Michele Clark
Clark Hourly Financial Planning - Chesterfield, MO Advisor
1415 Elbridge Payne Road, Suite 255
Chesterfield, MO 63017 USA
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Asset Allocation: Rebalancing a Portfolio in an Appreciated Market

February 22nd, 2017

You probably already know you need to monitor your investment portfolio and update it periodically. Even if you’ve chosen an asset allocation, market forces may quickly begin to tweak it.

For example, if stock prices go up, you may eventually find yourself with a greater percentage of stocks in your portfolio than you want, and therefore a more aggressive portfolio than you originally intended. If the market corrects, your portfolio will go down more than you originally felt comfortable with, because you had more in stock than you originally intended, due to stock market appreciation.

Do you have a strategy for dealing with those changes? You’ll probably want to take a look at your individual investments, but you’ll also want to think about your asset allocation.

How rebalancing works

To bring your asset allocation back to the original percentages you set for each type of investment, you’ll need to do something that may feel counterintuitive: sell some of what’s working well and use that money to buy investments in other areas that now represent less of your portfolio.

Typically, you’d buy enough to bring your percentages back into alignment. This keeps what’s called a “constant weighting” of the relative types of investments.

Let’s look at a hypothetical illustration. If stocks have risen, a portfolio that originally included only 60% in stocks might now have 70% in equities. Rebalancing would involve selling some of the stock and using the proceeds to buy enough of other asset classes to bring the percentage of stock in the portfolio back to 60%. This example doesn’t represent actual returns; it merely demonstrates how rebalancing works. Maintaining those relative percentages not only reminds you to take profits when a given asset class is doing well, but it also keeps your portfolio in line with your original risk tolerance.

Methods for Rebalancing your Portfolio

Knowing that the market can be volatile and that rebalancing is a disciplined process that helps offset the risk of volatility, how do you know when to rebalance your portfolio? There are a couple of methods for rebalancing.

Target Bands

One common rule of thumb is to rebalance your portfolio whenever one type of investment gets more than a certain percentage out of line, say, 5 to 10%. This type of monitoring typically requires sophisticated software and an alert system to send you an automated alert whenever your portfolio is outside of acceptable balance range.

Otherwise it would be a daily manual exercise of updating the value of each investment and the relative value of the asset classes of the overall portfolio. This is a daily disciplined practice that most investors would not maintain on a sustained basis over years, which would be required.  When we work with clients on an investment management basis, we use Target Bands as our method of rebalancing. We can do this because we have daily access to their account information and the software to monitor the accounts versus our target allocation.

Annual Rebalancing

You could also set a regular date for rebalancing. To stick to this strategy, you’ll need to be comfortable with the fact that investing is cyclical and all investments generally go up and down in value from time to time. When we work with clients on an hourly basis, we encourage them to come back to us on an annual basis for portfolio rebalancing. Because we do not have access to their accounts, we rely on investment statements that they provide us. In this situation, this is a good way to rebalance the portfolio back to the target allocation. The concern comes when too much time elapses between rebalancing periods and due to market fluctuation the portfolio can become an allocation that is not in line with their risk tolerance.

Our example has been about an appreciated stock market, because that is the market that we are experiencing. However, in a depressed market you would also want to rebalance. If stock prices go down, you might worry that you won’t be able to reach your financial goals because you no longer have the stocks needed to hedge against inflation, so you would want to rebalance back to your original asset allocation model. The same is true for bonds and other investments.

Balance the costs against the benefits of rebalancing

Don’t forget that too-frequent rebalancing can have adverse tax consequences for taxable accounts. Since you’ll be paying capital gains taxes if you sell a stock that has appreciated, you’ll want to check on whether you’ve held it for at least one year. If not, you may want to consider whether the benefits of selling immediately will outweigh the higher tax rate you’ll pay on short-term gains. This doesn’t affect accounts such as 401(k)s or IRAs, of course.

In taxable accounts, you can avoid or minimize taxes in another way. Instead of selling your portfolio winners, simply invest additional money in the asset classes that are underweighted in your portfolio. Doing so can return your portfolio to its original mix.

