One of the more painful memories in my life was telling my father that he was no longer capable of driving or living alone. A tall, physically active man, Dad had worked since his teens in the Great Depression, fought in World War II, married and raised two boys to manhood, and dealt with the death of his spouse, burying his wife of more than 50 years. He was a proud man, always ready to help others and capable of handling life’s setbacks with equal measures of grit and grace. To him, being a man meant being able to take care of yourself.
Over the previous decade, I had watched his physical and mental faculties gradually fade. The decline was slower in the beginning, but reached a faster pace as he approached 80 years of age. After a minor car accident in which he had turned into the path of an approaching vehicle, the attending policeman called me aside and insisted that I take away his keys.
As the eldest son and his only living relative within the state, the responsibility of care fell to me. I struggled with the irony of our situation, the reversal of natural roles where parent directs child. Despite my trepidation, however, taking away his car keys was for his own safety and others on the road – a loving child has no good alternative in that position.
Aging and Its Consequences
While everyone ages at a different pace, the consequences are inevitable for everyone. As you grow older, you are likely to experience some or all of the following physical and mental changes:
In 2013, the FBI arrested a ring of identity thieves responsible for more than $13 million in losses over a two-year period, from 2007 to 2008. Tobechi Onwuhara, a Nigerian national, impersonated victims across the country to scam their credit card companies into transferring millions of dollars from their customers’ home equity line of credit (HELOC) accounts, and the information he and his confederates used to identify victims was primarily collected through public sources. In other words, any efforts by the individual victims to foil the perpetrators would likely have been futile.
How Identity Thieves Access Your Information
Onwuhara’s expertise was his ability to collect and combine disparate pieces of personal and financial information available free or for a fee to anyone from legitimate sources of private information. His skill allowed him to impersonate credit card holders to have open credit lines monetized to his benefit.
While there are a variety of investment options available to everyone, an astute investor must practice good fundamentals to control risks and optimize potential returns, including taking the time to be informed. As stated by Peter Lynch, renowned manager of the Fidelity Magellan Fund from 1977 to 1990 who beat the S&P 500 index 11 of 13 years, “Investing without research is like playing stud poker without looking at the cards.”
As you build your portfolio for retirement, it is crucial to keep several principles in mind:
1. Manage Your Risks
Warren Buffett, the “Sage of Omaha” often credited as the “Greatest Investor of All Time,” supposedly had two rules: “Rule number one: Never lose money. Rule number two: Never forget rule number one.”
It has been generally accepted that investments with higher returns generally involve the assumption of greater risk. Logically, you want to balance risk and reward. Unless you are a diehard gambler, you probably do not want a portfolio that is all or nothing (all assets in the high-risk, high-reward category) or, even worse, assets that have high risk, but low potential reward.
Fortunately, stock market analysts and theorists have conducted numerous studies to better understand the correlation between risk and reward in attempts to minimize risks and maximize returns within portfolios. As you select your investments, be aware of the beta and R-squared values, two measures that compare the investment to a commonly accepted market index (T-bills for bonds; S&P 500 for equities) and can help you better balance risk.
The price-to-earnings ratio, commonly known as the P/E ratio, is one of the most widely used valuation metrics. It is a basic measure used to compare different investments or the same investment over different periods of time, and it’s simple to calculate.
The P/E ratio is most commonly used for a quick comparison between two securities to see how Wall Street values them, with a higher P/E suggesting that future earnings are more likely. Dividing the common stock market share price (numerator) by earnings per share (denominator) produces the ratio. For example, a stock with a market price of $15.00 and earnings of $1.00 per share would have a P/E ratio of 15 (15/1=15).
P/E ratios can be calculated on past or realized earnings, projected earnings, or a combination of each. Earnings are sometimes adjusted to exclude extraordinary events, since they are unlikely to repeat. When considering P/E ratios, it is important to understand if and how earnings have been adjusted and whether they are actuals or projections.
Examples of different P/E types include:
Trailing or Current P/E
Analysts use earnings for the most recent 12-month period. As each quarter is completed, the oldest quarter’s earnings per share is dropped and the most recent quarter is added to the total.
Projected or Forward P/E
The divisor is the projected or estimated earnings per share over the next 12 months. The estimate may be that of a single analyst or the consensus estimate from a group of analysts. It is important to know the identity and qualifications of the analysts providing an estimate to determine whether it is realistic.
Combined or Mixed P/E
Some analysts use a combination of the two last quarters of actual earnings plus the first two quarters of projected earnings as the divisor.
Regardless of which type of P/E you use, it’s important to be consistent when comparing period to period or one company’s stock with that of another. Since analysts have broad discretion in choosing what numbers they use to calculate P/E ratios, you should not be surprised that the ratios commonly vary from analyst to analyst or firm to firm. Be careful that you don’t compare apples to oranges.