Financial Independence Progress Report for March 2018

March 2018 is done and with that, the first quarter of 2018 is done. March is one of my favorite months because almost all my funds send me dividends on a quarterly basis. Lets see how the numbers look for March 2018.

Caveat: Though then March numbers look green all over, note that the numbers got murdered in February….perhaps I need a year-to-date number….will think about it.

3/31/2018
Emergency Fund 83.33% 83.33%
College Fund ($80K) 63.66% 64.54%
Passive Income (2017 vs 2018) $1254.31(3/2017) $1396.05 (3/2018)
Retirement Fund 81.63% 82.79%
Roof for our Family($750K) 00.00%
Medical Fund (via HSA) 6.17% 9.77%
Life Insurance Done (term life insurance policy)

Main Takeaways this month

  • Passive Income Stream
    • My passive Income for March 2018 is 11% higher than March 2017. Not much of a gain, but it is greater than average inflation percentage of 3%.
    • I was considering the Rule of 72…the rule that predicts when your money will double. If I continue at 11% (caveat in next point), my money will double in 7 years….wouldn’t that be nice for FI 🙂
    • Anyways, 11% increase was achieved more by new investments than dividend returns and additional investments are drying up this year. But, nice to think about it hey…more on this coming later!!
  • Additional Investments
    • Investments in taxable accounts
      • I sold VHDYX, captured the gains and moved the money into my MUNI funds. Why?
        • Tax equivalent yield for VCADX is 4.5%.
        • VHDYX yield is 2.75% and I get taxed on top of that. It is possible that VHDYX will add some capital gains but it looks like we are almost done with the bull market…so, we can discount this.
        • When the prices drop later this year, I will invest back into VHDYX…lets cross that bridge when we get there.
    • Investments in tax-deferred account (IRA)
      • In Dec 2018, I took some profits and set up a a cash fund set up to take advantage of the next investing opportunity. This month, I cashed out profits from a couple more funds and added to the cash fund.
      • Unlike 2008, I want to have a cash fund ready to take advantage of lower asset prices in the next bear market!!
      • I also bought some more of VGSLX…a REIT fund….REITs have dropped almost 10% this year….so, seemed like a good time to buy into this and dollar cost average down my REIT investments.
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Financial Independence Progress Report for December 2017

December is here and time to party 🙂 My best wishes for a wonderful holiday season! Hope everyone is geared up for a relaxing holiday break. My break starts this weekend and I am looking forward to a couple days off from the rat race.

December is the second highest dividend producing month of the year for me…..June takes the crown for the most dividend producing month. But, add the dividends to the good feelings of Christmas holidays and it sweetens the pot a bit in favor of December. So, I like December more than June 🙂

It is also a time of introspection regarding the goals set at the beginning of the year. But, yearly review is for another post. For now, lets look at how the numbers look for December 2017. Bit early in the month, but most of the dividends are in….

12/22/2017
Emergency Fund $60K Done
College Fund (80K) 61.36% 62.50%
Passive Income (2016 vs 2017) $2007.76 (12/2016) $2098.37 (12/2017)
Retirement Fund 80.86% 81.03%
Roof for our Family($750K) 00.00%
Medical Fund (via HSA) 6.17% 6.17% (login fails to new provider)
Life Insurance Done (term life insurance policy)

Main Takeaways this month

  • Passive Income Stream
    • My passive Income for December 2017 is approximately $100 higher than December 2016. Not much of an increase, but my total dividends for the year are almost $2000 higher in 2017 compared to 2016. I.e. the dividends are distributed to me differently on 2017 due to some investment changes.
  • Additional Investments
    • Investments int taxable accounts
      • I invested the last of my cash fund into purchasing MUNIs (VCADX and VWIUX). Basically, I emptied my money market funds in a final push for 2017. This will pay dividends in 2018….especially VCADX since it is both federal and state tax free.
    • Investments in tax-deferred account (IRA)
      • I captured some gains in two target date funds in my IRA and moved the money into a money market fund for now. I want to have a cash fund set up to take advantage of the next investing opportunity. But where? See next point.
      • In my IRA, the percentage of International stocks is more than that of US stocks….by a slight margin. The reason for this strategy is that US stocks have extremely high valuations. So, my theme for 2018 is to add to US stocks when their valuations become more reasonable. How will I achieve this?
      • I will pile up on US stocks over time in the following ways:
        • Tax deferred accounts
          • Periodic 401K investments are always dollar cost averaging into US stocks (70% of money goes into US funds)
          • I will use my cash fund that I have accumulated in the last few months (via capturing gains) into mainly US stocks and pick them up at cheaper valuations.
        • Taxable accounts:
          • Dollar Cost average into dividend funds that mainly buy US securities….
            • VHDYX (current dividends),
            • VDADX (dividend growth),
            • VDIGX (bit of both)

