For a given financial goal, how do I determine the asset allocation? That is, how do I decide the amount of equity exposure and therefore, fixed income or debt exposure? Let us try and discuss this and use a calculator to see how different asset allocations will affect the future corpus intended for a financial goal.
Step 1: Decide equity exposure
There is no formula to decide the right equity exposure. There is no right way or wrong way. We need simple personalized thumb rules. I would like to base my rules based on rolling returns of an index like Sensex or Nifty.
This is what I would do:
For goals less than 5 years away: no equity exposure.
Between 5-10 years: Not more than 40% for an important goal and about 60% for a less important goal.
Between 10-15 years: 40-60%
Above 15 years: 60%.
I like to stop at 60% because of this: Asset allocation for long-term goals
Step 2: Have a return expectation
For me, this is also based on analysis with past data. I have several posts on this. Here is just one:
Above 15Y, I expect no more than 12% from equity. Anything above 14% is nuts.
Between 10-15Y, 10%
Below 10Y, 8%.
For debt, just the post-tax return from FD for the duration you have in mind: 6-7%.
Step 3: Calculating expected portfolio returns
Once you decide on the equity exposure, and the return expected, you can calculate the expected return from the portfolio.
Equity exposure: 60%. Return expected 12%
Debt exposure: 40%. Return expected 7%.
So the portfolio return = (60% x 12%) + (40% x 7%) = 10% (after tax).
Step 4: How much can I invest?
Now I need to know how much I can invest each month for this goal, and how much I can increase this amount each year.
Step 5: What is my target?
What is the present cost of the goal that I have in mind. What is reasonable rate of inflation associated with this expense. What is the future cost of the goal for the time duration that I have in mind?
Step 6: Minor adjustments
All the above steps are independent and can be performed in any order. With the above inputs, the next step is to find out if the target corpus can be achieved.
If yes, the next step is to start investing.
If no, minor adjustments could be to the investment amount, rate at which it increases, equity exposure, return expectations to meet the target.
The sheet presented can help you do this. Instead of using step 3, I have used XIRR. This requires the use of an Excel macro.
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