Here are some tips on picking the safest investments for long-term portfolio gains.
The safest investments—whether they are stocks, bonds, mutual funds or exchange-traded funds (ETFs)—come with a reasonably high degree of stability, and lower risk.
For instance, if you are looking for bonds or other fixed-income investments, then government treasury bills (T-Bills) are considered extremely safe investments. You are virtually guaranteed to get your money back plus interest. The interest T-Bills pay is low, however, so for many investors, they are too safe.
Examples of the safest investments
At TSI Network we feel that stocks that have been paying dividends for over 10 years are some of the safest investments you can make. Dividends are a sign of quality and a company’s financial health. Types of stocks that we consider to be safer investments include Canadian banks and utilities.
Blue chip stocks keep their promises
Blue chip stocks are your best promise of investment quality—and strong returns for years to come. Pat McKeough’s new report shows how you where to find the best of Canada’s blue chips. And he identifies 7 of his top blue chip recommendations.
There are also a host of other key indicators to determine if a stock is a safer investment, like management integrity, its growth prospects and its stock price in relation to its sales, earnings, cash flow and so on.
For a true measure of stability, focus on those companies that have maintained or raised their dividends during an economic or stock-market downturn. We think investors will profit most—and with the least risk—by buying shares of well-established, dividend-paying stocks with strong growth prospects.
Tips for picking the safest investments
1. Look beyond financial indicators: When they first set out to formulate an investment strategy, many investors decide to focus their stock market research on a handful of measures. For instance, they may want to see a p/e ratio (the ratio of a stock’s price to its per-share earnings) below 15.0, say, along with an earnings growth rate of 20% or more a year, and perhaps a 2% dividend yield.
This approach worked a lot better in the pre-computer age, when investing was more labour-intensive. Few people wanted to dig through old newspapers, annual reports and other material to get at the data. So, more gems were left to be found by those willing to do the work.
Today, if you find a stock with this (or any comparable) combination of favourable ratios, it may come with some more-or-less hidden drawbacks. Instead of steering you away from investments that you don’t understand, or that harbour hidden risk, this could steer you toward them.
2. Think like a portfolio manager: As part of their stock market research, portfolio managers gather information from companies, industry studies and other sources. A good portfolio manager then tries to build their client a portfolio that makes money if things go well, but won’t lose too much if the opinions turn out to be faulty, as often happens.
3. Hold a reasonable portion of your portfolio in U.S. stocks: We continue to recommend that Canadian investors diversify part of their portfolio (up to 30%, say) in well-established U.S. stocks. That’s because the U.S. market features major multinational opportunities that simply aren’t available anywhere else. As well, many U.S. firms are unique world leaders.
4. Give your investments time to pay off: Resist the ever-present urge to buy and sell. A sound portfolio, built through careful research, needs surprisingly few changes over the years. Trading less frequently is a good thing, because it gives you fewer occasions to make costly mistakes.
Take a broad view when looking for the best investments
When we’re looking for the best investments to recommend in our newsletters and investment services, we start by putting all the important information we know about a company into perspective.
But things are never quite so simple. Your stock pick’s latest earnings may reflect unusually favourable or unfavourable conditions. This can make the company look safer or riskier than it really is. In addition, the company may put the funds it borrowed to immediate profitable use, increasing its earnings and its ability to pay interest. It may plan to sell assets to reduce debt, or cut costs to increase earnings.
In the end, there are many ways to try to put the facts about a company into perspective. None are perfect, since all involve a mental balancing act between high and low estimates, history and the future, and faith versus skepticism.
Our goal is to put the information in a form that lets us weed out the extremes—excessively overvalued stocks, or those that are suspiciously cheap. In the long run, investors make most of their profits in investments that offer good value and an attractive long-term outlook.
Do you have an array of the safest investments in your portfolio? How have they performed? Share your experience with us in the comments.