Tag Archives: returns

Investment fads and other destructive behaviours

By Steve Lowrie
Special to the Findependence Hub

Chasing Investment Performance results in far more losers than winners

Would you like to improve your investment game?

Counterintuitively, you don’t necessarily need to master more fancy moves; it may be a more powerful play to simply reduce your biggest investment mistakes. It’s those false moves that usually cost you the most gained ground.

In particular, I’ve commented before on two common and costly behavioural mistakes, both of which stem from reacting to recent returns instead of patiently positioning your portfolio for future market growth.

  1. The first such blunder is to give in to a sense of gloom and doom, and sell out at low prices during down markets.
  2. On the flip side, many investors seem to love chasing after expensive trends in frothy markets. I’ve seen a lot of that behaviour lately, so let’s revisit why that typically doesn’t end well.

Fleeting Passions and Expensive Fashions

Admittedly, it’s tempting to chase investment fads when they are playing out in real time. Unfortunately, it’s only obvious in hindsight which lucky few will be long-run winners, and which of the far greater majority will end up as costly illusions, conjured up by an intoxicating brew of performance-chasing and FOMO (fear of missing out).

Here are four points to help you avoid following fads:

1.) Success stories abound. There is always a good story behind every hot investment trend. We humans are remarkable at devising new technologies, ground-breaking opportunities, and out-of-the-box ideas. A few of them pay off handsomely, especially for investors who manage to get in at the beginning of the run. However …

2.) By the time it’s in the popular press, it’s usually too late to profit on the news. Once a success story has gone mainstream, it’s too late to get in on its past exceptional performance. You end up buying high and hoping it will go even higher, despite the odds that it won’t.

A recent Canadian example was the full legalization of cannabis with huge amounts of fanfare on October 17, 2018. Trying to capture this trend, Horizons ETFs launched the Marijuana Life Sciences ETF (HMMJ) on April 4, 2017, holding a basket of North American stocks active in the marijuana business. From the initial $10/share price, the EFT skyrocketed to over $24 by September 2018. From there it declined to $22 by the October 17, 2018 legalization date, and then dropped further to $15 by the end of 2018. Currently, this ETF is trading just over $5. Its past performance is horrendous, –53% over the past 12 months, –32% for the past 3 years, and –5.63% per year since inception. So much for following what was garnering the most attention in the media!

3.) It’s easy to forget that there are a lot more market losers than winners. Think you can pick the ones with room to grow? Although markets in aggregate have delivered premium returns over time, those returns tend to come from a tiny minority of securities. For example, in a recent report on pursuing individual stock returns, JP Morgan looked at U.S. stock performance from 1980–2021. They found about 10% of stocks across all sectors proved to be “mega winners,” but 66% failed to outperform the Russell 3000 Index, and 42% delivered negative absolute returns. In sharing this and other data, Wall Street Journal columnist Jason Zweig observed:

“Winners like Walmart are vivid … Failures fade as if they were written in invisible ink — but they are much more common than successes.”

4.) Your investment attention is up for sale. Despite these points, Bay Street and Wall Street are always looking to capitalize on the next big investment trends. Trade brokers and product manufacturers are no fools. When they see opportunities to make easy money by selling hot hands, they’re happy to “help.” Whether you win or lose they can feast on fat commissions and tasty trading revenues.

Quacking Ducks

Who me, cynical? I’ve covered most of these points in my 2018 piece, Investing fads: Quack like a duck and you may get plucked. I described how there’s even a saying for these sorts of popular feeding frenzies: “When the ducks quack, feed them.” As one source described, “when investors want to buy something … that something is offered for sale. It doesn’t make any difference if Wall Street knows in its heart of hearts that that something (such as an IPO) is overpriced.” Continue Reading…

Adam Smith wins again, as Hedge Fund returns disappoint

Adam Smith: the Father of Economics

By Noah Solomon

Special to the Financial Independence Hub

It has been 243 years since Adam Smith, “The Father of Economics” wrote An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. In this magnus opus, Smith introduced the concept of the “invisible hand,” which can be described as an unobservable market force that helps the demand and supply of goods in a free market to reach equilibrium automatically.

The erosion of Hedge Fund returns

At Outcome, one of our favourite sayings is “In the end, Adam Smith always wins.” Whereas the timing of this triumph is uncertain, victory is nonetheless assured. It is not a question of if, but merely one of when.

Smith’s invisible hand has indeed been at work in the hedge fund industry. At the beginning of 2000, there were relatively few hedge funds, and the global hedge fund industry had roughly $300 billion under management. Between 2000 and 2007, the HFRX Global Hedge Fund Index produced annualized returns of 9.75%. Even during the “tech wreck” of 2001-2, when the MSCI All Country World Index of stocks fell 33.1%, hedge funds rose an impressive 13.8%.