Finding portfolio gaps for a balanced portfolio

Since the end of 2016 is almost here, I wanted to see if there are any gaps in my investment portfolio used to produce passive income. If I did find some gaps, then I want to close them out to have a better balanced portfolio. I did some research and found that there are a few ways to find gaps in your portfolio.

Vanguard Portfolio Watch

If you have a Vanguard account and have all your investments in Vanguard, then Vanguard provides a tool called Vanguard Portfolio Watch. This tool will give you recommendations like the following:

  • OK: Your investments in foreign stocks add diversification to your portfolio.
  • CAUTION: The proportions of large-, mid-, and small-capitalization stocks in your portfolio differ from those of the market.OK: Your portfolio is tax-efficient.
  • CAUTION: Your portfolio emphasizes value stocks which puts you at risk of under-performing the market when growth stocks perform well.
  • CONSIDER: Holding more foreign bonds can potentially increase the level of diversification in your portfolio. Allocating up to 20% to 50% of your bond portfolio to foreign bonds is a reasonable amount to capture the diversification benefits.
  • CAUTION: Sectors indicated with a red arrow vary substantially from the benchmark weightings.

You can use the above analysis results to identify gaps in your portfolio and then invest accordingly. If you want to just see the effect of adding a new investment to your portfolio, you can use a tool called Portfolio Tester….also provided free by Vanguard.

Personal Capital Investment Watch

Personal Capital is a wonderful free tool that anybody can use for tracking their investments, spending and a whole bunch more.

  • The one feature I really like is that it breaks down all the funds in your portfolio into the following categories, JUST by taking the names of the different funds like VDIGX, VTCLX, etc. For example,
    • Large cap, mid cap, small cap split
    • Cash and bonds split
    • Alternatives (real estate, etc)
    • US and International split
  • Personal capital pointed out a weakness in my portfolio diversification w.r.t. lack of investment in Alternative Investments like Real estate, hedge funds, commodities, etc. Hence I started looking at how to add a real estate dimension to my portfolio.
  • I wrote about how I found this portfolio gap here.

This tool has something called Investment watch and that is what I use often to see the composition of my portfolio. Take a peek at it and see if it is useful.

Correlation Analysis

Whether you have none of the previous two ways OR you have it and still want to still find portfolio gaps, Correlation Analysis is a super-wonderful way to do it.

  • Two mutual funds (or stocks or any of the asset classes) are correlated means that the investments behave similar to each other i.e. they both reach the same way in the same market cycles…both go up OR both go down. Lets use the following tool to find correlation co-efficient (Asset Correlation Tool)
    • Example 1:
      • Correlation coefficient of VDIGX and VDAIX is 0.98 (98%)
      • This means that VDIGX and VDAIX behave 98% similarly
    • Example 2:
      • Correlation coefficient of VDIGX and VTMGX (International) is 0.77 (77%)
      • This means that VDIGX and VTMGX behave 77% similarly
  • Two mutual funds are not-correlated means that the investments behave differently in diff ways i.e. both react differently in the same market cycle….if one fund goes up, then one goes down. Lets use the following tool to find correlation co-efficient (Asset Correlation Tool)
    • Example 1:
      • Correlation coefficient of VDIGX and VCADX (CA MUNIs) is -0.13
      • This means that VDIGX and VCADX behave totally opposite to each other i.e. they have negative correlation.

A portfolio is a balanced one if it has assets in it that are correlated in different ways i.e. all the assets should not behave the same way. If we are in a bull market, some assets should go up and some may go down….if we are in a bear market, the same should hold true. If you think this does not make sense, go watch this awesome video titled Asset Allocation: Building a Better Balanced Portfolio The video is a long one but worth the time…and quite entertaining too 🙂

Tool for Correlation Analysis

A wonderful and free tool (no login required) for Correlation Analysis of your portfolio is a tool called Correlation Tracker. I chose the option where I type in all my portfolio values and I get a recommendation of different SPDR funds/etfs that correlate positively (same behavior) and correlate negatively (different behavior).

