It’s amazing how quickly time flies! 2017 was quite the whirlwind, and I can’t help but feel a small sense of awe as I think back to all Portfolio Charts has done over the year. From new portfolios to new tools and even new countries, I’m really excited about where the site has been and where it continues to grow.
To celebrate the holidays, I thought it would be cool to resurrect the theme from this time last year and highlight the most popular new posts of 2017 sorted by what has consistently drawn the most readers. So whether you’re new to the site and looking for a good place to start or a long-time reader who doesn’t want to miss anything important, it’s my pleasure to present the best of the best as chosen by other individual investors just like you.
I’ve always had a particular love for stained glass. Not only are the colors incredibly vibrant, but the medium is also truly dynamic and the lighting can transform the same window throughout the day. One moment it’s dark and rich, and the next it’s bright and lively. With light activating glass and glass transforming light, stained glass is a special symbiosis of art and nature that allows you to look at the same objects totally differently.
In the investment world, the portfolios are the glass and the data is the light. Too often people study portfolios through a single fixed spotlight of US-centric data, but that does the observant investor quite the disservice. Certain investing biases become unfairly engraved as immutable truths based simply on the favorable lighting, while alternative ideas that may actually be much more attractive outside of the gallery setting get lost in the shuffle. But study the same portfolios through the lens of an investor who does not live in the United States, and things get a lot more interesting. The glass lights up in a different way, and new features rise to the top.
I’m always thinking about ways to make the site helpful for more people, and lately I’ve been working on ways to improve the tools for investors outside of the US. Building a site like this is kinda like building a house over time — it’s an ongoing project requiring incremental steps, and sometimes you have to eliminate a key barrier to make room for the next addition.
One roadblock to expanding the portfolio analysis to other countries has been how to handle REITs, as eight portfolios on the site utilize them while the available data applies only to the US market. Well, after a bit of research I’ve determined that the data is actually a lot more useful than I previously realized, and I’ve decided to unlock REITs as an option for other countries in the calculators. Here’s how it works.
You never quite know what the reception will be like when you post data into the internet void, but I wanted to thank everybody that has taken the time to contact me regarding the latest global site update. Your feedback and encouragement are valuable and extremely appreciated!
Judging from the number of Merriman fans I’ve heard from in the last few weeks, it’s clear that a few assets like international small and value are quite a bit more popular than perhaps I previously understood. I definitely got the message, and while it took a bit longer to assemble the right type of data that I can personally vouch for, I’m happy to report that the Merriman Ultimate is back. And it marks the return of several assets as well — World Small and World Value.
I remember my mom used to say that she knew that my brother was up to something not when he was loud, but when he was silent. I guess somewhere along the line I must have picked up that family characteristic, as my recent bout of less-frequent posting has been masking a crazy amount of activity behind the scenes.
Ever since I first launched Portfolio Charts I’ve been critically aware of the distinctive United States focus of the site and, to be honest, of most investing discussions in general. The single most common request I’ve received is to add tools for investors around the world, and considering the glaring hole in international investing data out there I totally understand the desire. But that absence of data is both an opportunity and a roadblock, and making good on my goal to be more than just a US resource has been a daunting task.
Well I’m pretty persistent when I set my mind to something, and I’ve been completely immersed in this project for the last few months. New data sources, entire new fund models, portfolio updates, asset juggling, calculator modifications — it seems that every time I thought I had it all figured out I found a new project that opened up. Today I’m happy to announce that the long hours have finally paid off, and I’m really excited to share the results.
Bring out your loonies and shake your pounds — Portfolio Charts is going global!
If you’ve ever built a motorcycle from scratch, you can appreciate how the process is nothing like an IKEA instruction manual. Getting the final product just the way you like it is a journey that takes time and often requires seeking out new information and components at various steps along the way. But the reward of squeezing out those extra few horsepower or getting the ride just the way you like it is very high, and well worth the extra effort over simply buying the easy option off the dealer lot.
While mechanical engineering is my background, these days I spend a lot more time playing with financial data than nuts and bolts. But the fundamental thought process is still the same. I like to think of the site and all of the underlying calculations as my own intellectual garage where I can try out new ideas, and I’m always looking for opportunities for improvement.
I don’t know about you, but in my neck of the woods the weather has been absolutely beautiful lately and unseasonably warm for a February day. The sunny days have made me start to think ahead to the garden in my back yard and how I might want to improve it this year. Some of that will require a bit of cleanup, and some is about finding new plants to complement what did well last year. I don’t naturally have a green thumb, but I’ve found that persistence is a virtue. Every year the garden is a little better than before.
In that same spirit, as part of the necessary site data cultivation effort I just finished updating the Stock Index Calculator with new data.
As a creative person inhabiting an engineer’s mind, I’m often a walking contradiction of organization. On the one hand, a messy desk does not bother me at all and I like having lots of information in front of me to draw from when I work. But on the other, eventually the collection of stuff reaches a critical mass where I can no longer find what I’m looking for, at which point I decide it’s time to clean up and organize. That tension between chaos and order is just part of how I think.
Along those lines, while I very intentionally keep Portfolio Charts simple and intuitive in the Assets, Portfolios, and Calculators I realize I’ve reached the point in the Commentary where the old system really isn’t doing the site justice and relevant posts are a bit too difficult to identify and track down. The logical next step would be to roll out a typical blog archive sorted by date or topic, but keeping with the spirit of designing the site primarily as a set of practical tools I’ve decided to build something a bit more comprehensive. As you may have already noticed up top, there’s now an entire new section called the Library.
I can’t claim to be much of a cook, and baking is one of those skills that even accomplished cooks can struggle with. But despite the heat, the effort, and the inevitable mess there’s something truly special about the smell of a freshly baked dessert as it first comes out of the oven. At that point the stress and frustration just melts away and it all seems worth it.
It took a lot of time and effort, but the Portfolios and Assets pages are now all fully updated. Get them while they’re still hot!
The New Year is officially underway. The holiday hangover is starting to wear off, resolutions have been made (and already broken), and bowl games are wrapping up. But most importantly, new 2016 data is available! I have actually been feverishly working for over a month now to prepare, and am proud to announce some exciting new updates to each and every calculator: