Not all investors have settled on their investment approach. Some are still searching for what suits them.
Fortunately, there's ample resources to help with this task, from investment books to seminars and the latest blogs. Another useful source is the Me and My Money column that appears every Saturday in the Globe and Mail.
I can attest to the diverse range of approaches found in the column, having been a contributor - along with Tony Martin - for over a year. What follows are some of the more interesting investment strategies I have come across.
1. Larry Bellehumeur , a sales manager for a Calgary wireless-communication firm, is a buy-and-hold investor who looks for undervalued companies with sustainable competitive advantages - just like investing legend Warren Buffett does. However, he prospects for ideas differently. As a member of social-investing website covestor.com, he gets to observe and discuss what like-minded investors are buying - and this often points him to companies he might otherwise overlook.
2. Except for emergencies and immediate needs, Michael Wiener has allocated 100 per cent of his portfolio to stocks. Other investors may diversify into cash and bonds to smooth out volatility, but the Ottawa-based cryptologist and financial blogger (Michael James on Money) doesn't want to dilute the historically superior long-run returns of stocks merely for the sake of reducing fluctuations he feels he can live with.
3. Guaranteed investment certificates and bonds dominate the portfolio of David Trahair , a Toronto-based chartered accountant and author of a best-selling investing book (whose latest book is Enough Bull - how to retire well without the stock market, mutual funds or even an investment adviser ). After allowing for fees charged by the financial industry and the behavioral tendencies in investors, Mr. Trahair believes the risk-reward ratio of stocks is unappealing compared to fixed-income securities.
4. Retired university professor David Stanley is apparently enjoying plenty of fishing even as his low-maintenance portfolio beats the stock market. The Rockwood, Ont. resident has applied a variant of Michael O'Higgins' Beating the Dow method to TSX-listed stocks. As described in Canadian MoneySaver magazine, his strategy involves picking the 10 highest yielding stocks from the Dow Jones Canada Titans 40 Index, and updating annually.
5. Bob Gibb is a retired school teacher living in Victoria, B.C. He believes in investing through dividend reinvestment plans (DRIPs) and share purchase plans (SPPs). The plans allow investors to reinvest dividends without commissions and to buy shares directly from companies without charge, often at a discount to the share price. Over 15 years of monthly contributions to DRIPs and SPPs by Mr. Gibb and his wife has resulted in a portfolio yielding dividend income "well into five figures."
6. Wayne Morris , a retired school principal in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, is also a DRIP investor. Starting a DRIP/SPP requires owning at least one share in the offering company; to get that initial share, Mr. Morris goes to the share-exchange board at dripinvesting.org and trades with other DRIP investors (thus avoiding the commissions that would be charged by a broker). Regular reinvesting of dividends, he adds, boosts portfolio returns over the long run through the magic of compounding.
7. Jeff Pierce of Vancouver B.C. makes his living as a full-time "swing trader of momentum stocks," and detaches from the emotional roller-coaster with the help of Zen and by writing a blog, Zentrader.ca. His portfolio sailed through the bear market with nary a dip into the red (as tracked on a social-networking website that links to his brokerage account). His "lemmings" gambit sells short stocks that tick up on low volume after declining to their 200-day moving averages.
8. "I use a top-down strategy and refer to market indicators to decide my asset allocation to equities," says John Gan , a Burnaby, B.C.-based management consultant and corporate finance executive. For example, he tracks the CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) and increases exposure to stocks whenever it spikes upward and signals an extreme in pessimism (thus, bargain prices for stocks).
9. For part of his portfolio, Brian Derick , is a "momentum investor trading the trend with trailing stop-loss orders placed just below major support levels." The technical design consultant from Mississauga put his computer- programming skills to work designing an automated-trading system. Its purpose is to monitor selected financial markets while he is at work during the day or asleep at night, and make trades according to signals in price and volume activity.
10. Ian St. Martin , located in Vancouver, B.C. at the time of his Me and My Money profile, was a software engineer before starting a stint working at a hedge fund. His method is based on William O'Neil's CAN SLIM system, which screens for companies according to several criteria including strong revenue/earnings growth, increasing margins, robust balance sheets, modest valuations and spikes in price/trading volume. He also tries to avoid fighting the trend in the general market.
The kind of approach or strategy you select depends on a number of variables. If you don't have a lot of time, you might be interested in something "lazy" like Mr. Stanley's 'Beating the TSX' or Mr. Gibb's DRIP approach. If you are adverse to risk, Mr. Trahair's preference for guaranteed investment certificates and bonds may have appeal; if you are a risk taker, you'll be interested in Mr. Gan's top-down, Mr. Pierce's swing trading, or Mr. St. Martin's CAN SLIM methods.
These 10 cases are examples of the diverse range of possible investment approaches and strategies. Others include passive index investing (such as the Couch Potato Portfolio) and stocks with growing dividends (see for example, The Dividend Guy blog). Many investors choose one approach and stick with it. Others choose one approach for their core portfolio, and work from an eclectic menu for their experimental or satellite portfolio.
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