Key Questions for Long-Term Investors

Whether you’ve been investing for decades or are just getting started, at some point on your investment journey you’ll likely ask yourself some of the questions below.

March 31, 2021
Trying to answer these questions may be intimidating, but you’re not alone—your financial advisor is here to help. If you currently don’t have an advisor, here are some considerations to help you understand how markets work. While this is not intended to be an exhaustive list, it will hopefully shed some light on a few key principles that, using data and reasoning, may help improve investors’ odds of investment success in the long run.

What sort of competition do I face as an investor?

The market is an effective information processing machine. Millions of market participants buy and sell securities every day, and the real-time information they bring helps set prices. This means competition is stiff and trying to outguess market prices is difficult for anyone, even professional money managers (see question 2 for more on this). This is good news for investors though. Rather than basing an investment strategy on trying to find securities that are priced “incorrectly,” investors can instead rely on the information in market prices to help build their portfolios (see question 5 for more on this).
Source: Data in US Dollars. Dimensional Fund Advisors, using data from Bloomberg LP. Includes primary and secondary exchange trading volume globally for equities. ETFs and funds are excluded. Daily averages were computed by calculating the trading volume of each stock daily as the closing price multiplied by shares traded that day. All such trading volume is summed up and divided by 252 as an approximate number of annual trading days.

What are my chances of picking an investment fund that survives and outperforms?

Flip a coin, and your odds of getting heads or tails are 50/50. Historically, the odds of selecting an investment fund that was still around 20 years later are about the same. Regarding outperformance, the odds are worse. The market’s pricing power works against fund managers who try to outperform through stock picking or market timing. One needn’t look further than real-world results to see this. Based on research, only 22% of US equity mutual funds and 10% of fixed income funds have survived and outperformed their benchmarks over the past 20 years.

U.S. Based Mutual Performance

Source: Mutual Fund Landscape 2020, Dimensional Fund Advisors. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

If I choose a fund because of strong past performance, does it mean it will do well in the future?

Some investors select mutual funds based on past returns. However, research shows that most funds in the top quartile of previous five-year returns did not maintain a top-quartile ranking in the following five years. In other words, past performance offers little insight into a fund’s future returns.

Percentage of Top-Ranked Funds That Stayed on Top

Source: Mutual Fund Landscape 2020, Dimensional Fund Advisors. See Appendix for important details on the study. Past performance is no guarantee of future results

Do I have to outsmart the market to be a successful investor?

Financial markets have rewarded long-term investors. People expect a positive return on the capital they invest, and historically, the equity and bond markets have provided a growth of wealth that has more than offset inflation—instead of fighting markets, let them work for you.

Growth of a Dollar 1926 – 2019 (compounded monthly)

In USD. US Small Cap is the CRSP 6–10 Index. US Large Cap is the S&P 500 Index. Long-Term Government Bonds is the IA SBBI US LT Govt TR USD. Treasury Bills is the IA SBBI US 30 Day TBill TR USD. US Inflation is measured as changes in the US Consumer Price Index. CRSP data is provided by the Center for Research in Security Prices, University of Chicago. S&P data © 2020 S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC, a division of S&P Global. All rights reserved. Long-term government bonds and Treasury bills data provided by Ibbotson Associates via Morningstar Direct. US Consumer Price Index data is provided by the US Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Is there a better way to build a portfolio?

Academic research has identified these equity and fixed income dimensions, which point to differences in expected returns among securities. Instead of attempting to outguess market prices, investors can instead pursue higher expected returns by structuring their portfolio around these dimensions.

Dimensions of Expected Returns

Is international investing for me?

Diversification helps reduce risks that have no expected return, but only diversifying within your home market may not be enough. Instead, global diversification can broaden your investment opportunity set. By holding a globally diversified portfolio, investors are well positioned to seek returns wherever they occur.
Source: Dimensional Fund Advisors. Number of holdings and countries for the S&P 500 Index and MSCI ACWI (All Country World Index) Investable Market Index (IMI) as of December 31, 2019. S&P data © 2020 S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC, a division of S&P Global. All rights reserved. MSCI data © MSCI 2020, all rights reserved. International investing involves special risks, such as currency fluctuation and political instability. Investing in emerging markets may accentuate these risks. Investing in emerging markets may accentuate those risks.

