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 17,000 worldwide securities (lower risk).
* Very low expense ratios.
* Very low (hidden) turnover costs.
* Very tax-efficient. Allows tax-efficient fund placement.
* The many Advantages of Simplicity.
* Fewer but larger funds results in earlier eligibility for low-cost Admiral shares.
* No adviser risk.
* No fund manager risk.
* No style drift.
* No asset bloat.
* No tracking error to cause abandonment of the strategy.
* No fund overlap.
* No front-running that reduces sub-index returns.
* Efficient (highest return per unit of risk).
* Automatic rebalancing within each fund.
* Less worry. Never under-performs the market.
* Easy to maintain for the owner, spouse, caregivers and heirs.
* More free time.
* Mathematically certain to out-perform most investors. This was Morningstar's 15-Year Category Performance for each fund (Investor shares) updated on January 01, 2016:
TOP 21% = Vanguard Total Stock Market (VTSMX)
TOP 13% = After tax.
TOP 32% = Vanguard Total International (VGTSX)
TOP 30% = After tax
TOP 51% = Vanguard Total Bond Market (VBMFX)
TOP 44% = After tax
GOLD Analyst Rating: Total Stock Market and Total International
SILVER Analyst Rating: Total Bond Market
Asset Allocation: Use this Investor Questionnaire to help you decide your very important stock/bond allocation.
Fund Placement For Maximum Tax-Efficiency: Place Total Bond Market in tax-advantaged account(s). If full, use a tax-exempt bond fund in a taxable account. Place Total Stock Market and Total International Stock Market in either a tax-advantaged account or a taxable account.
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: "By buying total-market index funds--one for U.S. stocks, one for foreign stocks, and one for bonds--investors can gain exposure to a huge swath of securities in three highly economical packages."
Bill Bernstein, author of The Four Pillars of Investing: "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, Vanguard founder: "The beauty of owning the market is that you eliminate individual stock risk, you eliminate market sector risk, and you eliminate manager risk. -- There may be better investment strategies than owning just three broad-based index funds but the number of strategies that are worse is infinite."
Warren Buffett, famed investor: “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, financial columnist: "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, co-author of Wealth of Experience: "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, author and Wall Street Journal columnist: "Using broad-based index funds to match the market is, I believe, brilliant in its simplicity.
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."
Laura Dugu, Ambassador and co-author of The Bogleheads' Guide to Retirement Planning: "With only these three funds in your investment portfolio you can benefit from low costs and broad diversification and still have a portfolio that is easy to manage."
Charles Ellis, author of Winning the Loser's Game: "The stock market is clearly too efficient for most of us to do better."
Eugene Fama, Nobel Laureate: "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, author of The Lazy Person's Guide to Investing: "Where does Fama invest his retirement money? 'In index funds. Mostly the Wilshire 5000.' "
Rick Ferri, Forbes columnist and author of six investment books: "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, authors of The Intelligent Investor: "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, author of Index Funds: “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, 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."
Harry Markowitz, Nobel Laureate: "A foolish attempt to beat the market and get rich quickly will make one's broker rich and oneself much less so."
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, author of No Nonsense Finance: "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%"
Anna Pryor Wall Street Journal writer: "A simple portfolio of 3 funds. It may sound counter-intuitive, but for the average individual investor, less is actually more."
Jane Bryant Quinn, syndicated columnist and author of Making the Most of Your Money: "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, author of The Unbeatable Market: "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, author of The Coffee House Investor: 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, author of The Only Proven Road to Investment Success: "Use a low-cost, broad-based index fund to passively invest in a little bit of a large number of stocks."
William Sharpe, Nobel Laureate: "You may think your opinion is superior, but it pays to be humble, investing in the market rather than trying to beat it."
Robert Shiller, Nobel Laureate: "A portfolio approximating the market may be the most important portfolio."
Prof. Jeremy Siegel, author of Stocks For The Long Run: "For most of us, trying to beat the market leads to disastrous results."
Dan Solin, author of The Smartest Portfolio You'll Ever Own: "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, author of Get Rich Slowly: "Few are able to beat a simple strategy of buying and holding the securities that comprise the market."
Prof. Meir Statman, author of What Investors Really Want: "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, authors of The Affluent Investor: "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, author of 17 financial books: "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, Wall Street Journal columnist and author of Your Money and Your Brain: "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."
For further reading:
Three-Fund Portfolio -- Boglehead wiki
The Arithmetic of Active Management by William Sharpe, Nobel Laureate
How To Diversify With Just Three Mutual Funds by Ambassador Laura Dogu, Forbes
Investing In Total Markets by John Norstad, Northwestern University
Investing With A Three Fund Portfolio by Financial Ramblings
If You Can. How Millianials Can Get Rich Slowly -- free book by Wm. Bernstein
Three Mutual Funds That End The Guesswork by Jonathan Burton, MarketWatch
Happy New Year!