Your investment strategy is in place and seems to be ticking along just fine—but then your life takes a sharp turn. Is there a chance your portfolio may no longer be aligned with your new reality?
For many, a significant change in circumstances—perhaps you've lost your job, or bought a house—may temporarily throw finances into turmoil. But the good news? This is the perfect opportunity to evaluate how well your investment approach is supporting your goals.
“When individuals are going through change, they're much more open, thinking more broadly about their financial circumstances, and more creatively about the strategies they should be employing," explains Toronto financial planner Rona Birenbaum.
For Ottawa-based software designer Sabeel Ansari, his 2013 marriage was an ideal time for a portfolio strategy review. Although Ansari, who shares his thoughts on investing and personal finance on his Roadmap2Retire blog, is a fan of dividend growth stocks, his wife prefers a more conservative approach. After re-evaluating, they opted for a more diversified strategy.
One of the most common adjustments after a life change is the need to introduce a cash position into a portfolio to address an income gap, Birenbaum explains. This may be the case for people going through a job loss or starting a new business. Conversely, those who receive an influx of cash—through an inheritance, for example—need to find the right strategy for those funds.
If you think it's time your approach had a tune-up to better match your new circumstances, here are a few tips on how to move forward:
Find out how your current approach is performing
As Birenbaum explains, it's always wise to review your strategy to see how it's actually working. Start by taking a look at your portfolio's historical returns—this will help you figure out whether rate of return expectations are achievable if you make no changes to your portfolio strategy, position and structure. (Past performance is not guaranteed and may not be repeated, so it's important to not make a decision solely on past performance.)
Figure out what your financial needs are now
After you take a look at past performance, it's time to do a "temperature check" of whether that rate of return will help you accomplish your short, medium and long-term financial goals, says Birenbaum.
“If the returns are going to be insufficient, given someone's approach to managing their money, then they have an opportunity to not just possibly change their portfolio structure—that may not be necessary—but also address the other areas of their financial management," she says. This could include tax minimization, savings or debt reduction.
A life change can also call for a new strategy that requires less of a day-to-day commitment.
As Ansari explains: “I think it depends on how much time everyone has to dedicate and research. Because when you're invested in 30 different companies, you want to stay on top of them, to make sure you're not missing something."
“Now that I'm getting busier after the birth of our daughter, I feel like I don't mind moving part of my portfolio into index funds as well," he adds.
Implement changes, if needed
If there's an income gap, the final step is to figure out how to close it, says Birenbaum.
“If one aspect of that is to either improve the rate of return of the portfolio, structure the investment portfolio more tax-efficiently, if we're talking specifically about investments, reduce fees—whatever it is, the next step would be then to find those solutions."
If your own circumstances or investment objectives have changed, a conversation with your advisor to revisit the suitability of your investments is recommended.