Sometimes rebalancing can be done in the tax deferred or tax free accounts, which will minimize the changes that need to be made in the taxable accounts, to minimize tax consequences.

You’ll also want to think about transaction costs; make sure any changes are cost-effective.

Also, look out for the impact that a sale in the taxable accounts can have in other areas of your financial plan. If your income goes up will it impact your FAFSA/college financial aid, Medicare means testing, Social Security benefit be taxed at a higher rate, put you in a higher income tax rate, etc.

No matter what your strategy, work with your financial professional to keep your portfolio on track.

Portions of this blog post are from an article prepared by Broadridge Investor Communications Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2017  But, I just had to add my own two cents!

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2013 Garrett Planning Network Retreat

August 12th, 2013

The Garrett Planning Network 13th Annual Retreat was recently held in Kansas City, Missouri. I am a member of the Garrett Planning Network. It is a group of about 300 financial planners that offer financial planning on an hourly basis, each member owns their own firm. I have written about the Garrett Planning Network before.

I attended the conference and earned continuing education credits by going to various educational programs, which I need so that I can keep my designations and licenses such as:

  • CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™
  • CHARTERED RETIREMENT PLANNING COUNSELOR℠
  • NAPFA Registered Financial Advisor

During the four day conference I attended various educational programs such as:

  • State of the Industry
  • The 7Twelve Portfolio: A Better Balanced Portfolio
  • Long Term Care Planning – Past Present Future
  • Estate Planning Update
  • And others

Ron Rhoades, JD, CFP ®  of ScholarFi, Inc., gave one of the Keynote addresses on the state of the Industry:  Will Fiduciary Duties be expanded – by the DOL or the SEC? In the fast-paced presentation, professor Rhoades covered various trends about the CFP Board, marketing of financial services and future effective business models.

Craig L. Israelsen, Ph.D. gave a keynote address on the 7Twelve Portfolio: A Better Balanced Portfolio. Laurence B. Siegel, another keynote speaker, spoke on Wake up and Smell the Coffee! Investors are Poorly Prepared for Retirement – A Balance Sheet Solution.

Throughout the year, the Garrett Planning Network, has three or four conference calls each month.  One of the most beneficial outcomes of my annual trip to this retreat, is getting together with this group in person. On Thursday I was with a group of Garrett Planning Network members and Sheryl Garrett as Sheryl rang the closing bell at the BATS Global Markets stock exchange, the third largest exchange in the world. We took a tour of the exchange.  It was inspiring to learn about the volume of trades that goes through there.

Another a highlight for me, is that I met Gail Marks Jarvis and she signed a copy of her new book for me. She is a very knowledgeable journalist for the Chicago Tribune and really roots for the consumer.  One discussion point that really connected with me was something she mentioned at the book signing table.  She talked about the fact that investors do not care about percentages they care about dollars.  Their dollars.  I agree wholeheartedly.  It is something that I have kept in mind for years when I talk with someone about what allocation model is best for them.

Garrett Planning Network is a terrific group of professional financial planners who, like me, work with clients on an hourly basis.  We share ideas and act as a resource for each other all year, so it is so nice to get together once a year and see each other again.

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Financial Resolutions

December 28th, 2012

I believe that just about everyone has some sort of financially related To Do item sitting on their To Do list.  And they have every intention of taking care of it.  However, so many other more time critical things seem to keep the financial items from getting to the top spot of the list.

If you are going to resolve to get some of your financial To Dos To Done, what actually matters – how it got done or that it got done?  I will come back to that thought in a minute.

When people come to see me they have accumulated a list of tasks, and it is so easy to see how  that happens in our busy lives.

You take a new job – a nice jump up the career ladder.  Something needs to be done with that old 401(k).  But what?   You’re busy with the new job right now.   So you put it on The To Do List.

Your income is higher now with the new job, should you have more life insurance?  Or is the life insurance at work enough?  You did buy some whole life from that guy that came to the house when you first got married.  Is that still the right policy for you or not?  So you put that on The To Do List.

