How did your favorite sports team do last season? 2008 and early 2009 were difficult seasons for most people. When market losses hit retirement accounts, stocks and home values, our net worth goes down and it is difficult to keep working towards our goals. When a football team has a tough year, they start a rebuilding program and you can do the same. What can you do now to get back on track towards your goals? The team sets goals, such as winning a certain number of games, and looks at their assets, the players, to decide what they can accomplish. You must also be clear about your goals, assets, time horizon and risk profile. Winning teams know that having a good defense can help their offense move down the field to the goal line.
How do we build a good defense? We protect ourselves, strengthen our core investments and then move forward. A sports team gets the proper equipment, has it properly fitted and learns how to use it correctly. You can get your personal information together so you can figure out how to balance your income and monthly expenses. You can make sure your credit report is accurate and debt ratios are reasonable. Having an emergency account to cover six months of basic expenses will reduce damage from unexpected blows. Protect your human capital with life, disability and liability insurance. Insure your valuable property that you cannot afford to replace.
Next, build your core investments. This is the place to get our playbook working for us. We can’t consistently win by relying on the “Hail Mary” pass. Assemble a balanced mix of high quality stocks, bonds and cash investments. The balance changes based on your needs, time and risk ability. A young couple looking to grow their nest egg may have 70 percent or more in stocks, while a retiree may have less than 50 percent in stocks and more income generating assets. Diversify across borders, company size and growth vs. cash generating investments.
This is our foundation so we want to at least match long term market performance. Mutual funds and ETFs that track market indices are an easy, low-cost way to build this core portfolio. Diversification will help your portfolio from being pushed backwards on the field when you meet strong opposition. This means your offense starts from a better position.
When our basic strategy is working, we can look for some stars that will help us move to the end zone faster. Add complementary investments to further diversify your portfolio. When choosing a player, look for one that will increase your return while holding or lowering your overall portfolio risk. As having too many superstars on a team can hurt overall performance, having too many high flyers in your portfolio will lower your return and increase risk.
Finally, the best performing teams evaluate their game to make improvements. They don’t make major changes after every play or every day. Evaluate and rebalance your portfolio annually or if it gets far off target. These reviews assure all the pieces are working together. Following these steps will help you, and your favorite team, to a winning season.
Tom Roberts, principal of A New Approach Financial Planning in Lakewood Ranch, can be reached at (941) 927-9590 or Tom@ANewApproachFP.com.