Time To Sell?

| November 24, 2008 | 0 Comments

Does it feel like your entire investment portfolio’s been cut in half?  I know a number of people who refuse to open their account statements. They just don’t want to see the wreckage.  They don’t want to see how badly their portfolio’s been damaged.

The running joke is that their 401K has become a 201K.

They didn’t hedge their portfolio properly.  You might feel the same way. If you do, take heart.  Many big institutional investors have the same problem… but more on that in a moment.

Just last week I found myself in the Gold room at the Arizona Biltmore Resort and Spa.  The entire room was decked out in classic fashion.  The open bar was up on the right, and the center of the room hosted a huge table of appetizers.  At the head of the room was seating for 50 and a big projection screen.

I knew from the second we stepped in the room… this was going to be a big pitch.

Black and white clad service people circled like a swarm of bees.  They were passing bite size lamb chops, mushroom stuffed puff pastry, and crab cakes.  The wine flowed freely.

It was truly a top notch function.

What was going on?  It was a well orchestrated alumni function.  Actually it was less of an alumni function and more of a fundraising event.

My alma mater recently kicked off their largest fundraising event ever. The goal… to raise more than $600 million.  They want to add to the endowment, create new student scholarships, increase the size of the faculty, and of course add new buildings and dormitories.

The big donors had already pulled out their wallets.

One stepped up with $200 million.  A few others kicked in a few million more.  As it now stands, they’re two-thirds of the way to the goal.  The presentation was very polished.  The president had a very refined manner.

Then I heard something I couldn’t believe.

The school’s endowment had outperformed 95% of their peers over the last five years.  The diversification strategy the school uses served them well.  But these times are tough.  In the most recent quarter they suffered a 14% loss in the portfolio.

14% in a single quarter.

That’s a painful loss, but I soon realized, some schools are much worse off.

Like Harvard.

Harvard manages almost $45 billion in their endowment.  Like any other big money manager, they’ve diversified their investment across a number of different strategies.  However, the endowment team does manage a small portion of the money themselves.

Small might not be the right word.  They manage about $2.9 billion.

So you’d think they’ve done amazingly well… right?  They have access to some of the smartest people in the world.  Their school counts as alumni the biggest money managers on earth.

Guess what?  Harvard didn’t sidestep this massive credit crisis any better than most investors.

Believe it or not, Harvard’s estimating a loss of 30% this year!

Why’s their performance so bad?  Just take a look at what their investing in.  Keep in mind, these details come from government filings.  Filings that only cover a portion of the total endowment.  That means they may actually be a little better (or worse) off than reported.

Their biggest holding is the iShares MSCI Emerging Markets Index (EEM).  Other top 10 investments include the iShares MSCI Brazil Index (EWZ), the iPATHMSCI India Index (INP), and the iShares FTSE/Xinhua China Index (FXI).  All of these are down 40% or more this year.

Harvard’s losing billions and billions in the market.

So what’s this got to do with you and your money?

Simply this… if your 401K has become a 201K don’t feel bad.  The smartest guys in the nation are losing big money themselves.

However… and this is what separates a professional investor from the rest… they’re sticking to their investment strategy.  It may seem crazy now, but in the end it will pay off.  Remember, they have a long term view of the markets.  Harvard’s been investing their endowment for more than 250 years!

So, I encourage you to stick to your long term investment strategy.  It may seem crazy now, but in the long run you’ll be happy you did.

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Category: Stocks

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The Dynamic Wealth Report works with a number of staff writers and guest experts who specialize in everything from penny stocks to ETFs to options trading. These guest analysts post under the 'staff writer' moniker for ease of use.

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