TIARA: There Is a Real Alternative

Designed Wealth Management

By John De Goey, CFP, CIM

Special to the Financial Independence Hub

By now, you’ve likely heard the term FOMO: the Fear of Missing Out.  You’ve likely also heard the term TINA: There Is No Alternative.

Taken together, these handy little pop culture acronyms explain a good deal of what has gone on in capital markets over the past three years or so. I’d like to take this opportunity to push back a little on the second one.  Based on current valuations, there may not be a sensible alternative to stocks, bonds, and real estate, but there may well be an alternative in …. wait for it…. alternatives.

Alternative assets are varied and the term ