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Rehabbing Your Investment Portfolio

Rehabbing Your Investment Portfolio

Ep 04. Rehabbing Your Portfolio The Retirement Rabbit Hole

Rehabbing an Injury from Training

If you experience injury from exercising, a structured rehabilitation process may be recommended to help facilitate your return to training. The rehab process will include gradual exposure to movements and increasing loads to allow for proper recovery and to rebuild the individual’s self-confidence.

It is not uncommon for someone to be hesitant to resume training due to the fear of reinjuring themselves. While there is always a risk of injury when training there are also health risks from ceasing training that can gradually manifest if exercise is not resumed. 

How to Rehab Your Investment Portfolio

If you were invested in the stock market and sold out of a portion, or all, of your investment portfolio and went to cash the idea of reinvesting can seem daunting. Like getting injured while training, the idea of skipping the rehabilitation process and avoiding training can feel more comfortable in the short-term but can carry long-term consequences.  

Cash is Comfortable

Someone who holds an excessively large proportion of their portfolio in cash is similar to someone who lives a sedentary lifestyle. The potential negative consequences of not putting your cash to work do not manifest themselves until many years down the road when inflation has gradually eroded the purchasing power of that cash.

Investing a portion of your portfolio in stocks does carry market risks but the potential risks may be necessary to fund your future goals. Stocks provide the potential of growth above the rate of inflation and can help you maintain the purchasing power of your portfolio over time. 

How to Rehab Your Portfolio

I have provided a “Portfolio Rehab” process to resume stock investing for someone who has been “injured” by the market. This is not specific investment advice, but rather a framework to be applied regardless of your investing preferences and goals. 

Start with Why  

  • What is your purpose for investing?
  • Is your current portfolio allocated in a manner to allow you to achieve your set purpose?
  • If no, further consideration is needed to determine what changes can be made to give you a better chance of achieving your goals. 

Embrace the process  

  • There will be ups and downs along the way, as investment returns are never linear.  

Manage expectations  

  • Understand that market volatility is always a part of the investing process, and investing can be painful, but “hurt” does not always equal “harm.”
  • The goal is to set realistic returns and volatility expectations. 

Return to Investing  

  • Gradually and systematically increase your stock exposure until you reach your target allocation.
  • Using a systematic process that allows you to reinvest over time helps to remove the emotion from the investing decisions. 

Seek professional help   

  • If you are struggling with the idea of investing, having difficulty finding an entry point into the investing process, or have tried to proceed through this process without success, it is reasonable to seek out assistance from a trusted advisor.
  • This may involve someone local to you, or the team at Western Reserve Capital Management is happy to help. 

The thought of investing in the stock market can seem intimidating but following a systematic process to begin or resume investing in the stock market can be a useful way to increase your equity exposure over time.

The stock market exposes you to additional risks but when these risks are managed appropriately, it can provide you a greater chance of funding your long-term goals.  

Feel free to email us at with any questions you have.

Confidence in the Uncertainty of Retirement

An Uncertain Retirement Future

With a retirement that could last 30+ years, the world could look very different at the beginning of your retirement than it does at the end. Taxes, regulations, government benefits, healthcare, and investing could all look vastly different than they do today.

The rulebook for retirement may change, and current strategies could lose their merit. At a personal level, your life will not remain static, people will age, relationship dynamics may shift, and new challenges will present themselves.   

The future ain’t what it used to be. – Yogi Berra.

Positioning not Predicting

Instead of trying to predict what will happen in the future, we should focus on positioning ourselves to be able to react as events unfold. By engaging in the process of financial planning, you know in advance how you’re going to handle new obstacles as they present themselves.

A plan can keep you grounded in your values and guide decisions under changing external circumstances. 

Seeking Professional Guidance for Your Retirement

Professional guidance through this process is not necessary but can be very valuable. There are many major decisions surrounding retirement, some of which can have lasting implications for both you and your loved ones.

Someone who is versed in the retirement landscape provides for a more informed journey by educating you on the options available to you and sharing their experiences with serving those whom they have worked with before.  

Embracing the Uncertainty

We have no idea what the future will hold or what the economy will look like but the core principles and saving, investing, and prudent preparedness will remain the same. The tools and tactics you use may look different than they did when you started, but that is okay. 

A financial plan can provide you confidence in the uncertainty of retirement. Where you know you do not what will happen but have a framework to guide your future decisions in a manner that is aligned with your core values. 

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Resisting the Temptation of Trendy Investments

Progress is not achieved by luck or accident, but by working on yourself daily.


