A Simple Portfolio Is All You Need
Kiplinger's Personal Finance|November 2021
It’s possible to build wealth with only a few funds—or even just one.
By Adam Shell

SO MANY INVESTMENT choices, so many potential portfolio decisions. The inventory of stocks, bonds, funds and other financial assets for sale is big enough to fill a big-box store. But there’s a downside to shopping at financial supermarkets: It injects complexity into the investing process.

That can lead to portfolio miscues, such as chasing highfliers that have already run up in price, investing in assets you don’t understand or buying a bunch of funds that own many of the same stocks (which means you’re less diversified than you think). “The more complex your portfolio is, the easier it is to get out over your skis,” says Matt Fleming, a wealth adviser at Vanguard Personal Advisor Services.

The good news? You can play it simple and build a portfolio using just one to three funds. If you choose correctly, you’ll get a low-cost, diversified mix of stocks and bonds that’s easier to track and manage. Here are three ways to build a slimmed-down, simple portfolio. (Returns and other data are as of September 10.)

One-stop shopping. If stock picking or fund selection isn’t your strong suit, consider a target-date fund, a single-fund portfolio that holds stocks, bonds, and sometimes cash in various combinations. The beauty of these savings vehicles, found in most 401(k) plans, is that the fund (which typically holds other funds) makes the investment decisions for you, including periodic rebalancing to make sure your mix of holdings doesn’t get out of line with your risk tolerance.

The fund managers determine how aggressive or conservative the fund’s asset mix should be based on how many years you are away from retirement (or another savings goal serving as your “target”). All you have to do is fund the account. “It puts your portfolio on autopilot, but pros are in the cockpit,” says Jeffrey Wood, an investment adviser at Lift Financial.

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