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Owning stock in the good and the bad times

Last Updated on March 16, 2021 by Mr. FightToFIRE

Would you consider those that invest in stocks to be out of their mind?

Investors provide companies with important funding, but don’t get any guaranty in return. There is no guaranty on profit, and if things go south, investors can lose all of their cash. This is the primary reason stocks are considered risk capital.

So pretty crazy, right?

Not really, exactly because of their generous provision, a company can grow through investing. The money that companies receive by selling stock gets invested hoping these investments -albeit a few years later- get earned back twice.

Thus investing in stocks is not purely speculative, as some are suggesting. For companies, this stock capital is what water is to life. Without this basic financing, we wouldn’t have companies.

Some companies become world leaders in their field and multiply their capital year after year. At least a part of that extra profit almost always goes to the shareholder in the form of a dividend payout. Additionally, the company becomes more valuable, thus increasing the stock price.

The difference between bonds

That is the big difference between stocks and bonds. Equity capital is the ‘equity’ of companies, (bond) loans are ‘borrowed capital’. It’s in the naming: the temporary foreign (borrowed) money must – together with a fixed interest – always be repaid. Whether or not the company does well, it doesn’t matter. But that’s where it stops.

A shareholder is fully involved in the difficulties of his company. If it goes bad, but also if it goes well. The difference between the extremes can be extreme. Because of this uncertainty, share prices fluctuate much more than bonds. But in the end, shares ultimately yield a lot more.

In part 2, it became clear that stocks have an average real return of 6% since the 1900s compared to a 2.4% for bonds. So, you could say that the risk premium or additional income is 3.6% on average per year for stocks.

How much the risk premium is can only be determined afterward. However, we can make estimations. After all, that premium is the difference in yield between bonds and the profits of the company behind the share.

Share price vs. profits

You can calculate the “profit” of bonds quick and easy: The interest on the loan amount. At the time of writing a government bond yields less than 1%. A bond investor, therefore, receives less than 1 euro on investment of 100 euros.

The profits of shares can go in all directions and is therefore much more difficult to estimate. It’s also connected with the evolution of the company’s profits and the price evolution of the share.

A good sign is the current exchange rate versus the profit of the company. Today exchange list shares are at around 15 times the current annual profit on average. The investor will receive an underlying annual profit of EUR 6.67 for every EUR 100 that he holds in equities (100 divided by 15). That is a theoretical earnings yield of around 6.7 percent. This fluctuates throughout the years but the further we look the less deviation there is from the norm of around 15.

Knowing the above, you can easily calculate that the risk premium for stocks today yields roughly 5,7%. That is the earnings yield of 6,7% minus the 1% of bonds.

The risk premium or remuneration for the equity risk still seems interesting today, which does not detract from the fact that a correction is always imminent as was shown in 2020 by the corona pandemic.

Remember!

  • Investing in shares is not just pure speculation.
  • A shareholder should get fully involved in the company of which he holds shares.
  • The ration of the current price vs. the profit of the company can say something (but not everything) about the expected yield.

I'm a developer for a major financial institution in Belgium that is present in over 40 countries. I have over 8 years of working experience in the development of customer applications focussing on all aspects of banking. This helped me gain a deep understanding of the inner workings of a commercial bank. All of this experience in both banking and life culminates in this blog about personal finance and my fight towards FIRE.

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1. Spectacular Growth Over Time With Compounding Interest
2. Owning stock in the good and the bad times
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