Where to invest ¥100,000 today

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It’s been a while! I hope everyone is doing ok in these difficult times. The state of emergency in Japan has been lifted and people are cautiously getting back to something like normal life. Looking at news from around the world it seems we are lucky to be living in a country that has weathered the Covid-19 storm so well, and I’m certainly looking forward to getting out and about a bit more in the coming weeks.

I note that Japan residents are starting to receive the paperwork  for the ¥100,000 government cash assistance scheme. If you are not sure how to make your claim, here is a useful thread telling you how to complete the paperwork.

For some people, this money is clearly needed to replace income lost during the corona virus crisis and ensuing state of emergency shutdown.

However, if you are lucky enough not to need this money to cover expenses, and are thinking of putting it to work, below are a few ideas as to how you could invest it today. Please note I am trying to make these interesting “satellite” type ideas. It is of course perfectly acceptable to simply add this money to your core asset allocation – it’s just not as fun!

Cash is king – ok I know I said “invest”, but now is not such of a bad time to be holding cash. After a steep drop in March, stock markets have rebounded remarkably well, but this does not disguise the fact that the economic damage from Covid-19 is significant. The US unemployment numbers really don’t fit with where the S&P 500 is right now, and with America and Europe trying to reopen even before they have got through the first wave, there’s a chance of further extended lockdowns and more market panic to come. Keeping cash for now and investing when fear takes over is not a bad strategy.

Precious metals – Gold is well known as a safe haven in times of market turmoil, but there is a growing buzz about the gold to silver ratio, which suggests that silver is a compelling buy at the moment. In short, the amount of silver it takes to buy an ounce of gold is near an all-time high, which suggests it should revert to the mean over time. This article does a good job of explaining why silver could make a good investment right now. As for how to buy it, if you are not looking to take delivery of the physical metal you can simply buy a silver ETF via your brokerage account. iShares SLV is perhaps the best known silver ETF.

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Source: https://www.macrotrends.net/1441/gold-to-silver-ratio

Cryptocurrency – Following the halving on May 11th BTC has traded between $8,500 and $10,000, despite a negative Goldman Sachs client briefing on the digital currency. The Grayscale Bitcoin Trust is said to have purchased a third of all newly mined Bitcoin in the last 3 months at a total of $29.9 million, and this retail investor demand is combined with heavyweight trader Paul Tudor Jones declaring himself a holder of BTC. This would be a high risk place to put your ¥100,000, but you are at least guaranteed an exciting ride.

Biotech – I mentioned this in a recent post on satellite holdings. With the race for a Covid-19 vaccine hotting up, Biotech / Pharma / Healthcare are obvious areas of interest. Also with more and more countries heading toward the Japan aging population model, it makes a lot of sense as a long term buy and hold. Picking winners is not easy in this space so it’s probably best to look at ETFs.

I hope these ideas help. I would love to hear if you are investing your stimulus money elsewhere. Of course this money is being given out to stimulate the economy, so you are doing a good thing if you simply go out and spend it in your local community. Covid-19 is likely far from over so please stay safe as you get back to work!

Disclaimer: This should go without saying, but the information contained in this blog is not investment advice, or an incentive to invest, and should not be considered as such. This is for information only.

 

Insurance: Is It Worth It?

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I first heard this story when a friend of mine posted about it the other day: The All England Lawn Tennis Association, which organises the Wimbledon tennis tournament, has been paying pandemic insurance for the past 17 years at a cost of around £2 million per year. That’s a pretty hefty premium for what people are calling a “black swan event”. My friend wondered if there was a person in their annual budget meeting who had to fight to get that paid every year.

Many people face a similar dilemma. Paying for insurance every year to cover an unlikely event can seem like a waste of money. The Japanese even have a term for someone who buys more insurance than they need and ends up poor for it: 保険貧乏 (hoken binbou)

Of course there are some risks that really do need to be considered. You are not even allowed to drive your car without proper insurance. The types of insurance that are important from a financial planning perspective are:

  • Health insurance
  • Income protection insurance
  • Critical illness insurance
  • Life insurance

Health insurance – if you pay into the Japanese national health insurance system, you are covered for 70% of the cost of medical treatment in Japan. That’s enough for visits to the clinic for a sniffle, but may leave you with a larger bill if you are hospitalised for a long period. Private health insurance is a good way to cover the other 30%. It can also be useful when you travel overseas, and could even end up covering totally unforeseen treatment later in life – see here.

