Investing Strategies from Four Top Planners

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When we decided in October to close the books on our

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funds feature, we promised to replace it with advice from a group of financial advisers we like and respect.

Our first notion was to ask a handful of top financial advisers to design portfolios that would compete over time to post the top overall return. But while such a horserace might be fun to follow, it's of limited practical use to all but the most aggressive investors.

Our tolerance for risk varies greatly, depending on where we are in life. There's simply no reason for a couple nearing retirement, for example, to assume the kinds of risks a 25-year-old can take in pursuit of stellar performance.

And while we all want to maximize returns, it's not just about numbers. We each have different financial goals, and the success of an adviser can be measured in his or her ability to create a financial plan that works for you.

With that in mind, we recruited four top financial advisers, Roxanne Fleszar, Lou Stanasolovich, Vern Hayden and Ron Roge. All have many years of experience. We at

have long dealt with all these advisers, and we value their judgment. We asked them to design portfolios for four different stages in life. We presented the first two Wednesday:

  • The Unlimited Future Portfolio is for a twentysomething with a long-term investing horizon.
  • The Family Values Portfolio is for a married couple with children, saving for college costs and retirement.

Yesterday, we unveiled the second two:

  • The Empty-Nesters Portfolio is for a couple nearing retirement.
  • The Golden Years Portfolio is for a retired couple seeking supplementary income.

We will track the progress of these portfolios beginning Jan. 1 and check in with each of our Portfolio Planners each quarter, or sooner if events warrant. You can keep up with all the portfolios via our

Scoreboard, which will be updated weekly.

We didn't give our Portfolio Planners any ground rules. We just asked them to pick investments we could track. You'll see that their choices ranged from some of the biggest, best-known funds to some you may never have heard of.

You'll also see that some portfolios include funds that are closed to new investment. One advantage to investing with a financial planner is that the planners, through their relationships with fund managers, can sometimes get you into funds you couldn't get into on your own. We wanted them to design "real-world" portfolios just like those they would create for their own customers. That's why we didn't make closed funds off-limits. Instead, we asked them to select alternatives to the closed funds so that a reader without an adviser could come close to duplicating their choices.

Send in Your Portfolio

While we hope all of you can draw lessons for your own investments from these four portfolios, we know they can't possibly take everyone's personal situation into account. But what we


do is ask one of our Portfolio Planners to take a look at a reader's mutual-fund portfolio each month and offer a public critique. Here's how it will work:

If you're interested in participating, send a note to We'll need to know what funds you own and roughly what percentage of your portfolio they comprise. We also need to know a little bit about your investing goals.

Each month, we'll select one reader portfolio that we feel is the most interesting or instructive. One of our Portfolio Planners will then offer suggestions for fine-tuning or, if necessary, overhauling it.

Remember, this exercise will be conducted in public, in front of all of our readers. So if you're squeamish about making your financial life public, this probably isn't for you.

Finding a Planner

And finally, if you're intrigued by the idea of using a financial adviser but don't know how to find one, today you can read

Tracy Byrnes'

story, "

How to Choose a Financial Planner."