June 1, 2017

By David Snowball

Dear friends,

And they’re off!” signals both the start of a horse race and the end of a class’s years at college.

Augustana just launched 485 more grads in your direction. It’s our 157th assault on adult life, and one of our largest. I’m pleased that Mike Daniels was the student selected to speak at commencement but he’s so durn Augie. Mike’s a defensive lineman, but also a jazz musician. He’s an accountant, but also a first team NCAA Academic All-American. He’s been to Italy (with the football team), but also managed to sneak in three internships on his way to working for Deloitte & Touche. He’s a good man who overtly rejects “good enough” as a goal; that is not, he said, Continue reading →

The Dry Powder Gang, updated

By David Snowball

“Put your trust in God but keep your powder dry.”

Oliver Cromwell, 1650, to the soldiers of the New Model Army as they prepared to forge an Irish river and head into battle.

Cromwell was a dour, humorless (or “humourless”) religious fanatic charged with squashing every Catholic and every independent thought in the British Isles because, well, that’s what God demanded. Famine, plague, deportations, mass death and deportations followed.

But even Cromwell knew that the key to victory was Continue reading →

Time to put on your big-boy pants and check your investments

By David Snowball

As I noted in my publishers letter this month, this article, originally published in May, contained a substantial and utterly boneheaded mathematical error. After we published it, two things happened: first, readers took the article seriously enough to find the error and report it; second, our colleague Charles, substantially revised the method for calculating the maximum drawdown for funds in my portfolio which haven’t been around for a full market cycle. Because those changes were material, we decided to re-present this article as a public service.


Sorry, I don’t have a really gender-neutral alternatives to “big-boy pants.”

In all likelihood, you might expect to experience considerable ugliness in financial markets in the months ahead. That’s not a timing call, it’s a statement of the obvious.

What’s behind it?

The bull market in stocks is Continue reading →

How Bad Can It Get?

By Charles Boccadoro

In last month’s commentary, David challenged readers to review their portfolios and be sure they understand how bad it could get when markets head south. “There’s a break in the rain. Get up on the roof!” he’ll often advise. He shared his own portfolio, which maintains a modest 50/50 stock/bond allocation. He estimated his drawdown to be 30% for perhaps three to five years, using the bear market of 2008 as guide. A look back at US market volatility since 1926 helps provide further insight into the question of just “How Bad Can It Get?”

The results presented below use the monthly database maintained by Amit Goyal, the same database referenced in Timing Method Performance Over Ten Decades, but updated as appropriate from January 1960 through April 2017 with our Lipper Data Feed Service. The three principal indicies modeled are S&P 500 Monthly Reinvested Index, Bloomberg Barclays US Treasury Long Total Return Index, and US 3-Month Treasury Bill Total Return Index. Continue reading →

The Boys of Summer

By Edward A. Studzinski

Everything is on such a clear financial basis in France. It is the simplest country to live in. No one makes things complicated by becoming your friend for any obscure reason. If you want people to like you, you have only to spend a little money.

   ERNEST HEMINGWAY

In recent weeks, a number of articles and books have made their way into print, and they are things worth taking a gander at as one ponders where we are in the economic cycle One of my favorite blogs to read is “The Brooklyn Investor,” which can be found at brooklyninvestor.blogspot.com which is updated intermittently. A recent piece was titled “High Fees” and posted May 19, 2017. The author discusses a Continue reading →

Planning a Rewarding Retirement, Part 5: Wealthy Living in Retirement

By Robert Cochran

The fifth in a series of articles

For me there has always been a disconnect between the concept of wealthy living and the size of a person’s bank account, retirement account, or other traditional measure of wealth. Enjoying a wealthy life should not be determined by how much money one makes or has amassed. Wealthy living is doing those things that make life inspiring, rewarding and worth living – helping young people improve reading skills, assisting at a food pantry, sorting clothing at a resource center, collecting gifts for underserved children at holiday times, volunteering at a hospital or hospice, having a part-time, fun retirement job that is Continue reading →

Funds in Registration

By David Snowball

Before fund companies are allowed to offer mutual funds to the public, they need to submit them to SEC review. The SEC has 75 days to ponder the fate of the newly-registered funds before allowing them to proceed. The registration period is also called “the quiet period” because fund companies are not allowed to talk about their funds in registration. Happily, we are! The once-steady flow of 20-30 new funds a month has dwindled to a half dozen, many of which are simply converted versions of hedge funds or separately managed accounts. The former are more common this month, with five hedge funds morphing into two new mutual funds, including an unprecedented four-for-one merger and conversion offered up by Driehaus. Continue reading →

Manager changes, May 2016

By Chip

Each month, many funds undertake partial or complete changes in their management teams. Most are inconsequential, because they involve marginal changes in teams or the substitution of one inoffensive MBA-holder for another. That pretty much describes this month’s changes; 41 funds saw partial or complete changes in their management teams, none earth-shattering. Because bond fund managers, traditionally, had made relatively modest impacts of their funds’ absolute returns, Manager Changes typically highlights changes in equity and hybrid funds. Continue reading →

Briefly noted

By David Snowball

It’s been an unusually busy month in the industry, with nearly three dozen funds liquidated or slated for liquidation, as well as a surprising number of open funds closing to new investors and closed funds opening to them. And, as ever, the “smoke and marketing” crowd has re-branded a bunch of funds; most, not surprisingly, aren’t very good. Continue reading →