Millionaire Teacher Adds $29,000 to International Index

Investing money between 1989 and 2000 was such a disappointment because the markets kept rising.

I started my investing (1989) in the middle of history’s longest stock market rise and, in retrospect, I see how unfortunate that was.   I kept adding money to the markets, but the markets kept getting more and more expensive.

Metaphorically, I was grocery shopping in a store that got 17% more expensive every year.

Fortunately for young people investing today, the markets are much more favourable.  The stock supermarket sells its goods at a much more reasonable rate, and from time to time, we’ve had some generous storewide sales.

Sure, the world’s stock markets have averaged (as an aggregate) roughly 10% per year for the past 100 years, but that ride has never been smooth.

Sometimes (as with the time period from 1982-2000) the market grows ridiculously expensive.  At other times (1965-1982, for example) the market takes a breather, allowing much more reasonable prices for investors.

If you’re young, and you celebrate market rises, then you really don’t understand how the game works. And unless you change your thinking, it’s going to cost you plenty of money, as you succumb to the giddiness of buying high and feeling depressed by the prospects of buying low.

Yesterday I took advantage of the recent market drop, adding 1000 shares of the first world international stock market index (VEA).

Unlike most people’s investment accounts, my bank in Singapore doesn’t allow me to automatically reinvest dividends.  The dividends collect in the cash portion of my account over time.

Last night, I noticed that the collected dividends had grown to roughly $25,000 USD, so I added the proceeds to my investment for the month, allowing me to buy the heavily discounted international stock market index.

I own just three indexes (ETFs):

  1. The Canadian bond market index (XSB)
  2. The U.S. stock market index (VTI)
  3. The first world international stock market index (VEA)

You might think I can do better.  You might wonder why I own one index over another.

The bottom line is this:  these intellectual questions aren’t going to be your biggest challenge as an investor. If your account is diversified and low cost (as mine is) then quibbling over which specific index to buy is going to be the least of your future challenges.

Your biggest challenge will come from how you think about the stock market.

I receive countless emails questioning me about why I made a specific purchase.  After this post, the most commonly emailed question will be:  “Don’t you know about the troubles in Europe?”

Here’s a tip for those asking that question:  you will NEVER get a decent price in the stock market if you invest where the scenario is rosy. 

My investment decisions are simple.  I look at the stock market once a month, shortly after getting paid.  My goal allocation is as follows:

  • 40% Bonds (XSB)
  • 30% U.S. Stock Market (VTI)
  • 30% International stock market (VEA)

If the stock markets drop, giving me a disproportionate percentage of bonds, I put fresh money in the stock market indexes.  If the stock market rises, giving me less than my goal allocation of bonds, then I add fresh money to my bond market index.

It really is this simple. And if you scroll through the Andrew’s Money posts, you’ll see examples of me doing this, time and again.

Great investing won’t come from which index you choose.  Nope. It comes from being diversified, keeping costs low, and having the guts to enjoy stock market drops while abhorring the rises.

Can you do that?  Most people can’t.

But I’m hoping that you won’t be “most people.”

Andrew Hallam

I’m a financial columnist for Canada’s national paper, The Globe and Mail, as well as for AssetBuilder, a financial service firm based in Texas. I’m also the author of Millionaire Teacher: The Nine Rules of Wealth You Should Have Learned in School and Millionaire Expat: How To Build Wealth Living Overseas. My mission is to educate, motivate and inspire people on basic retirement planning and best practices for investing, using evidence-based strategies. I'm happy to comment on your questions.

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76 Responses

  1. sendaiben says:

    Hi Andrew

    Thank you so much for putting this out there: I finally finished your book, and am just getting to the good bit in A Random Walk Down Wall Street. Fascinating stuff.

    I asked you an ill-considered question about dividend stocks a couple of weeks ago, and think I have figured out the answer all by myself: dividend-paying blue chips sacrifice future growth so over a long time span are a losing proposition.

    I have also figured out how to buy Vanguard ETFs here in Japan. Would be happy to chat with Japan-based investors if you get any questions.

    All the best

    ben s.

    • Thanks Ben,

      Interestingly, if you took a high dividend paying index and a high growth stock index, the high dividend paying index (in virtually every 20 year period) would outperform the growth stocks with low dividends. If you want an excellent read, check out Jeremy Siegel's book, The Future for Investors.

  2. Phyllis says:

    Hi Andrew,

    How do you decide what price to go in? Do you decide to buy when the market drops more than 1% for example and take whatever price that the market is offering?

    Pls advise

    Thank you

  3. Hi Phyllis,

    I've always taken the market price when I make purchases. I don't mess around or speculate.

