Who invented the index fund? A brief (true) history of index funds

Pop quiz! If I asked you, “Who invented the index fund?” what would your answer be? I’ll bet most of you don’t know and don’t care. But those who do care would probably answer, “John Bogle, founder of The Vanguard Group.” And that’s what I would have answered too until a few weeks ago.

But, it turns out, this answer is false.

Yes, Bogle founded the first publicly-available index fund. And yes, Bogle is responsible for popularizing and promoting index funds as the “common sense” investment answer for the average person. For this, he deserves much praise.

But Bogle did not invent index funds. In fact, for a long time he was opposed to the very idea of them!

John Bogle did not invent index funds

Recently, while writing the investing lesson for my upcoming Audible course about the basics of financial independence, I found myself deep down a rabbit hole. What started as a simple Google search to verify that Bogle was indeed the creator of index funds led me to a “secret history” of which I’d been completely unaware.

In this article, I’ve done my best to assemble the bits and pieces I discovered while tracking down the origins of index funds. I’m sure I’ve made some mistakes here. (If you spot an error or know of additional info that should be included, drop me a line.)

Here then, is a brief history of index funds.

What are index funds? An index fund is a low-cost, low-maintenance mutual fund designed to follow the price fluctuations of a stock-market index, such as the S&P 500. They’re an excellent choice for the average investor.

The Case for an Unmanaged Investment Company

In the January 1960 issue of the Financial Analysts Journal, Edward Renshaw and Paul Feldstein published an article entitled, “The Case for an Unmanaged Investment Company.”

The case for an unmanaged investment company

Here’s how the paper began:

“The problem of choice and supervision which originally created a need for investment companies has so mushroomed these institutions that today a case can be made for creating a new investment institution, what we have chosen to call an “unmanaged investment company” — in other words a company dedicated to the task of following a representative average.”

The fundamental problem facing individual investors in 1960 was that there were too many mutual-fund companies: over 250 of them. “Given so much choice,” the authors wrote, “it does not seem likely that the inexperienced investor or the person who lacks time and information to supervise his own portfolio will be any better able to choose a better than average portfolio of investment company stocks.”

Mutual funds (or “investment companies”) were created to make things easier for average people like you and me. They provided easy diversification, simplifying the entire investment process. Individual investors no longer had to build a portfolio of stocks. They could buy mutual fund shares instead, and the mutual-fund manager would take care of everything else. So convenient!

But with 250 funds to choose from in 1960, the paradox of choice was rearing its head once more. How could the average person know which fund to buy?

When this paper was published in 1960, there were approximately 250 mutual funds for investors to choose from. Today, there are nearly 10,000.

The solution suggested in this paper was an “unmanaged investment company”, one that didn’t try to beat the market but only tried to match it. “While investing in the Dow Jones Industrial average, for instance, would mean foregoing the possibility of doing better than average,” the authors wrote, “it would also mean tha the investor would be assured of never doing significantly worse.”

The paper also pointed out that an unmanaged fund would offer other benefits, including lower costs and psychological comfort.

The authors’ conclusion will sound familiar to anyone who has ever read an article or book praising the virtues of index funds.

“The evidence presented in this paper supports the view that the average investors in investment companies would be better off if a representative market average were followed. The perplexing question that must be raised is why has the unmanaged investment company not come into being?”

The Case for Mutual Fund Management

With the benefit of hindsight, we know that Renshaw and Feldstein were prescient. They were on to something. At the time, though, their idea seemed far-fetched. Rebuttals weren’t long in coming.

The May 1960 issue of the Financial Analysts Journal included a counter-point from John B. Armstrong, “the pen-name of a man who has spent many years in the security field and in the study and analysis of mutual funds.” Armstrong’s article — entitled “The Case for Mutual Fund Management” argued vehemently against the notion of unmanaged investment companies.

The case for mutual fund management

“Market averages can be a dangerous instrument for evaluating investment management results,” Armstrong wrote.

What’s more, he said, even if we were to grant the premise of the earlier paper — which he wasn’t prepared to do — “this argument appears to be fallacious on practical grounds.” The bookkeeping and logistics for maintaining an unmanaged mutual fund would be a nightmare. The costs would be high. And besides, the technology (in 1960) to run such a fund didn’t exist.

And besides, Armstrong said, “the idea of an ‘unmanaged fund’ has been tried before, and found unsuccessful.” In the early 1930s, a type of proto-index fund was popular for a short time (accounting for 80% of all mutual fund investments in 1931!) before being abandoned as “undesirable”.

“The careful and prudent Financial Analyst, moreover, realizes full well that investing is an art — not a science,” Armstrong concluded. For this reason — and many others — individual investors should be confident to buy into managed mutual funds.

So, just who was the author of this piece? Who was John B. Armstrong? His real name was John Bogle, and he was an assistant manager for Wellington Management Company. Bogle’s article was nominated for industry awards in 1960. People loved it.

The Secret History of Index Funds

Bogle may not have liked the idea of unmanaged investment companies, but other people did. A handful of visionaries saw the promise — but they couldn’t see how to put that promise into action. In his Investment News article about the secret history of index mutual funds, Stephen Mihm describes how the dream of an unmanaged fund became reality.

In 1964, mechanical engineer John Andrew McQuown took a job with Wells Fargo heading up the “Investment Decision Making Project”, an attempt to apply scientific principles to investing. (Remember: Just four years earlier, Bogle had written that “investing is an art — not a science”.) McQuown and his team — which included a slew of folks now famous in investing circles — spent years trying to puzzle out the science of investing. But they kept reaching dead ends.

After six years of work, the team’s biggest insight was this: Not a single professional portfolio manager could consistently beat the S&P 500.

Mihm writes:

As Mr. McQuown’s team hammered out ways of tracking the index without incurring heavy fees, another University of Chicago professor, Keith Shwayder, approached the team at Wells Fargo in the hopes they could create a portfolio that tracked the entire market. This wasn’t academic: Mr. Shwayder was part of the family that owned Samsonite Luggage, and he wanted to put $6 million of the company’s pension assets in a new index fund.

