Should you still invest in stocks for the long-run?

The best long-term evidence for the superior returns of stocks— i.e.: investing in businesses– that I’ve come across is Jeremy Seigel’s excellent book Stocks for the Long-Run. While I remain firmly convinced of the likely outperformance (net of taxes & fees) and low risks of permanent loss of capital of publicly-traded stocks (purchased via low-fee index funds) relative to other asset classes, it’s good to periodically check one’s assumptions against data.

To that end, here’s a smattering of information that to me, helps continue to make the case that stocks, especially US equities, are likely to continue to be the best thing for investors of all wealth & income brackets to invest the bulk of their fortunes in.

From Blackrock, here’s returns from the past 10 years for many asset classes, including the annualized returns at the far-right:

You can see above that US equities crushed all other classes, with other developed markets (Japan & EU) not far behind. I’ll give a nod to REITs as well, which are what I recommend for clients who really want a real estate-only component of their portfolio as a way of owning real estate without the headache, illiquidity, fees, taxes, and lack of diversification inherent in owning individual properties. (That said, your own home can be a fine investment, considering various subsidies and tax-advantages.)

Here’s a similar chart from another source going back to 2008:

Novel Investor Asset Class Returns QuiltSource:

Again, US stocks were at the top, followed by REITs, bonds, then international stocks.

What NOT to buy for the long-run?

Commodities, gold, cryptocurrency, and vacant land

Any asset that doesn’t do anything is a bad candidate for long-term growth. Why? It’s not productive. Owning ‘commodities’– coffee, sugar, oil, pork bellies, gold– can only earn you positive returns above inflation if you get lucky enough to hold them in an inflationary environment. Otherwise, stuff will just increase in value with inflation on average, because unlike a business or a piece of productive real estate (farm, rental or commercial property), a lump of gold or a barrel of oil doesn’t create anything more of itself over time. Ditto for cryptocurrencies. All of these assets are purely speculative plays. If you yourself are an expert in the valuation of these products, sure, you might have an edge, but considering how many well-funded ‘experts’ on Wall Street and around the world are playing this game against you, I wouldn’t bet on your chances.

Vacant land that you fail to develop or monetize as a rental or commercial or farming property falls into this category as well. You should be vacation property because you intend to enjoy it relative to the costs of other leisure rentals or activities, not because you intend for it to make you rich.

Art, wine, vintage car collecting could all go into this category as well unless you are truly an expert in spotting deals AND are ruthless in re-selling for the highest prices. As with any venture where you think you can ‘beat the market’, compare your returns over a long period of time making sure to value your time and including any taxes, fees, etc to reduce your returns by.

Cash value life insurance, annuities, and rental real estate

Assets that are either too risky or too time-consuming also get crossed off my list. The former include anything hard to evaluate or that include high fees. Cash value life insurance and annuities almost always have egregious fees and the supposed ‘tax advantages’ are largely illusory; plain stock index funds in a brokerage are very tax-efficient if you buy and hold index funds for the long run. Individual real estate holdings like a rental property fall into the latter category of ‘too time-consuming/hard’ for most investors. Read any of John T. Reed’s excellent books on how to manage property for profit, and then come back and tell me it sounds like a walk in the park to you.

Non-publicly traded businesses: hedge funds/private equity, angel investing

Theoretically, if public stock investing is great, so might investing in non-publicly-traded equity. In practice, it either requires a lot of ‘deals’ to achieve sufficient diversification, there’s problems with liquidity (no market to trade your shares on), and a lot of ‘angel’ investments are just that: angelic because they expect NOT to earn anything on their investment in most cases, and they’re usually right!

I personally have made two angel investments in my life, knowing full well it was largely speculation for a good cause or people I wanted to support, and both turned out terribly from a financial perspective. I was ok with that potential at the outset, and these weren’t dollar amounts that mattered much relative to the sums I have in low-fee index funds.

Various hedge fund/private equity ‘opportunities’ may come your way with high minimum investment amounts, and they suffer from the same high-fee & specific risk problems that publicly-traded mutual funds suffer from: you could lose your shirt if they guy you’re paying makes some dumb bets, and even if he does ok, his fees will likely eat up any gains relative to the overall market that you would’ve made. There are also liquidity problems here too since small money managers want their clients to lock up the funds for long periods of time since they don’t want to have to liquidate their fund’s positions at a bad time.

Cash and bonds

Cash and bonds are GREAT investments for the short-run, defined by me as under 5-ish years. I recommend people have any money they need to spend in a year in cash, including any ’emergency funds’ since those could be needed anytime. Bonds, either as a bond fund, or as savings bonds such as I-bonds if rates are favorable and you are ok with the extra hassle, are great for the 1 – ~5 year time horizon, or as a percentage of a retirement portfolio once you’re within ~10-15 years of needing to actually live off your investments. Otherwise, keep everything you won’t need for at least 5-15 years in stocks!

10% off Alaska Airlines flights with Costco ($450 for $500 Alaska gift certificates)

UPDATE 2023-11-03: The deal is back!

This deal from Costco sounds awesome for those flying Alaska Airlines in the near future. Costco is selling $500 Alaska gift certifications with no blackout days or expiration for $450. You can buy up to 10 of these and apparently can use as many as you want when buying an Alaska flight via and using your Alaska ‘wallet’ account (that you then deposit the gift certificates into.)

Ward’s favorite airline meets Ward’s favorite warehouse store!

