My Lazy*** Goals

Actual book cover, JoeKarbo.com

In my younger days, I was fascinated with the notion of becoming wealthy with a minimal amount of effort.  To that end I scraped and saved enough pennies to become the proud owner of a copy of the late Joe Karbo’s best seller, The Lazy Man’s Way to Riches.  Imagine my disappointment when I realized that significant effort was still required, albeit in a different manner.  If the book were updated today, I would think it would gloss over the time and coding required to attain website SEO success and focus on the rewards – while ignoring the fact that only a few will reach that level.

My quest for the laziest way to make money was not in vain as I stumbled onto dividend oriented investing forty years ago.  Essentially one can spend as much – or little – time and effort as they want in this regard. One person can use a set-it and forget-it strategy while another can be actively involved.  Or in my case, I’ve used both. While I recovered from my strokes, my portfolio was on auto-pilot accumulating dividends awaiting my return. For over a year – and it didn’t miss a beat. 

The complaint I’ve most often heard is that it takes too long to see results and this endeavor does require patience to get the snowball rolling – probably five to seven years.  But once it gains momentum it is a force to be reckoned with.

This is a meandering way to get to this weeks’ point. I’m really not that much into goals at this stage, but since I’m basically a let the portfolio do its own thing type of guy, there are times when adjustments just have to be made and framing them as goals could be beneficial.  For this year, perhaps you can refer to me as an active manager. The broader theme was my desire to reduce the number of holdings and so far I’ve dropped two (XRX and MSGN) but added two (FTS and TMXXF). Currently, this is a wash. On my monthly reports – with the exception of the new and sold positions – all of the activity nets out with an increase in the value of the stocks retained – which will probably be the case throughout the year.  

Scenario #1

Goal – consolidate all Canadian stocks across multiple accounts into the IRA

Rationale – the tax treaty between the countries allows most holdings to be exempt from the 15% Canadian tax withholding

Funding Source – the sale of PB from my IRA (leaving a slightly larger position in a taxable account)

Actions Required – 

  1. Ensure all have no Canadian taxed dividends
    1. RY, PWCDF are confirms
    2. BCE, CM, BNS, CP, CNI, TRP, TD, BMO, ENB, TMXXF, MFC, SLF, HRNNF, TU, RCI, FTS are pending confirmation
  2. If any are taxed, file appeals
  3. If appeal denied, review for possible sale
  4. If confirmed, add to TRP, TD, BMO, MFC, HRNNF positions
  5. Close out remaining taxable Canadian positions including NTR and AMTD (US)

Over the years I’ve received conflicting answers on the taxability issue.  With free trades I can get the real answer with the next dividend payment. I have 20 current Canadian positions plus AMTD (American, but I grouped it with the Canadians due to TD’s ownership stake).  NTR and AMTD (merger) will be closed positions – probably in April. End result will be more room for foreign dividends to stay under the Form 1116 filing cap.

———

Scenario #2

Goal – Migrate a few issues from Motif to Webull

Rationale – Webull has a promotion too good to pass

Funding Source – petty cash to be replenished by the sale of the same issues in Motif (timed to avoid wash rule issues – if applicable)

My issue with Motif is that they are late to the party on free trades, so I’m beginning to take some money off their table.  Although not fond of Webull (they are in the same camp as Schwab with paying stock dividends as cash-in-lieu rather than fractionals), getting three free stocks is a return equivalent to an immediate 5% (or more).  As my moniker implies, I seek returns where I find them.

——–

Scenario #3

Goal – Add cash to spousal IRA

Rationale – Reduce tax liability

Funding Source – emergency cash to be replenished by the anticipated tax refund

For the first time in years, we have some earned income which enables us to contribute.  This will be done into the spousal one which is not subject to RMDs (yet).

