Wise investments of your spare funds can be a great way to grow rich. These days, savings accounts offer very low interest and it is a waste to allow your money to lie in them. Based on your appetite for risk and your financial needs, you have various other investment schemes and options to choose from.
It is always safer to have a diversified portfolio, that is, to spread you money around in various types of schemes, so that the risks and returns get balanced out. The company you work for would have a 401(k) plan which is always a safe bet. In this scheme, they will deduct a part of your salary every month and give it to an independent financial source to manage the investment, so that you get a healthy return at the end of your tenure. For those of you with greater risk-taking ability, stock markets or mutual funds can be a good idea. In stock markets, you can buy shares of companies listed on the stock exchange. Usually, good companies offer dividends along with a fair return on your investment. Dividends are not mandatory, but a lot of companies like to distribute their profits among shareholders as dividends.
Some companies prefer to reinvest the profits into expansion projects instead of declaring dividends. These reinvestments in turn should lead to further profits. However, the stock markets are unpredictable and a lot of people who dabble in stocks with the purpose of making some quick bucks may end up with losses instead.
Mutual funds are relatively safer investments, though they are also subject to market risk. Mutual funds are investments made in the stock market by financial managers with a fund collected from actual investors. There can be sector-specific mutual funds for instance those that invest in Pharmaceutical or IT or infrastructure companies only. Whatever be the mode of your investment in the markets, it is vital that you track these on a regular basis. If the prices of your shares or mutual funds decline at a time when there is a slowdown in the economy as a whole, there is no need to panic and sell at a loss. The markets will quite likely bounce back to where they were or perhaps even better. However, if the markets are strong and yet, the value of your mutual funds is on a decline, it could mean it is not well invested and it would be advisable for you to sell and move your money into something that will generate better returns. A financial consultant can advise you about the market situation and what types of investments will suit your needs best.
Financial statements are a useful tool for judging the health of a company, and for comparing it to its competitors. They show what the company owes and owns, the profits or loses it has made over a given period, and how their position has changed since their last statement. Generally if you can tell which direction a company is heading in, you can also forecast future stock prices with some accuracy.
Gaining a basic knowledge of financial statements, and applying this knowledge when choosing or assessing investments can help you pick tomorrow’s winning stocks, while avoiding tomorrow’s losers.
Of course, financial statement analysis will not always factor in significant news events, unexpected incidents, changes in management, and other factors which may influence share prices, but it provides a starting point from which to gauge the present value of shares, independent of future occurrences.
The following report details some simple financial statement explanation and analysis methods. Although the topic can get much deeper and more complex, this article is designed to give investors the ability to understand the numbers and simpler of financial ratios, and be able to use that knowledge to assist them to make better decisions when doing their due diligence.
The balance sheet shows a company’s financial position at a specific date, usually the last day of the company’s fiscal year for annual reports. One side of the balance sheet shows what the company owns and has owing to it, called assets. The other side represents liabilities, which are what the company owes, and also has shareholders’ equity, which represents the excess of the company’s assets over its liabilities. Shareholder’s equity is often referred to as book value.
Total assets are equal to the sum of the company’s liabilities plus the shareholders’ equity. In other words, take away liabilities from assets and the remainder is what value is owned by the shareholders.
The Balance Sheet can be used to uncover the value of the company, the debt load, and cash position.
Also called the Income Statement or Profit and Loss Statement, it shows how much revenue a company received during the year from the sale of its products and services, and the expenses the company incurred due to wages, taxes, operating costs, etc… The difference between the two is the company’s profit or loss for the year. The amount left over after taxes is the net earnings.
Net earnings are basically saying how much money the company ‘really’ made over the course of the year. Some companies can have low earnings if they used much of their money for research and development, to acquire other companies, fuel aggressive growth, move into new markets, etc, which is much more favorable than if the company had low earnings because they didn’t generate many revenues, their expenses were too high, etc…
Statements of Changes in Financial Position
This shows how the company’s financial position changed from one year to the next. Also called the cash flow statement, this details how the company generated and spent its cash during the year.
