The Lazy Man's Portfolio

There are some folks who thoroughly enjoy the process of investing in stocks. They enjoy the rush of trying to outsmart the market by digging through company financial statements and analyzing competitors and market trends to project a firm's true value.

But some of us aren't especially fond of chasing down individual stocks or just don't have the time to devote to researching and tracking dozens of names. Fortunately, with the products available in today's market, even the laziest of lazy men (or women!) can still build a portfolio that will rival that of any stock picker's.

Armchair investor
If you're really lazy, you want a fully diversified portfolio as quickly, easily, and cheaply as possible. You don't want to mess with a lot of stocks or funds or worry about creating a detailed asset allocation. You want your investing done and over with so you can get on with living the rest of your life. If this sounds like your investing philosophy, you can go from zero to complete portfolio in just a few easy steps.

One of the best tools for building a low-cost, diversified portfolio without a lot of hassle are exchange-traded funds. The key here is to stick with very broad, all-encompassing funds that cover wide sections of the market. Here's one of the simplest configurations of funds for an investor who has more than a decade left until retirement. If you're closer than that to the end of your working years or are already retired, you'll need to adjust your stock allocation down and your bond allocation up.

Fund (Ticker)

Portfolio Allocation

Expense Ratio

Vanguard Total Stock Market ETF (NYSE: VTI  )

65%

0.07%

Vanguard Total International Stock ETF (NYSE: VXUS  )

25%

0.20%

Vanguard Total Bond Market ETF (NYSE: BND  )

10%

0.11%

Source: Morningstar.

That's it! You can get a pretty complete portfolio from just those three funds. Vanguard Total Stock Market ETF tracks the broad domestic stock market, ranging from small-cap names all the way through the bluest of blue-chip stocks. The Vanguard Total International Stock ETF tracks the performance of stock markets around the world, both developed and emerging, excluding the United States, giving you total global coverage. And lastly, Vanguard Total Bond Market ETF invests in a wide range of fixed-income securities, includingTreasuries, mortgage and corporate bonds, and a dash of foreign issues. If you're looking for simple, it doesn't get any simpler than this!

Getting off your feet
While the laziest of lazy-man portfolios will give you adequate diversification across the globe, if you're feeling a little bit more ambitious and want to expand your holdings just a bit, there are a few quick add-ons that could easily add a boost to your portfolio.

Fund (Ticker)

Portfolio Allocation

Expense Ratio

Vanguard Total Stock Market ETF

50%

0.07%

iShares S&P 600 Small Cap ETF (NYSE: IJR  )

15%

0.20%

Schwab International Equity ETF (NYSE: SCHF  )

10%

0.13%

Vanguard MSCI Emerging Markets ETF (NYSE: VWO  )

8%

0.22%

Vanguard FTSE All-World Ex-US Small Cap ETF (NYSE: VSS  )

7%

0.33%

Vanguard Total Bond Market ETF

10%

0.11%

Source: Morningstar.

Here, a dedicated small-cap allocation is added into the mix. While the Total Stock Market ETF covers small-cap stocks, the fund is market capitalization-weighted, which means that greater weight is given to the largest stocks. As a result, small caps account for less than 9% of the fund. Adding a small-cap-specific fund to the lineup boosts your exposure to this high-return asset class.

In addition, the international portion of the portfolio is broken out amongst developed, emerging, and small-cap allocations. This will give the foreign small-cap portion of your semi-lazy portfolio a bump up while also allowing you to vary the allocation between developed and emerging markets. So if you're more risk-averse, you could cut back on emerging markets and put more in the Schwab International Equity ETF, or vice versa if you're not so risk-averse. This gives you a little bit more flexibility to adjust your portfolio for the current market environment and your future outlook.

Almost sprinting
Now if you're still not exhausted after adding all those funds to your portfolio, you could take it a step further and throw out a few more lines of diversification.

Fund (Ticker)

Portfolio Allocation

Expense Ratio

Vanguard Total Stock Market ETF  

10%

0.07%

Vanguard Value ETF (NYSE: VTV  )

10%

0.12%

Vanguard Growth ETF   (NYSE: VUG  )

10%

0.12%

Vanguard Dividend Appreciation ETF (NYSE: VIG  )

5%

0.18%

iShares S&P 400 Mid Cap ETF (NYSE: IJH  )

15%

0.22%

iShares S&P 600 Small Cap ETF

15%

0.20%

Schwab International Equity ETF

10%

0.13%

Vanguard MSCI Emerging Markets ETF

8%

0.22%

Vanguard FTSE All-World Ex-US Small Cap ETF

7%

0.33%

Vanguard Total Bond Market ETF

10%

0.11%

Source: Morningstar.

Here we've added a dedicated mid-cap allocation to bring your exposure to the midsection of the domestic stock market up to more aggressive levels. Also, the large-cap allocation has been broken out into core, growth, value, and dividend components. This should raise the income-producing power of your portfolio while also allowing you to move more heavily into growth or value stocks, depending on which way you think the market winds are blowing. All that, and still only 10 funds in your portfolio!

Of course, if you're a stock picker, one of the above lazy portfolios might still be a good fit for you. If you have only a handful of stocks in your portfolio, you could be completely missing out on entire segments of the global stock and bond market. So take a good look at where your stock portfolio might be falling short and use some of the ETFs I've mentioned here to plug some of those holes today.

For more winning mutual fund recommendations and time-tested personal financial planning advice, check out the Fool's Rule Your Retirement service. You can start your free 30-day trial today.

Amanda Kish is the Fool's resident fund advisor for the Rule Your Retirement investment newsletter service. At the time of publication, she owned none of the funds or companies mentioned herein. The Motley Fool owns shares of Vanguard MSCI Emerging Markets ETF.Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


Read/Post Comments (6) | Recommend This Article (8)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On July 20, 2011, at 10:32 PM, fantoozler wrote:

    Yes, there are plenty of ETFs available, but I haven't found the product I want: a longitudinal small cap ETF.

    A small cap ETF invests in small caps only. However, much of the growth in small caps occurs when they stop being small caps and grow into mid and large cap stocks.

    A longitudinal small cap ETF would be composed of an equal-weighted selection of small caps from the current year. As time goes by and the companies grow the ETF would still contain those stocks. When companies are merged or bought out, pro-rata shares in the acquiring company replace the company purchased and any cash is distributed.

    The advantage of this is that the small cap growth (think INTC, AAPL) is captured through the life of the ETF.

    A new ETF would be made available every (1-, 2-, or 5-) years.

  • Report this Comment On July 22, 2011, at 6:10 PM, dcx20 wrote:

    Stupid question: why should I invest in VXUS? They haven't given any distributions for past decade. Do you mean trade them as in buy low and sell high? It cannot be for the lazy investor then.

  • Report this Comment On July 26, 2011, at 12:25 PM, TMFBroadway wrote:

    How often a fund makes distributions isn't really a consideration in my analysis. I'm concerned about low costs, low risk, and long-term returns. Also, the index fund version of this ETF has made dividend distributions each year in the recent past, just not any capital gains distributions. I definitely don't recommend using this fund (or any fund) as a short-term trading vehicle -- these ETFs should be bought and held for the long-run.

  • Report this Comment On April 06, 2012, at 1:12 AM, dcx20 wrote:

    this is a nice article for lazy investors. Is there a new revision for this article?

  • Report this Comment On March 19, 2013, at 10:30 PM, rachaelburger wrote:

    I'm wondering what a socially responsible lazy portfolio might look like?

  • Report this Comment On April 29, 2013, at 4:44 PM, rachaelburger wrote:

    Here's my take on a Socially Responsible Lazy Woman's Portfolio: http://shar.es/lWES1

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