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Sitting Down with Strong Money – Your Questions Answered #13

October 7, 2020

Welcome to the latest Strong Money Q&A session!

Think of this like you and I sitting down having a cuppa together and I share my thoughts on a bunch of different questions.

These posts are simply to provide more detail on certain topics where a whole article may not be necessary.

This week, we’re talking about:

  • Does the sharemarket still make sense?
  • Should we listen to Ray Dalio?
  • My thoughts on equal-weight ETFs
  • Why doesn’t Peter Thornhill like index funds?
  • Would I ever invest in crypto?
  • How do franking credits work in practice?
  • What if a broker or Vanguard go bankrupt?

Friendly Disclaimer:  Remember, nothing on this blog is personal advice.  I’m not an expert on tax, investments, or anything really.  Please do your own research before making any financial decisions.


Question #1

As I look around, every investment looks unpredictable given covid-19.  Do you still see index funds as a good place to be?


Strong Money’s Answer:

Investments are always unpredictable, welcome to investing!  Nothing really new has happened this year in that regard.

If everything was breezy and guaranteed, there would be no risk.  If there’s no risk, there’s no reward.  If there’s no reward, there’s no return.  We earn higher returns in the markets over time because of the risk and uncertainty.

So yes, I still see the sharemarket and index funds as a good place to be.  The world will keep turning, companies aren’t going anywhere and most other ‘safe’ assets offer near-zero return from here because interest rates are so low.


Question #2

Good evening Dave.  Been an avid follower for a long time now and enjoy my weekly sit down read and now the new podcast which is awesome.

Been branching out lately and doing more research to future-proof my investments.  I’ve come across some of Ray Dalio’s research, and articles about the long and short-term debt cycles with regard to rise and fall of world powers stretching back to early 1700’s.

His research always sees the patterns repeat in their different stages and it appears this cycle is maturing with current world, economic and political tensions.  Just wondering your thoughts on this, if you’ve read about it?


Strong Money’s Answer:

Great to hear you’re enjoying the content!

I have read some of Dalio’s stuff and he’s a very clever guy.  By the way, his video on how the economy works is a great piece of content which everybody should watch…

Anyway, his comments and concerns are very interesting, but they don’t change how I invest.  After all, there’s no real way to ‘future-proof’ your investments against all the risks.  You have to invest in something and all investments have their own version of risk.

As far as I’m aware, Dalio invests in ETFs, bonds, gold, specific countries and currencies in a mix which is constantly changing.  His approach is beyond the realm of my understanding (or interest).

For me, the key factor is, I can’t be confident of getting decent long term returns from gold, bonds, or other assets which have little or no earnings and have no built-in growth component like shares and real estate do.  So I choose not to bother with them.

Also keep in mind, Dalio is constantly watching things so he can and does change his mind from month to month.  Even if he’s right, how can you replicate that knowledge and those actions in a way that is easy to follow?

You can’t.  So in that sense, no big macro predictions (even from Dalio) are all that helpful to the everyday investor.  And even if you follow his every move, there’s no guarantee he’s going to outperform.

Here’s what makes sense to me:  Keep it simple.  Focus on saving.  And invest in the asset classes that have the best chance of good long term returns.  But others may see it differently.


Question #3

Hey Dave, loving the podcast.  Just wanted to know what your opinion is on equal weight etfs?

For example, MVW – Van Eck Equal Weight ETF.  Sure, the management fee is a little more and there’s some rebalancing etc.

But the performance seems to be better than a regular index fund like VAS.  And you seem to get way better diversification, not so much concentration in one industry like banking.


Strong Money’s Answer:

The equal weight fund is interesting.  Turnover doesn’t seem that high (since the distributions aren’t huge), so it’s tax efficient.  Fees aren’t horribly high either.  The fund is also over $1 billion, so it won’t be getting shut down anytime soon.

I guess the thing is, this fund won’t always outperform.  It has outperformed in the last 5 years because large caps like banks have underperformed.

By definition, it underweights large companies, and overweights mid sized companies, compared to a broad index fund.  So if and when that reverses (which it has to at some point), the opposite will occur.

It’s also been helped by overweighting tech (but some of these have zero earnings and are still up 5-10x!)  Also, some day the big winners become large caps themselves, at which point, you’ll then be underweight these winners and have to hope the next batch of mid cap stocks do the same thing.

