I love perusing message boards, and a recent conversation on the All Seasons portfolio mentioned in Tony Robbins’ recent book naturally piqued my interest. It’s based on the highly respected work of Ray Dalio (of Bridgewater All Weather Fund fame), but pared down to a form that a normal non-institutional investor can easily implement themselves.
With a focus on wide diversification and risk parity for a variety of economic climates, the fundamental theory behind the All Weather Fund has always appealed to me. So it was refreshing to find a simplified version endorsed by Dalio to compare against other lazy portfolio options.
After publishing a few tools and articles based on safe withdrawal rates, one of the most common questions I’ve seen so far is some iteration if this:
Obviously higher returns support higher withdrawal rates. That’s why I invest in 100% stocks! How can a lower-return portfolio possibly support higher withdrawal rates than a higher-return portfolio?
I admit the answer is fairly unintuitive, and explaining this without getting too deep into the weeds is a bit of a challenge. I’ve touched on it here and there around the site, but this is an important concept that deserves a thorough explanation.
One of the most common mental hurdles to overcome when researching asset allocation is the siren call of maximum returns. Nobody likes the feeling of leaving potential money on the table. Combine that with a bit of accurate but out-of-context historical data, misinterpretation of assumptions, and “common knowledge” that glosses over the details, and you naturally see a strong bias towards the stock market in most investment circles. Raise your hand if you’ve heard these before:
The stock market has the highest returns over the long run.
Higher risk, higher reward.
The implied conclusions are that diluting your portfolio with non-stocks must also dilute the return, and that the accompanying stock volatility is the unavoidable price to pay for better long-term returns.
Both are simply inaccurate.