Investing Wisdom from Howard Marks of Oaktree CapitalMy regular listeners probably heard one of my earlier segments where I spoke about Howard Marks, the 67-year old billionaire who co-founded investment management firm Oaktree Capital which now manages about $84 billion in assets and is a publicly-traded company with ticker symbol OAK.Oaktree focuses its investments on high-yield bonds, distressed debt and private equity, and has delivered a whopping 23% average annual return over the past 25 years… so Marks has rightly earned his fame and fortune. To give you an idea of just how much a 23% rate of return is: If you invested $10,000 25 years ago, it would be worth $1,769,000 today.And, like Buffett, Marks too sends out folksy memos to Oaktree clients where he outlines his views on investing, the markets and the economy that are insightful, direct and sharply written. And today, I’m going to share a few insights from Marks’ latest memo – morphing his thoughts so they apply to individual financial planning. I’ve decided to break this up into a two-part series – with the first half of Marks’ memo today, and the rest to follow next week.Key Questions to Ask FirstSo in this latest memo, Marks first addresses philosophical questions on what to consider in setting up your investment portfolio. Once you have a clear idea on what your investment goals are, based on your retirement needs, Marks says you should discuss the following questions with your advisor:- Is it possible to build a retirement portfolio that can beat the market? If yes, then how, and to what extent can we beat the market?- What’s the best way to manage risk?- How do we define success, and what risks are we willing to take to achieve investment success?Then, as you build your portfolio, you’d want to balance it out between index investments (where you should not expect market-beating returns), individual stocks such as dividend payers, and perhaps some alternative investments to a smaller extent. If you’re closer to retirement, you might also want the safety of inflation-protected bonds. And for the safety of bonds, index investments and dividend stocks, you should be willing to accept “average” performance. But for the alternative investment portion of your portfolio, you should expect above-average or superior returns, as Marks calls it.Pick Funds that Dare to be DifferentFor your alternative investments where you’re seeking superior returns, look for funds that are backed by a strong track record, and where fund managers dare to be different. You see, if you pick a mutual fund that’s run by a manager who is essentially following or mimicking what others are doing, you’ll just end up paying high fees without getting any real bang for your buck.So for this alternative portion of your portfolio, look for managers that are courageous enough to be different and open to being wrong… managers who assemble a portfolio that is different from those held by most other funds. As Marks puts it, to be a top performer, the fund manager has to “escape the crowd” by being active in unusual market niches, buying things others haven’t found, don’t like or consider too risky to touch. A good alternative fund manager avoids what the market considers to be a darling, or all the rage, and engages in contrarian cycle timing, and concentrates heavily in a small number of things that he thinks will deliver exceptional performance… everything that personifies great investors such as Howard Marks and Warren Buffett.As Marks puts it “the cautious seldom err or write great poetry” in referring to fund managers that follow the herd.So look for fund managers who dare to be different, have a consistent history of market-beating performance and are transparent with their investors. That said, you also need to recalibrate your expectations with such alternative funds because their investments often could take longer to bear fruit… so only invest a small portion of your funds that you’re not planning on touching till you reach retirement… because if you picked the right alternative investment fund, those superior returns could compound very nicely over time.Now I know that it’s near impossible for most individual investors to really evaluate alternative investment funds, so this is where a good, qualified advisor can offer advice and help kick some of your returns into high gear.And as I mentioned above, Marks’ company – Oaktree Capital – is publicly traded with ticker symbol OAK, so you can buy shares to participate in Oaktree’s success; When you invest shares in OAK, you are not buying into Marks’ portfolio, but rather participating the company’s profit from its portion of the investment it takes for itself and the fees that are generated from his clients. Oaktree shares also offer a pretty compelling 7.7% dividend yield at current levels… but this is not a recommendation so please do your own research should you consider buying Oaktree.Most great investments begin in discomfort.Most people feel good about making investments where the underlying premise is widely accepted, where recent performance has been positive and where the outlook is rosy – but such investments are high in demand and are unlikely to be available at bargain prices.Bargains are usually found among things that are controversial, that people are pessimistic about, and that have been performing badly of late – investments that generate discomfort for most people. And this is where good alternative