The Meb Faber Show

Oct 30 2020 55 mins 5.7k

Ready to grow your wealth through smarter investing decisions? With The Meb Faber Show, bestselling author, entrepreneur, and investment fund manager, Meb Faber, brings you insights on today’s markets and the art of investing. Featuring some of the top investment professionals in the world as his guests, Meb will help you interpret global equity, bond, and commodity markets just like the pros. Whether it’s smart beta, trend following, value investing, or any other timely market topic, each week you’ll hear real market wisdom from the smartest minds in investing today. Better investing starts here. For more information on Meb, please visit MebFaber.com. For more on Cambria Investment Management, visit CambriaInvestments.com. And to learn about Cambria’s suite of ETFs and other investment offerings, please visit CambriaFunds.com.




































































































#188 - Andreas Clenow - Trend Following Is…About Taking A Lot of Bets On A Very Large Number Of Markets
Nov 20 2019 69 mins  
In episode 188 we welcome our guest, Andreas Clenow. Meb and Andreas start the conversation with a hat on what hooked Andreas on trend following, and his book, Following the Trend. Andreas discusses running trend following as a portfolio strategy, not something that is optimal to run on a single market. He talks about some basic fundamentals of trend following, including the premise that it’s about taking a lot of bets on a large number of markets independently. Meb then asks Andreas to get into some detail about risk management and position sizing. Andreas defines the way he thinks about risk, and goes back and forth with Meb about the reality of return expectations and compounding. Meb follows by asking what has changed with his approach over the years. Andreas responds with the idea of realizing it’s about strategy and business, and the business has changed a lot. The conversation transitions into how trend following can fit into an investment portfolio. Andreas offers that the strategy can serve as a core building block of a larger portfolio. He talks about some of the environments where trend following has done particularly well, and the challenge with diversification in equities. As the conversation winds down, Meb asks about Andreas’ new book, Trading Evolved: Anyone can Build Killer Trading Strategies in Python. Andreas describes the book as a guide for readers to build backtests and strategies in the programming language, Python. All this and more in episode 188, including Andreas’s most memorable investment.


#187 - Kevin Carter - The Thing That’s Emerging Are The People, It’s All About The Consumer
Nov 13 2019 72 mins  
In episode 187 we welcome our guest, Kevin Carter. Meb and Kevin start the conversation with some background on Kevin’s career, getting to know Burton Malkiel, and launching EMQQ. Kevin offers some of his thoughts on investing in China, including his initial thoughts about the prominence of state owned enterprises. Kevin mentions that a key component to investing in emerging markets is that it’s about the consumer. He notes that emerging and frontier markets are 85% of the world’s people and almost 90% of the people under the age of 30, the GDP of those people are still growing twice as fast as the rest of the world, and their incomes are growing. Kevin discusses that once he figured out that the indexes that were available to invest in these markets were allocated relatively heavily to the legacy, inefficient, state owned enterprise portion of economies, he got to work on building indexes that were more targeted to capture emerging market growth. Meb and Kevin then discuss the reality of emerging market allocations for most investors today, and talk about the current weights of emerging market indexes and the implications for investors. Kevin gets into launching and running EMQQ, and how the index is constructed. He follows with a discussion on emerging market internet company valuations and the current pace of revenue growth. Meb then poses what he thinks is some of the most common “pushback” he hears about why people can’t invest in China. Kevin addresses some of the arguments he hears for not investing in China, including made up numbers and communism and explains why he doesn’t think there is a lot of merit to those arguments. As the conversation winds down, Kevin covers his thoughts on India, which he thinks is a particularly interesting opportunity from the standpoint of population size and growth. All this and more in episode 187, including Kevin’s most memorable investment.


#186 - Carter Malloy - I Looked At Farmland And Realized…It’s Wildly Inefficient
Nov 06 2019 62 mins  
In episode 186 we welcome our guest, Carter Malloy. Meb kicks off the conversation with Carter’s background in finance and growing up in a farming family. When conducting research on the asset class. He saw attractive returns historically, but there wasn’t a great way for most people to invest in it. That insight spurred the idea for AcreTrader. As Meb and Carter dig a little deeper into farmland, they discuss the return drivers, yield and asset appreciation, and the imbalance of demand vs. supply as a driver of returns. Meb then asks Carter to get into the cycles of farmland investing. Carter covers leverage and cycles. The pair explore the Macro themes that have been in play over the last few years. Carter comments that it has been tough for farmers, and commodity prices have been low. He clarifies that if you separate the farmer from the land owner, the land owner has continued to do great. The pair then get into the ideas behind Carter’s firm, AcreTrader. Carter walks through the inefficient nature of farmland investing, the platform, and the process AcreTrader goes through to bring investment opportunities to market as well as the ultimate vision for the platform. Next, Meb and Carter also get into some examples of additional opportunities for farmland property including potential income opportunities like wind farms, solar farms, and mining that may be available to some properties. As the conversation winds down, Carter lays out his thoughts on how farmland fits with investment portfolios and highlights the role it can play from a wealth preservation standpoint as a noncorrelated asset class in addition to providing protection from inflation. All this and more in episode 186.





#183 - Ben Inker - The Problem With Good Returns In The Near Term Is They Have To Be Paid Back Sometime
Oct 23 2019 69 mins  
In episode 183 we welcome our guest, Ben Inker. Ben and Meb start the conversation with a chat about Ben’s thoughts on markets which include the overriding theme that non-us markets are currently presenting opportunity for investors. Next, Meb asks Ben to get into his thoughts on current valuations and Ben walks through some ideas on high valuations for US stocks and reduced forward looking returns. On the subject of valuations, the pair then discusses interest rates and monetary policy. Ben follows that with an interesting paper he wrote that explored how high profitability has skewed toward large capitalization companies. Ben expands on his thinking about valuations and markets outside the US, the past decade being the worst for value stocks, and being excited about opportunities like emerging market value stocks. He goes further in his discussion by getting into a concept he credits Robert Shiller with, clairvoyant fair value of a stock market, and shares that two pieces of information are critical, the starting valuation of the markets, and the return on capital. As the conversation winds down, Ben and Meb discuss GMO’s benchmark free allocation strategy, and investing with the goal of making absolute money and worrying about absolute risk. All this and more in episode 183, including Ben’s thoughts on hedging currency risk and his most memorable investment.









#177 - Alex Rubalcava - We Want To Help Build Companies That Are Solving Hard Problems That Matter
Sep 25 2019 67 mins  
In episode 177, we welcome back our guest, Alex Rubalcava. Alex and Meb start the conversation by discussing startup company fundraising, and how it has gotten more difficult to attract top-tier VC firms. The two then get into Alex’s firm, the track to seeing over 1500 startups this year, the process of evaluating them, and doing meaningful work on about 75 per year. Alex shares his thoughts about the current IPO market, and some reasons he thinks it’s not in a bubble right now. Meb then asks about the SaaS business model, and how the world has changed. Alex weighs in with some comments and some ways he thinks about looking at these types of companies. Next, Alex gives a brief review of QSBS rules, and the potential tax benefits available to investors. The conversation shifts into the current deal environment, and competing for allocations for deals. Alex provides an example of seeing an opportunity and fighting for an allocation. He also describes how his initial optimism about an investment correlates with the results in ensuing years. Meb then asks Alex about AI and the opportunity there. Alex describes his firm’s bullishness on AI, and why he thinks AI isn’t going to take over as many jobs as we think it will right now. Alex then gets into AI deployment doing one of four things; segmentation, optimization, anomaly detection, and recognizing objects. Commercial AI systems are being built to automate a process or make a prediction about the future. As the conversation winds down, Alex describes portfolio investments deploying AI to bring new approaches and ideas to their respective industries. All this and more in episode 177, including what the future looks like for Alex.







#173 - Tom Williams - I Want To Be That First Call In The Darkest Of Days
Sep 04 2019 108 mins  
In episode 173, we welcome our guest, Tom Williams. Tom and Meb get right into Tom’s background, moving to the Bay Area alone, and finding a job at the age of 15. He then spends some time on building BetterCompany, a mobile app designed to bring anonymity to sharing about work, and later, pivoting to enterprise. Meb then asks about the beginning of Tom’s angel investing career. Tom walks through the progression of angel investing with a partner to launching his own fund, and how important it is to build a network. Next, the pair dive into AngelList, syndicates, and how easy it has become to invest in startups. Tom dives further into venture, with an example of a fallacy that it is a zero-sum game. He describes technology driven disruption resulting in a democratization process where more and more companies taking their share of the market as a result. Meb then asks Tom to explain his thought process on investing. Tom emphasizes his focus on macro. He then discusses a theme he’s been investing in, America losing its supremacy and how to fix that. He shares that he finds ethically run technology companies that are trying to “ladder up” the “trapped class” in America are looking very interesting. Tom then spends some time talking about some portfolio investments. He walks through Grove Collaborative, already America’s largest independent brand for home and personal care, and the clear vision that the co-founder and CEO explained to him. Tom describes the vision being so obvious, he just had to go with it. He follows up with LogDNA, and Jumbotail. As the conversation winds down, Tom reveals his plans for the future, including the idea of backing new angel investors. All this and much more in episode 173, including Tom’s philanthropic work and his most memorable investment.




#170 - Bill Martin - On The Short Side, Position Sizing Is The Biggest Driver Of Success
Aug 14 2019 59 mins  
In episode 170, we welcome our guest, Bill Martin. Bill and Meb start the conversation by diving into Bill’s early entrepreneurial experience running Ragingbull.com. He discusses the business, raising capital, and ultimately selling the business. After Ragingbull.com, he started a research business and InsiderScores before ultimately launching Raging Capital in 2006. Meb asks Bill to get into Raging Capital. Bill offers that the long side is fairly concentrated, focused on the long-term and thinking strategically about the businesses. The short side is where he and his team focus on a diverse basket of businesses they consider overvalued with fundamentally challenged business models. Bill describes the nuances involved in position sizing on the short-side, and even illustrates with an example of Insys Therapeutics. Next, Bill covers where he’s seeing opportunity in the world. He talks about a theme with MLPs, companies with exposure to Puerto Rico, and building products. Meb then chats with Bill about his thoughts on China. Bill walks through his thinking on China broadly, and that the network he’s building in China is beneficial to investments he’s making in the portfolio. As the conversation winds down, Bill walks through mechanics of short selling, and some names and themes he and his team are working on, including a number of firms in the public storage space, and some auto-related companies. All this and more in episode 170, including Bill’s most memorable investment.











#163 - Albert Meyer - You’re Held In Higher Regard When You Don’t Dilute Shareholders
Jul 03 2019 77 mins  
In episode 163, we welcome our guest, Albert Meyer. Albert begins with his backstory as an accountant and his time in academia with the ultimate transition to the world of investment management. He then gets into his early days in the investing world and the work he did that eventually became public, to uncover the Ponzi scheme at the Foundation for New Era Philanthropy. Meb then asks Albert what the path looked like when he decided to start his own firm, Bastiat Capital. Albert discusses the evolution from running a research service to having demand for him to manage assets. Albert follows with Bastiat’s investment philosophy, where he dives into his process, looking at company business models, financial statements, corporate governance, and why he gets into the details of items like equity based compensation. The conversation then turns to Bastiat’s portfolio, where Meb asks about portfolio positioning on a high level and where Albert sees opportunities today. Albert discusses positions in things like Microsoft, Google, and Apple, as well as some Chinese stocks. He also explains how through complicated accounting rules, it may actually be easier now than in the past to hide accounting shenanigans. As the conversation winds down, Meb and Albert discuss Albert’s ideas on social security and African development. Don’t miss jam-packed episode 163 full of this and more, including some of Albert’s incredible work uncovering some of the most famous financial frauds in modern history.



#162 - Chase Nobles - I Think Other Ag Industries Are Going To Be Playing Catch Up With What We’ve Learned Through Hemp and Cannabis
Jun 26 2019 52 mins  
In episode 162, we welcome our guest, Chase Nobles. Chase kicks off the episode with some background, meeting his business partner, and how he went on to become the co-founder of Kush.com. He then gets into starting Kush Tourism as a resource for cannabis tourists during the early days of cannabis legalization in the state of Washington, showing them facilities, the industry, and educating them about cannabis and the business behind it. Next, Chase discusses the phase of the business where he and his co-founder realized the value of their business was the network they built. That spurred the idea for a wholesale marketplace. That evolution of the business ultimately led to raising funds and meeting angel investor, Jason Calacanis. Chase goes on to describe the platform, and how it has grown into the marketplace we know today as Kush.com. Meb then asks Chase to discuss the near-term hurdles for growth. Chase explains the backlog of applicants for the platform they are currently working through, and the work it takes to process them, as an example. As the conversation winds down, Meb asks about challenges in the industry. Chase talks about the issues with payment processing, and the hope that things will change in order to ease the burden on that front. All this and more, including Chase’s perspective of the greatest challenges of being a CEO, in episode 162.

#161 - Brandon Zick - In Row Crops You’re Generating A Lot Of Current Income
Jun 19 2019 88 mins  
In episode 161, we welcome our guest, Brandon Zick. Brandon begins talking about his background in farming, and the current ownership structure he’s seeing in the farm business; land ownership and operations are a generation or two removed, which creates a robust rental market, and what makes investment possible. Meb asks Brandon why investors should consider farmland in their investment portfolios. Brandon discusses the tangibility of owning a real asset such as farmland, the inflation hedge it provides, and its ability to diversify a portfolio. Next, Brandon gets into the structural inefficiencies of the farmland market, and the risk/return profile it can provide investors. Meb then asks about the ownership structure of their investments. Brandon talks about Ceres buying land from absentee land owners, their goal of partnering with top decile farmers, and putting more incentives in place for their tenants. He also mentions the farmer relationship and involving them in the underwriting process when looking at acquiring farms. The conversation then turns to some history on the farmland bust phase in the 80s, and how leverage in the system contributed to that environment, but has also influenced how people acquire and own farmland today. Brandon then goes on to explain why investors should embrace volatility, and how important it is as a land owner to have equity in land and cash in hand to be able to make acquisitions and grow. As the conversation winds down, Meb asks Brandon about his thoughts on technology and it’s impacts in agriculture. Brandon talks about it being an exciting development, allowing farming to be less labor intensive and freeing farmers to make higher value, broad scale decisions. Brandon wraps up with a discussion of Ceres’ fund, and what is on the horizon for Ceres. All this and more in episode 161, including a discussion about what keeps Brandon up at night and what he’s particularly excited about, as well as his most memorable investment.


#160 - John Huber - Stock Prices Fluctuate Much More Than The Underlying Businesses
Jun 12 2019 71 mins  
In episode 160, we welcome our guest, John Huber. John begins with some background on his approach to investing, and the framework he relies on at Saber Capital Management. John modeled his strategy after the early years of Warren Buffett’s partnerships. At Saber Capital Management, he focuses on good businesses that are poised to do well over time, and a tactical approach to portfolio management. Next, Meb asks about the portfolio approach. John discusses his portfolio being concentrated and long only. He mentions he thinks diversification can be had in fewer positions than is commonly thought. He tends to have 5-6 stocks representing 80% - 90% of his capital. The conversation then shifts into details about what he looks for when researching companies for potential investment. He talks about compounders, and how looking for them has changed since the days of Graham and Dodd to now, where the focus on intangible aspects is much more important. John then gets deeper into his process. He reveals that he sees the investment landscape in two buckets. 1) companies increasing intrinsic value over time, and 2) companies eroding value over time. He tries to avoid companies that erode value over time. He notes that focusing on key variables can get him most of the way there, then he covers his final step, figuring out how much the company is worth, and how much to pay for it. He discusses the degree in which large cap stocks fluctuate between their 52-week highs and lows, and his weighting to them in his portfolio. He then gets into a couple of cases with Apple and Facebook, followed by a description of his sell criteria. All this and more in episode 160, including John’s most memorable investment.

#159 - Ashby Monk - The Fee And Cost Issue Is Important Because It Is A Catalyst For Innovation
Jun 05 2019 66 mins  
In episode 159, we welcome our guest, Ashby Monk. The episode kicks off with a discussion about the concept of saving planet earth and the important role that asset owner investors, the largest institutions in the world such as sovereign wealth funds that total approximately $100 trillion, now have. Meb then asks Ashby to get into the models behind large institutional investors. Ashby discusses some history, and boils it down to what he thinks are the three functions that drive success: people, process, and information. The conversation then gets into Ashby’s thoughts about insourcing vs. outsourcing. Ashby explains that both paths are viable, and the importance of starting with a rigorous understanding of what it costs to run investments internally vs. externally. Ashby notes that he thinks the institutions pursuing the highest quality inputs in terms of people, process, and information should receive recognition, independent of the model they’re running. Meb asks about trends in the industry. On the good side, Ashby discusses the push on fees and costs, and the positive effect it has on institutional investors as a catalyst for innovation. Ashby then talks about how being green and good stewards of the environment has delivered outperformance. The conversation then shifts into Long Term Stock Exchange (LTSE) and its mission. As the chat winds down, Meb and Ashby discuss the app he co-founded, Long Game, and the mission to engage people in their financial decisions in an entirely different way. All this and more, including what Ashby is particularly excited about and his most memorable investment in episode 159.


#157 - Randy Swan - Always Invested, Always Hedged
May 22 2019 46 mins  
In episode 157, we welcome back our guest from episode 83, Randy Swan. Randy and Meb kick off the conversation by getting into Randy’s new book, and what motivated him to write. Randy talks about having an opportunity to go back and write about how and why Swan operates the Defined Risk Strategy. In getting into the investing framework outlined in the book, Randy explains why he thinks investors face a “Dual dilemma,” forced to stick with conservative investments, or step out into riskier assets and sacrifice protection from their conservative investments. He goes on to state his thoughts on the evolution of democracy and the role debt has played in decision making in government and central banking. He then goes deeper into this dilemma by explaining the rationale behind his thinking about this problem, and his expectations for low returns in both equity and fixed income markets going forward. Meb asks Randy to discuss why it’s so important to focus on avoiding large losses and investor psychology. Randy follows up with thoughts on portfolio construction concepts he feels are important to add to the current thinking to seek return streams that are more in line with investor expectations. The conversation then shifts into the genesis behind Swan’s flagship, Defined Risk Strategy, the idea that correlation of returns is unreliable, especially in times of crisis, and the difficulty in defining risk in an investment portfolio. He then walks through the portfolio management process and covers some examples of the mechanics during bear markets. As the conversation begins to wind down, Meb asks in what periods this strategy is expected to shine vs. struggle. Randy walks through the desirable market conditions for Swan’s strategies. All this and more in episode 157.

#156 - Steve Glickman - I Think There’s A Lot Weighing On How Successful We Are At Achieving The Goals Of Opportunity Zones
May 15 2019 57 mins  
In Episode 156 we welcome back our guest from episode #115, Steve Glickman. To get listeners up to speed, Steve starts with an overview of what Opportunity Zones are, some specifics about the design of the program, and some concepts behind how investors can actually put money to work in Opportunity Zones. Meb asks about additional insights since updated rules have been announced. Steve discusses clarity on items such as investing timelines on capital gains, and the length of time funds have to invest capital. When Meb asks about what kind of investments are available, Steve goes on to clarify that just about any asset class is available, but commercial real estate funds, energy, and infrastructure are areas he’s seeing utilized, among others. The conversation then gets deeper into what needs to happen with investments to qualify to meet the regulations, and what happens if companies no longer qualify under the rules. For real estate specifically, Steve describes the need for projects to fall under one of two categories, either 1) purchased for original use, or 2) must undergo substantial improvement. He then describes some of the rules surrounding other businesses, such as startups and existing businesses. Meb follows up with questions on qualifications of some specific examples from public stocks to REITs. On the back of details about investments, the pair get into the fund landscape, with Steve mentioning how much of the fund market will consist of professional money managers running funds in their respective industries. Steve then covers what he’s seen so far from the very early days of the program. He discusses much of what he’s seeing is in commercial real estate, but he’s seeing creative models of asset classes many people haven’t thought of yet. He then shares some thoughts about how some of the early rules may be revisited going forward, and some of the potential issues that could come up with the program. As the conversation winds down, Steve discusses his firm, and the things he’s working on. All this and more in episode 156.


#155 - Aswath Damodaran - They [Uber And The Ride Sharing Companies Collectively] Have Disrupted This Business…That’s The Good News, The Bad News Is I Don’t Think They’ve Figured Out A Business Model That Can Convert That Growth Into Profits
May 10 2019 57 mins  
For this special Friday episode, we welcome NYU professor and valuation expert, Aswath Damodaran. As it is Uber IPO day, Meb and Professor Damodaran start with a discussion about Uber and ride sharing valuations. Next, the two get into Professor Damodaran’s work and his framework for thinking about valuation. He covers the craft of valuation, and how his framework evolves over time. Professor Damodaran then shares details on what he thinks about Amazon and Apple, how he thinks about valuation in the context of each company, what he’s learned, and how his process has changed over time. Meb then asks Professor Damodaran about his thoughts on dividends and buybacks. Professor Damodaran starts with the corporate finance side of the discussion by describing buybacks and their role in the cash return to shareholders, the impacts buybacks have on corporations and investors, and the psychology behind the thinking about buybacks. The conversation then shifts to a chat about Professor Damodaran’s work on valuations, and his current take on global valuations and equity risk premiums. He gets into the equity risk premium in the U.S. during 2008 and 2009 and the information that can be gleaned from studying the history of equity risk premiums. As the conversation winds down, Meb asks professor Damodaran to talk about industries he feels are ripe for disruption. Professor Damodaran responds with some interesting insights into education, publishing, and banking. All this and more in episode 155.

#154 - Frank Curzio - You Have To Be Able To Adapt To Different Strategies In Different Markets Because They're Ever Changing
May 08 2019 59 mins  
In episode 154 we welcome Frank Curzio. Frank begins with his origin story, learning to conduct financial research from his dad, working for Jim Cramer and the incredible industry and company access he had, and eventually launching Curzio Research. Meb jumps right into markets by asking Frank what opportunities he’s seeing right now. Frank mentions he’s not seeing a lot of opportunity but likes seeing the separation in company reporting right now, some stocks reporting poorly, some reporting well. Overall, with a decent economy, not much crazy bullishness, and with valuations where they are, he thinks a downturn of 10-15% might create a lot of opportunities. Frank then gets into tech. He discusses the idea that the leaders can continue to grind higher, and his thesis on why IBM’s Red Hat deal will be a gamechanger. He transitions into biotech and discusses his thoughts as well as some of the difficulties of investing successfully in the industry. Next, the conversation transitions into energy. Frank talks about natural resources, and some of the “on the ground” research he’s done, and the difference it makes in his understanding of the investments he’s making, as well as some specifics on energy, mining, and resources. The two then shift to talk about tokenization, and how Frank is tapping this innovative idea to raise capital for Curzio Research. All this and more in episode 154.


#152 - Kevin Smith and Tavi Costa - We Believe We’re In The Early Stages Of A Bear Market
Apr 24 2019 54 mins  
In episode 152 we welcome Kevin Smith and Tavi Costa of Crescat Capital. Kevin kicks off the conversation with an overview of Crescat’s approach, the long-only strategy, long/short equity hedge fund, and Global Macro Fund. Tavi then gets into high equity market valuations, their macro model that has timed well in backtests with previous market peaks and troughs in the tech and housing bubbles, 15 countries with 30-year bond yields below the Fed Funds rate, and demand for U.S. Treasuries and the U.S. dollar. Kevin follows up with some comments on implementation and expressing these views in their portfolio, and why they continue to trust their process and remain net-short equities. Next, Tavi gets into Crescat’s thesis on China and the potential credit bubble, and the vulnerable Chinese currency as a result. Meb then asks about Crescat’s bullish thesis on precious metals. Kevin discusses that trade’s role in the portfolio, and its place as a theme in the global macro fund, which includes, a short equity theme, long precious metals theme, and a short Chinese Yuan theme. Meb asks the pair to get into some of their other themes that stand out as opportunities. Kevin links the Canadian housing bubble and Australian debt crisis themes to China and Chinese capital outflows. He also covers some longs as part of their cybersecurity theme such as Palo Alto Networks. Meb shifts by asking about what investors should takeaway from Crescat’s thinking, Kevin adds that people should think about more tactical asset allocation, become increasingly defensive, and consider some alternatives. Tavi adds that investors may want to consider cash, precious metals, and perhaps some Treasuries. As the conversation winds down, Meb asks about anything else they consider that isn’t covered widely in the media or by investment managers. Kevin discusses consumer confidence, and Tavi adds twin deficits and an alternative view of beta. All this and more in episode 152.

#151 - Divya Narendra - Valuation Is Probably The Most Critical Component of SumZero’s Thesis
Apr 17 2019 57 mins  
In episode 151 we welcome Divya Narendra, CEO & Co-Founder of SumZero. Divya begins by talking about the beginnings of SumZero and finding its initial traction by Divya calling friends from other funds and politely asking them to submit research. From there, he asked those friends to provide any contacts they could, and the platform grew from there, including a cap-intro side of the business to expose analysts, PMs, and fund managers to potential investors. Divya then discusses addressing the shortcomings of sell side research with SumZero, in particular, the lack of vested interest and high conviction from the sell-side, and lack of coverage in unknown securities. All contributors are vetted, and their ideas go through Divya. Meb asks about how people use the site for generating ideas, which brings up some various processes like screens from people with a fundamental approach, to quants who are looking at items like who is getting the most views and best ratings. Divya even gets into some of the best ideas contests he has run, and even submitted a contest winner’s idea to Warren Buffett. The conversation then shifts to what Divya sees in the future for SumZero, from scaling cap-intro efforts, to a data feed that can serve quantitatively driven analysts, but ultimately looks to expand the scope of the SumZero community. Catch all this and more in episode 151, including Divya’s thoughts about the future of fundamental stock picking, robo advisors and the private wealth model, and more.

#150 - Bill Smead - The United States Economy is Highly Likely To Be The Strongest The Next 10 Years It's Been Since The Baby Boomers Went Through The 30-45 Year-Old Age Range
Apr 10 2019 62 mins  
In episode 150 we welcome Bill Smead. Bill begins with how he came to be a value investor, describing himself as someone who came from a family of educated gamblers, and as a boy, going to greyhound races, learning to put probabilities in his favor, and even developing a criteria system for selecting greyhounds. Next, Bill talks about his beginnings in the investment business, starting out in an era of high interest rates, and reading about Buffett, Lynch, and some of investing’s great minds. He describes his 8 criteria for selecting investments: 1) Does it meet an economic need 2) Does it have a long history of profitability 3) Does it have a wide moat 4) Does it generate high and consistent cash flow 5) Can the company be purchased at a discount 6) Business must be shareholder friendly 7) The company must have a strong balance sheet 8) The company must have strong insider ownership. Meb then asks Bill to elaborate on the investment landscape, and what he’s seeing in a specific pocket of the market. Bill discusses the parabolic move in e-commerce companies, and issues he sees in the strategies and valuations of companies like Amazon. As the conversation winds down, Bill lays out the thesis that the Millennials are in position to drive the economy in the future. All this and more in episode 150, including Bill’s most memorable investment.

#149 - Phil Haslett - Lyft’s Doing $2 Billion Dollars A Year In Revenue, And It’s Growing That Revenue 105% A Year. There Are Only 8 Companies Listed On The Stock Exchange In The U.S. With That Kind Of Profile
Apr 03 2019 59 mins  
In episode 149 we welcome back our guest from Episode 122, Phil Haslett. Meb and Phil begin the episode with a chat of the IPO environment so far in 2019, and the recent Lyft IPO. Phil then gets into the cyclicality of IPOs in general, and that IPOs tend to be most successful when the market is not so volatile. Meb asks Phil about the IPO process. Phil starts with banking and how the banking relationship works, and what some companies have done to avoid the high costs of going through the IPO process. Google was the first to give an alternative approach to the IPO process a shot, and Spotify found huge success through a direct listing. Next, Phil gets into the changing characteristics of what firms look like in today’s IPO cycle, vs. the past. He discusses that the value of which companies go public is far higher than it used to be, and they are going public much later. This stems from companies raising large amounts of capital as private companies. Eventually, though, they’ll need to go public for a couple of reasons. 1) venture capital investors that invested early, may run out of patience waiting for an exit, 2) the need to address liquidity for other shareholders 3) recognition, and 4) be able to issue stock and raise capital for potential future M&A. The conversation then shifts back to Lyft, and their S-1 filing. Phil mentions some interesting points he and his team found in the S-1. He discusses Lyft’s $300 million R&D spend, signaling the likelihood it is making major investments, possibly in autonomous driving. They also found that the company has presented itself as a transportation as a service (TaaS) company. Meb brings up the topic of dilution, and why it is so important in understanding venture capital investing, and Phil walks through the fundamentals of capital raising, and shareholder dilution, and what it really means to early investors. Next, employee wealth, and how to think about managing it is addressed. Phil shares some advice of being diversified to offset the concentration that comes with both owning shares and earning a paycheck from the same company. As the conversation begins to wind down, Phil covers his take on the future of the private investment space. Hear all this and more in episode 149, including the future of EquityZen, and Phil’s predictions for the 2019 IPO market.

#148 - Paul Lountzis - The Qualitative Characteristics Are Becoming Significantly More Meaningful And More Important In Company Analysis
Mar 27 2019 74 mins  
In episode 148 we welcome Paul Lountzis. Paul starts with his background in consulting that led him to develop a skillset in competitive analysis that meant going out into the field to conduct research far beyond the numbers, leading to “differential insights.” He wanted to get into value investing and reached out to a number of firms including Warren Buffett’s assistant, Gladys Kaiser. He ended up interviewing with Chuck Royce’s partner, Tom Ebright, and after Chuck saw his work, he was put on research projects for Chuck. He then went to work for Ruane, Cunniff & Goldfarm before founding Lountzis Asset Management. Paul then discusses his framework of finding outstanding businesses that are unique, different, and special. He talks about that changes that are taking place and how the qualitative characteristics are becoming significantly more meaningful in company analysis. He highlights the importance of field research primarily to prevent permanent loss of capital, and to drive greater conviction to potentially make bigger bets on companies. Meb then asks Paul to get into the investment process at Lountzis. Paul emphasizes a long-term holding period, screening on financial metrics like return on investment capital, free cash flow, revenue growth, and covering 600-700 names across the team. Beyond that, the team digs into further insights, from management elements like capital allocation, shareholder friendliness, and the quality of their operating ability, to valuation and the general level of inflation and taxation. He then dives into some examples of how he and his team identify businesses that are unique, different, and special in practice. Meb then gets into questions on risk. Paul discusses how he and his team look at position sizing and risk based on the clarity in which they understand the business. The conversation then shifts into a discussion about the current and future state of Berkshire Hathaway. Paul talks about how unique and special Warren Buffett is, how valuable the underlying businesses are that Berkshire owns, and a couple of items that concern him about life after Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger. All this and more in episode 148, including a special story about a hand he played in helping students meet Warren Buffett.



#146 - Neil Littman - The More Risk You Kill, Inherently, The More Value You Create
Mar 13 2019 59 mins  
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.


#144 - Marty Bergin - Adapt Or Die
Feb 27 2019 56 mins  
In Episode 144 we welcome Marty Bergin. Marty begins by going through his background, the history of Dunn Capital and the relationship he had with Bill Dunn, the founder of Dunn Capital. That relationship opened the door for Marty to ultimately work or Bill, and to later become the owner of the firm as part of a transition plan. Next, Meb asks Marty to describe trend following as it relates to Dunn. Marty describes that trend following is pretty basic, but there’s magic in how you develop a portfolio with the strategy. At Dunn, Marty and his team rely on an adaptive trend-following system. From a portfolio management perspective, they look for markets with enough volume to trade in 55 markets across commodities, currencies, interest rates, bonds, equities, and volatility with an equal allocation of risk buckets for each market they trade. Meb follows that with a question about how it all fits together on a high level. Marty explains the program is not restricted in any way, and multiple methods are used for determining noise. He adds that when looking at possibilities, they are looking at a few days all the way out to a couple of years, and update weekly, yet he doesn’t believe there would be a major drift in performance if it were updated on a 12 or 18 month basis. The program gets into positions slowly, and is designed to get out quickly to protect downside. The conversation then transitions into how the system has evolved over time. Marty walks through the core tweaks Dunn has undergone to adapt and improve the trading system, from looking at trading from a market-by-market basis, to applying the same techniques to every market, to taking a fresh approach to risk. Meb then asks about what Dunn’s strategy looks like during various environments. Marty goes on to talk about how a trend follower is looking for directional volatility that is consistently applied, and the difficulty of environments like 2018 when trend followers can become overweight and get caught in corrections that can lead to aggressive reversals. He follows that with some insight into thinking about the current environment through the lens of Dunn Capital, and talks about risk metrics setting up to look conducive for trend following. Meb and Marty wind down with a chat about how Dunn is very focused on education. They also touch on Dunn’s unique fee structure, and the place for a strategy like Dunn’s in investment portfolios. All this and more in episode 144.

#143 - David Eifrig - Most People Run Losses Into The Ground
Feb 20 2019 68 mins  
In episode 143 we welcome Dr. David Eifrig. David begins by going through his background and pathway to finance. He first discovered his interest in investing through the occasional Barron’s issue, and understood he didn’t want to follow in his father’s footsteps in medicine, moving on to Kellogg for business school before moving on to Wall Street. He describes that while working in finance, he decided to pursue science and medical school and ultimately helped build a business that was sold to Roche. While in residency, he began writing and that launched him into newsletter writing. Meb then asks David to describe his publications, Retirement Millionaire, Retirement Trader, Income Intelligence, and the newly launched Advanced Options. Meb asks David about how he thinks about value and price declines. David responds with some background on how he prefers to teach investing, and provides a simple framework for thinking about price and value. After a quick discussion of the closed-end fund space, the conversation shifts to what looks interesting right now. David discusses Altria, and their exposure to the vaping market and the marijuana industry as well as preferred shares. The pair then expands with a discussion about the current interest rate and inflationary environment after an interesting example from David. David also gets into the use of stop losses, having a plan, and the mindset of having an idea of when to sell. He mentions that he thinks about structuring portfolio positions such that losses on one single position won’t significantly impact the overall portfolio. The conversation then shifts gears into some lifestyle suggestions, David’s experience as a winemaker, and David’s best and worst trades. All this and more in episode 143.

#142 - Ryan Ansin - I Don't Believe That It's Easy To Back Into Revenue In This Industry, There Are Just A Thousand Things That Can Go Wrong
Feb 13 2019 55 mins  
In episode 142 we welcome Ryan Ansin. Ryan begins by discussing how his introduction into the cannabis industry started with thoughtful conversations at home, focused on the social justice perspective. He started investing in the industry over 4 years ago, then had an opportunity to purchase a factory in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. What started off as a passive real estate investment he thought would be a fit for vertical farming, and a suggestion from vertical farming experts to consider cultivating cannabis, led him to start his operation, Revolutionary. Meb asks Ryan to speak in more depth about the business and the cannabis ecosystem. Ryan discusses the laws that shaped the cannabis industry in Massachusetts that caused a lot of fallout until recently. His operation is vertically integrated, and they go after products they can excel in, while licensing and distributing other products they don’t feel they can execute as well. Next, he discusses his vision for the company, and his goal to expand within Massachusetts, do it responsibly and sustainably, before growing elsewhere. Ryan then gets into investing in cannabis companies, and although he receives hundreds of decks per month, he focuses on areas that fit well and within his areas of competence. The basis for his thinking behind the investments he makes is how it initially can help Revolutionary. He brings up the important point that we have not seen a full venture cycle in cannabis yet, what the exits will be, how, and when, so it is important to think about investments that can optimize operations. Meb shifts into valuations in the space. Ryan mentions that he feels that valuations are high, and that valuation is a huge consideration for him. He notes that while many companies appear to be valued under assumptions of being able to sell what they’re funded to produce, and expand internationally in some cases, he believes competition may create unforeseen barriers in certain markets that may not be accounted for in valuations. The conversation then transitions into the huge institutional interest that Ryan sees in the industry, as he has seen family offices gradually shift in their comfort level with the space. As the pair wind down, Meb asks Ryan to discuss his involvement in the Family Office Association. Ryan provides useful insight about best practices in managing multigenerational wealth. All this and more, in episode 142.


