Smart Investment Strategies for Conservative Investors in 2018

As we enter 2018, investors are reflecting on the investment decision that made in previous years. Several considerations are in place especially with several unknowns based on the domestic and geopolitical realignments that could have an adverse impact on investment portfolios.

In a season of low-risk and long-term investments, here are some of the smart investment strategies for conservative investors in 2018.

1. U.S. Savings Bonds

The ultra-safe and smart conservative bonds from the U.S. Treasury offers an inflation-adjusted fixed-rate savings bonds. As a government-backed investment, U.S Savings Bond are offered at market rates and guarantee against default and hence are perfect investment strategy for conservative investors.

2. High-Yield Savings Accounts

This alternative savings product provides a safe and slightly higher yield on cash over a mid-term period. Investment in high-yield savings earns the investor a fixed interest rate for returns at a very competitive market price.

3. Commodities

Commodities such as precious metals offer a smart alternative to hedging currency as a protection measure against inflation and other adverse economic uncertainties. Consequently, commodities such as agricultural products provide an excellent alternative for diversification and hence are considered to be smart and conservative investment strategies for 2018.

4. Individual Corporate Bonds

Corporate bonds are issued by companies as debt financing from investors to raise capital to meet the company’s financial needs. Corporate bonds are competitive, depending on the company and its financial position and hence have higher returns compared to treasury bonds.

However, investors should perform due diligence on the respective company’s risk status based on the various tools for financial analysis to ascertain the risk and probability of default. Consequently, it is good investment practice to invest in investment-grade bonds as opposed to “junk” bonds. International stock funds

5. Individual Stocks

Investing in public companies over the long-term offers the investor an opportunity of being a shareholder and getting equity in the enterprise. Buying into a company at the right share price offers the investor a chance to grow with the company. Consequently, individual stocks not only yield returns on the share price but also dividend on their equity.

However, there is still the possibility of the company slowing down because of internal or external forces that affect the market.

6. Fixed unit trusts

Fixed unit trusts are a mutual fund investment scheme that offers fixed return based on units held on a certain investment. The mutual funds are managed by investment trustees who divide the gains from the investments. Investing in fixed-unit trusts is a smart and conservative investment strategy because it guarantees returns annually.

7. Lifecycle or Target-Date Funds

This is equally a mutual fund managed by trustees for smart conservative investors who want to ensure access to their money after a particular period. Consequently, the funds yield fixed returns for the investor. For example, a target-date fund with a three years maturity period could yield an interest of 5-7%, and this is what the investor will get on their investment.

Despite being conservative and smart, all Investment decisions should be made based on an individual portfolio’s risk profile.

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5 Alternative Investment Approaches

WHAT ARE ALTERNATIVE INVESTMENTS?
An alternative investment is a class of investment that are not covered under any Government regulatory like RBI, SEBI, IRDA, and PFRDA. It refers to a privately pooled investment fund – a trust or a company.

Here are some alternative investments approaches that may influence your investment decisions –

#1 FOCUS ON ABSOLUTE RETURNS
You invest to end up with more money than what you started with. It means you are looking for an absolute return: how much did you actually make, is the main focus.

Invest in assets that you believe will do well; don’t invest in a product just because it’s likely to outperform the market. Have your analysis on hand.

#2 RETURNS ARE ONE-DIMENSIONAL, RISK IS MULTI-DIMENSIONAL
When it comes to investments, returns are easy to calculate. Keep your focus on Risk involved with the alternative investment asset as well. Prepare a list of the relevant risks. You need to have a clear idea of the risks involved in your investment, as it will help you to take a calculated decision.

Also, if at all something unexpected happens, you will be more likely to make better decisions if you’ve thought about the risks before investing.

#3 KNOW THE SOURCE RETURN
Understand what will influence and drive the returns on your investment. While you hold the investment, monitor the value of your investment.

Constantly revisit your assumptions of the return drivers of investment, in case they don’t match your parameters or expectations rethink your investment.

#4 UNCLEAR IS GOOD
Anything that’s not traditional is alternative. An alternative investment is populated by investment ideas that may not be immediately obvious. For instance cryptocurrency.

Continuously learning, exploring, researching, studying, and looking outside your comfort zone is the key to financial success.

#5 DIVERSIFICATION IS A MUST
Holding a mix of assets that are equally good, but which behave differently, will leave your portfolio’s return intact, and lower its risk as well.

Diversify means constructing a portfolio with very varied return drivers and risk parameters, not just different assets.

Most of us see investing in alternative investments highly risky. However, if you desire to live a successful and fulfilling life and retire with enough money to enjoy your retirement years, you must take calculated risks. This includes risks in your relationships, risks in your career, and risks in your investments.

