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Ben Graham 75%-25% allocation rule


matjone
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Does anyone still follow Ben Graham's advice for your stock/bond allocation?  I do and I sometimes wonder what he would be recommending at today's stock market levels.  What do you think?  If you do follow the rule, what is your current allocation?

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Does anyone still follow Ben Graham's advice for your stock/bond allocation?  I do and I sometimes wonder what he would be recommending at today's stock market levels.  What do you think?  If you do follow the rule, what is your current allocation?

 

90% to stocks. 0% to cash. Typically 10% cash.

Ben Grahams world was different then mine, I also dont use an abacus lol.

 

Also I am 28, which is probably the main reason, and bonds yields are terrible also. Though many people with significant net worths still do all stocks, but have some high dividend payers. I have almost bought convertible bonds, all of them have worked out quite well. Too bad I didnt own.

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I don't follow that particular advice.  However, in my retirement accounts where I have limited choices, I do use index funds and a slightly conservative asset allocation approach.  I will make occasional tactical allocation shifts depending on my view of the markets.  Right now, in those accounts, I'm at what could be considered normal allocation given my age and account goals.

 

15% cash

25% Bonds (TIPS and total bond market index)

40% US stocks (S&P 500 index)

20% International stocks (Dodge& Cox Intl)

 

My non-retirement accounts don't really follow allocation rules per-se, but I'm around 20% cash there.

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Anybody follow Jeff Gundlach and his story/bond fund? I apologize if I'm naive about it but I think his total return fund strategy is interesting and unique. He is long Ginnie Maes and non-agency backed MBS to position himself in what he says as protected from inflation and deflation. Said that if inflation hits, the beat up MBS will rise in value as the value of the debt is easier to pay off and if deflation hits, the govt backed bonds will protect principal. His fund yields about 8% from the blended cash flows of the MBS and Ginnies. No idea if this is a good/bad strategy, but I haven't heard of others positioning themselves like this. Any thoughts? His story is a fun read:

 

"Firing the $70 Billion Dollar Man"

http://money.cnn.com/2010/03/10/news/companies/TCW_Gundlach.fortune/index.htm

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Yeah, I am roughly 25 pct stocks, 75 pct other - which includes cash and LT non-stock investments which can be thought of as bonds, are managed as such (ie hold forever, or to "maturity" whatever that means in terms of the particular investment).  It was not conscious decision to have 25-75 allocation; I've just been reducing stock holdings over past few months rise of almost every stock's price.  Last month I went back in on one particular situation, to end up with what I noticed the other day was classic Graham 25-75 allocation.  My core holdings still exist, but no double-ups (except for one) looking for a rise on better expectations; that mood shift has now happened.

 

Perhaps more to the point ... two relatives, who are now managing their own accounts ... I've encouraged to stay with mostly cash until there is much more general anxiety / discouragement than presently.  At that time, there will be ample opportunities to make up for missing a particular situation nowadays.  In the meantime, we chat about how to look at a business.

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I believe Graham's advice on this point fluctuated over the years, but in any event was intended to apply only to the "Defensive Investor".  He basically said that a Defensive Investor could go with a 50/50 allocation or as little as 25% stocks or as much as 75% stocks depending on the investor's feeling about the general market environment.  "Enterprising Investors" would not have any such recommended allocation as they should find their opportunities where they can and take advantage of them whether they be in equities or fixed income.

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Right now it is hard to figure out what to do if you are a defensive investor which is what I would consider myself.  Buying anything longer than 10 yr bonds seems pretty dangerous when the yield is this low.  On the other hand buying stocks when the 10 yr ttm pe is at 24, according to Shiller's website, doesn't seem too safe either.

 

I do remember a part in one of the editions of the intelligent investor where graham says that in a low return environment you should still be fully invested and not  to sit in cash earning no income waiting for opportunities.

 

One question I have had and haven't had time to research - what is the longest term bond that you could have always bought without seeing it decline in price by more than say 5%-10%?

 

Maybe I should just go 50-50 and forget it.

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There are many different choices on the fixed income side...preferreds, high yield, tax-free, emerging markets, global govt/corp bonds...

 

I'm retired and sleeping very well with about 50% in a basket of fixed income products yielding ~8%.

 

If the market gives me a fat pitch I have reserves...

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Matjone - I don't recall Graham saying one should always be fully invested.  He may have, but I just don't remember.  He did always emphasize though that one should not reach for yield at the expense of a possible risk of capital.  So in the current interest rate environment he likely would advise not investing in any fixed income that could risk principal unless there was a corresponding potential for a capital gain.  In terms of what specific to invest in, that would be up to the individual investor.

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There are many different choices on the fixed income side...preferreds, high yield, tax-free, emerging markets, global govt/corp bonds...

 

I'm retired and sleeping very well with about 50% in a basket of fixed income products yielding ~8%.

 

If the market gives me a fat pitch I have reserves...

 

ericd1,

 

It WAS you that posted the amazing spreadseet during the meltdown with all the preferreds.  I made a 7 bagger with two of the RBS preferreds and more than a double on the Wells L prefferreds (which I still hold).

 

I've lost track of many of the others.  Since the Wells one still yields over 7%, I'm hoping you'd be willing to share what your basket currently looks like as I have a client that asked me about this issue today.

 

Thanks for your thoughts

kiltacular

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:) Thanks Kilt - still holding quite a few of the preferreds picked up in the Spring of '09 as the basket is still yielding ~8%.

 

I haven't found many bargains in preferred land...but around the first of the year (thanks to Ms Whitman) I switched a lot of my preferreds that were in taxable accounts into CEF munis with a ~9% yield (12% tax equil yield). Up about 5% on those and I believe there's 15%-30% more upside. (PMF, PMX, BLE) - I'm a little concerned about the premium on the Pimco CEF's but they are leveraged and the yield is on market price.

 

I also added National Bank of Greece (NBG) 9% Prf-A around the same time. It was yielding 12.7%. Today it's yielding 11.3% and have a 13.6% gain. It probably won't get to par for a while but there's still some upside here. Greece is obviously risky.

 

Waiting for interest rates to start moving up then may consider some inverse rate ETFs...

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