Will making frequent changes to my portfolio help me achieve investment success?

It’s tough, if not impossible, to know which market segments will outperform from period to period. Accordingly, it’s better to avoid market timing calls and other unnecessary changes that can be costly. Allowing emotions or opinions about short-term market conditions to impact long-term investment decisions can lead to disappointing results.

Annual Returns by Market Index

Source: Bloomberg; Dimensional Fund Advisors. In US Dollars. US Large Cap is the S&P 500 Index. US Large Cap Value is the Russell 1000 Value Index. US Small Cap is the Russell 2000 Index. US Small Cap Value is the Russell 2000 Value Index. US Real Estate is the Dow Jones US Select REIT Index. International Large Cap Value is the MSCI World ex USA Value Index (gross dividends). International Small Cap Value is the MSCI World ex USA Small Cap Value Index (gross dividends). Emerging Markets is the MSCI Emerging Markets Index (gross dividends). Five-Year US Government Fixed is the Bloomberg Barclays US TIPS Index 1–5 Years. S&P and Dow Jones data © 2020 S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC, a division of S&P Global. All rights reserved. Frank Russell Company is the source and owner of the trademarks, service marks, and copyrights related to the Russell Indexes. MSCI data © MSCI 2020, all rights reserved. Bloomberg Barclays data provided by Bloomberg. Chart is for illustrative purposes only.

Can my emotions affect my investment decisions?

Many people struggle to separate their emotions from investing. Markets go up and down. Reacting to current market conditions may lead to making poor investment decisions.

Avoid Reactive Investing

Should I make changes to my portfolio based on what I'm hearing in the news?

Daily market news and commentary can challenge your investment discipline. Some messages stir anxiety about the future, while others tempt you to chase the latest investment fad. If headlines are unsettling, consider the source and try to maintain a long-term perspective.

So, what should I be doing?

Work closely with a financial advisor who can offer expertise and guidance to help you focus on actions that add value. If you decide you are comfortable going at it alone, then you should focus on what you can control to help provide a better investment experience. Create an investment plan to fit your needs and risk tolerance. Structure a portfolio along the dimensions of expected returns. Diversify globally. Manage expenses, turnover, and taxes. Stay disciplined through market dips and swings.

As always, we are here to help.

Best,
CAM Investor Solutions
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Source: Bloomberg; Dimensional Fund Advisors; Indices are not available for direct investment. Their performance does not reflect the expenses associated with the management of an actual portfolio; Investors should talk to their financial advisor prior to making any investment decision. All expressions of opinion are subject to change. This article is distributed for educational purposes, and it is not to be construed as an offer, solicitation, recommendation, or endorsement of any particular security, products, or services. M & A Consulting Group, LLC, doing business as CAM Investor Solutions is an SEC registered investment adviser. As a fee-only firm, we do not receive commissions nor sell any insurance products. We provide financial planning and investment information that we believe to be useful and accurate. However, there cannot be any guarantees. This blog has been provided solely for informational purposes and does not represent investment advice or provide an opinion regarding fairness of any transaction. It does not constitute an offer, solicitation or a recommendation to buy or sell any particular security or instrument or to adopt any investment strategy. Any stated performance does not reflect the expenses associated with the management of an actual portfolio. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results. Diversification does not eliminate the risk of market loss. Charts and graphs provided herein are for illustrative purposes only. There are many different interpretations of investment statistics and many different ideas about how to best use them. Nothing in this presentation should be interpreted to state or imply that past results are an indication of future performance. Tax planning and investment illustrations are provided for educational purposes and should not be considered tax advice or recommendations. Investors should seek additional advice from their financial advisor or tax professional.

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