Where should I put the money I save?

What is asset allocation and how can I use it to achieve financial freedom?

What you will get from this article:

  • Learn what asset allocation is
  • Discover the 3 ways to divide your savings for maximum returns
  • Identify ways to turn your savings into a money-making machine
  • Understand how to strategically allocate your assets
  • Find out how asset allocation changes based on your age
  • Access financial tools created by Tony Robbins

Saving is just the beginning of financial freedom!

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The 3 ways you should allocate your savings

You already know you should be saving money. However, not all savings are created equal, so deciding where to put the money you save, or discovering asset allocation, is just as important as what percentage of your income you’re saving. No matter where you are in your financial timeline, whether it’s opening your first 401(k) or heading toward retirement, it’s always a good idea to revisit your strategy for saving. Let’s take a closer look at what the investing world calls asset allocation and why intelligent asset allocation models are the cornerstone of smart saving. Note that this is not to be considered investment advice and you should have a professional investment advisor create a tailored plan for your personal situation.

What is asset allocation?

A good asset allocation definition is the right place to start when learning more about the topic of savings and investing. Asset allocation is basically implementing a strategy that balances risk and reward by adjusting the percentage you put into different “buckets.” The amount you put into each bucket is based on your risk tolerance, short- and long-term goals and your time frame. Effective asset allocation models also take into consideration enjoying your money at the same time as you save for the future so you can maintain a fulfilling lifestyle at every stage of life.

Asset allocation models

One of the most effective asset allocation examples Tony teaches at Unleash the Power Within  is the three bucket model. It’s easy to use and understand and can be applied to nearly any stage of life, whether you’re just starting out in your career or on the home stretch to retirement.

The three buckets of asset allocation

There are three parts, we’ll call them buckets, of strategic asset allocation: your Security Bucket, your Risk/Growth Bucket and your Dream Bucket. By wisely balancing these three areas of bucket allocation, you’ll be able to grow your savings and get closer to financial independence. To put it another way, think of these buckets as forming the backbone of your overall financial plan. While no two financial plans or asset allocation models will look exactly the same, following these bucket allocation objectives will provide a simple structure that’s easy to reference and will help you visualize your end goal. By separating your funds into these three buckets, you’ll ultimately minimize your risk. You can always add additional buckets of investments to the list, but these three areas should be at the core of your financial future.

The Security Bucket: steady and safe

Your first bucket is the Security, or Peace of Mind, Bucket. This bucket gives you certainty in your life and acts as the cornerstone of your strategic asset allocation plan. It’s like the tortoise battling the hare – slow and steady wins the race. But here winning the race means not losing your life savings. If the Security Bucket were a car, it would be your family’s old Toyota or Volvo with 230,000 miles on it – not the flashy new Mercedes-Benz. The ride may not turn as many heads, but you know you’ll safely get to your destination.

Essentially, you keep the part of your nest egg you can’t afford to lose in your Security Bucket. It’s a sanctuary of safe investments that you lock up tight – and then hide the key. It’s one of the strategic asset allocation examples because it means you’re covered in case of an emergency.

So what kind of investments should you allocate to your Security Bucket? You want investment options with low volatility that you can rely on.

These include:

  1. Cash/cash equivalents (such as money market funds with checking privileges)
  2. Bonds (such as TIPS, or Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities)
  3. Market-linked CDs
  4. Your home – An asset, but not an investment. This is your sacred sanctuary, so you shouldn’t be “spending” it!
  5. Your pension (if you’re lucky enough to have one)
  6. Guaranteed annuities
  7. Your life insurance policy
  8. Structured notes (One with 100% principal protection, purchased through an Registered Investment Advisor)

These types of investments grow slowly, especially at first, but the power of compounding means asset allocation models that incorporate these investments may reap positive rewards in a secure environment over time. Experts would agree that this is step one, and the most crucial component of worthwhile asset allocation strategies. You can remember this Tony Robbins quote when you envision your Security Bucket: “Most everybody thinks that if I want to get big rewards I need to take huge risks, but if you keep thinking that, you’re going to be broke.”

The Risk/Growth Bucket: fast and volatile

Asset allocation examples that focus on the Risk/Growth Bucket are exciting because they can gain some truly amazing returns, but they are usually accompanied by volatility.

All effective business ventures inherently have some level of financial risk. That volatility shouldn’t scare you away, and the Risk/Growth Bucket isn’t just for serial risk-takers. It’s part of a well-rounded asset allocation strategy and often leads to the biggest returns in the end. Remember, the market will always rise and fall. The most successful investors know that you don’t get out when the going gets tough.

