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Index Funds Pros and Cons
Old 09-25-2006, 12:00 PM   #1
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Index Funds Pros and Cons

I just finished reading The Four Pillars of Investing by William Bernstein. This book was suggested to me by members of this forum. I really enjoyed the book and felt like there was a lot of good investing information to be learned.

I am curious what others think of the approach to investing that is described in this book. Especially in regards to investing in index funds, investing in precious metals, investing in a minimum of 20% bonds, and his repeated recommendation for Vanguard funds.

I am 34 and married. We use a financial planner. We have used him for about 5 years now because we really did not know much at the time. I am learning more and am starting to see the error of my ways. Since reading this book I am thinking of selling my assets (all mutual funds) that I have with my planner and moving them into Vanguard index funds. We have 100K in taxable funds and about 140K in sheltered accounts (Roth IRA's and a VA). I know this is not a complete story, but I would appreciate any opinions on the matter.

Thanks.
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Re: Index Funds Pros and Cons
Old 09-25-2006, 12:11 PM   #2
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Re: Index Funds Pros and Cons

You asked, so...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pale Rider
... investing in index funds
Highly recommended.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pale Rider
... investing in precious metals
Not my cup of tea, but many here swear at by it.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pale Rider
...investing in a minimum of 20% bonds
I would agree with this, but at your age I might be more agressive and skip the bonds for a few years.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pale Rider
... Vanguard funds.
Absolutely. Costs really do matter, so Vanguard or Fidelity are the way to go. Say thanks and goodbye to your financial planner as quickly as you can.

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Re: Index Funds Pros and Cons
Old 09-25-2006, 01:15 PM   #3
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Re: Index Funds Pros and Cons

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pale Rider
I just finished reading The Four Pillars of Investing by William Bernstein.* This book was suggested to me by members of this forum.* I really enjoyed the book and felt like there was a lot of good investing information to be learned.
Keep on reading at Bernstein's website, it gets better!

http://www.efficientfrontier.com/ef/998/hell.htm
http://www.efficientfrontier.com/ef/101/hell101.htm
http://www.efficientfrontier.com/ef/901/hell3.htm
http://www.efficientfrontier.com/ef/103/hell4.htm
http://www.efficientfrontier.com/ef/403/hell5.htm .

And "fire" your financial planner.
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Re: Index Funds Pros and Cons
Old 09-25-2006, 01:33 PM   #4
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Re: Index Funds Pros and Cons

i'll ditto both of the previous replies
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Re: Index Funds Pros and Cons
Old 09-25-2006, 02:01 PM   #5
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Re: Index Funds Pros and Cons

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pale Rider
I am 34 and married. We use a financial planner. We have used him for about 5 years now because we really did not know much at the time. I am learning more and am starting to see the error of my ways. Since reading this book I am thinking of selling my assets (all mutual funds) that I have with my planner and moving them into Vanguard index funds. We have 100K in taxable funds and about 140K in sheltered accounts (Roth IRA's and a VA). I know this is not a complete story, but I would appreciate any opinions on the matter.
I was in the same position about a year and a half ago. I had a financial planner that I didn't really care to use (nice guy, but I'm a do-it-yourself investor). I had just sold a house and invested the proceeds into more of the FP's load mutual funds at American funds. I paid a few thousand dollars in commissions, and that was the straw that broke the camel's back.

Prior to this transaction, I had asked the FP if he could get me into Vanguard index funds and he said only if I buy the ETF's and pay huge commissions on them. I didn't like the fact that he was only available during regular business hours, and the online interface was very poor and for informational purposes only. I did most of my investment/finance stuff at night and on weekends, so I found the inconvenience of taking time out of my work day to call my broker annoying.

I like the convenience of a person on the phone late at night and on weekends for broker help and account issues, and I use the internet site at VG for 99% of my investment transactions. It's easy to set up automatic investments and deposits and to change these.

Plus, VG saves me thousands every year in expenses and loads.
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Re: Index Funds Pros and Cons
Old 09-25-2006, 02:15 PM   #6
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Re: Index Funds Pros and Cons

That's a shame..............I can buy any Vanguard fund I want for a flat $50 fee...............

