MMB Portfolio 2022 3rd Quarter Update: Dividend & Interest Income

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Here’s my quarterly income update for my Humble Portfolio (2022 Q3). I track the income produced as an alternative metric for performance. The total income goes up much more gradually and consistently than the number shown on brokerage statements (price), which helps encourage consistent investing. Imagine your portfolio as a factory that churns out dollar bills.

Background: Overall stock market dividend growth. Stock dividends are a portion of net profits that businesses have decided to distribute directly to shareholders, as opposed to reinvesting into their business, paying back debt, or buying back shares directly. The dividends may suffer some short-term drops, but over the long run they have grown faster than inflation.

In the US, the dividend culture is somewhat conservative in that shareholders expect dividends to be stable and only go up. Thus the starting yield is lower, but grows more steadily with smaller cuts during hard times. Here is the historical growth of the trailing 12-month (ttm) dividend paid by the Vanguard Total US Stock ETF (VTI), courtesy of StockAnalysis.com. Currently, 31% of VTI’s net earnings are sent to you as a dividend. Notice how it grows gradually, with the current annual dividend 80% higher than in September 2013:

European corporate culture tends to encourage paying out a higher (sometimes fixed) percentage of earnings as dividends, but that means the dividends move up and down with earnings. Thus the starting yield is higher but may not grow as reliably. Here is the historical growth of the trailing 12-month (ttm) dividend paid by the Vanguard Total International Stock ETF (VXUS). Currently, 47% of VXUS’s net earnings are sent to you as a dividend. Notice how it stays more stable (but also dropped during 2020 due to COVID), with the current annual dividend only 20% higher than in September 2013:

The dividend yield (dividends divided by price) also serve as a rough valuation metric. When stock prices drop, this percentage metric usually goes up – which makes me feel better in a bear market. When stock prices go up, this percentage metric usually goes down, which keeps me from getting too euphoric during a bull market. Here’s a related quote from Jack Bogle (source):

The true investor will do better if he forgets about the stock market and pays attention to his dividend returns and to the operating results of his companies.

My personal portfolio income history. I started tracking the income from my portfolio in 2014. Here’s what the annual distributions from my portfolio look like over time:

  • $1,000,000 invested in my portfolio as of January 2014 would have generated about $24,000 in annual income over the previous 12 months. (2.4% starting yield)
  • If I reinvested the income but added no other contributions, today in 2022 it would have generated ~$53,000 in annual income over the previous 12 months.

This chart shows how the total annual income generated by my portfolio has changed. It’s not all about current yield.

TTM income yield. To estimate the income from my portfolio, I use the weighted “TTM” or “12-Month Yield” from Morningstar (checked 10/5/22), which is the sum of the trailing 12 months of interest and dividend payments divided by the last month’s ending share price (NAV) plus any capital gains distributed (usually zero for index funds) over the same period. The trailing income yield for this quarter was 3.33%, as calculated below. Then I multiply by the current balance from my brokerage statements to get the total income.

Asset Class / Fund % of Portfolio Trailing 12-Month Yield Yield Contribution
US Total Stock (VTI) 25% 1.74% 0.44%
US Small Value (VBR) 5% 2.30% 0.12%
Int’l Total Stock (VXUS) 25% 4.18% 1.05%
Emerging Markets (VWO) 5% 3.95% 0.20%
US Real Estate (VNQ) 6% 3.89% 0.23%
Inter-Term US Treasury Bonds (VGIT) 17% 1.42% 0.24%
Inflation-Linked Treasury Bonds (VTIP) 17% 6.24% 1.06%
Totals 100% 3.33%

 

Commentary. My ttm portfolio yield is now roughly 3.33%. (This is not the same as the dividend yield commonly reported in stock quotes, which just multiplies the last quarterly dividend by four.) Both US and international stock prices have gone down, and my ttm dividend yield has gone up. The price of my Treasury bonds have also gone down as nominal rates have gone up, but the yield will eventually go up as the money is reinvested into new bonds at higher rates. My TIPS yield has gone up significantly as it tracks CPI inflation. Of course, the NAV on my TIPS has also gone down, as real yields have gone up (again will be better as money is reinvested). TIPS are a bit complicated like that.

Use as a retirement planning metric. For goal planning purposes, I support the simple 4% or 3% rule of thumb, which equates to a target of accumulating roughly 25 to 33 times your annual expenses. I would lean towards a 3% withdrawal rate if you want to retire young (before age 50) and a 4% withdrawal rate if retiring at a more traditional age (closer to 65). It’s just a useful target, not a number sent down from a higher being. During the accumulation stage, your time is better spent focusing on earning potential via better career moves, improving in your skillset, and/or looking for entrepreneurial opportunities where you can have an ownership interest.

Even if do you reach that 25X or 30X goal, it’s just a moment in time. The market can shift, your expenses can shift, and so I find that tracking income makes more tangible sense in my mind and is more useful for those who aren’t looking for a traditional retirement. Our dividends and interest income are not automatically reinvested. They are another “paycheck”. Then, as with a traditional paycheck, we can choose to either spend it or invest it again to compound things more quickly. Even if we spend the dividends, this portfolio paycheck will still grow over time. You could use this money to cut back working hours, pursue a different career path, start a new business, take a sabbatical, perform charity or volunteer work, and so on.

Right now, I am happily in the “my kids still think I’m cool and want to spend time with me” zone. I am consciously choosing to work when they are at school but also consciously turning down any more work past that. This portfolio income helps me do that.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

MMB Humble Portfolio 2022 3rd Quarter Update: Asset Allocation & Performance

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards and may receive a commission. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned.

portpie_blank200Here’s my quarterly update on my current investment holdings as of 10/4/22, including our 401k/403b/IRAs and taxable brokerage accounts but excluding real estate and side portfolio of self-directed investments. Following the concept of skin in the game, the following is not a recommendation, but just to share our real, imperfect, low-cost, diversified DIY portfolio. The goal of this “Humble Portfolio” is to create sustainable income that keeps up with inflation to cover our household expenses.

“Never ask anyone for their opinion, forecast, or recommendation. Just ask them what they have in their portfolio.” – Nassim Taleb

How I Track My Portfolio
I’m often asked how I track my portfolio across multiple brokers and account types. There are limited free options nowadays as Morningstar recently discontinued free access to their portfolio tracker. I use both Personal Capital and a custom Google Spreadsheet to track my investment holdings:

  • The Personal Capital financial tools and real-time tracking (free, my review) automatically logs into my different accounts, adds up my various balances, tracks my performance, and calculates my overall asset allocation daily.
  • Once a quarter, I also update my manual Google Spreadsheet (free, instructions) because it helps me calculate how much I need in each asset class to rebalance back towards my target asset allocation. I also create a new tab each quarter, so I have snapshot of my holdings dating back many years.

