As a dedicated financial educator and retired investment advisor, Paul Merriman welcomes questions from his readers. 
Please email your questions (stated as succinctly as possible) to Title the subject line: ASK PAUL
Be sure to include your name and phone number so Paul can reach you if further discussion is required. We may post your question and Paul‘s answer here on this site. We will not post your name or personal information.
Thank you!


Q:  When do I know it’s the right time to enter the market?

Q:  I really enjoy reading you articles on MarketWatch, your website and watching your videos. I am in the process of implementing your Buy and Hold Strategy in my 403(b) and Roth IRA accounts, which both happen to be at Vanguard. I am a 41 year old employed in the health care sector. I am currently maxing out both of these tax-advantage saving plans plus adding a few hundred dollars a month in a taxable account. Although I am doing a decent job of saving, I am still playing catch up.

Right now I have only approximately $150K total in these accounts. I currently set up my funds as you prescribed, with the exception of the International Small Cap Value fund. As you know Vanguard does not offer this yet. Hopefully it is in development.

My question is about the 60/40 allocation. Based on my age, should my equity exposure be higher than 60%? I was considering trying 70/30 or 75/25 until I reach about 50. Then I would start gravitating towards the 60/40 allocation. I have a pretty good amount of risk tolerance, Any thoughts on that plan? 

Q: I have read many things written by you, as well as follow you on YouTube. Your teachings have revealed a lot to me. I am 55 years old and want to start investing. I have a sum of $2,500 to begin with and have an Roth account with Fidelity. Should I start with FUSEX? I could get in with $2,500 minimum. Is that my best thing to do? 

Q: How much further can this bull market go? 

Q: I just finished reading First-Time Investor and am planning to set up a retirement portfolio in my Vanguard account. I am 66 years old, retired and financially in great shape, with a defined pension plan and no debt. I am wondering if the portfolio for a retired person should be similar to the one you suggested in this book, or if you have advice about another book to read for retirement portfolios. 

Q: Years ago I heard you when you came to Southern California to give a seminar on investing, and was impressed. Now that I am retired and you are not actively working at Merriman, are your principles better realized by an investor by themselves? Or are your ways of diversifying best handled at the company that bears your name? I bring this question to you because I see some of the recommendations on this site as it was years ago.  These recommendations are absent on site.

Q:  You mentioned in your newsletter that DFA Funds are significantly better performers then Vanguard Funds. So why you recommend in your column only Vanguard funds and ETFs without a word of better DFA funds?

Q: Why do you always allocate to large and small cap stocks but never mention the mid-cap tier? What is your  reasoning for the omission of this capitalizationsize tier from your recommendations?

Q: There has been a change at Vanguard that changes our status on the Developed Markets Fund.  The question I have been getting is:  What do you recommend now that the Vanguard  Developed Markets Fund is closed?

Q:  i recently read some of your articles and noted the Fidelity buy and hold ETF portfolios. How often do you update those portfolios?
How can a beginning investor get started with little to invest?
I’m a college freshman and ever since I heard your podcasts in my senior year of high school, I’ve wanted to start investing my money for retirement. Now that I’m 18, I’m able to open a retirement account, but I currently only have around $250 to invest because I come from a low-income family. I remember, from one of your podcasts, that you recommend ETFs for college students because they have no minimum.  I tried to open an account with Vanguard, but it said that I need a minimum of $3,000 to put in the prime money market to open an account before I can begin to buy ETFs. I’d really like to invest in Vanguard because of your recommendation. How might I buy a Vanguard ETF without having $3,000?

Q: My question regards REIT funds. I’d like to diversify my portfolio to include some real estate. You recommend in your books to open this asset class as an IRA (traditional or Roth). However, for my case this may not work.
I am a US citizen living and working overseas. My income falls below the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion amount, and so I am unable to open/contribute to an IRA in the US. So, if I diversify into an REIT fund, I will have to accept the higher tax burden that comes with these accounts. My question is: do you think that it is worth it, in the long run? (I plan on working overseas for the next 4-5 years at least) Or should I skip on diversifying into real estate until I am able to do so in an IRA? Would an REIT ETF fund be a better move over an REIT mutual fund?

