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Are Financial Asset Classes like a Box of Valentine Chocolates in 2019?

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On Valentine’s Day Diversification

By Rick Kahler MS CFP® ChFC CCIM  www.KahlerFinancial.com

Rick Kahler CFPWith displays of Valentine candy in every store, February is the perfect time to talk about chocolate. A creative financial planner might even steal Forrest Gump’s analogy and say, “Diversification is like a box of chocolates.”

Except that it isn’t.

True, a box of chocolates might have a lot of variety. Cream centers. Caramels. Nougats. Nuts. Dark chocolate. Milk chocolate. Truffles. Yet it’s all still chocolate.

Retirement Savings

Buying that box would be like investing your retirement savings in a variety of US stocks. Even if you had a dozen different companies, they would all be the same basic category of investment, or asset class.

For example, suppose you gave your true love a slightly more diversified Valentine gift made up of chocolates, Girl Scout cookies, baklava, and apple pie. That would compare to investing in different types of stocks like US, international, or emerging markets. But, everything would still be dessert.

Wiser Physician-Investors

You would be a wiser doctor-investor if you took your true love out for dinner and had a meat course, a salad, vegetables, bread, dessert, and wine. Now you’d start to see real diversification.

In addition to US, international, and emerging market stocks (all dessert), you might have some other asset classes like US and international bonds (meat), real estate (bread), cash (salad), commodities (veggies), and absolute return strategies (wine).

***

box

***

Long Term Growth Generator

This kind of asset class diversification is the best investment strategy for long-term growth. My preference is eight or nine different classes. For many clients, I recommend a mix of US and international stocks and bonds, real estate investment trusts, a commodities index fund, market neutral funds like merger arbitrage and managed futures, junk bonds, and Treasury Inflation Protected Securities (TIPS).

Market Fluctuations

Fluctuations in the market will tend to affect the various securities within a given asset class in the same way. Most US stocks, for example, would generally move up or down at the same times. So, owning shares of several different stocks wouldn’t protect you against changes in the market. When a portfolio is well-diversified, the volatility is reduced even during times when the markets are moving strongly up or down.

When I talk about investing in a variety of asset classes, I don’t mean owning stocks, real estate, gold, or other assets directly. For individual investors, mutual funds are a much better choice. Occasionally, someone will ask me, “But why should I have everything in mutual funds? That isn’t diversified, is it?”

Mutual Funds

Mutual funds are not an asset class. A mutual fund isn’t like a type of food; it’s like the plate you put the food on. A single plate might hold one food item or servings from several different food groups. More specifically, mutual funds are pools of money invested by managers. One fund might invest in real estate investment trusts (REITS). Another might have international stocks chosen for their high returns. Still others invest in a diversified mix of asset classes. The mutual fund is just the container that holds the investments.

heart[Courtesy GE Healthcare]

Annuities

Annuities and IRAs aren’t asset classes, either, but are also examples of different types of containers that hold investments. If you use your IRA to purchase an annuity, all you’re doing is stacking one plate on top of another. It doesn’t give you another asset class, it just costs you more for the second plate.

Assessment

Having a box of chocolates for dinner might seem more appealing in the short term than eating a balanced meal. Investing in the “get-rich-now” flavor of the month might seem tempting, too. Yet in the long run, asset class diversification is the best way to make sure you have a healthy investment diet.

***

February 14th, 2019

***

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Should a diversified investment portfolio produce the same return as US stocks?

 On unrealistic expectations

By Rick Kahler CFP®

I have a complaint. The pot pie at one of my favorite restaurants doesn’t taste like a pot roast. I keep complaining, but nothing changes. I am thinking I may need to find a new restaurant because their cooking skills are just not living up to my expectations.

Or maybe I need to adjust my expectations. How can I expect a pot pie—a savory pastry with a mixture of potatoes, vegetables, and beef chunks—to taste like a beef pot roast? Even though beef is an ingredient in a pot pie, no reasonable diner would expect the two meals to taste the same.

Investing

But, that same reasonable diner might be perfectly comfortable expecting that their diversified investment portfolio should produce the same return as US stocks. This is just as unrealistic as it is to expect pot pie and pot roast to produce the same taste.

A diversified portfolio has a variety of investments in it, just as a pot pie has a variety of ingredients in it. A pot pie provides a complete meal with a nice balance of grain, veggies, and protein with a tasty blend of spices. A pot roast provides just one component of a balanced meal, a heavy dose of protein.

Likewise, a diversified portfolio is a meal in itself. A particular recipe that I like has the equivalent of a flour crust made of high quality bonds, high yield bonds, and Treasury Inflation Protected Securities. Stuffed inside is a delicious blend of real estate investment trusts, international stocks, US stocks, emerging market stocks, commodities, all flavored with managed futures, a long/short fund, and a put/write investment strategy.

