Rank #1: #104 - Ken Fisher - “If You’re Worried About What Things Are Going to Be Worth Next Week…You’re Going to Make Yourself Way Poorer 20 Years from Now"
In Episode 104, we welcome the legendary, Ken Fisher. Meb starts with a quick word of congratulations to Ken, as his firm just passed $100B in assets under management. The guys then discuss Ken’s interest in fishing with a bow and arrow, which eventually morphs into a conversation about a millionaire who allegedly hid a million dollars somewhere in the Rockies, leaving clues to treasure-hunters searching for it. The guys then jump into investing, discussing Ken’s early days in launching Fisher Investments. They touch upon one of Ken’s early claims to fame, championing the price-to-sales ratio. This leads to a conversation about being factor agnostic, which includes some interesting takeaways from Ken on capital pricing. Soon, Meb brings up Ken’s book, Debunkery, and asks about one of its points: namely, the misbelief by so many investors that bonds are safer than stocks. What follows is a great commentary by Ken about short-term volatility risk versus opportunity cost risk. When you look at longer, rolling time periods, it becomes clear that stocks are far less risky than bonds. And in the long term, stocks are less risky than cash. Ken tells us that in his business, it’s his job to focus his clients on the longer-term. Next, the conversation takes an interesting turn, touching upon the explosion of tech science, and how it’s affecting our lives, as well as the capital markets. It bleeds into Meb suggesting that older investors tend to become more conservative or pessimistic, and so they tilt away from equities, and whether that’s a behavioral challenge Ken has to address with his clients. Ken gives us his thoughts, concluding with that idea that people need to be relatively comfortable in capital markets with things that are generally uncomfortable. The conversation then veers into politics and the effects on the market. Ken tell us that when you look at presidents and market history, our system gives presidents much less power to affect markets than most people believe. Meb jumps to Twitter questions, bringing up one that wonders how to position yourself in the end of a bull market. Ken gives us a fascinating answer which I’m going to make you listen to in order to hear, but it tends to focus on large cap and quality. There’s way more in this great episode: capital preservation and growth… volatility (a great quote from Ken “volatility is your friend, it’s not your enemy, if you use it correctly”)… the media’s impact on investor perception… the Fed and sovereign balance sheets… the senate bill trying to eliminate the ability of public companies buying back their own stock in the marketplace… housing (and the need to account for the full housing costs when calculating returns)… and of course, Ken’s most memorable trade. What are the details? Find out in Episode 104.
Rank #2: #17 - Michael Philbrick, Adam Butler, and Rodrigo Gordillo - It's About Risk Allocation, Not Capital Allocation
Episode 17 starts with the guys from ReSolve discussing how they view asset allocation and top-down investing. They start with the global market portfolio which is the aggregate of what every investor in the world owns, yet interestingly, nearly no individual investor allocates this way. They then adjust the global market portfolio by striving for balance, specifically, risk parity. They discuss how leverage enables an investor to scale risk and target a specific volatility level, therein equalizing the portfolio. Risk parity gets you to start thinking about risk allocation instead of capital allocation. And this is helpful as “you’ve always got something killing it in your portfolio…and always got something killing you.” The topic then moves to valuation. The guys from ReSolve tell us how they see today’s market—near the peak of a cycle and expensive relative to history. What does this mean for returns over the next 10-20 years? They think 1-2% real. This leads to a discussion about the Permanent Portfolio and its pros and cons in various markets. Then Meb doesn’t miss the chance to bring up gold, as he suggests Canadians love their natural resources (ReSolve is based in Canada). Next, Meb asks the guys their thoughts on currencies. Here in the U.S., it’s rare that we factor currencies into our investing decisions, but it can be more of an issue for many non-U.S. investors. The conversation circles back to risk parity, this time in the context of bonds, and where yields might be going over the next 5-10 years. There’s plenty more, including managed futures, assorted risk premia, and an announcement from the ReSolve guys about a new service offering. What is it? Listen to episode #17 to find out.
