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Please note: The Frank Talk articles listed below contain historical material. The data provided was current at the time of publication. For current information regarding any of the funds mentioned in these presentations, please visit the appropriate fund performance page.

5 World Currencies That Are Closely Tied to Commodities
September 5, 2018

This year, commodity prices have been under pressure from a strong U.S. dollar and trade war fears. This has made a huge dent in the balance sheet of many net exporters of resources, in turn weakening their currencies. However, commodities could be on the rebound and are flashing a massive buy signal.

This should come as a shock to no one, but what most people don’t realize is just how closely some currencies track certain commodities. I have shared several charts that show this correlation over the years at numerous industry conferences. Attendees were always astounded when I got to these slides – and we’re talking professional economists, money managers and CEOs here.

With that said, I think it’s important that you see this correlation as well. Below are five world currencies that have been impacted by lower commodity prices.

1. Australian Dollar

Australia is the world’s top iron ore producer and exporter, with usable iron ore output of 880 metric tons in 2017. This means that its income is very sensitive to price changes. As demand from China, the world’s largest consumer of iron ore and top steel producer, has softened, so too has the Australian dollar.

Australian Dollar Tracks Iron Ore Prices
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2. Canadian Dollar

The fifth-largest oil producer in the world is Canada, with an average production of 4.59 million barrels per day in 2016. Oil accounts for almost 11 percent of the nation’s exports – almost all of which is sent straight to the U.S. The strong correlation between the Canadian dollar and oil prices is largely due to crude oil being the largest single contributor of foreign exchange to the nation. Should oil prices continue to rise, so too should the Canadian dollar.

Canadian Dollar Tracks Oil Prices
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3. Russian Ruble

Compared to Canada and Australia, Russia’s export mix isn’t nearly as diversified: about half of its exports in terms of value are a combination of oil and natural gas. (Russia sits atop the third-largest oil reserves in the world and the number one natural gas reserves.) It should come as no surprise, then, that its currency is highly influenced by the price of crude. When oil fell in July 2014, so did the ruble. However, the ruble and crude decoupled in early 2018 when the U.S. imposed sanctions against the Eastern European country for its alleged meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Russian Ruble Tracks Oil Prices
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4. Colombian Peso

The same story can be found in Colombia, where oil exports are responsible for about 20 percent of government revenue and 25 percent of total exports. Although oil exports fell from $12.7 billion in 2015 to $8.26 billion in 2016, production exceeded targets in 2017 with an average 854,121 barrels per day. As Venezuela’s economy falls further into disarray, Colombia has taken its place as the number five exporter of oil to the U.S. – one of the world’s biggest markets.

Colombian peso tracks oil prices
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5. Peruvian Sol

Copper is Peru’s most important mineral export by value, amounting to 24 percent of exports in 2016 worth $8.77 billion. With around 81 million metric tons of copper reserves, it’s the second-largest producer after Chile. As such, the Peruvian sol has declined in tandem with the red metal.

Peruvian Sol Tracks Copper Prices
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How familiar are you with the world’s currencies? Test your knowledge in this interactive quiz!

 

All opinions expressed and data provided are subject to change without notice. Some of these opinions may not be appropriate to every investor.

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China's Belt and Road Initiative Opens Up Unprecedented Opportunities
September 4, 2018

 

Mapping the belt and road initiatives progress
click to enlarge

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. A tale of two world leaders, U.S. president Donald Trump and China president Xi Jinping—both of whose countries have among the world’s best economies right now. But whereas Xi is playing Santa Claus to the rest of the world, doling out loans to finance-starved countries, Trump is playing Scrooge, waging an economic war with Canada, the European Union, China and others.

Respected economist Art Laffer, whom I’ve written about before, has always supported leaders who ignite global trade rather than close off its borders. A full-blown trade war, Laffer said recently, would be a “curse” on the U.S. economy.

Post-World War II, it was the U.S. that led global trade and infrastructure build-out—the Marshall Plan in Europe, the Interstate Highway System domestically. Both projects required massive amounts of commodities and raw materials, and employed hundreds of thousands of people.

Today, of the two leaders mentioned above, it’s Xi who has a clear foreign policy when it comes to trade and infrastructure.

U.S. Fund Flows Into Africa Are Slowing

Case in point: This week, Beijing will host the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC). The summit, which takes place once every three years and is attended by representatives from 52 African countries, touches on areas as diverse as technology, trade, infrastructure, diplomacy, culture and agriculture.

