1. No PlanAs the old saying goes, if you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there. Solution?
Have a personal investment plan or policy that addresses the following:
- Goals and objectives - Find out what you're trying to accomplish. Accumulating $100,000 for a child's college education or $2 million for retirement at age 60 are appropriate goals. Beating the market is not a goal.
- Risks - What risks are relevant to you or your portfolio? If you are a 30-year-old saving for retirement, volatility isn't (or shouldn't be) a meaningful risk. On the other hand, inflation - which erodes any long-term portfolio - is a significant risk. (To see more on risk, read Determining Risk And The Risk Pyramid and Personalizing Risk Tolerance.)
- Appropriate benchmarks - How will you measure the success of your portfolio, its asset classes and individual funds or managers? (Keep reading about benchmarks in Benchmark Your Returns With Indexes.)
- Asset allocation - What percentage of your total portfolio will you allocate to U.S. equities, international stocks, U.S. bonds, high-yield bonds, etc. Your asset allocation should accomplish your goals while addressing relevant risks.
- Diversification - Allocating to different asset classes is the initial layer of diversification. You then need to diversify within each asset class. In U.S. stocks, for example, this means exposure to large-, mid- and small-cap stocks. (Find out more about allocation and diversification in Five Things To Know About Asset Allocation, Choose Your Own Asset Allocation Adventure and A Guide To Portfolio Construction.)