How do I diversify my investments now?
What you will get from this article:
- The 4 core principles of financial success
- Understand 3 critical taxes you should be familiar with
- Learn how to structure your portfolio to avoid unnecessary tax penalties
- How to diversify your investments for maximum returns
- Discover Unshakeable: Your Financial Freedom Playbook and how it can help you reach your financial goals
The best ways to optimize your savings
Figuring out how to maximize your savings can be a real challenge. There’s no single formula or one right way to create a diversified portfolio — each person has their own financial priorities. But while there are many different paths to financial success, Tony’s concentrated what he learned from talking with 50 of the world’s top investors into four core principles. Think of these four rules as your investment foundation when you’re learning how to diversify. Use these rules as the basis of your investment strategy, and then select the specific investment opportunities that work best for you.
What do you need to do to make the most of your savings? These four principles:
- Protect the principal as much as possible
- Take only asymmetric risks
- Be tax efficient
- Be well-diversified
Core principle #1: Do not lose money
Of course, no one wants to lose money, but how do you do that? You structure your portfolio so that it can stay above water and minimize losses, even when the market dips. And, most importantly, you understand the way markets behave and don’t react to volatility. Remember, the smartest, savviest investors in the world understand that over time, the markets usually rise (this is especially true in the US). Therefore, the only way to truly lose money (if you are well diversified) is to make a choice based on fear and sell out when the market is down.
So, aside from making poor emotional decisions, how do you not lose money? The secret here is building a diversified portfolio through asset allocation. Think of separating your funds into three distinct investment buckets – the security bucket, the risk/growth bucket and the dream bucket – each with their own levels of risk and reward. Your security bucket is where you keep funds for things you need, like mortgage payments, insurance and your pension. The risk bucket can be spent on items like real estate, currencies, collectibles and more, items that could have a big reward, but may not pan out. You have to be prepared to lose whatever money you put in the risk bucket in order to receive big rewards. Lastly, the dream bucket. The dream bucket is the place where you can have fun with your money. This is where you can put unexpected bonuses, money for a travel fund and more.
Core principle #2: Asymmetric risk & reward
We have been programmed to think that the only way for us to grow our wealth involves taking huge risks. That in order to win big, we have to risk losing it all. But it turns out that the top investors follow a different script and take asymmetric risks that are largely based on diversified investments. Asymmetrical risk reward means that you want to take the least amount of risk possible for the highest level of upside. That’s how you win the game.
One way to incorporate asymmetric risk is understanding investment seasons. Buy when everyone else is desperate to sell; it’s when you find the best bargains. Again, savvy, long-term investors know that seasons always change and that downturns in the market are usually temporary. What might look like a lost cause now can be acquired for a fraction of the cost that it’s ultimately worth. And, at some point, that stock or index fund will more than likely go back up. So take advantage of the stocks on the decline when learning how to diversify investments. Remember, no matter how cold the winter, there’s a springtime ahead.
It’s all about finding ways to take small risks for big rewards. Swinging for the fences with no downside protection is a recipe for disaster. Learn how to incorporate asymmetric risk and reward into your diversified portfolio and not only will you adhere to the #1 rule of not losing money, you will be well on your way to creating a viable path toward financial freedom.
Core principle #3: Tax efficiency
When it comes to our investments, we have been taught to focus on returns. But it’s not what you earn that matters, it’s what you keep. Grappling with taxes might seem harder than creating a diversified portfolio, but if your portfolio isn’t tax efficient, then you may not be keeping as much as you should be. In fact, you could be losing money.
As an investor, there are three critical taxes that you must concern yourself with.
- Standard income tax. This can be a big one. If you’re a high-income earner, your combined federal and state income taxes are likely nearing or exceeding 50%.
- Long-term capital gains. If you hold your investment for longer than one year before you sell, then you will pay a long-term capital gains tax, which rings in at 20%.
- Short-term capital gains. If you sell your investment before holding it for a minimum of one year, you will find yourself subject to the short-term capital gains tax. And right now, the rates are currently the same as standard income taxes. That means it’s usually more beneficial to hold onto your investments for longer than a year.
Between these three taxes, you can only imagine how much you could be paying Uncle Sam. And if you understand the power of compounding, then you realize how a 50% tax bite as opposed to a 20% tax bite can mean the difference between achieving your financial goals a decade early or never achieving them at all.
So how do you structure your diversified portfolio to help reduce your tax bill and keep more of your earnings so you can compound your investments?
- Defer taxes. Whenever possible, you must invest in ways that allow you to defer your taxes. Whether you invest in a 401(k), an IRA, an annuity or a defined benefit plan, deferring taxes means you can compound tax-free and pay tax only at the time you sell the investment.
- Avoid short-term capital gains. If you do choose to sell any investment held outside of a tax-deferred account, such as an IRA, make sure, if at all possible, you hold it for at least one year and one day in order to qualify for the long-term capital gains rate.
- Be aware of mutual funds. Mutual funds provide a certain level of portfolio diversification that is attractive to investors. But did you know that the vast majority of mutual funds do not hold on to their investments for an entire year? And you know what that means? Unless you are holding all of your mutual funds inside your 401(k), you’re typically paying ordinary income taxes on any gains. This means you could be paying as much as 35%, 45% or even 50% in income tax, which is taking a devastating hit on your compounding ability.
- Consider index funds. Index funds do not constantly trade individual companies; instead, they typically hold a fixed basket of companies that charges only if the index that the fund tracks changes, which is actually quite rare. This means you get to invest in an index for the long run, which helps you avoid getting hit by taxes each year. Instead, you are deferring the taxes, since you haven’t sold anything, and your money can stay in the fund and compound without the tax “drag” on your returns.
Have additional questions about taxes or how to diversify your investments? Consult a fiduciary or a tax strategist to help you better understand all the ways you can maximize the compounding process and create more net growth in your Freedom Fund. Remember, tax efficiency equals fast financial freedom, and could save you years or even decades of work.
Core principle #4: Diversify! Diversify! Diversify!
Knowing where to park your money and how to divide it up is the single most important skill of a successful investor. Effective diversification not only reduces some of your financial risk, but it also offers you the opportunity to maximize your returns. That is to say, a diversified portfolio is a strong portfolio.
Wait, didn’t we already diversify between the Security Bucket and the Risk Bucket in principle #2? Yes! Now it’s time to take it one step further. Now you must diversify within those buckets so that you can structure a diversified portfolio for all seasons. If you keep all your assets in the same class,you’re not setting yourself up for success.
How do you do that? Here are the 4 ways you must diversify your portfolio:
- Diversify between assets within different classes (real estate, stocks, bonds, commodities, private equity)
- Diversify your holdings within asset classes (avoid concentrating putting all of your money into one stock or bond; you must diversify even within your asset classes)
- Diversify globally (different markets, countries, currencies)
- Diversify timelines (dollar-cost averaging, maturity date)
By allocating your money to such a diverse range of assets, you will be able to set yourself apart from 99% of all investors. And the best part? A diversified portfolio won’t cost you a dime, because spreading your money across different investments decreases your risk, increases your upside returns over time and does not cost you anything.
Legal Disclosure: Tony Robbins is the Chief of Investor Psychology at Creative Planning, Inc., an SEC Registered Investment Advisor (RIA) with wealth managers serving all 50 states. Mr. Robbins receives compensation for serving in this capacity based on increased business derived by Creative Planning from his services. Accordingly, Mr. Robbins has a financial incentive to refer investors to Creative Planning.
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