Q: Thank you so much for your MarketWatch article about “The Ultimate Buy & Hold Strategy“. I was wondering: Should I wait for a pull-back in the market before switching our retirement funds to your strategy?

Q: I have reached the point now where I can invest more heavily into mutual funds and plan to follow your asset mix. I am reluctant to do so now as the market is so high. Should I wait or dollar-cost-average and move forward? There are so many different opinions as to whether the bull market will continue it gets confusing.

Q: What is the differences between Index Funds and ETFs? The strengths and weaknesses of each? And in particular, how should people go about choosing one over the other?

Q: Good article. I like the small value stock analysis and comparison to other ways of investing in stock. What is the best strategy to avoid market loss and invest defensively?

Q: Don’t you think you suggest too many funds? I think all the portfolio needs is emerging markets, International markets and US REITs.These 3 essential troika asset classes will do well. 

Q: I have a Vanguard account and have been following your recommendations with the nine different asset classes that you recommend in Financial Fitness Forever. This year I noticed the Emerging Markets Fund VEIEX has not done very well but every other fund has had a good return. I’m just wondering, do you still recommend VEIEX as part of your Vanguard recommendations? I am a long time listener of your podcasts and reader of your books. Thanks for giving me the knowledge and confidence to take on my own investments!

Q: Would your recommend anything different for our 60% in Vanguard? Seems lots of advice, including from Pimco, to get out of bonds. I’ve been following your diversified Vanguard portfolio at 60/40 for some years. Do you see the coming downturn as any more significant?  Would you recommend anything different for our 60%?

Q: Why no bucket of commodities in your portfolio recommendations?

Q;  I follow your recommended Vanguard portfolios and wonder what you think about the recent addition of two International Bond funds – the Vanguard Total International Bond Index Fund and the Emerging Markets Government Index Fund?

Q: How can you write, “dont pay a commission for a fund blah blah blah”? Why don’t you just write, “Please get a wrap account with my firm so I can get paid to do nothing by swiping a cool 1% of your assets each year”? Oh, I guess you forgot that little rule, lol. You are just like the rest of them. Yeah, I am the only poor advisor because I’m not able to just tell little lies. I don’t expect a reply, you guys never do.

This comment/question is from Paul’s MarketWatch article The one fund every investor should own

Q: Wow, you are extrapolating the past into the future there. Very creative analysis! Or wait… wait a second! Wasn’t all this extrapolating the past into future one of the behaviors that led to massive losses during the financial crisis?

Q: What’s the most tax efficient strategy to withdrawal from their IRA and ROTH?

Q: What would happen if I did the exact opposite of what you recommend? 

Q:  Your recommended bond funds include Tips and Treasuries. What do you think about allocation to foreign bonds, such as Australia or Brazil? Some even recommend bank loans, e.g., BKLN. Or am I just reaching for yield?

Q: Should my retirment funds be in my taxable or 401(k) accounts?

Q: Did they pay this guy, Paul Merriman, for this MarketWatch article on asset allocation? It’s NOT a new idea.

Q: Is it possible to put money into our IRA account after retirement?

Q: Now that Apple is down to $450, is it time to purchase again?

Q: If everyone believes that small-cap index funds will outperform and have better results, won’t everyone invest in them until they become overvalued and not such and amazing deal anymore?

Q: Do you have an opinion on the Vanguard Managed Payout Funds as a way to tap portfolio income in retirement?

Live It Up Without Outliving Your Money” in 2008. You were very high on DFA.  Are you still as high as you were when you wrote the book?

Q:  Is there a reason to wait until after year end distributions are paid at Vanguard before I re-balancy my funds?

Q:   I don’t think turnover rates mean as much for bonds as equities, but should I even be looking at turnover rates of bonds?

Q:  You recommend people hire an advisor who uses Dimensional funds. Are there advisors who offer Dimensional funds in Canada? And are they no load?

Q:  I am meeting with a new investment advisor next week.  What should I ask them about their track record?

Q:  I’ve noticed that my recent investment performance has been significantly lower than the recent performance of the S&P 500. Does it still make sense to stick with your recommended Vanguard Index Funds vs. the simple Vanguard S&P 500 Index?