Topic: Investment

What do we do about Bonds…

 

‘You don’t need bonds, until you need them!’

Anon

Challenging times

I sat in our Investment Committee meeting for most of yesterday morning and amongst many things we discussed the current thoughts on Bonds (these include Government Gilts and Corporate bonds). You may feel I am a glutton for punishment on a Monday morning but really …. it was quite interesting!

In response to the very low yield on fixed interest investments (bonds), some investors have been tempted to chase higher yielding bonds, in an attempt to squeeze some return out of what feels like an unproductive portfolio allocation.  This is, unfortunately, an accident waiting to happen.  The phrase ‘picking up pennies in front of a steamroller’ comes to mind.

Others are asking whether they should be holding cash as bond yields are ‘inevitably’ going to rise, denting bond returns, at least in the short term.  Neither, approach according to the research conducted by Albion Consulting who provide the research which helps build our investment portfolios for clients, makes much sense.

We should be looking forward to yield rises

At some point in the future, yields (income) are likely to rise back to higher levels.  The problem is that no-one knows when, how quickly and with what magnitude it will happen.  Investors should be looking forward to yield rises, because in the future their bonds will be delivering them with a higher income, hopefully above the rate of inflation.

When income yields do rise, bond prices will fall, creating temporary losses.  At that point bonds now earn an investor more than they did before the rate rise and they reach a breakeven point where the new higher yield has fully compensated them for the temporary capital losses suffered.  The time to break even is equivalent to the duration (similar to maturity) of an investor’s bond holdings.  Short-dated bonds with a three year duration will breakeven after three years.  Below is a hypothetical example.  Follow it through.

Table 1‑1: The impact of a 2% rise in yields on a 3 year duration bond portfolio

Year end Today Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Year 4 Year 5
Yield-to-maturity 1.5% 3.5% 3.5% 3.5% 3.5% 3.5%
Immediate yield rise % 2.0%
Capital loss* -6.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
Yield during year 3.5% 3.5% 3.5% 3.5% 3.5%
Total return for the year -2.5% 3.5% 3.5% 3.5% 3.5%
Cumulative total return -2.5% 0.9% 4.4% 8.1% 11.9%
Annualised total return -2.5% 0.5% 1.5% 2.0% 2.3%

Note: * We have assumed that the capital loss is approximated by the rise in yields times the duration.  In reality due to convexity – capital losses would not be quite so great.

The bonds within our portfolios are generally within a 3-5 year duration period.

 Holding cash deposits is not the solution

Imagine that an investor felt that rate rises were likely to occur, with a detrimental – albeit temporary – impact on bond returns in the near future.   They decide to place a deposit for three years, receiving interest of 1.5% p.a., comparable to the current yield on three-year bonds.  In three years’ time when their deposit matures, they end up with the same return as the bond portfolio (green-coloured cell in the table above).  Why bother?

Our view is that long-term investors should stick with their bond holdings.  At some point they will need them to protect against turmoil in the equity markets and that is what they are there for. Remember ‘You don’t need bonds until you need them!’.

Warning – The above information is based upon the views  of Carpenter Rees Limited.  It is not intended as a personal recommendation and should not be relied upon as such.  The value of your investment can go down as well as up, and you can get back less than you originally invested.

Is Your Money Being Used to Improve Your Life?

There’s a movement toward redefining money: instead of accumulating money for what it can buy, more of us want to use money to live the best life possible with what we have––a concept known as Return on Life™ (ROL).

With ROL, money becomes a tool to help you live the life you want. Accumulating as much wealth as possible is no longer the primary objective of your financial plan.

The traditional path to saving and investing has been to focus on the future (retirement), and rely solely on numbers and return on investment (ROI). However, this approach often can be misleading because it doesn’t consider your individual circumstances. “Beating the market” is often an artificial objective because it is not likely to have a substantive impact on your unique situation. Consider this: what does beating the market by one percent less (or more) mean to how you live your life? Do market returns have an impact on how you live your life?

What is relevant is developing a financial plan that considers the following:

  • How much do you currently have invested?
  • What is your current cash flow?
  • What transitions are you currently experiencing, or expect to experience (examples include paying down debt, divorce, concern about illness, job loss, retirement, purchasing a home, providing financial assistance to a family member)?
  • Do I feel comfortable with my level of financial obligations (examples include housing expenses, leisure activities, and healthcare expenses)?

