It can be daunting enough in life to find balance, but financially speaking, there’s also rebalance to consider. That subject is covered superbly by Tom Halloran in a usnews.com article—headlined Portfolio Rebalance: Weighing Risks vs. Future Income—in which, he writes, “the start of a new year is a natural time to make smart financial resolutions. Last year’s equity markets provided a thrill for investors, with the Standard & Poor’s 500 index up 12 percent for the year. Although the market’s success in 2014 may lead some to have tunnel vision on stocks this year, what investors should be focused on now is how to create a balance between the risk (and potential upside) of the equities in their portfolios and their need for predictable future income.” Other excerpts from the piece:
“So, as 2015 gets underway and financial resolutions are defined, ask yourself, ‘What is my risk capacity?’ as you consider making changes to your portfolio. Equity ‘mania’ and low interest rates have led flows away from fixed income. Although the market remains strong, asking smart questions and anticipating that the market could shift will help you position yourself for the long term.
“Consider when interest rates may rise, whether there’s an equity correction around the corner or how falling oil prices may impact the market. Although you would need a crystal ball to know how those scenarios will play out, portfolio diversification can help investors stay on track and avoid having an equity-focused portfolio turn riskier than intended.
“In 2014, many investors took money out of fixed-income vehicles, such as bonds, treasuries and money-market securities or simply reallocated funds that would have been invested in those vehicles, in order to fund additional investments in equities. The “flight” to equities is understandable, as investors viewed uncertainty about when interest rates would rise as a threat to bonds.
“Unknowingly, these investors also increased their risk exposure by focusing on the short term, and taking money out of vehicles intended for long-term investing. It’s a common assumption that fixed income is for older investors. The thought is that, as you approach retirement, you should lower your risk profile. Even though that is true, and it’s important to adjust your portfolio allocation based on your life stage, it is a mistake to think fixed-income investments have no place in more ‘youthful’ portfolios.
“Having the right balance of fixed income in any portfolio could help you take advantage of today’s market, but also manage risk (and later, your need for income) when it comes to investing for the long term. After all, fixed-income investments, such as corporate bonds or annuities, should be looked at as long-term holdings designed to provide the opportunity for a fixed stream of income. Note, however, that when investing in bonds, you still need to be careful with credit-default risk and interest-rate risk.
“Of course, as with any investment, the key is to find the right option for your risk tolerance. For example, many people tend to chase higher yields through riskier, lower-rated bonds without realizing the investment is beyond their risk capacity. Consider the potential for generating reliable income from higher-rated individual bonds or bond funds. Looking only at interest rates and ignoring risk can be detrimental to your portfolio. For the average investor, investments should be looked at based on their objectives for long-term security and income streams.”