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This rebalancing discussion is the last installment of a three-part series.  The first discussion defined what is commonly referred to as rebalancing one’s investment portfolio.  Rebalancing is in simplest form is realigning an investment portfolio to a desired asset allocation after time inevitably changes its composition due to the normal fluctuations in the financial markets.  Rebalancing is normally done at set intervals of time of which once a year is the most common.  The link to the full discussion of part one can be found here:

https://latticeworkwealth.com/2015/07/16/how-to-rebalance-your-investment-portfolio-part-1-of-3/

The second discussion outlined a relatively easy way to come up with an allocation for an investment portfolio and how it is rebalanced.  This particular method is to rely on what are commonly referred to as target date or life cycle mutual funds.  These mutual funds offered by some of the largest asset managers in the financial services industry recommend a given asset allocation for an investment portfolio based upon the year one is retiring.  The mutual funds are carefully crafted to take into account risk levels in addition to reaching financial goals.  Additionally, these mutual funds are periodically adjusted over time to keep the investment portfolio aligned with a desired asset allocation.  Bottom line, the asset manager does all the work for you and can be a nice way for novice investors to get their “feet wet” when it comes to investing.  Note that the discussion also outlines how to increase or decrease one’s risk profile (meaning take on more risk to capture possibly higher investment returns or take on less risk to possibly lower the amount one’s investment portfolio might go down by) while still using this approach.  The link to the full discussion of part one can be found here:

https://latticeworkwealth.com/2015/07/29/how-to-rebalance-your-investment-portfolio-part-2-of-3/

The third and final part of the rebalancing discussion will focus on what I define as dynamic rebalancing.  Dynamic rebalancing may be called by different names depending on the investment professional, but the concept is generally the same.  Dynamic rebalancing is reserved for more advanced individual investors.  An individual investor needs to be comfortable with understanding the different investment options available and follow the financial markets more closely.  Dynamic rebalancing still has the basic definition of rebalancing at its core.  However, there is a bit more flexibility involved when realigning one’s investment portfolio.

Let’s dig a bit deeper into dynamic rebalancing and why it is an option for a subset of more advanced individual investors.  In order to start we need to go back to the original definition of rebalancing.  Rebalancing is looking at one’s investment portfolio at set intervals (usually coincides with the end of the year) and moving monies between asset classes.  For instance, stocks may perform better than bonds in a certain year so the investment portfolio has a higher exposure to stocks at the end of the period.  In order to realign the investment portfolio back to its original composition, the investor would need to sell stocks and buy bonds.  The amounts to sell and buy are calculated such that the end result is that the percentages invested in stocks and bonds are at their original levels of the beginning of the period.  As long as one’s financial goals and risk tolerance have not changed, the original percentages are used.  It is a hard rule meaning that there are no exceptions for the final asset allocation to stocks, bonds, and cash.  The percentages are set in stone such that the individual investor does not get emotional by any short-term financial market volatility and drift away from his/her desired financial plan.

Dynamic rebalancing still has percentages for the investment in certain asset classes, investment styles, or industry sectors but a band of acceptable percentages is utilized.  For example, an individual investor would rebalance the investment portfolio at the end of the year, but he/she might decide whether to have anywhere between 65% – 70% invested in stocks.  Why would any individual investor want to use such an approach?  Well, if one looks back on financial market history, the ebbs and flows of asset classes rarely line up with calendar years.  For instance, small cap stocks might outperform other domestic stocks for two years instead of just one.  What usually ends up happening in the financial markets is that financial assets become overvalued or undervalued relative to each other as time passes.  Other investors will bid up certain stocks or bonds and sell other stocks and bonds because of the perceived likelihood of investment performance returns.  However, at a certain point in time, the scales of value tip and it becomes better to invest in the “unloved” stocks and bonds that were being sold so much in the past.  This phenomenon will hardly ever occur exactly in one-year increments.

The most important thing to remember about dynamic rebalancing is that the individual investor has financial flexibility in the asset allocation percentages, but he/she is not allowed to engage in “market timing”.  “Market timing” is when any investor believes he/she knows exactly the right time to buy or sell financial assets.  In fact, the financial media will always have financial pundits being interviewed or write investment articles predicting when the stock market will peak or when the market is at the lowest level it can go so investors just have to buy.  Professional investors might predict one or two tops or bottoms of the financial markets, but there are only a handful of them that can make a living at this approach.  If it is too hard for the professional, institutional investors to do so, individual investors should not have the hubris to think that they can.

Here is an illustration of dynamic rebalancing to make things much clearer.  An individual investor will have defined percentages to invest in certain asset classes for the investment portfolio, but he/she will also have a band of acceptable percentages.  The following is a hypothetical investment portfolio of $1,000,000 using dynamic rebalancing:

