Yesterday’s blog entry reported on an e-mail that I sent to academic researcher Wade Pfau on December 19, 2010. Wade sent his response the following day.
Wade said: “‘I’m excited about this, as depending on what you have already done, I think I can design a study using the Shiller data to provide historical simulations of VII strategies against fixed buy-and-hold strategies and also lifecycle strategies (declining allocation to stocks as one ages). If VII consistently outperforms fixed and lifecycle strategies, then the proof is in the pudding so to speak. Given how well valuations help to explain withdrawal rates, I think there is a lot of potential for this topic.”
He added that Monte Carlo simulations do not work in this area because “the assumptions built into their design will mean that valuations do not matter by definition.” He argued that this type of study can only be done with historical data and speculated that using Monte Carlo simulations may have thrown some researchers off the right track.
Wade also suggested that different types of investors might want to follow different allocation-change rules. “There are lots of possibilities,” he said.
My response is set forth below.
All that sounds super.
You may want to take a look at the analysis/graphics set forth at this link:
This examination of how Valuation-Informed Indexing has performed historically was done by Norbert Schenkler, a part-time financial planner and co-owner of the Financial WebRing Forum. He is a long-time abusive poster at numerous boards but it appears to me that he was playing it straight in preparation of this analysis.
He says: “The evidence is pretty incontrovertible. Valuation-Informed Indexing is…everywhere superior to Buy-and-Hold over ten-year periods.” The one exception he finds is the late 1990s. But that is no longer an exception since the crash
(the analysis was prepared pre-crash).
John and I prepared a calculator called “The Investor’s Scenario Surfer” that permits a Monte Carlo testing of possible 30-year return sequences so that investors can compare how they would have done with VII vs. how they would have done with 80 percent reebalancing, 50 percent rebalancing and 20 percent rebalancing:
The Monto Carlo used here is a bit different from what is usually used in that it contains filters that cause the results to show a valuations effect (going-forward returns are higher starting from low-valuation starting points).
I am not advocating either Monte Carlo or actual historical data. Some view the actual data as more real. But some others argue that 140 years of data is not enough to draw definitive conclusions. I personally like the filtered Monte Carlo approach. But it makes sense only for those who already buy into the idea that valuations affect long-term returns, so I think it could be argued that in a sense it begs the question. My aim here is just to let you know about what I know that has already been done so that you can review if before choosing your own path.
My experience with the Surfer is that VII produces the best 30-year results in about 90 percent of the return sequences generated. 80 percent rebalancing almost always places second, 50 percent almost always places third, and 20 percent rebalancing almost always places last.
There’s a pattern that applies in most runs that explains why VII usually ends up ahead. It sometimes takes only a few years for VII to go ahead and it sometimes takes many years. But this almost always happens at some point in a 30-year cycle (in every 30-year cycle in the real world, we have had one occasion when valuations were dangerous). Once VII goes ahead, it becomes impossible for 80 percent rebalancing to catch up because VII and Buy-and-Hold both call for high stock allocations at moderate and low valuations. And the compounding effect causes VII to go farther and farther ahead over time.
The thing that make the difference as to whether VII wins by a little or a lot is how early in the 30-year cycle it goes ahead. The dynamic here is that it is virtually a lock that sometime within a 30-year period valuations are going to become a big factor. And one big win due to valuations makes a huge difference at the end of 30 years after compounding is taken into effect. The numbers are counter-intuitive (as is always the case with compounding) and very impressive.
I STRONGLY agree with your point that there is more than one possible VII approach. This one is a little bit of a pet peeve of mine. People often ask me “What is the best allocation at today’s P/E10 level?” There is no one answer. Asking that question is like asking John Bogle “What is the one stock allocation that everyone should go with?” VII is different than Buy-and-Hold in that it posits that an investor must not go with the same allocation at all times. But it does not posit that
valuations are the only factor. So the investor still needs to take his financial goals, his age, and his risk tolerance into consideration.
RobCast #137 is titled “Nine VII Portfolio Allocation Strategies”:
Sorry to dump even more material on you. Please just look at what you think might be of use when you get a chance to do so. You will learn that expressing even limited interest in any of this stuff when I am in the room can be dangerous!