The best investment portfolio for 2010 and beyond will hold stocks, bonds, and money market securities. Finding the best investment in each area is not possible or necessary. Coming up with YOUR best investment mix is. Let’s review your investment options.
I’ll keep it simple. If you invest at all you have an investment portfolio, which is simply a list of the investments you own. For example, if you have a 401k plan you probably picked a few different investment options from a list. Most of your choices were likely mutual funds. Even if you knew not what you were doing, you put together your own investment mix, your own portfolio. The question is whether or not this is the best investment mix for you.
If you are like 90% of the investors I’ve known and worked with as a financial planner, you don’t really understand this stuff. That’s why you should be invested in stock funds, bond funds and money market funds vs. individual securities like stocks and bonds. When you own funds professional money managers pick the stocks and bonds etc. for you and a pool of other investors. But you need to pick the appropriate mix of funds.
So, let’s take a look at the securities or funds you might own or be considering, and see if changes might be in order. I say “might own” because most people are not sure what they really hold in their investment portfolio. Sound familiar? Let’s start with your safe investments like bank CDs and money market securities. If you have cash invested in a money market fund, you have money market securities in your portfolio. The bad news is that you are earning very little in your safe investments. The good news is that you have a high degree of safety. Don’t keep all of your money here, but don’t bail out just because interest rates are low, either.
If you are risk adverse don’t be afraid to have 50% (or more if you are retired and older) of your investment mix safely invested. Sooner or later interest rates will go up… which brings us to the next area of investment options you might own. Bonds and bond funds (also called income funds) pay more interest, and billions of dollars flowed into bond funds in 2009 from every-day investors chasing higher interest rates. Check and see if any of your mutual funds fall into this category.
Income funds or bond funds probably treated you OK over the years, but this will change in a hurry when interest rates go up. Interest rates were at highs in the early 1980’s. They were at historical lows in 2009. When rates go up money market funds should be good investments and pay more interest in the form of dividends. Bond funds or income funds will lose money. That’s not a theory. That’s the way bonds work. If bonds or bond funds are a large part of your investment mix, or you are considering long-term bond funds, think twice. The risk is significant. Your best investment here is short-term and intermediate-term quality bond funds.
Now let’s look at the third category of investments you probably own or should own… stocks, commonly in the form of equity funds. These are the investment options that have likely caused you heartburn and acid indigestion over the past several years. There’s more risk here, but greater profit potential as well. The best investment mix for most investors: about 50% in stocks, preferably spread across a VARIETY of equity funds. Conservative folks might want to cut this to 25% or even less, but all investors should be familiar with the variety of equity funds that are available to them.
First, you need a GENERAL DIVERSIFIED domestic (U.S.) equity fund that basically tracks the U.S. stock market’s performance. Then, add a diversified international fund that invests in a broad range of foreign equities. You now have a leg up on most investors who miss opportunity by not investing abroad. You may want to add a small-cap or mid-cap fund that invests in smaller companies, because these funds can outperform in some market environments. Finally, consider non-diversified equity funds that specialize in stock sectors like real estate, natural resources, basic materials and precious metals for a smaller portion of your allocation to stocks.
The best investment portfolio going forward will contain stocks, bonds, and money market securities; but you will need to give your investment mix the attention it deserves. Hold some safe investments, avoid long-term bonds, and diversify your stock holdings. Uncertainty and risk in the investment markets is likely to remain high. When in doubt diversify across the three investment areas and within each of them.