1)  Investment Portfolio at the Beginning of the Year
Type of Asset Dollar Amount % in Port Overall
Large Cap Stocks              $300,000 30.0%
Mid Cap Stocks                  125,000 12.5%
Small Cap Stocks                  100,000 10.0%
International Stocks                  200,000 20.0%
Emerging Market Stocks                    25,000 2.5% 75.0%
Domestic Bonds                  150,000 15.0%
International Bonds                    50,000 5.0% 20.0%
Cash                    50,000 5.0% 5.0%
Total           $1,000,000 100.0% 100.0%
Type of Asset Low – Band High – Band
Large Cap Stocks 30.0% 40.0%
Mid Cap Stocks 10.0% 20.0%
Small Cap Stocks 10.0% 15.0%
International Stocks 15.0% 25.0%
Emerging Market Stocks 0.0% 5.0%
Domestic Bonds 15.0% 30.0%
International Bonds 5.0% 15.0%
Cash 5.0% 25.0%
2)  Investment Portfolio at the End of the Year after Assumed Market Fluctuations
Type of Asset Dollar Amount % in Port Overall
Large Cap Stocks               $275,000 26.6%
Mid Cap Stocks                  150,000 14.5%
Small Cap Stocks                  160,000 15.5%
International Stocks                  175,000 16.9%
Emerging Market Stocks                    10,000 1.0% 74.4%
Domestic Bonds                  175,000 16.9%
International Bonds                    40,000 3.9% 20.8%
Cash                    50,000 4.8% 4.8%
Total            $1,035,000 100.0% 100.0%
Type of Asset Low – Band High – Band
Large Cap Stocks 30.0% 40.0%
Mid Cap Stocks 10.0% 20.0%
Small Cap Stocks 10.0% 15.0%
International Stocks 15.0% 25.0%
Emerging Market Stocks 0.0% 5.0%
Domestic Bonds 15.0% 30.0%
International Bonds 5.0% 15.0%
Cash 5.0% 25.0%
3)  Steps Taken to Dynamically Rebalance the Investment Portfolio
Type of Asset Dollar Amount Buy or Sell
Large Cap Stocks               $35,000 Buy
Mid Cap Stocks                            0 No Action
Small Cap Stocks              (40,000) Sell
International Stocks                   5,000 Buy
Emerging Market Stocks              (10,000) Sell
Domestic Bonds              (20,000) Sell
International Bonds                 25,000 Buy
Cash                   5,000 Buy
Total                         $0
4)  Investment Portfolio After Dynamic Rebalancing
 Type of Asset  Dollar Amount % in Port Overall
Large Cap Stocks               $310,000 30.0%
Mid Cap Stocks                  150,000 14.5%
Small Cap Stocks                  120,000 11.6%
International Stocks                  180,000 17.4%
Emerging Market Stocks                                – 0.0% 73.4%
Domestic Bonds                  155,000 15.0%
International Bonds                    65,000 6.3% 21.3%
Cash                    55,000 5.3% 5.3%
Total            $1,035,000 100.0% 100.0%
 Type of Asset  Low – Band High – Band
Large Cap Stocks 30.0% 40.0%
Mid Cap Stocks 10.0% 20.0%
Small Cap Stocks 10.0% 15.0%
International Stocks 15.0% 25.0%
Emerging Market Stocks 0.0% 5.0%
Domestic Bonds 15.0% 30.0%
International Bonds 5.0% 15.0%
Cash 5.0% 25.0%

Here are the salient pieces of information to note when reviewing the hypothetical scenario above.  At the beginning of the year, the individual investor allocates the investment portfolio amongst a number of options.  The options are large cap stocks, mid cap stocks, small cap stocks, international stocks, emerging markets stocks, domestic bonds, international bonds, and cash.  Note that the individual investor has opted to define bands for acceptable percentage exposures to these investment options.  The investment amount of the asset allocation in each category is within the band.  Additionally, assume the individual investor has established acceptable and desired percentage exposures to the overall asset class.  The percentage allocation to stocks is between 70.0% – 80.0%, to bonds is between 20.0% – 30.0%, and to cash is between 0.0% – 15.0%.  Note that the sum of the bands will not equal 100.0%; however, the investment portfolio at any given time will always add up to 100.0%.  In the third part of the hypothetical scenario, there are changes to the investment portfolio in terms of buying, selling, or doing nothing because of the dynamic rebalancing process (in part because some of the bands are violated).  When reviewing the fourth part, the balances and percentage allocations reflect those changes and the percentages do not match the percentage allocations from the first part.  They do not need to as long as the rules for the bands are followed at an overall level and specific-component level.

The hypothetical scenario can be adapted to any investment portfolio size and number of components in the investment portfolio.  Furthermore, the bands of acceptable exposure to asset classes overall or more specific investments can be lower or wider.  The main point of the bands is that the individual investor has more control over the asset allocation of the investment portfolio.  With that being said, the individual investor is not allowed to become too greedy or too fearful.  There are times when a certain type of investment performs extraordinarily well and becomes an ever larger portion of the investment portfolio.  If the percentage allocation exceeds the band though, the amount invested must be reduced to limit risk.  On the other hand, there are times when a certain type of investment performs quite poorly and becomes a rather low portion of the investment portfolio.  It might be tempting to sell the entire portion of the investment portfolio.  Generally speaking though, an individual investor should have exposure to a number of investment components and not try to determine when it is right to avoid one altogether to remain diversified.

In summary, one will note that dynamic rebalancing is much more complicated than using hard and fast rules for the absolute value of percentages allocated to each investment component.  It should really only be used by more advanced individual investors.  Thus, I would urge caution before deciding to implement the dynamic rebalancing approach to your investment process.  I would mention that it is very important to shy away from any investing strategy in general that is too complex to understand.  It is easy to be confused even more as time passes and make critical investing errors in the future.  As it relates to rebalancing, an individual investor may want to start with the standard usage of rebalancing discussed in parts one and/or two of this three-part series.  Dynamic rebalancing might be an option for the future, or you may even start your own hypothetical paper portfolio with this method to learn more.  Lastly, dynamic rebalancing does not need to be used.  I only offer it as a tool that is appropriate for a subset of individual investors.  Therefore, you should not view dynamic rebalancing as an investment strategy that must be utilized in the future once rebalancing is fully understood.  It is perfectly acceptable to stick with normal rebalancing and never even begin using dynamic rebalance as an investment strategy.  Moreover, some individual investors using dynamic rebalancing get carried away and start trying to “time the market” which would be a far worse result.

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