Norman Rothery is the value investor for Globe Investor's Strategy Lab. Follow his contributions here and view his model portfolio here.
The start of a new year inspires many of us to make resolutions. If you're like me, you might want to lose a little weight – or perhaps a lot of it. Others might dream of running a marathon or finding a better job. All are laudable goals.
But most New Year's resolutions have a habit of wilting away only a few weeks after they're made. That's why it's best to avoid resolving to significantly change your investing behaviour.
Instead, it's better to embrace your inherent attitude toward risk and reward, and then plan around it. After all, if you don't have the stomach for investing in individual stocks then buying a bunch of them will likely end in failure.
Problem is, new investors don't really know where they stand on the risk and reward spectrum because they've not been tested by a bear market.
As a result, they often wind up taking on too much risk in an effort to reap big rewards. It can lead to a vicious cycle of buying high and selling low.
It's a reason why low-fee balanced funds represent a good option for new investors. Good, balanced funds hold a diversified assortment of both stocks and bonds. As a result, they fluctuate less than individual stocks, or stock funds, and provide more upside than pure bond funds over the long term. At least, that's the idea.
If you're just getting into the markets then it's best to test the water by putting a small amount of money into a balanced fund. If the ride proves to be too wild then it's an easy matter to lean more heavily on bonds and GICs. Alternately, those who don't mind the ups and downs might tilt their portfolios a little more heavily to stocks. Either way, it's a valuable lesson to learn before putting a large amount of money at risk.
Low-fee balanced funds are also offer a convenient option for more experienced investors who don't have enough time to devote to their investments. While some people are passionate about investing, many others view it as a time-consuming chore they'd rather do without.
More specifically, I like the Mawer Balanced Fund and the Mawer Tax Effective Balanced Fund, which charge annual fees (or MERs) of 0.96 per cent and 0.98 per cent, respectively. For tax reasons, the first should be used in tax-sheltered accounts, such as RRSPs, and the second in taxable accounts. Both funds have handily outperformed their peer group, and index benchmarks, over the past five, 10, 15 and 20 years according to globefund.com (based on their results through to the end of November).
Alternately, the Steadyhand Founders Fund is a relatively new offering that's also worth highlighting. It has performed well since it started in early in 2012 and has an unusual fee structure. The fund charges 1.34 per cent annually, but offers discounts depending on the amount invested and the length of time the money remains invested. Based on the current fee schedule, its annual cost could drop as low as 0.69 per cent, which is very low for an active fund in Canada.
If you're looking for a passive, index-oriented approach then you should consider the CIBC Balanced Index Premium fund, which charges only 0.39-per-cent annually. However, it does require a hefty initial investment of $50,000. While proactive index investors can build less expensive portfolios out of individual exchange-traded funds, doing so requires extra time and effort. The convenience provided by the CIBC fund will be worth the extra cost to others.
If you're a new investor or simply enjoy spending more time curled up with a coffee and the paper rather than hunched over annual reports, then a low-cost balanced approach might be right for you.