This was 1971. At first, the team at Wells Fargo crafted a fund that tracked all stocks traded on the New York Stock Exchange. This proved impractical — “a nightmare,” one team member later recalled — and eventually they created a fund that simply tracked the Standard & Poor’s 500. Two other institutional index funds popped up around this time: Batterymarch Financial Management; American National Bank. These other companies helped promote the idea of sampling: holding a selection of representative stocks in a particular index rather than every single stock.

Much to the surprise and dismay of skeptics, these early index funds worked. They did what they were designed to do. Big institutional investors such as Ford, Exxon, and AT&T began shifting pension money to index funds. But despite their promise, these new funds remained inaccessible to the average investor.

In the meantime, John Bogle had become even more enmeshed in the world of active fund management.

In a Forbes article about John Bogle’s epiphany, Rick Ferri writes that during the 1960s, Bogle bought into Go-Go investing, the aggressive pursuit of outsized gains. Eventually, he was promoted to CEO of Wellington Management as he led the company’s quest to make money through active trading.

The boom years soon passed, however, and the market sank into recession. Bogle lost his power and his position. He convinced Wellington Management to form a new company — The Vanguard Group — to handle day-to-day administrative tasks for the larger firm. In the beginning, Vanguard was explicitly not allowed to get into the mutual fund game.

About this time, Bogle dug deeper into unmanaged funds. He started to question his assumptions about the value of active management.

During the fifteen years since he’d argued “the case for mutual fund management”, Bogle had been an ardent, active fund manager. But in the mid-1970s, as he started Vanguard, he was analyzing mutual fund performance, and he came to the realization that “active funds underperformed the S&P 500 index on an average pre-tax margin by 1.5 percent. He also found that this shortfall was virtually identical to the costs incurred by fund investors during that period.”

This was Bogle’s a-ha moment.

Although Vanguard wasn’t allowed to manage its own mutual fund, Bogle found a loophole. He convinced the Wellington board to allow him to create an index fund, one that would be managed by an outside group of firms. On 31 December 1975, paperwork was filed with the S.E.C. to create the Vanguard First Index Investment Trust. Eight months later, on 31 August 1976, the world’s first public index fund was launched.

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Bogle’s Folly

At the time, most investment professionals believed index funds were a foolish mistake. In fact, the First Index Investment Trust was derisively called “Bogle’s folly”. Nearly fifty years of history have proven otherwise. Warren Buffett – perhaps the world’s greatest investor – once said, “If a statue is ever erected to honor the person who has done the most for American investors, the hands-down choice should be Jack Bogle.”

In reality, Bogle’s folly was ignoring the idea of index funds — even arguing against the idea — for fifteen years. (In another article for Forbes, Rick Ferri interviewed Bogle about what he was thinking back then.)

Now, it’s perfectly possible that this “secret history” isn’t so secret, that it’s well-known among educated investors. Perhaps I’ve simply been blind to this info. It’s certainly true that I haven’t read any of Bogle’s books, so maybe he wrote about this and I simply missed it. But I don’t think so.

I do know this, however: On blogs and in the mass media, Bogle is usually touted as the “inventor” of index funds, and that simply isn’t true. That’s too bad. I think the facts — “Bogle opposed index funds, then became their greatest champion” — are more compelling than the apocryphal stories we keep parroting.

Note: I don’t doubt that I have some errors in this piece — and that I’ve left things out. If you have corrections, please let me know so that I can revise the article accordingly.

Source: getrichslowly.org

Alternative Investments Are Not Just for the Wealthy

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We hear a lot these days about alternative investments. Wall Street firms regularly tout their expertise in these investments and try to convince us we need them in our portfolio.

In the beginning, alternative investments were only available to what most would consider the wealthy.

The SEC set the definition of the wealthy with their accredited investor definition. To be eligible to invest in these alternative investments, one has to have an income of at least $200,000 (individual) or $300,000 (joint) for the last two years. Additionally, the rule states the investor expects that income to continue going forward.

If they don’t meet the income requirement, accredited investors must have a net worth of at least $1,000,000 (exclusive of personal residence). Though that group is growing, it leaves out millions of people who could benefit from the diversification offered by this asset class.

One thing common in the early days of these investments was high fees. In the beginning, managers charged investors 2% of the amount invested plus 20% of profits. Here’s what that means.

In This Article

The High Cost of Fees

If someone invested $100,000 in a fund, and the fund earned 10% (few do), the total dollars paid by the investor would be $4,000 ($100k x 2% = $2,000 + $10,000 x 20% = $2,000). That means instead of making $10,000 on your $100,000 investment, you walked away with $6,000! Instead of a 10% return, you earned 6%! That’s a 40% drop in your profit!

Also, your money was not available to you until the project or fund sold or closed. That typically is five years or more.

Over the years, investors became wise to the scheme, as did other investment product producers. They introduced lower cost, more liquid alternative investments into the marketplace, and lowered the bar for investing.

In today’s post, we’re going to introduce you to six investments you may not have considered – three for accredited investors, three for everyone else. We think by the end of this post, you’ll feel more comfortable and confident in looking at these investments for your portfolio.

What Are Alternative Investments?

Let’s start with what most consider the traditional investment products – those would be stocks, bonds, and cash. Investors can put money in the U.S. and international markets in both stocks, bonds, and cash. Most investors access these products via mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs). The most popular form of investing in these markets is via index funds.

When investing in index funds, investors put their money in funds that mirror the market. There are no fund managers picking which stocks to buy, when to buy them, and when to sell. Instead, in index funds, investors get all of the stocks in that index (like the S & P 500) at the same proportion each stock makes up in the indexes.

Rather than trying to beat the market, investors take what the market offers. It’s a very inexpensive and easy way to invest.

Alternative investments, on the other hand, are not mutual funds, ETFs, or index funds. Instead, the funds have a management team and invest in things that are different from the stock and bond markets. They include offerings like private equity, real estate, hedge funds, venture capital, managed futures, and derivative products.

Many of you have heard these names thrown in the financial press. In addition to high fees, many alternative investments have high minimum initial investments.

Crowdfunding – The Game Changer

For the reasons mentioned above, innovation entered the alternative investment arena. As a result, companies began developing investments with lower fees and smaller minimum investments. They made these accessible to non-accredited investors. These innovative investments are a game-changer for the everyday investor.

Crowdfunded real estate investment trusts are the primary vehicle for these investments. These newer funds register with the SEC as exempt funds, usually under the SEC’s Regulation Crowdfunding. Crowdfunding in real estate, like with individual or small business crowdfunding allows smaller investors into an investment space that hasn’t been available to them in the past.

We’ll offer a couple of specific funds to consider shortly.

Other options come in the form of mutual funds (managed futures, commodities, long-short funds, etc.). We will leave the discussion of these for another day. We want to focus on private funds, which are more like the traditional alternative investments initially designed for the wealthy.

Alternative Investments for Everyone

We want to highlight three investments available to non-accredited investors. One, Vinovest, is a unique offering. The other two, DiversyFund and Fundrise, are crowdfunded real estate funds as described in the last section.

Let’s dive into the summaries.

Vinovest

Vinovest offers a unique alternative investment in assets; one would normally not consider an investment class. We’re talking about fine wine. You can read our review of Vinovest for a more detailed description.

The first thing to know about investing in fine wine is that it takes knowledge to understand how to choose the right wines. Vinovest has a team of experts, called sommeliers, who have undergone rigorous training over several years. Three of their four sommeliers have achieved the Master Sommelier title. That’s the highest degree of recognition in the wine industry. These folks know their wine.

Wine selections come from their knowledge and a sophisticated algorithm their technical team developed — the result – the best wines with the best chance or price appreciation. You own the individual bottles. Vinovest will store and age the wine at their state of the art facilities around the world. They guarantee the safety of your wine.

The minimum investment is just $5,000. It’s a unique offering and worthy of consideration.

Fundrise and DiversyFund

Crowdfunding offers a method of fundraising that can bypass Wall Street firms and big banks with their high rates and fees. The introduction of crowdfunding was disruptive. In crowdfunded real estate, non-accredited investors now have access to similar real estate investments that accredited investors have always enjoyed.

Both FundRise and DiversyFund are crowdfunded real estate funds. Investors can invest in these funds with as little as $500.

Here’s a summary of each. You’ll find a link to our review of both for reference.

Fundrise

Fundrise has invested over $2.5 billion to date and has a history of above-average returns. They offer three core plans to get you started – Supplemental Income, Balanced Investing, and Growth. Each name describes the goals of the fund. If you’re looking for income, consider the Supplemental Income fund.

If you want a mix of income and growth, go with the Balanced Investing Fund. Are you looking for capital appreciation? Choose the growth fund.

You can get more details and learn more about REITS and crowdfunded real estate in this review.

DiversyFund

Contrary to Fundrise, DiversyFund is a reasonably new entrant in the field of crowdfunded real estate investing. Unlike the Fundrise investment options, the team at DiversyFund focuses on growing investors’ capital. They have a value add investment strategy when looking for properties.

What that means is they look for multi-family properties (apartments, condos, etc.) that have positive cash flow (renters) in good neighborhoods. The value add in their property selection comes from finding properties that need some work. We’re not talking about a complete redo. Instead, the building might need a new roof, updated bathrooms or kitchens, or maybe a fresh coat of paint.

With the improvements, they can charge more rent when the leases expire, and new tenants come on board. Get additional details from this review.

Alternative Investments for Accredited Investors

What follows are three recommendations for those of you who meet the criteria of the accredited investor. What follows are offerings that have much lower minimum investments and fees. Two are crowdfunded offerings. The other is not.

FarmTogether

Have you ever thought about investing in farmland? Did you not pursue that thought because you didn’t know you had enough money or didn’t know enough about it? If either of those describes you, you’re going to want to learn about FarmTogether.

FarmTogether offers a low-cost investment opportunity that allows investors to own real land. Real land is less subject to inflation and more stable than many other investments. Why? For one thing, we’re not making any more of it. The law of supply and demand means it’s likely to appreciate.

For those looking for cash flow, they offer that as well. The typical investments range from $10,000 – $50,000 per transaction. That $10,000 number is much more accessible than many of these types of offerings. And there are precious few funds that offer investment in farmland with cash flow.

Here’s a look at their current offering:

alternative investment offering details from FarmTogether

You can read our full review here.

Yield Street

YieldStreet is a fixed income alternative investment. The team focuses on investments in litigation finance, real estate, consumer and commercial financing, to name a few. Getting into these types of alternative fixed income areas has typically been limited to hedge funds and other institutional investors. Accredited investors can now access these alternatives with Yieldstreet. They have the experience and expertise you want. Below are some of the details and history.

YieldStreet alternative investment stats

They have multiple offerings from which investors can choose. The minimum and maximum investment depend on the offering chosen. The minimum investment is usually $10,000. Once again, that is much lower than many alternative investments.

You can read our review of YieldStreet here.

PeerStreet

PeerStreet is another alternative investment in the real estate space. Rather than buying properties, the team at PeerStreet invest in loans backed by real estate. The quality of the loans is directly related to the quality of the real estate backing the loans. Here’s a picture of their loans.

Snapshot of PeerStreet loan history

The returns for loan investments are above average. The LTV (loan to value) of the properties shows they are not heavily leveraged, and the terms are relatively short. Like many of the investments we highlight here, PeerStreet has a low minimum investment of only $1,000 per loan.

Be sure to check out our review of PeerStreet to learn more.

Finding Other Alternative Investments

When it comes to investing, there are numerous options from which to choose. The problem comes in knowing where to look for the options. MoneyMade has you covered. What is MoneyMade?

From our review – “It’s a discovery engine built to help you find and compare all types of investment opportunities, spanning from alternative investment platforms through to Robo Investing.” And it’s super simple to use. Just enter the criteria of the investment you’re looking for and let MoneyMade do the rest. Take a look at a search for Startups on MoneyMade below.

MoneyMade: Discover | Startups

Read our review of MoneyMade to learn more and take advantage of this great new platform.

Final Thoughts

I hope by now, you see that alternative investments are no longer the exclusive investments for the uber-wealthy. Competition from mutual funds, and, more recently, from the crowdfunded investment arena have brought costs and minimum investments way down. That’s not so good for the Wall Street product producers. But it’s great for consumers.

The six investments we highlight are, by no means, meant to be the cure-all be all for alternative investments though we do think that Vinovest and FarmTogether are two of the more unique offerings available.

