Investment Help

If you are seeking investment help, look at the video here on my services. If you are seeking a different approach to managing your assets, you have landed at the right spot. I am a fee-only advisor registered in the State of Maryland, charge less than half the going rate for investment management, and seek to teach individuals how to manage their own assets using low-cost indexed exchange traded funds. Please call or email me if interested in further details. My website is at If you are new to investing, take a look at the "DIY Investor Newbie" posts here by typing "newbie" in the search box above to the left. These take you through the basics of what you need to know in getting started on doing your own investing.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Google Insight - A Useful Tool For the Do-It-Yourself Investor

What's on Mr. Market's mind? Everyday talking heads and pundits of all kinds expound on what's moving the market. They inevitably have numerous reasons after the fact on why the market did what it did that particular day. And they are always perfectly logical except, of course, when they say there were more buyers than sellers, or vice versa.

Instead of listening to the pundits expound, another way to assess what is pushing around prices is to see what people are searching online. This is where Google Insight can give some, well, insight. Begin by going to Google Insight and type in a phrase that you think investors will be searching, such as "Bush tax cuts". This is what you get:

Note the recent spike on the right hand side of the graph. Obviously investors are vitally interested in learning about the tax cuts and various views on whether they will be extended.

By typing in "financial regulation bill," "Greece default," and "double dip recession," you can see by using Google Insight other issues of interest to market participants and observers.

Google Insight is another useful tool for the do-it-yourself investor.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Portfolio rebalancing

One of the tasks facing the do-it-yourself investor is portfolio rebalancing to get back in realignment with the desired allocation. There is a good article on this at Smart Money. In the article, David Wray, president of the Profit Sharing/401(k) Council of America, says the two biggest mistakes 401(k) participants tend to make is to go more than a year before rebalancing and not contributing enough to receive the full employer match.

Coming up with the contribution to receive the full matching amount can admittedly be a problem sometimes. The rebalancing part is actually easy - especially in this age of low-cost exchange traded funds and available technology - if you willing to take a deep breath and deal with percentages and a pie chart.

I first look at the overall allocation- percent in stocks and percent in bonds. If it is 5% out of whack, I look to rebalance. So, for example, if 70% stock and 30% bonds is the desired allocation and markets have moved the portfolio to 75% stocks and 25% bonds, then we need to reduce stocks and add to bonds. Over the long term, this is a subtle means of buying low and selling high - it adds incrementally to return. In a simple portfolio, sell at least 5% of your SPY (etf tracking S&P 500) and buy AGG or BND (etfs tracking the bond market) with the proceeds.

Once this is determined, I look inside the broad classifications. If small cap stocks did especially well, then that would be the stock sector that would get most of the reduction. In the fixed income area, if the high yield portion had underperformed, that's where I'd add.

All of this sounds a bit more complicated than it is. In fact, I have to admit that I am surprised at the implied procrastination by David Wray's points. With Charles Schwab (as I would assume it is with most brokers), it is trivial to set up a portfolio of all your accounts, pick a desired asset allocation and then, by hitting a button, see the allocation in percent terms or as a colorful pie chart. In a matter of seconds, you can determine if you're off by more than 5%.

If you're not sure how to set this up and do it, you should contact your rep and have it explained to you. After all, this is your retirement that we're talking about.

Monday, July 26, 2010

How Does Your 401(k) Measure Up?

Analyzing a 401(k)

Readers of this blog know that one of the main messages is that the financial services industry has a strong tendency to grossly overcharge for its services. The industry takes advantage of the gullible public that refuses to educate itself on how much it costs to get professional money management services. The bottom line is that a big part of workers' nest eggs are lining the pockets of fat cat advisors. Nowhere is this more prevalent than in 401(k)s. But how can you assess your 401(k)?


An important resource to check is to go to Put in your company name. If you are fortunate, your company 401(k) is rated. If it isn't, you may want to consider asking your human resources department why it isn't.

CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE. As you can see, there are a number of categories rated. Of interest in this plan is the "Investment Menu Quality" rating of "poor."

If you go a step further and complete the free registration, you get even more detailed information. You can actually put in specific information to see the true cost to you, the participant, in the plan.

CLICK TO ENLARGE. If you drill down, you can find costs for the portfolio and the costs of funds in your peer group that have superior investment choices. With the information provided by this service, there are explicit steps that can be taken to improve one of the most important benefits provided to workers. It is an excellent resource to lead to the right questions for employees to ask.

