Creating Your Investment Dashboard

February 4, 2011 at 12:50 am 4 comments

Navigating the financial markets can be difficult in this volatile environment we’ve experienced over the last few years, which is why it is more important than ever to have a financial dashboard to ensure you do not drive off a cliff. If investors do not have the time or focus to drive their financial future, then perhaps for the safety of themselves and others, they may consider taking the bus or hiring a chauffeur. For those committed to handling their finances on their own, the road may become rocky, so here are some important factors to monitor on your financial dashboard:

1)      Fundamental Direction: Before you decide on an investment destination, it is important to know whether trends are accelerating (speeding up) or deteriorating (slowing down) – see also ForecastingTrend Analysis. 

2)      Are You Going the Speed limit? Nobody wants to get a costly speeding ticket, therefore assessing valuation metrics on your dashboard is a beneficiary tool. If you are speeding along the highway at a 100 miles per hour in an expensive stock (e.g., trading at a 50x+ Price/Earnings multiple), then there is little room for error.  When traveling that fast you can forget about the price of a speeding ticket, because hitting a pothole at those speeds (valuation) can be much more costly to your portfolio, if you are not careful.

3)      Temperature Outside:  There’s a huge difference between driving in the icy-cold snow and in 100 degree heat. Each environment has its own challenges. The same principle applies to the financial markets. On occasion, sentiment can become red hot, forcing heightened caution, whereas during other periods, chilling fear can scare everyone else off the roads, leaving clear sailing ahead.

4)      Optimal Tire Pressure: Low pressure or bald tires can lead to treacherous driving conditions. A company with healthy cash flow generation relative to its market capitalization can make your investment ride a lot more stable (see also Cash Flow Register). Dividends and share buybacks are generated from healthy and stable cash flows…not earnings.

5)      Driver Skill Level: People generally believe they are better than average drivers, however statistics tell a different story. By definition, half of all drivers must be below average. If you are going to put your life’s retirement assets into stocks, you might as well select those companies led by seasoned management teams with proven track records.    

Many investors drive blindly without relying on a dashboard. In the investment world, visibility is not very clear. Often, weather conditions in the financial markets become rainy, dark, and/or foggy. If you don’t want your portfolio to crash, it makes sense to build a reliable dashboard to navigate through the hazardous investment road conditions.

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP® 

Plan. Invest. Prosper.

DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients own certain exchange traded funds, but at the time of publishing SCM had no direct position in any other security referenced in this article. No information accessed through the Investing Caffeine (IC) website constitutes investment, financial, legal, tax or other advice nor is to be relied on in making an investment or other decision. Please read disclosure language on IC “Contact” page.

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