Scenario #4

——

Goal – Address RMDs without liquidating stock

Rationale – Keep the snowball alive

Funding Source – accrued surplus dividends

Our planning for this event was done a few years ago when we reduced the holdings in two IRAs.  One contains all SBUX (cost basis of $6) and the other all AAPL. 2019’s RMDs were addressed by surplus accrued dividends.  In 2020 we may have to journal transfer a few shares of each to the joint account which happens to already have these issues in place.  RMD slam dunk – except for the wife who’d like the cash – hence the alternate funding source.

——

So there are this lazy man’s goals for 2020 and it sure looks like more work than I’ve seen in awhile.  In my spare time I can see how my diverse and weird ideas panned out (or not) to determine the further portfolio reductions so I can return to being a future lazy man! As always, comments, thoughts and criticisms are always welcome.

Peeking Into The New Year

It’s that time of year when the pundits are outlining their 2020 top picks with assorted rationale to support their stance.  I find these exercises interesting at the very least and somewhat illuminating as well. I have to admit I am not immune to the siren song as I have participated in a few.  For instance, last year I participated in Roadmap2Retire’s and placed thirteenth. Not bad considering I was effectively out of the contest mid-year with my pick being acquired.

I also tracked sector picks of mine versus Kiplinger using SPDR as a baseline.  For grins I included Cramer’s Power Rankings and Catfish Wizard’s sector picks. Unfortunately, both of these didn’t complete the quest leaving myself and Kiplinger in a tie.

This year’s entrant was to the Dividends Diversify Investment Ideas for 2020 and Beyond panel.  One of my strengths (or weakness, if you prefer) is to view scenarios through a unique prism.  Of the 20 companies, 11 are already in my portfolio. Other than Visa, which generated one observation, these were ignored (why else would I own them?).  Tom grouped companies by segment (like ‘Energy and Oil’) where I chose sector as identified by Morningstar. The duplicate (Visa) was counted twice for my purposes.

  • Financials                  28.57% (6)
  • Technology                          19.05% (4)
  • Utilities                      19.05% (4)
  • Energy                9.52% (2)
  • Healthcare            4.76% (1)
  • REIT                4.76% (1)
  • Communication Services    4.76% (1)
  • Consumer Defensive        4.76% (1)
  • Industrials            4.76% (1)

Through this lens, a slightly different perspective emerged.  With volatility and stability key concerns, I found Financials being a “go-to” sector as interesting.  The following are my observations with the note they are strictly my perspectives. They should not be construed as a criticism of any of the individuals or selections.  Following is my typical, outside the box purview.

The observation on Visa is based on Tawcan’s rationale, “They also make money from users when they don’t pay the balance in full each month.”  The issuer absorbs both the risk and the reward on this aspect so no additional profits to Visa here.

One surprise was the Utility Sector.  

  • GenYMoney selected Fortis which has been on and off my watch list for awhile.  My issue with them has been their Caribbean dependence on diesel. I may need to review this with the advent of solar in the region.
  • Cheesy Finance selected Canadian Utilities.  My issue here is the ownership structure. CU operates as a subsidiary of ATCO (52% ownership) which in turn is controlled by Sentgraf (a Southern family company).  CU class A shares are also non-voting.
  • Brookfield Renewable Partners was the pick of My Own Advisor.  Most investors’ issue with them is that as a Limited Partnership they issue K-1s.  Although they have no UBTI history, some individual and corporate investors shy away from K-1s. 

Three selections were (in my opinion) a little contrarian.

  • The Rich Miser picked Ally.  This one I wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole.  Yes they do pay a dividend, but only since July of 2016.  My guess is they were restricted by the TARP bailout. Now TARP in and of itself is not a show stopper for me but the fact that they were formerly known as GMAC – yes GM’s financing arm – gives me pause.  Now, ten years post bailout, they still derive 70% of their business through dealers – that is my issue.
  • MoneyMaaster chose  Artis REIT which recently cut their dividend knocking it off most DGI’s radars.  He does make a compelling case though.
  • Freddy Smidlap selected CDW which is a value added reseller.  The issue here is the possibility of margin compression in the event of an economic downturn.  Plus they have a limited track record since their second IPO.

