Should I Invest In Oil Stocks? Learn About Oil Price Fundamentals First

Oil price collapseOil is a popular topic due to its surprising ~50% price drop from June 2014 to mid-2015. Nobody could have imagined such a quick collapse in oil. I certainly didn’t when I decided to buy a Honda Fit instead of a Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited last summer! If I had known I could pump my rolling 4th bedroom for less than $2.90 a gallon, I might very well have opted for the bigger car.

Given knowing what the hell is going on in the world is part of being a functioning citizen in today’s society, I decided to do some research into what happened. After all, I did purchase the oil ETF USO, a couple major integrated oil companies, an airline stock, and some auto stocks in my newest diversified investment portfolio for 2015 to try and make some money.

So what caused this significant drop, and how does this affect businesses, the economy, and our everyday lives? Is oil poised to rise once again? Let’s explore these questions and more.

The Startup Journey: Alternative Investing With Sliced Investing Founders

Founders of Sliced Investing. Top: Akhil Lodha. Bottom: Mike Furlong

Top: Akhil Lodha. Bottom: Mike Furlong

One goal after leaving my corporate job of 11 years in 2012 was to learn more about the startup industry in Silicon Valley. I was coming from the old school finance industry where there was relatively little innovation compared to many financial technology companies today. Life was getting a little boring and I kept watching company after company we took public grow into great successes.

One of those companies was Google. I remember being excited seeing Sergei Brin, one of Google’s founders give a lunch presentation in downtown San Francisco during their IPO roadshow back in August, 2004. It was standing room only, so I wasn’t able to eat one of the manufactured plates of rubber chicken. We were one of the lead book runners, and I was inspired at how quickly Sergei, Larry and team were able to build something so huge, so quickly.

We are living in the golden age of tech/internet innovation. Five years ago, at age 32, I told myself that if I didn’t create something internet-related on my own or join a startup while having so much access living in San Francisco, I would kick myself in the face when I’m old.

Today, Google is one of my largest sources of traffic and revenue for Financial Samurai. Maybe it’s good karma for helping them go public, even though the IPO seemed shaky at the time with the last minute price decision of $85/share. Yes, we all should have piled in back then! It’s crazy how life comes full circle.

I discovered Sliced Investing on AngelList while vacationing up in Tahoe over Christmas break. With my tag-line “Slicing Through Money’s Mysteries,” I wondered if destiny was calling once again as I shot the founders a note to say I’m interested in helping them out. They kindly responded, and here I am.

I wrote off hedge fund investing until 2015 because I didn’t have the $500,000+ minimums to invest. It was just as well since the markets have been on fire since 2009 and hedge funds have underperformed. But in a way, I have been creating my own equity hedged portfolio with my accumulation of structured products since 2012. Give me 5-10% returns every year with low volatility, and I’ll happily invest all I can.

Sliced Investing smartly crowd-sources investor capital in order to make investing in hedge funds and alternatives more accessible to more people due to their minimum investment of $20,000. With the bull market entering its sixth year, I’m beginning to wonder how much more this baby can run. I’ll take under a 10% return for the S&P 500 for 2015 if anybody wants to take the other side of the bet!

In this interview, I want to understand the mindset of an entrepreneur. We’ll talk about risk-taking, the why, and how things came to be with Mike Furlong and Akhil Lodha, founders of Sliced Investing. I’ve got to imagine many people would love to be their own bosses and create a company one day as well. 

Should I Buy Bonds? Wealthy People Don’t

Stocks and James Bond 007 by Marc Tavenier

Stocks and James Bond

Wealthier people in America do not follow the conventional asset allocation model of buying bonds, i.e. age equals your bond percentage allocation or a 60/40 equities/fixed income split. How do I know this? Personal Capital has over 800,000 users of their free financial dashboard to help manage your money and I’m a consultant who is privy to some of their data to share with all of you. Data geeks, rejoice!

Out of 800,000+ Personal Capital financial dashboard users, roughly 165,000 of them have linked investable assets of between $100,000 to $2 million. We call this the mass affluent class, or upper middle class if you’re so inclined. The mass affluent are generally regular folks with mainly W2 income. They save and invest in order to provide for their family, pay for expensive tuition bills, take a couple nice vacations a year, and hopefully achieve a comfortable retirement when all is said and done.

Let’s do a quick review of my proposed stocks and bonds asset allocation model before moving on to the big data. 

How Investing In A Hedge Fund Saved My Retirement Portfolio

Retirement is lounging in an infinity pool by Jalon Burton

Reducing volatility from investing with hedge funds in order to relax

One of the benefits of working at an investment bank is gaining access to a variety of investment opportunities that retail investors normally wouldn’t have access to. For example, if Goldman Sachs decided to create a special opportunity fund for institutions because they saw opportunity in the Argentinian debt market, employees would have the opportunity to invest alongside some of the world’s largest money managers like Fidelity, Capital, and Franklin Templeton. Random investment opportunities came up all the time.

After two years as a financial analyst at GS in NYC, I knew my days were numbered as the NASDAQ dotcom bubble burst in March 2000. I remember optimistically telling my VP in May 2000 how I was still bullish on the markets and he sternly told me, “We’re in a bear market. Stop kidding yourself.” Three years later, more than half of my analyst class was let go.