Rank #3: #77 - Tobias Carlisle - “In Order to Find Something Genuinely Undervalued...There's Always Something that You Don't Like"
In Episode 77, we welcome author and asset manager, Tobias “Toby” Carlisle. After discussing Toby’s background, including his time as an M&A lawyer and what drew him to investing, we jump into his latest book, The Acquirer’s Multiple. Toby tells us that the book describes a simple way to find undervalued companies. In essence, you’re trying to find a company trading below its intrinsic value. This is how to get a great price as a value investor. Of course, you get these prices because things don’t look too rosy with the stock – there’s usually a crisis or some hair on it, so to speak. Toby tells us “In order to find something that is genuinely undervalued…there’s always something that you don’t like.” This leads into a great conversation about what Warren Buffett seeks in a company, versus what Toby, through the Acquirer’s Multiple, seeks. While Buffett looks for wonderful companies trading at fair prices, Toby seeks fair companies trading at wonderful prices. Toby goes on to tell us that for a company, there are two sources of value – the assets it owns, and the business/operations itself. You have to look at both together. Buffett looks at wonderful companies at fair prices, and is willing to pay a premium to book value, but that’s generally because Buffett is able to ascertain that the stock is worth even more. Joel Greenblatt took this idea and ran with it in his book, The Little Book That Beats the Market. The idea relies on buying companies with high returns on investing capital (ROIC). But Toby thought “what if you can buy at the bottom of a business cycle?” You could likely get better returns by buying very, very cheap, hence his focus on fair companies at wonderful prices. The guys then discuss the merits of a high ROIC. Toby tells us that a high ROIC is meaningless absent a moat or competitive advantage. Don’t misunderstand – a high ROIC is incredibly valuable, but it has to be protected. This dovetails into a fun stretch of the interview when the guys discuss the old Longboard study about how only a handful of stocks truly outperform… a study from Michael Mauboussin, which points toward the power of “mean reversion”… how a historical backtest of “excellent” companies (high returns on equity, assets, and invested capital) actually underperformed “un-excellent” companies – which were generally defined as being incredibly cheap. The reason? Mean reversion. Finally, we get to The Acquirer’s Multiple. Toby tell us you’re trying to find the real earnings of the business. The guys touch on lots of things here – why Buffett & Munger actually don’t prefer this multiple… a comparison between The Acquirer’s Multiple (AM) and Greenblatt’s Magic Formula… and an example from Toby about the power of the AM using the stock, Gilead. The guys then discuss implementation, including how many stocks you should hold to be diversified. They also touch on the Kelly criterion – how much of your bankroll you should bet on any given stock or investment. This leads to an interesting story about how Ed Thorp showed that the Wall Street quants were using Kelly incorrectly. The guys agree that “half-Kelly” tends to work pretty well. The conversation drifts toward valuations, with Meb feeling angst about how nearly all institutional investors believe future returns will be below-average. The contrarian in him is excited. Toby tells us that every metric he looks at says we’re overvalued. Therefore, we should be cautious, but then again, Japan got to a CAPE of 100 and the US has been to 44. You just don’t know when to get out, and there’s no right answer… The guys hop back into The Acquirer’s Multiple, discussing how to avoid the value trap… marrying momentum to it… how value is sitting on about a decade’s worth of underperformance… a
Rank #4: #73 - Jeff Porter & Barbara Schelhorn - Why Financial Planning? Because Investing Alone Won't Get You There
In Episode 73, we welcome Jeff Porter and Barbara Schelhorn from the financial planning group, Sullivan Bruyette Speros & Blayney. We start with Jeff’s background. He was a contemporary of Meb’s at the University of Virginia. The guys share a laugh recalling running out of class to check stock quotes back in the Dot Com boom. As the conversation turns to investing and financial planning, Meb asks about changes in the industry – with the rise of robo-advisors, indexing, target date portfolios, and so on, how does Jeff, as a financial planner, continue to add value on the investment side? Jeff tells us how the aforementioned products can be great for many investors, but less so for others. For investors who need more handholding, and/or have more complex financial situations, advisors can add significant value. What follows is a great discussion on questions Jeff asks his clients as he seeks to evaluate the right market strategy for them, as well as the right implementation. There are myriad issues: what’s the best asset mix? Do you add hedges? Active or passive? Factor tilts? And so on. Jeff looks to understand what his clients need from a return perspective in order to reach their goals, as well as their ability to handle risk. This includes variables such as when will the client need to take withdrawals. This leads to an interesting conversation about those risky years shortly before and after retirement begins. If luck is against you, and the market is down in those years, it can make a huge difference in your portfolio’s balance and therefore, your retirement lifestyle. Jeff tells the story of how retiring at two different points in time led to two very different outcomes. Another question Jeff asks clients is what percentage, or dollar value, could they accept as a temporary loss in a bear market?” He tells us another story about a husband/wife client who realized they had very different answers to this question. Meb asks what’s the average answer to “how much can you stomach being down?”. Apparently, most clients say they can handle about 15-20% declines. Meb then brings up how portfolio creation and management is just one part of a person’s entire financial picture; therefore, as Jeff and Barbara think about risk and a client’s holistic financial view, where do they begin? Barbara answers this one. She tells us one of the most important things she does is help clients organize their financial lives. She accomplishes this by asking three questions: Who? What? And how much? She goes on to give us great details on what really goes into these questions. In essence, she’s helping clients gain far greater control over their financial lives. You’ll hear Meb sound a bit overwhelmed in response, noting how simply the organizational side of getting someone’s financial life in order can be massive – and that he could personally use the help. The conversation drifts toward allocating cash and savings. But one of the problems is that many investors have way too much cash sitting in accounts earning nothing. At a minimum, they could use that cash to pay down various debts or mortgages. Meb makes the point that countless investors are bad at optimizing the cash/debt equation. He says there are simple techniques to easily turn cash earning 0% into cash earning 1% per year. Meb continues to steer the conversation toward traditional financial planning topics: Social Security, retirement benefits, health and liability risks, and so on… Barbara provides some wonderful information on insurance and long-term health care. As an interesting aside, she tells us that most of her male clients don’t want to waste their money on long-term health care, while her female clients find it to be more of a need. Barbara says the reality is somewhere in between. This hardly even begins to scratch the su
Rank #5: #115 - Steve Glickman - Opportunity Zones: Ultimately, If You Hold for…10 Years or More…You Don’t Pay Any New Capital Gains – Ever
In Episode 115, we welcome entrepreneur and opportunity zone expert, Steve Glickman. Meb jumps right in, asking “what is an opportunity zone?” Steve tells us about this brand-new program that was created this past December. Most people don’t know about it yet. It was the only bipartisan piece of the Investing in Opportunity Act, which was legislation packed into the tax reform bill. Opportunity zones were designed to combine scaled investment capital with lower-income communities that haven’t seen investment in decades. You can essentially roll-over capital gains into opportunity funds – special investment vehicles that have to deploy their capital in these pre-determined opportunity zones. It could be a real estate play, a business venture play, virtually anything as long as the investment is in the opportunity zone and meets the appointed criteria. And the benefit of doing this? Steve tells us “ultimately, if you hold for…10 years or more in these opportunity zones…you don’t pay any new capital gains – ever.” Meb hones in on the benefits, clarifying they are: a tax deferral, a step-up in basis, and any gains on the investment are free of capital gains taxes. He then asks where these zones exist now, how one finds them, and how they were created. Steve tell us the zones exist in every US state and territory, including Puerto Rico – in fact, the entire island of Puerto Rico is now an opportunity zone. Steve goes on to give us more details. Soon, the conversation turns toward the problem these opportunity zones are trying to solve – the growing inequality in America. As part of this discussion, Steve tells us about his group, EIG. He created it to work on bipartisan problems that had private sector-oriented solutions. He wanted to address the unevenness of economic growth in the US – why are some areas getting all the capital, while others are getting left behind? Meb points the guys back to opportunity zones and how an investor can take part. He asks what’s the next step after selling all my investments for capital gains. What then? Steve tells us all the capital has to flow through an opportunity fund. It can be a corporation or partnership, include just one investor or many, can be focused on multiple investments or just one…. Most people have identified a project in which they want to invest, but some groups are now creating funds to raise capital, then will find a deal. Steve provides more details on all this. There’s way more in this special episode: the two industries that the government won’t allow to be included in opportunity zone investments… The three different tests for how a business qualifies as an opportunity zone investment… What regulatory clarity is currently missing from the IRS… The most common naysayer pushback they’re hearing… The slippery issue of gentrification… And far more. Opportunity zones have the potential to be a game-changer for many investors. Get all the details in Episode 115.
