The 4 Best Investments for Lazy Investors

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By Julie Rains

Here's good news for time-strapped investors: You can ignore your investments and still get rich.

You don't have to spend endless hours conducting research, developing watch lists, trading shares, monitoring performance and rebalancing your portfolio. Fortunately, there are investments that require minimal upfront work and even less maintenance on an ongoing basis. Here are the four best investments for lazy investors.

Robo-Advisory Portfolios

Portfolios created and managed by robo-advisers require minimal involvement beyond signing up for the service. They are diversified among various asset classes and market segments, such as U.S. stocks, stocks of emerging markets worldwide, U.S. corporate bonds, international bonds, etc. Depending on the adviser's approach, portfolios may be tilted toward small caps and value funds.

Robo-advisory portfolios often contain commission-free ETFs, which tend to be low-cost and tax-efficient. Generally, rebalancing and tax-loss harvesting are included in the services provided to investors (or are available for a nominal fee).

Choose an adviser based on the firm's investment philosophy, account minimums, asset-under-management fees, other investment fees (if any) and unique features, such as Betterment's goal-setting emphasis or Wealthfront's direct indexing service.

To invest your money, respond to prompts regarding your time horizon and risk tolerance. Typically, you'll enter your age or number of years until you reach retirement (or other financial goal), and choose among conservative, moderate, and aggressive portfolios.

Target-Date Funds

Target-date funds, or life-cycle funds, are often "funds of funds" comprised of passively managed (index) and/or actively managed mutual funds. These typically give investors a balanced portfolio that adjusts from riskier, growth-oriented holdings like stocks toward safer, more stable ones such as bonds as you get closer to the target date associated with your financial goal.

Generally, target dates are aligned with the investor's expected year of retirement. For example, if you are 35 years old in 2015, you may consider purchasing a fund with the target date of 2045 -- the year you turn 65.

To choose a fund, consider the target date, investment-related fees (such as sales loads), expense ratio, mix of underlying funds and glide path, which describes the rate at which the portfolio moves from more aggressive to more conservative investments.

Blue Chip Stocks

Blue chip stocks represent well-established, nationally recognized, financially stable, and reliable companies, typically with consistent business performance. Definitions vary, but experts name the 30 stocks in the Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) as blue chips.

Companies with household names such as Nike (NKE), Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) and Intel (INTC) are part of the Dow. Often, blue chip stocks pay dividends, which can boost overall performance when reinvested.

To build a portfolio of blue chip stocks, accumulate shares of individual stocks through your brokerage firm or purchase a Dow index fund, such as iShares Dow Jones U.S. ETF (IYY).

Alternatively, create a blue chip motif at Motif Investing, where you can buy up to 30 stocks for $9.95. Weight your stock positions according to your preferences, such as market capitalization. Periodically, rebalance using this broker's tools.

Lazy Portfolios

Lazy portfolios typically consist of a few to several handpicked mutual funds or ETFs that represent the broader stock and bond market domestically and worldwide. These portfolios are diversified, low cost, and minimalistic. Their purpose is to deliver reasonably consistent returns in varied market conditions.

Choose among portfolios with as few as two or as many as 10 funds. For example, you might adopt the Coffeehouse portfolio as specified by Bill Schultheis, author of The Coffeehouse Investor. Accumulate shares in these funds to create an investment portfolio that mirrors the percentages indicated by the model portfolio. This particular portfolio contains Vanguard funds that you can purchase free of commissions with a Vanguard account.

Periodically, rebalance by buying more shares of funds that lag percentage-wise in the portfolio.

There are no guarantees that investments for lazy investors (or diligent ones) will deliver positive returns, year after year. But after making initial purchases, you can minimize the time spent on managing your investments and enjoy other pursuits.

The key to building a healthy portfolio is consistency, rather than finesse. On a regular basis, invest your money, avoid withdrawals when you are in a crisis or panic mode, and keep contributing to your investment accounts in all market conditions.

Are you a lazy investor? What investments have you discovered to be easy to manage?
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