The ones in my portfolio I’ll periodically add to during the year (except Power Corp which is already a little overweight).  One gets the nod to appear on my watch list, FTS.

And I have to commend Tom for the time and effort in putting this together so people like me can have some ammunition for alternative theories. Just for grins, I added these selections to a spreadsheet available on the main menu titled 2020 DivDiversity Panel. This should update automatically (as per Google standards).

2019 Year End Report

Looking back at last years’ End Of Year post, the concerns raised at that point all remain valid.  I have to admit that even with the evils of tariffs, rising deficits and US dollar strength the economy remained surprisingly strong.  I did nail one right – the administration’s claim that GDP growth can outpace the deficit was wrong. If it can’t be done when the economy is hitting on all cylinders – the question becomes ‘when can it?’

For the month, the S&P index rose 2.73% and my portfolio (excluding October and November purchases) rose 4.26%.  When those purchases are included, the monthly increase was 10.51%. Yes my gain would have been larger had I re-invested the dividends throughout the year but at least I was fully in the market during the last quarter run-up.  For the year the S&P rose 30.43% (depending on how it’s calculated) the best year since 2013. My Portfolio rose 34.54% allowing me to extend my claim of the 34th year (of 39) that I’ve beaten the index.

Dividend cuts were the big obstacle for the year as I endured five in total.  Frankly, it wasn’t until December that my Dividend Goal (10% annual increase) was in the bag.  This is typically attained in late October or early November. 

I have only three new companies on my watch list with limit orders in place on two.  All are foreign with Canada, Hong Kong and Japan tagged. I have a few I’m willing to shed with a couple more needing repositioning due to mergers.  For the first time in probably five years I’m in a position to reduce my holdings while beefing up my Anchor and Core positions.

Thirteen countries were represented in my portfolio (18.5% of my dividends), losing Ireland but gaining Japan via a merger.  The top countries were Canada (9.77%), UK (2.61%), Singapore (1.21%) and Sweden (1.02%). I’m continuing the migration of Canadian companies from my taxable accounts to my IRA to take advantage of the tax treaty (no Canadian tax withholding for most issues).

Continuing with the Monthly Recap in its newest iteration, I’m still finding pieces that require some elaboration in order to rationalize it.

For instance, the net purchase expense threshold is not a pure indicator of my cash position.  I’m thinking it’s in the 2-3% range as my cash position increased last month despite the purchases.  The Incr/Decr from the market — yes, 99.2% of the increase in portfolio value was due to the market.  A slight disappointment is the Dividend Raises. They weren’t enough to even round up to 0.01% (more a reflection of portfolio size than wimpy raises).

Dividends:

  • December delivered an increase of 40.87% Y/Y with most of the increase attributable to the Oct/Nov purchases, the OMI fiasco of last year aging off and a weaker US dollar (finally).
  • Dividend increases averaged 10.11% with 68.28% of the portfolio delivering at least one increase (including 5 cuts.  Basically a lackluster performance.
  • 2019 Dividends received were 13.78% greater than 2018 dividends and exceeded last years’ total on December 1st.  It would have been over 15% had there been no cuts.

Note: I updated my Goals page to provide a visual of these numbers.  Based on Mr All Things Money’s instruction set with a conversion to percentages.  My code only updates when the monthly Y/Y number is exceeded.  Otherwise, the prior year actual is used.

Spinoffs:

On Oct 4, 2018 MSG filed a confidential Form 10 to spin the sports business which remains in progress.

Mergers:

Spirit MTA REIT (SMTA) voted on Sept. 4th, 2019 to approve the liquidation of the REIT. I am awaiting the final settlement payout and as of December 31, this issue was delisted. I fully expect a profitable outcome for one of my most speculative positions.

SCHW to acquire AMTD for 1.0837 sh SCHW to 1 AMTD.  My only surprise with AMTD being taken out was the suitor – I had expected TD.  Regardless, I have three concerns over this deal, 1) profit margin compression with the onset of $0 fee trades, 2) possible liquidation of a partial TD stake to reduce their ownership share from 13.4% to 9.9% (the same issue Buffet regularly faces) and 3) 10 year phase-out of AMTD/TD cash sweep account relationship.  The third one means TD has a low cost (albeit, decreasing) source of deposits for the foreseeable future. After the first of the year, I’ll probably cash in AMTD and increase TD a little further.  

Although XRX is officially off the list with their Fujifilm settlement, Icahn & Co. couldn’t wait for the ink to dry before stirring things up with HPQ.  As of now, I am considering exiting my XRX position.

Splits and Stock Dividends

Although splits are agnostic, I consider them a positive with reverse splits a negative.  Two of my companies split this year – PWOD and FFIN with no reverse splits to report.

Five companies showered me with shares of stock ranging from 3% to 5%.  I do love stock dividends and this year the benefactors were: CBSH (5%), HWBK (4%), LARK (5%), AROW (3%) and CVLY (5%).

Summary

As we slide into tax season, we’ll see if my readjustments panned out.  My goal was to achieve the 0-10% tax bracket by taking a one year tax hit.  The first part was completed so the results will be evident in the next month or so.  Overall, not one of my better years but I did attain (at least) my minimum objectives.   

Hopefully your year was great or at least in line with the market. 

December Purchases

Despite the ongoing record setting pace of the market this month, two purchases of note were made. There are in addition to the DRIP and FRIP purchases which are generally reported in bulk at month end.

This one is allocated to the granddaughter’s future holdings, continuing the tradition of a stock for Christmas. The only rationale given for these purchases is that it is meaningful for her – forget PE ratios, valuation, etc. In this case, she and her friends spend a good part of their off-campus lunches at McDonald’s (MCD) – end of story. I had considered Toyo Suisan Kaisha Ltd (TSUKY) the maker of ramen noodles but decided that one might be a better choice for her first year of college.

——————–

An outstanding limit order executed more than doubling my holding. That said, assuming the dividend remains intact it will account for maybe 1% of my forward dividends. I suspect capex spending has peaked and their attention can turn to the balance sheet. So – I essentially reduced my cost basis although I remain underwater on this one.

Two things I be keeping an eye on as 2020 begins – 1) their expansion (via JV) in Saudi Arabia, and 2) their version (and traction) on streaming.


Unless there is a major retraction over the next day or two, this will close the curtain on my 2019 activity. Here’s hoping your 2020 is great!

2019: Year of Turnover

Going into the homestretch of 2019, it’s the time I begin the reflection process and assess the strategy going forward.  Last week presented a broad brush view of my expectations for the new year. This week addresses my portfolio turnover for 2019 and more importantly, the why.

In general, my philosophy is to buy and hold for the long run.  I tend to identify strategies and identify issues that have the potential to benefit.  As a strategy runs its course, rarely do I sell – choosing to stop accumulating instead.  This approach minimizes fees and taxable events.

Currently I hold 231 stocks and 4 ETFs.  During the past year, 13 were lost and 24 added.  Therefore my turnover rate was higher than I like so let’s dig in and see what happened.


ADDEDLOST
MERGER89
DIVIDEND CUT
3
MANAGEMENT
1
STRATEGY14

M&A is pretty straightforward with the differential being the one I held on both sides of the deal. Dividend cuts are pretty much slam dunks as well – although I did retain one of the cutters.  Management is an unusual one as I typically reserve this for activist actions. This case was tax forms being received that didn’t match SEC reporting. In my view, that deed is worse than cutting the dividend – therefore a sale.  The largest category being strategy. I added one to my 2017 KO bottler strategy, four as part of a new platform test and nine to replicate the cashed out portfolio.  

Mergers are always welcome as long as they arrive with a premium attached, Dividend cuts will always be assessed but will usually be fairly automatic sales.  Activism I dislike but generally hold my nose and ride along. Strategy – I thought ended in 2018 until I tested a new platform and also chose to replicate the granddaughter’s portfolio after having to liquidate it.  All reasonable reasons but all contributors to the action.