This is also a useful resource if you are wrestling, à la Mickey Rourke, with whether you should roll over your old company 401(k).

Friday, July 23, 2010

Who do you write like?

Go to LINK . Paste in text and see who you write like. It tells me I write like James Joyce. Yikes!!! I tried Ulysses 3 times and got nowhere. Oh well...something to work on.

Who do you write like?

Single Premium Immediate Annuity

In surveys the number one fear of seniors is the fear of running out of money. To combat this fear, many turn to single premium immediate pay annuities.

How to Get a Ballpark Estimate on the Payout of a Single Premium Immediate Pay Annuity

Go to

Fill in the data as shown with your own info: (CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE).

Here we have put in $100,000 and the ages of 65 for the annuitant and his wife. Click "calculate." The first and most basic option pays $626/month ( as this is written) as long as the annuitant lives. If the annuitant dies the day after signing the contract, the insurance company keeps the $100,000. If the annuitant lives to be 120, the insurance company has to make monthly payments over that entire period.

You'll notice added features on the page. Whenever something beneficial is added, the payout decreases. In general, annuities are not heir friendly. To add features that leave something to heirs reduces the monthly payout. Also notice the payout for females is less. The reason is simple--women live longer.

Three points worth knowing and remembering:

-the payout depends on interest rates. As rates rise, the payout will increase.
-putting some portion of assets in an annuity in retirement reduces the risk of running out of money in old age.
-the long-term financial viability of the insurance company issuing the contract is important.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

When to Retire

Many things in financial planning and investing appear upside down. This, of course, is what makes it interesting. When is the best time to buy? According to the famous and wildly successful Baron von Rothschild, it's when there is "...blood in the streets." Not to digress too much (I apologize for trekking afield but this has stuck in my craw for a long time - the Rothschilds didn't take a lot of risk), but his most well-known coup was trading on the inside information of Napoleon's defeat provided by his swift carrier pigeons not on contrary trading. But, still, the original point has been the basis of contrarian investing over the years.

At the other end of the spectrum, investors are told to lighten up when all the news is positive and averages are hitting new highs.

This upside-down idea applies to the question of when to retire, as well. The mistake a lot of people make is to feel comfortable in retiring after a push up in the market has produced the magic "number." They then retire, and watch in horror as the value of their portfolio drops in a down market and the "number" fades into oblivion. On the other hand, when news is negative, as it is today, and markets have dropped, people are fearful of retiring. But, if the financial plan works today, after the market has experienced a meaningful downturn (and stock prices are at more reasonable levels), it is very likely a good time to retire. As long as a solid strategy is in place to ensure that cash flow needs can be met over the next couple of years without having to liquidate stocks and bonds in down markets, retirees should be able to weather the storm.

Having said all this, it goes without saying that there are no guarantees. Talk is increasing that we are on the verge of another period like the 1930s, that the next shoe to drop is a serious deflation, and that our monetary and fiscal policies are failing us. This view can't be dismissed; but I, along with most observers, still see this as a low-probability event.

It has to be said , of course, that if we are moving into a 1930s type period, then retirement is a bad idea. Work as long as you can.

What do you think?

Monday, July 19, 2010

We're Not in Lake Wobegon

It is no big secret that, over the long term, individual investors do poorly. This is emphasized each year when Dalbar produces their annual quantitative analysis of investor behavior. They found for the 20 years ended in December 2009

" equity fund investors averaged 3.17% compared to 8.20% for buy-and-hold stock investors (S&P 500)."

Long term market observers understand that this is due to emotions coming to the forefront in major market moves and an over-weighting of recent events in expectations. This is nicely illustrated by William J. Bernstein in "The Investor's Manifesto". In fact, Berstein said

" I believe most folks are about as capable of managing their retirement portfolio as they are of flying their own airliners or taking out a relative’s appendix."

In the book he tells of a Gallup poll conducted before and after the 1987 Russian bond default. In the poll, investors were asked how they thought they would perform along with market performance. This was a period of strong returns interrupted by the Russian default.

Expected Returns

June 1998

September 1998

Next year, own portfolio



Next year, overall U.S. market



One needs to read Garrison Keillor, glance at the Dalbar findings above and look at the table all pretty much simultaneously to appreciate what is going on. There are a lot of investors apparently who believe they are above average.

