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Be Very Careful of the Investment Recommendations
on May 16, 2009
I have a great deal of respect for the author's intellect and courage in predicting various economic events. However, the investment advice given in this book is not fully presented by the author and may actually be harmful to some investors.
In Chapter 7, he recommends creating your own hedge positions using ETFs. An experienced and knowledgeable investor will easily understand this section and know, even though it isn't included, of the trade-offs created by the use of inverse index ETFs. But, for most readers, the concept of inverse index funds is probably new to them and, although there are a few warnings in later chapters, they should be provided with the hypothetical investment returns if the market were to rise.
Basically, inverse funds move in the opposite direction of the index that they track, so if the inverse ETF tracks the S&P500 and the S&P500 drops 10%, the inverse fund would theoretically go up 10%. The problem with the illustrations, on pages 108-109, is that the potential returns are only shown for how the portfolios would perform if Mr. Weiss is correct and the market continues to fall. He does not show what happens when the market goes up 10%. I would highly recommend that anyone attempting to implement any of the recommended portfolios perform their own analysis or find a competent fee-only financial planner or fee-only investment advisor to help them. I'm not against hedging, but if you don't know what you're doing and you don't monitor this type of portfolio, you might get a rude awakening after any market surge. As described in the book, when the index rises 10%, the single leveraged, or 1X, inverse fund will drop 10%. The 2X drops 20% and the 3X would fall 30%. If we have a year like 2003 and the index does almost 30%, the leveraged 3X fund would drop almost 90%. In essence, the author is recommending that the investor give up some of the gain in good markets to hedge against those times when the market falls. This is commonly used by institutional investors, but they typically use professional advisors to handle the day-to-day details of a hedged portfolio. These funds are intended for daily trading, not long-term holding. The funds are designed to move inversely to the index on a daily basis. For longer periods, volatility drag causes the returns of these funds to vary, sometimes dramatically, from the index. See the comments below this review.
(Since writing this review last month, FINRA, the regulatory agency for the brokerage industry and its' products released a Regulatory Notice #09-31 regarding Leveraged ETF's. You can view this release by going to the FINRA website, selecting Investment Professionals, Regulation (upper left) click the word "notices" and download the pdf. I would strongly suggest any investor review the FINRA notice and fully review the leveraged ETF products prior to considering any implementation of the investment plan described in The Ultimate Depression Survival Guide.)
It is possible this information is available to subscribers to his newsletter or on his website, but you should know the anticipated outcome of these portfolio's if he's wrong about a continuing depression. The rest of the book offers some good advice on what he believes will happen and how to handle it. Often, the investment recommendations are dependent on the reader subscribing to a newsletter or email so that they can be notified when the time is "right" to make changes in their 401k, investment accounts, etc.