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For Institutional / Wholesale / Professional Clients

The content on this website is intended for institutional and professional investors in the United States only and is not suitable for individual investors or non-U.S. entities. Institutional and professional investors include pension funds, investment companies registered under the Investment Company Act of 1940, financial intermediaries, consultants, endowments and foundations, and investment advisors registered under the Investment Advisors Act of 1940.

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Retirement Planning

Three Steps to Building a Long-Term Portfolio

Jan Blakeley Holman, CFP, CIMA, ChFC, CDFA, CFS, GFS
Director of Advisor Education
27 Aug 2020
2 min read

Life expectancy in the U.S. has grown from 47 years In 1900 to 78 in 2020. As people live longer, it’s important to factor in longevity in constructing client portfolios.

In 1900 an individual’s life expectancy was 47 years. Today, the average life expectancy for men and women in the United States is 78 years. Given the fact that many of us are living much longer, it’s important to factor in longevity when you construct client investment portfolios.

Here are three steps to building a long-term investment portfolio:

  1. Accept Reality
    Because of longer life expectancy, an individual who begins investing in their 20s can expect to have an investment timeframe of 50 years or longer. That means your clients have plenty of time to let their money work for them.

    • DO: Seek investment opportunities that grow moderately over the long term. There’s no need to take unnecessary risk or recommend investments that are “flyers” to reach for big wins. Instead, let time do the work.
    • DO: There’s no way around it, clients must own equities to fund their futures.
    • DON’T: Market timing and chasing investment returns are not examples of successful long-term strategies.
  2. Be Thoughtful about Portfolio Construction
    Portfolio diversification is critical to long-term portfolio growth.

    • DO: Make sure your client’s mix of securities is the right risk level for their investment experience and their age.
    • DON’T: Don’t just choose a variety of index funds and assume a portfolio is appropriately diversified. This approach can lead to overdiversification.
  3. Let Your Investments Work for You
    Investment portfolios are similar to trees that need pruning over time to avoid overgrowth.

    • DO: Rebalance client portfolios regularly.
    • DON’T: Clients should be long-term investors unless there is a fundamental reason to sell an investment. Market volatility is a fact of life.
    • DON’T: As clients age, don’t be tempted to “get conservative” by rotating out of equities and into bonds. Historically, equities have provided investors with an inflation hedge. Even during periods of low inflation, investors need their investments to increase more than the cost of living so equities should be a part of every longevity-oriented investment portfolio while bonds provide ballast.

Finally, Greg Davies, head of Behavioural Finance at Oxford University, conducted a study of investor behavior and here’s what he found: the investor who looks at their investments on a daily basis will see that the portfolio has gone down in price 41% of the time. An investor who looks at their investment portfolio every five years will see the portfolio has declined 12% of the time. Investors who look at their portfolios every 20 years will never see a decrease in price. Davies’ study demonstrates that investment success is a long-term proposition that requires patience.

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