Income protection insurance – what if you were sick or injured and unable to work for a long period? Your company may look after you for a while, but after that you are on your own. With income protection, you can cover up to 75% of your current income up to age 65 if you are unable to work. This is especially valuable when you think that the loss of your income would also prevent you from saving and investing for your future, making life even tougher after retirement age.

Critical Illness Insurance – unlike income protection, which pays a regular income, CII pays out a lump sum on diagnosis of a critical illness (cancer, heart attack, stroke etc). This money allows you to take time off, get treatment and get well again. We are lucky to live in an age where we are likely to make a full recovery from a serious illness and be able to go back to work, but it’s important not to go broke in the process.

Life Insurance – do you have any loans / liabilities? Life insurance makes sure you don’t leave those behind for your family if something happens to you. It also means you can continue to provide income to your family after you are gone. Health and income protection come first, but once you have a family and a mortgage, life insurance becomes an important part of your protection strategy.

If you are a short-term expat, it’s best to look for insurance with companies in your home country, or via an offshore provider. If you are long term, it would make sense to get something local. My experience with insurance in Japan is that the products are all very similar, so finding a salesperson who you get along with who isn’t pushing you to buy cover you don’t need is the most important thing.

If you think you might be missing some important coverage, it may be time for a protection review.  You never know when something unexpected might happen.

And by the way, when they cancelled Wimbledon this year, the payout to the Lawn Tennis Association for £34 million in pandemic insurance premiums over 17 years?

£141 million!!! 

If you insure yourself smartly, it’s worth the money.

Online Coaching – Perfect Timing

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I hope everyone is safe and well in these difficult times. One thing you are probably doing is spending a lot more time at home. And with that comes a lot more time online, particularly using internet communication tools like Skype and Zoom.

You may have noticed that I offer personal finance coaching. This also includes online coaching, which was initially meant for people living outside the Kanto area, but is fast becoming the norm in these times of social distancing.

Now would be a great time to get your finances in order and take advantage of one of the best opportunities to invest you will see in years. Below is the 25 year chart of the S&P 500. You can see quite clearly the benefit of investing during severe market downturns in 2000 and 2008. Why not make use of the extra bandwidth you have and put some money to work for you?

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Source: https://tradingeconomics.com/

Among other things, I can help you figure out:

  • How much you have available to invest and how much you should be keeping in cash for emergencies.
  • What currency is best for you.
  • What kind of account would be right for you.
  • How to allocate when you get the account.
  • How to maintain your investments over the long run.

More information, including rates, is available here. If you would like to book a coaching session, or you have some questions before getting started, please get in touch with me via the Contact Form.

Spice up your Investments with Satellites

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Is the Covid-19 market plunge getting you down? Tired of being told not to panic and stay diversified? (by people like me!) Are you thirsting for something interesting and exciting to invest in rather than the usual steady and boring stuff?

Then this post is for you! Let’s look at something fun! However, before we jump in, please read here to make sure you understand what I mean by Core / Satellite holdings. In short, core is the sensible diversified allocation linked to your base currency and risk profile that you put 80-90% of your money in. Satellite is the other 10-20% where you swing for the fences!

Some areas that are typically classed as satellite holdings would be: hedge funds, direct stock picking, commodities, structured notes, private equity, biotech, property and cryptocurrency. This is by no means a definitive list and there are many other investments that would be considered non-core, depending on your risk profile.

Here are a few unique satellite holdings that I have come across recently:

ARKK – Ark Innovation ETF: Run by Cathie Wood, the Best Investor You’ve Never Heard of, Ark is a stock picking fund, focussed on innovation in DNA Technologies, Energy, Automation, Manufacturing, Next Generation Internet and Fintech. Ark are currently looking rather smart for their heavy backing of Tesla. Their holdings contain a heady mix of 3D Printing, Gene Therapy, Biotech and Blockchain Technology. This level of active management in highly specialised areas would usually come with a hedge fund 2 and 20 price tag, but the expense ratio is just 0.75%. ARKK is listed on the NYSE so you will need a brokerage account that can access that exchange to access. More here.