    I look only at my portfolio's allocation. If there's an index that's lagging (Ie, if I want 30% international stock index and find that I now have just 27% international index) then I buy the lagging index, based entirely on what percentage it represents in my account. If a fresh purchase brings it from 27% of the total to 33% of the total, I don't sweat it. I'd rather buy one investment at a time, to keep costs (commissions) down.

  4. Matt says:


    I read your book in the fall and purchased the TD Canadian, American, International and Canadian Bond e-series indexes you recommended in January, each in a 25% allocation. Since then I've been putting an equal amount of money into each fund each month. I've noticed that my overall portfolio has taken a hit. It's actually lost money over the time period.

    I'm new at this investing thing, and I'm not prone to over reacting. I guess I'm wondering if this is just the natural consequence of starting investing when the market is low? If it is, I guess I should be happy?

    • Hi Matt,

      You certainly should be happy. Keep buying every month and consider market drops as good news. I get very upset when my investment rise in value. I'm only 42, so I want to take advantage of cheap prices. Let's hope the market crashes!

  5. Matt says:

    Thanks Andrew,

    Quick question, have you read any David Trahair? My colleague gavee the book and in it he advises against investing in mutual funds due to volatility and instead opts for GICs and such. Am I correct in thinking that the bond component of my portfolio significantly reduces my exposure to stock market swings and volatility? I want to chat further with my colleague and just want to be clear. Thanks


  6. Steve says:


    So if you are just starting out creating a portfolio, should you just buy all 3 funds at once in the right allocation? (international, US index, bonds). Or do you buy the struggling funds first and the higher priced funds later on when their value drops? For example, if I'm putting money for the first time into the bond portion of a new portfolio, I might buy the Vanguard Total Bond fund. But the current price of this fund is its highest since inception.

  7. Chad says:

    I recently come across a lump sum of cash to invest. I don't believe in market timing, and know you don't either, so I'm wondering if you had any advice about how to go about entering the market with my lump sum.

    If I invest everything on the same day, wouldn't that equate to market timing?

    My idea is to invest a part of it, wait a month, invest a bit more (rebalancing at the same time), and continue again the next month, and so on… How many months should I draw this out until all my cash is invested?

  8. James says:


    Why do you use VEA over VXUS? Do you not want to have emerging markets in your portfolio? Wouldn't including them be part of a global indexing strategy that you advocate? I know you have mentioned VXUS in past articles and in your book but I wanted to know the reason for the omission in your portfolio.

    • "The bottom line is this: these intellectual questions aren’t going to be your biggest challenge as an investor. If your account is diversified and low cost (as mine is) then quibbling over which specific index to buy is going to be the least of your future challenges."

  9. Hi Chad,

    Market timing is when you try jumping in and out, based on your suppositions of the market's direction. I would feel very comfortable investing it all right now. But do what you are comfortable with.

  10. James says:

    While I understand your point and choosing a particular etf is not something I lose sleep over. I am sure that an investor such as yourself, one who scrutinized heavily over past purchases, has a reason for choosing VEA over VXUS. I am curious if you will share it?

    • Hi James,

      I like to keep my portfolio really simple. I have been adding to VEA for years now–long before VXUS was available. I think VXUS would be a great ETF, but I'm not going to complictate things each time a new index comes along. I'm also not a huge fan of the emerging markets. That said, VXUS would be a more complete international index. But over the long haul, I don't think it will perform any better, or worse, so I'm not going to add a new index, nor sell a position that would cost me hundreds of dollars in commissions (to sell VEA and buy VXUS). I have a lot of VEA.



  11. James says:

    Thanks for the reply.

  12. Stan Mayes says:

    I have equal amounts in my RRSP and taxable accounts. I have a 50/50 asset allocation. It makes me a little nervous to place all my bonds in the RRSP and all my equity in my taxable account. Bernstein seems to suggest equal allocations in both and you seem to suggest all bonds in the RRSP and all the equity in taxable. I have trouble thinking about losing half my taxable account.How do I overcome this concern or do I do as Bernstein seems to suggest?

    • Hi Stan,

      I think you should do what you are comfortable with doing. But keep in mind that your asset allocation is a product of all your assets, not just your assets in any given account. Psychologically, you would still have the same assets, regardless of what account you choose to put them in. So you need to ask yourself if you are being rational. If you don't want to be rational, that's OK too, of course. Fear isn't rational, and I'm the last guy to harp on about irrational fears (every time I get in a MRI tube I panic!)

  13. Bernie says:

    Your account shows good diversification across the globe other than Canadian equity content which is 0%. Why no Canada?

    • Hi Bernie,

      That's a great question. I don't live in Canada, and may never live in Canada, so my 40% Canadian bond allocation gives me disproportionate exposure to the Canadian dollar, especially when compared to Canada's representation of global capitalization, which I believe to be roughly 3 percent. This is the reason I don't own Canadian equities. I'm already heavily "Canada bias" for a guy who doesn't plan to live there. If I were living in Canada (or definitely planned to live there at some point in the future) then I certainly would have a Canadian equity component to my portfolio. In fact, half of my equity exposure would be Canadian, if that were the case.



