Sharing the Love

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I left a comment on WhiteCoatInvestor, a finance blog geared towards doctors (and the site that has pretty much single-handedly galvanized me to take control of my finances), asking advice for how to figure out how good the funds in my retirement account are, and how to figure out what fees I’m being charged. He responded and said,

“They’re required to give you a fee disclosure form every year now- so read it. Also ask for the plan document (your employer is required to provide it if you ask) and actually read it. Look for all the fee and expense ratio disclosures. “Excellent” is < 0.20% ER and no additional fees. “Good is < 0.5%” and minimal fees. Bad is > 1.0% and all kinds of fees.

You can look up the funds in your plan at Morningstar.com. Like most plans, you’ve got some good ones and some bad ones, but enough good ones to just use those and surely be able to get a reasonable asset allocation. Hint- Vanguard and DFA are usually the ones you want to use.”

I logged into my retirement account portal and was able to find all of my funds’ expense ratios, and sure enough, the lowest was a Vanguard fund with an ER of 0.02% and the highest was one of my Transamerica funds at 1.02%. That’s a huge difference! I re-allocated funds from very high ER funds to lower ER funds, still trying to stay somewhat diversified. See the screen shot of all my funds below, with the expense ratios listed on the most right hand column:

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Although I still am totally unsure of what I’m doing, I think that I’m inching in the right direction. April shared a page about the wisdom of simple investing, that seems to corroborate the choices I’m making (by people way smarter and more educated than I). Next step? Reading my plan from cover to cover to see what fees I’m being charged.

Over the past week I have had pretty involved conversations with 6 smart ladies regarding retirement, investing and finances in general as a result of the blog. I love it! I’m learning so much and feel a lot more empowered to keep inching forward in my financial life. I hope you guys are, too.  I would encourage anyone reading this blog to post their questions and resources here so that these conversations can be public, for others to learn from, as well! Also, I am going to be starting this book, in case anybody wants to get it and read along with me for discussion purposes.

P.S. Isn’t that selfie of my husband at the top cool? 🙂

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Author: Diana Boss

I am a resident physician in dermatology, living with my husband and our two little ones in the southern USA.

6 thoughts on “Sharing the Love”

  1. My retirement website is very user friendly and I was able to find a link to “Disclosure” and it listed all the rates or return and fees on one document. If you don’t have a document like this then use the Morningstar webpage to find this information. You can look up each of your options individually. Here is what I discovered, I was investing in something with a 1.26% fee! Yikes. Just like Ashley, I found that my 4 Vanguard options has the lowest fees starting at .05 up to .29. I also have two Bond options one with a .43 and the other at 1.07. Using the info above regarding, “Excellent” is < 0.20% ER and no additional fees. “Good is 1.0% and all kinds of fees” it becomes very clear what accounts are good and bad and I narrowed my accounts down to 4 Vanguard funds and 1 Bond option. After finding the link that Ashley referenced above regarding diversification, I made a slightly random/slightly educated guess and decided to fund 3 out of the 4 Vanguard accounts and 1 Bond account. I read on the Boggleheads blog that it is suggested to invest your age as a percent in Bonds. I have $72,000 in my account so I put 30% in the Bond account, 70% divided equal into the 3 Stock accounts.

    Here is a breakdown of my accounts:
    1. Stock- Vanguard 500 Index Fund Fee= .05 10 yr return= 6.79% I invested 24% = $17,280
    2. Stock-Vanguard Mid-Cap Growth Index Fee=.09 10 yr return= 14.58% I invested 23% = $16,560
    3. Stock- Vanguard Small-Cap Growth Index Fund Fee= .23 10 yr return= 8.08% I invested 23%= $16,560
    4. Bond- Dodge & Cox Income Fund Fee= .43 10 yr return= 5.06%

    I decided not to fund my 4th Vanguard option:
    Stock- Vanguard Equity Income Fund Fee= .29 10 yr return= 7.36%

    I’m open to suggestions to my changing my choices if anyone has ideas. I decided to only fund 3 of the 4 Vanguard stocks because I felt 3 was enough diversification. The four option had the highest fee. I also looked up each account on the Vanguard website and read the description of each account and looked at the risk rating. Like I said, my choice(guess) was slightly random/ slightly educated.

    This might sound like a lot of work/hard/confusion, but it really was not hard and will make a huge difference in the long run. I challenge each of you to take time to research your options on Morningstar, pick a few accounts with the lowest fees and make changes. You can do it! OR! post your account options and either Ashley or I would love to help you 🙂

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    1. This is such great information. One thing that I find reassuring is that as long as you’re invested in an index fund, you’re essentially diversified enough, because that represents a huge range of businesses. Check out this link: http://whitecoatinvestor.com/150-portfolios-better-than-yours/. I was toying with the idea of putting all of my money into one index fund with the lowest ER. What do you think? Also, I was talking with one of my bosses and doesn’t invest in bonds at all (because of religious reasons–muslims apparently can’t make interest off of loaning money, which is what a bond is) so all of his money is in the stock market, which is considered an aggressive strategy. I wouldn’t mind doing that either–and maybe switching money to a money market fund as I get older? Just throwing ideas out here.

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  2. I forgot to add that I found out that my work sponsored account that I talked about above also says that it has a Annual administrative fee= 1,500 pro rata, Recording keeping fee= .0625%/quarter and Per Participant fee= $12.50 pro rata. Honestly, I have no idea what any of that means or what additional fees I’ll be charged on this plan. My next step in trying to figure this out is asking our HR person for a disclosure statement. She has sent them before, but I just deleted it because I didn’t care or understand before. I might also try calling the local bank that runs my plan and ask a few questions too.

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    1. And dang girl! the annual adminstrative fee sounds huge, but I don’t know what pro rata means. Ha! I need to figure this stuff out this weekend, too. Man, it’s funny how much more equipped I feel to tackle this stuff having a pal out there doing it too! You’re the best.

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  3. I think you putting all your money in an index fund with the lowest fee is smart. From everything I’m reading that is the way to go. I’ve seen a little information out there about making some international, but I don’t know enough to give advice. It’s just another thing to research. I’m also not totally sold on bonds, but on boggleheads that is talked about a lot. I did watch my return on my 401k drop from 7% to 4% after I made those changes, but I also know that the market is a little crazy now and I’m paying less in fees. I’m going to stick with my choices until I have a chance to research more. P.s. I paid off another debt this weekend!

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