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Why Winning in the Margins Matters in Retirement Planning

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by Tom Allen and Mark Hebner
Friday, June 19, 2015

“Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it…he who doesn’t…pays it.” - Albert Einstein A very interesting article published in the Financial Advisor magazine discussed some of the top reasons why ...Read More

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  • Blackrock Looking for Answers to Their Troubling Performance

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    by Tom Allen and Mark Hebner — Thursday, June 18, 2015

    What do you do when your entire active fund lineup is struggling? Well if you are the CEO of Blackrock, you invest hundred of millions of investors’ dollars and hire the more best and more brightest than you already have to try to fix it. According to a recent ...Read More

  • Evidence-Based Insights: Financial Gurus and Other Unicorns

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    by Mark Hebner — Tuesday, June 16, 2015

    In our last piece, “Ignoring the Siren Song of Daily Market Pricing,” we explored how price-setting occurs in capital markets, and why investors should avoid reacting to breaking news. The cost and competition hurdles are just too tall. Today, we’ll explain why ...Read More

  • The Evidence on the Evidence: Assessing the Validity of Academia

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    by Mark Hebner — Thursday, June 11, 2015

    There's a reason we refer to our strategy for building durable, long-term wealth as evidence-based investing. There are a number of other terms we could use instead: Structured (getting warm), low-cost (definitely), passive (sometimes), indexing (close) … the list goes ...Read More

  • Fidelity Has Found the Holy Grail: Oh Wait, False Alarm!

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    by Tom Allen and Mark Hebner — Wednesday, June 10, 2015

    One of the toughest (but also the most rewarding) aspects of being in the financial services industry is garnering and protecting clients’ trust. The tough part of the equation comes mainly from being grouped amongst all financial professionals, who for the most part are ...Read More

  • You vs. Uncle Sam: Taxes & Mutual Fund Performance

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    by Tom Allen and Mark Hebner — Tuesday, June 9, 2015

    “It's not brains or brawn that matter in taxable investing; it's efficiency. Taxable investing is a loser's game. Those who lose the least - to taxes and fees - stand to win the most when the game's all over.”- James P. Garland, Retired Chairman of the Jeffrey ...Read More

  • Give Your Graduate One More Piece of Advice

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    by Mark Hebner — Thursday, June 4, 2015

    The soccer games and ballet lessons are behind you, but as a parent, you may always feel the need to give advice to your children. At the same time, once they walk across that stage with degree in hand, seeking your advice may not top their list of ways to ...Read More

  • Evidence-Based Insights: You, the Market and the Prices You Pay

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    by Mark Hebner — Friday, May 29, 2015

    When it comes to investing (or anything in life worth doing well) it helps to know what you’re facing. In this case, that’s “the market.” How do you achieve every investor’s dream of buying low and selling high in a crowd of highly resourceful and ...Read More

  • Gravel Road Investing

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    by Jim Parker — Wednesday, May 27, 2015

    Owners of all-purpose motor vehicles often appreciate their cars most when they leave smooth city freeways for rough gravel country roads. In investment, highly diversified portfolios can provide similar reassurance. In blue skies and open highways, flimsy city sedans might ...Read More

  • Tax-Wise Investing Part II - You & Your Tax-Wise Team

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    by Mark Hebner — Tuesday, May 26, 2015

    In the first part of IFA’s series on Tax-Wise Investing, “You & Your Investments,” we explored how to engage in year-round tax-wise investing by adopting your own best practices as well as by favoring fund managers who are likewise keeping a tax-efficient ...Read More

  • How Mutual Funds Can Be Advocates For Their Investors

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    by Tom Allen and Mark Hebner — Friday, May 22, 2015

    There has been a growing focus in the area of corporate governance given the numerous and very significant financial events that have happened over the last 15 years like the collapse of Enron, Worldcom, and Tyco as well as the excessive risk taken by the biggest investment ...Read More

  • Tax-Wise Investing - You & Your Investments

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    by Mark Hebner — Monday, May 18, 2015

    While “tax season” may imply that there is an optimal time to think about your income taxes, the best way to minimize your annual “pay-triotic duty” is to engage in year-round tax-wise investing, with ongoing best practices in: Your personal tax-efficient ...Read More

