My fund of choice: Vanguard Target Retirement 2035 (VTTHX)

After comparing the possible combinations of mutual funds to satisfy my target asset allocation, I decided that for now, simple is better. In placing all of my IRA funds in Vanguard Target Retirement 2035 (VTTHX), I get great diversification while avoiding any minimum account or custodial fees of any kind. The fund is almost fully invested, with minimal reserve cash, and the holdings are very close to my chosen asset allocation:

Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Fund – 62.1%
Vanguard Total Bond Market Index Fund – 22.0%
Vanguard European Stock Index Fund – 10.8%
Vanguard Pacific Stock Index Fund – 4.7%
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Book Review: Common Sense on Mutual Funds

Common Sense on Mutual Funds Book CoverIt took me a bit longer than I thought, but I finally wrapped up Common Sense on Mutual Funds by John C. Bogle. Overall, I liked the book, but not as much as some of the others I have read. The first three Parts have to do with Investment Strategy, Choices, and Performance. Basically, costs are most important, you can’t beat the market on average, and Indexing is best. This part of the book was so-so, it wasn’t superbly organized. I felt like The Four Pillar of Investing did a much better job presenting Indexing as the best approach to long-term investing, with A Random Walk Down Wall Street a close second and a better overall primer.
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E*Trade Traditional IRA Liquidated

I finally got around to selling the contents of my E*Trade IRA today, in preparation for moving it to Vanguard. My holdings? Just two funds:

Janus Mercury (JAMRX) – Bought in 2001, back when I was young, foolish, and bought things that were trendy and had lots of Morningstar Stars. Sigh.
T. Rowe Price Mid-Cap Growth (RPMGX) – Bought when I was a bit smarter, but still more lucky than smart.

I’ve been meaning to close this account out for a while, but I was on a fence for a bit since I liked RPMGX a lot, and it is closed to new investors. But I must trust in my belief that no fund can beat the overall market in the long run, and RPMGX has an expense ratio of 0.87% – not astronomical, but not 0.20% either.

Financial Blogs and my new favorite RSS site – NewsGator

As blogging continues to grow, so do financial blogs – just check out my expanding list of links on the right. And happily so, I do enjoy other people’s views on things and opinions, from Canadian to Urban Woman to Technical Traders. However, there are now so many blogs to follow it’s getting a bit cumbersome. Enter: NewsGator Online. I used to use a free standalone RSS Reader and then MyYahoo to organize things, but NewsGator works on any computer (even my filtered and monitored work computer) and is better organized than MyYahoo or Bloglines in my opinion.

You can rate your posts to save for later, and also check off after you’ve read a post. If you’re tired of clicking around and managing 20 bookmarks, give it a try! The basic service is free for now, and I hope it stays that way.

The Vanguard Four Mutual Fund Portfolio

While rooting around the Morningstar and Diehards forums, I came across an interesting idea – the Four Mutual Fund Portfolio. It consists of the following:

Money Market Fund (Cash)
Total Stock Market Index Fund (VTSMX)
Total International Index Fund (VGTSX)
Total Bond Market Index Fund (VBMFX)

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Car Insurance Thoughts – Reviewing Deductible and Coverage Levels

I currently own a very reliable 1995 Nissan outright (no loan), and just got a my semi-annual bill from State Farm for $450. My insurance is pretty reasonable, now that I am over 25 and married, my last accident was over 8 years ago, and my car ain’t worth much. The question is, should change my deductibles, or even drop collision and/or comprehensive comepletely? I stopped by my local agent to ask. That’s one thing I like about State Farm – whenever I want, I can drop by and bug them with questions. That, and I got my parents’ 20-year history with them extended to me. Sweet. These and other reasons are why I am not shopping around for other insurance companies. I did that a year ago, and State Farm beat them out by hundreds of dollars, despite what that talking reptile on tv says.
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Saving money on Life Insurance and my Health Goal by 6/05

As the new year begins, sign-ups for gym memberships skyrocket as people make their (often fleeting) resolutions by signing long contracts that can cause major headaches. However, I have another reason to get in shape this year: Life Insurance. Although I don’t have any kids yet, I am recently married, and I would like to get insurance while I am young and healthy. While browsing for term life insurance rates at sites like Insure.com and Insweb.com, I found that they were very interesting in my smoking and driving records, as well as blood pressure, cholesterol level, and any other health conditions. If something were to happen now, like getting cancer or diabetes, I could be uninsurable forever…
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Where I park my liquid cash right now

(Note: interest rates updated as of 3/7/05)

As interest rates continue to rise, there is again reason to really scrutinize where you park your liquid cash, as that “free” checking account really isn’t free when your money could be earning it’s keep somewhere else. Here is how I handle most of my cash that I want to keep easy access to:

Bank of America
Interest Rate: 0%
Use: Day-to-day expenses, usually Pros: ATMs everywhere for convenient cash withdrawals and check deposits, great reliable online Bill Pay system, free tellers, they take my rolled coins and give me free wrappers, no minimums and free with Direct Deposit.
Cons: 0% interest

Presidential Bank
Interest Rate: 3.00%
Use: Bulk of cash savings (interest rate good up to $25,000)
Pros: Good interest rate, it’s a checking account instead of a savings accounts, so unlimited checkwriting and easy withdrawals with ATM card.
Cons: No local branches, Sub-par Online Banking and Bill Pay, Requires $200 monthly direct deposit and $1000 minimum to avoid fees.

VirtualBank
Interest Rate: 2.60% (for bal. up to $10k)
Use: Emergency Money, Excess from Presidential
Pros: No minimums, decent rate. My favorite is VirtualBank, which allows you to connect 3 banks, and allows you to initiate ACH transfers both in and out to those banks. It allows you to redistribute your money as you see fit, and also can simulate a regular direct deposit from your employer.
Cons: Online only, No local branches, No ATM access, Only 6 transfers out per month without fee.

Edit: Updated Bank Account Comparisons.