During the last forum, in 2015, China pledged as much as $60 billion toward Africa’s development in interest-free loans. The Asian country, in fact, has increased its investments in the continent around 520 percent over the last 15 years, according to Global Trade Magazine.

As just one example, Kenya agreed to let China finance and build a standard gauge railway (SGR) connecting two major cities at a cost of $3.8 billion. Contracted by China Road and Bridge, the Mombasa-Nairobi SGR is Kenya’s largest infrastructure project since it declared independence from the U.K. in 1963.

Meanwhile, U.S. fund flows to Africa have been receding, and they’re expected to slow even more during Trump’s administration.

Chinese investment in Africa has held steady as the United States declines
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Xi isn’t doing this out of the goodness of his heart, of course. China, having been Africa’s largest trading partner for nine consecutive years now, likely expects its investments to pay diplomatic and economic dividends for many decades to come.

Even Trump’s own commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, acknowledges that the U.S. must do more in Africa. “By pouring money into Africa,” Ross wrote on CNBC in August, “China has seen an opportunity to both gain political influence and to reap future rewards in a continent whose economies are predicted to boom in the coming decades,” due mainly to a younger demographic.

The Belt and Road Initiative Will Affect 60 Percent of the World’s Population

The most well-known among China’s projects is the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), one of the most ambitious undertakings in human history. The biblical-size trade and infrastructure endeavor—a sort of 21st century Silk Road—could cost 12 times as much as what the U.S. spent on the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe following World War II. The BRI has the participation of 76 countries from Asia, Africa and Europe, and is poised not only to reshape globe trade but also raise the living standards for more than half of the world’s population.

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the “BRI has great potential for China and participating countries. It could fill large and long-standing infrastructure gaps in partner countries, boosting their growth prospects, strengthening supply chains and trade and increasing employment.”

The BRI, which turns five years old this fall, announced in 2013, will have a strong presence in Eastern Europe, also a prime destination for China FDI, as the countries there offer a wealth of metals, minerals and agricultural products.

GPD and PMI car anolog

According to Stratfor, Chinese companies have invested as much as $300 billion in Eastern Europe over the past decade. Last May, China and Ukraine agreed to cooperate on joint projects valued at nearly $7 billion, and in November, it was announced that China Railway International and China Pacific Construction would build a $2 billion subway line in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev. More recently, Chinese engineers with China Harbor Engineering completed a $40 million dredging operation in Ukraine’s Yuzhny Sea Port, allowing it to receive larger ships.

Like the Marshall Plan before it, the BRI will require tremendous amounts of commodities, metals and fuel.

In 2011, members of our investment team and I had the opportunity to see one of China’s high speed trains firsthand. The train averaged 185 miles per hour during our 923-mile trip from Shanghai to Beijing. As I wrote then, “I’ve traveled to all corners of the world and have seen many things during my travels, but viewing China’s explosive growth as it flies by you is something I will never forget.”

U.S. Investors Hiked Exposure to China

In light of all this, there’s no lack of negative news on China right now. I see headline after headline on the country’s “slowing economy” and “weakening consumption,” but like most things are in the media, these proclamations are overblown.

Look at China’s purchasing manager’s index (PMI). Fresh data out last Friday showed that manufacturing expansion in August accelerated slightly faster than in the previous month. The PMI hit 51.3, up from 51.2 in July and beating analysts’ expectations of 51.0. This was the 25th straight month of economic expansion, despite what I earlier described as the Trump-Kudlow trade war with China.  

China manufacturing activity accelerated in august despite trade concerns purchasing managers index from august 2016 to august 2018
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Also, as the Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE) wrote last week, “there is no empirical evidence that consumption in China is weakening,” contrary to what “official” retail sales data show.

The PIIE’s Nicholas Lardy cited Alibaba’s recent announcement that sales rose 60 percent in the most recent quarter compared to a year ago—“a sign that Chinese retail sales data likely do not fully capture China’s burgeoning digital retail.”

“In any case,” Lardy continued, “retail sales are an increasingly less useful measure of consumption, as China’s large and still growing middle class is spending a growing share of their rising income on education, health care, travel and other services that are not captured in official data on retail sales.”

gross domestic product in absoluve terms and gdp on purchasing parity valuation
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Savvy investors, I believe, get it and can see the opportunity in the world’s number one economy, as ranked by purchasing power parity (PPP). Reuters reports that, in the week ended August 22, U.S. investors poured $572 million into funds that invest in Chinese equities. That was the most for such funds since January.

Although some expect Trump to impose tariffs on $200 billion additional Chinese imports, perhaps as early as this week, “investors are expecting Beijing to continue counteracting the effects of the [trade] dispute with increasingly relaxed monetary and fiscal policies,” Reuters says.

Curious to learn more? Watch this short video on investment opportunities in China!

 

All opinions expressed and data provided are subject to change without notice. Some of these opinions may not be appropriate to every investor. By clicking the link(s) above, you will be directed to a third-party website(s). U.S. Global Investors does not endorse all information supplied by this/these website(s) and is not responsible for its/their content.

The Purchasing Manager’s Index is an indicator of the economic health of the manufacturing sector. The PMI index is based on five major indicators: new orders, inventory levels, production, supplier deliveries and the employment environment.

Gross domestic product (GDP) is the total value of goods produced and services provided in a country during one year. Purchasing power parity (PPP) is a theory which states that exchange rates between currencies are in equilibrium when their purchasing power is the same in each of the two countries.

Holdings may change daily. Holdings are reported as of the most recent quarter-end. None of the securities mentioned in the article were held by any accounts managed by U.S. Global Investors as of 6/30/2018.

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Early-Stage Investing with Adam Sharp (EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW)
August 30, 2018

For years, Adam Sharp has helped accredited and retail investors get in on the ground floor of some of the most promising early stage investment opportunities. These include not just venture capital but also equity crowdfunding and cryptocurrencies, which he added last year to his two research offerings, First Stage Investor and Crypto Asset Strategies.

I recently had the pleasure to speak one-on-one with Adam, whose deep knowledge of the rewards and challenges of early stage investing is bar none. Read on to get his unique insights into the future of bitcoin trading, the promise of cannabis stocks and what he looks for in a startup. 

When did you first get involved with bitcoin?

I got into the financial newsletter industry in about 2008, doing marketing and search engine optimization (SEO), and I started reading people who come from the libertarian, Austrian school of economics—Bill Bonner, Porter Stansberry and some others. It was on one of these online message boards in 2011 that I first heard about bitcoin. It might have been trading for less than a dollar. I watched it for a while, and in 2013 I finally decided to pull the trigger because there was a reputable exchange at this point. I got in at $84 a coin, and I’ve held onto them ever since.

It’s been a wild ride, and the volatility we’re seeing right now is admittedly hard. It’s difficult to maintain a positive community during a correction like this, but I think the alt-coins that are able to survive the downturn are going to come out even stronger and be in a really good place in a couple of years.

Early on, did you experience any pushback from friends and colleagues?

I might have convinced a few people successfully to buy bitcoin, but not many. It wasn’t easy, trying to describe this new alternate financial system that had maybe 100,000 participants around the world. I think part of it is that, at the time, I didn’t fully know what was going to happen. Maybe it would be worth a lot of money some day?

Turkish lira down more than 45% for the year
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Now that I’ve been through a couple of cycles, I can see how the growth works, and I believe it’s sustainable over long periods. Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies in general have built up big enough communities and momentum that I think they can become a major monetary force in the world. What’s really going to drive this forward are currency crises around the world, not to mention growing distrust in banks and governments. It’s a slow process, and it won’t happen overnight.

So where are the institutional investors?

The institutional crypto boom we’ve been anticipating is real. The infrastructure is in place now to support big investors. Contrarians will likely lead the way. It might be as much as a year out, but eventually you’ll have a couple of guys move heavily into cryptocurrencies and start posting some attractive returns. And then I think you’re going to see many numbers of followers jump in.

Speaking of that, you wrote recently about Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), owner and operator of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), launching Bakkt. Many people are calling this project a game changer. Explain what Bakkt means for cryptocurrency trading.

Bakkt is definitely the biggest news of the year. It’s exactly the type of qualified, regulated custody solution big financial firms need to be comfortable enough to get started in crypto—and it launches in November. It has the backing of ICE, the NYSE, Microsoft, Starbucks and others. It’s going to be a huge step in the right direction in terms of getting big firms on board, and I think it should help pave the way for a bitcoin ETF as well. The market’s reaction so far has been nothing short of ecstatic.

designed to solve the need for trusted price formation in cryptocurrencies. what bakkt will provide

Perception is definitely an important factor when writing about not just cryptocurrencies but also cannabis, an industry you also follow. What do you think will be the biggest challenges in changing people’s minds about these asset classes?