  14. ljhallan says:


    I do not receive your emails yet when I try to subscribe I am told that I am already subscribed. Can you help me as I really enjoy reading all your all your emails. ljhallan

  15. Hi Steve,

    I wouldn't worry about buying the lagging index during the initial phases of starting your account. Just build the portfolio slowly, adding money to each index when you get paid (assuming you won't pay commissions).

  16. Hi Matt,

    You're right. Having a bond allocation significantly reduces your volatility. But bonds also allow you to take advantage of cheap stock market drops when they occur. If you don't own bonds, after all, you won't have anything to sell when the stock market offers mouth-watering price levels. For the dispassionate investor, volatility is one of the best friends you can have. It's a frightening thing for a retiree with an irresponsible portfolio (ie. too much exposure to the stock market), but if you're collecting stock market assets, as a relatively young person, and you can rebalance with bonds, then you should embrace volatility.

  17. Daniel says:

    Andrew you can probably imagine if when you started your investing . it was in the middle of a bear market like we have now . . and have been having since year 2000 . you might not have been happy about stock investments as you would have seen little or no returns on your hard earned money.

    Well since I've started investing in 2010 I have seen losses. Granted, the worse losses happened before I read your book and switched to index investments . but even my index investments are down a bit from their book value at this moment. And the headlines are nothing but doom and gloom, since the Japanese Tsunami until now. What with most of Europe and North America sinking in debts.

    I feel a bit like a Pollyanna. . continuing to put every extra penny into a losing market. However, even if used my savings to purchase a home. . that is not much of a safe haven in Canada anymore either, seeing as home prices are about 3X that of USA.

    We live in interesting times.

  18. Josephine says:

    Thanks Andrew!

    Your website has given me the no-nonsense type of 101 guide I needed. I have two questions.

    1) When do you choose to rebalance your portfolio? Do you do it once a year? When you notice the dividend's accumulating?

    2) I am a Canadian living in the UK at the moment (which is why your website has been so easy!) and so my paychecks are in GBP in stead of CDN. Why do you say you concentrate your equity in the country yo plan to live in the future?

    Thanks again!

    • Hi Josephine,

      Many people rebalance once a year. But sometimes, you won't need to. Personally, if my portfolio is out of alignment by roughly 10-15% and my new purchases aren't make a difference (I buy the lagging index) then I will rebalance. I don't usually do it on an anniversary date (although many people do, and that's fine too). In most accounts, you can actually reinvest the dividends automatically. My bank is an odd exception. Usually, if you own a specific index, you can opt to have the dividends buy more shares automatically, which is a pretty nice way to do it.

      I think it's a good idea to concentrate your equity in the currency that you will one day be paying your future bills in. To me, that makes sense.

      If you are staying in the UK for long, I recommend you invest with HSBC's tracker funds. They have very low costs, and they're indexes (Brits call them tracker funds). Have you read my book yet?



  19. Gerard says:

    Hi Andrew,

    I have chanced upon your blog and bought your book and I must say you have opened my eyes to an area of investment that was not pervously apparent to me. Very thought provoking indeed. As such, I have 2 questions related to the indexes you buy:

    1) you mentioned that yiu shouldj invest in indexes which pay the same currency as what you pay your bills. However, you own VEA, VTI, XSB but you live in Singapore. Is there a reason for that?

    2) if I want to buy a bond that I can sell easily, what would u recommend?

    Btw I'm a Singaporean.

    Thank you for your articles and keep writing.


    • Hi Gerrard,

      I'm glad you discovered the book and the site. I did not mention that you should only buy indexes in your home currency, which is the reason I don't own fully Canadian or fully Singaporean currency indexes. I have mentioned, however, that I think it's prudent for a person's bond component to represent a home country bias. Having said this, I don't think you should worry about a bond component yourself, considering that your CPF is much like a bond, and although you can't rebalance it, you can rebalance your equity based ETFs over your working lifetime.



  20. Sheryl Lee says:

    Hi Andrew

    I picked up your book after reading your interview in the Sunday Times in Singapore. I must say that I have gotten a few friends hooked on your insightful book as well! I have just started reading Bogle's book and am anxious to get in on some ETF action.

    I saw your reply above about CPF being like a bond component, since l'm a Singaporean too; I shall assume that I should only concern myself with stock indexes?

    I currently have S$100k to invest ( and I would like to be able to access the principle sum of S$100k in 10 years time) as it's a loan from a family member. In such a scenario, would you still recommend investing the full sum into index funds at one shot or do it over a year on a monthly basis?

