Managing Your Own Investments Vs Paying a “Professional”
Ryan O'Connell, CFA
Dec 14, 20
Is paying someone else to manage your money worth it? For many people, the answer is "no"  *Missing Thumbnail*

Many investors hire "professionals" to manage their funds for them. In most cases, these professionals simply place their client's money into one of their handful of generic portfolios based on the client's profile. They will ask the client a few questions to get a feel for their risk and return expectations, and then charge them 1% to 3% of their total portfolio per year to invest their money into these generic portfolios. What is the problem with this? With minimal time and effort, most people can achieve superior risk-adjusted returns by investing their money into ETFs or Mutual Funds themselves than by paying someone to manage their money for them.


You Can Do This on Your Own

Money management techniques may seem overwhelming. Many people use this justification to convince themselves that hiring someone else to manage their money is worth the time saved.  They think of investing similar to how they view plumbing, for example.  You'd hire a plumber to fix your pipes because it not your area of expertise. So shouldn't you also hire an investment professional to manage your money? It is my opinion, that it is far easier and less time consuming to outperform the professionals after fees by investing in index funds than it would be to learn how to do your own plumbing. I am going to work towards debunking this commonly held perception that you need to be financially savvy enough or that you need to have a certain amount of knowledge to create your own portfolio.

Research shows that the vast majority of active investment funds (managed by the professionals in question) have consistently underperformed the passive indexes over the last ten years. That means, by simply taking 5 minutes to invest your money in an S&P 500 ETF (like IVV for example), you would end up with more money than had you'd relied on the vast majority of the active investment professionals who benchmark themselves against the S&P 500 index. The actively managed approach places a heavy reliance on the skills and expertise of the fund managers and their teams, whereas the index-based approach is a simple buy-and-hold ETFs and mutual funds strategy. If we are to look at the historical data, your fund manager likely is not as consistent as their sales pitch would suggest.

Depending on the study, index-funds have historically beat actively managed portfolios between 56% and 83% of the time. Studies have consistently shown that actively managed funds, on average, underperform their benchmarked market indices after fees. As a result, we have seen a massive shift away from active funds and into passive funds.



The Benefits of Doing It On Your Own

A passive investment strategy is easy to follow. While investing your money may seem intimidating and overwhelming, if you invest in index- funds it can be quite easy and approachable. An index fund will simply achieve the returns of the market index it is tracking.  An investment in an index-fund displays a belief in the market itself, not necessarily a belief in any individual company. Many investors that have limited knowledge are fine using simple tools for their investment decisions. 

In 2012, a British paper known as the observer conducted a contest between three parties to select stocks within the FTSE all-share index. The teams were a group of professional money managers, a group of school children, and a cat. The professional managers used their decade's old investment strategies and their traditional stock-picking methods, and the cat selected its stocks by throwing its favorite toy on a grid of numbers that were allocated to different companies. The cat won the contest. While this is nothing more than anecdotal evidence, it is a good example of how sheer random guesses can often outperform high fee-charging professional money managers.

Warren Buffet entered into a 10-year bet with Protégé Partners that they could not beat the market returns of the S&P 500 index. Protégé Partners are professional money managers, who actively managed their funds with the goal of outperforming the index. Over the course of the experiment, Buffet's investment in the S&P 500 index rose 85.4%.  Protégé Partners only managed to increase their portfolio value by 22%. Meaning Buffet achieved nearly four times the returns by doing virtually nothing. 

It is surprisingly easy to create your own portfolio by investing in index funds. And historically, doing just that would have outperformed the vast majority of "professionals" looking to charge you 1% to 3% per year to manage your money. If you'd like help in creating your own ETF portfolio, feel free to check out our free ETF Portfolio Builder.


Note:    The information provided must not be taken as investment advice. Not all information is correct. The information is presented “as is” for informational purposes only.