By incorporating these factors into your planning, we can begin to understand what needs to change (or not change) in order to live the best life possible without overextending yourself. You may even be pleasantly surprised to learn you can enjoy the fruits of your labours sooner than expected!

Money does not exist for its own sake. Money exists as a utility that we use to improve our lives.  How your returns compare to any index, fund, investment category, or another person are less consequential than whether you are meeting your own ROL goals. Measure your success against your objectives, not someone else’s. You don’t need to keep up with the Jones’—or anyone else.

In order to enjoy ROL, you need to understand where all your money is coming from and where all your money is going––and why.

Understanding the “why” enables us to create a plan that works for you and your individual circumstances. You may be living above your means and need to make changes to your lifestyle. Or you may already have enough, and be able to take a trip or enjoy another experience you have been putting off.

Together we can address the following questions:

  • What challenges and opportunities are you currently facing?
  • What key transitions are looming on the horizon?

Your answers to these questions will determine the inflow and outflow of money, as well as your financial progress or decline. Knowing your age, and how long you expect to live isn’t enough to develop a financial plan that works.

With ROL, you don’t give up the best of life or the best parts of yourself just to get money. The money is there to serve you, not vice versa. Instead of focusing on someone else’s definition of success, write our own. ROL puts quality before quantity by managing your assets in a way that improves your life and provides peace of mind.

In traditional financial planning, the primary components include asset, risk, and debt management, as well as tax, estate, and income planning. All of these areas are essential and necessary for a strong financial plan, but there is more to developing a strong financial plan than numbers.

We all have different values and principles regarding money. Each of us has a history, present circumstances, and future hopes that are unique. By focusing only on numbers, we miss enjoying life now and in the future because we only concentrate on accumulating wealth. A financial plan designed with ROL as its foundation is designed to build freedom, relieve the pressure of ROI-focused planning, and ensure your plan meets your goals.

There is no greater freedom, and no greater wealth, than living the best life you can with the money you have.

 

10 Tips for surviving inevitable market falls

It is an inevitable part of investing that at some point markets will fall by an alarming, if not unexpected, degree.  We haven’t seen large market falls for a decade but should expect that at some point we will.  When, and in what magnitude, no-one knows, but remembering the following can help:

  1. Embrace the uncertainty of markets – that’s what delivers you with strong, long-term returns.
  2. Don’t look at your portfolio too often. Once a year is more than enough.
  3. Accept that you cannot time when to be in and out of markets – it is simply not possible. Resign yourself to the fact. Hindsight prophecies – ‘I knew the market was going to crash’ – are not allowed.
  4. If markets have fallen, remember that you still own everything you did before (the same number of shares in the same companies, and the same bonds holdings).
  5. A fall does not turn into a loss unless you sell your investments at the wrong time. If you don’t need the money, why would you sell?
  6. Falls in the markets and recoveries to previous highs are likely to sit well inside your long-term investment horizon i.e. when you need your money.
  7. The balance between your growth (equity) assets and defensive (high quality bond) assets was established by your adviser to make sure that you can withstand temporary falls in the value of your portfolio, both emotionally and financially, and that your portfolio has sufficient growth assets to deliver the returns needed to fund your longer-term financial goals.
  8. Be confident that your (boring) defensive assets will come into their own, protecting your portfolio from some of equity market falls. Be confident that you have many investment eggs held in several different baskets.
  9. If you are taking an income from your portfolio, remember that if equities have fallen in value, it is likely that your adviser has set up your portfolio so that you will be taking proportionately more of your income from the cash held within your portfolio or your bonds; not selling equities when they are down.
  10. Your adviser is there – at any time – to talk to you. He or she can act as your behavioural coach to urge you to stay the course.  They are a source of fortitude, patience and discipline.  Be strong and heed their advice.

Warning – The above information is provided for information only. It does not constitute investment advice, a recommendation or an offer of any services and is not intended to provide a sufficient basis on which to make an investment decision.  The value of investments may go down as well as up and you may not get back the full amount invested.

Where are we now?

I feel the above sketch by Carl Richards explains what we do for clients and what they can do for themselves at the beginning of our relationship so that we can work out where they are today.

When it comes to money, what we don’t know can hurt us. I’ve seen this truth play out time and again when people tell me that they want to take their finances seriously by investing and making plans for the future.

“Excellent,” I’ll say. “So, what can you tell me about your current finances?” Occasionally I have a client who is fully aware of what they have, but the most common response is a blank stare.

