In the first part of the discussion on rebalancing your investment portfolio, I outlined its definition and the most common method to do so. The web link to that particular post is listed below:
As a reminder, the definition of rebalancing is the periodic adjustment of one’s investment portfolio back to the original allocation percentagewise to the various asset classes. Over the course of time, the financial markets will vary up and down and one’s investment portfolio will change. However, the individual investor will normally have a plan on how to invest in order to reach his or her financial goals while being comfortable with the amount of risk taken by investing in the various asset classes (i.e. stocks, bonds, cash, etc.). Thus, rebalancing is simply ensuring that the investment portfolio is back in line with the original parameters of asset allocation.
In this second part of the discussion on rebalancing your investment portfolio, I will show you a different way to rebalance your investment portfolio. The same general concept applies, but, using this method, one can rely on actual published financial advice. The nice thing about this particular method is that the financial advice is free and from the most and trusted asset managers in the financial services industry. Does that sound too good to be true? Well, I invite your skepticism. That is always a healthy trait whenever someone discusses investing. Let’s delve into this a bit deeper and see if I can’t assuage your fears.
Many of the asset managers in the financial services industry offer something called target date mutual funds or life cycle mutual funds. The naming convention depends on the mutual fund company, but the financial product is the same. The idea behind these mutual funds is that they invest in a certain combination of stocks and bonds depending on when the money is needed. The mutual fund will invest more of the investment portfolio in stocks in the beginning and gradually shift that percentage to bonds and cash as the target date approaches. For example, someone who is forty years old now (2015) and wants to retire at age sixty-five would invest in a target date 2040 mutual fund. Some of the asset managers offering these financial products include Vanguard, Fidelity, and T Rowe Price. The web link to each of these mutual fund families’ offerings are listed below:
Vanguard – https://investor.vanguard.com/mutual-funds/target-retirement/#/
Fidelity – https://www.fidelity.com/mutual-funds/fidelity-fund-portfolios/freedom-funds
T Rowe Price – http://individual.troweprice.com/public/Retail/Mutual-Funds/Target-Date-Funds
Now I will not personally recommend any specific financial product; however, all these mutual fund families have excellent reputations and long track records. The benefit of this rebalancing method is that you can choose a particular target date or life cycle mutual fund that lines up with your financial goal and timeline. Each of these mutual fund offerings must periodically report their investment holdings to investors and are displayed on the mutual fund family’s website. As an individual investor, you need only replicate the recommended investments in that mutual fund. Adjusting your investment portfolio either semiannually or annually is normally sufficient. The added bonus is that you can alter the target date or life cycle mutual fund you select if your risk tolerance is different than what is offered in that portfolio. If you want to take on more risk for potential added rewards in performance returns, you can select a mutual fund with a target date later than your age would indicate. For instance, assume it is 2015 and you want to retire in 30 years, you might opt for the target date 2050 instead of 2045. Conversely, if you want to take on less risk because you are more sensitive to financial market volatility, you can select a target date closer than your age would indicate. In this case, assume it is 2015 and you want to retire in 30 years, you might opt for the target date 2040 instead of 2045. Let’s take a closer look at how this works in terms of the nuts and bolts.
For purposes of illustration only, I will utilize the product offerings of the Vanguard family of mutual funds. Assume that it is 2015 and you have 20 years until retirement (2035). Furthermore, assume that you have a normal risk tolerance for financial market volatility. If that is the case, you would select the Vanguard Target Retirement 2035 Fund (Ticker Symbol: VTTHX). The asset allocation of that target date mutual fund as of June 30, 2015 is as follows:
|Asset Allocation as of June 30, 2015
|Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Fund
|Vanguard Total International Stock Market Index Fund
|Vanguard Total Bond Market II Index Fund
|Vanguard Total International Bond Market Index Fund
Essentially you now have an investment portfolio that selects investments for your investment portfolio to achieve your financial goals without paying a Financial Advisor. Those investment advisory fees may be 1% to 2% (or higher) of your total investment portfolio each year. Using this rebalancing approach those fees are avoided, but you are still able to see what professional money managers are recommending for free. Now there are two courses of action at this point. First, it is possible to simply invest in this particular fund through the Vanguard mutual fund family. However, you will incur additional expenses for the fund family to manage the money and make the periodic percentage allocation adjustments. Those expenses do vary by fund family and are normally somewhat reasonable but are higher at some companies than others. Second, it is possible to invest monies into ETFs or index mutual funds that match the percentage allocations to the various asset classes. Admittedly, there are times when the commissions incurred to do so are higher than simply having the mutual fund family invest in the various funds for your investment portfolio. With that being said, there is a way to invest in ETFs for free.
One of the nicest offerings that not enough people know about is that Fidelity Investments offers the BlackRock iShares ETFs free of commission. While not all of the iShares are offered, there are currently 70 ETFs registered in the program. These ETFs have some of the lowest expense ratios (percentage fee charged on assets; normally 0.20% or less per year) in the business, and the range of ETFs should cover most any recommended target date or life cycle mutual fund investment pieces you might choose to use. The current list of the iShares ETFs from Fidelity that are free from commissions are as follows:
Commission-Free iShares ETFs at Fidelity Investments – https://www.fidelity.com/etfs/ishares-view-all
The reason one would use this method to build an investment portfolio and rebalance along the way is that expenses are minimized throughout the investing process. Many investors are not aware how much “seemingly small” expenses add up and compound over time. Decades and/or years worth of fees as small as 0.50% or 1.00% annually can erode thousands, tens of thousands, or more from your investment portfolio. Which makes it harder for you to reach your investment goals or necessitates taking on more risk in order to reach the goal than you might be comfortable within your investment portfolio. (For more information on that topic, you can view one of my earliest blog posts via this web link: https://latticeworkwealth.com/2013/07/11/is-learning-about-investing-worth-it-how-about-224000-or-320000-worth/).
Here’s a summary of the usefulness of this particular rebalancing approach for your investment portfolio. You may know when your financial goal is going to come due to pay or provide for, have a general idea of the risks you are willing to take, and know a bit about the types of asset classes for investment available. However, you may lack the confidence or specific expertise to know how to create an investment portfolio and allocate percentages of money to the various asset classes. The nice thing about this method is that you can “piggyback” off of the investment ideas of some of the best money management firms in the financial services industry. You initially invest the money in your investment portfolio as is indicated on the mutual fund family’s website. Then every six or twelve months (preferably mid-year or end of the year; the most common interval is twelve months) the investment portfolio is rebalanced to exactly match the way the target date or life cycle mutual fund is currently invested in.