Trends in Nutrition

In the nutrition space, there is always something new to capture your attention. There are special diets, secret ingredients, or tactics that marketed to the masses in an attempt to get them to purchase something, often at a premium.

Once the initial buzz wears off there is always another new nutritional breakthrough and the marketing cycle repeats. People float from one trend to the next without ever making any lasting progress. Any results they do get are often short-lived or due to other underlying lifestyle changes, they made during that time.

Successful dieting is simple, but far from easy. The boring principles of consistency and hard work are not appealing when there are quick fixes to their issues. Anyone who tells you otherwise may have a vested interest in trying to convince you there are.   

Trends in Investing

A recent entitled Competition for Attention in the ETF Space by Ben-David et al. looked at a similar thing taking place in the investing space, where there were two kinds of exchange-traded funds (ETFs) being released.

Broad-based ETFs that generally hold low-cost, diversified (boring) portfolios and specialized ETFs that offer trendy themes and generally hold less diversified portfolios. The results in the paper suggested the trendy ETFs fail to add value but rather are launched to capitalize on a recent investment theme that has sparked the interest of unsophisticated (small) investors.

The paper stated the buzz around these specialized ETFs soon fades and they are then replaced by a different fund that attempts to capitalize on the next investing fad. Meanwhile, institutional (large) investors tended not to invest in these specialized ETFs but rather choose to invest in the low-cost diversified ETFs (Ben-David et al.).

The “Secret” to Investing

Successful investing like dieting is simple, but far from easy. The uniformed consumer often thinks there is a large amount of skill and specialized knowledge required to be successful. The reality is after learning the fundamental principles of investing, success is more a result of the investing process they follow, their ability to be self-reflective, and learning from their past experiences.

They likely found an approach that works for them and follow it diligently rather than spotting the next big trend and capitalizing on it. Some may consult investment experts for advice, but they do so for guidance on their journey and not for a shortcut to the finish line. 

Attention is a scarce resource and competition is often fierce in investing space. The idea that investing is not meant to be exciting, and you should get “rich” slowly does not create mass appeal. This leads to trendy products being pedaled to the uneducated consumer audience. These products tend to be more expensive and less effective than a less flashy alternative.

Understanding the fundamentals and following an approach that works for you will likely result in more meaningful outcomes than any single product could.

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Using Wealth Promoting Investing Patterns

Life is a matter of choices, and every choice you make makes you

John C. Maxwell

Make Every Bite Count with the Dietary Guidelines

In December 2020 the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released the Dietary Guidelines for Americans for 2020 – 2025. The dietary guidelines are science-based recommendations to promote health, prevent disease, and meet nutrient needs. The advice they give has remained relatively consistent over time and evolves as scientific knowledge expands.

They emphasize the guidelines are not a rigid set of rules but rather a customizable framework of core elements that allow individuals to make dietary choices that meet their personal preferences, cultural traditions, and budgetary considerations. They highlight the importance of healthy dietary patterns at every stage of life since dietary requirements change as people age. 

The Dietary guidelines encourage individuals to focus on eating primarily whole foods, choosing a variety of options for each food group, and paying attention to the portion size. They also encourage the limiting of foods and beverages higher in added sugars, saturated fat, and sodium (aka junk food.) 

The USDA realizes humans are not robots…and pizza is too good to never eat it again. This is why the guidelines, show you how to incorporate “junk” food in an otherwise health-promoting diet.

Make Every Dollar Count with Investing Guidelines

Just like how dietary guidelines are recommendations for health-promoting dietary patterns, investing guidelines (policy) can be used to provide recommendations for wealth-promoting investment patterns.

These guidelines are not a rigid set of rules but rather a customizable framework of core elements that allow individuals to make investment choices that accommodate their personal circumstances and preferences. Following these predetermined guidelines can help to create wealth-promoting investing patterns for every stage of life.

There is no universal diet, and there is no universal investment portfolio. A portfolio should be constructed base on an individual’s circumstances and focus on investments that can meet their needs while allowing for less efficient investments in limited quantities.

Just like with the dietary recommendations, variety (diversification), and portion size (allocation) are important considerations when implementing a balanced investment approach.

Allowing for Inefficiency

Similar to how the USDA shows you how to fit “junk” food into your diet, it is important to show investors how to incorporate less than ideal investments in an otherwise wealth-promoting portfolio. For some people, this means taking a portion of their portfolio and investing it in more “speculative” investments while for others it’s using that portion and stuffing it under their mattress.

