The Three Fund Portfolio

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The Three Fund Portfolio

Postby Taylor Larimore » Sun Jan 01, 2012 7:02 pm

Bogleheads:

After a lifetime of investing since 1950 trying to "beat the market," I am convinced that a simple 3-fund (or ETF) portfolio of Total Stock Market, Total International, and Total Bond Market, properly allocated, is an ideal portfolio for most investors. The advantages are many:

* Very diversified with over 15,000 worldwide securities (lower risk).
* Very low-cost.
* Very tax-efficient.
* The advantages of Simplicity
* Fewer but larger funds results in earlier eligibility for Admiral, Voyager and Flagship benefits.
* No adviser risk.
* No fund manager risk.
* No style drift.
* No "asset bloat" problems.
* No tracking error to cause abandonment of the strategy.
* No overlap
* No front-running that reduces sub-index returns.
* On the Efficient Frontier (highest return per unit of risk).
* Automatic rebalancing within each fund.
* Never underperforms the market (less worry).
* Easy to maintain for the owner, spouse, caregivers and heirs.
* More time with family and friends.
* Mathematically certain to outperform most investors. This was Morningstar's 15-Year Category Performance for each fund updated on January 01, 2014:

TOP 32% = Vanguard Total Stock Market (VTSMX)
TOP 22% = After tax.

TOP 49% = Vanguard Total International (VGTSX)
TOP 39% = After tax

TOP 47% = Vanguard Total Bond Market (VBMFX)
TOP 42% = After tax

GOLD: Morningstar's highest "Analyst Rating" (all three funds).

Addendum:
* Use this link for an asset allocation that matches your personal situation.
* Place Total Bond Market in a tax-advantaged account.
* In taxable accounts (when tax-advantaged accounts are full) high-income investors should substitute a tax-exempt bond fund for Total Bond Market.

What experts say:

American Association of Individual Investors: "It should come as no surprise that behavioral finance research makes a strong case for buying and holding low-cost, broadly diversified index funds."

Mark Balasa, CPA, CFP: "That three-pronged approach is going to beat the vast majority of the individual stock and bond portfolio that most people have at brokerage firms. There is a certain elegance in the simplicity of it."

Christine Benz, Morningstar Director of Personal Finance: "A single, broadly based index fund can give you exposure to the whole stock or bond market, enabling you to build an entire portfolio with just one or two funds."

Bill Bernstein, financial author, adviser: "Does this (three fund) portfolio seem overly simplistic, even amateurish? Get over it. Over the next few decades, the overwhelming majority of all professional investors will not be able to beat it."

Jack Bogle: "The beauty of owning the market is that you eliminate individual stock risk, you eliminate market sector risk, and you eliminate manager risk. -- Owning a share in the entire stock market, or the entire bond market—and then holding it forever—happens to be the surest route to long-term investment success."

Warren Buffett: “I’d rather be certain of a good return than hopeful of a great one. -- Most investors are better off putting their money in low-cost index funds."

Scott Burns, columnist, financial author: "The odd are really, really poor than any of us will do better than a low-cost broad index fund."

Jonathan Burton, MarketWatch: "There are plenty of ways to complicate investing, and plenty of people who stand to make money from you as a result. So just think of a three-fund strategy as something you won't have to think about too much."

Andrew Clarke, finanancial author: "If your stock portfolio looks very different from the broad stock market, you're assuming additional risk that may, or may not, pay off."

Jonathan Clements, financial author and Wall Street Journal columnist: "If you want a surefire strategy for outpacing most other U.S. stock investors, simply shovel money into an index fund that tracks a broad U.S. market index such as the Wilshire 5000 or the Russell 3000."

John Cochrane, President American Finance Association: "The market in aggregate always gets the allocation of capital right."

Consumer Reports Money Book: "Simply buy the market as a whole."

Charles Ellis, financial author: "The stock market is clearly too efficient for most of us to do better."

Nobel Laureate, Eugene Fama: "Whether you decide to tilt toward value depends on whether you are willing to bear the associated risk...The market portfolio is always efficient...For most people, the market portfolio is the most sensible decision."

Paul Farrell, CBS: "Where does Fama invest his retirement money? 'In index funds. Mostly the Wilshire 5000.' "

Rick Ferri, Forbes columnist, financial author, adviser: "The older I get, the more I believe the 3-fund portfolio is an excellent choice for most people. It's simple, cheap, easy to maintain, and has no tracking error that would cause emotional abandonment to the strategy."

Graham/Zweig, financial authors: "The single best choice for a lifelong holding is a total stock-market index fund."

Alan Greenspan, former Chairman of the Federal Reserve: "Prices in the marketplace are by definition the right price."

Mark Hebner, financial author, adviser: “A diversified portfolio which captures the right blend of market indexes reaps the benefit of carrying the systematic risk of the entire market while minimizing exposure to the unsystematic and concentrated risk associated with individual stocks and bonds, countries, industries, or sectors.”

