Mid-2021 investment strategy update

I hope everyone is staying safe at home – it has been a while since I last did an investment strategy and portfolio update, and maybe it’s a great opportunity to maybe to check in and share what’s going on in my portfolio.

Maybe starting off with a quick analysis of the macroeconomic climate we are currently in.

We are seeing a progressive increase in COVID-19 vaccination progress around the world, and countries are slowly to restart and reopen their economies throughout the year.

COVID-19 vaccination progress

According to the Financial Times, about 1.78 billion people around the world have been administered the vaccine, and some countries like the UK, US and Chile have vaccinated more than a third of their population, and hospitals are no longer as overwhelmed as before.

Vaccinations are important to not only control the spread of the virus but they can lead to herd immunity, which are all important factors to further drive economic growth in many developed countries like the US and in Europe.

With the vaccination likely to lead people to live normal lives again, should expect to see a spike in inflation over the coming months with consumer spending and commodity prices poised to both increase, driving both supply and demand-led inflation. For example, this would be driven by revenge spending, increase in travel and pent-up demand.

For example, the US consumer price index in April rose 4.2%, the fastest since 2008.

Now, on the other side, we also have countries like India which has seen the spread increase in severity; and Singapore and Taiwan which have seen a temporary spike in cases. Therefore, there is always a risk of the virus coming back to slow down economic recovery.

Positioning for investing

With the above knowledge and where financial markets are currently at (i.e. at all time highs), investors might be a bit cautious about their positioning in the markets.

I think there will be a number of factors in play that would be particularly important to watch:

  • Job numbers
  • Consumer price index (inflation)
  • Interest rates

The third factor is a key one, given how interest rates are fundamentally a key driver for asset pricing. A faster than expected rise in interest rates might lead to a violent correction in equity markets, which historically has been supported by low interest rates keeping borrowing costs low.

A rising interest rate is not necessarily bad for markets, as long as company earnings growth continue to trend higher – which is likely as the global economy reopens further.

Putting together the facts and how the Federal Reserve has been acting over the recent months, I believe that interest rates would remain low, which means staying risk-on would provide considerable upside performance.

The big risk is that the Federal Reserve unexpectedly raises rates faster than usual, perhaps due to higher than expected inflation in the coming months.

In that case, while staying invested within equities, we should expect portfolios to rotate from growth stocks towards value stocks, and given their underperformance against growth stocks over the past decade, it is wise to avoid going too heavy towards the tech sector or growth stocks.

At the same time, with rates remaining low, it doesn’t make sense to over allocate towards low yielding assets like bonds and cash, which offer not only limited downside protection in case of a stock market crash, but also provide little to no returns.

My investment strategy

I will probably sound like a broken record but my strategy remains largely unchanged overall. Since this blog started, I have always advocated for simple portfolios with broad market diversification to capture the market risk premium.

Equities

Choosing to pick specific stocks like Tesla or Gamestop or specific sector ETFs like KWEB or ARKK will not pay off in the long-term because the market doesn’t care what you think.

For my cash DIY portfolio, I have around 80% allocated towards the total stock market through ETFs like VWRA and V3AA, 20% is allocated towards REITs through an ETF. My monthly paycheck gets automatically sent to buy more V3AA every month, and I am keeping my current VWRA allocation untouched.

The reason why I chose VWRA is because of its passive nature and how it automatically rebalances between developed and developing countries; growth and value sectors without my additional input. V3AA takes all the greatness of VWRA and adds an ESG tilt to the ETF, making it a great long-term ETF where you have a systematic way to increase exposure to ESG-friendly companies.

Now, if you’re wondering what ESG-tilt is and why it matters, it basically means you overweight companies in your portfolio that exhibit good environmental, social and governance characteristics. These are usually large well-run companies like Microsoft, Apple and Amazon.

It’s increasingly important because investors are increasingly looking at ESG concerns, not directly but through their portfolio managers like Vanguard and Blackrock. Exxon Mobil’s recent news about an activist fund winning 2 board seats to continue pushing Exxon to reconsider its role in a zero-carbon future show that investors do care and will continue to care about these issues.

For investors with smaller portfolio sizes (i.e. below $20K), I recommend investing through roboadvisors as transaction costs are way cheaper – saving you hundreds of dollars of transaction cost every year which can go directly to increase your portfolio.

Robo-advisors like Endowus also offer great passive broad market and ESG portfolios, and I have also advocated for them throughout this blog. I strongly encourage anyone starting out to just start your investing journey with them and learn as you go.

REITs

If you want a REIT-specific portfolio, then Syfe REIT+ is a really good one and you can start from no minimums, meaning you can invest in property with as little as $1!

Note that if you allocate a proportion of funds to REITs, you’re taking sector-specific risk and you might be overly exposed to the property sector. I explicitly chose to do it to obtain some form of regular income as dividends, but note that you might in the long-term, underperform a diversified broad market portfolio.

CPF

For CPF, I allocate through Endowus 60/40 with a monthly allocation of $1000 automatically deducted from my CPF OA.

