March 27 brings us the Motley Fool Answers podcast's monthly mailbag show, which Alison Southwick and Robert Brokamp dedicate to providing their best advice and insights in response to listener questions.
Our podcasting duet learned something last month: Having Ross Anderson, certified financial planner from Motley Fool Wealth Management -- a sister company of The Motley Fool -- along for the ride makes it so much easier.
In this segment, they size up a listener's 401(k) options and make some suggestions about how best to judge your choices in divvying up the money in your retirement account.
A full transcript follows the video.
This video was recorded on March 27, 2018.
Alison Southwick: The next question comes to us from Mark. I am 36, and my employer offers a 401(k) with a 4% match. However, the investment choices are limited. There are a variety of T. Rowe Price Target Retirement Funds that include a mix of stocks and bonds. They don't interest me. There is an S&P 500 Index fund and an extended market index fund that do interest me. They have the lowest cost of my choices and some of the only all-stock options that I have. The other all-stock option is a foreign markets index fund and I'm not interested in that.
I'm thinking of allocating half of my contributions to each fund, as opposed to just picking one. Do you think that's a wise strategy?
Robert Brokamp: First of all, Mark, I like that you're looking at the expenses on your funds, because the evidence is clear that's one of the most consistent predictors of performance going forward. You're dismissing the target retirement fund out of hand, and that makes sense for someone to a certain degree at your age of 36, because they tend to be pretty conservative.
I will say that T. Rowe Price has among some of the best. You would be looking at something like a 2050 Fund which these days is 55% U.S. stocks, 31% non-U.S. stocks, and 13% cash or bonds. I think that's a pretty reasonable allocation for most people, so I don't want you to dismiss it out of hand.
Moving on to your other choices, the S&P 500 Index fund we all love. That's great. Extended market is basically the total U.S. stock market minus the S&P 500, so it's a mix of small caps and midcaps. Basically, with those two funds you're owning the entire U.S. market and giving a significantly higher weighting to the small and midcaps, which is perfectly fine. Historically, they have outperformed large caps. You're young and you have a long time, so I think that's fine.
The one thing I would say is I would consider putting some of the money in the international fund. You don't feel comfortable with it, obviously, so maybe just a little bit (10%). I personally would be fine with someone putting one-third of their contributions into each of those three funds, but if you're not comfortable, maybe just 5-10%. But I think, long term, having an international allocation makes sense.
Ross Anderson: Most economists that predict these sorts of things [and we're talking about over a 10 to 20-year time frame], but most of the predictions I've seen have international stocks outperforming U.S. stocks, if we're looking forward the next 10 to 20 years. So, you can take that with a grain of salt, but I'm absolutely with Bro on that. And even if we look as recently as 2017, most people don't realize that international stocks outperformed U.S. stocks last year.
Brokamp: Significantly, especially emerging markets.
Anderson: S&P was up 21% and I think international was up 26%.
Brokamp: Yes, and emerging markets up 31-33% depending on which fund you were looking at.