This statement can be used in evaluating the liquidity and solvency of a company, and to assess the ability of that company to generate cash internally, to repay debts, to reinvest in itself, etc…
Sources of Financial Reports
Certainly you can get financials from the companies themselves. Most will gladly fax them to you, or mail you their latest quarterly and annual reports.
However, a faster way to access the information can be by Internet. For example, go to Yahoo.com and choose stock quotes. Enter the ticker symbol for the company you are interested in, and Yahoo will provide its most recent press releases, which will include past quarterly and annual reports with the financial statements. You can also check the previous reports to compare which direction the company is moving in and look for trends (i.e. increasing debt load, unpredictable earnings, decreasing revenues, erratic revenues, etc…).
There are also many other Internet resources which provide similar information, such as wsrn.com, bigcharts.com, (canada-stockwatch.com for Canadian issues), etc…
To familiarize yourself with some of the numbers, try looking up the financials of three companies you own or are interested in.
(Balance Sheet) Which of the companies has the greatest long term debt load? Do any of the companies have greater current liabilities than current assets? Compare the current share price to the shareholder’s equity (book value): is the share price much greater or less than the book value?
(Earnings Statement) What were the revenues of the most recent year (or quarter) and does the number represent an increase or decrease from the previous period? How much money per share did the company earn (or lose) in the most recent period?
(Statement of Changes in Financial Position) Has company debt been increasing or decreasing? What was the greatest expense the company incurred according to the statement?
Understand that financial statements can provide investors with a partial fundamental snapshot of a company. They only represent one piece of the puzzle. Remember that, while financial statements can help investors compare several companies, comparison is limited only to the numbers provided.
In other words, you can see that one company made money while the other lost money, but you don’t know which has the better technical outlook (based on analysis of the trading chart), which is a potential takeover target, which will have the best future earnings, etc…
As well, the impact of financial statements tends to be long-term as it relates to share prices. Four quarterly reports showing increasing earnings may push the stock into an upward trend as the market begins to recognize the fundamental improvements of the underlying company, but one quarter of increasing earnings may or may not have a significant impact on shares.
Therefore, most investors use financial statements as part of a greater overall decision making process. Certainly, though, an understanding of and familiarization with the data can benefit any investor who takes the time to make educated trading decisions.
Many growth companies don’t need nor are expected to have positive earnings. Instead, they generally accumulate debt as they focus on research and development of new technologies, aggressively move into new markets, fight for market share with competitors, etc… Other companies with minimal growth prospects on the other hand, have more importance placed on actual earnings, lowering operational costs, etc…
Be sure to understand what numbers are important and unimportant to a specific company based on their situation and the position they are in. This can be done easily by going to wsrn.com and doing an industry comparison on the company in question. Do companies in the same industry seem to have positive earnings, or is the focus on growth, research, etc… Are they a larger or smaller company than the industry average, and are they growing faster than the others?
Read the fine print to make sure the numbers you are reading have been audited, rather than being just company estimates, or unverified results. This generally is not something you need to worry about with most exchange-listed companies, but it is important practice.
Many annual statements will begin with positive news about sales or revenue increases, or other positive comments, but further reading reveals that the company actually lost more money, increased debt, or had a poor quarter or year. For most companies their financial statements are part of their promotional material and they need to make the information sound as impressive and positive as possible, even if the overall results were disappointing.
Be wary of one-time earnings or loses. For example, a company may win a huge lawsuit settlement and the influx of money gives them positive earnings for the quarter. However, how would they have done when the one-time extraordinary is ignored?
Getting a good investment portfolio is something that everyone needs who does any kind of investing. Having a good spread of investments is also a good idea, in the event that one area of investments takes a loss. Here are some tips about how to get an investment portfolio that is well balanced and should enable you to weather most storms.
By investing in only one area of the market, you are more apt to run into a larger loss if that part of the market does poorly during a given time period. On the other hand, if you diversify enough, other profitable areas can make up for poor growth in one area. This allows you to continue doing at least reasonably well in some areas – in other words – all is not lost.
