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Q&A with IFA: Commodities (2016 Update)

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by Venkat Yarlagadda
Sunday, May 17, 2015

Question: Should I have a separate exposure to Commodities in my portfolio? In short, we have concluded that the answer is no, and we will explain why below. Based on returns data for the last 10, 20, 30, 40, and 44 years, the S&P GSCI Commodity Index severely under ...Read More

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  • Beware of Index Funds - What Is It This Time?

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    by Tom Allen and Mark Hebner — Friday, May 15, 2015

    There was a recent article published by Wintergreen Advisors that made two main claims against the use of index funds for investors. The first dealt with having overly concentrated portfolios, while the other ...Read More

  • Dear Recovering Financial Advisors

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    by Mark Hebner — Wednesday, May 13, 2015

    I recently received an email from a long-time stockbroker who now works as a traditional financial advisor on the east coast. He very candidly described his long-time commitment to the active money game as ...Read More

  • Chasing Our Tails Through Past Performance

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    by Tom Allen and Mark Hebner — Tuesday, May 12, 2015

    For those who have been investing for some time, you should be very familiar with the following statement: “past performance is no guarantee of future results.” This SEC mandated disclaimer when ...Read More

  • Dan Wheeler

    Hedge Funds

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    by Dan Wheeler — Monday, May 11, 2015

    One of the supposed benefits of investing in a Hedge Fund, is the opportunity to make money in both up and down markets.  This goal is appealing to two types of investors.  First, those who do not ...Read More

  • James Bond. 'Gambler Extraordinaire?'

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    by Christopher Dennistoun — Thursday, May 7, 2015

    "The scent and sweat of a casino are nauseating at three o'clock in the morning...." So begins one of the most celebrated sentences in English popular literature, the opening lines in Casino Royale. Gambling ...Read More

  • The Misbehavior of Investors

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    by Tom Allen and Mark Hebner — Wednesday, April 29, 2015

    “The investor’s chief problem—and even his worst enemy—is likely to be himself.” – Benjamin Graham There was initial hesitation in choosing to use Mr. Graham's age-old ...Read More

  • A Simulation of the Random Nature of Stock Prices

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    by Mark Hebner — Tuesday, April 28, 2015

    Many measurements seem random, such as the heights of humans, the length of leaves, the roll of 5 dice, and the change of stock market prices. But when academics, statisticians and mathematicians view the ...Read More

  • Committing Financial Suicide

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    by Tom Allen — Friday, April 24, 2015

    The way I like to think of day trading is that it’s probably the most effective weapon ever to commit financial suicide,…It’s an absolutely lethal way for the typical person to invest ...Read More

  • Cast in Iron

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    by Jim Parker — Monday, April 20, 2015

    The media occasionally locks in on a particular “hot” sector. In the late 1990s, it was technology. In the mid-2000s, it was mining. Writing headlines about fashionable sectors is one thing. ...Read More

  • The First Quarter of 2015 in Review

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    by Tom Allen and Mark Hebner — Thursday, April 16, 2015

    2015 has been a hallmark year for diversification so far. In Q1 we saw international developed and emerging markets outpace their domestic counterparts. During the quarter, the European Central Bank announced ...Read More

  • Key Man Risk: Yet Another Reason to Avoid Active Funds

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    by Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors — Monday, March 30, 2015

    When discussing the risks of investing in actively managed funds, we have focused on issues related to timing and selection.  Recently, we had a chance to view a report from a prominent investment ...Read More

  • The Power of Market Returns

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    by Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors — Thursday, March 26, 2015

    “Compound interest is the most powerful force in the universe.”    - Albert Einstein While perusing the Wall Street Journal, we came across this delightful article about a retired ...Read More

  • Did Bloomberg Find Another Bill Miller?