Currently I have three new companies on my watch list for 2020 which I’ll only buy at the right price point:

  • MTR Corporation Limited (MTCPY) – Hong Kong’s rail line constantly in the news
  • TMX Group Ltd (TMXXF) – Canada’s stock exchange
  • Coca-Cola Bottlers Japan (CCJOY)

This isn’t to say there won’t be more, only that my going forward inclination is that fewer is probably better.  Notable that US issues are absent although currently I expect only additions to existing positions.

In a nutshell, the majority of turnover was a result of M&A activity (a good thing) tempered by the breaking of the (I think) personal 38 year record for dividend cuts (5 total this year).  Unless there is more M&A on the horizon, my hope is to settle back into a 1-2% annual turnover rate. Even with the move towards $0 commission trades my ultimate goal is a set it and forget it type of portfolio which has served me well for many a year.

Hope your holidays are wonderful!

2020 Crystal Ball

A gentle reminder was provided by the market last week as to its unsettled nature.  Essentially, headline risk is at the forefront tossing the market based on the sentiment of the day – oft times lubricated (or diverted) by a Presidential tweet. Granted, this is little changed from the past but we do have an increasing clarity to use as a guide.

What is unchanged is that US valuations remain elevated.  Sure, there were some stumbles during the recent earnings season and some cautionary guidance presented.  Barring a black swan event it does appear the next recession (US version) has been punted into the future – at a time post election.   There are – and will continue to be – pockets where value can be had, but I see this opportunity being readily available only to individual stock pickers willing to accept a slightly higher risk factor.

Headlines have also illustrated a measured success that Presidential bashing of the Fed failed to accomplish.  The dollar weakened – a little. On the heels of the results from the UK election, Sterling strengthened. My opinion being this is a relief rally at seeing an end to the Brexit saga as the real work now can now begin in earnest.  These negotiations may get bogged down a little – particularly trade – which could provide a reentry point for Labour and their agenda of nationalization. I see the UK as a viable alternative but with risk associated in telecoms, energy, utilities, rail and mail.  Perhaps a mid-term view is required with an entry point sometime after the first of the year.

Much the same boat for China as the renminbi strengthened against the dollar as the news of a “phase 1” agreement on trade crossed the wires.  What this means probably remains debatable, but if a truce is effective going into the new year it is a likely positive for US equities, tempered by the fact that their currency is a daily peg rather than free-float.  The risk here is twofold – on and off again tariffs and US involvement in their political affairs (Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act and Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act). The bills appear to be more show than substance but could flare tensions. The investment thesis should note the alleged Human Rights abuses along with the minimal sanction levels.  If these pitfalls are successfully navigated, opportunities do exist.

Then there are the fintech darlings, the newest variant being the so-called ‘Challenger Banks” or neobanks.  Though awash with cash from private funding rounds, they all have one glaring defect – they aren’t really banks.  They are apps – generally mobile – with a compelling interface and a few niche benefits targeting the millennial audience.  A couple have started the process to really become banks but most are content to partner with real banks – sweeping funds into accounts that have FDIC insurance.  My research remains incomplete but with three exceptions, the partner banks pay no dividend or are private. I currently own the exceptions, GS, JPM and WSFS but don’t expect the challenger funds to be a significant revenue driver.

Perhaps the largest driver of ‘hot air’ time in the new year will be the election.  The obvious beneficiaries being media companies who are able to capitalize on both sides of an argument.  However fragmentation, targeting and scope make it more difficult to call any winners unless any campaign goes on a deep targeting offensive which would benefit social.  From a messaging position, only health care moves the needle much where companies like UNH, HUM and CVS stand to benefit as the attacks subside.

