By Mark Seed, myownadvisor
Special to Financial Independence Hub
Many financial advisors, analysts and investing gurus alike tout the merits of portfolio diversification. In this updated posted, you can read on about my recent lessons learned in diversification, including reducing my Canadian home bias since becoming a DIY investor well over a decade ago.
Theme #1 – how many stocks are enough?
This answer depends on who you ask but there are some experts who claim owning about 30-40 individual stocks, in various industry sectors, will provide modest diversification to mitigate portfolio risk. Here are some examples:
Lowell Miller author of The Single Best Investment:
“In our portfolios for individuals and institutions we tend to carry thirty to forty stocks.”
“The more stocks you have, the more your group will behave like an index.”
“If you don’t want to hold the thirty to forty stocks that satisfy my personal comfort level, you can reduce the number – bearing in mind that each reduction increases the risk that a single bad apple in your bushel will have an excessive impact on results.”
Gary Kaminsky author of Smarter Than The Street:
“Holding 100 stocks is yet another myth of the great Wall Street marketing machine.”
“If you’re going to do your own work/research, you should feel comfortable that with 25 to 30 names, you have enough diversification and you have enough skin in the game.”
Gail Bebee author of No Hype – The Straight Goods on Investing Your Money:
“A popular rule of thumb asserts than an individual stock should represent no more than 5% of a portfolio. This would mean owning at least 20 stocks.”
“Some studies of past stock market performance have concluded that owning about 15 to 20 stocks provides the best return for the least risk.”
Stephen Jarislowsky, Canadian billionaire and author of The Investment Zoo:
“Out of the many thousands of stocks I can choose from worldwide, I therefore really only need to look at 50 at most.”
Those estimates seem about right to me as a practising DIY investor.
When it comes to individual stocks though, dedicated readers of this site will know I’m a fan of portfolio diversification myself and practice the following personal rules of thumb to avoid individual stock risk:
- I strive to keep no more than 5% value in any one individual stock, and
- I’m working on increasing my weighting in low-cost ETFs over time to avoid my bias to Canadian dividend payers in my portfolio while generating total returns. Read on…
You can always review some of my current stock holdings on this standing page here.
Theme #2 – why diversification?
Portfolio diversification aims to lower the volatility of my portfolio because not all asset categories, industries, nor individual stocks will move together perfectly in sync. By owning a large number of equity investments in different industries and companies, and countries, those assets may and do rise and fall in price differently; smoothing out the returns of my portfolio as a whole.
“There is a close logical connection between the concept of a safety margin and the principle of diversification.” – Benjamin Graham
While I/we continue to hold no bonds in our portfolio at this time, as I contemplate semi-retirement in the coming years, I am seriously considering ramping up our cash on hand to counter any bearish equity markets when we’re not working full-time.