October 2022 Asset Allocation and YTD Performance
Here are updated performance and asset allocation charts, per the “Allocation” and “Holdings” tabs of my Personal Capital account.

Target Asset Allocation. I call this my “Humble Portfolio” because it accepts the repeated findings that individuals cannot reliably time the market, and that persistence in above-average stock-picking and/or sector-picking is exceedingly rare. Costs matter and nearly everyone who sells outperformance, for some reason keeps charging even if they provide zero outperformance! By paying minimal costs including management fees and tax drag, you can actually guarantee yourself above-average net performance over time.

I own broad, low-cost exposure to productive assets that will provide long-term returns above inflation, distribute income via dividends and interest, and finally offer some historical tendencies to balance each other out. I have faith in the long-term benefit of owning publicly-traded US and international shares of businesses, as well as the stability of high-quality US Treasury and municipal debt. My stock holdings roughly follow the total world market cap breakdown at roughly 60% US and 40% ex-US. I add just a little “spice” to the vanilla funds with the inclusion of “small value” ETFs for US, Developed International, and Emerging Markets stocks as well as additional real estate exposure through US REITs.

I strongly believe in the importance of knowing WHY you own something. Every asset class will eventually have a low period, and you must have strong faith during these periods to truly make your money. You have to keep owning and buying more stocks through the stock market crashes. You have to maintain and even buy more rental properties during a housing crunch, etc. A good sign is that if prices drop, you’ll want to buy more of that asset instead of less. I don’t have strong faith in the long-term results of commodities, gold, or bitcoin – so I don’t own them.

I do not spend a lot of time backtesting various model portfolios, as I don’t think picking through the details of the recent past will necessarily create superior future returns. Usually, whatever model portfolio is popular in the moment just happens to hold the asset class that has been the hottest recently as well.

Find productive assets that you believe in and understand, and just keep buying them through the ups and downs. Mine may be different than yours.

I have settled into a long-term target ratio of roughly 70% stocks and 30% bonds (or 2:1 ratio) within our investment strategy of buy, hold, and occasionally rebalance. This is more conservative than most people my age, but I am settling into a more “perpetual income portfolio” as opposed to the more common “build up a big stash and hope it lasts until I die” portfolio. My target withdrawal rate is 3% or less. Here is a round-number breakdown of my target portfolio.

  • 30% US Total Market
  • 5% US Small-Cap Value
  • 20% International Total Market
  • 5% International Small-Cap Value
  • 10% US Real Estate (REIT)
  • 20% US Treasury Nominal Bonds or FDIC-insured deposits
  • 10% US Treasury Inflation-Protected Bonds (or I Savings Bonds)

Commentary. According to Personal Capital, my portfolio down about 18% for 2022 YTD. My US and International stocks have dropped again (even more than the bonds, which also dropped) and so available cashflow is being placed into buying more of those asset classes.

During this last quarter, I sold all of my municipal bonds and bought US Treasuries instead. Due to the rising rates, I had no capital gains to worry about. When I previously cycled into muni bonds, munis were yielding 24% more than Treasuries even before accounting for the tax benefits. In September 2015, I compared the 1.78% SEC yield of Vanguard Intermediate-Term Tax-Exempt Investor Shares (VWITX) to the 1.48% SEC yield of Vanguard Intermediate-Term Treasury Investor Shares (VFITX). The ratio was 1.24. As of October 2022, the ratio is now 0.93 (3.26% vs. 3.51%). At those levels, I am getting compensated much less for the additional risk of municipal finances. My bond portfolio is now US Treasury bonds, bank/credit union CDs (bought if/when the rates exceed US Treasuries), TIPS, and savings I bonds. Can’t get higher quality than that.

I take solace that for now I see more shrinking P/E ratios as opposed to crashing earnings on the stocks side, my REITs are yielding more, and my bonds are yielding more. One good thing about more “normal” interest rates if they can hold is that it gives conservative (often older) savers a chance to keep their principal safe and still earn a small bit of income without market volatility. My primary fear remains that of war.

I’ll share about more about the income aspect in a separate post.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

Best Interest Rates on Cash – October 2022 Update

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards and may receive a commission. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned.

Here’s my monthly roundup of the best interest rates on cash as of October 2022, roughly sorted from shortest to longest maturities. We all need some safe assets for cash reserves or portfolio stability, and there are often lesser-known opportunities available to individual investors. Check out my Ultimate Rate-Chaser Calculator to see how much extra interest you’d earn by moving money between accounts. Rates listed are available to everyone nationwide. Rates checked as of 10/3/2022.

TL;DR: 4% APY on up to $6,000 for liquid savings at Current with no direct deposit requirement. Elements Financial at 3.25% APY liquid savings, rate guaranteed for 1 year. 1-year CD at 3.85% APY. 5-year CD at 4.42% APY. Compare against Treasury bills and bonds at every maturity (12-month near 4%). 9.62% Savings I Bonds still available if you haven’t maxed out limits.

Fintech accounts
Available only to individual investors, fintech companies often pay higher-than-market rates in order to achieve fast short-term growth (often using venture capital). “Fintech” is usually a software layer on top of a partner bank’s FDIC insurance.

  • 4% APY on $6,000. Current offers 4% APY on up to $6,000 total ($2,000 each on three savings pods). No direct deposit required. $50 referral bonus for new members with $200+ direct deposit with promo code JENNIFEP185. Please see my Current app review for details.
  • 3% APY on up to $250,000, but requires direct deposit and credit card spend. HM Bradley will now pay up to 3% APY on up to $250,000 if you open both a checking and credit card with them and maintain positive cashflow each month, $500 in total direct deposits each month, and $500 in credit card purchases each month. Existing customers will get 3% APY with requirements waived through end of 2022. Please see my updated HM Bradley review for details.

High-yield savings accounts
Since the huge megabanks pay essentially no interest, I think every should have a separate, no-fee online savings account to accompany your existing checking account. The interest rates on savings accounts can drop at any time, so I list the top rates as well as competitive rates from banks with a history of competitive rates. Some banks will bait you with a temporary top rate and then lower the rates in the hopes that you are too lazy to leave.