Rank #6: #19 - Jonathan Clements - "If Money Can Buy Happiness, Then Why Doesn't It?" "Because People Don't Spend It Right."
Episode 19 is a fun, unique episode, delving into the connection between “more money” and “more happiness.” Turns out, Jonathan has literally written the book on this complex relationship. Do you know what studies suggest is the “line in the sand” for annual income, separating happy and unhappy people? Good chance it’s lower than you think. But why? Jonathan tells us. That dovetails into a discussion about how people should spend their money in order to optimize their happiness. It turns out that spending our money on “experiences” with important people in our lives produces far more intrinsic happiness than money spent on “things.” Next, Meb leads the discussion into familiar territory – investing. Jonathan notes two major traps most of us fall into when investing: 1) overconfidence, and 2) loss aversion. These two Achilles Heels tend to inflict significant damage to our portfolios. So what’s our best defense? Jonathan gives us his three-pronged strategy. The topic then moves to portfolio construction, with Jonathan noting how his own approach has changed from a U.S.-centric, core-holding starting point to a global-market-portfolio starting point. Next, they move to a topic less discussed on the podcast: retirement. Jonathan gives his thoughts on withdrawal rates, portfolio management strategies in retirement, and even timing suggestions on when to start taking Social Security. There’s far more on the show, including what studies say about the effect of kids on happiness, why we need to flip our advice to our children (instead of “pursue your passions early in life” it should be “work your butt off early and save, so you can pursue your passions later”), and finally, specific action steps you can take right now to be a better investor. What are they? Find out in Episode 19.
Rank #7: #18 - Rob Arnott - "People Need to Ratchet Down Their Return Expectations"
Episode 18 is packed with value. It starts with Meb asking Rob to talk about market cap weighting and its drawbacks. Rob tells us that with market cap weighting, investors are choosing “popularity” as an investment criterion more so than some factor that’s actually tied to the company’s financial health. What’s a better way? Rob suggests evaluating companies based on how big they are instead (if you’re scratching your head, thinking “size” is the same as “market cap,” this is the episode for you). Is this method really better? Well, Rob tells us it beats market cap weighting by 1-2% compounded. Then Rob gives us an example of just how destructive market cap weighting can be: Look at the #1 company in any sector, industry, or country – you name it – by market cap. Ostensibly, these are the best, most dominant companies in the market. What if you invest only in these market leaders, these #1 market cappers, rotating your dollars into whatever company is #1? How would that strategy perform? You would do 5% per year compounded worse than the stock market. Now slightly tweak that strategy. What if you invest only in the #1 market cap company in the world, rebalancing each year into the then-#1 stock? You’d underperform by 11% per annum. Meb then moves the discussion to “smart beta.” Why is Rob a fan? Simple – it breaks the link with stock price (market cap), enabling investors to weight their portfolios by something other than “what’s popular.” But as Rob tells us, there are lots of questionable ideas out there masquerading as smart beta. The guys then dive into valuing smart beta factors. Just because something might qualify as smart beta, it doesn’t mean it’s a good strategy if it’s an expensive factor. Next, Rob and Meb turn their attention to the return environment, with Rob telling us “People need to ratchet down their return expectations.” All of these investors and institutions expecting 8-10% a year? Forget about it. So what’s an investor to do? Rob has some suggestions, one of which is looking global. He’s not the perma-bear people often accuse him of being. In fact, he sees some attractive opportunities overseas. Next, Meb asks Rob about the idea of “over-rebalancing.” You’ll want to listen to this discussion as Rob tells us this is a way to amp up your returns to the tune of about 2% per year. Next up? Correlation, starting with the quote “The only thing that goes up in a market crash is correlation.” While it may seem this way, Rob tells us that we should be looking at “correlation over time” instead. Through this lens, if an asset class that normally marches to its own drummer crashes along with everything else in a major drawdown, you could interpret it more as a “sympathy” crash – selling off when it shouldn’t; and that makes it a bargain. Does this work? It did for Rob back around ’08/’09. He gives us the details. There’s way more, including viewing your portfolio in terms of long-term spending power rather than NAV, the #1 role of a client advisor, and even several questions for Rob written in by podcast listeners. What are they? Listen to Episode #18 to find out.
