Dollar Cost Averaging: A Behavioral View

This is a guest post by Meir Statman. Meir Statman, PhD, is the Glenn Klimek Professor of Finance at the Leavey School of Business, Santa Clara University. He is also an advisor to the Wealthfront Investment Team and the author of “What Investors Really Want: Know What Drives Investor Behavior and Make Smarter Financial Decisions”. Investors with cash destined for stocks sometimes employ dollar-cost-averaging by dividing their cash into segments and committing to convert each segment to stocks according to a predetermined schedule. Investors with $120,000 might employ dollar-cost-averaging by committing to invest $10,000 in stocks on the 10th of each of the coming 12 months. The alternative to dollar-cost averaging is lump-sum investing: investing the entire $120,000 in stocks today. The […]

Which Is More Important: Minimizing Taxes or Minimizing Fees?

Our goal at Wealthfront is to maximize your net-of-fees, after-tax returns. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll know that we say that phrase over and over again. Our chief investment officer, Burton Malkiel, is famous for pointing out that there are only three things you can control when investing – your costs, diversification and taxes – so we built our service around managing those things for our clients. The funny thing is, while we get a lot of credit for building strong portfolios and minimizing fees, the third thing – minimizing taxes – may actually be the most important of all. Our research shows that smart strategies to minimize taxes could enhance your net-of-fees, after-tax return by […]

How Often Should You Check Your Portfolio?

At Wealthfront, we’ve put an incredible amount of time and effort into making our web site and mobile applications informative and easy-to-use. Login to your Wealthfront account and you have a world of information at your fingertips. You can see your overall account value over time. You can view your overall portfolio returns and the returns of the individual ETFs that comprise your portfolios. You can see even where we harvested losses, and chart your projected returns over time. Our teams of designers, engineers and content creators have examined every detail to make the experience as seamless as possible. It is simple, beautiful, and information rich. Which is why it pains me to say this: You shouldn’t look. Despite all […]

How Does Direct Indexing Work?

At Wealthfront, we’re proud of our record of innovation. From tax-loss harvesting to dividend-based rebalancing, we believe our innovations have increased returns for thousands of Wealthfront investors by driving down costs, increasing diversification and reducing taxes. Of all our innovations, however, we’re especially proud of our Direct Indexing service. Introduced in 2013 for accounts over $500,000, and expanded to accounts with $100,000 in assets last year, we call it The Next Generation of Indexing. No other automated investment service offers anything like it. Our Direct Indexing program allows clients to track the returns of the U.S. equity market by directly owning individual securities instead of by buying an exchange-traded fund. Specifically, instead of buying the Vanguard Total Stock Market ETF […]

Why Do Automated Investment Service Portfolios Differ?

The rise of automated investment services like Wealthfront is redefining how people invest their money. The combination of strong academic financial research, software, and exchange-traded funds has allowed firms to offer optimally designed portfolios at extraordinarily low costs. But while most of the major automated investment services, including Wealthfront, base their portfolios on Modern Portfolio Theory (MPT), the portfolios that they create for people are very different. How could this be? As I explained in What Long-Term Return Should I Expect? (and in-depth in our investment methodology white paper), MPT is very sensitive to the inputs that go into it. Different estimates around the volatility, correlation and expected return of each asset class – the key inputs into an MPT […]

How To Beat The Market

There are a million web sites, books and pundits who will tell you that you can’t beat the market. They’re all wrong. Or, at least, they’re not framing things correctly. And I think that’s a major problem. My Wife’s Disappointment This thought occurred to me the other day when I was hiking with my wife in the redwoods of Muir Woods National Monument, outside of San Francisco. We were hiking and talking and, as sometimes happens, we started talking about investing. I was telling her about automated investment services like Wealthfront and what they were doing for the world. I explained how they built broadly diversified, optimized portfolios that are managed at extraordinarily low costs. I talked about how they […]

Debunking The Myth of Magical Options Strategies

Earlier this month, Duncan Gilchrist and I wrote a blog debunking the idea that you can achieve high returns with limited downside using hedge funds. Our research compared the risk adjusted returns of a standard, broadly diversified Wealthfront portfolio with the average returns of hedge funds over the past ten years. The data showed that, despite all the hype, money and excitement hedge funds elicit, you would have achieved a far better risk-adjusted return with a Wealthfront portfolio. Specifically, the Wealthfront portfolio posted a Sortino ratio of 0.62 vs. 0.43 for the HFRI hedge fund index during the time period studied. Importantly, we also showed how much quicker the Wealthfront portfolio bounced back from the financial crisis of 2008, with […]

Why Did Wealthfront Hire A World-Class Research Team?

Readers of our blog know we are big advocates of passive investing. We believe that buying a broadly diversified portfolio and running it at extraordinarily low costs is the foundation of any sound investment strategy. Given how simple our approach is, you might ask why we employ a research team of six PhDs led by Burt Malkiel, the man who inspired the creation of the index fund. What, exactly, do they do all day? Well, for more than forty years, Burt has said that since you can’t beat the market you should focus your investment efforts on the three things that actually can make a difference to your investment returns: diversifying your portfolio, minimizing cost and minimizing taxes. Not surprisingly, […]

Smart Beta and Factor Timing

A new research paper from Denys Glushkov, Research Director at Wharton Research Data Services of the University of Pennsylvania is raising some eyebrows in the smart beta world. The paper is one of the most comprehensive independent looks at the performance of smart-beta ETFs, and the results are not pretty. Despite looking at 11 years of real data, the paper finds no evidence that smart beta ETFs have outperformed the market on a risk-adjusted basis. To be specific, the study looks at the performance of 164 domestic equity smart beta ETFs and comes up snake eyes. The result must come as a shock to the smart beta industry. To date, most of the “studies” on smart beta have been from […]

The Fight for a Fiduciary Standard

Wealthfront was founded on a simple vision: that every investor, large and small, deserves sophisticated financial advice. And contrary to a large majority of the industry, we always put our clients first. A teacher making $50,000 a year deserves the same high-quality investment service as an institution managing $500 million. It’s why I signed up as a Wealthfront client when it launched, why I joined the company two years ago, and what inspires me and my colleagues to come to work each day. If you come visit our offices in Palo Alto, you’ll see a giant chalk wall in the back of the office reminding us of this. All the ideas center around one thing: doing the best possible thing […]