Posts tagged ‘low cost’

ETF Slam Dunk: Mixing Jordan & Rodman

Players in the same game may use different strategies in the hunt for success. Take five-time NBA champ Dennis “The Worm” Rodman vs. Hall of Famer and fourteen-time All-Star Michael Jordan. Rodman’s bad-boy antics, tattoos, and loud hair colors more closely resemble the characteristics of a brash trader or quick-trigger hedge fund manager, which explains why Rodman played for five different NBA teams.  Jordan on the other-hand was less impulsive, and like a long-term investor, held a longer term horizon with respect to team loyalty – he spent 13 seasons with one team (Chicago Bulls), excluding a brief, half-hearted return to the Washington Wizards.  Despite their differences, they shared one common goal…the ambition to win.

In the investment world, traders and long-term investors in many cases could be even more different than Rodman and Jordan…just think Jim Cramer and Warren Buffett. But when it comes to the exploding trend of Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) expansion, traders and investors of all types share the common appreciation for lower costs (management fees and trading commissions). Beyond the lower costs, ETFs also offer a wide and growing range of liquid exposures, regardless of whether a trader wants to hold the ETF for five hours or an investor wants to own it for five years. The benefits of low cost and liquidity, relative to traditional actively managed mutual funds, are two key reasons why this market has blossomed to $822 billion in size and is still strengthening at a healthy clip.

Source: SPDR

The flight to bonds and out of equities has been well documented (see chart below), but underneath the surface is a migrating investor trend out of active managers, and into lower cost vehicles for equity exposure (ETFs and Index Funds). The poster child beneficiary of this movement is the Vanguard Group (based in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania), which manages $1.4 trillion in fund assets, including $112 billion in ETFs (Bloomberg). Equity heavy fund management companies like Janus Capital Group Inc. (JNS) and T. Rowe Price Group Inc. (TROW) have felt the brunt of the pain from the disinterested investing public.

Source: Iacono Research

The migration away from expensive actively managed funds has created a cut-throat dog-fight for ETF market share. Competition has gotten so bad that discount brokerage firms like Fidelity Investments ($1.25 trillion in mutual fund assets) and Charles Schwab Corp. (SCHW) have begun offering free ETF trading. Just two days ago Schwab also purchased Windward Investment Management, Inc. (~$3.9 billion in assets under management), for $150 million in stock and cash.

At the end of the day, money goes where it is treated best. Irrespective of differences between long-term investors and short-term traders, the lower costs and improved liquidity associated with ETFs have shifted money away from more costly, actively traded mutual funds. At my firm, Sidoxia Capital Management, I choose to use a diversified hybrid approach via my Fusion investment products (Conservative, Moderate, and Aggressive). Fusion integrates low-cost, tax-efficient investment vehicles and strategies, including fixed income securities (including funds & ETFs), individual stocks, and equity ETFs. Regardless of the differing preferences of hair colors and tattoos, my bet is that Dennis Rodman and Michael Jordan could agree on the importance of two things…winning games and using ETFs.

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®  

Plan. Invest. Prosper. 

*DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients own certain exchange traded funds, but at the time of publishing SCM had no direct position in JNS, TROW, SCHW or any other security referenced in this article. No information accessed through the Investing Caffeine (IC) website constitutes investment, financial, legal, tax or other advice nor is to be relied on in making an investment or other decision. Please read disclosure language on IC “Contact” page.

September 1, 2010 at 2:02 am 1 comment

Filet or Mac & Cheese? Investing for Retirement

The financial crisis of 2008-2009 placed a large swath of investors into paralysis based on a fear the United States and the rest of the world was on the verge of irreversible destruction. Regardless of what the newspaper headlines are reading and television pundits are spouting, individuals have to shrewdly plan for retirement no matter what the economy is doing. So then the question becomes, do you want to be eating macaroni & cheese in retirement, or does filet mignon or alternate five-star cuisine sound more appealing? I vote for the latter.

Despite what the government statistics are saying about the current state of benign inflation, you do not need to be a genius to see medical costs are exploding, energy charges have skyrocketed, and even more innocuous items such as movie ticket prices continue to rise. If that’s not a burden enough, depending on your age, there’s a legitimate concern the Social Security and Medicare safety nets may not be there for you in retirement. It is more important than ever to take control of your financial future by investing your money in a more efficient manner (see Fusion), focusing on long-term, low-cost, tax-efficient strategies. Whatever the direction of the financial markets (up, down, or sideways), if you don’t wisely invest your money, you will run the risk of working as a Wal-Mart (WMT) greeter into your 80s and relegated to eating mac & cheese (for lunch and dinner).

Broaden Your Horizons

The last decade has been tough for domestic equities. It’s true that not a lot of compounding of returns has occurred in the domestic equity markets over the last decade (see Lost Decade), but that weakness is not necessarily representative of the next decade’s performance or the past relative strength seen in areas like emerging markets, materials and certain fixed income markets. These alternatives, including cash, would have added significant diversification benefits to investor portfolios during previous years. Rather than focusing on what’s best for the investor, so much financial industry attention has been placed on high cost, high fee, high commission domestic stock funds or insurance-based products. Due to many inherent conflicts of interest, many individual investors have lost sight of other more attractive opportunities, like exchange traded funds, international strategies, and fixed-income investment vehicles.

Rule of 72

Depending on your risk profile, objectives and constraints, the “Rule of 72” implies your retirement portfolio should double from a $100,000 investment now to roughly $200,000 in seven years (to $400,000 in 14 years, $800,000 in 21 years, etc.), assuming your portfolio can earn a 10% annual return. Unfortunately, this snowballing effect of money growth does not work if you are paying out significant chunks of your returns to aggressive brokers and salespeople in the forms of high commissions, fees, and taxes (see a Penny Saved is Billions Earned). For example, if you are paying out total annual expenses of 2-3% to a broker, advisor, or investment manager, the doubling effect of the Rule of 72 will be stretched out to 9-10 years (rather than the above mentioned seven years).  If you do not know what you are paying in fees and expenses (like the majority of people), then do yourself a favor and educate yourself about the fee structures and tax strategies utilized in your investments (see also Investor Confusion). If you haven’t started investing, or you are shoveling out a lot of money in fees, expenses, and taxes, then you should reconsider your current investment stretegy. Otherwise, you may just want to begin stockpiling a lot of macaroni & cheese in your retirement pantry.

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®

Plan. Invest. Prosper. 


*DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients own certain exchange traded funds and shares in WMT, but at the time of publishing SCM had no direct positions in any security referenced in this article. No information accessed through the Investing Caffeine (IC) website constitutes investment, financial, legal, tax or other advice nor is to be relied on in making an investment or other decision. Please read disclosure language on the IC “Contact” page for more information.

April 21, 2010 at 11:34 am Leave a comment

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