The Art of War (chest)

I have seen frequent discussions on the amount of cash we should be holding as warchest and opinions varied widely. Some are fearful of today high market in overseas markets and advocate for 100% cash, while others see good values in STI market and maintain a high percentage invested in the market. Questions asked are often the optimum level of warchest to achieve the maximum returns. I been thinking about this and want to pen down my thoughts.

One approach is to determine what is the expected value (EV) using the probability of an event happening. Then based on some reasonable assumptions to work out the two extreme cases of All Equity or All Cash.

For the case of All Equity, the market in the long run will return about 6-7% pa. If we are quite confident of our skill as a security analyst to achieve better result, then a good target will be 11%. A more skilful investor can opt for 13%-18%. But it will extremely tough beyond that.

For the case of All Cash, we can look at the history of market returns. These are roughly what I can deduce from historical data:

- More than 10% drop: 1 every 3 years or 33% chance
- More than 20% drop: 1 every 5 years or 20% chance
- More than 30% drop: 1 every 10 years or 10% chance
- More than 40% drop: 1 every 15 years or 7% chance

Assuming that the returns from each event is the amount of drop itself, then the total EV will be summation of the multiples of returns and chance of occurrence, which comes to about 13% returns. But this assumes that you have to guess all the corrections perfectly, else you will not get the returns. If you have guessed that it is a 20% drop but it turns out to be a 10%, you will get nothing cos you didn’t act. Or if it turns out to be a 40% drop, and you go all in at 20%, you will leave 20% on the table.

As in a guessing contest of coin toss, if it is truly fair, the odds should be 50% of calling heads or tails correctly. Then, I would argue that for the All Cash option the EV should be reduced by 50%, ie EV of 6.5%.

It looks that they are about the same in expected returns.

In short, it boils down to either of these options:
A) All Equity and expects 6-7% on average and 11% based on stock picking skills.
B) All Cash and get 6.5% on average or 13% based on skills in timing the market.
C) Combination of equity and cash.

For me, I want to stay invested and still keep some % in cash. The main reason is that there will be some good stocks that the price may be greatly suppressed during market turmoil, and the returns can be much greater if I can pick them at really cheap price.

I feel there is no magic formula that can determine the optimum level of cash in warchest as everyone investment strategy and skills are different. You can try something like Kelly Criterion which may help, but I think there are too many assumptions for it to have meaningful conclusion.

For me, I am holding 30% (~500k) in cash and plan to allocate the funds in increasing amount as the market drops more. This is to maximise the buying opportunities when the market goes into a deep recession. The plan will be something like this:

STI 3200 - 50k (fired)
STI 2800 - 100k
STI 2400 - 150k
STI 2000 - 200k

If STI hits 2000, the market would have collapsed by 45% and I think many excellent companies will be dirt cheap by then.

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27 comments
layers

used to just buy in. drop 10 to 20% n then avg down. I find this damn bad, sucking up my small war chest and hence switch to monthly nibble. so far so good. although the average price is not the lowest price but won't get stuck at the first entry price if i buy in too early.

I have been think what method is the best to buy into a shares. I think have to depend on market situation. bull market can buy in and hold for it to go up. volatile bear market like this switch to buying a fix amt every month until i hit the cap i am comfortable with

tried on valuetronic for the pass 6 mnth at price 0.705,0.7, 0.635,0.64, 0.69,0.74. avg abt 0.68.

terencesiu

Reply to @layers : thx. will consider for buying etfs.

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vincentwong10

would you consider putting liquidity of the owned shares and size into the variable? because as a retail investor we enjoy significant structural liquidity advantage compare to those institutions or people who has a lot of money. for example, 1 mistake and they had to sell their stock, it will be much more painful and take longer for them to off load. and also additional cost when they buy because large volume of buying pushes price up. thus I normally 100% invested in the business that I consider a value without consulting market.(like graham said, treat market as your servant not your teacher) I use Kelly criterion for sizing depending on certainty and magnitude. In long run i think the return should be larger if the business' ROE and cash flow is uninterrupted.

clim

Reply to @vincentwong10 : haha thanks for explaining more. indeed a LOOOONG time is needed to study an industry. much to learn from you :)

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kc2024

Thanks for sharing. Similar approach but it makes me think whether I should simplify/modify my criteria to deploy the fund.

I also decided to deploy more in the initial stages as the the chances of them happening are higher than the later stage.

Current plan:
If my portfolio is down as compared to end of last year’s value AND the drop is triggered by market correction/crash, then I will
• deploy the first 30% when portfolio is 5% down (deployed)• deploy the next 30% when portfolio is 10% down• deploy the next 20% when portfolio is 20% down• deploy the last 20% when portfolio is 30% down

Snorlax

As a person who is mainly on US market, I used US indices as a benchmark. As for now, I expect at most correction currently as the yield curve is 3% with increasing interest rate due to great data and many people out there anticipate crash esp during trade war.

However, if US indices drop 10%, sti more or less likely hit bear market. lol

PS: I will still keep some cash in case of unexpected events.

ThumbTackInvestor

If I rem correctly, I thought you previously said you believe in being 100% vested all the time and not trying to time the markets?
We had a discussion on this previously I think.

theintelligentinvestor

Reply to @ThumbTackInvestor : Oh really? Could be I gave the wrong impression on what I meant by “100% vested”. I can’t rem the conversation but likely I meant was not to pull not entirely from the stock market and take a all cash position. And I also talked several times about keeping a meaningful war chest before.

LFO

Sorry means u are 70% vested currently? Thanks.

PomeloFarmer

I fired all bullets liao left 0% cash gg

PomeloFarmer

Very good read thanks!

Turtle_Investor

Similar approach, I called it the systemic and emotion-less investing at each stage.

Nice sharing especially during this volatile times.

Fail to plan, plan to fail.

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