Before doing any investing, you should know why you’re investing. You should know what you want your investments to do for you. Once you get those foundational questions answered, you can take the time to investigate the best investments to help you achieve those goals. If you don’t know where to start, a great place would be MoneyMade. If you feel like you need help deciding, consider hiring an independent financial advisor.

Whether you’re a seasoned investor of a DIYer who is looking for alternatives to the traditional stocks and bonds, we think the six investments highlighted here are worthy of consideration. If none of those make sense, head over to MoneyMade and let them help you find what you’re looking for.

Good luck!

Fred started the blog Money with a Purpose in October 2017. The blog focused on three primary areas: Personal Finance, Overcoming Adversity, and Lifestyle. During his time at Money with a Purpose, he was quoted in Forbes, USA Today and appeared in Money Magazine, MarketWatch, The Good Men Project, Thrive Global and many other publications.

I April 2019, Fred, along with two other partners, acquired The Money Mix website. To focus his time and energy where he could be the most productive, Fred recently merged Money with a Purpose with The Money Mix. You can now find all of his great content right here on The Money Mix, along with content from some of the brightest minds in personal finance.

Source: debtdiscipline.com

The 8 Best Vanguard Funds for Long-Term Investments

If you’re busy and want to invest your money in the long term, you will love the best vanguard funds. They are cheaper.

They are high quality funds, well diversified, and professionally managed.

Thus, vanguard funds are a favorite for long-term investments and for retirement.

Vanguard mutual funds, like any mutual funds, are money invested by investors. They are pooled together in a single investment portfolio. The mutual fund is then managed by a professional manager who then use the money to buy a bunch of stocks, bonds or other assets.

With Vanguard index funds, they are passively managed. That is, they are managed by a computer with its only job is to track an index, such as the S&P 500.

Nonetheless, both mutual funds and index funds are cost-efficient and a huge time saver for a busy investor. And because of that, the best vanguard funds are superior investment vehicles for long term-investment. 

In this article,  we will discuss the 8 best vanguard funds that offer a high-quality, cost and time-efficient way to invest in the stock market.

Understanding the Advantages of the Best Vanguard Funds

Before jumping into the best vanguard funds, it’s important to go over the main reasons for investing in mutual or index funds rather than individual stocks, bonds, or other securities.

Diversification. You have probably heard of the popular saying “don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” Well, if so, it applies well to mutual and index funds. Diversification is when you have a mix of investment to help control the total risk of your investment portfolio.

Unless you have a lot of money, buying individual stocks yourself can be costly. But with a mutual or index fund, you’re able to buy dozens of stocks and invest in different types of stocks in a variety of industries, thus diversifying your portfolio.

Because you invest in multiple stocks across various industries, you are spreading your risk. If one stock plummets, the others can balance it out. Most Vanguard funds, if not all, are diversified.

Low minimum investment. Another benefit of Vanguard funds is that they require a reasonable investment minimum. Some Vanguard mutual funds require a minimum of $3000 to invest. They also offer a monthly investment plan, so you can start with as little as $20 per month.

Cost efficiency. The charges that you pay to buy or sell a fund can be significant. However Vanguard funds are known to cost way less than the average mutual fund.

Professional management. Even if you have a lot and you are an expert in investing, investing your money in a Vanguard mutual fund is a huge time saver. That means once you buy your fund and contribute to it monthly (however you chose), you can just forget about it.

A Vanguard professional manager takes care of it for you. Plus, vanguard fund managers are experienced, well educated. So you don’t have to worry about an inexperienced manager running your money.

These are the reasons why investing in the best vanguard funds is better than investing in individual stocks and/or bonds.

However, one of the drawbacks with vanguard funds, as with all mutual or index funds, is that you don’t have control over your investment portfolio. Leaving your money to someone who decides when and what to invest in can be difficult for you if you’re someone who likes to be in control.

So, if you like to be in control and things yourself, you may want to develop your own investment portfolio and not relying on these Vanguard funds.

Are you a long-term investor?

Think about yourself and your goals before choosing these best Vanguard funds.

What are your investment goals? Do you plan on holding these funds in the long term?

A long term investor is someone who puts money into an investment product for a long period of time.

If you plan on investing money to achieve some goals in 2 years, such as buying a car or going on a vacation, you should not use these Vanguard Funds.

That is because stocks and bonds can rise and fall significantly over a short period of time. That makes it possible to lose some or all of your money. Moreover, if you need cash in a hurry, a Vanguard fund is definitely not the right investment for you.

So you’re better off using short-term investments for these kind of goals.

But if you want to build wealth for the long term or your goal is to retire in 20 or 40 years, these Vanguard funds are for you.

Likewise, what is your appetite for risk?

A long-term investor should be aware of the risks involved in investing in the stock market. They should know their own risk tolerance. Some investors are more cautious than others. Some can take risks and are able to sleep well at night.

These vanguard funds carry different level of risks. Some are more conservative than the others. 

Therefore, before you start buying Vanguard funds, figure out whether you are a long term investor. In other words, don’t keep money in funds unless you plan on holding them for at least 5 years.

The 8 Best Vanguard Funds to Buy Now for Long-Term Investments

Now that you have a pretty good idea of why a Vanguard fund is a good long-term investment, and you are aware of your risk tolerance, below is 8 of the top and best Vanguard funds to buy now for the long term. If you have questions beyond Vanguard funds, it may make sense to work with a financial planner or financial advisor near you.

Vanguard Total Stock Market Admiral (VTSAX)

  • Minimum initial investment:$3000
  • Expenses:0.04%

The biggest and perhaps one of the best Vanguard funds is the Vanguard Total Stock Market. The fund was created in 1992. It gives long term investors a broad exposure to the entire US equity market, including large, mid, and small cap growth stocks. Some of the largest stocks include Apple, Facebook, Johnson And Johnson, Alphabet, Berkshire Hathaway, etc…

This Vanguard fund has all of the attributes mentioned above, i.e., diversification and low costs. Note this fund invests exclusively in stock. So it’s the most aggressive Vanguard fund around.You need a minimum of $3000 to invest in this fund. The expenses are 0.04%, which is extremely low. Note this is also available as an ETF, with an expense ratio of 0.03%.

