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So - I'm a late starter - 1st post.

I have some cash, have been reading MF for some time - getting ready to jump in - fund my IRA this year - so I go to one of the MF recommended index funds - (Vanguard 500 Index Trust) and the report card for said fund says that if I invested 10K in 10/2000 - I'd have lost $900 - there must be something about this whole thing that I don't understand -my goal over the next 5 years is to not lose money? Help me figure this out - please.
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No. of Recommendations: 4
Greetings,

fund my IRA this year - so I go to one of the MF recommended index funds - (Vanguard 500 Index Trust) and the report card for said fund says that if I invested 10K in 10/2000 - I'd have lost $900 - there must be something about this whole thing that I don't understand -my goal over the next 5 years is to not lose money?

You do realize that stocks can lose money in short periods, even 5 year periods, yes? This is why for the past 5 years the S & P 500 has lost .28% each year. It is over long periods of time, like a decade or more that there are rarely losses, yet sometimes they do occur. Just to illustrate things a bit more:

Here are the past 5 calendar year returns for the Vanguard 500 Index Trust Investor shares(VFINX) from Morningstar:
"-9.1 -12.0 -22.2 28.5 10.7"

Notice how 3 out of 5 are negative? This is because after having many up years through the 1980s and 1990s, it was time for the market to go down some which it did. Another point to this is compounding. If the fund goes up 10% one year and down 10% the next, what is your total return? You are down 1% is the answer as after the first year each $100 invested is now $110 and 10% of that is $11 and not just $10.

For a 5 year goal, I'd suggest savings bonds and CDs. While those may not seem sexy, they will not depreciate in nominal value which is an important thing.

If that doesn't help then I suggest picking up a book like the "Intelligent Asset Allocator" by William Bernstein or "Common Sense on Mutual Funds" by John Bogle for more detail on the stock market's history. I believe that it is about 1 in 4 years is a down year for stocks. That's 25% which is quite a few, IMO.

Regards,
JB
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First of all - thanks for your reply - -

Yes - I know stocks go down but in reading all the newsletters & recommendations - I didn't expect to find - well - I guess I wasn't looking at the bigger picture.

I went into a business 5 years ago - and just sold with a nice profit - but I don't want to work full + time anymore - I want to learn about investing in the stock market - but I'm not prepared to purchase an index fund where I'd have lost money -

My assets are now in another business I own and in real estate (that has appreciated about 50% per year for the past 5 years. Maybe I should stick to what I know!

SG
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sixtiesgirl,

Maybe I should stick to what I know!

I recommend you read Common Sense on Mutual Funds by Bogle and The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham. Read them twice. You will truly get a broad view of everything you need to know by reading these two books for a lifetime of truly successful investing.

If I'm right, you have just begun to get interested in investing in the stock market. That's a great idea. If you have no interest in gettting your hands really dirty, want total simplicity, and have a long term horizon I suggest you simply dollar cost average into a total stock market index fund forever. This ultra simple strategy has historically clobbered the market and you would have made out fine over the last five years or even during the largest crash ever -- the 1929 Crash.

If you find you're having a hard time taking the initiative you could hire a fee-based advisor that charges minimal fees to get you started and to keep you on track, like me. :-)



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Greetings,

Yes - I know stocks go down but in reading all the newsletters & recommendations - I didn't expect to find - well - I guess I wasn't looking at the bigger picture.

I would also point out that this is looking at just the past 5 years and ignoring the 5 years before that when the S & P 500 dominated most investing categories so beware of recent events influencing more than they should.

but I'm not prepared to purchase an index fund where I'd have lost money -

If you never want to lose money then you'd probably have to stick with bonds and CDs since most other assets are subject to fluctuations. For example, if you tried to sell some property immediately after buying, wouldn't you have a loss? Just because you don't see it, doesn't mean it doesn't exist which is something I would point out.

My assets are now in another business I own and in real estate (that has appreciated about 50% per year for the past 5 years. Maybe I should stick to what I know!

