Lazy Portfolios update by Paul Farrell provides some examples of how to use index funds to manage your investments:
I think the article is a bit misleading in showing the out-performance of the S&P 500 index (during periods where the S&P 500 index does very well these portfolios will under-perform it). The out-performance shown in the article is largely due to the great performance of international markets recently. Still the strategy is well worth reading about. The strategy is based on using index funds from Vanguard (very well run mutual funds with very low fees). But don’t get tied into Vanguard, if they start to focus on lining their pockets by increasing your fees look for alternatives.
Overall, I give this concept high marks. Dollar cost average appropriate levels of money into such a strategy and you will give yourself a good chance at positive results.
My preference would be to include significant levels of international and developing stocks. For aggressive long term investing I like something like:
40% USA total stock market
15% Real Estate
25% international developed stock market index
20% developing stock market index
When aiming for more security and preserving capital (over growth) I favor something like:
30% USA total stock market
10% Real Estate
25% international developed stock market index
10% developing stock market index
10% short term bond index
15% money market
Of course all sorts of personal financial factors need to be considered for any specific person’s allocations.
What Should You Do With a Check Out of the Blue?
The USA government is sending out checks to taxpayers in an effort to encourage spending which in turn will provide stimulus to the economy in the very short term. First, this is bad policy in my opinion. Second, if you support this policy the precondition is you run surpluses in order to pay for it when you want to carry out such a policy. They have not, instead they have run huge deficits. What they have chosen to do is spend huge amounts and have the taxes paid by the children and grandchildren of those the politicians are spending the money on today. I would support Keynesian government spending in a serious recession or depression – just not for a country already with enormous debts and in a very mild recession.
But ok, so the government chooses to spend your children’s taxes foolishly, what should you do now? This is very easy. Whatever is the wisest move for your personal financial situation for any windfall you receive, regardless of the source of that windfall. If all your savings needs are met there is nothing wrong with buying some toy. But most people need to pay off debt, build an emergency fund, save for retirement or something similar not get another toy. Of course would be nothing wrong with donating it Kiva, Trickle Up, the Concord Coalition or your favorite charity.
The politicians are acting like a 5 year old that wants a new toy. I can too get the new toy now :-O, Mommy you can use your credit card. So what if you already bought me so many toys you couldn’t afford by using your other credit cards and they won’t lend you any more money. Just get another one. Similar to how congress recently yet again increased the allowable federal debt limit to over $9,000,000,000,000.
The stimulus effect of spending is that if you actually purchase a new toy (say a TV), then the store needs to replace that TV so the factory makes another TV… The store, shipper, factory, supplier to the factory all pay staff to carry this out, those staff can buy new books, dishwasher… and the business may buy a new forklift or computer to keep up…
$2.54 Trillion seems like a great deal to me. Based on a population of 300 million people that would mean $8,467 for every person in just personal debt. USA GDP = $13 trillion. USA federal debt = $9.4 trillion (based on the USA government accounting – so way understating the true debt). USA federal budget $3 trillion.
We both waffle back and forth on these two perspectives and right now we’ve settled somewhere in between. Our children know we have debt, but don’t know the amount. They know I make pretty decent money, but don’t know how much. Our older boys pretty much know the details of our monthly expenses, such as the cable bill, phone bill, utility bills, etc. We’ve shared this with them to help them appreciate things a little more.
I definitely think talking about finances with children is important. I don’t have kids, but I was one 🙂 I don’t think you need to get into exactly what the figures are to have valuable conversations. Far too many people become adults with far too poor an understanding of personal finance. Given how important managing money is today I think it is like hunter-gathers not teaching a kid how to hunt.
Books: Money Sense for Kids – Growing Money: A Complete Investing Guide for Kids – The Motley Fool Investment Guide for Teens – Raising Financially Fit Kids – A Smart Girl’s Guide to Money: How to Make It, Save It, And Spend It
I think a country that is more than $500,000 in debt per household should not send out checks to taxpayers to try pretend they are doing something to help the economy. Just as I wouldn’t think some family with $20,000 in credit card debt should fix the problem by taking the family on a new credit card financed vacation. But if you are going to do so, then take Dan Ariely’s advice: Stimulus options should be tested first. His blog post on the topic, Do we know enough to give stimulus packages?
The next question, of course, is which delivery method to select. Here behavioral economics has been instructive as well. In particular, years of research have demonstrated over and over that our intuitions about the relative effectiveness of different approaches are often wrong. Given that the method of delivery could make a large difference, and given that our intuitions about their relative effectiveness could be wrong, what should we do?
One answer is to conduct an experiment, as this is the only method we have for testing what really works and what is likely to fail. In the same way that we force drug companies to test the efficacy of their drugs before rolling them onto the market, shouldn’t we ask the government to first test their ideas before they invest billions of dollars of our tax money on some stimulus packages?