My Investment Scorecard for 2008

I just went through and reviewed how my investments did throughout 2008. I will now reveal my result. Drumroll, please.

In 2008 … my ROI  was …


That’s right. While everyone else went broke, I was makin’ bank. How on earth did I do it? Okay, okay, okay — I’ll tell you. But only ’cause I’m a nice guy; I had three investment accounts: a ROTH IRA, a traditional brokerage account, and a Variable-Universal Life Insurance Policy. At the start of the year, my accounts were invested as follows:

* My VUL Policy had roughly $3500 invested in Gold Mining Stocks through the Rydex Precious Metals Fund. (RYPMX)
* My Roth IRA had roughly $17,000 invested in Water Mining Companies (PHO) and gold bullion (GLD).
* My traditional brokerage account has roughly $1500 invested in the Prudent Global Income Fund (PSAFX)

As you can see from the start, I was invested to profit from a falling dollar. Let’s take a quick step back into the recent past; last fall, to be specific.

It’s October, 2007. The stock markets have recently reached their peak with the Dow Jones closing at 14,100 on the 9th, and I just don’t see how stocks will possibly hold any value with all the bad news now coming out. At the dawn of 2008, I want to try and steer as clear of the main stock market as I can; as February ends, I liquidate both of my Roth positions, basically breaking even.

Springtime, and the market’s begun to heavily swoon; I want to reposition myself to profit from the short side. I put my Roth money into the Prudent Bear Fund, (or BEARX) since it’s 70% short the market, and 30% long on gold mining stocks. Now it’s June; I’m investing another $5,000 into my Roth, (my 2008 contribution), and also continuing to invest in Prudent Bear.

Here comes a September to remember. We see the bankruptcy of Lehman, and the stock market rallying on the news. I’m basically sitting flat in my portfolio for the whole year — quite frustrating. I’d positioned myself well to profit from all of the bad news, and despite the copious amount of it, I’ve yet to show a profit. In fact, the stock market’s flaunting its irrationality by rallying strongly on Lehman’s failure. Over the next couple of days, it’ll proceed to fall, only to rally again as a Keynesian trifecta of Paulson, Bush, and Bernanke totally blow my mind announcing the TARP program.

Now, I’m in totally uncharted territory. I knew the period of history I was living in would show a stock market deflation in comparison to gold, but I wasn’t sure if it would from stocks falling, or gold rising. At the time, it seemed the Powers That Be would be combating the falling market with inflation, and so betting the market would fall, wouldn’t be a winning choice. Going forward, I figured that either: inflation would take hold, raising all boats, (favoring gold particularly), or the market would crash, causing people to then rush to gold in the panic. So, either way, gold was the way to go.

But here is where I made a critical error, choosing to liquidate my short positions just prior to the October crash. I wasn’t sure where to put my money, so half of it went into Barrick gold mining stock (ABX) @ $37, and the other, just sat in cash. A week later, the market’s started crashing, as the credit markets freeze. Barrick’s up to $38, but everything else is uncertain. Volatility has overtaken the market, values bouncing all over the place.

The now frozen credit market prompts me to look into bonds; and, sure enough, I find some South Trust, rated AAA, maturing six weeks from the day I bought them, yielding an annualized 30%. Having done my homework, I knew South Trust, recently acquired by Wachovia, had now been taken over by Citigroup. Seemed pretty clear from all of the TARP madness that Hank, George, and Ben were peddling that Citi wouldn’t be allowed to go bankrupt. So, I sold most of my Barrick stock (for a small profit) and put the $20,000 into the South Trust bonds.

Turned out, it was a great move. Not only did I make $800 in six weeks when they hit maturity, but I say out the bulk of the decline in Barrick. I’d been actively trading it up and down in my traditional brokerage account, pretty much breaking even once all was said and done. But, as the bonds matured, I was still able to scoop up a ton of Barrick Gold close to the bottom. It was a decision at the time, trying to figure out if I should put the whole $21,000 to work in Barrick, or only half, instead. At this point, Barrick was range-bound between $20 and $25, so I decided to invest $11,000 into Barrick at $20.50, leaving the rest in cash to buy more, should it have fallen any further.

Of course, this was a decision I’d come to regret as Barrick took off — and never looked back.

But, by year’s end, Barrick would be trading in the neighborhood of $36 a share, my $11,000 investment now worth $20,600; had I bought in with everything, knowing I would’ve made even more.

Ah, well. It beats losing money.

As 2008 came to a close, I broke even in my traditional brokerage, (funded up to $9,000), my VUL had fallen to $2,200, or so, with my Roth sitting pretty at $32,000.

Okay, I know my math isn’t exact here, because I’ve not annualized any of these figures to correct for the fact that a lot of the money was added mid-year. If I did, my ROI would be even higher. But why be greedy?

All that being said, my final scorecard was:

Start 2007                    Money Added                     Subtotal                      Year-End
Roth IRA                   $17,000                           $5,000                          $22,000                       $32,000
Traditional                 $1,500                           $7,500                           $9,000                         $9,200
VUL                            $3,500                             $260                           $3,750                          $2,250

Totaling up the subtotal field, I get $34,750 and a year-ending of $43,450. That’s right at 25%. As I mentioned, if I’d have corrected the ROI by factoring in the added money only being used for half the year, that ROI would be even higher.

Furthermore, since the major gains all came in the Roth account (which is TAX FREE, don’t forget) that means that my “tax equivalent yield” is even higher. That’s just a fancy way of saying, that since I don’t have to pay taxes on the gains in the Roth, the return is the same as making a greater amount that I would pay taxes on.

All in all, it was a profitable year.