Portfolio review for a young investor

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BlueMoonXD
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Joined: Sat Sep 14, 2019 11:50 pm

Portfolio review for a young investor

Post by BlueMoonXD » Thu Sep 26, 2019 12:29 am

Hi folks,

I've been lurking around here for a little bit and this forum has been a tremendous resource, and gotten me really interested in taking more active control of my finances. I want to thank everyone who freely contributes such detailed and useful analysis, it has made diving into self-directed investing exciting and manageable.

I'm a young tech worker with income potential in the range of 130-180k (currently on the lower end, working at a startup). My total investments are currently in the low six figures, and I have too large of a cash reserve right now, which I'm intending to trim down a bit. Most of my investing has been in a taxable account -- this is unfortunate, but I was a little too focused on the medium term and the idea of not being able to access my savings for nearly 40 years scared me. After fully understanding and appreciating the advantages of tax-advantaged investing, I now realize this was a mistake and I'll strive to correct it over the coming years. For now, however, it somewhat limits my ability to optimize my asset placement.

Some other notes:
* I think with my income trajectory and current savings, I'm lucky to be in a position where it shouldn't be too hard to remain on track for a comfortable retirement. Still, my plan is to maintain a fairly aggressive approach for the next 10-15 years.
* Psychologically, I'm confident I will be able to stay the course when the market is down. I'm at some risk of being an excessive tinker-er, and wanting too badly to try and invest on downswings (I understand waiting for the next one is foolish), but I don't think panic selling is in my nature.
* Not married, but I have a serious SO who is about to graduate and will be a relatively high income earner as well.
* My current employer 401(k) plan does not offer a match, nor allow for after-tax contributions.

Finally, I'll note I recently moved my portfolio from Wealthfront to Schwab, so I'll start by outlining my intended allocation, which is what I'm most interested in feedback on, and then discuss my current holdings, which unfortunately will take some unwinding (with potential tax consequences).

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Emergency funds: At least 12 months. intending to trim this down to about 6 months, but I prefer to estimate conservatively as I may take a month or two off before my next job, etc. I'm currently maxing my 401(k) so I'm also funding living expenses from here for a couple months.

Debt: No

Tax Filing Status: Single

Tax Rate: 24% Federal, 9.3% State

State of Residence: CA

Age: 26

-----------------

Target Asset Allocation
Domestic - 60%
International Developed - 20%
International Emerging - 10%
REITs - 5%
Bonds - 5%

Current Asset Allocation
Cash - 17%
Domestic - 44%
International Developed - 19%
International Emerging - 10%
REITs - 5%
Bonds - 5%

Because I'm coming over from Wealthfront, this is a little bit messy right now. I have a number of individual stock holdings I'm planning to mostly liquidate, as well as a significant chunk of cash (separate from my EF) in my investment account because WF sold my risk parity holdings when I left the platform, triggering a decent taxable event :annoyed

The full breakdown is below. Note that numbers below reflect the allocation after I have hit the 401(k) cap for this year, which is still in progress.

Taxable:
17% Cash

[Domestic]
19% Schwab US Broad Mkt (SCHB) (0.03%)
7% Vanguard Extended Mkt (VXF) (0.07%)
4% Schwab US Dividend Equity (SCHD) (0.06%)
4% Assorted Individual Stocks (0.00%)
3% Vanguard Total Stock Mkt (VTI) (0.03%)
1.5% Vanguard Dividend Appreciation (VIG) (0.06%)

[International]
17% Vanguard Developed Mkt (VEA) (0.05%)
1.5% Schwab International Equity (SCHF) (0.06%)

[EM]
10% Vanguard Emerging Mkt (VWO) (0.12%)

[Bonds]
1.5% Vanguard Tax-exempt Bond (VTEB) (0.08%)
1% IShares National Muni Bond (MUB) (0.07%)

Traditional 401(k):
5% Vanguard Real Estate (VGSLX) (0.12%)
2.5% Vanguard Total Mkt (VTSAX) (0.04%)
2.5% Vanguard Total Bond Mkt (VBTLX) (0.05%)

Roth IRA:
3% Schwab US Broad Mkt (SCHB) (0.03%)

