The Investment Scientist

Archive for September 2016


At the end of June this year, UK citizens voted in a referendum for the nation to withdraw from the European Union. The result, which defied the expectations of many, led to market volatility as participants weighed possible consequences.

Journalists responded by using the results to craft dramatic headlines and stories. The Washington Post said the vote had “escalated the risk of global recession, plunged financial markets into free fall, and tested the strength of safeguards since the last downturn seven years ago.” The Financial Times said “Brexit” had the makings of a global crisis. “[This]represents a wider threat to the global economy and the broader international political system,” the paper said. “The consequences will be felt across the world.”

What about those self-proclaimed financial gurus? Motley Fool wrote: “Sell Everything! How Brexit Can Shatter Share Market” and Jim Cramer wrote: “Don’t Buy! Why the Mass Brexit Sell Off is Worth Riding Out.”

It turned out there was no “mass brexit sell off.”

It’s true UK got a new Prime Minister, and the Pound Sterling fell to 35 years low. But within a few weeks of the UK vote, Britain’s top share index, the FTSE 100, hit 11-month highs. By mid-July, the US S&P 500 and Dow Read the rest of this entry »

Recently, I did a portfolio analysis of a prospective client who has a Wells Fargo “financial advisor.” Here is the result …

Symbol Expense Ratio Load Turnover
CAIBX 0.59% 5.75% 63%
CAPCX 1.66% 1% 89%
FEVCX 1.90% 1% 15%
MIQBX 1.30% 5.25% 29%
OIBIX 0.57% none 111%
WAFMX 2.25% none 34%
WFPAX 1.24% 5.75% 58%

Let me explain …

Load is the initial kickback (coming directly from your account) the fund gives to the broker for directing money to the fund. There are so many no load funds out there, you shouldn’t be paying load. A broker only does that to line his pocket, there is no benefit to you whatsoever.

Expense ratio is what the fund charges every year. As my rule of thumb, any expense ratios higher than 0.5% are too high. Any expense ratios higher than 1% are exorbitant. As you can see, all the fund expense ratios here are either too high or exorbitant! The broker who directed your money to these funds gets to share a portion of the loots ever year. Can you see a conflict here?

Turnover is how often the fund manager churn the investments. The higher the churn rate, the higher the costs to investors. Typically, a 100% turnover translates into about 1.2% in return reduction. As my rule of thumb, any turnover higher than 10% is too high, a turnover higher than 100% is exorbitantly costly! Read the rest of this entry »


Michael Zhuang is principal of MZ Capital, a fee-only independent advisory firm based in Washington, DC.

Twitter: @mzhuang

Error: Please make sure the Twitter account is public.


%d bloggers like this: