Re-balance Cycle Reminder All MyPlanIQ’s newsletters are archived here.
For regular SAA and TAA portfolios, the next re-balance will be on Monday, October 14, 2019. You can also find the re-balance calendar for 2019 on ‘Dashboard‘ page once you log in.
As a reminder to expert users: advanced portfolios are still re-balanced based on their original re-balance schedules and they are not the same as those used in Strategic and Tactical Asset Allocation (SAA and TAA) portfolios of a plan.
Please note that we now list the next re-balance date on every portfolio page.
Zero Commission Era Has Arrived, Is It Really That Good?
Last week, something interesting happened: Interactive Brokers and then Schwab announced zero commission stock and ETF trades. This led to many other firms like TD Ameritrade, ETrade and Ally to follow suit. By now, other than Fidelity and Vanguard, all major brokerages have offered some form of unlimited commission free stock and ETF trades. So it does seem that the era of unlimited commission free stock and ETFs trade has arrived.
On the surface, this seems to be an exciting news. But is it really that good?
Of course, unlimited zero stock commission is not new. The most representative one before the news last week was Robin Hood, a firm that tries to cater millennial investors by offering zero commission. Merrill Edge offers 100 free stock and ETF trades a month to its platinum tier customers. JP Morgan’s new youinvest also offers some forms of large free commission trades.
And then we certainly have many forms of commission free ETF trades from firms like TD Ameritrade, Schwab, Fidelity and Vanguard.
However, zero commission trades do not necessarily improve your investing/trading cost. Obviously, brokerages need to make money. So if they get rid of commissions, where else do they get their revenue from?
As we pointed out previously in July 8, 2019: Surprise! Brokerages Make Most From Your Cash, Not Commissions, Schwab, for example, only had about 6% or so revenue coming from trade commissions. Other firms like TDAmeritrade or ETrade have gotten 20% or even higher of revenue from commissions. In Schwab case, the majority of its revenue came from so called net interest revenue, i.e., the interest difference made from your cash.
Regardless, these firms need to make up their lost trade commission revenue. One of the avenues is the so called Payment For Order Flow (PFOF), a notorious but not so easy to understand concept.
Payment for Order Flow
Investorpedia described PFOF history:
Ironically, payment for order flow is a practice pioneered by Bernard Madoff — the same Madoff of Ponzi scheme notoriety. During its existence, the practice has mostly been shrouded in controversy. But its allure is too strong, with even the New York Stock Exchange adopting it in 2009.
In a nut shell, PFOF means your broker gets pay from another wholesale broker by routing your order to them. Bloomberg describes it as follows:
The most (in)famous wholesalers in the above picture include market makers and high frequency trading firms like Citadel Securities. Notice that the definition of ‘best execution’ does not only guarantee ‘the best price’, so there is quite some room for these firms to wiggle. For example, Citadel might be able to fill your orders from its own inventory (itself is a market maker and/or hedge fund operator), even though it satisfies the ‘best execution’ requirement. In essence, these firms make money with arbitrage of the spread of bid and ask.
In the end, your broker might get not insignificant payments from selling your orders to other firms. You sacrifice the best possible price of your order to get free commission. A very revealing article worth reading is a SeekingAlpha article titled as Robinhood Is Making Millions Selling Out Their Millennial Customers To High-Frequency Traders. In it, the author pointed out, based on SEC filings, that Robin Hood, the free commission broker, actually derived way more revenue (almost 10 times more) from PFOF than firms lik TDAmeritrade and Etrade. Based on this, the article suggested that Robin Hood probably did so by selling order flows at less advantage to its clients than other firms (thus making more money from it).
Another criticism of PFOF comes from Michael Lewis’ Flash Boy, a popular book that reveals how high frequency trading firms make money by fleecing small retail investors.
Interested and technical oriented readers might find the materials cited above are interesting to read at least.
In a word, zero commission trades do not necessarily mean better or lower investment cost. We have yet to see (for example, by examining future SEC disclosures) whether brokers will recoup their lost commissions from things like PFOF. At any rate, retail investors who do too frequent trading, are definitely at a disadvantage position, commission free or not. To counter this, it’s better to stay in very liquid, low cost ETFs for your investments. As for our portfolios, we have always advocate only investing in broad base, low cost and liquid ETFs such as Vanguard’s total stock market index ETF VTI.
