Trail Financial Planning, LLC is a fee-only financial planning and investment management firm located in Bellingham, WA

How we manage investments

Our methodology of managing investments may be considered in three layers:

  1. Our philosophy – What we believe
  2. Our strategy – The overall thinking to guide our actions
  3. Our tactics – The actions we take

An analogy could be to coaching a sports team, maybe a soccer team.  The philosophy might be, “let’s score more goals.”  The strategy might be a formation with an extra offensive player, and one fewer defensive player position.  The tactics would be the actual players, a training regimen, player fitness, the game play, etc.

Our Investment Philosophy

We believe in the power of the stock and bond markets to deliver investment returns.

Our investment strategy

We design an investment strategy based on a person’s needs and goals.  The two primary considerations are:  (1) time frame (when the money will be needed), and (2) risk tolerance (riskier investments can either gain, or lose, more).

Our tactics

For long-term investments, we recommend passively managed investment vehicles characterized by robust diversification, low turnover, and low fees.  For short-term investments, we recommend a mix of cash, short-term bonds and CDs to craft a portfolio that matches the individual needs.

To pursue a better investment experience, we embrace ten ideas/thoughts/strategies (sort of a mix of philosophy and strategy):

1 Embrace Market Pricing

2 Don’t Try to Outguess the Market

3 Resist Chasing Past Performance

4 Let the Markets Work for You

5 Consider the Drivers of Returns

Dimensions of Expected Returns - courtesy of Dimensional Fund Advisors

6 Practice Smart Diversification

Courtesy of Dimensional Fund Advisors

7 Avoid Market Timing

Annual Returns by Market Index

8 Manage Your Emotions

9 Look beyond the Headlines

10 Focus on What You Can Control

Our Portfolio Management Strategy

We create an individualized investment plan to reach your goals, but also to be in line with your values and your tolerance for risk.  We monitor and manage your portfolio so you don’t have to.  Your portfolio should support your life.

