Portfolios are a grouping of financial assets such as stocks, bonds, commodities, currencies and cash equivalents, as well as their fund counterparts, including mutual, exchange-traded and closed funds. A portfolio can also consist of non publicly tradable securities, like real estate, art, and private investments. Portfolios are held directly by investors and/or managed by financial professionals and money managers. Investors should construct an investment portfolio in accordance with their risk tolerance and their investing objectives. Investors can also have multiple portfolios for various purposes. It all depends on one’s objectives as an investor.
Investment portfolios can be thought of as a pie that is divided into pieces of varying sizes, representing a variety of asset classes and/or types of investments to accomplish an appropriate risk-return portfolio allocation. Many different types of securities can be used to build a diversified portfolio, but stocks, bonds and cash are generally considered a portfolio’s core building blocks. Other potential asset classes include, but aren’t limited to real estate, gold and currency.
There are many types of portfolios including the market portfolio and the zero-investment portfolio. A portfolio’s asset allocation may be managed utilizing any of the following investment approaches and principles: equal weighting, capitalization-weighting, price-weighting, risk parity, the capital asset pricing model, arbitrage pricing theory, the Jensen Index, the Treynor ratio, the Sharpe diagonal (or index) model, the value at risk model, modern portfolio theory and others.
There are several methods for calculating portfolio returns and performance. One traditional method is using quarterly or monthly money-weighted returns; however, the true time-weighted method is a method preferred by many investors in financial markets. There are also several models for measuring the performance attribution of a portfolio’s returns when compared to an index or benchmark, partly viewed as investment strategy.
Impact of Risk Tolerance on Portfolio Allocations
Risk tolerance is the degree of variability in investment returns that an investor is willing to withstand. Risk tolerance is an important component in investing. You should have a realistic understanding of your ability and willingness to stomach large swings in the value of your investments; if you take on too much risk, you might panic and sell at the wrong time.
While a financial advisor can develop generic portfolios for an individual, an investor’s risk tolerance should have a significant impact on what a portfolio looks like.
For example, a conservative investor might favor portfolios with large-cap value stocks, broad-based market index funds, investment-grade bonds, and a position in liquid, high-grade cash equivalents. In contrast, a risk-tolerant investor might add some small-cap growth stocks to an aggressive, large-cap growth stock position, assume some high-yield bond exposure, and look to real estate, international and alternative investment opportunities for his or her portfolio. In general, an investor should minimize exposure to securities or asset classes whose volatility makes them uncomfortable.
Impact of Time Horizon on Portfolio Allocations
Similar to risk tolerance, investors should consider how long they have to invest when building a portfolio. Investors should generally be moving to a more conservative asset allocation as the goal date approaches, to protect the portfolio’s principal that has been built up to that point.
For example, an investor saving for retirement may be planning to leave the workforce in five years. Despite the investor’s comfort level investing in stocks and other risky securities, the investor may want to invest a larger portion of the portfolio’s balance in more conservative assets such as bonds and cash, to help protect what has already been saved. Conversely, an individual just entering the workforce may want to invest their entire portfolio in stocks, since they may have decades to invest, and the ability to ride out some of the market’s short-term volatility.
Both risk tolerance and time horizon should be considered when choosing investments to fill out a portfolio.
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