American Funds are an interesting model. I've got to find the Bogle article where he stated they are the ONLY fund company outside of Vanguard he would invest in..............
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Re: Index Funds Pros and Cons
Old 09-25-2006, 02:57 PM   #7
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Re: Index Funds Pros and Cons

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Originally Posted by FinanceDude
That's a shame..............I can buy any Vanguard fund I want for a flat $50 fee...............

American Funds are an interesting model. I've got to find the Bogle article where he stated they are the ONLY fund company outside of Vanguard he would invest in..............
I can buy any vanguard fund I want for a flat fee of zero. Since I buy $750 or so of a mutual fund at a time, the $50 fee per transaction would eat me alive.

I did see that statement about American Funds from Bogle (I think in "common sense on mutual funds"). I like them, just I think I can get similar or better equity/bond exposure at Vanguard for much less (no load plus lower expense ratio). I still hold low six figures worth of American funds (it is the bulk of my portfolio right now, as I'm focusing on acquiring VG and Fido funds right now).
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Re: Index Funds Pros and Cons
Old 09-25-2006, 03:06 PM   #8
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Re: Index Funds Pros and Cons

Pale Rider,

I would recommend that you first transfer your tax sheltered funds only to Vanguard index funds since you can do this without paying any taxes on capital gains. Be sure to do this as a direct rollover from your existing account to Vanguard. Do not take possession of the funds as this can trigger tax and penalties. Once you see how you like Vanguard and its funds you can decide if it is worth taking the capital gains tax hit to move the funds in your taxable account to Vanguard.

I have used both Vanguard and T.R. Price for all of my mutual fund investing for the last 20 years and have no complaints with either one.

Grumpy
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Re: Index Funds Pros and Cons
Old 09-25-2006, 04:58 PM   #9
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Re: Index Funds Pros and Cons

I like index funds overall although the big negative is that the way the indexs are figured the higher and more over priced a stock becomes the more it weights and dominates the index. The more undervalued a stock the less weight it carries. Many indexes became mini energy funds in the last run up.
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Re: Index Funds Pros and Cons
Old 09-25-2006, 05:16 PM   #10
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Re: Index Funds Pros and Cons

Quote:
The Four Pillars of Investing by William Bernstein
Best investing book ever written by a human being. Other than that, I can not recommend it at all. 8)

Of the 30-40 or so investment books that I have read over the last 20 years, it still ranks as #1. Index, 20% bonds (for me 40%), Vanguard, but not precious metals. I make my own decisions with the help of many and I do not blindly follow.
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Re: Index Funds Pros and Cons
Old 09-25-2006, 05:43 PM   #11
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Re: Index Funds Pros and Cons

I like his writing although i have to tell you it looks like the format for his book came right out of harry brownes "why the best laid investment plans usually fail"
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Re: Index Funds Pros and Cons
Old 09-25-2006, 06:15 PM   #12
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Re: Index Funds Pros and Cons

I am assuming that you are comparing index funds to actively-management funds.

Pros:
low cost
diversification

Cons:
large cap or small cap: may perform worse than actively-managed funds during a bear market.
small cap: may underperform relative to active funds during a bull market.
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Re: Index Funds Pros and Cons
Old 09-25-2006, 08:14 PM   #13
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Re: Index Funds Pros and Cons

Quote:
Originally Posted by Spanky
Cons:
large cap or small cap: may perform worse than actively-managed funds during a bear market.
small cap: may underperform relative to active funds during a bull market.
Spanky,

Can you provide any generalizeable evidence for this assertion (i.e. not just specific anecdotes where this was the case)? I'd be inclined to add "or may not." Thanks.
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Re: Index Funds Pros and Cons
Old 09-25-2006, 08:37 PM   #14
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Re: Index Funds Pros and Cons

I've been tracking the spread between the S&P500 & the RUT 2000, looking to make a hedge bet. Past couple of years the RUT 2000 was beating the S&P, but that seem to have turned around this years. Also on a day to day basis, when the market goes up or down, the RUT goes like 1x-2x the S&P.
I'm starting to suspect the performance of the RUT is largely correlated to manage funds, while the S&P is correlates to the index funds.
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Re: Index Funds Pros and Cons
Old 09-25-2006, 08:42 PM   #15
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Re: Index Funds Pros and Cons

Quote:
Originally Posted by Spanky
Cons:
large cap or small cap: may perform worse than actively-managed funds during a bear market.
small cap: may underperform relative to active funds during a bull market.
As Bogle says, managed funds in aggregate will, by definition, underperform the market once expenses are taken in to account. *Some funds will outperform. *More will underperform. *Good luck separating the winners from the losers before the fact. *

My list of pros & cons vs. managed funds:

Pros
1) Low cost
2) Guaranteed market returns
3) Tax efficient
4) No "style creep" (i.e. your large cap manager dabbling in small cap stocks)

Cons
1) You have to get over your fantasies about beating the market.