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    by Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors — Tuesday, March 24, 2015

    You may recall that Bill Miller was the fund manager who enjoyed the unparalleled winning streak of beating the S&P 500 Index for fifteen consecutive years ending in 2005. Of course, investors who came ...Read More

  • Book Review: The Great Beanie Baby Bubble

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    by Thomas Brunson — Monday, March 23, 2015

    “It had gone from cute to heinous, and there was no good way for it to end”- Zac Bissonnette, New York Times bestselling author  At the height of the late 1990’s tech bubble, speculative ...Read More

  • Yet Another Sign that the Tipping Point Has Arrived

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    by Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors — Friday, March 20, 2015

    We have spoken several times (see here and here) about the tipping point in the long-term migration from active to passive management. While perusing InvestmentNews, we encountered this article about investors ...Read More

  • Vanguard Wades Deeper into Alternative Investments

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    by Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors — Thursday, March 19, 2015

    If you find the above title puzzling, then you may not be aware that Vanguard offers a market neutral fund (VMNFX) that engages in a long/short equity strategy. Among all the Vanguard funds, it has far and ...Read More

  • One More Nail in the Coffin of Active Management

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    by Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors — Tuesday, March 17, 2015

    “The only consistent data point we have observed over a five-year horizon is that a majority of active equity and bond managers in most categories lag comparable benchmark ...Read More

  • Addressing Some Misconceptions about Indexing

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    by Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors — Wednesday, March 11, 2015

    While Forbes magazine has often carried excellent articles about investing such as this one, we found a recent column from Pamela Rosenau to be disappointing. She begins by noting the mass migration from ...Read More

  • Pension-Gate — More Good News from Pennsylvania

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    by Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors — Tuesday, March 10, 2015

    A little more than a year ago, we reported on how the stewards of the pension fund for Montgomery County, Pennsylvania came to the wise decision of moving away from high-cost actively managed funds in favor of ...Read More

  • Book Analysis: The Panic of 1837

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    by Thomas Brunson — Monday, March 9, 2015

    “Over-trading, speculation, and investments in unproductive undertakings became a dominant note in American society”- Reginald Charles McGrane In his historical novel titled The Panic of 1837, ...Read More

  • Yet More Wisdom from the Oracle of Omaha

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    by Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors — Friday, March 6, 2015

    One of the things we look forward to at this time of year is the release of Warren Buffett’s annual letter to the shareholders of Berkshire Hathaway, and his 2014 letter (which marks the 50th anniversary ...Read More

  • Weather vs. Climate

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    by Jim Parker — Thursday, March 5, 2015

    Notice how TV news bulletins put finance next to the weather report? In each, talking heads point at charts and intone about intraday events that are quickly forgotten. Meanwhile, the long-term wealth building ...Read More

  • Is Skill Dead? Perhaps It Was Never Alive

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    by Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors — Wednesday, March 4, 2015

    A recently released white paper from GMO titled “Is Skill Dead?” begins with this excellent quote from Jeremy Grantham: “90% of what passes for brilliance or incompetence in investing is the ...Read More

  • The Emotional Investor: An Interesting New Website

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    by Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors — Tuesday, March 3, 2015

    Recently, we came across theemotionalinvestor.org which is run by Jay Mooreland who, like Joshua Brown, can be described as a reformed broker. As a holder of the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation ...Read More

  • Q&A with IFA: Momentum at the Asset Class Level

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    by Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors — Monday, March 2, 2015

    Question: I understand that there is evidence that momentum is one contributing factor to long term performance (in addition to the size and value factors). There is a current advisory service (Fundx) that ...Read More

  • A Presidential Announcement that Should Give Brokers Pause

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    by Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors — Thursday, February 26, 2015

    A few weeks ago, we published this article about a White House memo in which the Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers (Jason Furman) recommended that brokers who service retirement accounts be legally ...Read More

  • Why Does This Machine Simulate Monthly Market Returns?

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    by Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors — Wednesday, February 25, 2015

    Anyone who has visited IFA’s office in Irvine will likely have a fond memory of Francis, IFA’s probability machine, named after Francis Galton, an English mathematician who was an expert in many ...Read More

  • More Bad News on the State of Retirement Readiness

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    by Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors — Tuesday, February 24, 2015

    A few months ago, we published this article addressing the woefully inadequate level of American financial literacy as it relates to retirement saving and investing. This newly released issue brief from EBRI ...Read More

  • Book Analysis: The Stock Market Crash of 1929

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    by Thomas Brunson — Monday, February 23, 2015

    “The crash of 1929 stands out in financial history like a lighted beacon on a hilltop warning of impending trouble”-David V. Axon   In Gordon V. Axon’s book titled The Stock Market Crash ...Read More

  • It's Tax Planning Time For Trusts

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    by Randy Gardner and Leslie Daff — Friday, February 20, 2015

    The 39.6% ordinary tax rate and 20% capital gain tax rate enacted by the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (ATRA) and the 3.8% Medicare investment surtax now apply when trust income exceeds $11,950.  ...Read More

  • Should Hedge Funds Get Away With It? Not on Our Watch!