The commonality between these issues?  None are long term. Yet the nature of capitalism is its’ cyclical nature.  There is always a correction to drain the excesses. The timing and severity are always debatable, but rest assured one will arrive.  My approach to the new year will be to take some marbles off the table by pruning some non-core positions and reassessing some strategic plays. To place this in context, I have three new positions on my watchlist and ten to fifteen under review which if fully implemented would be roughly a 5% churn rate.  My comfort zone is now squarely with Staples and Utilities … items necessary for consumer consumption regardless of the overall economy. Yes, the upside is muted with these companies, but more importantly the downside risk is mitigated. A rising dividend stream exceeding the rate of inflation is the core goal in these times in spite of politics or political persuasion.

And so goes my crystal ball for 2020 …

Blast From the Past

A little unsure as to what I was researching when I ran across this ancient nugget from 2012.  I don’t recall having read it when it was fresh, but has some similarities to my investing style outside the world of Coke – particularly with the international bent.  I’ll also point out this predates the 21st Century Beverage Partnership Model where Coke essentially attempted to become a marketing engine leaving the capital intensive bottling and distribution operations to a handful of larger (facilitated by mergers) bottlers.  For today, I’ll ignore the 32 (give or take a couple) family owned operations that are basically distributors – or bottlers in name only. These buy product from larger bottlers, warehouse it  and deliver to commercial customers. I suspect these little guys won’t be long for the world as they’ve lost any economies of scale.

The impetus for this piece came from the final comment from NeoContrarian where he asks (a year ago), “This is an excellent article:- What’s the current update 6 years on???” Given the author hasn’t published anything since 2016 and I now have a vested interest, I figured it apt to address this question – particularly with the change in the business model.

I have stakes in seven of these bottlers with a pending limit order for an eighth, so allow me to correct a mistake the author made.  The list of companies contains duplicates – either with a class of stock (AKO.A/B) or CCLAY/F. The former has greater economic interest (votes) but a lower dividend while the latter is the ADR versus in country OTC listing.  The ADR withholds taxes (net payout) while the F version is the gross payout leaving the investor having to deal with those details.

Subsequent to her piece, Coca-Cola Hellenic began trading on the LSE (not NYSE) and moved its’ HQ from Greece to Switzerland, Coca-Cola Enterprises ultimately morphed into Coca-Cola European Partners, HQ UK; and Mikuni Coca-Cola merged into Coca-Cola East, which merged with Coca-Cola West becoming Coca-Cola Japan.  Also, Coca-Cola İçecek.’s ADR program has been cancelled.

I tried to retain the structure she used but made a few modifications; removed dividend growth and comparison to KO’s and added % owned by KO.  Being primarily foreign companies, dividend growth is less telling than the US as the vast majority of payouts are based on a percentage of profits.  Perhaps a profitability growth rate should be included instead.

I will editorialize that it appears the results are mixed in KO’s move out of bottling.  They have succeeded, for the most part in the domestic market – at least in avoiding reporting consolidated results.  The failure has been in foreign markets as several remain owned – at least in the majority – by KO. These include Africa (68.3%), The Philippines and Bangladesh (100%).  KO also retains significant stakes of between 14 and 34% in nine of the publicly traded bottlers. This analysis excludes privately owned companies with the exception of Joint Ventures that include public companies.

a/o 8Dec2019

Yes it remains possible to muster a dividend yield piggybacking on KO’s marketing prowess.  There are risks, chiefly currency and political. For instance, Zimbabwe faces a hard currency shortage leaving Heineken unable to repatriate their profits.  The reason I have no intention of buying Hellenic or İçecek. Is their exposure to Russia and Turkey respectively. Future administrations may revert back to normal putting undue risk on the table.

The one aspect I didn’t anticipate was the consolidation of bottling operations into the larger operators leaving the smaller players as merely distributors.  That is one way to spread the capital intensiveness into manageable pieces and is probably one reason for their performance.

There are risks as well as potential rewards – perform your own due diligence.

Own: CCEP, KOF, AKO.B, CCLAY, SWRAY, KNBWY, COKE.  Open order: CCOJY