Vanguard 500 Index (VFIAX)

  • Minimum initial investment:$3,000
  • Expenses: 0.04%

If you want to have your money invested only in American assets, this Vanguard fund is the right one for you. The Vanguard 500 Index, as the name suggests tracks the S&P 500 index.

This index funds gives you exposure to 500 of the largest U.S. companies, spreading across different industries, making it one of the best Vanguard funds to have. Some of the largest companies you might already know include Microsoft, Apple, Visa, JP Morgan Chase, Facebook, etc. It has a minimum investment of $3,000 with an expense ratio of 0.04&, making it one of the best Vanguard funds to have. 

Vanguard Wellington Income Investor Share (VWINX)

  • Minimum initial investment:
  • Expenses:

If you’re aware of risks involved in investing in stocks and you have a low tolerance for risk, the Vanguard wellington Income is for you. This fund allocates about one third to stocks and two thirds to bonds, making it very conservative.

Another good thing about this Vanguard fund is that it invests in stocks that have a strong track record of providing dividend income to its investors. So, if you are one of those long term investors who has a low appetite for risks and who likes to receive a steady dividend payment without a lot of volatility in the share price, you should consider this fund.

Vanguard Star (VGSTX)

  • Minimum initial investment: $1,000
  • Expenses: 0.31%

The great thing about this Vanguard fund is that the minimum investment is relatively low ($1000), making it a good choice among new investors. Plus, it’s well balanced.

It is invested 60% in stocks and 40% in bonds. For those investors looking for a broad diversification in both domestic and international stocks and bonds, this fund should not be overlooked.

Vanguard Dividend Growth (VDIGX)

  • Minimum initial investment:$3000
  • Expenses:0.22%

Vanguard Dividend Growth, as the name suggests, focuses on companies that pay dividends and have the ability to grow their dividends over time.

If you’re an investor with a long term focus and likes to receive a steady dividend income, you may want to consider this fund. The minimum investment is $3000 with an expense ratio of 0.22%.

Vanguard Health Care (VGHCX)

  • Minimum initial investment: $3,000
  • Expenses: 0.34%

As the name suggests, Vanguard Health Care only invests in the Health Care Section. That’s the only downside. Apart from that, it gives investors a great exposure to various domestic and international companies within the health care sector, such as pharmaceutical firms, research firms, and medical supply and equipment companies.

If you’re considering this Vanguard fund, you should also have another and more diversified fund to reduce your risk.

Vanguard International Growth (VWIGX)

  • Minimum initial investment: $3000
  • Expenses: 0.43%

If you’re looking to build a complete investment portfolio and want to have more exposure to foreign stocks, the Vanguard International Growth is the one of the best Vanguard Funds to accomplish that goal. The fund focuses on non-U.S. stocks in developed and emerging markets with a high growth potential.

However, one thing to consider is the high volatility of this fund. Because it also invests in developed countries, the share price can rise and fall significantly. So you should consider this fund if you want more exposure to foreign stocks. But you also want to have another fund as well to balance it out. The minimum initial investment is $3,000 with an expense ratio of 0.43%.

Vanguard Total Bond Market Index (VTBLX)

  • Minimum initial investment: $3000
  • Expenses: 0.05%

Bond funds may be appropriate and advantageous for long term investors who want a bond fund that invests US and Corporate bonds. If that’s your goal then the Vanguard Total Bond Market Index is the right one for you.

Just as any Vanguard funds, it’s cost efficient, safe and high quality. It has a minimum initial investment of $3,000 and an expense ration of 0.05%. Also note that this fund is also available as an ETF.

The Bottom Line

If you’re looking to invest in mutual or index funds, those are the best Vanguard funds to buy now and hold for the long term. They are high quality, low-cost, and are safe. 

Related:

Speak with the Right Financial Advisor

  • If you have questions beyond knowing which of the best Vanguard funds to invest, you can talk to a financial advisor who can review your finances and help you reach your goals (whether it is making more money, paying off debt, investing, buying a house, planning for retirement, saving, etc).

Source: growthrapidly.com

15 Lessons From Regular People Who Achieved Financial Independence

To gain financial independence for retirement, use the lessons of those who have retired early.

total financial independence

The Big Takeaways…

    • Financial independence can be achieved, but it’s about combining lifestyle ambitions with reasonable financial strategies.
    • Financial independence comes with some sacrifice, so it’s important to consider the consequences before committing yourself to an early retirement.

Most people struggle and worry about being able to retire in their mid to late 60s. At that point, you are expected to have hundreds of thousands (maybe even millions) of dollars in your retirement accounts, get additional money from Social Security, and also get some government assistance with healthcare insurance. Even then, retiring securely can feel impossibly hard. What you really want is total financial independence – forever.

Maybe you are already retired and have a dreadful feeling that you simply don’t have enough.

Many people have been there, done that, and retired. Some even have a passion to teach others how they did it via their writings in books, blogs, and online courses.

This past week, I read through hundreds of articles from dozens of blogs to discover 15 of the top lessons from regular people who have achieved total financial independence.

If you save 50% on an item, that sounds pretty impressive. But if that item was a bottle of $1 shampoo, you really only kept 50 cents in your pocket.

J.D. Roth from Get Rich Slowly explains that if you want to retire early, you’ve got to focus on your high-cost items. Namely, your:

  • Home
  • Car
  • Food

The average person will spend over $2,000 a month on these categories alone. If you want to retire or retire early, the solution is simple: spend less. And, you can do it easily by focusing all your efforts on reducing the big dogs – home, car, and food expenses.

Need more inspiration? Here are 8 ways to save BIG. Or, listen to the podcast interview with J.D. Roth.

When do you want to retire? In 5, 15, 25 years? The math behind how much you need to save to achieve these targets is shockingly simple. Just ask Mr. Money Mustache – an engineer that retired when he was only 30.

Even though the math is supposedly simple, MMM made it even simpler by putting together a target savings rate table.

If you currently have zero and want to retire in:

  • 5 years, you’ll need to save 80% of your income
  • 15 years, save 55% of your income
  • 25 years, put away 35% of your income

Most of you have already been working for a few decades, so these numbers might not mean as much as it does for those that are just starting out (especially if you haven’t been putting 80% of your income away all your life). So, what numbers are relevant for you?

