Merry Christmas everyone.
Checking my emails, Scott Pape, the Barefoot Investor has sent his usual offering: join the Barefoot Blueprint for $297 for the year instead of $397.
Admittedly he offers a full refund if you are unsatisfied, but, as I peruse his offer it occurs to me that he offers us locals a lot of basic stuff that is available from an online broker and other stuff we can get free from MMM or JL Collins (the only drawback with the latter being that it is slanted to US readers).
Has anyone tried the BB and what did you think of it?
Has anyone come across an Australian website on investing that they felt was worthwhile? Other than this worthwhile thread of course!
I tried the Blueprint to see what it had to offer. I think they're well-intentioned people who have something to offer a subset of the population, I'm just not sure that subset includes many people here. They are genuine about the full refund if you want to give them a try, though.
What did I think of it? The strongest value it provides is the stuff that people probably wouldn't pay for in isolation: solid personal finance advice (live below your means, insure yourself, get a good mortgage deal, etc), and access to a relatively large community of other subscribers (some of whom provide their fellow members with useful advice and support via facebook group/forum). The personal finance stuff I think I'm on top of (and after a one-year barefoot subscription, or some decent books, I think most people would have enough material regardless). Paying $300p.a. for access to a facebook group where I found myself contributing but not learning very much was a bit rich for me. But I saw many others get value from that community.
In terms of investments, what you're really paying for is one stock pick per month. Overall I thought it was a useful outlet for individual investors who would otherwise be trading too frequently or stockpicking with weak rationale. It's a way of giving them a bit more discipline, with regular behavioural reminders along the way. For those already comfortable with index funds and low-cost super it seems like a backwards step. There was also an ETF portfolio (the barefoot breakfree portfolio - google it if you want to see what it was at the start, I don't imagine it's changed all that much). It was a not-unreasonable but relatively aggressive mostly equity portfolio, nothing special but perfectly adequate if one understands the risks (which were promoted as lower than I thought credible) and can stay the course over a couple of decades. And there were special reports on things like investment bonds (which was actually pretty decent, highlighting the lower-cost products for those on high-enough tax brackets - not so useful for individuals who expect to be in a lower bracket in retirement).
What were my concerns? Most of his suggestions I'd say are lower risk than the traditional Australian "buy property and a few dividend stocks", but still higher-risk than I think most people can handle behaviourally. He hadn't given much portfolio construction advice though, other than to suggest 6 months (for accumulators) to 3 years cash (for retirees). If this is in-line with your risk-appetite that's great. But when I was a member we hadn't seen a long-lasting downturn in the economy or the share market since Blueprint started. When we do (perhaps even in this year's decline) I suspect many will be uncomfortable with the risks they have been taking. Other than the ETF portfolio, his investment advice was mostly about investing in a LIC or two (such as AFIC) and adding 10 or so individual ASX-listed stocks (emphasising quality and value, Buffet-style). That will probably turn out OK, I certainly hope it does for those who follow such a strategy, but it's a hard strategy to be successful with behaviourally and doesn't take advantage of the substantial degree of global diversification now available cheaply. It takes on large amounts of Australia-specific risk - it's entirely plausible for a single small country to underperform over an investing lifetime - and I fear his members will struggle behaviourally as much as anyone else with the inevitable downturns that come from time to time.
Other larger Australian forums I've come across have been focused on property or trading. So that barefoot community does offer a critical mass of more investment-focused individuals we don't have yet. However I really hope a larger (free) Australian financial community builds up with more evidence-based investing underlying it (along the lines of the Bogleheads or MMM community).