Now we are entering earnings report period. Based on Factset, it’s estimated that S&P 500’s earnings in the last quarter will decline -4.1% over a year ago. If this holds, it’ll be the third straight quarter when S&P 500 earnings decline year over year. Furthermore, manufacturing sector has experienced contraction last month. For now, investors are pinning their hope on a good outcome from US China trade negotiation as well as Federal Reserve’s interest rate cut. With stocks being very much overvalued by various metrics, we believe it’s important to be risk conscious and stay the course in portfolio management.
For more detailed asset trend scores, please refer to 360° Market Overview.
In terms of investments, even after the recent retreat, U.S. stock valuation is still at a historically high level and a bigger correction is still waiting to happen. It is thus not a good time to take excessive risk. However, we remain optimistic about U.S. economy in the long term and believe much better investment opportunities will arise in the future.
We again would like to stress for any new investor and new money, the best way to step into this kind of markets is through dollar cost average (DCA), i.e. invest and/or follow a model portfolio in several phases (such as 2 or 3 months) instead of the whole sum at one shot.
How can we improve this newsletter? Please take our survey
–Thanks to those who have already contributed — we appreciate it.
- September 30, 2019: Boosting Bond ETF Portfolio’s Return With Muni Bond ETFs
- September 23, 2019: Value ETFs
- September 16, 2019: Factor ETFs
- September 9, 2019: Momentum Factor Stock ETFs
- August 26, 2019: Employer 401k Match: Yet Another Free Lunch Not To Be Missed
- August 19, 2019: PIMCO Income Fund and Other Total Return Bond Funds Update
- August 12, 2019: Aggressive Fixed Income Portfolios?
- August 5, 2019: Long Term Investment Strategies And Short Term Market Noises
- July 29, 2019: Fixed Income Portfolios In A Lower Yield Environment
- July 22, 2019: Core Satellite Portfolios Balance Fluctuation
- July 15, 2019: Quality Stock Factor ETFs
- July 8, 2019: Surprise! Brokerages Make Most From Your Cash, Not Commissions
- July 1, 2019: Utilities Sector Review
- June 24, 2019: Asset Allocation Funds Review
- June 17, 2019: Latest Performance Comparison Among Several Advanced Strategies
- June 10, 2019: Money Market And Ultra Short Term Bond Funds
- June 3, 2019: What We Can Learn From The Seasonality Strategy
- May 20, 2019: Morningstar Portfolio Manager Awards
- May 13, 2019: Total Return Bond ETFs Review
- May 6, 2019: Global Allocation Revisited
- April 29, 2019: Asset Trend Review
- April 22, 2019: The Current State Of Fixed Income
- April 15, 2019: The Importance Of Fixed Income Returns For Retirement Spending
- April 8, 2019: Newsletter Collection Update
- April 1, 2019: S&P 500 As A Business
- March 25, 2019: Health Care Sector Review
- March 18, 2019: The Risk Of Stock Investing
- March 11, 2019: Consumer Staples Sector Review
- March 4, 2019: Global Stock Valuation Update
- February 25, 2019: ‘Bad’ Tactical Strategy
- February 11, 2019: “Best” Balanced Fund And Portfolios Revisited
- February 4, 2019: Cash And Money Market Funds: Interests And Safety
- January 28, 2019: Fixed Income Review
- January 14, 2019: Tactical Asset Allocation Portfolio Review
- January 7, 2019: Global Strategic Asset Allocation Portfolio Review
- December 17, 2018: Robinhood’s ‘Revolution’ Or Gimmick
- December 10, 2018: How Defensive Are REITs?
- December 3, 2018: Conservative Core Satellite Portfolio
- November 26, 2018: Allocation Mutual Fund Review
- November 19, 2018: Is The Recent Downtrend Sustainable?
- November 12, 2018: The Staggering Low Interest Rates From Big Banks
- November 5, 2018: The ‘Right’ Or ‘Wrong’ Decision
- October 29, 2018: Taxable Total Return Bond Plus Muni Bond Fund Based Portfolios
- October 22, 2018: DoubleLine Shiller CAPE 10 Based Fund Review
- October 15, 2018: Newsletter Collection Update
- October 8, 2018: Asset Trend Review
- October 1, 2018: Taxable vs. Tax Exempt High Yield Bonds
- September 24, 2018: High Yield Bonds In A Rising Rate Environment
- September 10, 2018: Value, Growth And Blend Stock Style Investing
- August 27, 2018: Money Market ETFs?
- August 20, 2018: How Momentum Investing Stacks Up?
