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Rick Ferri: 'There Are No Average Investors'

The financial advisor and asset-allocation specialist discusses conflicts in advice-giving, which asset classes he avoids, and "factor renters."

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Our guest today on The Long View podcast is Rick Ferri. Ferri is an hourly fee-only investment consultant at Ferri Investment Solutions; he's also a CFA charterholder. Prior to starting his new firm in April 2019, he was the founder and head of investing at a $1.5 billion advisory firm that specialized in low-fee asset management using index funds and exchange-traded funds. Prior to that, he worked for a brokerage firm, where he was an early adopter of inexpensive index products for client portfolios. Ferri is a Marine Corps officer and retired fighter pilot.

Ferri has written several books on low-fee investing, including All About Asset Allocation, The ETF Book, All About Index Funds, and The Power of Passive Investing. He has also authored numerous investment-related articles and research papers, including a research paper on index investing that won S&P Dow Jones Indices' third-annual SPIVA Award.

Introduction and Background

"The conversation about asset allocation comes later, and the conversation about investments comes after that." Ferri discusses how his definition of value-add has changed over the past 10-15 years. (0:55-3:24)

"I've been through the whole gantlet." Transitioning from broker to Registered Investment Advisor. (3:25-5:14)

On clients who have needs that go beyond investment management. (5:15-5:56)

"You get the work done, you pay for the work." Why Ferri's new advisory practice charges clients by the hour, not by their assets under management. (5:57-9:44)

"Advisors talk about how they add value behaviorally; I think a lot of that is created by the advisor and not so much by the client." The role of advisors in managing client behavior. (9:45-11:12)

Asset Allocation

"There are no average investors." How investors of the same age can vary widely in their appetite for equity risk. (11:13-15:03)

"Those are the things that are going to add value to a client's portfolio." Focusing on keeping taxes and investment costs down, not trying to play factors. (15:03-18:21) 

"There seem to be a lot of factor renters, rather than factor owners." Ferri is skeptical that factor investing will outperform in the future. (18:23-20:44)

 "I don't use anything that doesn't have an expected real return." Why Ferri sticks with plain-vanilla asset classes. (20:45-21:56)

How to go about making return assumptions for the major asset classes. (21:57-24:14)

"It depends on how much money the client has." A total bond market index as a one-stop option for fixed-income exposure. (24:15-27:20)

International bonds as a core asset class. (27:21-28:46) 

"I don't think they're pivotal." REITs as a direct allocation.  (28:47-31:45)

Decumulation  
"The software doesn't seem to be very good at this." Decumulation is inherently more complicated and customized than accumulation. (31:46-34:19)

"There seem to be better ways of doing it than the classic way in which we've been taught." On whether the traditional declining equity glide path makes sense. (34:20-39:28)

Indexing and the Legacy of Jack Bogle
"It's been around forever." Direct indexing: the wave of the future? (39:29-42:09)

"I don't see it as big of a threat as other people do." Should investors be worried about concentration in very few ETFs, and do index funds and ETFs own too much of the market? (42:10-44:07)

"I was having a real moral dilemma." How influential Jack Bogle was in shaping Ferri's career path. (44:08-46:08)

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