Contributions
Annual Contributions
$19k 401(k)
$6k Roth IRA
$20k+ Taxable

Questions
1. I suspect I'll get some feedback that the 5% allocations, particularly to REITs, is unnecessary. My thought is that I do not own any real estate and would like more exposure to that asset class. What's the best approach here? I'm open to ramping up to a slightly higher REIT % over time by way of increased contributions in my tax-advantaged accounts.
2. What's the best way to allocate within domestic stocks? I see a lot of portfolios that are tilted towards small-cap value or extended market funds. Is there strong evidence to support such an approach? I'm somewhat inclined to just go with SCHB/VTI and keep it simple. I definitely intend to liquidate the dividend funds to reduce tax drag.
3. Many of my taxable positions have significant gains -- how should I weigh the trade-off between simplicity and avoiding triggering taxable events? Is it worth biting the bullet to get things sorted out?
4. Finally, I don't have any short term needs, but I'm a little unsure what the best way to plan for medium term expenses is. At my age, marriage and a potential home purchase in the next 5-10 years seems likely. I'd like to figure out how to best plan for this. Is it worth maintaining a separate, more conservative portfolio that I'd be comfortable liquidating if need be?

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Thanks in advance for taking the time to read this and advise. My main goal is to invest the excess cash in my taxable account and EF over the next few months, so I'd like to gather feedback on my asset allocation before I follow through on it. I'm also open to any other feedback or suggestions based on what I've listed above.

Cheers :sharebeer

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ruralavalon
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Location: Illinois

Re: Portfolio review for a young investor

Post by ruralavalon » Thu Sep 26, 2019 11:30 am

Welcome to the forum :) .
BlueMoonXD wrote:
Thu Sep 26, 2019 12:29 am
Target Asset Allocation
Domestic - 60%
International Developed - 20%
International Emerging - 10%
REITs - 5%
Bonds - 5%
At age 26 I suggest about 20% in bonds or other fixed income investments (like CDs, savings accounts, money market fund). This is expected to substantially reduce portfolio volatility (risk), with only a relatively modest decrease in portfolio return. Graph, "An Efficient Frontier: the power of diversification". Please see:
1) Wiki article Bogleheads® investment philosophy, part 3 "Never bear too much or too little risk";
2) Wiki article, "Asset allocation"; and
3) Morningstar (8/10/2019), "The Best Diversifiers for Your Equity Portfolio".

I suggest around 20 - 30% of stocks in international stocks. Vanguard paper (March 2012), "Considerations for investing in non-U.S. equities". Historically, allocating 20% of an equity portfolio to non-U.S. stocks would have captured about 84% of the maximum possible diversification benefit, and allocating 30% of an equity portfolio to non-U.S. stocks would have captured about 99% of the maximum possible diversification benefit (p. 6). (You can find lots of debate here on international allocation, opinions ranging all the way from 00% to 50% of stocks in international stocks. If you want more viewpoints on international stocks please try the Google search box, upper right, this page).

That works out to about 20% bonds (or other fixed income), 20% international stocks, and 60% domestic stocks. Asset allocation is a very personal decision. You must decide on an allocation that is comfortable for you based on your own ability, willingness and need to take risk.


BlueMoonXD wrote:
Thu Sep 26, 2019 12:29 am
Questions
1. I suspect I'll get some feedback that the 5% allocations, particularly to REITs, is unnecessary. My thought is that I do not own any real estate and would like more exposure to that asset class. What's the best approach here? I'm open to ramping up to a slightly higher REIT % over time by way of increased contributions in my tax-advantaged accounts.
In my opinion a REIT allocation of 5-10% is reasonable. A REIT fund like Vanguard Real Estate Index Fund (VGSLX) has a fairly low correlation to the total stock market (currently 46 on a scale of 100) so can provide a diversification benefit, and also can give some inflation protection.


BlueMoonXD wrote:
Thu Sep 26, 2019 12:29 am
2. What's the best way to allocate within domestic stocks? I see a lot of portfolios that are tilted towards small-cap value or extended market funds. Is there strong evidence to support such an approach? I'm somewhat inclined to just go with SCHB/VTI and keep it simple. . . . .
Your inclination toward total market funds is a good one in my opinion. In selecting funds strive for a combination of broad diversification (to reduce risk) and low expense ratios (to increase your net return). To simply and easily achieve those two goals I suggest choosing funds to simulate the very well diversified, low expense ratio "three-fund portfolio". Please see:
1) Wiki article "Three-fund portfolio";
2) Forum discussion, "The Three-Fund Portfolio"; and
3) Taylor Larimore post, "Articles recommending the three-fund portfolio".