Neither is right or wrong, but rather an outlet that allows someone to leave the core of their portfolio invested in a way that gives them the best chance of meeting their goals. Even if this means your overall portfolio is not the “most efficient” for your situation, having it set up in a way that allows you to handle market volatility and stay invested is far more important.

By using either dietary or investing guidelines you can customize the framework to meet you where you are and develop patterns that will drive positive long-term results. Consistent good decisions, however small they may seem, can make a huge difference when compounded over a lifetime.

Make every bite count, make every dollar count.

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The Practice of Financial Planning

The good life is a process, not a state of being. It is a direction, not a destination

Carl Rogers

Training For a Specific Event

If you have ever participated in an athletic competition you likely have a medal, trophy, or picture to commemorate its completion. This memento is likely on a shelf or in a box somewhere in your home.

Looking at it brings fond memories of what you achieved along with all the training and hard work you put in leading up to the event. You were possibly in the best physical shape of your life during this time.

Unfortunately, having competed in an event once does not make you fit for life. Even if you never compete again, you must continue to train and remain active if you want to stay in shape. 

Training as a Practice

Events like these can provide people with the motivation to train because there is an end goal they can focus on. After the competition, most people lose the desire to continue training since there isn’t a payoff for their effort.

This mindset is understandable if you treat training as something you do for this one-time thing and not as part of an exercise practice in an overarching fitness journey. In this journey, your goal is to progress and make improvements over-time.

The results of any single event are of minor significance in the grand scheme of things.

Viewing Financial Planning as an Event

If you view planning for retirement through this lens, going through the financial planning process once will not likely create lasting financial security nor ensure you have a successful retirement. This plan is a snapshot of your financial standing at a point in time and recommendations on the general direction you should head from there. 

Financial Planning as a Practice

The real value of financial planning comes when you make planning an iterative process, “a practice”, where you consistently monitor, review, and refine the plan as life unfolds. Any single review of your plan will not provide certain insights into your long-term outcome since it is only one data point.

The more important item is comparing your results over-time to track your progress to see if you are heading in the right direction or if adjustments should be made. With this long-term perspective, minor changes can have a major impact when given time to compound. 

You can make creating a financial plan an event, something that you do once, where you place the resulting binder on a shelf to remind you of its completion. Or you could make financial planning a practice where you regularly review your plan and make informed decisions and adjustments as life plays out.

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Specificity in Investing

The art of good decision making is looking forward to and celebrating the tradeoffs, not pretending they don’t exist

Seth Godin

Specificity in Training

When training you tend to have a specific goal in mind, meaning if your focus is on getting stronger, you should prioritize your exercise activities on specific movements with a set training volume and intensity to drive the stimulus required to get the desired results. The more specialized the training, the more you can optimize the results.

Any training you do that does not have the specific intent to improve the desired outcome will lead to sub-optimal results.

For example, if someone wants to perform their best at a powerlifting meet they will likely have to train differently than someone who wants to run a good time in a 5k race. This does not mean the person who does powerlifting can’t do distance running, or vice versa but compromises will need to be made to their relative performance in either event.

If someone wants to maximize their potential in one arena it will be at the detriment of the other. This means as your goals change, you will likely have to modify your training accordingly to produce the greatest results.

Specificity in Investing

Similar parallels can be drawn to investing. The characteristics of different types of investments lend to their effectiveness based on the objectives of the investment strategy someone put in place. The three characteristics I will discuss today are growth, income, and stability.

Growth: Becomes more valuable over time. (Buy at X, sell at Y)

Investments that offer the greatest potential of growth, will likely not provide much stability or income.

Income: Receive payments of dividends or interest.

Investments that produce a large amount of income may not offer the greatest stability or potential for growth.

Stability: Preservation of your initial investment.

Investments that offer a high level of stability probably do so at the cost of the possibility of growth or income generation.

A diversified portfolio will have a blend of assets with differing characteristics

You will likely have portions of your portfolio focused on either growth, income, or stability. How much you allocate to each of these assets will determine how your overall portfolio will perform. Therefore, your investment strategy should be based on what is important to you and created to give you the greatest chance of reaching your desire outcome.

Investing With a Purpose

Just like with training there is a give and take between optimizing for growth, income, and stability. It is not possible for a single investment to have all of the good qualities of each and none of the bad. As your priorities shift from one area to another you may likely have to reconsider how you are invested and find a new balance to align your investments with what you want to do for yourself.

Often this means making compromises in your overall returns or your overall comfort level. Having a portfolio allocation you can stick with both in good times and in bad is a critical factor in your long-term success as an investor.