Imagine underweighting large caps in the US.  You would’ve probably been crushed, because the largest companies have been performing the best.  These things go both ways.

I don’t like that the fund has a rule of ‘minimum of 25 holdings’.  Theoretically, the fund could be running a very small portfolio at some point, which would make me nervous.  So I wouldn’t want to use this as my entire Aussie shares exposure.

If you’re buying it because you expect it to keep outperforming, I don’t think that’s a great idea.  But if you’re buying it alongside a broad Aussie fund, and you feel more comfortable having both, then it could be worth considering.

Part of me suspects that recent performance could be creating the attraction though.  If it had underperformed recently, would you still be looking at it?

As far as investing in an ETF other than a plain index fund, this is one of the few I’d consider.  But it might be hard to keep holding it when at some point large caps outperform again.


Question #4

Hi Dave, hoping you are well.  I was hoping you could expand on Peter Thornhill’s position on ETFs, regarding the trust structure and liquidity.

I am trying to decide on whether to sell my ETFs and consolidate into LICs as Peter’s arguments are compelling!  Keep up the great work!


Strong Money’s Answer:

I can’t speak for Peter, but I have briefly spoken to him about this.  He doesn’t like the trust structure because any realised capital gains from turnover in the fund has to be paid out.  That can be pretty tax inefficient.

But this concern is not a problem with broad index funds like VAS, because turnover is extremely low (less than 5%).  In fact, it’s similar to the old LICs, sometimes lower.

However, this concern is valid for unlisted managed funds (which have to deal with people redeeming their money), and ETFs which change their portfolio around regularly.

Peter is also concerned about liquidity – being able to buy and sell when you want or need to.  But this is also not a problem with broad index funds.

When we buy LICs, we’re buying from people who are selling.  When we buy index funds, the same is also true.

But in addition to this, if there are no sellers, a ‘market maker’ will step in to create units for Vanguard, which will take your money and then replicate the index for you.  This is not available with LICs.  So there is actually more liquidity with something like VAS, not less.

I’ve talked to Peter about these points but he’s not convinced.  He’s happy sticking with LICs (they’ve served him well and I still like them too).  But these two supposed negatives are not really an issue for broad index funds, so the fears aren’t warranted.


Question #5

Here’s my investment strategy outside of super: throw all my spare money (minus the occasional whisky bottle) into Vanguard high growth index fund.

I use the managed fund version – even though fees are higher, I am more committed (tried the ETF route, but it’s easier to find $100 than $2000).

However, I may be having crypto FOMO.  I’m still erring on the side of it all being voodoo and I should stick to my plan.  But there is that sneaky voice on my shoulder saying just throw some coin in, what’s the worst that could happen?

What are your thoughts on crypto and do you think it will ever form part of your strategy towards wealth creation?  Cheers and keep up the awesome work (love the podcast).


Strong Money’s Answer:

I like your approach and that you’ve found a good workaround for your mindset, making it easier to invest regularly.  This is a great example where it’s not all about fees – our habits and behaviour are equally important.

And there’s good news:  As of 1 October, the retail funds will move to the same low fee as the wholesale funds.  Most people will be able to access these by opening a Vanguard’s new Personal Investor account.  There is an account fee but this will still work out far cheaper than the old retail funds.

Okay, crypto.  Well, the worst that could happen is whatever you buy goes to zero and it was a complete waste of time (and money).  Additionally, crypto could take off and you think it’s the best thing ever so you start tipping more and more in, and then it collapses.

I think crypto (the currency, not the technology) is rubbish to be honest.  It will never form part of my wealth strategy.  It may become a store of wealth like gold, but gold is also useless in my view.  It does nothing, it’s a lump of rock which produces no earnings or dividends, and has no fundamental value other than what people are willing to pay for it.

Yes, you can make pretty things with gold and I get that people like gold because it moves differently than stocks, so it offers a ‘diversification’ benefit.  But I have no interest in using an asset with no fundamentals and low expected returns to help me diversify.

Compare that to real estate which provides housing or a place for business to operate from.  Compare it to companies which make real cashflows providing goods and services, software, food, medicine, telecoms and so on which keeps the world running.

