3 benefits of diversification and asset allocation

Key Points

  • Diversification and asset allocation are time-tested investment strategies.
  • Use them to invest with more intention, objectivity and confidence.
  • Your Ameriprise advisor can provide personalized advice to help you achieve your long-term investment goals.

To help mitigate risks, preserve the value of your portfolio and enhance growth opportunities over the long-term, you and your Ameriprise financial advisor can lean on the time-tested strategies of diversification and asset allocation.

Here’s a primer on how they can help you achieve your goals.

Asset allocation and diversification defined

  • Diversification is an investment strategy that spreads dollars across a variety of assets, including stocks, bonds, alternative investments and cash for the purpose of mitigating risk. Think of the adage, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.”
  • Asset allocation is another strategy that can help you customize your mix of asset types across a range of investments. The right asset allocation will factor in your goals, risk tolerance, time horizon and tax sensitivity while also keeping you focused on realistic return expectations.

How can you benefit?

Diversification and asset allocation — coupled with personalized advice from your Ameriprise financial advisor — can help you invest with more intention, objectivity and confidence. It also can help you:

Risk (standard deviation)

Standard deviation measures the spread or dispersion of returns around the average. A higher number indicates a higher level of risk, and a lower number indicates a lower level of risk.

Mitigate risks. Rather than investing in only one asset class — and accepting all the related risks — diversification can help you spread risk so investments that do poorly may be offset by those that do better. As the following table of two hypothetical portfolios shows, a broadly diversified portfolio delivers less risk than a basic two-asset portfolio. Less risk could make you less prone to emotionally driven, counterproductive decisions.

  3-year 5-year 10-year 15-year
Basic two-asset portfolio1 7.5% 7.6% 9.6% 10.5%
Broadly diversified portfolio2 6.1% 6.1% 8.4% 9.0%


Data source: Morning star direct, as of Dec. 31 2018. Risk/standard deviation assumes monthly rebalancing and is calculated using daily returns.
These figures are shown for illustrative purposes only and are not guaranteed. They do not reflect taxes or investment/product fees or expenses, which would reduce the figures shown here. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results.

Preserve the value of your portfolio. Over time, asset classes perform differently from one another, and no single asset class has consistently outperformed the rest. As the table of hypothetical scenarios highlights, with a diversified portfolio your investment gains can help offset your investment losses. Additionally, when your portfolio loses less of its value in a market decline, it has less ground to make up in a subsequent market recovery.

Investment strategy Starting value
(Jan. 1, 2004)
Ending value
(Dec. 31, 2018)
Largest decline during period6 Gain required for recovery7
Performance chasing3 $100,000 $166,120 -52% 107%
Bottom fishing4 $100,000 $94,703 -47% 87%
Moderate allocation5 $100,000 $237,014 -33% 50%


Data source: Morning star direct, as of Dec. 31 2018.
This example is shown for illustrative purposes only and is not guaranteed. Client experiences will vary. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results.

Enhance growth potential. When you have a wide array of investments in your portfolio and remain invested, you can benefit from outperforming segments of the market over time. As the chart below illustrates, continuing to invest a fixed amount at regular intervals — especially when stock prices fall — can help you benefit when markets eventually bounce back, as they have historically done. This is called dollar-cost averaging, an investment strategy that enables you to buy fewer shares when the cost is high and more shares when the cost is low. Over time, the average cost of your shares will usually be lower than the average price of those shares.

Your advisor can help you with a diversified asset allocation strategy

  • Do you have a mix of investments that support your goals?
  • What asset classes make the most sense for you?
  • Are you comfortable with the amount of risk in your portfolio?

Your Ameriprise financial advisor can provide personalized advice for a balanced, diversified investment portfolio. Regularly revisit your portfolio with your advisor, including when your financial goals or personal circumstances change.

1The basic 2-asset portfolio is comprised of 60% S&P 500 Index and 40% Bloomberg Barclays U.S. Aggregate Bond Index.

