Trevor Abes: Writer

Tag: stocks

Young Canadian Investor #28 — Why Stocks Go Up and Down

If you look up your favorite stock’s price on TMX and continually refresh the page, you’ll probably notice that the price fluctuates moment to moment and wonder why. Well, what it comes down to are buyers and sellers, the former looking for the cheapest price per share possible, the latter looking for the most expensive, according to their views on what the business underlying the stock is worth.

Bullish, as opposed to bearish. See below.

What happens is that a random buyer’s price coincides with a random seller’s price, triggering a transaction. They happen to hold similar views on the value of the underlying business so they’re able to do business with each other. What one investor is willing to pay is what the other is willing to receive. Now, if their agreed-upon price is a few cents higher than what the stock last traded at, you may notice a jump in price when you refresh the page, especially if a considerable number of shares changes hands. The same goes if the agreed-upon price is lower, possibly leading to a cheaper price on the next refresh.

Moment to moment stock price fluctuations also reflect the decisions of thousands of buyers and sellers acting on their financial needs. Having a view on a what a company is worth and how much you should pay for its stock will help you make a more informed investment, but if you need the money to pay hospital bills, you’re going to sell no matter what. Same goes for car repairs, a house extension because more babies are coming, or taking a trip somewhere to decompress if you really need to chill.

Longer term, though, and we’re talking decades, stocks go up —i.e. have a positive expected return on your money—because they reflect the value successful businesses create for their customers. A profitable track record is generally reflected in a higher stock price, and vice versa.

One nice thing here is that, while businesses are founded and folded every week, economies as a whole tend to grow over time, meaning the successful businesses outweigh the losers overall. So if you invest in a portfolio of stocks meant to represent every economy across the globe—at least those with public stock markets—you can partake in their growth and make yourself some money.

You can achieve this by investing in a diversified portfolio of index funds that own every publicly available stock in the world, or at the very least a representative sample. Have a look at my short guide to investing for young Canadians for step-by-step instructions. I’m also available to teach you 1-on-1 over Zoom if you prefer.

The hardest thing about investing is wrapping your head around the terminology. Even if it’s not with my help, don’t shy away from educating yourself and facilitating the fulfillment of your financial goals.

To end, it’s important to point out that there’s no way to know for sure why a stock moves up or down in the short term. There’s no electric sign somewhere announcing that Suncor stock dropped because investors are bearish, as opposed to bullish (see above), on the price of oil, or Canadian Tire stock rose thanks to consumers growing increasingly comfortable with doing their home improvement shopping in packed stores. All financial analysts ever have are educated predictions based on available information.

The only thing we know for sure is that the better a company is at making money and funding its own profitable growth, the better the chance that its stock will soar and make its shareholders wealthy.

Feel free to drop your questions in the comments!

Disclaimer: This article is meant for general education purposes only. It does not constitute financial advice as I am unaware of your personal situation. Consult with a professional who abides by a fiduciary standard before making any investment decisions.

Young Canadian Investor #27 — Stuff You Can Invest In

This week I thought we’d go through the full spectrum of what people can invest in, just so you have a sense of what’s out there and what it can offer you. Should you necessarily have a little money in each of the following asset classes? Probably not, but we’ll get into that. Allons y.

Shares of stock or equity are little pieces of businesses you can buy or sell in marketplaces technically referred to as exchanges. Usually these exchanges are public, meaning anyone can buy as many available shares in as many companies as they can afford. I’ll say a little something about private equity below. Everyday individual investors like you or me tend to buy their stocks in bunches grouped together in mutual funds or exchange-traded funds (ETFs), which hold stocks curated based on specific investment strategies.

Some of these strategies are active, meaning they believe that through research you can pick winning stocks and avoid the losers. The rest of the strategies can be called passive, meaning they support the idea that owning every stock in a given industry or geographical area will make you money more often than research-based methods.

While there are more granular differences between ETFs and mutual funds you can explore here, you should at least know that shares of the former are bought and sold between investors on the aforementioned public exchanges, while shares of the latter are bought and sold directly with the investment companies that operate them.

