Portfolio Performance

I have two goals in my investing:
  • Make a 12% annual return 
  • Beat the market. I measure "the market" by the S&P 500 ETF SPY. 
My fiscal year begins on Apr 18 as that's the day I bought my first stock.

The performance I quote here is my real portfolio performance and this is my entire investable portfolio. I manage the retirement funds for myself and my wife which we have spread over a few IRAs. I also manage some after tax money we used to have sitting in a bank. When I talk about "my portfolio" I am talking about 100% of our retirement funds plus most of our savings.  I don't buy any bonds, mutual funds, or ETFs, just the cheap tiny companies I blog about.

I started investing by managing about $5k of my retirement funds. As I gained confidence I took over more and more of the retirement funds and eventually started investing some of the money we had sitting in a bank savings account. With the after tax bank money I did small odd-lot arbs for a year or two then changed to just buying the same cheap stocks I buy in my retirement accounts.

Over the years I have taken out money for taxes and to buy a few large items: a truck, a trailer, house downpayment.  Other than that the money just compounds since my day job pays living expenses.  

My personal portfolio performance since buying my first stock in April 2013:

I account for taxes paid, contributions, and withdrawals when calculating my return one year and basis the next year.  Most of my money is in non-taxable retirement accounts so taxes don't affect me that much at the moment, but I do account for the taxes brought on by my taxable brokerage account.  If I use outside money to pay those taxes I treat that as a contribution.  The way I think about withdrawals is treat them like cash in the account the year they were taken out and then forget about them the following year since they're no longer in the account on the first day of the year. 

Here are my formulas:
  • year_starting_value = total_cash + stocks_market_value as of first day of year
  • investment_basis = year_starting_value + contributions + taxes_paid_with_outside_money
  • total_value_year_end = (total_cash + stocks_market_value as of last day of year) + withdrawals - taxes_paid_with_withdrew_money
  • annual_return = (total_value_year_end - investment_basis) / investment_basis


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  1. Looks amazing, but where is the catch?

    1. liquidity is a problem. cannot sell whenever you want to. (or big haircut.)

  2. Hi Dan, fellow engineer here. Your 7-year CAGR is very impressive. If you would, I have a few of questions for you:

    1. Did you change your strategy significantly during that time? I can't help but notice the change in performance starting in 2016-2017.

    2. On average, how many hours per week would you say you put into getting those returns?

    3. How big was your portfolio throughout that time? You don't have to say exact numbers. I'm just trying to get feel for what portfolio size one can have and it be possible to get those kinds of returns.


    1. 1. Yes and I talked about it in this podcast: http://www.nonamestocks.com/2020/01/diy-investing-podcast.html

      2. I average probably a couple hours a day

      3. Well my portfolio has grown by more than my salary each of the past 4 years. My portfolio is 7 figures.

      you can always email me if you want to talk more

  3. May I suggest The Outsiders by William N. Thorndike. This book is Warren Buffet’s number one pick. I have successfully used the information to vet CEO performance (and CEO performance is the first and most important aspect of my investing strategy.)
    Also, be careful of Joel Greenblatt’s “Magic Formula”; It has “Beat the Market” by little (if at all.)

    1. People make companies-- numbers are indicators after the fact!

  4. Hi, I'm wondering if your calculation is such that it underestimates your return, because you account for taxes. I believe hedge funds pass taxes through to their LPs so their performance data is pre-taxes. That seems fair if the benchmark is an index like S&P 500, which would also not account for taxes. Am I missing something or is that right?

    1. I don't know what hedge funds do. I just calculate my real return after taxes but really the taxes are pretty small so it doesn't matter much. Only 5% of my portfolio is in a taxable account, the rest is retirement IRA stuff.

  5. Hello, the performance in 2022 of the SPY total return was -18.53, wasn't it?

    1. I am not tracking a calendar year. My fiscal year begins on Apr 18 as that's the day I bought my first stock.