How did the real estate do prior to the past 5 years? IIRC, the late 1990s weren't such a good time for some in real estate. Do you really believe the next 10 years will be like the last 5? Think about this carefully as things like Y2K, 9/11, and the past couple presidential elections aren't likely to occur again, are they? ;)

Just some food for thought,
JB
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Welcome sixtiesgirl,

my goal over the next 5 years is to not lose money? Help me figure this out - please.

The simple answer for 5 year money is to stay out of the equites/stock market. The stock market is too volotile over that period to depend on. Once you get to ten years and beyond the equity market tends to outperform other investment choices.

Hop over to the bond/fixed income board and read until you eyes bleed on what to do with the money that you need access to or need to protect for 10 years or less. Ask all the questions you need, we are happy to take a stab at them.

As you just noticed the return since 2000 isn't steller. That is the nature of the beast, so there is nothing that you don't understand at the moment.

Good luck

jack
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My assets are now in another business I own and in real estate (that has appreciated about 50% per year for the past 5 years. Maybe I should stick to what I know!
-----------------

Maybe you are right, but having a little more diversification couldn't really hurt. So...why not do both - stay with what you know AND fully fund a Roth IRA each year. You don't have to stick with an S&P 500 Index Fund. Have you ever looked at a Balanced Fund like Vanguard's Wellington (VWELX):

http://tinyurl.com/bof7w

Or, one of the Target Retirement Funds:

http://tinyurl.com/267yb

I would suggest that you take a little broader look at what's available and read a couple of the better books on investing which were mentioned in other posts before completely closing the door on funds.

Regards,
Bill
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Yes - I know stocks go down but in reading all the newsletters & recommendations - I didn't expect to find - well - I guess I wasn't looking at the bigger picture.

There is great wisdom in this understanding. The newsletters have no interest in history unless its biased in their favor. The market is impersonal and does not care about anyone.

jack
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No. of Recommendations: 6
Hi sixtiesgirl,

my goal over the next 5 years is to not lose money

Maybe I read this statement differently than everyone else is...are you saying that you will need the money in 5 years? If that's true - you can stop reading my post right now and just skip to the very end, because everyone else covered the investment options you should consider (ie. CDs, MoneyMarket, etc.).

However, if you are just concerned about the statement above - taken at face value, I would add one important concept:

You don't actually lose money until you sell!

Now, I'm not a tremendously experienced investor, but I did live through (both physically, and in the stock market) the late 90's as well as the dotbomb that followed. I made some serious mistakes, for which I paid the price (a much lighter wallet). But I learned a lot. For sure, if I had held onto a lot of those stocks, I'd still be underwater, and probably would be for the next 20-30 years. Sometimes it is right to cut your losses and run...afterall, if there is a better investment vehicle for you to begin making money again, why keep it in a dog.

Just as past gains do not mean that an investment will continue to have gains, the same is true for losses. We don't know what will happen.

My goal over the next 1 year is to not lose money! Some of my holdings will likely experience declines...heck, they may end down for the entire next year (heh! I'm holding FNM - let's talk about holding a rough stock) - but I don't expect to sell them, so that's okay with me. Again, if that volatility is too much for you to stomach at night then I would also recommend CDs and MoneyMarket funds.

Hope this hasn't been a waste of time. And, good luck.

Ryan
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No. of Recommendations: 3
I recommend you read Common Sense on Mutual Funds by Bogle and The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham. Read them twice. You will truly get a broad view of everything you need to know by reading these two books for a lifetime of truly successful investing.

Great books. I'm just finishing the Graham one, and I have to say that some of the info is out of date. 9% loads on mutual funds? Egad. But the info on evalutating individual stocks seems very useful. I stick with mutual and index funds for now, though, so I don't know that I'll be messing around with trying my skill as a stockpicker anytime soon.*

Charles Schwab's Guide to Financial Independence is another great one for a beginner, I think. Early on, there is a graph of the market over many decades which is worth a thousand words.

Regarding the 5 year thing, yes the market is volatile. The minimum length of time you should be considering investing in stocks or stock funds is 5 to 7 years. If you'll be needing the money before then, it should be in a different place. But the risk diminishes the longer you are invested in stocks. Jeremy Siegel's Stocks for the Long Run showed that as you approach 20 years, stocks are easily the best investment--better than bonds and cash.





