Periodically, you should thoroughly review your portfolio to ensure it is still helping you work toward your investment goals. Follow these steps during that review:
Review your current portfolio mix. List the current value of all your investments. Determine what percentage of your portfolio is held in stocks, bonds, cash, and other investments, but don't stop there. Take a closer look at where the stock portion of your portfolio is invested. Break down your stock investments by market capitalization (small-, mid-, and large-cap), by style (growth and value), by area (domestic and international), and by sector (technology, financial, utilities, energy, etc.).
Analyze each investment. Determine whether it still makes sense to own each investment. Don't let emotions get in the way. Review why you purchased each investment and whether those reasons are still valid. Emotionally, it is difficult to sell an investment at a loss, but holding on until you get back to break-even may not be the best strategy. The investment may never get back to that price or may take an excessively long time to do so. You may want to sell the investment and reinvest in another with better prospects. Instead of worrying about what you paid for the investment, decide whether you would buy it today at its current price.
Determine if changes are needed to your current allocation. If we've learned anything over the past few years, it's that your portfolio should not be highly concentrated in one area or sector. Instead, look to broadly diversify your portfolio. Some points to consider include:
- Decide how much to allocate to stocks and bonds.
Your stock and bond mix is a major factor in determining your expected portfolio return and how much your portfolio will fluctuate with market movements. However, be careful not to let recent events cause you to allocate too much to bonds just to avoid stock market fluctuations. Make this decision based on your financial goals, risk tolerance, and time horizon for investing. If you are investing for the long term, say 10 years or more, you probably still want a major portion of your investments allocated to stocks.
- Reassess your stock allocation.
Is your stock portfolio too heavily weighted in technology stocks or blue chip stocks? Have you selected only growth stocks, ignoring value stocks? Do you prefer large-cap stocks, ignoring smaller stocks? The stock market moves in cycles, with different sectors outperforming other sectors at different times. Since no one can predict when one sector will outperform, it is typically best to broadly diversify your stocks over all areas.
Move your allocation closer to your desired allocation. When making changes, first consider the tax ramifications of the transactions. If you can make changes without incurring tax liabilities, you may want to make the changes immediately. But if substantial tax liabilities will be incurred, look for other ways to get your portfolio closer to your desired allocation. For instance, any new investments should be made in areas that are underweighted in your portfolio. Or you may be able to reallocate in your tax-deferred accounts, such as individual retirement accounts and 401(k) plans, where you typically won't incur tax liabilities. However, if you can't get your allocation in line within a year using these approaches, you might want to sell some of the poor performers and reinvest the proceeds.