Tom Bradley at Steadyhand invited me to comment on their comparison of Steadyhand Funds versus indexing with ETFs. The piece is clear, balanced, and worth a read. (Disclaimer: I have no financial relationship with Steadyhand other than the fact that they’ve bought me lunch a couple of times. It would take a lot more than that to stop me from saying what I really think!)
The summary on fees in their example of two investors with $250,000 portfolios is that Steadyhand funds charge about 0.55% per year more than the total costs of running an ETF portfolio. The burning question is whether Steadyhand offers enough benefits to make up for this additional cost of $1375 per year.
Here are some of the ways that Steadyhand might earn their extra fees:
– ease of getting started
– investing advice on asset allocation
– calming influence when you’re about to do something foolish and expensive out of greed or fear (a steady hand)
– possible higher returns
Although I wish them well, I’ve cast my vote with my own money on the side that says nobody has the expectation to produce excess returns over the market return. So, even though beating the market is important to Steadyhand, I will ignore this as a possibility.
Making it easier to get started has some value, but not on an ongoing basis. This leaves advice on asset allocation and a calming influence when investors are inclined to make expensive mistakes. This is where I think Steadyhand likely adds value for the typical investor. The reason most investors trail market returns so badly is that they make big mistakes even though they think they’re doing smart things.
Knowledgeable investors would prefer to pocket the extra 0.55% per year, but many people who are overly influenced by media reports of financial boom and bust would likely benefit from Steadyhand’s advice by enough to justify the extra 0.55% per year. Investing with ETFs seems simple enough, but staying calm in a storm can be difficult. I still think that people should learn enough to invest on their own, but realistically only a fraction of investors will do this properly.
One concern I have about Steadyhand’s comparison is that any other mutual fund could produce a similar-looking document that paints them in a favourable light. As it turns out, Steadyhand’s comparison is very fair, but you have to be knowledgeable about investing to come to this conclusion. Uninformed investors who stumble onto Steadhand are likely to do well, but they could just as easily end up with someone else who sets them up with a portfolio full of funds with 3% MERs and 7-year DSCs.
So, even investors who intend to get financial advice should learn about investing enough to be able to tell if they’re being treated well or taken for a ride.