It is with some sadness and a heavy heart that I bring to you this last quarterly dividend report. I had been making it a point to increase my dividend income and had been doing a good job of it this year, but circumstances have forced me to change direction. You see, the dividend stocks were in my retirement account which I am taking as a lump sum to pay off some outstanding tax debt. I will probably write more about that decision later.
So in preparation for the distribution, I did allow some of my stocks to get called out so the dividend income is a bit lower compared to last quarter. But had I not had to make this decision, I am sure that I would have been able to meet my goals for the rest of the year. At least that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
You can see from the graph that the income was down from the first 2 quarters of this year. Like I said, I allowed SDRL and STX primarily to have some shares called away without buying those back which I would have done if the portfolio had kept going. But since I knew that I was arriving at this decision to liquidate, I just went with the cash and have been totally in cash since mid-September.
Nevertheless, I think it was a good experience to focus on dividend income over the past 12 months. This is exactly what I will need to do someday when I retire, namely wring cash out of my investments so that I don’t have to tap into the principal.
Now, my focus will be to eliminate a bunch of other debt so that I can aggressively invest and put together a nice portfolio of cash spewing assets. But for now, I think debt elimination will provide a better return on my investment since the interest rates are high enough and the savings are all tax free. So that’s where I will be putting my energies which means that you can be looking forward to debt reports. Yippee!
I recently ran across a video at Kitco’s Video News page that featured an interview with Kevin O’Leary who is a Canadian entrepreneur who founded SoftKey, a software company that eventually acquired The Learning Company before selling out to Mattel. Apparently, he is also on the show Shark Tank on ABC which I have heard about but never bothered to watch.
I don’t think it is important to watch the full video, but I do think that he made one very important point which I will share with you and which I am working on implementing:
- Never buy a stock that doesn’t pay a dividend!
It is really quite simple and makes a lot of sense. He doesn’t look at earnings when evaluating a stock. He looks at free cash flow and wants to make sure that some of that cash is being returned to the owners (the shareholders) of the company.
A Transition in Thinking
I am starting to see from where he is coming. Much of the market’s return has been the result of dividends. Just take a look at the following graph which I found at The Market Oracle:
If this graph doesn’t convince you of the importance of dividends, which account for over half of the S&P 500’s, then how about I show you another graph that looks at the performance of the Dogs of the Dow vs the S&P 500. In case you didn’t realize it, the Dogs of the Dow are those stocks in the 30 from the DJIA that have gotten so beat up in terms of price, that their dividend yield is among the top 10 of those 30 stocks.
So had you been holding stocks that paid dividends, there really would not have been a lost decade. You would have received consistent payments of cash to add to your portfolio enabling it to grow and make money. You can just look at the graph and see that the S&P 500 lost money during the decade that saw two major shocks. And yet, stocks that paid dividends (namely, the Dogs of the Dow) actually made money.
Fortunately, it is possible to teach this old dog some new tricks. That is why I am simply working on changing all the stocks in my retirement accounts to dividend paying stocks and tracking my dividend income this year. I did manage to hit my goal for the 1st quarter. Over the next 25 years, I will allow those accounts to grow and reinvest those dividends into more stocks.
In fact, I will probably buy some more STX and INTC this week since they have been holding up quite nicely during this recent market decline. I will also watch the ONXX $46 puts get exercised on Friday so I can start my purchase of Nucor (NUE) next week. I won’t get the dividend for this quarter, but should be in a position to pick it up in the third quarter. The same holds true for INTC and STX since the ex-dividend date has passed. Nevertheless, adding to these positions is just a good idea.
Obviously, I will continue to publish the quarterly update on the dividend progress and see if it continues to grow. According to the charts above, it should be a great plan!
I have lost plenty of money in the stock market over the years and have discovered that I really don’t care for it. I have also discovered that I am not a good stock picker. Therefore, I have been using stock collars to hedge my selections since 2007. This turned out to be a good thing in 2008. As others were watching portfolios fall 50%, I only lost 18%. I could have done even better, but I did make a few mistakes as I was still in the process of ironing out my system.
