What Markets Should You Use for Your Portfolio?

A couple of years ago I made a fundamental mistake: until then I had my portfolio focused mostly on index futures markets. For years I have had with this approach really nice results. But that year, I experienced how frustrating it can be, to go through a couple of periods when index markets are underperforming. That was when I have decided to work really hard and improve my intraday portfolio composed of automated trading systems (ATS).Smooth equity isn’t just about the systems – it is a smart combination of markets, timeframes, trading approaches, and, later on, also innovative position sizing. When you think about it, there is the logic behind it.Even though in times of financial shocks and surprises there is barely any negative correlation in the markets, there are still some markets which live their own lives – and they offer us smart way for diversification.The result is that when one of the market groups is not doing well, there is another, which compensates the losses from the first one – and makes the equity overall smoother.What market groups you should useThis is the first question – what markets groups you should combine in order to get the desired result – smooth equity.We have following futures groups: Index, Currencies, Metals, Energies, Bonds, and Grains. Every market group lives its own life and you can find at least one noticeable market in every group that can represent the whole group.Personally, I have experimented with all groups and, besides currencies, I can highly recommend any combination. The currencies are, from ATS point of view, highly unstable (for example in Forex, ATS are failing really fast and it is really difficult to find profitable ATS for Forex). It also depends on how many markets you create a system for, and how many markets you trade with your account. But even with rather a small account, you can trade 3-4 markets. For such cases, I would recommend following combinations:Combination of 3 markets (pick one market from each market group):

Index

Grains

Energies
Combination of 4 markets (pick one market from each market group):

Index

Grains

Energies

Bonds

Nowadays, I trade several portfolios that are based on the 4 groups mentioned above. Here is an example of one of them (breakout strategies, 30-minute chart, 5 markets, equity for the last 8 years, trading 1 contract per system):The net profit for all 8 years and all markets combined is 421,548 USD and the max drawdown is just 12,315 USD.Smoothen the equity by using multiple timeframesThe second way how to smoothen your equity curve (in a combination of trading several markets from different groups) is using several timeframes for every market (ideally without changing system parameters, or with just small changes).It is more like a final touch than smoothing the equity, but it brings up an interesting idea that it might be better to add new timeframes instead of trading multiple contracts in the same timeframe. Another option is to optimize also the timeframes (check the results of your system on several timeframes and pick one timeframe for each market – it can, but doesn’t have to be the same) – but then, we need to ask ourselves how much of over-optimization this is.Anyway, here is another example of the portfolio mentioned above, when for every market we add the second, 15-minute, timeframe. The equity is slightly smoother, the drawdown hasn’t increased so much, but the profit has.The net profit is 812,457 USD and the drawdown is 18,815 USD.What systems to useThe best variant is to have in a portfolio both trend and also counter-trend systems. Still, it is sufficient to have a system that can smartly react on both situations (equally, if possible).I am specialized in breakout strategies and I can say that it is all you need to have a balanced portfolio across several markets – but only if you have systems trading both long and short. Sometimes you just need a simple breakout strategy that doesn’t have great performance (that you wouldn’t trade individually), but in combination, you have a nice portfolio with smooth equity curve. You need to constantly focus on the performance of the portfolio – it is more important than the performance of underlying systems. Remember when there is a huge drawdown for one market (system), the others can compensate that and you can still make a profit.For that, you need to have a quality workflow setup how to create new and new strategies, as you will need a lot of them and for several markets. At the same time, it is crucial to have a setup of robustness testing procedures so that we can add to our portfolio really robust strategies.

Investing in Property – What Is the Best Way to Buy Rental Property?

