For starters: Index and ETFs investing in your 20s according to Burton G. Malkiel

Suppose you are new to investing, and would like to participate in the market but don’t have the time or knowledge to research individual stocks (or  you’re just lazy), what should you do? Let’s explore a few options from the book: A Random Walk Down Wall Street by Burton G. Malkiel. For this article, let’s focus on two things, the importance of low fees and the asset allocation for the folks in their 20s according to Burton G. Malkiel.



Now before you purchase that mutual fund your bank advisor is trying shove down your throat, consider looking at the different expense fees. Recently, many funds have come under criticism for their high fees and poor performance (compared to the benchmark), and rightfully so. Be aware of the MER, TER, front and back loads on these funds. A MER (Management Expense Ratio); is whats going to cost you for them to manage your money per year. A simple example is the following:

You find a nice mutual fund you’d like to invest in, and decide to place your hard earned $10,000 into that fund with an MER of 2.5% (this is high, and quite common). Essentially, you’ll lose $250 just to management expense fees. Now let’s assume the benchmark is the market, and it’s returning about 7%. Simply put it, you better hope your fund returns at least 9.5% just to get even with the market. Note that many funds, after fees don’t consistently outperform the market.

Now I know what you’re thinking, what’s 2.5% to you? Don’t think 2.5% is a lot?

Consider the following:

Let’s say you choose a fund that performs just as well as the market but has an MER of 2.5%. You invest $10,000 for 20 years.

Market performance: $10,000 at 7% compounded for 20 years: $38,697.

Fund performance: $10,000 at 4.5% (7-2.5) compounded for 20 years: $16,386.

You’ve indirectly lost $22,311, or about 136% to that “tiny” 2.5% fee. The longer the time, the more you lose indirectly to fees. High fees are crippling, and most people (especially starters) don’t notice them, so be careful.  

“It is not necessary to do extraordinary things to get extraordinary results… By periodically investing in an index fund, the know-nothing investor can actually outperform most investment professionals.”

– Warren Buffett

For beginners, Burton G. Malkiel recommends diversifying to decrease risk by purchasing different Indexes or ETFS: Stocks, Bonds and REITs and by weighing them differently during the stages of your life. For starters in their early 20s, diversify, seek a no-load, low expense, broad-based index funds, and it’s advisable to make these purchases in a Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA).

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Because you’ve got much time in your 20s before retirement, Malkiel recommends consistent contributions (to a no-load fund) and that the majority of your holdings:

(70%) be of stocks. He recommends to put one half in U.S. small cap growth stocks (no-load, low expense Index and ETFs) and the other half in international stocks, including emerging markets.

-Cash (5%) should be in money-market fund or short term bond funds.

-Real estate (10%) should consist of high quality REIT portfolio.

-The remaining bonds (15%) should contain: no-load, high grade corporate bond fund, foreign bonds, some Treasury inflation protection securities or dividend growth stocks.

Some Equity Index Funds and ETFs tickers from A Random Walk Down Wall Street:


Now as you enter your 30s, 40s and so on, the mix of stocks, bonds, real estate (REITs) and cash will change. For instance, according to Malkiel, in your 30s, your Stocks-Cash-Bonds-Real Estate allocation would be: 65%-5%-20%-10%, respectively. You would slowly move to “safer” investments as you age.

If you’re relatively new to stocks, don’t expect quick gigantic returns, especially not from Malkiel’s recommendation. This type of diversified allocation has the goal to decrease risk through exposure of broad indexes. Long term index and ETFs are made to pay off in the long term. Briefly, for starters: the takeaway would be to look out for high fees and contribute to index and ETF funds according to your age. Always do your own research.

All in all, you can find the full asset allocation by age from: A Random Walk Down Wall Street. It was an amazing book, written like no other and it sheds new light to numerous important topics such as the efficient market hypothesis (EMH), behavioural finance, random walk theory, diversification and much more. I will have a review on this book soon. Meanwhile, you can find the book here.Of course all this, JMO (just my opinion).

In investing money, the amount of interest you want should depend on whether you want to eat well or sleep well.

-J. Kenfield Morley

Disclosure: I have no positions in any of the recommended ETFs or Indexes at the date of this article. I wrote this article myself and it expresses my own opinions, I am not a financial advisor. I do not get any compensation from this, other than from Amazon Affiliate links and advertisements. On the date that this article was posted, I have no affiliation with any of the ETFs or Indexes.




Why You Need To Start Investing Young

The answer lies in the most useful, but most scarce (limited) resource ever: TIME (and yes, time does indeed equal money). You will take advantage of compound interest paired with time; along with the right investments, you can have a capital powerhouse.