- August 13, 2018: Total Return Bond ETF
- August 6, 2018: Fidelity Zero-Fee Index Funds
- July 30, 2018: Tax Efficient Portfolios
- July 23, 2018: Municipal Bond Funds And Portfolios
- July 16, 2018: A Guide To Conservative Portfolios
- July 9, 2018: Conservative Allocation Mutual Funds Based Portfolios
- July 2, 2018: Small Cap Stocks For The Long Term
- June 25, 2018: What Can We Learn From GE’s Removal From Dow Jones Index?
- June 18, 2018: The ‘Best’ Balanced Portfolio Continues To Excel
- June 11, 2018: Is 10 Year Long Enough For Portfolio Comparison?
- June 4, 2018: Action Plan: Risk Review For Investments
- May 21, 2018: Rising Rates, Consumer Staples And Stock Index
- May 14, 2018: Newsletter Collection Update
- May 7, 2018: Money Market Fund Taxonomy
- April 30, 2018: Momentum Investing Review
- April 23, 2018: Commodities In Current Environment
- April 16, 2018: Municipal Bonds As A Fixed Income Asset Class
- April 9, 2018: Exponential Or Compounding Nature In Investing
- April 2, 2018: Inside Of The Stock Chaos
- March 26, 2018: Total Return Bond Update
- March 19, 2018: Treasury Bills vs. Brokered CDs
- March 12, 2018: Defensive Conservative Portfolio Review
- March 5, 2018: Warren Buffett’s Advices
- February 26, 2018: Pros And Cons of Strategic And Tactical Portfolios In 2018
- February 12, 2018: Trend Review
- February 5, 2018: Market Selloff And Long Term Investing
- January 29, 2018: The New Addition To Our Total Return Bond Fund Candidates
- January 22, 2018: Where Are Bonds Heading?
- January 15, 2018: Tactical Portfolios Review
- January 8, 2018: Strategic Portfolios Review
- December 18, 2017: Record Highs And Risk
- December 11, 2017: Cash Return And Interest Rate Update
- December 4, 2017: Mutual Fund Star Ratings: Are They Useful?
- November 20, 2017: Thankful And Mindful
- November 13, 2017: Is This A Good Time For Retirees Or Would Be Retirees?
- November 6, 2017: Newsletter Collection Update
- October 30, 2017: Rising Interest Rates
- October 23, 2017: A Primer For Portfolios
- October 16, 2017: REITs As An Asset Class
- October 9, 2017: Conservative Portfolios Revisited
- October 2, 2017: The Role of Short Term Bond Funds
- September 25, 2017: Fees In Cash Investments
- September 18, 2017: Conservative Portfolios Review
- September 11, 2017: International Diversification Effect
- September 4, 2017: Invest And Speculate Revisited
- August 28, 2017: Total Return Bond Fund Portfolios: Where Do They Fit?
- August 21, 2017: Portfolio Performance: A Walk In The Past
- August 14, 2017: Fidelity Commission Free ETFs Update
- August 7, 2017: I Didn’t Learn Anything — Mistake vs. Temporary Underperformance
- July 31, 2017: Asset Classes And Fund Choices: A Primer
- July 24, 2017: Total Return Bond Fund Portfolios And Cash
- July 17, 2017: Long Term Stock Holding Periods For Retirement
- July 10, 2017: Half Year Asset Trend Review
- June 26, 2017: How To Beat The Best Balanced Allocation Fund
- June 19, 2017: Newsletter Collection Update
- June 12, 2017: A Mixed Bag Performance of Momentum Investing
- June 5, 2017: How To Start A New Portfolio
- May 29, 2017: Alternative Assets And Their Role In Portfolios
- May 22, 2017: Summer Seasonality And Portfolio Management
- May 15, 2017: Cash: Banking Or Investing?
