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  • Writer's pictureAngie Franzone, MA

When to Rebalance

There's a lot of things that are going to need rebalancing in our lives after all we've gone through in 2020 (and are still going through). How to pick out an outfit that isn't half pajama pants for example, or how to interact with someone that doesn't involve a video camera and a mute button. As things slowly begin to return to normal, one thing that remains consistent is the power of rebalancing your retirement portfolio. Rebalancing is important and should be done at some point, but when to rebalance may differ based on your personal situation.

As a refresher, rebalancing is the process of maintaining your desired balance of risk and return. This should be done when your actual asset allocation becomes different than your ideal asset allocation. Although rebalancing does not ensure higher returns, it can help to reduce the volatility of your investments.

If you are participating in your company's retirement plan, the easiest way to know when to rebalance is to set up an annual automatic rebalancer. This will return your portfolio to its intended allocation and help to reduce risk. However, if you work with an individual wealth manager or are comfortable with an active rebalance approach, letting your account ride for awhile may be more suitable to your situation.

An active rebalance approach involves two considerations:

  1. How out of line is your portfolio and

  2. What is the outlook for stocks and bonds.

With an active approach it can be difficult to decide on your own when to rebalance and it requires more research and may involve more risk than a systematic annual approach. Individual wealth managers, like the ones at Spectrum, understand the market outlook and have insight into when rebalancing should take place. If you do not work with an individual wealth manager though, an auto-rebalancer is ideal.

We typically choose the 2nd quarter newsletter to discuss rebalancing because of seasonal trends in the S&P 500, an index which tracks the stock performance of the biggest companies, and is used as a benchmark for the overall market. While past performance is not an indication of future results, historically, late April and early May are good times to rebalance your portfolio, with November 1 through April 30 being a stronger period than May 1 through October 31. Since 1945, the S&P 500 has averaged 8.09% from November to April vs. 3.82% from May to October (Morningstar data as of 10/20).

As illustrated in the table below, rebalancing, whether it be annually or when your target allocation is 10% out of alignment, may help you from taking on more loss when the market experiences periods of volatility, therefore shortening the recovery time of your portfolio.

The table also shows the importance of a diversified portfolio of both stocks and bonds. Sure, your return from 1990-2020 would have been slightly higher, but look at how much loss you would have taken on during each period of volatility and think about the time it would take to recover that loss. We believe the risk of not rebalancing and not diversifying your portfolio with bonds, is not worth the return.

According to the Employee Benefits Research Institute's 2020 Retirement Confidence Survey, most investors prefer to get at least some guidance from a professional advisor or online tool when selecting plan investments, with 27% saying, "Do it for me" and 41% saying "Do it with me." The investment advisors at Spectrum will provide you with the guidance you need to choose the right mix of investment options, and help you figure out when to rebalance and what method would work best for you. You can contact an advisor at Spectrum at 800-242-4735, or via email at

For more market and investment resources, visit our newly redesigned website at Under resources you will find newsletters, investment guides, and recordings from our financial and COVID-19 webinars featuring industry professionals.


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