Follow the dividend investment decisions of a person who has no background in financial investment and wishes to take control of their financial future.

Portfolio Experiment - Month 6 - 31 May 2017 22:40



Month six into the Motif portfolio experiment and the markets keep chugging upwards as the portfolio return grew to 9.56% from last month’s 6.75%. As a basis the S&P has grown 7.73% so we have a nice beat versus the market.

Dividend Income

Projected April dividend income $35.77
Actual April dividend income $36.64
Growth of +$0.87

Income grew thanks to raises from P&G (PG), Petmed Express (PETS), Omega Healthcare (OHI), Apple (AAPL) and Artesian Resources (ARTNA).

Good news received came from Cracker Barrel Restaurants (CBRL) who announce a dividend increase and a special dividend for the next quarter so we should see a nice pop in future dividends.

Portfolio Value

Pre-Retirement Retirement
Starting Value $10,000 $10,000
Current Value $10,956 $10,956
Cash Balance $170.84 -
Cash Distributed - $170.84
Total Portfolio Value $11,126 $10,956
Total Return 11.13% 9.56%

What happened to sell in May? The market keeps on moving higher and my tech stocks (AAPL & MSFT) keep leading the charge but they were not alone for driving portfolio returns.

Petmed Express (PETS) knocked it out of the park when they reported earnings and the market rewarded them by sending their stock price from $24/share to $35/share. Another contributor was 3M (MMM) as this stock soared above $200/share and has risen 18.6% since it was acquired.

In our pre-retirement account after we factor in dividends the total return is a whopping 11.12%. Never did I believe the portfolio would be at this point by May.

From a sector perspective, Commodities are still getting severely hit (down 18%) but all other sector are positive however I will note that financials did retreat slightly.

Portfolio Sector & % Allocation Gain/Loss
BASIC MATERIALS - 4% -17.75%
FINANCIALS - 10% 1.7%
HEALTHCARE - 10% 10.5%
INDUSTRIALS - 10% 11.7%
REAL ESTATE - 15% 11.8%
UTILITIES - 6% 14.83%
BONDS & INCOME - 8% 4.13%

- Comments: 0

Investment with Unlimited Dividends - 29 May 2017 13:45



There is an investment that has paid unlimited dividends that I will never take for granted. What is this magical investment you wonder? It is the human investment our service men & women make to ensure the safety and freedoms we enjoy are guaranteed. Their commitment and service allows me to:

  • Express my opinions without fear of persecution.
  • Walk safely out of my house without fear of my life.
  • Envision a future for my children.
  • Pray to any God I so wish to.
  • Own my own home.
  • Marry who I want and when.
  • Being charitable.
  • Imagine and plan for a peaceful retirement.
  • Opportunity to build wealth and invest freely

These are elements that support what is precious to me and many men and women have sacrificed their lives or livelihoods to ensure my freedoms. The responsibility hoisted upon their shoulders is immense but never do you hear them complain, in fact they do so willingly.

Please do not take this for granted. The next time you pass a grave marker of a fallen soldier bow your head in respect. When you see a servicemen thank him for his service. And finally when they return home from a deployment welcome them with open arms and cheer for them.

Enjoy Memorial Day and Remember! - Comments: 0

Investing for Tomorrow - 13 May 2017 12:42



Recently, a friend at work asked my opinion about buying Facebook (FB) in a Roth IRA for his adult children. My response was it sounds like a decent investment and possibly a motivator for his young adult children to save. He responded that he plans on keeping the accounts a secret and surprise them with it 20-30 years later when the FB investment would be worth a small fortune. Wait…what?

This made me wince and change my response entirely. You want a set-it and forget-it investment in one stock for 20-30 years! While Facebook is currently a great technology company you have no idea if it will be relevant that far into the future. 20 years ago Microsoft was the king of technology and today they are trying to rediscover their mojo to remain relevant. Facebook could be in the same or worse position that far down the line. He appreciated the comment and understood the gravity of his 20-30 year time frame and that maybe Facebook was not the right long term investment.

