Everyone wants to invest in the best-performing asset class every year. But, the thing is, it is nearly impossible to choose the best asset class consistently. That’s why diversification is key.
Harry Markowitz rightly said that “diversification is the only free lunch in investing”. This is the notion that holding a broader range of assets can result in reducing the overall risk and increase the likelihood of achieving more stable and consistent returns over time.
Diversification is a vital concept widely accepted by many investors across borders. It is an important tool to help investors achieve the proper balance between return and risk for their situation. Crafting a diversified portfolio requires a blend of asset classes tailored on the basis of one’s risk profile, financial goals, and investment horizon. This is where asset allocation comes in.
Asset allocation is a strategy that involves distributing the portfolio’s investment into different asset classes, such as equity, debt, cash, real estate, etc. Let’s look at the important factors for the right asset allocation mix:
- Investment Objective - The choice of asset allocation is heavily influenced by the particular financial objective that an investor seeks to fulfil. Aspirations can be very different, ranging from short-term goals like saving for a down payment on a home to long-term ones like building wealth for retirement. Different investment strategies and asset allocations are needed to achieve different goals. For instance, you might devote a bigger percentage of your portfolio to equity if your main goal is to create wealth in the long run.
- Risk profile - Before choosing the asset allocation, determining the risk profile is of utmost importance. An investor should define his risk tolerance, i.e. his willingness to withstand market volatility and the level of risk he can comfortably bear. The investor must then define his risk capacity, i.e. the capacity to absorb potential losses. By identifying the risk tolerance and the risk capacity, an investor can form his risk profile based on which he can allocate his investment to different asset classes.
- Taxation - Different asset classes have different tax implications. Understanding the tax efficiency of different asset classes can have an impact on the post-tax return. For instance, dividends and capital gains of different asset classes can be taxed differently. By understanding the tax implications, an investor can efficiently plan and manage his investments.
- Goal maturity - The time horizon remaining for different financial goals must be considered before making any asset allocation decision. When you are a few years away from your financial goal, your portfolio is considered to be in the transition stage. Most experts suggest you should move towards an asset allocation that is weighted more heavily towards low risk assets like bonds than stocks.
- Age - Typically, younger investors with a longer investment horizon may have the capacity to withstand short-term fluctuations and may opt for a more aggressive asset allocation that includes a higher proportion of equities. However, as an investor approaches retirement age, it would be wiser to follow a more conservative asset allocation.
Now, let us look at the performance of different asset classes.
|Real - Estate
|Sep 22 - Sep 23
|Sep 21 - Sep 22
|Sep 20 - Sep 21
Source: Property: https://residex.nhbonline.org.in/ (Composite HPI for 50 Cities), Bonds: CRISIL Composite Bond Index, T- Bills: CRISIL 1 Year T-Bill Index, Gold and Silver: RBI Monthly Average Price of Gold and Silver in Mumbai, Sensex TRI: Ace MF
To judge the performance of an asset class, any investor’s go-to would be to look at its return on investment. However, data shows that every year, the winner amongst asset classes varies since the market is at the confluence of multiple variables. In the year Sep 2022-23, silver was the best performing asset, however, in the years Sep 2021-22 and 2020-21, silver has given negative returns. Similarly, different asset classes have performed differently in different market phases. So, investors should create a well-diversified portfolio in which their money is spread across a range of asset classes in accordance with their investment objective and risk profile.
The quest for an optimal asset allocation must be based on the factors above rather than just picking top performers. Equity can provide long-term growth, and the stability of debt and gold can help safeguard the capital for the long term. Choosing the right asset allocation may seem like a challenging task, and hence, an investor should opt for the guidance of a financial advisor who can help investors make informed decisions.