#140 - Ralph Acampora - Don't Ever Fight Papa Dow
Jan 30 2019 56 mins  
In episode 140 we welcome Ralph Acampora. Ralph begins with his background and talks about the accident that left him in a body cast for months. His father’s best friend left a copy of something market related that he was reading when he visited the hospital. That piqued his curiosity, and he later found a job as a junior analyst on Wall Street. It was that job that introduced him to technical analysis. Meb then gets into technical analysis and what is, and what it means to Ralph. Ralph discusses how he keeps it simple, looking at trends every day with a few indicators. He then goes on to explain Dow Theory before explaining that when he took a look at the market through the lens of Dow Theory, when the Dow Industrials, and Dow Transports hit low points late last year, he saw a downturn signal. He mentions the post-Christmas rally was a nice move in a short period of time, but he refers to it as a “vacuum” rally. The bad news is that he saw the rally encounter overhead resistance and is looking overbought. For this move to sustain, he’d like to see, over the next month or two, the market hold above December lows. Looking around the world, he sees the DAX in a topping period, and emerging market stocks look like they’re trying to bottom. As far as commodities go, he thinks crude is bottoming as well. Ralph then gets into how little acceptance there was of technical analysis early in his career, and how he fought for technical analysis. Meb then asks Ralph to touch on behavioral finance. He discusses how technical analysts have been incorporating behavioral finance for years. As the conversation winds down, Meb asks Ralph if anything has changed about his approach to analyzing markets, and Ralph quickly says “No,” and talks about how over time, technical analysis is looking at buyers and sellers, which he feels haven’t changed, so he hasn’t changed his analysis. This and more in episode 140, including a fantastic story behind Ralph’s most memorable trade, and where one of his hand-drawn charts is now displayed.


#139 - Taz Turner and Nate Nienhuis - We're Really Driving At What We Feel Is The Holy Grail Of Cannabis
Jan 23 2019 60 mins  
In episode 139, we welcome Taz Turner, CEO, and Nate Nienhuis, COO, of CordovaCann in the 4th installment of our cannabis series. The episode begins with the backstory behind CordovaCann, and the mission to produce superior plants and consistent and predictable products. Meb asks the pair to get into their backgrounds. Nate starts by describing his deep industry background from consulting with operators, to working on the regulatory side in Washington D.C. Taz then talks about his career in finance, and what led him into investing in the cannabis industry first in Canada, then in the U.S. He goes on to discuss his conversations with Nate and others in the industry leading to the launch of Cordova. Meb then asks about the Cordova roadmap with the company ultimately growing into a cannabis operation. Taz had the idea of targeting the more established markets in the western United States and overlaying their technology platform to add value to the operators. Nate then gets into the details of the importance of consistent formulation, and how their platform is delivering technology that isn’t being utilized by the rest of the industry. The conversation then shifts to the regulatory environment, and Taz notes the ball seems to be moving forward. Nate adds that he thinks the regulations will continue to get more specific. Next, Meb asks about acquiring assets. Taz talks about the parallels he sees to the late 1990s internet craze. He discusses the goal of taking already strong operators and overlaying the technology that Cordova has, while Nate talks about the importance of culture. Taz follows up with some specific examples of how the acquisitions have worked on a state-by-state basis. Meb asks what the future looks like. Nate talks about the growth of the industry and how various operators and even large-scale manufacturing operations may get into the space, as well as significant advancement in science, and continued refinement of the cannabis product line. All this and more in episode 139 including the long-term vision for Cordova, and Taz and Nate’s most memorable investments.

#138 - Yariv Haim - You Should Never Try To Reassess Your Risk Appetite When Markets Crash
Jan 16 2019 59 mins  
In episode 138, we welcome Yariv Haim. Yariv begins with his backstory. He had been working for a family running marketing and business development. He was asked to get involved with the investment management needs of the family, and through a path of his own, had gained enough knowledge to crystallize an approach he now follows at Sparrows Capital. Yariv discusses how he focused on evidence from impartial academic institutions and research, and refers to the strategies derived from them as evidence-based investing strategies. After doing his research, he saw an informational gap in the industry, and it still exists today. Yariv then gets into 6 core principles 1) return is primarily a function of risk, 2) certain risks attract persistent premium, 3) Diversification works, 4) stock picking and market timing seldom add value, 5) remain invested across the full cycle, 6) costs matter (although it isn’t the only prism to evaluate investment opportunities). Next, Meb asks about factors and smart beta. Yariv discusses his opinion that Wall Street is a marketing machine, and the term “smart beta,” while it sounds sexy, ends up becoming an umbrella for all things. When asked about factors and when it’s time to stop using them, Yariv responds by discussing resources available, and the importance of doing the homework, and not to invest until you fully understand what you are investing in. As far as favorite factors go, Yariv talked about not having one, and expanded by saying he sees factor timing as a problem. He recommends a blend of factors to clients, starting with the most diversified portfolio, and building tilts. The conversation then shifts to a discussion of behavioral investing. Yariv talks about how investors are all human beings, human beings are filled with biases and emotions, and feelings of optimism and pessimism can affect the way we make decisions. He finishes his comment by saying he feels that for people who wish to invest on their own, that it is always helpful to have someone by your side who is potentially slightly less emotional about the way your portfolio behaves in the short term. As the conversation winds down, Meb and Yariv get into socially responsible investing and environmental and social governance themes. Yariv believes it is a trend that nobody can ignore today. He discusses some research conclusions the efficiency of markets and how higher returns investors have earned on vice companies is compensated for the additional risk they bear for owning them. He makes the point that there is more to investing than purely outcome in the form of returns, and that if an investor’s ethical compass steers them in the SRI/ESG direction, it is sensible to invest that way. The pair then conclude with how Yariv puts all of these ideas together to form investment portfolios. This and more in episode 138.

#137 - Emily and Morgan Paxhia - The Growers Who Focused On Creating Efficient Operations Are The Ones That Are Still Around Today
Jan 09 2019 49 mins  
In episode 137 we welcome the sibling duo, Emily and Morgan Paxhia. Emily and Morgan begin by discussing their backstory, and how coming from a family with an entrepreneurial background influenced their path to start Poseidon Asset Management to specialize in cannabis investing. Emily and Morgan each describe their previous roles and the skills they acquired in their respective industries (Consulting for Emily, and Investment Management for Morgan) that helped them build foundations that transitioned well into asset management. Next, the pair discusses starting their fund, and the journey that included seeking service providers, raising capital, and the many challenges and hurdles they faced along the way. Morgan mentioned that even with all the hurdles, they knew they were on to something and continued to drive forward. Meb then asks about cannabis industry trends and what the space has in store looking forward. Emily covers some regulatory and political issues and then talks about the challenge they will face as a firm as they try to allocate capital before the industry really opens up down the road. Morgan follows with some catalysts that include legal cannabis in California, a number of countries approving medical cannabis, and expanded media coverage. The conversation shifts to the regulatory environment. Morgan talks about the progress that has been made, although state programs are varied, which makes it difficult to see where the standout model lies. There’s also bi-partisan support, New York is looking serious at legalizing, and the environment is moving forward. Meb follows with questions about the investment process and portfolio building, as well as a question on what areas people aren’t thinking about that have disruptive potential. Emily and Morgan talk about looking at the industry by subsector such as ag-tech and technology and being invested everywhere on the spectrum from plant cultivation to end consumer product consumption and that the portfolio construction process leans on a very diversified approach but is very flexible and dynamic. In searching for ideas, they rely on a “boots on the ground” approach to understand the industry and operator dynamics, as well as identify quality teams. Meb then asks about any areas people aren’t thinking about that have disruptive potential. Emily and Morgan respond with 100% industrial hemp as a product that has disruptive potential with almost endless applications. Hear all this and more in episode 137, including the names of some portfolio companies and their most memorable investments.

#136 - Steve Romick - Value Investing Is, To Us, Simply Investing With A Margin Of Safety, Believing That You've Made An Investment Where It's Hard To Lose Money Over Time
Jan 02 2019 61 mins  
In episode 136, we welcome Steve Romick. The conversation begins with Steve explaining that he hated losing more than he enjoyed winning, and while there wasn’t one event that led him to value investing, he considers his aversion to loss a contributor to being drawn to the value-oriented investment approach. Meb then transitions the conversation by asking Steve to characterize the investment strategy of FPA’s Crescent Fund. Steve talks about the value investing framework as investing with a margin of safety and how it has morphed over the years from being about the balance sheet to now, through technological innovation, the corporate lifecycle has been as short of it has ever been with the most of the density of innovation happening in the past 50 years. Next, the discussion turns to investment framework. Steve describes this team of 11, and how the job of his team is to understand the business and industry first on both a quantitative and qualitative basis. He describes the go-anywhere mandate as a potential recipe for disaster as there are more places to lose money. Steve then discusses looking at equities and debt for the portfolio. In the equity space, they’re looking at two categories, the high quality growing businesses considered “compounders,” and more traditional value investments, where there’s potential for 3 times upside to downside. Meb then asks Steve about Naspers, and Steve follow’s up with commentary about one of the biggest losers the portfolio’s ever had, but reiterates that his biggest concern is permanent loss of capital, and as the holding is still in the portfolio, he’d be surprised if they didn’t make money on it long-term. Meb asks Steve about credit. Steve talks about high yield and distressed debt as an asset class being periodically attractive and one doesn’t need to be there all the time. He explains that the gross yield of roughly 6.5% looks interesting on the surface, but once you consider the history of defaults and recovery, the yield drops significantly to 4.4%, right above the investment grade yield, and it isn’t so attractive. Steve talks about how the fund allows the freedom to seek asset classes that offer value, and that for the first time, they now own a municipal bond. Steve then discusses the small allocation they have to farmland. Meb follows with a question about holding cash. Steve expands by talking about going through the research process, and when there aren’t enough opportunities that meet their parameters, cash results as a byproduct. The discussion then gets into Steve’s background at FPA, and what it was like going through the late 1990s. Steve talks about trailing the market going into the late 90s as valuations appeared unsupportable, but fast forward a few years and he and the team were validated. They allocated to high yield, small cap, and value, and made money in 2000, 2001 and 2002 when the market was down. Meb then asks how Steve views the rest of the world. Steve responds that while it is more expensive generally here in the U.S., it is important to remember that international exposure can be had by owning U.S. stocks with revenue exposure overseas, and that like-for-like companies are trading at similar valuations outside of the U.S. Next, Meb and Steve discuss the importance of managers investing alongside their clients. Steve feels it is important that investor’s energy should be aligned with the client’s interests and holdings. All this and more, including Steve’s thought on the catalysts that could end the current bull market in episode 136.

#135 - Karan Wadhera - We're Still In Very, Very Early Innings For What's Going To Be An Incredible Ride
Dec 26 2018 41 mins  
In Episode 135, we welcome Karan Wadhera. We start with Karan giving his backstory that includes a stint at Goldman Sachs and some entrepreneurship. After some time studying the industry, he ultimately got involved in the Cannabis space with Casa Verde. Meb then asks about what Karan sees as a “why now” investment opportunity. Karan talks about the opportunity coming out of the existing black market that is transitioning into a legal market and a range of products that have more to do with other things than just getting high. Next, the conversation shifts to the political landscape, and Karan provides some detail on the gap between the state and federal level, and the federal view of cannabis as a Schedule 1 controlled substance. He discusses how dramatically things are changing, especially in the political space. Meb then asks about the investment landscape for cannabis. Karan talks about how volatile the public market space is, and how when evaluating the theme, Casa Verde saw an opportunity in the ancillary space, companies involved in the industry but not in cultivation, manufacturing, or retail. He then provides detail on the kinds of involvement Casa Verde has in the portfolio companies, as well as some background on portfolio companies leaflink, green bits, trellis, and metric. Karan then talks about some of the areas of the industry that need improvement such as financial services until the industry reaches federal legalization, ag-tech, and biotech. Meb then asks about investor interest in the space. Karan talks about how more traditional institutions are now starting to explore it, and how U.S. investors will be limited on what they can do until there is a federal regime in place. Karan follows up with some resources available to learn more about the industry. This and more, including Karan’s most memorable investment in episode 135.

#134 - Chris Cole - Volatility Is The Instrument That Makes Us Face Truth
Dec 19 2018 62 mins  
In Episode 134, we welcome Chris Cole. Meb kicks off the show by asking Chris to describe his nontraditional background. Chris studied cinematography in film school at USC, while trading options in his spare time. He eventually made a career switch and began in Merrill Lynch’s analyst program in New York, while trading in his spare time. With his trading, he eventually created $1 Million to start his firm. Next, the conversation transitions to Chris’s work, including his take that “Volatility is the only asset class.” Chris follows by discussing how returns can be deconstructed to represent either “short-vol” or “long-vol” strategies. He mentions that the average institutional portfolio is a 98% short-volatility portfolio that will not perform all that well during a period of regime change. Meb then brings up some recent events that have transpired to lead into a chat about short vs. long volatility, and some dangers when thinking about the strategies. Chris discusses how volatility can be expressed in both tails, for example, the right tail being high volatility and high asset returns, and provides an example that volatility was averaging around 25 in the late 90s when the market was going up 30% per year. He follows with a stat that at-the-money vol moved more in January of this year than it did in the February move most might be familiar with. Chris then provides his thoughts about regime changes, what is possible, and what he sees in the market. He starts with his recent paper, Volatility and the Alchemy of Risk. In that paper, he uses the example of the Ouroboros, or “Tail devourer” as a metaphor for the current short-volatility trade. What he sees as a worry are the explicit short-vol traders, $1.4 Trillion of implicit short-vol strategies that are re-creating a portfolio of short options by financial engineering, and corporations using leverage to buy back shares, suppressing volatility. All together these scenarios represent a snake eating its tail. Meb then asks Chris to talk about market pressures that have resulted in liquidity changes. Chris explains that this is the only bull market in history with less and less volume, and less and less volatility. He mentions that what was scary about February’s volatility was that liquidity vanished. He follows with a discussion of passive vs. active investing, and the role active investors play in the market. Meb then asks about catalysts for stress in the market. He talks about the passive strategy not being understood by investors as something that could lead to de-stabilizing conditions, and that over 50% of the investment grade debt is in the lowest rated tranches, and over $2 Trillion of debt that needs to be rolled in 2019 and 2020. He mentions that what could potentially cause an issue is inflation leading to higher rates, a minor turn of the business cycle given the amount of leverage and gearing on corporate balance sheets, as well as the reliance of stocks and bonds being un-correlated if the markets enter a period where stock and bond correlations are in fact positively correlated. Next, through an example of rental car insurance, Chris gives some background on implementing long-vol strategies by using quantitative analytics to help identify points in time where you are paid to own “insurance” against market declines, in addition to predictive analytics that provide an informational edge to help understand whether or not it might be productive to own protection against market volatility risk. Meb follows with a question on the Japanese Vol Monster. Chris describes the short-vol trade that has been going on in Japan for a long time. He then describes philosophically that volatility is the instrument that makes us face truth. This and more in episode 134.

#133 - Todd Harrison - Humanity Has Had a 30,000 Year Relationship with Cannabis
Dec 12 2018 49 mins  
In Episode 133, we welcome Todd Harrison. Meb begins the conversation asking Todd about what got him into the cannabis space. Todd discusses his intellectual curiosity of the space, and what he has learned about the history of cannabis, from the 30,000 year relationship we have had with it as humans, to the US weaponizing marijuana. Meb then leads into the topic of governments and states changing their attitudes. Todd talks about it being a confluence of things, but gets into a personal story of how he discovered the efficacious ability of cannabis by working with Dr. Julie Holland after struggling with a decade long treatment of PTSD with a Western medicine protocol. The conversation then turns to the marketplace. Todd relays that there is quite a bit ahead for the consumer space. In hearing what scientists have to say, it has painted a much different picture for the breadth of wellness that is going to be disrupted going forward. Next, Meb and Todd discuss a little background on cannabinoids in general. Todd describes that there are over 200 different cannabinoid strains that exist. CBD and THC are two that have been popularized, but when you drill down, there are far more, including CBN, that aids sleep. The conversation shifts to the broad marketplace for investors. Todd describes the four primary arbitrage opportunities he sees that present opportunity: 1) Time Vs. Policy, 2) Price vs. Institutional Flow, 3) Perception, and 4) Liquidity. Meb follows by asking Todd about the firm’s investment approach. Todd talks about taking the long view. He mentions that the space has had two 50% drawdowns this year, and they count on disciplined position sizing and light use of puts to layer on with the long view but are using the current volatility to their advantage right now. Meb then asks Todd about the leading countries in the global landscape right now. Todd talks about Canada being the most mature, Australia looking compelling, and sees the U.S. as having the best opportunity set. Meb asks how Todd diversifies across industry groups and various verticals. Todd talks about there being about 500 listed stocks right now, and that there are probably 50 to 55 companies that his firm wants to invest in, and probably up to half of them at any given time. He thinks in 10 years’ time the survivors can offer a significant market cap. He and his team are focused on sticking with the companies they think are positioned to win. Meb then asks what Todd’s favorite vertical is if he had to pick one to be invested in for 5 years. Todd mentions it would be biotech, even though it may take longer for those investments to pan out because they still have to go through the traditional biotech process. Todd then gets into his approach for analyzing stocks. Todd discusses the importance of understanding the management teams, and “betting on jockeys as much as the horse,” as well as taking the fundamental perspective by getting a read on the company through a DCF analysis. All this and more, including a few names in Todd’s portfolio, and some suggestions for resources investors can tap for research on the industry in Episode 133.

#132 - Radio Show - Since 1989 80% of Stocks Had a Collective Return of 0%... A Goldman Bear-Market Indicator at Its Highest Point in Decades... and Listener Q&A
Dec 05 2018 68 mins  
Episode 132 has a radio show format. In this one, we cover numerous Tweets of the Week from Meb as well as listener Q&A. For our Tweets of the Week, a few we cover include: A chart from Longboard about returns. Since 1989, the worst performing 11,513 stocks – which is 80% of all stocks, collectively had a total return of 0%. The best performing 2,942 stocks (20% of all) accounted for all the gains. A tweet about another option selling fund blow-up. A Jason Zweig post about how many investors should question the dogma of “stocks for the long” run since history shows that a portfolio of bonds has outperformed stocks surprisingly often and for long periods. The statistic “According to Goldman, its indicator at 73% marks the highest bear-market reading since the late 1960s and early 1970s, which (with a few exceptions) is consistent with returns of zero over the following 12 months.” We then jump into listener Q&A. Some you’ll hear include: In your book, Global Asset Allocation, you compare the results of well-known asset allocations and find that the returns are quite close. Over a long period of time, would you also expect the results of a momentum / value strategy to be similar? Is the main advantage that it allows for better behavior (lower drawdowns, etc) or would you also expect the performance to differ (net of fees)? Would you rather own a stock with a high free cash flow yield or high dividend yield? I was wondering if you could touch on the process of launching an ETF. What are the startup costs, how much AUM and at what fee would the ETF breakeven? I've heard you (and others) extol the benefits of a diversified global allocation but I rarely (if ever) hear the counter argument: that the US deserves a premium to the rest of the world because it has the largest and deepest capital markets, has comparatively lower regulation and fosters innovation and creative destruction. Do those factors warrant an over-allocation to US equities? How much should the average investor be willing to spend (as a percentage of portfolio value) in order to carry some protection in the form of puts? What beats the 60/40 portfolio over the next 5 and 10 year periods? As usual, there are plenty of rabbit holes. You’ll find them all in Episode 132.


#131 – David Rosenberg - If Next Year is Not a Recession, It’s Going to Feel Like It
Nov 28 2018 43 mins  
In Episode 131, we welcome economist David Rosenberg. We jump right into David’s view of the current economic landscape. David talks about the global economy, especially the US looking classically late cycle, as the economy is running low on skilled workers, and states “If next year is not a recession, it’s going to feel like it.” Meb asks about the indicators he relies on. David discusses that there are 15 equally weighted indicators he’s looking at, 14 are screaming late cycle, and two stand out the most. ??? Two of the most important indicators for the US are the lack of skilled workers, with a lot of growth coming from people with no better than a high school education, and an immigration policy that has decreased the pool of labor. This leads into a discussion about inflationary pressures. While the strong dollar has been deflationary, more and more companies are passing on costs to customers. Services, which dominates the consumer spending pie, is sensitive to labor costs, and the inflation we will see going forward will be from wages. Meb then asks David about his thoughts on how this plays out for investors given the nature of the late cycle. David tells us that historically, the S&P has annualized an average of 17% per year in bull market conditions, however, this time around, it has done so with nearly half the typical economic growth rate to back that up. He suggests investors be defensive, focus on liquidity, have some cash on hand, and emphasize quality. For fixed income investors, be mindful of duration, and if focused on credit, be thoughtful of upcoming refinancing risks. The conversation then turns to sentiment. David draws parallels to the dotcom bubble, with FAANGM making up 17% of the S&P 500 market cap at September highs, which is similar to the late 1990s when there was a concentration of about six stocks making up a large chunk of the S&P 500 market cap. Next, Meb asks about David’s views on corporate bonds. David sees this in two lights. First, corporate balance sheets are the weakest they have ever been. The BBB component, which is a downgrade away from being rated “junk,” has grown from 30% of issuance to 50%. The alternative, more positive view is that companies are anticipating a lack of bond issuance coming up. Meb then asks about the health of the Canadian economy. David explains it is meandering; the oil price has been a drag and has traded at a significant discount to WTI due to a glut of production, and lack of pipeline capacity. In addition, an overinflated housing market that is deflating, and overextended household balance sheets serve as big impediments. Provinces are tending toward a pro-business direction politically, so that could serve to be a positive going forward. As a strategist, he is seeing much of the bad news priced into financial assets as the TSX is trading down to a 13 multiple, in line with emerging markets, and a discount that has been seen only 5% of the time historically. All this and more in Episode 131.

#130 - Eric Falkenstein - I Think in the Long Run (Cryptocurrencies) Are Going to Work
Nov 21 2018 50 mins  
In Episode 130, we welcome Eric Falkenstein. The show starts with Meb and Eric discussing ice fishing in Minnesota (where Eric is currently located). But then Meb asks for Eric’s origin story. Eric tells us about being a teacher’s assistant for Hyman Minsky, wanting to be a macro economist, the turn that pushed him toward investing, and a well-timed put option that made him a boatload in the ’87 crash. Next, the conversation turns toward Eric’s interest in low volatility. He tells us about being one of the first people to study low-vol. He was early, and the broader investing community wasn’t ready for the findings. People dismissed the suggestion that high volatility stocks (with high risk) didn’t outperform low vol stocks. Eric tells us that given all this, “low vol” wasn’t enough of a selling point – you had to layer on another factor just to get people to pay attention. Meb asks about the main value proposition of low-vol. It is a smoother ride? Better returns? And why does this factor persist? Eric’s answer touches on CAPM, high beta, low beta, risk, various premiums, high flying stocks, and alpha discovery. This bleeds into a conversation about factoring timing relative to valuations. Eric tells us he tried factor timing, but didn’t find it to be too helpful out of sample. The conversation bounces around a bit, with the guys touching on Meb’s paper, “A Quantitative Approach to Asset Allocation,” bonds and how the US is flirting with the top bucket of bond yields, whether low vol translates to global markets and different asset classes, and Eric’s take on risk parity. After that, the guys turn to crypto. Despite the current pullback, Eric believes “in the long run, it’s going to work.” He believes that crypto will eventually replace Dollars as people will want an alternative to fiat currency, something not susceptible to manipulation by politicians. He tells us that he sees a tipping point coming. There’s plenty more in this episode – Eric’s books, pithy quotes and maxims, how people often think about the specific investment they want, but not the “plumbing” such as the bid/ask spread of that investment, the volume, and so on… And as always, Eric’s most memorable trade. Get all the details in Episode 130.


#128 - Claude Lamoureux - When You Have to Make A Decision, Always Make the One That Will Help You Sleep Better, Not Eat Better
Oct 31 2018 50 mins  
In Episode 128, we welcome pension fund expert, Claude Lamoureux. We start with Claude’s background, which took him from Met Life to running the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan. When Claude took over the pension, the fund was invested in just Canadian debt, and the size of the pension obligation was underestimated. Claude decided to use derivatives to diversify the portfolio. He expanded into the S&P, recruited an investment department, and within three years, had successfully reallocated the fund into the broad asset classes they wanted. Meb asks how investing is different for a pension allocator versus an individual investor managing his own portfolio. Claude tells us that in the pension world, people don’t want to take responsibility. He wanted to do the opposite. He wanted to create a culture where people become entrepreneurial. This dovetails into a conversation about valuations. Claude is a big believer in having a realistic valuation of liabilities and potential returns. He mentions that today, many U.S. pensions are expecting around 7% returns, which he finds unrealistic. Claude says people should earn the money before they spend it. The conversation eventually turns toward Claude’s general market approach. Claude had a somewhat traditional policy portfolio, yet used lots of derivatives to diversify into stocks and non-Canadian bonds. He mentions how when you have a large deficit, you must go heavily into equities. He also liked private equity and real estate. And there was a great deal of leverage. The conversation turns toward problems in the U.S. pension system. Claude gives us his take on the issue. In short, many pension liabilities here in the States aren’t measured properly. He also mentions interest rate assumptions and the fees of outside managers. Finally, Claude points toward politicians and how they don’t want to face the facts. There’s plenty more in this pension-themed episode: the importance of being a student of the market history…the Canadian Coalition for Good Governance…the sage advice of “when you have to make a decision, always make the one that will let you sleep better, not the one that will let you eat better”…and of course, Claude’s most memorable trade. All this and more in Episode 128.

#127 - Radio Show - Meb and Elon Musk Talk Shorting... Conflicting U.S. Valuation Indicators... and Listener Q&A
Oct 24 2018 62 mins  
Episode 127 has a radio show format. In this one, we cover numerous Tweets of the Week from Meb as well as listener Q&A. We start with Meb telling us about his recent back-and-forth over Twitter with Elon Musk, discussing short-selling. Meb uses this as an example to give us more information on shorting in general, as well as short-lending. We then answer a question we’ve received (in various forms) for years – “why is the S&P (or whatever) outperforming your strategy?” For anyone looking longingly at S&P returns for the last many years, you might want to listen to this one. Next up, we tackle some of Meb’s Tweets of the week. There’s a discussion about mixed valuation signals – on one hand, there’s the Russell 3000, with the number of companies trading for more than 10-times revenue now approaching levels from back in 2000. On the other hand, there’s a tweet claiming that “if history is any guide, with 90% confidence rate of positive correlation, this market is going to deliver between 3 to 4% per annum for the next 10 years.” Additional tweets support both sides so Meb tries to resolve it for us. Then there’s a tweet about the challenges of sticking with your strategy during bad years. It references how the little voice of doubt in your head is all it takes “to turn the hardest resolve into the emotional putty that has destroyed generations of investors.” There are several other tweet topics – how Research Affiliates views the probability of 5% real returns at just 1.5%... how one forecast for private equity is calling for just 1.5% returns while a different private equity manager is trumpeting the asset class’s superior performance… and how marketing is nearly as important as performance and fees when it comes to attracting investor assets. We then jump into listener Q&A. Some you’ll hear include: You often say that over the long term, asset allocation doesn't matter much. However, isn't it important to note that because the nature of compounding, a small difference in CAGR over time can amount to a large dollar amount difference in your savings? What are your thoughts on using leverage with momentum? Do you have any recommendations for someone looking to diversify their trend following sleeve by applying a few different rules? For example, I've been doing 1/3 50-DMA, 1/3 200-DMA, and 1/3 crossover. You speak frequently about the benefit of taking a lump sum and investing now versus later. With current equity valuations (at least US) so frothy, is that still true? I’m wondering about how to take losses and how to determine when it’s appropriate to take one and when it is not. Do you, as a quant, have set rules in place? All this and more in Episode 127.

#126 - Karen Finerman - 'Out-of-Favorness' Is Appealing. The Difficult Part is Timing
Oct 17 2018 52 mins  
In Episode 126, we welcome entrepreneur, author, and investor, Karen Finerman. The episode starts with an interesting connection – Karen and Meb’s wife both attended the same high school in Los Angeles, and apparently, it’s the only high school in the U.S. with a working oil rig on campus. From here, Karen gives us a brief walk-through of her history after graduating Wharton, heading to Wall Street, where she eventually launched her own hedge fund. Meb asks about the framework she used in the hedge fund as she launched. Karen tells us they were fundamentally focused. Coming out of the savings and loan crisis, there were many smaller banks that had been unfairly stigmatized. Many were absurdly cheap with great balance sheets. Karen was able to take advantage, and developed an expertise in the space. She notes it was interesting how badly the market could mis-price an entire sector. She continues by telling us her strategy was mostly long focused. Her shorts were generally idiosyncratic, intended to hedge the portfolio. Beyond that, tax efficiency was a big focus. Next, Meb and Karen dig into her methodology for evaluating specific investments. Karen gives us the details, mentioning fundamentals, growth at a reasonable price, users that tend to be inelastic on price, and various other details, culminating with a specific example of a company she likes. Meb asks what Karen is seeing now. She tells us she’s a little spooked by the tariff situation. Perhaps a big exogenous risk. She then changes gears, going into details about a specific company she likes – Alphabet – noting what she finds attractive (and where she feels they could improve). But overall, she’s very impressed. The conversation gravitates toward “selling”. After all, buying is generally the easier part – it’s when to get rid of an investment that can be tough. Karen tells us that if an investment hits their target return, they’ll lighten their position. These leads into a conversation about investment theses and how that plays into selling. The years 1999 and 2000 come up, with Karen telling us she feels her group did the right thing then, avoiding getting sucked into the bubble. The new metrics at that time (stocks trading at a multiple of eyeballs) just didn’t make sense to her. She notes there are some similarities today, as there are certain companies that are losing lots of money despite posting growth numbers. This dovetails into a discussion of Tesla. It turns out Meb and Elon Musk shared a few words about short-selling on Twitter on the morning we recorded this podcast. Surprising no one, Elon is not a fan of shorts. Listen in for the details. There’s way more in this great episode: the ETF-ization of investing… Karen’s book… How to address the great investing education problem… and of course, Karen’s most memorable trade – actually, she shares two, a good one and a bad one. On the good side, there was an undervalued convenience chain in which Karen got involved at the right time and enjoyed a nice payday when Diamond Shamrock showed up at the buyer’s table. The bad trade relates to when United Airlines was supposed to go private. Karen didn’t factor in the possibility that the deal would collapse. Just how bad was the damage? Find out in Episode 126.

#125 - Tom Barton - The Biggest Problem Investors Have is Things Change...and They Don't Change
Oct 10 2018 84 mins  
In Episode 125, we welcome famed short-seller and early stage investor, Tom Barton. We start by going way back, after Tom graduated from Vanderbilt. He walks us through his early career experiences which helped him sharpen his business analysis skills, as well as his operational skills. He developed a great understanding of different industries, yet also what it was like to actually work in them. This was the foundation for the short-selling career that was soon to begin. In 1983 Tom went to work for a wealthy Dallas family, and in the process met one of the original fraud short-sellers, nicknamed “The Mortician”. Tom knew nothing about stocks at that point, but under the guidance of his new mentor, realized that his analytical skills aligned perfectly with sniffing out short-selling candidates. He reasoned “isn’t it easier to spot something that’s going to fail than be certain on something that’s going to succeed?” He then began digging into the research, and finding slews of fraudulent companies. What follows is an incredibly entertaining story-after-story of the various frauds Tom sniffed out (and made money on). There was a company claiming it could change the molecular composition of water… one deceiving customers about building-restoration after fires… a biotech claiming it could cure HIV… By the time 1990 rolled around, Tom’s returns were over 80% and he had generated a couple billion dollars. There’s a great bit in here about “The Wolf of Wall Street” (Stratton Oakmont). Tom is the guy who took them down. Related, the “Wolf” himself snaked an apartment out from underneath Meb a few years ago out here in Manhattan Beach, CA. The guys share a laugh over this. Eventually the conversation morphs from short-selling to when Tom’s strategy changed to going long. It involves managing money for George Soros, and some of Tom’s early long winners. This dovetails into how Tom got into biotech, which is where he’s spending lots of time today. Tom tells us about his introduction into gene therapy, then successes with the company Intrexon. He talks us through some small companies he’s been a part of that have already sold for huge paydays…for instance, one purchased by Novartis for $9B. This is a must-listen for any short-sellers, market historians, private investors, and biotech investors. And Tom’s most memorable trade is a doozy. This one involves buying puts for a hundred and something thousand dollars…which he sold for $13M. These details and far more in Episode 125.



#124 - Howard Marks - It's Not What You Buy, It's What You Pay for It That Determines Whether Something is a Good Investment
Oct 03 2018 42 mins  
In Episode 124, we welcome legendary investor, Howard Marks. Meb begins with a quote from Howard’s new book, Mastering the Market Cycle, and asks him to expound. Howard gives us his top-line take on market cycles, ending with the idea that if you understand them, you can profit from them. Meb follows up by asking about Howard’s framework for evaluating where we are in the cycle. Rather than look at every input as individual, Howard looks at overall patterns. What is the collective mood? Or is it depressed, sad, and people don’t want to buy? Or is it buoyant? Second, are investors optimistic and thrilled with their portfolios and eager to add more, therein increasing risk? Or are investors regretful and hesitant, burned by recent experience? Then there are quantitative aspects – valuations, yield spreads, cap rates, multiples, and so on. All of these variables help give Howard a feel for whether assets are high- or low-priced. Next, Meb asks Howard to use Oaktree’s actions during the Financial Crisis as a real-world example of how an investor could act upon cycles. Howard tells us there are two parts to what happened during the Crisis – what Oaktree did during the run-up to the meltdown, and then what it did during the event itself. In short, Oaktree was cautious during the lead-up. They raised their standards for investments. Why? Howard notes that they didn’t know ahead of time how bad things would be. Rather, they were hesitant because they looked at the securities being issued, and it seemed that every day, something was coming out that didn’t deserve to be issued. This was a tip-off. Then the event happened, culminating in Lehman bankruptcy, and that’s when Oaktree became very aggressive, buying half a billion dollars each week for 15 weeks. Howard tells us that, yes, our job as investors is to be skeptical, but sometimes that skepticism needs to be applied to our own fears. In other words, skepticism also might appear like “no, that scenario is too bad to actually be true.” Meb notes that the challenge is investors want precision, picking the exact top and bottom. But this isn’t really how it works. Meb asks if there a time when Howard felt he misinterpreted a point in the market cycle. Before answering Meb’s questions, Howard agrees that trying to find the bottom or top is a huge mistake. He notes that trying to find the perfect day upon which to buy or sell is impossible. In terms of potentially misreading the cycle, Howard tells us that Oaktree has been perhaps too conservative over the last few years, so they haven’t realized all the gains of the market. That said, he stands by his decision telling us, “anybody who buys or holds because of the belief that something that’s fully valued will become overvalued…is embarking on a dangerous course.” Meb asks how Howard sees the world today. Howard tells us we’re in the 8th inning of this bull market. Assets are highly priced relative to history. People are bullish. Risk aversion is low. He notes it’s a time for caution – but – we have no idea how many innings there will be in this game. What follows is a great conversation about bull markets, what ends bull markets, and how to implement market cycles into an investment approach. The guys touch on investor exuberance… whether markets need to be exuberant for a bull market to end… bullish action despite bullish temperament… the need to “calibrate” your portfolio… and the average investor’s ability to live with pain. There’s so much more in this episode: How Howard’s market approach has evolved over the years… how “it’s not what you buy, it’s what you pay for it that determines whether something is a good investment or bad investment”… Howard’s thoughts on contrarian investing… and, of course, his most memorable trade. This one yielded him 23x. What are the details? Find out in Episode 124.