Get ’em here while they last! Costco Executive members ($120/year membership) get their 2% back too:

I’ve purchased this deal a couple of times, and it works out great! I use my credits to book extended family under my Alaska account so they can reimburse me and one of us can save the 10%.

7 great movies about aliens

Here’s some of my favorite alien science fiction movies. Many are thrillers as well; perfect for the Halloween season! Streaming links included.

  1. Alien (1979) – I much prefer Ridley Scott’s original thriller to the more action-packed James Cameron sequel (Aliens.) It’s the movie that gave us the chest-buster, face-hugger, and the space marine! (Disney+ | Hulu)
  2. The Thing (1982) – John Carpenter’s masterpiece is a paranoiac thriller set in frigid, isolated Antarctica. The practical effects are awesome. (Don’t get it confused with the 2011 remake.) (Netflix | Might be back on Tubi later)
  3. Solaris (1972) – Probably the most approachable Tarkovsky-directed film, Solaris is a chilling and artful tale of a planet that causes creepy hallucinations among a small group of scientists who are studying it. (In Russian with subtitles. Make sure to watch the original, and not the 2002 remake.) (Freevee (ads) | YouTube $4 rental | YouTube)
  4. The Predator (1987) – Schwarzenegger and a host of brawny meatheads (see below)– I mean that in the most flattering way possible; every actor is perfectly cast– are hunted in the jungles of ‘nam by an extraterrestrial sportsman. Pyrotechnics, suspense, and macho one-liners make this one of my top Arnold films. (Disney+ | Hulu)
  5. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) – Stanley Kubrick’s space masterpiece is a beautifully shot story of aliens helping mankind advance at key stages in our evolution. The classical score is brilliantly suited to the majesty of outer space. The ship’s HAL 9000 supercomputer has new relevance with the rise of Artificial Intelligence. (HBO Max)
  6. Close Encounters of the Third Kind – A fun, family friendly, aliens-visit-earth film from Spielberg. (Tubi [Director’s cut, with ads] | Amazon $4.50 rental)
  7. The Hidden (1987) – An offbeat action flick about an alien that inhabits humans and loves rock & roll and violence. Surprisingly good! Men in Black meets Carpenter’s The Thing. With punk rock. (Amazon $3 rental)
Above: The swoll cast from Predator.

Honorable mentions

John Carpenter also directed They Live, a dystopian future of aliens posing as humans that occupy powerful positions in the world. Starring the late, great WWE heel Rowdy Roddy Piper. Conspiracy theorists of the lizard people/Illuminati variety will love this film, as will those that have played Duke Nukem 3D. (Amazon $4 rental | Tubi (with ads))

Aliens. While I felt it paled in comparison to the first Alien, ya gotta watch it too. (Disney+ | Hulu)

Prospect (2018) is an indie sci fi flick about a man and his daughter mining to support themselves on a foreign planet. (Kanopy | Freevee (ads) | Tubi (ads) ) If you enjoyed Prospect, check out this 10 minute short film that the same Seattle directors made for just three grand, In The Pines.

Total Recall (1990). Schwarzenegger again, but this time on Mars and with lots of action. There’s a three-breasted alien. Just sayin’. (Amazon $6 rental | AMC+)

How to find good financial & legal services

Clients often ask me where they should look for a competent tax preparer, or a good estate planning attorney. Here’s some recommendations as well as places to search.

Tax professionals/CPAs

  • Search the American Institute of CPAs at


The American Bar association at can also be used to find a lawyer. Many states have legal aid offices that you can check.

Questions to ask when hiring a lawyer from “The Wall Street Journal Complete Estate Planning Guidebook” by Rachel Emma Silverman:

  • Do they charge by the hour or a flat rate?
  • Are follow-up calls/emails/scanned copies free or not?
  • Do they specialize in estate planning [if that’s why you’re hiring them]?
  • Explain your situation and ask what they’d recommend and also for a ballpark price range.
  • Are they a large firm or boutique?
  • Do they have other clients similar to you, or not?
  • Do they have values you seem to agree with?
  • Do they seem to “get” you and your situation?

Estate planning attorneys

Search American College of Trust and Estate Counsel:

I use and recommend Suze Orman’s online will and trust creator for your DIY estate planning needs. Buy it once and you can go back and update your docs in the future as circumstances change (as I did when our second child was born!) Use this link for 50% off the $200 (as of writing) price.


If you need help appraising, say, a family business or other property that’s hard to value, try

Financial Advisors

  • Obviously, you should consider hiring me, a fee-only, fiduciary, no-AUM fees independent Registered Investment Advisor. In addition to those criteria, an advisor should be able to use a HP12-C financial calculator or spreadsheet program to do net present value/future value/payment calculations like these.
  • If you want someone else, has a list of fee-only CFPs. (Beware AUM charges though, and note that most advisor search sites are ‘pay to play’, as in, they charge fees to advisors be listed. This is why you won’t find me on them as of writing. That said, they are helpful if you don’t know where else to turn!)
  • You can double-check an advisor’s registration, disciplinary actions (if any) and other facts at the SEC.
  • For business-succession planning, try the Family Firm Institute:

Managing your own money without an advisor

  • Vanguard is my top choice for your investment & retirement accounts due to their great fund offerings and ‘co-op’ style organization.
  • Fidelity is an excellent, though for-profit, choice. If you already have accounts here, it might be easier to choose Fidelity over Vanguard.
  • Schwab and T. Rowe Price are also fine, but I like Vanguard and Fidelity a lot more.