Weekend Reading: My 'Too Hard' Pile is Pretty Big

This article appears as part of Casey Weade's Weekend Reading for Retirees series. Every Friday, Casey highlights four hand-picked articles on trending retirement topics and delivers them straight to your email inbox. Get on the list here.
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Weekend Reading

Here’s a unique way to view your investment options, and it’s a strategy Warren Buffett and his right-hand man, Charlie Munger, utilize as well.


By sorting potential investments or strategies into three boxes (In, Out, Too Hard), you can narrow down what is worth your time and effort, and what goes beyond your sphere of competence – or – is best handled by a professional.

In this article, one of my favorite Morningstar journalists and soon-to-be podcast guest, Christine Benz, provides an overview of what’s included in her ‘Too Hard’ box, and why she’s either left it up to the pros, or hasn’t pursued it at all.

📌Individual stocks – Although she includes some individual stocks in her portfolio due to having quick access to Morningstar’s expert equity research team, she leaves the complexities of stock selection to the specialists.

📌(Most) actively managed funds – She is slowly moving active funds out of her portfolio and into her ‘Too Hard’ pile due to difficulty in monitoring the assets, and because they could shift her overall asset-class exposures out of line of her targets. Instead, she’s chosen to pursue actively managed funds that come along with ‘guardrails’, in the fact that they’re watched and vetted by a portfolio review team.

📌Leveraged investing and other forms of indebtedness – Christine says she’s “addicted to the peace of mind that comes with being debt-free”, and as a result, chooses to stay away from any investment strategy that includes borrowing against assets in a portfolio.

📌Frequent rebalancing – As a self-manager of her own assets, she doesn’t find it worth the time and effort to rebalance her portfolio; However, she does recognize that as she draws closer to retirement, it might make sense to be more active in managing her asset-class exposures.

Analyze every avenue: Recognize that just because something is in your ‘Too Hard’ pile doesn’t mean you should ignore it completely. It’s one thing for the Oracle of Omaha to focus his investing acumen where he can hit home runs, but this doesn’t necessarily carry over to planning for retirement. You may just need to outsource some of that ‘Too Hard’ pile to ensure you cover all your bases.