Value Size!! Becoming a Better Investor By Grocery Shopping

There are two ways to value things that come in multiples. By multiples I mean things that contain a number of ounces, liters, gallons, shares of a stock, etc. The first and most common way is to look at absolute price. Perfect example from a recent trip to the grocery store. A 12 oz bottle of a cleanser costs $10.99. A brightly labeled “Value Size!”  bottle has 16 oz and costs 14.99. Well, the value size is… obviously supposed to be a good value. You buy the $14.99 bottle.

You done gone and f*cked up.

The second way to value things is by unit cost. The math here is simple. Divide $10.99 by 12 (ounces). The result means 1 oz costs apx .92 cents. So if the other bottle of 16 oz should obviously cost less than .92 cents per oz. Right? Easy enough. Well, 16 x .92 cents = 14.72. Hold up… that’s .27 cents cheaper than the 14.99 price.

You’ve now 1. bought more of a product and 2. paid a higher price. Pretty sweet deal for the manufacturer and the retailer.

You may say “well, it’s only .27 cents, who gives a sh*t” and that’s fair. But if you start multiplying these price differences up in the hundreds and thousands of dollars it makes a bit more of difference. Especially if you keep making the same stupid mistake.

It’s tiring to hear over and over again that the share price of a stock is too high so it’s too expensive. One share of NVR (a phenomenal homebuilder stock) is $2,639.98. A share of AMD (a semi-conductor stock thats massively popular with gamers) is $24.17. New investors look at the 2 stocks and say that obviously AMD is a hell of a lot cheaper than NVR. Well, AMD is actually over 5x times more expensive…

In this example, we’re going to use the price/earnings (p/e ratio) that we discussed in our last lesson. Remember, Price to Earnings is simply the price you pay for a stock divided by the earnings your share makes in a year. In the last year (TTM or trailing twelve months) NVR has earned $195.31 per share. God d*mn…nice. AMD, the “cheap” stock, has earned .32 cents per share.

NVR’s Price/Earnings (p/e) is then $2639.98 (share price) divided by $195.31 (earnings)
which equals a p/e ratio of 13.26.

AMD’s p/e is $24.17 / .32 cents, which equals 74.61.

What would you rather pay 13.26 or 74.61? It’s not dollars, it’s a relative valuation, but it works the same way. Which leads to the conclusion that…


Just because the price is low, does NOT mean that something is cheap. Just because the price is high, does not mean it’s expensive.


If you want to get better at valuing things quickly, the grocery store already has a perfect way built in with many products. Most people never look at this, but it’s on nearly every label. Unit cost is written directly on the label. Think of unit cost as the p/e ratio in stocks.

sticker price for blinker fluid
Graphic from All Day Organics

From now on you need to start looking at that unit price label before making your decisions. In the above example, the bulk buy is truly a good deal. The unit price for the 62 oz bottle is less than half the true cost of the 8 oz bottle. In reality though, it can be about a 50/50 chance depending on the store. One thing to note is that if something is on sale you want to look at the adjusted unit price written on the sale label and not the white (typically) regular price label.

Start doing this on a regular basis and you will quickly and completely change how you think about the prices of things. It’s an easy one step closer to becoming a better investor.



NOTE: Arm & Hammer Baking Soda is made by Church and Dwight (CHD stock symbol). CHD has returned an annualized 18%+ since 1995… May be worth a look when it’s not too expensive. Hint Hint


Investing 101: Should Walter White Buy The Local Car Wash Company Or The Laser Tag Company?

Comparative valuation sounds boring, but when you understand the premise you’ll realize it’s easy as hell. The problem you run into when trying to pick stocks is that you’re comparing apples and oranges all to often. Unfortunately, most newbies make 1 of 2 mistakes. The first is looking at the share price of a stock and deciding “well, that stock is way overpriced”. You need to realize that share price is only a small part of the equation. If you don’t know how many shares a company has, then you don’t know how much of the piece of pie you get when you’re buying a share. The other mistake is not having a method of comparing 2 companies like Apple and Walmart. Those 2 companies are NOTHING alike obviously, and without a way to compare them most people usually then revert to which has a cheaper share price. So how do you figure out which one is a better deal. THIS is where we get into comparative valuation.  This one won’t hurt a bit.

