Considerations for Investing as a Catholic, Part 2

In my previous post regarding things Catholics should consider when investing, I spoke about one mutual fund family (Ave Maria Mutual Funds) as an example of a fund family that offers investments that abide by United States Council of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) guidelines.  There are certainly other fund families that abide by USCCB guidelines and I wanted to mention some of them here.

Note:  I do not currently have money invested in Ave Maria funds nor in any of the other fund families I am about to mention.  Yes, you’re right:  As a good Catholic, I should strongly consider moving my money to somewhere other than the Vanguard funds where my IRA money currently sits.  I am searching for a good Catholic mutual fund with low fees, so if you know of any, let me know!

Luther King Capital Management (LKCM) has the LKCM Aquinas Catholic Equity Fund (AQEIX) that abides by USCCB investment guidelines.  The fund, though, has consistently under performed its category average.  Its expense ratio of 1.50% makes it a very expensive fund to hold.

Epiphany Funds has three funds to choose from, all of which have high total expenses.  These funds are very small and this is likely the reason for the high expenses.  The Epiphany Fund family

Index Fund Advisors provides a list of Catholic index funds on its web site.  I do not see ticker symbols for these, so I am not able to judge their performance very well, although they appear to perform relatively well.  The expenses for investing with IFA appear to be significant (0.90% annually for accounts with less than $500,000, plus quarterly fees), so be aware.  I like the variety of target date funds IFA provides, as this makes it easier for investors of any age to find an index fund suitable for their stage of life and risk tolerance.

As I mentioned in Part 1, high expenses are the norm for Catholic mutual funds and are the price we pay, at least for now, to abide by USCCB guidelines. Until these Catholic funds gain more assets under management, these high expenses will likely continue.  In the meantime, if you choose to invest in any of these funds, give yourself a pat on the back.

USCCB Socially Responsible Investment Guidelines:  http://www.usccb.org/about/financial-reporting/socially-responsible-investment-guidelines.cfm

Considerations for Investing as a Catholic

In a previous post I recommended investing in index funds in order to minimize expenses and better increase your nest egg.  Unfortunately, though, many of the companies contained within a standard index fund conduct activities that are in opposition to Catholic teaching.  For example, the owner of Rick’s Cabaret strip clubs, RCI Hospitality Holdings (RICK stock ticker), is held by, among others, Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Fund (VTSMX and VTSAX).  When you purchase shares in VTSMX or VTSAX, you purchase fractions of shares in the owner of Rick’s Cabaret.  So what is a Catholic to do?

Educate yourself regarding Catholic investing guidelines and make informed decisions.  The United States Council of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) released “Socially Responsible Investment Guidelines” in order to provide guidance on this topic:

USCCBhttp://www.usccb.org/about/financial-reporting/socially-responsible-investment-guidelines.cfm

In summary, we have a moral responsibility to avoid investing in organizations that operate in opposition to Catholic teaching.

But, how is a person supposed to navigate through the hundreds or thousands of funds an index fund, much less multiple index funds, invest in?  Thankfully, Catholic mutual funds exist and do this work for us.  Ave Maria Mutual Funds is an example of one of these companies and Ave Maria has two funds, the Ave Maria Rising Dividend Fund (AVEDX) and the Ave Maria Growth Fund (AVEGX), that are rated well by Morningstar.  The 0.92% expense ratio for AVEDX and the 1.17% expense ratio for AVEGX are very high, though, in comparison to Vanguard’s fund lines.  Working against Ave Maria in this case are the active management they have to perform for both funds, as fund managers must weed out non-Catholic organizations, and the sheer size of Vanguard funds, as Vanguard can drive their expense ratios lower (VTSAX has an extremely low expense ratio of 0.05%!!!) due to VTSAX’s $141 billion in holdings versus AVEDX’s $789 million in holdings.

Catholic investors can look at the 0.85% difference in expense ratios between VTSAX and AVEDX and know that the extra money they are paying is helping to build the kingdom.  That being said, I really wish Ave Maria would consider lowering their expense ratios, as the extra 0.85% in expense makes a huge difference over time.

