Creating an Investment Portfolio
You've identified your goals and done some basic research. You understand the difference between a stock and a bond. But how do you actually go about creating an investment portfolio? What specific investments are right for you? What resources are out there to help you with investment decisions? Do you need a financial professional to help you get started?
A good investment portfolio will spread your risk
It is an almost universally accepted concept that most portfolios should include a mix of investments, such as stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and other investment vehicles. A portfolio should also be balanced. That is, the portfolio should contain investments with varying levels and types of risk to help minimize the overall impact if one of the portfolio holdings declines significantly.
Many investors make the mistake of putting all their eggs in one basket. For example, if you invest in one stock, and that stock goes through the roof, a fortune can be made. On the other hand, that stock can lose all its value, resulting in a total loss of your investment. Spreading your investment over multiple asset classes should help reduce your risk of losing your entire investment. However, remember that there is no guarantee that any investment strategy will be successful and that all investing involves risk, including the possible loss of principal.
Asset allocation: How many eggs in which baskets?
Asset allocation is one of the first steps in creating a diversified investment portfolio. Asset allocation means deciding how your investment dollars should be allocated among broad investment classes, such as stocks, bonds, and cash alternatives. Rather than focusing on individual investments (such as which company's stock to buy), asset allocation approaches diversification from a more general viewpoint. For example, what percentage of your portfolio should be in stocks? The underlying principle is that different classes of investments have shown different rates of return and levels of price volatility over time. Also, since different asset classes often respond differently to the same news, your stocks may go down while your bonds go up, or vice versa. Though neither diversification nor asset allocation can guarantee a profit or ensure against a potential loss, diversifying your investments over various asset classes can help you try to minimize volatility and maximize potential return.
So, how do you choose the mix that's right for you? Countless resources are available to assist you, including interactive tools and sample allocation models. Most of these take into account a number of variables in suggesting an asset allocation strategy. Some of those factors are objective (e.g., your age, your financial resources, your time frame for investing, and your investment objectives). Others are more subjective, such as your tolerance for risk or your outlook on the economy. A financial professional can help you tailor an allocation mix to your needs.
More on diversification
Diversification isn't limited to asset allocation, either. Even within an investment class, different investments may offer different levels of volatility and potential return. For example, with the stock portion of your portfolio, you might choose to balance higher-volatility stocks with those that have historically been more stable (though past performance is no guarantee of future results).
Because most mutual funds invest in dozens to hundreds of securities, including stocks, bonds, or other investment vehicles, purchasing shares in a mutual fund reduces your exposure to any one security. In addition to instant diversification, if the fund is actively managed, you get the benefit of a professional money manager making investment decisions on your behalf.
Note: Before investing in a mutual fund, carefully consider its investment objectives, risks, charges and expenses, which are outlined in the prospectus that is available from the fund. Obtain and read a fund's prospectus carefully before investing.
Choose investments that match your tolerance for risk
Your tolerance for risk is affected by several factors, including your objectives and goals, timeline(s) for using this money, life stage, personality, knowledge, other financial resources, and investment experience. You'll want to choose a mix of investments that has the potential to provide the highest possible return at the level of risk you feel comfortable with on an ongoing basis.
For that reason, an investment professional will normally ask you questions so that he or she can gauge your risk tolerance and then tailor a portfolio to your risk profile.
Investment professionals and advisors
A wealth of investment information is available if you want to do your own research before making investment decisions. However, many people aren't comfortable sifting through balance sheets, profit-and-loss statements, and performance reports. Others just don't have the time, energy, or desire to do the kind of thorough analysis that marks a smart investor.
For these people, an investment advisor or professional can be invaluable. Investment advisors and professionals generally fall into three groups: stockbrokers, professional money managers, and financial planners. In choosing a financial professional, consider his or her legal responsibilities in selecting securities for you, how the individual or firm is compensated for its services, and whether an individual's qualifications and experience are well suited to your needs. Ask friends, family and coworkers if they can recommend professionals whom they have used and worked with well. Ask for references, and check with local and federal regulatory agencies to find out whether there have been any customer complaints or disciplinary actions against an individual in the past. Consider how well an individual listens to your goals, objectives and concerns.
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Content Prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. This information, developed by an independent third party, has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but Raymond James Financial Services, Inc. does not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. This information is not a complete summary or statement of all available data necessary for making an investment decision and does not constitute a recommendation. The information contained in this report does not purport to be a complete description of the securities, markets, or developments referred to in this material. This information is not intended as a solicitation or an offer to buy or sell any security referred to herein. Investments mentioned may not be suitable for all investors. The material is general in nature. Past performance may not be indicative of future results. Raymond James does not provide advice on tax, legal or mortgage issues. These matters should be discussed with the appropriate professional. Investing involves risk and you may incur a profit or loss regardless of strategy selected.
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