While taking smart calculated risks is vital to reaching your goals in life, remember that taking bad risks and losing can set you back, sometimes significantly. It may help, however, to remember that taking smart risks is as simple as making wise decisions.

A Framework for Good Decision-making

I’ve learned a lot in my life from observing others and through my personal experiences-both good and bad. Therefore, when I consider taking a risk in any area of my life, here are the questions I ask myself:
1. What are the risks? Be honest. Don’t let your emotions prevent you from carefully considering all possible risks. This is where the landmines exist.
2. What are the odds of one of the risks coming true? Be truthful. Use real data whenever you can by doing research and talking to others.
3. What are the rewards? Be realistic. Can you really quit your day job and devote ten hours a week to something and make $100,000 a year? (Probably not.)
4. What are the odds of those rewards? Be sensible. Find out how many others have done something similar and how they have fared.
5. What other options do I have? Be creative. Don’t limit yourself. Consider all possibilities.
6. Do I need to make this decision today? Probably not. Take the time you need to do your research and explore your options.

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Investing in a Volatile Environment

The volatility that we recently experienced in the market is very troubling to some investors. Unfortunately, those investors who hit the panic button and sold off are recognizing large losses in their portfolios only to turn to investments that are perceived as safer places to invest.

The fact of the matter is that we invest our money to earn long-term rates of return that will exceed the rate of inflation and help us preserve our purchasing power. Historically, cash has been the worst place to invest over the long term.

Losing Investment Capital in a Volatile Market
According to Fidelity Investments, investors who sold their 401(k) holdings while the market was crashing between October 2017 and March 2018, and then stayed on the sidelines, have only seen their account values increase by about 2%, including contributions, through June of 2019. This compares with those who held on and saw account balances bounce back by around 50%. During periods of extreme volatility, wealth managers will often tell clients to stay invested rather than sell and lock in large losses in a seesaw market.

Building confidence in your strategy is a way to keep from making the mistake of buying high and selling low. Having the mental conviction to tell yourself that you have a carefully planned portfolio of high quality investments goes a long way toward getting through the toughest days of market volatility. If you are unsure of how to select high quality investments, consult with an financial manager or registered investment advisor.

The question is; how do you reach that state of mind? It’s not easy if you are the type of person that tends to get knots in your stomach when the market drops. We outline some steps below that might be able to increase your level of confidence.

Conquering the Fear of Volatility
One step you should take to better handle volatility is to make sure you have adequate cash reserves for a financial emergency that might arise. This way you are not depending on your portfolio for unforeseen expenses and your anxiety level will be lower, knowing that you don’t need to sell your investments when they have declined in value.

Make sure you have a mix of investments that fits in to your risk tolerance and time frame. This can be accomplished by considering how you have felt when past market declines have occurred. Your wealth management advisor should be able to provide you with a thought provoking questionnaire that will give you a score when completed. The score on the questionnaire will have a corresponding asset allocation that you can use to determine the split you will have between stocks, bonds and cash.

Once your allocation has been determined, stick with it. It is a good practice to reallocate your assets on a regular basis to keep your risk level the same. This means that a portion of those investments with better performance will be sold (sell high) to purchase in order to purchase shares in those that have not performed as well (buy low).

Other ways to hedge volatility can be through the use of options. Two simple strategies can be applied. One is the sale of covered call options against underlying stock or ETF positions. In this strategy you (the seller of the option) collect money from a speculator (the buyer of the option) in exchange for an agreement to sell your stock only if it reaches a specified price (higher than where it trades at the time of the transaction). The option must hit the price target (strike price) within a predetermined time frame (expiration date). If it does not, the contract expires you keep the money paid and are free to sell more options against that stock position.

The other strategy is to simply buy a put option. This gives you the right to sell your position in a stock or ETF that you own at a predetermined price within a predetermined time frame. For this privilege you will pay money (a premium) to the potential buyer (seller of the put option) of your stock. This strategy should be implemented in periods of low volatility, as the cost of the transaction will rise as markets begin to fall.

Buy With Conviction
Let’s say you’ve owned a stock that has done well over time. The stock has had a history of increasing revenue, profits and dividend increases. It seems like the stock is usually going up when the market goes up, only now there has been a big selloff in the market, and the stock has dropped dramatically due to market conditions. It may be time to do some homework on the company and make sure that the drop is due to just a generally bad market. If it that turns out to be the case, maybe it is time to buy more of the stock. Great companies often go on sale in market declines, only to have dramatic upturns once the market decline is over.

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