Furthermore one wonders what such a poll would look like today. Bernstein points out that investors expect higher returns after prices have risen but common sense tells you that higher returns will result by buying in at low prices.
We're not in Lake Wobegon but investors just don't know it.

Invoice Time

By now, you have received account statements from your brokers and have hopefully figured out your performance. If your situation is unwieldy and involves a number of accounts at a number of brokers, then this can turn into an arduous task. But it is one that you need to carry out and fully understand.

As shown in a previous post, calculating performance is fairly trivial if you are invested in exchange traded funds and can be done on a timely basis. As reported in the post, the return on the diversified portfolio of exchange traded funds, comprised of 30% bonds and 70% stocks, had a return of -3.1% over the first 6 months of 2010 and was calculated on 7/2.

When you do a financial plan, a particular return is assumed on your investable assets. Typically it is on the order of 6%. In many instances, this return must be achieved over the long term to reach your goals of retiring when you want to, leaving an inheritance etc. It is, therefore, vitally important to keep track of the return on your assets. How have your assets performed year-to-date?

How did you do?
A major purpose of my blog is to convince people that (1) you don't need to give away your nest egg for exceptional investment performance and (2) if you are so inclined you can learn to invest your own money. On an historical basis, the evidence shows that the approach recommended here has outperformed 8 out of 10 professional managers over the long term. It is why Warren Buffett, John Bogle, Charles Ellis, Burton Malkiel and many others recommend low-cost investing using index funds. Furthermore, it doesn't require a lot of time, resources or (contrary to what many want you to believe) an MBA.

The Invoice
If you have an advisor, take a hard look at your invoice. Somewhere on the invoice is a charge for investment services. This typically amounts to 1% to 2% of the market value of assets managed. If it is 1% and you have $1.0 million in market value of assets being managed, then you will see a charge for $2,500 for the quarter. Compound this $2,500 over 20 years, and you get the full impact of the charges.

If the advisor has your assets invested in actively traded mutual funds, then you have more costs that you can't see! Actively traded mutual funds charge on average approximately 1.5%. And this is just considering a fee-only advisor. It gets even worse if you are using a broker who is getting commissions based on the products they are putting you into.

The bottom line is this: You don't have to let your nest egg get eaten up by all these costs. If you want to explore your situation specifically, give me a call (443-896-4123) or drop me an email. Poor performance combined with excessive fees eat away at your nest egg and consequently could upset retirement goals.

photo by: Graeme Weatherston

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Think Creatively

A must-see entertaining TED talk by anyone interested in education. Sir Ken Robinson argues that our system stifles creativity.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Multi-tasking In the Investment World - A Resource

Do you find yourself switching around on-line, doing your usual stuff during the day, like looking for a better job on Craig's list and trying to follow investment markets? Can you not get enough of market news? Do you need a way to follow events when big stories break? Here is a resource you may not be aware of: .

At the top of the page, click on "TV." This will take you to Bloomberg's live TV. They cover market moving economic data as it it is released, important earnings releases, and the important market stories of the day. Reduce the volume, hit the minimize button, and you can keep one ear on the market news while you check to see if there are any bids on the old catcher's mitt you're trying to sell. During periods where there is just music, the TV is showing market averages, top performing companies etc.

-On the Bloomberg home page, click on "Radio."
-For both "TV" and "Radio," check the schedule. Note, for example, that the radio schedule includes some non-market programming like the Charlie Rose show, for example.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Stressed Out!!!!

I was getting so stressed out yesterday, reading about bond bubbles and the likelihood of an increase in interest rates and a consequent fall in bond prices, that I thought I should do my own stress test. My last stress test wasn't that easy. They put me on a tread mill, put it at a 46-degree angle and then turned up the speed. I had told them I was in pretty good shape and the stress test wouldn't be a problem. Little did I know. They pushed me to my limit, but that's the purpose of a stress test. Duh! When I got off the treadmill, I was sweating like a pig, my heart was pounding through my chest, and the dye was coursing through my body.