*There is one case study of ALCOA, who in their report, listed a loss as a special one-time charge in 1970. The charge was for anticipated costs of closing down a division in '71. Graham points out that in such a large company, that must be a fairly commonplace occurance, so why is it classified as a special charge? Nice bit of sleight of hand--list it as a one-time special charge in '70, so it looks insignificant and not part of the '70 bottom line because it's actually next year's loss, but then it doesn't show up in the '71 report because it was already under an asterisk in the '70 report, and as a result doesn't really show as a bottom line loss in either year!
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Hi Sixtiesgirl. My favorite wife is a sixties girl, mini-skirted at first sight.

Somewhere, a while back, I wrote an extensive post on financial planning for retirement, trying to cover all the bases, beyond just hoping for good returns on the stock market. I'm not good at retrieving past posts, but maybe someone else can. I'll try to do an abbreviated review.

Before starting to worry about stock index funds or even asset allocation, you really must figure out how much money you are going to need to have to survive retirement and semi-retirement, presumably trying to maintain your lifestyle (at least as finances, if not age, allows). That means having a realistic sense of all your current expenses and projecting forward from this what your future expenses will be, factoring in inflation and such needs as long-term care insurance. There are various on-line planners that can help you do this, but most planners start from current income, not current expenses, so if you save a lot of what you earn, they aren't very helpful.

Once you have a handle on what your likely expenses will be, for how many years (I give myself a large cushion), then you need to figure out your current assets, at least ones you are willing to dispose of to finance retirement (I don't include our home or some property that we may use for a "summer cottage," although they are part of the cushion if we live beyond the point of being able to use them).

Once you have expenses and assets, then there are two questions: how much, if any, do I need to continue to add to my assets through continuing to work (if any) and how much of a return on my investmets, after inflation, will I need to make it through 30-40 years? At that point, you can start figuring out an asset allocation plan, using one or more stock index funds, bonds/fixed income, and real estate, in the hope of achieving your goals. Conventional wisdom is that you can start with an initial withdrawal rate of 4% of your assets, though some of us prefer to shoot for a lower starting %.

As others have noted, for a short time frame, anything less than 10-years, you should avoid stocks. But it is possible to have plenty of your assets in safer places to cover your first years of semi-retirement/retirement, while still have some in stocks as a hedge against inflation for later years.

No guarantees, even for the long run. The less you need to put into stocks to reach your goals, the safer, but inflation tends to be a big problem with fixed-income assets, so unless you have a very low initial withdrawal rate (less than 3%), you'll want some money in stocks. I wouldn't count on real estate outperforming stocks in the long run—sounds like you got into a hot market before it overheated.

Also, be wary of any claims that stocks always perform in the long run. Historical statistics show this to have been the case in the past. But, as much as some people want to believe it, historical statistics do not predict the future, and even the Social Security Administration is projecting low growth from when us sixties folks start retiring into the indefinite future (not to mention running out of energy resources).

Oh, and like, peace, man.
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For a beginner, I'd recommend starting with Bogle's book - it's a lot easier read and not as intimidating as the Intelligent Investor!
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<<<I went into a business 5 years ago - and just sold with a nice profit - but I don't want to work full + time anymore - I want to learn about investing in the stock market - but I'm not prepared to purchase an index fund where I'd have lost money>>>

Yea for you for selling at a nice profit !!!! I agree with you, investing is fascinating, I'd spend a lot more time studying economics and investing if I could. I'm very happy for you for being able to sell out in five years with a good profit !

<<<My assets are now in another business I own and in real estate (that has appreciated about 50% per year for the past 5 years. Maybe I should stick to what I know!>>>

You sound like I did during the high tech boom. I have worked in the computer field for 25 years and attributed that to my great stock picking abilities during the high tech bubble. It's been almost impossible to lose in real estate over the last five years. I'm not dissing you at all, just keep it in perspective. The next five years could be very different. I'm gathering you think so too or you wouldn't be posting here.

I think what you really need to do is park the money in safe investments like CD's and I-Bonds for a time being. Then, take and enjoy your time while you learn and study. Come up with a good asset allocation, a mixture of stocks, bonds and fixed income investments that you are comfortable with and combine that with your other investments.

Here is a really good place to read and ask questions:

http://socialize.morningstar.com/NewSocialize/asp/AllConv.asp?forumId=F100000015&t1=1132371556

There is a wealth of information there.

Stocks will help you to beat inflation over the long haul and bonds/fixed income investments will help to damper the volatility. Also, think about small cap, large cap and international investments.

I think if you study the big picture, which essentially is what asset allocation is about, it will help you sleep at night. There are so many factors involved (risk tolerance, how long you will need the money to last, when you will need the money) that it can be a lot to grasp. Take your time and come up with an educated plan that you can live with.

Here is another good board with seasoned pros:

http://early-retirement.org/forums/index.php

And, of course there is the Motley Fool.

Also, do you have a budget ? Do you know how much you need to live on ? The typical rule of thumb is to use a 4% withdrawal rate on investments. If you need $40k per year to live on it will require a million bucks invested at a 70/30 stock to bond ratio. Check out the FIREcalc on the early-retirement board (link posted above). Run your own numbers through FIREcalc and read about what FIREcalc is based on. Quantification can be helpful in decision making.

Best of luck and I hope you continue to post at the Fool !

-helen


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Greetings,

Here's a link to Loki's post about Financial Planning 101 -> http://boards.fool.com/Message.asp?mid=22990991

Regards,
JB
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JB

And if she buys bonds, she should plan to hold them to maturity as you can also lose a bundle on bonds if you have to sell them early. Think of 1994 for one year.

brucedoe
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60s

You are apparently in a real hot real estate area. When things crashed in Silicon Valley real estate prices took a tumble, so it can happen.

Also, my maternal grandfather bought a couple of lots in South International Falls, Minnesota, on the Canadian border in 1907 which I have inherited. I pay $4/yr real estate tax on each of these lots. The assessor is giving me a break on the lots because they are still in the woods, but if the next block is ever developed, we would be in the mix. He says that such lots being developed sell for about $6,000 each so some year, maybe these lots will make money, but right now they are probably worthless (for tax purposes they are listed at $100).

I had a house in Denver that I lived in for 15 years. I had bought it near a market bottom when United Airlines moved to Chicago and Martin Marietta laid off 5,000 employees. I then sold it near a market bottom so I didn't make a lot of money, but I did figure that I lived in the house for 15 years rent free which is something. One reason I sold was that for tax purposes the house was listed at $115,000 (back in the 1980s), but appraisals I had done gave a price in the low $90,000s. I contested the tax appraisal which was denied. After having the house on the market for many months, I eventually sold it for $84,000.

I was in a partnership on a house in Carmel, CA, when they passed the famous tax bill, limiting prperty tax increases until the property was sold. When my brother wanted to buy the house, I sold out of the partnership. As nearly as I could tell, I about broke even after about 5 years in the partnership.

So even real estate is not always a good buy. As they say: location, location, location.

We did have a house in Northern Virginia, a hot area too, that we sold a few months ago at a nice profit. We are told that the market has declined so that we couldn't sell it today for what we got.

But maybe you have a talent in real estate lacking in me.

brucedoe (30s boy)
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No. of Recommendations: 6
I'm not trying to be snippy here, Lok, but I thought I'd add a few comments:

Also, be wary of any claims that stocks always perform in the long run. Historical statistics show this to have been the case in the past.

It's a claim that has been true for 200 years, which makes it well worth some study.

But, as much as some people want to believe it, historical statistics do not predict the future,

True, but some statistics are so powerful they are worth a very close look.

From pp. 26-28 of Seigel's book (I'm condensing the data):

For all 5-year holding periods since 1802, stocks have outperformed bonds 65% of the time.

For all 10-year holding periods since 1802, stocks have outperformed bonds 80% of the time.

For all 20-year holding periods since 1802, stocks have outperformed bonds 92% of the time, and have never fallen behind inflation.

For all 30-year holding periods since 1802, stocks have outperformed bonds 100% of the time, and the worst annual stock performance beat inflation by 2.6%.