I’m not surprised.  Sometimes we just don’t want to know.  As soon as we start listing our current assets and liabilities, we come face to face with both our good and bad financial decisions.

Maybe we’ve done a great job of saving money every month, but we’ve also had a credit card balance for over a year. We need to know both the good and the bad. Otherwise, we can’t plan for the future. Getting a handle on our current reality starts with something simple: a personal balance sheet.

To start, grab a piece of blank paper. Draw a line down the middle. Write “Assets” on the left, “Liabilities” on the right. Then, make a list.

Assets are anything we own. Liabilities are any debts we owe. On the asset side, list things like savings accounts, ISA’s, Pensions and the value of a home. On the liabilities side, list things like credit card debt, a mortgage balance, and any other loans. For this process to work, we need exact numbers, especially for our liabilities. Be prepared to call credit card companies and banks if needed to get this information. Again, not knowing these numbers can hurt us.

Of course, the personal balance sheet may also reveal we’re better off than we think. That’s a good thing. We may have saved more and have less debt that we assumed. Once we have all the numbers, add them up. Then, subtract all the liabilities from the assets. This number equals our net worth and our current reality. This process seems simple enough.

The next step is however a little more complex. It needs discussion and some analysis. The “how do you get there?”; that all important middle step is where the advisor with a wealth of experience can help. However, if we keep avoiding or skipping this first step, we’ll have a difficult time figuring out where we want to go, let alone how to get there!

So if you’d like help understanding where you are now, or working out how you get to where you want to be, please do contact us.

 

Financial freedom- Creating and maintaining the right investment strategy

Our life is an endless series of daily choices, and how we manage those choices determines the outcome of our life. We all want financial freedom, but how will we achieve it? Financial goal-setting is the key to building wealth.

There are always going to be bumps in the road on every journey, which is why it’s essential to be flexible enough to adjust your plans when the unexpected happens. Your wealth creation objectives need to be able to adapt to whatever’s going on in your life. Nothing should stand between you and your long-term goals.

Creating and maintaining the right investment strategy plays a vital role in helping to secure your financial future. Whether you are looking to invest for income, growth or both, we can provide you with professional expert advice to help you achieve your financial goals. So what do you need to consider?

Set a goal and start early

Short term, ultra-specific goals are generally very easy to achieve as they don’t really involve any planning, but longer-term goals on the other hand require you to actually plan out how you are going to achieve the goal. Remember that wealth creation is about creating a lifestyle of your choosing, and the earlier you start to invest, the sooner you can enjoy the benefits of compound growth working for you to build value and make your money work harder for you.

By taking the time to step into your future, you can look back and visualise what needs to happen today for you to enjoy the lifestyle you want tomorrow. Ask yourself these three questions to help you visualise your future needs: what do I have? What do I want? When do I want it?

Develop an investment habit

If you think that investing a few hundred pounds every month will offer little in return, you should change your mindset. To start your investment strategy, you should adopt a stable and organised investment routine that will help you achieve your goals. Compound growth is the central pillar of investing. It is why investing works so well over the long term.

The more you invest and the earlier you start will mean your investments have that much more time and potential to grow. By investing early and staying invested, you’ll also be able to take advantage of compound earnings. Making money on your money is the concept behind compounding. Compounding is when the money you earn from your investments is reinvested for the opportunity to earn even more. However, you need to keep in mind that while compounding can make an impact over many years, there may be periods where your money won’t grow.

Be consistent

Many people stop their investment planning particularly during market downturns, as we’ve seen in recent weeks. By doing this, they often miss out on opportunities to invest at lower prices. If you keep to your investment strategy and keep moving ahead consistently, this helps spread risk and enables you to grow your wealth for the long term through pound-cost averaging and careful asset allocation.

It’s important to remember that investing is an ongoing process, not a one-time activity. The right way to begin your investment strategy is by establishing goals that need to be achieved over the short, medium and long term. Secondly, it is necessary to assess your current position in the financial lifecycle. Thirdly, you must ascertain your risk profile, as that decides how much risk you should take while investing. This is particularly important as different financial objectives require different investments approaches.

Maintain a well-diversified portfolio with regular reviews

Regular reviews of your portfolio enable you to adjust your portfolio to meet your changing needs and risk appetite at different stages of your life and in different market conditions. This helps you keep up your investing momentum towards achieving your long-term financial goals. It’s also important not to put all your investment eggs into one basket.

