Dividing Your Assets Between Stocks, Bonds and Cash

Step 1: Why Is the Allocation of My Assets Important?

Dividing Your Assets Between Stocks, Bonds And Cash Splash image

At first glance, many investors assume that the basic asset allocation decision is easy. After all, at this level you are focusing on only three choices—stocks, bonds and cash (money market funds and short-term certificates of deposit).

While the choices are few, the way you allocate your portfolio among these three categories will have by far the greatest impact on your performance of any investment decision you make, assuming that you don't violate the basic investment principles.

Classroom Steps

Why? If you follow basic investment principles—and in particular are well-diversified within each category—you will eliminate many of the specific risk characteristics that are unique to a single investment. Most of what will remain, however, are the broad risk and return characteristics of the overall category. For instance, assuming you have a well-diversified stock portfolio of, say, 20 stocks, your decision several years ago to invest in IBM instead of Apple may have caused you to kick yourself once or twice, but it will have cost you far less than a decision several years ago to invest only 10% of your total portfolio in the stock market and the remainder in cash investments.

How does an investor make this important decision?

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