A stellar 2012 for DFA

The article “All in the Family” by Barron’s ranks mutual fund families across several asset classes and time periods. A stellar 2012 for the DFA Value Portfolio helped it earn first place for the US equity fund category. Its three year performance was also very respectable. DFA took 16th place overall for 2012 and 33rd for five-year performance. This article substantiates our use of DFA in client portfolios. The funds served clients well in the short term, but more importantly for the long term. Investing is, after all, a marathon, not a sprint.

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Advisor Forum on International Exposure and Diversification

A few weeks ago, four Merriman advisors got together for a round table conversation to review themes that came up during meetings with their clients. Aaron Spencer, Mark Metcalf, Paresh Kamdar and Tyler Bartlett all provided insights on the most common questions that investors are asking. Over the 40 minute conversation, you’ll hear their take on the following themes:

  • International exposure
  • Diversification
  • Bond rates being at an all-time low
  • Inflation
  • DFA and the value they add

Enjoy!

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Updates from the Merriman Research Team

Little known by most, behind the scenes at Merriman we manage a small hedge fund for many of our accredited clients. This fund, the Leveraged Global Opportunity Fund L.P., is now in its 17th year. During this time we’ve received various honors, and last week our fund made the finalist list for the 2011 HFMWeek U.S. Performance Awards for the Macro Under $1 Billion category. Winners will be announced at an event in New York on October 13th. More information is available on their website HFMWeek.com.

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We’ll say it again: The choice of assets can make a big difference.

There was an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal from March 8, 2011 called “Why Small-Cap Funds are Lagging.” It cites a study by Credit Suisse showing that “small-cap funds have increasingly been investing in companies larger than their category name would indicate—and the average fund is underperforming its benchmark.”

The article goes on to say “The average market capitalization of a company in a small-cap fund was about $3.1 billion at the end of 2010, compared to the average market cap of the benchmark Russell 2000 index of about $1.3 billion. The $1.8 billion gap between the two is the largest since September 2008.” (more…)

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Barron’s chooses Dimensional Fund Advisors as “Best Mutual Fund Family” for 2010

Dimensional Fund Advisors (DFA) is the manager of all the equity mutual funds we recommend to our clients. In today’s issue of Barron’s, DFA was ranked the best for 2010 in a special report on “The Best Mutual Fund Families.” You can read the full article at Barron’s website, but here are some excerpts:

Dimensional Fund Advisors, whose quant[itative] funds operate almost like indexes, was in precisely the right markets and watched its pennies. (more…)

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Recommended reading – NY Times: A Dying Banker’s Last Financial Instructions

Here’s what Mark Metcalf has to say about a recent article from the New York Times, “A Dying Banker’s Last Financial Instructions”, in which ex-Wall Street salesman Gordon Murray talks about a better way to invest:

Not only is this a powerful article about life, but it just happens to come with some top-notch investment advice.  While “The Investment Answer” differs slightly around the edges from Merriman’s investment approach, it is very much in line with our philosophy, and I would recommend it highly to anybody in search of a prudent way to invest.

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Inflation and our Merriman bond portfolio

Here’s an article we recently mailed to Merriman clients, addressing some inflation questions that we felt our FundAdvice readers may also be interested in:

Some investors are concerned about the prospect of future inflation, based on fiscal and monetary measures the U.S. government has taken to respond to the recent market crisis. However, other metrics suggest that moderate inflation will continue. These include current inflation, bond market indicators and worldwide excess capacity.

Merriman’s recommended bond portfolio is structured to provide a reasonable level of protection against inflation.

The Fed’s view

The Federal Reserve, in a statement on April 28th said, “With substantial resource slack continuing to restrain cost pressures and longer-term inflation expectations stable, inflation is likely to be subdued for some time.”

Notwithstanding this reassuring if somewhat abstruse statement, there is considerable debate about whether higher inflation will result from the fiscal and monetary actions the federal government used to curtail the market plunge from October 2007 to March 2009. Inflation is the nemesis of bond investors. An increase in inflation will cause an increase in interest rates and decrease the value of bonds. Conversely, if interest rates were to fall because of lower inflation, bond prices would rise.

What factors impact inflation and how is our bond portfolio structured to handle inflation risk? (more…)

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Why are you such big fans of index funds?

If you compare the Fidelity Low Price Stock Fund to Vanguard’s small-cap and mid-cap index funds, you will see Fidelity’s three-year, five-year and 10-year performance leaves the index funds in the dust. Fidelity’s fund is a small to midcap blend fund. If it’s so easy to find funds that do much better than index funds, why do you recommend index funds? If actively managed funds make you more money in the end, you’d be better off rather than worrying so much about expense ratios and turnover. Please answer my question. I am getting different answers from every advisor.


The debate between active and passive management has been going on for decades and will probably continue to do so. In the end, you must decide for yourself what to believe and what to do. I’ll give you my perspective plus some resources that show you why we believe in passive management.

What you have done is very easy. You have looked at the past and determined what you should have invested in, at least in this category of assets. If investing were that simple, everybody would do it, and we’d all be wealthy. The problem is you cannot invest in any past track record. (more…)

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Splitting Portfolio between DFA and Vanguard

I currently have allocated my retirement funds to your Vanguard buy and hold strategy as listed on your website. I have half of the allocation in DFA Funds as I noticed  that some of the Vanguard Funds have performed better over the 5 year period as compared to the DFA ones so that is why I have a combination of the 2 fund families making up the entire suggested investment plan.  I do pay a management fee for the whole portfolio though as all the assets are under the advisors care and maintenance. In your opinion is this a winning strategy to invest in the best performing asset classes from each fund family?

This is a very good question, one which in one way or another is on the minds of many investors these days.

I think the core question you are asking is something like this: Once I have figured out the asset classes I want, shouldn’t I use the funds in those asset classes that have performed best over the past five years?

You are implying two other questions:

  1. Which is better, Vanguard or DFA?
  2. Why has DFA underperformed Vanguard in several asset classes over the past few years?

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