This little exchange with a co-worker got me thinking, what industries today will still be relevant in 20-30 years that I should be basing my long term portfolio on? After thinking it over here is my list:

  1. Toiletries - Folks will still be going to the bathroom and showering and still coveting their personal grooming products. Toilet paper is still king of the bathroom.
  2. Garbage & Recycling - People have been making trash for thousands of years and will continue on.
  3. Medicine - Over-the-counter, first aid, or prescription medication. Can’t stop folks from getting hurt or sick.
  4. Water - Unless we somehow evolve into a new species we will need clean drinking water.
  5. Shipping of Goods - Even as we evolve in our shopping trends someone (or some robot) still needs to move goods from point A to point B.
  6. Communication - Unless we develop ESP there will still be a need to communicate with others.
  7. Food - Food has been a necessity since the dawn of time.
  8. Shelter - You have to sleep safely somewhere.

Did I miss any? Let me know - Comments: 0

Portfolio Experiment - Month 5 - 30 Apr 2017 11:03



Month five into the Motif portfolio experiment and the markets returned back to the upside lifting the portfolio return to 6.75% from last month’s 5.68%. As a basis the S&P has grown 6.49% so we have a slight beat versus the market.

There was some interesting news abut the free stock trading brokerage firm Loyal3 closing down. Offering free trades is a tough business model to execute and not entirely a shock that the doors have closed. However, it does beg the question if other low discount brokerages (such as Motif and Robinhood) are viable into the future.

Dividend Income

Projected April dividend income $29.72
Actual April dividend income $30.12
Growth of +$0.40

Income grew thanks to raises from Wal-Mart (WMT) and W.P. Carey (WPC).

Portfolio Value

Pre-Retirement Retirement
Starting Value $10,000 $10,000
Current Value $10,675 $10,675
Cash Balance $134.20 -
Cash Distributed - $134.20
Total Portfolio Value $10,809 $10,675
Total Return 8.09% 6.75%

April allowed the portfolio to return to its winning ways. We already noted that the Retirement portfolio has a slight edge on the S&P 500 (6.75% vs. 6.49%) but the pre-retirement funds total return is starting to show a considerable edge.

Considering the S&P 500 averages a ~2% yield the total return (equity + dividends) would be 6.49% + 0.67% = 7.16% whereas our total return for the Pre-retirement is 8.09%.

From a sector perspective, Commodities are still getting severely hit (down 15%) but April saw a resurgence in REITs and Industrials.

Portfolio Sector & % Allocation Gain/Loss
HEALTHCARE - 10% 6.1%
INDUSTRIALS - 10% 10.2%
REAL ESTATE - 15% 11.3%
UTILITIES - 6% 17.3%
BONDS & INCOME - 8% 3.25%

- Comments: 0

Portfolio Experiment - Month 4 - 16 Apr 2017 13:00



Month four into the Motif portfolio experiment marks the end of the first quarter and I ran into a bit of a surprise mostly from my ignorance.

When I originally set up the rules for the experiment I was supposed to reinvest the dividends at the end of each quarter. However, I discovered Motif has a $250 minimum transaction of which I was substantially short. It appears I will not be able to reinvest until the end of month nine. Not much I can do except to roll with the punches on this one but I may have to extend the length of the experiment from 12 to 18 months to compensate for my stupidity.

Inability to reinvest aside, March was a downtrend overall. Not sure of the reason why and it doesn’t matter as we are tracking up and downs of the market and not the reasons why. The portfolio return for the month dropped from 6.57% to 5.68%, still a respectable return.

Dividend Income

Projected March dividend income $32.69
Actual March dividend income $33.02
Growth of +$0.33

The ETFs in the portfolio continue to be the wild card in how difficult it is to predict income, for March the ETF’s were $0.17 below my forecast and dragged down portfolio performance. Despite the ETF’s, the portfolio had a 1% increase in income thanks to dividend increases from Archer-Daniels Midland (ADM) and 3M (MMM).

