How Does Asset Allocation Work?


Asset allocation planning can range from the relatively simple to the complex. It can range from generic recommendations that have no relevance to your specific needs (dangerous) to recommendations based on sophisticated computer techniques (very reliable although far from perfect). Between these extremes, it can include recommendations based only on your time horizon (still risky) or on your time horizon adjusted for your risk tolerance (less risky) or any combination of factors.

A number of mutual fund families, brokerage firms and financial service companies offer computerized asset allocation analysis. Unfortunately, many of them, in recommending a specific portfolio of mutual funds or stocks, include only funds in their family (in the case of fund families) or those on which they receive the highest commissions (in the other cases). However, these may not be the best-performing investments. Don’t undercut the benefit of a sophisticated asset allocation analysis by allowing yourself to be steered into funds or stocks that are based on biased recommendations.

Computerized asset allocations are based on a questionnaire you fill out. Your answers provide the information the computer needs to become familiar with your unique circumstances. From the questionnaire will be determined:

  • Your investment time horizon (mainly, your age and retirement objectives).
  • Your risk threshold (how much of your capital you are willing to lose during a given time frame), and
  • Your financial situation (your wealth, income, expenses, tax bracket, liquidity needs, etc.)
  • Your goals (the financial goals you and your family want to achieve).

The goal of the computer analysis is to determine the best blend of asset classes, in the right percentages, that will match your particular financial profile.

At this point, the “efficient frontier” concept comes into play. It may sound complex, but it is a key to investment success.