One of my wonderful friends, Ms. P, asked me for some guidance on how she might allocate $50,000 currently earning peanuts in a money market account. Though she is decades from becoming a grandmother, after a brief discussion about her financial parameters, it became clear to me that she was looking for a "granny fund."
In reality, my recommendations would be suitable, and perhaps desirable, for many passive investors as well.
The $50,000 is a portion of money Ms. P has set aside to purchase a home, which might happen in six months, but could also be pushed out further, depending on the economy and her situation. Basically, she wants to cover all her bases because she might need the money at any time and does not want to be caught short, while at the same time she would like to generate some revenue without taking any big risks.
For the bonds I recommended the Vanguard Total Bond Market exchange-traded fund (NYSE: BND), which I discussed in an earlier post: Serious Money: ETF that's better than cash. I have been using this to store some of my 2009 gains.
A total of 14 stocks were selected. I would have been content with six to eight, but Ms. P wanted a broader footprint. I do not expect that my choices will surprise most readers.
Starting with a traditional high-yield safe haven, I chose three Utilities stocks:
- Consolidated Edison (NYSE: ED) 5.85%
- Duke Energy (NYSE: DUK) 6.24%
- Southern Company (NYSE: SO) 5.52%
Next I picked out three Medical/Health stocks. All the health-care pandemonium this year has kept the sector depressed, but these are very solid long-term performers. Though they may have lagged recently, I think these stocks may lead in 2010:
- Johnson and Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) 3.28%
- Merck and Co (NYSE: MRK) 4.80%
- Novartis AG ADS (NYSE: NVS) 4.37%
The following "Sin Stocks" include the largest purveyors of tobacco, alcohol and fast food. Most investors do not know that Altria, formerly Phillip Morris, is the best-performing stock in the S&P 500 since inception. We had a lot of debate at my house as to whether MCD is a sin stock, but it's my call. Consider that having a beer with lunch, and a glass of red wine with dinner has been known to increase lifespan even over decades. Can you say the same thing about a burger, fries and soda every day?
After picking the first nine stocks from three distinct sectors, I shifted to a pot pourri for the last five. Among these broadly owned stocks, ADP might be the most surprising to some because high unemployment has hurt the company's top and bottom lines the most. However, it is for this reason that I think the stock, trading near its 10-year lows, has the most room to run going forward.
- Annaly Capital Management (NYSE: NLY) 15.44%
- Automatic Data Processing (NYSE: ADP) 3.09%
- General Mills (NYSE: GIS) 2.82%
- Kellogg Co (NYSE: K) 3.08%
- Procter and Gamble (NYSE: PG) 2.73%
The bond fund has a trailing yield of 3.73%. The average of the stocks is 5.16% for a very healthy combined average return of 4.45%. It would have been very easy to extend this list of quality stocks by a factor of three or four. For this reason, I am not sure why any experienced investors avoided the market this year, but those who did made a mistake. Good luck finding a house Ms. P, this portfolio should serve you well until you do.
Sheldon Liber is the CEO of a small private investment company and the principal for design and research at an architecture & planning firm. He writes the columns Chasing Value and Serious Money. Disclosure: I own shares of BND, DUK, SO, JNJ, MRK, NVS, DEO, and NLY.