  • Rates rising across the board, while the leapfrogging to be the temporary “top” rate continues. Elements Financial at 3.25% APY ($2,500 minimum, new money, rate guaranteed for 1 year).
  • SoFi Bank is now up to 2.50% APY + up to $325 new account bonus with direct deposit. You must maintain a direct deposit of any amount each month for the higher APY. SoFi has their own bank charter now so no longer a fintech by my definition. See details at $25 + $300 SoFi Money new account and deposit bonus.
  • There are several other established high-yield savings accounts at closer to 2.15% APY. Marcus by Goldman Sachs is on that list, and if you open a new account with a Marcus referral link (from reader Paul) you can get an extra 1.00% APY for your first 3 months.

Short-term guaranteed rates (1 year and under)
A common question is what to do with a big pile of cash that you’re waiting to deploy shortly (plan to buy a house soon, just sold your house, just sold your business, legal settlement, inheritance). My usual advice is to keep things simple and take your time. If not a savings account, then put it in a flexible short-term CD under the FDIC limits until you have a plan.

  • No Penalty CDs offer a fixed interest rate that can never go down, but you can still take out your money (once) without any fees if you want to use it elsewhere. CIT Bank has a 11-month No Penalty CD at 2.75% APY with a $1,000 minimum deposit. Ally Bank has a 11-month No Penalty CD at 2.00% APY for all balance tiers. Marcus has a 13-month No Penalty CD at 2.20% APY with a $500 minimum deposit. You may wish to open multiple CDs in smaller increments for more flexibility.
  • State Bank of Texas has a 12-month certificate at 3.85% APY. $25,000 minimum. Early withdrawal penalty is 60 days of interest.

Money market mutual funds + Ultra-short bond ETFs*
Many brokerage firms that pay out very little interest on their default cash sweep funds (and keep the difference for themselves). * Money market mutual funds are regulated, but ultimately not FDIC-insured, so I would still stick with highly reputable firms. I am including a few ultra-short bond ETFs as they may be your best cash alternative in a brokerage account, but they may experience short-term losses.

  • Vanguard Federal Money Market Fund is the default sweep option for Vanguard brokerage accounts, which has an SEC yield of 2.77%. Compare with your own broker’s money market rate.
  • Vanguard Ultra-Short-Term Bond Fund currently pays 3.42% SEC yield ($3,000 min) and 3.52% SEC Yield ($50,000 min). The average duration is ~1 year, so your principal may vary a little bit.
  • The PIMCO Enhanced Short Maturity Active Bond ETF (MINT) has a 3.05% SEC yield and the iShares Short Maturity Bond ETF (NEAR) has a 3.41% SEC yield while holding a portfolio of investment-grade bonds with an average duration of ~6 months.

Treasury Bills and Ultra-short Treasury ETFs
Another option is to buy individual Treasury bills which come in a variety of maturities from 4-weeks to 52-weeks and are fully backed by the US government. You can also invest in ETFs that hold a rotating basket of short-term Treasury Bills for you, while charging a small management fee for doing so. T-bill interest is exempt from state and local income taxes.

  • You can build your own T-Bill ladder at TreasuryDirect.gov or via a brokerage account with a bond desk like Vanguard and Fidelity. Here are the current Treasury Bill rates. As of 10/3/2022, a new 4-week T-Bill had the equivalent of 2.79% annualized interest and a 52-week T-Bill had the equivalent of 4.00% annualized interest.
  • The Goldman Sachs Access Treasury 0-1 Year ETF (GBIL) has a 2.44% SEC yield and the SPDR Bloomberg Barclays 1-3 Month T-Bill ETF (BIL) has a 2.36% SEC yield. GBIL appears to have a slightly longer average maturity than BIL.

US Savings Bonds
Series I Savings Bonds offer rates that are linked to inflation and backed by the US government. You must hold them for at least a year. If you redeem them within 5 years there is a penalty of the last 3 months of interest. The annual purchase limit for electronic I bonds is $10,000 per Social Security Number, available online at TreasuryDirect.gov. You can also buy an additional $5,000 in paper I bonds using your tax refund with IRS Form 8888.

  • “I Bonds” bought between May 2022 and October 2022 will earn a 9.62% rate for the first six months. The rate of the subsequent 6-month period will be based on inflation again. More on Savings Bonds here.
  • In mid-October 2022, the CPI will be announced and you will have a short period where you will have a very close estimate of the rate for the next 12 months. I will have another post up at that time.
  • See below about EE Bonds as a potential long-term bond alternative.

Prepaid Cards with Attached Savings Accounts
A small subset of prepaid debit cards have an “attached” FDIC-insured savings account with exceptionally high interest rates. The negatives are that balances are severely capped, and there are many fees that you must be careful to avoid (lest they eat up your interest). There is a long list of previous offers that have already disappeared with little notice. I don’t personally recommend nor use any of these anymore, as I feel the work required and the fees charged if you mess up exceeds any small potential benefit.

  • Mango Money pays 6% APY on up to $2,500, if you manage to jump through several hoops. Requirements include $1,500+ in “signature” purchases and a minimum balance of $25.00 at the end of the month.
  • NetSpend Prepaid pays 5% APY on up to $1,000 but be warned that there is also a $5.95 monthly maintenance fee if you don’t maintain regular monthly activity.

Rewards checking accounts
These unique checking accounts pay above-average interest rates, but with unique risks. You have to jump through certain hoops which usually involve 10+ debit card purchases each cycle, a certain number of ACH/direct deposits, and/or a certain number of logins per month. If you make a mistake (or they judge that you did) you risk earning zero interest for that month. Some folks don’t mind the extra work and attention required, while others would rather not bother. Rates can also drop suddenly, leaving a “bait-and-switch” feeling.

  • (Rate will increase to 4.00% APY with the qualification cycle beginning October 20, 2022.) The Bank of Denver pays 2.50% APY on up to $15,000 if you make 12 debit card purchases of $5+ each, receive only online statements, and make at least 1 ACH credit or debit transaction per statement cycle. If you meet those qualifications, you can also link a Kasasa savings account that pays 1.00% APY on up to $25k. Thanks to reader Bill for the updated info.
  • Presidential Bank pays 3.00% APY on balances between $500 and up to $25,000 (2.50% APY above that) if you maintain a $500+ direct deposit and at least 7 electronic withdrawals per month (ATM, POS, ACH and Billpay counts).
  • Liberty Federal Credit Union pays 3.45% APY on up to $20,000. You’ll need at least 15 debit transactions and other requirements every month.
  • Lake Michigan Credit Union pays 3.00% APY on up to $15,000. You’ll need at least 10 debit transactions and other requirements every month.
  • Find a locally-restricted rewards checking account at DepositAccounts.