#123 - Fabrice Grinda - We're Still at the Very Beginning of the Tech Revolution... We Are Day One
Sep 26 2018 58 mins  
In Episode 123, we welcome entrepreneur and renowned angel investor, Fabrice Grinda. The guys begin by discussing their mutual love for skiing, talking about heli-skiing in Canada, powder skiing in Japan, and the steeps of Chamonix in France. Meb asks Fabrice to recap his background. What follows is a fascinating look at the professional path of a wildly-successful entrepreneur and angel investor. Fabrice’s history involves consulting with McKinsey, building the equivalent of eBay in Europe and South America, starting another company that brought ringtones, mobile games, and wallpaper to the US (and eventually did $200M in revenues), and then consulting for fellow CEOs. Ultimately, Fabrice and his partner launched FJ Investments, which is where he’s currently focused. Meb asks about Fabrice’s investment approach and the frameworks he uses. Fabrice tells us he invests in about 75 new startups each year, mostly seed and pre-seed. He writes smaller checks (about $500K), as compared to the bigger VC firms. He provides us insights into his selection criteria – one of the most important of which is unit economics. The degree to which a founder understands his/her economics is an indicator as to how well he/she understand the business. Fabrice has deployed about $140M to date, mostly personal money. He’s had 150 realized exits on 400 investments, with a realized IRR that’s pretty staggering. You’ll have to listen to get that detail. The guys hit on a handful of topics next: Fabrice’s experience with Beepi, which ends with Fabrice’s advice to “nail it before you scale it”…. Why investing in the U.S. is often a wiser choice than looking internationally… Fabrice’s preference for investing in marketplace-oriented businesses… And how “we’re still at the very beginning of the tech revolution… we are day one.” Next, the guys talk about the specifics of creating an angel portfolio, with Meb bringing up the phrase “spray and pray”. Fabrice tells us that’s not his methodology. He’s more selective. That said, in private markets, returns tend to follow power law, meaning the top few deals account for most of the returns so it’s important to have some of those deals in your portfolio. Given this, for most people, there’s real value in diversification. Meb asks what lessons Fabrice has learned throughout his experiences so far. Fabrice tells us that if you’re going to invest in this asset class, you need to be diversified. He mentions that if you have less than a certain amount of investments, you’re going to lose money. Another lesson is that investors needs to stick to their guns. For instance, Fabrice has found that his thesis, the company team, the business, and the valuation (deal terms) must all be within his desired parameters in order to move forward. There was a time when he would fall in love with a founder, and would use that as an excuse to slide on some of his other criteria. But doing so sometimes lost him money. Other lessons involve honesty and transparency, as well as the importance of knowing your true value-add. There’s way more in this angel-themed episode: The current angel market, including opportunities and valuations… How Fabrice sees the broader economy and recession risk… How a crypto-hacker got into Fabrice’s crypto wallet… and Fabrice’s most memorable trade. Any entrepreneurs will likely be able to relate to this one. All these details and more in Episode 123.


#122 - Phil Haslett - It's a Place to Connect Interested Buyers and Interested Sellers...in Late-Stage, Pre-IPO Tech Shares
Sep 19 2018 58 mins  
In Episode 122, we welcome investor and entrepreneur, Phil Haslett. Meb jumps in, asking Phil to tell us more about his company, Equity Zen. Phil gives us an example involving a hypothetical employee. This employee owns equity in her private company but wants some liquidity from her stock options. Equity Zen is a platform where she can sell some her shares to a private investor looking to investor in that company, even though it’s not a publicly-traded company. So, Equity Zen is a place that connect buyers and sellers of late-stage, private companies that are pre-IPO. Meb asks about the process. There’s rarely great information on these private companies – for instance, their valuations and revenues. So, what’s the discovery process like on Equity Zen? Phil tells us that once you get registered and create an account, you can browse the available deals. There will be information about the companies based on what’s available from the public domain. Phil agrees there’s often not great information, so Equity Zen tries to provide as much as possible, backing out revenue and growth numbers. They also show a particular company’s cap table, how they’ve raised money over time, and on what terms. Equity Zen works with shareholders to establish their pricing targets. So, buyers will see the specific price at which a seller is willing to do a deal. The guys get even more detailed here – discussing fees, whether a buyer actually holders real shares in the target company or not, what happens in certain hypotheticals, and Phil’s thoughts on “carry” and why he’s frustrated with carry applied to a single investment. Next, Meb asks about the type of companies that end up in Equity Zen’s offerings. Phil tells us they’ve worked with about 110 companies. The valuations have ranged from $500M to $20B, with concentrations toward unicorns. They typically invest in companies that have VC backings. These VCs have their own ideas of exits, which often means nearer-term liquidity is a goal. The guys get a bit broader here. Discussing where we are in the private company cycle, and how that affects the buying/selling volume on Equity Zen. They then touch on the state of the IPO market. Phil gives us an interesting perspective on companies that stay private (despite being big enough to go public) and the effect that can have on employees, liquidity, and morale. The conversation drifts toward what the response has been from the companies themselves. Do they see these private transactions as a good perk, or as an evil process? Phil tells us attitudes have changed over time. Back in 2010, the idea of selling shares was taboo. But today, companies are approaching Equity Zen in order to discuss a process for providing liquidity. It’s becoming a competitive advantage for talent. Phil believes this trend will continue. There’s plenty more in this episode: a new accreditation definition, and what it means for small investors… the best way to build a private company portfolio… what to evaluate in order to find the right companies for investment… whether buyers should be concerned about differences in share classes… other sites/resources that do a good job of education for private, late stage investors… and Phil’s most memorable trade. This one involves the game, Magic: The Gathering. Get all the details in Episode 122.


#121 - Pim van Vliet - The Reality Is High-Risk Stocks Earn Low Returns
Sep 12 2018 58 mins  
In Episode 121, we welcome fellow quant, Pim van Vliet. If you’re a low-vol investor, or having been wanting to learn more about low-vol, this is the episode for you. Meb dives straight in, opening with a quote from Pim: "The low-volatility effect is perhaps the largest anomaly in finance, challenging the basic trade-off between risk and return, as higher risk does not lead to higher returns. Still, it remains one of the least utilized factor premiums in financial markets." He asks Pim to explain. Pim tell us that low-volatility is the biggest anomaly of them all. People have trouble embracing the concept. We’ve been trained to believe that higher risk should be rewarded with higher returns, but Pim walks us through some counterarguments. He goes on to explain that CAPM (Capital Asset Pricing Model) is great in theory, yet bad at describing reality. He tells us that “the reality is high risk stocks earn low returns.” Next, Meb brings up a paper Pim wrote called “The Volatility Effect” and asks Pim to walk us through it. Pim tells us one of the broad takeaways is that low-vol works cross borders (unlike some other factors). It’s not just effective in the U.S. – it’s also been proven out in Europe and Japan. In addition, this alpha seems to be getting stronger now rather than waning as have other factors when their visibility has increased. Meb asks about Rob Arnott and factor-timing/factor valuations. Does factor valuation matter? Pim agrees with Rob in that valuation does matter. If you only look at low-vol, you might end up buying “expensive defensive”. If so, then yes, your expected returns will be lower. That’s why Pim includes a value filter. He looks at “multi-factor defensive”. Pim mentions Cliff Asness and notes that he likes incorporating momentum into his approach as well. The conversation bounces around a bit: where is Pim finding opportunities around the world now… additional details on how low-vol works across countries, sectors, and asset classes… and how low-vol complements a CAPE approach, pointing toward some effective defensive market strategies. Next, Meb asks about potential biases. For instance, if you focus on low-vol, could that mean you’ll end up with a basket of, say, utility stocks and no tech? Pim tells us that, yes, if you focus purely on low-vol, you could get more sector and country effect. But he goes on to tell us how investors might mitigate that. There’s plenty more in this fun, quant-driven episode – a discuss of the definition of risk (volatility versus permanent loss of capital)… factor fishing and data mining… how low-vol works from a portfolio perspective… Pim’s forecast of the future… and Pim’s most memorable trade. This is a great story, highlighting how an early loss delivered such a powerful learning lesson, that it probably ended up making Pim money in the long run. Get all the details in Episode 121.




#119 - Tom Dorsey - Fundamentals Answer the First Question 'What Should I Buy?' The Technical Side Answers the Question "When?'
Aug 29 2018 51 mins  
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.


#118 - Radio Show - Record-Setting US Valuations... Emerging Market Opportunities... VC Bad Behavior… and Listener Q&A
Aug 22 2018 71 mins  
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.


#117 - Steve Lockshin - We Think the Estate and Tax Planning Levers are the Most Important Levers to Push on for Clients
Aug 15 2018 64 mins  
In Episode 117, we welcome entrepreneur and wealth advisor, Steve Lockshin. At Meb’s request, Steve walks us through his professional background in the financial services industry. It’s an interesting story, reflecting how wealth management has changed over the decades. Meb picks up on a term Steve used in describing his early years – “producer” (referencing an advisor) – making the point that if advisors were expected to produce revenue to the degree that “producer” was their name, it pointed toward a potential conflict with the client’s goals. Steve agrees, noting that the conflicts of interest in the business are challenging. He offers us an example using a mortgage payment scenario. If a client allocated capital toward paying down a high-rate mortgage rather than toward funding his equity portfolio, that debt paydown would benefit him, yet would decrease the advisor’s AUM, hurting the advisor’s personal revenue. Given this, the advisor may not be incentivized to make recommendations that are always in the best interest of the client. Meb asks for more details about Steve’s fee structure at AdvicePeriod, and why it was set up that way. Steve walks us through the details, noting that their fee structure largely emanates from the value they bring. So, their fees are always clear and capped. This bleeds into a conversation about an advisor’s biggest value add. Meb wonders if it’s estate planning and tax issues, or if it varies. Steve answers by first referencing portfolio construction, asking a question – if we take the top quartile of advisors, what does Meb think they’d produce, over a 20-year period, in true alpha above the market? Meb answers, basically 0%. Steve agrees, noting portfolio construction is not the real source of advisor alpha. Instead, he points toward taxes as a huge source of real value. He concludes saying “Turning that tax dial is a huge return for clients” and “We think the estate planning and tax planning levers are the most important levers to push on for clients”. The guys bounce around a bit here, discussing high advisor fees, and how the industry was able to hide them for years… the biggest problems Steve sees with new clients when they bring over their portfolios… and how the general advisor/client process works. But from here, the conversation turns toward how one might find a great wealth manager. It’s challenging, as laws prohibit client testimonials, and as Steve says, most clients don’t know which questions need to be asked. He gives us a few examples of good questions: What will your fees be if I tell you that you can’t use any of your own funds? How often would we meet? What software will you use? How much access to information will I have? What’s your transparency level? Next, Meb asks how things look going forward on the investment advisor side. Steve tells us that as soon as info becomes accessible and digestible by investors, we’ll see people behave differently. We’ll keep seeing fees come down, and transactional fees will go away. And when moving your entire account from one group to another becomes a matter of just a few mouse clicks, we’ll see a massive shift. Meb asks when we’ll see an “automated Lockshin”, meaning when will wealth management become automated? Steve thinks it’s far closer than people think. He references Google Duplex, which is basically a computer speaking to us, yet fooling the human on the other end of the phone into believe he/she is conversing with another real human. There’s way more in this episode: Steve’s favorite private investment right now… how tax planning is the biggest alpha generator out there but doesn’t receive the emphasis is deserves… how the industry goes out of its way to complicate things for investors… Vanguard Life Strategy Funds… and of course, Steve’s most memorable trade. What was it? Find out in Episode 117.


#116 - Sarah Ketterer - Without a Quant Risk Model, I'd Argue an Investment Manager is Completely Blind
Aug 08 2018 47 mins  
In Episode 116, we welcome entrepreneur, CEO, and fund manager, Sarah Ketterer. Meb dives right in, asking about a quote on Causeway’s website which references how the shop blends fundamental and quant analysis. Sarah gives us her approach, which details how the fundamental and quant approaches work together, supporting one another. Meb pushes for more details. What’s Causeway’s actual process? Does it begin with a quant screen then an analyst takes over, or the other way around? Sarah tells us it depends on the client. She provides more details, but her feelings about the importance of a quant approach really comes through when she tells us “without a quant risk model, I’d argue an investment manager is completely blind”. Next, Meb brings up value, and asks what role it plays in Sarah’s approach, and how she sees value today. Sarah tell us that every strategy Causeway manages has a value emphasis to some degree. The more fundamental, the heavier the value exposure. And the quant-focused funds also have value, but those use momentum as well. This dovetails into a discussion of how not all clients want to sit through deep value cycles. They want returns now, not on a rolling 3-5-year basis. But a great value manager has to think in that time frame. Sarah notes how investors have to be patient with a value approach, yet human nature is not inherently patient. This bleeds into a discussion of cheap countries and career risk, and the gap between value and growth – Sarah tells us this gap has reached extreme levels. Meb asks about the opportunities she’s seeing. Sarah notes how the opportunities depend on the amount of risk you want to take. For instance, she can find you a good Turkish bank right now, but do you want that level of risk exposure? There’s way more in this episode – some opportunistic finds in Britain… Why Sarah is “wildly bullish” on China… Sarah’s view on the biggest mistakes investors make regarding risk… And, of course, her most memorable trade. All this and more in Episode 116.


#115 - Steve Glickman - Opportunity Zones: Ultimately, If You Hold for…10 Years or More…You Don’t Pay Any New Capital Gains – Ever
Aug 01 2018 51 mins  
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.

#114 - David Gladstone - Farmland Is One of the Most Stable Assets One Can Own
Jul 25 2018 61 mins  
In Episode 114, we welcome entrepreneur and author, David Gladstone. We start with David’s backstory, which dovetails into how he got into farming, and subsequently, launching a farmland REIT. Meb asks for David’s broad thoughts on investing in farmland. David tells us “farmland is one of the most stable assets one can own.” He goes on to say how it correlates with gold, not with the stock market. David gives us an overview of the farming landscape – how corn and wheat are the big categories, but this isn’t where David goes with his REIT, too much competition. He focuses more on berries and specialty crops, which are far more profitable. He mentions how tree/vine/bush crops have a great long-term record for making money for farmers. Next, Meb asks about operations – does David manage the farms? Just rent them out? David tells us they use triple net leases with their farmer tenants. Sometimes they will also have a revenue participation, but that’s unusual. David goes on to say how farmland is becoming more scare, so they choose farmers who are experienced and trusted. As an investment, farmland has done quite well. NCREIF publishes a farm index – it has done 12.2% annually over the last 10 years. David believes that due to the growth and stability of farmland, it’s an excellent place to put money – especially as it’s a hedge against inflation. He references a Buffett quote that touts owning farmland versus owning gold. Meb asks whether there are any current trends in the farming space. David tells us the number of acres per person is declining. It’s now down to about 0.5 farmed acres per person in the world. The conversation segues into water. David makes the point that his team only buys farms with access to their own water. This makes a huge difference. He references the California drought in recent years and notes it was an incredibly profitable period for them since their farms, with their own water supply, continued operations. Next, Meb asks about David’s framework for finding new farms. What’s the process, and what’s the capital structure? David tells us that’s what important is to have a tremendously strong farmer. They only deal with the top 20% of farmers in any growing area, so it’s a detailed vetting process. In terms of capital structure, they tend to finance about 50% of the purchase price. They use a variety of lenders. The guys soon turn toward “risks.” David tell us that rising rates are a risk since they use debt. As rates rise, the price of the farms they purchase will need to drop in order to make the numbers work. Another risk are tariffs. This has a been a big problem for seeds. What if China or Mexico reduces their purchases? There’s far more in this unique episode: David’s thoughts on expanding farmland REITs globally… the role of automation in farming… and why there aren’t more farmland REITS. If you’re curious about farmland as an investment, this is definitely the episode for you. Get all the details in Episode 114.

#113 - Stanley Altshuller - I’m Bullish On Active Management, But I Think That You Need A Correction For People To Remember Why Hedge Funds Exist In The First Place
Jul 18 2018 59 mins  
In Episode 113, we welcome entrepreneur and hedge fund expert, Stan Altshuller. Meb starts by asking Stan to give us his backstory, and how he came to co-found Novus Partners. After Stan gives us his origin story, Meb asks about Stan’s broad approach to the markets. Stan tells us that at Novus, they start with data. This data encompasses everything from public data from regulatory filings, to private data from daily holdings reports. They bring it into an accessible, searchable database. Then engineers and programmers write various algorithms that capture and present the details of that data. This helps identify takeaways such as where the risks might be in a portfolio, and how various portfolios compare to others. Meb asks about common takeaways from all this analysis. Stan points toward “diworsification.” As the name implies, too many investors have far too many holdings in their portfolio – from a diversification perspective, more than is needed or helpful. Stan tells us that 12 different investments is as beneficial as 100. Another takeaway Stan points toward is “conviction.” Are you truly adding value to your portfolio given your weighting decisions? Meb notes how you have to have greater position concentration to make a real difference in your portfolio. He then asks how Stan measures conviction. Stan tells us that conviction can mean different things. For equities, the highest ROI comes from stocks with a 7.5% position or higher. But if your portfolio is highly diversified, you’re unlikely to have a single position of this size. Stan adds that, for an allocator, the threshold is about 5%. Next, Meb asks about the state of active management. With so many headlines about flows going into passive, what are Stan’s thoughts? Stan gives us a great synopsis, covering “dispersion” and “correlation.” The presence, or lack thereof, of these market characteristics can have much to do with the success of active managers. Overall, Stan says conditions are now setting up such that we’re seeing alpha being generated in the hedge fund space again. He tells us “I’m bullish on active management, but I think that you need a correction for people to remember why hedge funds exist in the first place.” Meb asks about Stan’s process – what analytics help identify the good funds, what they look for, the red herrings… Stan says the first thing to do is ask whether the manager is telling you the same thing as what the data is telling you. You’re basically double-checking the manager’s stated skill set. Next, analyze whether the manager is truly going to add value to a portfolio. For instance, if you add another manager, how much diversification benefit will t actually provide? If not much, do you really want to pay their fee? Then you look at whether the manager is still generating alpha. Has there been style drift? Is he/she managing significantly more money now than in past years? Meb hones in on one part of Stan’s comments – “performance as a metric.” This is a great part of the interview in which Stan really draws out the point that looking at performance alone isn’t necessarily all that helpful. You need to understand how a manager created his alpha. Unless you understand that, you’re a duck in the water. You cannot invest based on performance alone. There’s so much more in this great interview: What percentage of managers are really adding value with their short book… Stan’s take on whether hedge fund managers truly deserve their fees… When is it time to give up on a manager if performance has been lagging… A major risk in today’s hedge fund space… And Stan’s most memorable trade… This one involves Amazon and Google. Listen to Episode 113 for all the details.

#112 - Peter Ricchiuti - “You’re Better Off Investing When Things Look Miserable"
Jul 11 2018 62 mins  
In Episode 112, we welcome Professor Peter Ricchiuti. We start with Peter’s origin story, which includes his time in the investment world, then managing money for the state of Louisiana, then teaching at Tulane where he created, and now runs, the Burkenroad Reports program (a student stock research program). Diving into investing, Meb asks Peter about his broad approach to the markets and the economy. Peter tells us that from an economist’s perspective, “labor” is a huge factor when evaluating economic conditions. And he believes the U.S. is facing challenges with its labor pool. From a narrower, equity-perspective, Peter tells us that right now things look perhaps a little too good. He notes “you’re better off investing when things look miserable.” At present, given so much market optimism, he’s pulling back. The conversation turns toward the global market, and how interconnected we all are these days. Peter tells us that part of the reason we’ve done so well over the past several years is because so many countries were growing at a positive pace at the same time. This dovetails into a discussion about today’s elevated PEs. Peter believes that, here in the U.S., we’re on a “sugar high” from the tax cuts. Companies have been using that money to buy back stock or buy each other. But what they haven’t been doing as much is building for expansion. Peter believes companies haven’t been focusing as much on planning for future growth. Next, Meb asks a question that he admits hating to get himself – what causes this bull market run to end? What are the main risk factors? Peter points toward higher interest rates. He believes we’re going to see Treasuries at 3.5%. Plus, earnings growth will begin to slow. He tells us that the economy is at or close to its peak right now – it could last longer, but as far as the peak goes, we’re in that general area now. The conversation turns toward the Burkenroad program, bouncing around a bit: An interesting takeaway from a lunch with a small-cap company’s CEO… the attributes that Peter and his students look for in the companies they vet… the illiquidity advantage over institutions… even one great find through the program – a stock that went from $0.72 to about $150. Meb asks which mistakes the students make repeatedly. Peter points toward looking at the past more so than evaluating the future. One manifestation of this is paying more attention to past earnings than the prospect of future earnings. Also, many of the students lack patience. There’s way more in this fun episode: The recent Buffett op-ed piece on short-termism and Peter’s take on how to teach students to focus on the long-term… How Peter’s approach to markets has changed through his experiences running the program… The actual Burkenroad Fund, which has been around about 17 years and outperformed boatloads of competition… And of course, Peter’s most memorable trade. Get all the details in Episode 112.

#111 - Radio Show - Which Portfolio Hedge for This Market?... Is Short-Termism Harming Your Investments?... and Listener Q&A
Jul 04 2018 76 mins  
Episode 111 has a radio show format. In this one, we cover numerous Tweets of the Week from Meb, as well as some write-in questions. Before jumping in, a few housekeeping items… Meb discusses a proxy campaign with which we need your help, an award Cambria just received, Meb’s new Office Hours, when the Trinity ETF will launch, a new webinar we’re going to put on later this summer, and more. We start with some of Meb’s Tweets of the Week. We discuss a WSJ op ed piece penned by Jamie Dimon and Warren Buffett, in which they suggest short-termism is harming the economy. Specifically, they believe public companies should reduce or eliminate the practice of estimating quarterly earnings. Next, there’s a quote from Jim O’Shaughnessy: “Money is like manure; if you pile it up it stinks to high heaven, but if you spread it around, it does a lot of good.” This is a springboard into a conversation about the role of cash in a portfolio, especially in today’s market. This segues into the next subject – how Americans are reaching retirement age in worse financial shape than the prior generation, for the first time since Harry Truman was president. This leads to a conversation about starting investing early, but also focusing on active income and delaying the retirement age. Next, there’s a tweet about early stage private investing. We use this as an opportunity to catch up on Meb’s private investments. Other topics are fund-flow differentials between ETFs and mutual funds, as well as Meb’s dissection of Wealthfront’s latest fee structure. If you’re a Wealthfront client, you’ll want to listen to this. We then get into listener Q&A. Some that you’ll hear Meb address include: Given today's valuations, I’d like Meb’s perspective on the pros and cons of allocating to the following "hedges" – cash, gold, tail risk/put strategies, and managed futures. What advice does Meb have for people trading companies in their field? For example, a realtor making a move on home builders or a programmer stock-picking an AI firm. Would Meb please share his opinion on multifactor funds and the role they should play in an investor's portfolio? A question about advisor fees and whether they’re deserved. Besides portfolio construction and behavioral coaching in times of stress what are some other advisor value-adds? Are we reaching the limit of value added services? As ETFs grow, under what circumstances could securities lending become a substantial risk to one's personal assets and possibly a systemic risk to the financial system--are processes in place now to prevent that problem before it happens? All this and plenty of other rabbit holes in Episode 111.

#110 - Bryan Taylor - “At Some Point, the Stresses Are Going to Be So Great that Some of the Countries (In the European Union) Are Eventually Forced to Leave"
Jun 27 2018 60 mins  
In Episode 110, we welcome author and market data expert, Dr. Bryan Taylor. Meb begins by asking how Bryan built the massive financial database that is Global Financial Data. Bryan walks us through how the database developed over time. The conversation soon turns to Bryan’s book, Debts, Defaults, Depression and Other Delightful Ditties from the Dismal Science. Bryan tells us this is actually the first of two books. It includes stories about the past that people might find interesting – some of the crazy things that have happened in the financial markets, as well as an inference about what that might mean for the future. The follow-up book will focus on a number of specific cases, from The East India Company, all the way up to some of Trump’s companies. Next, Meb changes gears – there are a few contenders getting close to becoming the first $1T company. Meb uses this as a chance to look back at the first $1B company. Bryan tells us that title goes to Standard Oil. He then walks us through its history, including its practice of pushing prices down to drive competitors into bankruptcy, the Sherman Anti-trust Act, the break-up of Standard Oil, and the effect on shareholders. This conversation dovetails into a conversation about which company today – Apple, Amazon, Facebook, or Google – is more likely to face a threat from government oversight. Listen in to get Bryan’s thoughts. The guys then get into inflation. It turns out, the 20th Century had the highest inflation ever. What might be in store for us in the 21st Century? Bryan and Meb discuss this, touching on various governments’ ability to pay debt, growth rates, Bryan’s red-flag metric (when the interest coverage ratio to GDP exceeds 5%), as well as the most likely path for US and global interest rates. Meb then uses his recent trip to Greece as a springboard for a discussion about the future of the EU. Bryan tells us it’s an all-or-nothing situation. And the concern now isn’t over Greece, it’s over Italy. It might be the first country to drop out of the Euro. If so, it will face severe consequences in trying to be independent. Plus, it could have a domino effect, leading to other countries leaving and the entire system falling apart. He concludes by telling us that “at some point, the stresses are going to be so great that some of the countries (in the European Union) are eventually forced to leave.” Next, Meb moves toward Asia. He brings up a quote from Bryan about the future market-cap of Asian stock markets (as the biggest in the world) and asks if this is a no-brainer “buy Asia” right now. Bryan gives us his thoughts but notes that Asia has lots of internal issues that need solving before they can challenge the US as the primary engine of returns going forward. Next up is an interesting discussion of what investing used to be like, how it changed, and how it might change for us going forward. The conversation touches on investing in the 1800s, how World War I flipped everything on its head, and the current concern of nationalism. There’s plenty more in this episode – the need to be conscious of how integrated global markets are these days… the historical period that most closely resembles today’s investing climate… what Bryan is working on now… And Bryan’s most memorable trade. Get all the details in Episode 110.

#109 - Matt Hougan - “Anyone Who Tells You They Know What’s Going to Happen in Crypto Is Probably Lying to You"
Jun 20 2018 73 mins  
In Episode 109, we welcome ETF and crypto expert, Matt Hougan. After a quick, fun story about Matt’s first job…as a 9-foot tall seal mascot for a minor league baseball team…Meb asks about the state of the ETF industry – where we are today, and where we’re going. Matt tells us that ETFs have become a dominant force in investing. Since the financial crisis, some $2 trillion of capital has flowed into ETFs. In comparison, the mutual fund industry has seen $0 inflows during that time. In terms of issues that are shaping ETFs and will continue to do so over the coming years, Matt points toward fee wars, distribution networks, and the growing reality that it’s getting harder for smaller companies to get a foothold within the ETF space. Overall, Matt believes the days of fastest ETF growth are in front of us. Referencing back to the capital flows differential between ETFs and mutual funds since 2008, Meb asks if there will there be a Netflix/Blockbuster moment when the lion’s share of assets leaves mutual funds and flows into ETFs. Matt believes the stream of asset migration will become a flood in the next bear market. He tells us the only thing that has kept mutual fund asset levels up is the bull market of the last decade. That’s created lots of embedded capital gains which many investors haven’t wanted to realize. Yet when a bear market finally hits… Matt believes we’ll see accelerated flows out of mutual funds when we suffer our next 20% market drop. Next, Meb brings up something which Matt has tracked for since 2008 – the world’s lowest cost ETF portfolio. He started by taking the lowest-cost ETFs representing six major global asset classes. He was curious how much it would cost in order to get full global exposure. In 2008, the combined, blended fee to own the world was 16 basis points. Today, it’s down to just five basis points. Matt and Meb agree this is a great time to be an investor. This bleeds into a discussion of direct index investing, which, Matt tell us, might be the next evolution of investing beyond ETFs. If you’re less familiar with direct index investing, it’s a way to own indexes, yet without paying a fund management fee, while enjoying the potential benefits of tax loss harvesting. This leads to an interesting discussion about implementing direct investing via robos, as well as the tradeoff between tracking risk and the potential for tax alpha. The guys touch on a few more ETF ideas – broad concerns about the ETF market, active versus passive ETFs, and the use of artificial intelligence in replacing discretionary managers – but it’s not long before Meb switches the conversation to crypto. Though ETFs are Matt’s first love, he’s long been interested in cryptocurrencies, so he was excited at the chance to join Bitwise, creator of the first currency index. Giving us an overview of the crypto world, Matt tells us “an index-based approach is the only sensible approach to the crypto market, because anyone who tells you they know what’s going to happen in crypto is probably lying to you.” At Meb’s request, Matt then describes how to put together a crypto index. Matt tells us the goal is to capture the broad-base crypto market. There are 1,500 cryptos out there, but most of the market cap is concentrated in the top 10-15 currencies. There are many challenges to creating an index, including such basics as “how many Bitcoin are there?” (Do you the current number, or what the number will be x years in the future?) Matt goes into interesting detail for us. What follows is a great conversation for any listener curious to learn more about the crypto world. You’ll hear about Matt’s ideas for other crypto indexes and ways to approach the market… how Meb got in hot water with crypto investors… what the future may be for crypto and its related technologies… the growing institutional interest… when we’ll see a crypto ETF… where crypto fits into a traditional asset allocation… the impact of government regulation… and why cryptos won’t go the way of the tulip bulb. Finally, you’ll hear Matt’s answer to “if you had to buy one crypto and not touch it for 10 years, what would it be?” And of course, there’s Matt’s most memorable trade. This one lost him about 90%. What are the details? Find out in Episode 109.

#108: Radio Show: What’s More Important – Savings or Returns… What Meb’s Doing with U.S. Bonds… and Listener Q&A
May 30 2018 50 mins  
Episode 108 has a radio show format. In this one, we cover some of Meb’s Tweets of the Week and various write-in questions. After giving us the overview of his upcoming travel, Meb shares his thoughts on our recent episode with James Montier. It evolves into a conversation about the importance of “process” in investing. Next, we talk about a Tweet from Meb which evaluated what matters more – your savings rate or your rate of return. As you might guess, in the early years, savings trumps, but for longer investment horizons, rate of return is far more influential. It’s not long before we jump into listener questions. Some that you’ll hear Meb address include: What is the best way to include commodities in a portfolio? Specifically, is it better to have an ETF containing futures contracts or an ETF containing commodities equities? Obviously historical returns from bonds, especially the last 40 years, will not be repeated in the future. How will you position yourself personally – not Trinity, but personally – for the bond portion of your portfolio? What are some viable simple options for individual investors besides having a globally diversified bond portfolio? Or is global diversification the answer? Is the global risk somehow less risky than a U.S. bond allocation? Star Capital studies and your book show that ten year returns of low CAPE ratio countries are impressive. But it doesn’t tell if those returns occurs gradually, or if the path to this performance is just noise and cannot be predicted. If the path is noise, it would make sense to buy a cheap country ETF and wait at least 7-10 years. But your strategy rebalances every year. Why not hold longer to 7-10 years in total? I recently read that 88% of companies that were in the S&P 500 during the 1950’s are no longer in business. If every company is eventually heading towards zero, why are so few people able to make money on the short side? Shouldn’t the ideal portfolio be long the global market portfolio, with tilts to value and momentum, and short specific individual equities? I’ve looked at you Trinity Portfolios and noticed an allocation of 0.88% to a security. Why? Isn’t the impact neglectable? Do you suggest someone get a second opinion on their financial plan much as someone would get a second opinion for major surgery? There’s plenty more in this episode including data mining, trend following time-frames, and what Meb’s thoughts are on ramping up equity exposure in a portfolio to offset the effects of living longer. All this and more in Episode 108.


#107 - James Montier - “There Really Is A Serious Challenge to Try to Put Together an Investment Portfolio That’s Going to Generate Half-Decent Returns On A Forward-Looking Basis"
May 23 2018 59 mins  
In Episode 107 we welcome the great James Montier. The chat starts on the topic of James’ questionable sartorial choices. He tells us he’s “always been a fan of dressing badly.” But the guys quickly jump in with Meb noting how James has generally been seeing the world as expensive over the last few years. Has anything changed today? James tells us no; by in large, we’re still trapped in this world where, frankly, you’re reduced to this game of “picking the tallest dwarf.” In general, every asset is expensive compared to normal. He summarizes, telling us “there really is a serious challenge to try to put together an investment portfolio that’s going to generate half-decent returns on a forward-looking basis.” Meb digs into, focusing on James’ framework for thinking about valuation, specifically, as a process. James starts from accounting identities. There are essentially four ways you get paid for owning an equity: a change in valuation, a change in profitability, some growth, and some yield. James fleshes out the details for us, discussing time-horizons of these identities. One of the takeaways is that we’re looking at pretty miserable returns for U.S. equities. James notes that we now have the second highest CAPE reading ever. Or you could look at the median price of the average stock – the price-to-sales ratio has never been higher. Overall, the point is to look at many valuation metrics and triangulate, so to speak. When you do, they’re all pretty much saying the same thing. James finishes by telling us that from his perspective, U.S. equities appear obscenely expensive. Meb takes the counter position, asking if there’s any good argument for this elevated market. Is there any explanation that would justify the high values and continued investment? James spends much time performing this exact exercise, looking for holes. He tells us that most people point toward “low interest rates” as a reason why this valuation is justified. But James takes issue with this. From a dividend discount model perspective, James doesn’t think the discount rate and the growth rate are independent. He suggests growth will be lower along with lower rates. He goes on to discuss various permutations of PE and other models, noting that there’s no historical relationship between the Shiller PE and interest rates. Meb comments how so many famous investors echo “low rates allow valuations to be high.” But this wasn’t the case in Japan. Meb then steers the conversation toward advisors who agree that U.S. stocks are expensive yet remain invested. Why? What follows is a great discussion about what James calls the “Cynical Bubble.” People know they shouldn’t be investing because U.S. stocks are expensive, but investors feel they must invest. If you believe you can stay in this market and sell out before it turns, you’re playing the greater fool game. James tells us about a game involving expectations – it’s a fun part of the show you’ll want to listen to, with the takeaway being how hard it is to be one step ahead of everyone else. The conversation bounces around a bit before Meb steers it toward how we respond to this challenging market. What’s the answer? James tells us there are really four options, yet not all have equal merit: 1) Concentrate. In essence, you own the market about which you’re most optimistic. For him, that would be emerging market value stocks. Of course, buying and holding here will be hard to do. 2) Use leverage. Just lever up the portfolio to reach your target return. The problem here is this is incompatible with a valuation-based approach. Using leverage implies you know something about the path that the asset will take back to fair value – yet it may not go that route. You may end up needing very deep pockets – perhaps deeper than you have. 3) Seek alternatives like private equity and private debt. The problem here is most are not genuinely alternative. They’re not uncorrelated sources of return. James tell us that alternatives are actually just different ways of owning standard risk. 4) The last option is James’ preferred choice. Quoting Winnie the Pooh: “Never underestimate the power of doing nothing.” Next, Meb brings up “process” as James has written much about it. James tells us that process is key. Professional athletes don’t focus on winning – they focus on process, which is the only thing they can control. This is a great part of the interview which delves into process details, behavioral biases, how to challenge your own views, and far more. James concludes saying “Process is vitally important because it’s the one thing an investor can control, and really help them admit that their own worst enemy might be themselves.” There’s plenty more in this great episode: James’s answer to whether we’re in a bubble, and if so, what type… market myths that people get wrong involving government debt… and of course, James’ most memorable trade. This one was a loser that got halved…then halved again…then again…then again… How did James get it so wrong? Find out in Episode 107.