Hulbert Financial Digest: "Buying and holding a broad-market index fund remains the best course of action for most investors."

Sheldon Jacobs, financial author of No-Load Fund Investing: "The best index fund for almost everyone is the Total Stock Market Index Fund.--The fund can only go wrong if the market goes down and never comes back again, which is not going to happen."

Kiplinger's Retirement Report: "You'll beat most investors with just three funds that cover the vast majority of global stock and bond markets: Vanguard Total Stock Market; Vanguard Total International Stock Index and Vanguard Total Bond Market Index."

Lawrence Kudlow, CNBC: "I like the concept of the Wilshire 5000, which essentially gives you a piece of the rock of all actively traded companies."

Prof. Burton Malkiel, author of Random Walk Down Wall Street: "I recommend a total-maket index fund--one that follows the entire U.S. stock market. And I recommend the same approach for the U.S. bond market and international stocks."

Bill Miller, famed fund manager: "With the market beating 91% of surviving managers since the beginning of 1982, it looks pretty efficient to me."

E.F.Moody, financial author, advisor: "I am increasingly convinced that the best investment advice for both individual and institutional equity investors is to buy a low-cost broad-based index fund that holds all the stocks comprising the market portfolio."

Motley Fools: "Invest your long-term moolah in index mutual funds that are designed to track the performance of a broad market index."

John Norstad, academic: "For total-market investors, the three disciplines of history, arithmetic, and reason all say that they will succeed in the end."

Suzy Orman: "One of my favorite index funds, Vanguard Total Stock Market (VTSAX), has a total expense ratio of 0.06%"

Jane Bryant Quinn, financial author, syndicated columnist: "The dependable great investment returns come from index funds which invest in the stock market as a whole."

Pat Regnier, former Morningstar analyst: "We should just forget about choosing fund managers and settle for index funds to mimic the market."

Ron Ross, financial author: "Giving up the futile pursuit of beating the market is the surest way to increase your investment efficiency and enhance your financial peace of mind."

Paul Samuelson, Nobel Laureate: "The most efficient way to diversify a stock portfolio is with a low-fee index fund. Statistically, a broadly based stock index fund will outperform most actively managed equity portfolios."

Gus Sauter, former Vanguard chief investment officer: "I think a very good way to gain exposure to the stock market is through the Total Stock Market Portfolio on the domestic side."

Bill Schultheis, financial author, adviser: The simplest approach to diversifying your stock market investments is to invest in one index fund that represents the entire stock market."

Charles Schwab: "Only about one out of every four equity funds outperforms the stock market. That's why I'm a firm believer in the power of indexing."

Chandan Sengupta, financial author: "Use a low-cost, broad-based index fund to passively invest in a little bit of a large number of stocks."

Prof. Jeremy Siegel, financial author: "For most of us, trying to beat the market leads to disastrous results."

Dan Solin, financial author: "You can get as simple or as complicated as you'd like. You can keep it very simple by owning just three mutual funds that invests in domestic stocks, foreign stocks, and bonds. That's precisely what I recommend in my model portfolios."

William Spitz, financial author: "Few are able to beat a simple strategy of buying and holding the securities that comprise the market."

Prof. Meir Statman, financial author: "It makes sense to have those three funds. What makes it hard is that it seems too simple to actually be a winner."

Stein & DeMuth, financial authors and adviser: "Buying and holding a few broad market index funds is perhaps the most important move ordinary investors can make to supercharge their portfolios."

"Robert Stovall, investment manager: It's just not true that you can't beat the market. Every year about one-third do it. Of course, each year it is a different group."

Larry Swedroe, financial author, adviser: "Over the last 75-years, investors who simply invested passively in the total U.S. stock Market would have doubled their investment approximately every seven years."

Peter D. Teresa, Morningstar Sr. Analyst: My recommendation: a fund that indexes the entire market, such as Vanguard Total Stock Market Index."

Wilshire Research: "The market portfolio offers the best ratio of return to risk."

John Woerth, Vanguard director of public relations: "We would agree that this three-fund approach offers most investors a prudent, well-balanced, diversified portfolio at a low cost."

Jason Zweig, financial author and Wall Street Journal columnist: "I think a total stock market index fund is not only the simplest, but the very best core investment for most people.

Warren Buffett, famed investor: "There seems to be some perverse human characteristic that likes to make easy things difficult."

Forbes: How to Diversify With Just Three Mutual Funds

Wall Street Journal: Build a Complete Portfolio in Just Three Funds

Three Mutual Funds That End The Guesswork

Investing in Total Markets

Investing with a Three Fund Portfolio

Happy New Year!

Taylor
"Simplicity is the master key to financial success." -- Jack Bogle
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Re: The Three Fund Portfolio

Postby livesoft » Sun Jan 01, 2012 7:31 pm

While I respect your view, have you thought that it might be tainted by recency bias?

