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Why a 60/40 Portfolio is Not for You
Episode 216th July 2021 • Financial Life Planning for Busy Parents • Mike Morton, CFP®, RLP®, ChFC®
00:00:00 00:21:16

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The majority of advice online is too generic to take seriously for your personal finances. The 60/40 portfolio (60% stocks and 40% fixed income) is used in academic research and might be the median portfolio for retirees - but that doesn’t make it appropriate for you.

How should you construct your own portfolio for now and the future? Think about when you are going to spend your money and divide it into three categories:

  1. 1-2 years: Invest this in CDs, checking/savings accounts or money markets
  2. 3-7 years: Invest in a mix of bonds (or a bond fund) 
  3. 7+ years: Invest in stocks

I recommend taking out a piece of paper, dividing it into 3 sections and write out the actual dollars you might spend in each section, beyond what your income will cover.How might this apply to you? 

  1. If you are young, just starting your career maybe you want $30k for a home down payment (1-2 years) and the rest is for retirement (7+ years)
  2. Middle career with a young family: Maybe $50k towards college costs (3-7 years) and the rest for retirement (7+ years)
  3. Near or in retirement: Living expenses (1-2 years and 3-7 years) and the future (7+ years).

The point is: apply this to your situation with actual dollars. At that point you can figure out the percentages in each category: stocks, bonds and cash.



Mike: [:

This is generic advice that does not apply to your situation. So what should apply instead? That's what we get into in today's show. I hope you enjoy it.

Matt: [:

Mike: [00:00:38] Good Matt doing well.

Matt: [:

And so it's really a pleasure to be able to share some of your insights with all of our listeners. And you suggested that today we should talk about why a 60, 40 portfolio is not for you. So I have a very technical question to ask you. What's a 60, 40 portfolio, Mike Morton.

Mike: [:

Matt: [00:01:16] Thanks. I'm also a legendary professional. I know how to ask what are things that I don't know,

Mike: [:

Matt: [00:01:24] always a good idea to ask.

Mike: [:

60 40 portfolio. So I see it all the time. And the news today, is the 60 40 portfolio dead. That's what the headlines are because bonds returns are so low. We've had great, for the last 20, 30, 40 years, the bonds I've done really well, but since interest rates are so low, now that people are questioning the 60, 40 portfolio.

So it's just the kind of classic. Portfolio. And so I thought today we would talk about why this portfolio is not for you.

Matt: [:

So generic advice is generic for a reason, it's a dead average. And by the way, speaking of dead it may be based on things that made sense when someone. Put something up on, an article that you found on Google five or 10 years ago may not apply to individual situations may not apply to today.

Okay. So going a couple of click depths down if the 60 40 is not like that dead average that should apply today and should apply to you anymore. What should people be thinking about instead?

Mike: [:

Just, a little bit deeper than reading a couple articles and say, oh, I should just be 60, 40. That's what the advice says. So in today's episode, we'll talk about how to do that. What's the process, very simple process for figuring out. What kind of mix of stocks and bonds will make sense for you going forward.

So on that note, and to just give a little story about this, you would think in retirement, you want a conservative portfolio, right? Hey, I, I only have one shot at this retirement. I don't want to, blow it all on a stock market that crashes or stays flat for a number of years.

Why have a client who's getting older, she's 90. And so you would think. Yeah. You need to be pretty conservative and it's the exact opposite. She should be invested about 80 to 90% in stocks

Matt: [:

Mike: [00:04:11] and hardly have any fixed income at all. And why is that? Because think about her longevity, she's almost at the end 90 years old, she's doing great, but not a lot of years left and she has a big portfolio.

She can't possibly spend it. And if she can't possibly spend her portfolio, then she needs only 10 to 20% of it to be in that fixed income for the next five or 10 years, if she has that and the rest can be invested for the far future. So you wouldn't expect an 80 or 90 year old to be invested so aggressively, but that's the point is that you have to figure out what makes sense for you.

Matt: [:

Mike: [00:05:10] Yep. The starting point is to try to map out your cash needs. And this can be a little daunting at first. Like I'm not sure what I'm spending even next year, let alone in five or 10 years, but you try to map out just a few bullet points on what you need in the short term. So if you're saving a down payment for a house, you're young and you don't have that first starter home yet.

Maybe that's on your list. Maybe you need to save for education for your kids. You've got kids and you want to save for their future education. Everyone's saving for retirement. Everybody would like to, eventually stop working someday and spend time doing other things. So map out your cash needs short term one to two years.