    I have my personal funds to invest which I will be allocating to a few index funds – mixture of singapore and US. I'm 30 years old this year, would you have any recommendations on what proportion would be good?

    Would really love to hear back from you regarding your thoughts.

    Many thanks in advance!!

    • Hi Cheryl,

      As a 30 year old yourself, I'm going to give you a bizarre scenario to think about. If you are going to have to return the $100K in 10 years time, then I would invest the money as if you were between 50 and 60 years old. Yeah, that's going to sound weird, but here's my reasoning. If you were a retired 50 year old (assuming no CPF) then I would recommend that your money be roughly 40%-50% in bonds, not stocks. The reason? You'd be selling some of that money to live on, within the next ten years and you wouldn't want it to be volatile as you're selling off pieces of it. Now, that hypothetical (soon to be) 60 year old won't be selling it all at once, but in essence, you will be selling your $100K, Cheryl, in 10 years time, if I've interpreted you correctly. In that case, you would want to make sure that your money wasn't completely at the whim of the stock market. You could try a bond market index for 40-50% of the money and diversify over stock market indexes for the rest. You could also rebalance this money annually (couch potato style) and despite the low bond yield, the rebalancing process could ensure that (even if the stock markets rise a lot and your bonds lag) your overall account could do very well, without having to take on the risk of 100% equity. Make sense?



  21. Sheryl Lee says:

    Greetings Andrew!

    I picked up your book after reading your interview in the Sunday Times in Singapore. I must say that I have gotten a few friends hooked on your insightful book as well! I have just started reading Bogle's book and am anxious to get in on some ETF action.

    I currently have one hundred grand to invest ( and I would like to be able to access the principle sum of 100 grand in 10 years time) as it's a loan from a family member. In such a scenario, would you still recommend investing the full sum into index funds at one shot or do it over a year on a monthly basis?

    Some have said that stocks at their levels now are overpriced, but I am not savvy about the market and like you, don't believe in timing the market, as I have been burnt many times before.

    I have my personal funds to invest which I will be allocating to a few index funds – mixture of singapore, international and US. I'm 30 years old this year, would you have any recommendations on what proportion would be good?

    I saw your reply above about CPF being like a bond component, since l'm a Singaporean too; I shall assume that I should only concern myself with stock indexes?

    Given what you said about the CPF being like a bond, does that mean that Singaporeans need only concern themselves with rebalancing – re proportion of US, Singapore and International stocks?

    Would really love to hear back from you regarding your thoughts.

    Many thanks in advance!!

    • Sheryl,

      My apologies for spelling your name incorrectly.



      • Sheryl Lee says:

        Thanks Andrew for this – and no worries about the name at all 🙂

        Wow – that's really an interesting way of looking at it. Because my main concern was definitely the 100% exposure to equities for a sum of money which I needed to access in 10 years.

        I have set up a DBS Vickers account and am all set 😉

        Just one more question though – with My personal funds given that I have CPF – my guess is that I wouldn't have to allocate 30% into bonds (as a 30 year old)? Would simply investing into equity indexes suffice ?

        Thanks very very much!

        Your book is amazing and I'm glad there's someone like you who is so passionate about spreading the good word.

        Have a great weekend! Cheers

      • Sheryl Lee says:

        And one final question – for the S$100k i have now..

        Would you recommend

        1. Going in all at once with the 40-50% allocation for bonds and the rest for equity indexes?

        2. Or going into the market slowly over the next one year's time, on a monthly basis? Using the same allocation of course but starting with a smaller sum and accumulating until the 100k is fully invested.

        Going by what your book and your blog entries, I'm gonna guess option 1? Because I will have the added option of rebalancing every month and all my money will be invested within a shorter time frame…

        Interested to know your thoughts 🙂

        Thanks again in advance!

        • Hi Sheryl,

          I would probably invest it all at once. Of course, I can't see the future, but that's what I would do.

          As for your personal money, I think you could go 100% equity based on your CPF allocation—which is much like a bond.

          Thanks for the kind words about my book.


          • Cheryl Lee says:

            Hi Andrew

            With regard to 100% equity for my personaly money- would the following allocation be alright?

            40% – Singapore stock market index

            20% – VTI

            20% – VEA

            Given that it would be all equities, and because CPF is basically money which we can't touch, the principles that you teach about rebalancing re bonds and stocks wouldn't be applicable here?

            As such, I'm assuming that I would only need re-balance my equity holdings in accordance with the percentages I have set out above?

            Am I on the right track?

            Many thanks Andrew – 🙂



  22. Jude says:

    Hello Andrew,

    I'm Jude from Singapore and I would like to thank you for the amazing book!!! After reading the book, I ended up spending another 130 on the others books which you have recommended: the 4 pillars of investing, random walk down wall street and common sense on mutual funds.