Bonds are contracts between lenders and borrowers of money. Usually the way it works is the lender forks over some cash, and the borrower agrees to 1) pay the lender a certain percentage of the borrowed total in interest, typically twice a year, and 2) return the full borrowed amount after an agreed-upon period. For example, you could by a 10-year bond worth $10,000 that pays you 2% or $200 per year in semi-annual $100 payments. Everyday investors also tend to access bonds through mutual funds and exchange-traded funds, as they do every asset class below except art and jewelry to the best of my knowledge.

Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) are funds that invest in different kinds of real estate with the purpose of returning most of the properties’ income to shareholders. They are beneficial because they allow you to sidestep the hassles of managing properties and tenants directly. All you have to do is buy shares while the staff behind the REIT takes care of all the dirty work.

There are arguments on both sides about whether or not investors need exposure to REITs. The yays will say they’re a way to further diversify your portfolio, especially if you don’t have 100k around to make a down payment on a property of your own. The nays will point out that, unlike the steady income that comes from owning and renting out your own property, REITs can move up and down violently just like stocks, putting a dent in the diversification argument.

Private Equity refers to shares of stock that are only privately available for sale. In other words, you’re only going to be allowed to buy if someone from the company thinks you’re the right partner and reaches out to you. While you may not be able to buy private equity directly, you can buy shares of public companies that specialize in buying and selling these private companies—such as ONEX Corporation and Clairvest Group—which would fall under the rubric of active as opposed to passive investing.

The benefit of owning private equity is that it isn’t priced millisecond to millisecond like public equity is; private companies may only value themselves and let you know the value of your investment once per year. A private equity investment also tends to have a holding period contractually tied to it, sometimes over a decade or more. These qualities are good news for the nerves, because they prevent investors from checking stock quotes 50 times a day, spooking themselves, and selling an investment when they should have just held on. This kind of overreaction is an everyday reality for public equity, which can be bought or sold whenever you deem it appropriate during regular market hours (M-F, 9:30am-4:00pm).

Precious Metals include gold, silver, and platinum for the most part. Investors like to hold them as a hedge against inflation. A hedge is insurance against an occurrence, such as inflation. Inflation is the sustained rise in the prices of goods and services; in Canada, that works out to about 3.3% per year including applicable taxes. Precious metals function as a hedge here because, as inflation makes each dollar worth less every year, metals will be worth more dollars as a result, meaning their prices will rise.

Then there are more alternative investments some opt for citing a variety of reasons like diversification, passion, or having an edge like superior knowledge/research compared to the average investor. These asset classes include Art, Jewelry, Cryptocurrency like Bitcoin and Ethereum, and arguably Private Equity, though it’s becoming more mainstream so I included it above. Do you, as a young Canadian investor, need to dedicate a sleeve of your portfolio to alternatives to succeed at making money long term? No. Not unless you’re interested in something and motivated to do the research and form your own opinions. Otherwise, stocks and bonds will do fine to meet your financial goals. Yes, the more asset classes you own, the more diversified and sheltered from loss you’ll be, but that doesn’t excuse you from knowing what you’re walking into by learning exactly how they work.

If you’re ready to learn about stocks and bonds and start investing in them for yourself, you should read my investing guide, Nine Steps to Successful Investing: A Guide for Young Canadians. To sum it up, it’s a matter-of-fact stroll through the investing process, from figuring out your financial goals, to opening your account, to purchasing shares of a diversified set of passive funds tailored to your financial situation.

Feel free to drop any questions in the comments.

I’m available to teach you 1-on-1 over Zoom if you prefer.

Disclaimer: This article is meant for general education purposes only. It does not constitute financial advice as I am unaware of your personal situation. Consult with a professional who abides by a fiduciary standard before making any investment decisions.

Young Canadian Investor #18 — Investment Safety Versus Investment Return

It can be tempting to think that the investment that offers you the highest potential return is where you always want to be. If you have enough time for the investment to realize its value, what’s the problem? Well, it really depends on your particular financial situation.

If you’re 65 and have a million and a half dollars sitting in the bank, putting 20% of your net worth in the hottest publicly-traded cryptocurrency mining company because it might grow 100X wouldn’t make much sense. That’s because you need that money to fund your retirement, you might live until you’re 100, and the price of bitcoin is incredibly volatile and may go to zero.