The flavor of the diversified portfolio is completely different from an investment of just US stocks. Yet investors regularly try to compare the two.

EXAMPLE:

A few months ago, a reader wanted to know why her small account with a well-known brokerage house was doing three times better than her IRA managed by a fee-only advisor. She was thinking she should put all her IRA money with the brokerage firm.

Following up revealed the ingredients in her IRA: 30% was in a global mix of 1,100 high quality bonds, 300 high yield bonds, and 20 TIPS. The remaining 70% was in a global mix of 12,000 US, international and emerging market companies of all sizes, 300 real estate investment trusts, 21 commodities, a long/short fund with hundreds of positions, and a smattering of other investment strategies.

The small brokerage account had just one ingredient: 31 large US stocks.

Over the previous 15 months, the globally diversified portfolio had returned 9% and the 31 US stocks had returned 21%. Of course, the US stocks in her diversified portfolio had also returned 21%, but just like the chunks of beef in a pot pie, they only made up part of the mix, in this case 17%. So, comparing the diversified pot pie of her IRA return to the single-ingredient pot roast of her brokerage account was not valid.

Over the past nine years nothing has done better among major asset classes than US stocks. Any diversified portfolio will have underperformed them. That phenomenon will inevitably end. The time will come, sooner or later, when US stocks will be one of the worst performers of the decade.

***

***

Assessment

Just as a diversified portfolio will often garner smaller returns when US stocks rise, it will also have substantially higher returns when US stocks crash. At that time, those with diversified portfolios will be thankful that they stayed the course. And millions of other investors will be wishing they had ordered pot pie instead of pot roast.

Conclusion

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Contact: MarcinkoAdvisors@msn.com

***

https://www.crcpress.com/Comprehensive-Financial-Planning-Strategies-for-Doctors-and-Advisors-Best/Marcinko-Hetico/p/book/9781482240283

***

The [Negative] Short-Term Implications of Investment Portfolio Diversification

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Delving Deeper into Asset Allocation

By Lon Jefferies MBA CFP®

Lon JeffriesAsset allocation is one of the key factors contributing to long-term investment success.

When designing a portfolio that represents their risk tolerance, investors should be aware that a portfolio that is 50% stocks is likely to obtain approximately half of the gain when the market advances but suffer only half the loss when the market declines.

This general principle frequently holds true over extended investing cycles, but can waiver during shorter holding periods.

Case Model

For example, a fairly typical physician client of mine who has a 50% stock, 50% bond portfolio has obtained a return of 4.62% over the last 12 months, while the S&P 500 has obtained a return of 14.31% over the same time period (as of 10/30/14).

An investor expecting to obtain half the return of the index would anticipate a return of 7.15%, and by this measuring stick, has underperformed the market by over 2.50% during the last year.

What caused this differential?

Answer

The issue resides in how we define “the market.” In this example, we use the S&P 500 index as a measure for how the market as a whole is performing. As you may know, the S&P 500 (and the Dow Jones Industrial Average, for that matter) consists solely of large company U.S. stocks.

Of course, a diversified portfolio owns a mixture of large, mid, and small cap U.S. stocks, as well as international and emerging market equities. Consequently, comparing the performance of a basket of only large cap stocks to the performance of a diversified portfolio made up of a variety of different asset classes isn’t an apples-to-apples comparison.

***

Stock_Market

***

Frequently, the diversified portfolio will outperform the non-diversified large cap index because several of the components of the diversified portfolio will obtain higher returns than those achieved by large cap holdings.

However, the past 12 months has been a case where a diversified portfolio underperformed the large cap index because large cap stocks were the best performing asset class over the time period. In fact, over the last twelve months, there has been a direct correlation between company size and stock performance (as of 10/30/14):

  • Large Cap Stocks (S&P 500): 14.92%
  • Mid Cap Stocks (Russell Mid Cap): 11.08%
  • Small Cap Stocks (Russell 2000): 4.45%
  • International Stocks (Dow Jones Developed Markets): -1.05%
  • Emerging Market Stocks (iShares MSCI Emerging Markets): -1.04%

Since large cap stocks were the best performing element of a diversified portfolio over the last 12 months, in retrospect, an investor would have obtained a superior return by owning only large cap stocks during the period as opposed to owning a diversified mix of different equities. Does this mean owning only large cap stocks rather than a diversified portfolio is the best investment approach going forward? Of course not.

Year after year, we don’t know which asset category will provide the best return and a diversified portfolio ensures we have exposure to each year’s big winner. Additionally, although large caps were this year’s winner, they could easily be next year’s big loser, and a diversified portfolio ensures we don’t have all our investment eggs in one basket.

