Thursday, March 27, 2008

Diversification Matters

Last week Bear Stearns was bought by JP Morgan Chase for about $10/share. The stock has traded as high as 170 last year. Investors lost a ton of money in this stock. Employees were hard hit as well, as they own a combines % of the company through ESOP.

A review from over two million investors portfolios in a major US online brokerage, found that nearly one-third held more than 20% of their assets in just one stock. Imagine if they are invested in the next WorldCom or Enron?

There are four types of portfolio diversification in order to decrease overall risk, without sacrificing the potential rewards.

The first one is to diversify across asset classes. Each individual needs to find the appropriate asset mix of stocks, bonds, cash, real-estate and other asset classes in order to achieve the best rewards for the risk taken. During the 2000-2002 bear market, investors in the S&P 500 index fund lost 9% in 2000, in 12% 2001 and 22% in 2002. Adding a simple 20% allocation of bonds to the portfolio would have decreased the losses to 3.3%, 8.75% and 14.40% respectively.

The second strategy is to diversify within asset classes. For example stocks are broken down into:

Large Cap Growth
Large Cap Value
Mid-Cap Growth
Mid-Cap Value
Small-Cap Growth
Small-Cap Value
International Emerging Markets
International Developed Markets
There are several types of bond investments as well. These include:
Corporate Bonds
Municipal Bonds
International Bonds
Mortgage-Backed Securities
Zero-Coupon Bonds
High-Yield Bonds
Short-Term Bonds

An investor who had all of their assets in Nasdaq Stocks at the top of the dot-com bubble would have been much better off if they had invested in other asset classes. An easy way to diversify within asset classes is by buying low-cost Mutual Funds or Exchange-Traded-Funds.

Diversifying across Time is a third strategy to minimize investment risk. Although Dollar-Cost Averaging does reduce investment returns in a given short-term period (DCA) ,it reduces the risk of investing all of your funds in an underperforming asset class at the top. This increases the probability that investors would actually stick to their asset class allocation even in uncertain markets.

Diversifying across strategies is fourth way to reduce risk

Although most investors would be better off with a proper stock/bond index fund allocation adding an active strategy could reduce risk in tough times. An example of that could be investing in dividend stocks like the dividend aristocrats for example. Other types of strategies include ( but are not limited to ) selling covered calls, investing in Dogs of the Dow.

Related Articles

- Dividend Stocks Watchlist
- Dollar Cost Averaging
- Long-Term returns of the S&P High Yield Dividend Aristocrats
- The pros and cons of selling covered calls on dividend paying stocks

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