Rank #8: #69 - Jason Calacanis - “This is a Little, Secret Way... A Dark Art of Becoming Truly Wealthy... Massive Wealth"
In Episode 69, we welcome legendary angel investor, Jason Calacanis. We start with Jason’s background. From Brooklyn, he worked his way through college, then was in New York at the breaking of the internet. He started his own blogging company, and eventually sold his business for $30M. Later, he landed at Sequoia Capital as part of its “scouts” program, and went on to be an angel investor in a handful of unicorns (a startup company valued at over $1B). As the conversation turns to angel investing, Meb starts broadly, asking Jason about the basics of angel investing. Jason defines it as individuals investing in companies before the venture capital guys get involved (before a Series A). He tells us that the more you can analyze a company through data, the lesser chance it’s an angel investment. That’s because to get the huge returns that come through a true angel investment, there has to be some level of risk (in part, related to having less data-driven information about a company’s financials). So, the challenge is to find that “Goldilocks” period – before revenues are so high that a VC is interested, but after a startup company has launched a product and shown a hint of traction (so many early stage companies end up failing even to launch a product). When you time your investment in this manner, you reduce your downside risk. Meb makes a parallel to traditional equity investing, where only a handful of stocks make up the majority of overall market gains. He suggests this dynamic is likely even more exaggerated in angel investing. Jason agrees. That’s why he suggests you want to go slow at the beginning, ramping up as you learn more, building your network, and growing your deal-flow. But when you get it right, it can result in massive wealth. Or as Jason says, “I think that this is a little secret way… a dark art of becoming truly wealthy… massive wealth.” Meb points the conversation toward a section of Jason’s book which made the point that to get started in angel investing, you need at least one of four things: money, time, expertise, or a great network. He asks Jason to expound. So, Jason provides us some color on these different angel-factors. This dovetails into how much of your net worth should be allocated toward angel investments. It’s a great conversation diving into the math of various net-worth-percentages, and how a couple of investment-winners can have a profound impact on your overall wealth. Meb tells us about his own early-stage investing experience, and how the contagious optimism is exciting. Meb asks what are some resources and places to go for more information. Jason points toward doing some syndicate deals. By doing so, you can read the deal memos, and track the investments even if you never actually invest. It’s a great way to learn – Jason uses the analogy of playing fantasy baseball. The guys go on to discuss ways to grow your network through other syndicate investors. A bit later, Meb asks about pitch meetings when company founders are looking for money. What’s your role as a potential investor in these meetings? Jason likes to ask the question “What are you working on?” He then provides some great reasons why this question is effective. A follow-up question is “Why now?” In essence, what has changed that makes this moment right for your business? For example, for Uber, it was GPS on phones. Curious what the “why now?” of the moment is? Robotics is one of them. Jason gives us a couple others (but you’ll have to listen to discover what they are). The conversation drifts into how to exit your angel investment (or invest more). Jason says if you have a breakout success you want to quadruple down. For instance, if a big VC like Sequoia is thinking about investing, you’d definitely want to jam as much money in as possible. The guys then discu
Rank #9: #76 - Phil DeMuth - “Nothing in My Global Outlook is Telling Me It's Time to Pull Up the Anchor and Set Sail"
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 distribut
Rank #10: #49 - Steve Sjuggerud - “This is Not What the Peak of a Bull Market Looks Like"
In Episode 49, we welcome Dr. Steve Sjuggerud. The conversation begins with Meb and Steve reminiscing about the origin of their friendship, which dates back some 10 years. This leads the guys into Steve’s background, and how he transitioned from being a broker into being the highly-popular investment newsletter writer he is today. Meb asks Steve to describe his investing framework. Similar to Meb, Steve likes both value and trend. Specifically, he looks for 3 things: assets that are “cheap,” “hated,” and “in an uptrend.” This methodology applies to all sorts of asset classes. The guys dig deeper into value and trend, leading to Steve ultimately to say, “If I had to choose between one or the other, I would actually choose momentum over value.” Meb agrees. Next, Meb asks how the world looks to Steve today. Is he buying? Defensive? Where’s he looking? And so on… Steve tells there are always reasons to sell or stay out of the market. Despite this, Steve’s thesis is that interest rates will stay lower than you can imagine, longer than you can imagine. And this will drive asset classes higher than we can imagine. We’re still not at absurd equity levels yet here in the U.S. – Steve says we’re maybe around the 7th or 8th inning of this bull market. But the biggest gains can often come at the end of a bull market, so there’s potentially more significant room to run. As the guys discuss this, the conversation tilts toward investor sentiment. They agree that irrational exuberance for this bull market simply doesn’t exist right now. There’s no euphoria. Steve sums it up simply: “This is not what the peak of a bull market looks like.” Yeah, valuations are high, but interest rates are near historic lows. Relative to bond yields, the equity values are far more reasonable. Investors need to compare returns to what you can get through other asset classes. The guys jump around a bit, touching upon the warning signs Steve will look for to tip him off as to when to bail on U.S. stocks, a discussion of the Commitment of Traders report and how to use it, and then a discussion of U.S. housing and how it’s a solid investment right now because housing starts are nowhere near what they need to be to equalize supply and demand. The guys then turn toward foreign equities, where it appears that value and trend are lining up. Foreign has been cheap for a while, but it’s been underperforming. And now that appears to be changing. Meb asks Steve to tell us what he’s seeing – it generally boils down to one big thing: China. You’ll definitely want to listen to this part of the discussion, as Steve tells us about a revolution in mobile payments that’s already happened in China (and will likely happen here in the U.S.). But beyond that, Chinese stocks as a whole are now incredibly cheap. Even better, there are going to be tailwinds of adding Chinese stocks to a major index. I won’t get into the details here, but the analogy the guys use is having the teacher’s manual of a high school textbook with all the answers ahead of time. Best of all, Steve gives us the names of some actual ETFs that may benefit from this trend. There’s much more in this value-packed episode: gold and gold mining stocks… Steve’s investment in St. Gaudens coins… Steve’s surfboard and vintage guitar collections (including the story of a $30K guitar he bought and later sold for $72K)… And of course, Steve’s most memorable trade – which involved a painful 50% loss for Steve and his subscribers, all stemming from the lie of a certain global politician. Which politician and which lie? Find out in Episode 49.