Medium term the next three to five years. So years, three to seven, somewhere in there, medium. And then the future, seven plus years or 10 plus years out. So look at those three areas. And this applies to everybody. Okay. This could be a young person just starting their career. It could be the middle of your career, late career, or even in retirement, especially in retirement, take those three items and just map out about how much you would need cash wise in each of those buckets.

And then we'll get to how to invest those. And then back into whether you need 80% stocks, 60% stocks, 40% stocks, you know, what kind of portfolio makes sense for you?

Matt: [:

think about

Mike: [:

So let's break it down into different stages of life to make us a little more concrete. If you're young, you're just starting a career, maybe a middle career, and then maybe in retirement. If you're young and just starting career, maybe in that first column is say, I mentioned saving a down payment for a house.

Maybe you don't have kids yet. Maybe that's the only thing that you're really saving for. You've got 20, 30,000 already saved up and you're hoping to buy a house in the next few years. Okay. So that could be, oh, I'm going to need this cash soon. And probably the rest of the cash is for retirement. It might just be those two, like medium term, I'm not sure.

Some extra vacations. I don't know. It just like saving off of your income. Spending off your income, but in terms of, budgeting, it's just long-term. So maybe just that, those two things, and that could be it. The middle of your career could be short term. What do I need cash for now?

Might be almost nothing. Might be like, oh, we're just, spending off of our income. But in the medium term, I've got college coming up seven years, so we have that bucket and then of course, retirement, that's still 10 plus years away, maybe. Okay. So that's the way to think about it till you apply it to your situation is think what's in those, buckets, depending on where you are in your career and your unique family situation,

Matt: [:

Mike: [00:08:16] We tried to throw in some tips here and there.

Matt: [:

So you mentioned earlier the store of your client. Who's 90 years old clearly very much in retirement. But what factors would lead you to, as you put yourself into these life situation buckets, that's where you start, but how do you add layer of complexity to that?

Because this sort of very generic advice. Of how much cash you need and where you are in the life cycle, doesn't apply to her per se. So how do you then extend beyond the , long career ahead of me mid career, et cetera. Where do you go from there?

Mike: [:

50,000 a year for 10 years, I need $500,000 in those two buckets, you know, one to two years and then two to eight years. So there you go, 500,000. Now, if your portfolio is 500,000, that might be almost a hundred percent in that fixed income. Now, because I haven't talked about yet, what does that mean?

now I know my cash is we're going to get to that in a sec. But now, I need 500,000. If you only have 500,000, that's all of it. But if you have 2 million, then that's only 25%. So 25% needs to be in those two buckets. And 75% is in the 10 plus a year bucket. So that's where it gets into your unique situation because of the generic, advice.

Online has no idea where your portfolio is. So how would it know what percentages to apply to a portfolio? And that's why we always start with the actual dollars and plus it just makes sense in the human mind.

Matt: [:

and gets you to the specific analysis you need to do. All right.

So you teased us a moment ago with the idea of like great, you've done arithmetic. good. First step. How do you then turn that into thinking about.

That portfolio breakdown.

Mike: [:

Matt: [00:10:46] Yes, that puts you then slightly above the average replacement rate for the population, which by the way, we're not hitting in most countries of the

world. So do what you will with that. You have 2.2 kids. I am looking

forward by the way, for people that don't know, MikeMorton has three actual children.

I'm looking forward to you telling one of your children that they count as 0.2 of a child, but go on.

Mike: [:

Matt: [00:11:11] Yeah, that'll be great nickname by the way.

Mike: [:

So I need that $50,000 to be there for next year. Then I need that, to not it down and value. It can't be 40,000. Suddenly the house I'm going to be able to afford went way down. So I need 50,000 in cash. If I need that in the next one to two years, I need that in fixed income in cash, you can put it in CDs.

You can put it in just a checking or savings accounts. You can put it into money markets. You could put it in very short term bonds. T-bills. Something that is going to be there and really not lose any value. And this is a very common question, Matt, right now Down payments for housing. You know, Housing is just skyrocketing everywhere and it's getting very unaffordable for a lot of people.

And so the questions are constant. What should I do with my down payment? I'm hoping to buy a house in a couple of years and the prices are going up so much faster than their down payment. And there's no good answer, man. It's a tough environment, but you don't want that 50,000 to go to 40,000.

If you put it in some kind of investment. So that's the place to start is one to two years, you have that cash that you've just put in there, and that needs to be basically in cash because it can't go down. Now, the next bucket, of course, you're going to spend it in two to seven years, somewhere in there.

