Friday, July 13, 2007

Simplest Buy and Hold Portfolio

So you have some discretionary money that you can risk, don't need the money within five years, and want some growth. But you may not know too much about individual stocks and you don't have the time nor the inclination to follow individual stocks.

Here's a very simple and easy Buy and Hold Portfolio that you don't have to monitor often, and offers good performance and diversification. (Do know that while the stock market averages 10% per year over a long time, that during any individual year, you could lose or gain 40%?)

The strategy is based on buying and holding certain ETFs, or Exchange Traded Funds. An Exchange Traded Fund is essentially a mutual fund (mostly indexed to a particular index. The ETF company just mirrors the index, and doesn't make active stock decisions) that trades on the major exchanges just like a regular stock. You normally buy and sell them and pay commissions. For example, the stock symbol "DIA", isn't really an individual company. The "DIA" ETF represents the Dow Jones Industrial Average ETF. It holds the 30 stocks in the Dow Jones Industrial Average. However, from your point of view, you are buying and selling "DIA" directly, a single trading instrument. You lose money and profit just as if you were holding a single stock.

The Portfolio

Here's the recommended simple buy and hold portfolio that you do not have to monitor that often:

  • SPY -- The S&P 500 ETF representing 500 of the US biggest and most influential companies.
  • MDY -- The Midcap US ETF representing the middle size US companies.
  • IWM -- The Small Cap US ETF representing some of the smaller companies in the US
  • EFA -- The iShares Developed International Market ETF representing investments in Europe, Japan and Australia
  • EEM -- The iShares International Emerging Market ETF which covers international emerging markets such as Taiwan, Korea, China, Mexico, Brazil, Russia and India.

That's it! You are diversified throughout the US and the world. You can monitor your portfolio once a year, or twice a year.

If you don't have that much money, you can start with one or two ETFs first. I suggest SPY and EFA as your first two ETFs. The third ETF should be IWM. The fourth should be EEM, and the last MDY.

If you wish to learn more, or even start learning about individual stock investments, you might have to do some studying. You can read the books recommended here, or start browsing some good investment sites on the internet.

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