#50: Radio Show: Faber Spin-Off Executed

70 minutes

Episode 50 is a return to our “radio show” format, in which we discuss current market news, Tweets Meb finds interesting, various research papers of note, and anything else on Meb’s mind.

But first things first: A huge congratulations to new father, Meb Faber. His “spin-off” came in the early morning hours just a few days ago. In fact, this episode was recorded with Meb calling in from a spare room at the hospital.

The Meb Faber Show also just passed the one-million downloads mark. So a huge thank-you to everyone who has tuned in, listened, and recommended us to your friends. We’re genuinely grateful to everyone for giving us their time each week.

Diving into the financial content, we start with Meb discussing the need for investment literacy with kids and new investors. The problem is that most of us learn to invest incorrectly – generally, we learn about single stock valuation. As Meb tells us, the problem is that far more historical context is needed before even getting to this point. What have equity and bond investments averaged over the years? How cyclical are the markets? What does a bubble look like and how to you avoid one? In essence, there’s so much to learn in order to be an informed investor before diving into the details of, say, a cash flow statement or a price-to-earnings ratio.

This ties into a conversation about expected returns going forward. Turns out, a recent source indicated that some investors are still expecting to make 8.5% per year going forward. Is this realistic? Not if you go by Bogle’s formula. Meb explains in detail.

Next, Meb made a recent change to his personal investment portfolio. Since he believes it to be important to be transparent about how he invests, he publishes this online. Meb tells us about his recent change, in which he added a tail risk hedging component. He expects it to be a drag on portfolio returns under normal circumstances, but it should provide him some protection if the U.S. equity market spikes lower. This bleeds into a discussion on bonds, and where they might going, since roughly 90% of Meb’s new hedge investment actually is invested in 10-year Treasuries.

Next up is a quote from John Bogle which Meb recently Tweeted. It’s about risk, valuations, and indexing. It leads into a discussion about whether there’s a valuation at which the risk of owning stocks outweighs the potential reward of remaining invested. We discuss market timing, and the possibility of exiting stocks due to absurd valuations – and potentially missing great gains as the market climbs higher, indifferent to your opinion that it was too overvalued. 

The conversation takes another shift, gravitating toward active versus passive funds, the toxic effect of fees when buying active funds, and the problem of “active share.” Active share references the degree to which a fund in which you’re invested differs from its benchmark. If you want to invest in a smart beta fund, typically you want to see high active share (lots of difference) compared to a vanilla index fund – especially if the fund fees are high. Unfortunately, there are lots of funds out there claiming to be different, but they’re actually “closet indexing.” All you’re doing is paying through the teeth for something you could buy much more cheaply. Meb discusses in detail.

There’s lots more in this episode, including a “coffee can” portfolio… the challenges of “looking different” when the market and/or your neighbors are doing better (even though over a longer investing horizon, you’re positioned to be in better shape)… “over-rebalancing” toward global markets these days… why Europe has been a horrible investment for a decade and what its prospects might be going forward…

What are Meb’s thoughts? Find out in Episode 50.

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