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Investment Ideas Why wealth is what you don’t actually see, an 8% yield that’s safe, and is SNC-Lavalin a buy right now?

The single best sentence written about personal finance in 2018 (in my opinion, of course) was from Collaborative Fund’s Morgan Housel: “When most people say they want to be a millionaire, what they really mean is ‘I want to spend a million dollars,’ which is literally the opposite of being a millionaire.”

That missive, which incorporates so much wisdom about human psychology and markets in a few words, was from Mr. Housel’s really, really long June 1 column “The Psychology of Money.”

Thankfully, the author’s column last week was almost as useful and succinct by design. In “Short Money Rules” Mr. Housel provided 29 brief thoughts about markets and personal finance that start with “1. Above-average results require not being afraid of looking wrong. 2. Most people are afraid of looking wrong.“

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The column covers a lot of ground providing general but valuable advice. “Being nice to people is the easiest career competitive advantage,” for instance. And there’s some stark warnings: “Bad investing is 40 per cent overconfidence, 40 per cent fees, 20 per cent denial that keeps it all going.”

My favourite of the 29 short rules is number 11, in part because it refers back to the 2018 quote about millionaires, “Wealth is what you don’t see – money that hasn’t been spent, cars that haven’t been bought, jewelry that hasn’t been purchased, stuff that hasn’t been bought.”

Rule number 11 is yet another restatement of the psychological difficulties behind successful investing and financial planning. It’s fun to dream about being filthy rich but the way to get there is basically avoiding the fun part of being rich – spending.

-- Scott Barlow, Globe and Mail market strategist

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Stocks to ponder

SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. (SNC-T). Under normal conditions, SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. would be a terrific buying opportunity right now, given the stock’s long history of impressive rebounds from beaten-up lows. But these are not normal conditions. The share price of the Montreal-based engineering company has slumped 45 per cent since June, 2018, falling to levels last seen during the depths of the bear market in early 2009. The bad news is piling up. A failure to resolve bribery and fraud charges related to old business dealings with Libya, a $1.24-billion writedown (after tax) on its oil and gas division, worrisome debt levels, a corporate debt-rating downgrade from Standard & Poor’s and simmering intrigue regarding the company’s relationship with the Prime Minister’s Office is making the stock difficult to value. On Friday morning, SNC-Lavalin will report its fourth-quarter financial results, which will give investors something else to think about. Analysts expect the company will report a loss of $1.72 per share, according to Bloomberg, or a loss of $1.61 per share after making one-time adjustments. David Berman reports (for subscribers).

Enerflex Ltd. (EFX-T). This stock appears on the positive breakouts list (stocks with positive momentum). Last quarter, the company reported stellar third-quarter financial results that sent the share price soaring 10 per cent. The earnings outlook for the company is strong given the company’s record backlog. The stock has eight buy recommendations and an expected one-year total return (including the 2.4 per cent dividend yield) of 28 per cent. Calgary-based Enerflex is a supplier of products and services to the oil and gas industry, providing natural gas compression, gas processing, refrigeration systems and electric power systems. Jennifer Dowty reports (for subscribers).

The Rundown

An 8-per-cent yield that’s actually safe? Yup

John Heinzl constantly says that investors need to exercise caution with high yields. As dividend cuts from the likes of Corus Entertainment Inc. and AltaGas Ltd. have demonstrated, an outsized yield can bite you if you aren’t careful. A big yield doesn’t always signal danger, however. Case in point: Inter Pipeline Ltd. (IPL). The Calgary-based company – which operates oil sands and conventional pipelines, natural-gas processing plants and bulk liquids storage terminals – pays a monthly dividend of 14.25 cents, or $1.71 annually. Based on Tuesday’s closing price of $21, the shares yield a juicy 8.1 per cent. Why so high? Well, the company has been raising its dividend annually, albeit at a modest rate recently. (The latest increase, announced in November, was about 1.8 per cent.) Combine that with a share price that has lost about one-quarter of its value over the past two years and – presto! – you have a yield in the high single digits. John Heinzl explains (for subscribers).,

Sabia touts SNC’s long-term value as Caisse posts 4.2-per-cent return

Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec chief executive officer Michael Sabia rose to the defence of SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. Thursday, saying despite legal uncertainty in Canada and trouble with a mining contract in Chile the company still represents long-term value. The Caisse holds a 20-per-cent stake in SNC-Lavalin, at the centre of the current scandal rocking the ruling Liberal party. The Globe and Mail reported on Feb. 7 that officials in the Prime Minister’s Office put pressure on former attorney-general Jody Wilson-Raybould to reach a negotiated settlement with SNC-Lavalin on bribery and fraud charges the company faces. Les Perreaux and David Milstead report (for subscribers).

