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A Hedge Fund Gets Indicted

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by Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors
Thursday, July 25, 2013

To help us keep track of all the hedge fund scandals of recent years, we created IFA’s Hedge Fund Manager Hall of Shame. Note that we limited it to hedge fund managers, so today’s grand jury indictment of SAC Capital Advisors for insider trading puts us in a bit ...Read More

Article Library

  • The Mutual Fund Landscape—Not a Pretty Picture

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    by Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors — Wednesday, July 24, 2013

    As we have discussed in previous articles such as this one, investors have a strong tendency to pour cash into funds that have had high returns only to be met with disappointment. If investors truly understood how stacked the deck is against them, perhaps they would avoid this ...Read More

  • The Random Walk of Stock Prices

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    by Mark Hebner — Wednesday, July 24, 2013

    The Random Walk Theory essentially states that there are no discernible patterns in stock market prices. The logic and reasoning goes like ...Read More

  • A New Gadfly Buzzes the 401(k) Industry

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    by Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors — Monday, July 22, 2013

    While we have often written about the sorry state of affairs that constitutes today’s 401(k) industry, as documented in this PBS Frontline documentary, Professor Ian Ayres of Yale Law School has taken it to the next level, according to this article from RIABiz. After ...Read More

  • Second-Guessing

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    by Jim Parker — Monday, July 22, 2013

    Markets recently have had a rocky time as investors in aggregate reassess prospects for monetary policy stimulus in the US. Is this something to worry about? The world’s most closely watched central bank unsettled financial markets by flagging that it may start to scale ...Read More

  • Active Investors Anonymous

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    by Mark Hebner — Friday, July 19, 2013

    I am Mark Hebner, president of Index Fund Advisors (IFA), a registered investment advisory firm. Years ago I learned some painful lessons when I sold my previous business and turned the profits over to active ...Read More

  • June Provides an Example of Differing Investor Behavior

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    by Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors — Friday, July 12, 2013

    June was a difficult month for fixed income (bond) investments, as interest rates increased in the face of the Federal Reserve's announcement that its program of bond buying known as Quantitative Easing would eventually taper down. Investors holding longer-maturity bonds were ...Read More

  • An Inside View of Dimensional: Upfront and Personal with David Booth

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    by Melissa Johnson and Mark Hebner — Friday, July 12, 2013

    Mark Hebner recently sat down in Napa, California for a rare interview with David Booth, Chairman and Co-Chief Executive Officer of Dimensional Fund Advisors, to discuss the beginnings, evolution and impact of the renowned Dimensional Matrix Books. Not only did Booth talk about ...Read More

  • Some Recent Data on Inflation

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    by Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors — Thursday, July 11, 2013

    Anyone who is the least bit familiar with Index Fund Advisors knows that we take a “no forecasting” approach to economic data and its impact on returns. However, when the market itself provides a forecast, we are happy to make note of it, even though there is no ...Read More

  • When Two Seconds Is an Eternity

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    by Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors — Tuesday, July 9, 2013

    In a previous article, we discussed the non-level playing field (to put it as charitably as possible) on which individuals who actively place their own trades compete. This message was driven home by Thomson Reuters’ announcement that it would suspend two-second early ...Read More

  • Bond Funds: Doing Their Job

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    by Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors — Tuesday, July 9, 2013

    In the second quarter of 2013, bonds turned in a loss, and they remained negative on a year-to-date basis as of the market close on 7/5/2013. For the four bond funds used in the IFA Index Portfolios, the average year-to-date return was -0.58%. While it could have been as ...Read More

  • 2Q/2013: The Quarter in Review

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    by Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors — Friday, July 5, 2013

    In the second quarter of 2013, risk continued to be rewarded for US equities but not for foreign equities, REITs, or fixed income. Perhaps the most noteworthy event during the quarter was the negative reaction to Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke’s statement that the Fed’s ...Read More

  • Pension-Gate: More Smart Advice from Maryland

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    by Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors — Friday, July 5, 2013

    About a year ago, we called attention to a report by the Maryland Public Policy Institute and the Maryland Tax Education Foundation titled, “Wall Street Fees and the Maryland Public Pension Fund” which concluded the following: "State pension systems represent the ...Read More

  • Climate vs. Weather: Understanding the Difference

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    by Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors — Thursday, June 27, 2013

    The recent heat wave in Alaska where the temperatures exceeded 90 degrees prompted us to ask what is the probability that on a given summer day, the temperature in Fairbanks, Alaska will exceed 90 degrees? Naturally, this is a very small number, best measured in basis points ...Read More