Portfolio Value

Pre-Retirement Retirement
Starting Value $10,000 $10,000
Current Value $10,568 $10,568
Cash Balance $104.08 -
Cash Distributed - $104.08
Total Portfolio Value $10,672 $10,568
Total Return 6.72% 5.68%

March was not generous as the total return decreased however the pre-retirement portfolio’s loss was less due to retaining the dividends for future reinvestment.

From a sector perspective, everything except industrial suffered but commodities are still getting severely hit as they are down 13%.

Portfolio Sector & % Allocation Gain/Loss
FINANCIALS - 10% 4.9%
HEALTHCARE - 10% 7.6%
INDUSTRIALS - 10% 8.6%
REAL ESTATE - 15% 9.2%
UTILITIES - 6% 6.43%
BONDS & INCOME - 8% 2.38%

- Comments: 0

Portfolio Experiment - Month 3 - 28 Feb 2017 23:03



A third month into the Motif portfolio experiment and it was a great month for gains as the S&P 500 is up 5.57% year to date and our portfolio is beating the S&P by 1% (not including dividends).

Dividend Income

Projected Feb dividend income $35.74
Actual Feb dividend income $35.72
Growth of $-0.04

February came in 2 cents below our projected income and the loss was attributable to the variable payout of the ETFs. If we discount the ETF’s, income actually went up $0.17 or 0.5% thanks to a dividend increase from Omega Healthcare (OHI).

Portfolio Value

Pre-Retirement Retirement
Starting Value $10,000 $10,000
Current Value $10,657 $10,657
Cash Balance $70.82 -
Cash Distributed - $70.82
Total Portfolio Value $10,727 $10,657
Total Return 7.27% 6.57%

The market appears to be lifting all stocks with the exception of basic materials which has done a complete reversal, I’d attribute this to the Trump effect as he still has not laid out a plan for his infrastructure improvements making investors nervous. For the month Technology is still the hot sector but Real Estate made the biggest gains.
Interestingly we are starting to see money rotate into safer investments sectors as we are starting to see gains in the Staples, Utilities, and Bonds. Of course one month does not create a trend and we will need to see where this goes in coming months.

Portfolio Sector & % Allocation Gain/Loss
FINANCIALS - 10% 6.7%
HEALTHCARE - 10% 8.4%
INDUSTRIALS - 10% 7.3%
REAL ESTATE - 15% 10.54%
UTILITIES - 6% 6.8%
BONDS & INCOME - 8% 2.8%

- Comments: 0

Book Review: Common Stocks and Uncommon Profits - 18 Feb 2017 12:44

Tags: book_review


Common Stocks and Uncommon Profits by Phillip Fisher is one of the legendary investing books that has been on my “To Read” list and I’ve finally gotten around to knocking it off.

Before I jump into my review I will start off by stating that this book is not about teaching or educating you in the use of valuation tools but is instead an overview of Fisher’s investment philosophy and how his philosophy developed over time. The latest edition is forwarded with commentary by his son Ken Fisher whose commentaries were respectful of his father but he tends to drone on too long about their family and relationship.

Overall the book is a fairly easy to read story and if you enjoy reading about historic investors and their investment philosophy for achieving that success you will enjoy the book. Personally I give it a B+ grade and thought it was a punch in the gut but validating at the same time. The book essentially starts off telling you that a main street investor does not have the access or tools to successfully invest in growth companies and should rely on an investment professional. My initial reaction to this was “oh great, another sales pitch for an investment firm” but the author does fair job of explaining why.

Fisher explains that a main street investor simply lacks the accessibility to corporate management to ask the right questions and get the answers to help with an investment decision. This is a method he refers to as “Scuttlebutt” where an investor has access to senior leaders (CEO, CFO, etc…) to ask pointed questions to evaluate items you cannot find in a company’s financial statements or annual report such as the quality of a company’s sales staff or how they treat employees. You may not agree with this but for me personally it answered why my past success in growth investing only yielded a mild return of 5.7%. This was my "punch to the gut" moment and I got the message even though I did not like what I read. It is a plain simple reality that a main street investor like myself has no inside access to look at a company beyond its financials.

