Lifecycle Funds – Not All They’re Cracked Up to Be?

July 13, 2009 by

In the myriad of ways to invest your money, one touted to young people is to invest in a lifecycle fund. Essentially, you go to Charles Schwab and say, “I’d like to retire at the age of 60.” Chuck says, fine, and you hand him your money. If you’re 20, then he creates a more aggressive portfolio (more stocks), and as you get closer to 60, your portfolio becomes more and more conservative. All you have to do is continue to put money into the fund. Ramit Sethi, who writes the awesome personal finance blog, “I Will Teach You to be Rich,” loves these things, and he recommends them to young people almost universally. You can watch him talk about them in this two-minute youtube clip.

A fund you never have to worry about re-balancing that is perfectly suited to your retirement goals? Sounds great, right? Well, an interesting post from seekingalpha.com, an in-depth market-analysis site, argues that lifecycle funds have several shortcomings, the first of which is assuming that age should be the only factor when deciding how to balance your portfolio. Other factors, such as one’s 401(k) or IRA, one’s nest egg, and one’s health and job must also be considered. Another issue is cost: The average fee for a lifecycle fund is around 2.5%, which over a span of 40 years can really add up.

Investing in stocks is still important, however, especially for younger folks, but for those of us that cannot or chose not to spend hours a day poring over balance sheets or searching for the next hot stock pick, what is the answer? The answer seems to be low-cost index funds or exchange traded funds (ETFs). These funds are composed of every stock that is included in a certain market or stock exchange (e.g., by investing into an S&P 500 index, you are investing in all 500 companies included in the index). Markets tend to beat individual investors about 80% of the time, and the fees for these funds are around 0.5% (much better than the 2.5% of a lifecycle fund). By spending a little more time on research, you can save a lot of money on fees.

Obviously, there is a lot more to be said about both lifecycle funds and ETFs, and I am sure this blog will come back to them in the future. In the mean time, has anyone had any personal experience with either of these investment strategies that they would like to share?

This is The Wealth Initiative

May 17, 2009 by

What?

A blog about building wealth.

There is a ton of information out there that relates to managing your finances, whether in books, magazines, blogs, tools, or other people. If you have absolutely no idea where to start I suggest starting with Robert Kiyosaki’s book Rich Dad Poor Dad, Ramit Sethi’s blog iwillteachyoutoberich.com, and the financial services company mint.com (I’ll be talking about these and more in the near future). Now, that’s just the beginning, and I know that with just those three sources I had more information than I realistically knew what to do with, and yet there are plenty more. However, the information itself didn’t suddenly make me rich.  It’s just information. What I do with that information, well that’s the wealth initiative.

Who?

Two twenty year old guys who want to become wealthy

The naked aspiration to material wealth is oddly taboo (or at least carries negative connotations) in our society, even in the most free market economy in the world (yes, even in light of recent events). Even more surprising is how little time people in the real world spend talking about building real wealth. Most “financial” discussions revolve around a hot stock or someone bragging about an investment that paid off (not as often anymore), and amongst college kids it’s even worse! College-age discussions of money usually center around who’s paying for drinks or complaints about how expensive everything is. Sure, Igor and I have those conversations sometimes, too, but we’re much more concerned with building wealth. We’ve found that there is a ton of information, it can be immediately rewarding, and for the most part the reward is directly related to the amount of effort you put in.

Where?

Right Here.

This is a pretty good place to start. Since we’re just getting into this whole blogging thing, we thought we would focus on content and less on getting the word out there/ monetizing/ marketing kind of stuff. If you want to know more about us you can check us out on twitter(abbelani, igorhiller), our own personal blogs (ab, Igor), Igor’s advice column, and probably other places in the near future. If you don’t care about us but just want more TWI, then keep reading…

When?

May 2009

A lot of the personal finance personalities I’ve come across lament the egregious lack of money management skills taught in school. While I agree that the amount of easily applicable information relating to money management is close to naught, I learned all the basics of personal finance in my introductory economics class senior year of high school. The concepts of opportunity cost, cost of capital, and fixed cost completely changed the way I thought about money. More importantly, it was while studying for that class that Igor and I began to discuss our financial philosophies. We realized that we had very similar goals and similar levels of interest in exploring the world of personal finance. But it wasn’t until last summer (2008) that we made a firm commitment to securing our financial future. That was when we really started devouring and sharing information. Over the last few months, Igor and I have spent countless hours discussing plans, clarifying our thoughts, and analyzing the wealth of information available to us. But the sheer amount of information out there can be overwhelming. “Paralysis by Analysis” set in, and while I made some small steps to getting in control, I wasn’t satisfied. That’s when we decided to start a blog and leverage the social aspect of the interwebs in our favor.

Why?

Simple Answer: Organization, Clarity, and Discussion.

I decided to start writing for a few reasons. Putting my analysis and reactions into words requires a certain clarity of thought that I don’t necessarily always have. It forces me to organize my ideas into a more coherent form and lets me productively spend longer amounts of time pondering a subject. I also wanted to publish my thoughts partly so that I wouldn’t be tempted to go back and change things as my perspective changes and mostly so that I had a record or timeline that I could refer to easily. Finally, my co-author and I decided to take the blog public in the interests of sparking discussion. We realize that while our viewpoints differ occasionally, it usually helps to try and understand other peoples perspective. With that in mind, welcome to the Wealth Initiative, and please let us know what you think in the comments!


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