Stocks are a lot of work. I should know -- I'm addicted to them. My wife and I hold 18 stocks in our taxable accounts, and I'm up to date on every one of them. I read the news, check the financials, and constantly update my spreadsheet valuations.

It's fun, sure, but not as much fun as it sounds. And if you're not addicted to stocks, a portfolio like that can be an utter disaster.

Our individual retirement accounts (IRAs), on the other hand, are a dream. We have long timelines, and I've constructed them so that I don't have to worry about day-to-day machinations. I know what's in them, and I know they'll be just fine.

Sound like a good deal? Then I'll let you in on my little secret ...

Mutual funds
When building our IRAs, I was most worried about smart asset allocation. I wanted a mix that would meet our needs and not jump the shark. (You know, a portfolio that's more Anne Bancroft than Anna Nicole Smith.)

Where'd I start? I started with the entire stock market: Vanguard Total Stock Market (AMEX:VTI). This exchange-traded fund (ETF) tracks the U.S. Broad Market Index and invests in more than 1,300 stocks for the low, low cost of 0.07% per year. The top holdings are the stalwarts you'd expect: Altria (NYSE:MO), Intel (NASDAQ:INTC), and Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), to name three. And because Total Stock Market is an index tracker, the beauty of this low-cost holding is that it will change with the index. In other words, it can never jump the shark.

But wait -- there's more
From there, I decided to gain some extra international exposure. While it's true that many of the stocks in the U.S. Broad Market Index operate internationally, it's also true that many of tomorrow's global stalwarts are overseas firms that most investors have not even heard of yet. And with GDP growth in China and India exceeding that of the United States by six and three points, respectively, the odds are that many of these companies will come from countries outside my realm of expertise. So my low-cost, long-term solution was Vanguard Emerging Markets (AMEX:VWO). With an expense ratio of just 0.30%, this ETF tracks the performance of the Select Emerging Markets Index. The top holdings include Israel's TevaPharmaceutical (NASDAQ:TEVA), Korea's KookminBank, and China Mobile. The ETF is up 23% since inception in March of this year. Not bad for a low-cost, low-stress option.

Because smaller companies can really punch up a portfolio with their long-term gains, I added some extra mid- and small-cap exposure. Historically, the S&P MidCap 400 is a difficult index to beat, so I bought the whole enchilada through the iSharesS&P MidCap 400 (IJH) ETF. The average company in the index has a market cap of just $3.4 billion, and top holdings include hot performers such as SanDisk (NASDAQ:SNDK) and Chico's -- the best-performing stock of the past 10 years.

The best part about holding funds like these is that they self-correct and evolve with the world around them. The most work you'll have to do is when you rebalance once a year.

The Foolish bottom line
Today, our IRAs are 100% in equities. That will have to come down as we get older. But so far, so good. We're ahead of the broader market, and I haven't had to sell a thing.

So where does a stock guy like me get all of these fund tips and asset-allocation hints? From Fool fund guru Shannon Zimmerman, of course. He's constructed three model portfolios in his Motley Fool Champion Funds newsletter -- for aggressive, moderate, and conservative types -- that are chockfull of premium ideas. And they're beating their benchmarks to boot!

To get started building your own custom autopilot portfolio, consider a 30-day free trial to Champion Funds. Shannon's fund picks are ahead of the market by nearly eight percentage points, and the community of investors is more than happy to help you identify the picks that are tailor-made for you. Whether it tracks an index or has a battle-tested active manager at the controls, an autopilot portfolio is a great way to reap the market's gains without subjecting yourself to the daily ups and downs that have me prematurely losing my hair. Click here to learn more.

Tim Hanson owns shares of Vanguard Total Stock Market, Vanguard Emerging Markets, iShares MidCap 400, and Teva Pharmaceuticals. Microsoft is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation. No Fool is too cool fordisclosure ... and Tim's pretty darn cool.