Investing in PropertyWhat is the best way to buy rental property?The question you need to ask yourself is – Am I buying this property as an investment?Now this sounds like a pretty stupid question, right? But in reality, many people (myself included) have made a purchase decision on the basis that they love the “property” not the “investment.”What do I mean? Well you have to stop and ask yourself do I really love investing in property or do I just love to own property. Many have purchased an “investment property” on the basis that they “liked” it, rather than because they had calculated it would provide a great return.When investing in property you should always run your numbers through a property investment calculator before deciding whether to even look at a property, let alone buy it!My first CBD apartment – aka “Investing in Property for Fools!”I’d always wanted to own a piece of the CBD. Growing up as a kid I loved visiting the “city” to look at the skyscrapers and imagined coming here for work like my Dad did each morning. Sure, I was investing in property. I was investing my emotional security in a property location! So you can see quite clearly that it was an emotional, rather than a hard headed decision to buy a newly complete one bedroom unit back in the early 2000s. It was just something I’d always wanted to “have.”I remember driving around the inner city with a well known property spruiker looking at projects he was involved with. Of course his level of involvement was as a master salesman. A unit became available for approximately $230k. As a young couple my wife and I discussed the pros and cons and I decided against the advice of my wife that this might not be such a great idea.At the same time another unit had become available in the inner city block of apartments that I was currently living in. It was available at a similar price. My wife counselled me to consider this as an option. My “adviser” had discouraged me on the basis that I would be putting all me eggs in one basket. There was some truth to this advice so I followed my “dream” of an apartment in the “city”.When I went to the office to sign the papers I remember being advised that the original unit was no longer available, but a different one on a higher floor was, at a higher price! I said OK, No problem, like we Aussies tend to do. Then I was presented with the option to purchase a “furniture package” for an extra $20k. This would “guarantee” a rental return of 8% to me for the first 2 years of my investment. I hadn’t previously considered this, but of course I said “Yes”and was told what a wise choice I had made. (Of course this made me feel good about myself!)The truth was I bought the unit not on the basis of its potential financial return but its immediate emotional return. I never did end up living in it or even spending a single night there, although I’d often wander past and gaze up at my balcony and wonder how “cool” it would be to live here.In fact the property was a complete drain on my bank balance due to the high costs associated with the common areas including pool and gym equipment. The rent never paid for the outgoings and I lived in hope that the price would go up so I could make a “paper” profit at least!Now some time later I did end up selling the unit for around $300k, so it was far from a complete disaster. In the end I was very glad to sell and call it even. In reality the cost to me was an opportunity cost. What else could I have been doing with my money? I looked recently for sales data on the city block in question and found a similar unit sold for $355k, approx. 10 years after my initial purchase. Currently in the inner city block I was living at, prices are over $650k. Remember that 10 years ago these properties were selling for approximately the same price. If I had listened more to my wife and less to my own emotion I might have ended up $300k better off!What did I learn? I learned that whilst it’s great to listen to “advice”, be aware that sometimes advice might be just a little biased! I’ve learned to trust my own instincts more and weigh advice against what I already know to be true and reasonable. The reason I liked the apartment in my own block was that it was located well. It was quiet, had views, was close to city, walk to tram, bus and train and there was no high-rise in the vicinity. The area couldn’t be quickly re-developed and units added. In short, the amenity was desirable and there was not going to be any new properties added in the foreseeable future. This meant there was a cap on supply.In the city here is not a cap on supply. There are numerous developments under construction at any given time. I’d be more than happy to live in many of them. But I wouldn’t buy then as an investment! Unless they were in a landmark building of some sort there is no scarcity value in them. They can be replaced easily.If one of your neighbours wants to sell and needs to move quickly, guess what. They set the price for your unit. You have virtually no control over the market. No matter what you do to your own living space the whole value of the block will be determined