“All human knowledge begins with intuitions, proceeds from thence to concepts, and ends with ideas.”
– Immanuel Kant
PURPOSE OF INVESTING
In its simplest form, investing is the pursuit of a risk premium, a higher return that one gets for taking some risk than they could get holding capital in risk-free options. It goes without saying that this premium is intended to drive a successful financial outcome tied to a financial goal.
What risk is and isn't
Risk is not the mere fluctuation of prices – it is the possibility of failing to achieve a financial goal. Fortunately, the latter can be mitigated. Ironically enough, acceptance of price fluctuation goes a long way towards doing just that.
Dividend equity as cornerstone
Great businesses create value for their shareholders, and the cornerstone of our investment philosophy is to build, stockpile, and deploy the value that is dividend income. And not just any dividend income, but growing income – sustainable, growing cash flows – the kind that only stellar businesses can provide.
Where bond fits in
What fixed income does for a properly allocated portfolio is help to neutralize the inherent volatility of equities, and provide cash-flowing investments with different risk characteristics to supplement the more “offense-oriented” parts of the investment strategy. Weightings will change client-to-client, but the use of bonds has served the purpose of enhancing the risk/reward profile of an investment portfolio for decades. “Bonds that act like bonds” means prudent debt instruments, not excessive risk or speculation.
The only “free lunch” in investing is diversification, and at the core of diversification is allocating capital to different sources of risk and return. Alternative investments are simply those that de-correlate from traditional asset classes like stocks and bonds, something much easier to talk about than do. We do not use alternatives to enhance return, and we do not even necessarily believe they “lower risk.” We believe they “change risk,” and that is an entirely, well, alternative concept.
THE FED, CREDIT, AND THE NEXT 30 YEARS
We live in interesting times, as the famous saying goes. The post-crisis response of not only the Federal Reserve, but central banks all over the years, has created a new era of adventure and uncertainty in monetary policy. At the crux of financial markets and capital return assumptions are the conditions of liquidity, debt, credit, and interest rates. No serious investor can approach the next era of investing without a deep appreciation for this reality, and intellectual inquiry for what it means.
BEHAVIOR: ALWAYS AND FOREVER
There is no single determinant of financial success more important than investor behavior – the avoidance of big financial mistakes. Human nature is the enemy of investor success, yet all investors are humans. The behavioral decisions one makes – often decisions to not do something – will consistently trump individual portfolio selections when it comes to achieving a financial objective.