#106 - Brian Singer - “We Don’t Know What Will Trigger the Decline, but When It Happens, Our Fear Is That It’s Sharper and Deeper Than Investors Would Otherwise Expect"
May 16 2018 69 mins  
In Episode 106 we welcome market vet, Brian Singer. Meb dives right now, asking Brian for his general approach to the markets. Brian tells us it’s fundamental in nature. They look at about 100 different asset markets, trading the broad markets rather than individual equities or bonds. They look for mis-pricings, then when one has been identified, they dig in, running both quantitative and qualitative analyses. They follow this with various risk management strategies. The overall portfolios are both long and short. As Brian often writes about macro factors that affect asset prices, Meb asks which macro factors are influential today. Brian gives us his thoughts – not just on macro factors, but game theaters as well. He talks about populism, energy (which ties into the Middle East game theater), and Chinese growth. Additional game theaters beyond the Middle East he discusses are the European Union and Asia. Next, Meb asks about Brian’s process. How does it really work when you’re putting together a portfolio? Brian starts with valuation work. Specifically, they focus on the present value of future cash flows. They then assess things from a qualitative perspective – for instance, how might a certain government policy affect markets? They don’t look at markets on a company-by-company basis. It’s a macro approach, with fundamental value being a critical component. All of this is the “where” stage in Brian’s process. Next is the “why?” For instance, why does an asset mis-pricing exist? This eventually leads to game theory and an assessment of market turbulence and fragility. Meb brings up Brian’s portfolio and asks about his current positioning. In general, Brian is cautiously optimistic on some equity markets, but generally against bonds. What he finds attractive right now from an equity perspective are Emerging Markets and some European markets. He’s especially attracted to Greece, Brazil, Argentina, and India; and to a lesser degree, China, Indonesia, and Malaysia. Brian talks more about Italy, Spain, and the UK. Brian tells us most bond markets are unattractive. He gets into more detail regarding investment grade bonds, sovereigns, and junk. Soon, the guys dive into currencies. Though most investors tend to think “it’ll all net out in the long run,” Brian takes a more active approach. The specific currencies he finds attractive right now include the Swedish Krona, Indian Rupee, Russian Ruble, Philippine Peso, and Turkish Lira. As to overvalued currencies, he points toward the U.S. Dollar, the Euro, the Swiss Franc, the Thai Baht, and the Israeli Shekel. Next, Meb asks what is keeping Brian up at night as he looks at the markets today. Brian points toward four major concerns: monetary policy, rules-based strategies such as smart beta, the Volcker Rule, and circuit breaker inconsistency. He dives into tons of great detail that supports the notion for some concern, concluding “We don’t know what will trigger the decline, but when it happens, our fear is that it’s sharper and deeper than investors would otherwise expect.” There’s plenty more in this episode: Brian’s thoughts on what steps can be taken to help protect against a declining market… his stance on cash in a portfolio… whether the 10-year bond will ever get back to 4%-5%... and finally, Brian’s most memorable trade. This one involves Black Monday. Hear all the details in Episode 106.

#105 - Olivia Judson - “Life Has Transformed the Planet, Which Has Gone On to Alter the Future Course of Life"
May 09 2018 55 mins  
Episode 105 is a wholly unique show. In this episode, we depart from traditional investment themes, and instead, bring you an episode featuring Meb’s second professional love, biology. Specifically, we welcome the renowned evolutionary biologist and writer, Olivia Judson. It turns out Olivia wrote for The Economist in her early years. Meb asks how a scientist got started writing for a business magazine. Olivia tells us of the progression that led from one article submission to several other articles, to a staff job. Next, Meb asks about the genesis for writing Dr. Tatiana's Sex Advice to All Creation. (For anyone unaware, the book is written in the style of a sex-advice column to animals. It details the variety of sexual practices in the natural world and provides the reader with an overview of the evolutionary biology of sex.) Olivia tells us one of her early articles was the inspiration, though she’d been studying and researching the topic for years. She thought the book would take her only six months to write so she quit her job…she finally finished it four years later. Meb notes how much of the book identifies a power struggle between males and females, and how this shapes evolutionary dynamics. Olivia expounds, telling us how sometimes what the male wants is not in the interest of the female (and vice versa). These differences create the tensions which affect evolutionary direction. This leads to a conversation about Bateman’s Principle, namely, the general idea that females are pillars of virtue, while males are cads. Olivia’s book suggested this isn’t necessarily true. Meb asks for more details. Olivia starts by redefining the term “promiscuous,” digging deeper into the word in light of the term “choosy.” It turns out certain females can benefit from having multiple partners, though the reasons can vary. In any case, this awareness is much more prevalent than thought 40 years ago. A bit later, Meb asks about homosexuality in the animal world, including questions regarding procreation and genes. Olivia gives us a fascinating answer that includes the concepts of “genetic component,” “exclusivity,” and “commonality” and how these factors might affect homosexual genes remaining in the population. There’s way more in this fun, totally different episode: A dating party where women smelled men’s T-shirts to determine which scent they found most appealing… the male Australian Redback Spider, who actually tries to get eaten by the female during sex… Meb’s surprising discovery from his 22 and Me test that he has more Neanderthal genes than 95% of the population… Olivia’s views on gene editing… Camping on the side of a volcano in Antarctica… and whether we’ll find life beyond our world. We end with asking Olivia about her most memorable experience in all of her research. What is it? Find out in Episode 105.

#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"
May 02 2018 66 mins  
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.


#102: Radio Show: The "Stay Rich" Portfolio... A Senator Wants to Ban Share Repurchases... and Listener Q&A
Apr 18 2018 68 mins  
Episode 102 has a radio show format. In this one, we cover Meb’s Tweets of the Week, some write-in questions, Twitter questions, and our first-ever call-in question. We discuss the “Stay Rich” portfolio, and the unfortunate reality that even the safest portfolios can suffer ~25% drawdowns. Next, there’s discussion of stock buybacks and a recent push from Senator Tammy Baldwin to introduce a bill that would prohibit companies from repurchasing their own shares (she claims it’s exacerbating the wealth gap). Then, with volatility showing some life in the market, there’s discussion of volatility clustering. Next up is the investing service, Robinhood, which is now referring to calls and puts as “going up” and “going down.” Also, an ETF for companion pets filed by Gabelli. We then dive into questions. Some that you’ll hear Meb address include: How do you keep a level head when markets are imploding around you? Meb and Elroy Dimson discussed the historical returns of housing and indicated that owning a house is not a high-performing investment, relative to other asset classes. However, if the alternative to buying a house is paying rent, often at a similar cost to a monthly mortgage payment, how does this factor in to the assessment of the investment? I understand that any given strategy can underperform the market for long periods of time. What is a reasonable time-frame to fairly evaluate the results of any particular strategy? Valuation difference in countries is often caused by sector structure. Can you explain that? The AUM of Target Date Funds was at $250B in '08. Many investors were shocked at the bad performance in '08. Target Date Funds AUM is now $900B. What's the industry's level of responsibility to educate? Is Russia worth the current political risk for long term investor (5-7 years)? If so, is it best to look at specific Russian equities or an index such as the RSX? All this and more in Episode 102.

#101 - Paul Merriman - “The People That Have Come Out Ahead Are the People Who Have Put Their Trust in the System Over the Long-Term"
Apr 11 2018 87 mins  
In Episode 101, we welcome the great educator, Paul Merriman. We start with Paul’s background; specifically, the story of an early trading experience with commodities. He doubled his money in days…and then lost everything on the very next trade. Then the guys dive in, with Meb bringing up something Paul wrote called “The Ultimate Buy & Hold Portfolio” and asking for more detail. Paul starts with the S&P which, even with all its up-and-downs, has done great over the years. But then he walks us through some tweaks – adding large cap, then small cap – he notes the various percentage returns added by each, as well as the effect on volatility. He eventually arrives at a final portfolio, showing us the power of this diversification. Meb points the conversation toward the behavioral benefit of diversification and says how some listeners will wonder how much money to put into each of the asset classes Paul had identified. Paul tells us he originally put 10% into 10 different asset classes – after all, if each asset class is worthy, then he wants it to be in his portfolio; especially because there’s no way to be certain which one(s) will shine going forward. Agreeing, Meb touches on being “asset class agnostic” and notes that the problem with being, say, a “gold guy” or any die-hard type of investor, is you get wedded to that asset class. This emotional bond can lead to bad behavior. This leads to a discussion about implementation and the challenges of emotional investing. Paul tells us “I don’t want my emotions to have anything to do with how (my) money is managed.” The conversation drifts toward the benefits of investing early, yet the challenges of educating young people as to its importance, as well as different investing needs over a lifetime. The guys note how the best thing for a young person would be the markets tanking for 10 years. Of course, that would be terrible for an older investor in/near retirement. This bleeds into a conversation about formally educating the younger generation about investing. A bit later, Meb asks about the older investor who might have been burned in ’08, is now near retirement, thinks the U.S. market is expensive, yet needs results. What about him? Paul walks us through the realities of losses and gives us his overall thoughts. This morphs into a common question we get – invest everything at once, or drip it in over time? Paul has some thoughts on how to do this in a way that balances math and emotions. There’s tons more in this episode (it’s one of our longest to date): the challenge of investing in the “shiny object”… how to avoid getting screwed by your advisor… investment newsletters… buy-and-hold versus market timing… the critical nature of understanding past performance… giving money to grandkids… and of course, Paul’s most memorable trade; his involves the ’87 crash. What are the details? Find out in Episode 101.

#100 - Elroy Dimson - “High Valuations Don't Necessarily Mean That We're Going to See Asset Prices Collapse"
Apr 04 2018 53 mins  
To celebrate the milestone of reaching 100 episodes, we’re thrilled to welcome Professor Elroy Dimson, author of Meb’s favorite investing book of all time, Triumph of the Optimists. Per Meb’s request, Elroy starts by giving us a summation of his research history which led to Triumph of the Optimists. He had a heritage in producing indexes and began reaching out to researchers across the globe in hopes of accessing different data sets. Looking at all the aggregated data, it became clear that from a long-term perspective, people who had invested in risky securities at the beginning of the century had done very well. People who had bought bonds and T-bills had not performed as well. The optimists had triumphed. Next, Meb brings up a quote from Elroy about a controversial finding regarding the lack of correlation between economic growth and stock market performance. If anything, the relationship was reverse. Elroy expounds upon this, telling us that if it’s obvious that a market is growing, that’s public information. You can’t trade that since everyone else knows too. So, if you investing in countries where GDP has been growing, that could mean you’re too late. Meb steers the conversation toward valuation, market cap weightings, and home country bias. Elroy walks us through the market cap concept, touching on the historical Austrian empire as well as the Japanese bubble. This leads to a lesson in finance, which includes real yields today, the Gordon Model, the multiple people are willing to pay today (which is higher), and the takeaway that “high valuations don’t necessarily mean that we’re going to see asset prices collapse” – they’re a reflection of the low interest rates we have today. Meb asks about bonds, and whether Elroy has seen another historical period of negative yielding sovereigns. When you look at real rates, how does it play out for future returns? Elroy tells us that real (inflation adjusted) rates are better to consider than nominal rates. And it turns out, real rates have been lower. Negative real rates are not all that rare – what is rare is so many countries experiencing them at the same time. This dovetails into a conversation about inflation and currency hedging. Elroy provides some color on currency issues but notes that hedging is not required if you’re a long-term investor. There’s plenty more in this centennial episode: factors… growth stocks versus value stocks… historical returns of housing… even stamps, musical instruments and the investment returns of a good Bordeaux. How does it compare to that of equities? Find out in Episode 100.


#99: Radio Show: Meb's Bullish on Emerging Markets... Strategies for Limited 401K Options... and Listener Q&A
Mar 28 2018 55 mins  
Episode 99 is a radio show format. We start discussing some of Meb’s “Tweets of the Week.” The first involves a presentation from Rob Arnott at Research Affiliates, which Meb considered “required reading for financial advisors everywhere.” It involves the amount of extra alpha you’d need to generate in order to offset taxes given various market approaches. Next, we discuss another Tweet from Meb in which he asked readers to guess at the largest drawdown in US bonds in real terms between 1900 and 2010. Turns out, the majority of respondents were far off. Meb gives us the results and takeaways. Then there’s a discussion of taxes in light of crypto gains (and losses). It seems lots of people may not be factoring tax payments into the equation. Not sure the IRS is going to look favorably on that… We then jump into listener Q&A. Some of the questions you’ll hear answered include: Why should we listen to your podcast when you say the best ROI is to focus on skills directly benefiting our work performance? You've said you'd like to invest in a farm REIT. But you've written about dividend investing as a suboptimal strategy. Can you reconcile these two apparently contradictory ideas? Which asset class is going to shine 5 years from now? What’s the best strategy for folks with a limited selection of 401k funds? There’s plenty more, including why Meb is still very bullish on emerging markets, the realities of mutual fund investing with fees/taxes included, and Meb’s upcoming travel plans. Check it all out in Episode 99.

#98 - Ed Yardeni - “We've Got Good Growth with Low Inflation and That's a Very Good Environment for Stocks and Okay Environment for Bonds"
Mar 21 2018 51 mins  
In Episode 98, we welcome a true market veteran, Dr. Ed Yardeni. The episode starts with a fun story about Ed’s school days, studying off Janet Yellen’s notes in James Tobin’s class. But Meb soon brings up Ed’s new book, Predicting the Markets. In it, he writes that if books had theme songs, the appropriate song for his would be the 80s hit, “Don’t Worry Be Happy.” Ed explains this is because, when looking back over the past 40 years, the market has been extraordinarily bullish as a whole. There were plenty of reason to worry along the way, but all in all, the market rewarded brave investors. This eventually leads into a conversation about valuations today that appear somewhat grim, and what Ed’s thoughts are looking forward. Ed tells us it’s okay to be bearish, but don’t forget to get back into the market. He says, “history shows the smartest thing to do is just to invest over the years as you’re getting old, keep putting more money into the markets…recognizing that sometimes you’re going to get bargains and sometimes you’re not.” The conversation drifts toward making macro predictions and the effect of Washington DC on the market. Ed tells us we’re overwhelmed with information and news, which is all the more reason to try to find the fundamental truth that’s out there. Washington doesn’t matter as much as Washington likes to think it matters. Ed gives us more of his thoughts on the market response to Obama, Trump, and the Fed, as well as what he believes actually creates jobs. The conversation turns toward bonds, with Meb asking why bond movements can be challenging to predict. Ed points toward inflation, taking us back to the 50s to discuss bond yields and how they’ve moved in the years since. He brings in nominal GDP and central bankers into the mix. A conversation about negative yielding sovereigns brings various central bankers into the spotlight. Ed walks us through a look back at some of the effects of Fed involvement. He has some interesting thoughts on what the Fed does well – and not so well. This is a great show, melding market history, implementable market wisdom, and Ed’s fascinating career. There’s way more, including where Ed sees the biggest changes coming in technology, and how it will affect markets… Ed’s favorite three indicators… which period over Ed’s 40-year career stands out the most… Ed’s movie reviews… and of course, his most memorable trade. What are the details? Find out in Episode 98.

#97 - Phil Nadel - “If You Try to Pick Winners, and You Only Invest in a Handful of Companies, Odds Are You're Going to Lose Your Money"
Mar 14 2018 66 mins  
In Episode 97, we welcome one of the most successful syndicate leads in angel investing, Phil Nadel (he also happens to be Meb’s favorite syndicate lead on Angel List). After Phil runs us through his background, Meb asks about Phil’s group, Forefront Venture Partners and its connection to Angel List. Phil gives us the run-through, noting how when Angel List announced its syndicate feature, he felt it was a great way for smaller angels to get involved, so he signed up. Today, he’s one of the largest/most active leads on Angel List. Meb asks how the syndicate process works. Phil tells us that accredited investors can register and sign up with syndicate leads like Forefront. This enables them to see the deal-flow of the lead, and invest on same terms. There’s no management fee, instead, investors pay a 20% carry on the backend if there’s a profit. You can invest small amounts – sometimes as little as $1K, yet you get all the same due diligence and legal review as a big investor. Meb notes how syndicates have removed so much of the hassle and made the entire process simpler – which is both good and bad. Next, Meb asks about Phil’s syndicate and the average investor. Phil tells us the average investment in a company is roughly $300K. And they’ve invested in about 44 deals since inception. The average investment per person is around $4-5K. This dovetails into a conversation about how to approach angel investments. Phil tells us a “portfolio” approach is important. He’s against picking only a few companies, as most will go out of business. He tells us “if you try to pick winners, and you only invest in a handful of companies, odds are you’re going to lose your money.” Phil recommends picking companies diversified by industry and stage. The conversation then drifts into timing. Do you invest all at once, or drip in over time? Phil gives us his thoughts. Then it’s Phil’s rule of thumb about success rates. He tells us that out of 100 investments, 70 will go out of business. About 20-30 will stagnate, or exit as a single to a triple. Maybe one or two will turn out to be home runs. Meb asks how Phil finds his deals. Turns out, lots of referrals. The guys then dive into what Phil looks for in a company – it includes post-revenues and capital efficiency. But he’s industry and geography-agnostic. His sweet spot is a valuation in the $5-12M range. Next up, the guys discuss KPIs, or “Key Performance Indicators.” Phil discusses burn and runway, then customer acquisition cost and lifetime value. Phil wants to see that the company knows how to acquire and monetize customers in an efficient and scalable way. He then also looks at margins. There’s plenty more in this angel-themed episode: the extent of Phil’s involvement in a startup after funding… the critical role that updates from founders play in the startup process… some “bad investor behavior” which Phil has seen over the years… what Phil learned from Barbara Corcoran of the show, Sharktank… and of course, Phil’s most memorable trade. What are the details? Find out in Episode 97.

#96 - Craig Leupold & Jim Sullivan - “From a Commercial Property Standpoint, We See Values Drifting Sideways Over the Next 12 Months"
Mar 07 2018 49 mins  
In Episode 96, we welcome two of the brightest guys in real estate, Craig Leupold and Jim Sullivan of Green Street. After touching on Craig’s and Jim’s backgrounds, the guys jump into real estate, with Meb asking about Green Street’s approach to the real estate markets (public and private) and how they think about valuation. Craig gives us an overview, referencing Green Street’s REIT research (focusing on the public markets), their real estate analytics (focusing on private markets), and their advisory consulting group. Craig touches upon lots of ideas – understanding the value of the properties owned by the various companies… identifying the associated premiums or discounts at which the companies might be trading… a deeper dive into their real estate analytics lineup… looking at how to allocate capital… Meb asks how the real estate world looks today, and what’s the outlook for 2018. Craig tells us that with the exception of retail real estate, most sectors are seeing increases in rents and occupancies. But fundamentals have moved from “great,” to “good,” to now, “okay.” He goes on to give us his growth forecast over the next four years, as well as what he expects for commercial pricing over the next 12 months. When Meb brings up “returns,” the guys make the distinction between public and private markets and how there’s a divergence. Private real estate is generally fairly valued today, yet in the public market, REITs are trading at an 11% discount to their unleveraged asset value. Jim dives into greater detail on this topic, telling us how the average REIT should trade at a modest premium to NAV. The reason for this is that an investor should be willing to pay the fair market value for the property owned by the REIT, but then there’s the added benefit of the management team and the liquidity of the REIT structure; both deserve a premium. But again, today, we’re not seeing this premium today – quite the opposite, in fact. Meb brings up valuation, asking about how to distinguish between buying opportunities and value traps. Jim tells us it’s situational, and depends on the property type. This dovetails into a discussion about pessimism in the mall sector. Soon, the conversation turns toward rising rates. The common opinion is that rising rates are bad for real estate, but Jim tells us it’s more complicated than that. If rates are rising due to our economy accelerating, then that could be positive for commercial real estate, leading to higher occupancies and rising rents. There’s far more in this episode: activism in the real estate space… how the real estate market looks around the world… the challenge of figuring out what risk-adjusted returns should be in different global locations… which geographies look particularly attractive today… farmland REITs… and Craig’s and Jim’s one piece of advice to investors looking to allocate to the REIT space. All this, as well and Craig’s and Jim’s most memorable trades, in Episode 96.

#95: Radio Show: The Short-Vol Trade Blows Up... Meb's Rare Coin Purchases... and Listener Q&A
Feb 28 2018 71 mins  
Episode 95 is a radio show format. We start with a recap of Meb’s recent travels to Nicaragua and San Francisco, but then dive into a discussion about volatility. With the VIX spiking at the beginning of the month, some short-vol funds suffered massive losses. We discuss the short-vol trade, then the long-vol trade. Next up, Meb gives us a quick (overdue) update on his trip to see Van Simmons, including which coins he purchased. But we quickly dive into a different topic – a recent offering from Wealthfront that’s raising some questions for Meb. The conversation touches upon a risk parity market approach, robo fees, and general transparency. We then jump into listener Q&A. Some of the questions you’ll hear answered include: I've heard Meb say it may be appropriate to allocate up to 20% of your portfolio in a hedging strategy. I've also heard him say you need an exit plan. What is his exit strategy regarding this play? How/when should an investor use leverage? What’s Meb’s take on a vanilla Vanguard Target Date fund vs Trinity over 15-20 years? With fee compression and product commoditization, how do you see large, active-focused publicly traded asset managers faring in the next 5-10 years? How would you think about asset allocation for a millennial (sub-30) with retirement accounts? The typical 60/40 doesn’t seem great. With rising rates, I am in short-term notes to limit duration; with hints of higher inflation do TIPS make sense? All this and more in Episode 95.

#94 - Michelle Leder - “There Are Some Companies That We Know Are Sort of Bad Eggs"
Feb 21 2018 49 mins  
In Episode 94, we welcome entrepreneur, author, and SEC filings expert, Michelle Leder. We start with Michelle’s background. She was a business journalist – a self-professed “document geek.” She wrote the book Financial Fine Print: Uncovering a Company's True Value and decided to launch a website as an accompaniment to the book. Here we are, 15 years later. Meb asks Michelle to give an overview of what she’s looking for in the various filings. She tells us that changes are important. She doesn’t necessarily look closely at the numbers because it’s more about the language. Also, the forward-looking statements can be big. Michelle mentions an example of one that used a significant amount of extra language. This dovetails into a discussion about the process – is it a keyword search or is there software? Michelle uses both, as keywords alone don’t always work. She gives the example of when Goldman Sachs was subpoenaed, the language used to describe it in the filings was something like “an invitation to respond to the DOJ.” Meb asks for examples of red flag behavior in the filings. Michelle looks for unusual compensation or stock grant amounts. Also, lots of extra language used to describe earnings or adjusted EBITDA. She mentions a company called GT Advanced Technology, which used to be an Apple supplier. In one particular filing, they added new disclosure language, identifying their dependence on Apple, and their vulnerability if that relationship soured. Some time thereafter, Apple ended the relationship. Next, Meb and Michelle discuss the “Friday Night Dump.” This is the 90 minutes after market close on Friday, when there’s no major trading. Companies tend to dump all their bad info here. Michelle mentions recent examples using Tesla and Wynn. But her most memorable disclosure dump was Chesapeake Energy, revealing it had paid over $12M for a map collection. Meb asks if Michelle has ever been contacted by a company she’s profiled, trying to defend or explain itself. She mentions Dell. Apparently, the company once purchased a company from Dell’s own brother and something seemed a tad off. After Michelle covered it, Dell reached out to tell her she had gotten it all wrong. This is a fun episode with plenty more in it – what sort of time commitment this would take the average investor… the atmospheric changes Michelle has seen in the last 10-15 years… the story of Meb stealing someone else’s disclosure language for his own blog but forgetting to remove the other company’s name… There’s even a discussion of something Twitter did recently that grabbed Michelle’s interest. If you’re a Twitter investor, you might want to listen. All this and more in Episode 94.

#93 - John Reese - “There Is No Strategy That Outperformed the Stock Market Every Single Year"
Feb 14 2018 53 mins  
In Episode 93, we welcome entrepreneur, author, and quant investor, John Reese. We start with John’s background. When John was a child, his father was a subscriber to Value Line, and John related to the charts and numbers. Later, this love of numbers took him to MIT, where he researched how to take the wisdom from books and turn it into computer programs. Years later, when he sold his company to GE Capital, John needed to learn how to invest the proceeds. Yet, he wasn’t sure which investment guru to follow in doing this. He decided to study a handful of gurus, and was disappointed to find that there was no repeatability and sustainability of outperformance over multiple time periods. However, John then came across Peter Lynch’s One Up On Wall Street. In the book, Lynch had provided enough detail about his strategy that John was able to translate it into a computer program designed to pick the stocks that Lynch might have chosen. The results were solid. John then moved on to Ben Graham, eventually codifying 12 different guru strategies. He then put his research up on a website, which eventually morphed into Validea. Meb asks about the challenges of this – namely, many managers have a qualitative component to their stock selection as well quantitative. How did John account for this? John tells us this was very challenging. He had to re-read the various books multiple times, determining whether the printed word actually matched what the guru did in the market, versus his actions revealing more information or biases. Meb asks about filtering the incredibly long list of potential gurus to follow, and John tells us the list actually wasn’t too long. Most gurus didn’t have a sufficiently-long track record of performance, or they didn’t describe their strategies in sufficient details as to be able to be codified. Meb then asks how John determines when a period of underperformance reveals a manager has lost his touch, versus the manager’s style is simply out of favor. John tells us that he first looks at the length of time in which the strategy worked. If it was long enough, he tends to believe that, at some point, the strategy will come back into favor. He goes on to tell us that in all of his research, he found that there was not one strategy that outperformed the market every single year. They were these periods of going-out-of-favor that paved the way for the outperformance that occurred when the style came back into favor. The guys then jump into an actual example of how John’s guru quant strategies work, using Buffett. Be sure to listen to this part for all the details. Moving on from Buffett, Meb asks if there are any common attributes to the models that tend to do the best – any broad takeaways. John tells us that, over time, the more successful strategies tend to have a value orientation, some kind of debt criteria, and they’re all profitable. Meb asks – “Okay, gun to your head, which strategy has outperformed?” I’m going to make you listen to find out John’s answer, but odds are you’ll be surprised. Next, the guys turn to factors, with Meb asking if there are any combination of factors that John tends to prefer. John says he likes momentum and mean reversion. This leads into a conversation on timing factors. As usual, there’s far more in this episode: practical guidelines for listeners looking to follow along… portfolio construction in today’s challenging environment… what John would have done differently if he could start over again on Day 1… a roboadvisor for income investors… and of course, John’s most memorable trade. This one happened the day after Black Monday. What are the details? Find out in Episode 93.

#92 - Andrew Tobias - “There Are Just A Few Things You Really Need to Know About Investing, and They Don't Ever Change"
Feb 07 2018 51 mins  
In Episode 92, we welcome investor, author, and activist, Andrew Tobias. Meb starts by asking Andy about his background and introduction to investing. Andy gives us his origin story, with highlights including collecting stamps, an early introduction to the stock market, a trip behind the Iron Curtain which led to a brief dalliance with Communism, then his becoming a paper millionaire due to some creative accounting (then those monies disappearing). It’s a fascinating look back. Next, Meb recalls a survey we conducted some quarters ago, soliciting readers’ favorite investing books of all time. Andy’s book from 1978, The Only Investment Guide You’ll Ever Need, turned out to be high on that list. Meb asks Andy to explain the thesis of the original book, and whether there have been any significant changes in subsequent editions. Andy tells us “There are just a few things you really need to know about investing, and they don’t ever change. The problem is it’s hard to get people to really grab onto them.” He goes on to say that investing isn’t like cooking or chess, where the more you read/learn, the better. Instead, with investing, the more you read, the more you can get yourself into trouble. He gives us an example using commodity speculating. Given that so much about investing remains constant, Andy’s revisions in subsequent editions haven’t been too substantial. Meb pushes a bit more, asking if there’s any subject about which Andy has changed his mind since the original publication. Andy tells us he’s become a bigger fan of special opportunity investing. Most people aren’t looking for this type of thing. So, Andy discusses putting 80% of your portfolio into inexpensive index funds, but spreading the remaining 20% over 5-6 really interesting, exciting speculations. Most will go to $0, but maybe you hit with one or two, and those proceeds offset the losses and more. Plus, this satisfies the need to have something more exciting to do with your money. Meb agrees with this idea, and asks about Andy’s speculative process – is it rooted in quant or is there a discretionary component? Andy answers by giving us an example with Support.com. Next, the guys discuss valuations, comparing where we are now to where we were back in the early ‘80s. It seems we’re flip-flopped a bit in terms of interest rates and equity valuations. This segues into private investing, with Andy telling us about how came to own farmland. Turned out to be a great investment, buying at $500 an acre and selling years later at $3K an acre. Meb agrees farmland is a great asset class, but it’s hard to allocate toward. This dovetails into a few other private investments in which Andy has participated, most notably “Honest Tea,” which was purchased by Coca Cola, as well as a small, musical comedy, which went on to play on multiple continents over many years. The guys bounce around a bit here, discussing the need to spread your bets in private market investing… lockups… the benefit of illiquidity… binary thinking… Andy’s firsthand experience with selling way too early… There’s plenty more in this episode, including Andy’s concerns for our existential future, his most memorable trade, and finally, a product he endorses which might help tackle dementia and improve reflexes. Apparently, Tom Brady swears by it. What are the details? Find out in Episode 92.



#91: Radio Show: Meb's Most Popular Tweet of All Time... Signs of the Top... Listener Q&A
Jan 24 2018 49 mins  
Episode 91 is a radio show format. We bounce around a bit in this one, starting with Meb’s most popular Tweet of all time. It involves a market record that people decided to politicize. Next are some “signs of the top.” We discuss various indicators that support the general takeaway that (to no one’s surprise) we’re in a frothy market: US investor stock allocations are approaching the highest levels since 2000… Stocks as a percentage of household assets adjust for pensions funds are now the 2nd highest ever… The average expected return of state and local pension funds is 7.5%... The number of days the VIX has spent below “10” in 2017 was 52 (the combined amount for all years dating back to 1999? Less than “10”)… We then discuss Meb’s upcoming personal portfolio rebalance. He publishes this each year, and he gives us the preview. Then there’s a discussion of Bitcoin, and Meb’s thoughts on how an investor might reasonably participate if so desired. Then we hop into some listener/Twitter questions: Is there a broad asset class that appears especially attractive right now? Emerging Markets seems to have gone to a case-by-case situation. Is there an entire asset class you like? Why does value investing works? If you had to buy one country and hold it for 10 years, which one would it be? Have you ever done a back-test combining a simple moving average timing strategy overlaid with a value approach? For instance, going long an asset class when it’s above its SMA, but below a historical multiple? What changed in your investing philosophy in the last year? Value factors been out of favor for a decade or however long. At what point can we say they've been arbed out and not coming back…ever? What is the long term mean or hurdle for real US Treasury rates? Plus, Meb is about to do some traveling overseas. Where’s he headed this time? Find out in Episode 91.

#90 - Dan Rasmussen - “The Crown Jewel of the Alternative Universe is Private Equity"
Jan 17 2018 61 mins  
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.

#89 - Blair Hull - “Emotions Will Kill You in This Game"
Jan 10 2018 46 mins  
In Episode 89, we welcome legendary market veteran, Blair Hull. We start per usual, with our guest’s background. In this case, long-time Meb Faber Show listeners may think they’ve heard it before. That’s because Blair’s background shares an interesting similarity with that of Ed Thorp – the card game, Blackjack. It turns out Blair made a considerable sum of money playing Blackjack after reading Ed’s writings on the game. Blair tells us you needed an advantage, and then you need to stay in the game. That’s why he played with a team. More hands played according to their system tilted the odds in his favor. This is a fun part of the podcast you’ll want to listen to for all the details, including Meb’s foray into card counting with a partner that botched the system after drinking too many Bloody Mary’s. Eventually, Blair took his winnings and used them to get a seat on the Pacific Exchange, where he became a market maker and began trading options. Blair tells us he was intrigued with market timing, resulting in a paper he wrote which concluded that you can time the market. Meb asks about the genesis of Blair’s market timing strategies. Blair points back to Blackjack – each different card provides an idea about the future. In a similar way, various indicators provide an idea about a market’s future. So, part of the challenge is which indicators do you consider and what weights do you put on them? Next, Meb digs deeper, asking for more specifics of Blair’s strategy, inquiring about the indicators. Blair mentions one indicator that piqued his interest – the Federal Reserve Bank Loan Officer Survey. They found the correlations with 6-month returns was about 30%, which is a fairly high correlation for an indicator. He then took this indicator and combined it with a few others and ran a regression with no forward-looking bias to see if they could exceed the returns of the S&P. What were the results? You’ll have to listen. The conversation bounces around a bit before Blair mentions how valuation is one of their key variables. He tells us his valuation method combines three different aspects: CAPE, cyclically adjusted dividend yield including buybacks, and book-to-price. The guys spend a while discussing the various inputs in Blair’s model before discussing sentiment (which Meb calls “squishy). Both guys like sentiment, with Blair even having invested in two different firms that are using Twitter feeds so he can get a better handle on sentiment. Next, Meb asks about AI, and how machines may affect investing going forward. Blair has a proprietary trading firm that operates on a high frequency basis, so he gives us his thoughts, noting that a key to maximizing wealth is to use an optimal-sized bet. Meb changes direction, asking what Blair is excited about today. It turns out Blair is focusing on the stigma of market timing. He believes it will be irresponsible not to be involved in market timing over the next 30 years. That’s because when we have correlations that really go to “1” when we have a disaster, getting an edge in the market is critical. There are a couple quick questions – Blair’s favorite indicator, and Blair’s advice to young quants looking to get into quant finance today, but then we turn to Blair’s most memorable trade. This is a great one involving the crash in ’87, when Blair was a market maker. Don’t miss it. There’s plenty more in this great episode featuring a true market legend, including why Blair tells us “Emotions will kill you in this game.” That and far more in Episode 89.

#88 - Eric Clark - “I Still Believe that Alpha is Available and Possible, and Beating a Benchmark is Possible"
Jan 03 2018 48 mins  
In Episode 88, we welcome portfolio manager, Eric Clark. As usual, we start with Eric’s background, which spans 25 years in the investment industry. After working for an asset manager, Eric realized he wanted to do something passion-based – a “timeless equity strategy.” So, when he felt he had the answer, he created a suite of consumption-based brand strategies. Meb asks about these brands and how they play a role in Eric’s portfolio construction. Eric tells us he tasked himself with identifying some stable, persistent themes he could anchor to (for the purposes of building a portfolio). He tells us that “nothing is more persistent than a consumer’s propensity to spend.” With this in mind, he looked at the U.S. economy, and what drives it. Eric tells us that the consumption component of GDP has annualized at about 3.5% a year for 50 years. And of that, about 70% of our GDP is consumption. Now, take these two pieces together – “if consumption…is predictable then how do I build a strategy that taps into that?” The answer points toward buying great consumer brands. Next, Meb asks about the framework. Eric says you need an index. Therefore, they created the Alpha Brands consumer spending index. The goal was a broad universe, tracking a lifetime of spending. For instance, a Millennial spends differently than someone from GenX. So, the idea was to create an index consisting of the most relevant and recognizable brands that track a lifetime of spending. Meb asks how it works going forward? For instance, how would Eric see companies like GE and IBM? Are they great buying opportunities or dead brands? Eric points toward IBM as a brand they’ll likely hold onto, as it’s still a powerful B-to-B brand. But he tells us the food packaging industry, for example, is coming under pressure. That’s because the type of food we buy is changing. He identifies Kellogg as a company facing challenges. The conversation bounces around a bit, referencing valuation, where this brand-based type of investing fits into a broader portfolio, and how this type of strategy might be expected to hold up during a recession. Eric speaks to this last point by discussing consumer discretionary versus consumer staples, including the risk of rising rates. There’s plenty more in this episode – where Eric believes the market is going in 2018 (he mentions some thoughts on earnings)… how international sales affect the brands-strategy… how the asset management industry seems to be moving toward the commoditization of portfolio construction, where advisors just want to own everything (in response, Eric tells us “I still believe that alpha is available and possible, and beating a benchmark is possible if you understand a bunch of things”). We wrap up with Eric’s most memorable trade. It involves an ill-timed attempt to short banks in July ’09. Hear all the details in Episode 88.