If you want a small-cap value tilt, then Rick Ferri has suggested using a small-cap value index fund at around 25% of domestic stocks. “My preference is 75 percent to a total market index fund and 25 percent allocation to a small-value index fund“, Rick Ferri, etf.com (7/21/2014), "To Tilt Or Not To Tilt?".

I use 25% of domestic stocks in Vanguard Small-cap Value Index Fund Admiral Shares (VSIAX).



BlueMoonXD wrote:
Thu Sep 26, 2019 12:29 am
Tax Rate: 24% Federal, 9.3% State

. . . . .

Taxable:
17% Cash

[Domestic]
19% Schwab US Broad Mkt (SCHB) (0.03%)
7% Vanguard Extended Mkt (VXF) (0.07%)
4% Schwab US Dividend Equity (SCHD) (0.06%)
4% Assorted Individual Stocks (0.00%)
3% Vanguard Total Stock Mkt (VTI) (0.03%)
1.5% Vanguard Dividend Appreciation (VIG) (0.06%)

[International]
17% Vanguard Developed Mkt (VEA) (0.05%)
1.5% Schwab International Equity (SCHF) (0.06%)

[EM]
10% Vanguard Emerging Mkt (VWO) (0.12%)

[Bonds]
1.5% Vanguard Tax-exempt Bond (VTEB) (0.08%)
1% IShares National Muni Bond (MUB) (0.07%)

. . . . .

. . . I definitely intend to liquidate the dividend funds to reduce tax drag.

. . . . .

3. Many of my taxable positions have significant gains -- how should I weigh the trade-off between simplicity and avoiding triggering taxable events? Is it worth biting the bullet to get things sorted out?
Most of your taxable positions are stock index funds, which will be very tax-efficient. Wiki article "Tax-efficient fund placement".

Schwab US Broad Mkt (SCHB) (0.03%) and Vanguard Total Stock Mkt (VTI) (0.03%) are essentially duplicates. Those two total stock market funds already include the stocks covered in Vanguard Extended Mkt (VXF) (0.07%).

Also Vanguard Developed Mkt (VEA) (0.05%) and Schwab International Equity (SCHF) (0.06%) are essentially duplicates.

Although several funds just duplicate other funds and although I am a big fan of simplicity, I would not incur any significant income tax liability just to eliminate the duplication.

I would consider eliminating Schwab US Dividend Equity (SCHD) (0.06%) and Vanguard Dividend Appreciation (VIG) (0.06%) because already included in the total market funds and because not very tax-efficient.



BlueMoonXD wrote:
Thu Sep 26, 2019 12:29 am
4. Finally, I don't have any short term needs, but I'm a little unsure what the best way to plan for medium term expenses is. At my age, marriage and a potential home purchase in the next 5-10 years seems likely. I'd like to figure out how to best plan for this. Is it worth maintaining a separate, more conservative portfolio that I'd be comfortable liquidating if need be?
I have no opinion about saving for a home in California. I know next to nothing about the California real estate market, other than that it is is very different than the real estate market in my locality.
"Everything should be as simple as it is, but not simpler." - Albert Einstein | Wiki article link:Getting Started

Topic Author
BlueMoonXD
Posts: 6
Joined: Sat Sep 14, 2019 11:50 pm

Re: Portfolio review for a young investor

Post by BlueMoonXD » Thu Sep 26, 2019 2:05 pm

Thanks for the comments, that's helpful. I'd like to maintain an aggressive allocation, especially since I am comfortable keeping a larger emergency fund, but I think it may be appropriate to raise the bond allocation higher that I currently have it. It feels like younger investors either go 100% equities or a significantly more conservative allocation of 20-40% bonds, so I think maybe I was trying to split the difference and not accomplishing anything meaningful.

