Tag Archives: index funds


Active Investing: Rest in Peace or Resurgent Force?

Editor’s note: Today’s guest post is republished from Professor Aswath Damodaran’s blog, Musings on the Market. I was a doctoral student at UCLA, in 1983 and 1984, when I was assigned to be research assistant to  Professor Eugene Fama, who wisely abandoned the University of Chicago during the cold winters for the beaches and tennis courts of Southern California. Professor Fama won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 2013, primarily for laying the foundations for efficient markets in this paper and refining them in his work in the decades after. The debate between passive and active investing that he and others at the University of Chicago initiated has been part of the landscape for more than four decades, with passionate […]

Is Indexing Worse Than Marxism?

Index funds have always been ridiculed by active mutual-fund managers.  Two recent events have fueled a new set of criticisms.  The mid-year 2016 Standard and Poor’s report on index fund performance showed that the superiority of low-cost indexing, whether in the form of mutual funds or exchange-traded funds (ETFs), has increased over time.  Over the preceding five and ten-year periods, index funds outperformed over 80 percent of their active peers.  It has become increasingly untenable to claim that passive index investing produces mediocre results.  The second related event is that investors have increasingly taken note.  Money has been pouring out of active mutual funds and into passively-managed index funds.   Last year investors pulled over $200 billion out of actively-managed […]

Even Warren Buffett Prefers Index Funds

In last year’s Berkshire Hathaway annual report and shareholder letter Warren Buffett caused quite a stir by suggesting that upon his demise the assets he was leaving his wife, in trust, should be invested in index funds (see “Warren Buffett: ‘Investing Advice For You–And My Wife,’” “Will Warren Buffett’s investment advice work for you?,” “Warren Buffett’s 90-10 Rule of Thumb for Retirement Investing,” or “The Warren Buffett Guide to Retirement Investing“). The primary reason for the hubbub was probably the contradiction it represented in coming from Mr. Buffett. An endorsement of index investing from the man who is thought of as one of the greatest stock pickers of all time seemed to fly in the face of all that Buffett […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

Indexing and the Curious Case of Alibaba ($BABA)

It has now been 40 years since I published the first edition of A Random Walk Down Wall Street. The book, about to come out in its 11th edition, had a very simple message: Investors would be better off buying a broad-based index fund that simply held all the stocks in the market. As a result, it might surprise some to hear that not all index funds will serve investors well. Not all index funds are the same, and it is important to understand how indexes are constructed and what stocks they contain. The recent Initial Public Offering of Alibaba stock, the biggest IPO in history, and the failure of many indexes to consider including it, underscores how important it […]

Indexing and the 2014 “Stock-Picker’s” Market

In January of this year it was widely believed 2014 would be a “stock-picker’s” market. While the S&P 500® index of large U.S. stocks produced an extremely generous return of more than 30% in 2013, an indexing strategy was deemed unlikely to be effective in 2014 — or so active managers argued in an attempt to justify their high fees. While several months remain we can still take a preliminary look at the results. The stock market was not quite as favorable this year as it was last year. The S&P 500 produced a rate of return of only  about 7% during the first six months of 2014. But did active managers finally demonstrate their superior skills? The answer is […]

Smart Beta

Fads and fashions have always been part of the financial markets. Around the turn of the century Internet-related stocks were regarded as reliable instruments for growing and preserving wealth. During the early 2000s, real estate was the instrument of choice for savvy investors. Today “Smart Beta” is the mantra of legions of securities salesmen who claim that broad-based low-cost index funds are sub-optimal and that better results can be obtained by biasing portfolios toward a number of characteristics that promise higher returns. There is no universally accepted definition of “Smart Beta.” What most people using the term have in mind is that it may be possible to gain excess (greater than market) returns using a variety of relatively passive investment […]

Wealthfront Named ETF Strategist of the Year

Today I am proud to announce that Wealthfront has been named the “ETF Strategist of the Year” by ETF.com (formerly IndexUniverse), the world’s leading authority on exchange-traded funds. We are especially gratified to be chosen for this award from among all investment management firms that use ETFs, not just new entrants. At Wealthfront, we strive to build a world-class investment service and we’re proud to have assembled an unparalleled investment team led by Burton Malkiel. Over the past year, we added asset classes, released an improved and more diversified investment mix, delivered different asset allocations for taxable vs. retirement accounts to improve after tax returns, and launched the Wealthfront 500. In short, we aim to relentlessly improve our service to […]