#87 - Michael Venuto - “I Would Suggest Seeking Out High Active-Share, Global Growth Themes"
Dec 20 2017 57 mins  
In Episode 87, we welcome market veteran and ETF expert, Mike Venuto. Mike briefly walks us through his background, which includes a fun story about a baffling situation years ago when the gold mining company, Newmont Mining, was falling in price despite gold rising in price. Mike tells us the culprit turned out to be the new ETF “GLD” – Mike realized he needed to learn far more about ETFs. Next, the guys dive into ETFs. Meb starts broadly, asking where we are in the ETF evolution. Mike tells us we’re still quite early. The growth rate has been largely the same over the last 10 years (a little over 20%); but that growth rate is compounded over a larger base now, so it feels like the growth is greater. And in terms of where ETFs are going, free beta is getting saturated. The next move in ETFs will be people thoroughly detailing the differences between two ETFs that appear largely the same at first blush (nowadays, people tend to see similarly-themed ETFs as somewhat the same). Meb pushes deeper on this idea, wanting to know more about this next evolution in ETFs. Mike tells us that myriad factors are a part of any given ETF beyond its expense ratio. For instance, there are the spreads, how well an ETF tracks its index, whether the ETF lends out its shares and what it does with that revenue, then there’s the share price itself. All these factors can make two ETFs that appear similar on the surface actually quite different. This dovetails into the idea of “active share” – basically, the measure of an active ETF that differs from its index. Mike tells us about a tool at Toroso called Smart Cost that helps embrace ETF transparency. The tool helps answer the question “how much am I paying for the smart portion of an ETF?” Mike goes on to tell us that the overall expense ratio is not the most important cost consideration – instead, it’s how much am I paying for the smart portion? He gives us an example, comparing it to its benchmark, then calculate its “price per unit of difference.” The tool shows the amount of the ETF you’re buying that is different – and this helps determine the true value of any given ETF. Meb echoes much of this, saying that in order to justify actively managed fees, an investor wants an ETF that looks truly different than its benchmark. Otherwise, you’re just paying top dollar for cheap beta. The conversation bounces around a bit, including some other tools Mike uses, but eventually Meb asks about something Mike is doing that’s on the forefront of tracking the entire ETF space. It turns out, Mike has created an index that enables investors to track the growth and exposure of the overall ETF ecosystem. This includes not just the issuers, but the exchanges, the data and index providers, the back-office companies, and so on – the entire overall ecosystem. So, Mike has created an index that tracks the growth of all these companies. Next, the guys move into the “fringe ETF” space. Mike predicts we’re going to see more “characteristic” based indexes. Rather than capture a factor, they systemize how to target characteristics – e.g. a spin-off, or insiders buying a stock, or great brands. This leads into a conversation about “structural” factors, where you create a different form of behavior. An example would be a put-write fund. The guys touch on a few topics before moving onto cryptos. They discuss whether crypto has any real legs, and what the potential could be. Mike has some interesting thoughts here. As the interview begins to wind down, Meb asks for Mike’s favorite ideas going into 2018. Mike tells over the next 10 years, it could prove difficult to achieve the type of beta returns we’ve enjoyed over the last 10 years, so he suggests seeking out high active, global growth themes. Find a PWC or McKinsey study about “things that are going to change the world” then invest in those industries (think robotics). Mike goes on to mention the Internet of Things and the electrification of cars. Meb agrees on the potential for a challenging return environment. He walks us through why using the 60/40 portfolio with current bond yields, and what equities would have to return to keep us at “average” returns. Given our lofty valuations today, that seems tough. There’s way more in this episode: The Permanent Portfolio… whether gold bugs should be concerned about the rise of crypto… how Meb has a new army of enemies in the form of Litecoin crypto investors… and how one of Mike’s friends bought a pizza years ago with Bitcoin – probably the most expensive pizza that friend will ever purchase. And of course, there’s Mike’s most memorable trade. Hear about it in Episode 87.

#85: Radio Show: Bitcoin Futures Are Here - What Now?
Dec 13 2017 50 mins  
Episode 85 is a radio show format. Meb starts with a recap of his latest travels – this time he was off to New York then Europe. Then, it’s onto Q&A. Some of the questions and topics you’ll hear are: To what extent do economic indicators have any effect on Meb’s view of the markets? Bitcoin has been on a meteoric rise recently in advance of the introduction of Bitcoin futures on Sunday 12/10. What are the potential ramifications of futures trading on it? New money coming in? Prices imploding? What about blockchain? How will it affect various industries? Wes Gray and Toby Carlisle have argued that EV/EBIT is a better metric than PE for latching onto the value premium. Why not then use a cyclically adjusted EV/EBIT instead of CAPE? Someone puts a gun to your head and tells you that you have $1M from an orphanage which you must invest in a single stock. What do you pick? If enough people adopt a trend following approach, and the trend starts heading south, could it lead to a market meltdown like ’87? What are Meb’s thoughts on the best ways to invest when your assets are stuck in a 401k? As usual with the radio show formats, there are plenty of rabbit holes including the Big Mac Index, why you shouldn’t go into a sauna in Zurich wearing clothes, Meb’s old econometric models, and why expectations for the traditional 60/40 appear unrealistic all around the globe. All this and more in Episode 85.

#86 - A Quantitative Approach to Tactical Asset Allocation
Dec 12 2017 34 mins  
Episode 86 is a solo-Meb show. It’s been 10 years since Meb wrote “A Quantitative Approach to Tactical Asset Allocation” which is the top-downloaded paper of all time on SSRN. In the coming weeks, we’re going to publish a retrospective on that paper in the Journal of Portfolio Management. So Meb thought this episode would be a good opportunity to revisit the original paper and perform his 10-year post mortem. Here’s the abstract of the new paper, and the backbone for what you’ll hear in this episode: “In this article, the author revisits his seminal paper on tactical asset allocation published over 10 years ago. How well did the market strategy presented in the original paper – a simple quantitative method that improves the risk-adjusted returns across various asset classes – hold up since publication? Overall, the author finds that the model has performed well in real-time, achieving equity-like returns with bond-like volatility and drawdowns. The author also examines the effects of departures from the original system, including adding more asset classes, introducing various portfolio allocations, and implementing alternative cash management strategies.” If you’re not familiar with Meb’s original “A Quantitative Approach to Tactical Asset Allocation” don’t miss Episode 86. In many ways, this paper is foundational to the various market approaches Meb has adopted since.


#84 - Howard Lindzon - “I Think There's So Many Ways the Markets are Rigged That I Think It's Best to Just Follow Along the Trends"
Dec 06 2017 51 mins  
In Episode 84, we welcome investor and entrepreneur, Howard Lindzon. Howard starts by giving us his background. He was a broker who felt the pain of the ’87 crash. In the aftermath, he got the angel investing and entrepreneurial bugs. He’s currently an investor in Robinhood, and he started StockTwits – which you might think of as Twitter-for-finance. He also runs a fund, Social Leverage. Given that Howard has spent plenty of time in the public markets, Meb starts by asking about his public market framework, and how he approaches markets today. Howard tells us that he likes to see which investments are doing well, then try to join in – in his words “classic trend following.” He uses the analogy of the great white shark and the pilot fish. Howard is a pilot fish, following the great white. He likes this approach as “there’s so many ways the markets are rigged that I think it’s best to just follow along the trends.” Howard believes this approach of following the great whites also works in the private markets. Meb asks about something Howard wrote in regards to learning to invest – it was something along the lines of “open an account, lose money, get a mentor.” Howard expounds on that, focusing on how everyone needs a mentor. Howard wants to help other investors through his own writing and advice. He references Millennials, and how he wants to use tools to help them. Meb asks Howard’s advice for people who want to learn to be better investors, and how to find a mentor. This leads to a conversation about Howard’s site, StockTwits. Whereas Wall Street felt that people wouldn’t share quality investment information (just keep it to yourself so only you can benefit), Howard felt that many people would want to share their good ideas. Many of these people do exactly that on StockTwits. So, Howard suggests finding someone there that matches your own investing style and temperament, who has a consistent, good track record, and just follow along. Meb asks which gurus Howard suggests following these days in order to get great information. Be sure to listen to this part to get the specific names. Next, Meb transitions the guys toward private investing. He asks for an overview on the blurring of the lines between private and public markets, and the development of the seed stage being open to individuals. Howard tells us things changed in 2007/2008 – it was “the cloud” that was the catalyst, bringing down the costs of starting a company. He says now we’re in a transition stage where many private companies are actually staying private for too long. He references Uber, saying how it feels a bit late for it to go public, but it’s too big to be private. Meb asks about the realities of private market investing for listeners, noting how some of our pasts guests have had different opinions. Howard has some helpful thoughts you’ll want to hear, but he notes that to be a great angel investor, you need to invest over multiple generations – 20 years or so. You need this time to see an overall crop of investments work out. This leads into a discussion of Howard’s fund, Social Leverage. Howard gives us the details as to what they’re looking for, as well as the fund goals. As always, there’s plenty more, including a discussion of when Bitcoin was less than $1, Howard’s publication, The Peloton, and, of course, his most memorable trade. Not investing in Twitter and Zynga when he had the chance comes to mind. Hear all the details in Episode 84.

#83 - Randy Swan - “What Do You Do When Things Are Fundamentally Overvalued, But You Want to Remain Invested in the Market?"
Nov 29 2017 51 mins  
In Episode 83, we welcome fund manager, Randy Swan, who’s calling in from the Bahamas after being displaced from Puerto Rico by Hurricane Maria. The guys start with Randy’s backstory, which leads into why he started Swan Global Investments. In part due to his background in managing liability risk at KPMG, Randy was interested in a way to diversify away market risk. This led him to develop an option-based market approach called the Swan Defined Risk Strategy (DRS), which might be summarized with Randy’s phrase “always invested, always hedged.” Randy walks us through his DRS methodology, which relies on asset diversification and the purchase of puts to protect against market drawdowns. He gives us more info on the duration of the puts, generally how far out of the money the system targets, and other trade specifics. This dovetails into a discussion of selling options as opposed to buying them. Randy uses selling strategies in an effort to generate positive returns on an annual basis. Meb asks about the general response from investors, and how they view buying this type of portfolio “insurance.” Randy tells us most people think it makes sense, they just haven’t really been exposed to the idea. Rather, most people are used to hearing only about diversification. The guys then discuss low volatility in the market. Randy gives us his thoughts, mentioning how now is a great time to hedge a portfolio given the low VIX. The conversation touches on whether you can still sell options in this low-VIX market. After all, it might be dangerous if volatility spikes. Plus, with so many investors having adopted a selling strategy in an effort to generate income, is this space crowded? Does it still work? You might be surprised to hear Randy’s take on it. This is a great episode for options-fans and investors wondering how to stay in this market while adding some protection to their portfolios. You’ll hear more on volatility skew… the active versus passive debate (and how it misses the point)… Randy’s broad advice for listeners interested in implementing an options strategy… and of course, Randy’s most memorable trade. Get all the details in Episode 83.

#82 - Vineer Bhansali - “The Market is Severely Underpricing the Probability of a Sharp, Catastrophic Loss to the Downside"
Nov 22 2017 68 mins  
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 the portfolio and look at the overall portfolio returns. But people fixate on the “lost” cost of insurance when option premiums expire worthless. Next up, the guys discuss the current volatility environment. Vineer address two questions from Meb: “why is volatility so low?” And “is there a sweet spot on the option scale (how far out of the money) for investors looking to purchase portfolio protection?” There’s way more in this episode: option selling strategies (instead of buying insurance, you’re the one selling it in order to generate yield)… A great piece from Vineer about selling bonds as a way to hedge your portfolio… How the traditional inverse relationship between market direction and volatility might not be holding up as much (look at Japan recently – surging markets and volatility together)… Vineer’s thoughts on artificial intelligence and “how to beat the machines”… And of course, his most memorable trade. All this and more in Episode 82.

#80 - Claude Erb - “It Is Possible That We're in the Middle of a Period in Which Gold Becomes the New Frankincense"
Nov 15 2017 64 mins  
In Episode 80, we welcome commodities and gold expert, Claude Erb. As usual, we start with Claude’s back-story, but it’s not long before the guys jump into investing, with Meb asking about Claude’s general framework and view of the markets. Claude tells us there are three concepts that guide his broad investing thinking: first, framing investment opportunities in terms of price/value relationships; second, the concept that no one gives away anything of value for free; and third, the idea that there really is no difference between a successful traditional fundamental approach to investing and a successful quantitative approach to investing. This leads into a quick conversation about how market wisdom compounds over the years, but it’s not long before the guys jump into the topic of “gold.” Claude and his writing partner, Campbell Harvey, wrote the seminal paper, “The Golden Constant”, which explored the possible relationship between the real, inflation-adjusted price of gold and future real gold returns. Meb mentions how gold elicits far more emotion in investors than nearly any other asset, with different investors having an array of reasons or themes as to why they own gold. Clause gives us some great commentary on the link between fear and gold, touching upon VIX contracts, volatility, and even Buffett’s and Dalio’s take on gold. The guys continue with the gold discussion, with Claude referencing some of the concepts from “The Golden Constant”. All you gold bugs (and historians, for that matter) won’t want to miss this. There’s way more in this episode, including a discussion of commodities, various practical takeaways, and Claude’s thoughts on something called “the sequence of returns.” And of course, there’s Claude’s most memorable trade. What are the details? Find out in Episode 80.

#81: Radio Show: Notes from Meb's Office Hours - Listeners Are All Making the Same Mistakes
Nov 15 2017 65 mins  
Episode 81 is a radio show format. Meb starts with a note of thanks to listeners. It involves a milestone Cambria just passed as a company. Next, Meb walks us through the common themes he’s hearing from his office hours. In short, all listeners are generally making the same investing mistakes (though everyone seems to believe his/her situation is unique). Meb tells us what everyone is doing. Then, it’s on to listener Q&A. Some of the questions and topics you’ll hear are: What’s the latest on global CAPE values? Which countries are cheapest? Buffett was on CNBC the other day opining that stocks were cheap because you have to view them in relation to competing investment opportunities, and interest rates are still quite low. Thoughts? Is it possible to construct a CAPE index for other asset classes besides stocks? How do you recommend getting exposure to commodities? Aside from the physical metals, it’s hard to get good exposure because most of the ETFs invest in futures which get hurt by contract rolls. What’s the answer? In the typical asset allocation, would muni bonds produce more alpha than Treasuries? What different risk would it introduce, and is it worth it? Trend following is primarily a binary thing: You are in if your signal has triggered, otherwise out. But is it better to be in a market that is trading, say, 10% above your trigger than a market that is 1% above? Is low volatility a valid and sustainable outperforming factor? As usual with the radio show formats, there are plenty of rabbit holes. Plus, Meb is about to do some travelling overseas. Where’s he headed? Find out in Episode 81.

#79 - Jason Goepfert - “I Would Not Be Surprised at All to See a Multi-Day 5%-15% Decline"
Nov 08 2017 62 mins  
In Episode 79, we welcome Jason Goepfert, founder of SentimenTrader. Per usual, we start with Jason’s background. It involves listening to margin calls, when “real emotion” would come out. Jason tells us anger and panic were what you would hear, and that people are not necessarily rational. These experiences and others eventually led Jason to launch Sentimentrader which is, according to its website: “an independent investment research firm dedicated to the application of mass psychology to the financial markets… Our focus is not market timing per se, but rather risk management. That may be a distinction without a difference, but it's how we approach the markets. We study signs that suggest it is time to raise or lower market exposure as a function of risk relative to probable reward. It is all about risk-adjusted expectations given existing evidence.” The guys discuss some of the mechanics of Sentimentrader – the time-frames of the various models, the inputs, and how most people want just one indicator (but that’s not the best way). Meb asks for an example of one of Jason’s favorite indicators – it turns out to be the VIX, sometimes known as the market’s “fear gauge.” As of the time of the podcast, the VIX is quite low. One might assume this means it’s about to pop, but Jason tells us nothing works 100% of the time, with Meb noting it can stay low for a long while. Meb asks how investors – specifically long-term investors – should use indicators like the VIX. Should they pay attention at all? Jason tells us you can use these indicators for color. Meb throws in a funny aside about a “seafood tower” indicator – the idea being when times are bad, no one orders the seafood tower, but when times are good, towers are stacked at all the tables. And it just so happens, Meb recently had a meal out in which the table wanted a seafood tower…as did at least three other tables at the restaurant that night. The conversation bounces around a bit, with interesting back-and-forths about the AAII and Investor Intelligence surveys, the potential for “observer effect” to be skewing some results, and how every bull/bear cycle is different and people put too much weight on the market event that’s just happened. Jason tells us that many investors are now saying, “well, stocks probably aren’t going to peak because we’re not seeing the same kind of optimism we saw in 2007.” But 2007 was probably a once-in-a-lifetime type of a peak (and 2009 was a once-in-a-lifetime type of a bottom) – so we shouldn’t expect to see the same readings at those turning points. The guys breeze through a fun topic next: whether Twitter should be considered a useful sentiment indicator. Jason tells us it’s wonderful and horrible. The problem is we self-select and tend to follow people with a similar mentality as our own. So, we’re largely just in a bit of an echo chamber of our own opinion. Meb and Jason go on to cover margin levels and the commitment of traders before discussing the contrary indicator of magazine covers. It turns out magazine covers are not the great contra-indicator they’re purported to be. Finally, the guys turn to today’s markets, with Meb asking how the world looks to Jason given his experience with sentiment. Jason tells us U.S. equities are optimistic, but not necessarily overly optimistic, and bonds and gold are both “meh,” neither registering any extreme sentiment readings. Meb asks which asset classes around the globe are, in fact, registering extreme readings. Jason tells us we’re seeing some extreme readings in cocoa, coffee, and grains – the soft commodity complex. He actually provides the name of a specific fund if you’re interested in playing this as an investment. There’s tons more in this great episode: how today’s cryptos are resembling the internet stocks of the late 90s… why it’s hard to buy, even when the sentiment indicators are signaling you should do so… and the time when sentiment called the markets nearly perfectly. And of course, there’s Jason’s most memorable trade. It involves a times when all the sentiment indicators were lining up together nearly perfectly. So Jason went in big…and lost big when things didn’t play out as he expected. What are the details? Find out in Episode 79.

#78 - Alex Rubalcava - “If You're Going to Be an Angel Investor... You Have to Be Devoting Significant Time to It"
Nov 01 2017 85 mins  
In Episode 78, we welcome angel investor, Alex Rubalcava. As Meb and Alex are friends, we start with Meb recalling the first time he met Alex over some egg tacos. Alex goes on to give us more about his background, which took him from pension funds, to dot.coms to VC investing. Meb asks for more information on Alex’s group, Stage Venture Partners. Alex tells us that Stage is a classic seed venture fund. They invest in enterprise software companies that are about a year or two old. They look for companies that have a product in the market and are generating some early revenues. This dovetails into a broader discussion of how Alex landed on being a seed-stage investor, and the VC climate here in L.A. The guys talk about what Alex looks for, the size of the investment in a typical round for him, and where good ideas come from. It's not long before Meb references our podcast with angel investor, Jason Calacanis. We received a great deal of feedback after that show from listeners eager to start angel-investing. But Meb juxtaposes that interest with William Bernstein’s idea that most people shouldn’t invest their own money. Meb asks Alex if seed investing is harder than the way it’s presented. Alex responds with some interesting points about seeing the deal, understanding the deal, and winning the deal. In short, to see the right deals, you have to be in the right places, actively participating in the community. If not, you’ll never see the next Uber. To understand the deal, you must recognize what you’re seeing. Lots of people passed on Facebook, AirBnB, and Uber, because they didn’t have the vision to see what it could be. And in terms of winning the deal, often, the really great startups are oversubscribed, meaning they might need $2M of funding, but have $20M worth of interest. So it can be a challenge to convey your value to a startup to win a seat at the table. The guys then discuss how most of Alex’s deal flow comes across his desk. They discuss incubators, accelerators, going to conferences, calling people, you name it. But at the end of the day, Alex tells us he’ll look at about 1,000 start-ups this year, but will only make eight-to-ten investments. This bleeds into a conversation about the attrition rate as startups move throughout the funding process. As you’d guess, there’s a huge failure rate. The guys discuss the drop-offs through the various rounds, as well as the major reasons for them. Meb also asks when to double down on your bets? As part of this conversation, Alex tells us how attrition rates really vary by sectors. He discusses how investors in the consumer-based sector who didn’t get in on the big dogs like Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat didn’t see anywhere near the returns that they would have otherwise. Meanwhile, other sectors have far more companies with successful exits (just not as monstrous as the Facebooks et al) – as Meb says, “more singles, doubles, and triples.” A bit later, the guys discuss the idea of “why now?” When Alex is considering an investment, the founder must be able to effectively answer “why now?” Many times, the idea is there, but the timing isn’t, perhaps due to cost, or the market simply isn’t ready. This eventually morphs into a conversation about the three biggest risks that a founder faces when starting a company: building the product, hiring the right people, and getting the customer. Meb switches gears, asking about about syndicates and funds. Are they right for investors looking to get exposure to angel investing? You’ll want to hear Alex’s perspective on this. He tells us that “If you’re going to be an angel investor…you have to be devoting significant time to it.” He goes further, saying that unless it’s close to your job, angel investing isn’t likely to be great for most people – yet investing in angel funds might be a good answer. Alex goes on to give us his reasons, and tells us there are some great angel investing funds that are worthy of consideration. He even mentions specifics. There’s way more in this episode, including the little-known angel-investing tax benefit that can save you millions – literally… Where Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are likely headed… A mnemonic Alex uses to sort through the hype… And of course, Alex’s most memorable trade. All of you would-be angel-investors will be feeling the FOMO (“fear of missing out”). What are the details? Find out in Episode 78.

#77 - Tobias Carlisle - “In Order to Find Something Genuinely Undervalued...There's Always Something that You Don't Like"
Oct 25 2017 88 mins  
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… and whether the AM works globally. The guys eventually switch gears, and turn toward Toby’s private “special situations” fund. In essence, Toby looks for situations when there’s a corporate act, say, a board-level decision to buy or sell a company, or pay a special dividend, or buy back a material amount of stock. He then tries to arb it. He gives us any example of how he made money using the strategy back when Obama was attempted to stop corporate reverse-mergers. But in all cases, Toby is still looking for undervalued, cheap investments. There’s tons more in this episode: the “broken leg” behavioral problem… how investors trying to improve upon the Magic Formula tend to vastly underperform the Magic Formula left alone… how professional investors tend to behave just as poorly as non-professionals… what Toby is working on/excited about right now… and of course, Toby’s most memorable trade. It involves a basket of net-cash biotechs. While he made over 200%, if he hadn’t tinkered, he could have made 750%. What are the details? Find out in Episode 77.


#76 - Phil DeMuth - “Nothing in My Global Outlook is Telling Me It's Time to Pull Up the Anchor and Set Sail"
Oct 18 2017 91 mins  
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 distributions, and instead, sought quality investments that wouldn’t pay a dividend. He goes on to say how dividends are great for retirees who are intentionally spending the money, but if you’re earlier in your working career, and the government is taking 30% of your income via taxes, that’s not good at all! So, Phil wondered how he could get the dividend benefit, without the dividend. It was this idea that led Meb to do his own research on the topic (the subject of the forthcoming white paper). So Meb thanks Phil for the inspiration, then takes the handoff and discusses what he found through his own research. If you’re a dividend investor, you won’t want to miss Meb’s conclusion. There’s way more in this great episode: additional tax tips… ETNs… tax loss harvesting… donating stocks with huge capital gains to charities rather than donating cash… wills… how Meb wants a Viking funeral (yes, you read that right)… Meb’s unexpected bill from the IRS… And of course, Phil’s most memorable trade – it involves an investment that turned out to be somewhat less liquid than Phil had anticipated. What are the details? Find out in Episode 76.

#75 - Mike McDaniel - “One of the Biggest Conditions that Will Lead to Success is Simply Being Invested"
Oct 11 2017 56 mins  
In Episode 75, we welcome Mike McDaniel, CIO and co-founder of Riskalyze. It’s a special episode, being recorded at the Riskalyze Fearless Investment Summit in Lake Tahoe. Per usual, we start with Mike’s origin story, but it’s not long before the guys dive into investments. Meb asks about Mike’s investment framework – how does he think about the world as a practitioner. Mike tells us he tries to let the market do as much as possible. One of the biggest things that will lead to success is simply being investing. And because our emotions can trip us up so much, by quantifying risk and then having a better idea of what to expect, we stand a better chance of success. This concept is what lead to the Riskalyze Risk Number. Meb asks for an overview of what this number is and how it works. Mike gives us a great overview of its background and how Riskalyze seeks to quantify risk on a scale of 0-100. (Basically “cash” to a “single stock.”) The conversation morphs into how the Risk Number has been further refined over the years, including the amount of historical data included. Next, Meb brings up something Mike once said in an interview, about the two reasons why investing is broken. He asks him to expound. Mike tells us these factors are 1) the psychological pitfalls facing the mom ‘n pop investor, and 2) the complex nature of the investing environment (so many products available to the investor). It’s not long before Meb brings up a current reality facing advisors: With asset allocation being largely commoditized with a low fee attached, where is the main “value add” for advisors these days? Mike believes that the advisor’s role is to be the behavioral coach. He has multiple stories about the power of using data and analytics to keeping the investor invested. This leads into the most common mistakes Mike sees that many investors continue to make. It’s not long before Meb turns the mic over to the audience (remember, this was recorded in front of a live audience in Lake Tahoe). You’ll hear: Have Riskalyze numbers proven to be helpful when facing an SEC audit? What will be the impetus that gets advisors to enter into the 401k space? Most investors have traditionally relied on bonds to be a stabilizing effect on portfolios, but is the market we’re in likely to play that role? Given this, how does Riskalyze think about alternative asset classes? In a world of low expected returns, how does an advisors balance business risk versus the client’s investment risk? There’s plenty more in this episode, including Meb’s discussion of the impact of fees on various global asset allocations… home country bias… the challenges of trend-following… and of course, Mike’s most memorable trade. It turns out, he has two, the latter of which is what led to the creation of the Riskalyze concept. What were the trades? Find out in Episode 75.

#74 - Jeffrey Sherman - “There's This 'Buy-the-Dip;' Mentality... Do You Play in It, or Just Shake Your Head?"
Oct 04 2017 74 mins  
In Episode 74, we welcome Jeffrey Sherman from DoubleLine. We start with Jeff’s background – it’s a fun recap, including stories of running the scoreboard for The Stockton Ports… being a bank teller… earning graduate degrees… there’s a brief aside into catastrophe bonds which is a good primer if you’re less familiar with them… then back into Jeff’s background with DoubleLine. This dovetails into Meb asking about the type of shop DoubleLine is, as well as its overall investing framework. We learn that DoubleLine will go into whatever market it finds interesting. They’re also a macro shop, which led them to fixed income. After all, Jeff tells us “If you want to know what’s going on in the world macroeconomically, the bond market tells you.” Next, Meb asks how the world looks to Jeff today. Everything is growing, but it’s not the same old growth. The difference is debt. Overall, it has been a positive environment for investing; inflation is low, but the price of assets now reflects this good environment and people are projecting that forward – but it’s not realistic. Many assets are expensive now. Jeff puts a point on the situation by saying “There’s this ‘buy-the-dip’ mentality… Do you play in it or just shake your head?” The guys cover lots of ground here: Prices in the bond market have gotten ridiculous… Policy mistakes from the Fed… How this is “The Jay Cutler bull market” meaning it’s very “ho-hum”... how Europe is growing at the same rate as the U.S., yet they are continuing to do QE, while we’ve hiked rates four times… we’re talking about unwinding bonds while they’re buying – there’s a disconnect. And we don’t truly know what unwinding is going to look like. This leads into a great discussion of bonds and how they respond to a rising rate environment. As Meb notes, most people hear “interest rates are going up” and they think “bond prices must be going down.” But that doesn’t have to be the case. Jeff dives into some great detail here on the math behind bond returns and rising rates. If you’re a bond guy, make sure to catch this part of the episode. A few twists and turns later, Meb brings up a DoubleLine fund that combines U.S. equities in various sectors, paired with a fixed income component. He asks how is it designed, the benefit, and so on. Amongst other details Jeff tells us, we learn that the fund applies a sector rotation strategy based on Professor Shiller’s CAPE ratio. Historically, people have used CAPE to evaluate markets. Jeff wondered why one couldn’t apply it to smaller subsets of the markets – sectors. For instance, utilities and tech have different profiles re: beta and whatnot. So why not take each sector’s CAPE and compare it to its own CAPE history? You then look for the cheapest sectors of the market. And you can avoid buying a value trap by apply momentum (in Jeff’s strategy, they throw away the worst one-year momentum sector). Meb asks which sectors look good from a CAPE perspective now. Jeff tells us he’s looking at technology, consumer discretionary, consumer staples, and health care. He was looking at energy, but he booted it due to its bad momentum. He tells us another high flier is the financial sector. Up 35% or so since the election. Meb asks a Twitter question next – how much does DoubleLine incorporate technicals into their process? Jeff tells us that he uses technical more on trade implementation and things that are hard to value like FX. There’s so much more in this episode: sentiment… Trump, and the D.C. status quo… commodities… the “Four Asset” portfolio… More write-in questions from Twitter… a quick descent into a crypto-rant… the biggest mistakes Jeff is seeing investors make… and of course, his most memorable trade. What were the details? Find out in Episode 74.

#73 - Jeff Porter & Barbara Schelhorn - Why Financial Planning? Because Investing Alone Won't Get You There
Sep 27 2017 95 mins  
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 surface of what’s covered in this episode. (It’s our longest to date!) You’ll hear about umbrella insurance policies (and why Meb could use one for some property he owns in Colorado)… The importance of proper titling of your assets and how it can protect you from litigation… Gifting loved ones with stock rather than cash to get around big capital gains… Effective financial strategies using tax bracket trends… SEP IRAs versus 401Ks vs Roth IRAs… When to start taking Social Security… And way more. And of course, you’ll hear Jeff and Barbara’s most memorable investments. While Barbara’s is interesting, Jeff’s involves a huge market loss thanks to a bad tip from a certain college friend (you guessed it – Meb was to blame). What was Meb’s bad investment advice that cost Jeff thousands? Find out in Episode 73.



#70: Radio Show: The 13F Guru Meb Would Follow Today
Sep 06 2017 52 mins  
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.

#69 - Jason Calacanis - “This is a Little, Secret Way... A Dark Art of Becoming Truly Wealthy... Massive Wealth"
Aug 30 2017 89 mins  
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 discuss taking some money off the table if your investment goes public, perhaps selling 25% of your position at four different times. Meb likes this idea, as we discuss the behavioral challenges of investing so often, with so many investors thinking in binary terms – “in or out?” But scaling is such a powerful concept. There’s so much more in this episode, and if you’ve ever been curious about angel investing, you’re going to learn from the best. The guys discuss how the lack of liquidity can be a blessing in disguise… why the sophomore year of angel investing can be brutal… a great way to tell if your angel investment is doing poorly… a huge ($10M huge) tax benefit of early stage investing… and of course, Jason’s most memorable trade – it turns out, he was the 3rd or 4th investor in Uber. Want to hear the details? You’ll get them all and more in Episode 69.


#68 - Corey Hoffstein - “Risk Cannot Be Destroyed, Only Transformed"
Aug 23 2017 72 mins  
In Episode 68, we welcome Meb’s friend and Newfound Research founder, Cory Hoffstein (or as Meb refers to him, a “fellow nerd”). Per usual, we start with Corey’s background, but then Meb jumps in by asking Corey to describe his general, 10K foot investing framework. Corey tells us that a specific product and/or style doesn’t necessarily define him or Newfound. Rather, he believes in a consistent, well-researched process that takes into account the behavioral challenges that accompany any given investment strategy. This is because the journey is often just as important as the destination. Meb asks where Corey starts when creating a portfolio. Corey tells us it’s about the balance of risk. This is because “risk cannot be destroyed, only transformed.” Therefore, when building a portfolio, there’s no single holy grail. You need to understand the goals and fears of your client, then figure out how to balance various strategies in order to find a robust, flexible portfolio that handles risk appropriately. This dovetails into one of Newfound’s white papers, “Portfolios in Wonderland,” which tackles today’s investing climate. Corey tells us that we’re in a unique environment, whether focusing on equity valuations or interest rates. It used to be that stocks and bonds zigged when the other zagged. But in the 1980s, both became cheap. Today, we have the opposite: high equity values and low yields on fixed income. This leads to a great discussion on bonds, including Corey’s rule of thumb for estimating future bond returns, and his research into the source of bond returns – how much was due to the coupon, versus declining rates and roll yield. The guys agree that with U.S. equities richly valued, and bond yields so low, future returns of the classic 60/40 portfolio don’t look too appetizing. So, what’s the solution? Corey likes the proliferation of asset classes that used to be found almost exclusively in hedge funds. Now, we can use them to diversify our portfolios and reach a solid rate of return. The conversation bounces around a bit here – how 8%-10% returns aren’t likely going forward unless you’re invested exclusively in emerging markets... how if you let a portfolio optimizer do its thing, you’d have almost no U.S. exposure in either equities or bonds... and how, behaviorally, most people couldn’t have 0% allocated to the S&P, so finding a balance between the best portfolio and the most realistic portfolio is needed. Meb asks how much drag there is on returns when moving away from the mathematically “best” portfolio to a portfolio which investors can actually stomach. Corey tell us investors are probably giving up 50-100 basis points of return which, over the long run, is a meaningful difference. It’s not long before Meb asks about new research Corey is working on. Corey tells us he’s looking at much complexity an investor should bring into a portfolio. Some small details can make a huge difference. This leads to a great discussion about “timing luck” when it comes to trend following. More specifically, when you choose to rebalance can make a huge impact on your returns. If you’re a trend follower, make sure to catch this part. A bit later, the guys discuss another white paper from Corey, “Outperforming by Underperforming.” This leads into a conversation about the challenges of looking different with your strategy, as well as the right time-frame needed to evaluate any strategy. The conversation includes a great quiz Corey often asks his audiences regarding Buffett and how badly he has lagged the S&P at times. Chances are you’ll be surprised to hear what Corey says. There’s way more in this episode, including answers to “Should we be holding more cash?” “Is dividend investing dangerous” and “How do you factor in various global interest rates when looking at a bond allocation?” There’s also how Corey constructs multi-asset portfolios… how value works across asset classes… the biggest concerns Corey is hearing from clients today… an idea Meb has for a “weird ETF”… and of course, Corey’s most memorable trade. What is it? Find out in Episode 68.

#67 - Simon Black - “I See a Lot of Red Flags"
Aug 16 2017 56 mins  
In Episode 67, we welcome Simon Black, founder of the newsletter, Sovereign Man. We start with Simon’s military background, having been an intelligence officer. He spent lots of time overseas, yet became disillusioned after the promises of WMDs failed to prove accurate. From this, he began challenging the status quo. Underpinning everything was an ethos of personal freedom, which is at the core of what Simon’s newsletter, Sovereign Man, is really about. Meb asks what global red flags and/or issues Simon is seeing now which might be challenging our personal freedoms. Simon tells us “I see a lot of red flags.” Specifically, he’s seeing a global trend toward socialism. People have a sense that the system is rigged. There’s an intuitive understanding that something is wrong, though people aren’t quite certain what it is, so they blame capitalism. But when people gravitate toward socialism (“I want more free stuff”), we run into the challenge of too many people wanting to jump on the cart, without enough people actually pulling the cart. This leads to an interesting conversation about the effects of socialism in Venezuela, where Simon is located. He mentions how there are vast quantities of soil where the Venezuelans could be growing crops, yet there is starvation. He steers the conversation back to challenges here in the U.S., which leads toward the need for what Simon calls a “Plan B.” In essence, this is a plan intended to protect yourself and your assets from the various risks we face today on many levels – financial, personal, governmental… Part of an effective Plan B ties to diversification. Simon mentions how if all of your assets are in the same banking system, then you’re not diversified. So, Simon suggests at least some money should be kept in banks outside of the U.S. – after all, there are many global banks that are better capitalized than those here in the U.S. He offers Hong Kong as an example. The conversation drifts toward an example of personal diversification – getting a second passport. Simon thinks this is the ultimate option, providing tons of opportunities and benefits – all upside with no downside, for minimal cost. Next up is Simon’s suggestion to legally reduce your tax burden. He tells us “reducing your taxes…that’s the easiest return on investment you’ll ever make.” Simon tell us a favorite tax-reduction technique upon Meb’s request. Next up, the guys discuss having cash outside the U.S. banking system. The conversation references why this is important – just look at what happened in Cyprus and Greece a few years ago. This leads into a discussion of cryptocurrencies. Simon tells us how so many people putting money into crytos today now have no idea what they’re doing – do they even understand Bitcoin and Ethereum? Who has actually read the original white paper on Bitcoin? There’s way more in this episode: where Simon is looking now for safe, margin-of-safety-style investments around the globe… how private equity can help your portfolio… Simon’s entrepreneurial advice… what Simon’s readers are most concerned about today… and of course, Simon’s most memorable trade – it involved day-trading Compaq (and losing everything). How’d it happen? Find out in Episode 67.


