Diversifi-huh? If that’s your first reaction to the word "diversification," or you just don’t think it’s for you, don’t go running in the opposite direction quite yet. Because the truth is, it can be one of the smartest ways to help manage your exposure to risk as an investor. And here’s the good news: It doesn’t have to be as complicated as it may seem. This article takes the concept of diversification and breaks it down into a few small, digestible bites. But for a much deeper dive into the subject, take a look at the full Fidelity Viewpoints® article, “The Pros' Guide to Diversification.”
What on earth is diversification?
Basically, it’s a strategy of spreading your portfolio across a bunch of different kinds of investments, like U.S. and foreign stocks, bonds, and short-term investments (e.g., money market funds). The thinking behind it is simple: If you buy a mix of stocks, bonds, and funds, the mix of investments may help offset each other. So when one investment doesn't do so well, other investments that might be doing a little better can help balance it out. Alternatively, if you put all your eggs into one kind of investment and it tanks, the losses could affect your portfolio in a big way. The goal of diversification isn’t to boost performance—it won’t ensure gains or guarantee against losses—but it can help set the appropriate level of risk for your time horizon, financial goals, and tolerance for portfolio volatility.
Why does it matter?
If you’re like a lot of investors, it can be tempting to check on and adjust your investments during market highs and lows. But timing the market can cost you. That’s why Fidelity recommends setting up a long-term mix of all different kinds of investments—and staying the course. As John Sweeney, executive vice president of Fidelity Investments, suggests, “Being disciplined as an investor isn’t always easy, but over time it has demonstrated the ability to generate wealth, while market timing has proven to be a costly exercise for many investors.”
How do I diversify?
Consider looking over your investment mix (i.e., stocks, bonds, and short-term investments) to make sure it lines up with your investment time frame and risk tolerance. You may also want to take a look at the chart called "When allocating your portfolio, consider the return and volatility trade-offs" in the Fidelity Viewpoints® article to learn how blending different types of investments can help you achieve different levels of risk and return.
I have my mix. Now what?
Fidelity encourages you to check in on and rebalance your investment mix at least once a year, or whenever your financial situation changes (think a job loss or a big bonus). Rebalancing helps you keep your risk tolerance at a level you’re comfortable with. So let’s say, for instance, your stock prices run up and your bonds go down. That extra stock could mean more risk for your portfolio.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
You’ve heard the age-old adage, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” Sounds cliché, but it could be a smart move when it comes to investing. As John Sweeney puts it, “Choosing the right mix of investments, and then periodically rebalancing and monitoring your choices, can make a big difference in your outcome.” In short: Diversify. You’ll be happy you did.
Take the next step
Watch this video to learn how diversification can help you manage risk in your portfolio.