Archives for June 23, 2015

Early Retirement Portfolio Asset Allocation Update, Mid 2015

“The editorial content on this page is not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author's alone.”

Here’s a mid-year update on my investment portfolio holdings for 2015. This includes tax-deferred accounts like 401(k)s and taxable brokerage holdings, but excludes things like physical property and cash reserves (emergency fund). The purpose of this portfolio is to create enough income to cover all of our household expenses.

Target Asset Allocation

aa_updated2015

I try to pick asset classes that will provide long-term returns above inflation, distribute income via dividends and interest, and finally offer some historical tendencies to balance each other out. I don’t hold commodities futures or gold as they don’t provide any income and I don’t believe they’ll outpace inflation significantly. In addition, I am not confident in them enough to know that I will hold them through an extended period of underperformance (i.e. don’t buy what you don’t can’t stick with).

Our current ratio is roughly 70% stocks and 30% bonds within our investment strategy of buy, hold, and rebalance. With a self-directed portfolio of low-cost funds and low turnover, we minimize management fees, commissions, and taxes.

Actual Asset Allocation and Holdings

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Stock Holdings
Vanguard Total Stock Market Fund (VTI, VTSMX, VTSAX)
Vanguard Total International Stock Market Fund (VXUS, VGTSX, VTIAX)
WisdomTree SmallCap Dividend ETF (DES)
WisdomTree Emerging Markets SmallCap Dividend ETF (DGS)
Vanguard REIT Index Fund (VNQ, VGSIX, VGSLX)

Bond Holdings
Vanguard Limited-Term Tax-Exempt Fund (VMLTX, VMLUX)
Vanguard Intermediate-Term Tax-Exempt Fund (VWITX, VWIUX)
Vanguard High-Yield Tax-Exempt Fund (VWAHX, VWALX)
Vanguard Inflation-Protected Securities Fund (VIPSX, VAIPX)
iShares Barclays TIPS Bond ETF (TIP)
Individual TIPS securities
U.S. Savings Bonds (Series I)

Notes and Benchmark Comparison

There has been very little portfolio activity over the last 6 months. No major market movements (the S&P 500 hasn’t moved more than 2% in day so far in 2015). No mutual funds added or removed. I continued to invest in the same funds through 401k auto-contributions and the occasional fund purchase from saved income. Things are little off, but I’ll just wait and rebalance with new money. Some of my usual savings has been diverted to college savings. Mostly, just keeping my head down and moving forward. 🙂

A simple benchmark for my portfolio is 50% Vanguard LifeStrategy Growth Fund (VASGX) and Vanguard LifeStrategy Moderate Growth Fund (VSMGX), one is 60/40 and one is 80/20 so it also works out to 70% stocks and 30% bonds. That benchmark would have returned about 3.5% YTD for 2015. I haven’t bothered to calculate my exact portfolio return, but it should be roughly around this number.

I like tracking my dividend and interest income more than overall market movements. In a separate post, I will update the amount of income that I am deriving from this portfolio along with how that compares to my expenses.

The Most Important Factor To Maximize In Your Portfolio

“The editorial content on this page is not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author's alone.”

wrenchWhen it comes to constructing an investment portfolio for yourself, there are many things you could tweak and maximize. Obviously, you can look back at historical data and maximum past annual returns while minimizing volatility. For some, this means more stocks and less bonds. Or buying small companies over huge companies. Or buying “value” stocks with low price-to-book ratios over those with high price-to-book ratios. Or buying stocks with high dividend yields. Or buying asset classes with momentum. Or often, a big mishmash of all of the above.

But really, do most folks invest in these “optimized” portfolios really understand them? What if we worked to maximize something else instead?

From Patrick O’Shaughnessy of Investor Field Guide:

I believe the most pertinent question to ask about any systematic/quantitative strategy is not “how hard would this be to replicate” but rather “how hard would this be to stick with.”

From Tadas Viskanta of Abnormal Returns:

The best thing investors can do is put their time, effort and energies in finding a strategy they can stick with. The same goes for those who provide financial advice to a broad audience. This may not sell as well but at least it has some grounding in reality.

If you don’t understand why you’re buying something, then it may be better just to stay away until you do. For example, I don’t understand commodities futures or oil prices. I don’t understand gold at all. If their prices fall, I have no idea if, when, or why they will rebound. (But you might.) In contrast, if buy all the US companies weighted by their market value, then I feel confident that eventually those companies as a group will work things out and come back. (But you might not.) I also hold a big slug of government and municipal bonds as I think they have very low credit risk. (You might disagree.)

This need for understanding can be either a positive or negative when making the case for financial advisors. A good financial advisor will explain things in a manner you understand, and keep you on track during times of stress. A bad financial advisor will simply sell you an “advanced” portfolio vetted by super-skilled geniuses, leaving you even more scared during a market crisis (“if even the smart guys didn’t see this coming, then is the sky falling?!?”).

Bottom line: Think carefully about how likely are you to stick with your portfolio during both boom times and panic. 

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