The best investment strategy for 2010 and beyond is not likely to be the normal investment strategy recommended year after year by many investment firms. Things ARE different this time. Here's your basic investment guide of things to consider going forward.
Year after year the basic investment strategy or asset allocation recommended for most people: 60% stocks and 40% bonds. Stocks or stock funds are the growth element and bonds or bond funds are the safer investment that provides higher income in this asset allocation. In theory, losses in one should be offset by gains in the other. It's time to review your present asset allocation. You might be taking more risk than you think you are.
Sometimes the best investment strategy is aggressive in nature; other times a bit of defense is called for. Rarely does chasing a hot asset class pay off for long. With the stock market up 60% in less than a year and high bond prices (super-low interest rates), that's exactly what many investors are doing. At the same time some are chasing gold at historically high prices, and emerging stock markets that have been on fire (like China).
Your asset allocation has probably changed since you last looked due to fast changing markets. Take a good look, and then decide if your investment strategy is on track at an acceptable level of risk. If you are heavy into either stocks or bonds (or both) you might want to lighten up and diversify more. In 2010 and beyond the investment landscape could change considerably.
What if the financial crisis is not really over, or the U.S. dollar continues to be unstable? What if economic growth fails to materialize or interest rates soar? The USA has not been faced with more economic uncertainty in my time, and I've followed the economy and the markets since 1972. Here's a basic investment guide to avoiding heavy losses should the going get tough again.
If you hold bonds or bond funds consider shortening your maturities and cutting your exposure. For example, if you hold long-term bond funds consider moving to intermediate-term and short-term bond funds. Rising interest rates will send bond prices (values) down, and long-term bonds will get hit the hardest. You will sacrifice higher interest income, but will increase safety with this investment strategy.
Stocks and stock funds may have moved up too far too fast in 2009. Don't chase the stock market unless you want to speculate. Consider lightening up your asset allocation to stocks that closely follow the market in general. It's quite likely that much of this move upward was "window dressing" by large portfolio managers who want to look good at year end. Some of it was no doubt caused by individual investors looking for higher returns in a low-interest-rate environment. Any bad news in 2010 could prompt these same investors to sell and send stock prices down.
Now that you've cut your asset allocation to bond and stock investments in general, where do you put this money? When in doubt CASH is king. Cash refers to safe, liquid investments like savings accounts, short-term CDs, and money market securities. Money market mutual funds are the easiest way for the average investor to put money into money market securities. With short-term interest rates at historical lows many investors have taken money out of these safe investments. If you want to play defense, increase your asset allocation to cash.
For offense consider moving money periodically into a variety of areas often overlooked by average investors... to broaden your diversification. For example, consider stocks in the following specialty sectors: basic materials, natural resources, real estate, foreign securities, and precious metals if you don't already have money there. Mutual funds are available in all the above specialty sectors as well. Invest in increments to smooth out the risk of bad timing.
In times of high uncertainty don't follow the crowd. Your best investment strategy is to survive financially with your investment assets intact. When the dust settles get more aggressive with your asset allocation. Meanwhile, cash is king; and diversify, diversify, diversify.
A retired financial planner, James Leitz has an MBA (finance) and 35 years of investing experience. For 20 years he advised individual investors, working directly with them helping them to reach their financial goals.
Jim is the author of a complete investor guide, Invest Informed, designed for average investors or would-be investors of all levels of financial background and experience. To learn more about investments and investing and his new financial guide go to http://www.investinformed.com.
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