Science Says 
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Good investing habits that make your primitive ape brain hurt

Good investing habits can make your brain hurtBy almost any measure, the average American is pretty terrible at investing.

Between 1993 and 2012, individual investors earned an average annual return of 2.3 percent, according to a study by DALBAR, a financial services market research firm. That’s not only terrible, it’s a lot less than the 8.2 percent they would have earned just parking their money in stocks of the 500 largest American companies and reinvesting the dividends.
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 Investing 
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Finances in 55 Seconds: Choosing an Index Fund

One of the ways that you can diversify your portfolio, while at the same time limiting some of your risks, is to invest in index funds. An index fund is a group of investments that follows a specific index. If you invest in an all market index fund, then you get a little share of everything on the stock market. There are funds that follow the S&P 500. You can find index funds that follow specialty indexes, such as those for alternative energy, or small business. You can even find index funds for bonds and other investments.

While investing in index funds isn’t everything, this strategy can provide you with a way to earn market returns, pay low fees (index funds cost much less than actively managed mutual funds), and build up your nest egg. Choosing index funds, though, can be somewhat daunting. If you have a little less than a minute, though, you can get a head start on the process:

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 Investing 
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Remember to Comparison Shop Index Funds

For as long as I’ve been reading and writing about personal finance, index funds have been popular because they offer a low cost way for investors to get diversified into the market. I’ve long been a customer of Vanguard and index funds have always been popular with its founder, John Bogle.

Lately, index funds and index ETFs have exploded in popularity because people are starting to buy into low cost investing as the best way forward. Active funds remain popular but index funds usually win out, after expenses are considered.

So when you start looking at index funds, does it really matter if you invest with one broker or another? Surprisingly there is a little variation with mutual fund companies and it really pays to do your homework.

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 Reviews 
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The Power of Passive Investing by Richard Ferri

The Power of Passive Investing by Richard FerriThe Power of Passive Investing by Richard Ferri explains why investing is so much easier when you do it passively through index investing. If this sounds like John C. Bogle, founder of Vanguard, then you won’t be surprised to learn that he wrote the foreword to this book! (or that Ferri was a co-author of The Bogleheads’ Guide to Retirement Planning)

There’s one quote in the book that I think sums up why passive investing is a good idea: “Investment greats such as Warren Buffett, Peter Lynch, and David Swensen are all outspoken advocates for passive investing. In addition, the U.S. government’s Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) for federal employees has only passive investment options available for participants.” When you couple that with the statistics and research that Ferri has put into the book, it’s a combination of facts that become very difficult to refute if you want to advocate active investing.
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 Devil's Advocate 
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Don’t Invest In The Stock Market

Devils Advocate Logo
This is a Devil's Advocate post.

We are led to believe that the best place to invest our money is in the stock market. Low barriers to entry, low barriers to exist, plenty of information, high probability of success in the long run and a lot of success stories. We also hear some of the horror stories of people who day traded tech stocks in the early 2000s, gamblers who lost it all on penny stocks, and all the chop shop, pump and dumpers like in the movie Boiler Room. However, through it all, we’ve been taught, over and over again, that if you buy for the long term, you will always win.

For today’s Devil’s Advocate post, we’re going to break down the stock market and show why we really are just little guppies hoping not to get eaten by the sharks.

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 Investing 
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How to Determine Your Asset Allocation

Gold Bars and Some CoinsAsset allocation is probably one of the hardest parts about investing because while we all know it’s important, we don’t really know what we’re supposed to do. We know that diversification is crucial but we aren’t entirely sure why outside of “don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” Fortunately, there are some simple systems out there that can shed some light onto the asset allocation question.

This post is part of the Bargaineering Annual Financial Review week series where we take a closer look at the four major facets of personal finance and see if we can do better. This post is part of day three – taking a closer look at your investments.


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 Investing 
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BVC #23: Your Mutual Fund May Be Ripping You Off [VIDEO]

When it comes to investing, you can’t predict the future. What you can predict, with 100% certainty, is how much your broker is going to charge to get you there. If you’re like me, the majority of your stock market investments are in mutual funds in retirement accounts like 401(k)s, 403(b)s, and IRAs. While we can’t control how they will perform, we can be smart about where we invest by picking good funds with reasonable costs.

In this video, I look at some index funds, the easiest type of fund to compare, and how picking a low cost one can make a huge difference in your retirement nest egg.

Bargaineering #23: Your Mutual Fund May Be Ripping You Off from JIM WANG on Vimeo.



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 Investing 
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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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