If you’re 27, healthy, and working a somewhat entry-level job that allows you to save a little bit of money, the whole bitcoin thing might work for you. Supposing you have an emergency fund in place, diversify your investments into stocks and bonds, and are well-read enough to feel comfortable about bitcoin’s future, there’s no reason not to go crypto with a small but significant percentage of your portfolio. Why? Because you understand the risks and believe in the prospects anyway. If bitcoin goes to zero, you like the story enough to follow it all the way down.

The takeaway here is that investors should aim for the return they need to fulfill their financial goals. At minimum, the 65-year-old needs to meet their yearly expenses until they pass away. Fulfilling that goal with 1.5 mil to draw on is really about preserving that money and growing it conservatively so it lasts for the next 40 years. Crypto is way too risky in this case. Even too high of a percentage in stocks may expose this retiree to a double-digit drawdown in the price of their shares from which they may not recover. Something like a 50/50 split between stocks and bonds would be a good starting point.

Now, consider the 27-year-old’s aspirations. While they may and probably should be putting some money away for retirement and investing it in the riskiest (aka highest-returning) assets they can stomach, they may have shorter-term goals they want to get to first. If you’re saving for a car, for example, it’s no good to put the money in stocks and experience a 25% drawdown the year you planned on making the purchase. Bonds, which give you a shot at keeping up with inflation, are more appropriate instruments here. While they may experience single-digit drawdowns year to year, bonds will do a much better job at preserving your capital over 3-5 years so it’s there when you need it. Any savings term shorter than that limits your investment options to cash and GICs, which won’t really grow much at all but they won’t lose anything either.

If you’ve been looking for a nudge to get invested in line with your personal needs, check out my new investing guide for young Canadians.

I’m also available to teach you 1-on-1 over Zoom if you prefer.

Disclaimer: This article is meant for general education purposes only. It does not constitute financial advice as I am unaware of your personal situation. Consult with a professional who abides by a fiduciary standard before making any investment decisions.

Young Canadian Investor #17 — Why I Write With Young People in Mind

It may or may not be obvious by now, but as a young person time is still capable of being very kind to you. It can still heal all your non-lethal wounds, just by letting it pass, because you have so much of it still to spend.

Go forth and get yours, lil cub.

When it comes to investing, having healthy time reserves is essential to actually making money. Stocks have a positive expected return only over very long periods—somewhere around 7% per year for a globally diversified stock portfolio over a couple decades—but they’ll go up and down unpredictably year to year. You’re in a fantastic situation here because, as a twenty- or thirty-something, you can simply keep investing and let those up and down years eventually add up to money in your pocket while you focus on living your life.

Another reason I’m interested in helping young people like myself invest is how boring all this stuff can get. I happen to be someone who’s blessed with an appreciation for economics, personal finance, and business analysis, but 90% of the people my age that I know can’t take more than a few minutes of investing talk without their eyes going glazy. I think it feels like work or grade school, something you’re obliged to partake in without particularly wanting to. My intention with Young Canadian Investor is to convey basic investment knowledge in accessible language to hopefully knock that 90% down in a meaningful way.

One more point worth mentioning is how nonurgent it can feel for a 27-year-old to put money away they’re only going to use 10-30 years from now. It’s much more enticing to splurge now than to delay gratification for your future self by investing 40 of those $60 in your wallet. And make no mistake, you should splurge to a degree. Life is short and it’s a gift meant to be savored. You just want to take steps to continue savoring comfortably well into your old age, and investing is one way to ensure that happens by minimizing your chances of going broke.

Being young is only full of advantages if you know how to recognize them. I’m just here to point one of them out for you. It’s the same reason I wrote my little book, Nine Steps to Successful Investing: A Guide for Young Canadians. I wanted to make it easier for people my age to cushion the expansive futures before them with more financial security, at least compared to not investing at all. Feel free to give it a shot and to ask any questions you may have in the comments.

And I do mean any, no matter how basic, because we all gotta start somewhere.

I’m also available to teach you 1-on-1 over Zoom if you prefer.

Disclaimer: This article is meant for general education purposes only. It does not constitute financial advice as I am unaware of your personal situation. Consult with a professional who abides by a fiduciary standard before making any investment decisions.

%d bloggers like this: