Asset allocation is a critical component to the success of any investment plan, whether it’s saving for a long-term goal like retirement or simply building up a reserve account for emergencies. Finding the right mix of asset classes, like stocks and bonds, goes a long way in determining what kind of growth you can expect and how much risk you’re assuming in your portfolio. For years, the thought has been that allocation should slowly adjust as you get closer to your financial goals; meaning a heavier focus is put on conservative assets like bonds and taken from riskier ones like stocks. However, new studies are now revealing that a more aggressive approach should be used, even for those with a conservative risk tolerance.
The Rule of 100
One of the most common ways to quickly determine proper asset allocation is to take your age and subtract it from 100. This will give you the percentage of your portfolio that you should have dedicated to stocks, with the assumption that the remaining amount be invested in conservative investments like bonds. If you’re 50 years old, then your portfolio would be equally split between stocks and bonds.
However, many financial planners and analysts have gone back and revised that belief. The rule of thumb to base calculations off of 100 has been revised to a higher 110 to 120 range because there just wasn’t enough growth in portfolios that used the lower figure. Based off of 120, a 50-year-old should have 70% invested in stocks rather than 50% – a more aggressive approach, but one that seems to be more widely accepted as the better way to invest, even for conservative investors.
A New Way of Looking at Asset Allocation
Following in the footsteps of Jack Bogle, founder of Vanguard, some advisors are even suggesting a more radical approach that involves investing up to 90% into stocks via index funds and keeping just 10% in conservative liquid investments, regardless of age considerations.
Research conducted by Michael E. Kitces and Wade D. Pfau showed that asset allocation works well without any adjustments at all with a 60/40 split weighing more heavily in stocks. This simple setup showed steady long-term growth that rivaled some of the most complex multi-stage strategies and outperformed portfolios that followed a sliding weight scale that changed its allocation percentage over time to become more conservative.
Other Considerations in Portfolio Design and Management
Asset allocation doesn’t just involve splitting stocks and bonds. The stock market is a dynamic environment with many different segments that follows the business cycle as the economy ebbs and wanes. Using sector rotation to add or subtract weight in certain segments of the economy is another layer of asset allocation methodology that can not only help protect your portfolio from losses, but also help it stay on top of growing industries.
The Bottom Line
As we approach the end of 2015 and start looking forward to 2016, there are plenty of indicators that we should be taking a more cautious approach to stocks. Look for utilities, consumer staples, and healthcare stocks to lead the way over the next few quarters while industrials, materials, and consumer discretionary segments should under- perform the broader averages.