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A Five-Step Investing Plan(2)

2005-09-12 00:00

  "Tilting a portfolio very strongly one way or another to try to capitalize on what an investor thinks is going to happen is much riskier than it sounds," says Scott Budde, a managing director at retirement specialists TIAA-CREF and a balanced-fund portfolio manager. That's because it's so easy for investors to then miss out on quick upside moves when the market turns —— like it has in the past three months, he points out.

  The way the pros invest is to put most of their money into stocks(which have the best long-term returns of any asset class)and then minimize their risk by adding in other asset classes that are either really safe(like bonds or cash)or that tend to do well when stocks are doing poorly (like real estate or commodities). "All roads lead to diversification," says Budde.

  Step 2: Figure out what you already have. You may have four different mutual-fund accounts, a 401(k)plan at work, and three different brokerage accounts, each with their own broker calling you with advice.

  Even if you don't consolidate your accounts(always a good idea), at least make yourself a cheat sheet so you can see what you own and where it's invested. Come up with some rough percentages: How much money do you have in stocks, bonds, and cash? How much do you have in foreign stocks vs. domestic and small-caps vs. large?

  Also include a category for any investments that might not be in a brokerage account, such as income-producing real estate, your childhood stamp collection, or the modern art hanging on your walls. All such assets go under the heading, "alternative investments."

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