Disclaimers

(1)  In USD. Source: Dimensional, using data from Bloomberg LP. Includes primary and secondary exchange trading volume globally for equities. ETFs and funds are excluded. Daily averages were computed by calculating the trading volume of each stock daily as the closing price multiplied by shares traded that day. All such trading volume is summed up and divided by 252 as an approximate number of annual trading days. (2)  The sample includes funds at the beginning of the 20-year period ending December 31, 2018. Each fund is evaluated relative to its respective primary prospectus benchmark as of the end of the evaluation period. Surviving funds are those with return observations for every month of the sample period. Winner funds are those that survived and whose cumulative net return over the period exceeded that of their respective primary prospectus benchmark. Loser funds are funds that did not survive the period or whose cumulative net return did not exceed that of their respective primary prospectus benchmark. Where the full series of primary prospectus benchmark returns is unavailable, funds are instead evaluated relative to the Morningstar category index assigned to the fund’s category at the start of the evaluation period. US-domiciled open-end mutual fund data is from Morningstar. Equity fund sample includes the Morningstar historical categories: Diversified Emerging Markets, Europe Stock, Foreign Large Blend, Foreign Large Growth, Foreign Large Value, Foreign Small/Mid Blend, Foreign Small/Mid Growth, Foreign Small/Mid Value, Global Real Estate, Japan Stock, Large Blend, Large Growth, Large Value, Mid-Cap Blend, Mid-Cap Growth, Mid-Cap Value, Miscellaneous Region, Pacific/Asia ex-Japan Stock, Real Estate, Small Blend, Small Growth, Small Value, World Large Stock, and World Small/Mid Stock. Fixed income fund sample includes the Morningstar historical categories: Corporate Bond, High Yield Bond, Inflation-Protected Bond, Intermediate Government, Intermediate-Term Bond, Long Government, Muni California Intermediate, Muni California Long, Muni Massachusetts, Muni Minnesota, Muni National Intermediate, Muni National Long, Muni National Short, Muni New Jersey, Muni New York Intermediate, Muni New York Long, Muni Ohio, Muni Pennsylvania, Muni Single State Intermediate, Muni Single State Long, Muni Single State Short, Short Government, Short-Term Bond, Ultrashort Bond, and World Bond. See Dimensional’s Mutual Fund Landscape 2019 for more detail. Index data provided by Bloomberg Barclays, MSCI, Russell, FTSE Fixed Income LLC, and S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC. Bloomberg Barclays data provided by Bloomberg. MSCI data © MSCI 2019, all rights reserved. Frank Russell Company is the source and owner of the trademarks, service marks, and copyrights related to the Russell Indexes. FTSE fixed income indices © 2019 FTSE Fixed Income LLC. All rights reserved. S&P data © 2019 S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC, a division of S&P Global. All rights reserved. Indices are not available for direct investment. Their performance does not reflect the expenses associated with management of an actual portfolio. There is no guarantee investment strategies will be successful. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. (3) This study evaluated fund performance persistence over rolling periods from 1999 through 2018. Each year, funds are sorted within their category based on their previous five-year total return. Those ranked in the top quartile (25%) of returns are evaluated over the following five-year period. The chart shows the average percentage of top-ranked equity and fixed income funds that kept their top ranking in the subsequent period. US-domiciled open-end mutual fund data is from Morningstar. Equity fund sample includes the Morningstar historical categories: Diversified Emerging Markets, Europe Stock, Foreign Large Blend, Foreign Large Growth, Foreign Large Value, Foreign Small/Mid Blend, Foreign Small/Mid Growth, Foreign Small/Mid Value, Global Real Estate, Japan Stock, Large Blend, Large Growth, Large Value, Mid-Cap Blend, Mid-Cap Growth, Mid-Cap Value, Miscellaneous Region, Pacific/Asia ex-Japan Stock, Real Estate, Small Blend, Small Growth, Small Value, World Large Stock, and World Small/Mid Stock. Fixed income fund sample includes the Morningstar historical categories: Corporate Bond, High Yield Bond, Inflation-Protected Bond, Intermediate Government, Intermediate-Term Bond, Long Government, Muni California Intermediate, Muni California Long, Muni Massachusetts, Muni Minnesota, Muni National Intermediate, Muni National Long, Muni National Short, Muni New Jersey, Muni New York Intermediate, Muni New York Long, Muni Ohio, Muni Pennsylvania, Muni Single State Intermediate, Muni Single State Long, Muni Single State Short, Short Government, Short-Term Bond, Ultrashort Bond, and World Bond. See Dimensional’s Mutual Fund Landscape 2019 for more detail. Index data provided by Bloomberg Barclays, MSCI, Russell, FTSE Fixed Income LLC, and S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC. Bloomberg Barclays data provided by Bloomberg. MSCI data © MSCI 2019, all rights reserved. Frank Russell Company is the source and owner of the trademarks, service marks, and copyrights related to the Russell Indexes. FTSE fixed income indices © 2019 FTSE Fixed Income LLC. All rights reserved. S&P data © 2019 S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC, a division of S&P Global. All rights reserved. Indices are not available for direct investment. Their performance does not reflect the expenses associated with management of an actual portfolio. There is no guarantee investment strategies will be successful. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. (4) In USD. US Small Cap is the CRSP 6–10 Index. US Large Cap is the S&P 500 Index. Long-Term Government Bonds is the IA SBBI US LT Govt TR USD. Treasury Bills is the IA SBBI US 30 Day TBill TR USD. US Inflation is measured as changes in the US Consumer Price Index. CRSP data is provided by the Center for Research in Security Prices, University of Chicago. S&P data © 2019 S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC, a division of S&P Global. All rights reserved. Long-term government bonds and Treasury bills data provided by Ibbotson Associates via Morningstar Direct. US Consumer Price Index data is provided by the US Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics. Indices are not available for direct investment. Their performance does not reflect the expenses associated with the management of an actual portfolio. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. (5) Relative price is measured by the price-to-book ratio; value stocks are those with lower price-to-book ratios. Profitability is measured as operating income before depreciation and amortization minus interest expense scaled by book. Diversification does not eliminate the risk of market loss. (6) Number of holdings and countries for the S&P 500 Index and MSCI ACWI (All Country World Index) Investable Market Index (IMI) as of December 31, 2018. S&P data © 2019 S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC, a division of S&P Global. All rights reserved. MSCI data © MSCI 2019, all rights reserved. International investing involves special risks, such as currency fluctuation and political instability. Investing in emerging markets may accentuate these risks. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results. Diversification does not eliminate the risk of market loss. (7) In USD. US Large Cap is the S&P 500 Index. US Large Cap Value is the Russell 1000 Value Index. US Small Cap is the Russell 2000 Index. US Small Cap Value is the Russell 2000 Value Index. US Real Estate is the Dow Jones US Select REIT Index. International Large Cap Value is the MSCI World ex USA Value Index (gross dividends). International Small Cap Value is the MSCI World ex USA Small Cap Value Index (gross dividends). Emerging Markets is the MSCI Emerging Markets Index (gross dividends). Five-Year US Government Fixed is the Bloomberg Barclays US TIPS Index 1–5 Years. S&P and Dow Jones data © 2019 S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC, a division of S&P Global. All rights reserved. Frank Russell Company is the source and owner of the trademarks, service marks, and copyrights related to the Russell Indexes. MSCI data © MSCI 2019, all rights reserved. Bloomberg Barclays data provided by Bloomberg. Chart is for illustrative purposes only. Indices are not available for direct investment. Their performance does not reflect the expenses associated with the management of an actual portfolio. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results. Diversification does not eliminate the risk of market loss. (10) Diversification does not eliminate the risk of market loss. There is no guarantee investment strategies will be successful. For illustrative purposes only.

Fees.  Our fees are described on the “Fees page.”