Rank #11: #60 - William Bernstein - “The More Comfortable You Are Buying Something, in General, the Worse the Investment It's Going to Be"
In Episode 60, we welcome the great William (Bill) Bernstein. Bill starts by giving us some background on how he evolved from medicine to finance. In short, faced with his own retirement, he knew he had to learn to invest. So he studied, which shaped own thoughts on the matter, which led to him writing investing books, which resulted in interest from the press and retail investors, which steered him into money management. After this background info, Meb jumps in, using one of Bill's books "If You Can" as a framework. Meb chose this as it starts with a quote Meb loves: "Would you believe me if I told you that there's an investment strategy that a seven-year-old could understand, will take you fifteen minutes of work per year, outperform 90 percent of financial professionals in the long run, and make you a millionaire over time?" The challenge is the "If" in the title. Of course, there are several hurdles to "if" which Meb uses as the backbone of the interview. Hurdle 1: "People spend too much money." Bill gives us his thoughts on how it's very hard for a large portion of the population to save. We live in a consumerist, debt-ridden culture that makes savings challenging. Meb and Bill discuss debt, the "latte theory," and the stat about how roughly half of the population couldn't get their hands on $500 for an emergency. Hurdle 2: "You need an adequate understanding of what finance is all about." Bill talks about the Gordon Equation, and how investors need an understanding of what they can realistically expect from stocks and bonds - in essence, you really need to understand the risks. Meb steers the conversation toward investor expectations - referencing polls on expected returns, which are usually pegged around 10%. Using the Gordon Equation, Bill's forecast comes in well-below this (you'll have to listen to see how low). The takeaway? Savings are all the more important since future returns are likely to be lower. This leads to a great conversation on valuation and bubbles. You might be surprised at how Bill views equity valuations here in the U.S. in the context of historical valuation levels. Bill tells us to look around: Is everyone talking about making fortunes in stocks? Or quitting good jobs to day trade? We don't see any of these things right now. He's not terribly concerned about valuations. Hurdle 3: "Learning the basics of financial and market history." Meb asks which market our current one resembles most from the past. Bill tells us it's a bit of a blend of two periods. This leads to a good discussion on how higher returns are more likely to be coming from emerging markets than the U.S. Hurdle 4: "Overcoming your biggest enemy - the face in the mirror." It's pretty common knowledge we're not wired to be good investors. So Meb asks the simple question why? And are there any hacks for overcoming it? Or must we all learn the hard way? Unfortunately, Bill thinks we just have to learn the hard way. He tells us "The more comfortable you are buying something, in general, the worse the investment it's going to be." Bill goes on to discuss the challenge of overconfidence and the Dunning-Kruger effect (there's an inverse correlation between competence and belief one has in their competence). Meb asks if there's one behavioral bias that's the most destructive. Bill answers with overestimating your own risk tolerance. You can model your portfolio dropping 30% and think you can handle it, but in when it's happening in real time, it feels 100% worse than how you anticipated it would. Hurdle 5: "Recognize the monsters that populate the financial industry." Basically, watch out for all the financial leeches who exist to separate you from your money. Bill tells us a great story about being on hold with a big brokerage, and the "financial porn" to which he was subjected as he waited. There's way more in this episo
Rank #12: #90 - Dan Rasmussen - “The Crown Jewel of the Alternative Universe is Private Equity"
In Episode 90, we welcome Founder and Portfolio Manager of Verdad, Dan Rasmussen. We start with a brief walk-through of Dan’s background. It involves a Harvard education, a New York Times best-selling book, a stint at Bridgewater, consulting work with Bain, then his own foray into private equity. Turning to investments, Meb lays the groundwork by saying how many people misunderstand the private equity market in general (often confusing it for venture capital). He asks Dan for an overview, then some specifics on the state of the industry today. Dan clarifies that when he references “private equity” (PE), he’s talking about the leveraged buyout industry – think “Barbarians at the Gate.” He tells us that PE has been considered the crown jewel of the alternative world, then provides a wonderful recap of its evolution – how this market outperformed for many years (think Mitt Romney in the 80s, when he was buying businesses for 4-6 times EBIT), yet its outsized returns led to endowments flooding the market with capital ($200 - $300 billion per year, which was close to triple the pre-Global Financial Crisis average), driving up valuations. Today, deals are getting done at valuations that are nowhere near as low as in the early days. And so, the outsized returns simply haven’t existed. Yet that hasn’t stopped institutional investors from believing they will. Dan tells us about a study highlighting by just how much institutional managers believe PE will outperform in coming years…yet according to Dan’s research, their number is way off. Dan then delves into leverage and the value premium, telling us how important this interaction is. He gives us great details on the subject based on a study he was a part of while at Bain Consulting. The takeaway was that roughly 50% of deals done at multiples greater than 10x EBITDA posted 0% returns to investors, net of fees. Meb asks about the response to this from the private equity powers that be… What is their perspective on adding value improvements, enabling a higher price? Dan gives us his thoughts, but the general take is that doing deals at 10x EBITDA is nuts. Next, the guys delve into Dan’s strategy at Verdad. In essence, he’s taking the strategy that made PE so successful in the 80s and applying it to public markets. Specifically, he’s looking for microcap stocks, trading at sub-7 EBITDAs, that are 50%-60% levered. With this composition, this mirrors PE deals. The guys then get neck-deep in all things private equity… control premiums, fees, and illiquidity… the real engine behind PE alpha… sector bets… portfolio weights… Meb and Dan land on “debt” for a while. Dan tell us how value investors tend to have an aversion to debt. But if you’re buying cheap companies that are cash-flow generating, then having debt and paying it off is a good thing. Debt paydown is a better form of capital allocation than dividends or buybacks because it improves the health of the biz, leading to multiple expansion. The guys cover so much ground in this episode, it’s hard to capture it all here: They discuss how to balance quantitative rules with a human element… The Japanese market today, and why it’s a great set-up for Dan’s PE strategy… Rules that should work across geography, asset classes, markets, and time… Currency hedging… And far more. For the moment, we’re still ending shows with “your most memorable trade.” Dan’s involves a Japanese company that had been blemished by a corporate scandal. Did it turn out for or against him? Find out in Episode 90.