funds excel. For example, Oaktree Capital focuses on distressed debt – bonds issued by companies that are on the ropes in some way or another, bonds that are priced at pennies-to-the-dollar… bonds that comfort-seeking investors would not even think about. This discomfort is what causes distressed debt to be priced cheaper than it is really worth, and it’s one sector that has helped fuel Oaktree’s outsize returns. This area of investing is practically impossible for the typical investor to get into and one has to have superior skills in order to avoid being burned badly if things don’t work out.Marks also says; Dare to Be WrongMarks also reminds us that with courageous, discomfort-generating investments, you must also be prepared for failure as an inescapable potential consequence of trying to do really well. In other words, be prepared to lose money on this alternative portion of your portfolio… it’s not something anyone wants, but get into alternative investments with the understanding that non-mainstream investments could be harder to liquidate and have greater risk, and while your fingers are crossed for the upside, be aware that you could also lose money. That said, a good alternative investment fund should protect you significantly on the downside too.So look for alternative funds that invest judiciously, have more successes than failures, and make more on their successes than lose on their failures.Alas… No Magic FormulaMarks also cautions us that there is no easy formula to produce superior risk-adjusted returns – because if there were, everyone with a positive IQ would be rich.Or, as good ol’ Charlie Munger, Warren Buffet’s Partner bluntly puts it, “Investing is not supposed to be easy. Anyone who finds it easy is stupid” and does not understand investing’s complex and competitive nature. Hardly the words of someone who wants to be politically correct, but he makes a good point. Why should successful investing be so easy that the uneducated and lazy investor achieves superior rate of return? It just doesn’t happen that way.Superior investment results can only come from a better-than-average ability to figure out when risk-taking will lead to gain and when it will end in loss. And this is not easy task. So it’s good to look for fund managers that ideally have a strong background in economics, financial math, accounting and investment analysis.Okay, I’ll wrap up here for today, and continue with more on Howard Marks’ thoughts on investing next week.
Investing Wisdom From Howard Marks of Oaktree Capital
5 Tips for Buying an Office Chair for the First Time
Since office chairs come in a lot of styles, shapes, and materials, making a choice can be quite overwhelming. For instance, some of them are made for accessional use, while others are more suitable for routine use. Aside from this, there are other factors to consider, such as price, finish, color, and style. Given below are some tips to help you make a better choice.
1. Consider your usage
These units are designed for a variety of purposes. For instance, if you get an executive chair, it will allow you to talk to your senior employees comfortably. On the other, if you are suffering from back issues, it is better that you opt for a chair designed to make your back feel comfortable. Basically, these units are designed in order to provide more support for your back and body. The good thing is that you can adjust these chairs based on your sitting posture.
If you are a heavy computer user and spend a lot of time working on your computer, we suggest that you consider an ergonomic chair.
2. Consider your desired parts
The majority of office chairs have some common major components such as armrests, the seat, and the backrest. For backrest, it all boils down to the lumbar support. Ideally, it should match the natural curve of your back so that you can relax your lower back. It is even better if the chair allows you to recline without any problem.
Another important component is the seat. Make sure that the edge of the seat is rounded and downward-sloping. This will help improve blood circulation to your legs. If you are a heavy, tall person, it is better that you go for a chair that features higher backs and wider seats.
While typing, armrests allow you to place your hands comfortably. Apart from this, an adjustable armrest is another great feature to have in your desired unit.
3. Consider the adjustment features
You should adjust the chair to perform your desired task without suffering an injury. It is easy to adjust the mentioned components using levers and knobs while you are sitting in the chair. For example, the chairs of today feature a lot of mechanisms, such as tilt angle control, adjustable lumbar support, and adjustable height control. Make sure that the unit you are looking for allows these adjustments.
4. Consider the material
If you go for an upholstered unit, you can enjoy a cushioned seat and a lot of color and style options. Apart from this, synthetic fabrics with stain resistance offer a higher level of durability. On the other hand, leather is known for comfort and durability. If you are looking for something easy to clean, faux leather is your best bet.
5. Consider the environment
Based on the type of floors you have in your workspace, you should decide on the dimensions, colors, and styles of the chair. For example, you should get a survival type if you have to move around your workspace to get access to different equipment.