Now I spend about 5 minutes researching a stock before I buy it. I don’t look at a balance sheet or statement of cash flows. I simply look at the option chain. So when I read an article about Seadrill last year, I took a glance at the options and figured that I could make money on this stock with the dividend. It is a little more difficult using collars when trading a stock with a dividend since the call premiums are reduced. You might want to check out my articles on options pricing:
- Selling Covered Calls and Time Value
- More on Covered Calls and Time Value
- More Factors Affecting Covered Call Premiums
But before we get too far, let’s explain what a collar is. A collar involves owning a stock, owning a protective put on the stock, and then selling a covered call against the stock to help offset the cost of the put option.
Example Using Seadrill
So when I look at the current option chain for Seadrill (SDRL) and want to set up my initial purchase, I find that with SDRL trading at $38.37, it is near the top of its 52-week range which it hit on March 1st of 2011. This makes me a little nervous knowing that this will serve as a point of resistance. I may end up being a little cautious as a result.
Lets say that I want to buy 100 shares of SDRL because I like the dividend yield of over 7% and think that oil prices will stay high. What I would be doing is purchasing a put option with a March expiration and a strike price of $35 per share for 45 cents per share. Then I would purchase the stock at $38.37 and sell a covered call with March expiration and a strike price of $39 at 55 cents per share. So what have I done.
First, I have gotten a slight discount in the price of the stock since I made more money (10 cents) on the sale of the call than it cost me to buy the put. Now commissions would probably wipe that out, but trading for free is not bad either. If SDRL continues to increase in price and is above $39 on the third Saturday in March when options expire, then my stock would be sold at $39. I would essentially make about 63 cents per share on a $38.37 investment in 6 weeks. That is a 1.64% return which works out to just over 14% annually. Not bad for a few minutes of work.
But the problem is what happens if SDRL doesn’t increase in price. It is easy to make money in a bull market. The trick is not to lose your shirt when everyone else is so that you can live to trade another day. Well, if SDRL drops in price to $30 per share by March expiration, I am not worried. I sleep just fine thank you very much. Why? The protective put will be exercised and the stock would be sold at $35.
But you lost money, I can hear you cry! Over 8%! So what?! The stock lost 21%. My loss is less than a third what the market lost. And guess what I do. On Monday right after SDRL sold for $35 and I have $3500 in my account, I purchase back the stock to average down my cost. And better yet, I can buy 116 shares instead of 100 for the same cost.
The Biggest Problem
The most difficult situation comes when SDRL commences a slow slide to $36 per share by expiration day. Both options expire, and I am looking at a $2.37 per share loss. The$35 strike April put is more expensive than the premium I can get for the $39 strike call option. To stay in the trade, it will either cost me money or I have to roll downward to a $33 strike put and a $37 strike call. This will lower my basis in the stock a little, but would result in a loss if called out at $37.
With this situation, I will end up adding to my position slowly over time to decrease the overall cost of the stock. It takes patience, sometimes up to 2 years. But it is possible to turn a loss into a gain using stock collars.
For example, I recently closed a position in AKAM. I purchased the stock at $40.26 on February 22, 2011 and sold when it was $32.04 on January 20, 2012 which normally would mean a loss of just over 20% in eleven months. By using collars and averaging down, I ended up making 13.36% on the trade over those 11 months which is not a bad return
For the 27 trades that I have closed since 2007, I have made money on 26. The losing trade was simply because I wanted out of the stock to try something a slight adjustment I was making to the system back in 2008. I am still holding on to my big loser just to see if it is possible to turn a profit on a near-death experience. I purchased in 2007 when I was still figuring this all out.
The trick comes from knowing what adjustments to make once the downward movement occurs and having the patience to massage the trading and put yourself in a position to profit from a rebound while waiting for it to occur. But as illustrated with AKAM, the rebound can even be a partial one.
Ultimately, I think that it would be fun to manage money using a system such as the one I describe. It isn’t hard but little errors here and there can trip you up. I feel that I have ironed those out in my own system but need to deal with a few other priorities first. Feeding the family is priority number one. In the meantime, I will continue to work with my retirement accounts and see what results I can achieve using dividend paying stocks. I am thankful for the experience that I have gained since 2007 especially with the difficult market conditions.
Feel free to ask some questions.