  • I punched in all my mutual funds that generate passive income for me. They are: VCADX, VWIUX, VTMFX, VWELX, VDIGX, VDAIX, VHDYX and VTMFX.
  • Funds that correlate positively:
    • SPDR Select Sector Fund – Industrial                            XLI        Correlation = 0.882
    • SPDR Select Sector Fund – Consumer Discretionary XLY       Correlation = 0.874
    • SPDR Select Sector Fund – Technology                         XLK        Correlation = 0.805
  • Funds that correlate negatively:
    • SPDR Select Sector Fund – Utilities                                XLU        Correlation = 0.311

The last one (XLU) surprised me. The main reason I own so many different Vanguard funds is to diversify risk by acquiring different asset classes and within each asset class, have multiple managers competing for my money. But, a correlation coefficient of 0.311 for XLU indicates to me that my portfolio has a gap with utilities.

Verifying what the Correlation Tool said ….

To verify the gap of utilities in my portfolio, I tool 4 of the stock Vanguard funds I own (VDIGX, VDAIX, VHDYX, VWELX and VTMGX) and plugged them into Vanguard’s fund compare web page: Vanguard Fund Compare.

Fund          VDIGX     VDAIX      VHDYX      VWELX       VTMGX
Utilities     0.00%     2.81%        8.01%         4.23%         3.10%

The above is a clear clear vindication that the percentage of utility stocks in my passive income portfolio is low. The maximum is 8% but that fund does not have the most money. So, the correlation analysis tool correctly predicted a gap of investment dollars in Utilities in my portfolio.

Conclusion

Granted, utilities is not the most sexy of the stock picks, but it is a rock solid foundation on which passive income streams of many other people are built upon. And more importantly, it balances out my portfolio by adding an asset that correlates less with all my existing mutual funds.

I found one Vanguard utilities mutual fund (VUIAX) but minimum is $100K 🙂 No way that I have that kind of money. But there is a corresponding ETF called VPU. I just invested one share in this ETF….hopefully, I can save some more money and add a few more shares to my portfolio. I am happy to have added an asset that has only 30% correlation (0.311) with my existing funds. Wish me luck for some awesome passive income for years to come via this new asset vehicle called Vanguard Utilities ETF (VPU).

Welcome to new members of my mutual funds family :-)

This month (July 2016) ends the changes I have been making to my mutual fund family. This month, I am welcoming two new members to the family. Hearty welcome to VWELX (Vanguard Wellington Fund) and VWITX (Vanguard Intermediate Term Tax-exempt fund). The obvious next question is why 🙂

In October of 2014, I implemented my Passive Income Streams strategy. I wrote about it here. One of the six design principles was: For each risk bucket, have a minimum of two investment vehicles. I like this principle for two reasons:

  • Investment philosophy diversification
  • Investment manager diversification.

My thesis is that both of the above together will provide better risk diversification. Using this thesis, I build the following set of Passive Income streams (as of 10/18/2014).

Table 1: Investment Vehicles Update 10/18/2014
Risk Bucket Name Investment 1 Investment 2 Investment 3
Risk 1 (Cash) Smarty Pig (online) Credit Union N/A
Risk 2 (Bonds) VCAIX (CA munis) N/A N/A
Risk 3 (Balanced Funds) VTMFX (50% stocks and 50% National MUNIs) N/A N/A
Risk 4 (Dividend Investing) VDIGX (div growth) VHDYX (Curr div) N/A
Risk 5 (Capital Growth) VTCLX (large+mid cap) VTMSX (small cap) N/A
Risk 5 (International Funds) VTMGX (large blend) N/A N/A

Over the last couple months, the stock market has been on a tear. I cannot come up with any logical reason to explain why…it seems that no bad news can touch this market….it seems to go up and up and up. For day traders, this is heaven….but for normal folks like me, this seems suicidal…there is no reasonable value to any asset in my mutual fund family. Dollar Cost Averaging (DCA) is supposed to help me deal with this, but I can’t seem to pour money into vehicles which rise up like crazy. So, I have taken a few steps over the last couple months to do the following:

  • Bail out to re-enter at a later date
    • Sold VTCLX and VTMSX
    • Moved some of it to VWITX (National Munis) and some to cash
    • Cash helped me capture valuable stocks big time during the Brexit market dip.
  • Sell a portion of funds that had appreciated to capture gains
    • Sold portions of VTMFX, VDIGX and VHDYX
    • Captured gains accumulated over the last two years
  • Move some of the captured gains into to more solid ground
    • More on this below…..
  • Move the remaining captured gains into cash (Money market funds)
    • Basically fresh powder for the inevitable market downturn….

