Set forth below are the texts of two comments that I recently put to another blog entry at this site:
I should add that I think it is possible that a big reason why the Buy-and-Hold Pioneers did not say that price should be considered in the setting of one’s stock allocation may have been a feeling that it would be more simple to have investors stay at the same stock allocation at all times. Back in the early 1980s, when Shiller published his research, valuations were at rock-bottom lows. People may not have been able then to imagine the P/E10 ever going above 20 again. There may have been a feeling that there was no harm being done in ignoring valuations.
If that is the case, the idea didn’t work. We not only went to 20. We went to 44. Things got out of hand. And it was Buy-and-Hold that caused things to go out of hand. People saw stocks delivering big payoffs and they of course liked that. They never heard the other side of the story, that unjustified payoffs lead to big problems down the road. Now that we are living through the big problems, more and more people are coming to believe that ignoring price didn’t turn out to be such a hot idea.
I like your comment because it is at least rooted in something real, Sensible. I think this simplicity concern was probably a real consideration in why things were done the way they were done. People were not bad to want things to be simple. But people need to accept that it was a mistake or at least that there is a POSSIBILITY that it was a mistake. No one gets it all right in the first draft. THere is a lot of interest among investors in the idea of incorporating valuations into their strategy. We have to permit discussion of the idea. To not do so makes people look unethical. THat’s not a line you want to cross.
It makes sense to tell people to limit their valuation-induced changes. I can see something like that being done for the sake of simplicity. And it is entirely possible for VII to work with only one valuation change every ten years or so on average. But people need to know when things get out of hand. The problem with not looking at valuations at all is that you look up one day and the most likely annualized 10-year return is a negative number. None of us should ever want to see that happen.
Bogle says that allocation changes for valuation reasons can be considered six times in an investor’s lifetime. That’s exactly correct. That’s once every ten years or so. The problem is that Bogle says that the changes should not be more than 15 percent. That’s not even close to being right. In 1982, the most likely annualized return was 15 percent real. In 2000, it was a negative 1 percent real. 15 percent just doesn’t do it.
But that’s the only point on which there is a difference between me and Bogle. And if we had all been calling for occasional allocation changes (once every 10 years on average) all along, we never would have hit 44. We hit 44 because people just stopped worrying about valuations. Had people been aware of the danger, we might have been able to get away with allocation changes not much greater than 15 percent.
There’s a lot of common ground here. If people came to this with good intent, it could all be worked out with mutual respect and warmth. If you are signaling a willingness to play it that way, I obviously am 100 percent on board. You next post will tell the story. If people want to work it out, it certainly can be worked out. The hard part is getting people interested in following a path that leads in time to a mutually positive result. Anyway, I am certainly supportive of the idea of taking such a path.
I’ll take this a step further.
Bogle has said that changes should not be more than 15 percent. That’s not enough to get the job done. But I think it could be possible to come up with a reasonable approach that doesn’t ever call for changes too much bigger than that.
Benjamin Graham suggested a 75-50-25 scheme. So long as the investor is always sure to not wait until things are so out of hand that he needs to make two switches at once, he would never need to make a switch of more than 25 percent under the Graham scheme. That’s not far off from what Bogle has recommended and the additional change can be justified on grounds that valuations ended up getting more out of hand in recent years than people realized they would in earlier days.
I’ll see what comes back.