Certificates of deposit (greater than 1 year)
CDs offer higher rates, but come with an early withdrawal penalty. By finding a bank CD with a reasonable early withdrawal penalty, you can enjoy higher rates but maintain access in a true emergency. Alternatively, consider building a CD ladder of different maturity lengths (ex. 1/2/3/4/5-years) such that you have access to part of the ladder each year, but your blended interest rate is higher than a savings account. When one CD matures, use that money to buy another 5-year CD to keep the ladder going. Some CDs also offer “add-ons” where you can deposit more funds if rates drop.

  • Lafayette Federal Credit Union has a a 5-year certificate at 4.42% APY ($500 min), 4-year at 4.32% APY, 3-year at 4.22% APY, 2-year at 4.11% APY, and 1-year at 3.80% APY. Early withdrawal penalty can be quite severe though, with the 5-year CD penalty being 600 days of interest. Anyone can join this credit union via partner organization ($10 one-time fee).
  • Bread Financial has a 5-year certificate at 4.25% APY ($1,500 min), 4-year at 4.15% APY, 3-year at 4.00% APY, 2-year at 3.75% APY, and 1-year at 3.60% APY. The early withdrawal penalty for the 5-year is 365 days of interest.
  • You can buy certificates of deposit via the bond desks of Vanguard and Fidelity. You may need an account to see the rates. These “brokered CDs” offer FDIC insurance and easy laddering, but they don’t come with predictable early withdrawal penalties. Right now, I see no 5-year CDs available (non-callable). Be wary of higher rates from callable CDs, which means they can call back your CD if rates drop later.

Longer-term Instruments
I’d use these with caution due to increased interest rate risk, but I still track them to see the rest of the current yield curve.

  • Willing to lock up your money for 10 years? You can buy long-term certificates of deposit via the bond desks of Vanguard and Fidelity. These “brokered CDs” offer FDIC insurance, but they don’t come with predictable early withdrawal penalties. You might find something that pays more than your other brokerage cash and Treasury options. Right now, I see no 10-year CDs available (non-callable) vs. 3.72% for a 10-year Treasury. Watch out for higher rates from callable CDs where they can call your CD back if interest rates drop.
  • How about two decades? Series EE Savings Bonds are not indexed to inflation, but they have a unique guarantee that the value will double in value in 20 years, which equals a guaranteed return of 3.5% a year. However, if you don’t hold for that long, you’ll be stuck with the normal rate which is quite low (currently 0.10%). Purchase limit is $10,000 each calendar year for each Social Security Number. However, this feature is no longer interesting because as of 10/3/2022, the 20-year Treasury Bond rate was 4.00%.

All rates were checked as of 10/3/2022.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

Robinhood Gold Review: 3% APY, Morningstar Premium Stock Reports, 5.75% Margin Interest

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards and may receive a commission. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned.

Updated with 3% APY details. The Robinhood app became well-known for their free stock trades and sleek app-only interface. People wondered, how will they make money? Well, one way is Robinhood Gold, a premium plan that costs $5 per month (new users get free 30-day trial) with the following benefits:

  • 3% interest on your uninvested brokerage cash with cash sweep (1.5% without Gold). Details below.
  • Bigger instant deposits. Instant Deposit eliminates the three-day wait period for funds to transfer from your bank into Robinhood. With Gold, customers can get larger Instant Deposits of up to $50,000 depending on their brokerage account balance and status.
  • Free premium stock reports from Morningstar. Gold members get unlimited access to Morningstar’s premium, in-depth stock research reports. These reports are available for approximately 1,700 stocks and are updated frequently to reflect important company events.
  • Level II market data from Nasdaq. Level II market data shows multiple bid and ask prices from Nasdaq for any given security so investors can better determine the availability or desire for a security at a certain price.
  • Access to margin investing at 5.75% interest (9.75% without Gold). Eligible customers can borrow money from Robinhood and leverage their holdings to purchase securities. For Gold customers, the first $1,000 of margin is included, and then Gold customers pay 5.75% yearly interest beyond that. Non-Gold customers who are eligible have access to a margin interest rate of 9.75%.

3% APY on cash sweep details. 3% APY for Gold, 1.5% APY for everyone else. Interest is compounded daily and credit monthly. Here is the blog announcement. You must enroll in their cash sweep program:

Customers who wish to enroll in cash sweep can search for ‘Cash Sweep’ directly within the app, can find it via the ‘Discover more’ carousel, or they can tap the ‘Account’ icon in the bottom right corner, navigate to the ‘Investing’ tab in the top left menu, and select ‘Enable cash sweep.’

Here’s some math around paying $5/month to upgrade for the 3% APY. If you had $4,000 in idle cash, earning an additional 1.5% APY (as everyone gets 1.5% APY on cash sweep) means an extra $60 in interest per year. That would be completely offset by the $60/year cost of Gold. If you’re keeping a lot more than that in idle cash, then you should be comparing with other savings options that can get you close to 3% APY without any monthly fees. However, if Robinhood is your primary broker for some reason (I personally have found their customer service quite slow) and you want to have your idle cash readily available to trade into stocks immediately, then this may be a worthy upgrade.

How do I downgrade from Gold?

You can end your Robinhood Gold subscription by going to the Robinhood Gold section of your account settings and tapping Cancel membership. If you downgrade, you will immediately lose access to the premium features, including the lower margin interest rate offered with Gold, and the higher brokerage cash sweep rate.

Be sure to cancel your subscription before your next billing date to avoid being charged a renewal for another 30 days of Gold. You can find the billing date in the Gold section of your account settings. Every time you upgrade your account, your billing cycle will reset to 30 days and you will be charged the $5 monthly fee.

Also see: Big List of Free Stocks from Brokerage Apps

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

Interest Rate Watch: Regular Treasury vs. TIPS vs. Breakeven Inflation Rates

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards and may receive a commission. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned.

There continues to be a lot of interest rate movement in savings accounts, CDs, and other cash equivalents. I find the most interesting corner right now to be the rise of real yields on TIPS (Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities) and their relationship with traditional Treasury bonds. Roughly 1/3rd of my bond allocation is to TIPS.