Siegel: The fact that stocks, in contrast to bonds or bills, have never offered investors a negative real holding period return yield over periods of 17 years is extremely significant. Although it might appear to be riskier to hold stocks than bonds, precisely the opposite is true: the safest long-term investment for the preservation of purchasing power has clearly been stocks, not bonds.



and even the Social Security Administration is projecting low growth from when us sixties folks start retiring into the indefinite future

A few questions here:

1. Shouldn't one be at least as wary of this projection as of any other?

2. Doesn't this statement qualify as market timing?

3. Many times, someone has said of the market (most recently in the 90s bubble), "things are different this time," and they have always been incorrect. Returns have always regressed to the mean over time.

(not to mention running out of energy resources).

More with the market timing! :-) Not long ago, I saw an interview with Peter Lynch, who said there is always a crisis. That's why it is worth looking at Schwab's long-term graph of the market--it is labelled with crises galore (and you can bet there were plenty of people using those crises as excuses not to invest), and the overall long-term trend is still up, despite all the crises and corrections.

Oh, and like, peace, man.

Far out!
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"It's a claim that has been true for 200 years, which makes it well worth some study."

Of course, it is worth study. That's how research works. We see a pattern, we ask whether the pattern is just random coincidence or something "statistically valid" (high probability of being a real pattern) and them we seek the cause or causes for the pattern.

In this case, we are really looking at two patterns: 1) stocks outperforming other investments consistently over extended periods; 2) particular rates on returns on stocks and other investments. We want to know the causes, with an eye to whether these causes are likely to continue to exist.

1) As to stocks beating other investments, that's common sense: they have to. There is more risk involved, so if they didn't return better, no one would buy them. Given a long enough time frame (historically 20 or 30 years, but that isn't guranteed), they should always outperform. The problem is, we don't know whether they have done so well over the last 25 years, with much higher than historical P/E ratios, that they may have to go through an extensive down period to even things out, and whether there will be greater than ever volatility. This is why the conventional advice, to which I subscribe, is to downsize stock holdings as you approach and are in your withdrawal stage. Of you're 70% stocks entering retirement and hit a 20-year to recover bear market, you will be in big trouble.

2) We need to understand the causes of sustained economic growth high returns on investments since the onset of the industrial revolutions, and ask whether these will continue, at least to the same extent. This is not the same as there being short term crises and corrections. I don't have a crystal ball, but I do know that we have seen a very long time, albeit with major ups and downs, during which the population of industrial nations (including through immigration in the New Worlds, especially) has skyrocketed, as has production and consumptions per capita (with ever increasing needs), much of it based on new energy sources (first coal, then gas and oil). We have strong reasons to think this kind of growth, at least in developed countries, is going to slow, perhaps even retreat. The SS administration is simply looking at demographics to predict slower growth. This, of course, leads to interest in emerging markets, but we know there are risks in commiting a high portion of our portfolio to that.

So, my argument isn't that we should ignore historical market statistics. I simply say we need to understand what has caused them, instead of treating them as predictive, then try to decide whether there are changes in the causes that should lead us to make certain investment decisions. My decision is to protect against a sustained bear stock market early in my withdrawal stage and to assume overall returns on stocks and bonds will be lower during my remaining accumulation years and retirement years than in the past.
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SG,

My assets are now in another business I own and in real estate (that has appreciated about 50% per year for the past 5 years. Maybe I should stick to what I know!

Our situations are very similar. I max out all retirement funds that are available to me and then I keep the rest of my assets available for investing in real estate or other business ventures. I am much more comfortable investing in myself than in the corporate suits on Wall Street. So, if I were you, I would dollar cost average into any retirement accounts available to you (perhaps using low cost index funds), then stick to what you know with the rest of your assets until you are ready to retire.

Gup
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Hi SG,

Are you more confused now than when you ask the question?

The argument so far has been on stocks and bonds, as if there is only the one option, S&P 500 (or total market) as stocks, and bonds, which have not been defined yet, but are generally thought of as the total bond market or even worse long-term bonds.

