Early Retirement Portfolio Asset Allocation Update – October 2014

Here’s an update on my investment portfolio holdings for Q3 2014. This includes tax-deferred accounts like 401(k)s and taxable brokerage holdings, but excludes things like physical property and cash reserves (emergency fund). The purpose of this portfolio is to create enough income to cover all of our household expenses.

Target Asset Allocation

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I try to pick asset classes that will provide long-term returns above inflation, regular income via dividends and interest, and finally offer some historical tendencies to balance each other out. I don’t hold commodities futures or gold as they don’t provide any income and I don’t believe they’ll outpace inflation significantly. In addition, I am not confident in them enough to know that I will hold them through an extended period of underperformance (don’t buy what you don’t understand).

Our current ratio is about 70% stocks and 30% bonds within our investment strategy of buy, hold, and rebalance. With a self-directed portfolio of low-cost index funds and low turnover, we minimize management fees, commissions, and taxes.

Actual Asset Allocation and Holdings

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Stock Holdings
Vanguard Total Stock Market Fund (VTI, VTSMX, VTSAX)
Vanguard Total International Stock Market Fund (VXUS, VGTSX, VTIAX)
WisdomTree SmallCap Dividend ETF (DES)
WisdomTree Emerging Markets SmallCap Dividend ETF (DGS)
Vanguard REIT Index Fund (VNQ, VGSIX, VGSLX)

Bond Holdings
Vanguard Limited-Term Tax-Exempt Fund (VMLTX, VMLUX)
Vanguard Intermediate-Term Tax-Exempt Fund (VWITX, VWIUX)
Vanguard High-Yield Tax-Exempt Fund (VWAHX, VWALX)
Vanguard Inflation-Protected Securities Fund (VIPSX, VAIPX)
iShares Barclays TIPS Bond ETF (TIP)
Individual TIPS securities
U.S. Savings Bonds (Series I)

Notable Changes

Last quarter, I had sold my PIMCO Total Return fund holdings. Well, that was lucky on my part with all the recent Bill Gross drama. I decided to sell my stable value fund holdings too as I needed rebalance into more TIPS bonds and I was now able to buy TIPS inside my employee retirement plan using the Schwab PCRA brokerage window. All of our tax-deferred space is now taken up with TIPS and REITs, so the rest of my bonds are tax-exempt munis and savings bonds.

Otherwise, not much new, I rebalanced with new money and reinvested dividends. By this, I mean I don’t automatically reinvest dividends into the same mutual fund or ETF that generated them. Instead, they accumulate for bit and then I reinvest them in whatever asset class has been lagging recently. This also makes fewer tax lots for my taxable accounts.

That’s it for portfolio holdings. In a separate update post, I will update the amount of income that I am deriving from this portfolio.

Which SUV, Minivan, or Crossover Is The Most Space-Efficient?

siennaIn the October 2014 issue of Car and Driver magazine, they have an article “Space Exploration” comparing the space-efficiency of “hatchbacked” vehicles – hatchbacks, wagons, crossovers, SUVs, vans. Their definition of space efficiency was carrying capacity compared to the amount of ground a vehicle occupies. Specifically, the maximum seats-down cargo volume divided by footprint (length times width). Trucks don’t count.

I can’t find a version of the chart online, so here is my rundown of the findings:

  • The most space-efficient vehicles were cargo vans usually bought for commercial use. Not surprising, as these are often seen as airport shuttles. Examples are the Ram Promaster, Mercedez-Benz Sprinter, and Ford Transit. The extended body, high roof versions of these vans have ratios as high as 3.69.
  • After that, the minivans rule: Toyota Sienna 1.38, Honda Odyssey 1.33, Chrysler Town & Country 1.30. (Nissan Quest was only 1.00.)
  • Huge SUVs are next: GMC Acadia 1.06, Ford Expedition 1.08, Toyota Sequoia 1.06.
  • After that, things get more interesting. The Scion xB is 0.86 is actually a bit better than the Toyota Highlander at 0.83 and the Mercedes GL at 0.79. The Honda Fit is 0.71, on par with the Jeep Grand Cherokee at 0.68 and Audi Q7 at 0.67. Relatively disappointing small cars include the Nissan Juke 0.46, Ford C-Max 0.49, and Kia Sportage 0.62.
  • Want electric? The Mitsubishi i-MiEV is 0.80 while the Nissan Leaf is 0.35 and Chevrolet Volt is a paltry 0.12. I would note the MiEV is tiny though, it looks like a golf cart driving down the road.

As you might expect, in general tall and boxy shapes make for high numbers. Space-efficiency isn’t everything, but it can be an important factor to consider if you have a growing family or certain hobbies. It would have been nice if they also used the alternative definition to be cargo volume divided by base retail price (space per dollar).

Comparing Three Major Levers You Can Pull On Your Retirement Portfolio

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One of the most popular posts on the Vanguard blog is My one piece of investing advice by Andy Clarke. Let's start with the following baseline scenario: Investor begins working at 25, but starts saving at age 35. 12% savings rate Moderate … [Read the rest]

Coupon Code: $10 off $100 at Costco.com

You can get a one-time use coupon code for $10 off a $100+ purchase at Costco.com if you visit SavingsTooBig.com and share the deal. I'd say the easiest option is Twitter as I didn't even have to actually post the tweet to get the code (although I … [Read the rest]

Chase Ink Plus Business Card Review: $700 Cash, $875 Travel, or 70,000 Rewards Points Bonus

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This is the biggest offer I've seen for this card, at least $200 bigger than their standard offer. Decided to apply myself for this one; my application is currently under review. Chase has a new small biz credit card, called the Ink Plus® Business C … [Read the rest]

Amazon Promo: Buy $50 of Household Essentials, Get $15 Gift Card

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Amazon is running a promotion where if you buy $50 of select Household & Beauty Essentials, you will get a $15 Amazon.com gift card (add it to your cart and it'll show as free upon checkout). Eligible items include Bounty paper towels, Charmin … [Read the rest]

Infographic Map: Cell Phone Taxes By State

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The nonpartisan Tax Foundation has released a new report on Wireless Taxation in the United States 2014. The average US wireless consumer pays 17% in combined federal, state, and local taxes and fees. Folks in Chicago, Baltimore, Omaha, and New … [Read the rest]

Truvia Natural Sweetener Class Action Settlement

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Cargill has settled a lawsuit alleging their Truvia Natural sweeteners were not so “natural” because they contained ingredients that were highly processed and/or derived from genetically modified organisms (“GMOs”) and that the descriptions of the pro … [Read the rest]

Citi® Double Cash Card Review: Earn 1% When You Buy + 1% As You Pay

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Update: Certain existing Citi cards are now eligible for conversion to this new card. Details below*. Citi has just launched an all-new cash back credit card and it is actually quite compelling. With the Citi® Double Cash Card, as the name suggests … [Read the rest]

More Research on Buying Experiences vs. Things

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You've probably heard the advice that you should buy experiences and not things. (Except maybe when things help you experience.) This Atlantic article explores new findings from behavioral research about the differences between experiences and … [Read the rest]

Schwab To Announce Free Automated ETF Portfolio Manager?

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Speaking of robo-advisors, Reuters reports that discount brokerage Schwab is "weeks away" from announcing their own automated online portfolio management service similar to what is provided by Betterment, Wealthfront, and FutureAdvisor. This is big … [Read the rest]

Investment Robo-Advisor Comparison Chart

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Automated portfolio management is the new hotness. In the coming years, I see a continued expansion of players followed by a lot of mergers and acquisitions. ETF.com analyst Elisabeth Kashner has finished her series on robo-advisors with a final … [Read the rest]