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Investing: Stategies To Boost Growth

Aug 17, 2007
You should continue to grow your nest egg even when retired--unless you've been blessed with more money than you will ever spend! Last week I discussed in detail how retirees can boost their income without taking on unnecessary risk. This week, I'll explain ways you might safely grow your portfolio while minimizing risk.

I believe that higher returns can be achieved with less risk when the strategies used to invest in the stock market are tailored to market conditions. Unfortunately, few advisors recognize this need and leave their clients to ride the roller coaster of worry.

The traditional approach to growing a portfolio involves allocating a portion of the assets to large, medium, small and international stocks. The appropriate mutual fund is chosen and it is expected that once you put your money into it that you will keep it there for 5-10 years. Making changes prior to then, this approach says, reduces your chances of doing well.

This philosophy is based on the idea that stock market performance will be consistent with what it's done in the past. If large company stocks have averaged 10% over the last 50 years, they should average 10% in the future. And they may. But the question is how long will it take?

There may be extended periods of time where the markets perform significantly above their historic averages (the late 1990's) and times when the stock markets perform well below their average (2000-2002). The buy and hold strategy is a valid strategy. Everyone should use it for a portion of their portfolio. That doesn't mean that I want to rely on it when the economy is in recession!

If you are retired or near retirement, you can't afford to base the safety of your nest egg on the hope that the markets will someday revert to their mean. That's why so many are uncomfortable investing in the stock market. That's why we've heard so many horror stories.

You can achieve the growth you desire while limiting your downside loss to less then 10%. The key to doing so is matching the strategy used to present market conditions. People lost money in the stock market from 2000-2002, not because there was a problem with the markets, but because they were relying on a strategy that works poorly in those conditions.

There is no such thing as a perfect strategy. Each has strengths and weaknesses. By analyzing the type of markets that should exist the next few years, you can then deploy those strategies designed to work best in that type of market. Don't put all your eggs in one basket, though. I will bias a portfolio toward a particular strategy, but I utilize multiple strategies to reduce risk.

I'm basing my current growth strategy on several important facts about today's market conditions. First, the Bull market is entering its third or fourth year. That is longer then the historical norm. Second, that Bull market was fueled mainly by low interest rates. But short-term rates have risen from a low of 1% to the current 4.5%, and are expected to rise further. Third, rising energy prices have crimped consumer spending, as well as spurring price increases across the board.

All these taken together means that, although the underlying economy is very strong, it will be facing some stiff headwinds the next year or two. Most analysts expect only single digit returns from the indexes.

In markets where the indexes only produce single-digit returns, you don't want to rely on index-oriented strategies. In those markets, individual stock picking and dividends take on much greater importance.

As a result, I'm relying more on individual stocks or selected closed-end funds, especially ones that pay the investor first through healthy dividends. In fact, my growth-oriented portfolio of stocks produces an income stream of 5-6% a year just from dividends!

Just as an experienced sailor has to adjust the sails to deal with changing winds, investors need to modify their strategies to take advantage of changing markets. Don't choose a skipper that sticks to only one strategy. Have an advisor that seeks to maximize your return, no matter what the market conditions. Doing so should provide growth while limiting your risk of loss.
About the Author
Nationally-syndicated financial columnist and Certified Financial Planner Jeffrey Voudrie provides personal, in-depth money management services and advice to select private clients throughout the USA. He will answer your financial question FREE at http://www.guardingyourwealth.net/
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