I think we’ve already hit the tipping point with cannabis. It’s just a matter of how long the Feds can last under the pressure. Right now in every state, there are kids with epilepsy and other disorders, and their parents are desperate for new treatment options. This is what’s driving the entire thing. Kids and adults both need access to cannabidiol (CBD) oil—which isn’t the psychoactive part of marijuana, by the way—and it’s getting tougher for government officials to deny them this.

What’s convinced a lot of skeptics is that, not only can you treat epileptic children with CBD oil, you can also get them off Xanax and other incredibly addictive sedatives. The medical potential is limitless, touching on pain relief, insomnia, anti-inflammation, appetite and many other applications. The pharmaceutical companies are probably terrified, and they should be.

And yet we still know so little about it.

We’ve discovered as many as 113 different cannabinoids, but so far very little research has been done. Most of it isn’t happening here in the U.S., either, and I’m afraid we could fall behind the rest of the world. In recent months, for example, some very promising studies in Israel have shown that autism can be treated with CBD and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). We’re just beginning to scratch the surface.

the pharmaceutical companies are probably terrified, and they should be.

Let’s move on to private equity and venture capital. Global private equity firms raised a record $453 billion in 2017. Why do you think this space is booming right now? What are the contributing factors?

A lot of it has to do with the Enron scandal in 2001 and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) that was enacted afterward, which made it many times more expensive to be a publicly traded company. To be clear, I think public markets are a very good thing overall for companies. They enforce discipline, and they make things transparent. But more and more, people want the privacy of being a private corporation. Combined with SOX, this is what’s leading the boom in private equity. This huge venture ecosystem has sprouted up to meet demand, and companies now have access to the best deals, the best networks and the most capital. If you’re a company like Uber, you really don’t need to go public anymore.

global private equity raised a record amount in 2017
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One thing we’re constantly trying to find for our members is different ways to invest in private companies. There are a few good publicly traded stocks through which you can access private equity. With equity crowdfunding, you can also invest in individual startups that are raising money online. It’s really a fascinating industry, and it’s a lot of fun because you get to work with young entrepreneurs. I believe it’s the future of capital formation.

I should also add that the whole initial coin offering (ICO) phenomenon was partly a reaction to the lack of opportunities in public markets.

What do you look for in a startup?

My favorite startups are those that haven’t raised much, if any, funding, but they’ve built the business with sweat equity and elbow grease. If they’ve invested their own money, that’s great, but if they’ve boot-strapped their way to a couple million dollars in revenue, that’s the ideal situation for me. It doesn’t really matter what industry it’s in, as long as the company’s growing at a fast and sustainable rate.

Other than that, I look for startups headed by people who are experts in their field, with a deep background and understanding. Ideally the founder or chief executive has a magnetic personality and can attract capital, talent and press. You want somebody that can tell their story well, and that people want to work for and write articles about. I’d like to think that when I talk to a founder I can tell how much magnetism they have, but you do get false positives from time to time.

You co-founded and write for a number of subscription research services. Tell us about some of these projects, what they focus on and how our readers can sign up for them.

We believe early stage investing and cryptocurrencies are the two leading alternative investments that are available to everyday investors, so that’s what we try to focus on. 

Our first service, First Stage Investor, covers startup investments. Basically, we look at all of the equity crowdfunding deals that are on the market at any given time and we try to find the best ones for our members to invest in. We have a cryptocurrency portfolio in First Stage Investors that we started last summer, so you get a mix.

Our other service is called Crypto Asset Strategies, which, as the name implies, is crypto-only, with the exception of a couple of publicly traded stocks. We look for the most promising bitcoin and Ethereum competitors—coins that are 1/100th or 1/500th the size of bitcoin or Ethereum. And then we do the research. We talk to the founders when possible, and we recommend what we feel are the best ones to our members.  

Curious to learn more about the blockchain and cryptocurrency market? Stay up to date by subscribing to the FREE, award-winning Investor Alert!

