Many investors may be inclined to review their portfolios only when markets hit a rough patch, but careful planning is essential in all economic climates. So whether the markets are up or down, periodically reviewing your portfolio with your financial professional can be an excellent way to keep your investments on track, and midway through the year is a good time for a checkup. Here are three questions to consider.
- How have my investments performed so far this year?
Review a summary of your portfolio's total return (minus all fees) and compare the performance of each asset class against a relevant benchmark. For example, for stocks, you might compare performance against the S&P 500 (for domestic large caps), the Russell 2000 (for small caps), or the Global Dow (for global stocks). For mutual funds, you might use the Lipper indexes to see how your funds performed against a relevant benchmark. (Keep in mind that the performance of an unmanaged index is not indicative of the performance of any specific security; you can't invest directly in an unmanaged index.)
Consider any possible causes of over- or underperformance in each asset class. If any result was concentrated in a single asset class or investment, was that performance consistent with the asset's typical behavior over time? Or was recent performance an anomaly that bears watching or taking action?
In addition, make sure you know the total fees you are paying (e.g., mutual fund expense ratios, transaction fees), preferably as a dollar amount and not just as a percentage of assets.
- Do I need to make adjustments?
Review your financial goals (e.g., retirement, college, home purchase) and the market outlook for the remainder of the year to determine whether your investment asset mix for each goal continues to meet your time frame, risk tolerance, and overall needs. Of course, no one knows exactly what the markets will do in the future, but by looking at current conditions and projections for interest rates, inflation, and economic growth, you might identify factors that could influence the markets in the months ahead. With this broader perspective, you can update your investment strategy as needed.
Remember, even if you've chosen an appropriate asset allocation strategy for various goals, market forces may have altered your mix without any action on your part. For example, maybe your asset allocation preference is 60% stocks and 40% bonds, but now due to investment returns your portfolio is 75% stocks and 25% bonds.
To return your asset mix back to its original allocation, you may want to rebalance your investments. This can be done by selling investments in the overrepresented classes and transferring the proceeds to the underrepresented asset classes, or simply by directing new contributions into asset classes that have been outpaced by others until the target allocation is reached. Keep in mind that rebalancing may result in commission costs, as well as taxes if you sell investments for a profit.
Asset allocation does not guarantee a profit or protect against loss; it is a method used to help manage investment risk.
- Am I maximizing my tax savings?
Taxes can take a bite out of your overall investment return. You can't control the markets, but you can control the accounts you use to save and invest, as well as the assets you hold in those accounts and the timing of when you sell investments. Dividing assets strategically among taxable, tax-deferred, and tax-exempt accounts may help reduce the effect of taxes on your overall portfolio.
In sum, by taking the time to periodically review your portfolio in good economic times as well as bad, you can feel confident knowing that your investing strategy is attuned to current market conditions and your overall needs.
All investing involves risk, including the possible loss of principal, and there can be no guarantee that any investing strategy will be successful.