To redeploy the captured gains, I needed to find new vehicles that will produce passive income for me. I like all the categories I have listed in my original design in Table 1…so no new categories were needed. But some of the mutual funds did not have any competition 🙂 So, I decided to add some competition in two categories:

  • Bonds
  • Balanced Funds
  • Dividend Investing

The changes are listed in Green Color in Table 2 below.

Table 2: Investment Vehicles Update 07/30/2016
Risk Bucket Name Investment 1 Investment 2 Investment 3
Risk 1 (Cash) Smarty Pig (online) Credit Union N/A
Risk 2 (Bonds) VCAIX (CA munis) VWITX (National Munis) N/A
Risk 3 (Balanced Funds) VTMFX (50% stocks/50% National MUNIs) VWELX (60-70% stocks/30-40% bonds) N/A
Risk 4 (Dividend Investing) VDIGX (div growth) VHDYX (Curr div) VDAIX (div appreciation)
Risk 5 (Capital Growth) N/A N/A N/A
Risk 5 (International Funds) VTMGX (large blend) N/A N/A

Why did I choose those specific funds?

  • VWITX
    • In the Bonds category, I had VCAIX (CA Muni bonds). Since this was CA specific only, I bought into VWITX (National Muni bonds). Now mu MUNI bonds are spread across many states in the country. The advantage is that National Munis add better risk diversification. The disadvantage is that I lose the state tax exclusion that VCAIX would have given me.
  • VWELX
    • In the Balance funds category, I already had VTMFX…a fund split into 50% stocks (cap appreciation, low dividends) and 50% National Munis. I wanted to add a bit more aggressiveness into the balanced fund category and I chose VWELX, a fund with modest current income and long term growth. The fund invests across a broad section of the market and is known for stable returns….under performance in  bull markets and lower loss in bar markets but stable returns.
    • The disadvantage is that the turnover is 35% i.e. a bit tax unfriendly but short term capital gains are pretty low. So, I think it is worth it….lets see if my bet pays off in the long run.
  • VDAIX
    • In the dividend funds category, I already had two funds which I am very happy about. VDIGX is turned for future dividend growth (low current income) and VHDYX is tuned for high current income (low future dividend growth).
    • VDAIX on the other hand is a mix of both: companies that have consistently raised dividends for the last 10 years (good current income) and also the same companies have promise to continue growing the dividend stream in future.
    • One can ask….VDIGX is managed by Donald Kilbride, a super star manager who has consistently beaten VDAIX for the past few years. So, why not invest all the money in VDIGX if you do not need current income? Risk diversification and lower turnover.  Donald Kilbride is one person and VDAIX is an index…no more explaining needed 🙂
  • Money Market Fund
    • I want to start accumulating some cash to jump into the market when the markets go down “deep”. I have noticed that when DOW goes 100 pts in the morning, it is back up 200 points by end of market. Looks like a lot of people are investing on a 100 pt dip.
    • My new standard will be to accumulate cash until DOW dips 300 pts. My assumption is that the market will not be able to come back from a 300 pt loss in one day i.e. I can really get some value for money. Lets see how this goes.

Thatz it for now. Join me in welcoming the new members to my mutual fund family!!

Financial Independence Progress Report for March 2016

March is the first quarterly dividends month i.e. month of good news. And some more good news on the job front….I got one 🙂 After a month of hard fought interviews, I have started on a new job. Learnt a lot of lessons in the period of unemployment…will put these lessons to work this year. But, March has been a super positive month for me!!

Lets look at the numbers now.

03/31/2016
Emergency Fund ($72K) 100.0% 100.0%
College Fund (80K) 37.11% 39.33%
Passive Income Streams ($4000 pm) $744.05 pm (03/2015)% $1016.87 pm (3/2016)
Retirement Fund ($900K) 57.76% 57.96%
Roof for our Family($750K) 00.00%
Medical Fund 00.00%
Life Insurance Done (term life insurance payments initiated)

