Asking portfolio questions

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There are many knowledgeable and helpful people who are part of this online community. Many of these posters are willing to share their time and expertise with new posters who are looking for help, but they can't or won't give advice in a vacuum.

We need to know some important things about you, including all the investments you already have. Otherwise, we may be advising you to buy into a fund that overlaps your present holding(s), doesn't fit your asset allocation plan, or, worse, is too risky or too conservative for your investing temperament.

Over the years a practice on asking portfolio questions has emerged on this forum initiated by forum member Laura.[note 1] The practice uses a standard template that allows the responders to quickly locate the information they are looking for.

To make sure you get the help you need, please consider the instructions on this page.

Posting

When you have researched your retirement plan options and have a list of your current investments, it is time to post. We do not need to know your name or the exact amount of money you have invested or anything else that will identify you.

Template for your post

[b]Emergency funds:[/b] Three to six months of expenses (indicate if you have this, but it is generally not part of your asset allocation)

[b]Debt:[/b] Indicate if you have any debt (credit card, school loans, car loans, mortgage) and the interest rate you are paying on each loan.

[b]Tax Filing Status:[/b] (Single, Married Filing Jointly, Married Filing Separately, Head of Household, Qualifying Widow/Widower with Dependent Children)

[b]Tax Rate:[/b] xx% Federal, xx% State

[b]State of Residence:[/b]

[b]Age:[/b]

[b]Desired Asset allocation:[/b]  xx% stocks / xx% bonds
Desired International allocation: xx% of stocks

Please provide a hint as to the size of your current total portfolio (as in high four-figures, mid five-figures, low six-figures, etc.)  What might be appropriate for a very large portfolio might not be appropriate for a new investor.

Show us your current portfolio including all investment and retirement accounts (yourself and spouse or civil partner, if applicable) as it's important to look at the portfolio as a unified whole rather than look at accounts in isolation. Also include the available funds in your employer provided retirement plans.

Show each fund or holding as a percentage of the entire portfolio, [b]not as a percentage of the account that holding is in[/b]. If this instruction is not clear, see the example under the Key Points section below. For example: 

[u][b] Current retirement assets[/b][/u]

[b]Taxable[/b]
xx% cash (for investing – do not include emergency funds) 
xx% fund name (ticker symbol) (expense ratio)  
xx% stock company name (ticker symbol)

[b]His 401k[/b]
xx% fund name (ticker symbol) (expense ratio) 
Company match? 

[b]His Roth IRA at Vanguard[/b]
xx% fund name (ticker symbol) (expense ratio) 
xx% fund name (ticker symbol) (expense ratio) 

[b]His Rollover IRA at Schwab[/b]
xx% fund name (ticker symbol) (expense ratio)

[b]Her 403b[/b] 
xx% fund name (ticker symbol) (expense ratio) 
Company match? 

[b]Her SIMPLE IRA at Fidelity[/b]
xx% fund name (ticker symbol) (expense ratio) 

[b]Her Traditional IRA at Vanguard[/b]
xx% fund name (ticker symbol) (expense ratio) 
_______________________________________________________________
[color=red]Note:[/color] Total percentage of all the above accounts together (not each account individually) should equal 100%.  

[u][b]Contributions[/b][/u]

[b]New annual Contributions [/b]
$xx his 401k (also specify any employer matching contributions) 
$xx her 403b (also specify any employer matching contributions) 
$xx his IRA/Roth IRA
$xx her IRA/Roth IRA
$xx taxable (for retirement, not short term goals)

[u][b]Available funds [/b][/u]

[b]Funds available in his 401(k)[/b]
Fund name (ticker symbol) (expense ratio) 
Fund name (ticker symbol) (expense ratio) 
Fund name (ticker symbol) (expense ratio)

[b]Funds available in her 403(b)[/b]
Fund name (ticker symbol) (expense ratio)
Fund name (ticker symbol) (expense ratio)
Fund name (ticker symbol) (expense ratio)

[u][b]Questions[/b][/u]:
1. 

2.

Key Points

  • Please make sure that you've provided all the information requested above. Omitting information often results in delays and/or longer exchanges.
  • The format is set up using traditional his and her pronouns and we realize this does not represent every couple who might want to post portfolio questions. Feel free to use whatever pronouns or identifying names you prefer as long as it is clear which assets belong to which person.
  • Please post fund names, not just ticker symbols.
  • If you have an account in a retirement plan with your employer, be sure to enter the expense ratios for the funds as they are in your company's specific plan; often the fund expense ratios in 401k/403b/457 plans are different from the "retail" expense ratios you will find for a fund when doing an internet search.
  • If you see several different expense ratios for a single fund, use the net expense ratio.
  • Please make sure that percentages add up to 100% across all of your accounts, not within each account. For example:

Taxable:
35% Fidelity Total Lunar Active Fund (FLUNX) (0.01%)
35% Schwab Black Hole Bonds Fund (SBLKX) (1.50%)

His 401(k):
05% Vanguard Total Jupiter Stock Market Index fund (VJUPX) (0.05%)
25% Vanguard Total Venus Stock Market Index fund (VENUX) (0.03%)

The percentage total of all funds (Taxable + His 401(k)) is 100%.

Etiquette

If asked to add additional information, please use the edit button (upper right hand side of your post) to add the information to your original post.

Please make all responses and additions to your original post in the same conversation rather than creating a new topic. It helps everyone if the history of the discussion is available in one place.

Many replies ask a great deal of effort by the posters. We simply ask that if you receive replies, you go back and respond to them in some way. It's a hollow feeling for those of us who respond to questions to never hear back from the person who started the conversation. Remember, the purpose of this is to have a conversation! We are NOT expecting a thank-you necessarily, but feedback on what you found helpful, if anything. We appreciate hearing back from you.

USING CAPITALIZED LETTERS is considered rude (it's shouting). Caps are good for emphasis, but are hard to read. If you consistently post in CAPS, some people may not bother to read and respond to your questions.

Preparing to make a post can be a significant learning experience for you. We appreciate posts that show careful planning. This doesn't mean your questions must be complex or show extensive investment knowledge. We really enjoy simple ones and want beginning investors to feel very welcome. Our goal is to help. We hope that this post gives you some guidance, so that you can get the kinds of answers you deserve. And, if you'd like, give us a friendly first name at the close of your post.

Notes

  1. Please refer to Bogleheads® forum topic: Asking Portfolio Questions

See also

External links