April 1st is Proclaimed “INDEX FUNDS DAY” to Draw Attention to the Foolish Behavior Associated with Active Investing.

The "You Can Beat the Market" hoax.

April 1, Index Funds Day, is the ideal time to draw attention to the differences between active investment management and indexing - and why it's a fool's game to think one can outperform the market averages.


A fee-only financial advisor, with almost $3.08 billion under management (as of 12/31/2016), has declared April 1 Index Funds Day, to expose what they believe is the biggest hoax played on investors every day - one to rival the BBC's 1957 Swiss Spaghetti Harvest hoax. The active money management "you can beat the market" hoax, however, is far more dangerous because it has fooled investors into thinking that their money managers can beat the market by forecasting the next news story that will move market prices. The fact is, news is random and cannot be predicted. Likewise, stock price movement is volatile, so picking stocks is largely a matter of luck, and success cannot be sustained over time.

Mark Hebner, founder of Index Fund Advisors, Inc., is using this April Fools Day to showcase the foolishness of stock picking over index funds. Hebner points out that decades of research by top academics and Nobel laureates in the country continue to prove that index funds, which are based on efficient market theory, will preserve and enhance an individual's portfolio over the 30 to 50-year average investment lifetime. This is in direct contrast with stock picking which may deliver good returns in the short run but seldom, if ever, over time.

Consider this - research has shown that only 3% of active managers beat an appropriate index over a period of 10 years or more. In fact, Dalbar Research's 2015 Investor Behavior report that showed over 30 years, the average equity investor earned 3.79% a year, a sharp contrast to the 11.06% annualized return of the S&P 500 Index. This paltry return for the investor was actually 1.27% when inflation adjusted (inflation about 2.52%), and even worse if one considers that taxes owed on actively managed funds equal about 2% of the fund value. Do the math, it isn’t pretty.

Efficient market theory coupled with a careful matching of risk capacity and risk exposure, are the keys to successful investing, not speculation, Hebner notes. Active investors need to be aware that the expected long-term return on speculation is zero more often than not, minus their costs, which include commissions, management fees, margin costs, stock randomness and more.

History has shown that a diversified, tax-managed small-value-tilted portfolio of index funds will have better results than actively managed investments, which are higher risk and deliver lower returns over a portfolio's lifetime. Why is this important? Because close to 90% of individual investors actively manage stocks they pick themselves or they buy mutual funds where stocks are picked for them.

Most active investors don't think that gambling on tomorrow's news can be hazardous to their wealth, nor do they think seriously about the risks and costs associated with playing the market. They don't understand the free market principles that are the cornerstone of capitalism, or the important role that diversification plays in reducing the uncertainty of expected returns. Concentrating investments in one industry or country only adds risk and does not increase returns.

Mark Hebner is a terrific source on the pitfalls of active investing. In fact, he has developed a 12-Step Program for investors who are addicted to stock picking because he knows the odds are stacked against them for long-term success. You can review the 12-Step Program and related materials at

For more information, please contact.

Mark Hebner,
President, Founder
Index Fund Advisors, Inc.
mark @ ifa. com
Index Fund Advisors, Inc.
19200 Von Karman Ave.,
Suite 150
Irvine, CA 92612

Toll Free: 1-888-643-3133
Local Phone: 949-502-0050
Fax: 949-502-0048

The Great Shell Game

Beating the market is no easy task. Very rarely do active managers outperform their benchmark after costs are taken into account. This includes management expenses, transaction costs, turnover, taxes, and inflation.

But boy do active managers still like to play games with your money! Can you find the market rate of return? Give it a try by playing "The Active Management Shell Game." Here's a hint, your success will be the same as the active manager's success.

10 Things Every Investor Needs to Know

The investment industry is full of tricksters who are trying to tell you that beating the market is easy. Don’t believe them! Beating the market consistently over time is an incredibly hard undertaking. Many active managers are good at making promises that are very rarely fulfilled after costs are taken into consideration. But their wallets get bigger nonetheless. Here are 10 things that every investor should know so that you don’t become another fool in our society’s greatest hoax.

1. Market Randomness and Active Management:
Markets are moved by news. News is unpredictable and random by definition. Therefore, the markets movements are unpredictable and random. However, this market randomness does have a positive average of about 10%/year because capitalism works. Active managers who have claimed to outperform a market average or index have also implied that they have the power to predict tomorrow’s news. But since it is impossible to consistently predict the future, the results of active managers are unpredictable and random. This concept is known as the Random Walk Theory and it was first discussed in The Theory of Speculation, a paper written in 1900 by Louis Bachelier. In 1964, MIT Professor Paul Cootner published a 500 page collection of research papers on the randomness of the market titled, The Random Character of Stock Market Prices. In 1965, Nobel Laureate in Economics and MIT Professor Paul Samuelson wrote his now famous paper, Proof That Properly Anticipated Prices Move Randomly. Also in 1965, University of Chicago Professor, Eugene Fama wrote his highly regarded papers, Random Walks in Stock Market Prices, and The Behavior of Stock Market Prices. After carefully reading this extensive collection of peer-reviewed research, you will be convinced of the randomness of stock market prices.

2. Skill or Luck:
The average actively managed investment must underperform the indexed investment, when all costs are deducted. [source] Those actively managed investments that beat the indexed investments fail to consistently beat the index in the future. The reason for market beating performance in a random market is simply due to luck and not due to a skill that is repeatable. Needless to say, it is nearly impossible to predict those winners in advance. Lucky investors are well advised not to expect a continuation of their good fortune. [see 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7]

3. Index Portfolios Best Capture Risk and Return:
Actively managing your money will create higher risk and lower returns than a globally diversified, tax-managed, and small value tilted portfolio of index funds. Due to commissions, management fees, margin costs, taxes, stock randomness, and market efficiencies, you will slowly transfer your money into the pockets of stock brokers, mutual fund managers, hedge fund managers, and the many other individuals profiting from your numerous transactions and your lack of understanding of free market principles. Active management is hazardous to your wealth. A recent study by Brad Barber of the University of California, Davis, showed that 82% of the 925,000 active traders on one stock exchange lost $8.2 Billion/year from 1995 to 1999. Dalbar Research stated in their 2015 QAIB report on Investor Behavior that the average equity investor earned a paltry 3.79% annually for the last 30 years, compared to inflation at about 2.52% and 11.06% for the S&P 500 over that same period. The gap between the average active investor and the market is 7.27% per yr.

4. Returns from the Risk of Capitalism Rank Highest:
Capitalism is a great idea that has worked for centuries. It has provided an annualized return of about 10%/year since 1926 and has the highest rate of return of all investments tracked over periods of 50 years or more. That rate of return is explained by the difference between the low risk of capital and the high risk of capitalism. It is not the result of speculating in short term price changes. There is no additional expected return from speculation above the average return. The gains from speculation are offset by the losses in any random situation, leaving the average, or the index, as the most likely return. This concept is known as a zero sum game. Investors earn returns from consistent exposure to the right risk factors, not from gambling on tomorrow’s news.

5. Market Efficiency Is Why Capitalism Works Better:
The world’s stock exchanges facilitate a free market system that is the cornerstone of capitalism. These capital markets simultaneously price the cost of capital and the expected return from the risk of capitalism. Free markets perform this highly important task in the most effective and efficient manner because the knowledge of all investors exceeds the knowledge of any individual. Due to the millions of intelligent and highly competitive investors, it is unlikely that any individual investor will consistently profit at the expense of all other investors. From this we can conclude that free markets work and that current prices reflect the knowledge and expectations of all investors at all times. [more] This concept is known as the Efficient Market Theory. If free markets were not more efficient than controlled markets, like those in communist countries such as North Korea or Cuba, then the communists would be more prosperous than the capitalists.

6. Cost of Capital and Expected Return for Capitalists:
The expected return for a capitalist, equity buyer, or investor is equal to the cost of capital of the equity seller. An intelligent capitalist will estimate the expected return based on the risk of the equity, which is tied to the risk of the company. The higher the risk of the company, the higher their cost of capital, and the higher the expected return for the capitalist. The lower the risk of the company, the lower their cost of capital, and the lower the expected return for the capitalist. Those investors who carefully match their risk capacity with their risk exposure have the best chance of obtaining the long-term historical returns of the global markets. A buy, hold, and rebalanced risk exposure strategy is the best method to capture those returns.

