Last fall I sat down for the first time ever (after 13 years of owning mutual funds) and looked at all our investments and did an analysis to determine what our asset allocation was. As I recall we had over 90% equity and a good portion of that equity was in Canada. At that time I decided to make the equity/bond split to be 80%/20%. This was chosen somewhat arbitrarily although it seemed to be a good mix for a fairly aggressive portfolio with a long investment time horizon. I also changed the country mix in order to reduce the Canadian holdings down to about 30% of the equity portion.
At this point in time I will be revamping my portfolio once again since I decided to move about two thirds of our rrsp to a broker (Questrade) in order to convert it to ETFs. The remainder will stay in low cost mutual funds and GICs. I’ll be discussing some of the specific investments in future posts but I plan to start with the asset allocation since that’s the most important decision in my opinion.
The first asset allocation decision was to lower the equity portion of the portfolio down to 75% from 80% and to raise the bond portion up to 25%. I decided to do this mainly based on the research of William Bernstein (Four Pillars of Investing) which showed that having an equity portion of a portfolio higher than 25% wasn’t worth the extra risk since it usually didn’t result in a significantly higher return and of course results in more ups and downs with the market.
Interestingly enough Bernstein says that although 75% equity should be the maximum for an investment portfolio, 50% should be the minimum regardless of your age. The reason for this is that if you are retired and have a more conservative portfolio ( less than 50% equity ) then inflation is a bigger risk. Another great point he makes about asset allocation is that you should have a more conservative portfolio if you’re not sure if you can handle the volatility in a downturn. If you sell equities every time the market drops and then wait until it goes up before buying in again, then you are better off in a more conservative portfolio (ie 50/50) if that allows you to stay invested during the downturns.