 

All opinions expressed and data provided are subject to change without notice. Some of these opinions may not be appropriate to every investor. By clicking the link(s) above, you will be directed to a third-party website(s). U.S. Global Investors does not endorse all information supplied by this/these website(s) and is not responsible for its/their content.

Holdings may change daily. Holdings are reported as of the most recent quarter-end. None of the securities mentioned in the article were held by any accounts managed by U.S. Global Investors as of 6/30/2018.

 

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The 5 Dimensions of a Rich Life
August 27, 2018

5 dimensions of a rich life

Studies show that mindfulness and having an attitude for gratitude is important in all aspects of life. One way to increase gratitude is to regularly take stock of not only your finances, but the other dimensions of your life as well. This includes relationships with family and friends, personal and professional achievements, and ways in which you give back.

During my recent trip to the Oxford Club’s Private Wealth Seminar in Whistler, I was reminded of this very topic. I had the privilege of hearing from numerous inspiring and intelligent investment professionals during the event, including my good friends and chief strategists at the Oxford Club, Alex Green and Marc Lichtenfeld.

One of the presentations, however, really stood out to me. The topic included the five dimensions to living a rich and fulfilling life, a theme also covered in Alex Green’s book Beyond Wealth.

The key? Being “rich” isn’t all about money.

1. Monetary Gain and Financial Freedom

When you think of richness, you likely go straight to monetary wealth. Granted, this dimension of life is incredibly important, but what’s more important are the steps taken to achieve a sense of financial stability. Having the knowledge and skills to responsibly build wealth can bring a sense of strength, comfort and safety that is unmatched.

This is particularly true for those approaching retirement age, a time when families don’t want to rely on the government for assistance, but instead want a nest egg, and then some.

As demonstrated in one of my favorite books, The Millionaire Next Door, the average millionaire doesn’t make ostentatious displays of wealth, rather they under consume and live in average-to-middle class neighborhoods and focus on investing. Simple strategies like these can make a world of difference.

2. Extraordinary Experiences

GPD and PMI car anologAre you challenging yourself to stray from your everyday activities? Extraordinary experiences, such as traveling the world, bring a new perspective to life. Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone is the key to growth.

I often write about the importance of explicit and tacit knowledge, with tacit knowledge referring to real world experiences, or boots-on-the-ground research. I have always believed this type of knowledge is just as important as textbook knowledge. Having your driver’s license, for example, is simply a piece of paper. It means nothing until you put it to use, get out on the open road and explore.

I travel often for both business and leisure and it’s true that you have to see the sights, taste the food, meet the people and hear the music to experience the limitless delights that the world has to offer.

3. Personal Achievement

Everyone has different goals they set out to accomplish in their lifetime. Taking time to list out all of your personal achievements thus far, as well as the goals you’re still working toward, is one way to truly put things in perspective.

Continuing the pursuit of personal achievement keeps you active physically and mentally, and encourages you to keep learning. One personal achievement I am very proud of is my completion of numerous marathons all over the world. Running these races was challenging no doubt, but equally as rewarding.

4. Ways of Giving Back

One of the many rewarding aspects of life is having the ability to make a lasting impact on your community and those around you. Giving back typically comes in the form of volunteering, whether it’s with your time or money, to help support causes close to your heart. At U.S. Global Investors we make it a point to support our local community and I’ve always encouraged employees to volunteer for and share causes important to them.

5. Strong Relationships– Intellectual and Emotional

Love and friendship are easily two of the most meaningful components of a rich and fulfilling life, and both are achieved through strong relationships. Whether at home or at the office, surrounding yourself with like-minded, passionate, successful and caring individuals can truly be the driving force behind how you choose to live your life.

Social wealth and a sense of connection are just as powerful as financial wealth. Self-confidence and self-worth are important feelings, and often times, high self-worth is correlated with high net worth. To me, relationships are one of the most rewarding aspects of life and in this video I discuss the crucial role that mentors played in mine. The wisdom and experience of someone who has walked a different path than you, or who is further down the road than you are, can help steer you away from setbacks or roadblocks to maintain a balanced life.

Maintaining a Well-Balanced Portfolio

GPD and PMI car anolog
click to enlarge

Interpersonal relationships aren’t the only thing that a fulfilled person should balance. It’s never too late to start learning the basics of a well-managed portfolio.

