Sunday, February 21, 2010

dropping the weight of consumer debt

I've held a dirty little secret for the past 4 years and I am going to come forward with it now.

Consumer debt is probably one of the worst items that can appear on the balance sheet of someone trying to grow their net worth and achieve financial freedom. Money that was borrowed to purchase a car, vacation, furniture, or some other asset other than an investment or a home; and the interest associated with it will drag you down hard. The problem is that when it comes to vehicles, it is almost unavoidable to take on consumer debt unless one pays cash upfront which is not really wise considering the time-value of money. If you can find a very low financing rate I would argue that you are better off going that route instead of paying cash because of what you could do with that money investment-wise in the meantime.

In early 2006 we purchased a vehicle and financed it over 60 months. This has been a drag on our net worth and monthly cash flow ever since. The problem with vehicles is that they are essentially money pits and whether you buy them with cash, finance or lease them you can't really win. We've made the decision to now use some extra funds to pay off the vehicle before it is due in order to save the monthly payment's impact on our cash flow while my wife enters maternity leave next month. This move will not save us any interest, but it will allow some more flexibility within our budget and create a spike straight to our net worth as that debt line will vanish into thin air.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Shoppers Drug will be ok

Well back in the summer I exclaimed Shoppers Drug Mart should increase their dividend! They did just that today as they hiked their payout 5%. Apparently this was in line with their earnings growth this year and makes their pay out ratio of 33% 'sector leading'. That is a higher pay out ratio than US chain Walgreen (WAG), which we own, at 27%, however WAG increased their dividend by 22% in 2009.

Shoppers Drug Mart's earnings growth has been slowing over the past few years however I fully expect them to return to double digit earnings growth in the next few years. They run an excellent business, their new stores are very well located and laid out, and they are in the sweet spot of demographic trends in Canada. More of us popping pills, trying to look younger, and getting lazy about big box stores will help this chain succeed going forward. While Shoppers is currently languishing because of an unresolved Ontario government issue and weaker earnings performance recently, I believe they will pull through this to be a part of the future of dividend growth in Canadian investments. I would consider anywhere south of the current level to be a reasonable entry point for the stock. At a P/E of 13-15x the stock looks like pretty good value considering their market position and potential earnings growth ahead.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

first trades of 2010 - chips & heavy oil

So I made my first few trades of 2010 today:

Bought Intel (INTC) for my wife's RRSP.
- trading at just 12x 2010 forecasted earnings
- yield is over 3% and dividend was just raised recently
- good dividend growth history
- dominate their industry in an oligopoly
- turn over should increase with Microsoft's Windows 7 looking good
- we are light in the tech. sector in all of our portfolios
- financially sound company with low debt and loads of cash

Bought Canadian Oil Sands Trust (COS.UN) for our non-registered portfolio
- looking to increase exposure to resources in this portfolio
- good way to get paid on the fate of oil with large potential capital appreciation in the future
- distributions (interest income) will become dividends next year and they have large tax pools to offset some tax
- well positioned company in a politically sound country
- I believe oil prices will be strong for the next 20 years, China will be a good customer
- Potential buyers should crop up over the years
- Will add to position from time to time when it looks attractive for the long term

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Colgate & UPS provide raises

Consumer products firm Colgate Palmolive (CL) has hiked it's dividend by 20%, citing a positive outlook. They have doubled their dividend since 2004.

Global shipping firm UPS (UPS) has raised it's dividend by 4.4%. That is their first raise since the end of 2007. UPS expects to earn $2.70 - $3.05 for 2010. The shares are currently trading at 20x these 2010 earnings, which seems like a rich valuation.