I suggest around 20 - 30% of stocks in international stocks.
This tracks with my proposed allocation, right? I have 33% of stocks currently as international (22% developed, 11% emerging). Would you propose any changes here?

Schwab US Broad Mkt (SCHB) (0.03%) and Vanguard Total Stock Mkt (VTI) (0.03%) are essentially duplicates.
Yes, this is a consequence of Wealthfront's automatic tax-loss harvesting, I have several small allocations that are duplicates. I agree with your comments and plan to avoid liquidating these positions unless it aligns with a rebalancing or I can sell them at a loss.

Those two total stock market funds already include the stocks covered in Vanguard Extended Mkt (VXF) (0.07%).
Can the sizeable allocation to VXF be treated as a small tilt towards small cap, or are they not really equivalent? I'd have to realize some significant gains in VXF so I wonder if I should simply continue holding it along with the total market funds as the bulk of my domestic portfolio.

I would consider eliminating Schwab US Dividend Equity (SCHD) (0.06%) and Vanguard Dividend Appreciation (VIG) (0.06%) because already included in the total market funds and because not very tax-efficient.
Great -- I will go ahead and do this.

----------------------------------------------

Thanks for the comments and I welcome any other feedback!

HomeStretch
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Joined: Thu Dec 27, 2018 3:06 pm

Re: Portfolio review for a young investor

Post by HomeStretch » Thu Sep 26, 2019 2:51 pm

Welcome!

Great savings rate.

Agree with reducing the number of funds in your Taxable account. Agree with ruralavalon’s recommendations about which funds to keep and sell. Turn off dividend and capital gain reinvestment for the funds you do not want to keep so you don’t buy more.

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ruralavalon
Posts: 16720
Joined: Sat Feb 02, 2008 10:29 am
Location: Illinois

Re: Portfolio review for a young investor

Post by ruralavalon » Thu Sep 26, 2019 5:28 pm

BlueMoonXD wrote:
Thu Sep 26, 2019 2:05 pm
I suggest around 20 - 30% of stocks in international stocks.
This tracks with my proposed allocation, right? I have 33% of stocks currently as international (22% developed, 11% emerging). Would you propose any changes here?
A 03% difference means little, no I do not suggest a change there.

BlueMoonXD wrote:
Thu Sep 26, 2019 2:05 pm
Those two total stock market funds already include the stocks covered in Vanguard Extended Mkt (VXF) (0.07%).
Can the sizeable allocation to VXF be treated as a small tilt towards small cap, or are they not really equivalent? I'd have to realize some significant gains in VXF so I wonder if I should simply continue holding it along with the total market funds as the bulk of my domestic portfolio.
Vanguard Extended Market ETF (VXF) is not really equivalent to small-cap.

I would keep Vanguard Extended Market ETF (VXF), rather than incur significant income tax liability. I would not buy more or continue any automatic reinvestment of dividends and gains.
"Everything should be as simple as it is, but not simpler." - Albert Einstein | Wiki article link:Getting Started

Topic Author
BlueMoonXD
Posts: 6
Joined: Sat Sep 14, 2019 11:50 pm

Re: Portfolio review for a young investor

Post by BlueMoonXD » Fri Sep 27, 2019 5:26 am

Thanks for the feedback so far. I've decided to tweak my target asset allocation a bit, to the following:

Domestic - 55%
International - 25% (still maintaining the approx 1/3rd international allocation to emerging markets)
REITs - 10%
Bonds - 10%

I decided to increase the allocation to REITs to 10% since I do not own real estate outside of my investment portfolio, and because of the diversification benefits ruralavalon mentioned.

I was also persuaded to increase the bond allocation, but I do not feel comfortable going higher than 10% at this time. One practical reason is that I am limited in tax-advantaged space, and a 15 or 20% allocation would require significant investment in bonds in my taxable account. Additionally, it appears to me that this is an area where the past may not be quite as predictive -- 9% annual yields on a 100% bond portfolio do not seem attainable to me at this moment. If this analysis proves incorrect, I will certainly tweak my allocation in my 30s and 40s, but for now I am comfortable with the more aggressive 90/10 posture.