One rule of thumb is to have an ever-shifting balance between equities and bonds, with some exposure to gold for diversification. Traditionally, equities are more growth-oriented than bonds, but also hold greater risk. As you age, your portfolio should evolve to contain a higher allocation to bonds, which favor safety and liquidity over growth.

I believe it’s prudent that your allocation to bonds be equal to your age, as seen in this chart. Follow the 10% Golden Rule, and put the remainder of your portfolio in equities.

GPD and PMI car anologAs a refresher, here’s what I mean by the “10% Golden Rule”. The rule suggests a 10 percent portfolio allocation to gold, with 5 percent in bullion or gold jewelry and 5 percent in well-managed gold mutual funds or ETFs.

Remember to rebalance annually, adjusting allocations and weightings as investment goals change.

While we have an eye for gold at U.S. Global, we also provide investors with a wide array of opportunities to invest with us, ranging from emerging markets and natural resources to infrastructure and domestic funds. 

 

All opinions expressed and data provided are subject to change without notice. Some of these opinions may not be appropriate to every investor. By clicking the link(s) above, you will be directed to a third-party website(s). U.S. Global Investors does not endorse all information supplied by this/these website(s) and is not responsible for its/their content.

Diversification does not protect an investor from market risks and does not assure a profit.

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Investing for the Long Term: A Conversation with Marc Lichtenfeld
August 20, 2018

the oxford club's marc lichtenfeld One of Marc Lichtenfeld’s proudest moments was getting to ring announce a world title boxing fight promoted by Mr. “Only in America” himself, Don King.

“He was one of my main clients for many years,” Marc tells me, adding that the boxing impresario “is always the smartest guy in the room. He’s three steps ahead of everyone else.”

You could say the same thing about Marc. As the Oxford Club’s chief income strategist—his day job when he’s not announcing boxing matches—Marc has spent much of his career educating investors on how best to stay “three steps ahead” of the market.

That means, among other things, taking a long-term investment approach and focusing on what he calls “Perpetual Dividend Raisers”—high-quality companies that consistently raise their payouts, preferably by a significant amount.

“The longer you can stay invested the better, as your dividends will grow and so should your capital,” he writes in his most recent book, You Don’t Have to Drive an Uber in Retirement.

Staying disciplined and sticking to this strategy go a long way in helping investors roll with whatever punches the market might throw.

Read on for more highlights from my recent conversation with Marc Lichtenfeld.

What inspired you to get into the financial world?

When I was in college, I had no interest in the stock market or finance. I wanted to be a sportscaster. It wasn’t until after I graduated that I started to invest for myself, and I became kind of obsessed with it. This was before the internet, so I would spend Saturday afternoons in the library researching companies and learning everything I could.

I eventually decided to make my hobby my profession, but nobody was interested in hiring a 20-something kid with no relevant experience.

I decided to visit a trading firm right down the street from my house that I knew was looking for a trading assistant. When I walked in and handed them my resume, I got the impression that I wouldn’t be getting a call back. I could see, though, that they desperately needed help entering orders and balancing their books, so I made the guy an offer he couldn’t refuse. I told him I’d work for free for a week, and if he wasn’t happy with what he saw, he could tell me no thanks. But by the end of the week, he told me to come back on Monday and that he’d start paying me.

That was my entry into the world of finance. From there, I had a couple of other positions, including as a sell-side analyst at Avalon Research Group, and then in 2007 I joined the Oxford Club, where I’ve been ever since.

Tell us about your start with Oxford Club and how the group has contributed to your professional development.

One of the things I admire most about the Oxford Club is its emphasis on individual investors. It really tries to teach investors how to grow their wealth the right way by managing risk and investing in quality companies.

get rich with dividends. how to build a portfolio with double digit returns I began there by writing about biotech, which even now I believe is an industry of the future. A few years later, I spoke with Julia Guth, our CEO and publisher, about taking over the dividend newsletter, and in 2013 I launched my own dividend newsletter, the Oxford Income Letter.

My main focus since then has been on dividend growth companies. Around the same time that we launched the Oxford Income Letter, I wrote a book called Get Rich with Dividends. The strategy I describe is one that’s worked for many years. When you invest in companies that are raising their dividends 5 percent, 8 percent, 10 percent a year, you vastly improve your odds of generating some impressive returns and beating the market year after year. If you’re still in the wealth-building phase, it’s also important to reinvest the dividends because then the compounding machine just goes into overdrive.

