Building a Retirement Portfolio with Mutual Funds


This is part of a series of posts for an online class on how to use your investments to fund your retirement.  To find other posts in the series, select the category  “Retirement Investment Class” under “Retirement Investing” at the top. 

Let’s say that you have $2M saved up in your 401k and are ready to retire.  Let’s also say that you need about $50,000 per year to live on the first year, with that amount growing with inflation each year.  Today we’ll discuss how you would use a set of mutual funds to to generate the income that was needed while keeping up with inflation to avoid outliving your money.

The rule-of-thumb is that you can withdraw somewhere between 3% and 4% of your portfolio each year and have a very good chance of having it last through a 30-year retirement.  In fact, the balance could grow under a lot of scenarios.  Withdrawing $50,000 per year from a $2M portfolio would therefore be right in line  with the guidance, since you could withdraw about $60,000 per year and stay at the low end of the range.  You have done well saving and investing throughout your career to put yourself in good shape for retirement.

Ideally you would generate a lot of the income you need for expenses from income producing assets.  You would therefore put a portion of your portfolio in an income or a bond portfolio.  You would also want a portion of the portfolio to grow and keep up with inflation, so you would want to invest the rest in growth and value stock funds.

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We’ll use Vanguard funds as an example.  Looking through their list of funds for income funds, I find the Vanguard Total Bond Market Index fund.  This is a fairly safe fund, although the price could decline if interest rates rise or a serious recession occurs that causes several companies to default on their loans.  In general, as long as I planned to hold this fund regardless of interest rate changes such that price drops due to rising interest rates would not be an issue, chances are good that I would not have any issues.

It is described at the Vanguard website as:  “This fund is designed to provide broad exposure to U.S. investment grade bonds. Reflecting this goal, the fund invests about 30% in corporate bonds and 70% in U.S. government bonds of all maturities (short-, intermediate-, and long-term issues). As with other bond funds, one of the risks of the fund is that increases in interest rates may cause the price of the bonds in the portfolio to decrease—pricing the fund’s NAV lower. Because the fund invests in all segments and maturities of the fixed income market, investors may consider the fund their core bond holding.”

This fund is yielding about 2.5%, so a $1M investment would be paying about $25,000 in interest each year, plus a capital gain from time-to-time.

There is also the High Yield Corporate Bond fund, which is paying about 5.1%, or about $51,000 per $1M invested.  This fund is more risky since the bonds it is investing in are low quality, meaning the companies would be more likely to default than they were with the first fund.  During a recession, I would see some bigger losses in this fund, so I would want to limit my exposure despite the higher yield.  It is described at the Vanguard website as:

“Vanguard High-Yield Corporate Fund invests in a diversified portfolio of medium- and lower-quality corporate bonds, often referred to as “junk bonds.” Created in 1978, this fund seeks to purchase what the advisor considers higher-rated junk bonds. This approach aims to capture consistent income and minimize defaults and principal loss. Although this is a bond fund, high-yield bonds tend to have volatility similar to that of the stock market. This fund may be considered complementary to an already diversified portfolio.”


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I would also look at REITs, which invest in real estate and also generate a reasonable cash return due to the properties in which it invests.  The Vanguard Admiral REIT fund is described as:

“This fund invests in real estate investment trusts—companies that purchase office buildings, hotels, and other real estate property. REITs have often performed differently than stocks and bonds, so this fund may offer some diversification to a portfolio already made up of stocks and bonds. The fund may distribute dividend income higher than other funds, but it is not without risk. One of the fund’s primary risks is its narrow scope, since it invests solely within the real estate industry and may be more volatile than more broadly diversified stock funds.”

It is yielding about 4.3%, or $43,000 per year for a $1 M investment.  REITs would move around a bit since their value depends on the value of the properties it holds, rents they can charge, and other factors.  This portion of the portfolio would also have a growth component since the property values would increase with inflation and as fewer properties were available to buy for a growing population.

You would want your investment mix to be maybe 50% income, 50% growth at 65 years old, so that would leave $1M to invest among these three funds.   I would probably put 50% in the safer bond fund, 25% in the junk bond fund, and 25% in the REIT fund.  This would result in an income of:

Total Bond Fund: $500,000 invested, income $12000/year

High Yield Bond Fund:  $250,000 invested, income  $13,000/year

REIT Fund: $250,000 invested, income $11,000/year

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Your total income would therefore be about $36,000 per year, so you would be about $14,000 per year short of your income goal.  The remainder would need to come from selling stocks off each year, plus a little bit of income from dividends.  For stocks I would look at the Large Cap Index Fund, which is paying out about 1.8% per year, the Small Cap Index Fund, which is paying out about 1.4%, and the Total International Index fund, which is paying out about 2.8%.  With the remaining $1M I would put about 25% in the international fund, and then put 50% in the large cap fund and 25% in the small cap fund.  This would generate income as follows:

Total International Fund:  $250,000 invested, income $7,000 per year

Large Cap Index: $500,000 invested, income $9,000 per year

Small Cap Index:  $250,000 invested, income $3500 per year

So your total income from your stock portfolio would be about $19,500 per year.  Summed together with your bond portfolio, this would equal $54,500 per year in income.  Because you are actually generating more income than you needed, you could either reinvest a portion of the income each year into stocks or bonds.  You could also cut your bond exposure a little and let more of your money grow at the faster, stock market rates.  You could expect a growth rate of about 8% on average from your stocks.