TIPS can be a bit complicated, but basically they are priced based on their real yield. As of 9/26/22, the closing real yield on a 5-year TIPS was 1.82%. This is the highest real yield since the 2008 Financial Crisis, and we’ve had negative yields for much of the last decade. (Source: FRED)

(As an inflation-linked bond, a TIPS with a 1.82% real yield means that if the CPI-U inflation is 3%, then your total yield will be 4.82%. “Real” means after adjusting for inflation. TIPS thus “protect” you from unexpectedly high inflation. If inflation ends up being 10%, you’ll get 11.82%. However, if inflation is very low, your yield will also be affected the other way.)

As of 9/26/22, the closing nominal yield on a regular 5-year Treasury was 4.15%. That means the 5-year “breakeven” inflation rate was 2.33%. If you bought equal amounts of both the 5-year Treasury and 5-year TIPS today, the winner after 5 years will depend on whether the future inflation rate ends up being higher or lower than 2.33% over the next 5 years. This creates a market-based estimate of future inflation rates. Here’s the historical 5-year breakeven inflation rate for the last 10 years:

Looking back, TIPS underperformed regular Treasuries for 11 out of the 16 10-year periods ending 2013-2021, as inflation was usually lower than the breakeven rate. Image credit to TIPSWatch.

At this moment, there are 5-year brokered CDs at 4.20% (non-callable) and the 5-year Treasury at 4.15%. Purely my opinion, but I would consider the 5-year TIPS over both of those options as I like the combination of a decent 1.83% real rate and a modest 2.33% breakeven rate. I would take the risk of underperforming regular Treasuries by a little bit in exchange for the insurance against high inflation. This is why I usually hold mix of TIPs and Treasuries for the bond allocation of my portfolio.

Note that current Savings I Bonds only have a 0% real rate and we’ll see how much they raise it in November (my bet: not nearly as high as the 5-year TIPS). So TIPS would even beat savings bonds right now in my book (as a long-term bond holding). However, the situation is changing daily and I don’t know what the rates will look like when I actually have significant cash available to re-invest.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

SoFi Offers: 2.50% APY + $325 Checking Bonus, $300 Personal Loan Bonus

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards and may receive a commission. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned.

If you don’t have a SoFi checking account yet, check out the new referral offer of $25 new user bonus + $300 direct deposit bonus. Open a new SoFi Money account and add at least $10 to your account within 5 days, and get $25. Then get up to $300 additional bonus with qualifying direct deposit. Details here.

SoFi (“Social Finance”) is a financial “super app” that expanded from students loans into banking, stocks, crypto, credit cards, and more. Here are some of their other offers; New users can receive a separate opening bonus for each separate part of SoFi (Money, Invest, Crypto, etc).

  • SoFi Invest Referral Offer: $25 new user bonus. Brokerage account. Open an Active Investing account with $100 or more, and you’ll get $25 in stock.
  • SoFi Invest Alternate Offer: Claw Game. Feeling lucky? Compare the $25 guaranteed above with a ~95% chance of a smaller $5 or $10 bonus, but a 0.028% chance of a $1,000 bonus.
  • SoFi Invest Asset Transfer Offer: Up to $5,000 Bonus. Transfer over your existing assets from another broker and SoFi will pay you a bonus. From $50 bonus for transferring $5,000 in assets all the way up to $5,000 bonus for $2 million in assets.
  • SoFi Credit Card Referral Offer: $50 bonus. Standard feature is 2% cash back with no annual fee.
  • SoFi Credit Card Alternate Offer: 3% Cash Back on SoFi Credit Card Purchases for 12 months.
  • SoFi Crypto: $10 to $100 new user bonus. Get $10 bonus for a $50 trade, $100 bonus for $5,000 trade.
  • SoFi Student Loan Refi: $300 bonus. Warning: Do your research before refinancing your Federal student loans to a private lender.
  • SoFi Personal Loans Referral Offer: Fixed $300 bonus. Fixed $300 bonus, 90 days after successful funding. The loan has no fees and you can pay it back in full after 90 days.
My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

SoFi Invest ACAT Transfer Bonus Promotion: Up to $5,000, Both New and Existing Accounts

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards and may receive a commission. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned.

If you are thinking about switching brokers, always check if that broker is offering a transfer bonus for moving your assets over. Most brokers work within the Automated Customer Account Transfer Service (ACATS), which makes it easy to move your existing holdings including tax cost basis history.

SoFi Invest is offering a ACAT transfer bonus up to $5,000 for transferring in new assets (expiration date has been removed).

$25 Referral bonus. As this promo includes existing accounts, you should consider grabbing this new account referral bonus first, worth $25 of stock with an initial deposit of $100.

Get $25 worth of your favorite stock to start building your portfolio when you fund your SoFi Active Invest account** with at least $100*.

New SoFi Invest accounts (both new and existing accounts are eligible)

  • $50 bonus with $5,000 to $19,999 in new assets
  • $125 bonus with $20,000 to $99,999 in new assets
  • $250 bonus with $100,000 to $249,999 in new assets
  • $500 bonus with $250,000 to $499,999 in new assets
  • $1,000 bonus with $500,000 to $999,999 in new assets
  • $2,500 bonus with $1,000,000+ to $1,999,999 in new assets
  • $5,000 bonus with $2,000,000+ in new assets

Assets are required to remain in your SoFi account for 180 days.

Earn a bonus (as described below) when you transfer investments from another brokerage firm into a taxable SoFi Invest Active brokerage or Active retirement account (Traditional, Roth, or SEP IRA). Bonus amounts are based on the total net dollar amount (incoming transfers less outgoing transfers) of settled transfers from another brokerage to an individual SoFi Invest account during each calendar month. Bonuses will be paid within 14 days of the last day of the month in which the transferred assets settled in your SoFi Invest account. Bonuses will be paid into the same account you transferred investments into. Transfers into multiple accounts may not be combined. Assets are required to remain in your SoFi account for 180 days. SoFi reserves the right to recoup up to the bonus amount from any withdrawals that take place prior to the 180-day period.

Note that SoFi Invest does NOT accept mutual funds.

We do not accept mutual funds. These funds would need to be liquidated prior to initiating an ACAT with SoFi. Please contact your brokerage firm to complete this action, prior to submitting an ACAT.

In addition, SoFi will cover the outgoing transfer fee charged by your existing broker:

If you transfer a brokerage account with total asset value over $5,000 through the ACAT system, SoFi will reimburse up to $75 of ACAT Fees from your outgoing brokerage firm.

