Pundits and other know-it-alls blithely urge us to build a diversified portfolio of stock funds, but they rarely if ever show us how.
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In a way, these folks are dropping wood, hammers and saws on our lawns with a note saying they'll pick up the ark on Wednesday. Well, building a diversified portfolio from the ocean of funds out there isn't easy, but we'll at least give you a blueprint.
The idea behind building a diversified portfolio of stock funds isn't to focus on whatever sector or style is working this year or might work the next. Rather, the goal is to spread your money among a broad range of funds. That keeps you from losing your shirt whenever one popular corner of the market collapses, ¿ la tech stocks over the past year. It also gives you access to whatever style is working at any given time, smoothing out your portfolio's performance as Wall Street's harsh winds inevitably shift.
We've X-rayed the Wilshire 5000 Total Stock Market Index to show you what percentage of your stock-fund money should be in various styles like large-cap growth or small-cap value. You can get this diversification in one fell swoop with an index fund like the
Vanguard Total Stock Market Index fund, but you can get there via a blend of different funds, too.
If you're shopping for a fund or two in categories you've ignored, just click on any style's name to see the most recent Big Screen column highlighting some solid candidates. Beyond U.S. stock funds, we've also included screens of foreign stock funds, bond funds, sector funds and balanced funds, which hold both stocks and bonds.
How much money you choose to put in these different categories is up to you, but you can use this chart as a handy benchmark. At the very least, print it out and wave it at the TV when some talking head tells you to "diversify," "match the market" or "adopt a neutral stance."
Ian McDonald writes daily for TheStreet.com. In keeping with TSC's editorial policy, he doesn't own or short individual stocks. He also doesn't invest in hedge funds or other private investment partnerships. He invites you to send your feedback to
firstname.lastname@example.org, but he cannot give specific financial advice.