 

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Have a burning investing question you’d like answered?  Please send to vtsioriginal@yahoo.com or leave in a comment.

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Disclaimer: This blog is not meant to give financial planning or tax advice.  It gives general information on investment strategy, picking stocks, and generally managing money to build wealth. It is not a solicitation to buy or sell stocks or any security. Financial planning advice should be sought from a certified financial planner, which the author is not. Tax advice should be sought from a CPA.  All investments involve risk and the reader as urged to consider risks carefully and seek the advice of experts if needed before investing.

Retirement Investing Choices: Annuities


This is part of a series of posts for an online class on how to use your investments to fund your retirement.  To find other posts in the series, select the category  “Retirement Investment Class” under “Retirement Investing” at the top. 

Now that we’ve discussed how much you need to save for retirement and provided some information on mutual funds and ETFs, we can start to discuss some of the different investment options for your retirement portfolio and their role in the big picture of things.  Today we’ll start with an asset called an annuity.

An annuity is an income vehicle issued by an insurance company.  In exchange for turning over some of your money to the insurance company, they agree (guarantee) to pay you a specified amount of money for a specified period of time, which could be the rest of your life.  Because annuities are insurance contracts, there are all sorts of different types, limited only by the insurance company’s creativity in designing a product they hope they’ll buy.

The main benefit of an annuity is the guaranteed income.  That guarantee comes at a price, however, in that the income you receive will be less than the income your money could have generated if you had invested it on your own.  They should therefore be used when security is more important than return, or if you simply don’t want to fool with things and are willing to accept less in exchange for your time and effort.  Annuities are a fix-it-and-forget-it type of investment.

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The most basic type of annuity, called an immediate annuity, simply pays you a specified amount of money starting immediately for a prescribed period of time, often the rest of your life.  For example, let’s say that you buy an immediate annuity at age 70, giving the insurance company $1 M.  They may in exchange give you $4,166 per month, or $50,000 per year, for the rest of your life.  If you live to age 90, you would then have collected $1 M back from from the policy.  If you live to age 100, you’ll have collected  $1.5M.

All policies are different, so you should read the terms carefully, but many policies would simply keep your original $1 M investment when you died.  So if you die at age 71, you would have only receive $50,000 back from the insurance company for the $1 M you gave them.  They would make out very well on the policy.  This makes up for the people who live to age 100, and is the nature of insurance – they make lots of money from some policies to make up for the others where they lose money.  Some policies might reimburse your heirs a portion of the investment if you die before a certain age, but this is not a certainty.  Again, the are contracts between you and the insrance company and can all be different, so you should carefully read and understand the terms (and maybe have an attorney or CPA read the policy as well) before you buy anything.

 

Another popular type of annuity doesn’t pay right away, but instead starts to pay when you reach a specified age in the future.  These are useful if you’re worried about running out of money later in life.  For example, at age 50 you could buy a policy that starts to pay you a monthly amount at age 80.  The earlier you buy these policies, the less they cost for a given pay-out (since you’re taking a chance that you’ll never reach that age, plus you’re letting the insurance company use your money for all of those years).  These can be a very useful way to guarantee that you won’t be destitute should you live a long time.  They are also relatively inexpensive since there is a real possibility the insurance company may get to keep the money and never pay out anything.  The later in life the policy starts pa, the less it should cost.

While there are limited exceptions (insurance companies spend a lot of money doing calculations and making sure that they come out ahead), on average you’ll not do as well with an annuity as you would have had you invested on your own.  While you might be taking some of the insurance company’s money if you live to age 100, most people will not live past 85 or 90.  Taking the same example of a $1 M nest egg described above, if you had invested the money instead of buying an immediate annuity, a properly designed portfolio of stocks and bonds should allow you to withdraw about $30,000 – 40,000 per year for the rest of your life, indexed for inflation, without ever touching the principle.  This means you could have withdrawn about $1,050,000 between the ages of 70 and 90 and still have had $1.6 M to leave to your kids when you died.  This is compared to receiving $1 M from the annuity and having nothing to leave your kids.