By June 2000, it was clear the NASDAQ was not getting better. I can’t remember exactly how things played out, but I think management sent out an internal e-mail to all employees about how we should keep focusing on our clients – that now was the best time to give them a call or take them out because nobody else was. In the employee memo, management also indicated they had added some new options to our 401k retirement plan, namely several hedge funds that looked to profit from the downturn.

Given some of our smartest and most profitable clients were hedge funds, I decided to do some research and invest half of my 401k into a technology hedge fund, Andor Capital Management, founded by Daniel Benton. Andor was one of Goldman’s largest clients, and they formed some type of partnership where they would let employees invest without needing the $1 million+ minimums. The flagship Andor technology fund ended up returning 35 percent in 2000, net of fees, and my 401k actually inched up in 2000 and 2001 as a result of the hedge fund investment instead of getting slaughtered.

I kept my GS 401k until 2003, despite moving to a new firm in June 2001, due to the investment selection. But after it felt like the markets were out of the woods, and since I could no longer contribute to my GS 401k hedge fund as an ex-employee, I consolidated my 401k balance at my new firm to keep things streamlined. 

How Long Will The Average Person Take To Earn $1 Million Around The World?

The Economist put out an interesting chart highlighting how long it takes the median household income to earn $1 million dollars before tax. Have a look.

How long does it take to earn one million dollars around the world

Given the median US household income is roughly $52,000, it will take roughly 19.3 years for the typical household to earn $1 million gross. That’s pretty good if you think about it. Let’s say you graduate college at age 22. By the time you are 41, you could have earned over a million bucks gross!

But as we know in personal finance, it’s not what you make, it’s what you keep. If the typical household saves 10% of their gross earnings, then one can expect a $100,000 – $200,000 net worth by the time the head of household is 41 years old. Not bad, but certainly no million bucks!

How To Cheaply Build A Diversified Investment Portfolio If You Don’t Have Much Money

Diversity by Kongaline.com

Diversity by Kongaline.com

The rich get rich by buying appreciating assets like stocks, bonds, real estate, and fine art. The people who don’t get rich spend their money on depreciating assets like cars they can’t comfortably afford, and clothes that are never worn more than a few times a year. It takes discipline doing research on investable assets, which is probably one of the reasons why many people don’t even bother.

One of the biggest push backs I hear from readers who want to get rich, but don’t have enough disposable income to invest, is that investing costs too much and is too complicated. This post eliminates one more excuse people have for not building additional wealth.

It’s been a while since I’ve had to carefully watch my cash position, but since I spent a lot of money buying a fixer last year, cash flow is tight. I have a goal of rebuilding my liquid cash hoard to $100,000 in 2015, while also paying off roughly $85,000 in rental mortgage debt. It won’t be easy because I don’t want to cheat by selling assets to pay off debt.

Despite my debt elimination and savings goals, I want to continue investing in stocks and bonds when I see opportunity. With the recent volatility in the market, I see A TON of opportunity right now. Oil and energy stocks have gotten crushed, but aren’t going to zero. Market darlings such as Tesla, Pandora, GoPro, Yelp, and Lending Club have all taken a beating, and I love all their products and services. Interest rates have collapsed, providing a tailwind for a couple industries. I want to invest!

The only problem is, I’ve only got about $10,000 I can spare in this market volatility vs. a normal investment of $50,000 if I want to reach my savings and debt pay down goals.

Managing A Complicated Net Worth: How Messy Is Your Money?

Antique Chinese Coin Collection Part Of Net Worth

Started collecting Chinese coins in 1997

A blogging buddy of mine named J from Budgets Are Sexy publishes his net worth figures every month. Although I generally advise against sharing all of one’s financial details, if the figures are reasonable, then that’s probably fine. Otherwise, the pitchforks will be focused on those who brazenly display obnoxious amounts of wealth with no regard for others. May Stealth Wealth live on in us all.

Remember, it’s more about what you have to show for your income, not so much about how much you make. Your net worth figure should be carefully protected as it grows.

J is in his early-to-mid 30s and has a family of four with a very respectable net worth of ~$470,000. Given he has around $37,000 in cash, the next time I see him at a conference boondoggle, of course I’m going to let him buy me a steak dinner! Instead of letting his cash earn nothing in a money market account, he might as well take care of his friends right?

What I noticed about his net worth picture is how pleasantly streamlined it is. He has no more than 10 financial accounts to track. Have a look.

Net Worth Chart

After seeing J’s net worth chart, I got to thinking about how complicated my own net worth picture is. I used to track my net worth with an Excel spreadsheet every single month since 2000. It was pretty fun for a personal finance enthusiast like me, but it started getting a little cumbersome after my account total grew. By the time I aggregated my accounts online in 2012, I had 25 accounts to track. I felt relieved when I no longer had to write everything down and update figures every month. Now everything just gets updated automatically thanks to technology.

But something funny happens when you just leverage technology to track your net worth. You stop being as analytical with your finances as you used to because you just rely on technology to do everything for you. In other words, you start getting a little lazy. Laziness is a net worth killer because it prevents you from taking action when opportunities arise, e.g. refinancing a mortgage.

My net worth has grown since 2012, like I’m sure most of your net worths have. What I’m curious to know is how many financial accounts I have now, because I haven’t checked in over a year! Perhaps you’ll share your count as well.