Diversify Into More Than Type of Market
A balanced portfolio will not resort only to trading in various types of stocks, but should also include some items that are more financially sound, even though they may not yield such a high increase. To your stock trading, you need to include bonds, trust funds, and possibly even property. The principal, simply stated, is that you do not want to risk losing everything. Though the interest rates are not as good on the bonds, yet they are stable and will provide a good hedge against loss – even in a rather economically strapped time. Trust funds do even better with interest than bonds, they are much more stable than stock in general, but they also can have their bad days, too.
A general rule in investing in stock is that you should never invest more than you want or can afford to lose. The reason is obvious – you could lose it all. But by taking a percentage of your investments and dividing them up between these various investment instruments, you should be able to gain a much more stable portfolio, and still end up with some for retirement.
Market Transactions By Sectors
The market is generally made up of a number of sectors – each one consisting of several groups of industries, and each one with their own share of stability and instability. While one sector, such as telecommunications, may not be doing as well as it once was, other areas may really be thriving. Only by a constant watching of the market will you be able to discern these developments, and know which one is worth investing in. A safer way to pick stocks is to be careful what advice you receive (the best being those who have successfully traded for years), as well as the means used to determine which ones are “good investments.”
Instead of just going out and buying the stock of a particular company, it is a real good idea to use stock options. These “tickets” (my word for a call option, or a put option) allow you to be ready to make stock purchases or sales, depending on what you want to do. They can save you a considerable amount of money and give you a window to see what may transpire with the company you are looking at. For instance, if you buy a “ticket,” and it costs you RM 400, you have a window of opportunity that will give you a little time to make your transaction. It is not an actual commitment to do so – just a readiness. Instead of just going and buying that RM 5,000 worth of stock, and possibly losing thousands, by using this ticket method, you may only lose the cost of the ticket.
Learn the Options Available To You
When you want to create a really stable portfolio, it is a real good idea to make a strong effort to learn all you can about the various techniques of investing, understanding the stock market and mutual funds, as well as products that you can successfully invest in. You may even want to invest in foreign properties, such as in Australia, or consider the foreign currency.
All three of these terms have to do with the overall health of a company’s operations and the ability for it to continue as an ongoing firm. These figures are best studied over a period of time against competing firms within the market sector of the particular firm.
Operating expenses are part of the overhead costs attached to selling products on the market. They are not necessarily directly connected to the cost of the specific product being sold but must be included when figuring the operating expenses of a company. These include fixed costs of salaried employees (administration, sales, etc.) and variable costs (labor, research and development, etc.). Operating expenses are found on the income statement.
Operating income determines a company’s earning power from ongoing operations. This is the figure equal to earnings before deduction of interest payments and taxes. This is another figure commonly found on the income statement. This figure is also commonly referred to as operating profit or earnings before income and taxes (EBIT). Operating income is a direct result of a company’s efforts to turn a profit.
Operating income is required to determine operating margin along with net sales. Net sales is another figure that can be obtained directly from the income statement. By determining operating margin we can know the proportion of a company’s revenue that is left over after paying for variable costs of production (labor, raw materials, etc.). This figure helps the investor know the overall health of the company and how well managed the firm is. A firm must have a healthy operating margin to pay for the fixed costs involved in doing business like interest on debt. Operating margin is most valuable when tracked over time and compared to the operating margin of its competitors within the same market sector. Companies competing in different market sectors have different cost structures, of course.
(1) What specific stocks will I buy?
(2) When should I buy these stocks?
(3) How should I buy these stocks?
(4) When should I sell these stocks?
(5) How should I sell these stocks?
In addition, the answers for questions #2, #3, #4, and #5 should vary depending upon the different components of an individual’s stock portfolio. If the answers for questions #2 , #3. #4, and #5 exhibit no variance, then the risk profile for all stocks in the portfolio will be the same, an undesirable trait.
