You can’t choose an appropriate investment strategy until you’re clear about your investments goals and time frame. Working out your goals will help you identify the types of investments that are suitable for you and how much risk you can take.
Set your investment goals
Investing is about putting your money to work to achieve your personal goals. So start by identifying what you want to achieve by when. Setting goals forces you to plan, and having a clear goal – ideally written down – helps motivate you to stick to your plan.
Think about your goals first. Perhaps you are saving for a holiday, for a home deposit or to pay for a child’s education. Or your goal may be to boost retirement savings. You can then see that different goals have different timeframes. You may only have 6 months or a year to save for a holiday but if you are saving for your retirement you might have 25 or 50 years.
Setting a time frame for each goal helps you stay on track. You may have several goals, each with a different time frame. Allocating a time frame to each investment goal will enable you to think about how much you can afford to invest and how long it will realistically take you to reach your goal.
Set your time frame
Setting a time frame for each goal will help you work out how much investment risk you can afford to take.
If you are saving money over a short period of time it may be tempting to use higher-risk investments. But growth investments, such as shares, are not appropriate for short investment time frames as their value might drop suddenly, just when you need your money.
But if you are saving for a long-term goal, such as retirement in 25 years, then you have time to ride out the ups and downs in the market. This means you can take on a higher level of investment risk.
How do you feel about risking your money?
Risk tolerance also depends on your ability to cope with dips in the value of your investments. Factors that can influence your risk tolerance include your age, your ability to recover from capital losses and your health.
To decide where you fit on the risk tolerance scale, ask yourself this question: ‘How would I feel if I woke up tomorrow and found my investment balance had dropped 20%?’
If this drop would cause you to worry a lot and pull out of the investment, then a high risk investment is not for you. This is because you could pull out at the worst possible time and actually compound your losses.
If, on the other hand, a drop in the market causes you to start looking for bargain buys, then you are probably very comfortable with market fluctuations. You will be comfortable with a higher level of investment risk.
Your comfort level could be somewhere in between.
How much risk should you accept?
Your overall risk tolerance is the lesser of the risk you are comfortable with and the risk your time frame will allow you to take. Your partner may not have the same risk tolerance as you. If you are considering a joint investment, you may need to compromise on an investment option you are both comfortable with.
What we mean by growth, balanced and conservative
When we use ‘growth’, ‘balanced’, ‘conservative’ and ‘cash’ here, this is what we mean.
- Growth – invests 70-90% in shares or property. Aims for higher average returns over the long term.
- Balanced – invests 50-70% in shares or property, and the rest in fixed interest and cash. Aims for reasonable returns, but less than growth funds to reduce risk of losses in bad years.
- Conservative – invests 30-50% in shares and property with the majority in fixed interest and cash. Aims to reduce the risk of loss and therefore accepts a lower return over the long term.
- Cash – invests 100% in deposits with Australian deposit-taking institutions. Aims for stable returns over a short term.
Different funds may have different names for their portfolios and asset allocations may not be the same as ours. Read the fund’s PDS to find out how money will be allocated for each investment option.
You’ve identified your goals, know your time frames and considered your risk tolerance next step is to contact your financial adviser who will help create a strategy to suit your needs.