Creating and Implementing Your Investment Strategy – Part 4 – Determine Your Mix of International and Domestic Equity Investments

In Part 3 of this series (can be read by clicking link below), we took the overall equity/fixed income asset allocation percentages, and described which specific selections can be made amount investment options to make up the fixed income portion.
In Part 4, we will continue on with this quest to establish an investment strategy by defining which specific investments will come together to make up the equity portion of our portion.
For simplicity in this post, we will continue using our 70/30 % overall split between fixed income and equity investments. So, let’s get started!

Decision 1 – Domestic vs. International Equity Investments

The first decision to make in figuring out how you will fill up your 70% equity basket is how much you will allocate to domestic US and international equity investments.

At a high level, the reason that you will want to add international investments to your equity portfolio is due to the fact that the price movements are not highly correlated with the returns of US equities. Because of this low correlation, it provides decreased risk and increased returns through the power of diversification.

Optimal Split –

A study published in the Journal of Investing in 1998 took an in-depth look at the performance and risk associated with different portfolios with varying asset allocation levels of international/domestic US equities.

The results of the study showed that the split that showed the optimal performance was an equity portfolio with 40% international and 60% US domestic. This allocation provided the highest returns with the lowest risk/price volatility. In other words, it had the highest Sharpe Ratio.

Finding The Split That Suits You Best –

While the 40% international allocation described above is the “optimal” split, as defined by academic research, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you should allocate 40% of your equity holdings to international investments.

Why is this you might be asking? The answer lies in the fact that an investment strategy is only as good as an individual’s ability to stick to it, even in the worst of times. The worst thing that could happen is that you determine several years from now that the 40% international equity allocation you decided upon is too much risk for you, and it causes you to sell off all of your holdings.

Therefore, in my opinion, the best approach is to use the 40% optimal split as the highest international allocation that anyone should employ in their investment strategy. 

In other words, only the heartiest of souls that are very young (in their 20’s) should allocate 40% of their equity holdings to international investments.

For the rest of us, Burton Malkiel describes the following recommended allocations (based on age) in his famous book, A Random Walk Down Wall Street. As you can see in the table below, even for people in their 20’s, Malkiel recommends that they only have 30% of their equity funds allocated to international instruments. I feel this level is very appropriate.

So, take a look at the table below to define at a high level of how your equity portfolio will be constructed.

In Part 5 of this series, I describe how you can determine the specific mutual funds that should make up the US domestic and international portions of your equity portfolio.

Keep on learning!


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About the Author Jacob A Irwin

Hi folks! My name is Jacob. I am the owner and operator of My Personal Finance Journey. I started this blog in January of 2010 and have enjoyed the journey ever since. Since finishing up graduate school in Virginia in 2014, I have been working in biopharmaceutical development in Colorado. You can read more about me and this site here​. Please contact me if you have any questions!

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