In order to start investing with Endowus CPF investing you need to have a minimum of $20K set aside in your CPF OA. I chose 60/40 because I might potentially need the funds for housing in the next several years and I prefer the greater flexibility of responding to a potential market crash in a 60/40 portfolio.

My mum’s CPF portfolio has been doing really well since she started it last year and my dad has also started using Endowus for his cash, SRS and CPF. Of course, not with all their assets today but slowly growing them over time with capital sitting idle in the bank.

Cash

On cash, I personally hold 12 months expenses in cash stored in SingLife at 1.5% per year. Since SingLife has since closed off to new sign ups from 15 December 2020, other alternatives for higher yielding cash products are products like Endowus’ Cash Smart (0.8% to 1.6%) or StashAway Simple (1.2%).

Note that if you use cash management products expect some withdrawal lead time of between 2 to 5 days, hence it might be more useful to park emergency cash in a fully liquid bank account with near instant access to funds.

I also built a emergency cash pile for investing in market drawdowns and these funds are currently sitting in stablecoins in BlockFi and DeFi protocols like Aave earning 8.6%+ in annual interest through lending. While it comes with higher yields, they also offer higher risk levels and complexity so it might not be for everyone.

So overall, I have several diversified sources to pull cash to spread out the risk while earning a higher than average yield for times of emergency and for dip-buying. Most of my investment capital is fully invested in broad market indices with an expected return of 7% to 10% annually.

For those who are keen on generating more yield on their investment holdings, you can sell 10% out-of-the-money call options every 30 days on your holdings with the drawback of not participating in any price upside above your strike price.

Crypto

As blogged previously about an investment thesis for crypto and the state of crypto today, crypto assets is currently sitting at around 30% of my portfolio after the massive bull run as I’ve taken profit along the ride up, so I have a portion sitting in stablecoins waiting to be put into productive use.

With the recent crypto market crash, I have some appetite to put some of it back to work, but I will be taking a very slow approach to dollar cost average them back into the market as prices still have room to make a move lower to find a key support level.

A lot of my crypto portfolio is used either in yield farming in DeFi or lent out to borrowers, across several platforms to diversify my risk. For example, Singapore-based Hodlnaut offers 10% annual interest for stablecoin lending but deposits are not insured and the platform is vulnerable to hacks.

US-based platforms like BlockFi and Europe-based platforms like Nexo also offer high interest rates so it could be a good idea to diversify. For those who think centralised platforms are risky, decentralized platforms like Curve, mStable and Aave offer high yields too with a different set of risks too.

Overall thoughts

To wrap up this post, having a coherent strategy across multiple asset classes that you can stick to and let you sleep soundly no matter what the market does is extremely important.

I think I have come to acknowledge that 1) one can never beat the market consistently, 2) to earn a higher return you just need to take more risk, 3) if you don’t need to take more risk then don’t.

Therefore my strategy has always been focused on capturing macro trends and investing in the market to capture these trends, and not so much on identifying individual stocks or tokens that will outperform others.

With 2021 the year of the bull, let’s hope that this bull run continues. Outside of investing, I have also been actively doing cool projects outside of work and continue sharing thoughts on betterspider.

Lastly, I want to end off by reminding you the importance of investing in yourself too, as COVID continues to accelerate change, increase uncertainty and the workforce of the future is global and remote – meaning your competiton is worldwide.

A big shout out and thank you to all readers who have made Betterspider what it is today with more than 500,000 views and 675 subs on Telegram. Don’t forget to tell your friends about how to be a Betterspider today and stay tuned for more updates.

If you like the website’s content and have benefited from it, please give us a subscribe on Telegram, use our affiliate links or give us a donation starting from $5!

0 Shares:
6 comments
  1. Great article betterspider.

    I agree that for small funds <20k robo might be better overall costwise. Im at the point where im thinking to switching to IKBR and buy a broad market ETF like VWRA.

    Could you perhaps explain abit more on your decision to go with V3AA instead of continuing in VWRA. I understand that ESG is a hot topic and a growing thread but the returns on both VWRA and V3AA should be similar right? not to mention V3AA is quite new and might be illiquid compared to VWRA.

    1. Can you shed some light on why small funds <20k robo might be better overall costwise? Monthly DCA 2k into VRWA using IBKR incurs more fees than robo?

      1. IBKR has a monthly activity fee of $10 per month, so that’s $120 of minimum cost for maintaining the account. Robo-advisors tend to be more cost efficient for amounts $20K and below. For example, Endowus charges 0.6% per year which is $120 for a $20K portfolio. StashAway charges 0.8% which is $160. This is assuming you’re using IBKR which is probably one of the lowest cost brokers around, if you are using another broker like Stanchart or FSM, or even worse DBS Vickers or Maybank Kim Eng, then you can expect to spend much more than $120 in commissions.

  2. Would you consider changing your website’s article text font from “Open Sans Light” to “Open Sans” ?
    The light weight of the font is pretty hard on the eyes for reading…

Leave a Reply

You May Also Like
Read more

V3AA – VWRA with ESG screening

Vanguard launched a new ESG ETF in March - the Vanguard ESG Global All Cap UCITS ETF, an accumulating, Ireland-domiciled ETF that's listed on the London Stock Exchange similar to its sibling VWRA.