Stock investors constantly hear the wisdom of diversification. The concept is to simply not put all of your eggs in one basket, which in turn helps mitigate risk, and generally leads to better performance or return on investment. Diversifying your hard-earned dollars does make sense, but there are different ways of diversifying, and there are different portfolio types. We look at the following portfolio types and suggest how to get started building them: aggressive, defensive, income, speculative and hybrid. It is important to understand that building a portfolio will require research and some effort. Having said that, let's have a peek across our five portfolios to gain a better understanding of each and get you started.
The Aggressive Portfolio
An aggressive portfolio or basket of stocks includes those stocks with high risk/high reward proposition. Stocks in the category typically have a high beta, or sensitivity to the overall market. Higher beta stocks experience larger fluctuations relative to the overall market on a consistent basis. If your individual stock has a beta of 2.0, it will typically move twice as much in either direction to the overall market - hence, the high-risk, high-reward description.
Most aggressive stocks (and therefore companies) are in the early stages of growth, and have a unique value proposition. Building an aggressive portfolio requires an investor who is willing to seek out such companies, because most of these names, with a few exceptions, are not going to be common household companies. Look online for companies with earnings growth that is rapidly accelerating, and have not been discovered by Wall Street. The most common sectors to scrutinize would be technology, but many other firms in various sectors that are pursuing an aggressive growth strategy can be considered. As you might have gathered, risk management becomes very important when building and maintaining an aggressive portfolio. Keeping losses to a minimum and taking profit are keys to success in this type of portfolio.
The Defensive Portfolio
Defensive stocks do not usually carry a high beta, and usually are fairly isolated from broad market movements. Cyclical stocks, on the other hand, are those that are most sensitive to the underlying economic "business cycle." For example, during recessionary times, companies that make the "basics" tend to do better than those that are focused on fads or luxuries. Despite how bad the economy is, companies that make products essential to everyday life will survive. Think of the essentials in your everyday life, and then find the companies that make these consumer staple products.
The opportunity of buying cyclical stocks is that they offer an extra level of protection against detrimental events. Just listen to the business stations and you will hear portfolios managers talking about "drugs," "defense" and "tobacco." These really are just baskets of stocks that these managers are recommending based upon where the business cycle is and where they think it is going. However, the products and services of these companies are in constant demand. A defensive portfolio is prudent for most investors. A lot of these companies offer a dividend as well which helps minimize downside capital losses.
The Income Portfolio
An income portfolio focuses on making money through dividends or other types of distributions to stakeholders. These companies are somewhat like the safe defensive stocks but should offer higher yields. An income portfolio should generate positive cash flow. Real estate investment trusts (REITs) and master limited partnerships (MLP) are excellent sources of income producing investments. These companies return a great majority of their profits back to shareholders in exchange for favorable tax status. REITs are an easy way to invest in real estate without the hassles of owning real property. Keep in mind, however, that these stocks are also subject to the economic climate. REITs are groups of stocks that take a beating during an economic downturn, as building and buying activity dries up.
An income portfolio is a nice complement to most people's paycheck or other retirement income. Investors should be on the lookout for stocks that have fallen out of favor and have still maintained a high dividend policy. These are the companies that can not only supplement income but also provide capital gains. Utilities and other slow growth industries are an ideal place to start your search.
The Speculative Portfolio
A speculative portfolio is the closest to a pure gamble. A speculative portfolio presents more risk than any others discussed here. Finance gurus suggest that a maximum of 10% of one's investable assets be used to fund a speculative portfolio. Speculative "plays" could be initial public offerings (IPOs) or stocks that are rumored to be takeover targets. Technology or health care firms that are in the process of researching a breakthrough product, or a junior oil company which is about to release its initial production results, would also fall into this category.
Another classic speculative play is to make an investment decision based upon a rumor that the company is subject to a takeover. One could argue that the widespread popularity of leveraged ETFs in today's markets represent speculation. Again, these types of investments are alluring: picking the right one could lead to huge profits in a short amount of time. Speculation may be the one portfolio that, if done correctly, requires the most homework. Speculative stocks are typically trades, and not your classic "buy and hold" investment.
The Hybrid Portfolio
Building a hybrid type of portfolio means venturing into other investments, such as bonds, commodities, real estate and even art. Basically, there is a lot of flexibility in the hybrid portfolio approach. Traditionally, this type of portfolio would contain blue chip stocks and some high grade government or corporate bonds. REITs and MLPs may also be an investable theme for the balanced portfolio. A common fixed income investment strategy approach advocates buying bonds with various maturity dates, and is essentially a diversification approach within the bond asset class itself. Basically, a hybrid portfolio would include a mix of stocks and bonds in a relatively fixed allocation proportions. This type of approach offers diversification benefits across multiple asset classes as equities and fixed income securities tend to have a negative correlation with one another.
The Bottom Line
At the end of the day, investors should consider all of these portfolios and decide on the right allocation across all five. Here, we have laid the foundation by defining five of the more common types of portfolios. Building an investment portfolio does require more effort than a passive, index investing approach. By going it alone, you will be required to monitor your portfolio(s) and rebalance more frequently, thus racking up commission fees. Too much or too little exposure to any portfolio type introduces additional risks. Despite the extra required effort, defining and building a portfolio will increase your investing confidence, and give you control over your finances.
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