There is a fundamental reason that business and real estate have value today and will remain valuable in the future.  They produce cashflow.  What do metals and crypto provide?  They go up if other people want to pay more than you did?

Anyway, I’m clearly not a fan.  But if you want to put a tiny bit of cash in to participate and not ‘miss out’, then that’s up to you.  But have a very strict limit and be honest with yourself that it is 100% speculation, not investing.


Question #6

Hi mate, can you help out a newbie?  Can you please explain franking credits and how they work etc?

Sorry for the boring, simple request.  Thanks for your writing, I am working my way through your content and learning heaps.


Strong Money’s Answer:

Here’s the basic rundown…

Franking credits are essentially a tax credit.  Aussie companies earn money and then pay tax.  Then from what’s left they pay shareholders a dividend.  But because they’ve already paid tax on this money, you get a credit known as a ‘franking credit’, for the tax that has already been paid on this money.

You’ll receive a cash dividend with a franking credit ‘attached’ to it.  Your dividend statement will show both the dividend and the franking credit.

At tax time, you declare the dividend and the tax credit, and the ATO works out if you have to pay any tax or you get a refund.  There’s a franking credit calculator on this page which can help estimate the tax outcome of your dividends.


Question #7

Hello.  Could you please write about what security is behind ETF investments?

What happens if Selfwealth disappears?  Or if Vanguard goes bankrupt?  What happens with the money invested?  Is it backed up by real shares?


Strong Money’s Answer:

Great question.

First, Selfwealth are simply a broker, like Commsec or anyone else.  The holdings we’re buying are CHESS sponsored.  That means our ownership is electronically recorded with the ASX (Australian Securities Exchange).  Selfwealth (the broker in this case) is simply the place where we do our shopping.

If Selfwealth or another broker was to disappear, your holdings don’t disappear.  Your holdings/trading account can simply be transferred to another broker at that point.

Vanguard is the manager of the actual funds you’ve invested in.  But in the unlikely event that Vanguard went broke, this still isn’t something to worry about.  If you google this, it has been written about at length many times.

Vanguard takes your money and invests it directly into replicating the ASX 300 share index (using VAS as an example).  If Vanguard disappears, the management of the funds could be transferred to someone else, but you still own the underlying shares.  Hope that makes sense!



That’s it for today!  A lot of comments about the podcast… is anyone still reading the blog?  Haha 😉

I hope you found this Q&A session interesting.  If you have a question you’d like me to answer, send it through via my contact page and I’ll do my best to get back to you.  I can’t reply to everyone unfortunately, but I do try.

How would you answer these questions?  Do you have any thoughts on these topics?  Let me know in the comments below.  Thanks for reading!


56 Replies to “Sitting Down with Strong Money – Your Questions Answered #13”

  1. Thanks for another great q and a blog Dave! I do love the podcast but I have to admit I love the blog and the Q and A’s in particular just that little bit more haha. Hope they continue long into the future in addition to the podcast.

    1. Haha thanks Marc, that’s good to know! Must admit, even though podcasts and youtube are gaining popularity over blogs, I personally prefer writing over speaking, and reading over watching/listening (usually). So the written word will always be my favourite 🙂

      1. Feels like vlogging/podcasting is easier for creating, but more difficult for to consume. I love to read through an article at *my* pace. Agreed: the Q&A format is great!

        1. Thanks Ricky. I actually find writing easier than podcasting (though more time consuming), probably because it’s easier to figure out what I want to say and I can take my time, just like with reading as you mentioned.

  2. Thanks Dave.
    Regarding crypto: there are ways to get yield from Bitcoin and other Ethereum based tokens but they do require a bit of technical know-how. I’ve been getting a steady 7% yield via Blockfi for example.
    Lumping all cryptocurrencies together is a bit of a strawman type argument. There are some that are junk pump&dump operations – much like some small cap mining explorers, there are some that are actively trying to solve problems in the crypto world as well as ones that allow for decentralised financial applications relying on the security of the underpinning contracts.
    Then there’s the large market coins like BTC & ETH. These would be where the majority of investment would reside. It’s much easier to get your hands on BTC & ETH than it is to hold Gold and Silver bullion.
    I’d suggest researching Nugget’s News (out of Tasmania) for a deep dive into this stuff. His chats with the Real Vision crew are intensely interesting.

