Investing Wisdom From Howard Marks of Oaktree Capital

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.

Earn An Online Business Degree

Getting an online business degree has become a popular option especially in the past few years and there are a lot of schools competing for students. With the realization of international trade and the globalization of many markets, the need for skilled business school graduates is ever increasing. Online business degree programs recognize that need and cater to students who might already possess a modicum of business experience.Online Business Degree – Where To StartAn Associates Degree in Business is really a starting place to lay the foundational education of a business degree and essentially concentrates learning on a very basic skill set. Basic courses in business administration, economics, business management, marketing, accounting, and business law set the course for further study or provide a basic knowledge of business.A Bachelors Degree in Business offers the ability to focus on particular areas of interest such as finance, management, human resources, or marketing and might include advanced study in certain areas like accounting, economics, and business law. A student with an interest in business law could pursue a law degree following the completion of a Bachelors in Business Degree.A Masters Degree in Business allows even more specialization and expectation that students can their growing expertise to everyday business situations. Marketing, finance, management, economics and more are available Masters Degree specialties depending upon the college. Graduate requirements for online degrees are often a bit different than traditional college degree programs and also vary greatly from school to school.Why Choose An Online Business Degree Program?Online business degree programs have become popular choices for prospective students due to the flexibility and accommodation that these programs provide. Many students who are currently employed find it nearly impossible to undertake a traditional degree program without leaving their job or moving to a college community that offers a degree program in their field of interest. Some prospective students are tied to family or other obligations that preclude relocation or might just be isolated geographically and unable to relocate for whatever reason. Online College Degrees are the answer to many of these situations and can provide a reasonably similar educational experience.The main types of online education offered by colleges and universities falls into one of two categories, Synchronous and Asynchronous. Synchronous classes can be considered a hybrid of traditional classes and remote connection wherein the online students are connected with the classroom and must be present at the same time and day as the actual on-campus class. The online students therefore receive the lectures and discussion at the same time. Asynchronous, on the other hand, allows students to review lecture material and complete coursework on their own schedule. Classroom discussion might take place in a forum or via a bulletin board and while there are of course deadlines and due dates, how the students decide to attend class and complete assignments is primarily up to them. This type of class does require students that are self-motivated and organized so it’s not for everybody.Earning an Online Business Degree can be a huge factor in career advancement and income potential and the ability to earn the degree online makes them very attractive in the eyes of potential students.

Entry Level Finance – Why Finding Your New Job Will Be Easy

Entry level finance jobs can be easy to come by if you know where and how to look. You are probably fresh out of college, and you are seeking a job in an entry level finance position. A common question many fresh graduates have is “How long would it take you to find a job, considering there are so many other people out there looking for the same job that I am looking for?”Nowadays, it isn’t as difficult to seek a job as it used to be, despite what the economy is going through. We have the Internet, and there are so many sites available on there where employers advertise to look for people like you. There are many websites that can assist you in your search.Unfortunately, because the Internet has gotten so popular, a majority of the people you are competing with are most likely going to do the same thing as you. The first thing they are probably going to do is get on
the Internet and visit those website where they know they can find some job openings in the entry level finance field. So far, you’re doing everything your competition is doing. You’ll probably look for job openings, email the employers, and wait for the employers to contact you back to possibly set up an interview. Pretty basic stuff.Well, the good news is, not a lot of your competitors will go above and beyond like you will. If you are really serious about getting yourself a well paying entry level finance job, you will go above and beyond in order to beat all your other competitors.First, you will seek for the job openings in finance field. You are going to email the employer your resume and cover letter, then, you will not just wait for the company to contact you. You are going to have to call them and let them get to know about you, that way, you are already in their minds. If possible, you can even visit their office and introduce yourself. This process can take a little bit of time and effort, especially if the company you are applying for is a very busy company and has a lot going on, but you are going to have to be patient and understand that this is a part of getting yourself ahead in the game. Remember, employers like to hire aggressive and people skilled employees like you and they are not going to know what’s so different about you and your skill set just by sending them an email.Once you get yourself an interview, it’s time for you to shine even more! Be professional, yet friendly. Be aggressive, yet cool. Employers don’t like to hire robots. They like to hire people who have great personalities and know how to take initiative and can make good decisions. Let them know that you are very interested in an entry level finance position and sell them the skill set what you bring to the table.With this knowledge, not only will you advance in looking for a entry level finance job, but you will also build a lot more confidence during your interview, knowing that you have reached that far in the game. Good luck in finding your position in entry level finance.