What Is Asset Allocation? A Simple Guide For Investors

Written By
G. Dautovic
November 10,2022

Most people know they need to save for retirement, but many don’t have a clear idea about how to do it. One important factor in saving for retirement is asset allocation. But what is asset allocation, exactly?

This guide will explain everything you need to know about asset allocation, including the different types of assets you can invest in and how to create a diversified portfolio that meets your needs.

How Asset Allocation Works

Asset allocation, by definition, is the process of dividing your investment portfolio among different asset categories, such as cash, stocks, bonds, and real estate, with the goal of creating a well-diversified portfolio that will reduce your risk while maximizing your growth potential.

There are several factors you’ll need to consider when creating a strategic asset allocation plan, including the investment goals you have set, the time horizon, and your risk tolerance. For example, stocks offer the highest growth potential but also come with a higher degree of risk. Bonds are less volatile and provide a steady income stream in the form of interest payments. 

The right asset allocation for you will depend on your specific goals and objectives. If you’re investing long-term, you can afford to be more aggressive with your investments and have more room for risky decisions than you would if you’re planning to retire soon. Likewise, if your risk tolerance is higher, you can afford to take on more volatile assets in your portfolio.

What Is an Asset Allocation Fund?

A mutual fund that invests in different types of assets is called an asset allocation fund. These funds offer diversification and provide investors with a one-stop solution to investing. Most asset allocation funds invest in bonds, stocks, cash, and other things like real estate or commodities. 

These mutual funds are a popular choice for investors who want the benefits of diversification without having to build and manage their own portfolios. They’re also a good choice for beginner investors who don’t have the time or knowledge to build their own portfolio.

What Is the Purpose of Asset Allocation?

The purpose of asset allocation is to help you create a diversified investment portfolio that aligns with your needs and financial plans. Asset allocation can help you reach your investment goals faster. For example, if you’re looking to invest for the long term, you can afford to be more aggressive with your investments than if you’re planning to retire soon and use the retirement money. 

By investing your capital in a variety of assets with different levels of risk and reward, you can increase your chances of growth while keeping your risk under control.

What Are the Different Asset Classes?

Throughout the history of finance, the three main types of asset classes have been equities (also called stocks), fixed income (also called bonds), and cash equivalents or money market instruments. At the moment, most experts on investing include cryptocurrency in the asset class mix, along with real estate, commodities, futures, and other financial derivatives.

Cash: Cash is the most basic form of asset and encompasses things like savings accounts, certificates of deposit (CDs), and money market accounts. All the assets that can be turned into cash immediately are also included. Cash is a low-risk investment but also offers a low potential for growth.

Stocks: Stocks are a more volatile asset class but have the potential for higher returns. There are two main types of stocks: common stocks and preferred stocks. Common stocks represent ownership in a company and give the holder voting rights, while preferred stocks offer a fixed stream of dividend payments.

Bonds: Bonds are debt instruments that represent a loan from an investor to a borrower. In this transaction, the borrower agrees to pay interest payments to the investor. Bonds are considered a safe investment, but they offer lower potential returns than stocks.

Real estate: Real estate is another asset class you can use to diversify your portfolio. It includes things like rental properties, commercial real estate, and land. Real estate is a relatively stable asset to invest in but can be more volatile than cash and bonds.

How To Allocate Assets

There are a variety of different asset allocation strategies you can use to find the right balance. One approach is to use a target-date fund. A target-date fund is a mutual fund that automatically adjusts its holdings over time so that it becomes more conservative as the target date approaches. This can be a helpful way to diversify your portfolio without having to do all the research yourself. 

Another approach is to use a mix of stocks, bonds, and cash. This is known as the 60/40 rule and suggests investing 60% of your money in stocks and 40% in bonds and cash. This is a conservative approach that is designed to provide stability while still offering the potential for growth. And if you’re unsure how to do the math, there are plenty of online asset allocation calculators that can help you figure out the right mix for your needs. 

