Author Topic: How to change US vs. international asset allocation  (Read 4222 times)

Jack

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How to change US vs. international asset allocation
« on: October 19, 2016, 12:28:05 PM »
I'm currently about 83% US stocks / 17% international. I'd like that to be closer to the worldwide cap-weighted allocation, which is 36% US / 64% ex-US.

First of all, I'm not sure how much closer I want to get (I'm thinking somewhere in the range of 1/3 - 1/2 international). I do think some home-country bias is reasonable (both because my spending is very likely to be in dollars and because I think the US has better governance than many other parts of the world), but I don't know how to quantify that.

(By the way: note that my time horizon is very long and I don't particularly care about volatility.)

Second, once I do figure out my asset allocation, how should I change my portfolio to get there? If I were talking about putting new money into the market then I'd lump-sum it, but since it's already-invested money should I dollar-cost average it instead? If I lump-summed it "soon" (circa October 2016), I'd be tempted to try to time the market based on the election or something...
« Last Edit: October 19, 2016, 12:30:02 PM by Jack »

nereo

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Re: How to change US vs. international asset allocation
« Reply #1 on: October 19, 2016, 01:36:34 PM »
A1:  Only you can determine what your AA should be.  Given the amount of international exposure already inherent in large US companies, my AA has me 80/20 (SP500 and international).  My international is split, half 'emerging markets' and the other half in developed markets.  Yours will probably be different

A2: Pick a specific day* of the year.  Determine how much you need to sell and buy of each asset to get back to your AA.  Execute at the same time ("lump-sum" in your words).
*I rebalance once-per-year.  Others might want to do it once a quarter or even monthly.  What's important is that you pick a day ahead of time and stick to it, rather than doing it based on market performance (a form of market timing).

For example, if you want an 80/20 mix but you have $113k in your "80%" sector and $23k in your "20% sector" you have a total of $136k.  So your distribution should be $108.8k/$27.2k.  So you would sell $4.2k from your "80%" sector (113-108.8 = 4.2) and use that money to buy your 20% sector.

If you are also investing money that particular month you can add that into the equation, but personally I find it easier just to rebalance one day and then do all future contributions in the normal 80/20 allotment.

Does that answer your questions?


tonysemail

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Re: How to change US vs. international asset allocation
« Reply #2 on: October 19, 2016, 01:51:34 PM »
are there tax consequences or do you hold most of your money in tax deferred accounts?
i might be inclined to use TLH opportunities to fine tune AA.
but that may be a drop in the bucket for you.

Jack

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Re: How to change US vs. international asset allocation
« Reply #3 on: October 19, 2016, 03:29:26 PM »
This is all within my IRAs and 401(k)s.

ysette9

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Re: How to change US vs. international asset allocation
« Reply #4 on: October 19, 2016, 04:10:12 PM »
At the advice of a Vanguard person I spoke with on the phone about a year ago, we are putting our target asset allocation at 40% International/60% domestic for the stock portion. Since a bulk of this is in a taxable account, the path we are taking is to just direct all new savings into VTIAX until we reach that AA. That is a lazier method of achieving the same thing.

Cycling Stache

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Re: How to change US vs. international asset allocation
« Reply #5 on: October 19, 2016, 06:40:37 PM »
I'm currently about 83% US stocks / 17% international. I'd like that to be closer to the worldwide cap-weighted allocation, which is 36% US / 64% ex-US.

Where did you get this stat?  I understood the split to be 50/50 based on market cap.  There's a Vanguard white paper on it (which also discusses how much international).

I switched to 30% international earlier this year (70% US) after receiving some very good information from Indexer and others.  Here was the thread.  http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/investor-alley/has-the-time-come-to-add-international

In terms of how, if it's all in a 401(k), there should be no transaction costs for making the switch, and you can reallocate whenever you're committed to the percentage you want.  Then rebalance once per year on an arbitrary date (or more frequently, if you desire).   Don't try to time the market.