First, the Total Int'l Index fund has existed in its current format for about 12 months.
Second, the past year was a poor year for small-caps and value equities, so the broad index funds look great in comparison.
And Third, what about TIPS? :)

... just trying to keep the Permanent Portfolio folks at bay.
It's all about short-term opportunistic rebalancing due to a short-term change in one's asset allocation, uh, I mean opportunistic rebalancing, uh I mean rebalancing, uh I mean market timing.
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Re: The Three Fund Portfolio

Postby ClaireTN » Sun Jan 01, 2012 7:46 pm

I'm also curious about the exclusion of TIPS. I'm using a four-fund portfolio: TSM, TISM, TBM, and TIPS.
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Re: The Three Fund Portfolio

Postby Nathan Drake » Sun Jan 01, 2012 7:48 pm

While I respect your view, have you thought that it might be tainted by recency bias?


There's really no 'recency bias' to the three fund portfolio. Any recency bias would depend on how much you have allocated to any of the three funds listed (per your asset allocation) since bonds have beat stocks this past decade:

Total International Stock Market has done relatively well in the past decade.

Total Bond Market has done very well in the past decade.

Total US Stock Market has done so-so, but still positive over the past decade.
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Re: The Three Fund Portfolio

Postby Cash » Sun Jan 01, 2012 8:20 pm

Taylor, might you one day simplify even further to Vanguard Total World + Total Bond Market?
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Re: The Three Fund Portfolio

Postby no_name » Sun Jan 01, 2012 8:23 pm

Cash wrote:Taylor, might you one day simplify even further to Vanguard Total World + Total Bond Market?


Not Taylor, Total STK markt and Total Int'l Markt complement each other, and it's easier to tilt to value small caps./
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Re: The Three Fund Portfolio

Postby Noobvestor » Sun Jan 01, 2012 8:35 pm

jumpin wrote:
Cash wrote:Taylor, might you one day simply even further to Vanguard Total World + Total Bond Market?


Not Taylor, Total STK markt and Total Int'l Markt complement each other, and it's easier to tilt to value small caps./


The bigger problem is simply expenses ... the ETF version mercifully has no load, but the fund version has a small buy-in and sell cost. Silly, but true.
"In the absence of clarity, diversification is the only logical strategy" -= Larry Swedroe
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Re: The Three Fund Portfolio

Postby CaliJim » Sun Jan 01, 2012 9:05 pm

There is much to be said for keeping it simple and diversifying broadly.

Slicing and dicing and tilting certainly adds effort for just a skosh higher expected return, and there is no guarantee that it will have been worth it.

If I could only hold asset classes - my three would be TSM (or Total World Stock Market-TWSM?) , TBM, and TIPS.

TSM and ISM are closely enough correlated, and I'll be spending most of it in USD,

I like a dose of TIPS as a hedge against unexpected inflation. Obviously - since TIPS have been around in the US only since 1997 - there isn't a lot of history to go on WRT how they will perform over the long haul compared to TBM, but I'm hoping they will smooth things out during the withdrawal phase.
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Re: The Three Fund Portfolio

Postby Cash » Sun Jan 01, 2012 9:13 pm

Noobvestor wrote:
jumpin wrote:
Cash wrote:Taylor, might you one day simply even further to Vanguard Total World + Total Bond Market?


Not Taylor, Total STK markt and Total Int'l Markt complement each other, and it's easier to tilt to value small caps./


The bigger problem is simply expenses ... the ETF version mercifully has no load, but the fund version has a small buy-in and sell cost. Silly, but true.


They recently eliminated the purchase fee for the mutual fund version. The early redemption fee remains but can be avoided by the ETF. VT is still more expensive than the combination of TSM and TISM, but one could argue that the simplicity and additional time spent with family and friends is worth an extra .1%, and VT's expense ratio is likely to fall further.
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Re: The Three Fund Portfolio

Postby Muchtolearn » Sun Jan 01, 2012 10:34 pm

What makes certain individuals decide that TIPS, REITs and small cap value adds anything to passive indices other than recency bias or even some other type of bias?
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Re: The Three Fund Portfolio

Postby word » Sun Jan 01, 2012 10:47 pm

Muchtolearn wrote:What makes certain individuals decide that TIPS, REITs and small cap value adds anything to passive indices other than recency bias or even some other type of bias?

Additional risk means the investor expects additional return. As for TIPS, they function to reduce volatility in my overall portfolio. What makes you say that these portfolio impacts are just recency bias?
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Re: The Three Fund Portfolio

Postby Taylor Larimore » Sun Jan 01, 2012 11:08 pm

Cash wrote:Taylor, might you one day simplify even further to Vanguard Total World + Total Bond Market?


Hi Cash:

It is certainly an intriguing alternative if Vanguard Total World had similar cost and was equally as diversified as the two stock funds in the 3-fund portfolio.

Number of stocks:
Total Stock Market: 3344
Total International: 6700
Total World: 2927

Personally, I feel (as does Vanguard) that a U.S. investor should overweight domestic stocks primarily because many of our large corporations have significant overseas earnings and we buy and sell in domestic currency.

Happy New Year!