Main Takeaways this month

  • Unemployment Induced portfolio changes
    • Unemployment lead to almost two months of no income 😦 But, some good came from this. I had almost $40K invested in one company stock…part of an Employee Stock Purchase Plan from one of the companies I had worked in the past.
    • I wanted to de-risk this  investment by selling it and moving it to a fund of many different stocks but could not for fear of capital gains and resulting tax inefficiency.
    • In the two months of no income, I sold half of the $40K bundle. This keeps the total income the same. I distributed the money into a couple different mutual funds and hence reduced the risk of $40K riding on one company’s stock.
  • New investment vehicle
    • I took part of the de-risking money from my ESPP sale and put some unused money in my checking account into Vanguard Intermediate-Term Tax-Exempt Fund Investor Shares (VWITX).
    • My design of passive income streams is based on 6 key design principles. The second of the five is: For each risk bucket, have a minimum of two investment vehicles….get some competition going you know 😉
    • For the MUNI bucket, I already have an investment in VCADX, the California only muni fund. I wanted to add some competition and also diversify the MUNI bucket by adding a National MUNI fund (no federal tax). I would still have to pay CA state tax for VWITX, but the CA munis  have gotten so expensive that it is crazy to invest in it now. So, I am diversifying with a National MUNI fund.
  • Dollar Cost Averaging
    • Did not have cash to dollar cost average (DCA) my funds this month…but I did boost my investments to dollar cost average VTMGX (anguard Developed Markets Index Fund….my non-US exposure mutual fund). I want to have some of my passive income streams to not come from US companies. VTMGX diversifies my passive income streams to include companies from Greater Europe, Greater Asia and Canada.
  • Passive Income Stream
    • Passive income for March 2016 ($1016.87) continued the winning trend vs March 2015 ($744.05).
    • I compute Passive Income per month as (total passive income in this year) / number of months completed this year.
      • Total passive income is a sum of dividends + capital gains distributions.
      • March Passive Income = (total passive income in this year) / 12 == $156.62
      • Doing it this way keeps the monthly passive income more realistic because I can instantly know which of my monthly expenses are covered by this amount. I keep a separate tracker for this which I will write about at a later date.
    • My intermediate goal is to get $1000 pm in passive income first. My estimation for 2016 is that I will reach $750 pm. Lets see if I can push it some more 🙂

Financial Independence Progress Report for January 2016

Happy new year everyone! May 2016 bring you closer to all your goals, with a good helping of peace and prosperity.

01/31/2016
Emergency Fund ($72K) 100.0% 100.0%
College Fund (80K) 38.08% 37.11%
Passive Income Streams ($4000 pm) $557.78 pm (01/2015)% $592.90 pm (1/2016)
Retirement Fund ($900K) 57.76% 56.02%
Roof for our Family($1 mil) 00.00%
Medical Fund 00.00%
Life Insurance Done (term life insurance payments initiated)

Main Takeaways

2016 started off with a bang huh…;-) Yes…just like the whole world, my entire stock portfolio took a beating in January…college fund, retirement fund, and passive income mutual funds…all of them got beat.

In addition, the company I worked in got bought over and the buyer decided to conduct a massive layoff. I was impacted as well. Losing to job to start the new year, with no severance to boot, is definitely not the way I wanted to start the new year….but, hey, life has to move on right? Onto the next job. Thankfully, I had two weeks of vacation left over and I got paid for that. This event has reinforced my decision to reach for Financial Independence and I am now more motivated to reach FI now.

Now, for some good news.

  • Surprise winner for January
    • The only surprise winner that stayed positive in all of this, inspite of the Fed raising interest rates, was VCADX…my California MUNI bond fund that is part of my tax efficient passive income streams. Looks like the fear of stock market tanking is driving the bond fund up. Anyways, I am not selling this fund now but if I did, I would get decent capital gains 😉
  • Dollar Cost Averaging
    • Since the market had huge dips of multi-hundred points on many days, I took full advantage of this and boosted my investments to dollar cost average VDIGX, VHDYX and VTMGX. I contributed all of my vacation payout from my job loss towards this. Infact,   I contributed more towards VTMGX (Vanguard Developed Markets Index Fund….my non-US exposure mutual fund). I want to have some of my passive income streams to not come from US companies. VTMGX diversifies my passive income streams to include companies from Greater Europe, Greater Asia and a bit from Canada.
  • Passive Income Streams
    • Passive income for January 2016 ($592.90) continued the winning trend vs January of last year ($557.78).
    • I compute Passive Income per month as (total passive income in this year) / number of months completed this year.
      • Total passive income is a sum of dividends + capital gains distributions.
      • January Passive Income = (total passive income in this year) / 12 == $49.41
      • Doing it this way keeps the monthly passive income more realistic because I can instantly know which of my monthly expenses are covered by this amount. I keep a separate tracker for this which I will write about at a later date.
    • My final FI goal for passive income is $4000 per month (pm). This is going to take a while. So, my intermediate goal is to get $1000 pm in passive income first. How close am I to $1000 pm?
      • I ended last year with a monthly passive income of $621 (averaged out).
      • Assuming a 3% dividend return and a conservative 0% dividend growth, it will probably take me at least 3 more years to reach $1000 pm with a chunky sized investment each year. After reaching that, I plan to pretty much leave the investments on auto pilot. Wish me good luck 🙂
      • Imagine taking the $1000 passive income per month and investing it back into the passive income streams….income compounding will kick start in a hurry….eagerly waiting for that day!