2The broadly diversified portfolio is comprised of 30% Bloomberg Barclays U.S. Aggregate Bond Index, 25% S&P 500 Index, 15% MSCI EAFE Index, 10% Bloomberg Barclays Capital U.S. Corporate High Yield 2% Issuer Cap Index, 5% Russell 2000 Index, 5% MSCI Emerging Markets Index, 5% S&P Global REIT Index and 5% Bloomberg Commodity Index.

3Illustrates an investment in the top performing asset class from the prior calendar year. The process continues every calendar year from Dec. 1, 2004 – Dec. 31, 2018.

4Illustrates an investment in the bottom performing asset class from the prior calendar year. The process continues every calendar year from Dec. 1, 2004 – Dec. 31, 2018.

5Illustrates an investment in a hypothetical moderate allocation mix of major asset class indices, rebalanced monthly. Moderate allocation consists of 30% Bloomberg Barclays US Aggregate Bond Index, 28% S&P 500 Index, 17% MSCI ACWI Ex USA Index, 8% Russell Midcap Index, 6% Non-Core Fixed Income Blended Benchmark (consisting of 33% Bloomberg Barclays U.S. Corp High Yield, 33% Bloomberg Barclays Global Treasury Ex U.S., and 33% JPM EMBI Global rebalanced monthly), 5% Wilshire Liquid Alternatives Index, 4% Russell 2000 Index, and 2% FTSE Treasury Bill 3-Month. The process continues every calendar year from Dec. 1, 2004 – Dec. 31, 2018.

6The largest decline during the period is the maximum loss from a high point in portfolio value to a low experienced during the period from Dec. 1, 2004 – Dec. 31, 2018.

7The gain required for recovery is the return required for the portfolio’s value to get back to its high point after the largest decline.

8The historical data are for illustrative purposes only, do not represent the performance of any specific portfolio managed by Janus Henderson or any particular investment, and are not intended to predict or depict future results, Indexes are unmanaged, do not reflect the deduction of fees or expenses, and are not available for direct investment. Janus Henderson prepared this chart for Ameriprise Financial and its clients. Janus Henderson is not affiliated with Ameriprise Financial.    

The views expressed are as of the date given, may change as market or other conditions change, and may differ from views expressed by other Ameriprise Financial associates or affiliates. Actual investments or investment decisions made by Ameriprise Financial and its affiliates, whether for its own account or on behalf of clients, will not necessarily reflect the views expressed. This information is not intended to provide investment advice and does not account for individual investor circumstances. 

Diversification, asset allocation and dollar-cost averaging strategies can help protect against certain investment risks, but do not assure a profit or protect against loss.

Past performance is not a guarantee of future results.

The indices used to represent asset classes in this review are unmanaged and do not reflect the impact of fees. It is not possible to invest directly in an index.

The S&P 500 Index is a basket of 500 stocks that are considered to be widely held. The S&P 500 index is weighted by market value (shares outstanding times share price), and its performance is thought to be representative of the stock market as a whole. The S&P 500 index was created in 1957 although it has been extrapolated backwards to several decades earlier for performance comparison purposes. This index provides a broad snapshot of the overall US equity market. Over 70% of all US equity value is tracked by the S&P 500. Inclusion in the index is determined by Standard & Poor’s and is based upon their market size, liquidity, and sector.

The Russell 2000 Index measures the performance of the small-cap segment of the US equity universe. The Russell 2000 is constructed to provide a comprehensive and unbiased small-cap barometer and is completely reconstituted annually to ensure larger stocks do not distort the performance and characteristics of the true small-cap opportunity set. The Russell 2000 includes the smallest 2000 securities in the Russell 3000.

The S&P Global REIT Index includes REITs from both developed and emerging markets.

The Bloomberg Barclays Capital U.S. Corporate High Yield 2% Issuer Cap Index is an un-managed index of the 2% Issuer Cap component of the Bloomberg Barclays Capital High Yield Corporate Bond Index, which is a market value-weighted index of fixed rate, non-investment grade debt.

