What is Asset Allocation?
Each type of investment has specific strengths and weaknesses that enable it to play a specific role in your overall investing strategy. Some investments may offer growth potential. Others may provide regular income or relative safety, or simply serve as a temporary place to park your money. And some investments may even serve to fill more than one role. Because you likely have multiple needs and objectives, you probably need some combination of investment types, or asset classes.
Balancing how much of each asset class should be included in your portfolio is a critical task. The balance between growth, income, and safety is determined by your asset allocation, and it can help you manage the level and types of risks you face.
The combination of investments you choose can be as important as your specific investments. Your mix of various asset classes such as stocks, bonds, and cash alternatives generally accounts for most of the ups and downs of your portfolio's returns.
Ideally, your portfolio should have an overall combination of investments that minimizes the risk you take in trying to achieve a targeted rate of return. This often means balancing conservative investments against others that are designed to provide a higher potential return but also involve more risk. However, asset allocation doesn't guarantee a profit or eliminate the possibility of investment loss.
Someone living on a fixed income, whose priority is having a regular stream of money coming in, will probably need a very different asset allocation than a young, well-to-do working professional whose priority is saving for a retirement that's 30 years away. Even if two people are the same age and have similar incomes, they may have very different needs and goals, and their asset allocations should be tailored to their unique circumstances.
And remember, even if your asset allocation was appropriate for you when you chose it, it may not be appropriate for you now. It should change as your circumstances do and as new ways to invest are introduced. A piece of clothing you wore 10 years ago may not fit now; you just might need to update your asset allocation, too.
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