“If you feel insecure or uncertain and that you need to take advantage of certain stocks or avoid others, it’s a sign that you’re making a financial decision based on emotion,” said Hutch Ashoo with Pillar Wealth Management in Walnut Creek, California.
Although President Obama talked of ending war in Afghanistan and Iraq during his campaign, last week he outlined a plan for air strikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in Syria and Iraq. Still, that’s no excuse to make sudden moves or trades.
“We don’t advise our clients to change their asset allocation because of or in anticipation of a particular event,” said Fatima Iqbal, a certified financial planner and senior investment strategist with Azzad Asset Management. “That’s not how we manage money. Market timing is extremely difficult even for experienced investors.”
The average recommended asset allocation is 60% invested in equities and 40% in bonds but because of ongoing global unrest, Josh Scheinker advises a slightly different set up.
“Risk tolerance and income should dictate your asset allocation,” said Scheinker, partner with Janney Montgomery Scott in Baltimore, Maryland. “In this current environment, a 70-30 allocation is most likely more suitable while keeping a close eye on the fixed income side.”
A well-diversified portfolio promotes peace of mind however during times of unrest many investors take undue risk, which involves overbuying equities.
“You have to accept some risk to get where you are going,” Ashoo told MainStreet. “Anymore than what you need invested in the stock market is considered undue risk. Most investors don’t understand the risk and where it’s coming from and how much it is.”
Ashoo advises avoiding strategies with active managers who often make bets with their clients’ money based on what they think will happen in the world.
“If you apply active management to your investments, it reduces the probability of achieving goals versus settling for average returns of the market because managers are human beings and have emotions too,” Ashoo said. “Trying to outperform the markets involves active trading, which comes with extra management fees, high portfolio turnover, more taxes and additional transaction costs.”
One easy way to protect oneself from the risk of volatility is to follow a socially responsible investing strategy.
“It's not just for a niche market anymore,” Iqbal told MainStreet. “Socially responsible investment companies are known to refrain from investing in areas of conflict. That's how we approach it.” Socially responsible investments include mutual funds and ETFs such as iShares MSCI USA ESG Select Index (KLD), Calvert Equity Fund (CSIEX), the Azzad Ethical Equity Fund (ADJEX) and Azzad Wise Capital Fixed Income Fund (WISEX).
While KLD gained an annualized 2.3%, CSIEX returned 6.9% annualized compared to 13.02% for ADJEX over three years and 2.59% for the interest-free WISEX.
“An investment strategy is a constantly evolving plan,” Scheinker said. “But the key is to have long-term perspective and truly stick with the game plan. It is those investors that react to events and do that quick change to an investment strategy that miss out on real market gains.”
--Written by Juliette Fairley for MainStreet