For me, I have the lowest international expense ratios in my 401(k) (through the government), so I reallocated enough of my 401(k) to international to make it 30% of my total portfolio.  I then made my entire 401(k) contribution each pay period international to offset the after-tax money going to VTSAX (US total market) each pay period.  It's close to the right allocation, and I figure I'll just rebalance on some arbitrary date in January each year to get back to 30% overall.

Grizzly Dad

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Re: How to change US vs. international asset allocation
« Reply #6 on: October 19, 2016, 09:05:45 PM »
are there tax consequences or do you hold most of your money in tax deferred accounts?
i might be inclined to use TLH opportunities to fine tune AA.
but that may be a drop in the bucket for you.

It's often optimal to hold international funds/stocks in taxable accounts if you've decided to include them in your portfolio AND have funds in taxable accounts. You can deduct taxes paid to foreign governments if these are held in taxable accounts, but are out of luck if they're held in a tax-advantaged account. We have about 30% exposure to international though a simple total market ex-us index fund. All held in a taxable account at vanguard.

Radagast

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Re: How to change US vs. international asset allocation
« Reply #7 on: October 19, 2016, 10:11:12 PM »
It looks like right now VT has 53% or so in the US and 47% elsewhere. US:International 3:2 seems like a good ratio. My suggestion is to not have more than 50% in the US stock market (except for things that may behave differently like REITs or precious metals stock or something). I would start with 50% US stock, then allocate any bond/cash/other as you want, then add the rest to international. For example, 50/35/10/5 (whatever 10 and 5 are), or up to 50/50 if you want to go 100% stock.

If you can get to your desired allocation by regular contributions within a year or two I would do that, otherwise I would sell some now.

CanuckExpat

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Re: How to change US vs. international asset allocation
« Reply #8 on: October 19, 2016, 11:34:05 PM »
I'm currently about 83% US stocks / 17% international. I'd like that to be closer to the worldwide cap-weighted allocation, which is 36% US / 64% ex-US.

Where did you get this stat?  I understood the split to be 50/50 based on market cap.  There's a Vanguard white paper on it (which also discusses how much international).

I understood roughly 50 / 50 as well.
For ease of simplicity I target 50 / 50 US vs. international as well (with some Canadian over weighting for historical reasons).

While still accumulating I wouldn't re-balance, but added money to whichever one needed funds most.

Given the recent under performance of international, I'm a bit heavier on US than 50 / 50 due just to market fluctuations (in fact, I think total bond fund has out performed international over a 10 year period). Not sure what I will do about re-balancing or not now that we are not adding new funds.

I could make all kinds of arguments why I might over weight US stocks, but I think most of them would be home country bias or chasing returns. The laziest option for me has still been to keep it at 50 / 50 (roughly). Know idea if that will pay off or not.

Jack

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Re: How to change US vs. international asset allocation
« Reply #9 on: October 20, 2016, 05:52:51 AM »
I'm currently about 83% US stocks / 17% international. I'd like that to be closer to the worldwide cap-weighted allocation, which is 36% US / 64% ex-US.

Where did you get this stat?  I understood the split to be 50/50 based on market cap.  There's a Vanguard white paper on it (which also discusses how much international).

http://seekingalpha.com/article/38252-a-world-market-cap-approach-to-allocation

If you can get to your desired allocation by regular contributions within a year or two I would do that, otherwise I would sell some now.

While still accumulating I wouldn't re-balance, but added money to whichever one needed funds most.

For me, I have the lowest international expense ratios in my 401(k) (through the government), so I reallocated enough of my 401(k) to international to make it 30% of my total portfolio.  I then made my entire 401(k) contribution each pay period international to offset the after-tax money going to VTSAX (US total market) each pay period.  It's close to the right allocation, and I figure I'll just rebalance on some arbitrary date in January each year to get back to 30% overall.