Walter White* is laundering his meth money. He needs to find a company in that looks like a legitimate investment. Well, he’s a science teacher so he’s not just going to buy any crappy company out there. People will know he’s not buying a good investment. He’s narrowed it down to either buy Saul’s laser tag company suggestion or the car wash he used to work at. These two companies are nothing alike, so how the hell is he going to figure out which is a better investment. These are the 2 most common ways to compare companies…


The laser tag company is $500,000. It earns $75,000 a year. Earnings are sales/revenue for the last year minus all the costs of operating the company. It’s the money the company gets to keep. So the price/earnings ratio for the laser tag company is $500K divided by $75K. We get a P/E of 6.66.

The car wash is $800,000. It earns $160,000 a year.  So it has a P/E of 5 (800K/160K)

So somebody new to investment will typically look at the two and say “obviously, 500K is the better deal”. But now we have a way to compare the two. Laser tag has a P/E of 6.66 vs the cash wash at P/E 5. When buying an investment you typically want to buy the LOWER P/E between two or more investments. In this case, the car wash (while more expensive in dollar terms) is the better deal. It earns more in relation to the price.



The next most common way to value companies is simply price vs sales. The only difference here is that instead of bothering comparing the money the company gets to keep, you just compare who sells more in relation to their price. The car wash is $800,000, but takes in $200,000 in sales every year. It has a price/sales ratio of 4 (800K/200K = P/S 4). Laser tag takes in $130,000 in sales every year. So it’s P/S is 3.85 (500K/130k = 3.85. Obviously, 3.85 is less than 4, so if you were valuing the companies just on sales, the laser tag company would be a better deal in this case.

Why Walter would value based on P/E vs P/S gets a little bit more advanced. If he compares the two based on P/E, the car wash is a better choice. If he compares the two based on P/S, the laser tag company is a better choice. As time goes on, you will figure out which is typically the best way to compare companies. In the beginning, we recommend just looking at Price/Earnings P/E.

A few of you are probably saying “that’s all well and good, but how do you compare companies when you’re buying stocks that have shares”. Simple, a company has a certain number of shares at any given point. So to compare the stocks vs buying a whole company you would just divide price of the overall company (it will be labeled as market cap) by how many shares are available. The good news is the price AND the earnings or sales will be divided by the same number (the number of shares doesn’t change). So NOTHING is different in finding the P/E or P/S with stocks/shares.

The good news is that looking at at the P/E of a company is so common that any stock site that you go to will have it already listed somewhere. Usually on the stocks main page or under a page called “valuation ratios”.  Here’s an example on Yahoo Finance:


Yahoo Finance

By the way the (TTM) means trailing twelve months. Meaning the number is based on the last year worth of earnings.



So that’s it… you’re done. You can go now…






*He’s from Breaking Bad. Why are you reading this instead of watching it?

The Big 3 Types of Funds: Mutual, ETF, Closed-End… The Necessary Explanations

Below you will find links to Investopedia’s dry, long-winded explanations as well as ours, which will give you a good enough understanding that articles make sense. Use the links or google if you still have questions. And yes, some of the definitions are repeated on purpose.


Learn these words first:

Buying a stock is  buying a share (or portion) of a company, but only that one company. A fund is more like a basket that can hold lots of different stocks or investments. So instead buying a portion of one thing, you can buy a portion of lots of things at once. Investors in a fund are buying a share of the basket.

There’s somebody actively making decisions on what to buy and sell in a fund.

Nobody is making decisions, the fund tries to follow an index as closely as possible.

A number that is follows how well or poorly things are doing compared to history. For instance, the Dow Jones takes 30 big companies in the US, adds their stock share prices together and based on the result people can gauge how the stock market is doing. Indexes (or indices) usually follow different markets based on things like size of companies, geography, how they grow, etc. People who want to just “buy an entire stock market” like the US stock market can then just buy a US stock market index.

Net Asset Value
The value of all the things in the fund or “basket” added together.


