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Building Portfolios on the Road to Independence

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When I started this blog back in May 2007, the intent was to write about the day-to-day issues I faced as an independent advisor. Now, after 140 postings, we’re going to try something a little different. Though I will still write about my weekly adventures, the topics will coincide with the focus of the magazine and will change on a monthly basis. This month’s topic will be investing. The topics are as follows: Portfolio Construction Overview; Bonds; Stocks; and Alternative Investments. Let’s get started.

Portfolio Construction (Overview)

First, let me say that there are a number of good ways to manage money and I do not claim to have cornered the market on this. What I can say with a high degree of certainty is that I have discovered a method which has worked well and will share it with you this month.

Actually, it was during the bear market at the beginning of this century (2000-2003) when I stumbled upon it. Here’s where it begins. Perhaps the most important question I can answer is this, “What’s the required rate of return my clients need to earn to make their goals a reality?” Then, “How much risk will we need to assume to get there?” I only know of one way to arrive at the required return and that’s through financial planning.

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After creating the plan, and assuming it is successful, I will “stress test” it by reducing the return until the probability of running out of money materializes. At this point, I know approximately where the threshold is, that is to say, the minimum return which will allow my client to live the lifestyle they desire.

Once this is known, I will begin with one of my model portfolios, and by running 1,000 or more trials with Monte Carlo simulation, I can forecast the probability of achieving this return for annual, five-year, and 10-year periods. It’s important to target an expected return which is higher than the required return. Let’s say the required return was 7.5%. If the expected return were the same, then I would likely have a 50/50 shot of success. Therefore, I target a return which is slightly higher than the required return so the probability of success will be higher.

Next week I’ll share how I build a portfolio which starts with the bond category. Stay tuned.