blog19aug2007

Hot Off the Web
The debate continues on whether “Tweaks in index that boost gains” actually add any net after fees value. A Morningstar study showed that enhanced index based mutual funds trailed the performance the traditional cap-weighted index funds. Interestingly, another study showed that institutional enhanced index funds have somewhat outperformed the traditional indexes. While the debate continues, it appears that the biggest difference between the studies may have something to do with management fees, showing that the much higher cost of non-institutional funds negates whatever advantage the enhanced indexes may offer. In fact, quoting Kunal Kapoor, Morningstar’s director of fund analysis, cautions investors. “You can be as enhanced as you want to be,” he says, “but if you have a truckload of expenses, the enhancement isn’t going to amount to much.”
In “Security should be an issue when choosing an online broker”  Rob Carrick of the Globe and Mail suggests that we protect ourselves by being careful with account user names and passwords, not accessing our brokerage accounts from public Wi-Fi access points, keeping updates virus and spyware programs and be on the lookout for phishing attempts. Also, should all else fail, you should make sure that your broker offers a security guarantee.
Jonathan Chevreau’s Financial Post article “Subprime, shmubprime”  probably characterizes the majority view of the advice you’d likely to be getting from your financial advisor if you called him to find out what to do now? Do nothing! Assuming that you had a financial plan (i.e. an Investment Policy Statement with an asset allocation consistent with your risk tolerance, and your portfolio before the start of the recent market swoon was aligned with it) then you should be able to ride out the market volatility. Others like James Altucher of the Financial Times advocate that you “Pick stocks, buy houses, don’t worry”  . If you can’t sleep at night because of your portfolio drop, you may have forgotten that “As you age, cut that appetite for risk”  ; and specifically “We try to create a portfolio more like a pension fund,” Brad Levin says. That includes 50% to 60% equities, 30% fixed income and 10% real estate. It also means withdrawing only 4% to 5% annually when in retirement.” And, finally Derek DeCloet in the Globe and Mail’s “A neat investing principle: No need to know”  reminds us how we got here; supposed experts, who should have known better, got sloppy and forgot to ask what they are investing in. Even worse, regulators and credit agencies “fell asleep”. The lesson that retail investors must remember as well- if you don’t understand it, don’t put your money into it!
Chevreau in “Are advisors worth what we pay them”  reviews “The big investment lie: What your financial advisor doesn’t want you to know” by Michael Endesess. He advocates that, since it is impossible to beat the market on a sustained basis, so stop the futile quest of try to do it; just invest in low cost index funds or ETFs. But Chevreau comes to the defence of advisors by suggesting areas where they can add value: financial, and estate planning and insurance solutions; he could have added that they could also help in times of market drops to maintain perspective in the heat of the action. Another book mentioned is De Goey’s “Professional financial advisor II” in which a fee-based model is advocated (I haven’t read either book, but the advice is sensible especially if advisor is not just fee-based but fee-only; There are a couple of blogs at this website that you may also find interesting on selecting an advisor Choosing an Advisor  and Want the Greatest Bang for the Buck from your Advisor  .
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