  • 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

  • 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 addressed some of the ethical issues involved in having an index fund ...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 being extremely tiresome and currently in direct conflict with what he ...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 representing any past performance data is not without cause. Although ...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 have the discipline to stick with a “buy and hold” strategy ...Read More

  • What's a Target Date Fund? Your Retirement's Best Friend

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    by Tom Allen and Mark Hebner — Friday, May 8, 2015

    Most days, 24 hours per day is just not enough time to get everything done. Ideally, every adult should be getting an average of 8 hour of sleep, 3 quality meals per day, try to keep it to 2 cups of coffee per day, plus 30 minutes of exercise, ...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 and particularly baccarat, roulette and bridge are Bond's favourite ...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 adage. To say that we have used this quote many times would be an ...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 world, they see patterns that others do not ...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 because it’s not even really a form of investing, it’s gambling ...Read More

  • DOL's Nod to Passive - A Step Forward For Plan Participants

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    by Tom Allen — Wednesday, April 22, 2015

    "History shows that where ethics and economics come in conflict, victory is always with economics. Vested interests have never been known to have willingly divested themselves unless there was sufficient force to compel them.” – B.R. Ambedkar The Department of Labor ...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. Building investment strategies around them is another. A reason journalists ...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 its own “quantitative easing” program, aiming at buying ...Read More

  • Wall Street Wipe Out – New York's Pension Plan Hit Hard with Fees

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    by Tom Allen and Mark Hebner — Wednesday, April 15, 2015

    An article recently published in the New York Times highlighted the impact that fees had on the gains made by the New York City Pension Funds. An internal analysis conducted by the Comptroller of New York City, Scott M. Stringer, concluded that $2 Billion in fees have been ...Read More

  • Keys to the Investment Vault: The Case for Index Funds

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    by Larry Weber — Tuesday, March 31, 2015

    Investing is not as complicated as portrayed by Wall Street types or the press. Most people can learn the basic best practice strategies of investing and asset allocation in a matter of days through a good investment education program led by an investment advisor who serves as a ...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 consultant that was prepared for a major institutional client in our very own ...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 janitor (Ronald Read) in Brattleboro, Vermont who passed away at the age ...Read More

  • 12b-1 Fees/Revenue Sharing Come Under Increased Scrutiny

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

    In the wake of a recent Presidential announcement, mutual fund 12b-1 fees/revenue sharing known as “backdoor payments” as the White House calls them, are under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commissions (SEC) and the Department of Labor (DOL). ...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 late to this party severely regretted it as Miller’s ...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 mania also fueled a nationwide obsession in a cute-and-cuddly little ...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 shunning stock pickers in favor of index funds which have been ...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 away the highest expense ratio at 1.60%. Setting the minimum investment ...Read More

  • Fiduciary—Why Your Retirement Depends on this Word

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    by Larry Weber — Wednesday, March 18, 2015

    The Webster’s dictionary of 1913 tells us that a fiduciary is someone “who holds a thing in trust for another, a trustee.” A fiduciary involves confidence or trust; confident; undoubting; faithful; firm; as in a fiduciary capacity. The definition still holds ...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 indices.”               ...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 active management to passive and quotes Jack Bogle who said, “About ...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 low-cost index funds from Vanguard, whose founder Jack Bogle played a ...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, former University of Cincinnati history professor Reginald Charles McGrane ...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 of the leadership of Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger) did not ...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 story gets overlooked. Many investors feel that they are not properly ...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 ebb and flow of investment style.” Our only argument with that ...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 and a Master’s Degree in Applied Economics, Mr. Mooreland now ...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 purports to capture the momentum factor and improve long term performance ...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 required to apply a fiduciary standard of care. On Monday (2/23/2015), ...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 scientific fields. For those needing a refresher or a first ...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 (Employee Benefit Research Institute) highlights the consequences that ...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 of 1929, he recounts the historical and economic factors behind the ...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.  These high rates apply at much lower levels of income for trusts than ...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 Investing Paradox—that qualified investors keep pouring money ...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 helped to educate his viewers who would otherwise know next ...Read More