What Drives Returns In A 60/40 Portfolio

How much does each stock and bond allocation actually contribute to the total return of a portfolio? The easy assumption is that stocks do most of the work, since stocks outperform bonds historically.

To find out, I used the S&P 500 returns for stocks, 10 year Treasury returns for bonds, and rebalanced annually.

I threw all the data into a spreadsheet to get results for every allocation. To keep things simple, I’m only showing the 60/40 portfolio since that’s the typical allocation cited in most examples. Continue Reading…

What Dollar Cost Averaging Did In The Lost Decade

Bear MarketsThe U.S. stock market went nowhere for 12 years. Two bear markets that saw the S&P 500 fall by almost 50% – twice – produced this Lost Decade, where the market produced no return. Or did it?

While the Lost Decade makes for great headlines it ignores several realities from an investor’s perspective.

First, the S&P 500 was one of many asset classes you could have owned during the period. This chart shows how a diversified portfolio performed against U.S. stocks and other asset classes.

Second, if capital gains is the only return you’re focused on, you’re ignoring total return. Dividends were paid quarterly by S&P 500 index funds during the entire period. I used SPY, an S&P 500 ETF, to show this below. Continue Reading…

Focus On What You Can Control

A big mistake every investor makes is trying to control things that are uncontrollable. They try to figure out where the market is going. They try to predict the economy. They try to find the best basket of funds that gives the best returns possible. They try to find the perfect stock.

When you spend all your time trying to optimize for the perfect outcome, and the results you want don’t materialize, you’re back at square one. Then you start the process all over. Investing isn’t about perfection because every year offers up a new best way to invest. There’s one problem. You don’t find out until after the year ends. Continue Reading…

Running Fire Drills On Your Portfolio

Best PlanRemember back to when you were in school. Mixed within the classes, lunch, and recess were regularly scheduled safety drills. There were fire drills, tornado drills, and for the Cold War kids, nuclear bomb drills (duck and cover).

I faintly remember the fire drills in grade school. The teachers emphasized walking in a calm, quiet, and orderly fashion, single file out of the classroom, down the stairs, and out the door. Each class had its own predetermined path that finished somewhere outside at a reasonably safe distance from the school. Continue Reading…

The Benefit of International Diversification

Keynes QuoteWhat happens if you only invest in the U.S. stock market and it goes no where over a longer period of time, say a lost decade? Your stock allocation, built to grow your money, just failed. Something needs to pick up the slack. And there’s no guarantee your bond allocation will come through.

Enter international stocks.

At first sight, it may not seem like it matters when you compare the long term returns of U.S. stocks (S&P 500), international stocks (MSCI EAFE), and a 50/50 split since 1970. As the table below shows, having a portion of your stock allocation diversified internationally doesn’t improve your returns, but you don’t really lose much either. Continue Reading…