----------------------------------------------

Given that allocation, here is my plan to consolidate my portfolio:
  • Liquidate most of my individual stock holdings that carried over from Wealthfront
  • Sell my positions in domestic dividend funds (VIG, SCHD)
  • Sell my current bond holdings and reinvest them into Schwab US Aggregate Bond ETF (SCHZ) (0.04%). Eventually I will try to consolidate all bond holdings in my tax-deferred account.
I estimate the total tax liabilities generated from these transactions to represent about 0.25% of my total portfolio. Additionally, it appears my gains in VXF are not so significant -- I could sell that position as well bringing the total liabilities to about 0.35%.

This would trim my portfolio down to the following holdings (the mutual funds are due to my 401k options):

[Domestic]
Schwab US Broad Mkt (SCHB) (0.03%)
Vanguard Total Stock Mkt (VTI) (0.03%)

[International]
Vanguard Developed Mkt (VEA) (0.05%)
Schwab International Equity (SCHF) (0.06%)
Vanguard Emerging Mkt (VWO) (0.12%)

[REIT]
Vanguard Real Estate (VGSLX) (0.12%)

[Bonds]
Schwab US Aggregate Bond ETF (SCHZ) (0.04%)
Vanguard Total Bond Mkt (VBTLX) (0.05%)

I might consider allocating a percentage of my domestic allocation to small caps with something like Schwab U.S. Small-Cap (SCHA), although I think I'm still a little bit skeptical of whether there's any meaningful reason to do so. Regardless, I think this will leave me with a more manageable portfolio, and one more of my own choosing than my current holdings from Wealthfront, without too much of a tax penalty.

I welcome any additional feedback or comments on the revised allocation and the approach I've outline above.

lakpr
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Re: Portfolio review for a young investor

Post by lakpr » Fri Sep 27, 2019 6:44 am

I do not believe 20% bonds is appropriate for a 26 year old. I go by the thumb rule Age-10 to Age-15 in bonds. By that thumb rule 10% is the right figure. You can also alternatively look for guidance on what a Target Retirement fund that matches your investing horizon, invests in. By that I mean, you have 40 years before retirement, so what goes a Vanguard Target Retirement 2060 fund invest in? That answer is again 90:10.

No arguments about the rest of the allocations.

Olemiss540
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Re: Portfolio review for a young investor

Post by Olemiss540 » Fri Sep 27, 2019 7:11 am

Great work and good advice above. A few thoughts from my perspective:

1.) With your cash position, I would not be concerned with holding a large bond position. Try and maintain decent rates on your cash and this can play the role in maintaining a basic value floor for your networth/portfolio during downswings.

2.) Consider behavioral finance and setting your portfolio up once the next correction hits (to avoid as much taxable gains distributions as possible) to best prevent your self described desire to tinker. SIMPLIFY. The fewer and the broader the funds the better. I highly recommend the 3 fund portfolio, set it and forget it approach. Tilts, REITs, etc just lead one to performance chasing in my opinion, especially if one is prone to tinkering. There is no end to new experts that have a propensity to back testing as a means of empirical evidence and at your age your focus is best suited on your career.
I hold index funds because I do not overestimate my ability to pick stocks OR stock pickers.

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ruralavalon
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Location: Illinois

Re: Portfolio review for a young investor

Post by ruralavalon » Fri Sep 27, 2019 11:31 am

BlueMoonXD wrote:
Fri Sep 27, 2019 5:26 am
I welcome any additional feedback or comments on the revised allocation and the approach I've outline above.
Those are all reasonable changes in my opinion.
"Everything should be as simple as it is, but not simpler." - Albert Einstein | Wiki article link:Getting Started

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Wiggums
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Re: Portfolio review for a young investor

Post by Wiggums » Fri Sep 27, 2019 11:38 am

I agree with the recommendations. You’re off to a great start. Time in The market is your friend.

misterjohnny
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Re: Portfolio review for a young investor

Post by misterjohnny » Fri Sep 27, 2019 1:00 pm

I'll chime in on the CA real estate market, as I've lived in the LA area my whole life (54 years).

Markets are very local. Not only is LA different than SF, Santa Clarita is different than Riverside and Long Beach. If you want to buy a house, keep about $100k in a safe place for the inevitable housing slump. It probably will not occur in the same area at the same time.

