MMB Portfolio Update July 2021: Asset Allocation & Performance

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Here’s my quarterly update on my current investment holdings as of July 2021, including our 401k/403b/IRAs, taxable brokerage accounts, and savings bonds but excluding our house, cash reserves, and a small portfolio of self-directed investments. Following the concept of skin in the game, the following is not a recommendation, but a real-world example of a mostly low-cost, diversified, simple DIY portfolio with a few customized tweaks. The goal of this portfolio is to create sustainable income that keeps up with inflation to cover our household expenses.

Actual Asset Allocation and Holdings
I use both Personal Capital and a custom Google Spreadsheet to track my investment holdings. The Personal Capital financial tracking app (free, my review) automatically logs into my different accounts, adds up my various balances, tracks my performance, and calculates my overall asset allocation. 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.

Here are updated performance and asset allocation charts, per the “Allocation” and “Holdings” tabs of my Personal Capital account, respectively:

Stock Holdings
Vanguard Total Stock Market (VTI, VTSAX)
Vanguard Total International Stock Market (VXUS, VTIAX)
Vanguard Small Value (VBR)
Vanguard Emerging Markets (VWO)
Vanguard REIT Index (VNQ, VGSLX)

Bond Holdings
Vanguard Limited-Term Tax-Exempt (VMLTX, VMLUX)
Vanguard Intermediate-Term Tax-Exempt (VWITX, VWIUX)
Vanguard Intermediate-Term Treasury (VFITX, VFIUX)
Vanguard Inflation-Protected Securities (VIPSX, VAIPX)
Fidelity Inflation-Protected Bond Index (FIPDX)
iShares Barclays TIPS Bond (TIP)
Individual TIPS bonds
U.S. Savings Bonds (Series I)

Target Asset Allocation. 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.

I believe in the importance of doing your own research and owning productive assets in which you have strong faith. 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.

Personally, I try to own broad, low-cost exposure to asset classes 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 high-quality US federal and municipal debt. I also own real estate through REITs.

Again, personally, I simply don’t have strong faith in the long-term results of commodities, gold, or bitcoin. I own my own house, but I choose not to participate in the higher potential gains but also higher potential risks (of both requiring more time and money) of rental real estate.

My US/international ratio floats with the total world market cap breakdown, currently at ~58% US and 42% ex-US. I’m fine with a slight home bias (owning more US stocks than the overall world market cap), but I want to avoid having an international bias.

Stocks Breakdown

  • 43% US Total Market
  • 7% US Small-Cap Value
  • 33% International Total Market
  • 7% Emerging Markets
  • 10% US Real Estate (REIT)

Bonds Breakdown

  • 33% High-Quality Nominal bonds, US Treasury or FDIC-insured
  • 33% High-Quality Municipal Bonds
  • 33% US Treasury Inflation-Protected Bonds

I have settled into a long-term target ratio of 67% stocks and 33% bonds (2:1 ratio) within our investment strategy of buy, hold, and occasionally rebalance. I use the dividends and interest to rebalance whenever possible in order to avoid taxable gains. I plan to only manually rebalance past that if the stock/bond ratio is still off by more than 5% (i.e. less than 62% stocks, greater than 72% stocks). With a self-managed, simple portfolio of low-cost funds, we can minimize management fees, commissions, and taxes.

Holdings commentary. The world seems to have stabilized since the March 2020 market drop and overall panic, but I try not to get too attached to these numbers. They seem too good to be true, even as things continue to open up. All I can do is listen to the late Jack Bogle and “stay the course”. I remain optimistic that capitalism, human ingenuity, human resilience, human compassion, and our system of laws will continue to improve things over time.

I would like to note that when few people were paying attention, TIPS have had a pretty good run for an insurance-like investment. The iShares TIPS ETF (TIP) went up 8.3% in 2019 and 10.9% in 2020. The 10-year breakeven inflation rate between TIPS and Treasury is currently about 2.3%. I’m still happy owning a chunk of my bonds as TIPS.

Performance numbers. According to Personal Capital, my portfolio is up +9.4% for 2021 YTD. I rolled my own benchmark for my portfolio using 50% Vanguard LifeStrategy Growth Fund and 50% Vanguard LifeStrategy Moderate Growth Fund – one is 60/40 and the other is 80/20 so it also works out to 70% stocks and 30% bonds. That benchmark would have a total return of +8.2% for 2021 YTD as of 7/18/2021.

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

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Comments

  1. 9.4 % is pretty dam good. Considering all the bullcrap going on with the market.

  2. Jonathan,
    I know you generally exclude your cash reserves and house from your portfolio analysis. I’m curious, if you were to include your cash reserves and the small allocation of self-directed investments, what would your overall asset allocation be in percentages as to cash/reserves, bonds & equivalents, and stocks/equities?
    Thanks!

    • Interesting question… If I were to include cash and side portfolio, the overall AA ratio would stay about the same. It would still be between 60%-70% stocks and 30%-40% bonds/cash/CDs.

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