Rank #13: #119 - Tom Dorsey - Fundamentals Answer the First Question 'What Should I Buy?' The Technical Side Answers the Question "When?'
In Episode 119, we welcome entrepreneur and technical analyst expert, Tom Dorsey. Meb begins by asking about a book which Tom claims had a tremendous influence on his entire life. From this, Tom tells us the story of being a young broker, eventually introduced to a book called The Three Point Reversal Method of Point & Figure Stock Market Trading by A.W. Cohen. After reading just the first paragraph, the clouds on Wall Street parted and he saw clearly. In the end, it’s the irrefutable laws of supply and demand that cause prices to change. Meb asks for more details, so Tom tells us how Point & Figure charting was created in the early 1900s. You’re watching the up and down movements of an asset – those movements represented by Xs and Os. You’re looking for patterns in these up and down movements. Meb asks how one goes from charting these Xs and Os into building an actual strategy. Tom gives us an example using just two stocks, Coke and Pepsi. He walks us through how we would analyze the price movements relative to one another to determine which one might be the best investment at that moment. It’s a discussion of relative strength investing. Meb asks if this approach means an investor can totally ignore fundamentals and value. Tom tells us that fundamentals answer the first question – what should I buy? But relative strength answers the question, when should I buy? You can be a value investor, but you may not want to be the typical value investor who buys a value play, sits back, and waits for a long time before other people see that he’s right. Tom would rather get the stocks that are ready to move now. So, he tells us to take the fundamentals and work from there. Next, the guys get into a discussion that bounces around a bit: smart indexing… the beginnings of ETFs at the Philadelphia Stock Exchange (Tom was in the middle of it from basically the beginning)… and how 92% of active managers never outperform the S&P. But this last point dovetails into a broader conversation of whether “the S&P” can beat “the S&P”. The topic touches on the difference between cap and equal weighting, as well as myriad other indexes that might exist within the broader S&P universe. One of the takeaways is that index investing can be harder than you might think. He suggests looking at all the indexes, then using relative strength to narrow it down. Meb asks what the world looks like to Tom today. What areas are showing the most strength? Tom tells us the strength has been in small caps for a few years now. Value has been hurt, which points toward the problem with value – the asset can be down and out, but still not move north as you want it to. There’s plenty more: the various ways to implement a relative strength strategy… Tom’s affinity for selling covered calls… the benefits of automated investing… how Tom’s team is beginning to apply their strategies to crypto… and an upcoming investing forum Tom will be a part of consisting of five market veterans with a collective two-hundred years of market experience. And of course, we have Tom’s most memorable trade. This one involves 10 shares of a certain biotech stock that raced higher and made a huge difference for one of Tom’s friends in need. Get all the details in Episode 119.
Rank #14: #147 - The Stay Rich Portfolio (or, How to Add 2% Yield to Your Savings Account)
Episode 147 is a Meb Short. In this episode, you’ll hear Meb discuss a critical topic to consider for investors…The portfolio that helps you get rich isn’t necessarily the portfolio that’s going to help you remain rich. In this piece, Meb explains that risk-free assets often considered “safe,” aren’t exactly that, if viewed in the proper context. He proposes that with some thought, a strategy can be engineered to offer expected drawdowns similar to T-Bills historically, while at the same time, going above and beyond by historically offering exposure to some positive performance after inflation. All this and more in episode 147.
Rank #15: #146 - Neil Littman - The More Risk You Kill, Inherently, The More Value You Create
In episode 146 we welcome Neil Littman. Neil starts with his background and how he came up with the idea of Bioverge, a platform that offers an opportunity to invest in healthcare startups, with the mission of democratizing access to early stage healthcare companies. Neil follows that with a discussion of his time at CIRM, and some of the incredible stories and the science he experienced firsthand during his involvement. It was his time at CIRM where he learned that the institutional model of financing and investing could be applied to the retail sector as well. That paired with his desire to provide exposure to the alternative asset class created the perfect storm and the result was Bioverge. Meb then asks Neil to get into the structure of the Bioverge platform. Neil explains that the decentralized network they built provides warm referrals to Bioverge and ultimately links capital to potential investment opportunities. In addition to that, Bioverge provides value added service beyond capital that is important for founders and portfolio companies that may seek support and expertise along the way. Beyond sourcing deal flow, another critical component for Bioverge is diligence on the investment opportunities by leveraging its network of subject matter experts with deep domain expertise. In evaluating opportunities, Neil explains the “nuts and bolts” of the model they use, looking at the risk and reward side of the equation. The conversation then turns to some examples of companies and deals Neil has been involved with since starting Bioverge. Neil provides a walk-through of Notable Labs, which provides personalized drug combination testing for cancer patients, Crowd Med, a service that relies on crowd sourcing to help solve difficult medical cases, Ligandal, a company delivering a gene therapy platform, Occam’s Razor, a company that is attempting to understand and cure neurodegenerative diseases, Blue Mesa health, developing a new breed of digital therapeutics to nudge patients to change behavior, and Echo laboratories, developers of a hybrid microscope with a new twist on the traditional eye piece. The conversation winds down with Neil providing some insight into what he sees in the future for the industry, and the long-term vision for Bioverge. All this and more in episode 146.