If you have consistently put away:

  • 10% of your income, you’ll likely have to work for 51 years before you retire
  • 15% of your income, your time in the workforce is 43 years
  • 20% of your income, you’ll probably have enough money to retire after 37 years in the workforce

Want to retire sooner? Simple. Just up your savings rate.

Try different scenarios in the top rated NewRetirement retirement planning calculator.

When most people retire, they assume they’ll never work another day in their lives, and, if they have to, they consider themselves a failure in retirement.

Jonathan Clements, from HumbleDollar, disagrees.

According to Jonathan, “Working a few days each week could greatly ease any financial strain, while adding richness to your retirement.”

So if you have to (or want to) work in retirement, don’t sweat it. There are countless others that do the same.

Explore 14 reasons retirement jobs are the best and listen to our interview with him on the NewRetirement podcast where Clements discusses money, behavior, and happiness.

Before putting together a complex assortment of facts and figures, Darrow Kirkpatrick (retired at 50 years old) champions the idea of keeping things simple.

“The best way to get a useful model going is to input a small number of initial assumptions, then calculate and check the results carefully, year by year. Once you are certain those initial numbers are behaving as expected, you can begin adding more data, more financial events, and refining your model.”

He compares retirement planning to constructing a puzzle. You don’t try to put all the pieces together at once. You start with a corner, add a piece, add another, and then slowly put together the entire puzzle one piece at a time. The same should be true with your retirement planning.

Instead of putting all your numbers into a complex tool right off the bat, put in only a few, confirm the number, and then go back and model in other likely scenarios. In the end, you’ll be much more confident in your number and you’ll understand it completely.

This approach is fully supported by the NewRetirement retirement planning calculator. Users start by inputting a relatively simple set of data – estimates are okay. You can view results and start building a more complete plan. Or, simply run different scenarios and keep your information updated over time, making adjustments as necessary.

When was the last time you updated your numbers? We recommend quarterly at least. Want ideas for scenarios to run? Try these.

There are tons of people today that have absolutely no idea how much they spend from month to month. And, not only do they not know the amount that they’re spending, they probably couldn’t even tell you where half of it is going.

If you have absolutely no idea where your money is going today, you have little chance of grasping where it will go ten to thirty years from now.

In Darrow Kirkpatrick’s book, “Retiring Sooner,” he discusses several ways to assess your living expenses quickly and easily. So if you’re one of the people who doesn’t know where your money is going, take some notes from DK and get a handle on your spend today so that you can have a blissful, easy retirement.

When you think of regrets in retirement, you might only consider the regret of retiring too early and running out of money, but that’s not the only outcome you should fear.

Physician on FIRE (retired at age 39) warns us also of retiring too late.

If you run all the scenarios in all of the models and you’re safe in every one, then you waited far too long to retire. You’re not going to:

  • Get cancer
  • Have Alzheimer’s
  • Get into a car accident
  • Experience 3 stock market crashes
  • Lose your pension, and
  • Get sued

If all of those things happened to you, it honestly doesn’t matter if you can cover all the expenses. Your life is going to be difficult regardless.

The point of modeling is to protect yourself against the likely fears, not every one. Wait too long to retire, and you’re going to regret it for the rest of your life. Sure, your kids might enjoy the millions that you’ll never be able to spend, but I bet they’d much rather have your time instead.

The Wealthy Accountant, Keith “Taxguy,” is certainly a guy you want to listen to. He’s worth over $12 million and hasn’t held a conventional job since he was 22 years old…

He says it plain and simple:

“When you are in debt the clock works against you. Every morning when you wake—weekends, holidays, sick days, birthdays and work days—you are already behind. The mortgage, credit card, car loan, et cetera, all tacked on interest the second after midnight. Long before you rolled out of bed and poured your first cup of coffee you need to work to pay the interest before you have money for food, clothing, shelter or entertainment.”

The takeaway is that debt is just adding to your expenses. Pay your debt off as fast as possible and invest heavily once they’re gone. It’s easy to do once you don’t have a payment in the world.

Most people go to the bank and ask the question, “How much will you lend me?” The bank tells them the maximum that they’d be comfortable forking over, then the borrowers go out and find the best house for that amount of money.

Without realizing it, these folks just became house poor. Hopefully, they really love the house, because they won’t have enough money to do anything outside of those four walls for many years to come.

Passive Income MD gives us a great rule of thumb when it comes to getting a mortgage – never exceed 3 times your annual income.

If you are currently in over your head, downsize. You won’t regret minimizing your debt down the road.

You hear this all the time, but are you actually doing it? Are you putting the maximum amount allowed into your 401(k) each year? Joe Udo, from Retire by 40, admits that he didn’t max it out every year, but he only missed his first couple when he relented to his high-performance, stock chasing mentality got the better of him.

By maxing out his retirement nearly every year, he was able to build up a $640,000 nest egg before his 40th birthday. Not too shabby.

If you still haven’t started to max out your contributions, it’s better late than never. Do nothing and you’ll have way more regrets than if you get started today.

If you’re over age 50, be sure to use catch up contributions (whether or not your employer offers a program or not).

In 2012, Justin, from Root of Good, earned $140,000 and paid just $600 in taxes. In 2013, he did even better. He earned $150,000 and paid $150.

“We didn’t go anything sneaky or illegal,” Justin explained. He and his wife simply invested in all the tax-advantaged accounts:

  • 401(k)s
  • Traditional IRAs
  • Health Savings Accounts
  • 457
  • And a 529 College Savings Account

That, and they paid for childcare with a Flexible Spending Account through his wife’s work.

His motto is to keep things simple, but also to keep the government’s hands off his money. If you can do this just half as well as Justin, you’ll be well on your way to total financial independence.

“Saving a high percentage of income is only half the battle. You can’t just put fat stacks of cash under your mattress and expect to get rich.” – Go Curry Cracker

If you can earn 10% a year, it takes approximately seven years for your money to double. In another seven years, it would double again. Wait another seven, and it doubles again.

