Stocks or Funds?

Is it better to buy individual stocks or mutual funds? It depends, of course, on several factors like how much to invest or how much risk you’re willing to take. If you have a high tolerance for risk and millions of dollars to invest, you may be a good candidate to own individual stocks. If you only have $1,000 to invest, a mutual fund is a better option.

When building a portfolio for your future focusing on your goals will help you determine the best strategy. How much to invest? What is your tolerance for risk? How involved will you be in managing your assets? How much time will you commit to researching new investment ideas?

A portfolio of 30 individual stocks or more is recommended for a diversified portfolio.[1] A report on Morningstar’s website suggests 18 to 20 names.[2] When individuals pick their own stocks, they focus primarily on large companies with brand name recognition like Apple, McDonald’s, or Pfizer. Few investors add small or international stocks to their portfolio.

RiskAlyze® helps investors and advisors quantify risk. The risk score for the S&P 500 is 74 on a scale of 1 to 99. A T-Bill, by comparison, has a risk score of 1. I sent a list of 20 large-cap companies to a client for review. The risk profile for the portfolio was 73, or 1 point lower than the S&P 500 Index. If the risk levels are similar, why not buy the index? The Vanguard S&P 500 fund owns 500 companies with exposure to every sector; it’s also cheaper than buying 20 individual stocks.

What about the FAANGs – Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google? Yes, if you owned these 5 stocks you destroyed the S&P 500 over the past 5 years. The FAANG portfolio soared 272%, bettering the S&P 500 by 205%!  How do you identify these companies in advance? The best performing stock in the S&P 500 index this year is Xerox, a stock that has underperformed the market by more than 100% for the past 10 years. Last year it dropped 30%. Xerox was probably not on your radar screen. The other stocks rounding out the top ten are Cadence Design, Advanced Micro Devices, Chipotle, MSCI, Anadarko Petroleum, Total System Services, Synopsys, Global Payments, and DISH Network. These 10 stocks have outperformed the FAANGs by 33% this year! Finding consistent winners to beat the market each year is tough – if not impossible.

Investing in large companies with brand name recognition makes sense on the surface, but it ignores a fair chunk of the global market. Vanguard’s Total World Stock fund invests 73% of its assets in large-cap stocks with 57% allocated to the United States. An all large-cap U.S. portfolio ignores bonds, small companies, real estate, gold, and international investments.

Picking individual stocks also takes time. An hour per stock, per week has been suggested. If you own 20 stocks, you’ll need to set aside 20 hours per week for research. Can you commit 20 hours per week to review your portfolio?

For most investors a globally diversified portfolio of low-cost mutual funds based on your financial goals is the best path to take.

Diversification is your buddy. ~ Merton Miller

July 5, 2019

Bill Parrott, CFP®, CKA® is the President and CEO of Parrott Wealth Management located in Austin, Texas. Parrott Wealth Management is a fee-only, fiduciary, registered investment advisor firm. Our goal is to remove complexity, confusion, and worry from the investment and financial planning process so our clients can pursue a life of purpose.

Note: Investments are not guaranteed and do involve risk. Your returns may differ than those posted in this blog. PWM is not a tax advisor, nor do we give tax advice. Please consult your tax advisor for items that are specific to your situation.




[1], Jason Whitby, June 25, 2019.


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