  • Pension-Gate - Good News from Pennsylvania

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    by Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors — Wednesday, June 26, 2013

    A few months ago, we reported on how CalPERS (the $260 billion California Public Employees Retirement System pension plan) was considering dropping its current active approach to embrace a more passive investment strategy. Naturally, we encouraged (and continue to encourage) ...Read More

  • The 401(k) Lawsuits Continue

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    by Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors — Wednesday, June 26, 2013

    About two months ago, PBS aired “The Retirement Gamble” which delved into the problems facing American workers who have had their defined benefit pension plans replaced with sub-par 401(k) plans. One of the primary problems of these 401(k) plans is the high costs ...Read More

  • So Just How Much Should You Be Saving for Retirement?

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    by Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors — Tuesday, June 25, 2013

    This, of course, is a crucial question to both your current and future financial security. Certainly, there are no easy “one-size-fits-all” answers, but thanks to some recent research from Massi De Santis and Marlena Lee of Dimensional Fund Advisors (DFA), we have ...Read More

  • How and Why Investors Lose

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    by Mark Hebner — Tuesday, June 25, 2013

    The Trzcinka study cited by Jason Zweig, showed a large gap between funds' and shareholders' returns and was a shock to even the ...Read More

  • Active Investors are Gamblers

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    by Mark Hebner — Monday, June 24, 2013

    New studies in the field of neuroeconomics confirm the release of dopamine when presented with the opportunity of a surging ...Read More

  • Types of Active Investing

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    by Mark Hebner — Sunday, June 23, 2013

    About 75% of investors are active investors. The most popular strategies in attempting to beat a market include stock, time, manager, and style ...Read More

  • What is Risk?

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    by Mark Hebner — Saturday, June 22, 2013

    There are many terms used by investment professionals and academics in their quest to define ...Read More

  • The Downsides of Indexing?

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    by Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors — Friday, June 21, 2013

    A recent article on MarketWatch by J.J. Zhang offers up several criticisms of indexing that we will answer here. Zhang starts with the usual positive attributes of indexing, such as simplicity and diversification - and then begins his attack: “With several studies showing ...Read More

  • Active vs. Passive: Is the Tipping Point Here?

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    by Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors — Tuesday, June 18, 2013

    Back in 2007, John Bogle, the founder of The Vanguard Group and the author of The Little Book of Common Sense Investing, The Only Way to Guarantee Your Fair Share of Stock Market Returns", wrote the following endorsement of Index Funds: The Twelve Step Program for Active ...Read More

  • Buy What, Bernie?

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    by Tom Allen and Mark Hebner — Friday, June 7, 2013

    The name Bernie Madoff has become the icon for everything that is wrong with the financial services industry. Although many scammers have preceded Bernie in deceiving investors and bilking them out of their life savings (and I am sure there will be more), he will always be ...Read More

  • Sex, Lies and Ticker Tape

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    by Mary Brunson — Wednesday, June 5, 2013

    "I don't wait in lines...I snort them." Those simple, yet searing words should have served as a warning siren for Turney Duff. They should have signaled the impending and total crash of his own personal universe—had he only paid ...Read More

  • The Art of Letting Go

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    by Jim Parker — Wednesday, May 29, 2013

    In many areas of life, intense activity and constant monitoring of results represent the path to success. In investment, that approach gets turned on its head. The Chinese philosophy of Taoism has a word for it: “wuwei.” It literally means “non-doing.” In ...Read More

  • Book Review - Modern Principles: Macroeconomics

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    by Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors — Wednesday, May 29, 2013

    A College Level Textbook by Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrok   All too often, we hear horror stories of what students are being taught in college these days. When President Obama reminisced about his “Marxist Professors” in his book, Dreams From My Father, nobody ...Read More

  • A Stock Picker's Market?

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    by Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors — Wednesday, May 29, 2013

    Of all the nonsensical terms that pervade the financial media, there are few that reach the stupidity level of "a stock-picker's market." It is a refrain often heard at the beginning of the year, particularly when the stock-pickers (i.e., active mutual fund managers) of the ...Read More

  • Investors Continue to Be Their Own Worst Enemy

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    by Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors — Thursday, May 23, 2013

    "We have met the enemy and he is us" – Pogo "The investor's chief problem—and even his worst enemy—is likely to be himself." – Benjamin Graham     A topic we have addressed on many different occasions is poor investor behavior and its ...Read More

  • Recent Enhancements to Small Cap Investment Strategies

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    by Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors — Tuesday, May 21, 2013

    One of the reasons we at Index Funds Advisors advise using funds from Dimensional Fund Advisors is that Dimensional never stops seeking ways to add value for their investors. Drawing from a deep bench of professional researchers who are guided by luminaries such as Eugene Fama ...Read More

  • Stupid Is As Stupid Says

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    by Mary Brunson — Monday, May 20, 2013

    You know those days when a long list of to-do’s instantly gives way to the necessity to respond to something that strikes you so viscerally you just have to drop everything and address it? Today is just such a day for me. I received an email this morning with ...Read More

  • Memo from the 99% to Goldman: Keep Your Hedge Funds!