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Re: Index Funds Pros and Cons
Old 09-25-2006, 08:44 PM   #16
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Re: Index Funds Pros and Cons

Quote:
Originally Posted by dmpi
I've been tracking the spread between the S&P500 & the RUT 2000, looking to make a hedge bet. Past couple of years the RUT 2000 was beating the S&P, but that seem to have turned around this years. Also on a day to day basis, when the market goes up or down, the RUT goes like 1x-2x the S&P.
I'm starting to suspect the performance of the RUT is largely correlated to manage funds, while the S&P is correlates to the index funds.
S&P 500 is large cap stocks
Russell 2000 is small cap stocks

Both are indexes.


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Re: Index Funds Pros and Cons
Old 09-25-2006, 08:53 PM   #17
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Re: Index Funds Pros and Cons

Quote:
Originally Posted by 3 Yrs to Go
S&P 500 is large cap stocks
Russell 2000 is small cap stocks

Both are indexes.


I'm interested in the predicting the spread. Why does small caps beat out large caps in some years, but not others? What sort of buyers drive each of the indexes? How come the beta on the RUT is larger than the S&P?
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Re: Index Funds Pros and Cons
Old 09-25-2006, 09:46 PM   #18
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Re: Index Funds Pros and Cons

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Originally Posted by Rich_in_Tampa
Spanky,

Can you provide any generalizeable evidence for this assertion (i.e. not just specific anecdotes where this was the case)? I'd be inclined to add "or may not." Thanks.
Rich,
Over the long term, Index funds tend to outperform their counterparts because of the cost advantage. However, the actively managed funds perform slightly better during a bear market since they have the freedom not to be fully invested in the market. During a bull market, the actively managed funds tend to do worse since they may be late in getting back. The following link has an explanation about this.

http://news.morningstar.com/article/...15580&_QSBPA=Y

P.S. Most of my funds are indexed except for the following funds:
Vanguard Health Care
Vanguard International Explorer
Oakmark International
Vanguard Wellesly
Fidelity Low-priced stocks


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Re: Index Funds Pros and Cons
Old 09-26-2006, 04:16 AM   #19
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Re: Index Funds Pros and Cons

Well speaking for myself i havent been able to come up with any combo of index funds that surpassed the performance of my 20 plus years in active funds.

Lord i keep trying to track a few different lower cost combo's of etf's but so far no cigar.

The problem is not a long enough history yet on some that are very unique like a DVY to really see how they do long term.

All my funds are fairly low cost fidelity funds and overall i think i pay about .70% overall* but considering im well diversified and until last year when i decided to reduce everything down to a 50/50 mix i averaged a very well documentd 13% for 20 years.

I admit i didnt pick these funds myself as i use fidelity insight for my strategy but as i always say "YOU DONT HAVE TO KNOW ALL THE ANSWERES ,YOU JUST NEED TO KNOW WHERE TO GO TO GET THE ANSWERES".

SO I GUESS I CAN STILL TAKE CREDIT RIGHT? HA HA HA
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Re: Index Funds Pros and Cons
Old 09-26-2006, 07:48 AM   #20
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Re: Index Funds Pros and Cons

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rich_in_Tampa
Spanky,

Can you provide any generalizeable evidence for this assertion (i.e. not just specific anecdotes where this was the case)? I'd be inclined to add "or may not." Thanks.
Rich,

See myth #4 Index Funds always underperform in a bear market from Vanguard's Myths and Misconceptions about Indexing.

If you wanted to mirror the active fund holding some cash, you could always hold the index fund and a small % of a money market fund. I haven't seen much evidence of active funds moving to cash right at the right time before a bear market.

- Alec
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