I’ve got a bunch of random thoughts that aren’t enough for a full post each. So instead, you get a hodgepodge of assorted crap loosely related to money/investing/whatever is going through my noggin. Avert the children’s eyes, it’s gonna get feisty.
I was on a bus today from Hiroshima to Fukuoka, a fact I put in just so you’ll get jealous of my jet-setting ways. I got to thinking about the folks who want to retire really early, like before 50. I don’t want to opine on the logic of that decision, since I’ve done that plenty of times before. But rather, let’s talk about the timing of it.
I have absolutely no research or data to back this up, but I’m willing to bet there’s a distinct rise in folks looking to retire early during market tops. The difference is back in 1999 the internet was barely a thing, and I was more concerned with using it to find
naked pictures of girls check my email. The internet was slow back then, checking your email took a few minutes.
I vaguely remember 2007, but I didn’t follow financial blogs like I do today, so it’s kind of a moot point. But now, in 2015, I wonder if the early retirement movement has really changed a bunch of people’s minds, or whether they’re just feeling rich after years of bull markets. I’d guess the latter.
I’ve pointed out that Coca-Cola probably won’t be a good investment over the next decade quite a few times. I think the soda market is going to slowly shrink while the company’s P/E ratio falls from 26x earnings to something like 15x. I don’t care how high quality you think earnings are, paying less than 4% earnings yield on a stock without growth isn’t going to end well.
Add another company to that, Altria. The company owns the Marlboro brand of cigarettes, along with a bunch of other brands in the space you’ve heard of if you’re into slowly giving yourself cancer. And because smokes aren’t bad enough for you already, it owns 28% of SABMiller, one of the giant beer companies.
Strip out the beer for a minute and let’s talk about Altria. The stock trades at 25x its free cash flow, which is a crazy high valuation for a company that’s slowly losing market share each year. The thing that saved this company was when it bought things like Kraft and SABMiller. It used to be undervalued because the sum of the parts was worth more than the combined entity. Now there’s only one more part left, and there’s no way you can say this stock is undervalued.
The overall point is this: Don’t pay 25x earnings for stocks that aren’t growing. I probably wouldn’t pay that much for a stock that is growing, but at least you can justify paying up for growth.
On the same topic, it’s obvious this bull market is running out of steam.
We’re at the stage now where everyone is scared they’ll miss out. I see articles on Seeking Alpha that talk about buying Johnson and Johnson after the stock falls 5%, raving about what a great buying opportunity it is. It’s crazy, and if you’re picking individual stocks, just about nothing is a great buying opportunity when it’s 5-10% lower than a 52-week high.
Patience is so underrated when it comes to investing. Learn a lesson from Buffett and be patient for the next downturn. If he can be patient at 84, you can be too.
I used to criticize personal finance bloggers for neglecting to tackle bigger issues like investing. I take it all back. Picking stocks is really hard, and it’s not something just anyone should do. That includes people who do well enough with their money to write a PF blog that isn’t just a debt diary. I’ve probably surpassed the magical Malcolm Gladwell 10,000 hours thing studying investing, and I still sometimes shake my head and wonder if I should be indexing. With respect to the people who will read this, I doubt you’ve spent the time on this that I have.
That isn’t to say it’s impossible to pick stocks or that you shouldn’t. Just keep in mind that it’s really hard to do, and that no matter what the people on the internet tell you it isn’t easy.
And that’s about it. A real post on Monday, assuming I can think of something good.