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Fact? Fallacy? Investors still have a lot to learn about RRSPs

It’s the time of year when financial institutions publish their annual surveys on registered retirement savings plans. The purpose of the exercise is twofold. First, these institutions want to draw attention to themselves as good places to invest. Second, they tend to focus on issues that put their own company in a good light. Understanding these motives helps to put the results in perspective for readers. That doesn’t mean they aren’t useful, just that they need to be read in context. ?Gordon Pape takes a look at a recent report from discount broker Questrade.

Too few investors are looking beyond stocks and bonds, wealth advisor says

Robert Janson wants to make it clear that he’s not opposed to investing in stocks and bonds. That said, the president and chief investment officer at Toronto-based Westcourt Capital Corp. believes too many investors are ignoring the opportunities presented by alternatives in the private market, such as farmland or multifamily real estate companies, to name a few. Brenda Bouw reports.

Others (for subscribers)

Could this year’s best-performing U.S. stocks be among last year’s ‘dogs’?

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Four Canadian oil producers that could benefit from U.S. sanctions on Venezuela

The Canadian dollar’s spindly legs could soon give out

Merrill Lynch’s top 10 stock picks for growth and value investors

Thursday’s Insider Report: Management is buying this stock yielding 4.6% with dividend growth of 7-10% expected

Thursday’s analyst upgrades and downgrades

Ask Globe Investor

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Question: I invested internationally for a while (at least 10 years) and did terribly. My broker is urging me to diversify my portfolio that is focused mainly on Canada and the United States. What should I do?

Answer: The basic principles of diversification say your stock market exposure should be divided between Canada, the United States and the rest of the world.

But that international component can be a portfolio killer.

This broker is completely justified in suggesting international exposure. There are great stocks and strong-performing markets in Europe, Asia, Australia and other developed markets – why not have them in your portfolio to complement Canadian and U.S. stocks?

The answer is that long-term returns for international stocks don’t make a strong case for inclusion. Let’s use the MSCI Europe Australasia Far East Index (EAFE) as an international benchmark. EAFE index returns for the 20 years to Dec. 31 were 3.4 per cent on an average annual total return basis. The S&P/TSX composite index delivered annualized total returns of 6.6 per cent and the S&P 500 made 5.6 per cent a year on average (this is a reminder that the S&P 500 had a bad stretch in the 2000s).

The EAFE index has had its moments – it lost 5.6 per cent last year while the S&P/TSX composite lost 8.9 per cent, and its five-year annualized return of 6.2 per cent beats the 4.1 per cent of the S&P/TSX composite index. Comparisons to the S&P 500 are much less flattering. There’s not a commonly measured timeframe from one year to 30 years over which the S&P 500 hasn’t beat the EAFE index.

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It’s arguable that the S&P 500, with its multinational companies, provides enough exposure to the world outside North America. And yet, international exposure still makes sense. If the U.S. stock market slumps, exposure to Europe, Asian and other regions could help pick up the slack. We saw that in miniature in December, when the S&P 500 plunged 9 per cent, the Canadian market 5.4 per cent and the EAFE index fell 2.2 per cent. EAFE returns have tended to complement Canadian market returns. EAFE outperformed the Canadian market last year, underperformed in the past three years and outperformed over the past five years.

An easy default mix for the stock side of your portfolio is one-third each for Canada and the U.S. and international markets. If you’re a doubter on international stocks, underweight them. Don’t delete them altogether.

--Rob Carrick

Do you have a question for Globe Investor? Send it our way via this form. Questions and answers will be edited for length.

What’s up in the days ahead

What happens if things actually go well in the first few years of your retirement? When should you give yourself the OK to spend more? Ian McGugan will have some answers this weekend.

Click here to see the Globe Investor earnings and economic news calendar.

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Compiled by Gillian Livingston

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If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

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