Financial Independence Progress Report for December 2015

12/25/2015
Emergency Fund ($72K) 100.0% 100.0%
College Fund (80K) 38.05% 38.08%
Passive Income Streams ($4000 pm) $297.68 pm (12/2014)% $621.24 pm (12/2015)
Retirement Fund ($900K) 58.31% 57.76%
Roof for our Family($1 mil) 00.00%
Medical Fund 00.00%
Life Insurance Done (term life insurance payments initiated)

Main Takeaways

I am going to wrap up a little early in this last month of 2015. I want to gain some time to plan for 2016. There is both good news and bad news in this last month of 2015. Lets tackle the bad news first.

  • Retirement Fund
    • Lost almost 0.5% of my portfolio this month.
    • In the same interval,
      • S&P 500 lost 0.16%
      • DOW Jones lost 0.29%
    • Nevertheless, looks like there is no Santa Claus boost for my retirement fund this month. The astute reader may notice that there are  still 3-4 market days left in December…miracles can happen you know 😉
  • 529 plan
    • Last month, through my kid’s graciousness, money set aside for the birthday party went unused and that went into the college fund. Inspite of that, the 529 barely eked out a positive gain. So, overall, no Santa Claus rally for this investment too.

Now for the good news.

  • Dollar Cost Averaging
    • Around Dec 21st, DOW had a nice dip of 300+ points. I took advantage of this and boosted my investments to dollar cost average VDIGX, VHDYX and VTMGX.
  • Passive Income Streams
    • Passive income for December 2015 continued the winning trend vs December of last year.
    • I compute Passive Income per month as (total passive income in this year) / number of months completed this year.
      • Total passive income is a sum of dividends + capital gains distributions.
      • December Passive Income = (total passive income in this year) / 12 == $621.24
      • Doing it this way keeps the monthly passive income more realistic because I can instantly know which of my monthly expenses are covered by this amount. I keep a separate tracker for this which I will write about at a later date.
    • My final goal for passive income is $4000 pm. This is going to take a while. So, my intermediate goal is to get $1000 pm in passive income first.
      • At the end of November, passive income was at $515 pm.
      • A nice amount of dividends from Dec 2015 has led me to $621 pm.
      • Assuming a 3% dividend return and 0% dividend growth, it will probably take me at least 3 more years to reach $1000 pm with a chunky sized investment each year. After reaching that, I plan to pretty much leave the investments on auto pilot. Wish me good luck 🙂

Dollar Cost Averaging…my way :-)

I was reviewing the performance of my portfolio for 2015 when I realized that I had used Dollar Cost Averaging (DCA) quite a bit this year. The markets have fluctuated wildly in the last few months and my anticipation is that it will be the same in 2016 as well. Dollar Cost Averaging (DCA) is what I used to smooth out the fluctuations in 2015. I have a couple different ways of implementing DCA…so, I thought it would be nice to write about it and see if my blog friends have any input.

DCA Type 1

My path to Financial Independence is to generate multiple passive income streams using a diversified set of mutual funds (link). For example, VCADX, VTMFX, VDIGX, VHDYX , VTMGX, VTCLX and VTMSX. Investments into the different funds are automated and are withdrawn on the first of every month. Regular investments, irrespective of the short term market fluctuations was my initial plan for DCA.

But, I realized that when the market went through downward dips, my DCA plan was found a bit lacking. For example, if the dips were spread across many days in the month, my DCA plan of investing at the beginning of every month would miss out on loading up quality investments at lower prices.