The bottom line? Whatever you put in your Risk/Growth Bucket, you have to be prepared to lose or live through volatility (depending on the risk of the investments). Take your time making this tough decision and choose wisely when deciding what percentage of your funds you want to place here.

What kind of investments fit into your Risk/Growth Bucket? These seven main asset classes fit the bill of potential high returns… or deep losses:

  1. Equities – Another word for stocks, or ownership shares of individual companies. Owning individual stocks is far riskier than vehicles for owning many of them at once, like mutual funds, index funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs).
  2. High-yield bonds (aka junk bonds)
  3. Real estate
  4. Commodities (gold, silver, oil, coffee, cotton, etc.)
  5. Currencies
  6. Collectibles
  7. Structured notes (anything without 100% principal protection)

Depending on your personality type, it can be easy to get caught up in the idea of reaping great returns and forget how much you are risking in the process. It’s a balancing act, and proper asset allocation models involve finding the biggest rewards that come with the smallest amount of risk. That’s why proper diversification is key when deciding how to allocate savings. Ultimately, it’s the right mix of the Security and Risk/Growth Buckets that makes for smart, strategic asset allocation.

Don’t forget to diversify

Remember, don’t just diversify your savings between your buckets, but also diversify within them as well. As financial master Burton Malkiel shared with Tony, “Diversify across securities, across asset classes, across markets – and across time.” Spreading your money across different investments can decrease your risk and increases your upside returns over time.

The Dream Bucket: investing in fun

The third and final bucket in this asset allocation strategy is for you to have fun with. With your Dream Bucket you set aside something for yourself and those you love so that all of you can enjoy life while you’re building your wealth. It’s meant to excite you, put some zest in your life so you want to earn and contribute even more. Sound silly? Think of the items you’re saving for in your Dream Bucket as strategic splurges. They’re a key part of sustainable asset allocation strategies, and also necessary for your own sense of fulfillment and peace of mind.

With this bucket, be creative. What can you not stop dreaming about? What would be a glorious experience you’ll remember forever? What would help you stay connected to your partner or reconnect with yourself? It could be season tickets to your favorite sports team or local theatre. Maybe a new car – one that isn’t so practical. Perhaps you fly a lot and dream of upgrading from Economy to Business Class? Your imagination is the limit. Remember that your dreams are not designed to give you a financial payoff; they are designed to give you a greater quality of life.

Don’t just save for the life you want. Make sure you live it by being realistic with your bucket allocation. If you know that travel is a priority in your life, make it a point to save for one big trip a year. Don’t accumulate the funds and let them sit for a trip 10 years down the road.

There are three ways in which you can fill this bucket:

  1. Jackpots – If you get a bonus or a windfall of some kind, use it to fuel your dream tank.
  2. Your Risk/Growth Bucket gets a positive hit and you score big. In this case, you may want to take some of your earnings and put one-third of these unexpected dividends into each bucket. You’re spreading out your risk, increasing your security and getting to achieve your dreams. Not bad!
  3. Save a set percentage of your income and hide it away until you’re able to purchase what you desire. This savings would be separate from what you’re using toward building your Money Machine.
Asset allocation by age

Asset allocation models like the three-bucket strategy are effective because they can be tweaked based on personal preferences, amount of money you have and circumstances such as age. Here are three age groups and how asset allocation strategy differs for them.

Young adults

Those just starting out in their careers have time on their side. This means they can take more risks on volatile investments knowing the market has plenty of time to correct before they retire. Young adults may want to allocate more funds to their Risk/Growth Buckets and their Dream Bucket may be filled with money to purchase their first home or take a trip around the world before they have children.

young adult

Middle-aged individuals

middle aged person

Those in their 40s and early 50s are established in their careers and have more money to put into their asset allocation strategies than their young adult counterparts. They have an eye on retirement, already have more in their allocation buckets and have a better idea of which dreams they really want to save for. They may want to put more into their Dream Bucket so they can reap the rewards of long years of work and take dream vacations or pay for a starter home for their kids.

Near-retirees

If retirement is quickly approaching, those in this group need to focus on saving as much as they can without running the risk of losing their investments. This means that more money goes into the Security Bucket. Of course, if retirement savings goals are already achieved, more can go into the Dream Bucket to pay for cruises, extended visits to the grandkids or a second home somewhere warm.

What is asset allocation? It’s just one step in creating the path to financial freedom. Armed with this division of savings, you’ll be able to better set your future self up for success.

almost retired woman

Saving is just the beginning of financial freedom

Discover more ways to allocate your assets in Tony Robbins’ Unshakeable: Your Financial Freedom Playbook, the bestseller that covers what you need to master your personal finances today. Access the audio content now.