Most of us have heard of the saying "Don’t put all your eggs in one basket". In essence, this phrase warns us not to invest all our capital into a single trade, market, or product because we could end up losing everything. Having invested heavily in only one asset and depending entirely on it for your trading experience may prove to be too risky as all the eggs would break at once if the basket is dropped.
Therefore, it is a good practice to consider spreading out the risk by investing across different positions, instruments, and asset classes. A balanced portfolio is particularly important during economic downturns or high volatility periods. Here is your guide to understanding diversification and how it can work in your favour.
What is diversification?
Diversification is essentially a form of risk management. A diversified investor will be one who chooses to invest in a range of asset classes, across different sectors and with varying geographic exposure. Short-term and long-term themes can also be played out with diversification, but the overriding aim is to spread market risk across different baskets.
A balanced portfolio will have a similarly balanced risk profile with aims to outpace inflation and provide steady returns over the long term. By holding various asset classes which may move in opposite directions under specific market conditions, a diversified portfolio works in complementarity to reduce the risk of a huge capital loss and lessen the impact of market volatility.
What are the benefits of portfolio diversification?
A diversified portfolio can provide a range of benefits, including:
Reduction in portfolio risk
By spreading your investment across various asset classes, such as stocks, bonds, commodities, and even cash, you can help protect your portfolio from drastic market volatility. This is because different asset classes tend to perform differently in different market conditions. For example, the rising inflation and interest rates would cause a downturn in the stock market while commodities such as gold and oil may outperform.
This ensures that you won’t be over-exposed to any single asset class or company that experiences a massive downturn, thereby helping to minimise your portfolio’s risk.
Reducing the impact of geopolitical events
Geopolitical events, such as wars or political crises, can have a significant impact on financial markets. By diversifying across different asset classes and markets, you can also attempt to reduce the impact of geopolitical events on your investment portfolio. For instance, during times of economic uncertainty, investors may flock to assets like gold or government bond which is expected to retain or increase in value during times of market turbulence.
Flexibility and adaptability
A diversified portfolio provides flexibility and adaptability to changing market conditions. If one asset class is performing poorly, you may rebalance your portfolio by shifting funds into another asset class that is performing well. This allows you to take advantage of market opportunities while reducing risk.
For example, if your portfolio consists of 30% stocks, 30% bonds, 30% commodities and 10% in cash, you may not risk it all when the stock market experiences a sharp decline. Rather, if you allocate most of your investments in the stock market, the outcome could be catastrophic in times of stock market crash. In this case, your investment in bonds, commodities and the money market could keep your portfolio flexible and adaptable as they could be reinvested under favourable market timing.
Potential disadvantages of diversification
While diversification can offer many benefits to an investment portfolio, there are also some potential disadvantages to keep in mind. These include:
Diversifying a portfolio can require significant effort. Opening multiple positions across different asset classes will require frequent monitoring and rebalancing the portfolio over time. This can add to the complexity of maintaining a diversified portfolio. To maintain an optimal portfolio, investors need to take potential return when target prices are hit, or close positions at certain times to manage the overall risk profile of the portfolio and avoid significant losses.
One way around this is to consider investing in ETFs – funds traded on the financial markets that seek to track an index – that allow you to gain wider exposure, with the purchase of a single product. You can now trade ETF CFDs on Vantage.
Lower potential returns
While diversification can help to manage risk and reduce volatility, it can also limit potential returns. By spreading investments across multiple assets, it may be more difficult to achieve area potential return.
There is a risk of over-diversification, where the portfolio is spread too thin across too many assets, and the potential benefits of diversification are lost. This can lead to poor investment outcomes, as you may not have enough information or expertise to manage a large number of assets effectively. Therefore, it’s important to strike a balance between diversification and focus, and to ensure that the portfolio remains manageable and effective.
How to Diversify Your Portfolio?
There are various ways to implement diversification into your portfolio, including diversifying across companies or sectors, and asset classes. Here are a few examples:
Diversifying across specific companies or sectors
One way to diversify a portfolio is by investing in a variety of companies. By doing this, you can spread out their risk and potentially minimise the impact of any one company’s negative performance on their overall portfolio. Alternatively, you can also invest in companies of different sizes or geographical locations. This can help you mitigate the impact of local or regional economic conditions that may affect the performance of specific companies.
Diversification across sectors, on the other hand, involves investing in different industries. For example, you may choose to invest in healthcare, energy, and finance industries. The idea is that when one sector performs poorly, other sectors may be performing well, and this can offset the losses from the poorly performing sector.
Diversifying across asset classes
Diversifying across asset classes involves spreading investments across various types of financial instruments such as stocks, bonds, forex, commodities, and even cash. Each asset class has its unique characteristics, including varying levels of risk and return potential. By investing in a range of asset classes, you can potentially lower the portfolio’s risk profile by balancing the returns and volatility of each class.
For example, real estate can be a good addition to a diversified portfolio, as it has a low correlation with the stock market .
Considerations for Building a Diversified Portfolio
- Investment goals. When building a diversified investment portfolio, it’s important to have a clear understanding of your investment goals and risk tolerance. Your investment goals will depend on your financial situation and may include objectives such as generating consistent income, achieving long-term growth, or preserving wealth. Understanding your investment goals can help you determine the appropriate mix of assets for your diversified portfolio.
- Asset allocation. Asset allocation refers to the distribution of investments across different asset classes such as stocks, bonds, real estate, and commodities. The allocation will depend on your investment goals and risk tolerance. Typically, a well-diversified portfolio will have a mix of different asset classes to balance the overall risk and returns. Stocks, bonds, and real estate are all different types of assets that come with varying levels of risk and potential for returns. Stocks are often considered more volatile but may provide higher returns over the long term, while bonds generally considered less risky and may offer more stable returns].
- Investment horizon. Your investment horizon is the length of time you plan to hold your investments. This will affect the type of assets you should invest in, and the level of diversification needed to achieve your goals. For instance, if you have a long-term investment horizon, you may be able to tolerate more risk and invest in assets that have the potential for higher returns over the long run. If you have a short-term investment horizon, however, you may want to focus on investments that provide more stable returns. Additionally, the length of your investment horizon may affect how often you rebalance your portfolio. If you have a long-term horizon, you may not need to rebalance your portfolio as frequently as someone with a shorter investment horizon because you have more time to ride out short-term fluctuations in the market.
Overall, diversification is a critical strategy for achieving a well-rounded and diversified portfolio that is better able to weather market fluctuations and unexpected events over the long term. By striking a balance between diversification and focus, you can create an effective investment strategy that meets their individual goals and risk tolerance.