One way I keep pace with the industry is by seeing how much it costs to create a model, balanced portfolio using the cheapest available ETFs. I use a sample allocation that might fit an aggressive younger investor with a long time horizon:
- 40% Broad Market U.S. equities
- 35% Foreign Equities
- 15% Fixed-Income (broadly diversified)
- 5% REITs
- 5% Commodities
You could quibble with the weights, choices and omissions, but at least it's in the vicinity.*
Right now, that portfolio can be bought with a blended expense ratio of 0.16%. Sixteen basis points!
Five years ago … heck, two years ago … you’d be looking at a multiple of that.
And that doesn’t even go down the path of all the interesting things you can layer on top. I find the hedge fund like products, such as the DB currency fund and the BuyWrite ETN, very interesting, as they open up new areas of the market to all investors. And the various strategy, sector and style funds work for folks, as well.
This is not a recommendation, either of the weights or the underlying ETFs. It's just a way to gauge the market. But it does show how far we've come. In a time when the average active fund investor is paying 1% or more per year, plus loads, for sub-par performance, balanced exposure at 0.16% looks pretty good.
Trial by fire is one way to discover why ETF transparency matters.
Most people now realize leveraged ETFs can hurt you, but how, then, to use them?
What would a shift out of a mutual fund and into an ETF look like up close?
China A-shares in a broad emerging market fund may be the right idea at a terrible time.