Fortunately, in the world of finance, stress tests aren't that traumatic - unless you happen to be math phobic. Take them a step further, and you can call them a "value-at-risk" (VAR) analysis and charge $1,000/hour as a hot-shot consultant (full disclosure: not what I do in my consulting work!). As a head's up, VAR is not foolproof ( as if anything is); just ask Long Term Capital Management. The largest hedge fund in the world went bust in 1998 when its VAR model broke down in the face of a "Black Swan" event.

Da' Stress Test
For my stress test, I wanted to get an idea of the impact of a rise in interest rates on bond exchange traded funds. To do this, I considered AGG--the iShares fund that tracks Barclays Aggregate Bond Index. For the uninitiated, this is the bond market's equivalent of the S&P 500. It is the index most professional bond managers go up against.

To do the test, you need duration and yield. Duration tells us approximately the percentage change in prices for bonds or for bond portfolios corresponding to a given change in interest rates. The change in yield plus the change in price then gives us the total return.

Let's do it for AGG. By going to Morningstar, we find the duration of AGG is 4.17 and the yield is 3.68. If interest rates rise 1% (100 basis points), then the average price of the bonds in the index will fall 4.17% ( this is what the duration measure tells us). But we will get 3.68% in yield over the course of the year. The total return then is -0.49%.

But what if yields rise by much more? What if the yield on the 10-year Treasury rises from 3.05% today to 5.05% next year this time? Then the approximate price change on AGG will be 2*4.17 or - 8.34 and the total return for the 12 months will be -8.34 + 3.68 = -4.66. Ouch!!!!

Quiz Problems
1. Find the 1-year total return for HYG if the 10-year Treasury yield increases from 3.05% to 4.55%.
2. Find the 1-year total return for TLT if the 10-year Treasury yield decreases from 3.05% to 2.05%.

What is the value at risk if we believe that the biggest change in rates is +2% and our portfolio is 50% invested in HYG and 50% invested in TLT?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Inflation/Deflation Wassup?

I just finished going through comments where a so-called "Master Po" argued against TIPS and in favor of gold. Parts of his argument were flat out wrong, and commenters let him know. Hopefully today ol' Master Po is considerably wiser.

In any event, there was some commentary on inflation and deflation, and since I cover this with my Econ 101 students each semester, I thought it was worth a post.
In fact we go over all the "flation" words used in economics: inflation, deflation, disinflation, hyperinflation and stagflation. Whew! I think that's all of them. If anyone knows of another one, please let me know.

The two that get most confused are deflation (overall price level is actually dropping into negative territory- ex. CPI down 2% year to date) and disinflation ( overall price level is increasing but at a decreasing rate - going from +3% rise to a +2% rise).

2 Quiz Questions
1. Has the U.S. ever experienced hyperinflation?
2. When did the U.S. experience stagflation?

EXTRA CREDIT ESSAY: Is deflation good or bad for the country? Who is helped and who is hurt?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Cash and Bonds are Different

Cash and bonds are different. Cash is generally any fixed income instrument that matures within one year. This includes certificates of deposit, money market funds, savings accounts, and even bonds maturing within one year (for example, a 5-year maturity that was issued 4 years ago). Bonds, on the other hand, are fixed income instruments that mature out past one year and whose price varies with interest rates. As interest rates rise, bond prices decline and vice versa. The bottom line is that the returns for bonds (also classified as fixed income) and cash are different, and this difference should be kept in mind in the asset allocation process.

Sector Returns
To appreciate the difference in performance between cash and fixed income, consider the 20-year period presented by BlackRock: CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE

The table shows that the return on fixed income as an asset class varied between +18.5% (1995) and -2.9% (1994). Cash returns varied between +8.4% (1990) and +0.2% (2009). The 2009 cash return, of course, reflects the fact that, today, short-term interest rates are at the lowest level in 20 years.

The fixed income sector in the table represents the overall investment grade bond market as represented by Barclay's Capital U.S. Aggregate Index. It essentially encompasses the U.S. investment grade bond market for issues having a maturity greater than 1 year.

In looking at the fixed income returns in the table, it is notable that there were 4 years out of the 20 where returns were double-digit positive. In these years, bond prices rose as interest rates dropped. The capital gain along with the year's interest produced double-digit gains.

Flip this around, and notice that there were only 2 years where returns were negative. In these years, bond prices dropped because of rising interest rates and overcame the positive contribution from the interest payment. Still, as noted above, the biggest negative return was only -2.9% in 1994.

