One of the most important aspects of becoming a better investor is to evaluate one’s performance. However I do not think an absolute performance is the right way to do it.
For ex: If one’s stock portfolio returned 2% during the period 2000- 2003, I would consider it to be a superior performance than a 30% increase from 2003-2006. The reason is that during the period 2000-2003 , the market lost more than 30%, whereas during the period 2003-2006 the market almost doubled.
I evaluate my own performance as follows
I use the following formulae to evaluate the performance on my stock portfolio. I am not referring to a single stock, but for the entire stock portfolio.
Return = End portfolio amount – starting portfolio amount – cash added (or removed)/ starting portfolio amount
The period for the above formulae can be a month, quarter or a year. I prefer to evaluate the performance annually.
I compare this performance with the following three benchmarks. You can look at these benchmarks as three rising levels of hurdles to be crossed.
Level 1 – No risk FD return – This is the return I get from investing in bank FD. The stock portfolio has to cross this level. Otherwise I am way better off investing in FD’s and going off to sleep.
Level 2 – Index fund return – This is the return one can get by investing in the index (NSE or BSE) via ETF’s or index funds. The stock portfolio has to outperform this level, other wise I am better off investing in an index fund.
Level 3 – Mutual fund return – I referred to it in my previous post. My stock portfolio return should exceed the return I get from my portfolio of mutual funds (post expenses). If not, then I am again better off handing my money to the fund managers and doing something better with my time.
A caveat – One should not make a decision based on a single year’s return. In a single year, the stock portfolio returns can be volatile and even be below level 1 benchmark . I prefer to look at rolling 3 year returns to reach some tentative conclusion. I would prefer to look at the results of atleast 5 years before reaching a conclusion that I have crossed each of the above benchmarks. For a 5 year period, one should look at the cumulative returns from the stock portfolio and compare it with the above 3 benchmarks. Only if one has done substantially better than the three benchmarks, can one conclude that he or she ‘may’ be a superior stock picker.
The above may sound harsh and pompish. But I think if one has to be better investor, honest appraisal of one’s performance is important. If I have five duds and my portfolio returns less than what I could get in an FD, then there is not much to be gained from a stock pick which doubled in 15 days. I may have bragging rights and may feel smart, but I am not being honest and objective about my performance.