Every day, you’ll read stories about people who’ve struck it rich (or simply got lucky) by taking a punt on the latest hot opportunity. It might be a stock that’s tripled in value, or the latest digital currency that’s being heavily promoted online.

It doesn’t matter which; all you know is that somewhere, somebody’s making a stack of money, and it’s not you.

You might even think you’re missing out, particularly if your investments are still recovering from the downturn last year.

You could be tempted to throw caution to the wind, and have a dabble in something hot.

Let’s just pause for a moment, and consider the difference between speculating and investing. One way to describe speculating is taking big risks, hoping you’ll get a big payoff.

That’s not what investing is about. Investing is about managing risks, not embracing them.

Manage the risk

One of the best ways of reducing investment risk is to spread your portfolio across a number of different investments, and types of investments.

It's the old 'don’t put all your eggs in one basket' theory, and it’s stood the test of time as an important way of smoothing investment returns and reducing risk.

The main investment classes – cash, fixed interest, property and shares – all carry different levels of risk, and all have provided different returns over time.

Historically, shares have been the best performer. But those returns have varied from a 30% gain in a good year, to a 50% loss in a bad year.

And nobody can predict which types of investments will perform best in the future.

At the other end of the spectrum, cash is safe (and there’s a government guarantee on bank deposits of up to $250,000).

But the return? In most accounts, it’s close to zero. If you take into account inflation, your bank return can actually be negative. If you hedge your bets, and spread your portfolio across cash, fixed interest, shares and property, there’s the potential for losses in one class of investment to be offset by gains in another.

You won’t get the peak returns of the share market in a boom year, but neither will you experience large losses.

Overall, your risk is lower, and your returns will be more consistent.

What is strategic asset allocation?

Strategic asset allocation is the process of choosing the mix of investment types that will meet your investment objectives, while minimising risk. And the best asset mix for you will depend on your investment timeframe, and how comfortable you are with risk.

There’s no one fixed asset allocation – it will vary between individuals.

A younger investor hoping to build wealth for the future might be comfortable with a high exposure to shares.

Somebody approaching retirement might be more cautious and balance their exposure to shares with higher levels of cash and fixed interest.

Setting a target asset allocation adds some discipline to your investment strategy.

It means sticking to a process that will optimise your returns, rather than chasing the hot opportunities that could make you rich (or broke).

Rebalance your portfolio annually

Just as there's no thing as a 'set and forget' investment, your asset allocation needs some attention from time to time.

At least annually, you should consider 'rebalancing' your portfolio. In any year, some of your investments will perform better than others.

Let’s suppose your original allocation to shares was 40% and the market has a good year. You might find shares now make up 50% of your portfolio. Rebalancing involves reducing your exposure to shares back to 40%.

In other words, you’re taking profits from assets that have performed well, and topping up your other investments.

Is your current asset allocation right for you?

If you’re not sure whether your current asset allocation is right for you, or you think it might need rebalancing, talk to your Morgans adviser or contact nearest Morgans office.

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Disclaimer: The information contained in this report is provided to you by Morgans Financial Limited as general advice only, and is made without consideration of an individual's relevant personal circumstances. Morgans Financial Limited ABN 49 010 669 726, its related bodies corporate, directors and officers, employees, authorised representatives and agents (“Morgans”) do not accept any liability for any loss or damage arising from or in connection with any action taken or not taken on the basis of information contained in this report, or for any errors or omissions contained within. It is recommended that any persons who wish to act upon this report consult with their Morgans investment adviser before doing so.

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