There are three taxable events with a mutual fund: (1) sale of securities within the portfolio, (2) the declaration and payment of dividends and/or interest from the portfolio’s securities, and (3) sale of mutual fund shares. Your clients cannot control whether or not a fund is going to sell one or more securities for a profit or loss. Similarly, they cannot stop the payment of dividends and/or interest. The third event is the only one controllable by the shareholder.
Stanford University researchers looked at if and how the number of stocks in a portfolio reduces risk. Their research showed having a two-stock portfolio significantly reduced risk.
All mutual funds buy and sell securities. Securities in an actively managed portfolio may be sold because they are not performing as expected, they no longer fit within the portfolio (e.g., a value stock has appreciated so much it is now considered a growth stock), to free up cash to take advantage of another opportunity or to satisfy shareholder redemptions.
A fund with high costs must perform better than a low-cost fund to generate the same returns for your clients. Even small differences in fees can translate into large differences in returns over time. For example, if you invested $10,000 in a fund with a 10% annual return before expenses with annual operating expenses of 1.5%, you would have ~ $49,725 after 20 years. But if the fund had expenses of only 0.5%, you would end up with $60,858—a 22.4% difference.
An interesting (and better) way to look at return and risk combined is by seeing how an asset category fared over a number of rolling periods. A rolling period includes two or more continuous years and all such periods over the time frame selected. As an example, over any given 10 years, there are eight 3-year rolling periods (1986–1988, 1987–1989, 1988–1990, 1989–1991, etc.). The advantage of using rolling periods is bad returns cannot be hidden as easily. Rolling periods provide an “apples to apples” form of comparison.
A real estate fund would be our top choice for portfolio diversification using a sector fund, even though commodity funds have gained quite a bit of attention. These funds do not generally buy commodities directly, but rather buy derivatives that give their portfolios exposure to fluctuations in the price of commodities such as oil, wheat, metals, and hogs.
The table below shows growth of a $10,000 investment in each of several categories. Notice the disparity between equities and fixed income.
Growth of $10,000 [1972–2016]
Small cap stocks
Long-term gov’t bonds
Med-term gov’t bonds
FHFA is the federal agency regulating Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and 12 Federal Home Loan Banks. The index below represents home sales throughout the U.S. NAREIT is a real estate investment trust trade group. The index is comprised of all publicly traded equity REITs in the U.S.
Home Prices vs. REITs
Growth of $10,000
From the beginning of 1980 through August 24, 2015, there have been just 29 instances (29/1851 weeks = 1.5% of the weeks) when the S&P 500 dropped 5% or more in a calendar week.
S&P 500 Weekly Drops of 5%+ [1980-2001]
A number of online brokers provide free online tools for portfolio construction and management. One service known for its simplicity is Motif Investments. Motif offers nine preset and commission-free portfolios; each portfolio is comprised of the same four ETFs from Vanguard and two ETFs from BlackRock (real estate and commodities).