If you have a small office, it is better that you opt for a chair that comes with a lower back. Lastly, you can go for a traditional or modern office chair based on your personal interest.
5 Tips to Choose the Right Conference Table
According to statistics, managers spend a lot of their time in business meetings. If you have a properly designed conference room, you can come up with great ideas and have great meetings and discussions. Apart from this, conference rooms may help create a business environment. Since no conference meeting can be complete without a conference table, make sure you invest in a good table. In this article, we are going to talk about 5 things that will help you make the best choice.
1. Room size
First of all, you may want to consider your room size. There should be plenty of room around the table. The idea is to allow everyone to walk about the room. Besides, make sure that doors and windows are also easily accessible. Similarly, if you have an audio-visual station in your office, make sure the room has enough space for it.
Another thing to consider is the seating capacity of the room. After all, you don’t want to end up with a conference table that won’t leave any space for chairs you need in the office. There should be enough elbow room for all of your clients and employees during a conference.
3. Power outlets
In a conference room, some common items include projectors, laptops, and mobile phones. Therefore, make sure that the power outlets in the room are in the right places. After all, you don’t want to end up with a lot of entangled wires and cords during a conference.
4. Design Aesthetic
You may want to consider the design aesthetic of your conference room before buying a conference table. Don’t forget to consider your current furniture articles as well. You can choose from a variety of table shapes, such as racetrack, boat-shape, rectangle, and circle, just to name a few.
Besides, you can ask yourself if you prefer classic or modern furniture. Color choices also matter. Therefore, you should either go for dark or bright colors.
Last but not least, make sure you stick to your budget limit when it comes to buying a conference table. You can choose from a variety of options based on your price range. Based on the size, material, and design of the table, you should make the right choice. Another way to make a choice is to check out review websites. These sites will allow you to check out a huge collection of furniture articles.
Long story short, if you are going to make a great conference room, we suggest that you follow the 5 things given in this article. This will help you choose something that will serve your needs and look great. Hope this helps.
You Can Start A Home Business Today
A successful home business takes careful planning. The information here will give you basic ideas that will help you get your home business off to a good start.
You need to be able to listen to your internal time clock if you work at home or own your own business. It’s true that there is very little that you can do about when your employer wants you to get up, but when you are in charge, try listening to your own body to determine when you should start your day.
Keep home and work communication separate. Don’t send work e-mails from your personal account. Consider getting a separate work phone line. If that is not an option, get caller ID. Don’t take personal calls while at work. Don’t take business calls after work hours. Politely ask friends and neighbors to call before coming to your door.
Before you venture into a home-based business, ask yourself why you want to start a business. Your reasons might include: you want to be your own boss; you want to express your own creativity; you want to supplement your income; or, it might be others. Your reasons for wanting to start a business will influence your decision on what type of business you start.
If you want to run a home business, you need the space to do it in. Make sure you have a quiet office, away from the noises of the rest of the house and family. Make sure your space includes a comfortable desk and chair, as well as adequate storage for your needs. Setting your office up right will make you a more effective worker.
Don’t walk into a home business blind! There are many online discussion forums designed for small business owners to discuss the unique obstacles in this field. Look locally for other small business and home business organizations that meet in person. Either way you go, networking with other business owners gives you an excellent support system.
If you want make some of the products you sell in your home business, take careful account of how much it costs to product it. Two times the cost of the raw material is typically the wholesale price of a product. Two times the cost of wholesale pricing is the cost of retail in many cases. If the final retail price is prohibitive you will struggle to shift the product.
While conducting business in your sleepwear can seem enjoyable at first, you may begin to miss the interaction that you had with coworkers and clients everyday at your previous job. Make plans to meet people at other places besides your home during the week to stay in touch, reinforce your personal connections and meet the need for interaction with others.
Learning from the valuable information above, you will increase your chances of achieving success in whatever home business you choose. Nowhere is it written that this will be easy, especially in the beginning, but hopefully, this article has given you a good jump-start toward success!
Kurt Tasche is an internet entrepreneur who writes articles on internet marketing tips, ways to make money online and personal development. You can read more articles like this on his blog: here