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Assessment

Don’t be overly concerned if your diversified portfolio is underperforming a non-diversified benchmark over a short period of time. As always, long-term results should be more heavily weighted than short-term swings, and having a diversified portfolio is likely to maximize the probability of coming out ahead over an extended period.

Conclusion

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Is it Fire Drill Time for Physician Investors?

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Catastrophes and “Black Swans” Happen

An ME-P Special Report

By Lon Jeffereis MBA CFP® CMP®

Lon JeffriesHistory tells us that over a long enough time span catastrophes are likely to occur. Fires, flooding, earthquakes – none can be prevented and all can be potentially devastating. While these events can’t always be avoided, we can prepare for these “black swans.”

Running practice fire drills enables us to act appropriately during misfortune while maintaining emergency food storage ensures we won’t starve when tragedy strikes.

Just as physical calamity can turn lives upside down, financial upheaval can lead to an unrecoverable loss. Fortunately, we have the ability to prepare for financial uncertainty in the same way we prepare for other exposures. As the current bull market is now both the fourth longest in history (64 months) and the fourth largest (+192% gain), now would be a perfect time to ensure you are prepared for the next market pullback.

Run a Portfolio Fire Drill

You can run a fire drill for your portfolio by understanding the loss potential of your holdings. It is critical to recognize that the amount of volatility your portfolio will experience in declining market environments is dependent on your asset allocation – how much of your account is invested in stocks vs. bonds. The larger the percentage of stocks in a portfolio, the more the portfolio’s value will increase during bull markets but decrease when the market declines. Let’s look at the historical performance and risk levels of a range of diversified stock-to-bond ratios:

Asset Allocation – Risk & Return (1970-2013)

***

Portfolio Allocation Average Annual Return Large Loss 08′
100% Stocks 10.85% -39%
80% Stocks20% Bonds 10.33% -30%
60% Stocks40% Bonds 9.99% -20%
50% Stocks50% Bonds 9.76% -15%
40% Stocks60% Bonds 9.49% -11%
20% Stocks80% Bonds 8.85% -4%

 ***

After determining the asset allocation of your portfolio, ask yourself how you would respond to another market correction like we experienced in 2008. For this exercise, considering loss in dollar terms is particularly productive. For instance, if 80% of your portfolio is invested in stocks, you might be able to convince yourself that you could sustain a 30% loss. However, supposing you have $500k invested, a 30% loss would mean your portfolio is suddenly depleted to $350k — $150k of hard earned money just evaporated. To many, the thought of losing $150k is more uncomfortable than the thought of a 30% loss.

Next, picture every media outlet sending warnings day after day about how the market is only going to get worse. Imagine yourself checking what the markets are doing multiple times a day and constantly being disappointed that it is another day of losses.

Lastly, visualize your occasional friend, neighbor or family member bragging about how he got out of the market before the collapse and telling you how you are a fool for not doing so.

***

Accidents Happen

[Accidents Happen]

How would you respond in such an environment? Would you have a hard time sleeping or digesting your food? It’s critical to be honest with yourself. If you would stray from your long-term investment strategy by selling after a market drop and waiting for the market to recover, your current portfolio may be too aggressive. If so, scale back the assertiveness of your portfolio by reducing your stock exposure now because selling stocks during a market decline is the last thing you want to do.

Sound financial planning suggests individuals should scale back the assertiveness of their portfolio as they approach retirement. While a young worker with 30 years until retirement can afford to be aggressive and has time to recover if a large loss in suffered, a person who is closer to retirement can’t afford to endure a significant loss right before the invested funds are needed to cover life expenses.

Maintain an Emergency Financial Storage

As stocks and bonds are the long-term portion of your investment portfolio, cash equivalents are your tool for dealing with short-term spending needs. Before even investing, everyone should have an emergency reserve holding enough cash to cover three to six months of expenses. These funds should only be tapped in the event of a job loss or a medical emergency.

Be Prepared

Additionally, investors who are taking withdrawals from their portfolio in order to meet cash flow needs should also have the equivalent of two years of necessary withdrawals in cash at all times. These funds should be used to cover living expenses during the next market correction. Having this emergency financial storage will prevent you from having to take withdrawals in a down market and allow your portfolio time to recover.

Assessment

No one knows when the next bear market will come. However, just like winter follows every fall, market corrections will ultimately come after every bull market.  Preparing for such a financial downturn will ensure you act appropriately when the time comes and prevent financial catastrophe.

BOOK: Comprehensive Financial Planning Strategies for Doctors and Advisors: Best Practices from Leading Consultants and Certified Medical Planners™

Conclusion

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What is Tactical Portfolio Management?