    Well the sad thing is I am 3 years late in reading all these as I have already invested 3 years in Zurich vista 🙁 the good thing is that I am still young (30). Called up my ifa and suspended the plan and am hoping to cash it out(with penalty) After the suspension ends.

    Anyway I have already allocated 20k in A35, ES3 and VT like what you have said in the book and using a 30/35/35 ratio. 🙂

    Again, I would like to thank you for the book. Without it, I would have been shortchanged!!

  23. Jude says:


    I have a question for you. Would investing in ETFs be the same as investing in the funds itself over long periods?

    Reason being, there is a platform called ifast in singapore which sells funds from vanguard singapore pte ltd which is a subsidiary of vanguard.


  24. Daisy says:

    Hi Andrew

    you mentioned that it is most profitable to invest when the market is down and the outlook is negative, because in the long run the market WILL recover. So in that case isn't it a good idea to invest in the European stock market index right now? Rather than, say, the Canadian or Singaporean stock market?

    Also I've read in one of your articles elsewhere that investing in the emerging markets index is not as rosy as it looks. But then you also said that the choices of stock market indexes that you pick for your portfolio doesnt matter as long as you rebalance them well. So in that case, investing in the emerging market index (instead of, say, the US index) should also be profitable in the long run, shouldnt it?

    • Hi Daisy,

      If you are rebalancing your portfolio or buying the lagging index (in an effort to rebalance your portfolio with your deposits) then you will be putting more money where the market sentiment is negative. That's what I am trying to model here, by explaining each of my investment purchases as I keep a balanced account. Don't try speculating which market you should inves in. Just add to the lagging index to ensure that your portfolio remains roughly within the parameters of your goal allocation. Easy breezy. And yes, you just read which index I recently bought.

  25. Hi Jude,

    It's unlikely that they're offering these products out of the goodness of their hearts. Check into the fee structure (which doesn't seem particularly clear on their website) before moving forward.


  26. Mel says:

    Hi Andrew, thank you for writing this book. …..I have been trying to figure out whether it is worth it to go with the Vanguards Canadian Hedged ETF's (VUS, VEF) or not……Hedge or Not…………it seems complicated Canadian dollar is fairly strong… it worth paying higher mers?…wondering what your thought are………

    • Hi Mel,

      It's important to build a diversified portfolio without trying to speculate on any kind of currency. Over the long term, it's better (lower cost) to go with ETFs without a currency hedge.

  27. Frank says:

    Hi Andrew,

    I read the book and must say it was great! Ironically enough, I work for one of the big firms on Wall Street and will agree that a lot of what you mentioned in terms of commissions (amongst other things) is true. That being said, my employer finally rollled out some Vanguard funds for us to choose from in our 401K. I think the timing is really fishy, as the US has created new regulations stating that 401k investors have to be made aware of fees within the plan.

    Anywho, I have my bond and international index allocations set, but unfortunately the plan lacks a total US stock market index such as VTI. Instead, we have

    -VEMPX (a mid and small cap index fund)

    -VIIIX (an SP500 index fund )

    I assume I can add both of these to comprise something along the lines of VTI, but in what proportion? Do you think 50/50 of each would be fine?

    • Hi Frank,

      Adding VEMP and VIIX would be a nice combination. If you would like to have equity exposure equivalent to a total stock market index (in terms of market capitalization) you could have a 25/75 split. Having said that, a 50/50 split would probably be very effective as well. Thanks for the kind words about the book!



  28. stephen says:

    Hi Andrew,

    I currently have money invested in the UK stock market in dividend shares. I am hoping to steadily build this so I have a dividend income. My question is if I invest in ETF's what am I using in retirement, the capital or the dividend payments?

    Also if I but an ETF in the FTSE 100 for example and the footsie does not rise for a number of years , how does the value of the ETF increase?

  29. Hi Daniel,

    Investing when there's blood in the streets is actually (ironically) the best time to invest, if we want long term profits. If, after fifteen years, you still haven't made money, I'll feel for you. But your duration has been very short. And with luck, markets will remain low while we both accumulate more stock market units. You should hope (if you are relatively young) that the markets and the economy will spill out bad news for many years to come. It will enable you to buy cheaply.

  30. Michael Ponce says:

    Hi Andrew!

    You're such an inspiration.! I'm from the Philippines, a newbie in investing. I wish I could get a copy of your book.

  31. John says:

    Warren Buffet was against derivatives such as what contributed to the housing collapse. Are ETF's like derivatives? Do the ETF's have to carry the stocks that make up an index. I have heard their are instruments, I do not know if they are ETF's, for gold and silver, that let you own silver and gold but in reality the fund does not have the gold and silver reserves.

