martedì 7 settembre 2010

La forza della semplicità

L'esperienza umiliante di strategie sofisticate disegnate per resistere alle turbolenze dei mercati che falliscono miseramente alla prova dei fatti è assai frequente nell'ultimo decennio. Non c'è quindi da stupirsi se un'idea vecchia e dimenticata come il 50/50, un asset allocation con 50% di azioni e 50% di obbligazioni, torna alla ribalta. Ne parla il Wall Street Journal secondo il quale

a strong case can be made for investors following a design principle known as KISS, which in this case stands for: Keep it simple, saver. According to this principle, all you need are three diversified index-tracking mutual funds or exchange-traded funds—one for U.S. stocks, one for international stocks and one for bonds. The portfolio must be rebalanced at least once a year to ensure that half of the money stays in stocks and half in bonds.
It's boring and bland and won't score you any points at parties, but this bare-bones approach—call it the "Nifty 50/50 Portfolio"—has made almost as much money as a more aggressive, stock-heavy strategy over the past 25 years and topped it over the past decade.
Moreover, investors in this 50/50 mix would have had some insulation from stock-market swings. When global markets imploded in 2008, the 50/50 blend lost 17%, compared with a 31% decline for a portfolio with 80% stocks and 20% bonds. (...)
"Keeping it simple is the path of least resistance," says money manager Ted Aronson, whose Philadelphia-based firm, Aronson+Johnson+Ortiz LP, handles $18 billion of individual U.S. stocks for pension funds and other institutional clients. Mr. Aronson spreads his own taxable money among an esoteric mix of stock- and bond-index funds, but he appreciates the 50/50 setup for its low-maintenance approach and for belting investors into their seats.
"There's less chance of acting imprudently and selling at a panic low or jumping on a hot spot at the wrong time," he says.
For a better understanding of how the Nifty 50/50 approach can lead to solid returns and a smoother ride down Wall Street, consider the results for two investment portfolios over the past 10, 15 and 25 years.
The first portfolio is the 50/50 combination, with 35% of assets in the Dow Jones Wilshire 5000 Index as a proxy for U.S. stocks, 15% in the MSCI EAFE Index to cover international stocks, and, for bonds, 50% to the Barclays Capital U.S. Aggregate Bond Index.
The second is an 80/20 mix that commits 65% to U.S. stocks, 15% to international stocks and 20% to bonds.
This analysis uses the returns of the indexes themselves and not investable funds or ETFs because those portfolios weren't all available 25 years ago. Returns for fund investors would have been slightly lower because of fund expenses and other costs. (Continue reading for examples of funds and ETFs that investors could use today to create this mix.)
A $10,000 investment in the 50/50 allocation made in August 2000 and rebalanced yearly would have been worth $14,748 at the end of July 2010, for an annualized 4% return, according to investment researcher Morningstar Inc. Meanwhile, the 80/20 portfolio would have gained an annualized 1.9%, leaving an investor with $12,066.
Of course, the most recent decade has been terrible for stocks and terrific for bonds. What about the past 15 years, which includes the runaway bull market of the late 1990s?
Again, the advantage goes to the 50/50 split, which grew to $26,036 by July, or a 6.6% annualized gain—just edging out the $25,751 value of the 80/20 offering, which rose 6.5% yearly.
The 80/20 portfolio flexes its muscle over 25 years—a horizon retirement savers can appreciate. A $10,000 investment in August 1985 would have been worth $96,675 at the end of July, equal to a 9.5% yearly gain. The 50/50 allocation, meanwhile, would have been worth $87,515, for a 9.1% annualized return.
A difference of almost $10,000 is real money, but was it worth the risk? The 50/50 portfolio achieved 91% of the 80/20 portfolio's gain, but with just two-thirds of the volatility—not a bad trade-off.

Qui potete ascoltare un podcast dedicato alle virtù del 50/50.

Ma se il 50/50 vi sembra troppo banale, oltre alle strategie che ho analizzato in questo post, potete provare a seguire i consigli del Sig. Zhang, che non crede alla deflazione prossima ventura ed è invece ottimista sul futuro delle materie prime:  Mr. Zhang believes that as emerging countries like China and India grow over the next decade, they will consume more oil and gas, pushing prices upward. And rather than deflation, Mr. Zhang expects a period of inflation over the next few years. And when that happens, commodities are likely to perform well, he says.
Qui accanto trovate il portafoglio consigliato dal Sig. Zhang. Ma attenzione: non si tratta di un'asset allocation pensata per il lungo termine, poichè
Here Mr. Zhang shares a model portfolio for investors with a moderate risk appetite. The portfolio has a weighted average cost of 0.3%. It returned 14.5% for the 12 months through July and 4.2% annualized for the five years through July 31.
Depending on market and economic conditions, Mr. Zhang says, the "model portfolio can change dramatically every year."

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