Thursday, December 20, 2012

Age-Based Asset Allocation

WHen you've done 401(k) Plan enrollments for as long as I have, you figure out that having twenty and thirty-somethings invest mostly in stocks is great in theory but often bad in reality.

Because, when stocks drop a fast thirty or forty percent in a couple of months, even young hearts grow weak. Often-times cookies are tossed, and people bail out of the stock market at exactly the wrong time. (Like right at the bottom.) As financial advisor Rick Ferri says:

... “The ability of young people to handle high levels of equity is a fallacy. It may be technically correct based on long-term returns, but not on short-term emotion. Many young people have far less appetite for equity risk than the age-based model assumes. This is because they’re inexperienced at taking risk and this often leads to capitulation during a bear market.” ...

What I tell artists who are enrolling in TAG's 401(k) is, "Understand your capacity for pain." Because lots of people think they can be aggressive investors and handle disaster, but really can't. I say, "If you're somebody who throws up every time the stock market goes down, maybe you shouldn't be in the stock market. Why ruin your health over a bit of extra money that might take years to show up?"

The TAG 401(k) Plan has a suite of Vanguard Target Retirement Funds; two of them have conservative (Vanguard Retirement Income is 70% bonds; Vanguard Retirement 2010 is 55% bonds.) The Plan also has PIMCO Total Return, an actively managed bond fund.

I tell people over and over: the best strategy is to put at least a few bucks of week into a retirement account, and if you have conservative accounts that won't grow quite as much, that's fine. The idea is to start putting money away; it's not crucial that you put the money into stocks.

I bring this up now because if you want to get into the Animation Guild's 401(k) Plan at the start of the year, you have until January 4th to get the paperwork in.


Celshader said...

William J. Bernstein proposed a similar strategy in Ages of the Investor: A Critical Look at Life-cycle Investing. From what I remember, he recommended that beginners start out with 50/50 portfolios and ratchet their stock allocation up or down depending on their risk tolerance.

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