Congratulations! Here you are. A successful millennial. For the sake of argument, we are going to put you in the middle of this group, generally described as being born roughly between 1980 and 2000. We'll stipulate that you are born in 1990, so graduated college in 2012 and are now four years into your working career. At 26 years of age, you have a long and bright working future ahead of you. You are clever enough to know that you should start investing now. At the same time, you are not all about money. You don't want to be a slave to your investments, you want your investments to be a slave to you, and give you both the time and freedom to devote to the things that are important to you.
I'll cut right to the chase. There are a ton of investment strategies from which you can choose. Here is the one I would suggest.
First, open a brokerage account at Fidelity Investments.
Second, buy these six ETFs, in the weightings shown:
- 45% - iShares Core S&P Total U.S. Stock Market ETF (NYSEARCA:ITOT)
- 10% - iShares Core High Dividend ETF (NYSEARCA:HDV)
- 30% - iShares Core MSCI EAFE ETF (BATS:IEFA)
- 5% - iShares Core MSCI Emerging Markets ETF (NYSEARCA:IEMG)
- 5% - iShares Core U.S. Aggregate Bond ETF (NYSEARCA:AGG)
- 5% - iShares TIPS Bond ETF (NYSEARCA:TIP)
Third, set up a schedule to rebalance regularly back to these weightings.
That's it. We're done. I told you I would keep this brief. You can simply stop right here and implement the plan that I suggest. I'm guessing, though, that you won't. You'd like to know a little more. OK, then. Feel free to read as little or much of what comes next as you wish. I'll share a few basic thoughts, and then provide some links to yet further reading if you so desire.
What's So Great About This Portfolio?
Simplicity: Containing only six ETFs, this portfolio will be extremely simple to both maintain and track. However, simple does not mean simplistic. I'll talk about this a little more in the "diversification" section below.
Low Costs: The cost, or overhead, is extremely small. Simply put, the greater the expenses your portfolio incurs, the less that makes it into your pocket. If you follow the links to the ETFs I provided above, you will notice that they sport expense ratios of between .03% and .20%. At the allocations I suggest, I calculate that your overall weighted expense ratio comes out to .0835%. That's right. About eight hundredths of one percent. The rest? Into your pockets, to compound and grow.
Zero Commissions: This is an important one. Likely, you will want to set up a regular investment plan, investing small incremental amounts on a regular basis. While ETFs are a great investment vehicle, if you have to pay $8-10 for every transaction, you lose the benefits very quickly. The ETFs I suggest are included in the 70 iShares ETFs that Fidelity allows you to trade commission-free.
Diversification: Within the portfolio, you will gain exposure to both domestic and foreign stocks (including a modest allocation to emerging markets), bonds, and TIPS (Treasury Inflation Protected Securities). The weightings I suggest are relatively aggressive; appropriate for someone in their mid-20s to approximately 30. At the same time, I am including an element of defensiveness in the portfolio by including a small weighting directed at quality, dividend-paying stocks, as well as bonds and TIPS. These selections will both generate a little income that you can reinvest over time as well as offer a measure of protection should the market experience a steep decline; allowing you to rebalance the portfolio.
Background and Further Reading
Finally, let me share a little background information regarding how I came to this specific recommendation, as well as links to some further reading.
Late last year, as part of my work as a contributor for Seeking Alpha, I researched the 2016 investment outlooks of several respected investment houses. Using that research as a guide, I created The ETF Monkey 2016 Model Portfolio. Next, I set up and tracked three iterations of the portfolio: Vanguard, Fidelity, and Charles Schwab.
While, as I will explain below, I chose to feature Fidelity, you could follow the basic principles set out in this article and set up your portfolio at either Vanguard or Charles Schwab. The key, of course, would be to select ETFs that you could trade commission-free in each case.
When I set up the portfolio, I must admit that my initial bias was in favor of Vanguard. Vanguard is a legendary provider, and offers a large selection of ETFs with some of the most competitive expense ratios in the marketplace. However, as I reported in my Q1 update, the Fidelity implementation was actually the top performer of the three. This slight outperformance has continued as of the date I sat down to write this article. Therefore, I decided to use Fidelity as my provider of choice.
Finally, here is a little more detail on some recent changes to the iShares Core S&P Total U.S. Stock Market ETF, the largest component of my recommended portfolio, as well as some thoughts on portfolio rebalancing.
I hope this brief article has offered a helpful starting point. Feel free to drop your questions and comments below, and I will do my best to answer them.
Disclosure: I am not a registered investment advisor or broker/dealer. Readers are cautioned that the material contained herein should be used solely for informational purposes, and are encouraged to consult with their financial and/or tax advisor respecting the applicability of this information to their personal circumstances. Investing involves risk, including the loss of principal. Readers are solely responsible for their own investment decisions.