For years, the 60/40 portfolio has been a popular strategy for asset diversification.
Diversification gained prominence through the work of Harry Markowitz and his Modern Portfolio Theory (MPT). MPT has been the bedrock for many investing strategies, including the 60/40 portfolio.
Modern portfolio theory suggests diversifying your investment portfolio across multiple asset classes minimizes risk while maximizing returns.
What is a 60/40 portfolio?
The 60/40 portfolio balances risk and returns by investing 60% of capital in stocks and 40% in bonds. The mix offers the potential to optimize growth while providing stability through diversification.
While there are risks associated with any investment strategy, a 60/40 portfolio may be a good option for investors who are looking for a well-rounded exposure to markets.
Therefore, a 60/40 portfolio offers investors the upside potential of stocks with the stability of bonds.
Stocks and bonds explained
A stock is an equity investment, and a bond is a debt investment. Equity and debt are two ways that companies raise money to finance operations. Equity represents ownership in a company, and debt represents an obligation or liability.
Debt is also referred to as a “fixed-income” instrument. In return for loaning money to a borrower, the lender receives a fixed payment over a specified duration, also known as the coupon or yield.
The percentage yield a creditor demands to loan an entity money is based on, amongst other things, credit risk and inflation expectations.
If expectations for inflation are 5% over a specified time horizon, a yield of 2% will not sufficiently entice a creditor to initiate a loan. So, investors will require higher returns to keep up with inflation expectations.
Because bond prices move inversely to bond yields, which are a function of inflation expectations, investors can forecast expected returns for bonds.
If inflation expectations over a longer time horizon are stable, it is expected that bond prices will be stable at worst and, at best, rise as yields fall.
How to create a 60/40 portfolio of stocks and bonds
There are several ways to make a 60/40 portfolio using stocks and bonds. One option is to invest in mutual funds or exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that offer exposure to both asset classes. Another option is to invest in individual stocks and bonds.
If you're investing in mutual funds or ETFs, you can choose from various options that offer different levels of risk and return. For example, you could invest in a fund that invests in government bonds, corporate bonds, or both. Or you could invest in a stock fund focusing on large companies, small companies, or a specific sector like technology or healthcare.
You can also create a 60/40 portfolio by investing in individual stocks and bonds. If you're buying stocks, you'll want to choose a mix of different types of companies, such as large-cap, small-cap, and international. And if you're buying bonds, you can choose from a variety of options, including government bonds, corporate bonds, and municipal bonds.
No matter how you allocate your assets, it's important to remember that a 60/40 portfolio is just a starting point. You can adjust your asset allocation depending on your investment goals and risk tolerance.
Benefits of using a 60/40 portfolio versus other investment strategies
There are a few key benefits of using a 60/40 portfolio over other investment strategies.
- Growth potential: Stocks have the potential to offer higher returns than bonds over the long term, which can help you grow your investment portfolio.
- Stability: Bonds tend to be less volatile than stocks, which can help smooth out your investment returns.
- Diversification: Including stocks and bonds in your portfolio lets you diversify your investment holdings and reduce your overall risk.
- Flexibility: A 60/40 portfolio allows you to adjust your asset allocation depending on your investment goals and risk tolerance.
How to rebalance your 60/40 portfolio for optimal performance
As your investment portfolio grows, you may need to rebalance your assets to maintain your desired asset allocation. Rebalancing is the process of selling some of your holdings in one asset class and buying more of another asset class to bring your portfolio back to its target allocation.
For example, if you have a 60/40 portfolio that's allocated 60% to stocks and 40% to bonds, your stocks' value may increase while your bonds' value stays the same. As a result, your portfolio may become too heavily weighted in stocks. To rebalance, you would sell some of your stock holdings and use the proceeds to buy more bonds. This would bring your portfolio back to its original 60/40 allocation.
Frequent rebalancing is associated with a more active investing approach. Some investors rebalance annually or quarterly, while others rebalance monthly or even daily.
Regular rebalancing can help you manage risk and keep your portfolio on track to meet your investment goals.
The pros and cons of investing in a 60/40 portfolio
Like any investment strategy, a 60/40 portfolio comes with risk and reward.
- The most significant risk of a 60/40 portfolio is that it's not diversified enough. While stocks and bonds tend to move in different directions, they're both still subject to market fluctuations. This means your portfolio could lose value if the stock market or bond market experiences a downturn.
- A 60/40 portfolio may be too conservative for some investors. If you're looking for higher returns, you may need to invest in more aggressive assets like growth stocks or high-yield bonds.
- 60/40 portfolios offer a good balance of growth and stability. Over the long term, stocks have the potential to provide higher returns than bonds. But in the short term, bonds tend to be less volatile than stocks, which can help smooth out your investment returns.
- A 60/40 portfolio is relatively easy to manage. Unlike other investment strategies that require frequent rebalancing, a 60/40 portfolio can be rebalanced annually or quarterly. This makes it a good option for investors who don't want to manage their portfolios regularly.
Investors should keep in mind that there are risks and rewards associated with any investment strategy. Before choosing a strategy, be sure to research and speak with a financial advisor to find the option that best suits your needs.