Taylor
"Simplicity is the master key to financial success." -- Jack Bogle
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Re: The Three Fund Portfolio

Postby AgnosticInvestor » Sun Jan 01, 2012 11:18 pm

This is my portfiolio (TSM, TISM, TBM). That's it. [My current employer was kind enough to offer the Big 3 as investment options under my 401(k) plan]. I'm constantly thinking of ways to improve it, but I'm weary of making it worse.
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Re: The Three Fund Portfolio

Postby joe8d » Sun Jan 01, 2012 11:40 pm

Personally, I feel (as does Vanguard) that a U.S. investor should overweight domestic stocks primarily because many of our large corporations have significant overseas earnings and we buy and sell in domestic currency.


Agree with Taylor.
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Re: The Three Fund Portfolio

Postby shariron » Sun Jan 01, 2012 11:46 pm

100% of my tax advantaged stock and bond investments are in the 4 fund portfolio- Total Stock Market, Total International, Total Bond Market, + Tips fund. Add Intermediate Tax Exempt in taxable + emergency funds and that’s it. For me, getting there was the conclusion of a multi-year journey that took me from a completely ignorant investor to a true Boglehead. Without Bogle’s courage, Vanguard, and the folks on this website, none of this would have ever occurred. It’s just that simple. Only thing left to do now is wait until my target allocation matches a TR fund (and should admiral shares for TR funds be introduced by then) to simplify even further!
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Re: The Three Fund Portfolio

Postby Cash » Mon Jan 02, 2012 12:27 am

Taylor Larimore wrote:
Cash wrote:Taylor, might you one day simplify even further to Vanguard Total World + Total Bond Market?


Hi Cash:

It is certainly an intriguing alternative if Vanguard Total World had similar cost and was equally as diversified as the two stock funds in the 3-fund portfolio.

Number of stocks:
Total Stock Market: 3344
Total International: 6700
Total World: 2927

Personally, I feel (as does Vanguard) that a U.S. investor should overweight domestic stocks because we buy and sell in domestic currency.

Happy New Year!

Taylor


To Vanguard's credit, they recently announced an index change for Total World:

In order to include U.S. and international small-capitalization stocks that weren't in its previous target benchmark, the fund now seeks to track the FTSE® Global All Cap Index. This benchmark is designed to measure the performance of large-, mid-, and small-capitalization stocks worldwide, with appropriate capitalization weighting. The index is also float-adjusted, so its weighting only includes shares that are available for purchase, as opposed to all outstanding shares.

Vanguard Total World Stock Index Fund invests in a broadly diversified sampling from its benchmark, which is made up of nearly 7,400 securities in 47 different countries and captures 98% of the world's investable stock market capitalization. About 56% of the index is made up of non-U.S. stocks.


https://personal.vanguard.com/us/insigh ... t-12192011 (emphasis added)

This gives me hope that Vanguard will continue to lower costs and increase diversification. Regardless, your points regarding current cost and domestic percentages are well taken. Happy new year to you as well!
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Re: The Three Fund Portfolio

Postby ofcmetz » Mon Jan 02, 2012 12:33 am

I really like the three fund portfolio, but I can't resist the urge to season mine with a few extra REIT's and TIP's. So I guess the cajun in me likes something slightly more spicy.
Showing up at the donut shop at 5 am to get them hot out of the oil is an example of successful market timing.
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Re: The Three Fund Portfolio

Postby blevine » Mon Jan 02, 2012 12:39 am

shariron wrote:100% of my tax advantaged stock and bond investments are in the 4 fund portfolio- Total Stock Market, Total International, Total Bond Market, + Tips fund. Add Intermediate Tax Exempt in taxable + emergency funds and that’s it. For me, getting there was the conclusion of a multi-year journey that took me from a completely ignorant investor to a true Boglehead. Without Bogle’s courage, Vanguard, and the folks on this website, none of this would have ever occurred. It’s just that simple. Only thing left to do now is wait until my target allocation matches a TR fund (and should admiral shares for TR funds be introduced by then) to simplify even further!


Not to digress, but from a tax standpoint this is not exactly the recommendation.
Why have your stocks in tax advantaged portfolio ? The typical advice
is to only buy the munis if you run out of tax advantaged space for bond allocation.
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Re: The Three Fund Portfolio

Postby stlutz » Mon Jan 02, 2012 12:39 am

My 2012 prediction. Taylor's original post will be the best post on this board for the entire year. :D
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Re: The Three Fund Portfolio

Postby Fallible » Mon Jan 02, 2012 1:12 am

I've had those three funds since the '90s, though I also have a few more. I loved reading the "expert" comments you provided. Great way to start the New Year! :D
"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool." ~ Richard Feynman
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Re: The Three Fund Portfolio

Postby CABob » Mon Jan 02, 2012 1:27 am

The majority of my investments are the three funds, but, I have added a tilt with TIPS, REIT, SCV, and GNMA. For the past several months I have been considering dropping the tilts for simplicity, but, intertia prevails at the moment.
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Re: The Three Fund Portfolio

Postby jidina80 » Mon Jan 02, 2012 1:46 am

Taylor Larimore wrote:After a lifetime of investing since 1950 trying to "beat the market," I am convinced that a simple 3-fund (or ETF) portfolio of Total Stock Market, Total International, and Total Bond Market, properly balanced, is an ideal portfolio for most investors. . . . .