Your kids are getting older, and you haven’t saved as much as you had intended for college.  How much can you afford to put away for their college vs. how much should you be saving for our own retirement?  Well, the kids are in middle school, you have a couple more years, so you put it on The To Do List.

At work they keep changing your investment choices and you don’t know what to pick.  You don’t have the tools to see all of your investments together and create a diversified portfolio that incorporates all of your accounts, but you know that you need to do it one day.  But you don’t have the time right now.  So you put that on The To Do List.

Sometimes when potential clients meet with me in the free Get Acquainted meeting they tell me that they feel bad about not taking care of these things themselves.  I stress to them, that I do not want them to feel that way.  I tell them that when I have electrical problems at the house, I call an electrician.  And when I have serious plumbing problems I call a plumber.  I have had a handy man come to the house a few times to work though lists of little things that were annoyances.  Sometimes you call in a professional to help you with your list.  And it feels great to work on that list.

So if you are making a resolution to get your financial To Do items To Done, make a plan to either do them yourself, or to contact a professional to help you do them.  Because when you mark them off the list, what actually matters – how it got done, or that it got done?

Resolve to take action today!

Have a Wonderful New Year!

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Modern Portfolio Theory revisited

October 5th, 2012

Yesterday morning I attended the St. Louis Chapter of the Financial Planning Association meeting to hear a presentation titled “Modern Portfolio Theory 2.0.”  It was excellent, no surprise, because it was presented by Michael Kitces  MSFS, MTAX, CFP®, CLU, ChFC, RHU, REBC, CASL whom I often describe as a “walking brain” when discussing him with peers.  He is also the author of a reference book I own, and to which I often refer.

Michael came in from the Washington DC area to share his research on market and economic history, the accompanying signals and data, and what it has told us about subsequent market performance.  He also had ideas for how this information could be layered on top of Modern Portfolio Theory in a tactical way to mitigate some risk in client portfolios.

Modern Portfolio Theory

In the 1950’s, Dr. Harry Markowitz pioneered the idea of considering your investment portfolio as a whole unit, rather than as individual securities, when measuring risk and expected return.   He determined mathematically, that you could put investments in the portfolio that had a bit more risk (more volatility) and yet create less volatility in the portfolio as a whole.

This reduction in volatility was accomplished by having investments that were not completely correlated, meaning they did not move in tandem.  So when one investment zigs another one zags.  In effect, when you have multiple investments moving in different amounts of up and down directions at different times, it creates a smoother path overall.

There are different steps involved in implementing Modern Portfolio Theory.  I gave a “plain English” version of the Asset Allocation step in my blog post “Peter Cottontail Makes A Lousy Investment Advisor!” which explains the reasons for diversification and rebalancing a portfolio.

Modern Portfolio 2.0

In his presentation Michael pointed out three factors that make following Modern Portfolio Theory, without any adjustment, challenging.

  1. Returns – they seem to vary for an extended period of time
  2. Standard Deviation – there are distinct high and low volatility periods
  3. Correlations – became close to 1 during the recent crisis

He shared with us different valuation data points, macroeconomic information, and technical trend analysis information to evaluate when considering adjustments to Modern Portfolio Theory inputs.

I have seen Michael speak on similar topics and can see that his research is expanding, he shared more data points and ideas for implementation than in the past.  I look forward to seeing where the research leads.

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Michele Clark in the News: US News and World Report

September 12th, 2012

I was interviewed by US News and World Report recently about 401(k)s.  My thoughts appeared in an article on their website this week entitled “10 Strategies to Maximize Your 401(k) Balance.”

When Emily Brandon from US News and World Report called me I shared with her an idea for making it easier to save more in your 401(k), and we talked a bit about the new fee disclosure rules in 401(k)s and what that means for employees.  We also talked about the importance of adjusting your investment portfolio as you get closer to retirement.

If you would like to read the results of our conversation, and how she interwove it with the conversation she had with two other advisors, you can read the article here: 10 Strategies to Maximize Your 401(k) Balance.

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