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If you were me what would you do? Asset Allocation Advice
Old 11-13-2009, 10:14 AM   #1
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If you were me what would you do? Asset Allocation Advice

Hey Guys,

New to the forum but I have been lurking for a month now. I know ultimately I need to decide what the right asset management path is for me but I would love the opinion of anyone that is willing to share it.

Here is my profile…

  • Age: 27
  • Occupation: Sales
  • Income: Between $100K to $250K a year
  • Job Security: Very High
  • Average Monthly ‘Take Home’: $4k
  • Monthly Living Expenses: $3K (Fiancé also pays me $1K per month so net cost is $2K)

Assets:
  • Cash High Yield Savings: $125,000
  • Sleep at night ‘Emergency Funds’ Money Market Savings: $10,000
  • Checking Account: $5,000
  • Brokerage: $15,500 (100% stocks)
  • 401K: $68K (maxed out the last two years)
    • 100% invested into S&P 500 Index Fund

Home:
  • Home Value: $409,000
  • Home Equity: $76,000
  • Loan: $333,000 – 30 Year fixed at 5.5% Interest.
    • I am also making 1 extra payment to my principal per year.

Debt:
Credit Card Debt: $0
Student Loans: $0
Car Loans $0
(outside of my mortgage I literally have no debt)

Notes: My wedding is already paid in full so I have no foreseen near term (5 years+) needs for the savings. She has zero debt – a good, secure job – minimal savings (less than $5K) but contributes to it regularly.

This is my opinion. I am doing better than high percentage of 27 year olds in the US and I still live well below my means. My cash savings position is too high on both my checking and High Yield Savings accounts I should invest in stocks. If I just keep the path I am going I will be in good shape.

Any advice or suggestions for me to consider as build out my retire early investment strategy.

Thank you in advance,
Nick D.
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Old 11-13-2009, 10:32 AM   #2
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Why are you 100% invested in the S&P 500 fund? I would broaden out your asset allocation.

I don't see any Roth IRAs. Depending on the year, you could contribute, if your AGI is low enough. When you get married, you should think about life insurance to protect your family.

Do you have any other group benies like LTD? Check in to those.

Kind of a personal think,but if your monthly "nut" is $4000 a month or so, maybe keep about $30-$40,000 in the emergency fund. It looks like you have TWO emergency funds, one should be sufficient

With the extra money, I would look into buying some tax efficient mutual funds and building up an individual account. You could make it joint when you get married or leave it as individual..........

Also, you could accelerate your mortgage payments. Again, a personal choice.......

Best of luck, when's the wedding day?
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Old 11-13-2009, 10:37 AM   #3
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Hi, Nick!

Welcome to the forum, and congratulations on your money management skills thus far!

I see $125K in a high yield savings account, and 100% equity investment. Is there a reason you are holding so much cash in the savings account? Have you considered you're overall asset allocation and reducing the risk of your stock portfolio?

You need to reduce the risk of your all stock portfolio with bonds (ideally a bond fund), and you need to diversify from what appears to be primarily a US large stock investment.

Time to do some reading! I'd recommend Richard Ferri's All About Asset Allocation. Not only does he describe the various types of investments available, but he provides a framework for thinking through how you would want to divide your assets among asset classes.

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Old 11-13-2009, 11:05 AM   #4
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Welcome to the forum. You are doing much better than most 27 year olds, so good job so far.

Here's my 2-cents:

(1) keep an emergency fund of 12 months of post-layoff living expenses (that includes COBRA health insurance for you and the soon-to-be wife and excludes her contribution as a conservative approach in case she is laid off as well); your high yield savings are probably a bit more than you need, but having a good solid chunk of liquid savings in an FDIC insured account is important; it should be based on expenses but rough ballpark would probably be about $90K in the emergency fund

(2) unless you are certain you will not want to have kids, apply for life insurance for roughly 10x your annual income; do it today while you are young and healthy and lock in cheap rates

