Mindy Yu, CIMA®
Meet our writer
Mindy Yu, CIMA®
Director of Investing, Betterment
Mindy has more than a decade of experience managing assets as well as providing market insights and financial guidance to clients. She's a Certified Investment Management Analyst® (CIMA®) professional.
Articles by Mindy Yu, CIMA®
The latest update to our Core portfolio strategyThe latest update to our Core portfolio strategy Jan 2, 2024 10:38:57 AM Learn more about the changes we believe will help improve long-term risk-adjusted returns. Betterment serves as a fiduciary, acting in our clients’ best interests. We monitor our portfolios and review the underlying investments on a regular basis to optimize portfolios and help you achieve your investment goals. As part of this process, we’ve made changes to our Core portfolio strategy that we believe will help improve long-term risk-adjusted returns. How we evaluate and manage our portfolios The Betterment Investment Committee monitors and reviews the underlying inputs used to construct our portfolios, including running simulations to gauge expected long-term performance. Our capital market assumptions (CMAs) represent our long-term expectations for the return and risk of various asset classes. These CMAs help inform how we allocate across different asset classes in our portfolios, and power our platform’s advice tools What’s changed in the Core portfolio? Our updated CMAs indicate a shift in the expected risk-return profile of certain asset classes, suggesting a reallocation of target exposures with the Core portfolio going forward. Here’s what that means: Within our equities basket Dialed down exposure to emerging markets stocks while increasing exposure to U.S. stocks. With increasing geopolitical risks, we believe this shift can help reduce potential losses, especially for portfolios holding fewer stocks relative to bonds. This change also brings us closer to MSCI All Country World Index (MSCI ACWI, our stock allocation benchmark as described below) Reduced the emphasis on U.S. value stocks (“value tilt”), shifting toward U.S. stock exposure weighted by market capitalization. Over time, we’ve observed gradual compression in the value factor premium as markets have become more efficient. We expect this adjustment to help reduce risk and more closely align the Core portfolio with our custom benchmark indices (described below). Within our fixed income basket Reduced exposure to both emerging markets and international developed bonds, while increasing exposure to U.S. bonds. Similar to our stock allocations, we expect this to mitigate potential downside risk for more conservative allocations. Increased allocations to inflation-protected U.S. bonds. This update will help shield clients with more conservative portfolios from potential erosion risk on savings—providing protection against market drawdowns, rising interest rates, and other macroeconomic events that could have negative short-term consequences. This change can be particularly relevant for customers in retirement, since inflation can meaningfully eat away at the value of your money over time. Developing a “benchmark aware” portfolio strategy In an evolution of our investment process, we’ve also updated our Core portfolio construction methodology to become more “benchmark aware.” This means we now calibrate our exposures based on a custom benchmark. The custom benchmark we have selected is composed of (1) the MSCI All Country World Index (MSCI ACWI), (2) the Bloomberg Global Aggregate Bond index, and (3) at low risk levels, the ICE US Treasury 1-3 Year Index. This custom benchmark has varying risk levels that correspond to the Core portfolio allocations we support for a variety of investor risk tolerances. Introducing the Value Tilt portfolio strategy For customers who favor the potential benefits and associated risks in value investing, we’re introducing a new portfolio option: Value Tilt. The Value Tilt portfolio strategy maintains the same historical track record as the Core portfolio strategy, up until the 2024 changes where this becomes a new strategy. While this portfolio includes the same thematic asset allocation changes as the Core portfolio strategy, it maintains explicit weighting towards U.S. value stocks. An expansion of our portfolio options, Value Tilt is available for all goals, new and old. You can select it within your account. What does all this mean for you? No action is required from you to transition to the updated Core portfolio allocations. We’ll manage your Core portfolio tax-efficiently and put your cash flows (such as deposits, withdrawals, dividends, contributions, and distributions) to work to assist with the transition, moving your portfolio towards the updated target allocation. Our algorithms will automatically work to reduce any drift between your positions and the updated target allocation, by (1) first purchasing those funds where your portfolio is underweight when investing dividends and deposits and (2) first selling those funds where your portfolio is overweight, when generating cash for withdrawals. If you’ve enabled tax loss harvesting, we’ll use those opportunities to reduce drift as well. We do not expect any tax impact in IRAs, 401(k)s, and HSAs. Considering potential tax impact For taxable goals, while the trade-off between expected returns and tax impact is unique to each client (and depends on factors such as your investing time horizon and financial situation), most customers should see minimal changes to their taxes as a result of this transition. That’s because we’re taking a gradual approach with the portfolio migration and using cash flows to transition taxable accounts. If you would rather be invested in one of our other managed ETF portfolio strategies or wish to have value exposure in your portfolio, you have the option of selecting any of these strategies, along with the Value Tilt portfolio, on our platform. Betterment is regularly monitoring your investments so that you don’t have to. Learn more about our investment philosophy and process.