If you lived to age 100, you’d have withdrawn about $1.8 M from the portfolio, versus receiving $1.5 M from the annuity, and now have $2 M to leave to your kids (which will buy what $1 M buys today).  Investing on your own, instead of buying an annuity, will generally result in you both receiving more income while you are alive and in you having more money to pass on to your kids.

So, with an annuity, you’re trading risk – the risk that you won’t invest well or that the markets just won’t cooperate – in exchange for giving up some return on your money.  The insurance company now takes on this risk and needs to find ways to invest the money to ensure that they have enough money to pay the policy holders while still making a reasonable profit.  They set their pay-outs in such a way to make sure that they cover this risk, on average, just like how set their car insurance rates high enough to cover claims and still make money.  The amount they pay is also generally fixed (for example, $50,000 per year), so your spending power will decrease over time due to inflation.

You may worry that an insurance company may charge you way too much for an annuity, resulting in a huge profit for them, but market forces should generally take care of this for you as long as you do your part and compare products from several different providers to get the best deal.  As long there are enough insurance companies out there competing for your business, you should get the maximum return possible with the insurance company making just enough money on your policy to pay the person who sold it to you, keep the lights on, and make a reasonable profit for their shareholders.  You’ll still be paying for all of this overhead, but that is what you are trading for the security of a monthly payment instead of the less unpredictable returns from an investment portfolio.  Just make sure you do your part and shop around for the best return, since once you buy in it is expensive to undo the deal, even when you can.

Realize also that people selling annuities to you generally make a commission from the sale, which both adds to the cost and makes them eager to sell you something, even if it isn’t the best thing for you.  Many of these salesmen know little about what they’re selling.  They just know what they’ve been told to tell you to get you to buy.  In general the choice to buy an annuity should be yours, not the result of a high-pressure sale, and you should take the time to read the policy and review it with whatever professionals you need to make sure you’re making a good decision.

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Some annuities also make offers of additional potential returns based on the stock market or come with other bells and whistles. While this may sound enticing, you’ll do better just buying a smaller annuity and investing the rest of the money yourself.  Remember that the insurance company needs to make money, so the returns they’ll provide will be well lower than market returns.  Only buy annuities when you want a guaranteed return, not as a way to invest in the stock market.

Finally, know that the guaranteed return from an annuity is only as good as the insurance company who you buy the policy with (and whomever they sell it to).  If we see another Great Depression, it is very likely that the insurance companies would all go broke and leave policy holders in the lurch.  Because they need to invest the money in the markets themselves, if most businesses are going bankrupt, they would not have the money to pay out the payments each year in a collapsing market.  Note that the supposed “great recession” was nothing like the Great Depression.  Luckily such market events happen fairly rarely.

Have a burning investing question you’d like answered?  Please send to vtsioriginal@yahoo.com or leave in a comment.

Follow on Twitter to get news about new articles.  @SmallIvy_SI

Disclaimer: This blog is not meant to give financial planning or tax advice.  It gives general information on investment strategy, picking stocks, and generally managing money to build wealth. It is not a solicitation to buy or sell stocks or any security. Financial planning advice should be sought from a certified financial planner, which the author is not. Tax advice should be sought from a CPA.  All investments involve risk and the reader as urged to consider risks carefully and seek the advice of experts if needed before investing.

How to Evaluate Mutual Funds and ETFs


This is part of a series of posts for an online class on how to use your investments to fund your retirement.  To find other posts in the series, select the category  “Retirement Investment Class” under “Retirement Investing” at the top of the page. 

In the last post in the series we discussed what mutual funds, index funds, and ETFs are.  Now that you are armed with this information, the question is then, “How do I select funds to invest in with all if the choices out there?”  Today we’ll cover how to determine what mutual funds invest in, which ones you’ll want to choose for a retirement investing plan, and how to select the best funds from a group of possibilities.

Probably the best source of information on a mutual fund is its prospectus, which can be found at the website for the fund family.  While there are a lot of fund families out there, you’ll want to choose one that features index funds, since those are the least expensive.  As we discussed in the last post, index funds will outperform most active fund managers.  Vanguard and Charles Schwab both feature several index funds.  Today we’ll look at funds from Schwab.  You can find a listing of their index funds here.

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As an example, let’s look at the Schwab S&P 500 Index fund , SWPPX.  Here are some of the elements to look at:

Fund Strategy

One thing we find in the description of the fund is the fund strategy.  This is a statement of what the fund manager is trying to do when investing and is the best way to identify funds that meets the various needs you’ll have when you invest.  The fund strategy will include things such as what types of assets (stocks, bonds, derivatives, etc…) the fund will invest in, whether the manager seeks to trade stocks for gains or to hold for long periods of time, and how actively the fund will be managed.  For the S&P 500 fund, we find the following information:

“Fund Strategy

The investment seeks to track the total return of the S&P 500-® Index. The fund generally invests at least 80% of its net assets in stocks that are included in the S&P 500-® Index. It generally gives the same weight to a given stock as the index does. The fund may invest in derivatives- principally futures contracts- and lend its securities to minimize the gap in performance that naturally exists between any index fund and its corresponding index. It may concentrate its investments in an industry or group of industries to the extent that its comparative index is also so concentrated.”