Further support for this 3-Fund approach comes from the fact that these same 3 funds form the core holdings in Vanguard's own Target Retirement Funds.
https://personal.vanguard.com/us/funds/vanguard/TargetRetirementList
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Re: The Three Fund Portfolio

Postby Boglenaut » Mon Jan 02, 2012 1:54 am

ofcmetz wrote:I really like the three fund portfolio, but I can't resist the urge to season mine with a few extra REIT's and TIP's. So I guess the cajun in me likes something slightly more spicy.


I am not Cajun, but agree. How could anyone argue with the three fund portfolio? But of course in my eternal quest to improve on perfection, I have some TIPS, REITs, and some small/mid cap around the edges. I even put in a tiny pinch of HY Bond for seasoning. But those three funds (or their equivelents) do all the heavy lifting.

But if I only had the three funds, I'd be fine with that. This year (oops, I mean last year) I reduced my taxable funds from 6 to 2.
The problem with being a Boglehead is the more time you spend on it, the worse you get. It makes for a lousy hobby.
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Re: The Three Fund Portfolio

Postby tpm871 » Mon Jan 02, 2012 3:27 am

In terms of fees, you'd be better off with a mix of Vanguard Europe, Pacific Rim, and Emerging Markets fund rather than ISM. Europe and Pacific (which comprise most of ISM) have an ER of 0.14, whereas ISM has an ER of 0.20. There's also better rebalancing opportunities with having them separate, and taxes associated with rebalancing can be avoided by only selling shares held in tax deferred accounts. The downside though is no Canada stocks... and a little bit more complexity.

I think a Treasury Bond Fund is better than TBM, since it is less correlated with equities (e.g., since TBM holds corporate bonds). I don't think the logic of "owning the whole market" makes as much sense for bonds as it does for stocks; for example, I don't want to own junk bonds just because they are a part of the bond market -- I prefer to take most of my risk in equities.
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Re: The Three Fund Portfolio

Postby bertilak » Mon Jan 02, 2012 7:40 am

ofcmetz wrote:I really like the three fund portfolio, but I can't resist the urge to season mine with a few extra REIT's and TIP's. So I guess the cajun in me likes something slightly more spicy.

That EXACTLY describes my portfolio.
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Re: The Three Fund Portfolio

Postby golfallday » Mon Jan 02, 2012 11:17 am

Taylor. your post inspires confidence!! The only funds I use in my 457 plan are VIIIX and VBTIX; Mr Bogle's writings and discussions have thoroughly convinced me that the SP500 has an enormous international footprint. I use VTHRX in my IRA. When $$ is leftover at the end of month it goes to VTSMX in the taxable account. Maybe I'm starting to get it after all!!
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Re: The Three Fund Portfolio

Postby Muchtolearn » Mon Jan 02, 2012 11:37 am

golfallday wrote:Taylor. your post inspires confidence!! The only funds I use in my 457 plan are VIIIX and VBTIX; Mr Bogle's writings and discussions have thoroughly convinced me that the SP500 has an enormous international footprint. I use VTHRX in my IRA. When $$ is leftover at the end of month it goes to VTSMX in the taxable account. Maybe I'm starting to get it after all!!


I like that golfallday. A 2-fund portfolio. Makes life simple although there is less "diversification" although as you say, US stocks now have half their earnings abroad and probably international stocks have half their earnings here. So it may be all a wash. At least I'm going that way.
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Re: The Three Fund Portfolio

Postby centrifuge41 » Mon Jan 02, 2012 11:45 am

tpm871 wrote:In terms of fees, you'd be better off with a mix of Vanguard Europe, Pacific Rim, and Emerging Markets fund rather than ISM. Europe and Pacific (which comprise most of ISM) have an ER of 0.14, whereas ISM has an ER of 0.20. There's also better rebalancing opportunities with having them separate, and taxes associated with rebalancing can be avoided by only selling shares held in tax deferred accounts. The downside though is no Canada stocks... and a little bit more complexity.
I believe that the Total Intl Stock Market Fund also holds small cap international stocks, whether they are from Europe, the Pacific, Canada, or Emerging Markets, while the 3 regionalized international funds don't have small caps.
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Re: The Three Fund Portfolio

Postby shariron » Mon Jan 02, 2012 12:06 pm

Blevine- Yes, your point is well taken. Between self employment and 529’s, I’ve got a lot of tax advantaged space available and a long time frame to let it grow.
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Re: The Three Fund Portfolio

Postby golfallday » Mon Jan 02, 2012 12:13 pm

I like that golfallday. A 2-fund portfolio. Makes life simple although there is less "diversification" although as you say, US stocks now have half their earnings abroad and probably international stocks have half their earnings here. So it may be all a wash. At least I'm going that way.
[/quote]

The reason I use VIIIX for my stock allocation is that my 457 plan doesn't offer a Total US Stock Index; furthermore, there is no International Index offered...if there was, I would be in it.
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Re: The Three Fund Portfolio

Postby englishgirl » Mon Jan 02, 2012 12:25 pm

Muchtolearn wrote:
golfallday wrote:Taylor. your post inspires confidence!! The only funds I use in my 457 plan are VIIIX and VBTIX; Mr Bogle's writings and discussions have thoroughly convinced me that the SP500 has an enormous international footprint. I use VTHRX in my IRA. When $$ is leftover at the end of month it goes to VTSMX in the taxable account. Maybe I'm starting to get it after all!!


I like that golfallday. A 2-fund portfolio. Makes life simple although there is less "diversification" although as you say, US stocks now have half their earnings abroad and probably international stocks have half their earnings here. So it may be all a wash. At least I'm going that way.


Just to be pedantic, but somebody has to do it: golfallday has a 4-fund portfolio, not a 2-fund portfolio. [Though I had to go look up the ticker symbols to make sure.] There is a lot of overlap between VIIIX (500-index as far as I can tell), VTHRX (target retirement) and VTSMX (total stock market), but they are slightly different funds.

Personally, I think a good minimal fund portfolio would be a LifeStrategy fund + TIPs. Another option is Balanced Index + TIPs + International. Of course, these are all the same as having Total Stock + Total Bond + Total International + TIPs, but it saves doing some of the rebalancing yourself.
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Re: The Three Fund Portfolio

Postby rustymutt » Mon Jan 02, 2012 12:29 pm

VTI 30%
VEU 30%
VFITX 20%
SCHP 20%

The above account above had a loss for 2011, while the account below made money. I believe it was because of the asset allocation, rather than the choice of investments.

RPV 3%
VPU 4%
VHT 4%
VNQ 4%
IWC 3%
VBR 4%
EFV 6%
EWX 6%
DLS 6%
VFIUX 30%
VAIPX 30%
At the Very Least, Work Hard, Do Your Best, Know the Truth and the Facts and Always Be Honest!
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Re: The Three Fund Portfolio

Postby Aptenodytes » Mon Jan 02, 2012 12:33 pm

rustymutt wrote:VTI 30%
VEU 30%
VFITX 20%
SCHP 20%

The above account above had a loss for 2010, while the account below made money. I believe it was because of the asset allocation, rather than the choice of investments.

RPV 3%
VPU 4%
VHT 4%
VNQ 4%
IWC 3%
VBR 4%
EFV 6%
EWX 6%
DLS 6%
VFIUX 30%
VAIPX 30%

Last year 60% bonds beat 40% bonds. But then 100% bonds beat 60% bonds. And there was a lottery ticket that beat 100% bonds.
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Re: The Three Fund Portfolio

Postby FNK » Mon Jan 02, 2012 12:39 pm

Muchtolearn wrote:US stocks now have half their earnings abroad and probably international stocks have half their earnings here. So it may be all a wash. At least I'm going that way.


Folks, this is a fallacy. You're confusing the market of a corporation with the ownership of a corporation. Consider:

Apple (a US corporation) sells iPhones. Samsung and HTC (Asian corporations) sell Android phones.

Suppose you own only US companies. Suppose Android kills iPhone. How is it relevant to your portfolio that Apple sells iPhones in Europe?

The fact that US companies operate internationally means that the owner of US stocks is exposed to international risks. The fact that foreign companies operate in US means the same. The boglehead response to risk is to diversify. Not owning international companies means taking uncompensated risk, i.e. leaving free lunch on the table.

Note that US companies operating world-wide also expose you to currency risks, so the currency home bias is questionable.

And that's why I like 50/50 us/intl equity. A simple approximation to true market weighting (and a little bit of cowardice, I may be wrong after all). TR's 70/30 is backwards looking.

International stocks are on sale now, load up.
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Re: The Three Fund Portfolio

Postby Muchtolearn » Mon Jan 02, 2012 12:58 pm

FNK wrote:
Muchtolearn wrote:US stocks now have half their earnings abroad and probably international stocks have half their earnings here. So it may be all a wash. At least I'm going that way.


Folks, this is a fallacy. You're confusing the market of a corporation with the ownership of a corporation. Consider:

Apple (a US corporation) sells iPhones. Samsung and HTC (Asian corporations) sell Android phones.

Suppose you own only US companies. Suppose Android kills iPhone. How is it relevant to your portfolio that Apple sells iPhones in Europe?

The fact that US companies operate internationally means that the owner of US stocks is exposed to international risks. The fact that foreign companies operate in US means the same. The boglehead response to risk is to diversify. Not owning international companies means taking uncompensated risk, i.e. leaving free lunch on the table.

Note that US companies operating world-wide also expose you to currency risks, so the currency home bias is questionable.

And that's why I like 50/50 us/intl equity. A simple approximation to true market weighting (and a little bit of cowardice, I may be wrong after all). TR's 70/30 is backwards looking.

International stocks are on sale now, load up.


FNK,
Let's assume, as I think you agree, but even if you don't agree, that precisely half of US earnings are international and vice versa. Please explain why it would then matter if you were invested 50% each or 100% in US or 100% international? To go further, what if you lived in the UK? Would you be half UK and half international?
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Re: The Three Fund Portfolio

Postby ObliviousInvestor » Mon Jan 02, 2012 1:20 pm

This three-fund portfolio is what my wife and I now use for our retirement savings (though we do it via one fund -- LifeStrategy Growth).
Mike Piper, author/blogger
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Re: The Three Fund Portfolio

Postby tj » Mon Jan 02, 2012 1:46 pm

ObliviousInvestor wrote:This three-fund portfolio is what my wife and I now use for our retirement savings (though we do it via one fund -- LifeStrategy Growth).


I like this idea! I stayed away from the LifeStrategy funds because they had that Asset Allocation fund but they appeared to have gotten rid of it. Still, it makes having investments in 401K + ROTH + Taxable even more complicated...
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Re: The Three Fund Portfolio

Postby ObliviousInvestor » Mon Jan 02, 2012 1:51 pm

tj wrote:I stayed away from the LifeStrategy funds because they had that Asset Allocation fund but they appeared to have gotten rid of it.

Yep, the Asset Allocation fund was removed sometime in the last couple months.

tj wrote:Still, it makes having investments in 401K + ROTH + Taxable even more complicated...

Indeed. We are lucky in that all of our retirement savings are a) tax-sheltered and b) with Vanguard.
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Vanguard experts saw the light ahead.

Postby Taylor Larimore » Mon Jan 02, 2012 1:52 pm

Further support for this 3-Fund approach comes from the fact that these same 3 funds form the core holdings in Vanguard's own Target Retirement Funds.


With the most recent changes in the Target and Life Strategy Funds, Vanguard experts finally saw the light. :wink:

Happy New Year!
Taylor
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Re: The Three Fund Portfolio

Postby FabLab » Mon Jan 02, 2012 2:02 pm

Thanks Taylor! This has been one of my favorite threads. Why? Because the 3-4 fund, total market index portfolio is so easily maintained and sensible that I now have much more time to spend on other pursuits. Things that I once cared about (buying/selling, timing, etc.), quite remarkably, hold little or no interest to me now.

Cheers,
Ron
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Thank you, Mr. Bogle

Postby Taylor Larimore » Mon Jan 02, 2012 2:15 pm

Hi Ron:

Things that I once cared about (buying/selling, timing, etc.), quite remarkably, hold little or no interest to me now.


I feel the same. We can both thank Mr. Bogle.

Happy New Year!
Taylor
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Re: The Three Fund Portfolio

Postby FNK » Mon Jan 02, 2012 3:03 pm

Muchtolearn wrote:FNK,
Let's assume, as I think you agree, but even if you don't agree, that precisely half of US earnings are international and vice versa. Please explain why it would then matter if you were invested 50% each or 100% in US or 100% international?


Well, earnings of public companies are public, so no need to assume (and it's of course not 50/50 both ways). Regardless, say Chinese companies outcompete US companies world-wide. Then, US stock market will go down in favor of international (in this case, Chinese) stocks. It can go down maintaining the neat 50/50 domestic/international revenue stream. So it will matter a lot whether I owned US or international stocks.

It does not matter where the market is. It matters what companies you own. You want to own all of them.

Muchtolearn wrote:To go further, what if you lived in the UK? Would you be half UK and half international?


Tough question! I have been pondering it. I'd probably gravitate towards global market-cap weighting, which would make the UK slice smaller.
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Re: The Three Fund Portfolio

Postby umfundi » Mon Jan 02, 2012 9:36 pm

Taylor,

Thank you! But, I still need a little more tutorial advice.

I am somewhat more concerned about diversification and volatility than most. So, I have always had a little (3-5% each) specifically in REITS and in Natural Resources. But, that was then.

Do you think your current recommendations adequately include these less correlated components?

EDIT: And, while I'm at it, is there an easy way to see returns for comparable lazy portfolios of Vanguard funds? I am interested to see how they compare to portfolios that have the same philosophy (I think) but are more complex, like Alex Green's "Gone Fishin' Portfolio": http://www.gonefishinportfolio.com/

Thank you,

Keith
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Re: Vanguard experts saw the light ahead.

Postby AnotherINTP » Mon Jan 02, 2012 10:26 pm

Taylor Larimore wrote:
Further support for this 3-Fund approach comes from the fact that these same 3 funds form the core holdings in Vanguard's own Target Retirement Funds.


With the most recent changes in the Target and Life Strategy Funds, Vanguard experts finally saw the light. :wink:

Happy New Year!
Taylor


Each New Year brings the hope of progress -- or at least of new ideas to consider.