#65 - Emil van Essen - “The Days of $80 Oil - That's a Long Way Away"
Aug 09 2017 57 mins  
In Episode 65, we welcome CTA and commodities expert, Emil van Essen. Meb starts with a fun bit of trivia – if you mesh his and Emil’s name, coming up with “Emil Faber,” can you guess in which movie that name appears? It turns out it’s from the classic comedy, Animal House. “Emil Faber” was the founder of the movie’s “Faber College” and under his statue was his quote, “Knowledge is good.” After Emil gives us a bit about his background, the guys jump into the deep end. Emil trades managed futures, and while most people think “trend following” when they hear “managed futures,” there are other styles. Emil tells us about a style he uses often, spread trading. Emil looks at the term structure in commodities futures contracts. There’s a price for every month going out in time. You can trade the differences between those months (calendar spreads). He also trades relative value and roll arb. Emil likes these strategies because there’s tons of alpha available. Meb pauses to explain a bit for any listeners who are less familiar with all this. He explains exposure to the futures markets, using oil as an example. This leads into a discussion about the growth of commodities markets. Back in the 2000s, commodities went from being just a product to an investment vehicle. So the powers that be created indices and various commodities products to meet this demand. Investments in commodities exploded, driving up prices. This dovetails into what Meb calls “one of the dirty secrets of indexing,” which is how many indices can be front-run. Meb tells us how, for some 1.0 commodities indices, the slippage was in the order of 3-4% per year. Meb then asks Emil to describe what he looks at when establishing a position. Is it fundamental? Technical? Emil tell us it’s very important that you use both, because “you have to understand the fundamentals because things change.” Next is a great conversation about front-running trend followers. This is something that Emil does. He knows that if there’s a big move, the trend followers are likely all on the same side of the position, so when it comes time to roll the front month, and Emil generally knows when that will happen, Emil takes advantage of the price movement. Meb and Emil then discuss the easiest way to implement this strategy. A bit later, the guys discuss what themes/positions Emil is interested in right now. He tells us how there has recently been a shortage in gasoline, so gas has been running up against crude oil. It’s at high levels now, and Emil thinks it’ll come down. Emil also tells us that he’s looking at grains, the energy markets, and certain metals including platinum and palladium. This leads into a discussion on oil. Meb asks Emil’s take on the industry. Emil gives us some great background on what drove oil up so high, and why it crashed. Then he discusses the technological revolution in oil drilling, the result of which is that the cost of finding and developing oil has collapsed. There are some great details in here which oil investors won’t want to miss, but Emil wraps up this part of the conversation by saying “the days of $80 oil – that’s a long way away.” Meb then asks what areas of commodities Emil likes right now. Emil tells us his thoughts on at what level crude is buy. And he mentions a certain metal which he considers a “no brainer.” You’ll have to listen for the details. There’s way more in this episode: how Emil views gold in light of new cryptocurrencies… A Twitter poll Meb conducted that reveals just how stubborn some investors can be when it comes to selling out of overvalued equities… Where Emil has seen the most investors make the biggest mistakes over his 25+ year career… The dangerous false belief that “we’ve seen this before” in the markets, and how computerized investing is taking us into uncharted waters… And finally, Emil’s most memorable trade (which was a loser that will get your blood racing). What are the details? Find out in Episode 65.

#64 - David Varadi - “Managing Risk is Absolutely Critical"
Aug 02 2017 52 mins  
In Episode 64, we welcome David Varadi from Blue Sky Asset Management. David tells us a bit about himself before he and Meb jump into investing. Meb starts by referencing a quote from Blue Sky’s website: “Unlike endowments, investors do not have an infinite time horizon. For this reason, we believe that a traditional strategic asset allocation approach based on modern portfolio theory is suboptimal. It makes more sense to adapt to changes in the economic environment. We favor a dynamic approach to asset allocation using market information to guide our investment decisions. Most importantly, we believe that a systematic, quantitative approach is necessary to avoid emotions and biases in decision-making.” Meb’s a fan of all the ideas in that quote, so he asks David to expound and discuss his general market framework. David tells us how it’s easy to be a buy-and-hold investor when market is going up; much harder so when the market is falling – especially when nearing retirement. Significant drawdowns can be devastating. So David tells us that “managing risk is absolutely critical.” Investors need to be able to adjust their strategies to handle a wide variety of market scenarios – bear markets, varying interest rate scenarios, and inflation. And “if you have a dynamic asset allocation, you have the ability to be more in tune with the market regime that is currently going on.” Meb asks David to dig deeper – what are the rules and frameworks in place that make his models dynamic? For David, much goes back to fundamentals, trend, momentum, and volatility. David starts with a strategic allocation that reflects longer-term assumptions. But what’s interesting is how David uses volatility in concert with trend/momentum, helping him know when to be in the market versus cash. Most people think time-series momentum is a binary decision, but David brings probabilities into the discussion. Meb then asks about the challenges a retail investor faces when trying to implement the strategies David has been discussing. A big challenge is tracking error. The more dynamic you are (moving away from buy-and-hold indexing), the more potential tracking error. Another issue is how often you trade. David tells us that the investor has to ask himself what is most important – does the investor want to reduce the drawdown in a 2008 scenario, and if so, is he willing to take the tracking error associated with that? Meb echoes this tradeoff between buy-and-hold versus active. It’s very hard to look “different” than the market and/or your neighbors when you’re underperforming. Next, Meb references a chart from one of Blue Sky’s white papers that shows the most successful asset managers (presented in our show links). The top three are all quant/trend guys. Buffett is at six. Meb asks why, then, everyone knows Buffett’s name, but most average investors aren’t familiar with the trend asset managers. David gives us an interesting answer, referencing how trend is less known, as well as the behavioral challenges of its implementation. But he tells us that a big reason why many of those trend investors are on the chart is because “when you stay in tune with what’s actually happening in the market, you’re much more likely to survive over a long period of time.” It’s not long before the guys switch to a fascinating new topic – using equity option data to select stocks. In essence, looking at the implied volatility between puts and calls to get a feel for which equities are more likely to climb. David is searching for “high implied skew.” Next, Meb brings up another Blue Sky whitepaper, this one about retirees and risk. David hits the high points, discussing the challenges of volatility in retirement. There’s plenty more in this episode, including the new areas David is researching… David’s most memorable trade (one involves put options, the other Bitcoin)… And David’s one piece of investing advice to listeners, involving three mental “buckets” for your asset allocation. What are they? Find out in Episode 64.

#63 - Gary Beasley & Gregor Watson - “We're Trying to Really Change the Way People Invest in Real Estate"
Jul 26 2017 53 mins  
In Episode 63, we welcome Gary Beasley and Gregor Watson, co-founders of Roofstock. If you’re one of our listeners who has written in requesting an episode on rental real estate, be sure not to miss this one. We start with some quick background on the guys, how they came to found Roofstock, and the way in which their company is aiming to make rental real estate investing far easier. In essence, they want to simplify things by separating the “investing” side of rental real estate from the “operational” side of owning a rental home. After the background, Meb starts with a broad, contextual question: So how would a new rental real estate investor start? In the old way, you would identify a market in which you’re interested, look at tons of homes, make some offers, perform due diligence on the ones where the offers have some traction, renegotiation the price and finally buy, then find a property manager to handle operations for you. But the guys then tell us how Roofstock is making this traditional process far simpler. Basically, the home and rents, tenant, and local property manager have already been vetted and approved. You see the various yields ahead of time. This enables investors to buy without all the traditional brain-damage. The guys tell us “Our goal is to make it incredibly easy to get exposure to the asset class (rental real estate).” What follows is a wonderful discussion about some of the traditional challenges with rental real estate, and how Gary and Gregor are helping investors overcome those challenges. The discussion touches on how to compare rental homes across different markets… Evaluating rental homes via gross yield, net yield, IRR, and on an after-tax return basis… How Gary and Gregor arrive at rental home valuations… Financing versus all-cash buying… There are also great tidbits of rental real estate investing wisdom dropped in. For instance, did you know that the total cost to a home-seller to vacate, spiff up, and sell is about 10-12% of the sale price? Did you know that the average cost of a property manager is about 7-8% of collected rents plus a separate leasing fee? Guess what percentage of rental real estate owners live within about an hour of the homes they own? You’ll find out… Later in the episode, Meb asks about the range of yields on the various rental homes featured on Roofstock; specifically, why wouldn’t he invest in a handful of homes yielding, say, 25% versus those yielding just 5%? Is there a parallel here to high-grade bonds and junk bonds? The guys tell us, yes, lower yielders tend to be the safer investments, whereas the higher-yielding homes are a bit riskier. But both potentially have a place in a rental portfolio, depending on the needs/goals of that investor. There’s much more in this episode: the difference between buying single-family homes directly versus investing in a REIT… How to think about starting and building a rental real estate portfolio… How much time an investor would need to commit to being a landlord when not using a property manager… What happens if there’s another 2007… And Gary and Gregor’s single best piece of advice to listeners interested in starting with rental real estate investing. What is it? Find out in Episode 63.

#62 - Ron Lieber - “We're Not Having the Right Kinds of Conversations with Our Kids About (Money)"
Jul 19 2017 60 mins  
In Episode 62, we welcome journalist and author, Ron Lieber. Meb begins by congratulating Ron, as it was Meb's pregnant wife who read Ron's book about how parents should discuss financial matters with their kids, and promptly told Meb he needed to read it and get Ron on the podcast. Turning attention to Ron's book, "The Opposite of Spoiled," Meb begins by asking about Ron's motivation for writing it. Ron tells us there were three factors: one, a pointed question from his three-year-old ("Daddy, why don't we have a summer home?"); two, the focus of Ron's writing at work (young people who borrow vast sums of money to pay the huge college tuition bills); and three, his own situation as a teen, having seen the collegiate financial aid application process thanks to his mother. All of this together led Ron to the conclusion that "we're not having the right kinds of conversations with our kids about this stuff." Meb mentions how it's a shame that they don't teach personal finance in high school, which makes it all the more important that parents have these discussions with their kids. Unfortunately, many parents are reluctant. Meb asks Ron why this is so. Ron points toward shame. Perhaps parents are ashamed they don't know the answers to the questions (maybe they don't have a firm grip on finances themselves), or maybe they're ashamed at how much (or little) they earn, or at how they earn their money. The conversation drifts toward a piece of advice in Ron's book; it's the suggestion that when facing a question from a child, the parent might ask "Why do you ask that?" The reason this is helpful is that many times, the stated question isn't really want the child wants to know. Questions like "how much do you make?" are rooted in fundamental questions such as "Mom/Dad, are we okay here? Is our family normal?" Meb brings up the four things spoiled kids have in common from Ron's book and asks for some commentary. Ron tells us that, ironically, these spoiling factors have almost nothing to do with actual money. They are: one, not having any rules for kids; two, if there are rules, not enforcing them or having consequences; three, smoothing out the path in front of kids and making sure they never face any challenges; and four, allowing kids to grow up without any context for how lucky they are for their opportunities – no gratitude, and instead, an attitude of entitlement. This dovetails into a great conversation about chores, which points toward allowances. Ron suggests dividing allowances into three buckets: savings, spending, and giving. The specific allocations will likely reflect the values the parent is looking to instill (for instance, if a parent wants to focus on giving, the allowance amount can reflect what the parent believes is an appropriate amount the child should skim off the top for "giving"). There's way more in this episode, and if you're the parent or grandparent of a young child, you don't want to miss this one. You'll hear more about the conditions that lead toward materialistic kids and how to avoid them... Unique ways to deal with things like a visit from The Tooth Fairy... How to handle kids wanting cell phones (do you know how long Bill Gates made his kids wait before buying them a cell phone? You'll find out)... And how to use a great tool called "The Fun Ratio" to help your kids make better spending decisions. What is it and how does it work? Find out in Episode 62.

#61 - Jack Vogel - “(Factor Timing?) It's Next to Near Impossible"
Jul 12 2017 60 mins  
In Episode 61, we welcome Jack Vogel, CFO/CIO of Alpha Architect, and the partner of Wes Gray, who you may remember as one of our earliest Meb Faber Show guests. After Jack tells us a bit about his background and how he came to be at Alpha Architect, Meb jumps in, starting with "factors" - specifically, the value factor. Meb asks about Jack's value philosophy in general, and how he creates a value portfolio. What follows is a great look at how a professional portfolio manager/asset allocator creates a portfolio. Using quantitative tools, Jack starts by constructing the universe of potential assets to include, keeping in mind scale. Next, Jack applies some forensic accounting in order to exclude certain toxic assets that one wouldn't want in a portfolio. Then, he screens for value. Jack likes using enterprise multiples. Finally, he looks for "quality." These are things like free cash flow, margin growth and marketing stability. Meb then points the conversation toward momentum investing. Jack offers us a general overview first, noting how momentum investing can be really beneficial for value investors. He also makes the point how it's definitely different than growth investing. In discussing creating a momentum portfolio, Jack discusses adding seasonality (which means addressing when to rebalance) and quality. On the topic of quality, Jack gives us a great example of what it means in the context of earnings; it involves two stocks, one of which is flat for an extended period, but then explodes in value in a short amount of time, versus the other that experiences the same growth, but gradually and consistently over the entire period. Which earnings are more "quality"? Jack gives us his thoughts. Next up is Alpha Architect's great tool, Visual Active Share. It's a wonderful way for investors to compare the holdings of an ETF to its benchmark index. Investors can use this to see just how "different" the ETF in question truly is. After all, you don't want to be paying too much in fees for an ETF that's really just a closet index fund. The guys discuss whether there's a particular number for what "good" active share is, as well as the challenge of tracking error as you grow more "different." As usual, there's a great deal more in this episode: Alpha Architect's new value, momentum, trend ETF... A discussion of the state of robos... What new tools Jack and his crew at Alpha Architect are working on now in order to help investors pull back the curtain on various funds... And of course, Jack's most memorable trade - it was the last individual stock he owned, which he now refers to as 'The Titanic.' What was the stock? Find out in Episode 61.


#60 - William Bernstein - “The More Comfortable You Are Buying Something, in General, the Worse the Investment It's Going to Be"
Jul 05 2017 58 mins  
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 episode: Bill's thoughts on robos... What Bill thinks about any strategy that moves away from market cap weighting (Bill thinks "smart beta" is basically "smart marketing")... How buying a home really may not be a great investment after all... Cryptocurrencies... and even Meb's "secret weapon" of investing. All this and more in Episode 60.

#59: Radio Show: The Death of Value Investing
Jun 28 2017 67 mins  
Episode 59 is a radio show format. This week we're diving into some of the recent market stories which Meb has found most interesting. We also bring back some listener Q&A. We start with a Tweet from Cliff Asness, in which he rebuffs a Bloomberg article titled, "The Death of Value Investing." The article states that value isn't working. Sticking to that approach has resulted in a cumulative loss of 15 percent over the past decade, according to a Goldman Sachs Group Inc. report. During roughly the same period, the S&P 500 Index has almost doubled." So is value investing dead? Meb gives us his thoughts. We discuss its underperformance, mean reversion, and factor-crowding. Next up is a New York Times article referencing a recent stance-reversal from Burt Malkiel, a passive investing legend. He's now saying he recognizes where active investing can exploit certain market inefficiencies. The same article has some great quotes from Rob Arnott on the topic of factor investing, and the danger in tons of quants all looking at the same data and trading on it. Meb gives us his thoughts on factor timing and rotation, using trend with factors, and the behavioral challenges involved in both. Another Arnott quote steers the conversation toward backtesting - the pitfalls to avoid when backtesting, so you don't create a strategy that looks brilliant in hindsight, but is hideous going forward. Next up are some listener questions: I still can't wrap my head around how to use commodities in a portfolio. The Ivy Portfolio promotes putting 20% in a broad commodity index, but in the podcast, I've heard you discuss the financialization of commodities futures leading to loss of roll yield. So what's the answer here? Include commodities as an inflation hedge but be prepared to pay the price of long term drag? Or forget about commodities and just focus on stocks/bonds/real estate? Please explain the difference between the unadvised practice of performance chasing and the highly encouraged practice of momentum investing. I would like to know your thoughts on implementing lifecycle glidepaths for an individual or clients' portfolio. Your quant-style approach looks at risk a lot different than most, but I do see value in reducing portfolio risk as you come closer to withdrawing the money - the question is which risk, or what approach do you use to reduce the risk? Regarding your trinity style approach, does that mean reducing from a Trinity 5 to a Trinity 3 (for example) a couple years prior to retirement? There's plenty more - including our new partnership with Riskalyze, which enables advisors to allocate client assets into Trinity portfolios. But the more interesting story is how Meb gave his wife food-poisoning the other night. How'd he do it? Find out in Episode 59. 

#58 - Axel Merk - “Is Your Portfolio Robust Enough for Whatever Might Be Coming Your Way?"
Jun 21 2017 62 mins  
In Episode 58, we welcome Axel Merk from Merk Investments. After a bit on Axel's background, the guys jump in, discussing the Fed's decision to raise interest rates today (recorded on Wed 6/14/17). Axel discusses how the Fed has announced the normalization of its balance sheet and the pace at which it would like to do so - but they've left out lots of details. He likens it to driving into a tunnel with no lights on. In essence, the Fed doesn't know where it wants to go. Axel's response touches upon our current low volatility. Meb hones in on this, asking if the low volatility is in part due to actions from the Fed. Axel believes this to be the case (central banks in general, not just the Fed). Yet there's plenty more, involving how central bank activity has fueled this up, up, up market, with investors piling into risk assets. But Axel thinks asset prices are likely to come down from here. He says "A lot of that (rising asset prices) has been induced by central banks. The unwinding of that is going to be, at the very least, let's put it in quotes "'interesting.'" Meb then focuses the conversation on equities. He says how here in the U.S. they're expensive. So what does Axel see as the opportunity set in equities around the globe? You'll need to listen for the details, but Axel likes a pairs trade, going long France and short the S&P. Of course, he is quick to say he could be wrong on both legs. Meb segues to China, as Axel had mentioned it earlier. If you're a regular Meb Faber Show listener who heard Steve Sjuggerud and Jason Hsu's thoughts on China, you'll want to hear Axel's thoughts for a different take. He's not nearly as bullish. He concludes by saying "I happen to think that if you want to be looking at the one risk event that's out there, that's going to get people's attention, China is certainly at the very top of the list." Since Axel is a currency guy, Meb then brings currencies into the conversation, asking how investors might think about them in a broader portfolio context. Axel gives us a great overview of different currency markets, with additional detail on the Dollar vs Euro. Overall, he sees the Dollar toward the top of its cycle, and the Euro toward its bottom. He concludes by predicting that the Euro will be substantially stronger a year from now. There's a great deal more in this episode: whether retail investors should be following an endowment allocation... how holding cash is not necessarily a bad investment choice... a great discussion on gold, and how it fits into a portfolio... even Axel's thoughts on cryptocurrencies and Bitcoin. And of course, we get Axel's one piece of investment advice for listeners, as well as his most memorable trade (Hint - he bought Apple early). Find out all the details in Episode 58.


#56 - Dave Nadig - “This is a Big Year for ETFs"
Jun 07 2017 57 mins  
In Episode 56, we welcome Meb's good friend, and CEO of ETF.com, Dave Nadig. Per usual, we start with some background information. Dave tells us about his early days in the investment industry, starting a consulting firm that was working on a then-new idea: fee-only financial advising. His first client was a little shop that went on to become none other than BlackRock. After some professional twists and turns, including running money for a while, Dave ended up at ETF.com. Meb then dives in by referencing an article Dave wrote toward the end of last year, called "Outlook for ETFs in 2017." There were several key points in the article which Meb thinks can help provide a general, 30-thousand-foot overview of the ETF space. The first point - ETF flows. Dave tells us "this is a big year for ETFs." He then takes us through a quick recap of the evolution of ETFs, going from a purely institutional product back in its early days, to something embraced by investment advisors, to an investment vehicle for retail investors. And here we are now, somewhat full circle, with ETFs even more embraced by institutions (think endowments), only now, they're no longer held as fringe investments, but as core holdings. Meb asks at what point ETF assets will surpass mutual fund assets. Meb had predicted within about 10 years back in 2013. Dave tells us there will always be a demand for mutual funds - that said, he believes the cross will happen around 2025, with asset levels around $14 trillion. Meb asks if the evolution in the ETF space today is primarily a movement from higher fee to lower fee. David believes this is the case. Most of the new flows are going toward low-cost vanilla products. Dave thinks the whole active/passive debate misses the point - it's really about cost. This dovetails into another business/investment idea Meb has that he's offering to any listener willing to pursue it. Next, Meb brings us back to Dave's 2017 Outlook piece, this time bringing up "ESG."(This stands for "environmental, social and governance" for anyone unaware.). Dave believes that we're near/in the greatest intergenerational wealth transfer in history. And the 40-year-olds that are inheriting, say, a $5M portfolio from their 70-80-year-old parents have different desires about what to do with that money. Dave tells us that this younger generation wants their money to do something - and this usually gets labeled ESG. So Dave believes we'll see more funds targeting this wealth transfer. After some conversation about industry regulatory issues and Bitcoin, the guys jump into Dave's recent visit to "The Money Show" – a place Meb describes as the "Wild West" of individual investors. One of the biggest things attendees of the show were asking Dave about was ETF liquidity. Is there reason for concern? How illiquid can you go? Dave gives us the key takeaways: 1) remember good trading hygiene. In essence, don't be an idiot. Use limit orders, assess fair value if you can, and so on. 2) In responding to "how illiquid is too illiquid" Dave says it's not that simple, because liquidity is a moving target. He tells us about "the liquidity barbell." If you're worried about this topic, you'll want to be sure to listen to this section. Meb then asks about a fear the media loves to play up: "Will ETFs bring about stock market Armageddon?" Meb goes on to say how a USA Today article blames ETFs for exacerbating bad investing habits. Dave says you can't blame ETFs for bad investor timing. That's just how we're wired. But he goes on to say that many of the arguments against ETFs can be traced back to the old guard - people who are trying to defend active management shops that are underperforming, or defend the lack of transparency in their investing process. But their main argument is worth understanding - namely, the indexing problem; the idea is that if everyone owned index funds, then price discovery would be impossible. But Dave says we're a long way from having this problem. As usual, there's plenty more in the episode: exchange traded notes... the regulatory change Dave would like to see... buying ETFs at NAV... Dave's one piece of advice offered to help listeners the most... and Dave's answer to a new question: since Dave is a big "game" lover, Meb asks which three games are his top 3 of all time. What are they? Find out in Episode 56.

#55 - Ed Easterling - “In Reality, Normal is Actually Volatile. Normal is Not Mellow"
May 31 2017 61 mins  
In Episode 55, we welcome Ed Easterling. Meb starts by referencing a survey he just conducted, asking readers’ opinions as to the single best investing book out there. It turns out that Ed’s book, Unexpected Returns, made the top 50 list, so Meb offers Ed a kudos. But the guys hop into market discussions quickly. Ed tells us that the stock market is not driven by randomness. It’s predictable in the long run, driven by three components: 1) earnings growth, 2) dividend yield, and 3) the change in valuation level. Stock market returns over the short-term are unpredictable, but over the longer-term they’re highly predictable. And the key driver is the starting level valuation. Meb brings up how numerous investors are currently expecting 10% returns (based on long-term averages). He asks Ed if that’s warranted. It turns out, we need to distinguish between long-term returns (say, 100 years) and a return-period that’s more relevant to the average investor (say, 10 or 20 years). This is because changes in PE levels are much more significant for returns over 10-20 year periods for individual investors, more so than over 100 years. Meb asks if Ed has a favorite PE ratio. Ed likes Shiller’s CAPE and the Crestmont PE – which is driven by GDP and EPS. Ed finds value in comparing the two. They have similar results yet have different approaches. All the talk of valuation leads the guys into a discussion of secular versus cyclical markets. Ed offers some general context for secular versus cyclical, then says we’re definitely in a secular bear market. He offers up some great details here, factoring in valuations and the inflation rate. Meb asks what will make the cyclical bear end? Ed says the PE has to get low enough where it can double or triple. So, starting out in the high 20s right now, the PE would need to get down to at least the mid-teens, if not the low-teens. Soon, the conversation gravitates toward “volatility gremlins,” with Meb asking Ed to define the term and explain. There are two volatility gremlins that compromise the compounded returns investors receive: 1) the effect of losses – Ed gives us example of the math behind wins and losses; 2) the dispersion of returns – steady returns yield the best compounding, but when returns are more dispersed, it adversely affects the compounding. Meb asks, “what then?” How does one build a portfolio knowing this? Ed answers by giving us a great analogy involving rowing and sailing. Next, the guys touch on volatility and what will be the trigger that moves us from this mellow inflation environment. Ed says that volatility is a reflection of the movement of the markets, which also reflects investor sentiment and complacency. By one of the measures of volatility that Ed tracks, he says we’re well-into the lowest 3% or 4% of all periods since 1950. The other volatility measure is the VIX, which is settling again, back around 10. Do you know how many days since 1990 the VIX has dipped below 10? Ed tells us, and yes, we’re flirting with a sub-10 level right now. There’s far much more in this episode: Where Ed would point a new investor starting in this environment… The biggest investing misconception Ed sees from his students… Ed’s favorite investing styles/strategies within the hedge fund space… And advice for retirees and/or income investors. What is it? Find out in Episode 55.

#54 - Elizabeth Dunn - “How Can I Use My Money Most Effectively in Order to Promote My Happiness?"
May 24 2017 48 mins  
In Episode 54, we welcome Elizabeth “Liz” Dunn, author of the book, “Happy Money: The Science of Happier Spending”. Meb suggests they walk through the book using its five broad takeaways as their outline. But before they dive in, he asks Liz about her inspiration for writing the book. Liz tells us that when she began making a “real, grown up” salary, she wasn’t entirely certain what to do with it. She was curious how to use it most effectively to promote her own happiness. Interestingly enough, there wasn’t a great deal of research on the topic. Next, Meb asks Liz to discuss her first main finding (and likely the best-known finding) – our happiness tends to increase when we spend money on experiences rather than things. Liz gives us the key takeaways, after which Meb asks why buying experiences over things is hard for us, when we know that’s what we should do. The problem is we’re bombarded with opportunities to buy things. And it’s easy to see the differences between, say, Liz’s Honda and Meb’s Ferrari (no, Meb doesn’t own a Ferrari). With this comparison, Meb would feel great. But it cuts both ways – it’s also very easy for Meb to see someone else’s far more expensive Bentley, therein making him feel less satisfied with his Ferrari. Conversely, it’s more challenging to compare experiences. Each experience is somewhat unique, therein reducing the tendency to compare. Liz gives us an example using a safari she went on. Meb and Liz soon move on to the second takeaway from the book: “make it a treat.” One of the greatest misunderstandings of happiness is the idea that if something makes us happy, then more of it should make us even happier. Apparently, that’s not the case. Whether we’re talking someone’s salary or a little luxury like “avocado toast” (Meb and Liz are both big fans), when we have more of it, this can erode our capacity to appreciate it. This dovetails into the discussion of the salary “line in the sand” above which added dollars has diminishing impact on real happiness. Liz tells us that in the U.S., this figure is about $75K. But she mentions it with an interesting context… There are two “flavors” to happiness: 1) the kind that comes when you evaluate a question like “am I living the kind of life I want to live?” and 2) the kind that comes when you ask “did I laugh or smile yesterday?” If you’re making more money – well beyond $75K, you’re more likely to answer #1 in an affirmative way. Sure, as you jet off to Bora Bora and evaluate your life, you’re likely to feel good about having the wealth to enable such a trip. However, it turns out this added wealth has very little effect on the second type of happiness – day-to-day happiness. The third takeaway is “buying time.” What are we actually doing with the minutes of our lives? Is there a way to trade our money for more time? Liz and Meb discuss spending an hour commuting to work every day, and how miserable that makes people. Wherever appropriate, it makes sense to spend money on things/services/people that can give us back our time, which we can then spend with loved ones or volunteering, etc. Meb makes the point “show me your calendar and checkbook and I’ll show you what you care about.” While Liz agrees to an extent, she points out that many times the calendar and checkbook DON’T align with things we truly care about because we get into habits – say, mowing the lawn even though we have enough money to pay someone else to do it for us. So part of our challenge is to sniff out where our priorities are out of alignment with where we’re actually spending our time/money, then look to shift out of that mindset. The fourth takeaway is “pay now, consume later.” This is hardly the way our culture does things, with its credit card mentality. Unfortunately, consuming first and paying later is exactly the wrong thing for happiness. Liz and Meb discuss this in detail, dovetailing into the toxic effects of debt. The final takeaway is “invest in other people.” Liz has found that we tend to be happier when we spend our money on other people, more so than ourselves. In supporting this takeaway, she tells us of her study in which she gave people either a $5 or $20 bill, and asked them to spend it by the end of the day – the caveat was that some people were asked to spend it on themselves, while others were asked to spend it on other people. Liz’s team followed up at the end of the day, calling the participants, and found that those who spent the money on others reported feeling happier than the people who’d spent it on themselves. After finishing discussing the book, Liz and Meb go over a paper Liz just published. It’s a fascinating look into what motivates wealthier people to give more to charity. In short, people with lots of money tend to focus on personal achievement more so than the communal “group achievement.” As such, a messaging strategy that reframes the wealthy individual as the hero or standout tends to result in more charitable donations as compared to a communal message. There’s plenty more in this episode, including Liz’s next research project, discussion of Syrian refugees, what prompted a classic Meb-meltdown as a child, and finally, Meb’s pointed question to Liz: If I put you on the spot and asked you to give us one single piece of advice for achieving more happiness, what would it be? What’s Liz’s answer? Find out in Episode 54.

#53: Radio Show: Cheapest Countries Right Now for New Dollars
May 18 2017 60 mins  
Episode 53 is another “radio show” format. This means we tackle a handful of topics from Meb’s blog and tweets. TOPIC 1 – VALUATIONS 3 DIFFERENT TAKES ON CURRENT VALUE PICTURE: Meb’s recent blog post “A Bar Too High” indicated that for stocks to meet expectations over next 10 years, valuations must rise to highest they’ve ever been in history. With a current CAPE ratio of 29, that means the stock market multiple needs to INCREASE to all-time 1999 bubble highs to meet investor expectations. He thinks tepid growth is more realistic. On the other hand, James Montier, member of the asset allocation team at the Boston-based asset manager GMO, is convinced that the US stock market is in bubble territory. However, European equities aren’t particularly cheap, either. Only emerging markets value-stocks appear vaguely attractive to him. Investors should be patient and hold a lot of cash in their portfolios in order to be able to buy when markets are correcting. What would make the US equity market attractive again – how much would it have to correct? To get back to our sense of fair value tomorrow, it would have to fall by more than 50%. Then we would be on average valuation, which again we estimate based on profitability going back to normal. A third option from a reader question: “Lately there seems to be a lot of talk about CAPE measure not being as meaningful as many seem to think that it is because the very low yields on bonds and full pricing of bonds are basically changing the overall risk adjusted returns landscape. I think the point people are making is that stocks are fairly priced for current overall market conditions, despite many indicators which suggest that prices are historically high.” Three viewpoints – how does Meb see them all? You’ll hear his take. TOPIC 2 – INVEST IN SINGLE STOCKS AT YOUR PERIL A new study by finance professor Hendrik Bessembinder, called “Do Stocks Outperform Treasury Bills?” found that while investing in the overall stock market makes sense, individual stocks resemble lottery tickets: A very small percentage of winning stocks have done splendidly, but when gains and losses are tallied up over their lifetimes, most stocks haven’t earned any money at all. What’s more, 58 percent of individual stocks since 1926 have failed to outperform one-month Treasury bills over their lifetimes. Professor Bessembinder found that a mere 4 percent of the stocks in the entire market — headed by Exxon Mobil and followed by Apple, General Electric, Microsoft and IBM — accounted for all of the net market returns from 1926 through 2015. By contrast, the most common single result for an individual stock over that period was a return of nearly negative 100 percent — almost a total loss. Given all this, what reason is there for the average retail investor to be in specific equities instead of broader sector and index ETFs? TOPIC 3 – VOLATILITY We'll post a chart about our current low volatility – actual U.S. stock market volatility going to back 1928 has only been lower about 3% of trading days. How does Meb interpret this – do these low readings mean a reversion is likely? Or is it the opposite – more of a trend approach where objects in motion tend to stay in motion? Also, how would an investor act upon this using a tail-risk hedging strategy involving puts? There’s plenty more and a handful of rabbit holes in this radio show episode, including investor sentiment, the name of Meb’s new child, how to avoid value traps, and yes, as the title suggests, the cheapest countries in the market today. What are they? Find out in Episode 53.


#52 - Jason Hsu - “This is a Market Where the Average Human Tendencies Are Precisely the Wrong Thing to Do"
May 17 2017 53 mins  
In Episode 52, we welcome Jason Hsu, joining us all the way from Taipei. We start with a bit of background on Jason and his company, Rayliant, which is a spinoff off Research Affiliates. Listeners might recognize the name Research Affiliates, as it was co-founded with another Meb Faber Show guest, Rob Arnott. Rob and Jason decided to spin off Rayliant to enable Jason to focus on his investing passion, China. As the conversation naturally led to China, Meb decides to run with it. He brings up how a prior Meb Faber Show guest (Steve Sjuggerud) is incredibly bullish on China. Meb asks Jason for a “boots on the ground” perspective. Does Jason agree with Steve’s bullishness? In short, absolutely. Jason has two hypotheses as he evaluates China: One, as China continues moving toward, and eventually becomes, the world’s largest economy, investors will realize they’re underexposed to this market. Given this, there will be major rebalancing into Chinese equities; Two, Jason tells us that approximately 80-90% of Chinese daily trade flow comes from retail investors (here in the U.S. this percentage is significantly lower). This means more market inefficiencies, so the probability for “alpha” for managers is greater. Both these factors make China a market that should be on investors’ radars. The China discussion dovetails into investor sentiment on China, and how emotionally-driven we are, which typically ends in underperformance. This leads Meb to ask pointedly, why are people so bad at investing? Jason gives us his thoughts, which tend to reduce to “flow chases short-term performance.” He goes on to say how oftentimes, investors get crushed as they buy in at the peak of a style or asset class cycle. Meb asks how investors should combat this. Jason has a classic response: “Whatever you think is a good idea… do the opposite and you’re going to be more successful.” The reason this tends to work is because “This is a market where the average human tendencies are precisely the wrong thing to do.” This prompts Meb to bring up a study idea he wants a listener to undertake for him regarding historical news headlines and investor sentiment. Listen for the details. Anyone up for the project? The guys stay on the topic of behavioral challenges, with Meb pointing toward one of Jason’s papers about how investors prefer complexity to simplicity. It’s a fascinating look into our wiring as humans and why investing is such a challenge for us. Next, the guys move on to smart beta and factor investing. Meb asks Jason to provide an overview, and any main takeaways for investors implementing smart beta strategies. Jason gives us his thoughts, including revealing his personal favorite factor: value. This leads the guys into a discussion of Warren Buffett and his true alpha being his ability to stick to his style and not abandon it at precisely the wrong time, as most of us do. The guys then discuss manager performance and underperformance, and the tendency to always be chasing. There’s far more in this episode: Meb’s “forever fund” idea (which most people he’s discussed it with actually hate)… Why hedge fund lockups and opaqueness can actually be a good thing… The unique “values” which Jason created for Rayliant, and how they’re so different than those of most other money managers… Jason’s most memorable trade… And lastly, his final takeaway for listeners looking for better market performance. What is it? Find out in Episode 52.