Investing randomly into different asset classes without ascertaining their asset allocation, not following a disciplined approach to investing, exiting abruptly from an asset class and investing without a clear time horizon are some of the most apparent inconsistencies in any investment process.

Create the right investment strategy

We recognise that choosing how to invest your money can seem daunting. When it comes to planning for your future and that of your family, you’ll want to be sure that you have everything covered. We help our clients set goals and then create the right investment strategy to achieve them, whether it’s growing family wealth or leaving a legacy. We know everyone is unique and has different priorities. To discuss your future dreams, please contact us.

 

 

The above information is provided for information only. It does not constitute investment advice, recommendation or an offer of any services and is not intended to provide a sufficient basis on which to make an investment decision.

Avoiding hidden dangers in retirement

Make sure you don’t run out of money or face a reduced standard of living

Increasingly, more and more pensioners are keeping the bulk of their pension fund invested after they retire. This means they’re faced with two very different risks when deciding what to do with their savings in retirement in a world of ‘pension freedoms’. Since April 2015, people who reach retirement have had much greater flexibility over how they use their funds to pay for their later years.

A recent report [1] identified that many savers in retirement are either taking ‘too little’ risk (the ‘risk averse’ retiree) or taking ‘the wrong sort’ of risk (the ‘reckless’ retiree). Each of these approaches increases the danger of a saver either running out of money during their retirement or having to face a reduced standard of living.

The risk-averse retiree – how can you take too little risk?

An example of taking ‘too little’ risk is the saver who takes their tax-free cash at retirement and invests the rest in an ultra-low-risk investment such as a Cash ISA, believing this to be the safe approach. The report points out that ‘investing in retirement is still long-term investing’ and shows that decades of low-return saving can seriously damage the living standards of retirees.

It highlights the case of someone who retired ten years ago with an illustrative pension pot of £100,000 which they invested in cash. Assuming they withdrew money at £7,500 per year (in line with annuity rates at the time), they would now be down to £27,000 and likely to run out in around four years’ time, less than fifteen years into retirement. By contrast, if the same money had been invested in just UK shares, there would still be around £48,000 left in the pot, despite the 2008 stock market, and market volatility.

The reckless retiree – what is ‘the wrong sort’ of risk?

In an era of low interest rates, some retired people may be tempted to seek out more unusual forms of investment with apparently high rates of return but accompanied by much greater risk to their capital. Examples could include peer-to-peer lending, investment in aircraft leasing or even crypto currencies such as bitcoin.

Concentrated exposure to a single, potentially volatile investment can produce very poor outcomes, particularly if bad returns come early in retirement.

The rational retiree – what is the best way to handle risk in retirement?

Rather than invest in an ultra-low-risk way or chase individual high-risk investments, the report identifies a ‘third way’ of spreading risk across a range of assets, including company shares, bonds and property, both at home and abroad. This multi-asset approach can be expected to provide better returns over retirement than cautious investing in cash but also helps to smooth the ups and downs of individual investments.

The pension freedoms introduced in 2015 opened new possibilities for people in retirement, but they created new dangers as well. There is the danger of being too cautious and not making your money work hard enough – investing in retirement is still long-term investing. There is also the danger of taking the wrong sort of risk, seeking high returns but putting your capital at risk. Spreading money across a range of asset classes and in different markets at home and abroad is likely to deliver better returns in retirement – and a more sustainable income – than remaining in cash, without exposing you to the capital risks that can come from chasing after more exotic or risky types of investment.

Help to ensure your expectations are fulfilled

By understanding your retirement plans, we can help ensure your expectations are fulfilled by establishing tailored plans to preserve your capital, produce income and pass on wealth securely and efficiently. If you would like to review your current planning provision, please contact us – we look forward to hearing from you.

 

 

Source data

[1] Research report published 13 January 2018 by mutual insurer Royal London

Warnings

  •  The article above is provided for information only. It does not constitute advice, a personal recommendation or an offer of any services and is not intended to provide a sufficient basis on which to make a decision.
  • These investments do not include the same security of capital which is afforded with a deposit account.  You may get back less than the amount invested.
  • The value of investments and income from them may go down.   You may not get back the original amount you invested
  • Assessing pension benefits early may impact on levels of retirement income and is not suitable for everyone.  You should seek advice to understand your options at retirement

 

Green and Pleasant Investing

There is a growing interest among clients in the concept of green and socially responsible investment. This has led to an increase in money managed under responsible investment strategies of 25% between 2014-16 according to the 2016 Global Sustainable Investment Review.

