I enjoy many of the articles in Ben Carlson’s blog, “A wealth of common sense”. When it comes to wealth management, investments, financial markets and investor psychology, Carlson gets it

One of his recent posts is thought provoking. He discusses “Alternative sources of alpha“. 

Carlson talks about the “ever elusive alpha” (“outperformance, after accounting for the risk taken and fees paid”) and explains that the pursuit is extremely difficult, if not impossible. He then goes on to talk about other forms of alpha that can be overlooked. 

In particular, Carlson’s comments about “tax alpha” and how important it is to get this right can’t be stressed enough. This is especially the case in Australia, but is also relevant in New Zealand. The effect of a few percentage points compounded over a long period of time can be profound.

I think the idea of “savings alpha” is also an interesting way of communicating a vital piece of the puzzle when it comes to building up wealth. Spending less than you earn is an important part of achieving your long-term financial outcomes.

I would also consider adding “fee alpha”. Minimising fees is one of the lower hanging fruits when it comes to maximising return relative to risk. 

As an aside, I enjoyed his quote from Jason Zweig’s book The Devil’s Financial Dictionary:

Alpha, n. Luck

(Zweig is another guy who gets it. His book Your Money and Your Brain is outstanding – even if the title is terrible…) 

Sonnie Bailey

Sonnie is an Authorised Financial Adviser (AFA) and former lawyer with experience in the financial services and trustee industries. Sonnie operates Fairhaven Wealth (www.fairhavenwealth.co.nz).