    1. I’d be interested to hear how you gain a yield specifically from a digital currency. The only thing I can think of is by lending that currency but then you aren’t really getting the yield from the currency but from the lending of that currency. Sort of like if I have a $10 note I can lend it to someone to get interest but the physical note itself can’t produce any yield all on its own.

        1. Could not the same be said for Gold or Fine Art? A famous painting is only as valuable as someone is prepared to pay for it. Gold is a lump of cold inert metal.

          1. Yes, I also wouldn’t consider those true investments. They might do fine in terms of performance, but it’s still a game of popularity. Not for me.

  3. Don’t you dare stop writing Dave ????!

    Nothing beats a good blog post even though it’s the least consumed medium of the big three ????

  4. People definitely still reading the blogs!

    I’ve even noticed the weekly Saturday blogs have dropped off a bit recently. Not a dig, more of a compliment cause I always looked forward to receiving the notification e-mail!

    Keep up the great content in all forms!

    1. Ah yes, I’ve moved to a blog post every 1.5 weeks, rather than every 1 week. So one post is Saturday, another is 10 days later mid-week. Otherwise it feels like I’m spamming people with too much content (2 blogs and 1 podcast a fortnight), not to mention the time it consumes.

      Still trying to find the right balance! What if I switched back to the Saturday email but every second one was a blog? Or 2 out of 3? With the other one being a podcast.

      1. You do you man!

        But since you’ve (kind of) asked, I reckon your idea of one e-mail a week does sound good. Switching between the blog and podcast will give me (and others) the weekly SMA fix and hopefully not consume too much of your time.

        1. Thanks for the feedback, I really appreciate it! One piece of content a week seems like a nice dosage 🙂

  5. Definitely prefer the written medium, I find it easier to digest.

    I also usually listen to music while I read, can’t do that with podcasts or videos.

    Keep it up! Cheers.

    1. Cheers Scott 🙂 Wow that’s impressive! I can only do one thing at a time or my brain gets fried lol.

  6. Regarding #5 and Vanguard’s Personal Investor, unfortunately, existing holders cannot transfer to the lower cost platform yet. To do so at the moment they would have to sell their existing holding, open a new account and an re-purchase. Vanguard are apparently working through this for existing holders. There must be some pedantic legal type issue, or something. In any case, I’m looking forward to saving some fees “in the coming months”…

      1. Hi Dave. To be honest I don’t know. It is not really clear to me what is happening with existing retail fund holders. I’ve assumed we’re not getting reduced fees, because it is still the same old retail fund. Vanguard aren’t charging us the 0.2% account balance fee. So I don’t think they’d want to give up revenue by reducing our fees. But I’m just glad that they do seem to have a plan to transfer us to the lower fee structure at some point.

  7. Hi Dave,
    I look forward to Saturday’s to receive the blog.
    Any more reviews on LIC’s coming soon?


    1. Cheers Len! Looks like I better move back to the Saturday schedule! I don’t want to disappoint anyone though when they were hoping for a blog and instead they get a podcast, haha.

      As for LIC reviews, it’s doubtful. I’ve reviewed the main ones I find worthy of consideration. Most others (not all) are higher fee, do lots of trading and less simple in their strategy. I may consider writing about another one or two at some point though.

  8. Great stuff thanks. Was wondering if your stance on LICs is slowing changing in favour of ETFs ? Would you ever end up being happy to hold no LICs at all , and just vas ? Iv enjoyed the LICs dividend smoothing so far. ???? from me for Saturday emails ????

    1. Wow, another one for the Saturday email – thanks for the feedback Luke! At this stage I’m still happy with my LICs and have no intention of getting rid of them. I still like the dividend smoothing, their philosophy and the ability to buy when trading at decent discounts. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s to avoid becoming set in concrete about one type of investment over another, so I can’t say never. I try to keep an open mind and am willing to change things around if it seems appropriate.

  9. Once a week sounds great to me Dave! Love the regular content. I’m not a huge fan of emails though, so please don’t ever get rid of the RSS feed. I feel bad when I sign up for a few of the tools you’ve provided and then immediately unsubscribe. It’s nothing personal, I just prefer organising all my blogs in my RSS reader.

