Obviously, we can't tell you everything about asset allocation strategy here in the free section. But we can give you a pretty clear idea about the material you can access if you subscribe to The Index Investor.
Before we introduce any numbers, let's start with some basic principles. First, every investor faces the challenge of balancing downside protection (against capital loss) with upside potential (for high returns). Second, research has shown that in general, people are more sensitive to losses than they are to gains of the same magnitude. Third, your need for downside protection is also a function of the length of your investment horizon (how long before you'll need the money) and whether or not you are making regular withdrawals from your savings (as would be the case, for example, if you were gradually drawing down your savings to pay your bills during retirement). The shorter the time before you need the money, and the more you're planning on taking out along the way, the more downside protection you need. Fourth, the degree of mismatch between your current and expected savings and your financial goals (absent a change elsewhere) tends in practice to create situations where the amount of downside protection you want is less than the amount you can afford (in terms of foregone returns on higher risk assets). In other words, there is usually a tradeoff between your lifestyle, your financial goals, and your asset allocation. As with so many other things in life, there is no free lunch here either!
Finally, different asset classes provide different degrees of downside protection and upside potential. Broadly speaking, our "home market" (we think of this as the market in which returns are denominated in the same currency as our liabilities) can be in one of three states: normal, high inflation, or high uncertainty. In the normal state, we don't need as much downside protection as we do in the other states, and look to equity type investments to generate high returns for us. In the inflationary state, we look to asset classes like real return bonds and commodities (and possibly foreign bonds and real estate, but more on that later) to protect the purchasing power of our capital. In the high uncertainty state, we look to volatility, gold and government bonds to deliver high returns when other asset classes are falling.
The Index Investor, contains many feature articles on different aspects of asset allocation, as well as model portfolios for investors whose functional currencies include Australian, Canadian, and U.S. Dollars, Euro, Yen, Swiss Franc, Indian Rupee and Pounds Sterling.
These model portfolios are based on a number of input variables, including an investor's starting capital, expected future savings, desired accumulation goal, and the time horizon over which he or she wants to achieve it. The combination of these variables generates a minimum compound annual return the portfolio must earn to achieve the accumulation goal within the desired time period. Our model portfolios show the asset allocations and rebalancing strategies that maximize the probability of achieving these different minimum compound annual return targets (or, to put it differently, that minimize shortfall risk).
Just as important, subscribers to The Index Investor can use pull-down menus to test the impact of changing their savings rates, accumulation goal, or time horizon. Some combinations have much higher probabilities of success than others, and we make it easy to understand the implications of the apparently confusing choices facing investors.
You may view a sample Model Portfolio Solution (which includes values for key input variables, the minimum required rate of return, both an asset allocation and rebalancing strategy, and the probability of achieving the specified accumulation goal).
As we have noted, once you have decided on your target asset allocation, you face another big decision: do you implement it through actively managed funds or through index funds?
The follow up question is of course: How to Implement Your Asset Allocation: Active or Passive Management?