Passive portfolio 2013

Once again, there’s nothing new to report on my investment portfolio; just an excellent +21% year!

Past editions: 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012

It was an incredibly good year to hold U.S. and European/Pacific stocks. This is clearly the time to rebalance, “sell high” and shift into bonds. Not that bonds are expected to do great in the near future, but still – that’s the hedge against a sudden drop.

The sinking Canadian dollar is a notable part of the returns here – the 6% drop in the currency this year added 6% to all of the non-Canadian stock portfolio. That’s just the luck of the draw – it went up 5% in 2009 and reduced returns that year.

So, +21% this year. Notice that the “legendary bad year” for the stock market, 2008, was a -20% return year. How many headlines did you read about a “new depression” in 2008 compared to the headlines about a fantastic boom in 2013? I think this just shows the asymmetry of the news, and the impact that has on our perception. The bad news in 2008 was given massive coverage – and rightly so – but the good news in 2013 is seen as just “business as usual.” Many people made changes to their investment strategy after 2008, but many will not even notice 2013.


Here’s the performance of my portfolio over the past several years, using the latest 2013 country weights. (Note that South Korea moved from “emerging” to “europe / pacific” category this year.) The table below shows the annual returns of each component of the portfolio, giving the “sequence of returns” for each piece.

2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
   U.S.A. VTI -9% -23% 11% 11% 6% 16% 43%
   Europe / Pacific VEA -6% -27% 10% 3% -8% 18% 30%
   Emerging VWO 17% -42% 52% 13% -15% 19% 2%
   Canada XIC 9% -33% 34% 17% -9% 7% 12%
Subtotal -2.2% -27.8% 18.9% 9.9% -3.3% 15.2% 28.5%
Fixed income
   Mixed bonds XBB/VAB  3% 6% 5% 6% 9% 3% -2%
Subtotal 3.0% 6.1% 5.1% 6.0% 9.1% 3.0% -1.8%
Cash 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0%
Total -1.1% -19.7% 15.2% 8.6% -0.7% 12.0% 21.1%

Same assumptions as usual:

  • Expressed in Canadian dollar terms (i.e., including all currency shift effects and using no currency hedging)
  • Includes all distributions/dividends
  • Rebalanced annually

Cumulative returns:

  • From Jan. 2007 to Dec. 2013: 34.1%
  • From Jan. 2008 to Dec. 2013: 35.5% (5.2% annually over 6 years)
  • From Jan. 2009 to Dec. 2013: 68.7% (11.0% annually over 5 years)
  • From Jan. 2010 to Dec. 2013: 46.4%
  • From Jan. 2011 to Dec. 2013: 34.7%
  • From Jan. 2012 to Dec. 2013: 21.1%

Good books about babies

As a few friends are now following us into parenthood, I thought it might be helpful to put down on paper some of the things we found most useful. In that spirit, here’s part 1: baby books that we liked. Many thanks to Nancy Kurylowicz, who first pointed us towards many of these books.

Pregnancy & First Months

mayoMayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy

    • . The best all-around guide to pregnancy and health that we found. Much better than the fluffy “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” series.

Continue reading “Good books about babies”

More movies online! Via the USA

My local video stores all closed two years ago, and we switched largely to iTunes rentals, plus the occasional Bay St. video or Film Buff for obscure films. I was initially quite unhappy with the selection on iTunes Canada – we watch a lot of obscure, old and foreign films, but most of the video-on-demand services are mainly good for post-2005 North American films. So, I’ve just done a quick scan of the alternatives.

The verdict: iTunes Canada is considerably better than it used to be, and iTunes US is a little better – but not massively better. Using both iTunes US and Amazon Instant Video is probably the best bet.

Here’s the math. We’ve got a list of 81 movies we’d like to see. This list already excludes many easy-to-find titles that we’ve already rented from iTunes Canada, but still has a number of popular movies. Many films on the list are from the Onion A.V. Club’s Best of 2000s and orphans lists, the American Film Institute’s Top 100, and good films I’ve previously seen and would like to watch with my wife. You can think of my list as an “obscurity-ometer” – the more you can hit off, the better for viewing obscure films.

Continue reading “More movies online! Via the USA”

Summer break mix

coverA more electronic-heavy mix, to celebrate the start of my summer break!

There’s not much more to say, except maybe that track #7 is supposed to be a metaphor about the music industry, not just raw sex.

Download here, for a few weeks only. I was hoping to post this as an iTunes Store playlist so you could buy the tracks… but apparently that feature has recently been removed.

[ Postscript: Mixcloud now lets me do something reasonable. ]

  1. tv on the radio. love dog. rock, from dear science…, 2008.
  2. broken social scene. all to all. rock, from forgiveness rock record, 2010.
  3. basti grub & mike trend. afrika am strand [short version]. acid jazz, from future sounds of jazz vol. 12, 2012.
  4. múm. the ballad of the broken string. ambient, from yesterday was dramatic – today is ok, 2000.
  5. afx. reunion 2. electronic/experimental, from chosen lords, 2006.
  6. the long lost. woebegone [flying lotus’ like woe remix]. electro / dubstep, from ninja tune xx compilation, 2010.
  7. the roots feat. cody chestnutt. the seed (2.0). hip hop / soul, from collateral soundtrack, 2004.
  8. roots manuva. chin high [manuvadelic version]. hip hop, from you don’t know: ninja cuts compilation, 2008.
  9. black sun empire. don’t you. drum & bass, from driving insane, 2004.
  10. burial. street halo. techno, from fourtet – fabriclive 59 compilation, 2011.
  11. trentemøller. nightwalker. downtempo, from the last resort, 2006.
  12. patrick watson. lighthouse. rock, from adventures in your own backyard, 2012.
  13. portishead. deep water. jazz, from third, 2008.
  14. sarah harmer. new enemy. folk, from all of our names, 2004.
  15. feist. so sorry. pop, from the reminder, 2007.
  16. thom yorke. and it rained all night. rock, from the eraser, 2007.
  17. prefuse 73. choking you. glitch, from one word extinguisher, 2003.
  18. ingfried hoffman. midnight bossa nova. jazz, from mojo club dancefloor jazz vol. 9, 2000 (original: 1969).