The Fund Types:

Mutual Fund
An investment product that pools money together in a basket to invest in stocks, bonds, real estate, etc. Mutual funds will have a stated objective to decide on what it will buy. They can be active (with a manager choosing  what to buy or sell) or passive (just following an index without making decisions) They can create as many shares as they want for investors to buy into this basket or “pool of money”.  The price of the fund’s shares are calculated after the markets close and the value of all things owned by the fund (Net Asset Value) are divided by the number of shares available. Mutual funds only trade once a day, after market close. Taxation on mutual funds is different than other types of funds. Typically carry a lot of hidden fees that are disclosed in small print. Usually the only type of fund available in a 401k. Mutual funds are largely outdated and individual investors nearly always prefer ETFs.

ETF (Exchange-Traded Fund)
Nearly everything is the same as mutual fund as far as active/passive investments, but these can trade any time the markets are open, just like stocks. Fees and expenses are usually much less than mutual funds. Taxation of the fund depends largely on what the fund does. Like mutual funds, can create or destroy the number of shares available in order to fit with objective of the fund. SPY (that’s the symbol, but is said just like the word) is the most commonly traded ETF in the world, it follows the S&P 500 index.

Closed-End Fund
Almost exactly like ETFs, but only have a finite (limited) number of shares. Because of the limited number of shares, a great opportunity can arise: if there isn’t much demand for the fund’s shares, but the value of assets (NAV) held by the fund haven’t dropped, investors can essentially buy the stocks or assets at a discount. Most commonly used by investors looking for income.


Other helpful links:

Active vs Passive Investing

Mutual Fund vs ETF: Which is Right For You?

Closed-End vs. Open-End Funds

Is Real Estate In A Bubble? The Only Chart You Need

When the economy busted out in 2009 everybody noticed how much real estate prices plummeted around the country. You probably heard at least a few horror stories about people who owed more on their mortgage than their homes were worth (underwater)Now, the majority of Americans have recovered enough to be able to try to buy a home or an upgrade from their current one. The problem is that those bust out prices set a precedent. People love seeing on the news that economy is strong “MAGA derrrrrrrp!” but don’t want to pay strong economy prices. They want the income of “things going well”, but the home prices of “the economy is in the shitter”. So in the interest of pulling the veil back of where housing stands it then makes sense to compare how much money people are making vs. how much homes actually cost.

The National Association of Homebuilders/Wells Fargo publish a study called the Housing Opportunity Index, which pits income and home prices against each other.

Infographic: Soaring House Prices Hurt Home Affordability | Statista

You can see that the yellow Opportunity line doesn’t deviate a huge deal from its average. It typically hangs right around 60. When that line dropped to 40 in Mid 2006 is when we got in trouble. What the number is showing you is the percentage of households with a median* income that can afford to buy a median priced home. The key is that the number doesn’t have to move very much to have a huge impact. Just think that if it moves from 60 to 40 that means approximately 20% less of the population can afford to buy a home.

Now here is the catch to that chart. Its really damn hard to average out costs when you include places like San Francisco and Bumf*ck, Mississippi. This is why you need to go local and look at your closest metro area. The easiest way to go about it is to just google something like “Los Angeles Housing Opportunity Index”. With that search we can find the most recent LA housing opportunity numbers.

california 2018 3rd quarter housing.JPG

This tells us that right now 30% of people in the Los Angeles metro area can buy a home and that the household minimum income to qualify for a mortgage is $112,200. San Fran you need to make over $200k. Over 3.5x the national average. Bummer, right?

Here’s the thing though, real estate doesn’t just “crash” locally. The LA opportunity number is less than half of the current national number of 56.4 from the the NAHB/Wells Fargo study**. Some areas will always run at a premium because of where they are and what they offer, but we have to look at the big picture. So…

Real Estate might be ungodly overpriced in your area, but nationally we are far from a bubble. Homes are just slightly above the historical average pricing. With a National average of 56.4% of households in the US able to afford a home, it appears people holding out for a crash to buy a home in LA, NY, San Francisco, etc may have to wait quite a while.

If you want all the data for the NAHB/Wells Fargo Opportunity Index, including metro areas and histories, you can get it all here in nerdy little excel spreadsheets. Otherwise, Google is your friend…

BONUS TRIVIA: A commonly sited rule of thumb is that in healthy economic conditions the cost of your home should be no more than 2.6 years of Household Income.

