The last one for 2020

First things first: Merry Christmas everyone! Nevermind where you live, Christmas is probably not as it’s supposed to be. And neither will be the New Years Eve event. COVID infections worldwide came roaring back across the globe and have crippled public life once again. Even in countries that previously did well in handling it. Yes, even here where I live, in Thailand.

So, while everyone is awaiting the vaccines to roll-out on scale, we have to remain cautious and vigilant, and hold the line until we get through the worst part of this pandemic. My personal expectation is set around the target date of sometime around May 2021.

2021 will get better

I am pretty optimistic for the next year and expect things to get significantly better. While the economic crisis has shattered businesses and destroyed livelihoods, there is a positive effect to it.

As bad as it may sound, the crisis has cleared the market of many weak companies. Stronger companies discovered weak spots and dependencies that had to be addressed. People have realised that some business models are not as bullet-proof as they thought, and some traditional business partners are less reliable and trustworthy than one would have expected. Those who get through this crisis will come out stronger on the other side, new alliances and partnerships will be formed, and unproductive and inefficient constellations have been abandoned.

For investors, these are good news. Especially for those who invest long-term. Getting through a crisis on this scale builds trust and confidence. This in turn will support pricing of shares and dividend payments. The recovery will come.

That is unless…

But of course, the very first thing that COVID taught us is that such dramatic events often come unexpectedly. And while we might indeed be done with COVID sometime next year, the world is far from secure from other crises that might happen right after that. Whether it’s another virus, a military conflict on a global scale, trade-wars, who knows. Everything can happen.

However, the smart thing to do is to remain optimistic. Historically and statistically, optimistic investors fare better and end up better off than pessimists. Always. Because unless the world literally collapses, markets do recover. Businesses adapt and come back. Innovation never stops, it’s part of our DNA.

So with these positive lines I like to say thank you to all my readers for following this blog in 2020, and I am looking forward to keep writing for you also in the coming year. What can you expect from me in 2021?

  • I will continue writing about financial independence. As you know, my target is to become financially independent, and I intend to reach this target by investing in stocks. This will continue and I will keep writing about it.
  • I will start writing about investing in stocks in Thailand and about Thai companies. In 2020 I have opened an investment account for my wife and for my daughter here in Thailand, and started investing on their behalf with surprisingly good results. The experience I gained through this will be something that I like to share with other potential investors, especially those who are living in Thailand.
  • I will start writing about how to set up a business in Thailand. Currently my wife is about to open a small business, a health-food cafe with smoothies and smoothie bowls. We are working on it together and learning a lot about how to open a small business here. We are in the final stages now, but once setup and done, I will share the experiences made along the way in a few articles.

So this is it! Goodbye 2020, hello 2021!

I am wishing you all a healthy and successful new year ahead!

Portfolio year-end evaluation

As the year is coming to an end, it’s time for a portfolio re-evaluation. I do this every year in order to determine what I did good, bad, or just wrong, and what I can and should do better in the next year.

Keeping a cool head

I wrote it many times. When it comes to investments, you need to keep a cool head and take emotions out of the equation. You need to stick to your thesis and know that you’re in for the long run no matter what. But this is easier said than done.

When your shares are moving up for a while and you see your profits surging by 20%, 30%, or even 50%, you might feel the urge to sell your shares just to make sure that you can actually keep that profit. I call this phenomenon “negative greed”. It’s greed because you want to keep the profits, and you want to make sure that your account gets credited before anything happens to it (like another downturn in the market). But it’s “negative” because once the shares are sold, you have obviously no more shares that could grow even further from there. You secure profits, but you lose chances for more profits.

Similarly, when your shares are moving down, it’s hard to stay cool while watching your account going negative into the double digits. When a recession hits and all you can see is a screen with red numbers on it, thoughts will crawl into your head. Thoughts, that question your decisions, making you wonder whether that whole thing is just a big scam that you fell for, and that you should have better listened to all your non-invested friends who think you’re nuts for being an investor.

On both counts, I did quite well in 2020. While I experienced all the emotions and drags as described above, ultimately I kept a cool head. The only shares I sold were those of Apple (AAPL) after the stock-split. They soared by over 150% and I sold some to be able to buy a few new shares of other companies which I considered to be good opportunities. What did I buy?

New investments

  • Wereldhave – A dutch shopping mall operator who suffered dramatic losses in its share price in recent months and who is due for recovery once this whole Covid drama is over
  • Starbucks – The company is showing over and over again that it’s one of the best in the market. The pandemic didn’t hit it as hard as one would have thought, and it will come out stronger in the aftermath
  • Veolia – After watching a documentary on Netflix about drinking water (the show is called “Explained”, highly recommendable) I decided to start focusing more on water-related investments

I also started a savings plan into an ETF. It’s called “Xtrackers MSCI World Information Technology UCITS ETF 1C” and it’s focused on tech-investments world-wide. 100 Euros a month that have started to flow into this ETF, completely paid by the dividends I receive each month.

One more word about Wereldhave. I had this company in my portfolio in the past, and I sold it at a loss when they cut the dividend and when the covid crisis hit. But I kept it on my watchlist and observed the stock movements on a weekly basis. When I noticed that the stock stopped moving further down (after dropping more than another 50% since the time when I sold them) and the company announced a new management team as well as a full restructuring of their business model, I got back in. The shares are now up 40% since I bought them.

Dividend growth

In terms of dividends, Starbucks and Veolia will contribute to my annual income in 2021 as they both pay stable and each year growing dividends. Wereldhave used to pay a strong dividend until the crisis hit. They canceled all dividends in 2020, and I don’t think the company will be able to pay out any dividends in 2021. I expect them though to start paying dividends again sometime around 2022.

My dividend income shrank in 2020 compared with 2019. This was mainly due to my largest and also most disappointing investment: A company called Aurelius (AULRF). It’s a business development company (BDC) which I purchased back in 2018. It was showing not only superior growth opportunities but also had an amazing dividend yield, and since 2018 it developed into my single largest holding position.

Unfortunately, it also became my most disappointing investment. The share price dropped by almost 70% and the dividend was cut down to zero in 2020. However, in the last couple of weeks recovery started to kick in. My losses are now at -56% and given the recent business reviews, I am quite confident that shares will continue to tick up. Also, the dividend should recover in 2021. But I admit, this one is my single largest nail-biter.

Overall it looks like my dividends year on year will reduce by some 11,60%, and this despite the growth of my total invested cash by 8,99%.

Monthly passive income

The total decline of dividend payments by 11,60% is obviously not great, but overall, my monthly passive income remained largely stable. My total dividend yield on investment came down to 3,22% from 3,97% in the year before. For 2021 I expect it to move back up into the 3,5% to 3,9% range.

Considering the scale of the covid crisis, I see my thesis of investing and putting money to work in the stock market confirmed. And 2021 is almost guaranteed to produce similar or better results, with most stocks set to soar once the vaccine distribution starts kicking in.