(MoneyWatch) It is a delicious irony that U.S. stocks are trading at multi-year highs on the four-year anniversary of the worst week of the financial crisis. It's also a great reminder that those lofty stock market gains can turn into devastating losses faster than you can say "Lehman Brothers."
Not to bring you back to the bad old times, but over the course of one week four years ago, the investment banking business changed forever (Merrill Lynch was absorbed by Bank of America, Lehman Brothers went broke, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley were forced to become bank holding companies); the NY Fed lent AIG $85 billion; a large money market fund "broke the buck"; and the Treasury Department introduced the first version of TARP.
Yet here we are four years later and all three indexes have retraced all of the financial crisis losses and are now at levels not seen in years. With Dow only 4 percent below its all-time high of 14,164, reached Oct. 9, 2007, it has been a long and painful slog from March 2009, when the blue chip index touched 6,547. In fact, as my colleague Allan Roth points out, when you consider the total return of the market,.
Given the context of the four year anniversary and multi-year highs, it's a good opportunity to remind investors how to enjoy the upside the markets are currently providing, while keeping an eye on the downside, just in case.
Here's what you should do NOW:
- Open your statements
- Review where you stand
- Take risk assessment
- Re-balance according to personal goals
- Beef-up cash for near-term funding
If you work with a broker or an advisor:
- Schedule appointment to review progress
- Confirm how much service costs
- Review and update your plan
- Consider replacing managed funds with lower cost index or exchange-traded funds
Over the past four years, I am periodically asked to provide portfolio allocations for readers and listeners. I'll take this opportunity to throw out a few of my favorites, but please, please make sure that you start with a plan and a risk tolerance test before you plunge into any investment.
Jill's Wimpy Portfolio (35% cash-CDs, 40% bonds, 20% stocks, 5% commodities)
- 15% cash
- 20% CDs (laddered)
- 30% Bond Fund (Vanguard's Intermediate Term Bond Index fund (VFICX), Vanguard Short-Term Investment Grade fund (VFSTX), Vanguard Total Bond Market Index Fund (VBMFX), Schwab Total Bond Market (SWLBX), Fidelity U.S. Bond Index (FBIDX)
- 10% International Bond Fund T. Rowe Price International Bond Fund (RPIBX) or if you want to assume more risk, you can add the T. Rowe Price Emerging Markets Bond (PREMX)
- 10% Total Stock Market Index Fund (Fidelity Spartan Total Market Index, Schwab 1000 Index Fund Investor or Vanguard Total Stock Market Index)
- 5% International Stock Index Fund (Fidelity Spartan International Index (FSIIX), Vanguard Total International Stock Index (VGTSX)
- 5% Emerging Markets (Vanguard Emerging Markets Stock Index (VEIEX) or T. Rowe Price Emerging Markets Stock (PRMSX)
- 5% Commodity Fund (Harbor Commodity Real Return Strategy (HACMX) or for gold bugs out there, Vanguard Precious Metals and Mining (VGPMX)
Jill's "Getting Started" Portfolio (for first-time or young investors with at least a 10-year investment horizon and tolerance for risk; 35% bonds, 65% stocks)
- 35% Bond Fund (Vanguard's Intermediate Term Bond Index fund (VFICX), Vanguard Short-Term Investment Grade fund (VFSTX), Vanguard Total Bond Market Index Fund (VBMFX), Schwab Total Bond Market (SWLBX), Fidelity U.S. Bond Index (FBIDX)
- 55% Total Stock Market Index Fund (Fidelity Spartan Total Market Index, Schwab 1000 Index Fund Investor or Vanguard Total Stock Market Index)
- 10% International Stock Index Fund (Fidelity Spartan International Index (FSIIX), Vanguard Total International Stock Index (VGTSX)
Or, check out Target Date funds, where the manager reduces risk as you approach a predetermined time. Both Vanguard Target Retirement and T. Rowe Price Retirement provide good options.
Jill's BALANCED ETF (5% cash, 40% bonds, 45% stocks, 10% commodities/currency)
- 10% cash
- 30% Vanguard Total Bond Market ETF (BND)
- 10% SPDR DB International Government Inflation Protected Bond ETF (WIP)
- 10% Vanguard Total Stock Market ETF (VTI)
- 10% Vanguard Dividend Appreciation ETF (VIG)
- 10% Vanguard Small-Cap ETF (VB)
- 10% Vanguard FTSE All-World Ex-U.S. ETF (VEU)
- 5% Vanguard Emerging Mkts ETF (VWO)
- 5% Wisdom Tree Dreyfus Commodity Currency (CCX)
- 5% Gold (IAU OR GLD)