The second part of the book discussed his philosophy on conservative investing which resonated a bit more with my value investment philosophy that I employ today. One of the elements he touches on that often goes overlooked is placing a company’s investment(s) in R&D, capital expenditures or even acquisitions as a fairly high weighting when evaluating a company. This is a concept I regularly employ when evaluating potential dividend growth by using tools like R&D investment trending or employing my CAPEX ratio and felt validation that I was properly employing these tools and having success.

The third and final section of the book describes how Fisher developed his initial philosophy and how it matured over time.
If you enjoy history then this final section will appeal to you.

Overall it wasn’t a bad read and some reviewers are pretty harsh stating the book is completely out of date and worthless. These comments are not entirely incorrect as the original book was written in 1958 and yes market conditions have changed since then that make some parts out of date. My answer to that is, “DUH”! In 1958 company stock buybacks were not as prevalent as they are today making earnings per share manipulation that much easier so his focus on earnings growth is a bit out of touch however like any growth number it is up to you the investor to interrogate the numbers and determine how valid is the growth and can it continue. I don’t care if its EPS or dividend growth, the same level of due diligence is required by any investor. Take this book for what it is (an investment philosophy) and don’t be so anal. - Comments: 0

Portfolio Experiment - Month 2 - 04 Feb 2017 16:03



January we saw the Dow break the 20K level only to retreat a small bit and then trade sideways for the remainder of the month. A second month into the Motif portfolio experiment and one thing is becoming clear is that diversity by sector pays off.

Dividend Income

Projected dividend income $26.77
Actual dividend income $26.81
Growth of $0.04

Dividend income for January was much easier to predict as the ETFs (which have a variable dividend payment) do not have distributions during the month of January. Actual dividend income came in 4 cents more than planned thanks to a small dividend increase from W.P. Carey (WPC). This small increase represent an increase of 0.15% and while small is much better than no increase (or a decrease).

Portfolio Value

Pre-Retirement Retirement
Starting Value $10,000 $10,000
Current Value $10,279 $10,279
Cash Balance $35.10 -
Cash Distributed - $35.10
Total Portfolio Value $10,314 $10,279
Total Return 3.14% 2.79%

With the markets zig-zagging all month I was surprised to see our portfolio total return increase from 2.71% in December to 3.14% & 2.79% for the two different scenarios. I attribute the slight gain in thanks to a well-diversified portfolio. Consumer Discretionary & Staples performed less than December’s performance but this was compensated with gains in Basic Materials, Healthcare and Technology.

Portfolio Sector & % Allocation Gain/Loss
FINANCIALS - 10% 2.90%
HEALTHCARE - 10% 1.3%
INDUSTRIALS - 10% 2.9%
REAL ESTATE - 15% 4.4%
UTILITIES - 6% 0.66%
BONDS & INCOME - 8% 1.1%

- Comments: 0

Portfolio Experiment - Month 1 - 31 Dec 2016 13:08



Our first month into the experiment is completed. As a reminder this experiment was based on creating an imaginary MOTIF portfolio using $10,000.

We initiated our positions on December 2 right in the middle of the end of year stock rally. With markets elevated near all time highs my expectations were pretty low on performance growth. However, there was a surprise as the portfolio actually grew and here is a summary of the performance:

Dividend Income

Projected dividend income $8.23
Actual dividend income $8.29
Apparent Growth of $0.06
Actual Growth 0

Looking at the dividend growth, initially it looks like we already received a raise but looks are deceiving. The variation is due to the ETFs within the portfolio which do not payout on a consistent basis. If we remove the ETF variance then dividend growth is actually zero and came in as planned.

