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Your financial plan is solid, you’ve even set aside a rainy day fund. Now what? How do you invest well? Get a better understanding of investing with ETFs, asset allocation, rebalancing, and tax-optimization strategies.

Five irrational fears that keep people from firing their advisor

Everything about investing is irrational. As we have often written on this blog, what feels like the right thing to do usually isn’t. The most classic example is a falling market. We all know we should invest when markets decline and sell when they rise, but that’s counter to what our emotions tell us. Lots of investors have an emotional connection with their advisor as well, and one of the most harmful irrational behaviors we see is an unwillingness to change advisor relationships. As best as I can tell, there are five common irrational reasons why clients are reluctant to leave their current advisor: They fear they will lose the opportunity to borrow at a preferred mortgage rate They fear […]

Clawback Fees: How Brokers Pull Money From Your Wallet on the Way Out

At this point, it’s likely not a surprise to anyone that the brokerage industry keeps finding new ways to put its hands in your pocket. Charles Schwab, to take one example, publishes a 14-page document outlining all of its fees. And although they do make this document public, we are still surprised by some of their tricks when it comes to fees. But sometimes there is a practice that is so surprising, so despicable, it warrants a bit of attention. Today, we’re going to talk about clawback fees. Why It’s Called the Clawback Fee Wealthfront has the benefit of seeing clients transfer their accounts to us from a wide variety of brokerage firms. This gives us a front-row seat to […]

Bigger Accounts Mean Bigger Tax Savings

In investing, bigger is often better. Larger investors typically get lower fees, better service and access to better investing talent. One of the things I’m most proud of about Wealthfront is the fact that we’ve been able to level the playing field for smaller investors. By automating our backend and investing in efficiency, we’re able to offer institutional-quality investment management to accounts of all sizes at a fraction of the cost of traditional wealth management firms. But even at Wealthfront, bigger is better in one sense: larger accounts give us the flexibility to offer ever-more-effective tax management strategies. Our ground breaking tax-loss harvesting service works great for small accounts, but thanks to direct indexing, it works better for accounts with […]

It’s Not Easy

Editor’s Note: This week we are publishing a letter Howard Marks, co-chairman of Oaktree Capital, recently sent to his investors. Howard is an amazing investor, but is as well known for his fantastic quarterly letters as he is his outstanding investment returns. Over the years I have been greatly influenced by Howard’s letters. This one truly captures why very few people are able to consistently outperform the market. It’s a lot longer than what you might be used to on our blog, but I promise it’s well worth reading to the end. It’s Not Easy In 2011, as I was putting the finishing touches on my book The Most Important Thing, I was fortunate to have one of my occasional […]

Beware Snake Oil Salesmen During Market Downturns

With U.S. equity markets trading down and emerging markets in a full-on correction, it’s natural to feel nervous about the future. As we’ve written in the past, the best thing you can do in situations like this is stay the course and let diversification and tax-loss harvesting protect your downside. But if history is any guide, you’re about to get inundated with people telling you exactly the opposite. Over the next few months, market strategists, mutual fund salespeople, hedge funds and financial advisors will pop up to talk about how they sidestepped the August pullback and protected clients from pain. They’ll couch their performance in catchy terminology talking about moving averages, momentum strategies, volatility monitoring and other hoo-haw. The underlying […]

Physician, Heal Thy Balance Sheet

So it turns out there’s a good reason your mother wanted you to be a doctor. As a group, no other profession generates higher average annual income than physicians. In fact, U.S. government data shows that various medical specialties account for the nine highest-paying occupations in the country – anesthesiologists and surgeon rank #1 and #2, respectively, with oral surgeons close behind. (CEOs, by the way, rank #10.) Just five job categories in the government survey sport annual salaries north of $200,000 a year – and all of them require medical degrees. See, mother knows best. The catch, of course, is that it takes a long time for doctors to reach six-figure annual earnings power. Four years of college, four […]

What You Should Do in Volatile and Uncertain Markets

World stock markets have been extremely volatile in 2015. Returns since the start of the year have been negative and the markets have recently experienced a major correction. Returns from fixed income investments have also been unusually low. The reaction of many investors to these market conditions has been to run to the sidelines and stop investing—or even worse to liquidate their investments. Indeed, many individual investors have panicked and liquidated their stock holdings. Years of investing experience suggests that such reactions are extremely harmful for anyone who desires to accumulate a nest egg for future expenditures such as buying a home or ultimately establishing a retirement portfolio. A policy of staying the course and steadily putting new savings into […]

Commission-Free ETFs Aren’t What They Seem

Much has been made of the launch of commission-free ETF trading programs at places like Charles Schwab, Fidelity, TD Ameritrade and others. But are these a good deal? Let’s start with the positives. If you are a retail investor regularly socking away $100 or $500 or $1,000 (or even $10,000) a month, and you’re buying ETFs and paying a commission on those trades, you’re doing yourself a disservice. If the average portfolio holds seven ETFs (like most Wealthfront portfolios), and you’re paying a $8.95 commission each time you invest, you’re paying $63.65 to make these trades (7 * $8.95 = $63.65). That’s 60% of your investment if you’re putting $100 to work each month, which is obviously absurd. But it’s […]

Not Everyone Wants to Manage Their Own Investments

One of the biggest lessons I teach my MBAs at Stanford Graduate School of Business is to not project their tastes onto others when evaluating a business idea. That’s very hard advice to take because human nature leads us to think others must share our views. A product or service’s success doesn’t depend on whether you like it. Rather it depends on whether the target audience – of which you may not be a part – likes it. This insight was critical to my and my Benchmark partners’ success as venture capitalists. And yet, I constantly see this mistake made when people talk about the investment industry. It might surprise you to learn that approximately 75% of US individuals prefer […]

What Greece and China Teach Us About Investing

It’s been a crazy couple of weeks for the investing world. China’s stock market – after one of the biggest run-ups of any market in history – has suffered a 40% collapse in just a few weeks. Greece has teetered on the brink of default, and still may or may not exit the Euro. The U.S. has drawn up a major new deal with Iran; oil is down sharply; and Indian stocks are rallying like mad. What should an investor do? In a word: Nothing. If there’s anything that the day-by-day machinations of the market teach us, it is that slow and steady wins the race. The Incredible Mean-Reverting Nature of Stock Returns Investors have long known that staying the […]