I am sometimes asked if I invest my own money the same way I invest client money. I’m afraid such questions usually elicit a sarcastic response such as:
“Do you think a surgeon should undergo the same operations she performs?”
“Why would I even invest for one client the same way as another, let alone invest my own money the same way?”
I am a PERSONAL financial adviser, and each person is different. Different wealth, ages, health,
families, goals, employment status, and other holdings. The likelihood that the optimal investment approach for one is the optimal approach for another is pretty darn small. Frankly, the only two things my clients have in common are:
- They’re all nice people (since I don’t put up with the other kind), and
- They follow my advice (because I’m an adviser, not a salesman, and see no point in advising people who are unaware of the difference).
That said, I do know a little about you: you’re probably a cheapskate who prowls the Internet looking for free advice instead of paying brilliant, funny, ethical advisers a fee to lend their expertise to your financial situation. So I thought I’d give you exactly what you deserve: my portfolio.
At times, I’ve used my own portfolio to test various theories before applying them to client accounts, making several of my past portfolios completely inappropriate to reveal. There was a time that I posted my exact portfolio online combined with a crystal clear statement that it was not a recommendation to anyone but just an example of what I believe in, and I still found people calling it my “model portfolio” or “recommended portfolio,” forcing me to take it down instead of risking the guilt of a stupid person ignoring all the differences between them and myself.
Today, though, I’m not as reticent. I finally decided to keep our family portfolio as simple as possible in order to avoid regulatory problems. Trading by advisers is always subject to review to ensure that they aren’t “front-running” clients or otherwise behaving unethically, and it became easier for me to create a “set-it-and-forget-it” portfolio that wouldn’t even require periodic rebalancing. It isn’t financially optimal, even for me, but it is lifestyle-optimal given my profession. And given the number of ways people can wreck their lives with poor investment decisions, I am convinced that most do-it-yourselfers are better off finding the simplest strategy possible. So we ARE alike.
Outside of cash reserves for near-term needs, all of the liquid assets my wife and I have are invested in a single globally diversified stock fund. There are several good choices, such as the Vanguard Total World Stock Index Fund or the iShares MSCI All Country World Index ETF, but the one we’re currently using is ACWV, the iShares MSCI All Country World Minimum Volatility ETF. I chose it because I consider it better diversified than a market-weighted index fund that is prone to excessive concentration in bubble markets such as the dot-com craze that ended badly in 2000. I generally don’t like market weighting, and prefer something closer to equal weighting. There is evidence on both sides, but it is the way I have chosen to go.
I know it is hopeless, but I’ll again remind people that I do not consider ACWV the optimal financial portfolio, even for us, but it is simple; it is a very good choice for long-term investing; it doesn’t require rebalancing; and it will get stupid people in less trouble than the more complicated portfolios I used in the past, not to mention the portfolios of most do-it-yourself investors.
And if you expected a personal financial adviser to tell you everybody should invest the same way, now you know better. I hope.
Okay, it is time to depart from the lessons for a while. I’d like to start answering the questions YOU have, so please send reasonably brief ones to me at email@example.com and I will start answering them in this blog. You’ll remain anonymous, and I will modify the question if necessary to make it more generally useful. Keep in mind that without getting a clear picture of your entire life, it is still and always will be general information for educational purposes and not formal advice. I’m also back to posting on a weekly basis, and if I get enough interesting questions, more frequently. See you next week.