The keys to understanding investment performanceThe keys to understanding investment performance Jul 24, 2023 12:00:00 AM Understanding investing performance doesn’t have to be a challenge. Here’s how we simplify it for you. In this guide, we look at how we crunch numbers for you and provide two tools to analyze your returns. Plus, see four questions to ask so you understand the overall performance of an investing platform. But first, don’t fall for fallacies: Typical media coverage may skew your perspective. Avoid these two fallacies when looking at your own investing performance. The Dow/S&P 500 Fallacy: Benchmarks like the Dow Jones Industrial Average are popular, but they don’t actually tell you much about the stock market. The Dow only represents 30 US stocks. And the S&P 500 doesn’t give you a full picture of the US market—let alone the global market. The Points Fallacy: It’s common to hear reporters say things like, “Dow loses 500 points.” But it’s far more valuable to look at the percentage change. If the Dow is at 35,000 points, a 500-point drop is less than two percent. That’s not something long-term investors generally need to worry about. Instead of falling for fallacies: To know how you’re performing relative to the market, ask, “Which market?” Many Betterment portfolios are globally-diversified, making the MSCI All Country World Index a better benchmark than the S&P 500 or Dow. How Betterment simplifies looking at performance: We crunch the numbers for you, showing you three aspects of performance. Your combined accounts. We pull together all of your accounts and show their performance as one number. You can also zoom in on the account level. Your total returns. Since changes in the prices of assets in your portfolio are more volatile, and don't tell the full picture, we look at total returns which include price changes and dividends together instead of breaking them out separately. Your long-term timeline. We show your performance over as long a period as possible to help keep you focused on the long term and minimize short-term stress. Two tools to analyze your returns: We don’t encourage frequent monitoring of performance, but when you do want to review performance, we have two tools to help you understand the big picture. Tool #1: Time-weighted return. Time-weighted return is the default return you see on your Betterment accounts. When you invest, you often have deposits made over time. The time-weighted return imagines that all deposits were made on your first day of investing. Why would you want to do this? Because cash coming in and out of your portfolio at different times can distort and complicate your returns due to the nature of the constantly-fluctuating stock market. Also, if you were comparing returns across two different accounts with two different cash flow patterns, you couldn’t be sure if the difference was due to the investments or due to the timing of the cash flows. The time-weighted return can refer to a price-only return or a total return. Price return reflects only the change in the price of the asset, while total return reflects both price and reinvested income. By default, Betterment displays the total return for a more comprehensive view of performance. Tool #2: Individual rate of return. Individual rate of return can be displayed on the performance screen of each account by clicking on the “Show balance details” link. The individual rate of return is affected by each and every instance of cash flow that goes in and out of your portfolio. Cash flows at Betterment can include deposits, withdrawals, dividends, and fees. Individual rate of return does a better job of answering the question, “What are the average returns on the dollars I personally deposited into Betterment?” as opposed to “How well does Betterment design and manage the portfolios I have with them?” Looking beyond returns is important when considering an investing platform or fund. Here are four questions to ask: What are the commissions, trade fees, and assets under management (AUM) fees? How much time and effort are required of you to manage the investments? Does the investing philosophy align with your values? Does the platform offer tax efficiencies such as tax loss harvesting and asset location? (Note: Your stated returns likely won’t take into account any potential value these tools may have added.)