Ready-To-Go Portfolios

By Will Ashworth | December 11, 2009 AAA

Living in the Great White North has its ups and downs. On the plus side, you can get a Tim Horton's (NYSE:THI) coffee and donut on almost every street corner. On the down side, the financial services industry isn't nearly as robust. Sure, Canadian banks are as solid as they come but innovators they are not.

One particular weak spot is portfolio management for average consumers. If you're rich, you have a bevy of investment managers who will take your account for 1% a year. However, if you only have $30,000 to invest, there's little to do but give the funds to your local bank to put in their own brand of mutual funds, paying management expense fees much higher than in the United States. You have it much better south of the 49th parallel and you may not even know it.

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On-The-Go 'Folios
Washington-based company FOLIOfn has been in business since 1999. I became aware of them in 2000 while working for a Toronto company that sold managed asset programs online. At the time, I thought the American business would complement ours and so I arranged for our CEO to fly down to D.C. to meet with their people. Nothing came of the meeting and here we are nine years later in need of the exact same thing.

No service like FOLIOfn exists in Canada, which allows consumers to invest in ready-to-go portfolios for $290 a year. That's an annual fee of 1%, just like the rich folk, for your $30,000 account. It's the best option I've seen between expensive advice and no advice.

Good Track Record
One of FOLIOfn's ready-to-go portfolios is Wine, Beer and Spirits. It's up 17.67% annually over the last five years versus 0.79% for the S&P 500 including dividends. Ten equally weighted stocks are in the folio including Diageo (NYSE:DEO), Fomento (NYSE:FMX) and Brown-Forman (NYSE:BF.B). Cheers!

For those looking for even greater global diversification and like the idea of investing in ETFs, FOLIOfn's Global ETF Folio is up 7.39% annually over the past five years. Holdings include 48% in the iShares MSCI EAFE Index ETF (NYSE:EFA), 36% in SPDRs (NYSE:SPY) and the remaining 16% spread among eight other funds. It's definitely for the passive investor.

Lastly, FOLIOfn has created Target Date folios for all those looking for a simple way to save for retirement. Its Target Date 2040 Moderate folio contains 11 ETFs and is up 33.71% in the last year versus 29.11% for the S&P 500. In fact, 35 of 147 ready-to-go folios over a five-year period outperformed the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Those are pretty good numbers.

The Bottom Line
Although the ready-to-go aspect of FOLIOfn is certainly attractive, it's the ability to mix-and-match portfolios that really gets my attention. Using no-cost window trading, rebalancing as well as adding new funds has never been so easy. A service like FOLIOfn would surely make my life simpler. However, don't take my word for it. Go check them out. The worst that can happen is you find another source for investment ideas. (For more, see our Mutual Fund Tutorial.)

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