As individuals we can all express our views around sustainability via the ballot box; as investors we can express our preferences through participation in the global capital markets.

The main issue is how this can be done without compromising the desired investment outcomes. How can portfolios reduce their investments carbon footprint, ensure investments are not being made into companies associated with undesirable issues like arms tobacco child labour etc and still have a diversified portfolio proving the desired long-term returns?

There is a challenge in achieving the dual goal of sustainability and social consideration are met while building investment solutions aimed at growing wealth for the future.

For clients who request this type of investment, Carpenter Rees often incorporate a sustainable fund from Dimensional Fund Advisers into their portfolio’s.  The Dimensional solution to sustainable investment is to first focus on concentrating on the sources that generate high returns for clients while minimising costs. This is a philosophy that sits across all our model portfolios.

From this base, Dimensional then evaluate companies on a broad array of sustainability measures (such as carbon emissions, land use, toxic waste and water management). That means looking at companies across the whole portfolio and within individual sectors and ensuring that the worst offenders, based on a low sustainability score, are removed altogether. Those that are left are over weighted or under weighted based on how well their score ranks on a set of key sustainability criteria. This process ensures that diversification can be maintained while encouraging good behaviour.

The outcome from research shows that this enables a dramatic reduction in investment into Companies not addressing carbon emissions whilst maintaining diversification and ensuring the focus remains on the drivers of investment return.

In the socially responsible area of factory farming, cluster munitions, tobacco, and child labour there are clearer factors which excludes them. Companies deriving a significant proportion of their income from these areas or from gambling tobacco, or any of the other non-socially sustainable activities can be excluded altogether.

The two functions of return and sustainability need not be incompatible concepts. There is a systematic process to ensure diversification and targeting the sources of higher expected investment returns to ensure a green and pleasant investment portfolio.

 

Warning: The above information is provided for information only. It does not constitute investment advice, recommendation or an offer of any services and is not intended to provide a sufficient basis on which to make an investment decision.

What is Normal?

The sketch above from Carl Richards reminds us of the fact that the calm serene rise of markets year on year does not exist.

Carl explains his sketch as follows: –

“Imagine being in a boat in the ocean on a very still day. No wind. No swell. The water is as flat as a mirror. The calm goes on for a just long enough for you start to feel like it’s normal. Then when a small wave comes, it feels huge, and regular waves feel enormous. As scary as it might feel…remember waves are normal. Occasional storms are normal. And the last thing you want to do when you get into one is abandon ship.”

I know I am probably going over similar ground to last weeks blog but it is important to remember Volatility is the price you pay for participation in equity markets and for the potential for higher returns than cash.

As always, we are bound to see the media and industry commentators put forward lots of very plausible reasons for this sudden spike in market volatility.  No doubt many will point to fears of rising interest rates due to Trump’s tax cuts ‘turbo-charging’ the economy…however, we should regard this purely as white noise and ‘sit tight’

Market corrections are a normal part of the market cycle and happen from time to time.  It’s nothing to fear, just a part of how equity markets operate.

Our clients with money exposed to global equity markets all share many important attributes:

  1. They are long-term investors.  This attribute makes short-term market volatility less important.  Rather than looking at how an equity market performs during the course of an hour, day, week, month or even year, we’re interested in multi-year investment returns.
  2. We ensure that our clients remain suitably diversified.  This means that equities are not the only element within their investment portfolios.    This diversification is important because different investment types tend to behave differently at different times.    Having a well-diversified portfolio softens the blow of any short-term volatility in equity markets, as you are never fully exposed to UK, US or global stock price movements.
  3. We take careful steps to assess attitude towards investment risk, your risk capacity and your need to take investment risk in order to achieve your financial goals…including determining the degree of short-term falls that can be tolerated in pursuit of longer term gains.

This deep understanding of investment risks means that the volatility we are witnessing should be tolerable in terms of your emotional response to the event and your financial ability to withstand falls within your portfolio.

Despite these three very important attributes, it’s only natural that market volatility prompts some nervousness.

If you’re feeling at all unsettled, we want you to call us and chat about it…. that’s what we are here for.

