A few years ago, I wrote an April Fool’s Day post about three imaginary mutual funds that pushed the envelope a bit. One of them offered to find the best lotteries in the world and look for winning strategies. Another was essentially a money-laundering operation for the Mafia. But the other mutual fund, which was still supposed to be a joke, has turned out to be a pretty good idea. I’ll give you the results in a minute (think alcohol stocks, tobacco stocks and firearms stocks). Here is the original text.
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But I recently noted that a couple of stocks were showing up in Cabot Top Ten Trader screens that made me wonder if the “ATF Fund” was such a bad idea after all.
I did a little research and a little calculating, and found that an investment portfolio with three alcohol stocks, three tobacco stocks and three firearm stocks would actually have enjoyed some great returns over the two-and-a-half years since April Fool’s Day 2015.
Here’s the setup. I took the opening prices for three alcohol stocks, three tobacco stocks and three firearms stocks as of April 1, 2015. Then I grabbed their prices as of September 27, 2017 and I figured out the average appreciation of all nine over the two years. (I also noted the annual dividend yields for the seven stocks that pay them, but I didn’t add that into the final performance calculations, because my Excel skills aren’t that good.)
Here’s the result.
Of the nine, only Vista Outdoor has had a rough go. Molson Coors (+9.2%) and Sturm Ruger (+4.4%) were the only other stocks that failed to beat the S&P 500 (+20.5%) over that span. Average return? 28.1%!
Here’s the point: It’s always possible to construct a fabulous portfolio in the rear-view mirror. If I ever learn how to buy or sell a stock yesterday, I will quickly become a rich man.
The ATF portfolio worked for this one period of time only. You could have held Philip Morris (PM) from April 2012 through August 2015 and not gotten a dime from price appreciation. The same applies to Smith & Wesson (SWHC) from July 2012 through the end of 2014 and alcohol stock Molson Coors (TAP) from June 2014 through September 2015.
Sometimes joke portfolios work. Usually they don’t. Try putting together a portfolio using your family’s initials as stock symbols and see how well that works out for you. I’m lucky, because PG (for Paul Goodwin) gives me Procter & Gamble, a company that pays a nice 2.9% annual. But PG is still recovering from a correction that began in late 2014 that dropped the stock from 90 to 64 in just under eight months. Timing is everything.
Lasting success in the stock market comes from finding a system that makes sense to you and following its rules. You may be a value investor, a growth investor, an options investor, an income investor, a trader or a small-cap stock specialist. Or, especially if you’re pretty new to handling your own investing, you may not know yourself.
I can’t give you the kind of exposure to the various investing styles that you will need to find your own preferences. But I can give you a question that will get you started: Which would cause you more distress, being in an aggressive portfolio and watching it go down, or being in a defensive portfolio and watching the market go up without you?