If you were to invest $10,000 into VTSAX with no future investments, a 7% rate of return, and the 0.05% expense ratio, in 30 years you would have $74,989.  (Calculations done on calcxml.com)

Investing in VTSAX

 

If you were to invest the same $10,000 in AVEDX with no future investments, a 7% rate of return, and the 0.92% expense ratio, in 30 years you would have $57,689.  That’s a difference of $17,300 when your investment compounds over 30 years.  That extra 0.85% in expenses wasn’t so small after all.

Investing in AVEDX

 

Unfortunately, until Ave Maria Mutual Funds has more money under management, it will likely not be able to leverage economies of scale in order to reduce expenses.  We meet our initial goal, though, of putting our money into investments that comply with Catholic social teaching, and this is certainly worth some extra expense.

Why You Should Use Index Funds in Your Retirement Accounts

When I first started learning about investing and retirement accounts, I struggled to determine where I should invest my money.  Thankfully, several great personal finance web sites (including Motley Fool and Bogleheads) agreed that investing in index funds led to the most benefit for most people.  Index funds are mutual funds that track what is called a market index, like the Standard and Poor’s 500, and maintain small slices of companies in proportion to the companies’ share of the index.  For example, if Apple currently makes up 2% of the S&P 500, an S&P 500 index fund would place 2% of its holdings in Apple.

Why is indexing preferred over investing in actively managed funds, where fund managers buy and sell stocks on a frequent basis?  The frequent buying and selling of stocks generates commissions for the fund managers and their companies (this is your money going to pay the fund managers).  Additionally, there are often fees associated with the initial purchase of actively managed funds.  At the end of the day, actively managed funds must increase in value not only to match the gains of index funds, but also to cover actively managed funds’ much higher expenses.

Study after study indicates that index funds outperform actively managed funds:

http://www.cnbc.com/2015/06/26/index-funds-trounce-actively-managed-funds-study.html

http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/personalfinance/2016/03/14/66-fund-managers-cant-match-sp-results/81644182/

https://www.bogleheads.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=10&t=88005

I recommend Vanguard Funds (www.vanguard.com) for index funds, as Vanguard’s funds have the lowest expense ratios.  One fund that is highly recommended by many proponents of indexing is Vanguard’s Total Stock Market Index Fund (VTSAX), which has an extremely low expense ratio of 0.05%.  In comparison, many actively managed funds have expense ratios of over 1.00%.  While this extra percentage point may not seem like a lot, when compounded over time, this extra 1.00% may result in you paying fund managers tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of dollars that could have been used to grow your retirement nest egg.

 

Great Personal Finance Podcasts

One of my favorite things to do on long drives is listen to personal finance podcasts.  There are a handful that I have found (so far) to be better than the rest:

My favorite podcast is Afford Anything with host Paula Pant, as she combines an entertaining delivery with great guest speakers.  Paula encourages listeners to both increase their incomes while decreasing their expenses (increasing the “gap”).  Her focus on increasing income differentiates her from many, many other personal finance bloggers who put a great focus on limiting expenses and frugality.  I certainly think both are important, but Paula’s focus on making the gap bigger blows past the flawed binary view on many blogs that we should focus on either increasing income or reducing expenses, but not both.  Paula provides a ton of insight, too, into real estate investing.  I definitely, definitely recommend the Afford Anything podcast.

The Mad Fientist podcast focuses on reaching financial independence.  The Mad Fientist provides some original (to me) ideas:  How to use a health savings account (HSA) as a “super IRA” account; how to minimize taxes when investing in retirement accounts.

The Dave Ramsey Show podcast is targeted more toward people trying to get their financial house in order, but it is still very motivational.  Dave Ramsey releases three hours of the show every weekday, so there’s plenty to listen to.  My favorite segments are Dave’s millionaire theme hours, where millionaires are interviewed and insights are provided into their spending, saving, and investing habits.