    Really like your book.

    Is the VTI US stock market index better for a Canadian RRSP than the VUS on Toronto exchange as Vangaurd MSCI US Broad Market Index ETF (cad-Hedged) as I see the VTI has MER of 0.06% and the VUS MER is 0.15 %.

  32. Jarrod says:

    Hi Andrew, I am an International teacher here in Singapore too and have just read your book through recommendations by colleagues who went to one of your seminars at our school. I thought your book was fantastic and like many of your postings, agree that it offers an easy sensible way to invest money. In fact I am so convinced that I am thinking of selling up all my assets and going for it with a diversified portfolio. I own my apartment here and at the moment could do quite well selling and reinvesting.

    I guess though, I am still really apprehensive on the grounds that I do not really understand the financial markets at all and property growth in Singapore may well continue to climb given the population increase expectation. If you hadn't yet started your investing and had a largish sum to invest and were 40. Would it make sense to throw it all in to claw back lost time, particularly now that the markets are apparently low? Would appreciate any thoughts you might have.

    Cheers, Jarrod

  33. Hi John,

    You are right that some ETFs don't have to hold the funds within them. There's a third party risk involved here that many people choose to ignore. That could be at their peril. Not likely, but possible. The Vanguard ETFs you mentioned actually own the stocks within them, so the third party risk is eliminated. As for your RSP question, go with the lowest expense ratio, non hedged product. In this case, it would be VTI. Because it's in a RSP, it won't charge you tax on the interest (and nor would the other) but you would have the long term benefit of a non hedging ETF which may have slightly more volatility, but over the long term, it will perform better because it costs less to manage.

  34. Hi Jarrod,

    That's a tough call, of course. And it's a personal call. Personally, I'd be wary of having all of my eggs in Singapore real estate because the rental yields indicate that it's at a fairly unsustainable level—or at a level destined to tread water for many years, while rental yields catch up. But if I were you (again, this is all just going on my personal aptitude) I would keep the property and add to an account of stock and bond indexes at the same time. I'm assuming that the mortgage is charging a very low rate of interest. As I've mentioned before, I believe that expats need to keep their purse strings quite tight. The social benefits won't be there for us when we retire, because we aren't paying into pensions or a government system. So become an Olympic saver/investor Jarrod, while joining your friends for cheaper socializing options, rather than the very regular (and expensive) pint and holidays.

  35. Jarrod says:

    Hi Andrew, thanks for your reply, I got it on my email but hasn't come up on the blog.

    Thanks for your advice, my wife was happy to go with keeping the apartment on the grounds of potential capital growth, low interest rates etc. I'm more of the thinking that things can quite easily turn the other way. Having big mortgages in Singapore are fine while interest rates are as low as they are but once they go up to 3 or 4% things become different fairly quickly.

    Anyway, apartment aside we still have enough to get a good start and then feed into it monthly. On a 6.5% return over 10 years it seems very lucrative. So we are now going through the process of choosing appropriate funds etc. I feel like i'm guessing a bit but it seems these decisions are not really the most important factor as long as you diversify.

    I'm a kiwi by the way, working at UWC. In your book you give a scenario of a kiwi bloke who set up his portfolio. Perhaps i'll just follow something similar to him.

    Thanks again for your advice and i'll throw a few copies of your book to family members when I return at Christmas. Oops (no elaborate holidays allowed anymore). I'm going to struggle with this responsible living habit thing!

  36. Sean McHugh says:

    HI Andrew,

    I'm pretty much your unofficial proxy at UWCSEA Dover now. And I have 2 questions.

    In your book you recommend the VT as a good ETF choice, but in this post the VEA, I'm sure they are both awesome, but would you recommend adding the VEA as a 4th option?

    eg a winning combo like:

    Home Index ETF, ISHG (% related to your age), VT AND/OR VAE ?

    On the subject of ISHG, the performance compared to all the other ETFs you recommend looks very depressing, I expect fluctuation, but from where I'm sitting the ISHG look like it's done nothing but dive since I bought them (regularly) since August 2011.

    Don't tell me, buy more now, while they're relatively low?

  37. Hi Sean,

    I've pasted your questions and then my responses:

    In your book you recommend the VT as a good ETF choice, but in this post the VEA, I’m sure they are both awesome, but would you recommend adding the VEA as a 4th option?

    eg a winning combo like:

    Home Index ETF, ISHG (% related to your age), VT AND/OR VAE ?

    VT is actually a world stock market index, comprising of the U.S. (45%) Europe, Far East, Canada, South America, China, India (55%)

    If you own VEA, then you have a first world international index with no U.S. exposure. VT is a nice one, giving you full equity exposure. Instead of VT, I personally own VEA and VTI (the U.S. market index). Combining VTI and VEA is virtually the same as owning VT, but VTI and VEA each have slightly lower expense ratios.