GBTC – Grayscale Bitcoin Trust: According to this article, a recent study by brokerage giant Charles Schwab showed that GBTC is in the top 5 holdings for Millennial investors, (currently aged between 25 and 39) ahead of Netflix and Walt Disney. GBTC offers investors access to Bitcoin returns via their brokerage account. The Trust trades like a stock or ETF and, for a 2% annual fee, it takes care of the issue of custody of crypto, so you don’t have to worry about losing your private keys. Bitcoin purists would probably rather hold the real thing, but GBTC is proving popular as an alternative way to get exposure to Bitcoin returns. This could be interesting with the upcoming Bitcoin Halving on the horizon. I would note that not all brokerages allow trading in GBTC. From what I can tell it is available in the US on Schwab, Etrade, TD Ameritrade and Interactive Brokers. More here.

CHNA / CNCR – Loncar China Biopharma ETF / Loncar Cancer Immunotherapy ETF: Given the origin of the novel corona virus Covid-19, China Biopharma is kind of a hot topic right now. Despite the current panic, this article argues that now could be a good time to buy. Companies in the Cancer Immunotherapy space are harnessing the power of the body’s own immune system to offer an innovative alternative to current treatments, which makes for an exciting and potentially rewarding investment opportunity. Loncar’s ETFs are NASDAQ listed. More here.

If you are living in Japan or elsewhere in Asia and looking for a US brokerage account then your best bet for getting an account open is probably Interactive Brokers. See this post for more details on brokerage accounts.

Hopefully that’s helped take your mind off the doom and gloom. Please note that these are not recommendations, and all of the investments mentioned should be considered as belonging in the High Risk category. That’s why they are satellite holdings. We are talking about around 5% of your total investments in any one of these strategies. Please feel free to share any interesting satellite holdings you like. I would love to hear from you.

Note: I have no affiliation with any of the investment companies mentioned above.

Disclaimer: This should go without saying, but the information contained in this blog is not investment advice, or an incentive to invest, and should not be considered as such. This is for information only.

Corona Correction

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Wash your hands, don’t touch your face, and there’s plenty of toilet paper!

When panic sets in, it’s good to take a step back and focus on the simple things you can do, rather than joining the stampede for the exit. And panic certainly set in last week in global stock markets. You may remember that a correction is defined as a 10% decline in market value. The one last week was one of the fastest ever, and the drop is now approaching 15%. 20% is bear market territory.

Furthermore, it wasn’t just stocks that fell. The 3%+ fall in the gold price on Friday (likely profit taking) shows that being well diversified means having more than one defensive strategy in your portfolio. Even truly diversified portfolios were down between 3% and 8% from their highs last week, depending on risk profile.

Clearly we don’t know where we are heading now in terms of the spread of Covid-19. It seems likely we will see a significant increase in cases worldwide over the next few weeks. However, it is interesting to note that in China, where the virus originated, infection rates are slowing and business is slowly starting to resume. With luck, the rest of the world will follow a similar pattern. If it does, then more market panic followed by a quick recovery is not an unreasonable expectation, particularly as central banks are likely to respond with further easing.

So what should we be doing? I’m certainly not offering trading advice at a time like this but there are certain common sense actions worth considering:

  • If you were already well diversified, relax. You were setup correctly and have done the best you can. Perhaps look at rebalancing when the panic dies down.
  • Same if you are investing monthly and averaging into the market. You get to buy cheaper this month!
  • If you were heavily invested in stocks, how much have you really “lost”? The S&P was near all time highs before last week, so a pullback would not have been out of the ordinary, even without the Covid-19 panic. If you invested capital recently your timing was not good, but do you want to sell into the panic and book the loss? Learn your lesson and move on.
  • If you are looking at the current drop as a buying opportunity, good for you. Get your capital into position – if it’s just a simple domestic transfer to your investment account then no problem. If you have to send money overseas it may take a little longer to organise.
  • Even pros will struggle to call the bottom. Let the panic subside and buy slowly. Maybe allocate a little each week. Markets could always fall further.

Most of all, look after your health and stay sensible. Without pointing fingers at the reactions in particular countries, I saw footage of hundreds of people lining up, bunched close together, to buy masks. It’s probably not a good time to follow the herd…

And yes, Japan makes its own toilet paper and there are warehouses full of it waiting to be delivered to stores soon!

Disclaimer: This should go without saying, but the information contained in this blog is not investment advice, or an incentive to invest, and should not be considered as such. This is for information only.

 

 

 

Coronavirus and Markets – What Can We Learn from SARS?

