Who is a Roth For?
Most everyone. If you have made income or your spouse has made income in a given year you are eligible to open a Roth IRA. The max amount of money you can contribute to a Roth IRA in a given tax year is $5,500. I say “given tax year” because you can contribute for any year from January 1st of that year up to tax day (mid April) of the following year giving you an actual 15 and 1/2 months to contribute. If you make more than $135,000 as an individual or $199,000 married filing jointly you are still eligible for a Roth, BUT you have to complete the backdoor Roth IRA. The Physician on FIRE has written an amazing step by step post for this so if you are in that camp follow his walk-through!
Do This Today!
Hopefully, you are busy working on completing your Step By Step and have already Set Up Your Roth IRA so you are now ready for this post! Either way, when you do decide for yourself that investing in a Roth is your next step, go with Vanguard. Let me tell you why I went with them.
Vanguard has some of the lowest fees across the industry. This is assessed by what is known as an “Expense Ratio” or “ER” for short on your mutual fund. How does Vanguard keep costs so low? It is brilliant really, they are the only mutual fund company in the world that is owned by its shareholders i.e. you and me. Pretty novel concept huh? I guess that is also why it is the largest mutual fund company in the world. It was founded by Jack Bogle, a pioneer of the mutual fund; you should look him up sometime, he is a class act.
Anyways, he remains to this day a strong voice for the average Joe investor looking to not get ripped off while walking on Wall Street. Expense Ratios on mutual funds at Vanguard are hard to beat! Always know your ERs. If you have any sort of account in the stock market right now call up and ask what you are paying in regards to your expense ratios. If you are above .16% you can easily have it lower so shop around. Now let’s talk mutual funds.
Oh, the mutual fund. I will describe a mutual fund in broad terms and then we will circle around and go into specifics. A mutual fund is less risky investment than investing in one stock or one bond or some other investment entity because mutual funds bring multiple stocks and/or bonds together to spread risk and offer investors an opportunity to invest in multiple companies at one time. It’s pretty sweet. So say you are interested in investing in Apple stock (after all you are probably reading this on an Apple device right now), but you are not sure about how risky it is to put a large sum of money into one stock on the stock market. To answer your question, IT’S RISKY!!! But how risky?
Let’s consider the risk to be a fluctuation from a mean. All stock investments on the market fluctuate, that is just what they do, but those investments that carry more risk of loss (and subsequently more opportunity for gain) fluctuate more- that is to say, one day you are up… a lot, and the next day you are down…a lot. For the beginning investor (even for a seasoned one) large fluctuation in whatever sum of money you have set aside to invest with does not sit well with most.
Millennials These Days
So then let’s say you are like most millennials, you have an upwards of at least 4 Apple products of some sort (iPhone, iPod, iPad, and an Apple watch) with which you impulse buy on Amazon.com all the time (I am totally guilty of this, no shame here), you drink Starbucks at least weekly (if not daily… me too) and you have been known to frequent Wal-Mart every so often, okay you are there all the time… just admit it. You want to invest in all of these companies, but to do so would take a lot of work and the stock market is a scary place where people lose money and you don’t know a ton about it so you stay away. You are like most Americans! How could you invest in all of these companies at once and save tons of headaches and time? I am glad the reaches of the internet brought you here. Let’s tackle this question together!
Mutual Funds!!! To Load Or Not To Load?
Mutual funds are the answer! They are a great investment tool in that they pool risk together inherent in the stock market and spreading it out through investing in multiple stocks, and by multiple, I mean hundreds to thousands of stocks. There are many different types of mutual funds and you should read more about them so you are informed, but I will give you a heads up here.
YOLO? No, No Load Bro
The very best type of mutual fund you can have is a “No Load Mutual Fund” Like VTSMX/VTSAX. No load simply means that you are not charged to invest whenever you want to invest. These “load funds” are nothing more than mutual funds with commissions for the salesman that sold them to you. Wave bye-bye to that load money that you will never see again… It’s a pretty sad really. My thoughts and prayers are with the investor hoping to create wealth in this manner. Why pay for something when you can have it absolutely free? Keep reading.