    On the subject of ISHG, the performance compared to all the other ETFs you recommend looks very depressing, I expect fluctuation, but from where I’m sitting the ISHG look like it’s done nothing but dive since I bought them (regularly) since August 2011.

    Don’t tell me, buy more now, while they’re relatively low?

    ISHG has dropped in value because its mostly a European bond index with the price you see, denominated in U.S. dollars. If you saw the same, isolated bonds (within their respective home currencies) you wouldn't see much of drop. But the Euro has fallen about 12.5% against the U.S. dollar since you starting buying ISHG.

    As a young man, this is what you should want to see. You shouldn't want the assets you're buying to rise in value while you're accumulating them. Unfortunately, they generally will over time (that can't be helped) but you should celebrate drops instead of rises.

    Cheers Sean,


  38. Ed says:

    I live in Canada and was just wondering if you would by the hedged versions of your efts if you were in my position?

    • No Ed, the hedged versions have higher internal costs (not included in the expense ratio) and over time, they will not perform as well. A few years ago, we had limited choices of non currency hedged (non Canadian) ETFs, but now we have options. Give the hedged ETFs a miss.



  39. Sekhar says:

    I have read your articles about index ETF investing, which is an excellent route for people who don't have time to track and mange their investments.

    What is your view on India ETFs such as Wisdom Tree India ETF ? Are these ETFs (international ones) good for overseas investors to get exposure to Indian market and its growth potential ?

    Since I'm from India I also wanted to know if you will be visiting India for any event, seminar or other programs. I look forward to learning from you.

  40. Steph says:

    Hi Andrew,

    I live in the US and i wanted to by all three ETF Funds – (XSB), (VTI) and VEA. Do know which brokerage firm would be my best option, i'm trying to avoid fees. Did you put these funds in a IRA or are they in a taxable account. I would greatly appreciate your help because i'm new to investing.



  41. Nick says:

    Hi Andrew,

    This is my second time coming back to your book. I read it last year, was fascinated, and then got side-tracked. Now I am back. But I am wondering, how does one begin, in this market? Theres been a rally with the S&P500 recently, wouldnt that be considered expensive to buy? I am curious what advice you would give to someone who wanted to begin index investing "today".

    Many thanks,


    • Oh my goodness Nick. The S&P 500 is priced lower today than it was 12 years ago. Be sure to think more like a long term investor. Your concerns are far more aligned with a short term speculator's right now, and they shouldn't be.

      • Nick says:

        Hi Andrew-

        Humbly, I would agree. I swing trade with options and ETFs, so I am a part-time trader. But I am trying to take a step back and move more of my assets into a less speculative portfolio, and I am also trying to jump in with my childrens index-based portfolios which I want to follow your model.

        I am looking SPX and I see that it has a high of 1552 on 3/31/2000. I see the recent high was only 1379, so it is lower. So I suspect you are saying to literally start up a portfolio and doing the dollar cost averaging of buying each mnonth? I cannot buy the Vanguard funds due to my tax status in the US, so I would be looking at the ETF versions, such as VTI and BND. If I had $5000, I would simply work out my allocations, say 70/30 and just split the money, buy each ETF and then DCA each month with my monthly installments. Is that basically what you would suggest in a nutshell?

        Appreciate the response Andrew,


        • The portfolio you have in mind would be a good one to dollar cost average into. You sound like you are probably already wired to be greedy when others are fearful, which is a skill-set required for anyone who wants to rebalance— through buying the lagging index or through shuffling the portfolio annually. Nice work Nick!

  42. Jean says:

    Hi Andrew,

    "You should hope (if you are relatively young) that the markets and the economy will spill out bad news for many years to come"

    That is, if you do not loose your job in the process! I certainly agree with buying low, but I am not wishing extended market crashes every couple of years. As a consultant, year 2008 was a rude awakening. I quickly became an obvious cut on a corporation's bottom line.

    When the market crashes, corporations generally become very conservative, conserve cash and cancel innovation, new hires, and investments. They want to weather the storm.

    If you suffer job loss in a bear market, and must, go forbid, tap into your savings to feed your family, I am not so sure you would be joyful and feel fortunate that markets are down. I just wanted to share this perspective.

    • Sekhar says:

      Hi Jean,

      You have actually asked an interesting question which most people face during bear markets.

      Its difficult to keep investing continuously if you lose a job or if your income gets impacted dramatically.

      I think there are different ways to sail through such times. One way is to invest in Gold ETF so that it provides a hedge against your portfolio of investments. The other option is to wait patiently until your situation improves, but you may wait longer and lose the opportunity – so this is a touch situation.

