YMW Portfolio - dividend growth, capital growth, "State of Obeidience"
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Ian Huntley is the founder of Huntleys' Your Money Weekly.
The chart below shows how dividend growth of the portfolio hardly faltered through the GFC years, simply pausing in 2009 and 2012 - just smidgins of downturns in income.
Dividend comparison ($'000)
Many years ago, when investing for my late mother, I told her: "Just bank the dividends, don't watch the share prices!" Looking at dividend performance is an important way of looking at our equity portfolio through a testing period.
We did not have any overexposure, just minimal, to "bold riders" - the bold riders that crash and burn - of the naughties decade equity bull market. In 2012, the chief causes of a dip in dividend income were QBE Insurance (QBE) and a somewhat higher-than-usual cash holding, maintained while I was otherwise engaged during the second half.
But that's the way I want my own portfolio - to be a reliable source of income even if I am involved in other things, or fall under a truck. A simple, quality portfolio does not create problems for the family if someone does fall under a truck.
It is very nice indeed when the income goes up. Usually, capital gain follows. And the next person who sonorously lectures me about "sustainable dividends" is going to get a rude answer. Who in their right mind would invest in unsustainable dividends?
The whole aim of a conservative investment strategy is to buy good businesses, and one major definition of a good business is that it provides reliable income to the proprietor over the years. The income of many businesses may rise and fall with the business cycle, but a good business will have more bullet-proof attributes through that cycle.
And yes, we also want growth! Every so often, the proverbial will happen and the dividend will neither grow, nor be sustainable, as has occurred with QBE - or Rio Tinto (RIO) in the middle of the GFC, contaminated with Alcan-inspired debt.
In the relatively high-interest-rate periods of pre 2007, QBE had both underwriting profits and good, conservative investment income. With considerably lower interest rates today, that former significant buffer of investment income is somewhat less.
That makes it tougher, even for a quality insurer such as QBE, when as must happen with a general insurance group every so often, a major event comes along.
The purpose of the portfolio approach - a number of stocks, not just "the one" - is to have sufficient diversification as not to be blown away when that "sustainable" bit falls short in some investments.
Diversification may well provide a mix of stocks that are "bullet-proof through the cycle" and cyclicals whose earnings are on an uptrend through the cycles, but can look pretty second rate in the midst of the downturn. Resource stocks generally fit the cyclical picture, only the best fit the general uptrend picture. Most are trading stocks.