4 Simple Questions To Determine If Your Portfolio Is Allocated Properly…

So often we focus on individual stocks or sectors poised to deliver huge gains. I get it… We all want to earn big gains in the stock market, right?

But believe it or not, stock picking isn’t the biggest determinant of portfolio performance. Instead of deciding what to buy next, investors should devote more time to identifying what type of security to invest in.

Here’s what I mean…

Three researchers — Gary Brinson, Randolph Hood, and Gilbert Beebower — conducted a study in 1986 involving 91 large pension funds over a 10-year period. They found that only 6.4% of the variation in a portfolio’s returns was determined by market timing and individual stock selection. The other 93.6% is derived from the mix and proportion of various asset classes constituting the portfolio.

This is what is otherwise known as asset allocation. By having an array of securities that zig when the others zag, investors can offset a downturn in any one area and dramatically increase their chances of success.

And if you think the results of this study might be irrelevant simply because it was conducted decades ago, think again. Time and time again, studies have proven this…

  • In 2000, Roger Ibbotson and Paul Kaplan did a study and found that asset allocation explained 91.5% of the variation in portfolio returns.
  • In 2010, Ibbotson (this time along with Morningstar) found that asset allocation accounted for 94% of the variability in portfolio returns over 10 years.
  • Fund giant Vanguard found in 2014 that asset allocation explained about 88% of the variation in a portfolio’s return. Market timing and security selection, meanwhile, accounted for only 12%.

I know this may sound scary to some of you because a lot of individual investors just don’t devote much time to this. So bear with me while we walk through the basics…

4 Simple Questions For Allocation…

To properly allocate your portfolio, first begin with four simple questions:

1. What are my ultimate goals?
You don’t start a trip without a destination in mind. Are you saving for your kid’s college? Retirement? A dream vacation? Possibly all three? If so, you’ll need to quantify how much you will need, taking inflation into consideration. And only then will you have a realistic idea of how much you need to set aside and what returns need to be earned to reach your goals.

2. What is my age?
A retiree who is no longer drawing a salary and living off his or her nest egg can’t afford to take the same chances as a new college graduate. The old rule of thumb for equity exposure is 100 minus your age. So a 40-year-old investor might keep 60% of his portfolio in stocks, versus just 30% for a 70-year-old. This is simplistic, but it’s not unreasonable for some people. The point is to build wealth during the early years and then protect it during the later years.

3. What is my risk tolerance?
How would you react to a market decline of 10%, 20%, or 30%? Nobody likes volatile, stomach-churning price swings or the thought of losing hard-earned money. But you probably won’t reach your goals by playing it safe and leaving all your money in Treasury bonds paying 2%. Risk and reward go hand in hand. But don’t lose sleep at night either — find a comfortable balance.

4. Do I want international exposure?
Are you more comfortable sticking with U.S. companies, or are you willing to explore opportunities abroad? Remember that over half of the world’s market capitalization now resides outside our borders. International markets can offer higher yields and stronger growth potential (in some cases), and exposure to foreign currencies may shelter a portion of your money from any devaluation of the dollar.

Next Steps…

Now you’ll need to do some fine-tuning.

On the fixed-income side, you will have to decide whether you want to invest in longer-duration or lower-quality bonds to obtain higher yields. And if you are picking stocks, would you prefer smaller, faster-growing companies or larger, established blue chips?

If you are an income investor, you may want this allocation for your portfolio:

  • 30% Investment Grade Bonds
  • 25% Large-Cap Blend
  • 10% High-Yield Bonds
  • 10% Floating Rate/TIPS/Inflation Protected Bonds
  • 10% Global Stocks
  • 10% Real Estate/Commodities
  • 5% Small/Mid-Cap Value

Another Way To Go…

Or if you want to take the hassle out of the process, consider a group of securities I’ve recommended in the past to readers of my premium newsletter, High-Yield Investing. They’re called tactical asset allocation funds.

These funds are managed by highly-trained professionals and offer investors an opportunity to invest in diverse asset classes from stocks and bonds to real estate and commodities. They not only offer income and growth, but also a chance to preserve capital and enjoy huge gains. Plus, you’ll have the opportunity to generate more income than what you would from a pure stock fund — and with less risk to boot.

Bottom line, remember to ask yourself the critical questions I mentioned above and plan carefully. Do that, and you’ll have a leg up on most individual investors. And if you’re ready to enjoy reliable income from the highest-paying stocks, bonds, and funds in the entire market, then I invite you to learn more about my premium service right here.