The secret to investing without concern of loss is found in the “Three principles of investing” here; http://coffeehouseinvestor.com/ -- subsection http://coffeehouseinvestor.com/Principles.htm

There is a lot of the most basic information you need to learn on this site, and in the little book. Bill Schultheis has stated a number of times in conversations on the Morningstar 'Vanguard Diehards' boards that it is the 'Three Principles' more than the portfolio that his simple little book is all about. Basically, in your case especially, the “Don't put all your eggs in one basket” principle is important. If you extend your idea of stocks out beyond the basic S&P 500, and extend your idea of bonds past what Bill offers, the total market, then you protect yourself from these losses you concern yourself with.

Since you already deal in real-estate, and invest the Warren Buffett way (buy a business; not a stock), you are not going to be placing your entire wealth in your portfolio. I feel fairly sure you recognize the value of a dollar saved for a rainy day (or years), so the portfolio you choose should be based on eliminating this concern of losing moneys in the stock market you speak of, and the best way to do so is simple, diversification. This diversification does not necessarily mean stocks and bonds only. Extending the simple allocations beyond stocks and bonds to include TIPS (Treasury inflation protected securities) and I-bonds, and commodities will reduce the risks you face in 'Stocks' per se, and even in 'Bonds' as TIPS and commodities offer a protection against the kind of inflation we faced in the 70s when neither stocks nor bonds offered anything in the way of returns, and still offer diversification benefits when the stock market takes a dive. Bonds did as poorly as stocks, and long-term bonds, especially after tax, did much worse than stocks in this high inflation period. Most see volatility (psychology) as the basic risk, when there is more risk involved from inflation than volatility.

Another book, which I found quite easy to understand is “The Four Pillars of Investing” by William Bernstein. It is a much easier read than “The Intelligent Asset Allocator.” Once you learn the basics of low-cost indexing as told through John (Jack) Bogle's books and Burton Malkiel's “A Random Walk Down Wall Street” books, and understand the basics of not putting all your eggs in one basket, The Four Pillars can lead you through the tax consequences you will face in an after tax portfolio, or the combination of tax deferred and after tax portfolio.

If you do choose to read these books, pay attention to the words more than the portfolios. Though William Bernstein sets up portfolios based somewhat loosely on the Efficient Frontier, his words on this ring true;

”.....next year's efficient frontier will be nowhere near last year's. Anybody who tells you that their portfolio recommendations are "on the efficient frontier" also talks to Elvis and frolics with the Easter Bunny.

The most important concept in setting up a portfolio is the “Don't put all your eggs in one basket” principle. The 'Know-nothing Investor' can set up a portfolio that offers the same protection as that based on the Efficient Frontier that holds as good a chance, and quite possibly better, of both offering you excellent opportunities in capturing the market returns without the volatility.

I could set you up a portfolio, but if you did not understand it, I would be sending you away from your most basic principle of ”Maybe I should stick to what I know!” This, in itself, is a Warren Buffett principle.

As opposed to “sticking” to what you know, change what you know. If you read the books I offered here, and do a little independent thinking along the way, you will be as well prepared to set up your own portfolio as anyone here or advisor.

As far as developing a plan, the principle “Invest your raise,” or invest a little more each year is going to get you to where you need to be better than developing a static plan now. If you focus on saving more and learning to live on less, you will most likely do better in your portfolio than determining what that illusive 'Perfect Portfolio' is. Whether stock returns are high or low going forward, the more you save, the more you will have when you need it.

I'll shut up now. :o)

Chin
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I stick with what I know.

If you don't feel comfortable with S&P500 INdex then don't invest in it.
If you don't understand it then don't invest in it.
INvest in what you understand.

If you want to preserve capital then I'd invest in Bonds or utility stocks. S&P 500 index is a place to start investing with small amounts of money and with the idea you are going to add to it each month or quarter until your reach a good amount of capital.

If you are ready have the capital why do it.

Plus S&P 500 is a benchmark of American stocks. This benchmark is used to decide if you want to go take most risk.

If you understand this comment.
S&P 500 is sort of like US treasury bonds are to the cost of money.

IE US treasury bonds are the cost of money. If you can't do better than Treasury bond then why did you invest the money.

If you can't do better than S&P 500 index then why did you invest somewhere else?

So really you are approach this from the wrong direction.
My advise to you. STick with REal estate and other business.
If you want capital preservatioin buy US treasure Bonds.
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