Interview with Ben Reynolds - The founder of Sure Dividend
We would like to introduce you to some familiar faces in the world of dividend investing. The first familiar and interesting face is Ben Reynolds, founder of Sure Dividend. In this article, you will learn what are the most common mistakes Ben encounters with newcomers who start investing. You will also learn some information Ben uses when developing himself.
Ben, could you introduce yourself first? What do you do?
My name is Ben Reynolds. I founded and run Sure Dividend, an investment newsletter and information business dedicated to helping our members build and maintain their high-quality income portfolios for the long run.
When do you feel the most joy in your work?
When we get positive feedback from our members, it can bring joy. It’s great to see you are making a positive impact on someone’s life in some small way.
Do you have a system of self-development?
Yes, I do. The first thing I do after getting into my office most mornings is to spend 30 minutes on self-development. That may be reading, journaling, or thinking through various challenges that come up in life.
I’m also an avid reader. One of the downsides of reading is not being able to fully remember what and integrate things read years ago (or months in some cases…). To counteract this ‘knowledge churn’, I’ve implemented a modified version of the slip-box method over the last year or so, and am very happy with it so far.
Is there anything that you've really failed at when investing? How did you solve it?
No, I’ve never failed ;)
In all seriousness, yes, I’ve continuously learned and evolved as an investor, and I hope that process never stops!
A specific example of a failure - likely our biggest failure at Sure Dividend - was Owens & Minor (OMI). The stock looked cheap and dividends had been going up for 20+ years (from memory). It did well on the screens we used at the time. Shortly after our recommendation, the company reduced and basically eliminated its dividend. The share price absolutely collapsed. The dividend reduction triggered a sell at a sizeable loss. The company has since recovered and shares have gone to new all-time highs since.
The OMI experience led us to add a cash flow screen to our recommendations (non-financial and utility). This would’ve prevented our investment in OMI. It was painful, but it led to improvement at Sure Dividend.
In retrospect, how do you feel about the last two years now that covid-19 has been making the world go round from an investor's perspective? What recommendations or lessons learned would you recommend?
There are two big takeaways from COVID-19 from an investing perspective for me.
The first is that the market can recover extremely quickly. A big market decline does not mean shares will be cheap for years ahead. You may only have a short period of time to buy in at a steep discount when others are panic selling, so it’s wise to take advantage of opportunities as much as possible when they occur.
The second is that different recessions have different stock sectors/industries that tend to do well and poorly. The COVID-19 crash was especially hard on energy, REITs, and retail. It was beneficial for technology. The “Dot Com” crash of the early 2000s was much different, with technology stocks collapsing. Crashes are unique and should be treated as such.
What are the most common mistakes dividend investors make? And how would you address them?
I think the most disastrous and widespread mistake investors make is panic selling. When prices are down it's an opportunity to buy high-quality dividend stocks at a discount.
For dividend investors, perhaps the best way to avoid this mistake is to view your portfolio for what it does for you - produce income - rather than simply as its current market value.
When you value your portfolio based on the dividend income it produces, you realize how little (or not at all) your actual income declines during market crashes, when you are in high-quality dividend stocks like dividend aristocrats or dividend kings.
Do you consider ethics or other values such as environmental friendliness or something similar when picking stocks?
No, I don’t. Our members at Sure Dividend will of course have different moral/ethical codes. Some people may think tobacco stocks like Altria (MO) are abhorrent. Others may really enjoy cigarettes and be happy with the product the company delivers.
I don’t think it’s our job to police what is and isn’t morally acceptable. I view our job as helping our audience build and maintain their income portfolios. It’s up to the individual to avoid securities that are against their moral code.
What podcasts on investing would you recommend?
I don’t listen to many investing podcasts. With that said, one I’ve enjoyed in the past is Patrick O'Shaugnessy’s Invest Like The Best.
Do you have any favorite books that you would recommend to our readers?
Yes, I have many! There are so many great books out there on investing in particular, and life in general. A few that I’ve read in the past year or so that I really enjoyed are The Joys of Compounding; Atmamun; Wanting; and Richer, Wiser, Happier (special thank you to David at The Falcon Method for recommending some of these to me). I am currently reading the Nomad Investment Partnership letters, which are interesting as well.
Is there a book that has moved you the most in your life and business?
I can’t say there’s just one book. More than a decade ago, Born to Run got me back into reading, although I can’t say it was overly impactful other than that (it’s good, but I’m no distance runner). I also find Jim Rohn’s books inspiring; my favorite is 7 Strategies for Wealth & Happiness.
What evergreen article inspired you a lot and would you go back to it now?
I was inspired by Zen Habit’s articles. This article on how he runs his business was especially interesting to me. I don’t follow everything from the article, but it’s an especially well-thought-out and refreshing take on how an online information business can be run.
It’s probably not really classified as an ‘evergreen article’, but the poem If by Kipling is very inspirational to me.
If you enjoyed this short interview and would be interested in similar interviews with other people, let us know, for example on our Discord, where we also share product updates, among other things. Alternatively, if you are interested in dividend investing, feel free to try our dividend tracker, which is free.