When going on a hike in uncharted territory, even the best weather forecast can be pretty spotty. So to choose whether to wear shorts or heavy snow gear, a rational first step is often to check the historical averages. What’s the typical temperature and precipitation in January? The future may be unknown, but good data can help us make educated decisions.
In that same spirit of wisely preparing for an unknown future by becoming students of history, I spend a lot of time collecting portfolio data from all around the world. The final 2020 numbers are starting to trickle in, so let’s talk for just a minute about what that means.
It’s not every day that I get an email out of the blue that completely blows my mind, and I have to admit my head is still spinning. Recently I was approached by the team at Cambria to let me know that one of my articles had been selected for Volume 4 of Meb Faber’s “The Best Investment Writing” series. To say it’s an honor doesn’t really do it justice. I’m incredibly excited to have made the cut, and truly humbled to be featured among so many investing heavyweights I admire. Thanks, Meb!
Like many areas of study with reams of background knowledge, one of the challenges of learning about engineering is the sheer number of books required. And we’re not just talking about small paperbacks telling straightforward linear stories, but massive volumes of technical data where the chapters are often referenced out of order based on the research subject of the day. Even when you eventually identify what you’re looking for, it’s really easy to forget where you found it or have a tough time explaining to others how to compile the same information. So when you find a particularly useful page in the deep sea of options, nothing beats a good bookmark.
Bookmarks are super handy in portfolio research as well. Spend enough time searching for the perfect combination of assets to meet your needs, and you’re bound to eventually find one that piques your interest. Rather than diligently documenting and re-entering multi-asset portfolios by hand, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to save and share ideas as easily as referencing a bookmarked page?
That’s a question I’ve been thinking about for years, and I’m excited to announce that I finally have a working solution. It’s not a traditional bookmark in the physical or website sense, but in a way it’s even more flexible. Portfolio Charts now features portfolio shortcodes!
While useful and accurate data is always my primary concern with Portfolio Charts, I spend way more time than you might realize creating the perfect visual design. Whether it’s selecting the ideal chart settings to make the data pop, finding just the right image to accompany a post, or iterating dozens or even hundreds of visual layouts to find the cleanest option, I’m always looking for ways to beautify each page.
One can certainly argue my design background contributes to my obsessiveness over each detail, but it runs a lot deeper than just wanting to create something easy on the eyes. I learned long ago that little visual choices really do matter. Like the bright aposematic colors that warn predators about the poison dart frog, eye-catching items often communicate very important information. So a truly beautiful design is way more than just skin deep.
It seems like only yesterday that I was first dipping my toes into the crowded waters of the financial blogosphere with no idea how to swim. But time really does fly, and Portfolio Charts just turned five years old! The site has grown leaps and bounds over the years and it’s amazing to see how far it has come. It’s truly a labor of love, and the intertwined journeys of personal education and creatively-shared knowledge have been tremendously rewarding for me and hopefully informative for you as well.
To celebrate the big day I thought it might be appropriate to briefly talk about the origins of Portfolio Charts, share how you can help guide the future, and initiate a fun challenge to mark the occasion.
The technology gods really threw me a curveball this week. Microsoft rolled out a stealth update of their online Excel tools with what I’ll politely call a bunch of new “quirks”, and many of the site calculators that worked fine for years suddenly were unable to do even the simplest tasks like display numbers correctly. I admittedly push spreadsheets to their graphical limits and have always navigated little bugs the best that I can. But this one was beyond simple formatting issues and quick fixes.
One of the things I’ve learned over the years, however, is not to get too hung up on things you can’t control. So instead of dwelling on what clearly doesn’t work right now, I decided to take this as an opportunity to focus on what I’m good at and step up my visualization game. The end result is a bunch of revamped charts that both work like a charm and should hopefully be even easier to use and understand.
Happy New Year!
The rolling of one year to another is an annual ritual full of champagne, fireworks, and overall good times. But far beyond the resolutions that may or may not last, January 1st is a particularly important date for me as it means there’s another year of data to collect, process, and study. And make no mistake, this is no ordinary year. With 2019 now in the books, Portfolio Charts can finally lay claim to a full 50 years of portfolio history!
I figure a landmark that big deserves something special to mark the occasion, so I’m excited to roll out something I’ve been working on for a very long time. Data depth is nice, but the thing that really sets Portfolio Charts apart is the breadth of asset options and the number of home countries covered. So in addition to adding that 50th year of history, I think it’s time to share my latest creation and truly open the numerical floodgates.
What if I told you I’m doubling the number of home countries, adding new assets like European stocks and a bunch of new bond options, and completely reworking every tool to unlock countless additional portfolio possibilities?
Interested? Of course you are! So let’s start 2020 with a bang.
It has been a terrific year both for me personally and also for Portfolio Charts, and I hope you feel as blessed as I do. I’ve been frantically working behind the scenes for the last several weeks preparing for some exciting new features for the New Year, so in lieu of a lengthy new post I thought I might celebrate the holiday season by sharing a few of the most popular Portfolio Charts articles from the past year.
If you’re new to the site and are interested in a quick rundown of what it’s all about, look no further! And if you’re a veteran reader looking for a good article to share with friends and family to help them think about investing from a new perspective, I’ve got your back. Without further ado, here are the top-5 most popular articles of the year by pageviews sorted in chronological order.
I wouldn’t exactly call myself a minimalist, but I’ve definitely come to appreciate the measurable mental, physical, and financial benefits of not having to deal with so much stuff. And as you might imagine, I’m also a big fan of data when more is almost always better. So when those two worlds collide interesting things are bound to happen.
I imagine it sounds hard to believe in today’s hyper-monetized internet, but in years of writing about asset allocation I’ve never made a dime from the effort. It’s certainly not from a lack of opportunities, but building a money generating machine has always been way down my list of priorities compared to other more important goals like living a happy life and helping as many people as possible learn about the immense benefits of modern asset allocation techniques. Portfolio Charts is something that I really care about, and turning one’s passion into a business has a way of inevitably killing the joy. So I have always researched data sources, created new tools, and published it all for free not because I expected something in return but because it just felt right.
One valuable thing I do consistently receive from Portfolio Charts is a sense of community. I’ve always appreciated every post, tweet, and email, and over the years I’ve been blessed to hear from scores of people who have offered all kinds of encouragement and new ideas. Many of those eventually become new features, but one of the most common requests has been something I’ve intentionally kept on the back burner.
“How can I give back?”