$100k is enough of a down payment to get you in the door, but depending on the price of the house and location you probably will have to pay PMI. Welcome to the starter home problem in CA.

fatmike91
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Re: Portfolio review for a young investor

Post by fatmike91 » Fri Sep 27, 2019 1:44 pm

Question 1: Yes, 5% is irrelevant (especially on a portfolio that is just starting out).

Question 2: Keep it simple. Any complexity you create will not really matter.

Question 3: The reason to buy low cost index funds in taxable is so that you never have to sell them. The problem with buying individual stocks is even when your right, at some point you need to sell and pay taxes. If you had bought the market you probably would be doing the same or better, and you wouldn't be in a spot that you need to pay capital gains. Your plan seems reasonable.

Question 4: I didn't pay much attention to this when I was your age and it worked out. Maybe if you have a specific known expense then increase bonds/cash a year or two early.

I like your new asset allocation better, but I would not hold REITs. They are messy and I don't know what your really getting. I would also increase the bond allocation to at least 20%. Remember bonds are what you sell to buy stocks when the market goes down and there isn't a lot in it between 100-0, 90-10 and 80-20.

Good luck.

/

BernardShakey
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Re: Portfolio review for a young investor

Post by BernardShakey » Fri Sep 27, 2019 9:17 pm

Agree with lakpr on keeping your bond allocation low. I set up my daughter (age 22) in Vanguard Target Fund 2065 and I think it's like 91/9. At age 26, you just want to stick to a modest budget and pile up the savings in low cost stock funds. You are going great :beer

Topic Author
BlueMoonXD
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Joined: Sat Sep 14, 2019 11:50 pm

Re: Portfolio review for a young investor

Post by BlueMoonXD » Sat Sep 28, 2019 2:20 pm

Thank you to all for the comments. I am planning to move forward with this allocation, and I've started selling the positions as outlined previously. To address some suggestions/concerns that were raised:

Olemiss540 wrote:
Fri Sep 27, 2019 7:11 am
SIMPLIFY. The fewer and the broader the funds the better. I highly recommend the 3 fund portfolio, set it and forget it approach. Tilts, REITs, etc just lead one to performance chasing in my opinion, especially if one is prone to tinkering.
I appreciate this concern, and I think I'm in broad alignment with your point. I do not intend to frequently change my allocation. The main tweak from a traditional 3-fund approach is adding REITs for exposure to real estate. I realize this is not likely to make a substantial difference in the long term, but I like the additional diversification without getting away from my key investing goals.

If I feel any further need to tinker, I have already decided I will set aside a one-time nominal amount in a separate account specifically for the purpose. But I think I'll be content to just follow the adventures of others here.

fatmike91 wrote:
Fri Sep 27, 2019 1:44 pm
Question 3: The reason to buy low cost index funds in taxable is so that you never have to sell them. The problem with buying individual stocks is even when your right, at some point you need to sell and pay taxes. If you had bought the market you probably would be doing the same or better, and you wouldn't be in a spot that you need to pay capital gains. Your plan seems reasonable.
Just to be clear, I'm on the same page. I didn't personally select these individual stock positions. They were selected for me as apart of the "Stock-level tax harvesting" feature that Wealthfront offers. This is a part of the reason why I decided to move to Schwab and manage my portfolio myself. I think the Wealthfront offering creates a lock-in by way of complicating your portfolio, so I'm biting the bullet now in order to get things back to a manageable state.

lakpr wrote:
Fri Sep 27, 2019 6:44 am
By that I mean, you have 40 years before retirement, so what goes a Vanguard Target Retirement 2060 fund invest in? That answer is again 90:10.
I appreciate why some would suggest going with a more conservative allocation w/ respect to bonds, but ultimately I agree with this reasoning. I want the best growth potential over the next couple decades. If I am looking to "buy the dip" when the market is down, I think I can achieve this through a combination of rebalancing and trying to maximize my savings during those times so that I can contribute more to my investment accounts.

BernardShakey
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Re: Portfolio review for a young investor

Post by BernardShakey » Sat Sep 28, 2019 6:51 pm

You never know if you're "buying a dip" until after the fact...it doesn't work in the long run. Set your AA, choose low cost funds, invest regularly, and stay the course!

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