-SWPPX description from Schwab website

Since this is an index fund, the goal is to track the performance of the underlying index, good or bad.  Since the S&P500 Index is a list  50 large US stocks, this fund would be a way to get exposure to large US stocks.  It does this by actually investing in the stocks in the index.  The fund may also invest in derivatives instead of buying the stocks themselves, which could add to the risk of the investment, but in this case it is probably fairly safe due to the nature of the fund.  Here the manager is just trying to replicate the performance of the index, not to time the market using derivatives.

Performance Graph

On the first page of the fund description we find a chart showing the performance of the fund against the index it is trying to follow, the S&P 500 index:

The main purpose of looking at this element is to see how the fund has performed over the past several years in comparison to other funds and the relevant index.  Here you can see that the fund, SWPPX, has tracked the S&P 500  index very well.  An investment of $10,000 ten years ago into the fund would be worth $22,109 today, where an investment in the index (if you were able to do so) would be worth $22,199.  This is better than the $19,200 that an investment in the average large blend category would provide. This is the type of performance you want from an Index fund – close tracking of the index.

Fund Information

Also on the first page we find a table of general information about the fund:

The 52 week range gives you a general idea of how much the fund moves around in price.  Over the last year, it has moved about $9, or around 25% in price.  The YTD return shows how it has performed this year-to-date.  In this case it has increased about 22% because the S&P500 is having a good year.  A good YTD return isn’t always a good thing.  It is nice to see that a fund has done well when the markets have done well, but great performance last year may mean that the stocks in the fund are overbought and may not do as well next year.

The fund expenses are very important.  With the gross expense ratio and net expense ratio at 0.03%, this is a very inexpensive fund.  This is the percent of your investment that will go to fees each year.  For example, if a fund has a 1% expense ratio, you’d be paying $10 each year for every $1000 invested.  A typical managed fund will charge 1% or more.  An index fund will usually have fees between 0.25% and 0.5%.  You’ll generally want to find the cheapest funds you can find unless a more expensive fund invests in an area you can’t access otherwise.

The distribution yield is also important for retirement investing.  This fund pays a 1.65% yield, which means that you’ll receive a check for $1.65 for each $100 you have invested each year. You’ll want to have some funds that pay quite a bit more, like $5 or $8 for every $100 invested.  This would be a good fund to have in a taxable account that you wanted to hold and have compound, however, since it would generate very little income that would be subject to taxes each year.

The minimum investment shows how much you need to invest to buy into the fund the first time  (after that, you can generally invest whatever amount you wish).  In this case you only need to invest $1 to start, which again is very unusual since many funds require investments of $3000, $10,000, or more.  If you have a lot to invest, such as when you’re investing in a retirement account, the minimums won’t matter because usually meet them.  When you are just starting to invest when you’re young, however, they can be difficult to meet.

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Style box

Another critical element is the style box, which is created for each stock fund by a company called Morningstar.  One one side it shows the type of investing, value or growth.  The other side shows the the size of the assets held, going from small stocks to large stocks.  In general you’ll want to either have funds in all four corners of the box or funds at the top center (Large Blend) and bottom center (Small Blend) in your portfolio so that you cover all of the bases.  We’ll go more into the investment styles in the next post in this series.

 

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That covers the main elements you should use in evaluating a mutual fund or ETF.  Later in the series we’ll talk about gathering up your portfolio of funds, and then how to decide how much in each fund.  For now, just take a look through the data on a few funds.  You can also go to Vanguard and look at their funds, or go to Morningstar where you can get data on all sorts of funds.  If you have a question about what you find, please leave a comment.

Want all the details on using Investing to grow financially Independent?  Try The SmallIvy Book of Investing.  

Have a burning investing question you’d like answered?  Please send to vtsioriginal@yahoo.com or leave in a comment.

Follow on Twitter to get news about new articles.  @SmallIvy_SI

Disclaimer: This blog is not meant to give financial planning or tax advice.  It gives general information on investment strategy, picking stocks, and generally managing money to build wealth. It is not a solicitation to buy or sell stocks or any security. Financial planning advice should be sought from a certified financial planner, which the author is not. Tax advice should be sought from a CPA.  All investments involve risk and the reader as urged to consider risks carefully and seek the advice of experts if needed before investing.