Portfolio Value

Starting Value $10,000
Ending Value $10,217
Growth 2.17%

The Overall portfolio value was a pleasant surprise. Initiating the portfolio during market highs I actually expected a breakeven or slight loss but somehow we garnered 2.17% in growth. The biggest contributors to this growth was Technology & Telecommunications with 7% gain and Real Estate with a 3.73% gain. Overall here is how each sector and allocation grew for the month of December

Portfolio Sector & % Allocation Gain/Loss
FINANCIALS - 10% 2.80%
HEALTHCARE - 10% -0.10%
INDUSTRIALS - 10% 1.20%
REAL ESTATE - 15% 3.73%
UTILITIES - 6% 1.0%
BONDS & INCOME - 8% 0.25%

Once we have next months actuals there will be enough data points to start graphing. Looks like we are off to a decent start hopefully it will continue into the new year. :) - Comments: 0

End of Year Portfolio Tune-up - 23 Dec 2016 22:04



Investors everywhere will be evaluating their year-end portfolio performance and will be impressed. 2016 has been a pretty good year for investors and most will see gains in some form or another. A few will admire their dividend growth, others their capital gains and some may admire both.

Take a moment and feel proud of your accomplishment! Let it motivate you to continue investing into 2017 and beyond. Now that you are feeling good, let’s take a deep breath and remember the investing rules that got you to this point and take the time to re-evaluate and give your portfolio a tune-up. Here are 4 steps I run through at the end of the year to keep me on pace.

1. Update mid and long term goals

Has there been any major life changes throughout the year? Maybe you got married, had a child, bought a house or changed jobs. Do you need to adjust a mid or long term goal or maybe even add an additional goal?

Also, do not limit yourself to just investing goals. Use this time to also consider if you have adequate insurance coverage. Do you need to increase life, home or auto coverage? What about disability insurance?

2. Review Portfolio Holdings Financials

If you have a lot of holdings this could be a bit tedious but it is vital to know the financial health of your holdings. Check earnings, debt, cash flow, investments, and acquisitions. Also use this time to read a few annual reports and read the CEO’s letter to shareholders to evaluate if the CEO’s tone or strategy has changed.

3. Time to Sell?

Have some losers or under-performers? Are you holding on to these emotionally, hoping that you can get back to a break-even point before you sell? I get it, no one likes losing but the faster you admit the mistake and sell the quicker you can put it behind you and relieve any stress going forward.

Do not forget about over-performers. A rule I use for high dividend growth stocks that I have owned more than 1 year is if the stock price has appreciated 4x faster than the divided from the time of purchase then it is a potential to sell, I’ve nicknamed this rule “The Prune Ratio”. For example:

I bought Thor Industries (THO) two years ago at $53.25/share and a 2.05% dividend yield. Currently THO sits at $102/share and a 1.3% dividend. In just two years there is a 90% capital gain and 22% dividend growth. The stock price has appreciated 4x faster than the dividend growth so the logical step is to lock in the gains and re-invest into a higher yield with similar dividend growth. I just need to decide if I want to sell a portion (pruning) or sell the entire position.

4. To DRIP (or not)

Some investors always DRIP and some never DRIP. For myself I use a hybrid approach where I only DRIP select holdings.

A dividend re-investment program is a powerful tool available to investors to quickly re-invest dividends without any effort or much thought. However, there are arguments for and against DRIP’s and while both sides have valid points I favor neither.

Instead I evaluate a stock’s current dividend in relation to its dividend growth rate. If it is favorable I will DRIP the stock and if not I turn the DRIP off. At this time of year I will evaluate which stocks meet my criteria in the table below. For example:

I originally bought GATX Corp. (GATX) with a 4% dividend yield and a 10 year dividend growth rate of 6.77%, because this met the requirements in the table below I decided to DRIP new shares. As I re-evaluate my portfolio GATX now only yields 2.53% and does not meet the minimum growth rate of 9.7% so I will have to stop DRIP’g shares.

Yield Growth Rate
2.00% 11.50%
2.50% 9.70%
3.00% 8.00%
3.50% 6.70%
4.00% 5.50%
4.50% 4.30%
5.00% 3.20%
5.50% 2.00%
6.00% 1.00%

I have performed this process of re-evaluating twice a year for the last 6 years and it has kept my portfolio on track to meet my goals. Though I do recommend you perform the tune-up before the new year so if you have to sell any losers you can capitalize on tax loss harvesting before years end.

Happy Holidays Everyone! - Comments: 0

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