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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.



What Long-Term Return Should I Expect?

One of the most common questions posed to our client services team is “What is the expected long-term rate of return I can assume if I invest in a diversified portfolio?” Based on return estimates derived from the market (not Wealthfront’s opinion), an optimally diversified portfolio of low-cost index funds is expected to generate an annual long-term pre-tax  return of 4% – 6%, depending on how much risk you are willing to tolerate. It should be noted that the returns achieved over the past two years were much higher, but as you know past returns are not indicative of future returns. Returns Are Almost Impossible to Predict Some of you might be disappointed with this expected long-term return. I wish it […]

Minimize Your Investment Taxes

Our Chief Investment Officer, Burt Malkiel, famed author of “A Random Walk Down Wall Street,” has spent the past 40 years explaining that investors can’t control the market, so they should focus their efforts on the three investment tactics within their control: Diversify and rebalance your portfolio Minimize fees Minimize taxes Previously, we published posts on the value of diversification and minimizing fees. However, too often the industry avoids talking about one of the most important aspects of maximizing your long-term investment results: minimizing taxes. The Seven Ways to Minimize Taxes There are seven ways Wealthfront can significantly reduce your investment taxes: Using Index Funds Rebalancing your portfolio with dividends Applying different asset allocations for taxable & retirement accounts Tax–loss […]

There’s No Need to Fear Stock Market Corrections

Individual investors react very poorly to stock market corrections. Many individual investors sell when the market declines out of fear it will never come back. The data, which we will present in this post, actually says the opposite. Not only will the market come back, but it will do so a lot sooner than you might think. As you can see from the chart below, over the past 50 years there have been 14 market corrections and 11 bear markets. The industry standard definition of a market correction is a peak-to-trough decline of at least 10% and the definition of a bear market is a peak-to-trough decline of at least 20%. For the purpose of this analysis we rounded up […]

Fees Can Destroy Your Return

In an environment where a diversified portfolio is only expected to return on the order of 6% annually, any fees will have a significant impact on your outcome. In the same way that investing for the long-term takes advantage of the power of compounding, the regular or recurring fees you pay reduces the overall potential of your portfolio. To illustrate the point, here’s an example from the SEC on its own fee fact sheet: If you invested $10,000 in a fund that produced a 10% annual return before expenses and had annual operating expenses of 1.5%, then after 20 years you would have roughly $49,725. But if the fund had expenses of only 0.5%, then you would end up with […]

You Can’t Get Access to the Best Alternative Assets

One of the services most frequently touted by private wealth managers is their ability to provide access to outstanding alternative assets like hedge funds. Unfortunately very few private wealth managers have access to the hedge funds that are worth the fees. Of course, that won’t stop them from promising you the best and delivering poor alternatives. That’s why David Swensen, Yale’s Chief Investment Officer and the man most identified with employing alternative assets, essentially says in the introduction to his groundbreaking book Pioneering Portfolio Management, that if you can access premier alternative assets like hedge funds, you should, but it’s highly unlikely that you can, so you shouldn’t. Understanding Risk and Reward As we have explained many times in this blog, […]

The Stock-Pickers’ Market Myth

Earlier this month, Barron’s ran a cover story that made the case that 2015 was likely to be a “stock pickers’ market.” Active portfolio managers were expected to “recapture their lost glory” as interest rates were predicted to rise. Unfortunately, we have heard similar claims at the start of every year. In early 2014 The Wall Street Journal ran an article predicting that 2014 would be a stock pickers’ market as the correlation between the S&P 500® index and its component stocks was declining. Indeed, in every year one can find similar predictions for the year ahead. Money managers have a number of clichés they use to promote their high-priced services, and “stock pickers’ market” is one of their favorites. […]

Has Indexing Become Too Popular?

Indexed investment strategies (passively holding portfolios that simply buy and hold all the securities in a particular market) continue to increase in popularity. Currently more than 35% of investment portfolios use index funds to gain exposure to the U.S. stock market.1 And according to Morningstar Investment Research, more than 55% of the moneys invested in equity mutual funds during 2014 went into index funds — rather than actively-managed funds. Given this success, people often ask whether index funds have become too popular. Could we be entering a period when active portfolio management will become more advantageous? And could the very size of index funds interfere with their ability to produce exceptional results? My answer to both questions is a clear […]

Choosing Asset Classes Is Another Form of Market Timing

Any reader of our blog will know that we are not fans of market timing. As our CIO Burt Malkiel is fond of pointing out, research consistently proves it’s almost impossible to outperform the market by attempting to time it. Burt has won great acclaim since he first wrote about this phenomenon 40 years ago in A Random Walk Down Wall Street. The lessons of 40 years ago are just as appropriate today, which is why the book is still a best seller and soon to be released in its 11th edition. We have written about many ways to time the market on this blog — choosing individual securities, investing in individual real estate properties, timing when to withdraw from […]

The Right and Wrong Reasons to Change Your Risk Tolerance

Our clients sometimes ask us how often they should change their risk tolerance score. The answer is: Not often. You won’t be surprised to find that the question comes up most frequently when the markets are either up big or down big. Human nature leads us to want to increase our risk tolerance when we experience an up market and decrease our risk tolerance in down markets. Like most everything in investing, what feels right seldom is. There are a few good reasons to change your risk tolerance but there are also bad reasons that you should learn to recognize and avoid. Good Reasons: Significant Financial Changes There are several significant events that can change your risk tolerance: A major […]

Why You Shouldn’t Just Invest in the S&P 500

Diversification matters. Diversification is the key to long-term investment success because it can insulate you, to some extent, from losses. If you feel insulated, you are more likely to stay invested and keep investing through market volatility. Being properly diversified also enables the actions that help you during market corrections: rebalancing and tax-loss harvesting. Investors often think they have a diversified portfolio when, actually, they don’t. One of the common questions we get from investors who don’t use Wealthfront is: “Why shouldn’t I just invest in the S&P 500®?” They seem to believe investing in an index that gives them exposure to a broad selection of securities means they have a diversified portfolio. Having a broad selection of securities is […]