You’ve actually got $800,000. ($100,000 becomes $200,000 which doubles to $400,000, and then doubles one more time to make $800,000). If you could hold off another seven years, you could have yourself a cool $1.6 million. Not too shabby when you consider that you only had $100,000 28 years ago. That’s the power of compounding.

Put that money under your mattress and you’d have just $100,000. That is, unless you had a house fire.

As Bill Bernstein said in his NewRetirement podcast interview:

“I’m going to sound kind of insensitive and cruel, I suppose, but when someone tells you that [that they are not invested and are holding cash], what they’re effectively telling you is that they’re extremely undisciplined. And they can’t execute a strategy and that’s the kind of person who probably does need an advisor. If you sold out in 2007 or 2008 and you’ve been in cash ever since, you’ve got a very seriously flawed process and you’re probably managing your own money.”

You have got to be invested in order to get ahead.

If you retire at age 60, you could easily have 30 years or more of retirement life ahead of you. When you were 30, could you have predicted you’d be where you are at age 60?

Of course not.

The same is true for your retirement years, “And that’s okay!” explains Steve from Think, Save, Retire (retired at age 35). You can do all the planning and forecasting your want, but you’ll never be able to predict what will happen to you personally, professionally, relationship-wise, or financially over the next 30 or more years.

In early retirement, Steve thought he was going to:

  • Exercise more
  • Blog more
  • And read more

He doesn’t, and for good reason. All reasons he hadn’t thought of when he handed in his two weeks’ notice.

Be ready to be flexible and able to make updates to your overall financial plan.

Sam at Financial Samurai is a smart guy. After all, he worked as an investment banker for Goldman Sachs for 13 years. Very few have those credentials on their resume.

After all that experience and knowledge of the markets, his advice to achieve early retirement is not a stock tip and not even a sector analysis. His advice:

Keep it simple.

Spend less, earn more, and invest all you can. That’s it. There’s power in that message, especially considering the source.

ESI Money retired in his early 50s and has practiced exactly what he’s preaching today. His message:

“Invest for growth and then income.”

What does that mean? He goes on to explain and outlines the following:

  1. Max out your 401(k) and invest in index funds (growth)
  2. Invest in rental properties (a combination of growth and income)
  3. Consider person to person (P2P) investing (income)

Also, option three could include annuities – another tool that helps build up a consistent income for your retirement years.

Why growth, then income? Simple. You first want to get your nest egg going and grow your investments quickly out of the gate so you can capitalize on compound interest. Then, in order to retire early, it’s best if you invest in multiple income sources that can float you until you hit the magic age of 59 ½, when you can start withdrawing from your retirement accounts without penalty.

Try out his formula in your own plan with the retirement planning calculator.

Even if you hate your job and have a “countdown to retirement” clock on your desk at work, you’ll still likely have difficulty when you finally give them the old heave-ho.

Jacob, from Early Retirement Extreme, likens it to a long-term marriage. A break-up from your long-time spouse is sure to be difficult. You think the escape will be nothing but sunshine and rainbows, but it’s not always that easy.

The same is true of your job. Expect it.

Better yet, set up a future for yourself in other areas – self-employment, volunteering, or starting that part-time gig we mentioned above. When you’ve already moved on to the next thing mentally, letting go of the old boat anchor becomes that much easier to do.

As with almost anything, you dive into something expecting to find the hidden secret or the magical takeaway and the results are quite obvious and underwhelming.

This analysis was no different.

If you want to retire well and retire early, you should simply live modestly, get rid of all your debts, earn a solid income, forecast what you need (but be flexible) and invest heavily. That’s really all there is to it. Dig any deeper and you’re just wasting your time.

The most valuable information here were the items that hardly anyone talks about:

  • Being willing to work after retirement
  • Having an understanding that even the best-laid plans are futile – you’re never going to predict exactly what will happen over a 30-year span. It’s impossible.
  • Retirement is not all unicorns and angelic choirs. It’s just the next challenge in life worth conquering.

Go in with the right mindset, understand what happiness truly means for you, and never stop working toward the goals that will take you there.

We hope the NewRetirement retirement planning calculator can help you.

Source: newretirement.com

What Are Mutual Funds? Understanding The Basics

If you’re one of those investors with very little time to research and invest in individual stocks, it might be a good idea to look into investing in mutual funds.

Whether your goal is to save money for retirement, or for a down payment to buy a house, mutual funds are low-cost and effective way to invest your money.

What is a mutual fund?

A mutual fund is an investment vehicle in which investors, like you ad me, pool their money together. They use the money to invest in securities such as stocks and bonds. A professional manages the funds.

In addition, mutual funds are cost efficient. They offer diversification to your portfolio. They have low minimum investment requirements.

These factors make mutual funds among the best investment vehicles to use. If you’re a beginner investor, you should consider investing in mutual funds or index funds.

Investing in the stock market in general, can be intimidating. If you are just starting out and don’t feel confident in your investing knowledge, you may value the advice of a financial advisor.

Types of mutual funds

There are different types of mutual funds. They are stock funds, bond funds, and money market funds.

Which funds you choose depends on your risk tolerance. While mutual funds in general are less risky than investing in individual stocks, some funds are riskier than others.

However, you can choose a combination of these three types of funds to diversify your portfolio.

  • Stock funds: a stock fund is a fund that invests heavily in stocks. However, that does not mean stock funds do not have other securities, i.e., bonds. It’s just that the majority of the money invested is in stocks.
  • Bond funds: if you don’t want your portfolio to fluctuate in value as stocks do, then you should consider bond funds.
  • Money market funds: money market funds are funds that you invest in if you tend to tap into your investment in the short term.
  • Sector funds. As the name suggests, sector funds are funds that invests in one particular sector or industry. For example, a fund that invests only in the health care industry is a sector fund. These mutual funds lack diversification. Therefore, you should avoid them or use them in conjunction to another mutual fund.

Additional funds

  • Index funds. Index funds seek to track the performance of a particular index, such as the Standard & Poor’s 500 index of 500 large U.S. company stocks or the CRSP US Small Cap Index. When you invest in the Vanguard S&P 500 Index fund, you’re essentially buying a piece of the 500 largest publicly traded US companies. Index funds don’t jump around. They stay invested in the market. 
  • Income funds: These funds focus invest primarily in corporate bonds. They also invest in some high-dividend stocks.
  • Balance funds: The portfolio of these funds have a mixed of stocks and bonds. Those funds enjoy capital growth and income dividend.

