6 Reasons to Invest in Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) Over Index Mutual Funds

exchange-traded-funds-etf-918x516What does the American Dream mean to you? For many, it means having financial security, and having the ability to provide an education to children, take care of parents, retire comfortably, or remain independent while growing old.
But achieving financial security is not easy. A 2015 Pew Research Poll suggests that more than half of Americans are not financially prepared for the unexpected, or otherwise spend more than they make each month. 8 of 10 Americans worry about their lack of savings. At the same time, most Americans recognize that regularly saving and investing a portion of their income is the foundation of financial security. While savings accounts are a critical component in an investment plan with their low risk and high liquidity, most investors need the higher potential returns of equity ownership.

The Evolution of Equity Investment Vehicles

Portfolios of Individual Stocks

After World War II, Merrill, Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Beane (the predecessor to Merrill, Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith, Inc.) initiated a campaign to “bring Wall Street to Main Street” that included pamphlets and seminars teaching the public how to invest in the common stocks of America’s corporations. By 1947, the company was responsible for 10% of the transactions on the New York Stock Exchange; three years later, it had become the largest brokerage firm in the world. Wall Street firms encouraged investors to own stocks of individual companies, promoting investment clubs and Monthly Investment Plans. The public eagerly responded to the new investment, driving annual volume on the NYSE from 377.6 million shares in 1945 to over a billion shares by 1961, according to NYSE Market Data.
Despite the success, many potential investors had limited capital or lacked the time or expertise to successfully analyze or monitor the stock market. These deficiencies led to a demand for professionally managed portfolios that could be shared by hundreds of investors for reduced costs, investment risk, and volatility: the mutual fund.

Professionally-Managed Portfolios – Mutual Funds

In 1928, the Wellington Fund—the first mutual fund to include stocks and bonds—appeared. Within a year, there were 19 open-end funds and about 700 closed-end funds, the majority of which were wiped out in the Wall Street Crash of 1929. When America’s economy boomed in the 1950s, interest in pooled, professional management of stock portfolios – mutual funds – resurfaced. A mutual fund is often defined as a basket of stocks, bonds, or other assets. It’s managed by an investment company for investors who don’t otherwise have the resources to buy or manage a collection of individual securities themselves.
Demand for the new investment vehicle exploded. Gene Smith, writing for The New York Times on October 6, 1958, claimed, “The butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker, the cop on the beat, the housewife — all have one thing in common today: they’re pouring more and more dollars into mutual funds.”

According to the Investment Company Fact Book, the net purchases by households of mutual fund shares exceeded the purchase of corporate stock shares for the first time in 1954. And by the end of 2014, households held almost $12.5 trillion of mutual funds of different types (equity, bond, and balanced).

Index Tracking Mutual Funds

However, even as investment in mutual funds increased, some began to question whether the performance justified the high fees of management. Read more . . .

6 Best Investments for Retirement Planning

couple retirement planningBaby boomers are the first generation of a new retirement era with the burden of saving the bulk of their retirement income and making those savings last 20 to 30 years. This responsibility is due to the decline in company pensions which shifted saving and investment responsibilities to employees, as well as an increase in life expectancy after attaining adulthood (almost 20% since 1950). The challenge of investing has been particularly difficult in the last five years; a study by Thornburg Investment Management calculated the annual “real return” for many classes of investment during the period as being negative.

The possibility of a future investment environment where inflation remains low and interest rates rise (the opposite of the 1960s to 1980s) producing slower economic growth, projected healthcare expenses not covered by insurance, and the uncertainty of program changes in Social Security and Medicare will result in people continuing to work as long as possible, accelerating their savings in their later years, and seeking maximum returns in their portfolios.

According to Chris Brightman, head of investment management at Research Affiliates, “Baby Boomers are going to work longer than they originally expected. They’re going to have to save more than they planned. And they’re going to have to consume more modestly in retirement.”

Your Investment Options for Retirement

There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of different investment vehicles available. The following list describes the most popular choices, while some investments (such as gold and collectibles) are not listed because, according to Warren Buffett, they are difficult to analyze, lack any productive use, and their future price depends solely on the hope that the next buyer will pay more for the item than the owner paid.

Read more . . .

6 ETF Investing Tips for Beginners

This article first appeared on the WallStreetSelector.com website on June 2, 2013.
Various academic studies have indicated that asset allocation is more important than security selection, especially in times of greater volatility in the markets. However, according to Roger Ibbotson, writing about the importance of asset allocation in the March/April 2010 publication of the Financial Analyst Journal, about three-quarters of market gains or losses come from general (broad) market moves, rather than asset allocation or security selection. As a consequence, individual investors are turning more and more to index-based and/or sector-specific exchange traded funds (ETFs), rather than managed mutual funds or individual securities.

According to ETF Database, there are currently more than 1,400 exchange traded funds available, ranging from broad general market funds to highly specialized funds representing a single industry, country, commodity, or investment goal. You can pick ETFs which seek high dividends and/or interest payments, those focused solely on share appreciation, or those which seek both objectives. ETFs are available for bonds, commodities, real estate, or currencies. They are structured to move in concert with the index they track, exceed the index’s moves, or move in the opposite direction. The industry follows the advice popularized in the movie Field of Dreams: “If you build it, they will come.” And they have – to the tune of more than one million shares per day on average.

Read more . . .