So, I spread my mutual investments into two pieces for each mutual fund, and spread across many non-overlapping days in the month. Since Vanguard does not charge me a fee to invest into mutual funds, I felt that this spread captured the market ups and downs better. For example

  • VCADX           9th and 28th
  • VTMFX           6th and 27th
  • etc

DCA Type 2

But, I saw one more pattern in the  market. Market dips in the downward directions were followed by upswings the next couple of days. For example, if DOW dropped 300 points on one day, it is rare to have a similar drop on the next day as well i.e. consecutive market dips were rare. On the days the DOW (or S&P) dipped badly, there were opportunities to invest in my chosen high quality mutual funds at a lower price.

Every month, there used to be some leftover money in the budget for unused items. For example, if we did not use the entertainment portion of the budget completely OR if my kids school was off leading to less frequent visits to the gas pump, etc. I decided to pool up the leftover money and keep the cash ready. When ever the DOW dropped, I pushed the money into one/many of my investments. Here is the algorithm I followed:

  • DOW drops 100                                   Invest $100
  • DOW drops 200                                   Invest $250
  • DOW drops 300                                   Invest $500
  • FTSE 100 drops 100                         Invest $200

Since I invest in mutual funds, the smart reader may ask how do I know what the NAV will be before the marker closes on that day? An ETF or a raw stock trade will guarantee as close to the instantaneous market price as possible…a mutual fund cannot. Here are some lessons I learnt assuming the Market closes at 100pm Pacific Standard Time

  • DOW dips 100 at 900 am, I invest $250 and DOW rises by 200 by 100 pm i.e. I invested $250 at a higher price than what my intention was.
  • DOW dips 300 at 1100 am, I invest $250 and DOW rises by 200 by 100pm i.e. DOW is still down -100 and my investment pays a lower price.

The reader might have guessed. My basic idea is that “higher the DOW dip, the earlier in the I can invest and still come out with a lower NAV price than the previous day”. I.e.

  • If DOW is only down 100 points, I buy late say around 1200 pm.
  • If DOW is down 300 points, I buy earlier say around 1100 am.
  • Any investment after 1230pm or so is moved to the next day.

This method of DCA has proven very beneficial to me to acquire quality assets at much lower prices…inspite of using mutual funds. Some people might say that I am using market timing and it is bad. But, since my investments are quality investments, chosen conservatively, I do not lose even if I paid a higher price because my purchase timing did not meet my expectations.

Conclusion

As per my 2015 Goals (link),  my Passive Income Streams goal for 2015 was $16000 with a stretch goal of $24000. Using a combination of DCA types 1 and 2, I have managed to exceed the stretch goal also with a total investment of $28,000 approximately. Believe it or not, I did not know that all the DCA Type 2 investments would add up to so much more money at the end of the year. This indirectly means that my budget is tuned for the worst case money consumption and some more fat can be extracted from it. But, hey, who is complaining  😉

VDIGX….an investment decision validated.

When I was travelling last couple weeks, I got time away from the day-to-day chores of family life. I kind of enjoyed this break….ssshhhh….don’t tell this to my wife 🙂 I used that time to read up on different articles related to my current investments. When the markets went down, I wanted to feel good about my investments!

One of my investments is in VDIGX (Vanguard Dividend Growth funds). I have talked about various dimensions of this fund in this blog.

  • My original rationale on picking this fund is documented here. Don Kilbride, the manager of VDIGX, is a recognized name in the industry and has done a wonderful job with VDIGX.
  • VTSMX is Vanguard Total Stock Market fund. I compared VDIGX vs VTSMX here. I wrote that both VDIGX and VTSMX have their rightful place in my portfolio.
  • I definitely see a recession coming and wrote about it here. As part of that, I did a Risk Analysis of all my investments here. VDIGX had the second lowest Beta Coefficient of all my investments….only VTMFX (a tax managed balanced fund) did better. A low beta coefficient means that my investments will be less volatile than the market i.e. income stability will be much better.

In addition to what I thought about, some other smart people have thoughts on VDIGX too. I read one such article from Morning Star while travelling and I really liked the content enough to post a link here.

This article argues that a fund may not provide the greatest current yield (usually, this implies less risk) but if the fund holds quality holdings, it will provide a more stable income stream and potentially lead to more capital growth in the longer term. Read more directly from Morning Star link above…it is worth it.

PS: There is good marks for VHDYX (Vanguard High Dividend Yield) also…this makes me more happy because I have invested in this also. Wish me luck for continued good success in picking good investments.