Are your Emotions Costing you 5%?

I’m a staunch believer that emotions and investing do not mix. The right approach is to determine an appropriate asset allocation for yourself, let the markets do what they will, and then rebalance your portfolio back to its target allocation at pre-determined intervals. I encourage most of my clients to rebalance on an annual basis.

However, many investors do not take this type of approach and, instead, let their emotions determine their asset allocation. When the going gets tough, they abandon their allocation to stocks and flee to safety. Then they wait until the waters are calm and a sharp recovery has taken place before getting back into stocks.

What’s the big deal? On average, investors are getting a 5% lower return on their stock mutual fund investments than the funds’ reported returns. This is mostly due to investors buying in and out of funds based on emotions.

I encourage you to listen to‘s recent, four-minute podcast on the subject.

Trading Costs Continue to Fall

If you’ve ever talked to me about investing, you’ve likely heard me stress the importance of keeping your costs low. Part of your investing costs are the commissions you pay to buy and sell.

I encourage my clients to use a broker, the firm that holds your investments, that offers low cost investments and low to no trading fees. One of the brokers that I often suggest is Vanguard because it offers a broad array of its own index mutual funds with no transaction fees.

Follwing other discount brokers, Vanguard recently announced that it is lowering its commissions for stocks and exchange traded funds (ETFs.) Vanguard clients will now pay no commission for Vanguard ETFs and will pay $2 t0 $7 per trade for non-Vanguard ETFs and stocks.

This is good news for investors for a few reasons:

  • Trading costs for self-directed investors continue to fall and are becoming trivial for investors who trade infrequently.
  • Vanguard becomes a viable option for investors who like to buy ETFs and individual stocks.
  • Investors can build well-diversified portfolios at Vanguard using ETFs for less initial investment than they can using Vanguard mutual funds, most of which require a $3,000 minimum investment.

Still, many other brokers are now offering very low trading costs for stocks and ETFs. Below are links to stock and ETF commission schedules at other well-known brokers:

When choosing a broker, keep in mind that there are other factors to consider such as its customer service reputation, the ease of use of its website and statements, and any other costs like per account or low balance fees.

Want to know the main differences between mutual funds and ETFs? Check out a Vanguard presentation on the subject at this link.