I can't get to the correct allocation with only new contributions because my 401k does not have a cheap international fund (which means my allocation is slowly getting even more out of whack because $18K is going to an S&P 500 fund while $5.5K/year is going to VTIAX). Therefore, I need to exchange existing VTSAX for VTIAX in my IRA (and probably my wife's IRA too). Eventually even that will fail because the 401k balance will grow faster than the IRA balances are allowed to, but hopefully by then I'll be contributing to a taxable account or will have a chance to do a rollover or something.

In terms of how, if it's all in a 401(k), there should be no transaction costs for making the switch, and you can reallocate whenever you're committed to the percentage you want.  Then rebalance once per year on an arbitrary date (or more frequently, if you desire).   Don't try to time the market.

I'm trying not to time the market, which is why I'm wondering if I should do a series of exchanges instead of one big one. Shouldn't I be worried about the risk that if I do a single large exchange (from VTSAX to VTIAX), it might happen to occur on a day when VTSAX is particularly low but VTIAX is particuarly high?

CanuckExpat

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Re: How to change US vs. international asset allocation
« Reply #10 on: October 20, 2016, 06:21:15 AM »
Shouldn't I be worried about the risk that if I do a single large exchange (from VTSAX to VTIAX), it might happen to occur on a day when VTSAX is particularly low but VTIAX is particuarly high?

Think about the real time horizon of your investments, probably like 10/20/50 years. I know it seems like a big worry now, but on that time scale it won't matter too much.

Make a decision, even if arbitrary, execute and stick to it.

Get on investing more. Maxing out your 401k and IRA is good, doing that and contributing to taxable is even better. The amount you invest will make a later difference than how you allocate (probably)

Car Jack

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Re: How to change US vs. international asset allocation
« Reply #11 on: October 20, 2016, 07:02:57 AM »
Here's what works for me:

I look at my asset allocation only if I make a decision to change it.....or on my birthday.
In either case, if the AA is within 5% for all classes, I'm done, I leave it alone.  If the variance is more than 5%, I buy/sell to balance to my perfect AA and am done until I'm another year older.

In reality, I'm always adding to my portfolio, and since my 401k has its best fund as an equity fund (lowest ER), that's where new money goes.  I'll periodically update my portfolio spreadsheet which gives me overall AA and equity US/international.  Thus far, because my portfolio is large enough, any additions have not moved the variances to 5% or more.

When choosing US or international, keep in mind that almost all US companies have huge foreign presence.  Think Ford, GM.  Ford has always been huge in Europe and GM's biggest market (I believe) is China with new factories now in China exporting to the US.  Because of this, I don't overweight international stocks as I feel I've already got international exposure.  I feel the same about REITs.  Plenty of US companies hold real estate, invest in real estate and rent real estate.  Do you believe Bank of America is invested in real estate as much as a random REIT.  I do.  So my equity stake holds BoA but not some REIT which would be tax inefficient and extremely risky and volatile.

Jack

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Re: How to change US vs. international asset allocation
« Reply #12 on: October 20, 2016, 07:05:04 AM »
Think about the real time horizon of your investments, probably like 10/20/50 years. I know it seems like a big worry now, but on that time scale it won't matter too much.

I wouldn't call it a big worry, I would call it a small detail -- but one which I have the opportunity to optimize, so why not optimize it?

Get on investing more. Maxing out your 401k and IRA is good, doing that and contributing to taxable is even better. The amount you invest will make a later difference than how you allocate (probably)

I've been playing catch-up: I got a higher-paying job halfway through last year, maxed my 2015 HSA between July and October, maxed my 2015 401(k) between October and December (contributing 100% of my paycheck for a while there), and maxed both 2015 IRAs between January and April. That's in addition to the $2870.83/month to max the 2016 401(k), HSA and IRAs with equal payments throughout the year. My wife had been underemployed but got two different part-time jobs/contracting clients in her field this year, so she became eligible for two different 401(k)s in the last few months. Therefore, now I'm trying to shovel as much of her income as is allowed (75% max contribution for the W-2 job and 100% of the 1099 income) into that, too. And we're paying off student loans.

