Saturday, February 27, 2016

5 Popular Portfolio Types

Courtesy : Investopedia

Stock investors constantly hear the wisdom of diversification. The concept is to simply not put all of your eggs in one basket, which in turn helps mitigate risk, and generally leads to better performance or return on investment. Diversifying your hard-earned dollars does make sense, but there are different ways of diversifying, and there are different portfolio types. We look at the following portfolio types and suggest how to get started building them: aggressive, defensive, income, speculative and hybrid. It is important to understand that building a portfolio will require research and some effort. Having said that, let's have a peek across our five portfolios to gain a better understanding of each and get you started.

The Aggressive Portfolio
An aggressive portfolio or basket of stocks includes those stocks with high risk/high reward proposition. Stocks in the category typically have a high beta, or sensitivity to the overall market. Higher beta stocks experience larger fluctuations relative to the overall market on a consistent basis. If your individual stock has a beta of 2.0, it will typically move twice as much in either direction to the overall market - hence, the high-risk, high-reward description.

Most aggressive stocks (and therefore companies) are in the early stages of growth, and have a unique value proposition. Building an aggressive portfolio requires an investor who is willing to seek out such companies, because most of these names, with a few exceptions, are not going to be common household companies. Look online for companies with earnings growth that is rapidly accelerating, and have not been discovered by Wall Street. The most common sectors to scrutinize would be technology, but many other firms in various sectors that are pursuing an aggressive growth strategy can be considered. As you might have gathered, risk management becomes very important when building and maintaining an aggressive portfolio. Keeping losses to a minimum and taking profit are keys to success in this type of portfolio.

The Defensive Portfolio
Defensive stocks do not usually carry a high beta, and usually are fairly isolated from broad market movements. Cyclical stocks, on the other hand, are those that are most sensitive to the underlying economic "business cycle." For example, during recessionary times, companies that make the "basics" tend to do better than those that are focused on fads or luxuries. Despite how bad the economy is, companies that make products essential to everyday life will survive. Think of the essentials in your everyday life, and then find the companies that make these consumer staple products.

The opportunity of buying cyclical stocks is that they offer an extra level of protection against detrimental events. Just listen to the business stations and you will hear portfolios managers talking about "drugs," "defense" and "tobacco." These really are just baskets of stocks that these managers are recommending based upon where the business cycle is and where they think it is going. However, the products and services of these companies are in constant demand. A defensive portfolio is prudent for most investors. A lot of these companies offer a dividend as well which helps minimize downside capital losses.

The Income Portfolio
An income portfolio focuses on making money through dividends or other types of distributions to stakeholders. These companies are somewhat like the safe defensive stocks but should offer higher yields. An income portfolio should generate positive cash flow. Real estate investment trusts (REITs) and master limited partnerships (MLP) are excellent sources of income producing investments. These companies return a great majority of their profits back to shareholders in exchange for favorable tax status. REITs are an easy way to invest in real estate without the hassles of owning real property. Keep in mind, however, that these stocks are also subject to the economic climate. REITs are groups of stocks that take a beating during an economic downturn, as building and buying activity dries up.

An income portfolio is a nice complement to most people's paycheck or other retirement income. Investors should be on the lookout for stocks that have fallen out of favor and have still maintained a high dividend policy. These are the companies that can not only supplement income but also provide capital gains. Utilities and other slow growth industries are an ideal place to start your search.

The Speculative Portfolio
A speculative portfolio is the closest to a pure gamble. A speculative portfolio presents more risk than any others discussed here. Finance gurus suggest that a maximum of 10% of one's investable assets be used to fund a speculative portfolio. Speculative "plays" could be initial public offerings (IPOs) or stocks that are rumored to be takeover targets. Technology or health care firms that are in the process of researching a breakthrough product, or a junior oil company which is about to release its initial production results, would also fall into this category.

Another classic speculative play is to make an investment decision based upon a rumor that the company is subject to a takeover. One could argue that the widespread popularity of leveraged ETFs in today's markets represent speculation. Again, these types of investments are alluring: picking the right one could lead to huge profits in a short amount of time. Speculation may be the one portfolio that, if done correctly, requires the most homework. Speculative stocks are typically trades, and not your classic "buy and hold" investment.