Household Income x 2.6 = Home Price

Stay Tuned to learn about what we can learn about real estate from two guys named Case and Shiller!!

More info to digest:

Housing in the US is too expensive, too cheap, and just right. 

75 percent of LA residents can’t afford to buy in LA

*For those that don’t remember, median means middle. It’s not the average, but it’s halfway between most and least of something.
**Yes, we realize on the CA opportunity numbers, their US average is a little lower. Likely due to timing and data sources of the studies/calculations but it’s close enough for our purposes.



Nearly everybody we’ve spoken to for the last week has been talking about how scared they are (or pissed off) when they look at their 401k’s. The market has been acting like shit and nobody seems to know who to blame first. The truth is, there are a few catalysts (as always) including the government shutdown, Apple (AAPL) slashing orders on the iPhone, Mattis resigning, the trade war, etc. It doesn’t matter though, not in the long run.

The fact that everybody is freaking the f*ck out is EXACTLY the kind of reason we’re not worried about a dot com or 2008 crash. Several things, tend to happen preceding the major crashes. A recession begins, the yield spreads have already inverted, the leading economic indicator is down, etc etc technobabble. For the layperson though, what you really want to know is this: when NOBODY is worried about their stocks going down, they crash. Bull markets end with a period of euphoria. Nobody in their damn right mind would call 2018 euphoric before stocks dumped off. This is what’s referred to as a sentiment indicator and how the big money makers bet against the crowd. You have to remember that in the beginning of learning, you are the crowd. So rest assured, this is just a correction. It may take a while to bottom out and it won’t feel good, but there is no reason to panic.

Please bear with us when news updates are few and far between. Alottt of research is being done at the moment to help in consulting clients and plan future lessons. We will be covering the real crash warning signs in-depth in the future.


What are Analysts Expecting for 2019?

  1. First off, they’re bullish on Energy above all else. That wouldn’t be too hard considering the smack down laid down on oil in October. Energy is followed by healthcare (another big shocker), communication services, and materials.
  2. Broad market expectations are mixed. With S&P 500 target estimates ranging from 2,705 to 3,350.
  3. If you read the above two things you realize that nobody knows nothin’… Earnings are expected to slow down as well as economic growth and we’re in for a hell of a lot more volatility. Time to sell premium (if you know how… and if you don’t stay tuned)

Factset’s Breakdown of Analyst’s Most Highly Rated Sectors and Companies

Barron’s Thinks Wall Street is Getting Bearish

Ed Yardeni (Forecasting Genius) Thinks Wall Street is Way Too Optimistic About Earnings

FinancialSamurai’s Roundup of Analyst Targets

Forbes Actually Has A Few Decent Stock Picks for 2019


Top Secret Portfolio Recipes (Asset Allocation)

Ok, some of these aren’t a secret. This page could also be called as “Don’t buy a book that makes you read 200 pages of boring shit just to get an allocation recommendation.” First and foremost, a lot of these are absolute garbage. The reason they’re being posted is so that more people will realize that books and blogs aren’t going to give you a magic bullet for allocation even if they cost an arm and a leg. Not everything you find on this page is hidden in a book, but for the sake of simplicity we’re just going to stuff it all into one page. Realize also, that a few of these have specific rules for entry and exit points which increase the risk adjusted returns.

7Twelve Portfolio – Craig Israelsen
(from 7Twelve: A Diversified Investment Portfolio with a plan)

  • 8.3% Domestic Large Cap Blend
  • 8.3% Domestic Mid Cap Blend
  • 8.3% Domestic Small Cap Blend
  • 8.3% World Total Stock Market
  • 8.3% Emerging Market Stocks
  • 25% Intermediate Term Bonds
  • 8.3% T-bills/Cash
  • 16.6% Commodities
  • 8.3% REITs

All-Weather Portfolio – Tony Robbins
(from Money: Master the Game)

  • 30% Domestic Total Stock Market
  • 40% Long Term
  • 15% Intermediate Term
  • 7.5% Commodities
  • 7.5% Gold

