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Author: joelcorley Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: of 25318  
Subject: Re: Starting a Roth IRA Date: 3/12/2004 11:24 PM
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jesserivera67,

You wrote, I just read joelcorley's response and like it the best.

Why thank you very much. I hope you rec'd it.

Also, FamFunds seems like a good fund but it's in the midcap blend and I'm not sure I would base my Roth on it. ...

Even since I saw that post, I kept telling myself I wasn't going to criticize someone else's choice ... It's their choice and I shouldn't criticize.

Well, I can't help it. I'm a Virgo and when I see something I disagree with it just tears me apart not to criticize.

<critique>

Small mutual funds are occasionally interesting because they are agile. They don't have to take a controlling stake in a company for that single investment to have a large impact on their NAV. This can't be said of most of the enormous funds managed by Fidelity, T. Rowe Price and Vanguard among others. But in this case agility also means volatility, and volatility is rarely your friend in a long-term investment.

FamFunds is small. No, FamFunds is tiny. Their an investment management company that has a total, combined asset base of $561 million under management. That's compared to Vanguard which has over $550 billion. And in mutual funds, small isn't always good for reasons other than volatility.

A small fund company has a certain amount of fixed overhead it has to pass onto its investors. Last year, FamFunds only two funds (FAMEX & FAMVX) had about $6,884,000 in expenses, which it had to pass onto shareholders. That may sound like a lot of money; but it's not. In fact, it's nothing. More than likely that represents a company of at most 12-20 people, their salaries and commissions, the office overhead and trading expenses. At this size, a good deal of their overhead is in the people and their fixed overhead expenses.

So what? Well, if one of their funds tanks tomorrow, they'll probably experience a mass-exodus of investors and either the expense ratio will sky rocket or they'll go out of business. That's simply not a concern with Vanguard or Fidelity. With either of them, you could safely put your retirement assets into a fund, [mostly] walk away, and be confident that your money will still be there [and then some] 25 years from now. The same simply can't be said of FamFunds. And companies like FamFunds come and go all the time. I should know, I've invested [and lost] small portions of my rollover IRA in such funds before.

And there's one other related problem with small fund companies – the expense ratios themselves. Fund companies rarely exceed their benchmark index for any extended period. In fact, most simply aspire to beat some benchmark by a certain amount. However, if the expense ratio is 1.37% (FAMEX) and your benchmark is returning 10%, you have to make 11.37% just to match it. I trust you understand that this means the fund must actually, regularly out-perform the index by a whopping 13.7%!

This is the basis of the Fool's argument about index investing. A broad-based index fund from a large mutual fund company should be your core holding. Why? Because with a large company's index fund, expense ratios should be very low, making it possible for them to come very close to matching the actual index they track.

Anyway, I certainly think you should take some risk in your investment portfolio. From time to time you might even put some of that money in a small up-start mutual fund company's offering because of the reputation of the manager running the fund. But I would never make such a holding a core investment in my portfolio.

</critique>

- Joel
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