When it comes to personal finance and investing there are many things that we need to keep in mind. Naturally there is the personal budget and watching our outgoing expenses. Debt needs to be taken into account as well and hopefully avoided whenever possible. Insurance, expenses for children, taxes, and planning for the future are other areas of concern in personal finance.
One area that seems to confound some personal investors unnecessarily though is asset allocation. This is the idea of dividing your investments in such a way as to take advantage of the diversity of differing asset classes. Stocks, bonds, real estate, cash, and commodities are just some examples of the asset classes available to us as individual investors. Research has shown that asset allocation can be the single most important investment decision, but how does one determine the best way to allocate their limited assets over a seemingly unlimited field of investments?
One thing that needs to be kept firmly in mind is that the research into asset allocation was actually done using data from institutional investment accounts. Because the vast majority of individual investors do not have nearly enough capital to properly diversify over all the major asset classes, this research is not as relevant to the individual as one might hope. We can still take advantage of the research though by utilizing such investment vehicles as mutual funds and exchange traded funds (ETF’s).
The advantage of these investments for the individual investor is that they diversify your assets while allowing for smaller investment amounts. For example, an investor with just $50k in assets would be hard pressed to even develop a sufficiently diversified stock portfolio. This doesn’t even account for all of the other possible asset classes which can provide protection when stock prices are falling.
By utilizing ETF’s for example, an individual investor would be able to split their money across a variety of asset classes. There are often correlations between asset classes that make it possible to protect yourself from the volatility inherent in the markets. When stocks are falling, bonds are often rising. When bonds are falling, commodities may be rising. If commodities are falling, real estate could be on the upswing. By spreading your risk amongst the various asset classes you may limit your upside somewhat, but you are also lowering the volatility of your portfolio, allowing for a much smoother increase in your assets.
While this article has just touched on the importance of asset allocation to personal finance and investing, I think you get the gist. To learn more about the art of asset allocation you should visit the amateurassetallocator.com website, where you can get more detailed information on various asset classes and how diversification can protect your portfolio.