No matter what investment strategy you choose, it’s important to remember that asset allocation should be tailored to your specific needs and goals. However, there are some approaches you can use to help you find the right balance.

One approach is asset allocation by age. This approach involves older investors investing more in bonds and cash. This is because, as you get closer to retirement, you may want to focus on preserving your capital rather than chasing growth. 

Another approach is to use the 70/30 rule, which suggests allocating 70% of your portfolio to stocks and 30% to bonds and cash. This is a more aggressive approach designed to provide higher potential returns. However, it’s also important to remember that this approach comes with higher risk. 

Finally, you can use the 80/20 rule, which suggests investing 80% of your money in stocks and 20% in bonds and cash. This is the most aggressive approach and is best for investors who are comfortable with higher risk. 

Rebalancing Your Portfolio

Once you’ve allocated your assets, it’s important to periodically rebalance your portfolio to ensure that your asset allocation remains in line with your goals. 

Portfolio rebalancing simply means buying or selling assets in order to bring your portfolio back into balance. For example, if you have a target asset allocation of 60% stocks and 40% bonds and the stock market has risen so that your portfolio is now 70% stocks and 30% bonds, you would sell some of your stocks and invest in more bonds to bring your portfolio back to your target asset allocation. 

Rebalancing can be a helpful way to manage risk because it ensures you’re not overexposed. There’s no perfect time to rebalance your portfolio, but a good general rule of thumb is to rebalance at least once per year. However, you may need to rebalance more frequently if your portfolio is particularly volatile. 

When rebalancing your portfolio, it’s essential to consider both the costs and the taxes associated with buying and selling assets, as these can eat into your investment returns. 

Asset Allocation vs. Asset Diversification

What is the difference between asset allocation and diversification? When it comes to investing, asset allocation and diversification are often used interchangeably. However, there is a distinct difference between the two. 

Asset allocation is the process of dividing your portfolio among different asset categories, such as stocks, bonds, and cash. On the other hand, the allocation should be based on the investor’s goals, risk tolerance, and time horizon. Diversification is a technique that can be used to improve the performance of an investment portfolio. It involves investing in a variety of assets to reduce the overall risk. 

While asset allocation is a broad market strategy, diversification is a more specific technique that can be used within each asset class. For example, an investor’s stock portfolio could be diversified by putting money into a number of different industries or sectors. By spreading out their investments, investors can help lower the overall risk of their investments while still reaching their goals.

Bottom Line

Asset allocation is a critical part of investing, and it’s important to understand how it works before making any investment decisions. By taking the time to learn about asset allocation and how it can be used to reach your goals, you’ll be in a better position to make informed investment choices. 

Just remember to rebalance your portfolio periodically to ensure that your asset allocation stays in line with your goals. 


What is the best asset allocation strategy?


There is no single answer to this question, as the allocation depends on your individual circumstances and investment goals. It’s important to learn about various asset classes and how they can help you reach your financial goals. 

What is the safest investment with the highest return?


There is no such thing as a safe investment with a high return. All investments come with some level of risk, and high returns usually come with higher levels of risk.

That being said, there are some investments that tend to be less risky than others, such as bonds and cash. On the other hand, investments such as options and penny stocks tend to be riskier but also have the potential for higher returns.

What is the best asset allocation for retirement?


The best asset allocation depends on when you plan to retire, how much money you will need to support yourself in retirement, and your risk tolerance. Generally speaking, people closer to retirement age may want to allocate more of their portfolio to cash and fixed-income investments, as these tend to be less volatile than stocks.


About author

I have always thought of myself as a writer, but I began my career as a data operator with a large fintech firm. This position proved invaluable for learning how banks and other financial institutions operate. Daily correspondence with banking experts gave me insight into the systems and policies that power the economy. When I got the chance to translate my experience into words, I gladly joined the smart, enthusiastic Fortunly team.

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