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    by IFA Contributors — Friday, May 17, 2013

    While scanning my Google Alerts on investment-related articles, Antione Gara’s Goldman Offers Hedge Funds to the 99% grabbed my attention. The article describes Goldman Sachs newly offered Multi-Manager Alternatives Fund (GMAMX). With more than a hint of cynicism, Gara ...Read More

  • When Is the Right Time to Take Social Security Benefits?

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    by Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors — Wednesday, May 15, 2013

    Americans who are near or in retirement are faced with the vexing question of when to take Social Security benefits. For a married couple, the complexity is multiplied by consideration of spousal benefits and the potential implementation of a "file-and-suspend" ...Read More

  • IFA Contributors

    The Capitalism, Inc. Stock Certificate

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    by IFA Contributors — Tuesday, May 14, 2013

    At Index Funds Advisors, we are sometimes asked if there is any company whose stock we would recommend buying. Our tongue-in-cheek answer is shown below: The brainchild of IFA’s founder and president, Mark Hebner, Capitalism Inc. neatly summarizes the universe of ...Read More

  • To Roth or Not to Roth in Your 401(k)?

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    by Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors — Tuesday, May 14, 2013

    A question we are commonly asked at Index Funds Advisors is whether contributions to a 401(k) plan should be to a traditional or a Roth account. Recall that the former defers taxes until withdrawals begin while the latter takes a tax hit at the beginning and is tax-free ...Read More

  • Man vs. Machine: A Battle Best Avoided

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    by Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors — Monday, May 13, 2013

    A question we are often asked at Index Funds Advisors is whether the individual investor stands a chance against the high-frequency traders that now dominate the financial markets. Our answer, of course, is no, but that does not mean dismissing the whole thing as a rigged game ...Read More

  • The Evolution of Dimensional

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    by David Booth — Monday, May 13, 2013

    We believe that the best way to add value over benchmark returns is by structuring portfolios around the dimensions of expected returns. Portfolio structure, rather than the tactical shifts associated with conventional management, drives the performance of portfolios. Clients ...Read More

  • Style Drift on Steroids

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    by IFA Contributors — Tuesday, May 7, 2013

    In Step 6 of IFA’s 12-Step Recovery Program for Active Investors, we analyze the problem of style drift, the tendency of active managers to buy securities outside of their mandate. Normally, style drift refers to something like a value fund that dabbles in growth stocks or ...Read More

  • Roger J. Trinwith, CFA

    IFA's Approach to Minimizing Cash Drag

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    by Roger Trinwith — Thursday, May 2, 2013

    One of the least advertised benefits of being an Index Funds Advisors, Inc (IFA) client is the continuous effort that our portfolio management team makes to give our clients the best investment experience possible. ...Read More

  • Sell in May? Forget about It!

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    by Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors — Wednesday, May 1, 2013

    It never fails that at the beginning of May we receive a query about the “Sell in May and go away” market-timing strategy. We have always dismissed it out of hand for three primary reasons: 1)   In an efficient market, there is no reason for some months to ...Read More

  • "You Have to Be in Gold"

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    by Weston Wellington — Wednesday, May 1, 2013

    We are living in a world of money printing. … That is why I have to recommend gold again. ... Once gold surpasses $1,800 an ounce, it will run to the low-to-mid $2,000s.” Quotation attributed to Felix Zuelauf, Zuelauf Asset Management. “Here’s ...Read More

  • The Rule of 72: A Mathematical Thing of Beauty

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    by IFA Contributors — Tuesday, April 30, 2013

    As an admitted math geek, I never tire of learning new tricks that simplify otherwise complex calculations. Far and away my favorite trick is known as “the rule of 72,” which states that if you are given an annualized average rate of return of X%, the estimated ...Read More

  • Gold: And Then There's The Downside!

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    by Tom Allen and Mark Hebner — Monday, April 29, 2013

    Gold has had quite the roller coaster ride over the last five years. The unprecedented monetary easing policy taken by the Federal Reserve has made some investors unnerved about the threat of hyperinflation and the possibility of falling back into another - possibly more severe ...Read More