The Motley Fool: Every Sunday, useful tips on investing
Q: After recently graduating from college, I’m employed and contributing to my workplace 401(k) plan. Should I invest additional money in a CD, too?
A: For most young people, CDs are not ideal. Even the best CD rates these days (which you can look up at bankrate.com) are puny. If you know you won’t need a sum of money for at least five years (and to be more conservative, 10 years), it’s likely to grow more briskly in stocks.
Five-year CDs, for example, top out around 2 percent in interest these days, and that’s the maximum. On a $10,000 investment, all you can hope for is roughly $200. Two-year CDs offer only about 1 percent, or $100.
But tobacco giant Philip Morris International was recently offering a dividend yield of 3.8 percent, which would give you close to $400. Procter & Gamble’s yield is around 3 percent, while utility company National Grid yields more than 5 percent, and even Apple’s yield has approached 3 percent.
Dividends are never guaranteed, but many companies have been regularly paying — and raising — them for decades. Plus, on top of the dividend, the stock price of healthy and growing companies will increase over time, too, delivering additional wealth.
Q: If I want to switch brokerages, can I have my entire portfolio transferred to the new brokerage, or will I have to sell everything, taking a hit on each transaction and start from scratch with the new account?
A: Your new brokerage will likely be able to help you switch seamlessly. No selling or taxable gains need be involved.
Byron Wien, one of the most influential investment thinkers in recent decades, has offered a bunch of life lessons he has learned over his 80 years (lessons he hopes to continue to practice “in the next 80”). Here are a few:
• At the beginning of every year, think of ways you can do your job better than you have ever done it before. Write them down and look at what you have set out for yourself when the year is over.
• The hard way is always the right way. Never take shortcuts, except when driving home from the Hamptons. Shortcuts can be construed as sloppiness, a career killer.
• Don’t try to be better than your competitors, try to be different. There is always going to be someone smarter than you, but there may not be someone who is more imaginative.
• When seeking a career as you come out of school or making a job change, always take the job that looks like it will be the most enjoyable. If it pays the most, you’re lucky. If it doesn’t, take it anyway. I took a severe pay cut to take each of the two best jobs I’ve ever had, and they both turned out to be exceptionally rewarding financially.
• Every year, try doing something you have never done before that is totally out of your comfort zone. This will add to the essential process of self-discovery.
You’re probably not familiar with this $5 billion company, but you should be. Markel Corp. (NYSE: MKL) is a specialty-insurance company, underwriting risks that many well-known larger insurers don’t.
For example, it provides insurance related to dance schools, railroads, snowmobiles, horses, ambulances, historic homes and sustainable farms, among other things.
The company’s book value per share has averaged 16 percent growth per year over the past 20 years, while its investment portfolio has grown by 16 percent, as well.
Those investment results are driven by Tom Gayner, who invests Markel’s excess funds in the stock market.
Gayner seeks investments with high returns on capital, ones that are likely to deliver compounding growth, ones led by talented managers with integrity. He also favors undervalued stocks, with a “safety first” mantra. His formula has served the company well.
Markel recently bought fellow insurer Alterra Capital for $3 billion, and it’s also building a Markel Ventures unit, which buys smaller companies in their entirety, giving Gayner another way to redeploy shareholder capital and providing another profit source for investors.
Currently, Markel Ventures is a relatively small contributor to Markel’s overall bottom line, but it’s a huge opportunity for the future.