7. Small Value versus Large Growth Companies:
Public companies that are unglamorous, small, and relatively cheap (small value) are riskier and have higher costs of capital than those that are glamorous, large and relatively expensive (large growth.) As a result, a dollar invested in a Fama/French Index of small value companies in 1927 grew to $69,751 by the end of 2015 (13.4% per year), and a dollar invested in a Fama/French Index of large growth companies grew to only $3,146 over the same period (9.5% per year.) [more]

8. Diversify, Diversify, Diversify:
Diversification is the investor’s best friend because it reduces the uncertainty of expected returns, otherwise known as risk, without changing the expected return. Concentrating investments only adds risk, and does not increase expected return. For example, any one stock in the S&P 500 has an expected return of about 10% per year, plus or minus about 50% two thirds of the years. However, the S&P 500 Index has the same 10% expected return, but it only has a risk of plus or minus 20% two thirds of the years. So 10% plus or minus 20% is far superior to 10% plus or minus 50%. Highly efficient portfolios of index funds have had returns of 12.24%/year with risks of 15.69% over the last 35 years, after fees (see Index Portfolio 100, which includes about 17,000 companies from 40 countries.) This is why buying the whole haystack (index) is better than looking for the needle (a stock) in the haystack. What is the risk and expected return of your portfolio, based on the same investment strategy over the last 35 years?

9. Selecting Index Funds:
There are three major providers of index funds. Dimensional Fund Advisors, Barclays Global Investors and The Vanguard Group. Each company has index funds that track different indexes. Investors need to select a portfolio of index funds that maximizes their expected return for the risk they are accepting.

10. Peace of Mind:
Don’t let your retirement years be tainted by the discomfort of poverty. Reliance on family members or government programs for your financial well-being will be a source of unhappiness, insecurity, and low self-esteem. The sooner you start saving and planning for your retirement, the better. A prudent and intelligently managed investment portfolio of index funds has the highest probability of providing security and peace of mind in the years when it will be needed the most.

The Top 5 April Fool's Day Hoaxes


The "Investors Can Beat the Market" Hoax


Taco Liberty Bell The "Taco Liberty Bell" Hoax


spaghetti harvest The "Swiss Spaghetti Harvest" Hoax


Sidd Finch The "Sidd Finch" Hoax


shuttle Space Shuttle Lands in San Diego

#1:  The "Investors Can Beat the Market" Hoax

In the late 1920s, investors were lured into thinking that there was easy money to be made by speculating on stock market prices. The brokerage firms of the day pulled off the world's number one hoax by suggesting that investors could predict the next news story that would move stock market prices. In 1927 investors were in a gambling frenzy, with the market up 37%. It went up another 43% in 1928. But in next 3 years investors were handed their head. From 1929 to 1931, the market fell by 8%, 25% and 43% in three nightmarish years, sinking our great country into a deep depression. The lure of quick riskless riches cost millions of investors everything they owned. They were essentially "fooled by market randomness."

Investors thought that they could predict the future prices of stocks rather than recognizing that news is random and therefore the price changes are random.

It was so bad for the investors that one journalist turned stock broker wrote a book titled, "Where are the Customers' Yachts?" Many brokerages firms made fortunes from these gambling investors. If someone had just explained to the public that speculation does not have a positive expected return, the debacle may have been avoided. Once people know that risk is the source of return, they are more cautious and less likely to want large doses of it.

This "investors can beat the market" hoax has been allowed to continue through many market cycles, leaving many many investors in ruins and the average investor making very little, if any, money after taxes and inflation. The most recent occurrence being the dot com bomb, where most NASDAQ investors suffered huge losses.

However, on April 1, 2005, this cruel joke will finally be exposed to the public and stock brokers, mutual fund managers and day-trading investors everywhere will grab their computer monitors (hopefully those old bulky ones), run to their windows and scream, 'I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore! (see Network - 1976) "On this day, the investors will be freed from their prediction addictions because journalist throughout the world will write eloquent stories that will tell them these simple points.

1. There is no way that they can consistently predict the unknowable sequence of random events that will move stock prices, that being the news of the future.