      If you have a bad situation (job loss, recession, etc) and assuming you don't have a job its better to wait and lose some opportunity. If you invest all your savings in this situation you may not be left with any cash to tide over emergencies.

      However, if you are adequately prepared and well capitalized you can use recession as a blessing in disguise, but there is a limit to which you can invest (depends on your resources)

      This is an interesting dilemma and discussion that can go on and on……You can also check these articles that talk about this

      All said and done the situation can differ depending on individual financial position, so if you are in a bad financial condition you dont have much room for investing, but those who are well capitalized would find it as a welcome opportunity.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience Jean. You are right. When we lose our jobs, we can't take advantage of dropping or stagnating stock markets.

      On the plus side, companies don't become more conservative or lay people off because the stock market falls. Instead, they undertake these measures when business earnings or earnings outlooks fall. Long term, business earnings and stock market growth (or declines) are directly proportional. But from 2000-2002, when the stock market fell dramatically, business earnings, on aggregate, did not. During 1987, when the stock market dropped 20%, business earnings had actually risen. And during 1973-1974, when the markets fell by roughly 45%, business earnings, on aggregate, rose that year as well. In 2008/2009, business earnings did actually drop. And this is why companies executed layoffs.

      As they say in golf, every putt makes someone happy. Unfortunately, those who lose their jobs during tough economic times certainly won't be smiling. Thanks for sharing your experience Jean. It's important for all of us to remember the darker side of opportunity.

  43. Hi Sekhar,

    I don't have plans to come to India for a talk (but I am looking forward to an upcoming holiday in Kochi)

    The Indian stock index would be an excellent option for you, considering that it's your home country market. I always feel that people should have a strong representation in their home market, considering that this will be the currency you will eventually be paying your bills in. Sorry it took me so long to get back to you. I don't always keep up as well as I should.



    • Sekhar says:

      Hi Andrew,

      Thanks for your response….good to see you taking time to respond to many comments from visitors.

      I'm investing in Gold ETFs and select blue chips to earn dividend at different points of time.

      Have a nice holiday at Kochi. If you are able to spare some time please visit my blog as well.

      Would it be advisable for me to get an exposure to Singapore Exchange to invest in ETFs that are not available in India. For example Sing. Index ETF, ETFs linked to Dow jones, FTSE, etc.

  44. Hi Steph,

    You won't be able to buy XSB because it trades on the Canadian market. But you will be able to buy the U.S. bond index (SHY) in its place. I'm not American, so I don't have an IRA. But if I were from the U.S. I would have these investment in my IRA. And when my IRA contribution room was filled, I would divert my savings to investing in the same products, in a taxable account. Considering that you are American, you may want to take an even easier option: open a Vanguard account and buy their indexes instead. The comparable symbols are these: VBMFX for the bonds, VTSMX for the U.S. market index and VGTSX for the international stock market index. You can buy these without paying commissions through Vanguard. And you can reinvest dividends for free.

  45. Hi Jarrod,

    You may considering opening a brokerage account with Standard Chartered. Brokerage commissions are lower than they are with DBS Vickers. The exchange rate isn't as good (the exchange spread they offer is wider) but there may be creative ways around that if you can find a cheaper rate elsewhere, with a USD account, then send them a cheque. Considering the DBS Vickers commission increase, I am considering doing that myself.



  46. Alex says:

    Hi Andrew,

    Firstly, I want to thank you for writing your Millionaire Teacher book — I went from a complete novice to feeling confident about a strategy for investing. You make a really clear and convincing case.

    I have been looking around for an international index, to fill one third of my portfolio, and I have a question about the options you have mentioned here. Looking at VXUS, VEA, and VT, I see that these are all relatively young funds. Then looking at the volatility that has occurred since they began makes me much less confident about investing, when comparing to something like the US fund symbol VTI, which has a long track record of steady growth. Is the instability of these three international funds merely an artifact of their young age? What is it that makes you sure to recommend them? Are there other older, more stable international funds worth considering?

    I hope you see my concern, and I thank you in advance for any advice.



  47. Dave says:

    Hi Andrew

    Just a question regarding my plan of investing in index fund portfolio…

    Currently, my index portfolio is 100% in ASX index… Its a far distance from my asset allocation of 33.3% ASX, 33.3% BONDS and 33.3% International Shares…

    Of course I have cash waiting on the sidelines for investing once a month into the lower performing fund, but the problem for me at the moment is the BONDS and the international shares seem to be priced fairly high and I dont feel comfortable buying shares when they seem overpriced…

    I come from a background as a trader who would buy stocks that were oversold and sell them when they were overbought, so its ingrained in my mindset to buy when the price is low, not high… And im obsessed with looking at charts…

    Any thoughts on how I can use this to my advantage as an investor and how to best approach this situation…

    Thanks Andrew,,,


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