In fact, as we have said on many occasions, our job as Financial Planners is less challenging during periods of rising markets, it is when markets experience falls that we work harder and really earn our fees by promoting investment discipline, explaining what is happening, and demonstrating how this fits into your overall financial planning.

 

The above information is provided for information only. It does not constitute investment advice, recommendation or an offer of any services and is not intended to provide a sufficient basis on which to make an investment decision.

 

Testing Time in the Markets and Testing Market Timing

The falls in Global markets overnight and this morning emphasise the fact that equity markets do have periods of volatility. Positive periods are followed by negative periods, which are then followed by positive periods. Because of this, it is common when markets are falling to ask whether it is possible to time investment decisions to sell at the peaks and buy back at the troughs.

One way to do this might be to analyse forward-looking information such as economic and corporate data and make predictions about the direction of the markets. But it is hard to make predictions, especially about the future.

Another approach might be to look back at data from previous cycles and identify patterns that could be repeated going forward. Researchers at Dimensional Fund Advisors did exactly this, running almost 800 tests on data from 15 world equity markets to identify signals that might point to a change of market cycle and simulating the trading activity that might improve investment returns.

Most of the 800 tests failed and resulted in worse performance than would have been achieved by just going with the flow of the market. But some of the tests worked and produced positive performance results.

You might think this is good news for investors—that they can replicate the trading patterns suggested by the positive tests. Unfortunately, the number of positive results was no greater than one might expect with such a large number of tests.

As the researchers explain, the odds of one-person coin flipping 10 heads in a row are small. But if you asked 100 people to try, you would expect around five of them to be successful. The same proportion of the 800 market tests were positive and the research was unable to determine if any of them were more than just a sequence of lucky coin tosses.

The conclusion of the research is that, on average, investors are better off sticking to their long-term investment goals and riding out short-term market volatility, rather than trying to time their trading to coincide with the peaks and troughs of the market. This is also the approach we advocate at volatile times such as these.

The main defensive assets within our portfolios are short term, high quality bonds, these bonds are less volatile than long term bonds and their prices will be less effected by any rise in interest rates. High quality bonds tend to be where money flows to at times of equity market trauma and this has indeed been reflected today.

It is easy to become concerned about the present and life as an investor will involve many of these days making life less comfortable unless you view them in context so remember:

  • The value of your portfolio simply tells you how much money you would have if you liquidated everything immediately which you do not intend to do. Losses are only made if you sell assets but if you don’t do this they remain in your portfolio to generate future returns.
  • Your portfolio has a well thought out structure and is designed to provide you with the best chance of a long term favourable return.
  • Some assets will be doing well at times and others not so well and nobody can predict which assets will be doing what at any given time.
  • Your adviser cannot control what markets do and neither can fund managers.

In a nutshell, try not to worry about the short-term impact on your portfolio and instead, focus on your longer term financial plan.

To Bit or not to Bit?

Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are receiving intense media coverage, prompting many investors to wonder whether these new types of electronic money deserve a place in their portfolios.

Cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin emerged only in the past decade. Unlike traditional money, no paper notes or metal coins are involved. No central bank issues the currency, and no regulator or nation state stands behind it.

Instead, cryptocurrencies are a form of code made by computers and stored in a digital wallet. In the case of bitcoin, there is a finite supply of 21 million,[1] of which more than 16 million are in circulation.[2] Transactions are recorded on a public ledger called blockchain.

People can earn bitcoins in several ways, including buying them using traditional fiat currencies[3] or by “mining” them—receiving newly created bitcoins for the service of using powerful computers to compile recent transactions into new blocks of the transaction chain through solving a highly complex mathematical puzzle.

For much of the past decade, cryptocurrencies were the preserve of digital enthusiasts and people who believe the age of fiat currencies is coming to an end. This niche appeal is reflected in their market value. For example, at a market value of $16,000 per bitcoin,[4] the total value of bitcoin in circulation is less than one tenth of 1% of the aggregate value of global stocks and bonds. Despite this, the sharp rise in the market value of bitcoins over the past weeks and months have contributed to intense media attention.

What are investors to make of all this media attention? What place, if any, should bitcoin play in a diversified portfolio? Recently, the value of bitcoin has risen sharply, but that is the past. What about its future value?

You can approach these questions in several ways. A good place to begin is by examining the roles that stocks, bonds, and cash play in your portfolio.

EXPECTED RETURNS

Companies often seek external sources of capital to finance projects they believe will generate profits in the future. When a company issues stock,