No matter what you think of Donald Trump’s politics, you probably wouldn’t want to follow his lead in mutual funds.
Donald Trump is many things, but a thoughtful, diversified mutual-fund investor isn’t one of them.
That became clear, thanks to the 92-page Trump financial document that the Federal Election Commission released recently.
The document and the totals it purports to represent are nearly as controversial as the man. He claimed in the document filed July 15 that he had a net worth of more than $10 billion; as of June 30, when he formally declared that he was running for the Republican presidential nomination, he claimed a net worth of $8.74 billion.
There are hundreds of interesting numbers in the document, but I’ll leave most for others to decipher.
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My interest was in the long list of marketable securities that make up his investment portfolio. There’s no real telling how much money he has in marketable securities because the disclosure document puts investments in big ranges (think “$1,000,001— $5,000,000”) but that’s also not the real issue here.
My interest was in The Donald as a fund investor, and once you get past the seven giant hedge-fund positions he holds favoring alternative investments (funds that an ordinary investor doesn’t have the cash to get into), he’s got 10 mutual funds that his constituency could go for if they wanted to invest like their favorite celebrity politician.
No matter what you think of Trump’s politics, however, you probably wouldn’t want to follow his lead in mutual funds.
All of Trump’s open-end mutual funds are from the Baron Funds, a midsize fund family headed by the audacious Ron Baron. Trump has between $1 and $5 million in Baron Asset (BARAX), Baron Small Cap (BSCFX), Baron Focused Growth (BFGFX), Baron Real Estate (BREFX), Baron Growth (BGRFX) and Baron Partners (BPTRX), with between $500,000 and $1 million in Baron Opportunity (BIOPX) and Baron International Growth (BIGFX). There’s also between $100,000 and $250,000 in Baron Energy and Resources (BENFX). Baron Emerging Markets is listed twice as having between $250,000 and $500,000, once in the retail share class (BEXFX) and once for the institutional class (BEXIX).
While it may not be a surprise, as noted by Russel Kinnel, director of manager research at Morningstar, that “one brash New Yorker [Trump] would like another [Baron],” the Baron funds are not the shop that most experts would pick if you wanted all funds from the same place.
While the funds Trump holds are mostly good or better (four of the issues get five- and four-star ratings from Morningstar), all of them are growth-oriented and the fee levels are above average, even for institutional shares.
Of course, Trump has no problem paying up for what he wants, and it may be no surprise that he’s got almost entirely growth funds because he’s not really known for looking for bargains and buying things that are undervalued.
But for a guy preaching fiscal responsibility for the country, his fund picks really don’t meet that key criteria.
“There’s concentration risk with working with just one fund family,” said Todd Rosenbluth, head of ETF and mutual-fund research at S&P Capital IQ. He said manager departures could affect multiple funds at once — though the Baron funds aren’t known for a lot of manager turnover — and that overlap would reduce diversification, pointing out that both Baron Partners and Focus Growth have 8 percent of their portfolio in Tesla Motors.
“Further, while some Baron funds have above-average total returns over the past five years, Baron funds tend to be just average from an expense-ratio perspective and performance has been quite volatile,” Rosenbluth said.
Indeed, Vanguard, Fidelity, T. Rowe Price and others are more diverse fund families, with performance that’s at least the equal of the Baron funds, at a lower cost.
Ultimately, what Trump’s portfolio may prove is that the rich really are different from the rest of us, because the average investor can’t afford to make long-term investment mistakes like failing at diversification, or holding expensive issues.
Trump can. After all, mutual funds make up less than 1 percent of his entire net worth, no matter whose tally for that worth you believe.
Noted Rosenbluth: “Trump doesn’t have to be a good fund investor or a fund investor at all. The rest of us aren’t that lucky.”