As if following Smith’s playbook, this stellar performance attracted a massive influx of assets from investors and prompted the launch of countless new funds. The resulting increase in competition and “crowding” has had a predictable impact on results. From the beginning of 2008 through the end of last August, the HFRX Index declined at an annualized rate of -0.5% and has fallen 5.7% on a cumulative basis. Moreover, hedge funds failed to diversify investors during the financial crisis of 2008, when the HFRX Index plummeted 23.2%.

As always, Adam Smith wins.

Performance & Fees: Fundamentally disconnected

Despite the severe decline in average hedge fund performance, there has not been a proportionate decline in the high fees that they charge investors. Continue Reading…

Challenging conventional investment wisdom

By Noah Solomon

Special to the Financial Independence Hub

Many investment professionals tell their clients:

  • That markets tend to rise over the long-term.
  • To “hang in there” and “sit tight” during bear markets because they will eventually recover their losses.

While we agree with the first assertion, we wholeheartedly disagree that investors should sit idly through bear markets based on the notion that they will eventually live to see a better day. Rather, we strongly believe that a dynamic approach that adjusts to changing markets can provide superior long-term results.

The table below illustrates this by showing what happens to $1M invested in two different portfolios:

Portfolio A Portfolio B
Year 1 -30% -5%
Year 2 +30% +5%
Year 3 -30% -5%
Year 4 +30% +5%
Sum of returns 0% 0%
Value at end of year 4 $828,100 $995,006


Since the returns over four years add up to 0% for both portfolios, many people assume that the final value of each portfolio at the end of year 4 should be $1 million. However, as the last line in the table indicates, this is far from true.

Portfolio A, which is more volatile, declines in value by $171,900, while portfolio B, which is less volatile, suffers a decline of only $4,994.

The observation that two portfolios can have the same sum of returns over 4 years yet have significantly different values at the end of the period can be explained by the mechanics of compounding. After experiencing a 30% loss, a $1 million portfolio is worth only $700,000. Unfortunately, a subsequent 30% gain will only bring the value of the portfolio back to $910,000, which is still $90,000 less that its starting value. However, when a $1 million portfolio experiences a 5% loss, its value is $950,000, and a subsequent gain of 5% will bring its value up to $997,500, which is only $2,500 less than its starting point. Continue Reading…

If an investment sounds too good to be true, check these four things

We recommend that investors follow an “evidence-based approach” with their investments.  What does the evidence tell us?  Investors should maintain globally diversified portfolios, keep costs low and select a mix of risky and safe investments that is suitable for their risk tolerance and financial goals.

Once a sensible portfolio is in place, holding on through the roller coaster ride of the market’s ups and downs is key to having a positive long-term investment experience.  One of the biggest reasons investors underperform market benchmarks or even the funds in which they invest is their inability to control the emotional urges which can easily lead to bad investment decisions which knock them off course.

Too good to be true

One temptation to which we often see investors succumbing is the “too good to be true” investment product pitch.  For example, many investments are sold as “equity-like returns with bond-like safety.” Upon closer examination a better explanation for such products is often “equity-like or higher risk with very uncertain returns.”

There are four key criteria that you can use to assess every investment opportunity that comes across your path:

  1. Expected Return
  2. Costs and Fees 
  3. Risks
  4. Liquidity (how quickly you can get your money back when you want it)

The only reason we invest is to earn a rate of return.  The rate of return compensates us for letting someone else have use of our capital rather than just leaving it in a high-interest savings account in the bank.  What type of return is reasonable?  Well, you shouldn’t be surprised to hear that the answer is “it depends!” And what it depends on is the other three criteria: the more risk, the higher the costs and fees and the more locked-up your money is, the higher rate of return you should expect. Continue Reading…

Three key investment strategies hidden in plain sight; #2 — Manage Market Risks

Paul Philip CLU, CFP

By Paul Philip CLU, CFP, Financial Wealth Builders Securities.

Special to the Financial Independence Hub

In our last piece, we described why most investors should ignore the never-ending onslaught of unpredictable financial news and tend to three strategies that can be much more readily managed – at least once you know they are there. Hidden in plain sight, these potent strategies include:

  1. Being there
  2. Managing for market risks
  3. Controlling costs

Plain-Sight Strategy #2: Managing for Market Risks

Don’t take on more risk than you must.

Chalkboard drawing - Measure of Risk and Reward

There’s no getting around the fact the market does not deliver rewarding returns without periodically punishing us with realized risks. That’s why it’s so challenging for most investors to “be there,” consistently capturing available returns by remaining invested over time. It’s also why it’s vital to avoid taking on more risk than you must in pursuit of your personal goals. For this, we have two powerful tools at our disposal, best used in tandem: Continue Reading…