(3) ditto with long term disability; your employer may offer a group policy to employees but see if there is a supplemental portable policy you can purchase through your employer's provider, or shop around on the open market; again, do this now while you are young and healthy and can lock in a low rate

(4) keep maxing out your tax-favored options: max out the 401K, and then Roth if you qualify (may not because of income); if you don't qualify for a Roth there is some difference of opinion as to whether a non-deductible IRA is preferable to taxable savings ... I'm not even sure where I fall on that one but something for you to research and think about

(5) definitely consider you asset allocation; rough rule of thumb is the "Rule of 110" which means that the percentage of stocks in your retirement savings should be roughly equaly to 110 minus your age (so in your case, you should have about 83% in stocks, and 17% in bonds); for the stock portion you should diversify beyond S&P 500, look at Total Market Index (for U.S.) and Total Int'l Market Index (or Ex-US) for foreign; as to percentage between US/foreign, I tend to think an ideal mix would be maybe 60/40 US/foreign ... but that's just me
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Old 11-13-2009, 11:10 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by FinanceDude View Post
Why are you 100% invested in the S&P 500 fund? I would broaden out your asset allocation.
Is I didnt know any better an acceptable answer? I would love to hear your opinion on alternatives.

Quote:
Originally Posted by FinanceDude View Post
I don't see any Roth IRAs. Depending on the year, you could contribute, if your AGI is low enough. When you get married, you should think about life insurance to protect your family.
My AGI last year was $200K+ and this year its nearly a 1/3 more so as I understand it a ROTH is out of the question. Thoughts on a traditional IRA?

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Originally Posted by FinanceDude View Post
Do you have any other group benies like LTD? Check in to those.
I do and from what I have seen this place really takes care of its employees.

Quote:
Originally Posted by FinanceDude View Post
Kind of a personal think,but if your monthly "nut" is $4000 a month or so, maybe keep about $30-$40,000 in the emergency fund. It looks like you have TWO emergency funds, one should be sufficient
I agree with you 100% here but $10K is enough to let me sleep at night and if I REALLY needed the money (like an emegency not a new car) I wouldn't hesitate to dip into my non-retirement brokerage account

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Originally Posted by FinanceDude View Post
With the extra money, I would look into buying some tax efficient mutual funds and building up an individual account. You could make it joint when you get married or leave it as individual..........
This is really the direction I am headed by after reading John Bogles Book Little Book On Common Sense investing I am tempted to go the index route with a mix of DOW (90%) and Int'l Indexes (10%)

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Originally Posted by FinanceDude View Post
Also, you could accelerate your mortgage payments. Again, a personal choice.......
I considered this as well. I feel like making the extra payment per year can knock off a lot of interest over the life of the loan. Since I have a sizable down payment on the house - and a 30 year fixed I can afford - I am not THAT worried of going belly up on the mortgage. I 'hope'/Plan to beat the 5.5% interest incurring with my portfolio over the long term. So yes I am using leverage but I feel like its a low risk situation.

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Best of luck, when's the wedding day?
11 Months!

[QUOTE=Gotadimple;875017]Hi, Nick!

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Originally Posted by Gotadimple View Post
Welcome to the forum, and congratulations on your money management skills thus far!
Thank you! I owe it all to my mom. She has been teaching me finical literacy since I was a child.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gotadimple View Post
I see $125K in a high yield savings account, and 100% equity investment. Is there a reason you are holding so much cash in the savings account? Have you considered you're overall asset allocation and reducing the risk of your stock portfolio?
So I 100% agree with you here. That cash position is going to be allocated into a brokerage account with a mix of index funds.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gotadimple View Post
You need to reduce the risk of your all stock portfolio with bonds (ideally a bond fund), and you need to diversify from what appears to be primarily a US large stock investment.
I understand your point but I would love to hear some more thought here.

