by NerdWallet | October 18, 2013 11:28 pm
Whether you’re saving for retirement, or your child’s college fund, or just want to put some money in the stock market, there are compelling reasons for picking a position and sticking to it. According to a study released by the Schwab Center for Financial Research, for any 20- year period between 1926 and 2011, the S&P 500 never produced a negative result. To achieve a solid return, though, you must do more than just choose a security. Many advisors recommend dividing your portfolio between a core group of funds, which provide diversification and can be rebalanced to accommodate different levels of risk.
What should this portfolio consist of? How many funds do you really need to create balance? Some experts advocate a core of seven, and others have suggested six funds that should cover your bases. To simplify even further, Forbes columnist and CFA Rick Ferri has proposed a core of just four diversified funds that should suit your changing needs for risk.
Ferri’s four core picks are:
Investing in these four funds – or four similar funds through another brokerage – takes all of the guesswork out of diversification by covering major asset classes. Between bonds and international stocks, they also offer a wide variation in risk.
You can further tailor this portfolio by adjusting your stock and bond allocation each year, in order to optimize your risk-return profile. Many advisors recommend that your portfolio’s bond allocation equal your age, so at 40, you should invest 40% of your portfolio in bonds, and so on. The rest should be made up of stocks.
You can also adjust your equity allocation to match your risk tolerance. Ferri suggests allocating the majority – about 36% of the total portfolio – to the Total US Stock Market Fund, with about 18% and 6% going to international stocks and REITs, respectively. However, since REITs and international stocks tend to be more volatile, you can put more money into them if you’d like to take on more risk.
Active investors will definitely not be interested in the Core-4 strategy; neither will people who have a lot of ground to make up on their portfolio in a relatively short time. If you’re only an occasional investor, though, and would prefer to spend a minimum amount of time managing your portfolio, the Core-4 could provide a low maintenance solution.
Yes, as it turns out. Ferri runs the numbers and they’re encouraging. According to his calculations, users of the strategy could expect between a 5.4% and a 3.1% return on their investment during the first decade of the 2000’s, which wasn’t kind to markets in general. The Core-4 even weathered the recession well. Between 2007 and 2009, only the most aggressive investors – with portfolios composed 70% of stocks – lost money, and even these investors lost only 0.8%. Those invested more heavily in bonds managed to gain up to 2.4% during those years. This compares very favorably to the market return of the S&P 500, which was down 21.3% for the same three-year time period.
Broad diversification and managed risk are always elements of a solid portfolio, regardless of whether your core consists of four funds or more. But if you’re looking for an easy-to-manage portfolio that generates predictable returns over the long term, you should consider the Core-4.
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