Retirement Investing

Risk Tolerance-Investor Questionnaire—Allocation Tool  This Vanguard tool suggests a portfolio mix of stocks, bonds and cash based on your answers to 11 questions about your risk tolerance and how long you plan to keep your money invested.


Invest Now Or Temporarily Hold Your Cash? This Vanguard study compares dollar-cost averaging to investing all at once over a variety of time periods.

The Long And Short of TIPS  This Vanguard report compares the inflation-hedging effectiveness of TIPS, gold, stocks and other assets.

The Upside of Rising Interest Rates  This Vanguard article explains how over the long term rising interest rates can actually boost a bond fund’s return.

Tax-efficient Investing In Gold  This Journal of Accountancy article looks at a variety of the tax issues surrounding investing in gold.

Morningstar’s Mutual Fund and ETF Screener  This tool allows you, among other things, to screen for mutual funds and ETFs using annual fees, type of fund, risk level and other criteria. The tool is free, but registration is required.

Why Investors May Need To Lower Their Sights  This McKinsey & Company study outlines reasons why annual investment returns for the next 20 years may be far lower—as much as four percentage points a year less in the case of U.S. stocks—than they have been the past 30 years.

Rick Ferri/Portfolio Solutions Long-term Returns Forecast for 2015  Investment adviser and ETF guru Rick Ferri’s 30-year forecast for annual returns for 18 categories of assets, including domestic and foreign large- and small-cap stocks and government and corporate bonds.

Instant X-Ray  This tool is good for getting some quick information on the holdings in a fund or group of funds. Enter the name or ticker symbol of one or more funds and you’ll get a quick breakdown of assets by type (U.S. stocks, foreign stocks, bonds, cash) as well as information on fund expenses and the type of stocks and bonds in the fund or funds. This tool is somewhat similar to Portfolio Manager above, but more limited in scope. Another version of this tool, Portfolio X-Ray provides more detailed information, but requires a Morningstar premium membership.

Bankrate, NerdWallet, GoBankingRates  Among other things, these three sites compile lists of savings accounts, money-market accounts and CDs that pay the highest rates of return.

Investment Returns: Defined Benefit Vs. Defined Contribution Plans  The Boston College Center for Retirement Research compares the investment performance of pension plans and 401(k)-type defined contribution plans, finding that higher fees are the main reason 401(k) and similar plans tend to underperform their defined-benefit counterparts.

Financial Engine’s Target-Date Retirement Fund Report  This research from investment advisory firm Financial Engines discusses, among other things, the various ways that individual investors misuse target-date retirement funds.

Investment Company Institute Mutual Fund Fee Report This report from the Investment Company Institute (ICI) at mutual fund expense ratios for actively managed and index funds from 1996 through 2015 shows that fund expenses are at a 20-year low.

Market Briefing: S&P 500 Bull & Bear Markets And Corrections  This compendium from Yardeni Research shows the length and depth of declines of all bear markets (declines of 20% or better) and corrections (losses between 10% and 20%) from 1929 to mid-January 2016.

Kitco.com—Precious Metal Prices  Kitco provides real-time and historical data on the price of gold and other precious metals. If you go to the historical gold charts section of the site you can find data on gold prices from 1975 to present.

Portfolio Manager  This tool helps you track your portfolio’s performance and, more importantly, see whether you’re truly diversified. Start by entering all the mutual funds, ETFs, stocks and bonds you own. If you click on the My Performance tab, you’ll see the trailing returns for each of your holdings as well as your portfolio overall. Go to the X-Ray view, and you’ll see how your overall portfolio breaks down by asset class, stock-market sector, region and to what extent you own overlapping securities in all of your holdings.

FDIC’s Electronic Deposit Insurance Estimator (EDIE)  This tool can tell you whether the total balances of your accounts at a given bank, including fall within the FDIC insurance coverage limits. (FDIC insurance does not cover mutual funds, stocks, bonds, annuities or other investments, even if you purchased them at a bank.)

Lifetime Allocation Indexes  Strictly speaking, this isn’t a tool. It’s a listing of model portfolios. I’ve included it here, however, because it can give you a good sense of how you might want to divvy up your savings among stocks, bonds, cash and other assets based on the year you expect to retire (or have already retired) and whether you want to take a conservative, moderate or aggressive approach.

Portfolio Review  Plug in information about your investments and financial goals (saving for retirement, generating retirement income, whatever) and you’ll get a suggested portfolio of stocks and bonds, along with stats showing how that mix has performed. Move the slider to adjust the mix, and you’ll see how performance changes.

Natixis Global Asset Management 2015 Survey of Individual Investors  In its fourth survey of investors worldwide, Natixis asked some 7,000 investors in 17 countries about their financial goals and expectations for returns. The results weren’t pretty. On the whole, investors’ planning was poor and expectations often unrealistic, to wit: Investors said they needed annual returns of 9.7% above inflation to meet their goals. Rick Ferri’s long-term forecast (above) suggests they’ll be lucky to get half that.

Morningstar Active/Passive Barometer  Introduced in June, 2015, this semi-annual report measures the net-of-fee performance of index funds vs. actively managed funds in their respective Morningstar categories.

Morningstar: The Predictive Power of Fees  This 2016 analysis by Morningstar’s Russ Kinnel shows that fees are the best predictor of fund performance and that low-fee funds tend to outperform their high-fee counterparts.

Morningstar 2016 Fee Study  This study gives average expense figures for different types of mutual funds and ETFs as of the end of 2015 and explains why the amount investors pay in annual expenses has been trending downward.

TIAA-CREF Investment Options Survey  This 2014 survey of more than 1,000 retirement-plan participants examines, among other things, how much people feel they know about the investment choices in their plan and whether they think the number of investment options is adequate.

Aon Hewitt’s 2015 Financial Mindset Study  This study looks at the financial attitudes of behaviors of employees to answer such questions as how they decide how much to save, how they make investment decisions and how employers might better help them save and invest for retirement.