The Hybrid Portfolio
Building a hybrid type of portfolio means venturing into other investments, such as bonds, commodities, real estate and even art. Basically, there is a lot of flexibility in the hybrid portfolio approach. Traditionally, this type of portfolio would contain blue chip stocks and some high grade government or corporate bonds. REITs and MLPs may also be an investable theme for the balanced portfolio. A common fixed income investment strategy approach advocates buying bonds with various maturity dates, and is essentially a diversification approach within the bond asset class itself. Basically, a hybrid portfolio would include a mix of stocks and bonds in a relatively fixed allocation proportions. This type of approach offers diversification benefits across multiple asset classes as equities and fixed income securities tend to have a negative correlation with one another.

The Bottom Line
At the end of the day, investors should consider all of these portfolios and decide on the right allocation across all five. Here, we have laid the foundation by defining five of the more common types of portfolios. Building an investment portfolio does require more effort than a passive, index investing approach. By going it alone, you will be required to monitor your portfolio(s) and re-balance more frequently, thus racking up commission fees. Too much or too little exposure to any portfolio type introduces additional risks. Despite the extra required effort, defining and building a portfolio will increase your investing confidence, and give you control over your finances.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Stashing Your Cash: Mattress Or Market ?

Courtesy : Investopedia

When stock markets become volatile, investors get nervous. In many cases, this prompts them to take money out of the market and keep it in cash. Cash can be seen, felt and spent at will, and having money on hand makes many people feel more secure. But how safe is it really? Read on to find out whether your money is safer in the market or under your mattress.

All Hail Cash?

 There are definitely some benefits to holding cash. When the stock market is in free fall, holding cash helps you avoid further losses. Even if the stock market doesn't fall on a particular day, there is always the potential that it could have fallen. This possibility is known as systematic risk, and it can be completely avoided by holding cash. Cash is also psychologically soothing. During troubled times, you can see and touch cash. Unlike the rapidly dwindling balance in your portfolio, cash will still be in your pocket or in your bank account in the morning.
However, while moving to cash might feel good mentally and help you avoid short-term stock market volatility, it is unlikely to be a wise move over the long term. 

A Loss Is Not a Loss

When your money is in the stock market and the market is down, you may feel like you've lost money, but you really haven't. At this point, it's a paper loss. A turnaround in the market can put you right back to break even and maybe even put a profit in your pocket. If you sell your holdings and move to cash, you lock in your losses. They go from being paper losses to being real losses with no hope of recovery. While paper losses don't feel good, long-term investors accept that the stock market rises and falls. Maintaining your positions when the market is down is the only way that your portfolio will have a chance to benefit when the market rebounds.

Inflation Is a Cash Killer

 While having cash in your hand seems like a great way to stem your losses, cash is no defense against inflation. You think your money is safe when it's in cash, but over time, its value erodes. Inflation is less dramatic than a crash, but in some cases it can be more devastating to your portfolio in the long term. 

Opportunity Costs Add Up.
Opportunity cost is the cost of an alternative that must be forgone in order to pursue a certain action. Put another way, opportunity cost refers to the benefits you could have received by taking an alternative action. In the case of cash, taking your money out of the stock market requires that you compare the growth of your cash portfolio, which will be negative over the long term as inflation erodes your purchasing power, against the potential gains in the stock market. Historically, the stock market has been the better bet.

Time Is Money
When you sell your stocks and put your money in cash, odds are that you will eventually reinvest in the stock market. The question then becomes, "when should you make this move?" Trying to choose the right time to get in or out of the stock market is referred to as market timing. If you were unable to successfully predict the market's peak and sell, it is highly unlikely that you'll be any better at predicting its bottom and buying in just before it rises.

Common Sense Is King

Common sense may be the best argument against moving to cash, and selling your stocks after the market tanks means that you bought high and are selling low. That would be the exact opposite of a good investing strategy. While your instincts may be telling you to save what you have left, your instincts are in direct opposition with the most basic tenet of investing. The time to sell was back when your investments were in the black - not when you are deep in the red.

Buy and Hold on Tight.

You were happy to buy when the price was high because you expected it to go higher. Now that it is low, you expect it to fall forever. Look at the markets over time. They have historically gone up. Companies are in business to make money. They have a vested interest in profitability. Investing in equities should be a long-term endeavor, and the long term favors those who stay invested.Serious investors understand that the markets are no place for the faint of heart.

This is also the time to review the strength and weakness of our portfolio  and make necessary reshuffling to make it ready for next up move.Don't hesitate to sell the stock of a company in loss if we could find a better opportunity in another one considering the changing business environment.


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