Tag Archives: Lehman Brothers

Yes, You Can Get a 10% Investment Return

Last week marked the 10th anniversary of the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy on October 15th, 2008. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back and what caused massive selloffs in investments of all kinds and the unofficial start of the financial meltdown from Wall Street to home owners. Eventually, it ended up wiping out three trillion dollars of wealth. Of the biggest investment firms failing kind of made the meltdown official.

At this depth of the meltdown, vast numbers of investors took their money out of the market. Yet, if you had invested in the Standard and Poor 500 – which is a basket of the largest 500 corporations, on the day before Lehman Brothers went bankrupt, you would today have a return of 11% per year for the last decade.

I talk about investing, in basic terms, a couple of times a year, and it never fails that I get two or three emails that using a 10% return isn’t reasonable. Or the question is where to get that kind of return. Well – here is proof once again. At the worst day since the great depression, it once again paid to invest and not pull your saving out. Yes, an 11% average annual return for the last decade. THAT is a long enough time period to be a fair measurement. If you want to go back over 50 years, the S&P return is still over 10%.

Do the research for five minutes and your own due diligence, but anyone under age 40 or so doesn’t need complex investing advice. They’re 20 or more years from retirement and can ride out three or four more cycles. Nothing could be better for someone in their 20s than to have their money in the S&P. It’s diversified because it’s 500 companies around the globe, it doesn’t need management fees or a broker and has a 50 plus year proven track record. I’m not sure what else anyone would need.

By the way, for anyone older than their 40s, a so-called 60-40 portfolio of 60% stocks and 40% bonds bought the day before the great meltdown would have been an 8% return on this 10th anniversary.

Time heals all investments. When the market corrects, lots of people panic, instead of seeing it as a temporary setback that has more upside than downside. No, you won’t more than maybe 5% this year. No, you won’t be down like you were in 2008, or up more than 25% as was the case a couple of years ago. If you’re not invested for the longer term of more than five years – stay away. If you’re needing to be up on a weekly basis – stay away. For the rest of the world, set it and forget it. Don’t even open your statements more than once a years. You’ll be happy you did….

What The Heck Happened On Wall Street This Week?

In the months to come it’s likely this past Monday will be called Black Monday on Wall Street. Where do I start with the big three stories of the day.

But first things first: I wish I had five more minutes to give you a brief history of how we got here, because it affects us Canadians in huge numbers of ways.

Suffice it to say that in Canada, banks hold mortgages on their own books and keep them in-house. In the U.S. they’re packaged and sold in blocks called Collateralized Debt Obligations, or CDOs. They’re all pieces of thousands of mortgages, good stuff, bad loans, subprime and kinky ones all put through a blender and packed nice and neat. Everybody wanted them and nobody could get enough on their books for years.

The huge investment firms were making billions in fees gathering them, packaging them and re-selling these CDOs. It turns out that they started to fall in love with the product they were selling. First, they put a ton into their own accounts, because it was a great return. When things slowly started going sour and they didn’t want to admit it and to keep making the market think everything was just fine, they got stuck with billons more they couldn’t sell.

Now back to Monday: First was the huge and well established investment firm Lehman Brothers filing for bankruptcy. They were done in, or finally dragged under, by over $60 billion of bad mortgage loans on their portfolio. And, gee – their CEO got $22 million in pay just this past year. Nice money for guiding his company into bankruptcy…

Then came the announced sale of Merrill Lynch to Bank of America. Same story in a way, since Bank of America is buying the firm in an all-stock deal. That’s kind of like me buying your house for no cash, but only paying off your credit card bills.

Lastly was the insurance giant AIG filing for re-organization. It’s not that the insurance business is bad. It’s just that AIG invested their clients’ premiums in mortgage loan portfolios, instead of GICs, because they were getting a better return. Lesson number 780 for all of us: If you want a higher return you have to take a higher risk!

And a month ago, we were told that the worst was behind us. Yea, right. Banks and investment firms are the oxygen of the economy and this isn’t helping.

Added to the Monday list is the government takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac last week who hold over $5 TRILLION of mortgage loans. There isn’t really a Canadian equivalent unless you kind of think of CMHC holding half of all Canadian mortgages on their books!

Until home values stabilize we can keep using the quote from Lily Tomlin: Things are going to get a lot worse before they get worse.