In training and investing, we are dealing with limited resources and have to find balance and make compromises as a means of achieving our set objective. As our objectives change we will likely have to make adjustments to find a new optimum for our given circumstances. Being able to continually iterate and make the most of what you have is a key component to success in any endeavor.

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Pain and Underperformance

The stock market is a device for transferring money from the impatient to the patient

Warren Buffett

What is Pain?

Everyone experiences pain from time to time. People often view pain as an indication of mechanical damage to an area of the body similar to the damage done to a part of a larger machine. Using this logic, if something “hurts” it always indicates “harm”, and therefore painful activities should be avoided. This isn’t necessarily the case.

Humans are complex organisms and can adapt to almost anything. Recent research has shown the experience of pain is complex and is related to the perception of threat and the need for protection rather than active tissue damage.

The perception of pain can be influenced by numerous “biopsychosocial” factors and the expression of pain can be met with a low level of fear where the individual has high self-efficacy and allow for recovery. 

Or if they instead catastrophize their experience of pain and have a high level of fear, they will have a low self-efficacy. This can cause them to avoid the pain and could inhibit recovery.      

With this in mind, we can view pain as not always as bad (harmful), rather as discomfort we all occasionally must deal with.

Pain in Investing

For many, investing can be seen as a “painful” experience, because you often expose a portion of your portfolio to investments that experience market volatility. When investing you must determine if the pain you are experiencing is indicating harm (damage) or is to be tolerated.

All investing involves risk, often when investing for the long-term you must expose a portion of your portfolio that will be exposed to the volatility of the market. The pain of market volatility may “hurt” but is not “harmful” and should be viewed as a fee you pay when investing in these types of assets.

A Potential Issue with Active Investment Strategies

Active investments’ offer the potential for outperformance relative to their benchmarks. Future outperformance is uncertain and underperformance relative to a benchmark is always a possibility. The use of active management depends on experience, talent, cost, and patience.

When implementing an active investment strategy, there will inevitably be periods where it underperforms its benchmark. The duration and magnitude of the underperformance cannot be known in advance.

This “active-risk” exposes you to a new kind of “pain” and you must ask yourself if the pain you are experiencing is normal or is there actual harm being done?

How to Manage Active-Risk

How much active-risk you are willing to accept should be determined in advance of implementing any active investment strategy. You must ask:

  • How much relative underperformance you are willing to accept?
  • How long will you allow any underperformance to be sustained?

This way you are not making decisions based on emotions but on pre-determined guidelines.

These pre-determined guidelines help to prevent you from making decisions based on emotions during the inevitable periods of underperformance.

Investing is painful enough on its own. Active management exposes you to a different type of risk and potentially increases the pain you experience. Investing is a means of reaching a desired future state.

It should be used as a way to maintain a certain level of wealth, with the possibility to incrementally increase it over time. Everything has a cost, even if it not currently apparent. There is no risk-free return.

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Gage Reflects on His First Investment 

My First Investment

I recently needed to make a copy of my Social Security card and had to go into my safe to get it. While looking for it, I can across a plastic cylinder with silver coins inside of it. These coins were my first “investment” I ever made and I had completely forgotten I had them.

I originally purchase these coins with the money I saved during a summer job as a server in-between my Freshman and Sophomore year of college. This was before I began any of my Finance course work, and had no idea about investing or the stock market.

Also, I didn’t know anyone in my family who invested outside of their 401(k) plan and had little guidance to turn to. I was certain my meager initial investment would not meet the minimums of a Financial Advisor, and I had no idea how to get into “the market”. The whole process seemed very intimidating and out of reach for someone in my position.

The idea was brought up of investing in physical silver coins since my uncle was familiar with doing that. So over the summer, I set an arbitrary goal for myself of saving $500 to purchase as much silver as I could get. Throughout the summer I gradually saved up the money and gave it to my uncle.

I am still not sure where he purchased the coins or how much each coin cost, but the result was my $500 was exchanged for a stack of coins that have sat in my safe ever since.

“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”

Arthur Ashe

The Results of My First Investment

I decided to back-test my investment using $SLV ETF in place of my silver coins and compared it to the $SPY ETF which tracks the S&P 500. The chart below shows that the $500 I initially invest has lost money when adjusted for inflation, while the same $500 invested in a broad US-Stock market index almost doubled in value, even when adjusting for inflation. This analysis also ignores any transaction costs I would have paid when buying the silver coins.