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    by Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors — Thursday, February 19, 2015

    The title above is a play on the title of this excellent article from the venerable New Yorker magazine which offers eight possible explanations for what Barry Ritholtz brilliantly calls The Most Fascinating ...Read More

  • Cramer Weighs in on Mutual Funds

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    by Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors — Wednesday, February 18, 2015

    As you may have guessed or perhaps already have known from articles such as this one or this one, we at Index Fund Advisors, Inc. are not fans of CNBC’s Jim Cramer. While some may claim that he has ...Read More

  • About Those Bulls and Bears

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    by Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors — Tuesday, February 17, 2015

    In the IFA Library of rare and antique finance-related books, we recently acquired a first edition from 1838 of Sketches of Imposture, Deception and Credulity. Although the author is officially anonymous, he ...Read More

  • Are Stock Pickers Getting Desperate?

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    by Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors — Wednesday, February 11, 2015

    We ask this question after reading this interesting article by David Randall from the Daily Mail. We believe the author was being polite in his word choice of “creative” rather than ...Read More

  • The Analysts Underestimate Apple Again

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    by Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors — Monday, February 9, 2015

    On 1/27/2015, Apple released a spectacular earnings report for the first quarter of its 2015 fiscal year. Once again, it smashed through the analysts’ predictions, earning $3.06 per share vs. a consensus ...Read More

  • IFA FinPlan: Using the Vault Feature [VIDEO]

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    by Mark Hebner — Thursday, February 5, 2015

    Clients who have signed up for IFA FinPlan have the ability to securely store an unlimited number of files. In this article, we will discuss some of the files that you may want to upload to your vault. Please ...Read More

  • Some Sage Advice from the Guardian

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    by Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors — Monday, February 2, 2015

    The title of this Guardian article by Kira Brecht (“How Highly Paid Wall Street Guys Could Be a Threat to Your Retirement Money”) perfectly summarizes the situation of today’s individual ...Read More

  • A Memo that Should Give Brokers Pause

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    by Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors — Friday, January 30, 2015

    Recently, a White House memo dated 1/13/2015 from the Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers (Jason Furman) came to our attention. Co-authored with fellow Council member Betsey Stevenson, it calls out ...Read More

  • Book Analysis: The Story of a Speculator

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    by Thomas Brunson — Thursday, January 29, 2015

    “Why, if a speculator won every time, soon he would own everything in the world” -Arthur W. Cutten, veteran wheat pit trader In his autobiographical narrative titled the Story of a Speculator, the ...Read More

  • Understanding Administrative Trustee Services

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    by Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors — Wednesday, January 28, 2015

    If you have a trust, you are probably familiar with the idea of trustee (which could be yourself) who oversees the administration of the trust and has a fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of the ...Read More

  • Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors

    Is a Donor Advised Fund Right for You?

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    by Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors — Tuesday, January 27, 2015

    A donor advised fund (DAF) is a charitable giving vehicle administered by a public charity created to manage charitable contributions on behalf of organizations, families, or individuals. The giver opens an ...Read More

  • Q&A with IFA: Equally-Weighted S&P 500 Index

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    by Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors — Monday, January 26, 2015

    Question: I have heard that an equally-weighted version (as opposed to the standard market cap-weighted version) of the S&P 500 Index achieves a higher return without additional risk. Should I not use this ...Read More

  • A Look Back at Some Good Articles from 2014

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    by Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors — Friday, January 23, 2015

    At Index Fund Advisors, we consider 2014 to have been a tipping point year in the migration from active to passive management. Here are some of the articles that helped to convince us of this idea. Please ...Read More

  • Another View of Smart Beta

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    by Mark Hebner and IFA Contributors — Thursday, January 22, 2015

    As we have stated in prior articles such as this one, smart beta is primarily a marketing term that refers to the attempt to capture risk and return factors beyond beta (overall exposure to the market). The ...Read More