The Bloomberg Barclays US Aggregate Bond Index is a broad-based flagship benchmark that measures the investment grade, US dollar denominated, fixed-rate taxable bond market. The index includes Treasuries, government-related and corporate securities, MBS (agency fixed-rate and hybrid ARM pass throughs), ABS and CMBS (agency and non-agency).

The MSCI EAFE (Europe, Australasia, Far East) Index is a free float-adjusted market capitalization index that is designed to measure the equity market performance of developed markets, excluding the US & Canada. The MSCI EAFE Index consists of the following 21 developed market country indexes: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom, as of June 2017.

The MSCI Emerging Markets Index captures large- and mid-cap representation across 24 Emerging Markets (EM) countries. With 843 constituents, the index covers approximately 85% of the free float-adjusted market capitalization in each country. The MSCI Emerging Markets Index consists of the following 24 EM country indexes: Brazil, Chile, China, Colombia, Czech Republic, Egypt, Greece, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Qatar, Russia, South Africa, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey and United Arab Emirates, as of December 2017.

Formerly known as the Dow Jones UBS Commodity Index, the Bloomberg Commodity Index is calculated on an excess return basis and composed of futures contracts on 22 physical commodities. It reflects the return of underlying commodity futures price movements.

MSCI ACWI Ex USA Index is a market-capitalization-weighted index maintained by Morgan Stanley Capital International (MSCI). It is designed to provide a broad measure of stock performance throughout the world, with the exception of U.S.-based companies. The MSCI All Country World Index Ex-U.S. includes both developed and emerging markets.

Russell Midcap Index is a market capitalization-weighted index comprised of 800 publicly traded U.S. companies with market caps of between $2 and $10 billion. The 800 companies in the Russell Midcap Index are the 800 smallest of the 1,000 companies that comprise Russell 1000 Index.

Non-Core Fixed Income Blended Benchmark consists of 33% Bloomberg Barclays U.S. Corp High Yield, 33% Bloomberg Barclays Global Treasury Ex U.S., and 33% JPM EMBI Global rebalanced monthly.

Bloomberg Barclays U.S. Corp High Yield Bond Index measures the USD-denominated, high yield, fixed-rate corporate bond market. Securities are classified as high yield if the middle rating of Moody's, Fitch and S&P is Ba1/BB+/BB+ or below. Bonds from issuers with an emerging markets country of risk, based on Barclays EM country definition, are excluded.

Bloomberg Barclays Global Treasury Ex U.S. is a subset of the flagship Global Treasury Index that does not have any exposure to US debt. This multi-currency benchmark includes investment grade, fixed-rate bonds issued by governments in their native currencies.

JPM EMBI Global tracks total returns for traded external debt instruments in the emerging markets, and is an expanded version of the JPMorgan EMBI+. As with the EMBI+, the EMBI Global includes U.S.dollar-denominated Brady bonds, loans, and Eurobonds with an outstanding face value of at least $500 million. It covers more of the eligible instruments than the EMBI+ by relaxing somewhat the strict EMBI+ limits on secondary market trading liquidity.

The Wilshire Liquid Alternative Index SM measures the collective performance of the five Wilshire Liquid Alternative strategies that make up the Wilshire Liquid Alternative Universe. The Wilshire Liquid Alternative Index (WLIQA) is designed to provide a broad measure of the liquid alternative market by combining the performance of the Wilshire Liquid Alternative Equity Hedge IndexSM (WLIQAEH), Wilshire Liquid Alternative Global Macro IndexSM (WLIQAGM), Wilshire Liquid Alternative Relative Value IndexSM (WLIQARV), Wilshire Liquid Alternative Multi-Strategy IndexSM (WLIQAMS), and Wilshire Liquid Alternative Event Driven IndexSM (WLIQAED).

The FTSE 3 Month US T Bill Index Series is intended to track the daily performance of 3 month US Treasury bills. The indexes are designed to operate as a reference rate for a series of funds.

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