Transfer Tips

  • Before moving, I would download all your old statements and tax cost basis information to make sure it transfers over correctly.
  • An ACAT transfer can take a week or so to complete, so you won’t be able to make any sell transactions during that time.
  • Consider performing a “partial” ACAT transfer where you only move over specifically designated shares (ex. only all 100 shares of BRKB) if you wish to keep some of your original brokerage account open. I would personally transfer over all shares of any specific ticker, so that the tax cost basis carries over neatly.
  • Compare bonuses across different brokers. Look carefully at the tiers, there may be a sweet spot where the percentages are better.
My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

M1 Finance Review: Free DIY Robo-Advisor, Up to $2,000 Account Transfer Bonus

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Updated; ACAT Transfer bonus ends 9/30/22. M1 Finance has updated their promotions:

  • M1 Finance Invest Referral: $10 bonus for depositing only $100.
  • M1 Finance Invest Transfer: Up to $2,000 bonus when you transfer over assets from another broker, depending on asset amount.

I’m not a huge proponent of robo-advisors in general, as my experiences with them have generated a lot of unnecessary taxes every time they change their model portfolios to chase the latest and hottest trends. My favorite option is one where YOU control the model portfolio, but the robo does all the hard work: M1 Finance. Here’s a quick rundown of what makes them different:

  • Fully customizable. You pick your own target asset allocation “pie”. (You can add ETFs or individual stocks.) You can simply copy one of the many model portfolios out there, or make your own custom pie as you like. You have full control! M1 handles the tedious stuff, like rebalancing or dividing a $100 contribution across 8 different ETFs. Here is my pie which I named the My Money Blog Portfolio.
  • No commissions. Free stock/ETF trades with a low $100 minimum for taxable accounts and a $500 minimum for retirement accounts.
  • 0.00% management fee! Most robo-advisors charge an annual management fee of 0.25% to 0.50% of assets (or force you to own something bad, like artificially low-interest cash).
  • Free dynamic rebalancing. All new deposits (and withdrawals) will be invested (or sold) dynamically to bring your portfolio back toward your target asset allocation. M1 will also rebalance your portfolio back to the target allocation for you automatically (for free) whenever you chose, on demand. You don’t need to do any math or maintain any spreadsheets.
  • Fractional shares (dollar-based). For example, you can just set it to automatically invest $100 a month, and your full amount will be spread across multiple ETFs. Dollar-based transactions were one of the advantages of buying a mutual fund, but fractional shares solve this problem. ETFs are also usually more tax-efficient than mutual funds.
  • Real brokerage account that you can move out. Some robo-advisors hold special, proprietary funds that you have to sell if you ever leave, possibly creating a big tax bill. M1 is built on a regular brokerage account, so you can move your Vanguard/iShares/Schwab ETFs and stock shares out to another broker whenever you want.

M1 Finance investment minimums:

A minimum account balance of $100 is necessary to get started on M1. Once the $100 account minimum has been reached, deposits can be any amount above $10. Retirement accounts require an initial investment of $500.

M1 Finance checks off nearly all the boxes of my brokerage wish list. They do all the managing for me, but according to my rules. But since I can choose the exact ETFs that they purchase, if I decide to stop their service down the line, I just end up with a brokerage account filled with ETFs that I can easily move elsewhere. I suppose the only thing they could add would be to have the high availability of knowledgeable customer service of a huge company like Fidelity or Schwab. Otherwise, I really like their feature set and I have been putting my recent annual IRA contributions into M1.

How do they make money? They have a variety of income streams, most of which are optional:

1) Interest on idle cash (can be minimized as you can auto-invest all idle cash in the investment account)
2) M1 Borrow (you take out a loan, they charge interest)
3) M1 Checking (debit card generates fees for them)
4) Payment for order flow (same as Robinhood and TD Ameritrade)
5) M1 Plus (subscription fee that gets you higher interest rates, credit card annual fee waiver, additional perks).
6) M1 Credit Card (transaction fees and interest)

$10 referral bonus. There is currently a $10 referral bonus only available if you open with a M1 Finance referral link (that’s mine), make an initial deposit of $100 for taxable accounts and $500 for IRAs within 30 days of sign-up, and not withdraw the initial deposit within 30 days.

M1 transfer bonus. By transferring over your portfolio from another brokerage, you can earn additional money with their transfer bonus. Transfer an outside brokerage account or IRA to M1 and earn up to $2,000. After opening the appropriate M1 account (taxable, Roth IRA, etc), simply upload your outside brokerage statement and they will do the transfer work for you.

  • $250 bonus with $100,000 to $249,999 in new assets
  • $500 bonus with $250,000 to $499,999 in new assets
  • $1,000 bonus with $500,000 to $999,999 in new assets
  • $2,000 bonus with $1,000,000+ in new assets

Bottom line. M1 Finance is a brokerage account that acts like a free, customizable robo-advisor with automatic rebalancing into a target portfolio. You control the model portfolio, and they do the tedious work. I deposited part of my Roth IRA contribution with them.

Disclosure: I am now an affiliate of M1 Finance, and may be compensated if you click through my link and open a new account.

Also see: Big List of Free Stocks For New Commission-Free Brokerage Apps

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

The Real Cost of Zero Commission Stock Brokers + Why Are Some Cheaper Than Others?

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In a recent study, the authors opened accounts at six different brokerages with their own money and executed 85,000 market orders. They discovered some interesting details about the actual costs of making trades using “zero commission” stock brokers. Here is the research paper The ‘Actual Retail Price’ of Equity Trades as well as coverage by WSJ and Matt Levine. A few takeaways:

“Zero-commission” does not mean “free” trading. There is always a cost due to the gap between buying and selling prices (bid-ask spread). If you bought and sold the exact same share of stock again immediately, you will almost always end up with less money than before. For example, you might buy a share for $100 but only be able to sell it for $99.95.

How much? The study found the average round trip trade cost ranged from –0.07% to –0.46%; the average price improvement varied from $0.03 to $0.08 per share (~$100 value). If you are an individual buying a low-cost index ETF and holding onto it indefinitely, this remains a small concern.

Heavy traders still face an uphill battle. However, if you are repeatedly trading for an extended period of time, the transaction costs of your “free” trades are still going to add up rather quickly and your odds of profit will diminish significantly. Here’s what happened when they repeated kept trading $100 back and forth on Interactive Brokers Pro and TD Ameritrade.

In fact, the authors of the paper had to reduce their standard trade size from $1,000 to $100 because they knew they were going to lose too much (of their own) money. (They first confirmed that the trading costs in terms of percentages was basically the same for $100, $1,000 and $5,000 trade sizes.)