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Re-Thinking Strategic Allocation

[By Dr. David Edward Marcinko MBA]

Dr. David E. Marcinko MBAMany successful physician investors, retirement account managers or endowment fund administrators will establish a “strategic” allocation policy that is intended to guide long-term (greater than one-year) investment decisions.

Thinking Long Term?

This strategic allocation reflects the endowment’s thinking regarding the existence of perceived fundamental shifts in the market. Most endowments will also establish a target range or band for each asset class. The day-to-day managers then have the flexibility to make tactical decisions for a given class so long as they stay within the target range.

Terms

The term “tactical” when used in the context of investment strategy refers to the investor or manager’s ability to take advantage of short-term (under one year) market anomalies such as pricing discrepancies between different sectors or across different styles.

Assessment

Historically, tactical decisions with respect to asset allocation were derided as “market timing.” However, market timing implies moving outside of the target ranges whereas tactical decision making simply addresses the opportunistic deployment of funds within the asset class target range.

So, what do you think?

Online MD investor

Conclusion

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Are We Over-Optimizing Portfolio Asset Classes?

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Too Many Other Asset Classes?

[By Dr. David Edward Marcinko MBA CMP™]Dr. David E. Marcinko MBA

Some financial analysts believe that the focus on asset classes may have gone too far as physicians and other investors have sought to “over optimize” their portfolios.

In fact, colleague David Loeper, CEO of Wealthcare Capital Management, explained this concept as follows:

“Where things have really got off track has been the insistence on breaking asset classes into sub-classes by style, market capitalization, etc. The unpredictability of all the inputs into our optimizers, even over long periods of time, has been ignored. We have attempted to take efficient portfolios of stocks, bonds and cash and make them even more efficient by breaking the unpredictable asset classes into even less predictable sub-classes. This has all been done into the pursuit of “efficiency” as the proposal was validated by the Brinson & Beebower study, which purports to find that over 90% of the investment return variance is explained by asset allocation. The risk that you produce inefficient portfolios INCREASES if you increase the number of “asset classes” for which you must forecast not only the risk and returns but also each asset class’ correlation to the others.”

Assessment

If true, and I think it is a valid point, the results of the optimizer and your resulting portfolio’s efficiency is based on the accuracy of the inputs and NOT THE NUMBER OF THE INPUTS.

Stock_Market

Or, is this like the TNTC situation in cell cultures and microbiology [Too Numerous To Count].Certified Medical Planner  Conclusion

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Learn the “Right” Investing Lessons from 2013

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Understanding the Recency Effect

Lon JeffriesBy Lon Jefferies MBA CFP® www.NetWorthAdvice.com

The year 2013 was viewed as a very positive one by most investors; especially physician-investors.

The S&P 500 index (measuring large cap U.S. stocks) was up 32.39% for the year.

However, the reality is most other asset categories didn’t come close to keeping up with the pace set by U.S. equities.

For instance:

  • Foreign Stocks (IEFA): 22.46%
  • Emerging Markets (IEMG): -2.77%
  • Real Estate (IYR): 1.16%
  • US Government Bonds (IEF): -6.09%
  • US TIPS (TIP): -8.49%
  • Corporate Bonds (LQD): -2.00%
  • International Bonds (IGOV): -1.37%
  • Emerging Market Bonds (LEMB): -6.73%
  • Commodities (DJP): -11.12%
  • Gold (GLD): -28.33%

In Hindsight

In retrospect, the way to maximize your gain last year would have been to hold a completely undiversified portfolio consisting of nothing but U.S. stocks. The danger going forward is to learn the wrong lesson from 2013. Investors always have the temptation to fall prey to the Recency Effect, continuing and exaggerating the behaviors that worked in the recent past believing the environment we’ve just been through will be permanent.

The Long-Term Benefits of Diversification

Many will abandon their investment strategy because it didn’t give them the absolute best result last year, failing to recognize the long-term benefit of diversification. I’d argue that a better perspective is to remind yourself that the definition of diversification is that you always dislike a portion of your portfolio.

Always Laggards

Even in the most widely prosperous market environment, a truly diversified portfolio will have an element or two that lags the market. In fact, if at any time a portion of your portfolio isn’t generating negative returns, you should be concerned about a lack of diversification in your investment strategy.

Allocate Assets Now

Now is an ideal time to review your asset allocation and remind yourself why we diversify. Modifying your allocation with a focus on what happened in 2013 would be similar to guessing a coin flip will land on tails because it did on the previous flip.

Stock Market

Assessment

The correct lesson to take from 2013 is that over time, a well-diversified portfolio is capable of producing sufficient returns to help you reach your investment goals while minimizing risk.

Conclusion

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