retirement
Ben Stein talks about investing

q_v2.gif Your upcoming book, "Yes, You Can Supercharge Your Portfolio!" deals with how one can make one's investments much better performing and safer from risks. Can you, in a nutshell, describe what it covers and what recommendations it makes?

a_v2.gifThis book is probably the most substantive that my partner-in-crime, Phil DeMuth, and I have written to date -- to be honest, it's 99.99 percent Phil's work, with a word or two thrown in by me. It basically tells you everything you need to know about the value of diversification and the value of weighting according to volatility and size, weighting toward small-cap and foreign stocks in both emerging and established markets. Phil, in fact, gets into foreign markets and how they're especially good because they'll be a very good play on the falling dollar.

It's the sort of book you'll want to have tucked under your arm when you go and see a broker.

q_v2.gif Index funds and Exchange-traded funds, or ETFs, appear to be a big part of that investment strategy.

a_v2.gifYes, I love index funds and ETFs. Index funds and ETFs are inexpensive to buy and own. They afford you immediate diversification, and they're extremely tax-efficient investments. Their performance is terrific and you aren't paying exorbitant fees to a fund manager. They're also very stable, meaning you don't have to worry about any unexpected changes a manager might make, or worry about the impact of a management change, or worry about winding up overexposed to any particular market sector.

Now, Mr. (John) Bogle and I might disagree as to which are ultimately better, but I find both index funds and ETFs equally good and attractive. Personally, I don't see a huge difference between them.

And as for ETFs, I especially like EEM (iShares MSCI Emerging Markets) and EFA (iShares MSCI EAFE Index), as well as those that invest in REITs (real estate investment trusts), like RQI (Cohen & Steers Quality Realty) and, especially, ICF (iShares Cohen & Steers Realty Majors). Incidentally, they're now practically giving these away, in my opinion. I mean it's just a joke how cheap they've become.

q_v2.gif Since we last spoke back in October 2007, the news concerning real estate has been consistently negative. Have you changed your mind about the aforementioned real estate-based ETFs or have you added any new ones to your original recommendations?

a_v2.gifI am buying RQI and DBC (PowerShares DB Commodity Index Tracking fund) continuously.

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q_v2.gif Some market pundits advocate as much as a 40-percent allocation to foreign stock funds. Is that too much to have invested abroad today?

a_v2.gifNo. I actually think that that is a very good idea. Forty percent, today, isn't at all an unreasonable allocation. I personally don't have that much invested in foreign markets, but I should. Having a higher exposure to foreign markets than we've been used to is now a positive, not a negative.

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