What Is a Diversified Portfolio?

Jennifer Means, MBA, CFP®

May 10, 2022

Over the past year, investing has, improbably, become the latest cultural trend. In the midst of flashy topics like cryptocurrency, meme stocks, and unicorns dominating the headlines, the importance of investing fundamentals has gotten somewhat lost.

Chief among these fundamentals is learning how to diversify your portfolio, a practice that reduces your risk and lowers your vulnerability.

What Is a Diversified Portfolio?

Portfolio diversification involves spreading your investments over a variety of assets and asset classes that minimizes one’s long-term risk. Rather than relying on a small group of concentrated investments, a diversified portfolio contains a variety of investments across the globe.

Different asset classes, such as stock, bonds, real estate, or sovereign debt, react differently to market moves and economic situations. The more diversified your assets, the more insulated you become against market downturns. More than anything, portfolio diversification protects investors against extremes. For this reason, diversified portfolios contain a mix of assets that have a reduction in correlation to each other.

For example, stocks and bonds tend to move in opposite directions from one another. Stocks are typically used for growth, as they appreciate faster than bonds, but are also subject increased volatility. Yet, having a wide variety of both asset classes ends up reducing the risk to an investor because it’s unlikely that every stock and bond you hold will fail all at the same time.

What History Tells Us About Diversification

The era spanning 2000 to 2010 is often referred to as “the lost decade” because of how much wealth was lost due to a slumping U.S. stock market. The S&P 500 Index, representing the nation’s 500 largest companies, underperformed at historically low levels, proving that even 500 companies may not be diversified enough.

If one were to invest one dollar in the S&P in the year 2000, that investment would have returned a mere $0.93 by 2010. However, a different story emerged for developing countries during the same period. While the U.S. was mired in two recessions throughout the decade, a group of smaller countries thrived. As a result, investments in emerging and developing countries went wild. If you were to invest that same dollar in global investments, you would more than double your investment, earning $2.06 per dollar.

Obviously, a recession or major financial event may cause you to rebalance your portfolio, but this may be the case even in the best of times. If your target significantly moves up or down, you may need to rebalance, since this often implies that you’re leaning too heavily on one group of assets or asset class.

TCI’s Approach to Diversified Portfolios

Like any financial strategy, portfolio diversification will differ depending on one’s financial and life situation. Regardless, a well-diversified portfolio contains as wide a range of investments as possible, with the minimal amount of fees and risks attached.

We like our clients to invest in thousands of holdings to lower their risk without giving up the chance to claim solid returns. Generally, the following financial segments represent an average diversified portfolio example:

  • U.S. Large Companies – Those earning over $10 billion per year, typically used for profitability.
  • U.S. Small Companies – Those earning below $2 billion.
  • Foreign Funds – Purchased for value rather than growth, with low P/E ratio implying that a company is undervalued. We invest in value domestically too.
  • Real Estate – Liquid funds that can free up within 2-3 years act as a diversifier since real estate tends to move differently than other markets.

Remember this isn’t a comprehensive list and diversification needs may vary from client to client. If you want to find the optimal way to diversify your portfolio, reduce risk, and maximize gains, it’s always best to talk with a trusted advisor.

Check Your Emotions Daily, Not Your Portfolio

Portfolio diversification is an active process requiring your attention and consistent upkeep. However, you shouldn’t glue yourself to your phone by checking your portfolio daily.

In fact, too much attention to one’s portfolio can produce worse results for an investor. Research by Richard Thaler on myopic loss aversion found that reviewing a portfolio quarterly instead of daily reduced moderate losses (of -2% or more) from 25% to 12%.

Why would checking one’s portfolio too much produce losses? The answer relies on stress and the emotionality tied to investment decisions. By monitoring every day, we tend to grow more emotional, thinking that every market move is impacting us more than it really does. It’s in our human nature to run when we see danger approaching and investing is no exception. However, selling during troubled times can often be the wrong move, especially when your goal is diversification. Remember: Choosing to take no action is still taking action.

Group Your Investments with Mutual Funds and ETFs

Buying individual stocks takes time and energy, especially if you want a properly diversified portfolio. A better option is going for low-cost mutual funds and exchange traded funds (ETF), which give you a basket of investments through a single purchase order.

Mutual funds contain a wide variety of investments bundled into a single fund and are priced once per day. Purchasing a mutual fund means having a proverbial school of fish rather than a fish or two, in the case of individual stocks. Since the mutual funds are so competitive, costs are pressured to stay low, benefitting investors.

ETFs are similar to mutual funds in that they contain a basket of investments but are traded like stocks. You can buy an ETF in nearly any industry, so it’s an easy tool to help you diversify your portfolio. Fees are also low, with some funds even being fee free.

Diversify with TCI

We recognize that one of the hardest things to do is entrust someone else with the wealth that you’ve accumulated. However, at TCI we continuously research ways to keep returns as high as possible while keeping risk as low as possible. Time and time again the data suggests that diversifying portfolios, focusing on long-term results and occasionally rebalancing is one of the best ways to achieve our financial goals.

Contact us to see how TCI Wealth Advisors can help you diversify your portfolio and keep you focused on leading a purpose-filled life.

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