When investing, particularly for long-term goals, there is one concept you will likely hear about over and over again — diversification. Why is diversification so important? The simple reason is that it helps ensure that your risk of loss is spread among a number of different investments. The theory is that if some of the investments in your portfolio decline in value, others may rise or hold steady, helping to offset the losses.
Diversifying within asset classes
For example, say you wanted to invest in stocks. Rather than investing in just domestic stocks, you could diversify your portfolio by investing in foreign stocks as well. Or you could choose to include the stocks of different size companies (small-cap, mid-cap, and/or large-cap stocks).
If your primary objective is to invest in bonds for income, you could choose both government and corporate bonds to potentially take advantage of their different risk/return profiles. You might also choose bonds of different maturities, because long-term bonds tend to react more dramatically to changes in interest rates than short-term bonds. As interest rates rise, bond prices typically fall.
Investing in mutual funds
Because mutual funds invest in a mix of securities chosen by a fund manager to pursue the fund's stated objective, they can offer a certain level of "built-in" diversification. For this reason, mutual funds may be an appropriate choice for novice investors or those wishing to take more of a hands-off approach to their portfolios. Including a variety of mutual funds with different objectives and securities in your portfolio will help diversify your holdings that much more.
Mutual funds are sold by prospectus. Please consider the investment objectives, risks, charges, and expenses carefully before investing. The prospectus, which contains this and other information about the investment company, can be obtained from your financial professional. Be sure to read the prospectus carefully before deciding whether to invest.
Diversifying among asset classes
You might also consider including a mix of different types of asset classes — stocks, bonds, and cash — in your portfolio. Asset allocation is a strategic approach to diversifying your portfolio. After carefully considering your investment goals, time horizon, and risk tolerance, you would then invest different percentages of your portfolio in targeted asset classes to pursue your goal.
Winning asset classes over time
The following table, which shows how many times during the past 30 years each asset class has come out on top in terms of performance, helps illustrate why diversifying among asset classes can be important.
|Number of winning years, 1987-2016|
Performance is from December 31, 1986, to December 31, 2016. Cash is represented by Citigroup 3-month Treasury Bill Index. Bonds are represented by the Citigroup Corporate Bond Index, an unmanaged index. Stocks are represented by the S&P 500 Composite Price Index, an unmanaged index.
Foreign stocks are represented by the MSCI EAFE Price Index, an unmanaged index. Investors cannot invest directly in any index. However, these indexes are accurate reflections of the performance of the individual asset classes shown. Returns reflect past performance and should not be considered indicative of future results. The returns do not reflect taxes, fees, brokerage commissions, or other expenses typically associated with investing.
The principal value of cash alternatives may fluctuate with market conditions. Cash alternatives are subject to liquidity and credit risks. It is possible to lose money with this type of investment.
The return and principal value of stocks may fluctuate with market conditions. Shares, when sold, may be worth more or less than their original cost.
U.S. Treasury securities are guaranteed by the federal government as to the timely payment of principal and interest, whereas corporate bonds are not. The principal value of bonds may fluctuate with market conditions. Bonds are subject to inflation, interest rate, and credit risks. Bonds redeemed prior to maturity may be worth more or less than their original cost.
The risks associated with investing on a worldwide basis include differences in financial reporting, currency exchange risk, as well as economic and political risk unique to the specific country.
Investments offering the potential for higher rates of return also involve higher risk.
*Diversification does not assure a profit or protect against loss in declining markets, and diversification cannot guarantee that any objective or goal will be achieved.