Know Your Investor Personality
In his book, “The Only Guide You’ll Ever Need for the Right Financial Plan,” Larry Swedroe has a detailed discussion on how investors can choose the right asset allocation for them, with the focus being on determining one’s ability (capacity), willingness (tolerance) and need (the rate of return required to achieve a goal) to take risk.
To help with issues surrounding the willingness to take risk, risk tolerance questionnaires have become a very popular. Unfortunately, as Joachim Klement showed in his article, “Investor Risk Profiling: An Overview,” published in the June 2018 CFA Institute Research Foundation brief “Risk Profiling and Tolerance: Insights for the Private Wealth Manager,” the “current standard process of risk profiling through questionnaires is found to be highly unreliable and typically explains less than 15% of the variation in risky assets between investors. The cause is primarily the design of the questionnaires, which focus on socioeconomic variables and hypothetical scenarios to elicit the investor’s behavior.”
He went on to explain that there are three problems questionnaires typically fail to address: Our genetic predisposition affects our willingness to take on financial risks, the people we interact with shape our views, and the circumstances we experience in our lifetimes—in particular, > SEE MORE
Look Past Expense Ratios
The evidence is clear that investors are waking up to the fact that, while the past performance of actively managed mutual funds has no value as a predictor of future performance, expense ratios do—lower-cost funds persistently outperform higher-cost ones in the same asset class.
That has led many to choose passive strategies, such as indexing, when implementing investment plans because passive funds tend to have lower expense ratios. Within the broad category of passive investment strategies, index funds and ETFs tend to have the lowest expenses.
Based on my experience, most investors tend to believe that all passively managed funds in the same asset class are virtual substitutes for one another (meaning > SEE MORE
Toss Your Expectations
It’s impossible to prudently build an investment plan without estimating the return to stocks (and bonds), making such estimates a central component of the process. This estimate will determine your need to take risk—how high an allocation to equities you will need to reach your goal.
If your estimate is too high, it’s likely you won’t have sufficient assets to reach your retirement goal. If it’s too low, it could lead you to allocate more to equities, which means taking more risk than necessary. Alternatively, it could lead you to lower your goal, save more, or plan on working longer.
Despite its importance, there is much disagreement about how to estimate stock returns. As is always the case, we rely on academic evidence.
Research on the expected equity premium, including Aswath Damodaran’s 2017 paper, “Equity Risk Premiums (ERP): Determinants, Estimation and Implications,” has found that the best predictor of future equity returns is current valuations—whether using measures such as the earnings yield (E/P) derived from the Shiller CAPE 10 (or, for that matter, the CAPE 7, 8 or 9) or the current E/P—not historical returns.
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