The magic of compound interest

 Compound interest does wonders for young investors in the long run (it’s not magic, it’s just basic math). Here are a few monetary examples that will get you to start investing at a young age.

-If you had invested $1000 in Berkshire Hathaway (BRK-A, Buffett’s company) in 1964, and patiently waited 50 years until 2014, you would have $18,261,630 (a whoopin’ 1,826,130% gain).

 Let’s visit a few examples, with fixed variables just to show you what compound interest can do:

Let’s say you invest $8000 today, into a fund that will average out 8% a year, compounded for 33 years:

Year 1:     $8,640

Year 5:     $11,754.62                             Year 30:   $80,501.26

Year 10:   $17,271.40                            Year 31:   $86,941.36

Year 20:   $37,287.66                           Year 32:   $93,896.66

Year 27:   $63,904.49                           Year 33:   $101,408.40

Year 28:   $69,016.85

Let’s say instead of starting to invest when you’re 22 years old, you start later at 25.

That’s a 3 years difference. By the time you hit that $80,501.26 mark, someone who started 3 years earlier would have $101,408.40. Imagine what you can do with an extra $20,907.

Let’s go with a more eye-opening example, a fund that yields good results: 

 Let’s say you invest $12,000 today, and another $100 monthly into an amazing stock or fund that will yield 15% a year compounded for 23 years.

Year 1:     $15,095.42         Year 19:   $285,052.50

Year 5:     $32,870.49        Year 20:   $329,105.79

Year 10:   $74,848.51         Year 21:   $379,767.08

Year 15:   $159,281.30       Year 22:   $438,027.56

Year 17:   $213,434.67       Year 23:   $505,027.11

Year 18:   $246,745.29

Like the previous example, instead of starting at 22, you start at 25. Within those 3 years, you’re lagging behind $175,921.32 compared to someone who started at 25. You’ll have $329,105.79 (still very good) while you could have $505,027.11 (half a million dollars-even better), if you had just started 3 years earlier.

Think about it… that difference is enough for a considerable downpayment on a condo/ house in Toronto, Canada or can be used as retirement income.

Of course, this example fixes a lot of variables and requires a good return of 15% compounded over 23 years (rare, but yes, this type of performance does indeed exist): it shows the importance of time and starting early in investments.


“A low-cost index fund is the most sensible equity investment for the great majority of investors…by periodically investing in an index fund, the know-nothing investor can actually out-perform most investment professionals”.

-Warren Buffett

Now let’s say you decide to buy an index fund, as suggested by Buffett. Let’s keep it simple and select the Dow Jones Average. In 1915, it was $1,304 (inflation adjusted) and is currently sitting at around $17,360 as I’m writing this in late spring 2016. In 101 years, it went up around a total of 1,352%. That’s a multiple of about 13 times your investment. Compound interest paired with time does wonders.

If you’re worried about the market crashes and depressions, note this:

The Dow Jones Average survived the Great Depressions and countless others, 2 World Wars, more wars that followed, oil glut, the dot-com bust, the subprime mortgage crisis, etc. and will continue to survive and strive for times to come.


Mistakes are inevitable, they are part of the learning curve but you want to learn from it early, not late. Starting early will leave you room for mistakes. It allows you to adjust your strategies and gives you extra time to learn.

“If you love life, don’t waste your time, for time is what life is made of.”

-Bruce Lee

In summary, the examples provided have many fixed variables. The goal was to illustrate the difference even a few years can make in compound interest output. I am not implying that investing in stocks, bonds, index funds, mutual funds, etc. is the only way to take advantage of time. You may even choose to invest in your very own business.

Therefore, first investing in yourself could prove to be an invaluable investment, paired with time, your skills will grow exponentially which may provide you with valuable breakthrough ideas and investment knowledge.

All in all, start early, not late. Perhaps the earlier you start, the earlier you get to reaching your goals, and perhaps then, the more time you’ll have to enjoy your definition of a successful life. I would recommend the following books for those beginning in investing, the knowledge I have acquired from them are invaluable.

Of course, JMO (just my opinion).

For beginners, I would recommend the order as follows:

 1-The Neatest Little Guide to Stock Market Investing by Jason Kelly (I read this first too).

2-The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham (Life changing book)

3-One Up on Wallstreet by Peter Lynch

4-Common Stocks and Uncommon Profits by Philip A. Fisher

5-Technical Analysis of The Financial Markets by John Murphy

6-Options made Easy by Guy Cohen (Just to explore derivatives)