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Originally Posted by Gotadimple View Post
Time to do some reading! I'd recommend Richard Ferri's All About Asset Allocation. Not only does he describe the various types of investments available, but he provides a framework for thinking through how you would want to divide your assets among asset classes.
Thank you for the recommendation I will absolutely check it out!
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Old 11-13-2009, 11:17 AM   #6
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Welcome to the forum. You are doing much better than most 27 year olds, so good job so far.
Thank you! I am from Boston as well! And Thank you for such a through reply.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Lusitan View Post
(1) keep an emergency fund of 12 months of post-layoff living expenses (that includes COBRA health insurance for you and the soon-to-be wife and excludes her contribution as a conservative approach in case she is laid off as well); your high yield savings are probably a bit more than you need, but having a good solid chunk of liquid savings in an FDIC insured account is important; it should be based on expenses but rough ballpark would probably be about $90K in the emergency fund
So my opinion is already on the table above but I am starting to think I need to reconsider my position on this.

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Originally Posted by Lusitan View Post
(2) unless you are certain you will not want to have kids, apply for life insurance for roughly 10x your annual income; do it today while you are young and healthy and lock in cheap rates
So I honestly don't know the first thing about life insurance. How does one go about finding a reputable company to work with? I would say just go online but I find when it comes to finances on the web their are a lot of Wolves in Sheep's clothing.

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Originally Posted by Lusitan View Post
(3) ditto with long term disability; your employer may offer a group policy to employees but see if there is a supplemental portable policy you can purchase through your employer's provider, or shop around on the open market; again, do this now while you are young and healthy and can lock in a low rate
Got it.

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Originally Posted by Lusitan View Post
4) keep maxing out your tax-favored options: max out the 401K, and then Roth if you qualify (may not because of income); if you don't qualify for a Roth there is some difference of opinion as to whether a non-deductible IRA is preferable to taxable savings ... I'm not even sure where I fall on that one but something for you to research and think about
So roth is out of the question but I need to research the IRA option some more.

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Originally Posted by Lusitan View Post
(5) definitely consider you asset allocation; rough rule of thumb is the "Rule of 110" which means that the percentage of stocks in your retirement savings should be roughly equaly to 110 minus your age (so in your case, you should have about 83% in stocks, and 17% in bonds); for the stock portion you should diversify beyond S&P 500, look at Total Market Index (for U.S.) and Total Int'l Market Index (or Ex-US) for foreign; as to percentage between US/foreign, I tend to think an ideal mix would be maybe 60/40 US/foreign ... but that's just me
Thank you for this useful 'rule' I will absolutely consider it.

Thank you again for such a thoughtful and informative post.
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Old 11-13-2009, 01:24 PM   #7
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How does one go about finding a reputable company to work with? I would say just go online but I find when it comes to finances on the web their are a lot of Wolves in Sheep's clothing.
AM Best and Moody's publish ratings and analysis on different insurance companies, so that's the default place to gather stats. But just as you'll find many people on these boards are big fans of Vanguard's mutual funds, some popular life insurance companies for the FIRE crowd are: USAA, TIAA-CREF, and ... I'm sure others have a few others suggestions that escape my memory at the moment. I use USAA for life insurance and have been happy with them.

Read up on life insurance, but in 25 words or less here's my advice: at your age, get a TERM life policy for 25 or 30 years based on roughly 10x your income.

You're off to a great start, keep it up!
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Old 11-13-2009, 01:59 PM   #8
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I think you have a great start, especially staying out of debt as it isn't how much you have coming in, but how much you keep.
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Old 11-13-2009, 02:06 PM   #9
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Is I didnt know any better an acceptable answer? I would love to hear your opinion on alternatives.
A lot of folks do this. However, the S&P 500 does not have an international component, or commodities, or bonds, or a lot of things. Give us the choices in your 401K and maybe we can be a little more specific.........