(That's something like $60k worth of investing projected for calendar year 2016, not including paying down the loan principal, but it all fits in tax-advantaged accounts because some of it is for tax year 2015.)

Once all that's done including paying off the student loans, which will probably be in about 2018 or 2019, then I'll worry about a taxable account. At that point I might decide to invest in real estate instead, though.



Out of all those accounts, the only ones with good international fund choices are the IRAs and my wife's 401(k)s (which are/will be with Fidelity). I disregarded the latter in my posts so far because she's only got $2877 in one so far (we have ~$4k in our checking account to contribute to the solo 401k, but haven't finished submitting the paperwork to open it yet).

Cycling Stache

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Re: How to change US vs. international asset allocation
« Reply #13 on: October 20, 2016, 07:43:49 AM »
I've been playing catch-up: I got a higher-paying job halfway through last year, maxed my 2015 HSA between July and October, maxed my 2015 401(k) between October and December (contributing 100% of my paycheck for a while there), and maxed both 2015 IRAs between January and April. That's in addition to the $2870.83/month to max the 2016 401(k), HSA and IRAs with equal payments throughout the year. My wife had been underemployed but got two different part-time jobs/contracting clients in her field this year, so she became eligible for two different 401(k)s in the last few months. Therefore, now I'm trying to shovel as much of her income as is allowed (75% max contribution for the W-2 job and 100% of the 1099 income) into that, too. And we're paying off student loans.

Sounds like you're doing great.  Check out the Vanguard white paper on investing in international.  It walks through all the issues, and the answer seems to be that 50/50 is the logical approach, but if you get to at least 30% you're most of the way there.  It acknowledges that home bias is the most likely basis for people being overweight in US, but as I highlighted in the previous thread when I asked these same questions, it is psychologically tough to filter out comments by people like Bogle that you don't really need too much international.  My takeaway was that 30% gets you most of the benefits, and is more logical than the 0% I had before, but probably not completely rational.  I consider it a work in progress but am glad I moved to at least 30%.  Indexer had some great posts with charts in that thread in support of having international.

Don't worry about the possible 1% etc. change when you reallocate.  It's no different than the question of when to move a lump sum in the market.  It's already in the market.  It is going in the market.  You don't have any basis for knowing that Tuesday will be better than Wednesday, so just move it to your desired allocation.  If all in the 401(k), there are no tax implications to worry about from the move.

Jack

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Re: How to change US vs. international asset allocation
« Reply #14 on: October 20, 2016, 07:52:54 AM »
Don't worry about the possible 1% etc. change when you reallocate.  It's no different than the question of when to move a lump sum in the market.  It's already in the market.  It is going in the market.  You don't have any basis for knowing that Tuesday will be better than Wednesday, so just move it to your desired allocation.  If all in the 401(k), there are no tax implications to worry about from the move.

The reason to lump-sum a new contribution is that the stock market return is much higher (on average) than holding cash, so the opportunity cost outweighs the volatility risk. But since the returns of US vs. international stocks are assumed to be more or less equal, the volatility risk seems like the only consideration and I'm not convinced the same logic still holds.

Cycling Stache

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Re: How to change US vs. international asset allocation
« Reply #15 on: October 20, 2016, 08:32:20 AM »
Don't worry about the possible 1% etc. change when you reallocate.  It's no different than the question of when to move a lump sum in the market.  It's already in the market.  It is going in the market.  You don't have any basis for knowing that Tuesday will be better than Wednesday, so just move it to your desired allocation.  If all in the 401(k), there are no tax implications to worry about from the move.

The reason to lump-sum a new contribution is that the stock market return is much higher (on average) than holding cash, so the opportunity cost outweighs the volatility risk. But since the returns of US vs. international stocks are assumed to be more or less equal, the volatility risk seems like the only consideration and I'm not convinced the same logic still holds.