The difference between the “best” and “worst” broker was 5 cents per $100 roundtrip trade. Will the average individual trader switch brokers over this amount? I would value things like customer service over this small cost. Yet, if you add up all the trades that happen during a year, it is billions of dollars going somewhere. Here are the six brokers ranked (graphic via WSJ article).

The study found almost no relationship between the amount of Payment for Order Flow (PFoF) accepted and lower execution prices. In fact, IBKR Lite is the arm of Interactive Brokers that accepts payment for order flow (PFoF), while IBKR Pro does not accept any PFoF. Yet, IBKR Pro had the worst execution for the authors’ $100 trades.

The strangest finding was that the market makers are giving different prices to different brokers for the exact same trades. This is the “industry secret” they uncovered. One implication is that each broker is negotiating “when” the market maker overcharges you or undercharges you based on their customer base. For example, Interactive Brokers implies that their “Pro” customers have larger average trade amounts, and thus they may offer those types of customers better execution (while giving worse pricing to the small trades, thus their poor showing in this study).

Bottom line. PFOF may not be huge deal for any individual investor, but there are still billions to be made skimming off pennies on every trade, and thus weird shenanigans arise. However, if you are an active trader, there is still a steady transaction cost to every stock trade which may not be readily apparent. You think you can trade in and out for “free”, but don’t see that the real cost is that you are pursuing the wrong way to invest.

How many people do you know that got rich by buying and selling stocks hours, days, or weeks later? I certainly don’t know of any. Meanwhile, I noticed the following in my Public app stock feed (see transfer bonus) for Berkshire Hathaway. I’m sure there may be good reasons in some instances, but it’s concerning to see how short these holding times are for a stock like Berkshire which is built for long-term, patient ownership.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

Tellus App: “High-Yield Savings” That Isn’t FDIC-Insured, Backed by Vague Promises

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A few readers asked about the Tellus app, which compares itself to savings accounts and pays 3.00% APY with no caps. (4.50% APY is only up to $2,500.) Here’s a quick explanation of why it’s an easy pass. Tellus investments are not FDIC-insured and they only provide a very vague description how your money is actually invested. From their FAQ:

How does Tellus afford to pay me such a high interest rate?

Tellus generates its revenues as a non-bank lender. We provide mortgages – loans secured by residential real estate. We use technology and proprietary data to choose opportunities so that we can minimize loss and fraud; this lets us pass the profits onto you in the form of highly competitive yields.

That’s a lot of fancy words, but my translation is “Tellus lends your money out at a lot more than 3.00% APY on unknown residential real estate of unknown quality, in unknown geographic areas, at unknown loan-to-value ratios”.

Mystery underlying investments. Think of all the properties in the world that could fall under “US-based real estate”. With a more transparent structure like that of Peerstreet, I can choose the exact address of the house or building that I am investing in. I can see the original appraisal. I see the borrower terms and interest rate. I can find the purchase history, the tax records, and look up comparable properties nearby. I know I’m earning 7-9% interest rates and Peerstreet is taking about 1%. With Fundrise, I get updates with the address and pictures of the exact apartment building they just bought, and they are SEC-registered private REITs. With Tellus, I have none of this. They are asking for a lot of trust for a new startup company. Are the loans wrapped in a bankruptcy-remote vehicle? Are they registered with the SEC?

Questionable promises of safety. When lending out on residential real estate, I also accept that I can lose money on the deal, because that’s how the world works. That’s honest. From their FAQ:

Is my money safe? Can I always get my money back?
Yes, your money is safe. All transactions and personal identifying data is protected by bank-level, 256-bit AES encryption. You can trust that your money and data are secure with Tellus. You will always get your money back and you can withdraw at any time.

In my opinion, this is not honest. If you’ve paid attention at all during the crypto crisis, you know that “You will always get your money back and you can withdraw at any time” really means “Your money is really the assets of a young start-up company, and if something bad happens then we may instantly freeze all withdrawals”. Real estate loans can go bad. Startup companies can go bankrupt.

This reminds me of the biggest red flag from peer-to-peer lending: The more profusely someone promises to pay you back, the less likely they are to pay you back.

Low returns for level of risk. Even if I knew Tellus lent money using conservative underwriting and everything goes perfectly, you will never get more than the promised APY. 3% APY is far too low. A 90-day Treasury bill pays more than 3%. I would expect at least double their interest rate for the risk involved in real estate lending, which means Tellus might be taking a big cut for themselves (they don’t disclose their cut either). I regularly post FDIC-insured deals at effective rates of 4%+ APY with 100% certainty that I will get 100% of my money back.

Tellus could be run by well-meaning, honest geniuses, but there is no way I’m taking this much risk for limited upside with my hard-earned money. Look beyond the slick marketing and stock photos of happy families. There are many alternatives earning a higher return with more easy assessable level of risk.

Bottom line. Tellus advertises “high yield” and “safety”, when in my opinion it offers the opposite: relatively low returns for the level of risk you are taking on (which is completely unknowable since you have no idea what they are investing in). You are risking complete loss of your investment in a young startup that is not FDIC-insured, and thus it is an easy pass for me. Be careful.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

Public Stock Brokerage App: Up to $10,000 ACAT Transfer Bonus ($500 for $25k, $2,000 For $100k)

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Public is a stock brokerage app that has a similar user interface to Robinhood, but has a big focus on the social aspect of sharing your trades and following the stock trades of other users (thus the name). $0 stock commissions, no account minimums, Android or iOS app-only (no desktop). Interestingly, Public no longer accepts Payment for Order Flow (PFOF). Right now, they are offering up to a $10,000 cash bonus to gather more assets via ACAT transfers, depending the value of assets that you move over. Found via DoC.

  • $150 with $5,000 – $24,999 in transferred assets
  • $500 with $25,000 – $99,999 in qualifying new money
  • $2,000 with $100,000 – $499,999 in qualifying new money
  • $5,000 with $500,000 – $999,999 in qualifying new money
  • $10,000 with $1,000,000+ in qualifying new money

$500/$2,000 is 2% of $25,000/$100,000, and $10,000 is 1% of $1,000,000. As a percentage of assets transferred, these are relatively high bonus amounts at those asset levels. The minimum holding period is 6 months, per their terms:

*Cash bonus will be applied to qualifying accounts one (1) month after the transfer initiation date. Transferred funds must stay in your Public account for at least 6 months or bonus will be revoked.

