ON THE MONEY: Have a business plan for your investment portfolio

  • Posted: Sunday, January 26, 2014 12:01 a.m.

OK, your investment portfolio did really well last year, and perhaps your overall return was in line with the S&P 500, which was up almost 30 percent, its best performance since 1997.

But now, as you celebrate your gains, you may be a little uneasy about the future prospects for the stock market. So, is now the time to sell and move to ultra-conservative investments?

“Record highs don't predict falls in the market,” writes Dan Egan, director of behavioral finance and investing at Betterment.

Egan said investors often fall victim to the gambler's fallacy, which incorrectly holds that if an occurrence takes place more frequently than normal during a certain period, then it will occur less often in the future.

Others agree.

“Assuming that you know the direction of prices in the short term is a fool's errand that has proved out many, many times academically,” said Christopher Van Slyke, a partner and co-founder of WorthPointe.

Hopefully, we agree that now may not be the best time to dump all your stocks, but it is certainly the time to revisit your investment policy statement.

You don't have one, you say? Then by all means, create one.

An investment policy statement is a document between you and your investment advisor that sets forth guidelines for your portfolio.

If you are your own investment advisor, IPS forces you to put your investment strategy in writing and, thus, commit to a disciplined investment plan. Such a statement can serve as a blueprint and a report card.

An IPS would state what your current assets are today; the time horizon over which you will be investing; and, what your expectations are for your investment portfolio to earn each year over and beyond the inflation rate. It would also set forth the magnitude of any losses that you would be willing to accept over several different time periods, say, six months, one year and five years.

A policy statement would lay out your target asset allocation between stocks of various categories, bonds, cash, real estate and foreign investments.

Most importantly, it would state what the triggers would be to require you to rebalance your portfolio.

In short, an investment policy statement is a business plan for your investment portfolio.

So, let's assume that your IPS states that you should rebalance your portfolio when the percentage of your various holdings is off by at least 5 percent. So, if your target allocation is 60 percent stocks and 40 percent bonds, and if the value of your stock holdings has risen to 68 percent, it would be time to reduce your stock holdings by 8 percent and increase your allocation into bonds by that amount. Whatever your rebalancing trigger is, stick to it.

Remember, as well, that the purpose of an asset allocation strategy is to match your assets with your liabilities. If you are 70 and in good health, then you should plan on living 15 to 20 more years and allocate your investments accordingly.

The final point is to know when to declare a victory. If your current portfolio value is large enough to provide you and your family with a comfortable retirement for the rest of your life, then you may want to scale back the risk in your portfolio, and be willing to accept smaller gains in the future, without incurring disastrous losses.

On another front, don't get blindsided by Medicare's rules if you are beyond age 65, still working and have not signed up for Medicare Part B.

If your employer's coverage expires, you will be forced to wait until the next general enrollment period which runs from Jan. 1 to March 31.

I suggest that you visit the Medicare office in Aiken and get the facts now, so you won't be left holding the bag later.

Greg Roberts is a certified financial planner with 35 years of financial and estate planning experience. Got a financial planning question for Greg? You may email him at greg@lifesolutionsonline.net.

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