Asset Allocation Can Help Protect Your Portfolio
By Saghir Aslam
(The following information is provided solely to educate the Muslim community about investing and financial planning. It is hoped that the ummah will benefit from this effort through greater financial empowerment, enabling the community to live in security and dignity and fulfill their religious and moral obligations towards charitable activities)
Over time, the value of stocks can go up and down. Bond prices fluctuate with interest rates, as do other types of fixed-income securities such as certificates of deposit and investments in money-market accounts. Predicting which investment vehicles are likely to perform better than others at any given point time is next to impossible. So how do you choose investments for your portfolio?
The answer may be to follow a risk-reduction strategy called asset allocation. By dividing your dollars among a variety of investments, you can decrease the likelihood that all the investments in your portfolio decline at the same time. Of course, by the same token, it’s also unlikely that every investment in your portfolio would go up at the same time.
Essentially, asset allocation diversifies your portfolio among several distinct asset classes. These may include stocks, bonds, real estate, money markets, cash and more. Within these general categories, these asset classes may also be divided into several more subcategories.
Stocks, for example, may be broken down into domestic stocks of small companies (small-cap), medium-sized companies (mid-cap), large companies (large-cap) and real estate. International stocks may also be part of the mix, including stocks in developed non-U.S. countries and less-developed (emerging market) countries outside the United States .
Classes of bonds may include conservative, moderate and aggressive (high-yield) bonds. Conservative bonds generally include federal and state government bonds. Moderate-risk bonds include bonds issued by high-credit-quality corporations. High-yield bonds typically are issued by corporations with lower credit ratings, offering higher interest rates to investors in exchange for a commensurate level of risk.
Stocks are securities that represent ownership in a company. You might want to invest in stocks if you believe the price of the stock will increase and thereby the value of your investment will increase. Another reason to invest in stocks would be to collect dividends. Companies pay dividends as a way to compensate shareholders for their investments. Dividends can also be a way to generate income. However, dividends are not guaranteed, so a company may eliminate their dividends at any time.
Bonds represent a loan to a company or other entity. Bonds have fixed terms and fixed interest rates. They typically generate a higher income stream and are historically less volatile than stocks.
Cash and cash alternatives are considered the third basic asset class. This class includes investments such as short-term certificates of deposit and money-market instruments. Holding cash as part of your allocation can be a way to park your money while waiting for an appropriate investment opportunity. It can also be used to hold funds for emergency use.
So how do you decide which combination of investments is right for you? Start by asking yourself the following questions:
• Objectives – What are your financial goals? Do you want to retire early or build your dream house? How much money will you need to save to accomplish your goals?
• Risk Tolerance – Can you stomach fluctuations in the market? Do you want a steady return with little risk?
• Time Horizon – Will you retire in five years? Fifteen? Are you ready to send your child to college next year or in 10 years?
• Cash Flow – Do you need a steady flow of income now from your investments, or can you continue to put your money away for a few more years?
Answering these questions will help both you and your Financial Adviser decide what kind of asset allocation will help you meet your goals and then choose specific investments that match your appropriate allocations. Bear in mind that although asset allocation can help diversify your portfolio, it does not protect against fluctuating prices or uncertain returns.
(Saghir A. Aslam only explains strategies and formulas that he has been using. He is merely providing information, and NO ADVICE is given. Mr. Aslam does not endorse or recommend any broker, brokerage firm, or any investment at all, or does he suggest that anyone will earn a profit when or if they purchase stocks, bonds or any other investments. All stocks or investment vehicles mentioned are for illustrative purposes only. Mr. Aslam is not an attorney, accountant, real estate broker, stockbroker, investment adviser or certified financial planner. Mr. Aslam does not have anything for sale.)