As with all similar ACAT transfer offers, you can transfer over your existing stock holdings and the cost basis should also transfer over with no tax consequences. You just keep your same shares of Apple or index ETFs at a different broker. If you want to hold cash, you could also own things like Treasury bill ETFs or ultra-short term bond ETFs and earn interest on top of the bonus.

Public will also cover your former broker’s outgoing ACAT transfer fee (usually around $75) if you transfer at least $500:

Public charges no fees for incoming transfers. If your current brokerage charges you on the way out, we’ll even cover the fee if your incoming account is over $500.

Public appears to have created their own tool with a nice user interface to transfer the assets, but on the backend they use the same underlying clearing firm as many other brokerage apps (including SoFi, Stash, Betterment, WeBull, and formerly Robinhood), namely Apex Clearing. More details from their bonus FAQ:

Download the Public app and once your account is set up, go to your Settings. In the “Account” section, you’ll see an option to transfer your stocks to Public.

This offers appears to be available to both new and existing Public users. I am considering doing a partial ACAT transfer of $100,000 in ETFs as that looks like the sweet spot.

New customer to Public? Their referral program offers “free stock” worth between $3 and $300 if you open with a referral code and deposit $20+ (referrer also gets whatever you get). My referral code is mymoneyblog which you can enter on the second page of the transfer promo link above. Thanks if you use it! Alternatively, the shopping portal Swagbucks is offering $16 worth of Swagbucks points right now. If you go the Swagbucks route, it looks like you should first open the account and then go for the transfer bonus.

Side note: If Public doesn’t make money by selling your trade flow, how do they make money? For one, it earns interest on your idle cash by paying you tiny interest as many other brokers do. For another, it lends out your shares of stocks to short-sellers (and keeps all the interest). The strange thing here is that that it appears to do so by default, whereas most other brokers you must opt-in (and they split the interest with you). However, you can opt out at any time:

You may opt out of Apex’s Fully-Paid Securities Lending Program at any time by sending an email to us at support@public.com with “Securities Lending Opt-Out” in the subject.

I would opt out, as if they lend out the shares and aren’t paid back, there is counterparty risk involved if the company fails. I am not always opposed to Fully Paid Lending, but (1) I want a share of the profits and (2) I want the broker to be rock-solid financially. Read more at Loan Out Your Stocks For Extra Interest? Fully Paid Lending Income Programs. I e-mailed Public and they replied the same day with confirmation:

Thank you for reaching out! I have added you to our opt-out list. Please allow 24-48 hours for your request to be fully processed by our clearing firm.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

The “No Risk” Portfolio: Stock Upside Exposure with 100% Money Back Guarantee

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Everyone loves a 100% money-back guarantee. A popular option on insurance policies is the “Return of Premium” rider. Let’s say you buy a $1,000,000 term life insurance for 30 years at $1,000 a year. At the end of 30 years, if you’re still alive, the insurance policy will no longer pay you the $1,000,000 if you die, but it will return all the premium you paid ($30,000). In your mind, you could think of it as “no risk” because you’ll get your $30,000 back no matter what!

Similarly, a very popular option on income annuities is the “Return of Principal” rider. Let’s say you pay $100,000 upfront in exchange for them paying you $7,000 in annual income for the rest of your life. What about the unlikely but possible chance that you die early in the first few years? A “return of principal” rider will guarantee that your survivors will at least get that $100,000 back. In your mind, you could think of it as “no risk” because you’ll get $100,000 back no matter what!

Create your own 100% Money Back Guarantee Portfolio. Insurance companies already sell complicated equity-indexed annuities that extend a form of this “no principal loss” to investing. But why not apply it to DIY investing? You may already see the flaw in the “no risk” terminology, but if you still like the psychological benefit of knowing you’ll have at least the same number of dollar bills come back to you after 10 years, read on to create your own “no risk” investment portfolio. Allan Roth writes about this in the AARP article Stock Market Investing for the Faint of Heart.

Let’s say you have $100,000. Right now, I see a 10-year FDIC-insured CD paying 3.60% APY (non-callable!) available from Vanguard. Using the Zero Risk Investment calculator from DepositAccounts, I know that I could put $70,210.56 into that CD today, and at the end of 10 years, I will be able to withdraw $100,000 no matter what. That means, I can take the remaining $29,789.44 today and buy stocks. Even if those stocks implode and lose every single penny of value, I will still have $100,000 at the end of 10 years. 100% Money Back Guarantee!

From that perspective, whatever you get from stocks is upside. This chart shows how much of the stock return I would still be exposed to. If stocks alone returned 8% annually, the overall portfolio would still go up about 5% annually, and my total at the end of 10 years would be $164,313.17.

If this level of safety sounds good to you, look more closely. That’s basically a 30% stocks/70% bank CD portfolio, and bank CDs are very similar to high-quality bonds. This is also why I prefer investing in US Treasury bonds and bank CDs for the bond part of my portfolio, I like having a portion of my portfolio that I don’t have to worry about at all. You could also use Treasury STRIPS (zero-coupon bonds) to guarantee a certain future payout.

What if you had a little more faith and just wanted a money back guarantee against the possibility of a 50% stock market loss after 10 years? That would allow you even more stock market exposure at roughly 45% stocks and 55% bank CDs:

This is an interesting alternative viewpoint for deciding your stock/bonds ratio. Personally, I think having even a 50% decline over a full 10-year span is very unlikely, but having a 50% decline over a 1 or 2 years span is very likely. That sharp decline (and all the real-world events causing that decline) is what makes people panic. If you have more faith in the resiliency of stocks, you can own more stocks. Only want to protect from a 10% loss after a 10-year span? Then you could hold 80% stocks to guarantee your money back in that scenario. If, on the other hand, you believe that stock returns are just a random walk with a greater dispersion in results over longer periods (including the possibility of the S&P 500 ending at 1,000 or less in 10 years), then you might want to own a lot less stocks.

Insurance companies are happy to sell you “return of premium” and “return of principal” riders (they are not free, they have a cost that either reduces your payout received or increases your premium cost) because know they can invest your money in the meantime and pocket the returns. If interest rates are high, that means inflation is likely high as well, and the buying power of your $100,000 is shrinking over time. So really, you are still exposed to risk: inflation risk.

More investment education can help us better tolerate stock market volatility, but we also need to be honest about our human tendencies. If using this “100% money back guarantee” structure helps you maintain a certain level of exposure to the stock market, then that can be a good thing. The fanciest investment strategy will fail if you can’t stay invested during the inevitable downturns.

My Money Blog has partnered with CardRatings and Credit-Land for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.