The Wall Street Journal confirms what I’ve been saying quite a while now- the 60/40 portfolio is not working as it used to.
Here are the key highlights:
- Long Term rates up = your existing bond portfolio down.
- Economic uncertainty = stocks going down too.
- Stocks and bonds are tightly correlated now, and don’t offer mutual protections.
- 2020 was as good as it gets for the 60/40 portfolio- 15.3% that year, but…
- Last year was one of the worst ever in real terms for a 60/40 portfolio, and the beatings could continue.
- Inflation, soaring deficits, massive Fed debt, Ukraine, Israel, and all = Dark storm clouds for the economy.
- To understand what’s going on, the article takes us back to a different long term cycle.
In the mid-1960s, stock valuations were at their most expensive level in decades based on a cyclically adjusted formula devised by Nobel Prize-winning economist Robert Shiller. And stocks were pricey just as inflation began to take off. The result: A family setting aside $1,000 for their toddler’s education at the end of 1965 in a 60/40 portfolio ended up with $785 in real terms by her senior year of high school in January 1982.
Contrast that dismal performance to the recent history most of us are aware of:
An investor who put $1,000 into a 60/40 portfolio at the end of 1981, even after adjusting for inflation, had $18,728 by the end of 2020. The portfolio would have lost money in only five of those years. No wonder even pros on Wall Street treat a classic balanced portfolio like gospel.
So what does it mean?
It is possible that today we are in a new environment. With an inflationary cycle plus already high stock market valuations, the long term outlook for the stock market could be dismal, as it was in 1965. Bond yields are good now, but the bond and the stock market seem to be running parallel, and there is not much protection in the traditional stock/bond mix.
A possible solution? Look for alternatives to the tech heavy SP 500 and alternatives to bonds. Higher yield, high credit quality and uncorrelated DCF Income Payments are a great option.