Maybe I don't fully understand what risk you're trying to mitigate against.  I think we agree that the expected performance of international versus US is the same (at least as far as we know), so there's no risk associated with the move.  As I understand it, that's why you're citing volatility, which is presumably the fact that on a particular day international could be up or down compared to US?  If so, first, it could just as likely be up or down, so it's a wash.  Second, even assuming that it might be irrationally up or down on a particular day, what do you suppose the percentage irrationality could be on a particular day?  Assuming you don't do it during a Brexit event, maybe 1% or 2% tops?  That's $100 or $200 on $10,000.  It doesn't seem worth trying to insure against that risk when it could just as likely go in your favor (you happen to transfer on a day when international is irrationally down versus U.S.).

That said, if it bothers you, break it up into 4 installments over a month.  Again, you shouldn't be trying to catch trends with the timing of the transfer (that's why you're diversifying, after all, is to capture the trend of international in your portfolio in case it is different than the trend of US--i.e., diversification), just the random blips in the market.  I wouldn't worry about it, but if it makes you feel better, it's 4 mouse clicks over a month rather than 1.   

Correct?  Is there more to it than that?

YoungStache

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Re: How to change US vs. international asset allocation
« Reply #16 on: October 21, 2016, 10:12:58 AM »
Do both VTIAX and VTSAX both pay the same dividends? I have a lump sum of cash to invest. Wondering how I should do the asset allocation as well.

seattlecyclone

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Re: How to change US vs. international asset allocation
« Reply #17 on: October 21, 2016, 10:35:26 AM »
I strongly suggest selecting an asset allocation independently of dividend payouts. That said, the international fund paid out a bit more in dividends over the past year.

YoungStache

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Re: How to change US vs. international asset allocation
« Reply #18 on: October 21, 2016, 10:46:52 AM »
Is it generally 2 percent dividends? What's your asset allocation?

Jack

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Re: How to change US vs. international asset allocation
« Reply #19 on: October 21, 2016, 10:48:38 AM »
Don't worry about the possible 1% etc. change when you reallocate.  It's no different than the question of when to move a lump sum in the market.  It's already in the market.  It is going in the market.  You don't have any basis for knowing that Tuesday will be better than Wednesday, so just move it to your desired allocation.  If all in the 401(k), there are no tax implications to worry about from the move.

The reason to lump-sum a new contribution is that the stock market return is much higher (on average) than holding cash, so the opportunity cost outweighs the volatility risk. But since the returns of US vs. international stocks are assumed to be more or less equal, the volatility risk seems like the only consideration and I'm not convinced the same logic still holds.

Maybe I don't fully understand what risk you're trying to mitigate against.  I think we agree that the expected performance of international versus US is the same (at least as far as we know), so there's no risk associated with the move.  As I understand it, that's why you're citing volatility, which is presumably the fact that on a particular day international could be up or down compared to US?  If so, first, it could just as likely be up or down, so it's a wash.  Second, even assuming that it might be irrationally up or down on a particular day, what do you suppose the percentage irrationality could be on a particular day?  Assuming you don't do it during a Brexit event, maybe 1% or 2% tops?  That's $100 or $200 on $10,000.  It doesn't seem worth trying to insure against that risk when it could just as likely go in your favor (you happen to transfer on a day when international is irrationally down versus U.S.).

That said, if it bothers you, break it up into 4 installments over a month.  Again, you shouldn't be trying to catch trends with the timing of the transfer (that's why you're diversifying, after all, is to capture the trend of international in your portfolio in case it is different than the trend of US--i.e., diversification), just the random blips in the market.  I wouldn't worry about it, but if it makes you feel better, it's 4 mouse clicks over a month rather than 1.   

Correct?  Is there more to it than that?

Sorry, "volatility" wasn't the right term. I think I actually was trying to talk about the fact that the asset correlation is <1. And yes, you're correct that that's basically what I'm trying to do, and correct that the odds are probably close to 50/50... which means preference for the "break it up into installments" option implies irrational risk-averseness.

:/

seattlecyclone

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Re: How to change US vs. international asset allocation
« Reply #20 on: October 21, 2016, 11:10:48 AM »
Is it generally 2 percent dividends? What's your asset allocation?

