When working with a financial planner or advisor, it’s important that you’re aligned on how you want your money invested. There are many different investment strategies and what you might be comfortable with may not be your advisor’s preference. So, how can you ensure that your money will be managed how you like?
The first step is to have a basic understanding of investment strategies. This way, you’ll know what’s more suited to your personality and how you want your investments taken care of.
In this post, we’re explaining the differences between two investment strategies, asset allocation and strongest assets. We share the fundamentals of each, why people choose them, and how to figure out if they’re appropriate for your money management style.
You can watch the video on this topic at the top of this post, to listen to the podcast episode, hit play below, or read on for more…
What is asset allocation?
Asset allocation is the most common way of investing. It’s a preferred method for two reasons.
- Asset allocation is relatively easy to do
- There’s very little maintenance, unlike other investment strategies
If you’re familiar with the buy and hold strategy or buying a well-diversified portfolio, then you’ll already have an idea of how asset allocation works.
For example, if you have money to invest, and decide to put it in the stock market, you might distribute it to more than one area. You may want to put a portion of your money in stocks, such as large cap stocks, like Apple, Amazon, Google, or mid cap or small cap stocks. There are also sectors that you might want to get involved in. Financials, healthcare, technology, and energy are all popular sectors that many people invest in. Finally, you could decide to buy up some bonds and fixed-income investments.
When you add all of these investments together, you get an investment pie. You can use this to visualize where all of your slivers are in the market, as they may all be in different areas. Essentially, this investment method is asset allocation.
Why asset allocation is a long-term strategy
With asset allocation, you’re advised to hold these investments for the long term. The idea is, if you hold these investments for 5, 10, 15+ years, then the market will go up, and so will all your different pieces of the pie.
Now, let’s look at how this method performed in a tumultuous year, such as 2020. Overall, large cap stocks did well, but mid and small cap stocks were greatly affected. So, if you held a mixture of large, mid, and small cap stocks, the increase in large cap stocks may make it look like your portfolio performed adequately. If you hold a diversified portfolio, you’re always going to have slivers that outperform others. The aim of this strategy is to wait long enough that, eventually, the pie as a whole increases over time.
Many of us first encounter this kind of strategy when we get our first job and 401(k). Often, people pick different investments in this scenario. A popular choice is target-date funds, which create an asset allocation based on how much longer you have to work. This will then adjust according to your age.
In terms of maintaining an asset allocation, it requires very little attention. Your advisor may rebalance the account quarterly or even once a year. This strategy is an easy way to “set it and forget it.”
Understanding your investment risk tolerance
It’s important to note that you can still lose money with an asset allocation strategy – even if you have a very conservative portfolio. The idea is that if you stick with it and stay invested, then you will make your money back. The question is, can you stomach the negative?
This is where understanding your risk tolerance comes into play. Knowing what downside number you’re comfortable with can help you figure out what investment strategy is right for you. We demonstrate this by using real figures. For example, instead of theoretically asking you if you’re happy with a 20% loss, we’d ask if you’re happy to lose 20% of $1million, so, $200,000. This puts your loss into perspective.
Remember that if you’re using an asset allocation strategy, you do not sell when the market is crashing. You have to be able to withstand the financial impact of a pandemic, a financial crisis, or anything else that might be thrown at you. If you sell when the market goes down, you defeat the purpose of this strategy. Your advisor will tell you to hang in there.
What is the strongest asset strategy?
A strongest asset strategy differs from asset allocation because it allows you to sell whenever those assets are no longer strong.
When you’re thinking about investing using this strategy, you need to picture the entire stock market world. This includes equities, stocks, companies, bonds, fixed income, cash options and then you’ve got some alternatives. Once you’re looking at them altogether, you can start to see who’s winning the race.
Now, usually equities win the race because they have growth. Bonds are stable and make a good rate of return, but they may not always be the strongest option. Cash, on the other hand, hardly moves. However, if there’s a scenario where the market is crashing and equities and bonds are pulling back, cash could be the front runner because it’s not moving backward.
You then use this analysis to see where the strongest area is to invest. You could invest 100% of your portfolio in equities, but it doesn’t mean you have to stay there. You could move that 100% from equities to bonds, and again from bonds to cash, depending on market performance.
Strongest asset: a more active approach
If you decide to invest 100% of your portfolio in equities, you can take the same approach again. This time looking at the top performers in the equity world. In 2020, for example, large cap technologies were winning the race. This sector thrived during the pandemic, with mid and small caps struggling. So, we shifted all of our portfolios to accommodate this. In January 2021, mid and small caps started to come back, so we shifted again.
A strongest asset strategy does require more maintenance than asset allocation. You need to be actively managing your portfolio and prepared to make changes. We want to make a good rate of return for our clients, so we watch the market every day. If the market starts to change, then we make decisions, such as selling, to protect our clients’ investments from a downturn.
Which strategy suits your personality?
So, if you’re building out an investment portfolio or considering your investment options, think about which strategy suits your personality more. Do you prefer the idea of buy and hold (asset allocation), or do you want to keep a closer eye on your money and how it’s performing (strongest asset)?
When you decide which option is for you, the next step is to find a financial advisor who can help you manage your money this way.
To learn more about preparing your finances for the future, check out our complimentary masterclass, 3 Keys To Secure Your Retirement. The free interactive webinar gives you more information on how to build a retirement income plan and shares valuable money management tips and advice. Get it here.