or to go from one part to another part in a large country efficiently.  The same goes to air freight and the transportation of cargo and goods.

During an economic downturn, demand for discretionary travel and goods tend to fall as consumers would want to ride out the storm and save, thus there is some positive correlation between airlines and the state of the economy. To prove this point, the annual growth rate in global air traffic passenger fell from 7.9% to 2.4%, and then to -1.2%, in the years 2007, 2008 and 2009 respectively, the latter two being the Global Financial Crisis years8.

No Ratings and Not Secured

I guessed I may have got carried away with my FA. Now back to the bond. Remember that this bond is not rated? Then there is only one other thing that you have to rely on, and that is faith.

On another related note, the product highlights sheet mentioned that the bonds are not secured9, meaning the bonds are not tied to any collateral except for the good faith of the company. Hence in the event of SIA’s winding up before the bonds mature:

“…the Bondholders will not have recourse to any specific assets of the Issuer and its subsidiaries and/or associated companies (if any) as security for outstanding payment or other obligations under the Bonds and/or Coupons owed to the Bondholders and there can be no assurance that there would be sufficient value in the assets of the Issuer after meeting all claims ranking ahead of the Bonds, to discharge all outstanding payment and other obligations under the Bonds and/or Coupons owed to the Bondholders.” 

Sounds morbid? Well in any investment, we have to consider all risks, and this will depend on how you view those risks. It is up to you how to judge the probability of those risks.

Judging from the past performance (though it is not an indicator of future returns), SIA had returned positive net profits and good cash flow, so in my opinion, the “no-ratings” and the unsecured bond issues would be on a low.

The Coupon Rate

At 3.03%, this coupon rate is considered low among corporate bonds. Taking a 5-year Singapore Government bond that was issued recently on 1 Feb 2019 (at 2% coupon rate, which I use it as the risk-free rate) for comparison10, the risk premium is 1.03% (3.03% – 2.00% = 1.03%). Meaning for that extra 1.03%, assuming holding the bonds till maturity, you will have to worry whatever bad points that were said in the above sections. 

Seedly had compared the coupon rate with other investment instruments with different tenures, like CPF, fixed deposit rates, etc11.

Finally, The Bedokian’s Take

And the anti-climatic answer is: it boils down on the individual’s comfort level and risk tolerance. If you are interested, do remember that diversification is paramount in an investment portfolio, and adhere to the 12% limit rule.

You have until 26 Mar 2019, 12:00 pm to decide, so take this weekend to have a thought-out.

1 – The Bedokian Portfolio, p100-101

2, 5, 9 – Product Highlights Sheet. 19 Mar 2019. (accessed 22 Mar 2019)

3 – Singapore Airlines Limited. Yahoo Finance. (accessed 22 Mar 2019)

4 – The Bedokian Portfolio, p96-97

6 – Singapore Airlines SIA issues a Safe 5 Year 3.03% Retail Bond – My Take. Investment Moats. 19 Mar 2019. (accessed 22 Mar 2019)

7 – Kaur, Karamjit. SIA bags world’s best airline title. The Straits Times. 18 Jul 2018. (accessed 22 Mar 2019)

8 – Statista. Annual growth in global air traffic passenger demand from 2006 to 2019. (accessed 22 Mar 2019)

10 - The Monetary Authority of Singapore. Results of auction of taxable book-entry Singapore Government Bonds to be issued on 01 February 2019. 29 Jan 2019. (accessed 22 Mar 2019)

11 – Tan, Cherie. SIA Retail Bond 2019 – The Good, The Bad and Everything You Should Know. Seedly. 21 Mar 2019. (accessed 22 Mar 2019)