The negative returns beg the question of what would it take to get a big negative drop? Another way to ask this is: should we be worried about the much bally-hooed bond market bubble. In fact, conditions are ripe for a decent sized downturn - yields are low and could rise a sizable amount over a fairly short period of time because of macroeconomic conditions involving the Federal Reserve flooding the banking system with reserves and a fiscal policy mess at the Federal and State levels.

Follow Up
Read up on 1994 to understand the conditions that produced the -2.9% in the fixed income sector. Also look up the the 12-month returns for HYG, TBT, and CSJ to see how widely varying the returns are within the fixed income sector. Finally, pull out your 401 (k)s and other account statements to review your asset allocation.

Disclaimer: Information is for instructional purposes and is not to be construed as advice specific to any investor.

Monday, July 12, 2010

NAMI Howard County Wins Award

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) of Howard County won the Audrey Robbins 2010 Volunteer Team of the year award. I enjoy working with the board and seeing first hand some of the grassroots level work they do to make Howard County a great place to live and to improve the lives of many Howard County families.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Raw Inspiration

From 7million7years

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Great Louis Armstrong On This Week's Market

One of the greats. We've avoided the abyss and have gained a reprieve - at least for now. Monday is the start of earnings season. For what it's worth, the comparison to last year have to be pretty good.

Enjoy Louis:

Required Reading

Larry Swedroe in "How Not to Create A Fortune" does something rarely done. He examines stock recommendations made in the past. In particular, he looks at the 8/14/2000 issue of Fortune magazine that touted "10 Stocks to Last the Decade."

The results are not pretty. Two companies, Enron and Nortel, are bankrupt; and 7 out of 8 of the remaining companies underperformed market averages! IMHO every such magazine cover should have on the front in bold letters : Following the Stock Pick Advice Given in This Magazine May Be Hazardous to Your Financial Health."

The folly of following such advice is not the only takeaway. It is also important to understand that, if we asked 1,000 self-proclaimed market gurus in 2000 to produce a list of 10 stocks, some would have done exceedingly well by pure luck. Some surely would have picked the companies that made it thru the bust and avoided the mine field of financial companies in 2008.

Surely some of the gurus would have done well because of skill. The issue is that no one has yet shown how to identify them ahead of time.

The bottom line, once again, is to follow the advice of long-time market investors Warren Buffett, John Bogle, William Bernstein, Burton Malkiel, Charles Ellis, Dan Solin and many others to invest in low-fee, low-cost, low-turnover index funds .

Follow Up

-"The Elements of Investing", by Ellis and Malkiel
-"The Investor's Manifesto", by William Bernstein
-"The Smartest Investment Book You'll Ever Read", by Daniel Solin

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Earnings Season Almost Here

Interesting chart from Bespoke Investment Group showing stocks during off earnings season periods and earnings season . CLICK CHART TO ENLARGE
Earnings season starts on Monday with the release of Alcoa's results. Expectations are not as strong for earnings overall as they been in the recent past. This is a good thing. If they are even a little bit better than expected, it could push prices higher.

Guidance, where companies look down the road a bit, is also important. That's where investors will get clues on how the recovery (or lack of recovery) is proceeding.
Buckle could get bumpy.

Disclaimer: Information is for educational purposes only. Investors should do their own homework or consult with an investment professional before making investment decisions.

Buy Maryland Bonds?

Maryland residents in the highest tax brackets may be curious about how to go about investing in Maryland municipal bonds. Here is an upcoming issue. Go to Buy Maryland Bonds and click on the "Enter site" button at the bottom of the page (after reading the page of course - assuming the first two paragraphs don't put you to sleep!) to get to their disclaimer page. Read the disclaimer.

This takes you to a description of an upcoming offering.: General Obligation Bonds, State and Local Facilities Loan of 2010, Second Series A.

The bond sale is expected to begin for the public on 7/23. At the bottom of the page is a link to a list of the underwriters of the bonds. To buy these bonds at the sale at no commission an account has to be opened with one of the securities dealers listed. Maturities range from 2013 to 2018 and come in denominations of $5,000. Preliminary talk is that the tax free yields may be as high as 3.50% on the longer maturity issues.

CAVEAT These are not discount brokers. Check all fees before opening an account.