Rank #16: #15 - The Trinity Portfolio
Meb tries something new in Episode 15. In “audio book” style, he walks listeners through his latest research piece: The Trinity Portfolio. “Trinity” reflects the three pillars of this investing approach: globally-diversified assets, weightings toward value and momentum investments, and active trend-following. On one hand, Trinity is broad and sturdy, rooted in respected, wealth-building investment principles. On the other hand, it’s strategic and intuitive, able to adapt to all sorts of market conditions. The result is a unified, complementary framework that can relieve investors of the handwringing and anxiety of “what’s the right strategy right now?” If you’re an investor who’s struggled to find an investing framework able to generate long-term returns that make a real difference in your wealth, Episode 15 is for you.
Rank #17: #46 - Raoul Pal - “We've Got to Expect a Recession This Year or Next Year, or if We're at the Wild Extremes, the Year After That"
In Episode 46, we welcome Real Vision TV co-founder, Raoul Pal. The guys start by going over a bit of Raoul’s background. Raoul started his career by running equity and equity derivatives at Goldman Sachs. Through this, he learned the macro investing world. He then joined a hedge fund, managing its global macro fund before retiring at 36 on the coast of Spain. But it was then that Raoul decided to start a research service, the Global Macro Investor, aimed at large, institutional players. However, in 2008, Raoul realized the ordinary investor had been let down by the system and financial media. So, in an effort to help, Raoul founded Real Vision TV with Grant Williams. Real Vision features the smartest guys in the world teaching you how to invest, what their best ideas are, and so on… After this background, the guys jump in, with Meb asking Raoul about his overall investing framework. Raoul tells us this whole game is about probabilities. To invest successfully, we look for times when the odds are in our favor. So, to look for these times, Raoul developed a system based on the business cycle – with a focus on GDP, as asset prices are moved by economic growth. The model relies heavily on findings from ISM reports (Institute for Supply Management). Raoul tells us that when looking at ISM numbers, it’s not just the level that counts, but also the rate of change of those levels. Overall, this model helps forecast S&P levels, bond yields, inflation, world trade… basically everything! So, what is it saying now? “We’ve got to expect a recession this year or next year, or if we’re at the wild extremes, the year after that.” Meb brings up stats from Ned Davis, tying ISM levels to market returns. He says how last year, it appeared that ISM levels were rolling over, but then they steadied and now are a bit high. He asks Raoul what it means for us now. You’ll want to hear Raoul’s response, which includes the possibility that asset prices may weaken soon – while bond yields may suffer significantly. Meb then points to Raoul’s call of a potential short trade in oil. Raoul tell us that this is the largest speculation in oil – ever. Way too many people went long, and this speculative positioning is too far ahead of the actual business cycle. He says oil is maybe $10-$15 too high right now. It’s coming close to being a perfect trade setup. Oil could hit as low as $30. Next, the guys discuss great opportunities around the globe. Raoul points to Cypress. Greek stocks are still hammered too. He says the upside could be huge – potentially 10x your money. Meb agrees, mentioning his own study about markets that have gone down big, or stayed down for many years. The upside is often spectacular. The conversation then steers toward one the biggest emerging macro story in the world – India. You’re going to want to hear this one. It’s a fascinating story, and Raoul gives us actionable investment ideas. Next up – Bitcoin. Raoul gives us a quick primer on Bitcoin and blockchain technology. He tells us that many people are confused as to what, exactly, it is – currency? Investment? Raoul gives us his thoughts. There’s way more, as this episode is packed with great content. The guys talk about Google’s and IBM’s prospects as investments… artificial intelligence… making money entrepreneurially rather than through investing… and Raoul’s most memorable trade – it’s fascinating story involving the South African Rand that you don’t want to miss. What are the details? Find out in Episode 46.