Quote:
My AGI last year was $200K+ and this year its nearly a 1/3 more so as I understand it a ROTH is out of the question. Thoughts on a traditional IRA?
Well,for now you are out of luck. Forget about a non-deductible IRA account for now, build up a non-qualified individual account that holds tax efficient investments.........
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Old 11-13-2009, 02:31 PM   #10
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A lot of folks do this. However, the S&P 500 does not have an international component, or commodities, or bonds, or a lot of things. Give us the choices in your 401K and maybe we can be a little more specific.........
A good place to start in a 401(k) is a target fund. Pick the year closest to when you think you'll retire or that has a stock / bond allocation to your liking. Then it is on autopilot. I personally like Vanguard for their low fees. If you want to get fancy, you can move into your own slice and dice scheme at some point.

Quote:
Well,for now you are out of luck. Forget about a non-deductible IRA account for now, build up a non-qualified individual account that holds tax efficient investments.........
A good choice is TSM - total stock market index. Low capital gains 'cause index funds don't buy and sell constantly like a managed fund and dividend distributions tend to be lower, thus minimizing your yearly taxes on earnings.
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Old 11-13-2009, 03:49 PM   #11
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Don't forget to keep your expenses in check. You have a big salary, and its easy to get sucked into the upgrade path- bigger house, nicer car, expensive hobbies, dining, boating, country clubs, etc.

A 400K house isn't that expensive for Boston, so that looks good.

You should be able to live nicely on that salary and keep costs from expanding up and up.

Sock away the cash while you are young, to get the benefit of compound interest.
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Old 11-14-2009, 07:57 PM   #12
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AM Best and Moody's publish ratings and analysis on different insurance companies, so that's the default place to gather stats. But just as you'll find many people on these boards are big fans of Vanguard's mutual funds, some popular life insurance companies for the FIRE crowd are: USAA, TIAA-CREF, and ... I'm sure others have a few others suggestions that escape my memory at the moment. I use USAA for life insurance and have been happy with them.

Read up on life insurance, but in 25 words or less here's my advice: at your age, get a TERM life policy for 25 or 30 years based on roughly 10x your income.

You're off to a great start, keep it up!

I would look into a 20 year term policy of at least $1MM face amount which has a conversion option. Be very picky about which company you buy from, as there is no equivalent of FDIC insurance for life insurance policies. I strongly prefer mutual (owned by policyholders) companies over stock (investor-owned) companies as they do not try to serve two masters with opposing interests (stockholders want the company to make money, policyholders want the company to be careful so it can pay claims). In my opinion, you could do a lot worse than any of the following companies for a term policy: TIAA-CREF, USAA, Northwestern Mutual, MassMutual, New York Life, Penn Mutual, Guardian. Since it is extremely low hanging fruit, I would suggest getting an online quote from TIAA-CREF and shopping that around with other companies.
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Old 11-14-2009, 10:12 PM   #13
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Nick,
- You are in sales--are you a W-2 employee, or maybe a 1099 "employee"?
- If you've read Bogle, you know the importance of costs. You're doing well to keep them low. You can do all this investment management yourself and save tens of thousands of dollars over your working life.
- Vanguard offers some Tax Managed funds specifically designed to help minimize taxes. Keep them in mind as you broaden your variety of MFs to incorporate more foreign holdings.
- On a personal level: Have a discussion with the bride-to-be about your early retirement goals, see if she is on board. Really on board. To the point that it's as much her goal as yours. Also, if you guys haven't worked through the monthly budget (including the budget for gifts, vacations, investments, etc) then it's something I recommend that you do soon.
- As others have said, you probably want to include more bonds and some foreign stock mutual funds to your asset allocation.
- You expect your income to be highly variable. Given this, I'd consider not making the extra mortgage payments and putting the money into savings/investments instead. Because your income might dip, you may need that extra cash at some point (maybe for years at a time), and it can be expensive to get it back out of a house once it is in there. Keep your healthy emergency cash accounts. We have a lot of discussions here about the advisability of paying off/paying down mortgages early, in your case I think having the extra $$ at hand is probably best.

Good luck!
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Old 11-26-2009, 09:34 PM   #14
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Sales jobs are pretty volatile so I wouldn't be afraid to continue to keep $75-100k in cash if I were you.