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated in any way with any of the brokers/security dealers listed. This post is intended for informational purposes only. To determine if these are appropriate investments for you, consult a financial advisor.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Warren Buffett gives the key to successful investing

Are you investing in "low-cost index funds?" If you were writing rock-and-roll songs, wouldn't you listen to Paul McCartney? In trying to understand investments, shouldn't you heed the words of the world's greatest investor? The sad state of affairs is that millions of Americans are throwing away a good part of their nest eggs on which their retirement depends by overpaying charlatans who pretend to be market gurus!

Listen closely as the master recommends "low cost index funds."

Sunday, July 4, 2010

How to Buy Bonds

How to Buy Bonds

The questions I am getting most often from investors these days are (aside from "Is now a good time to get into the market?") about how to buy bonds.

At the outset, it is worth noting that yields are low today; and most experts believe they will rise. When yields rise, bond prices drop. This is not much of a concern to many investors because they will still get their principal back ( there is, however, an opportunity cost) as long as they hold the bonds to maturity. And that is their main concern.

The process that will follow is covered in my 3 day face-to-face course . If it would help you to sit down with me to go over this, please give me a call.

The Process

You should begin by looking at the inventory that is held by your broker. For example, if you use Charles Schwab, putter around on their site until you find their inventory. If you can't find their inventory, call your rep and get help. If you're still stuck, drop me an email and I'll tell you what to click on.

Here we'll look at Zion's Bank. You should know I am in no way affiliated with Zion's Bank and receive no compensation from them. They are a source of bond inventory and, because the bond market is an over-the-counter market, it is always good to have alternative sources.

Begin by going to Zions Bank. Click "Investments." Click on their logo "ZIONS DIRECT." Click "BOND STORE" and then "SEARCH BONDS." Note that there is a $10.95 transaction fee to buy bonds--worth comparing to the fee charged by your broker.

At this page, you see a wide range of bond categories including "Municipal Bonds," "Investment Grade Corps.," "High Yield Corporates," and even "Treasuries." Incidentally, if you are interested in buying Treasury issues on an ongoing basis, you may want to check out Treasury Direct, where you can set up a commission-free account to buy Treasury issues in their regularly scheduled auctions.

Click on "Investment Grade Corporates". You come to:


Note the boxes I filled indicating desired maturity range, price range, etc. You can obviously put in other desired characteristics. At the bottom, I filled in all of the "exclude " bubbles; but, if you want to include callable bonds etc., you can do that as well.

Bond Inventory

Next click "Search." This produces:


You can edit your search and eliminate bonds, etc. One thing you want to do, just for edification purposes, is to click on "Build Ladder." There you will find interest payments specified, etc. This is almost equivalent to constructing your personal annuity.

Follow Up

Play around with the specifications. Look at the below investment grade offerings, and compare yields for different maturities. Follow bonds over time and see how their prices change as yields change. Go to the Fidelity site and see if you can find their bond inventory.


This information is intended for educational purposes only and is not a recommendation for any specific investor.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Blue Bayou

Linda Ronstadt covers a Roy Orbison classic, as we reflect on the market.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

YTD Performance-Blackrock Diversified Portfolio

In previous posts, we have looked at returns over the last 20 years for parts of the capital markets including international, growth, value, fixed income etc. as provided by Blackrock.

The value of the Blackrock data is it provides long term results, shows volatility explicitly, and illustrates the value of diversification.

The following table extends these results by showing year-to-date returns on the sectors of the diversified portfolio: Click to Enlarge.

The table shows the volatility of various sectors and the dampening influence on returns that results from diversification.

For the year-to-date period, the international sector has had the greatest underperformance at -13.14% followed by growth stocks at -7.71%. Bonds have played an heroic role achieving a return of +5.24%.

Overall, the portfolio is down -3.1% calculated as follows:

.3* 1.0524 + .11 * .8686 + .11 * .988 + .24 * .9229 + .24 * .9483 = .969 and

.968 - 1 = -.031

The returns are based on net asset value as reported by Morningstar.

To me, a benefit of simplifying and using exchange traded funds is the ability to easily track performance on an ongoing basis. Also, by playing with the numbers, it is easy to see the impact of altering the allocation by, say, moving 5% from international to bonds.

Disclaimer: the information here is intended solely for instructional purposes. Investors should consult an advisor or do their own research before investing. I hold some of the exchange traded funds mentioned.