Investment Portfolio First Aid for Older Relative, Part 1: Assess The Situation

Although I enjoy managing my own investments, I’ve generally avoided managing other people’s money. That always felt like such an important responsibility to take on. Below is the real investment portfolio of an older family member (over 75) that is professionally managed by an large “brand name” financial firm. Understandably, the recent market volatility has hurt the balance and there is some concern, so I took a look.

Before opening up the statement, I joked to myself “There better not be that ARK ETF in there!”…. and there it was. Down 66%! 😱 Deep breaths! My thoughts went to the four basic steps to performing emergency first aid:

  1. Assess the situation
  2. Plan for interventions
  3. Implement first aid
  4. Evaluate the situation.

Here are some anonymized screenshots (with permission) that show holdings, balances, performance, and rough asset allocation breakdown.

Why in the world does this portfolio only have 10% in bonds, at least according to the pie chart above? What exactly are those “alternatives”? I created a Google spreadsheet and started collecting more data from Morningstar:

The Goldman Sachs “multistrategy” fund turns out to consist of roughly 50% net stocks and 50% net cash/bonds. So the overall asset allocation is about 80% stocks and 20% bonds. Perhaps they confused the “age in bonds” rule of thumb with “age in stocks”? 🤔

I don’t know all the details and communications that took place before the creation and implementation of this portfolio, but my first impression is not positive. In addition to an overly-aggressive asset allocation, I see a mishmash of high-cost mutual funds. There isn’t a single penny in a low-cost index fund as a core holding! I don’t believe that you need 15 different funds to be “diversified”. While a relatively small holding, the fact that ARK ETF holdings are down 67% also means they decided to buy in after all of the initial outperformance. In other words, performance chasing.

Speaking of performance, the portfolio is down 25% from the initial purchase amounts. That’s seems like a lot for someone in their 70s, and we haven’t even technically hit a bear market in the S&P 500 yet.

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