Source: Portfolio Visualizer

At first glance, you would think I made a poor choice since my investment did not beat the market or even keep pace with inflation. However, I view this as a learning experience that certainly provided more value than the $500 I could have made If I were invested 100% in stocks. I view this as a form of tuition to the “school of investing” and I glad I was able to pay this fee early on in my investing career when stakes were much lower.

I also know I could have put it towards college expenses so that I would have less student loan debt after graduating, but younger Gage would have probably used that money on Pizza or Proteins shakes instead of tuition.

I have no intention of selling my silver anytime soon, partly because I am not entirely sure how, but I will not look to purchase any more precious metals in the near future. These coins serve as a reminder to me that you are influenced by your surroundings, and education is needed to help make the most of someone’s positive intentions.

I too often take for granted that investing can be intimidating to some people. Everyone has to start somewhere, and there should not be any judgment placed on that person for not knowing “better.” They are likely doing the best they can with the resources they were given.

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How Much “Risk” Must you Take?

“The Dose Makes the Poison.”


What is the Minimum Effective Load When Training?

In strength training, the idea of “minimum effective load” is doing the smallest amount of work to generate the stimulus needed to get the desired response. Anything beyond that could generate greater fatigue than necessary and be detrimental to your long-term progress in the gym. This often leads to a feeling that you could have done more or “worked harder” than you did. 

I know from personal experience this concept has been difficult for me to adopt. I used to think more was always better, but have since realized sometimes more is just more. There came a point where I had to decide between training just to get tired and sweaty and training to make progress towards a goal.     

What is the Minimum Effective Risk When Investing?

In investing, especially for retirement, you want to adopt a strategy that provides you the highest likelihood of achieving a desired future state. For many, this desired future state is maintaining a certain level of wealth that allows for an independent and dignified retirement. When creating your investment strategy, you know you must assume a certain level of risk.

This is where you could determine what is the “minimum effective risk” you must take in your portfolio. Meaning you only want to expose your portfolio to as much risk as necessary to meet your short-term and long-term goals. Taking risks above the required amount, provide you with diminishing marginal benefits on the upside but could be disastrous on the downside.

This is where you must decide if you want to make incremental progress over time or just end up being repeatedly tired and sweaty, with little to show for it.

“Risk is what is left over when you think you thought of everything.”

Carl Richards

Risk presents itself in many forms and changes with time horizons. Something that provides you desired certainty in the short-term is likely to provide undesired certainty in the long-run. Finding the balance here is an art rather than a science.

Often, we have competing desires of wanting to make the most of today and planning for tomorrow. Guidance with this issue is often helpful, but the decision is ultimately yours.

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Adapting Portfolio Withdrawals in Retirement

What is a Dynamic Portfolio Withdrawal Strategy?

When creating a plan for generating income in retirement, we think you will need a portfolio withdrawal strategy that allows you to receive withdrawals throughout your life while maintaining your purchasing power. You will want to balance the risk of outliving your assets with the risk of leaving too much behind. Also, whenever possible, you want to structure your withdrawals to maximize long-term after-tax wealth. 

One way to achieve this is by using a “dynamic withdrawal strategy”. This approach provides you the possibility to have a higher monthly income without jeopardizing your portfolio when markets decline. This strategy places “guardrails” around your portfolio to let you know when you will have to make adjustments to your withdrawals.

Meaning you reduce your portfolio withdrawals in bad times and increase them in times that are good. This is empowering since it informs you in advance when you will have to make adjustments and how large these adjustments will be. The guardrails set a ceiling and floor to your portfolio value can fluctuate in-between before action should be taken. 

Flexibility is the Key to Stability.

John Wooden

What Will the Adjustments Need to be in “Bad Times?”

In the bad times, your retirement activities may be temporarily restricted, but as markets recover and your portfolio rebounds you will likely be able to increase your spending again in the future.

2020 was a miserable year in many aspects. For many, there was less travel, less dining out in restaurants, less attending live events, and less overall in-person discretionary spending. As a result, many people spent much less than would have in a “normal” year. 

This decrease in spending would likely be similar to a cut in spending someone would have to make in a market downturn, bad times, when using a dynamic withdrawal or “portfolio guardrails” strategy. When markets decline and your portfolio value falls below the set floor, you will adapt, not eliminate, spending. You will still likely do things you enjoy, just in a modified fashion, much like what you did in 2020. 

If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that we humans are adaptive creatures and can adjust to things that before never thought could happen. Often we can not control the circumstances we find ourselves in, but we can always choose the attitude we take towards them. Have confidence in your ability to prevail, just like you did with all the obstacles you have already faced.

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