If so, you won’t take kindly some of the points made in Exhibit A below.

I recently came across this article* aimed at complete beginners on investing and it’s just downright terrible. The sad part is that I’ve seen many people share this on social media like it’s good advice to take.

I hope you didn’t take too much of it seriously because there’s plenty that’s wrong with it and any financial blogger worth his/her salt should be able to point out what’s wrong with it.

Let’s take a look at what’s wrong with it.

 

Exhibit A – a community-sourced article which has gone viral

badAdviceExhibitA.JPG

The whole article gives you four different options but doesn’t highlight the proper risks and rewards or evidence to back up its claims. In other words, it’s shit.

What Exhibit A gets right

Exhibit A starts off on the right note by asking people to invest monthly. It correctly states that for all investors, inflation is one of the things we need to beat and that by putting your money in a savings account, you won’t be able to beat inflation. In other words, people who save money in their bank account is going to see their savings buy them fewer things in the future.

 

What Exhibit A gets wrong or ignores

#1 DCA may not be the answer

While the article makes some attempt to tell us NOT to time the market, it’s recommended solution is to dollar-cost average (DCA) into the asset class. Where this goes wrong is that the market, on average, goes up more times than it goes down. What this means is that as your DCA into the market, you end up paying a higher price, on average, for the asset.

Now, being in cash runs the risk of losing out on returns from dividends, coupons or capital gains but DCA-ing into a higher price doesn’t strike me as particularly intelligent behaviour either. I don’t have the data so I don’t have a definite opinion on this but the risk of DCA should be pointed out instead of being hailed as an optimal solution to the problem.

#2 How do you define risk?

The article then classifies the different recommended “ways to invest” according to risk levels.

The problem is: what is ‘Risk’? Is it fluctuations in price levels? Or is it a permanent loss of capital?

Unless you define risk properly, the classification is unnecessarily arbitrary.

Investors with a long time horizon shouldn’t be worried about fluctuations in prices and be more concerned with the long-term returns from the various asset classes. In fact, studies have shown that over a sufficiently long period (such as 15-20 years), stocks have delivered only positive returns.

Of course, investors had to live with the volatility of prices going up and down but with a sufficiently long period, returns were both positive and higher than any other asset class. On the other hand, bonds returned less than inflation over the same period.

So which is riskier? Stocks or bonds?**

#3 Fees matter and funds underperform

The article also suggests that funds are riskier than the global ETF that the three robo-advisors invest in.

Why? Once again, no mention of that.

I’ll tell you why. The biggest reason is that actively-managed funds then to charge higher fees and end up failing to beat their benchmarks. Check out this statistic that from research that was published last year.

Over the last 15 years, 92.2% of large-cap funds lagged a simple S&P 500 index fund. The percentages of mid-cap and small-cap funds lagging their benchmarks were even higher: 95.4% and 93.2%, respectively.

Source: MarketWatch

Once again, no mention of this even though this was one of the recommended steps.

 

Exhibit A sucks

Yes, I understand that the article is for beginners but beyond telling them to save money and giving them the steps to start investing, the article doesn’t help much.

In fact, if I were to tell beginners something, it would be to understand compound interest, gets a sense of market history, and understand valuations. If you aren’t prepared to do all that, you won’t have an idea what to do when you see your portfolio fall by 30-40% or your losses (on paper) go into six-figures.

Exhibit A is that the kind of stuff that fulfils the adage of how knowing a little can do a lot of damage. Go do yourself a favour and actually read up on proper investing before you do anything.

 

Notes:

*Not providing a link to Exhibit A because it’s rubbish that you’re better off not reading it. If you’re really interested, go google the headline.

**Astute readers will also point out that the question depends on whether you are an older person without a job and a need for income to meet daily expenses or a young person with a relatively stable income and expected extra years of life (and thus, investment horizon) of possibly 40-60 years.

 

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