Related Article: 3 Ways to Protect Your Portfolio from the Volatile Stock Market

The advantages of mutual funds

Diversification. You’ve probably heard the popular saying “don’t put all of your eggs in one basket.” Well, it applies to mutual funds. Mutual funds invest in stocks or bonds from dozens of companies in several industries.

Thus, your risk is spread. If a stock of a company is not doing well, a stock from another company can balance it out. While most funds are diversified, some are not.

For example, sector funds which invest in a specific industry such as real estate can be risky if that industry is not doing well.

Professional Management.

Mutual funds are professionally managed. These fund managers are well educated and experienced. Their job is to analyze data, research companies and find the best investments for the fund.

Thus, investing in mutual funds can be a huge time saver for those who have very little time and those who lack expertise in the matter.

Cost Efficiency. The operating expenses and the cost that you pay to sell or buy a fund are cheaper than trading in individual securities on your own. For example, the best Vanguard mutual funds have operating expenses as low as 0.04%. So by keeping expenses low, these funds can help boost your returns.

Low or Reasonable Minimum Investment. The majority of mutual funds, Vanguard mutual funds, for example, have a reasonable minimum requirement. Some funds even have a minimum of $1,000 and provide a monthly investment plan where you can start with as little as $50 a month.

Related Article: 7 Secrets Smart Professionals Use to Choose Financial Advisors

The disadvantage of mutual funds.

While there are several benefits to investing in mutual funds, there are some disadvantages as well. 

Active Fund Management. Mutual funds are actively managed. That means fund mangers are always on the look out for the best securities to purchase. That also means they can easily make mistakes.

Cost/expenses. While cost and expenses of investing in individual stocks are significantly higher than mutual funds, cost of a mutual fund can nonetheless be significant.

High cost can have a negative effect on your investment return. These fees are deducted from your mutual fund’s balance every year. Other fees can apply as well. So always find a company with a low cost. 

How you make money with mutual funds.

You make money with mutual funds the same way you would with individual stocks: dividend, capital gain and appreciation.

Dividend: Dividends are cash distributions from a company to its shareholders. Some companies offer dividends; others do not. And those who do pay out dividends are not obligated to do so. And the amount of dividends can vary from year to year.

As a mutual fund investor, you may receive dividend income on a regular basis.

Mutual funds offer dividend reinvestment plans. This means that instead of receiving a cash payment, you can reinvest your dividend income into buying more shares in the fund.

Capital gain distribution: in addition to receiving dividend income from the fund, you make money with mutual funds when you make a profit by selling a stock. This is called “capital gain.”

Capital gain occurs when the fund manager sells stocks for more he bought them for. The resulting profits can be paid out to the fund’s shareholders. Just as dividend income, you have the choice to reinvest your gains in the fund.

Appreciation: If stocks in your fund have appreciated in value, the price per share of the fund will increase as well. So whether you hold your shares for a short term or long term, you stand to make a profit when the shares rise. 

Best mutual funds.

Now that you know mutual funds make excellent investments, finding the best mutual funds can be overwhelming. 

Vanguard mutual funds.

Vanguard mutual funds are the best out there, because they are relatively cheaper; they are of high quality; a professional manage them; and their operating expenses are relative low. 

Here is a list of the best Vanguard mutual funds that you should invest in:

  • Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Funds
  • Vanguard 500 Index (VFIAX)
  • Total International Stock index Fund
  • Vanguard Health Care Investor

Vanguard Total Stock Market Fund 

If you’re looking for a diversified mutual fund, this Vanguard mutual fund is for you. The Vanguard’s VTSAX provides exposure to the entire U.S. stock market which includes stocks from large, medium and small U.S companies.

The top companies include Microsoft, Apple, Amazon. In addition, the expenses are relatively (0.04%). It has a minimum initial investment of $3,000, making it one of the best vanguard stock funds out there.

Vanguard S&P 500 (VFIAX)

The Vanguard 500 Index fund may be appropriate for you if you prefer a mutual fund that focuses on U.S. equities. This fund tracks the performance of the S&P 500, which means it holds about 500 of the largest U.S. stocks.

The largest U.S. companies included in this fund are Facebook, Alphabet/Google, Apple, and Amazon. This index fund has an expense ration of 0.04% and a reasonable minimum initial investment of $3,000.

You should consider the Vanguard International Stock Market fund of you prefer a mutual fund that invests in foreign stocks.

This international stock fund exposes its shareholders to over 6,000 non-U.S. stocks from several countries in both developed markets and emerging markets. The minimum investment is also $3,000 with an expense ratio of 0.11%.

Vanguard Health Care Investor

Sector funds are not usually a good idea, because the lack diversification. Sector funds are funds that invest in a specific industry like real estate or health care. However, if you want a fund to complement your portfolio, the Vanguard Health Care Investor is a good choice.

This Vanguard mutual fund offers investors exposure to U.S. and foreign equities focusing in the health care industry. The expense ration is a little bit higher, 0.34%. However, the minimum initial investment is $3,000, making it one of the cheapest Vanguard mutual funds.

Bottom Line

Mutual funds are great options for beginner investors or investors who have little time to research and invest in individual stocks. When you buy into these low cost investments, you’re essentially buying shares from companies.

Your money are pooled together with those of other investors. If you intend to invest in low cost investment funds, you must know which ones are the best. When it comes to saving money on fees and getting a good return on your investment, Vanguard mutual funds are among the best funds out there.

They provide professional management, diversity, low cost, income and price appreciation.

What’s Next: 5 Mistakes People Make When Hiring A Financial Advisor

Speak with the Right Financial Advisor

  • If you have questions beyond knowing which of the best Vanguard mutual funds to invest, you can talk to a financial advisor who can review your finances and help you reach your goals (whether it is making more money, paying off debt, investing, buying a house, planning for retirement, saving, etc).
  • Find one who meets your needs with SmartAsset’s free financial advisor matching service. You answer a few questions and they match you with up to three financial advisors in your area. So, if you want help developing a plan to reach your financial goals, get started now.

Source: growthrapidly.com