First things first. We hate most of Madison Street-inspired or Wall Street-pushed products because they are often enemies of your financial independence. We are very careful about what we recommend and want to use products and services ourselves for a while before we recommend to anyone.
Net Worth & Income/Expense Tracker
Hardly anyone can beat Vanguard in this category. Others can mirror their index funds and even match the expense ratios, but the customer-as-shareholder ownership structure of Vanguard ensures they will always be genuine, cost-efficient custodians of your money. You cannot go wrong with this one if you wish to put all your money in index mutual funds or ETFs. Their brokerage platform isn’t so great unless you qualify for Voyager Select or Flagship client levels, which require asset base of minimum $500,000 invested in Vanguard (then, it is only $2/trade!). For passive investors, Vanguard stands head and shoulders above the rest. As 15 year customers, we grant the rare TFR ‘seal of approval’ to Vanguard in this category.
This gets tricky. If you are a frequent trader (definitely not 10! way), then brokerage trading costs should be as low as possible. If you are a dividend investor with investment portfolio of $250,000 or more who makes, say, 20 trades a year, low trading costs will actually make your annual investment expenses lower than passive index investors. This is because index fund fees of 0.1% on $250K is still $250 per year, which is equivalent to 31 trades at $8/trade! Note that the index fund fees in absolute dollars will only increase as your account size grows each year.
We will share our recommendations shortly as we are still analyzing some brokerage companies.
This also includes active investing by funds. TFR is not a fan of active mutual funds, because of the sizable drag of management fees on overall performance, their high portfolio turnover, and their requirement to hold significant cash to cover drawdowns creating another performance drag. It gets very difficult, if not impossible, to beat index fund returns after fees and taxes. Still, there are some long term funds that do reasonably well, those that are closest to following the Value Investing philosophy. We will highlight them after we review the rare funds that meet our stringent criteria.
Websites Worth Visiting
There several good websites worth visiting that TFR recommends. Here are a couple:
Nick Maggiulli’s Of Dollars and Data
Andrew Schrage & Guyate Park’s MoneyCrashers
We will add more recommendations after they pass the tough TFR screens! Check in on this page periodically.