That's where we get into bonds and trying to get some interest right now. Bonds are really tough these days. They're barely making anything. I understand that. Should it be a little bit different? Probably not. To be honest, it's all a risk and reward and the more you go out the risk spectrum trying to pick up two, three, 4%, you're getting into lesser quality bonds and they can go down in value.

So again, you put in your 50,000, it could go down to 45,000. Even though your interest payments are, are a little bit higher, 5%, instead of 2%, you actually lose value on the total investment. No real great answers there, but if you need that money in five years, if you need that dollar, you're going to spend it in five years, put into place that it's mostly going to be there in five years.

Okay. You might be able to supplement or maybe adjust but it mostly needs to be there. Finally, if it's a dollar you're going to spend in seven to 10 years or later, then that's a dollar that you can invest more aggressively. And I would put that into the stock market.

Matt: [:

What would trigger that kind of. Re-analysis

Mike: [:

It didn't take very long to write those three buckets for yourself. You got a piece of paper you write down. Here's what I need to spend in the next few years. And now you've got that. You can revisit that every six months, every 12 months or whenever a life event happens. I'm moving new job, new family situation, just revisit that I'd recommend storing that somewhere that you have.

And it definitely, every year it's oh, we put down that down payment. We have that house now. We don't need that anymore. What else do we need? And so you revisit and adjust that plan as life goes forward.

Matt: [:

View, it sounds like part of what you're seeing here with this kind of portfolio allocation thinking is maybe don't over jump too quickly as world events happen, but pay closer attention to your own life events, your own life situation, and be ready on a six or 12 month basis to ratchet around that.

Mike: [:

I just lost money.

Matt: [:

Mike: [00:15:59] easy for me to say you didn't lose money. You didn't lose any money. Okay. It's the dollar you're going to spend in 10 years from now. Hopefully it comes back. All right. And many ten-year periods, it comes back. All right. Majority of them, it comes back, but you haven't lost any money.

All right. And so you definitely have to apply it to your personal situation when you need money. When you're going to spend the money,

Matt: [:

Mike: [00:16:38] Yeah, I have a podcast. It is financial planning for entrepreneurs and tech professionals. And you can find all a great content there.

Matt: [:

You do have to actually put your investments into different accounts. Does it matter? I assume the answer is yes. How you make those decisions?

Mike: [:

And you're trying to figure out, when I'm going to need those dollars, if you can save money each year, That's the number one factor. All right. By a lot, because if you're not saving, then nothing else matters. So the first thing is you have to save. And at that point you really went in the game. If you can set up a job and auto invest in a 401k and even if , everything else is in the checking account, that's great.

And then, once a year or so you do this exercise, oh, these dollars are for the future. I should get them invested. Then yeah. If you could open a brokerage account and get them invested. Now, if you could do all those other things, HSAs and IRAs and all these different account types, that's even better, you're going to be saving massively in your taxes.

So absolutely you can save lots of dollars by making smart choices, but first things first, man, save and have a good a well-diversified portfolio.

Matt: [:

A lot of that kind of stuff. That's as you said, there, there are thousands of dollars, especially when compounded over decades on the line here by all means get that right. But that's such an interesting idea that, Hey, look, if you do absolutely nothing else, you can feel pretty good about yourself.

If you just do this process, I know this is working against your. Your line of business, but is this initial planning process of just making sure that you're saving the right amount, regardless of what type of account you're saving it in? Is this the kind of thing that people really could do on their own if they have no time for absolutely

Mike: [:

They've been saving. Okay. But now they have a large section of cash and they're like, I know I need to get this invested. So what I do recommend is once you've done the exercise, the fixed income, if you just have cash and bonds needs for the next seven years, you could just literally keep that in cash.

That would be fine. But things that you do want seven plus years those dollars really get those invested into the market. You could set up automatic ways of doing that, do it at a brokerage, startup IRA, your individual retirement accounts, HSA accounts, all these other things, great types, but even just the brokerage Vanguard, you could use Robin hood, but it in, a stock fund, just get a well-diversified yeah.

Fond and get it into the market so that it's going to compound and grow for you.

Matt: [:

Some pretty easy off the shelf investment options. All right, Mike Morton, that was a really good piece of practical advice for personal financial planning. Mike Morton of Morton financial advice.

Thanks so much.

Mike: [:

Thanks for joining us on financial planning for entrepreneurs. If you like, what you heard, please subscribe to and rate the podcast on Apple iTunes, Google play Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. You can connect with me on linkedin or I'd love to get your feedback. If you have a comment or question, please email me at Until next time thanks for tuning in.