by factors outside your control.Investing in Property for cashflow or for growth?Let’s be honest. Most of us are investing in property because we think that prices are very likely to go up! On the other hand we all know about “negative gearing”. In essence it means we can write of our “losses” on our investment against other area of income. I don’t disagree with the concept, we ought to be able to weigh our profits against our losses and pay tax on the net result. BUT, if all we own are “investments” that are make a “loss” and we’re offsetting that against a “gain” from our job, that’s not really smart investing is it? Sometimes a property might be increasing in value at a greater rate than we could expect to make as a cash income from our investment. This is not always the case as you can see from my experience in the Melbourne CBD. But at what point does this cease to be a valid reason for deciding to invest of even “keep” and existing investment? Steve McKnight from PropertyInvesting.com once said something very illuminating at an event I attended. Basically he said we ought to do an audit of our property portfolio every year and re-assess whether we ought to hold or sell each property!Seriously. I never thought I was going to sell anything – Ever!Early on in my property journey I’d decided I was going to “Accumulate” property. Buy and never sell! That was my motto. Once I’d paid down the loan I would be sitting on a nest egg and having rent more than cover my outgoings.But consider this! Real world example -My unit in inner Melbourne right now would be worth about $650k and yet it might command a weekly rental of around $480. That’s about $25k rental annually.The yield is therefore 25k/650k annually or 3.8% of the value.Setting aside things like mortgage repayments, there are still fixed costs on any property – In my case they include for the last financial year:Council Rates $820
Water $945
Insurance $302
Owners Corporation $1660
Agent fees $1815
Repairs $890
Total fixed expenses for the year $6430This reduced the total income to ($25000-$6430)=$18570Now my actual annual return is 18.5k/650k = 2.9%Of course costs like Agent fees and Owners Corporation are not always applicable but they serve to show that in the real world the actual return can be a lot less than a simple headline figure.If I include my interest costs (which still exist) I must deduct another ($150000*6%)=$9000 from my income.This reduced the total Real income to ($18570-9000)=$9570Now my actual annual return on the asset value is 9.5k/650k =1.5% Should I Sell this property?There is no right or wrong answer. Sometimes I say yes and my wife says NO! Sometimes I say No and my wife says NO! Do you see a pattern here?There is no right answer because everyone has different needs, has different skills and is coming from a different base and most importantly – We all want different things! It depends on your circumstances, your family situation, the personalities of you or your partner and your goals in life.If our main goal in life was to increase our cash on cash return or all our assets then it would be a no brainer to sell up and invest elsewhere (assuming I could expect a greater return than 1.5%!) Having said all that I still love property, and I love investing in property.It’s quite possible to love the idea of property without loving investing in property. In fact most property that you’ll “love” will probably be pretty darn useless as an investment. Don’t be confused.Would I choose to invest $650k of my actual cash in this investment right now of it were available for sale? Probably not! – So why am I still keeping it? I love it and plan to live in it.This is a question only YOU need to ask yourself and answer on a case by case basis. I’ve looked long and hard at my own situation and decided to keep for now based on family reasons, NOT investing reasons.Review every property every yearFor every investment I currently hold I review the property and make a decision based on the real numbers, not a fantasy of what I’d like to see happen.That’s why I decided to sell my apartment in the Melbourne CBD.
It was “Costing” my money to hold, and NOT growing in value anything like I’d hoped it would. So I cut it off.
It was why I needed to sell my first home out in the “burbs”.
It was why I made a similar hard decision to sell a property in inner city KEW that was returning a reasonable cash return, and well located but had ZERO capital growth over ten years.
It was one of the reasons I sold a great apartment in Sydney’s North. I had improved it and added value. It was time to take my money off the table.Your relationship with a property needn’t be a marriage for life. There’s no compulsion to “stay together” till death do you part!.What about Cashflow positive real estate?I love cashflow positive property and investment strategies. So Yes, I look to see where the cash if flowing and see how I can get if flowing towards me.Think! Are you buying for lifestyle or for investment? What return are you hoping to achieve? Only when you can answer these questions honestly are you ready to take action!Until Next time,

