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    Friday, January 02, 2009

    The 90 Rule

    Let's start the new year by talking money. I have been thinking of an appropriate portfolio allocation model following the wrath of the crisis that have wiped half of my portfolio value. As I have tinkered in different accounts mixing different asset classes, I have found something that further confirmed the mainstream adage of "don't put your eggs in one basket". It turns out that my 529 account which hold the most bond allocation (some 30%) have declined the least, while other equity-dominant accounts have fared worse, some actually fell by 60%.

    Fortunately, I still have the bulk of my accounts, set aside for further schooling purposes, in safe cash-equivalent instruments. Therefore, no adverse impact caused by market gyration. However, the Rupiah depreciation of some 20-30% last month have caused heavy burden on my side to continue saving for school. Thus I've decided to postpone further schooling for at least another year, bearing economic stability.

    By taking lesson from the crash, I've come to believe more in the virtue of diversification, extending to debt-instruments. According to the popular advice of the Vanguard founder, John Bogle, one should have bond allocation proportionally to one's age. This simple allocation model advocate for picking a number (as a proxy to one's life expectancy) and substract it with one's current age (as a proxy for bond allocation). The result will be the appropriate allocation for equities in one's porfolio. While aggresive investor will use 110 or higher as the basis, the rule of thumb is to use 100. For example, a 40 years old should have 60% of his portfolio in equity and 40% in bond (100 - 40 = 60).

    With slight modification, I've decided to use 90 as my basis. The idea is to put 10% of my portfolio in a managed account to generate continuing benefit for philanthropical purposes. The 10% allocation is arbitrary and exclude charitable expenses. Examples of financial instrument for this account might be a special-purpose mutual fund (like what I had wrote sometime ago), or a self-managed microfinance account. With that in mind, my portfolio allocation should be 62% equity and 28% bond. It seems that I've had larger equity proportion than I should, to my detriment. I'll try to reach this allocation for my retirement portfolio by mid-year. Wish me luck!

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