Simple Investing for Troubled Times

In some recent papers, researchers argue that ...
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Actively managed funds are promoted because of the trading revenue they generate for the financial institutions. It does not matter whether the market is up or down the institutions make money on every trade. This strategy is not in your best interest.

Dump your actively managed fundsSeeking “alpha” is exciting. “Alpha” is the value a portfolio manager is supposed to add over its benchmark return. Since you can capture the return of a designated benchmark (net of transaction costs) by buying an index fund that tracks the index, purchasing actively managed funds makes no sense unless the portfolio manager is likely to deliver alpha. Here’s the rub, according to an exhaustive study, only 0.6 percent of managers produce alpha as a consequence of skill.

Don’t be fooled by pre-tax return data

Mutual funds report returns pre-tax. Most investors don’t understand the impact of taxes on their returns. The tax burden of individual investors varies depending on whether their accounts are tax deferred or after-tax accounts and the tax rate of their state of residence. Kritzman uses an example of a Massachusetts resident (admittedly a high tax state) who has a marginal tax rate of 35 percent. If this resident had a choice between an index fund with an expected return of 10 percent, a mutual fund with an expected return of 13.5 percent, and a hedge fund with an expected return of 19 percent, you would think selection of the hedge fund would be a no-brainer. You would be incorrect. At the end of a ten year period, after accounting for transaction costs, taxes, management and performance fees, the simulated return of the index fund was 8.27 percent, which beat the return of the mutual fund (7.82 percent) and the much hyped hedge fund (7.61 percent).

Here’s Kritzman’s conclusion: “It is very hard, if not impossible, to justify active management if your goal is to grow wealth. If, instead, you view active management as a source of entertainment, you may wish to consider less costly ways to amuse yourself.”

Study after study proves that active managers add no value to your portfolio. Investing for retirement is a long term process and a low cost, globally diversified portfolio, risk adjusted for you is the best option.

Please comment or call to discuss how this affects you.

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