    1. Looked at another way, it’s gone nowhere in 40 years ago after inflation. Long term returns in the following two pages:
      Real returns from the following asset classes over the last 210 years…(according to Jeremy Siegel)

      Stocks: 6.6%
      Bonds: 3.6%
      Treasury bills: 2.7%
      Gold: 0.7%

      Something can have poor expected returns and actually go up – those are two different things. But since there is no fundamental earnings attached to gold, it’s pure price speculation where gold is going over the next 30 years. It may go up, sure, but maybe not. Compared to other assets which have cashflows underpinning their returns (even if no price growth occurs). So either way, gold still has low expected returns in the long run.

      1. Well yes, if you cherry pick the (inflation adjusted) last all time high of 40 years ago, gold appears to go nowhere. I can do the same thing for the Japanese stock market and probably any other asset. What is the significance of someone buying gold only during 1980 and selling now? Is that even remotely likely or realistic? Another way of stating the same point is: if you bought at literally any year other than 1980 (or – much more realistically – dollar cost averaged over many years/decades), gold will have performed very well indeed. We can expect that it will continue to (on average) as fiat currencies continue to devalue. If the financial system becomes rational again, then gold can be expected to maintain its purchasing power without any returns.
        The fact that there are no earnings attached to gold is correct, and irrelevant. Why would earnings be required for an investment? Many investments don’t have any earnings; and many investments that do have earnings under-perform their competitors in their asset class, as well as other asset classes. Still others earn for a time and then collapse to $0. I’m willing to bet any amount of money that gold will never hit $0 at any point in time, ever. The existence of earnings is not indicative of investment performance. You’re “speculating” just as much on any asset that produces earnings as one that doesn’t.

        1. Haha just like you cherry picked the 20 year date 😉

          You said: “You’re speculating on any asset that produces earnings as one that doesn’t”. No, not at all. Because you’re investing FOR that stream of earnings – that is a tangible stream of cashflow that exists today.

          If you buy a business, property whatever and it does nothing but send you that stream of current earnings, you’ll earn a return. Gold is dependant on a rising price to deliver any return at all, which is based as much on popularity as anything else (whether people value it as a worthy of their dollars). Of course single companies can go to zero, that’s why we diversify. That doesn’t mean earnings are irrelevant.

          Gold is often seen as an inflation hedge because of the currency devaluation you mentioned, which is fine. It’s fair to expect some return perhaps, but I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect strong long term returns from gold. If gold keeps up with inflation, that would match my ‘low expected returns’ comment. Obviously you have different views on it.

          1. Not at all. Pick a 10 year date, or 25 years, or 39 years, or 41 years, or 76 years, or whatever. Literally the only outlier year is 40 years ago. 20 years is very ordinary and representative, not cherry picked in the slightest.

            Many companies don’t distribute any stream of earnings at all. Typically the highest growth companies don’t. If you buy Tesla stocks, you are speculating that the stock price will be higher in the future, not that you’ll be earning a stream of dividends.

            And again, even if a company does have *some* earnings and distribute *something* as dividends, that doesn’t mean you’re earning a return. Frequently companies do that even though their stock price has gone down and you’re in an overall negative position – worse than gold even merely keeping up with inflation. Santos and all of the banks I own in VHY fit into that category. They earn fat wads of cash and even distribute some of it to me every year, yet I’ve lost money since I bought because the stock price has gone down. So again, earnings alone are irrelevant. Total returns over time, being dividends + capital growth, is the only metric that matters. The fact that gold doesn’t distribute a dividend isn’t relevant, because of its capital growth.

            And if you’re so desperate for a dividend income stream from gold, you can just buy one of many gold mining companies or ETFs. Maybe their total value will exceed your investment; in many cases it doesn’t.

          2. I wasn’t referring to dividends, but the underlying point that there is a fundamental stream of earnings to back up the value. The same point remains that gold is not a productive asset, it doesn’t do anything. So it’s almost like fine art, collectible cars and the like – their values are based on popularity. Which are all fine to own, but I wouldn’t consider those rational investments either, since the return simply relies on people paying more than you did, for the same asset that still produces nothing. We seem to be going around in circles due so it’s healthier to just end the conversation here.