This can really make a significant difference in the size of your portfolio and change your life down the road. It’s one of the many reasons why I started my kids investing in dividend growth companies. If they started as children, they could be in a very good position 30 years from now when they’re looking to buy a house or send their own kids to college.

Sticking with that strategy sometimes requires a lot of discipline.

I was actually having a conversation with my brother recently because he’s looking to put some money to work and wanted to get my thoughts. He’s a bit of a worrier, though, so I reminded him that if he’s going to invest, he really needs to be disciplined and not freak out if the market takes a downturn in, say, three years. What’s far more important is where the market will be 10 years from now. Historically, the market is up 10 years down the road—it’s very rare that it’s not—but you need to have the discipline to stay with it.

The important takeaway here is to know your tolerance for risk and adjust your investments accordingly. My brother’s very cautious, so he probably shouldn’t put every dollar in the market if he’s going to lose sleep over a correction and sell at the wrong time.

It’s easier for those who’ve seen the data and know that the market has historically been up in 10 years, even if we’re at the top of the business cycle. In Get Rich with Dividends, I talk about the only times when markets have been down over a 10-year period, and those are in the middle of the Great Depression and in 2008-2009 during the Great Recession. You would literally need to cash out in the middle of a historic downturn not to make money over 10 years, and that’s if you sold right at the bottom. If you had waited another year or two, you might have come out at least breaking even, if not better.

Who were your mentors early on?

My biggest mentor was David Hines. David was my research director at Avalon, which had the reputation of being the most contrarian research firm on Wall Street. We initiated ratings on stocks only if that rating was going to be contrarian. If we were bullish on energy and so was the rest of the Street, there was no reason for us to publish our research. Why would anyone listen to us versus Goldman Sachs or Morgan Stanley?

In any case, I thought I was contrarian—until I met David. Any time I came to him with my research, he would just poke so many holes in it. It made me double and triple-check that all my i’s were dotted and t’s were crossed before presenting an argument to him.

What book do you think every investor should read?

I would say The Richest Man in Babylon, by George Clason. It’s 70 or 80 pages, so you could read it in an afternoon. The book, which is about 100 years old now, is filled with great life lessons on money management and saving and investing. I would recommend it especially to someone who has a teenager or young adult in their life, and they want to impart some important lessons.

On the more technical side, I would recommend David Dreman’s Contrarian Investment Strategies. He’s considered to be the father of contrarian investing. The book is pretty data-rich, but if you like that kind of thing, it really makes a strong argument for contrarian investing.

In one of your recent presentations, which I attended, you explained that cash flow is more important than earnings. Can you elaborate on that?

There’s no doubt earnings are important. Stock prices tend to follow earnings over the longer term, but they can easily be doctored and manipulated. Let’s say a company records a sale of $1 million on December 30. Even if it hasn’t been paid yet, it can still include that sale as part of its revenue for the  fiscal year, depending on the industry. The $1 million means nothing, then, in terms of its ability to pay bills and dividends and meet payroll.

Cash flow can tell a truer story because it excludes all the non-cash items and adjusts for accounts receivable. It represents only the cash that has come into a business during the year, and it gives you a better idea of a company’s ability to pay the bills. In the above example, cash flow would show you that the $1 million hasn’t come in yet. Also, if there’s fraud going on, oftentimes cash flow is where you’ll be able to detect it. If earnings are constantly going straight up and cash flow is not following it, this might raise some red flags.

Now, I want to caution, this doesn’t always mean fraud is taking place if earnings rise for a year or two and cash flow doesn’t follow. But if you see a trend of rising earnings but deteriorating cash flow, then you might want to start asking some questions.  

So what’s your outlook for the rest of 2018?

We don’t try to time the market at the Oxford Club. Rather, we focus on trying to find great opportunities—stocks that are undervalued or that we expect to go up because of momentum or fundamentals—and manage risk.

Having said that, I don’t see any reason to expect a market correction at this point. The market has so far shrugged everything off—trade wars, outrageous presidential tweets, higher interest rates and more. It seems the market wants to keep going higher, so we’re going to continue to try to ride it higher, too.

 

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There is no guarantee that the issuers of any securities will declare dividends in the future or that, if declared, will remain at current levels or increase over time.

Cash flow is the total amount of money being transferred into an out of a business, especially as affecting liquidity.

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