- May 8, 2017: Holding Period of Long Term Timing Portfolios
- May 1, 2017: Debate on Risk vs. Volatility
- April 24, 2017: The Long Term Stock Market Timing Return Since 1871
- April 17, 2017: Risk vs. Volatility: Long Term Stock Market Returns
- April 10, 2017: Total Return Bond ETFs And Portfolios
- April 3, 2017: Quarter End Asset Trend Review
- March 27, 2017: Practical Consideration For IRAs And 401k Accounts
- March 20, 2017: Fund Fees: That’s (Still) Outrageous
- March 13, 2017: Long Term Stock Valuation Review
- March 6, 2017: Asset Classes for Retirement Investments
- February 27, 2017: Fidelity Total Bond Fund Review
- February 20, 2017: Long Term Stock Timing Based Portfolios And Their Roles
- February 13, 2017: Alternative Investment Portfolios Review
- February 6, 2017: Tax Free Municipal Bond Investments Review
- January 30, 2017: Brokerage Specific Conservative Portfolios
- January 23, 2017: Fixed Income Portfolio Review
- January 16, 2017: Long Term Trend Following Portfolio Review
- January 9, 2017: Tactical Asset Allocation Review
- January 3, 2017: Strategic Asset Allocation Review
- December 12, 2016: Enhanced Index Funds
- December 5, 2016: Review Of Broad Base Core Mutual Funds For Brokerages
- November 28, 2016: Core Index ETFs Review
- November 21, 2016: International Exposure Of U.S. Large Companies
- November 14, 2016: Asset Trends After The Election
- November 7, 2016: Rising Rate And Current Bond Trend
- October 31, 2016: Economy Power And Long Term Stock Returns
- October 24, 2016: Current Commodity Trend And Managed Futures
- October 17, 2016: Investment Mistakes And Good Or Bad Investment Strategies
- October 10, 2016: Momentum Investing Review
- October 3, 2016: Survey & Feedback
- September 26, 2016: Fixed Income Investing: Actively Managed Funds vs. Index Funds
- September 19, 2016: Stock Investing: Actively Managed Funds vs. Index Funds
- September 12, 2016: Newsletter Update
- September 5, 2016: Overvalued Markets And Long Term Timing Strategies
- August 29, 2016: Your 401K Finally Draws Attention
- August 22, 2016: Inflation Protected Securities TIPS For Current Overvalued Markets
- August 15, 2016: Risk On: Emerging Market Stocks And Small Cap Stocks
- August 8, 2016: Portfolio Construction Using Stock ETFs And Bond Mutual Funds
- August 1, 2016: Adding Value To Your Own Investments
- July 25, 2016: Tactical Asset Allocation Funds Review
- July 18, 2016: Strategic Asset Allocation & Lazy Portfolio Review
- July 11, 2016: Asset Trend Review
- June 27, 2016: Secular Cycles For Tactical And Strategic Investment Strategies
- June 20, 2016: A World of Debt
- June 13, 2016: Managed Futures For Portfolio Building
- June 6, 2016: Newsletter Summary
- May 30, 2016: Swensen Portfolio And Permanent Portfolios
- May 23, 2016: AAII Article And Some Web Changes
- May 16, 2016: The PIMCO (Dis)Advantages
- May 9, 2016: Boost Your Dull Summer Investments
- May 2, 2016: Low Cost Index Fund Investing
- April 25, 2016: Tax Free Municipal Bond Funds & Portfolios
- April 18, 2016: Asset Class Trend Review
- April 11, 2016: Construction of Sound And Conservative Portfolios
- March 28, 2016: Total Return Bond ETFs Review
- March 21, 2016: Small And Large Company Stock Performance In Different Economic Expansion Cycles
- March 14, 2016: Are Tactical And Timing Strategies Losing Steam?
- March 7, 2016: Defined Maturity Bond Fund Analysis
- February 29, 2016: Smart Strategic Asset Allocation Rebalance When Market Trend Changes
- February 22, 2016: Be Cash Smart
- February 15, 2016: Bond ETF Portfolios
- February 8, 2016: Newsletter Collection Update
- February 1, 2016: Total Return Bond Fund Portfolios In A Volatile Period
- January 25, 2016: Alternative Portfolios Review
- January 18, 2016: Strategic Asset Allocation: A Cautious Outlook
- January 11, 2016: Review Of Trend Following Tactical Asset Allocation
- January 4, 2016: What Worked And Didn’t In 2015
- December 21, 2015: Distressed Assets
- December 14, 2015: High Yield Bonds And Their Correlation With Stocks
- December 7, 2015: Diversification And Global Allocation
- November 30, 2015: Investors and Speculators Combined
- November 23, 2015: Active Stock Fund Performance Consistency
- November 16, 2015: Permanent, Risk Parity And Alternative Portfolios Review
- November 9, 2015: Broad Base Core Mutual Fund Review
- November 2, 2015: Broad Base Index Core ETFs Review
- October 26, 2015: Total Return Bond Fund Review
- October 19, 2015: Advanced Portfolio Review
- October 12, 2015: What About Commodities?