        2. Unlike Copper or Iron ore, Gold has limited properties which can be used in manufacturing. The reality is the value of gold is dependent on what the next person wants to pay for it. In times of high inflation or war or when fear drives the market then people are willing to pay a high price for Gold, at other times, perhaps not.

          Gold does not produce any earnings and you will need to find a safe place to store it. If you store your gold bars in the bank safe deposit, it will cost you money to keep something that does not produce an income.

          You are buying VHY which is an ETF on high yield stocks, I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect a strong capital growth on such ETF given the high yield nature of the ETF and also Australian Shares are already one of the highest yield market in the world.

          One ounce of Gold might cost $2500 USD, but there is no way of knowing how much it will be next month, year or in a decade. Whereas with a diversified portfolio of shares that generates good quality cash flow, we can reasonably expect that it will be worth a lot more in the next decade. Of course nothing is certain or risk free, but is Gold risk free or Certain ?

          1. Pretty much everything you just said is false. Gold has superlative material properties; many of which are so valuable that it *is* used industrially despite its astronomical price (same for platinum, palladium and rhodium). The only reason it isn’t used more commonly in industry is, again, because it is so expensive. If that asteroid that contains a quadrillion dollars of gold was brought down to earth, you could expect to see a great deal of gold being used around you.

            Again, there are many investments that don’t produce earnings and carry holding costs. Irrelevant.

            Yes, I am aware that VHY is an ETF of high yield stocks. That is why I bought it. I don’t know what point you’re trying to make.

            There is no way of knowing what any asset will be worth at any point in time. Gold doesn’t differ from any other in this respect, other than its ~7000 year history of being extremely valuable. Nothing in life is risk free or certain (no, not even death or taxes). Again, no idea what point you’re trying to make with that correct and irrelevant statement.

    1. It’s been argued a thousand times on the internet already, and nobody changes their minds, so we’re all just wasting our time lol

      1. I changed my mind when I researched for myself instead of assuming the hivemind was correct about gold returning nothing. So did every current gold investor, or at least the younger ones.

        1. If I was going to retire tomorrow and have 1 mil dollars…
          I have a choice between putting them into Lics or index funds, which returns lets say 5%… or $50,000 a year in dividends….


          I can buy 370 ounce of gold at the current market price with $1 mil…. or around 10Kg…

          If I’m hungry tomorrow, I will just get a knife, chip some gold off and go to the exchange or dealer and get some money to buy bread or pay for fuel…. one day, maybe just one day, the 10Kg gold will run out….maybe not, you can always plant that gold bar and grow some gold nuggets I guess…

          of course we have no control over price fluctuation or future returns…but I know which one I rather own….

          1. How good are those dividends right now?

            Of course, since it *is* a binary decision between one or the other asset class, there can be no nuanced thought, discussion or asset allocation. Everyone must buy 100% stonks, they are the correct asset (because they only ever go up). All other assets are incorrect (because they go down) and have no place in anyone’s portfolio. This is an entirely rational perspective and hence is what all professionals advise, of course.

  10. If you look at companies such as BKW or Sol Patts which are essentially concentrated Lics, they have maintained or increased dividend for decades……. Sol Patts have never missed a dividend for over 100 years.. Yes, things will be different in the future and the world might end…etc…. but the probability of them maintaining or increasing the dividend is pretty good.

    Traditional Lics such as Arg or MLT have paid dividends for decades… of course, dividend is only part of the story, total returns is what ultimately matters…. however, if you have just gold, when you need the cash flow, you might need to sell at the worst possible time.

    Not saying gold is the worst investment in the world, but I personally prefer shares…if you like gold better, then it make sense to have it in your portfolio…

      1. No one said you would just invest in GOLD…

        I said and quote “I personally prefer shares…if you like gold better, then it make sense to have it in your portfolio…” where does it say invest only in gold ?

        1. You said it right here:
          “however, **if you have just gold**, when you need the cash flow, you might need to sell at the worst possible time.”

          And here:
          “I have a choice between putting them into Lics or index funds…**Or I can buy 370 ounce of gold**”

          And here:
          “but I know **which one** I rather own….”

  11. Hi Dave,
    Thanks for the great content.
    I am looking for an LIC/ETF that invests in the top 300-500 global companies. I know you can’t recommend anything, but can you give me a couple of names that I could research myself?
    Kind regards

    John G

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