Investors could be better off with lower return objectives and a less risky portfolio than the more typical higher return objective of most portfolios, a Vanguard research paper argues.
The paper by Vanguard researchers Donald Bennyhoff and Colleen Jaconetti, which Vanguard will post to its site Wednesday, points out the risk to advisors and clients of seeking even the historical average rate of return.
Titled “Required or Desired Returns: That is the Question,” the paper argues that advisors who impress this distinction upon their clients increase the probability of their clients’ investment success.
At issue is the return target that is fundamental to the advisor-client relationship. That number is very often subjective, influenced by factors such as advertisements or media reports of mutual funds’ recent returns, or cocktail party accounts of a neighbor’s investment results.
Bennyhoff and Jaconetti argue, however, that such impressions bias the portfolio and advisor-client relationship to needless risk—like “buying the building materials for a house before the architect has drawn up the blueprints.”
A better approach would be for an advisor to determine an objective return target based on each individual client’s unique goals, time horizon, risk tolerance, asset levels and liquidity needs.
The resulting required return vs. the subjective desired return has the merit, typically, of being lower and more achievable and thus requiring less portfolio risk.
The authors note that a required return approach could, however, go the other way. In other words, investors scarred by the financial crisis into embracing “safe” CD and money-market investments, preferring capital preservation over capital appreciation, may require greater return and risk than they desire.