It sounds like getting married you will have a life insurance need, so given your income I'd take a look at a permanent policy as a place to park some cash and get some tax-free/deferred growth depending on how the policy is setup. Do some research on whole life vs UL and choose what you think works best in your situation.

I would definitely NOT keep all your money in the S&P Index Fund. Model portfolios for people in their 20s should be 50% domestic 50% international and carve out places for small and midcap in your portfolio as well as a place for alternatives. It's also EXTREMELY foolish to have everything passively managed. Even if you want to use Vanguard's active managers for 1/2 your assets (and they're not really that great) it's better than having everything in index funds.
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Old 11-26-2009, 09:42 PM   #15
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It's also EXTREMELY foolish to have everything passively managed.
Hey! Mine's not all indexed--but I would if I could!
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Old 11-27-2009, 12:57 PM   #16
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Sales jobs are pretty volatile so I wouldn't be afraid to continue to keep $75-100k in cash if I were you.

It sounds like getting married you will have a life insurance need, so given your income I'd take a look at a permanent policy as a place to park some cash and get some tax-free/deferred growth depending on how the policy is setup. Do some research on whole life vs UL and choose what you think works best in your situation.
Yes. Do the research which will show you these are NOT in your best interest. Been there, done that and have the scars to prove it... Stick to term life a'la Brewers advice.

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I would definitely NOT keep all your money in the S&P Index Fund. Model portfolios for people in their 20s should be 50% domestic 50% international and carve out places for small and midcap in your portfolio as well as a place for alternatives. It's also EXTREMELY foolish to have everything passively managed. Even if you want to use Vanguard's active managers for 1/2 your assets (and they're not really that great) it's better than having everything in index funds.
I agree totally with your comment about diversification. I, and many others here, would however, completely disagree with your comment about a passively managed portfolio .

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Old 11-27-2009, 03:34 PM   #17
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Index funds were a great place to be while the United States went from one of many successful countries to being the world's only super power. The world has changed, most people haven't recognized it. Actively managed equity funds are outperforming index over the last 10 years.

Don't mistake this post as being in favor of high fund expenses. Expenses still matter. Not all actively managed funds have high expenses. Not all index funds have low expenses.
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Old 11-27-2009, 04:37 PM   #18
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Actively managed equity funds are outperforming index over the last 10 years.
Can you be more specific? Maybe:
1) "All managed funds are beating all index funds"
or
2) "The average managed fund is beating the average index fund"
or
3) "The managed fund average returns in a particular asset class/market segment are outperforming the average index fund (all market segments)"
or
4) "Within some market segments, the managed fund average returns are outperforming the index fund average returns"
or
5) "I know of some managed funds that have outperformed index fund averages for their category"

And, can you explain further your point about the increase in market share for international stocks vs US stocks reducing the attractiveness of indexing?
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Old 11-28-2009, 05:08 PM   #19
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Can you be more specific? Maybe:
1) "All managed funds are beating all index funds"
or
2) "The average managed fund is beating the average index fund"
or
3) "The managed fund average returns in a particular asset class/market segment are outperforming the average index fund (all market segments)"
or
4) "Within some market segments, the managed fund average returns are outperforming the index fund average returns"
or
5) "I know of some managed funds that have outperformed index fund averages for their category"

And, can you explain further your point about the increase in market share for international stocks vs US stocks reducing the attractiveness of indexing?
International investment vs domestic is not where I'm going with my argument.

There will be periods of time where different strategies will yield better results. We're experiencing one now where active management has and will likely continue to outperform indexing. Owning both is a form of diversification. I have 20% of my portfolio in index funds, it's been shown to reduce volatility. If you're buying equities now, you're on the right side of the trade so it's not a huge deal what equity funds you're buying as long as you are buying.

Again. The "average" index fund has outperformed the "average" active fund as a result of expenses. The average active fund has outperformed on a gross basis but on a net basis (which matters) the indexes have won out over the last 30 years. I don't think you'll see an advantage in active bond funds vs passive in this low rate environment. My argument is specific to equity funds.
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Old 11-28-2009, 06:05 PM   #20
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