Why do I need to diversify my investments?
Very often we come across the phrase “you must diversify your investments in order to save yourself from swinging markets” while going through personal finance articles or during a meeting with financial adviser.
I am new to personal finance. The term “Diversification of investment” sounds quite confusing to me. Why to make my life complicated, if I have a bagful of money, I should go and purchase high performing stock of XYZ LTD and be done with my investments, sit back, relax and enjoy my retirement years? Right?
I do not know what is diversification of investment?
Diversification of investment is a common practice where your investments are spread across different asset class such that your exposure to any one asset class is limited. In other words you are not dependent on only one asset class to give you returns. This saves you from extreme swings in your net-worth in case of any financial turmoil in the economy
Ok, understood. Now why do I need diversification in my portfolio? How it is going to help me?
If you are inclined to stocks for the kind of returns they generate and If you keep investing all your money in stocks then you run a risk of exposing yourself to the volatility of stock market. What if when you need a chunk of money and stock markets crash just when you are about to withdraw? Similarly if you like to play safe and invest all your money in fixed deposits then you are reducing the value of your investments as inflation will eat up your money gradually. Hence you need a balanced approach based on your investment horizon and your risk appetite. You need to arrive at an optimized combination where you are not dependent on one asset class and also you are beating inflation so that your overall wealth increases. Diversification of investment if exploited can help you in wealth creation which in turn will help you in racing towards financial independence.
Ok, now tell me what are my options for diversification?
Broadly speaking there are asset class like share market, Government bonds, bank deposit schemes, commodities, real estate.
- Stocks give high returns but there is a high risk factor associated with stocks.
- Bonds are safe, they have guaranteed returns but the returns are very low. It is difficult to beat inflation when you are invested in bonds. Also bonds come with lock in and not easy to liquidate.
- Bank deposit schemes give different returns based on the tenure of investment and the product you invest in. They are easy to liquidate and can be used to park cash effectively.
- Commodities like gold and silver do not appreciate much but they neither do depreciate. They are usually stable even during market crash and also very safe during economic meltdown and in warlike situation.
- Real estate is a big ticket investment. It gives you good returns over a period of time. Also the biggest drawback is that you can not part liquidate the investment from this. Though through REIT it’s possible now but if you own a property you can not part sell it.
Based on your risk appetite, you should gradually diversify your investment across all classes mentioned above. There are mutual funds that comes in all sizes and covering all asset classes which you can choose to invest your money. But you need to study a little in order to get yourself acquainted with the asset classes and mutual funds. This is not a rocket science but a study will help you to make an informed decision.
I am a conservative investor. How can I take benefit of diversification?
If you are a conservative investor, still you have to plan your investments such that you beat inflation which is the biggest killer of your money. As a conservative investor you need to pick the mix of Bank deposits, bond funds, debt funds based on the tenure of the individual investment. Also you will need a certain exposure to stock market so that you can beat inflation. This can be achieved through investing in balanced mutual funds or a small exposure to diversified equity funds. You can have a folio where you invest 80% in bond funds/ bank deposits / debt funds and remaining 20% in diversified mutual funds. Diversified mutual funds will reduce your risk by investing in a range of stocks across sectors and will give you returns which will make your overall folio beat inflation (hopefully)
I am an aggressive investor. How do I diversify?
Being an aggressive investor you should focus on generating maximum returns. Also at the same time you should be careful enough that you do not lose money during economic meltdown or stock market crash. You can have a good 60% – 80% investment in stock market and 20% – 40% investments in bond / debt funds / commodities. Here again mutual funds can help you as within stock investment you can further diversify by investing in diversified equity funds, sectoral funds like banking funds, pharma funds, infrastructure funds etc. You can also use mutual funds as vehicle to invest in bonds and debt funds. This will reduce your risk from exposure to uncertainty of stock markets.
Ok, all this is fine but what are major concerns with diversification?
The biggest concern with diversification is “over diversification”. It’s human tendency to worry a lot. If as an investor you worry a lot and over diversify yourself by investing across all asset classes with investments in too many sub-classes like all sectors covered by buying top 10 stocks from them. This will create a huge portfolio which will be difficult to manage over time. And also it is difficult to study each sector and re-balance portfolio if you have too many stocks with you. Also there is a cost associated with buying and selling calls each time you execute. Hence it is always advisable to keep the diversification to a level where you can manage it profitably.
To Sum up the diversification of investment
There is no generic diversification formula which you can apply to your investments and run your investments on autopilot mode. There are dependencies on time horizon of investment, risk appetite, investment goals, your knowledge about investment and your experience in the investments. All put together, it’s always better you yourself arrive at the diversification distribution of the asset class for your portfolio.
But one thing is sure, if you diversify well based on your risk appetite you can be sure to create wealth over a period of time and you can cut down the risks of wealth erosion due to economic meltdown or share market swings. This balanced approach will also help you in achieving financial independence quickly.
Happy Investing !!!