A Bucketing Approach to Strategic Asset Allocation

What is Strategic Asset Allocation?

The bucketing approach to strategic asset allocation began with a Harry Markowitz paper in the Journal of Finance in 1952. It outlined how investors could allocate assets for the highest return with a given level of risk. This would later earn Markowitz a Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences and redefine how financial advisors optimized investments for their clients.

We’ve come a long way since Markowitz’s early work. Strategic asset allocation has proven to be more valuable than ever. There are plenty of sophisticated measures to craft strategic asset allocation plans, you can illustrate how the client should dispense uncorrelated assets into three segments: liquid funds, conservative investments, and growth assets. Or as we like to call them—the Now, Soon, and Later Buckets.

For many advisors, that’s where the simplification ends. They communicate strategic asset allocation using complicated pie charts of holdings, graphs, ledgers, and complex statistical analysis. All that data may be important behind the scenes, but it confuses the client.

The Bucket Plan philosophy simplifies strategic asset allocation in a way most anyone can understand. The end goal is for the client to fully understand the process and feel confident as they move forward with your recommendations.

Strategic Asset Allocation with The Bucket Plan®

The bucketing approach to retirement investing started to work its way into the financial lexicon in the 1980s. Financial planner, Harold Evensky, developed this strategy to combat the challenge of low-interest rates. The resulting investments didn’t provide enough income for retirees, forcing them to delay retirement, reduce their standard of living, or take too many risks with their capital.

The bucketing concept gained momentum during the 1990s and picked up steam with the dawn of the information age. By the time the recession hit in 2008, the Later Bucket had become a haven for investments to ride out the ups and downs of the market without affecting the immediate income that was being withdrawn from the Now Bucket and reloaded from the Soon Bucket.

Having long-term goals for the Later Bucket helps protect retirees from making rash decisions during market fluctuations and taking deductions on their investments by cashing in during a downturn. Over time, we have adapted The Bucket Plan® to facilitate retirement income planning and provide a viable strategic asset allocation plan for clients in any demographic.

One of the most important things that The Bucket Plan can provide is peace of mind for your clients. Financial planning is a complex process, but The Bucket Plan Philosophy provides a simple, effective way for you to explain, and more importantly, for your clients to understand, the plan you developed for them.

The key to strategic asset allocation is positioning and protecting a mutually agreed-upon portion of your client’s assets to buy a time horizon that allows them to invest the remainder for long-term growth. This structure will provide a reliable income source throughout their retirement.

Now Bucket

A fully funded Now Bucket will give your client a sense of security. This prevents them from having to cash in investments when they need money, which leaves them vulnerable to losses when the market is down, unforeseen taxes, and unexpected penalties. Although there will be little return on these funds, it’s a small price to pay for your client’s peace of mind.

The Now Bucket is safe and liquid money the client can access whenever needed. The amount varies by individual. All parties involved should agree on the amount that makes them feel comfortable. There should be enough for everyday needs and emergencies, but not so much that they miss out on growth opportunities.

Soon Bucket

The Soon Bucket is for conservative investments or income for the first phase of retirement. It is set up for growth to offset inflation but invested conservatively to negate the effects of a major market correction. It also serves as an inflationary hedge, giving your client an extra cushion as the cost of goods and services rises. For clients with a longer time horizon before retirement, it might serve as their opportunity bucket. If a good investment opportunity arises, but the stock market is down, they will still have the funds available.

There are three primary ways of structuring income from the Soon Bucket:

1.      The Bridge Approach

You fund reliable income for a specific period using the minimal assets required to construct the bridge. An example might be a 10-year bond or CD ladder, a period-certain annuity, an indexed annuity with penalty-free withdrawal provisions, or a conservative investment portfolio in which you will be consuming both principal and interest.

2.      Lifetime Income

You fund an annuity to provide lifetime guaranteed income. This can be done through a SPIA, DIA, FIA, or variable annuity. If the annuity payment is going to begin within ten years, we would consider that a Soon Bucket asset. If deferral will be 10+ years, we would generally place that asset in the Later Bucket.

3.      Portfolio Yield

Some high net-worth clients are fortunate enough never to tap into principal for supplemental retirement income and can live off the dividends, interest, or yield produced by their investment portfolio.

Later Bucket

The money in the Later Bucket provides long-term growth and legacy planning. The longer they can wait before accessing these funds, the better the chances for favorable returns.

Legacy planning is not just about leaving money to the children; it protects the surviving spouse. When one spouse dies, the household income usually goes down, while many expenses stay the same, and taxes often increase.

To learn more about The Bucket Plan® and how to implement a strategic asset allocation plan into your holistic financial planning process, schedule a free call with our Concierge Support Team.

Financial Professional Use Only

The information provided in this presentation is not intended as investment advice or legal advice. The information provided is for informational and training purposes only. The information in this presentation was accurate as of the time the material was created. Tax laws and rulings can frequently change. Please discuss the client’s current situation with an accountant or tax advisor.