#51 - Mark Kritzman - “We Have to Question the Assumptions that Underpin Our Models... Nothing is Simple"
May 10 2017 51 mins  
In Episode 51, we welcome Mark Kritzman. Per usual, we start with Mark’s background. He tells us a bit about his 40-year career in investing, leading to Windham, where he focuses on asset allocation and risk premia strategies. But it’s not long before the guys jump in, starting with Mark’s 7th book, A Practitioner’s Guide to Asset Allocation, which will be coming out soon. Mark describes the process of asset allocation, starting with the basics, then taking us a layer deeper, discussing asset allocation as a way to balance the goal of increasing wealth while minimizing drawdowns. In essence, you need to identify the asset classes you want, evaluate their expected, long-term returns, then estimate the volatility of each and – just as importantly – estimate the correlation between the asset classes. With all this, you then find the particular allocations that give you the highest return for the same level of risk – the efficient frontier. Next, the conversation takes a turn toward investing fallacies, including the idea that asset allocation drives more than 90% of performance. Mark tells us there are some flaws with this idea, then explains in detail. Another fallacy discussed is that of time-diversification – the assumption that investing over the long-term is safer than investing over shorter periods. Again, Mark provides details that call into question this belief. The guys then get into investing in illiquid assets, and how to appropriately structure them in an asset allocation. It can be hard to maintain a balanced portfolio consisting of illiquid assets. Mark’s approach is to treat liquidity as a shadow investment. In essence, you attach a shadow asset as well as a shadow liability to the appropriate parts of the portfolio. You’ll want to listen to this part of the episode for all the details. This dovetails into hedge funds, since hedge fund investing can also be illiquid. Meb asks how Mark thinks about hedge fund investing, and given limited information, is an investor’s only recourse to be able to pick the best managers? And if one doesn’t have that ability, should he/she just stick with investing in the S&P? Mark has a great answer about how most of the historical premium of private equity over public equity can be attributed to the sector exposures of private equity funds. So investors can build a portfolio of public sector ETFs in a way that can approximate much of the hedge fund sector allocation. You’re probably going to be surprised at just how much of the premium of private equity over public equity doing this which would have delivered to an investor. As usual, there’s plenty more in this episode: the role of fees and taxes… the concept of “turbulence”… the absorption ratio, and how we can use it to evaluate risk… and lastly, what Mark’s most useful idea is for listeners. What is it? Find out in Episode 51.

#50: Radio Show: Faber Spin-Off Executed
May 03 2017 69 mins  
Episode 50 is a return to our “radio show” format, in which we discuss current market news, Tweets Meb finds interesting, various research papers of note, and anything else on Meb’s mind. But first things first: A huge congratulations to new father, Meb Faber. His “spin-off” came in the early morning hours just a few days ago. In fact, this episode was recorded with Meb calling in from a spare room at the hospital. The Meb Faber Show also just passed the one-million downloads mark. So a huge thank-you to everyone who has tuned in, listened, and recommended us to your friends. We’re genuinely grateful to everyone for giving us their time each week. Diving into the financial content, we start with Meb discussing the need for investment literacy with kids and new investors. The problem is that most of us learn to invest incorrectly – generally, we learn about single stock valuation. As Meb tells us, the problem is that far more historical context is needed before even getting to this point. What have equity and bond investments averaged over the years? How cyclical are the markets? What does a bubble look like and how to you avoid one? In essence, there’s so much to learn in order to be an informed investor before diving into the details of, say, a cash flow statement or a price-to-earnings ratio. This ties into a conversation about expected returns going forward. Turns out, a recent source indicated that some investors are still expecting to make 8.5% per year going forward. Is this realistic? Not if you go by Bogle’s formula. Meb explains in detail. Next, Meb made a recent change to his personal investment portfolio. Since he believes it to be important to be transparent about how he invests, he publishes this online. Meb tells us about his recent change, in which he added a tail risk hedging component. He expects it to be a drag on portfolio returns under normal circumstances, but it should provide him some protection if the U.S. equity market spikes lower. This bleeds into a discussion on bonds, and where they might going, since roughly 90% of Meb’s new hedge investment actually is invested in 10-year Treasuries. Next up is a quote from John Bogle which Meb recently Tweeted. It’s about risk, valuations, and indexing. It leads into a discussion about whether there’s a valuation at which the risk of owning stocks outweighs the potential reward of remaining invested. We discuss market timing, and the possibility of exiting stocks due to absurd valuations – and potentially missing great gains as the market climbs higher, indifferent to your opinion that it was too overvalued. The conversation takes another shift, gravitating toward active versus passive funds, the toxic effect of fees when buying active funds, and the problem of “active share.” Active share references the degree to which a fund in which you’re invested differs from its benchmark. If you want to invest in a smart beta fund, typically you want to see high active share (lots of difference) compared to a vanilla index fund – especially if the fund fees are high. Unfortunately, there are lots of funds out there claiming to be different, but they’re actually “closet indexing.” All you’re doing is paying through the teeth for something you could buy much more cheaply. Meb discusses in detail. There’s lots more in this episode, including a “coffee can” portfolio… the challenges of “looking different” when the market and/or your neighbors are doing better (even though over a longer investing horizon, you’re positioned to be in better shape)… “over-rebalancing” toward global markets these days… why Europe has been a horrible investment for a decade and what its prospects might be going forward… What are Meb’s thoughts? Find out in Episode 50.

#49 - Steve Sjuggerud - “This is Not What the Peak of a Bull Market Looks Like"
Apr 26 2017 77 mins  
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.

#48 - Van Simmons - “The Rare Coin Market Can Go Up Dramatically, Quickly"
Apr 19 2017 73 mins  
In Episode 48, we break new ground for The Meb Faber Show. Departing from our usual world of stocks and bonds, we welcome expert numismatist, Van Simmons. For anyone unfamiliar with the word, a “numismatist” is a rare coin collector. We start where we usually do – with a bit of background on our guest. Van gives us a quick overview on how he got into his line of work. But it’s not long before the guys jump into the world of rare coins, with Meb asking Van to provide a general, contextual overview. Van’s description of the world steers the conversation toward perhaps one of Van’s biggest contributions to the coin collecting community – the creation of an innovative coin grading standard. Meb believes this grading standard was huge, as “not getting screwed” is such a concern for all sorts of investors. Next, the guys cover a few, quick questions – how has coin space evolved over the years… what were the biggest seismic changes… and which demographic Van sees as the most active in this space. But they dig deeper when the conversation turns toward international demand – specifically from China. Van tells us how he bought two high-grade Chinese silver dollars in the late 90s. He found them in his safe two and a half years ago, and wondered what they were worth. He called an auction company and was told that he could have sold them at their last auction about four months earlier for $60-70K a coin (Van actually sold the coins some months later at a hefty price, though not quite this high). And what had Van paid for those coins? $600 for one and $900 for the other. Meb brings the conversation back to U.S. market, asking Van if there is a most famous or most traded coin – in essence, is there a “blue chip” coin? Van tells us one of them would be a 1907 twenty-dollar high relief (a $20 Saint Gaudens). He follows up with more color on the coin’s origin, dating back to President Roosevelt, as well as some interesting trivia on it relating to its high-relief profile. Other coins Van mentions are the 1804 Silver Dollar and the 1913 Liberty Nickel. Next, Meb asks how a new coin investor with a long time-horizon could get started with $10K. Meb reveals this is not an academic question – he actually intends to have Van build him a portfolio with a $10K seed. Meb’s criteria are: one, spread his money around as much as possible, say, up to 5-10 coins; two, he wants to tilt toward beautiful coins; and three, Meb wants coins that have some historical significance. Van gives us his thoughts. The guys jump around a bit before getting onto the topic of counterfeiters. Unfortunately, this can be a problem. Van tells us a story illustrating the danger before the guys discuss how to avoid getting ripped off. This leads into the topic of common mistakes that new coin collectors make. Van tells us that the biggest mistake is buying everything. The hardest thing to do is find someone you trust who will steer you toward great pieces that will hold value. Next, Van and Meb branch out, discussing other collectibles. There’s talk of pocket knives, Native American artifacts, baseball/basketball cards – even a great story involving Meb’s mom and a Michael Jordan rookie basketball card. Meb asks Van as technology improves, at what point does grading become software based, with optical recognition? Turns out, this technology has already been here – and Van was a big part of its creation. But the collecting community preferred human-graders. It’s a fascinating story you’ll want to hear. There’s lots more in this episode: a Mickey Mantle card worth $5M… Milton Friedman (one of Van’s clients) discussing the inevitable demise of the U.S. dollar… and of course, Van’s most memorable story related to collecting. This one involves a long-lost coin that turned out to be very valuable. What are the details? Find out in Episode 48.

#47 - Ric Edelman - “47% of the Occupations in America Will Be Gone Within 15 Years"
Apr 12 2017 57 mins  
In Episode 47, we welcome New York Times bestselling author, Ric Edelman. We start with some quick background on Ric, but then jump into the main topic: the future of technology and how it will affect our lives. In essence, the future is going to look far different than what we’ve known. The tendency is to believe that the future will be similar to what our parents and grandparents experienced as they aged. A linear progression – school, work, retirement, death. Ric tells us this is going to change. The linear lifeline is going away. It will more resemble school, work, back to school, a new, different career, then a sabbatical, more school, and so on… Think of a lifeline that’s more cyclical. What’s the reason? Well, we’re going to be living far longer. Technological and health care advances mean we’re going to be far more vibrant much later in life, so this will change everything we know about retirement and our traditional life-paths. The guys then dig into the role that technology and robots will play in all this. Robots are going to eliminate numerous existing occupations. On the other hand, new jobs and skill sets will be created, but we’ll have to go back to school to learn them. Meb ask Ric to dive deeper into this “loss of jobs” forecast, as it’s a common source of concern for many people. Because of computers’ increased capacity, robots will be able to do jobs that humans do – and not just “factory line” type jobs. Any jobs that are repetitive in nature are at risk – which means white collar jobs too; for example, certain types of legal work. As another example, did you know that computers are already writing news articles? There’s a program that currently writes sports stories, and apparently, readers can’t tell the difference between a human and computer author. Ric tells us “According to Oxford University, 47% of the occupations in America will be gone within 15 years.” So what can you do to protect yourself from being replaced by a robot? There are 4 skill sets that will give you an edge: thinking, managing, creating, and communicating. These four things will be the most difficult for computers to do. The conversation bounces around a bit before the guys dig deeper into how working has changed over the years – and how it will continue to change. This leads into a conversation contrasting the “New York model” with the “Hollywood model.” In essence, the New York model is “one job.” You do a given thing with same people for the same customers for decades. With the Hollywood model, you have a group of people who come together for one project, though they’re likely working on multiple projects at the same time. You’re using your skills in a wide variety of activities at the same time. We’re moving toward a Hollywood model. Meb asks how this view of the future impacts asset allocation. There are two big ways: One, we need to increase our allocation to stocks far more, and maintain it for much longer. Most peoples’ asset allocation models are flawed in this manner. Two, we need to re-think the types of companies that are in our portfolios. Most of these businesses were likely built for the 20th century – and if so, they’re at risk of failing in the 21st century. As an example, think Kodak that went bankrupt when it couldn’t transition and monetize newer technologies. Ric mentions Tesla and AirBnB as two examples of 21st century companies. This leads into a discussion about an ETF that targets only 21st Century companies. You’ll want to hear this topic. There’s way more in this episode: behavioral challenges for investors and the role that an advisor should play in helping… an irrevocable trust, created by Ric, that’s helping parents save money for their children… the challenges facing Social Security given our much longer life-spans… Even why personal finance isn’t taught in schools, despite being one of the most critical skills our kids should learn. So why isn’t it taught? Hear Ric’s thoughts in Episode 47.

#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"
Apr 05 2017 59 mins  
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.

#45 - Gary Antonacci - “You Get a Synergy That Happens When You Use (Dual Momentum)"
Mar 29 2017 54 mins  
In Episode 45, we welcome one of the most often-requested guests for our podcast, Gary Antonacci. After a few minutes on Gary’s background, the guys dive into Gary’s “Dual Momentum” research. To make sure everyone is on the same page, Meb asks for definitions before theory. “Relative momentum” compares one asset to another. “Absolute momentum” compares performance to its own track record over time, also called time-series momentum. Gary uses a 12-month lookback, and compares his results to the S&P and other global markets. In essence, you’re combining these two types of momentum for outperformance. The guys talk a bit about using just one of the types of momentum versus combining them, but Gary tells us “You get a synergy that happens when you use (Dual Momentum).” The compound annual growth rate applied to the indices is 16.2% dating back to 1971, compared to the S&P’s 10.5%. And the reduction in volatility and drawdown is under 20% compared to 51% for the S&P. With the basics of Gary’s Dual Momentum out of the way, Meb decides to go down some rabbit holes. He asks about the various extensions on Dual Momentum. It turns out, Gary says you can introduce some additional granularity, but not a lot. Almost nothing really improves the current version of Dual Momentum substantially. (And in case you’re wondering, you can go to Optimalmomentum.com to track Gary’s performance.) Meb then brings up questions that came in via Twitter. The first: “What sort of evidence would be required to convince Gary that Dual Momentum won’t work in the future?” Gary tells us that because the evidence for Dual Momentum is so strong, the evidence against it would have to be strong. We would need more than a few years of underperformance, and instead, a full market cycle of underperformance. But more importantly, he’d want to understand why it would underperform – for instance, perhaps everyone decided to become a trend follower, squeezing out the alpha? Gary quickly ads that such a scenario will likely never happen due to our behavioral tendencies as investors. The next Twitter question: “What are your thoughts on doing something alpha oriented versus just dropping into cash and bonds when you’re in a downtrend?” Gary says shorting doesn’t work because of an upward bias to stocks. Meb agrees, saying that shorting actually amps up risk and volatility, but doesn’t really add to risk-adjusted returns. Next, Meb brings up a post Gary wrote about commodities – are they still a good diversifier? The idea is that markets and their participants change over time. Gary thinks passive commodities have changed over time. And while they were a good diversifier to a stock/bond portfolio before, everyone has started doing it, which changed the nature of the market, reducing the benefit. Gary also mentions the risk of others front-running you. Meb chimes in, agreeing – you’re going to want to hear this back-and-forth. There’s tons more in this episode: moving away from market cap weighting when using Dual Momentum… Dual Momentum applied to sector rotation… sports gambling… our tendencies to stray from our investment plans… and Gary’s most memorable trade – hint: it involves an options blow-up. What are the details? Find out in Episode 45.




#42 - Listener Q&A Episode
Mar 09 2017 58 mins  
Episode 42 is a remote podcast with Meb calling in from Hawaii. Fortunately, the roosters in the background aren’t loud enough to interfere... Though this is a Q&A episode, it’s slightly different in nature. Rather than discuss listener questions, we’re experimenting with using some of Meb’s “tweets of the week” as our topics of conversation. It’s a way of getting inside Meb’s head a bit more. We’d love your feedback, so love it or hate it, let us know how we can make this format (or any, for that matter) better and more beneficial for you. Some topics you’ll hear covered in this episode include: - How do you know when your market strategy has lost its efficacy, versus when it’s simply having a rough stretch, yet will rebound? Details: One of Meb’s tweets suggested “After you read Buffett’s new letter to investors, read this,” which pointed toward his post about how Buffett’s long-term returns have crushed those of nearly everyone else, though he’s underperformed the market in 7 of the last 9 years. This brought to mind a question which Meb asked Ed Thorp: “When do you know when a strategy has failed, versus when it is time to remain faithful, as reversion to the mean is likely about to happen?” The Thorp answer was generally, “Do your homework so you know whether your drawdown is within the normal range of probabilities, or something unique” We push Meb on how a retail investor is supposed to do that. - With the VIX hovering around 11, is Meb considering buying LEAPS? Details: If you’re not an options guy, don’t worry. Meb takes this question in a slightly different direction, discussing low volatility and options more in a “portfolio insurance” type of way. You buy insurance on your home and car, right? Buying puts at these low volatility levels has some similarities to buying portfolio insurance. - The last time stock market newsletters were this bullish was Jan. 1987. To what extent does this level of ubiquitous optimism get Meb nervous? Details: Lots of indicators seems to be suggesting we’re far closer to the end of this bull market than the beginning. Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s going to happen tomorrow. You’ll hear Meb’s take on various indicators and what he’s taking away from them right now. - Newfound did a study, finding that the 60/40 model is predicting 0% through 2025. What are Meb’s thoughts in general? Details: Meb is not surprised by this prediction. He’s discussed future returns based on starting valuations for a long time. But if you’re somewhat new to the podcast, this is a great primer on how Meb views potential returns of various asset classes going forward. There’s plenty more, including something Cliff Asness referred to as “deeply irrelevant,” how advisers can excel as robos continue changing the investment landscape, Meb’s experience at a recent Charlie Munger speech, and Meb’s issue with Tony Robbins. What is it? Find out in Episode 42.

#41 - Doug Ramsey - “Valuation Tells Me I Should Be Lighter Than Normal On U.S. Equities and Tilting More Towards Foreign”
Mar 01 2017 68 mins  
In Episode 41, we welcome Doug Ramsey from Leuthold. Meb is especially excited about this, as Leuthold publishes his favorite, monthly research piece, the Green Book. After getting a recap of Doug’s background, Meb dives in. Given that we’re in the Dow’s second longest bull run in history, Meb asks how Doug sees market valuation right now. Doug’s response? “Well, that’s a good place to start cause we’ll get the worst news out of the way first...” As will surprise no one, Doug sees high valuations – believing that trailing earnings-based metrics might actually be underestimating the valuation risk. This prompts Meb to bring up Leuthold’s “downside risk” tables. In general, they’re showing that we’re about 30% overvalued. Across no measure does it show we’re fairly valued or cheap. Doug agrees, but tells us about a little experiment he ran, based on the question “what if the S&P were to revert to its all-time high valuation, which was on 3/24/2000?” That would mean our further upside would stretch to about 3,400, and we’re a little under 2,400 today. Doug summarizes by telling us that if this market is destined to melt up, there’s room to run. Meb agrees, and makes the point that all investors have to consider the alternate perspective. While most people believe that the markets are substantially overvalued, that doesn’t mean we’re standing on the edge of a drawdown. As we all know, markets can keep rising, defying expectations. The conversation then drifts into the topic of how each bull market has different characteristics. Meb wants to know how Doug would describe the current one. Doug tells us the mania in this bull market has been in safety, low volatility, and dividends. Overall, this cycle has been characterized by fear – play it conservative. The guys then bounce around across several topics: small cap versus large cap and where these values are now… sentiment, and what a difference a year makes (Doug says it’s the most optimistic sentiment he’s seen in the last 8 years)… even “stock market returns relative to the Presidential political party” (historically, democratic Presidents have started office at a valuation of 15.5, leading to average returns of 48%, while republicans have taken over at a valuation of 19, which has dragged returns down to 25%). The bad news? Trump is starting at very high valuations. Next, the guys get into the biggest problem with indexing – market cap weighting. Leuthold looked at what happens to equities once they hit 4% of their index. The result? It becomes incredibly hard to perform going forward. It’s just near impossible to stay up in those rarified market cap tiers. So what’s the takeaway? Well, Doug tell us that he’d bet on the 96% of other stocks in the S&P outperforming Apple over next 10 years. This episode is packed with additional content: foreign stock valuations… value, momentum, and trend… the Coppock Curve (with a takeaway that might surprise you – higher prices are predicted for the next 12-24 months!)… The best sectors and industries to be in now… Why 2016 was the 2nd worst year in the past 89 years for momentum… Finally, for you listeners who have requested we pin our guests down on more “implementable” advice, Meb directly asks what allocation Doug would recommend for retail investors right now. What’s his answer? Find out in Episode 41.

#40 - Listener Q&A Episode
Feb 15 2017 51 mins  
We’ve had some great guests recently, and have many more coming up, so we decided to slip in a quick Q&A episode. No significant, recent travel for Meb, so we dive into questions quickly. A few you’ll hear tackled are: - Some folks talk about how the inflation numbers are manipulated by the government, and how the calculations have changed. Is there any merit to this? - What is your opinion on market neutral strategies? If you had to build a market neutral ETF, what strategy would you use? - Your buddy, Josh Brown, indicates that a significant portion of valuations, specifically CAPE, are the confidence in the stability of the stock market, which will justify high valuations here in the U.S. This makes intuitive sense, but I’d like your thoughts. - Have you given any thought to the application of a trend following approach over a lifetime? Specially, use buy-and-hold when younger, but move to trend as one approaches retirement? - Based on your whitepapers, you’ve indicated that trend following is not designed to increase returns, but rather, to limit/protect your portfolio from drawdowns. If this is the case, how does an increase in the allocation toward trend in your Trinity portfolios correlate to a more aggressive portfolio? It seems if “more trend” is supposed to reduce drawdowns, it should be found in Trinity 1 instead of Trinity 6. - Have you done any research on earnings growth rates compared with CAPE to get a more accurate indicator of expected returns? For example, while the CAPE for many countries in Europe is low, their growth rates are also considerably lower than the U.S., which could justify the lower CAPE as compared with the U.S. Your thoughts? - Does your “down 5 years in a row” rule apply to uranium, or is it too small? As usual, there’s plenty more, including a listener wondering why Meb didn’t challenge Rob Arnott on a discussion topic during Rob’s episode, why Meb is in a cranky mood (involves auditing), and a request for more gifts of tequila from listeners. All this and more in Episode 40.

#39 - Ed Thorp - “If You Bet Too Much, You'll Almost Certainly Be Ruined”
Feb 08 2017 58 mins  
In Episode 39, we welcome the legendary Ed Thorp. Ed is a self-made man after having been a child of The Depression. He’s a professor, a renowned mathematician, a fund manager who’s posted one of the lengthiest and best investment track records in all of finance, a best-selling author (his most recent book is A Man for All Markets), the creator of the first wearable computer, and finally, the individual responsible for “counting cards.” Meb begins the episode in the same place as does Ed in his new book, the Depression. Meb asks how that experience shaped Ed’s world view. Ed tells us about being very poor, and how it forced him to think for himself, as well as teach himself. In fact, Ed even taught himself how to make his own gunpowder and nitroglycerine. This dovetails into the various pranks that Ed played as a mischievous youth. Ed tells us the story of dying a public pool blood-red, resulting in a general panic. It’s not long before we talk about Ed’s first Las Vegas gambling experience. He had heard of a blackjack system developed by some quants, that was supposed to give the player a slight mathematical advantage. So Ed hit the tables with a strategy-card based on that system. At first, his decisions caused other players at the table to ridicule him. But when Ed’s strategy ended up causing him to hit “21” after drawing 7 cards, the players’ opinions instantly changed from ridicule to respect. This was the basis from which Ed would create his own counting cards system. Meb asks for a summary of how it works. Ed gives us the highlights, which involve a number count that helps a player identify when to bet big or small. Meb then asks why Ed decided to publish his system in academic journals instead of keeping it hush-hush and making himself a fortune. Ed tells us that he was academically-oriented, and the spirit of science is to share. The conversation turns toward the behavioral side of gambling (and investing). Once we move from theory to practice, the impact of emotions plays a huge role. There’s a psychic burden on morale when you’re losing. Meb asks how Ed handled this. Ed tells us that his early days spent gambling in the casinos were a great training ground for later, when he would be “gambling” with tens of millions of dollars in the stock market. He said his strategy was to start small, so he could handle the emotions of losing. As he became more comfortable with his level of risk, he would scale his bets to the next level, grow comfortable, then move up again from there. In essence, don’t bet too much too fast. This dovetails into the topic of how to manage money using the Kelly Criterion, which is a system for deciding the amount to bet in a favorable situation. Ed explains that if you bet too small, won’t make much money, even if you win. However, “if you bet too much, you’ll almost certainly be ruined.” The Kelly Criterion helps you determine the appropriate middle ground for position sizing using probabilities. It turns out that Ed was so successful with his methods, that Vegas changed the rules and eventually banned Ed from their casinos. To continue playing, Ed turned to disguises, and tells a fun story about growing a beard and using contact lenses to avoid identification. Meb tells us about one of his own card-counting experiences, which was foiled by his partner’s excessive Bloody Mary consumption. Next, we move to Wall Street. Meb brings up Ed’s performance record, which boasts one of the highest risk-adjusted returns of all time – in 230 months of investing, Ed had just 3 down months, and all were 1% or less. Annualized, his performance was over 19%. Ed achieved this remarkable record by hedging securities that were mispriced – using convertible bond and options from the same company. There was also some index arbitraging. Overall, Ed’s strategy was to hedge away as much risk as possible, then let a diversified portfolio of smaller bets play out. Meb asks, when you have a system that has an edge, yet its returns begin to erode, how do you know when it’s time to give up the strategy, versus when to invest more (banking on mean reversion of the strategy). Ed tells us that he asks himself, “Did the system work in the past, is it working now, and do I believe it will it in the future?” Also “What is the mechanism that’s driving it?” You need to understand whether the less-than-desired current returns are outside the range of usual fluctuation. If you don’t know this, then you won’t know whether you’re experiencing bad luck (yet within statistical reason) or if something has truly changed and your “bad luck” is actually abnormal and concerning. Next, Meb asks about Ed’s most memorable trade. You’ll want to hear this one for yourself, but it involves buying warrants for $0.27, and the stock price eventually rising to $180. There’s plenty more in this fantastic episode, including why Ed told his wife that Warren Buffett would be the richest man in America one day (said back in 1968)… What piece of investing advice Ed would give to the average investor today… Ed’s interest in being cryogenically frozen… And finally, Ed’s thoughts on the source of real life-happiness, and how money fits in. The show ends with Meb revealing that he has bought Ed and himself two lottery Powerball tickets, and provides Ed the numbers. Will Ed win this bet? The drawing is soon, so we’ll see. All this and more in Episode 39.

#38 - E.V Better - “Special Super Bowl Show: It’s Higher-Stakes Poker is What You’re Playing”
Feb 03 2017 72 mins  
In honor of this Sunday’s Super Bowl, Episode 38 is a special, bonus “gambling” podcast. We welcome mystery guest, E.V. Better, which is an alias for “Expected Value Better.” Meb starts by asking E.V. how he got to this point in his career. E.V. had a traditional finance background, working at a long/short hedge fund for 5 years, but realized he could apply certain predictive analytics that work in the financial world to the sports betting world. He helped create a basketball model at Dr. Bob Sports and enjoyed it so much that he made the jump from traditional finance. Next, Meb requests a quick primer for the non-gamblers out there; for instance, how the various types of bets works, the “lines,” the most popular bets, and so on. E.V. gives us the breakdown. The conversation then drifts toward examples of “factors” when it comes to gambling (such as “value” or “momentum” is in the stock market). E.V. tells us there are really two schools of thought in traditional investing – fundamental and technical investing. When it comes to gambling, there are similarly two schools of thought; you have the strength of a team that’s measured by traditional stats (for example, net yards per pass) or technical factors (having been on the road for 14 days…having suffered 3 straight blow-out losses). When you combine these two factors, you better a better idea of which way to go with your wager. These leads to two questions from Meb: One, how many inputs go into a multi-factor model? And, two, how do you replace older factors that don’t have as much influence or predictive power as they used to? E.V. gives us his thoughts. Meb asks about “weird” or interesting factors that are effective. E.V. points toward “travel distance,” though the effect has diminished over time as travel has become easier. He also points toward “field type.” This leads into a discussion about betting against the consensus (contrarian investor, anyone?). And this leads into a common investing mistake – recency bias. For example, because the Broncos won the Super Bowl last year, people expected them to be great again this year…and they didn’t even make the playoffs (Meb is still bitter). Meb steers the direction away from the NFL. Whether basketball, baseball, or whatever other sport, you’re simply trying to find an edge over the house. Meb brings up “variability” (the more games the better if you have a slight edge), and asks how this changes over different sports. E.V. says duration of season is a huge factor. Also, the level of data available for analysis is key (for example, the amount of data in baseball is amazing). But overall, E.V. says the goal is reduce the variance to make thing as simple and predictive as possible to find your edge. Meb asks about underrepresented sports (curling, or NASCAR) offering more, or better opportunities (think “small caps” versus the “Apples” of the investing world). E.V. says the issue is finding a counter-party. You might be a great curling modeler, but have fewer market participants from which to profit. This leads into how to quantify an edge, and what a good edge value should be. E.V. says a 10%+ edge would be fantastic, but it’s important to be conservative in your estimate of just how big your edge is. After all, you won’t have a consistent edge every game. Meb makes an interesting correlation to investing you’ll want to hear. Next, Meb asks about gambling as an asset class. Where would gambling fit into a portfolio and how would it work together? E.V. says sports is a unique alternative asset class that’s uncorrelated to other markets. This quality makes gambling an interesting addition to a portfolio. Next, Meb moves to “quick hits” – shorter questions, many of which came from listeners via Twitter. - What’s the worst bad beat you’ve seen? - Have you looked at “intra-game” gambling, or do you only focus on full-game bets? - How does a sport with a small dispersion in scoring (like soccer) affect how you bet versus a high-scoring sport (like basketball)? - Have you thought about any lines that change over the course of a day based on the concept of betters losing in the morning and becoming increasingly aggressive in the afternoon (going on tilt, trying to win back money). - What do you think about “the hot hand”? You’ll want to hear E.V.’s answers. Finally, we get to the topic du jour – the Super Bowl. Meb asks E.V. directly, “Who do you like with New England at -3?” If you’re thinking about betting this Sunday, don’t miss it. There’s far more in this bonus episode, including discussion of betting on the results of the Super Bowl’s coin toss… How long it will take for Luke Bryan to sing the National Anthem… How many times will “Gronkowski” will be said by the commentators during the Super Bowl broadcast… Want to put the odds in your favor? Then join us for Episode 38.

#37 - John Bollinger - “People Have This Time-Frame Confusion That I Think Does A Huge Amount of Damage”
Feb 01 2017 68 mins  
In Episode 37, we welcome John Bollinger, creator of Bollinger Bands, one of the most widely-used analytical tools in investing. As John is also a market historian, Meb start by asking him about his historical influences – those individuals who helped shape John’s perspectives on the markets and trading. John gives us his thoughts, identifying who he believes is one of the most important figures in technical analysis. This leads to an often-forgotten takeaway – that many of the most effective market concepts have been around for a long time. Some very profitable strategies that still work today were being explored 100 years ago. Meb redirects, asking John about his background. It turns out, John was in the film business as a cameraman. But by a few twists of fate, he ended up in front of the camera, providing technical commentary on markets for a fledgling financial broadcast network. This leads into a discussion of John’s famous “Bollinger Bands.” He gives us an overview of the tool, and how he came to establish it. In essence, Bollinger Bands can help investors identify relative market bottoms and tops, helping find direction for profitable trades. Meb then asks if John’s thinking on Bollinger Bands have changed since the early days. John tells us that the core concept stands the test of time, though he has added some extra indicators. Next, Meb asks about combining two types of analysis – technical and fundamental – something John calls “rational analysis.” For many people, you fall into one camp or the other. But John was able to find overlap between them. He tells us how, and even ropes in two additional types of analysis to include – quantitative and behavioral. He thinks combing all four works better than using any single one. Meb asks how you actually use them all together, to which John gives us his thoughts. Meb then asks which sector John is currently identifying as a good source of potential trading profits – but he immediately discounts the validity of his own question. You’ll want to hear why. This leads into a great takeaway – using the right charts for entry/exit in a trade. Specifically, a trader may use a short-term chart to initiate a position, but then not move to a medium-term chart to help him navigate how long to hold the position. Instead, he keeps looking at the short-term chart, which obviously will oscillate, and potentially scare the investor out of the trade. John says “People have this time frame confusion that I think does a huge amount of damage.” Meb then asks about trade management. John says the most neglected issue is position sizing. People need to know how much capital to commit to their strategy, and there is a mathematical “optimal” answer. In essence, the problem is “betting too large.” This leads John to reference the trading concept of “regret” – the percentage of time you’re in a drawdown. Turns out it’s about 80% or 90% of the time you’re invested. The only times you’re not in a drawdown are when you’re setting new highs, and that’s pretty rare. But most investors hate drawdowns and just don’t do well with this reality (part of the reason why investing is so hard for most of us). There’s far more in the episode, including the most influential books John has read, Bitcoin, currencies, how to trade volatility, and John’s most memorable trades (good and bad). What were they? Find out in Episode 37.


#36 - Listener Q&A Episode
Jan 11 2017 61 mins  
We’re back with the first Q&A episode of 2017. We start by discussing the “Zero Budget Portfolio,” about which Meb wrote a recent blog post. The quick idea is that when considering your portfolio, you should start from scratch, or “zero.” Imagine your perfect portfolio – which markets you’d like to own, which assets, tilts, etc. Now compare that perfect, hypothetical portfolio to your actual portfolio. To the extent that your real, owned assets have a place in your perfect portfolio, you’ll continue owning them. Any assets that don’t fit, you sell immediately. But it’s not long before we dive into listener questions. A few you’ll hear tackled are: - How do I decide whether I should use a robo-service or manage my portfolio myself? How likely am I to underperform a robo? - We know that value can lag market returns, but should lead over time. What is the time horizon by which you determine whether a strategy like value is successful? - Are there are country ETFs that you would not trade in a global, low-CAPE portfolio because of country risk? - How has your timing model performed since you introduced it a decade ago? - Will you discuss momentum investing versus chasing performance? It seems that a long-only momentum portfolio basically chases what has already gone up. - Given real world tax issues, is active investing still a better strategy than buy-and-hold? - Given that 44% of the S&P 500 revenue and profit comes from overseas, is there really a home country bias if you are invested in the S&P? And with this in mind, what is the right allocation to Emerging Markets? As usual, there are plenty of additional rabbit holes, including options, currencies, and even the Baltic Dry Index. What’s Meb’s take on it? Find out in Episode 36.

#35 - Jerry Parker - “To Me it Just Boiled Down to One Question… Will the Big Winners Pay for the Small Losses?”
Jan 04 2017 72 mins  
Episode 35 features one of the original Turtle Traders. “What’s a Turtle Trader” you ask? The story involves Richard Dennis, a great trader from the 1970’s. As the story goes, he made his first million by about age 25. By the early 80’s, he was worth about $200 million. Around this time, the movie “Trading Places” came out (two millionaires make a bet on the outcome of training a bum to be a financial whiz, while taking a financial whiz and, effectively, turning him into a bum). Richard felt he could similarly train a financial no-nothing, turning him into a great trader. Richard’s partner felt it wouldn’t work. So they made a bet. (Though as you’ll hear on today’s podcast, Jerry doesn’t actually believe there was ever a bet.) Regardless, how’d it turn out? Three or four years later, the group Richard trained had made, on aggregate, around $100 million. The episode starts as Meb asks Jerry how he became involved with Dennis, trend following, and the Turtle Traders. Jerry was hooked on the idea of trend following from the beginning. Meb suggests that many people either “get it” or they don’t – meaning they get hooked, buying into the strategy completely, or not. For many people, the philosophy just doesn’t take. Eventually the program ended, after which Jerry moved back to Virginia and started Chesapeake, which basically consisted of a telephone, a quote machine, and his trading rules. Jerry tell us how the company grew and how its trading systems developed. They’ve gone from trading around 20 markets to well over 100 now. Meb asks in terms of conditions, what’s been the most challenging market for Jerry in his career at Chesapeake? His answer – the market since 2008. The conversation eventually steers toward leverage and volatility. Meb says how most people don’t realize how they can tamp down a volatile market through trend following and managed futures. Jerry agrees, and adds that you want to “make the same (volatility) bet” despite different markets, to maintain consistency. Meb then asks why so many investors, retail and institutional alike, have such small allocations to trend following. Jerry gives us his thoughts, pointing toward the inherent bias people have for equities. He also believes most investors truly don’t realize how powerful diversified trend following can be. Meb agrees, noting how if you showed an adviser the returns of all sorts of portfolios yet didn’t name the strategies, in almost all circumstances, the portfolios the advisers would choose would have the largest allocation going to trend following. But when you attach the actual strategy names, people shy away from trend following. Meb thinks it really boils down to a branding problem. Jerry thinks people have it backward—they see trend following as an add-on to some other strategy, when in fact, it’s the core. Start with the CTA strategy and maybe add some long-only equities. Meb then steers the guys into a discussion about some of Jerry’s most popular tweets. One of which is Jerry’s recent quote: “Beating the market is hard. Even surviving the market is hard. Stamina may be the most underrated quality.” The quote really resonated with Meb, and he asks if Jerry ever wanted to throw in the towel. Jerry thinks discipline is at least 50% of it, and yes, it can be very hard. The guys then discuss markets, with Jerry noting that there is nothing to be lost from trading more markets than stocks. For instance, he loves currencies. This prompts Meb to bring up a Bitcoin-crash example, where a trend following approach could possibly have saved some major losses. The conversation then turns toward common investor mistakes, most notably the tendency to hold losses and sell winners short. Simply put, the behavioral side of investing is extremely challenging. This causes Meb to wonder what will happen to the roboadvisors when a bear market finally begins. Specifically, with it so easy to pull your cash out of a roboadvisor (and no live advisor to stop you), how many investors will allow fear to make them liquidate their positions? There’s tons more in this episode, including how Jerry lost 60% in one day, the differences between technical analysis and trend following, the “turtle program” of the future, and the one market that won’t allow futures trading. Do you know which one it is? Find out in Episode 35.


