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 (use blue links):
* Avoids wasted time, confusion and the possibility of mistakes trying to pick the best of thousands of mutual funds and ETFs.
* Very diversified with over 15,000 worldwide securities (lower risk).
* Very low expense ratios.
* Very low (hidden) turnover costs.
* Very tax-efficient.
* 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.
* 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 stock fund (return) and bond fund (risk) updated on January 01, 2020:
TOP 17% = Vanguard Total Stock Market (VTSMX)
TOP 35% = Vanguard Total International (VGTSX)
TOP 9% = Vanguard Total Bond Market (VBTLX) in last (2008) bear market.
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. I suggest International stocks = 20% of equity.
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 (best) or a taxable account.
What Nobel Laureate's say:
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."
Harry Markowitz: "A foolish attempt to beat the market and get rich quickly will make one's broker rich and oneself much less so."
Paul Samuelson: "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."
William Sharpe: "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: "A portfolio approximating the market may be the most important portfolio."
What Other Experts Say:
For further reading: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 D. Ellis, author of The Index Revolution: "'Beating the market' is much harder than it used to be, and investors who continue to approach the market with that mindset populate the rolls of market losers time and time again."
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, Director of the U.S. Economic Council: "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-market 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, 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, Northwestern College 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."
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."
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."
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."
"A Boglehead Explains the Simplest Way to Manage Your Money"--MarketWatch
"The Bogleheads' Guide to The Three-Fund Portfolio" by Four Pillar Freedom
"The Bogleheads' Guide to the Three-Fund Portfolio" by Rick Van Ness
"The Arithmetic of Active Management" by William Sharpe, Nobel Laureate
"The BigLaw Investor Portfolio" by Joshua Hunt
"Efficient Investing with the Three Fund Portfolio" by Mr. Crazy Kicks
"From 28 Funds to 3: Simplifying to a Three-Fund Portfolio" by Physician On Fire
"How The Bogle (3-fund) Model Beats the Yale Model" by Ben Carlson
"How To Create A Three-Fund Portfolio" by Camilo Maldonado, Forbes
"How To Simplify Your Investing Using Only Three Funds" by Debt Free Doctor
"He Has Read 250 Investing Books and Recommends the Three Fund Portfolio" by Physician on Fire
"How To Diversify With Just Three Mutual Funds" by Ambassador Laura Dogu, Forbes
"Most Investors Probably Won’t Outperform This Simple (three-fund) Portfolio" Morningstar
"The Only Three Vanguard Funds You Need to Build a Portfolio" by Kent Thune
"Investing Should Be Simple. A Three-Fund Portfolio Is All You Need." by Allan Roth, AARP
"If You Can. How Millennials Can Get Rich Slowly" -- Free book by Wm. Bernstein
"Next to Nothing" by Jonathan Clements
"The Three Fund Portfolio: The Lazy Investing Strategy that Crushes the Pros" by The Money Wizard
"The Three-Fund Investment Portfolio: The Beauty of Simplicity" by Mama Fish Saves
"Three Fund Portfolio: Did Awesomeness Find Trinity?" by Portfolio Einstein
"Three Fund Portfolio – Investing Made Easy" by The Finance Twins
"3 Fund Portfolio Investment Strategy: The Only Time Lazy is Cool" by Dr Breathe Easy Investing
"3 Fund Portfolio: The Lazy Way To Invest" by Just Start Investing
"The Three-Fund Portfolio" -- Boglehead wiki
"The Three Fund Portfolio: A Simple Diversified Investing Strategy" by Bible Matters
"The 3 Fund Portfolio: Simple Investing That Works" by Clevergirl Finance
"Three Mutual Funds That End The Guesswork" by Jonathan Burton MarketWatch
"Simplify Your Investments With The 3-Fund Portfolio" by Alicia Adamczyk
"Why (3) Index Portfolios Win" by M.P. Dunleavey