Last year, looks like VTSAX was just under 2%, while VTIAX was a bit above 2%.

My asset allocation is 45% US stocks, 25% international stocks, 10% REITs, 15% US bonds, 5% international bonds. Getting closer to FIRE, I like to have some bond allocation to minimize sequence of return risk. Earlier in the journey, 100% stocks is perfectly reasonable.

Interest Compound

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Re: How to change US vs. international asset allocation
« Reply #21 on: October 23, 2016, 10:30:58 PM »
I'm currently about 83% US stocks / 17% international. I'd like that to be closer to the worldwide cap-weighted allocation, which is 36% US / 64% ex-US.

Where did you get this stat?  I understood the split to be 50/50 based on market cap.  There's a Vanguard white paper on it (which also discusses how much international).

http://seekingalpha.com/article/38252-a-world-market-cap-approach-to-allocation

This article was written in 2007, and highlights data from the "period ending April 2007". Using a more recent MSCI reference, we see the current US cap-weight is 54%:



Source: https://www.msci.com/world

Which aligns well against Vanguard's number:



Source: https://personal.vanguard.com/us/funds/snapshot?FundId=3141&FundIntExt=INT#tab=2

To answer your main question, if my Asset Allocation decision has been made (might want to sit on it for a few months first) I'd immediately make trades in all tax-advantaged spaces, to bring my allocation closer to my stated goal. If that isn't good enough, I'd "rebalance" only with contributions in all my taxable accounts. When in the accumulation phase, I don't think the tax hit is worth having a slightly-off asset allocation.

Interest Compound

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Re: How to change US vs. international asset allocation
« Reply #22 on: October 23, 2016, 10:43:59 PM »
are there tax consequences or do you hold most of your money in tax deferred accounts?
i might be inclined to use TLH opportunities to fine tune AA.
but that may be a drop in the bucket for you.

It's often optimal to hold international funds/stocks in taxable accounts if you've decided to include them in your portfolio AND have funds in taxable accounts. You can deduct taxes paid to foreign governments if these are held in taxable accounts, but are out of luck if they're held in a tax-advantaged account. We have about 30% exposure to international though a simple total market ex-us index fund. All held in a taxable account at vanguard.

This is cancelled out by the fact that not all dividends from International funds are 100% qualified, and are therefore taxed at a higher rate. Some years this puts US stock funds ahead, and some years this puts International stock funds ahead. Unfortunately, this dynamic can't really be predicted this ahead of time either.

MustacheAndaHalf

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Re: How to change US vs. international asset allocation
« Reply #23 on: October 23, 2016, 10:47:33 PM »
I'm currently about 83% US stocks / 17% international. I'd like that to be closer to the worldwide cap-weighted allocation, which is 36% US / 64% ex-US.
Where did you get this stat?  I understood the split to be 50/50 based on market cap.
http://seekingalpha.com/article/38252-a-world-market-cap-approach-to-allocation
That article is from 2007, and the link to it's source no longer works.  If you plug 2007-2015 into portfolio visualizer, US has returned +77% vs international +4% during that time.  So maybe that data worked for 2007, but it's much closer to 50/50 now.


One alternative viewpoint on "international goes in taxable" - not if the dividends outweigh the tax benefit.  For example, right now Vanguard Developed Markets ETF (VEA) has a 12 month yield of 2.9% while Vanguard Total Stock Market (VTI) yields 1.9% in the past 12 months.  In my experience this outweighs the tax recommendation, because the dividend is +50% higher.  Similarly, Vanguard Emerging Markets (VWO) has a 3.1% 12 month yield.  I used 12 month yield because "SEC yield" wasn't displayed at Vanguard or morningstar.

EDIT: Just to note that I'm not a mirror image of Interest Compound, despite the similarity of our replies!  :)
« Last Edit: October 23, 2016, 10:50:35 PM by MustacheAndaHalf »