Rank #18: #118 - Radio Show - Record-Setting US Valuations... Emerging Market Opportunities... VC Bad Behavior… and Listener Q&A
Episode 118 has a radio show format. In this one, we cover numerous Tweets of the Week from Meb, as well as some write-in questions. We start by discussing articles Meb posted in his Tweets of the Week. These include a piece by Jason Zweig about how your broker might be making 10-times more money off your cash balance than you could make on it. Then there’s discussion of valuations – a chart by Leuthold shows how one measure of US market valuation has matched its 2000 level, and another has doubled it. At the same time, Longboard released a chart referencing a Goldman market outlook that claims “in 99% of the time at current valuation levels, equity returns have been single digit or negative”. We talk about US valuations and when “selling” might trump buy-and-hold. Then we jump to foreign valuations. GMO believes emerging markets are the biggest opportunity relative to other assets in the past 20+ years. Meb clarifies what this really means. Then there’s discussion of home country geographic sector bias, whether the VC market is in a bubble (Meb tells us about some bad behavior he’s beginning to see in the space), and how the American savings rate is pretty grim. We then get into listener Q&A. Some that you’ll hear Meb address include: Are momentum funds just camouflaging another factor? For instance, if Value became the “in” factor, wouldn’t Momentum pick it up, so Momentum would then just look like a Value fund? Assuming the U.S. economy does not enter a recession in the near future, the Shiller PE’s 10-year earnings average will soon consist of all economic boom and no bust as the depressed earnings of 2008 and 2009 roll out of its calculation. How useful is a CAPE that only includes a period of profit expansion? Regarding your global value strategy, have you ever tested the strategy using relative CAPE ratios versus absolute to determine country allocations in order to avoid countries with structurally low CAPE ratios? I've never heard of a 401k plan offering ETF options. Is there a reason logistically, legally, etc. that prevents 401k plans from offering ETF options? How do I structure my portfolio for a 4% yield, after tax? I like your shareholder yield strategy, but if I get capital returned through buybacks and share appreciation, how do I get monthly income without selling shares and triggering taxes? I just don't see how I can implement a monthly income plan with this strategy. All this and more in Episode 118.
Rank #19: #82 - Vineer Bhansali - “The Market is Severely Underpricing the Probability of a Sharp, Catastrophic Loss to the Downside"
In Episode 82, we welcome trader, fund manager, and author, Vineer Bhansali. Per usual, we start with Vineer’s backstory. It involves his physicist-origins, an unexpected move to an assortment of trading desks, and a run-in with the great, Fischer Black. Meb soon dives in, asking about main strategies Vineer uses with his group, Longtail Alpha. Meb reads a quote from LongTail’s website… “LongTail Alpha’s sole focus is to find value in the tails of financial asset return distributions. Either in the left tail as a risk mitigation hedge on multi-asset portfolios, in the right tail to add convexity to an investor’s risk exposures, or in both the right and left tails to produce alpha from convexity and volatility opportunities in a hedge fund structure.” Meb asks Vineer to use this as a jumping off point, explaining his framework, and how he thinks about tail strategies. Vineer tells us that, at LongTail, they believe the probability distribution of returns for asset classes and multi-asset portfolios is actually not bell-shaped. Rather, there are many imperfections and anomalies in the market. And the tails of the distribution are quite different than the central part. While the central part of the curve tends to have many, smaller moves, the tails tend to be dominated by infrequent, large events. With this in mind, the goal is to implement various options strategies to help you position yourself for these tail vents. Keep in mind, there are left tail and right tail events (and a hedged strategy in the middle). Vineer references them all. Meb mentions how, right now, most investors are more concerned with the left tail events. So how should an investor think about implementing a tail strategy? And is it even necessary, given Vineer’s statement in a recent Forbes article: “…people generally feel better when they believe that they have portfolios with built-in insurance, i.e. protection against losses, even though the expectation (or average return) of a portfolio with or without such insurance is the same.” Vineer discusses the difference between “volatility” and “permanent loss of capital.” What you want from a left-tail paradigm is a methodology that keeps you in assets, serving your long-term benefit. Generally, you want to be invested in the stock market. Vineer tells us the name of the game is to be able to survive the relatively short-but-harsh pullbacks, and even accumulate more assets during those times. Given this, Vineer has a 4-lever framework he uses to help create a robust left-side portfolio. You won’t want to miss this part of the discussion. As the conversation unfolds, you’ll hear the guys discuss how, even though there is some concern about a correction now, the markets are still severely undervaluing the price of a sharp downturn. And option premia are incredibly cheap by historical standards. Meb then asks for more details about actually implementing a left tail strategy. Vineer’s answer touches on understanding and identifying how much exposure one wants to equity risk and inflation risk. Then, there’s the need to understand one’s risk threshold tolerance – the “attachment point” at which you cry uncle, whether that’s being down 10%, 15%, 25% or more. Given this attachment point, an investor could then go to the options market and buy “insurance” at this level, for a duration of time suitable to the investor. This leads Meb to wonder why people think of portfolio insurance differently than life, car, or home insurance. We all pay those insurance premiums without thinking much about it, but there’s so much resistance to paying for portfolio insurance. Vineer actually wrote a paper on this challenge. He tells us part of the issue is an aggregation, disaggregation problem. The right thing to do would be to lump the cost of insurance into t
Rank #20: #70: Radio Show: The 13F Guru Meb Would Follow Today
Episode 70 is a radio show format. We start with a quick catch-up, discussing the recent eclipse and Meb’s upcoming travel, including Iceland, Reno, Orlando, Amsterdam, among others. Before jumping into listener questions, we get Meb’s thoughts on Episode 69, which featured Jason Calacanis (Meb dabbles with some angel investments himself). Meb tells us a bit more about his own angel experiences and his reflections on interviewing Jason. This dovetails into a question about how Meb allocates his own money between private investments, public investments, debt, and so on (with a “capital allocation” comparison to Thorndike’s book, The Outsiders). You’ll hear Meb’s thoughts on his personal asset allocation. This segues into our first set of questions from listeners, focusing on where to put “safe” money right now. Meb gives us his thoughts, leading into a discussion of which asset could be right for listeners wanting to keep some money on the sidelines, yet without inflation taking too big a chunk of it. What follows is an assortment of questions and rabbit holes: If Meb had to short just one market right now what would it be and why… How an individual investor should look at leverage in a portfolio (includes a recap of risk parity)… Who is Meb’s favorite 13F guru… What hedge fund replication strategies Meb finds most interesting… And even a cryptocurrency challenge to listeners from Meb. What is it? Find out in Episode 70.