Understanding the difference between strategic and tactical allocation
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Understanding the difference between strategic and tactical allocation

Updated
26
Jul 2023
published
8
Aug 2022
investment portfolio construction - strategic vs tactical investing
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What is strategic asset allocation?

Strategic asset allocation is a long-term strategy whereby you decide how to divide your investment portfolio among different asset classes — mainly stocks, bonds, and cash — based on your risk tolerance, time horizon, and financial goals.

You start by setting the target weights or proportions for each asset class.

After that, you periodically adjust the current portfolio allocations to rebalance them back to the original targets. These weights will tend to deviate from your targets over time, due to the assets’ differing performance. The rebalancing is usually done at regular intervals, such as annually. 

The aim is to balance risks and returns through a diversified investment portfolio in the long run, to attain your financial goals.

How strategic investing works

Here’s an example to illustrate how strategic asset allocation works. 

Jane is 30 years old and has a moderate risk tolerance. A year ago, she invested $200,000, split into 50% equities, 30% bonds, 15% commodities, and 5% cash. That worked out to target allocations of $100,000 for stocks, $60,000 for bonds, $30,000 for commodities, and $10,000 for cash.

The table below shows her target allocations as well as the assets’ current market values a year after she made these investments, based on their respective annual returns.

Asset class Target allocation (%) Target allocation ($) Annual returns Current allocation after 1 year
Equities 50% $100,000 12% $112,000
Bonds 30% $60,000 2.5% $61,500
Commodities 15% $30,000 5% $31,500
Cash 5% $10,000 0.5% $10,050
Total 100% $200,000 - $215,050

Her portfolio value has grown to $215,050 after one year. It is now made up of 52.1% equities, 28.6% bonds, 14.6% commodities, and 4.7% cash. These weights deviate from Jane’s target proportions.

Under the strategic asset allocation approach, she therefore readjusts the investments in each category back to the original targets, as shown in the following table. For instance, to make sure equities make up half of the latest $215,050 portfolio, she sells $4,475 worth of shares. Using those sales proceeds, she buys more bonds and commodities while putting more cash into the portfolio.

Asset class Current allocation after 1 year ($) Current allocation after 1 year (%) Target allocation New allocation Adjustment
Equities $112,000 52.1% 50% $107,525 -$4,475
Bonds $61,500 28.6% 30% $64,515 +$3,015
Commodities $31,500 14.6% 15% $32,258 +$758
Cash $10,050 4.7% 5% $10,753 +$703
Total $215,050 100% 100% $215,050 $0

After the rebalancing, her portfolio is back to 50% equities, 30% bonds, 15% commodities, and 5% cash.

This is considered a passive investment strategy, as it does not require frequent changes to the portfolio in response to short-term market fluctuations. Learn more about Endowus' Strategic Passive Asset Allocation here.

What is tactical allocation?

In contrast, the tactical asset allocation strategy is an active investing approach. It involves more frequent trading and a shorter-term view.

Tactical investors modify their portfolio’s allocations based on the latest market conditions, which may change often. The goal is to maximise short-term profits and portfolio returns.

By actively shifting the proportions of their investments, they hope to take advantage of prevailing or expected market trends, economic conditions, or perceived mispricing opportunities.

Staying with the earlier example, let’s say that after the first year of her investment journey, Jane believes she now has enough expertise, interest, and time for tactical asset allocation, and stops using the strategic approach.

She expects a recession to happen soon, considering the current macroeconomic situation and growing inflationary pressures. As a tactical investor, she decides to shift away from equities and into lower-risk and potentially inflation-hedging assets such as bonds and commodities. She keeps the cash allocation at 5%.

When Jane rebalances her $215,050 portfolio, she cuts the weighting of equities to 40%, from 50% previously. The proportion of bonds is increased to 35%, from her original target of 30%. And she allocates 20% to commodities, up from 5% under the strategic approach.

Asset class Current allocation after 1 year New allocation (%) New allocation ($) Adjustment
Equities $112,000 40% $86,020 -$25,980
Bonds $61,500 35% $75,268 +$13,768
Commodities $31,500 20% $43,010 +$11,510
Cash $10,050 5% $10,753 +$703
Total $215,050 100% $215,050 $0

If she sticks with tactical asset allocation, Jane will likely adjust her portfolio again when the global economy recovers. This may involve buying more shares so she can become more aggressive with regards to equities.

Read more: How to invest your first $100,000 or $1 million

Next on the Endowus Fin.Lit Academy

Read the next article in the curriculum: How you can approach core and satellite investing with Endowus

To start your investment journey, click here.

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This article is for information purposes only and should not be considered as an offer, solicitation or advice for the purchase or sale of any investment products. It is recommended that you seek financial advice as to the suitability of any investment. Whilst Endowus Singapore Pte. Ltd. (“Endowus”) has tried to provide accurate and timely information, there may be inadvertent delays, omissions, technical or factual inaccuracies or typographical errors.

Any opinion or estimate above is made on a general basis and none of Endowus, nor any of its affiliates, representatives or agents have given any consideration to nor have made any investigation of the objective, financial situation or particular need of any user, reader, any specific person or group of persons. Opinions expressed herein are subject to change without notice.  

Investment involves risk. The value of investments and the income from them can go down as well as up, and you may not get the full amount you invested. Past performance is not an indicator nor a guarantee of future performance.

Please note that the above information does not purport to be all-inclusive or to contain all the information that you may need in order to make an informed decision. The information contained herein is not intended, and should not be construed, as legal, tax, regulatory, accounting or financial advice.

investment portfolio construction - strategic vs tactical investing

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