Some weekend thoughts….
1) Vanguard now manages $3 trillion in assets which is the same as the entirety of the hedge fund industry (see here for more). This is fantastic news. It means that low fees are winning. When one considers that the S&P 500 generates just a 6.5% real, real return historically you have to be increasingly mindful of how much of that result is due to your fee structure. When you’re paying 10, 20, 30% of your returns per year to a manager then you’re probably paying too much. This is likely to be even more important going forward as bonds are likely to generate lower returns than we’re all used to so this means that high fees will cut into your returns even more than they used to.
It’s a wonderful time to be an asset allocator. Products have never been more accessible at such a low cost. You just have to make sure you’re being smart about your approach. Know that even when you use low fee index funds you’re making an implicit forecast. Know that you’re making active allocation choices. Know that if you pay someone to do this on your behalf then you’re essentially paying for their ability to manage that allocation process for you. The necessity of actively managing ones portfolio isn’t going away just because the fees are coming down. So go into all of this with your eyes wide open and don’t assume that low fees necessarily lead to a better process.
2) Back in 2011 I made one of my rare bubble calls on silver (see here). Well, silver has just about round tripped its price gains on a 5 year basis now:
I think this is one more lesson in understanding the importance of the capital structure and the monetary system. The silver bull market was never based on sustainable trends. It was based more on speculation about the effects of QE and the many high inflation predictions we heard in the last decade. But at the end of the day commodities are primarily cost inputs in the capital structure and they’re very unlikely to generate sustained returns that are well above the rate of inflation.
3) Speaking of silver – I think this is a good time to revisit the post I wrote almost a year ago on “The Biggest Scam in the History of Mankind”. This was a really well done video selling gold and silver as protection against the “scam” that is the Federal Reserve and the US government’s “printing” of money. I said this video was incredibly misleading and that the people who made it were likely just trying to sell you silver and fear in exchange for your hard earned dollars.
I can’t stress how important this is because I really honestly think that a superior understanding of the financial system can help you avoid so many of these hucksters. And anyone who understood the financial system and the monetary system would watch a video like this one and simply laugh. So please, if you didn’t read that post try go read it with an open mind. And if you have questions then please use the forum or the comments here.