Mutual Funds!!! To Index Or Not To Index
What I mean by actively managed funds is this: many mutual funds have fund managers. These managers attempt to predict the market by coin flipping, palm reading, underwater basket weaving and all sorts of hoopla that aims to “beat the market” and get “better than market” returns. Hogwash! This is a futile exercise and study after study has shown that there’s no way to predict the market. However, it’s clear that there is money to be made in convincing people that you can do so. They make it look like meticulous study when indeed, it is just meretricious propagation. You have to be in the know to recognize it, now you are in the know. Now it’s time for a shameless bad dad joke.
Major Pointer: Index… dig it?
The truth is nobody can predict the market and that is exactly what an actively managed fund manager tries to do! You are better off with an index fund. Major pointer: Index funds are mutual funds that follow a particular index of the stock market. There is no manager involved. They spread out assets of that index and the goal of these funds is to get you the identical returns of stock market for that particular index. They don’t sell you on the idea of trying to beat the market and play towards your greed, rather they sell you on the promise of meeting market returns and this should appeal to your logic and wisdom. Ah yes, logic, such a forgotten thing in today’s feel-good society. Indexing is a stellar way to start and finish your investment career.
So Then Why VTSMX In Your Roth?
Because it is the combination of everything I have spoken of to this point! It is one of the cheapest and best low cost no load index mutual fund. Additionally, if you are young like me, you can stand to start here- it is easy and simple. As you grow in knowledge you will find more conservative investors who might want you to consider adding some bonds to your set up which is totally fine. Do yourself the favor though, start today regardless!
Down The Road, You Can Switch
As the years go on and I continue to fund my Roth, I will consider allocating it differently, but this is an excellent starting point. Having a Personal Investing Statement is huge later on in your investing career. I started with this fund because it is absolutely hands down one of the best. I picked it prior to the White Coat Investor’s write up on it, but in reading his recent review of it, I knew I had done something’s right! I will let him (someone much smarter than me) explain it to you in this post: My Favorite Mutual Fund.
Starting early in investing is a surefire way to developing passive income (i.e. money that makes you money while you do nothing). Passive income coupled with compound interest is an absolute true recipe for success in your financial journey, but it takes years so start early.
The Other Guys
You might not hear much about Vanguard on TV or the Internet, that is because other companies pay a lot of coin to market themselves to you. You represent hundreds, if not thousands, if not millions, of dollars of profit if you invest with them over your lifetime. At Vanguard, the extra money that would go to fees and advisors is reinvested into your portfolio. Do your future self a favor and invest at Vanguard. Tell them Life Of FI MD sent you, they will probably think you are crazy. I get NO financial compensation for this BTW.
A Word On Financial Advisors & Brokers
There are good guys out there. They are fee-only financial advisors. Otherwise, If you have made it this far down the list you are smart enough to do this yourself, I promise. Give yourself all the time that you need to crush a couple good books on the subject of finance and mutual funds (see setting up your Roth IRA. Part 1) and come out with some knowledge. Investing isn’t hard, but it is worth devoting some good time too. So think, read, compare, be critical and stay away from the pichi caca that salesmen known as financial advisors push on you as “sound financial advice.”
Questions To Ask Everytime
If you are dealing with financial advisors them ask every time what their compensation is with whatever fund/product they “recommend.”
- Ask them about the commission they make on the funds they recommend.
- Ask for the Expense Ratios on the funds they recommend
- Ask for the load fees on the funds they recommend
- Ask for every other extra hidden fees, and if all that weren’t enough
- Ask them about the extra 1-2% off the top they then charge from your hard earned money after all those fees.
Finally, Ask if they are acting as a fiduciary on every line of product they recommend which means that which they recommend has your best interest in mind. As you might later find, many times their recommendations are not based on your best interest, but rather on theirs. Unless you here born with deep pockets caveat emptor.
I think you are ready.