A case could be made that the new generation of Vanguard's all-in-one funds is even better than a traditional implementation of a lazy Big Three Index Fund portfolio:

    * simpler
    * much better stability of asset ratios (apparent risk), with no manual rebalancing required (unless life circumstances change)
    * during 2011 at least, slightly better returns for any of the Target Retirement funds than their underlying target ratio of 3 Index funds -- even if implemented as Admiral shares or ETFs!

The daily or fast rebalancing of the TR funds (and LifeStrategy funds very recently) adds a slightly new twist to index portfolio construction: it wasn't tracking error that gave the TR funds their slight edge in 2011, it was rebalancing strategy. Perhaps this hasn't generated much discussion on this forum because it is a fairly modest and rather random effect that will vary from year to year.

Even those who prefer to customize and tinker with a mostly Big Three Index Fund lazy portfolio might consider starting with a Target Retirement or LifeStrategy fund as the core building block (in a tax-advantaged account), in order to maintain a more constant level of market risk and perhaps take advantage of market volatility. (Constant rebalancing is just constantly buying low and selling high, right? 8-) )
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The Efficient Frontier and Past Performance

Postby Taylor Larimore » Mon Jan 02, 2012 11:27 pm

Hi Keith:

I will try to answer your questions one at a time:

I am somewhat more concerned about diversification and volatility than most. So, I have always had a little (3-5% each) specifically in REITS and in Natural Resources. But, that was then. Do you think your current recommendations adequately include these less correlated components?


The total market portfolios hold the market's weight in every marketable corporation--including REITS and Natural Resources. So your question involves "overweighting segments you think will outperform or reduce risk.

Many academics believe that Market Portfolios are on the "Efficient Frontier": Portfolios having the highest expected return possible for the given amount of risk. For this reason, I doubt that we can improve the risk/return trade-off by overweighting with additional securities already in the index.

If you are "Somewhat more concerned about diversification and volatility than most," in my opinion the best solution is to increase your bond allocation--not add more stock funds.

And while I'm at it, is there an easy way to see returns for comparable lazy portfolios of Vanguard funds? I am interested to see how they compare to portfolios that have the same philosophy (I think) but are more complex, like Alex Green's "Gone Fishin' Portfolio": http://www.gonefishinportfolio.com/


Total Market Index Fund performance reflects the market weight of all the asset-classes (REITS, Utilities, Precious Metal Companies, Small-Value, etc.) within it. Overweighting specific asset-classes will likely cause the Total Market Index to fall below the Efficient Frontier. For this reason I doubt if adding funds with the additional complexity is worth the trouble.

It is easy to back-test and find selected asset-classes that outperformed during certain periods and infer that these same asset-classes will outperform going forward. It seems logical but using past performance to pick winners is such a lousy idea that even the government requires mutual funds to tell you it is a lousy idea.

If anything, stocks, funds and asset-classes that outperform in one period are the ones that underperform later as they return to their mean. Mr. Bogle explains all this in this speech we heard him deliver at our Boglehead Reunion in June, 2002:

http://www.vanguard.com/bogle_site/sp20020626.html

Happy New Year!
Taylor
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Re: The Three Fund Portfolio

Postby CABob » Mon Jan 02, 2012 11:37 pm

is there an easy way to see returns for comparable lazy portfolios of Vanguard funds? I am interested to see how they compare to portfolios that have the same philosophy (I think) but are more complex


Have you seen Madsinger's reports? viewtopic.php?f=10&t=86447
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Re: The Three Fund Portfolio

Postby reisner » Mon Jan 02, 2012 11:48 pm

Re:

Total International? Doesn't the FTSE outperform this, as well as including otherwise-missing Canada?

Total Bond Market? Isn't the IT bond Market both safer and preferred by Jack Bogle?

And what about a safe house for money? How about the ST Bond Market?

These may be mere tweaks.

Thanks,
Rob E
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Re: The Three Fund Portfolio

Postby umfundi » Tue Jan 03, 2012 12:18 am

Taylor, and Bob:

Thank you very much!

It is incredible how much knowledge has gone into providing the simple choices that Taylor proposes.

Keith
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Re: The Three Fund Portfolio

Postby rohitj » Tue Jan 03, 2012 12:41 am

You still have institutional risk. If vanguard screws up their algorithms for buying / selling / balancing, you're pretty much screwed. Just not worth the risk to me -- I'd rather have 8 or 10 funds spread between 2 or 3 trusted institutions.
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Re: The Three Fund Portfolio

Postby umfundi » Tue Jan 03, 2012 12:55 am

Taylor,

Thank you for your thoughtful reply.

I asked about back testing simply so I could understand the past performance of various recommendations.

I put no credence into notions of "Reversion To The Mean" as you reference Jack Bogle, nor to "Momentum" as Larry Swedroe sometimes seems to want to believe in.

I am very interested in simplifying my choices, and I thank you for that.

Is there someone in particular at Vanguard that we should thank for continuing and expanding Jack Bogle's vision?

Best wishes,

Keith
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