Getting organized for your year-end investment review with your financial professional may help make the review process more efficient. Here are some suggestions for making your meeting as productive as possible.
Decide what you want to know
One of the benefits of a yearly investment review is that it can help you monitor your investment portfolio. A key component of most discussions is a review of how your investments have performed over the last year. Performance can mean different things to different people, depending on their individual financial goals and needs. For example, an investor who’s focused on long-term growth might define “performance” slightly differently than an investor whose primary concern isn’t overall growth but trying to maintain a portfolio that has the potential to produce current income needed to pay ordinary living expenses.
Consider in advance what types of information are most important to you and why. You may want to check on not only your portfolio’s absolute performance but also on how it fared compared to some sort of benchmark. For example, you might want to know whether any equity investments you held outperformed, matched, or under-performed a relevant index, or how your portfolio fared against a hypothetical benchmark asset allocation. (Remember that the performance of an unmanaged index is not indicative of the performance of any specific security, and indices are not available for direct investment. Also, asset allocation cannot guarantee a profit or eliminate the possibility of loss, including the loss of principal.)
Almost as important as knowing how your portfolio performed is understanding why it performed as it did. Was any over-performance or under-performance concentrated in a single asset class or a specific investment? If so, was that consistent with the asset’s typical behavior over time? Or was last year’s performance an anomaly that bears watching or taking action? Has any single investment grown so much that it now represents more of your portfolio than it should? If so, should you do a little profit-taking and redirect that money into something else?
Are any changes needed?
If your goals or concerns have changed over the last year, you’ll need to make that clear during your meeting. Your portfolio probably needs to evolve over time as your circumstances change. Making sure you’ve communicated any life changes will make it easier to adjust your portfolio accordingly and measure its performance appropriately next year.
If a change to your portfolio is suggested based on last year’s performance–either positive or negative–don’t hesitate to ask why the change is being recommended and what you might reasonably expect in terms of performance and potential risk as a result of a shift. (However, when looking at potential returns, remember that past performance is no guarantee of future results.) Don’t be reluctant to ask questions if you don’t understand what’s being presented to you; a little clarification now might help prevent misunderstandings and unrealistic expectations that could have a negative impact in the future.
Also, before making any change, find out how it might affect your investing costs, both immediate and ongoing. Again, a few questions now may help prevent surprises later.
Think about the coming year
Consider whether you would benefit next April from harvesting any investment losses before the end of the year. Selling a losing position could generate a capital loss that could potentially be used to offset either capital gains or up to $3,000 of ordinary income on your federal income tax return.
If you’ve amassed substantial assets, you could explore whether you might benefit from specialized assistance in dealing with issues such as taxes, estate planning, and asset protection. Finally, give feedback on the review process itself; it can help improve next year’s session.
Note: All investing involves risk, including the potential loss of principal, and there can be no guarantee that any investing strategy will be successful.