#33 - Listener Q&A Episode
Dec 14 2016 53 mins  
It’s another Q&A episode before everyone gets too busy with the holiday swirl. Per usual, Meb has just come back from more travel, this time to Todos Santos, Mexico. He gives us a quick update before we hop into listener questions. A few you’ll hear tackled are: - I don’t really understand Trend. In order to maximize return, wouldn’t it make more sense to buy below the simple moving average, then hold or sell when above it? I’m just applying common sense – buy when cheaper than average. What am I missing? - If you were building an investment strategy for the next 30-40 years, would it more resemble the one found in your QTAA paper, an absolute value strategy (similar to what Porter discussed in that podcast), or your Trinity approach, which is more buy/hold with rebalancing? - Have you ever considered a strategy that buys put option protection for equity portfolios when valuations are historically high? You could buy long puts or long puts/short calls to offset some of the option premium. - Are recent bond yield increases causing you to tweak your bond allocations in the Trinity portfolios? - How does your use of momentum differ from Gary Antonacci’s dual momentum system? - I’m a banker, and can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a variation of “Rates are so low at the moment, what a great time to borrow.” What are your thoughts on the long-term debt cycle, and how would you “time” leverage? There’s plenty more, as several of these questions send Meb into deep, labyrinthine rabbit holes – one of which involves his thoughts on how to educate children about investing. He believes most parents today do it entirely wrong. So what’s the right way to raise a world-class investor? Find out in Episode 33.

#32 - Brew Johnson & Brett Crosby - "We Have Long-Term Aspirations of Disrupting the Entire Mortgage Finance and Securitization Market"
Dec 07 2016 64 mins  
Episode 32 is like no other we’ve done to date. Local guys, Brew and Brett, run a startup in nearby Manhattan Beach – and it’s disrupting the real estate financing market. It’s not long into the episode before the guys give us the overview of how it works. Peer Street invests in real estate debt. Now, when most people try this, there are too many intermediaries. The effect is the yield is stripped out. Peer Street is fixing this, focusing on short-term, high interest rate loans. The guys’ vision is to enable investing in real estate lending to be as easy as buying a stock through an online broker. After giving us their fascinating professional backgrounds prior to starting Peer Street, Brew and Brett dive into how the process work. There’s always been a shadow, niche market in this space. A real estate investor finds a good property that he/she is able to fix up and sell/rent. But to make the deal happen, the developer has to move quickly, and doesn’t have time to get a traditional loan through a bank. In steps a reputable cash lender, enabling the deal. Brew and Brett are enabling retail investors to take part in these localized real estate deals. Meb asks about the range on yields… how many current deals they have… just general top-down metrics to paint the broad picture. Since the end of Oct 2015, the guys have opened around $200M of loans. The average yield to investors is 8.5% net of fees and expenses. The average loan duration is 10 months. And the average loan-to-value ratio is 65%. The guys then discuss how deals are vetted. There are approval processes, several layers of underwriting, a requirement wherein lenders have to commit their own capital, various data analytics, then stress testing of the loans. Meb asks what would happen to these loans in a real estate Armageddon situation. The Peer Street guys tell us they use as much data as possible to mitigate potential losses. And these are only 10-month loans, so to lose money, the borrower has to stop making payments and the value of the property has to decrease by about 35%. To try to protect against this, they run algorithms and compare the data to previous cycles. Then they consider what was the worst decline in that submarket. This helps them do a manual underwrite of the loan, after which they get an appraisal from an independent 3rd party. There’s far more on how the guys manage risk which you’ll want to hear. Next, the conversation steers toward how an investor would actually take part in the deals. He/she can pick from, typically, 3-15 available deals at a time. Or investors can set up an automated system, establishing parameters from which Peer Street would match them with the right investments. Ten or more loans at a time is recommended for diversification, with the minimum investment being $1,000. There’s way more in this episode, including Brew’s and Brett’s vision for how disruptive this could be, where this type of investment would fit into an asset allocation model, and an “imposter Cambria” that has Meb very angry. Curious why? Find out in Episode 32.

#31 - Mark Yusko - "Asset Allocation Matters Most"
Nov 30 2016 53 mins  
Episode 31 starts with some background information on Mark. After some early-career twists, he got his “big break” – working for his alma mater, Notre Dame, in its endowment department. Several years later, The University of North Carolina came calling, and Mark took the helm for UNC’s investments. Eventually, he moved on to private wealth with his current group, Morgan Creek. Given the heavy institutional background, Meb asks about how endowments invest. Mark tells us that every large pool of capital manages its money the same way – investing in stocks, bonds, currencies, and commodities. That’s it – though how you own those assets might change. Yet despite different wrappings, they all have the same risk factors. This leads Mark to focus on asset allocation, as “asset allocation matters most.” The conversation turns toward money managers (Mark uses various money managers at Morgan Creek). Meb asks how a retail investor can get access to the truly great money managers. It turns out, it’s very difficult. But Mark says you don’t necessarily want the well-known superstars who’ve been in the limelight for 20 years. You want to get onboard with them far earlier in their careers when no one is looking, before they become famous. As to how you actually find them, Mark says you have to “kiss a lot of frogs.” Meb follows up with an interesting question – forget about how to find great money managers…how do you know when it’s time to get rid of one? After all, it can be hard to tell when a manager’s investing system is flawed versus when he/she might simply be distracted by personal issues, or just going through a rough patch. Mark’s answer? Stop focusing on performance. Instead, focus on the other three P’s: 1) people 2) process, and 3) philosophy. If all you’re doing is looking at/chasing performance, chances are you’re going to underperform. So expand your analysis. Meb adds that this focus on performance isn’t limited to retail investors – institutions do this too. Mark agrees, having had personal experience with this. His group was hired, fired, re-hired, and so on, as one particular client chased performance. The guys then switch to venture capital, a huge area for outperformance. Institutional investors have the advantage here – the “illiquidity premium” as Mark calls it. Meb asks how retail investors can try to take part in this space. Mark tells us that, unfortunately, retail investors have one arm tied behind their backs courtesy of the SEC. Its philosophy is “If you’re not rich, you’re not smart.” So yes, investing in venture capital is very challenging for retail investors, despite some recent gains. Eventually, the conversation drifts back to asset allocation. Mark has a 3-bucket system he recommends. Bucket 1 – “liquidity.” This is about 2 years’ worth of spending. Call it 10-15% of your wealth in cash-like investments. Bucket 2 – your “get rich” bucket. Also 10-15%. He recommends investments like businesses and real estate, though most people use this money to chase the latest hot stock. Bucket 3 – your “stay rich” bucket. This one is all about diversification (whereas your “get rich” bucket was all about concentration). Meb agrees with this, telling us how the asset allocation required to get rich is different than the asset allocation needed to remain rich. The guys then move to predictions. Each January, Mark writes his financial predictions for the new year. So how did he do in 2016? They go over the results, with topics that include interest rates, the Japanese equity market, black swan events in Europe, roaring commodities, and the strength of the Dollar. This leads the guys into a more detailed conversation about U.S. interest rates, comparing us to Japan. Mark warns us about the Killer D’s: demographics, debt, and deflation. It’s a fascinating conversation with the short takeaway that we may not see the bottom in interest rates until around 2020-2022 (when demographics finally shift back in our favor). There’s far more in this episode, including “Red Ferrari Syndome,” a Twitter question to Mark about the biggest learning experiences of his career, and an asset class that’s about to be down a whopping 6 years in a row. What is it? Find out in Episode 31.

#30 - Listener Q&A Episode
Nov 23 2016 61 mins  
As Meb is back from another series of speaking engagements, Episode 30 starts with a brief recap of his travels. But we hop in quickly, first addressing the election. We’ve had several anxious people write in, requesting commentary on the financial markets now that Trump will be taking over. Meb offers his thoughts, which we can reduce to one word: irrelevant. Next Meb gives us an overview of a white paper he’s soon to begin writing – a rebuttal to detractors of Shiller’s CAPE ratio. He provides some convincing points on why CAPE can be an effective timing tool. You’ll want to hear this if you’re a CAPE fan – even more so if you believe CAPE is flawed. After that, we hop into listener Q&A. A few of the questions you’ll hear Meb tackle are: - How does CAPE do as a valuation metric for a stock index when the composition of the index is changing or there is significant dilution? - When it comes to value filters like P/B or P/E, how do you rank metrics which can become negative or distorted when they get too close to zero? - Besides trend following, what other alternative strategies (e.g. long/short, diversified arb, global macro, market neutral, etc.) do you believe are a worthy addition to a balanced portfolio? - Please address living through drawdowns versus using trailing stops. Discuss the tradeoff between minimizing drawdowns versus potentially missing huge recoveries. - What do you think of using CAPE in Frontier markets? And does the 10-month SMA timing model work in these markets? - How do you practically implement the bond strategy laid out in your paper, “Finding Yield in a 2% World”? - James O’Shaughnessy’s “What Works on Wall Street” references an investing strategy that posted amazing returns for many years. Seems too good to be true. Any insights? Wouldn’t everyone be using this system if it really was this wonderful? - Any pointers on how to do your own backtesting? As usual, there’s lots more, including the common investor sentiment of “I’m waiting until the uncertainty dies down before I put more money into the markets,” Meb’s thoughts on cash and inflation, and the benefits of systematic investing. All this and more in Episode 30.

#29 - Tom McClellan - "Now Everybody Knows What the Outcome Is, They Can Get Back to Focusing on Real Things That Actually Matter”
Nov 16 2016 41 mins  
In Episode 29, we welcome market veteran, Tom McClellan. Meb starts with some background on Tom – he’s been doing financial writing for 20 years, likely making him one of the longest-running financial writers in the business. The guys then provide an overview of Tom’s proprietary market tool, the McClellan Oscillator. The roots of the Oscillator date back decades ago, when Tom’s father, Sherman, was trying to develop a system by which he could better time corn purchases for their farming business. (It turns out, you can get a better price in March.) In short, Sherman eventually crossed paths with some technical analysts who were exploring breadth statistics in the market (advance/decline line). Sherman applied moving averages to the advance/decline line, and a few tweaks later, we got the McClellan Oscillator. Meb then asks about the best way investors can use the Oscillator, and what the signals are telling us now. Tom gives us a quick tutorial, then suggests that the Oscillator is saying “oversold” (keep in mind this episode was recorded on 11/9). It has been correcting since July, but now that election is over, maybe we’ll see that change. With the election in mind, Meb brings up the sentiment he’s heard from many investors: “I want to wait until the election is over and things are more certain.” Meb finds this amusing, as when are the markets ever certain? This segues into Tom’s election indicator. It had predicted Trump. Tom gives us more details about the mindset behind his indicator. In essence, we see market movements reflected in the poll numbers. In other words, the market is a leading indicator for where the polls will go. As evidence, he references the election when Bush/Gore was too close to call, discussing this through the prism of what the markets were doing at the time. And in this most recent election, the indicator had called for Trump to win though the polls didn’t. Tom says that’s because the poll numbers before the election hadn’t reflected the big decline in the stock market in the week leading up to the election – but that decline did show up as a change in the actual vote. This sets the guys off on a conversation about “sentiment” which is an indicator Tom loves. Then Meb steers the conversation toward interest rates and the Federal Reserve. It turns out, the guys believe you can tell where the Fed should set the Fed Funds Rate by looking at what the yield is on the 2-year note. It’s when that doesn’t happen that we see market issues. Tom gives us an example from Bernanke’s tenure. Meb then points toward another chart from Tom: the S&P verse Federal Tax receipts divided by GDP – in essence, how much the government is collecting in taxes. What’s the relationship here? Well, if you’re against the government taxing too much, you’ll likely agree with the findings. There’s more fascinating conversation about Tom’s various charts. For instance, the common conception is that a slowdown in the economy leads to an increase in crime. Tom says not true. Do you know what is correlated to an increase in crime? Inflation. What inflation does in Year 1 is what crime will do in Year 2. Meb then asks about the biggest mistakes that investors make when creating their own charts. Tom tells us that people want to simplify too much. “Just give me the one chart that will work.” Unfortunately, there is no holy grail. If you’re looking for easy answers, the stock market is not the place to find it. Look for more obscure indicators. If everyone is using the same indicator, there’s no value there. There’s lots more, including a conversation about “value.” Turns out, Tom doesn’t really use value at all. In fact, he says there are only two variables that matter. What are they? Find out in Episode 29.


#28 - Larry Swedroe - "There is Literally No Logical Reason for Anyone to Have a Preference for Dividends"
Nov 09 2016 60 mins  
As we recorded Episode 28 on Halloween, it starts with Meb referencing his costume from the prior weekend’s festivities. Can you guess what it was? He stayed true to his financial roots, dressing as Sesame Street’s “Count von Count.” (Sorry, no photographs.) But the guys jump in quickly, beginning with the subject of Larry’s 15th and latest book – “factors.” Larry tells us that the term “factor” is confusing. He defines it as a unique source of risk and expected return. So which factors should an investor use to help him populate his portfolio? Larry believes there are 5 rules to help you evaluate factors: 1) Is the factor “persistent” across long periods of times and regimes? 2) Is it “pervasive”? For instance, does it works across industries, regions, capital structures and so on. 3) Is it “robust”? Does it hold up on its own, and not as a result of data mining? 4) Is it “intuitive”? For instance, is there an explanation? 5) Lastly, it has to be “implementable,” and able to survive trading costs. The guys then switch to beta. Larry mentions how valuations have been rising over the last century. He references how CAPE has risen over a long period, and points out how some people believe this signifies a bubble. But Larry thinks this rising valuation is reasonable, and tells us why. Meb adds that investors are willing to pay a higher multiple on stocks in low-interest rate environments such as the one we’re in. Next, Meb directs the conversation toward a sacred cow of investing – dividends. He asks about one particular quote from Larry’s book: “Dividends are not a factor.” Larry pulls no punches, saying, “there is literally no logical reason for anyone to have a preference for dividends…” He believes investors over overpaying for dividend stocks today. He thinks it’s unfortunate the Fed has pushed investors to search for yield, inadvertently taking on far more risk. Dividend stocks are not alternatives to safe income. There’s plenty more on this topic you’ll want to hear. Eventually the conversation drifts back toward market values. Larry tell us that when the PE ratio of the S&P has been around its average of 16, it has about a 7% expected return. So now that the CAPE is roughly 25, and the expected real return is around 4%, some people are shouting “Sell! Huge crash coming!” Larry disagrees and tells us why. But the guys just can’t leave dividends alone. They swing back toward the topic, with Larry telling us the whole concept of investors focusing on dividends literally makes no sense. If you want a dividend, create your own by selling the commensurate number of shares. This leads Meb to discuss a research study he did in which he asked if he could replicate a dividend index with companies that don’t pay any dividends. His research revealed that not only could you, but you can do much better. The takeaway was that for a taxable investor, this investing strategy would be far more efficient. As the conversation progresses, Meb asks Larry about portfolio construction. Specifically, when he’s building a portfolio, does he pick out individual factors and hang with them for a decade, or does he want to review annually and tilt away, or go multi-factor? Larry tells us to invest only in something you have a strong belief in. Why? Because every factor can have long stretches of underperformance, so you need to be committed. People think 3 years is long… 5 is very long… and 10 years is an eternity. Larry doesn’t agree. And if you chase returns across shorter time periods, you’ll likely get awful returns. Next, Meb steers toward the momentum and trend factors, asking what Larry thinks. Larry says “put them to the test.” So he walks them through his aforementioned 5 criteria. There’s far more in this episode that you don’t want to miss: the correlation of value and momentum… trading costs… the use of CDs in your fixed income allocation… corporate bonds and an eroding risk premium… the state of the ETF industry 10 years from now… There’s even a warning – if a former Miss America is pitching you a mutual fund, beware… In what weird context does that advice apply? Find out in Episode 28.

#27 - Porter Stansberry - "There's Going to Be a Big Bill of Bad Debt to Pay"
Nov 02 2016 54 mins  
Episode 27 starts with a quick note from Meb. It’s a week of freebies! Why? Meb is celebrating his 10th “blogiversary.” (He’s officially been writing about finance now for a decade.) Be sure to hear what he’s giving away for free. But soon the interview starts, with Meb asking Porter to give some background on himself and his company, as Porter’s story is somewhat different than that of many guests. Porter tells us about being brought into the world of finance by his close friend and fund manager, Steve Sjuggerud. This conversations bleeds into Porter’s thoughts on how a person should spend his 20s, 30s, and 40s as it relates to income and wealth creation. But it’s not long before the guys dive into the investment markets today, and you won’t want to miss Porter’s take. In essence, if you’re a corporate bond investor, watch out. Porter believes this particular credit cycle is going to be worse than anything we’ve ever seen. Why? There’s plenty of blame to go around, but most significantly, the Fed did not allow the market to clear in 2009 and 2010, and it means this time is going to be very, very bad. Porter gives us the details, but it all points toward one takeaway: “There’s going to be a big bill of bad debt to pay.” Meb then asks what the investing implications are for the average investor. This leads to Porter’s concept of “The Big Trade.” In a nutshell, Porter has identified 30 corporate offenders, “The Dirty 30.” Between them, they owe $300 billion in debt. His plan is to monitor these companies on a weekly basis, while keeping an eye out for liquid, long-dated puts on them that he’ll buy opportunistically. He’ll target default-level strike prices, and expect 10x returns – on average. Meb likes the idea, as the strategy would serve as a hedge to a traditional portfolio. Next, the guys get into asset allocation. Porter’s current strategy is “allocate to value,” but for him that means holding a great deal of cash. Meb doesn’t mind, as wealth preservation is always the most important rule. This leads the guys into bearish territory, with Porter believing we’ll see a recession within the next 12 months. This transitions into how to protect a portfolio; in this case, the guys discuss using a stop-loss service. Porter finds it invaluable, as most people grossly underestimate the risk they’re taking with their investments, as well as their capacity to handle that risk. He sums up his general stance by saying if you don’t have a risk management discipline you will not be successful. Next, the guys get into the biggest investing mistakes Porter has seen his subscribers make over the years. There’s a great deal of poor risk mitigation. He says 95% of his own subscribers will not hedge their portfolio. Meb thinks it’s a problem of framing. People buy home insurance and car insurance. If we framed hedging as “portfolio insurance” it would probably work, but people don’t think that way. He sums up by saying, “To be a good investor, you need to be good at losing.” Porter agrees, pointing out how Buffet has seen 50% drawdowns twice in the last 15 years. If there’s a takeaway from this podcast, it’s “learn how to hedge.” There’s far more, including what Porter believes is the secret to his success. What it is? Find out in Episode 27.

#26 - Jeremy Schwartz - "You Should Be Hedged a Lot More Than You Are"
Oct 26 2016 51 mins  
If you’re ready to dive straight into the deep end, Episode 26 is for you. The guys waste no time, starting off with complicated topic of currencies. Jeremy takes issue with the currency-stance belonging to some former, unnamed Meb Faber Show guests. Specifically, he challenges the idea that currency hedging is expensive. Not true, he says. It’s only “selectively” expensive. You can actually get paid to hedge certain currencies. He gives us more details, leading to his overall takeaway: You should be hedged a lot more than you are. Meb then asks about any rules that might be applied when using a dynamic currency-hedging strategy. Jeremy gives us his thoughts, telling us when we want to be hedged versus when we don’t, as well as two good signals to use – interest rate differentials and momentum. Where are we overall today? Well, Jeremy says that there is no country so cheap that his shop would take their hedge ratio to zero. Eventually, Meb switches the topic to factor investing. Jeremy gives us his take, noting that minimum vol is where things are most expensive. The guys then discuss factor investing as it pertains to the bond space – in essence, moving away from market cap weightings. Why is that important for bond investing? Well, do you want to give the most weight to the countries issuing the most debt? Unlikely, but that’s how market cap weighting works with bonds. Next, Meb steers the conversation toward liquid alts, specifically managed futures. That’s followed by a great discussion on corporate buybacks. Gotta watch out for that dilution from new share issuance. Interestingly, it turns out that buybacks are largely a U.S. phenomenon. Jeremy agrees, but points out some spots around the globe where that might be changing. As we near the end of the show, Meb asks about the opportunities Jeremy sees going forward. His response in a nutshell? “People are underinvested overseas.” There’s plenty more, including an asset class that is coming up on being down a whopping six years in a row, as well as how Meb hacked a VPN service that enabled him to watch the last Super Bowl from a tiny village in Japan. How’d he do it? Find out in Episode 26.

#25 - Listener Q&A Episode
Oct 19 2016 66 mins  
We have some great guests lined up in the coming weeks, so we figured we’d squeeze in another Q&A episode. This week, Meb is back from traveling yet again, this time to The Caymans. The show starts with Meb giving us highlights from the trip, as well as one low-light (waking up one morning to find a welt on his head, and hoping it isn’t Zika). This transitions into a topic recently covered in one of Meb’s blog posts; of all the animals that people find most terrifying, lions and sharks are near the top of the list. But statistically, lions and sharks are responsible for only a tiny amount of human deaths per year. You know what kills 725,000 humans per year – yet few fear (until recently)? Mosquitos. Similarly, many investors are terrified about the outcome of the U.S. Presidential election. But this election isn’t likely to “kill” a portfolio. On the other hand, you know what is? The mosquito known as “fees.” Eventually, the conversation gravitates toward listener questions. A few you’ll hear Meb tackle are: - What are some of the best ways and resources to learn about markets and investing? - (Dovetails into…) Why don’t we hear Meb discuss single-stock fundamental analysis more often? - What does the typical day look like for Meb and other successful investment professionals? Habits? Amount of reading? How much sleep? And so on… - How does an investor tell the difference between an investment strategy that’s simply “out of favor” (and therefore, underperforming) versus a strategy that has truly lost its effectiveness (and underperforming)? - One of the variables in Bogle’s formula for estimating returns is dividend yield. Why wouldn’t you substitute shareholder yield instead? - What are the pros/cons of protecting the downside by buying puts versus using trend following? - Assuming an investor is a huge risk taker and can handle it, should he put all his money in the asset class with the highest expected return – for instance, be “all in” Russia? As usual, there’s lots more, including Meb’s upcoming travel schedule. He’s going to be in Orange County, New York, Richmond, and D.C., so drop him a line if you’ll be in the areas. All this and far more in Episode 25.

#24 - Learning to Love Investment Bubbles
Oct 12 2016 21 mins  
Episode 24 brings us back to our most controversial episode format: the “solo Meb” show. Listeners seem to either love and loathe this style of show. If you fall into the “loathe” camp, it’s a short episode so the pain is limited. But hopefully you will listen, as Meb dives into the fascinating, and possibly timely, subject of bubbles. The quick takeaway? Using a trend following approach would have helped you reduce drawdowns as popping market bubbles ravaged portfolios. And this would have helped you achieve investing’s main goal: surviving another day. Meb then dives in, first defining bubbles, then referencing three of the most famous bubbles in history: the South Sea Company bubble, the Mississippi bubble, and the Dutch tulip mania, each of which saw drawdowns of 90%. Meb dives deeper into the South Sea Company bubble. In short, the South Sea Company was a huge pump-and-dump scheme – catching none other than Sir Isaac Newton in its carnage. From here, Meb discusses strategies for capturing the upside of bubbles while protecting yourself from the fallout. One solution? Trend following, using the 10-month simple moving average. It does a great job of reducing volatility and drawdowns, and improving returns. Meb ends the show by revisiting the South Sea Company bubble, this time putting an actual figure on Newton’s losses, and comparing them to what a trend follower would have made. What’s the difference? Find out in Episode 24.

#23 - Gregg Fisher - "Sometimes the Best Investment Strategy Isn't the Right Investment Strategy"
Oct 05 2016 52 mins  
If you’re a factor-investor, Episode 23 is for you. In fact, about 10 years ago, Gregg actually trademarked the term “multi-factor” in the use of mutual funds. Meb asks Greg which factors they use. It turns out “price-to-anything” isn’t bad. The conversation gravitates toward the behavioral side of investing, leading Gregg to an interesting comment: “Sometimes the best investment strategy isn’t the right investment strategy.” He goes on to illustrate by saying how if we bought nothing but small cap value stocks and held them for the next 50 years, we’d look back and realize that such a strategy would have been one of the most successful ones anyone could have chosen. The problem is the volatility of that strategy is off the charts, so most investors can’t see it through. In many ways, the experience of investing is as important to us as the outcome. Meb agrees, referencing a recent article detailing how Harvard’s endowment has posted a small loss over the last two years and some folks at Harvard are finding this totally unacceptable. But that’s to be expected with factor investing. As Gregg says, the whole concept of factor investing is to be different than the average investor. Next, Meb asks how to put together value and momentum. Turns out, there are lots of ways to slice this. Greg tells us to start with diversification, then differentiate across risk factors, tilting toward those factors that are well-rewarded for taking the risk. The guys then touch on factor investing in real estate, followed by top-down investing (Gregg doesn’t really adhere to top-down), then they move on to losses. We all know this intuitively, but huge losses can scar people – even to the point they never come back. So one of the keys to avoiding this is diversification. This bleeds into the topic of written investment plans. Gregg agrees that nearly no one has a written plan (though it would be great if they did). There’s far more, including currency hedging and smart beta factors. The episode winds down as Meb asks what advice Gregg might have for young investors who have only been exposed to the past 7 years of bull market. What’s Greg’s answer? Find out on Episode 23.


#21 - Michael Covel - "We Can't Make a Prediction Worth a Damn"
Sep 21 2016 63 mins  
Episode 21 starts with a “thank you” to Michael, as it was his advice on starting a podcast that got “The Meb Faber Show” off the ground. But Michael and Meb quickly turn to Michael’s expertise, trend following. This is how Michael summarizes it: “We don’t know what’s going to happen. We can’t make a prediction worth a damn. The market starts to move, whatever that market might be. We get on board, and we don’t get out until it goes against us and we have an exit signal.” They then turn to the infamous “turtle” story. It involves Richard Dennis, a great trader from the 1970’s, who made his first million by about age 25. By the early 80’s, he was worth about $200 million. Around this time, the movie “Trading Places” came out (two millionaires make a bet on the outcome of training a bum to be a financial whiz, while taking a financial whiz and, effectively, turning him into a bum). Richard felt he could similarly train a financial no-nothing, turning him into a great trader. Richard’s partner felt it wouldn’t work. So they made a bet. How’d it turn out? Three or four years later, the group Richard trained had made, on aggregate, around $100 million. Meb then suggests that a profitable strategy such as trend following, that seems to work, should attract lots of investor dollars in the long run. So why then doesn’t trend following have more “big money” institutional investors using it? Michael points toward drawdowns – “the scarlet letter of trend following” – even though buy-and-hold has plenty of drawdowns too. The guys then agree that all investing is purely speculation. We like to believe there’s more certainty, but that’s not the case. They then bring up a quote from Ed Seykota: “Win or lose, everyone gets what they want out of the market. Some people seem to like to lose, so they win by losing money.” Michael tells us this is true not only for investing, but life as well. Next, Meb asks about Michael’s podcast, which results in a great recap of how Michael got started and how he grew it to be the success it is today. The guys then discuss the mass of great investing content out there, for example, the hours of great interviews from Michael’s podcast—where is a new listener supposed to start? It’s overwhelming. Michael gives us his thoughts. This leads to Meb’s latest entrepreneurial business idea (which some listener should run with and make lots of money). There’s plenty more, including the guys touching on sensory deprivation, yoga/meditation, and of course, what each of them find beautiful, useful, or downright magical – Michael has about seven for us. What are they? Find out in Episode 21.


#20 - Listener Q&A Episode
Sep 14 2016 39 mins  
Episode #20 is another “Listener Q&A” episode. Meb starts by telling us about his frustration after doing a guest panel on CNBC earlier in the morning. (Hint: questions about The Fed tend to annoy Meb…also, if you ever chat with him in person, do not refer to a 1% market move as a “major” move.) But soon we change gears, and Meb answers questions including: - When following a trend strategy based on a 100 or 200-day moving average, is the idea to buy/sell on Day 1 of the broken trend? Or is it more nuanced? - Is there some magic number of days (when following a trend strategy) that is the right length? - (The above questions dovetail into a conversation about the #1 mistake the majority of investors make when using a trend following approach – expecting it to be a return-enhancing strategy.) - What are good trend strategies for sideways/chainsaw markets? - How about combining a momentum strategy with a simple 10-month trend strategy? - When looking at managed future funds, aside from cost, any thoughts on what might warrant choosing one fund over another? - (This dovetails into an interesting admonition from Meb in which he suggests listeners should do their own homework on issues like this—after all, if you don’t fully understand a fund’s strategy and have your own reasons for buying it, how will you know whether a 20% drawdown reflects a bad strategy, bad execution, or just bad luck?) - Can you earn a 10% CAGR with Dalio’s All Weather portfolio without fear of a major drawdown? - (This dovetails into a question about asset allocation – does it really dominate long-term returns? A listener thought he heard a difference of opinion between Meb and a guest on a past episode.) There are more questions, including one hand-written and mailed to Meb by a college student. He wants to know what qualities, skills, and abilities Meb looks for in new hires at Cambria, as well as what unique skills a college grad should bring to his/her employer. What’s Meb’s answer? Find out in Episode 20.

#19 - Jonathan Clements - "If Money Can Buy Happiness, Then Why Doesn't It?" "Because People Don't Spend It Right."
Sep 09 2016 51 mins  
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.

#18 - Rob Arnott - "People Need to Ratchet Down Their Return Expectations"
Sep 07 2016 65 mins  
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.

#17 - Michael Philbrick, Adam Butler, and Rodrigo Gordillo - It's About Risk Allocation, Not Capital Allocation
Aug 31 2016 59 mins  
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.




#14 - Eric Crittenden - "It's Not Fear and Greed that Drives the Investment World; It's Envy"
Aug 17 2016 54 mins  
Episode 14 is easily one of our most interesting so far. While there’s great content about trend following, Eric and Meb also delve into the psychological side of investing. There’s a fascinating tension between what people say they want from investing, versus what they actually do. For instance, investors say that want diversification, but very few, in practice, are willing to implement a truly diversified portfolio. Why? The psychological trauma that people experience when they diversify (and watch parts of their portfolio draw down) is simply too painful. This leads into a discussion about one of Eric and Meb’s favorite ways to diversify a portfolio: managed futures. The numbers suggest managed futures are a fantastic addition to a portfolio. Eric ran an experiment with his clients involving portfolio construction. He presented clients the returns and volatility numbers of a handful of asset classes – without revealing what those asset classes were. 100% of the time, when presented blind, people chose managed futures as their core holding. Eric and Meb then move on to the returns of great fund managers like Buffett and Soros. Eric studied these managers with the thesis that they must have done something other investors are uncomfortable doing (which is the source of their long-term alpha). He concludes that this differentiator is actually “underperforming their benchmark.” Eric says Berkshire Hathaway is a “glaring” example. An investor in Berkshire would have underperformed the S&P more than half the time (over various time-periods), but would have made tremendously more money than investing in the S&P. This leads Eric and Meb back to the psychological side of investing, specifically, the pain of relative performance. Meb recalls the Buffett or Munger idea that it’s not greed and fear that drives the investment world; it’s envy. Meb then turns the focus toward playing defense, which leads Eric to tell us how few people realize the impact on their returns of avoiding drawdowns. Avoiding the big losers has more impact on your compounded returns than catching the big winners. In other words, defense is what wins championships. There’s far more: how 80% of all stocks effectively return 0%, while just 20% of stocks account for all market gains… a pointed warning from Meb to listeners about the fees associated with managed future “fund of funds”… and of course, plenty more on Eric’s trend following approach. All of this and more in Episode #14.


#13 - Want Buffett’s Returns? Here’s How to Get Them
Aug 12 2016 48 mins  
Stock picking is hard—really hard. Fortunately, there’s a simple strategy you could begin following today to improve your success. It’s simple to implement, takes just minutes of your time, yet has the potential to vastly improve your investing results. Sadly, if you’re like the average investor, you don’t even know it exists. So what is it? Well, consider the world’s star hedge fund managers – the Buffetts, Klarmans, and Teppers – the guys with average yearly returns in the upper teens and twenties. What if you knew what they were investing in right this second? Logic would suggest if you invested alongside them, you too could post their extraordinary returns. Well, it turns out, the option is available to you thanks to the SEC and Form 13F. This is a form professional fund managers with more than $100m in U.S.-listed assets must fill out. Best of all, it’s available to the public, providing you and me a way to “peek over the shoulder” of some of the world’s most successful investors. Of course, there are some issues with this strategy. For instance, there’s a 45-delay in reporting, there can be inexact holdings, and the biggest one – the fluctuating success of your chosen manager. Bill Ackman’s recent debacle with Valeant certainly comes to mind. No, it’s not easy; a 13F investing strategy takes dedication. Many of the star managers who post amazing long-term returns can actually underperform for years at a time. Would you stay invested alongside them long enough to ride out those barren stretches? Or would fear and second-guessing shake you out? Turns out there are a few ways you can improve your chance of success. Find out what they are in Episode 13.


#11 – Sam Stovall – Sam’s Seven Rules of Wall Street: Crash-Tested Investment Strategies That Beat the Market
Aug 08 2016 40 mins  
Episode 11 features the always-fun Sam Stovall. Sam starts by making an unlikely connection between Clint Eastwood and investing – “A man’s got to know his limits.” Being aware of his own limits, Sam put together a list of rules to help him win at the game of investing. He and Meb dive in, starting with “Let your winners ride, cut your losers short.” Easier said than done, as most of us tend to hold onto our losers, hoping they’ll come back, while selling the winners (prematurely) to lock in gains. “As January goes, so goes the year” is Rule #2. Sam compares investors to dieters looking for a fresh start every year. Rule #3 is a tweak on “Sell in May then go away.” It turns out that’s almost right, but not quite. The better strategy is “rotate rather than retreat.” Do you know the two sectors which historically will boost your returns if you’ll rotate into them during the summer months? Sam will tell you. Rule #4 challenges the idea that there’s no free lunch on Wall Street. According to Sam, there is. If you construct your portfolio in the right way, you can increase your returns without a commensurate increase in risk. “Don’t get mad, get even” is Sam’s fifth rule. Too many investors are losing money because their portfolios are overweight in a few bad picks. So don’t get mad, “get even.” In other words, look to shift your weightings to correct the imbalance. Rule #6? “Don’t fight the Fed, at least, for too long.” For all you bears over the last few years, this seems especially appropriate. Finally, #7 is Meb’s favorite: “There’s always a bull market someplace.” It turns out Sam and Meb share a fondness for rules-based investing. Sam has his own rules which help him identify these bull markets that are always happening someplace. What are they? Find out in Episode #11.


#9 - Pete Mladina - "What You Thought Was Skill Was Just Risk Premia"
Jul 28 2016 67 mins  
“Do I have enough to fund my retirement?” “What’s the optimal lifetime asset allocation?” Those two questions, stemming from a recent academic paper written by Pete, help launch Episode 9. The answers point toward Pete’s solution for retirement challenges, something called “goals-based” asset allocations (as opposed a singular, static “all-in,” asset allocation applied to your entire capital base). In other words, your specific goal – say, college tuition, a second home, maybe a trust – dictates the asset allocation of the associated, earmarked funds. From there, Meb and Pete transition to a discussion on factor-based investing, starting with “term” and “market” factors. According to Pete, “Ninety-five, ninety-six percent of the return variation of all managers and funds in the Morningstar database are explained by…basic factors.” Meb then asks, “What are the best diversifiers to a traditional portfolio?” Hint: Pete’s response includes Meb’s “desert island” strategy. They then discuss whether individual smart beta factors such as “value” should be evaluated relative to their own historical valuation. Your own answer will likely reflect whether or not you believe markets are mean-reverting, a topic often debated. They then touch upon risk factors as applied to REITs before diving into a discussion of the Yale Endowment allocation. Pete tells us that Yale’s outperformance over the decades really boils down to just one thing: exposure to venture capital. The rest could be replicated in a factor-tilted portfolio. They wrap up with a reader question: “How do you know when your strategy no longer works?” Find out Meb’s and Pete’s answers in Episode #9.










5 • 1 Ratings

pLe0mAxA May 06 2020
5*