- October 5, 2015: Core Satellite Portfolios In A 401k Account
- September 28, 2015: Risk Managed Strategic Asset Allocation Portfolios Revisited
- September 21, 2015: Quest For The Best Investment Strategy
- September 14, 2015: Core Satellite Portfolios In Market Turmoil
- September 7, 2015: Market Rout Creates An Opportunity to Reposition Your Portfolios
- August 31, 2015: Review of Asset Allocation Funds and Portfolios
- August 24, 2015: Market Rout And Your Portfolios
- August 17, 2015: ETF or Mutual Fund Based Portfolios
- August 10, 2015: Updated Newsletter Collection
- August 3, 2015: Slippery Asset Trends
- July 27, 2015: Performance Dispersion Among Momentum Based Portfolios
- July 20, 2015: Global Balanced Portfolio Benchmarks
- July 13, 2015: Pain in Tactical Portfolios
- July 6, 2015: Fixed Income Total Return Bond Funds In Strategic Asset Allocation Portfolios
- June 29, 2015: Core ETF Commission Free Portfolios
- June 22, 2015: Secular Asset Trends
- June 15, 2015: Giving Up Bonds?
- June 1, 2015: Summer Blues?
- May 26, 2015: Cash, Bonds and Stocks In A Rising Rate Environment
- May 18, 2015: Portfolio Update
- May 11, 2015: Pain in Fixed Income?
- May 4, 2015: The Balanced Stock and Long Term Treasury Bond Portfolios
- April 27, 2015: Long Term Treasury Bond Behavior
- April 20, 2015: 529 College Savings Plan Rebalance Policy Change
- April 13, 2015: Total Return Bond Funds As Smart Cash
- April 6, 2015: The Low Return Environment
- March 30, 2015: Brokerage Specific Core Mutual Fund Portfolios 2
- March 23, 2015: Investment Arithmetic for Long Term Investments
- March 16, 2015: Brokerage Specific Core Mutual Fund Portfolios
- March 9, 2015: Newsletter Collection Update
- March 2, 2015: Total Return Bond ETFs
- February 23, 2015: Why Is Global Tactical Asset Allocation Not Popular?
- February 16, 2015: Where Are Permanent Portfolios Going?
- February 9, 2015: How Have Asset Allocation Funds Done?
- February 2, 2015: Risk Management Everywhere
- January 26, 2015: Composite Portfolios Review
- January 19, 2015: Fixed Income Investing Review
- January 12, 2015: How Does Trend Following Tactical Asset Allocation Strategy Deliver Returns
- January 5, 2015: When Forecast Fails
- December 22, 2014: Long Term Asset Returns: How Long Is Long?
- December 15, 2014: Beaten Down Assets
- December 8, 2014: Implementing Core Asset Portfolios In a Brokerage
- December 1, 2014: Two Key Issues of Investment Strategies
- November 24, 2014: Holiday Readings
- November 17, 2014: Retirement Spending Portfolios Update
- November 10, 2014: Fixed Income Or Cash
- November 3, 2014: Asset Trend Review
- October 27, 2014: Investment Loss, Mistakes And Market Cycles
- October 20, 2014: Strategic Portfolios With Managed Volatility
- October 13, 2014: Embrace Volatility
- October 6, 2014: Tips For 401k Open Enrollment
- September 29, 2014: What Can We Learn From Bill Gross’ Departure From PIMCO?
- September 22, 2014: Why Total Return Bond Funds?
- September 15, 2014: Equity And Total Return Bond Fund Composite Portfolios
- September 8, 2014: Momentum Based Portfolios Review
- September 1, 2014: Risk & Diversification: Mint.com Interview
- August 25, 2014: Remember Risk
- August 18, 2014: Consistency, The Most Important Edge In Investing: Tactical Case
- August 11, 2014: What To Do In Overvalued Stock Markets
- August 4, 2014: Is This The Peak Or Correction?
- July 28, 2014: Stock Musings
- July 21, 2014: Permanent Portfolios & Four Pillar Foundation Based Framework
- July 14, 2014: Composite Portfolios Review
- July 7, 2014: Portfolio Behavior During Market Corrections
- June 30, 2014: Half Year Brokerage ETF and Mutual Fund Portfolios Review
- June 23, 2014: Newsletter Collection Update
- June 16, 2014: There Are Always Lottery Winners
- June 9, 2014: The Arithmetic of Investment Mistakes
- June 2, 2014: Tips On Portfolio Rebalance
- May 26, 2014: In Praise Of Low Cost Core Asset Class Based Portfolios
- May 19, 2014: Consistency, The Most Important Edge In Investing: Strategic Case
- May 12, 2014: How To Handle An Elevated Overvalued Market
- May 5, 2014: Asset Allocation Funds Review
- April 28, 2014: Now The Economy Backs To The ‘Old Normal’, Should Our Investments Too?
- April 21, 2014: Total Return Bond Investing In The Current Market Environment