There is a very good reason why people that try to mimic the portfolios of very wealthy successful investors never can achieve nearly the same success as the investors they mimic. The reason is that they can only answer one piece of the above 5-part investment puzzle the question of what to buy. In fact, I could open up my portfolio to investment novices, show them all the stocks I own now, and out of 1,000 novices, all of them would have an extremely difficult time duplicating my future returns. In fact, it’s entirely plausible that investors would lose significant amounts of money on the very same stocks that would produce my largest gains.
Again, understanding a complete investment system will determine portfolio returns, not just knowing what to buy.
Why Most Investment Firms’ Strategies Fail to Adequately Address the 5 Questions
The evolution of job titles for investment professionals from broker to financial consultant to financial advisor is ironic, because the original title, for the great majority of employees in this industry, is by far the most accurate. Most financial consultants are nothing more than brokers that broker the money you give to them. They serve as middlemen between you and the money managers hired by the firm, and are so interchangeable with one another that a retail investor’s portfolio returns are not likely to vary significantly from one consultant to another at the same firm.
Back when I worked as a “broker” at a Wall Street firm, I remember hearing a story about a very successful (meaning high-income earner) financial consultant that bought nothing but exchange traded funds (ETFs) for his clients. His rational for doing so was four-fold.
(1) Mutual fund expenses were too high (true);
(2) Expenses on ETFs were low (true);
(3) The overwhelming majority of money managers can’t beat the performance of the major domestic indexes (true); and
(4) Therefore, ETFs were the best way to invest for his client (false).
Global investment firms never train their brokers how to be superior stock pickers. They train them how to be superior salespeople. So in concluding that allocating entire portfolios solely to ETFs was the absolute best possible strategy for his clients, this particular consultant’s logic was erroneous. The consultant drew this conclusion solely based upon his foundation of investment knowledge, one primarily filled with investment sales strategies. In fact, though I was never able confirm this, I heard many anecdotal stories that this particular financial consultant was able to outperform the vast majority of financial consultants at the firm with his “I will only buy ETFs” strategy.
Though I wouldn’t be surprised if this were true, the fact that this particular consultant was able to gather so many clients based on such a faulty strategy was a remarkable statement about the average investor’s knowledge of how to build wealth. To me, as unknowledgeable as financial consultants are about proper wealth building strategies (given their constant diet of investment sales strategies), this proves that the average retail investor, even those with millions of investable assets, are far less knowledgeable.
In conclusion, every retail investor should thus utilize the 5 questions of building wealth to determine if his or her investment strategy is faulty or strong. With any strong investment strategy, all 5 questions will be relevant. Own a faulty investment strategy and most likely, one or more of the 5 questions will be irrelevant. And the faultiness of the strategy no doubt will be manifested in weak returns. To illustrate how the 5 questions of building wealth will “out” any poor investment strategy, let’s take a look at a couple of examples. Let’s start with two different portfolios, one primarily built around ETFs; the other primarily built around Mutual Funds.
(1)What Specific Stocks Should I Buy?
Neither the Mutual Fund or ETF strategy can answer this question, so you don’t even need to ask the final four questions to know that neither of these strategies will help you build wealth.
How about a portfolio that consists of all individual Chinese stocks? This portfolio passes question #1, the question of what specific stocks to buy. Next, if we drill down to see how this portfolio was constructed, the portfolio manager’s answers to questions #2 and #3 – “When were these stocks bought and why?” and “How were these stocks bought and why?” will reveal whether or not the portfolio was indeed constructed solidly.
Finally the portfolio manager’s answers to questions #4 and #5 – “How will these stocks be sold and why?” and “When will these stocks be sold and why?” will reveal if strategies are in place to lock in profits or minimize potential losses. However, remember the earlier point I made in this article: “the answers for questions #2, #3, #4, and #5 should vary depending upon the different components of an individual’s stock portfolio.” Most likely for a portfolio built on stocks that trade in a frothy, emerging market, there will be little variance in the answers for questions #2, #3, #4 and #5. This lack of variance again would expose the weakness of this investment strategy.
Although just a rough guide, the 5 questions should provide you a quick way to establish the intelligence and strength of your current investment strategy.