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Gen Y Money Mathematician opts for stability with diversified ETF portfolio

Raman Pall

Occupation

Mathematician

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The portfolio

Several exchange-traded funds – all Vanguard products – including (in order of portfolio weighting): U.S. Total Market Index ETF (VUN), FTSE Developed All Cap ex North America Index ETF (VIU), Canadian Aggregate Bond Index ETF (VAB), FTSE Canada All Cap Index ETF (VCN), FTSE Emerging Markets All Cap Index ETF (VEE), and FTSE Canadian Capped REIT Index ETF (VRE).

The investor

After university, Raman Pall began a career as a mathematician. He and his wife bought a house and focused on paying down the mortgage rapidly. Accomplishing it within five years, they then faced the question of where to put their residual income. That's when Mr. Pall began to "read as much as he could on investing."

How he invests

He was swayed by the views of passive investing luminaries such as John Bogle (founder of the Vanguard Group) and Larry Swedroe (director of research for Buckingham Asset Management). They believe most investors don't have the resources, time and/or temperament to outperform the market – and were therefore better off avoiding stock picking in favour of low-cost index funds or ETFs. Also notable: Many of the great stock pickers, such as Benjamin Graham and Warren Buffett, recommend do-it-yourself investors use index funds.

Mr. Pall has created a globally diversified portfolio using Vanguard ETFs listed in Canada. They have somewhat higher fees than Vanguard ETFs in the United States but come with the offsetting advantage, in his view, of avoiding the "sometimes costly currency conversion charges" required to buy ETFs south of the border. Also note that other Canadian ETFs can be used to create global portfolios, but they usually have higher annual fees than U.S- and Canadian-domiciled Vanguard ETFs.

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Mr. Pall and his wife make contributions to their investment accounts on an annual basis, "buying those holdings which have decreased in value and are under-represented in the portfolio." This maintains a balanced portfolio and "buy low" discipline.

All in all, it's a pretty boring investment approach. But that's the way it should be according to the passive investing school. As Nobel Prize-winning professor of economics Paul Samuelson once said: "Investing should be more like watching paint dry or grass grow. If you want excitement, take $800 and go to Las Vegas."

Yet, boring doesn't necessarily require sacrificing returns. In the case of Mr. Pall's portfolios, the annual return is close to 9 per cent since the summer of 2011.

Best move

"Being married to an intelligent woman who shares my financial goals," he says.

Worst move

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Trying to share his knowledge on personal finances with other family members has been a challenge.

Advice

Having a financially compatible partner helps.

Want to be in Me and My Money? Contact Larry MacDonald at mccolumn@yahoo.com or his website

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