Portfolio rebalancing is a realignment of assets in your portfolio to maintain your desired investment mix based on your financial goals and risk tolerance.
Or, as Rob Haworth, senior investment strategist at U.S. Bank calls it, “portfolio rebalancing is a negotiation between risk and reward that can help your portfolio stay on track amid market highs and lows.”
Regardless of how you define it, the goal of rebalancing is to reduce volatility and manage potential risk in your portfolio.
Here, Haworth outlines four situations that may trigger a conversation with your financial professional about rebalancing.
According to Haworth, market volatility is one of the most common reasons investors look to rebalance. Volatility-triggered rebalancing can help monitor how far your portfolio has strayed from your target goals.
Haworth explains that you can work with a financial professional to develop “drift parameters,” to define the amount of volatility you’re comfortable with. “This is a mechanism to determine whether volatility should trigger rebalancing. If you’re having double-digit gains or double-digit losses, these are opportunities to rebalance,” he says.
Rebalancing allows your holdings to change with the market environment. Consider a simple portfolio made up of 60% stocks and 40% bonds. If the market is favorable to stocks, you might increase your stock holdings. However, if stocks holdings inch up toward 70% of your portfolio, Haworth says you might want to consider rebalancing again. “This approach lets the market have some volatility but identifies when it’s reached an extreme for you,” he says.
Though market volatility might warrant rebalancing, Haworth warns investors to avoid overreacting to media reports about unsteady markets. Rather than following the media’s advice, allow these reports to spark conversation with your financial professional.
Major life changes might compel you to check in on your investments and adjust as necessary. It’s possible you’re already pursuing a balanced, diversified investment strategy that works with your changing priorities. Even so, as major milestones approach, it might be beneficial to review your holdings.
Some life events may result in a sudden influx of cash for you to invest. For example, you may receive an inheritance after a family member passes away. “If there’s more money to invest, rebalancing becomes a part of the process. From a returns perspective, we advocate investing any windfall fully and right away, rather than waiting or investing over the course of a year or two,” says Haworth.
Some life changes can trigger a wholescale reevaluation of your financial goals. If something truly unexpected happens — such as a health crisis — you might need to do more than tinker with your portfolio. In these cases, Haworth says, rebalancing can help you ease into an entirely redesigned portfolio tailored to your new needs.
Diversification is key for a well-performing portfolio. If you have a sneaking suspicion your portfolio isn’t well diversified, Haworth suggests talking with your financial professional about rebalancing.
Similarly, if you’re curious about new or emerging investment opportunities — such as international stocks or holdings in emerging technology companies — you might consider rebalancing your portfolio to incorporate these new assets.
Quite simply, if you haven’t rebalanced your portfolio lately, you may want to initiate a conversation with your financial professional.
According to Haworth, it’s a good idea to review your portfolio on a quarterly or annual basis. “This reassessment may not lead to any activity, but at least you’ll know you’re on track,” Haworth says.
Checking in on your investments regularly can help you stay up to date on your portfolio’s performance. Further, Haworth says, “This method takes some of the emotion out of the investing process.” This can help you invest dispassionately rather than react to market moves.
Though there are plenty of benefits to rebalancing your portfolio, it’s also important to note the related costs.
“There are transaction costs for rebalancing, and those are real costs that should be considered in the discussion,” advises Haworth. If you’ve had a small deviation around 1 or 2% from your target returns, transaction costs often outweigh the benefits.
A financial professional can draw on experience and analytical tools to help ensure rebalancing activity is appropriate for your situation. Haworth explains, “If the market is trending one way, but we don’t see fundamentals to support a turnaround in portfolio direction, we might actually discourage rebalancing.” Having this extra layer of analysis can help you feel confident in the moves you’re making.
In the end, rebalancing is a key practice for all investors. As Haworth puts it, “Rebalancing is one of those tools that can help ensure your money is working as hard as you are.”
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