The Case for Tactical Asset Allocation

One of the most important tools in our methodology is relative strength.  This unique tool basically measures the likelihood of one investment outperforming another.  The following is gleaned from

One of the realities for a typical investor preparing for retirement is that they do not have an unlimited time for their investments to work out.  Take, for example, a 55 year old client with $1.5 million in investable assets.  Whether this investor earns a return of 4% or 8% on their portfolio over the next several decades is going to dramatically change their standard of living.  Yet, I think few clients have an appreciation for just how much variability there can be in returns to different asset classes that commonly make up a diversified portfolio.  For example, consider the variation in returns over the last couple of decades in U.S. stocks, commodities, bonds, and real estate as shown in the table below.

Source: Global Financial Markets and FactSet.  *Data through 5/28/14.  This example is presented for illustrative purposes only and does not represent a past recommendation.  The performance above is based on total returns, inclusive of dividends, but does not include all transaction costs.   Investors cannot invest directly in an index. Indexes have no fees. Past performance is not indicative of future results. Potential for profits is accompanied by possibility of loss.

The column in green highlights the dispersion between the best and worst performing decade for that asset class.  There really is no such thing as stability in the financial markets!  Think about the implications that this might have on different approaches to building an asset allocation.  One approach to dealing with the amount of variability in asset class returns could be to simply equal weight exposure to a broad range of asset classes.  That may work out okay over time, but I think is susceptible the behavioral weaknesses of most investors, as pointed out in the quote below.

The problem with the person who thinks he’s a long-term investor and impervious to short-term gyrations is that the emotion of fear and pain will eventually make him sell badly. –Robert Wibbelsman

A tactical approach to asset allocation, driven by a relative strength, has a number of potential performance and client management advantages over many alternative approaches to asset allocation.  As shown in the images below, a trend following approach to asset allocation seeks to identify and overweight those asset classes that are in favor and to underweight those asset classes that are out of favor.

One of the developments over the past decade that has made a tactical approach to asset allocation even more accessible to individual investors is the expansion of the ETF universe to include a broad range of asset classes like U.S. equities, international equities, currencies, commodities, real estate, and fixed income.

To learn more about our tactical, relative strength approach to asset allocation, please click here.