#76 - Phil DeMuth - “Nothing in My Global Outlook is Telling Me It's Time to Pull Up the Anchor and Set Sail"

92 minutes

In Episode 76, we welcome Phil DeMuth. We start with Phil’s background. It’s a fun recap, involving Phil’s clinical psychology roots, his move to LA to be a screenwriter, his experiences in the Dot Com boom with friend, Ben Stein, which led to the writing of his first investment book, which eventually resulted in his managing money.

Meb dives into investing, asking for an overview of the framework Phil uses with clients.

Phil seeks to construct a portfolio that matches each individual’s situation, so it’s largely bespoke. That said, in general, he starts with a global market portfolio, then adds various factors – for example small value, or momentum, or low beta… Then he’ll add bonds, some alternatives, gold, and so on – again, all relative to the individual’s needs and goals.  

This leads into a great conversation on the idea of a person’s “personal beta.” This dovetails into the concept of a person’s human capital. Meb believes that adjusting a portfolio to reflect a person’s human capital is something advisors do well, giving them an advantage over robos. Phil thinks there are ways the robos can catch up here.

Next up, the guys discuss the various types of investing clients – doctors, engineers, celebrities, and so on – and whether any specific type is better or worse suited for investing. Meb’s opinion is that many doctors and engineers can be challenging clients because they’re brilliant and love to tinker. They can also have some hubris – an element of “I can do better than buy-and-hold”.

Phil agrees that doctors and engineers should be excellent investors. They’re so smart that they can do it all; yet in practice, they tend to stumble.

This leads the guys to the takeaway that, in investing, there’s not a linear correlation between time/effort and returns. Phil notes the correlation could even be negative!

Next up, Meb asks how the world looks to Phil today. Phil tells us “Everything looks expensive. It’s just a question of what looks more expensive than others.” That said “Nothing in my global outlook is telling me it’s time to pull up the anchor and set sail,” even though there seems to be 10 articles each day claiming the sky is falling.

This dovetails into an interesting conversation about how nearly no one believes there will be strong U.S. equity returns over the next decade or so. But what is the psychological impact of everyone believing that? Especially in light of how terrible humans tend to be at these kinds of predictions.

From this, Meb brings up alternatives. Phil has been delving deeper into alts since ’08, when all his assets sank together. Phil tells us he’s been looking for alts that have have zero correlation to the stock market, reasonable expenses, and should have positive expected returns.

Meb switches to psychology, asking about the most insidious behavioral issues facing investors, and how to protect against them. The guys discuss our shortcomings, including a trick Phil uses with his clients that tends to help them avoid some of the damage.

Meb transitions to Phil’s newest book, which is one of Meb’s favorites: The Overtaxed Investor: Slash Your Tax Bill & Be A Tax Alpha Dog. The guys discuss how implementing effective tax strategies in investing is one of the biggest, yet underused, sources of alpha around. Phil notes that any savings in this area goes straight to the bottom line.

Meb asks for specific tax strategies. You’ll want to listen to this section, which dives into some of the details of parking the right kind of assets into the right kind of accounts. This dovetails into an idea Meb loves: (and the topic of a soon-to-be-released whited paper) avoiding dividends.

Phil tells us he hated the taxes he was paying on dividends and capital gains, so he got rid of everything issuing him dividends and distributions, and instead, sought quality investments that wouldn’t pay a dividend. He goes on to say how dividends are great for retirees who are intentionally spending the money, but if you’re earlier in your working career, and the government is taking 30% of your income via taxes, that’s not good at all! So, Phil wondered how he could get the dividend benefit, without the dividend.

It was this idea that led Meb to do his own research on the topic (the subject of the forthcoming white paper). So Meb thanks Phil for the inspiration, then takes the handoff and discusses what he found through his own research. If you’re a dividend investor, you won’t want to miss Meb’s conclusion.  

There’s way more in this great episode: additional tax tips… ETNs… tax loss harvesting… donating stocks with huge capital gains to charities rather than donating cash… wills… how Meb wants a Viking funeral (yes, you read that right)… Meb’s unexpected bill from the IRS… And of course, Phil’s most memorable trade – it involves an investment that turned out to be somewhat less liquid than Phil had anticipated.

What are the details? Find out in Episode 76.

More episodes from The Meb Faber Show

#251 - Robert Jacobson, Space Advisors - It’s Not Just One Vertical, It’s More Like An Ecosystem With Lots Of Different Dependencies…The High Ground of Space Being The Overarching Theme

In episode 251 we welcome our guest, Robert Jacobson, entrepreneur, advisor, and founder of Space Advisors, a strategic consulting firm for space …

#250 - Kevin Gibbon, Airhouse - We’re The Operations And Logistics Platform For Direct-To-Consumer, Digital-First Brands

In episode 250 we welcome our guest, Kevin Gibbon, co-founder and CEO of Airhouse. In today’s episode, we’re talking about easing the frustration of shipping, operations and logistics for …

#249 - Ben Savage, Clocktower Technology Ventures - Financial Services Has Had A Smaller Share Of Venture Capital Dollars Pointed At It…Since The Inception Of The Venture Capital Industry

In episode 249 we welcome our guest, Ben Savage, Partner at Clocktower Technology Ventures. In today’s episode, we’re diving into VC and innovation …

The Best Investment Writing Volume 4: Anil Rao and Raman Subramanian, MSCI – Game of Homes: Is winter coming for the domestic-equity bias?

Last year we brought listeners the entire volume of The Best Investment Writing Volume 3, in audio format, right here on the podcast. Listeners loved …

#248 - JC Parets, All Star Charts - The Sooner We Can Find Out We’re Wrong The Better…Then We Can Go Move On To Something Else

In episode 248 we welcome our guest, JC Parets, Founder and Chief Strategist of All Star Charts. In today’s episode, we’re talking technical analysis, and what’s going on in the markets …

#247 - David Oates, Curtsy - Our Number One Best Selling Item To-Date Is Active Wear…Lululemon Leggings, Lululemon Shorts, Nike Shorts

In episode 247 we welcome our guest, David Oates, CEO and Co-Founder of Curtsy. In today’s episode, we’re talking about running a company completely designed around making it easy for …

How you can listen to this podcast

You can listen to episodes right here on the website, or if you prefer, in a podcast app. Listening in an app makes it easier to keep track of what you’ve already heard, listen without using your data plan and many other conveniences.

Recommended apps
Start listening to #125 - Tom Barton - The Biggest Problem Investors Have is Things Change...and They Don't Change
1:24:56
Start listening to #125 - Tom Barton - The Biggest Problem Investors Have is Things Change...and They Don't Change
1:24:56