2. Over periods of ten years or more, only about 3% of active fund managers will beat the market, or a simple market index fund.

3. The only reliable source of more returns for investors is more risk, not more speculation.

4. Investing in capitalism is a very wise investment that has paid an annualized average return of 10.5%/year from 1926 to 2004.

5. Despite the fact that speculation does not work, there is a hoax-buster that will allow investors to capture the returns of the market.

6. The antidote to this "beat the market" hoax is to buy-and-hold a tax efficient, small value tilted, and risk-appropriate portfolio of index funds.

#2:  The "Taco Liberty Bell" Hoax

There was nothing ordinary about Taco Bell's media blitz on April 1, 1996. Over 650 print and 400 Broadcast media outlets featured the wired news that Taco Bell bought the Liberty Bell. Even Tom Brokaw on NBC's "Nightly News," "The Today Show," and CBS' "This Morning" covered the supposed event. A second wire release later that day announced it was a hoax. White House spokesperson Mike McCurry addressed the news by adding they would sell the Lincoln Memorial to the Ford Motor Co, and rename it the Lincoln-Mercury Memorial.

#3:  The " Swiss Spaghetti Harvest" Hoax

On April Fools Day, 1957, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) program, "Panorama," presented a documentary hoax about spaghetti crops in Switzerland. Richard Dimbleby, a distinguished broadcaster, narrated the feature about a family from Ticino, Switzerland. During the presentation, a film showed women pulling spaghetti stands carefully from spaghetti trees, then laying them out in the sun to dry.

Some viewers were upset over the nature of the feature, but hundreds of others intrigued by the report, called in asking how they can acquire spaghetti trees to plant for themselves.

Many viewers believed the hoax because a respected and otherwise serious program presented it. In similar manner, Wall Street proponents of active management, respected by investors, encourage active investing that is financially hazardous to investor's wealth.

#4:  The  "Sidd Finch" Hoax

Did he or didn't he pitch a ball clocked at the unbelievable speed of 168 mph? (Fastest time to date is purported at 103 mph by Goose Gossage and Nolan Ryan in 1978, though the Guinness Book of World Records lists Nolan Ryan as officially clocked at 100.9 mph in 1974.) Wrought in deliberate secrecy, only a chosen few Mets were allowed to watch and tryout with the young eccentric Finch, quite literally behind canvas where other team members couldn't watch. The Mets waited to see if Finch would join their team or not. Nevertheless, as reported by Sports Illustrated, April 8, 1985, Mr. Finch made his official announcement that his once perfect pitch suddenly turned into "Chaos and Cruelty," and abruptly walked away, not to he heard from again in the field of baseball. What really happened? Sports Illustrated published an article by George Plimpton for its April 1, 1985 edition entitled "The Curious Case of Sidd Finch," from which the above account is derived. The subtitle reads "He's a pitcher, part yogi and part recluse. Impressively liberated from our opulent life-style, Sidd's deciding about yoga -- and his future in baseball." Check it out yourself, the first letters of each word in the subtitle reads: "HAPPY APRILS FOOLS DAY."

#5:   Space Shuttle Lands in San Diego

While the Discovery Space Shuttle sat on the ground in 1993, Dave Rickards, deejay for KGB-FM, San Diego, announced Discovery was diverted from Edwards Air Force Base and would be landing at Montgomery Field. The residential area surrounding the small military airport turned into an immediate traffic jam. Apparently, about 1,000 people showed up. Police were called in to help. Turned out that Montgomery Field is too small for the shuttle to begin with. The police were not too excited about the hoax. They announced they would bill the radio station for the costs of directing the traffic. The station responded by apologizing, but after all, it was April Fool's.

Tomfoolery | is proud to present our latest episode, "Tomfoolery." It is indeed that time of year again. Hopefully you receive this email early enough that you won't fall prey to any April Fools' hoaxes around the office, and this episode will show that you can fall victim to a bad hoax any time of the year with your investments. At times, the investment “experts” are so off the mark, you feel you’ve been fooled...April 1st or not. Mark and Tom show some of the predictions made by the investing pundits that should have been made on April 1st, not throughout the year.  |   Show 77   |   April 01, 2013 | Hosted by Mark Hebner and Tom Cock.

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