5 Essential Features That Make Real Estate Investing Profitable

Every now and then persons trying to make up their minds where to put their money ask me if real estate ventures are more or less profitable, compared to other businesses opportunities around.My response is always that apart from its potential for yielding significant profits, investing in real estate often confers long terms benefits.I discuss five such advantages below:1. You Can Refurbish (to Enhance the Value of) Real Estate
After you buy a stock, you hold it for a period of time and hopefully sell it for a profit. The success of the stock depends on company management and their corporate success, which is out of your control.Unlike other conventional investment instruments, like stocks, for instance, whose rate of returns, depend on third parties (e.g. company management), real estate investments are directly under your control.Even though you will not be able to control changes that may occur in demographic and economic aspects, or impact of nature induced changes, there are many other aspects that you can control, to boost the returns on your investment in it.Examples include aspects relating to adding repairs, or improvements/enhancements to the physical property and tenants you allow to live in it.If you do it right, the value of your investment will grow, resulting in increased wealth for you.2. Real Estate Investing, When Done Right, is Proven to be Profitable Even During a Recession (like the one we’re in right now)
It has on several occasions, been used to effect a bail out, from financial setbacks, such as those that many have experienced during the economic downturn happening in Nigeria today.A considerable number of clients have confided in me that due to the present economic situation, they are not sure of profitable channels to invest their money. Some of them are done with bonds and treasury bills, but are in dire need of a new investment.We had extensive discussions, and based on my expertise as a real estate consultant, I recommended landed property investment, as the most suitable and secure alternative channel of investment.This is because, even if all businesses crumble, land will always appreciate greatly. Then to drive my point home, I ended by sharing the following apt quote, by a former American president:”Real estate can’t be lost, nor carried away, managed with reasonable care, it’s about the safest investment in the world” – Franklin Roosevelt.Not surprisingly, the client chose to take my advice – and signed up: it was the obvious, common sense thing to do!3. Real Estate Investments Are Immune to Inflation
In other words, investing your money in ownership of viable real estate can protect you from the harsh effects that inflation usually has on other conventional investments.This is because the value of real estate generally tends to rise in positive correlation with inflationary pressures. This is why property values and rental rates go up with rising inflation.The nature of real estate, therefore affords owners the unique advantage of being able to adjust the rates they offer, to match inflation.Monthly rents for example can be raised to compensate for inflation – thus providing a cushion effect against inflation induced losses that other monetary investments suffer.4. Real Estate is Uniquely for Being Universally Acceptable as Collateral, Towards Securing Funding from Banks
Today, real estate in form of either building or lands, with proper titles (i.e. Certificate of Occupancy – aka “C of O”) is the most recognized and accepted form of collateral in Nigeria – and some other parts of the world.It has the unique feature of being able to protect the interests of both the borrower and the bank (that’s doing the lending), so that funds can be released i.e. after due verification, and terms and conditions are agreed.This is one of the key advantages a private C of O has over the global C of O, because the former (i.e. private C of O) is what will be needed by the intending borrower, in the event of any future financial dealings with bank in Nigeria.5. Real Estate Investing Allows Use of Other People’s Money
In other words, you can do it even if you do not have enough money. You just need to know how.This is possible because real estate is physical property or what is called a hard asset. That is an attribute that makes it attractive to financiers i.e. people with money to invest.This is why many times real estate products are bought with debt – unlike conventional investment products like stocks which are NOT tangible, and therefore perceived as being more risky to invest in.So real estate investment can be done using cash or mortgage financing. In the latter case, payments can be so arranged to allow payment of low initial sums, provided by you or a willing third party.Those payments will be happening on landed property which will continue increasing in value throughout the duration of such payments – and indeed beyond. That further inspires confidence in the minds of those financing the acquisition, that their investment is safe.Little wonder that real estate investing has continued to prosper for so long![A WORD OF CAUTION] The listed benefits notwithstanding, I still tell prospective investors that due diligence is a crucial requirement for succeeding.Whether you do everything yourself or use industry professionals like me, it is imperative that you exercise caution and arm yourself with relevant information and education.This is something I advice my clients to do all the time, so they can make good decisions in investing.The importance of the above cannot be overstated, especially in Lagos where quite a number of individuals, have had their fingers badly burnt, because they failed to take the needed precautions.My purpose is to help clients avoid having such horrible experiences, by bringing my years of experience in this field to bear in serving them.References/Related Article:[You can read about more advantages of real estate investing, in this excellent article I found at: http://realestate4investing.com/articles/real-estate-investments/10-advantages-disadvantages-real-estate-investments ]