Investing 
22
comments

Cheapest S&P 500 Index Funds

If you own an index fund and you’re paying an expense ratio greater than 0.35%, you’re getting ripped off. I created a list of index funds from major brokers, like Vanguard, Fidelity, and Schwab, looked up their expense ratios on Google Finance, and then listed them in the order from cheapest to most expensive.

None of the funds on the list have a sales load of any kind and I was surprised to find a fund as cheap as 0.09%. I was even more surprised to find index funds that charged over 1%. Check out State Farm S&P 500 Index B – it has a 1.49% expense ratio and a 5% deferred load! (a deferred load is a fee that is charged when you sell an asset) It has $425M in total assets too and each one of their customers is getting ripped off.

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 Investing 
28
comments

Beware Broker Transfer Out Fees

My wife’s Roth IRA currently sits at a TD Ameritrade account, where it’s been sitting for the last three or four years. With the majority of it in cash, mostly because we lost track of the account, we want to invest it in our retirement investment of choice, an index fund. Our index fund of choice happens to be the Vanguard 500 Index Fund because most of our retirement funds are with Vanguard. Vanguard does not have the cheapest index fund, I believe that title now resides with Fidelity’s Spartan 500 index. Paying the extra 0.08% seems reasonable considering we can manage it all in one place.

The only downside about this entire process is that TD Ameritrade has a $75 outbound full account transfer fee. :( Fortunately Vanguard does not charge you to transfer in an IRA (to my knowledge, no one does).

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 Investing 
17
comments

Smart Money 2009 Best Online Brokers

Another year, another Smart Money broker survey! We’ve been reviewing SmartMoney’s best broker series for several years now (here’s 2008) and it’s always valuable to see how the different brokers fare from year to year. In the 2009 broker survey, we didn’t see too much change compared to 2008.

Unlike last year, which featured a merging of the discount and full service broker lists (in which TradeKing lost a #1 ranking they enjoyed for several years), they didn’t make any big changes to the way they analyzed the brokers. (here’s the list if you want to take a peek)

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 Retirement 
19
comments

Which is the Best Broker for an IRA?

Retirement Nest EggsOne of the most frequent questions I get is “Where should I open an IRA?”

Short answer: Anywhere, just open one! If you want mutual funds, open an account with the company that offers the funds you want, like Vanguard, Fidelity, etc; because they will let you buy and sell the funds for free. If you want stocks, open an account with a company that offers the lowest fees.

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 Investing 
4
comments

Kiplinger’s Best Discount Brokers

In the latest issue of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, they rated a dozen discount brokers on a variety of factors including commission, research & tools, fees, investment options, “easy of use,” and customer service. The results were pretty close to the results of Smart Money’s 2008 ranking of the best discount brokers.

Kiplinger’s Best Discount Brokers

  1. Fidelity
  2. Charles Schwab
  3. Muriel Siebert
  4. TradeKing
  5. E*Trade
  6. OptionsHouse
  7. TD Ameritrade
  8. WellsTrade
  9. Firstrade
  10. OptionsXpress
  11. Zecco
  12. Scottrade


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 Investing 
6
comments

Index Funds Are Only Part of Your Investment Plan

There isn’t a single reason why you shouldn’t like index funds. They’re cheap, they offer market rates of return without fail, and they are simple to buy. They beat actively managed mutual funds a majority of the time and they are often advocated as the best investment the average Joe can put their money in. So why not put all your money into an S&P 500 Index fund like the Fidelity Spartan 500 Index or the Vanguard 500 Index, call it a day and enjoy more time with the family? Because that would be a huge mistake.

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 Investing 
8
comments

SmartMoney 2008 Broker Survey

Smart Money reviews brokers every single year and they recently just gave a preview to their results. Rather than give the straight ranking, they discussed some headline categories (Commissions & Fees, Research, Trading Tools) and then listed the best and worst from each category.

For best commissions and fees, they listed Interactive Brokers, a brokerage firm I hadn’t heard of but does charge pretty rock bottom fees (half a cent per share on equity trades). They also showed the spread was anywhere from $4.95 for TradeKing to $112.50 for Fidelity on broker-executed trades.

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 Investing, Personal Finance 
2
comments

Money: Only 7 Investments You’ll Need

Money Magazine recently released the only 7 investments you’ll ever need and, surprise surprise, my favorite firm, Vanguard, was listed first choice for five of the seven. Their founder, John Bogle, was a major proponent of index funds and it shows in their offering, as almost all of Money’s choices were low-expense ratio index funds.

Need another reason to have a mutual fund account at Vanguard? (No, Vanguard doesn’t sponsor this site!)

Blue-chip US-stock fund: Fidelity Spartan 500 Index (FSMKX) because it replicates the S&P 500 with an expense ratio of 0.10% (coincidentally, Vanguard’s version, the Vanguard 500 Index Fund Investor Shares (VFINX) is 50% more expensive with a ratio of 0.15%).

Blue-chip foreign-stock fund: Vanguard Total International Stock Index (VGTSX) because of its solid performance, beating 90% of its peers, and because it’s an index fund with an expense ratio of 0.27%. Another Vanguard fund, the Vanguard FTSE All World Ex-U.S. ETF (VEU), was listed as an alternative.

Small-company fund: T. Rowe Price New Horizons (PRNHX) is an actively managed fund, one of the few actively managed funds they selected, and is “one of the most efficient of the actively managed crowd.” Considering it is actively managed, an expense ratio of 0.8% is pretty good, about half the average.

Value fund: Oh look, another Vanguard fund – the Vanguard Value Index (VIVAX) and its 0.2% expense ratio and a record that trumps 78% of its peers. Value funds go after investments that appear overlooked or beaten down and try earn a little off those cigar butts and dividends, rather than looking for growth potential.

High-quality bond fund: Vanguard Total Bond Market Index (VBMFX) snags this category with a 0.2% expense ratio. Bonds are good to be the rock in your portfolio to give you some grounding as your other investments shoot up and crash down. :)

Inflation-protected bond fund: This last category was won by Vanguard’s Inflation-Protected Securities Fund (VIPSX) and it’s 0.2% expense ratio (Vanguard’s index funds are ridiculously efficient). “Among TIPS funds, Vanguard Inflation-Protected Securities has several things going for it, including lower costs and better management than you would get if you assembled your own TIPS portfolio. While the fund returned 6.6% over the past five years, you shouldn’t expect it to make a pile of dough. Its job is to protect the money you already have.”


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