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There is still a lot of uncertainty about the the severity and duration of the current coronavirus epidemic, with some health experts predicting it will all be over by April, while others see a large proportion of the global population at risk of infection. When it comes to the effect on markets, it’s logical to take a look the impact of the SARS crisis for guidance. However, it’s important to remember that, not only are we talking about two distinct disease profiles, but we are living in a different world economically from seventeen years ago.

The SARS epidemic, which originated in Guangdong province in China, ran from November 2002 to July 2003. It had a significant, but relatively short term, market and economic impact. The most heavily hit sectors were tourism, retail (particularly luxury), airlines, casino and property. For 2003 GDP growth fell about 1% for China and 2.5% for Hong Kong. Hong Kong’s economy went into recession in April 2003 before recovering substantially.

The MSCI China fell 8.6% on the SARS outbreak, but rebounded by more than 30% in the three months after April 2003. Stocks in Hong Kong fell by a fifth but also came back strongly. Cathay Pacific shares dropped almost 30% from December 2002 to April 2003, before bouncing back to almost double through the next year. In Japan the Nikkei 225 also dropped by almost 6% but was quickly restored once the crisis was deemed over.

The Hong Kong property market was already suffering the after-effects of the Asian financial crisis, and SARS extended the decline by a year or so. Home prices fell by 8% in the first seven months of the SARS epidemic before rebounding for the rest of the year. Conversely the current coronavirus has come along at a high point in the housing cycle.

The US stock market tends to shrug off epidemics somewhat easily. The table below, taken from Dow Jones Market Data in this MarketWatch article, shows how the S&P 500 has reacted over 6 months and 12 months in previous outbreaks:

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When assessing the likely impact of the current Covid-19 coronavirus, it is important to note some major differences in the Chinese and global economies between now and 2003:

  • In 2003 China’s GDP was 4% of the global total. Now it stands at 17%.
  • China’s economy was largely manufacturing and trade seventeen years ago, compared to consumption and services / tourism today. Government-imposed bans on travel will hurt more in the current environment. This is a blow to Japan’s inbound tourism boom for example.
  • In 2003 the Chinese currency was still pegged to the dollar. Now currency markets are freer, which could mean a weakening of the Yuan.
  • The global economy in 2003 was in a much earlier phase of the business cycle and global cooperation in trade was increasing, in contrast to the “trade wars” that have characterised the last 12 months.
  • On the other hand, monetary policy in both China and the west is now far more supportive than it was in 2003.

Clearly the economic impact this time around will depend on how long the epidemic lasts and how far it spreads. Countries close to China will obviously be impacted more severely. Typically the effect of a disease outbreak on market confidence can far exceed it’s actual impact. Once things are under control the recovery should be fairly swift, although there are plenty of other factors that could influence markets in the coming months.

Once again, refraining from panic decisions and staying diversified is perhaps the best advice for investors.

Disclaimer: This should go without saying, but the information contained in this blog is not investment advice, or an incentive to invest, and should not be considered as such. This is for information only.

 

 

 

Coronavirus – How to Protect Your Investments

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What a year this month has been! I can’t believe I wrote a 2020 Investment Outlook just nine days ago and talked about trade and geopolitical tensions in the Middle East as potential trapdoors for markets, without any mention of epidemics. Things certainly do develop quickly!

Most importantly here, the sensible advice when it comes to protecting yourself and your family from the coronavirus is to wash your hands thoroughly and often. There’s a lot of alarmist “fake news” out there but this article keeps things very simple.

So what’s the equivalent of washing your hands for your investment portfolio? In yesterday’s LinkedIn post, Bridgewater Associates founder Ray Dalio put it quite succinctly: “When you don’t know, the best investment strategy is to be smartly diversified across geographic locations, across asset classes, and across currencies.”

If you are a regular reader of this blog, then hopefully he is preaching to the choir. Here’s a post I wrote in October 2018 titled “Don’t Panic”.

A couple of points I would clarify for individual investors, and expats in particular:

  • Diversification is important, but make sure your weighting to each asset class fits your risk profile. Conservative investors and people close to retirement should have a heavier weighting to cash and bonds than a young, growth-oriented investor.
  • Dalio mentions diversification across currencies, which is by no means a bad thing, but remember it’s also important to build assets in your base currency to minimise currency risk.

So stay safe out there: don’t panic, wash your hands and stay diversified.

Disclaimer: This should go without saying, but the information contained in this blog is not investment advice, or an incentive to invest, and should not be considered as such. This is for information only.