The goal of every investor is to create an investment portfolio that increases in value significantly, and there’s no shortage of advisors, investment managers and financial journalists sharing advice on how to achieve it. But if you’re diligent enough to reach that lofty plateau, you’ll find that there’s not a lot of advice out there about what to do next.
Since a poorly managed portfolio can quickly lose value even easier than it gained it, planning for the next steps is an important exercise. To help avoid that scenario, here are some of the fundamental things you must do when your investment portfolio increases in value significantly.
Rebalance Your Portfolio
Generally speaking, the individual components of your portfolio won’t likely go up in sync. In fact, one of the signs of a well-constructed account is that it has investments that don’t go up in tandem with one another.
If your overall account has significantly increased in value, it’s highly likely that some portions of it are now worth more than others. For example, if you set up a portfolio that’s 50% in stocks and 50% in bonds right before a major bull market, you’re likely to find that your stock allocation at some point creeps up to 60%, 65%, or even 70% of your total portfolio.
While that may translate to significant gains, it also means your account is now out of balance from your initial portfolio allocation. As a lot of thought and planning should have gone into that allocation, based on your investment objectives, risk tolerance, and other factors, it’s usually a good idea to rebalance your portfolio after you’ve achieved significant gains.
Review Your Portfolio for Risk
Sometimes, a portfolio shoots up in value because one or two investments in particular hit a hot streak.
For example, you may have allocated 5% of your portfolio to speculative biotechnology stocks, hoping that one of them creates a new drug and/or generates significant profits. In that scenario, that one individual stock may quadruple in value or even more, perhaps generating a 10x return on your initial investment.
While that stock may continue to do well in the future, a number of non-economic factors, from investors covering their short positions to speculators riding the momentum, may have helped prop up your stock’s valuation. Investors like those can turn on a dime and begin dumping a stock, driving it back down just as fast as it rose.
Whether or not this will happen, it’s a good idea to review your portfolio for risky situations like this one after your value jumps significantly.
Play With Your Profits
One strategy after your account value goes through the roof is to take your initial investment off the table and play with your profits. That way, you’re letting your winners run, at least to some degree, but you’re also protecting the money you put into your account at the start.
Imagine, for example, that you buy a stock that doubles in value, turning your initial $5,000 into $10,000. You could sell half of that position, put your initial $5,000 back in your pocket, and still have $5,000 invested in the stock.
Even if the stock takes a tumble in the future, you won’t be “losing” any money, at least in terms of your initial investment. But if the stock keeps running, you’ll just be generating pure profit.
Let Your Winners Run
Some experts suggest you should let your winners run and trim your losers, rather than selling a stock that’s on the move. The theory behind this belief is that winning stocks tend to draw more and more investors, feeding off their own success.
Of course, if you choose this route, you’ll still have to evaluate the merits and valuation of the stock. For example, you should ask yourself, does the stock still have long-term prospects? Has it been pushed up by speculators or is it trading in line with its future valuation? Does it have new products coming online or has it reached its full potential?
If all of these answers are positive, then there is no reason to reduce or eliminate a long-term winning position.
Use a Tax-Loss Selling Strategy
One advanced strategy to maximize the value of gains in your portfolio is to use tax-loss offsets. The IRS allows you to apply any capital losses you take against your capital gains, meaning if you’re in that position, you can book your profits without even having to pay taxes on them.
For example, if you have a portfolio with three stocks that have lost $3,000 each and one stock that has gained $9,000, you can sell all four positions and pay absolutely nothing in capital gains tax.
In addition to the tax benefits, this type of strategy has the side benefit of allowing you to protect your profits while eliminating some losing positions at the same time.
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