 All-Century Portfolio – Barry Ritholtz
(Ritholtz’s rebuttal to Tony Robbins)

  • 20 % total US stock market
  • 5 % REITs
  • 5 % Domestic small cap value
  • 15 % Pacific equities
  • 15 % European equities
  • 10 % TIPS
  • 10 % U.S. high yield corp bonds
  • 20 % U.S. total bond market

Black Swan Portfolio – Larry Swedroe
(from Reducing the Risk of Black Swans)

  • 15% Domestic Small Caps
  • 7.5% World Small Cap Value
  • 7.5% Emerging Markets
  • 70% Intermediate Term Bonds

Classic 60/40 – Jack Bogle
(The most commonly recommended stock/bond mix)

  • 60% Total US Stock Market
  • 40% Bonds (either Total Bond Market or Intermediate Term)

Coffeehouse Portfolio – Bill Schultheis
(from The Coffeehouse Investor)

  • 10% Domestic Large Cap Blend
  • 10% Domestic Large Cap Value
  • 10% Domestic Small Cap Blend
  • 10% Domestic Small Cap Value
  • 10% World Stock Market (ex-US)
  • 40% Intermediate Term Bonds
  • 10% REITs

Core Four – Rick Ferri
(from All About Asset Allocation)

  • 48% Domestic Total Stock Market
  • 24% World Total Stock Market
  • 20% Intermediate Term Bonds
  • 8% REITs

Coward’s Portfolio – William Bernstein

  • 15% Domestic Large Cap Blend
  • 10% Domestic Large Cap Value
  • 5% Domestic Small Cap Blend
  • 10% Domestic Small Cap Value
  • 5% Europe Total Stock Market
  • 5% Pacific Total Stock Market
  • 5% Emerging Markets
  • 40% Short Term
  • 5% REITs

Global Market Portfolio – Meb Faber
(This is a research based estimate of the global market’s asset allocations)

  • 20% US Stock Market
  • 15% Foreign Developed Market
  • 5% Emerging Markets
  • 22% Corporate Bonds
  • 15% 30-year Bonds
  • 16% 10-year Foreign Bonds
  • 2% TIPS
  • 5% REITs

Gone Fishin’ Portfolio – Alexander Green
(from The Gone Fishin Portfolio)

  • 15% Total US Stock Market
  • 15% US Small Caps
  • 10% Emerging Market Stocks
  • 10% European Stocks
  • 10% Pacific Stocks
  • 10% Short Term Corporate Bonds
  • 10% High Yield Bonds
  • 10% TIPS
  • 5% Gold
  • 5% REITs

Ivy Portfolio – Meb Faber
(from The Ivy Portfolio)

You definitely need the book for the intricacies of how to use this set. Worth the read.

  • 20% Domestic Total Stock Market
  • 20% World Stock Market (ex-US)
  • 20% Intermediate Term
  • 20% Commodities
  • 20% REITs

No-Brainer Portfolio – William Bernstein
(from The Intelligent Asset Allocator)

  • 25% Domestic Large Cap Blend
  • 25% Domestic Small Cap Blend
  • 25% World Total Stock Market
  • 25% Short Term Bonds

Permanent  Portfolio – Harry Browne
(from Fail Safe Investing)

  • 25% US Total Stock Market
  • 25% Long Term
  • 25% T-bills or Cash
  • 25% Gold

Risk Parity Portfolio – Meb Faber
(from Global Asset Allocation)

  • 8% US Large Cap
  • 8% Foreign Developed
  • 35% Corporate Bonds
  • 35% 10-Year Bonds
  • 5% Commodities
  • 5% Gold
  • 5% Reits

Swenson Portfolio – David Swenson
(from Unconventional Success)

  • 30% Domestic Total Stock Market
  • 15% World Stock Market (ex-US)
  • 5% Emerging Markets
  • 30% Intermediate Term Bonds
  • 20% REITs

Warren Buffett Portfolio – Warren Buffett
(from multiple interviews**)

  • 90% S&P 500
  • 10% Short Term Government Bonds

**An important piece of his recommendation is that you dollar cost average into the index. Do not buy all at once. The government bonds are a way to counter inflation vs holding cash.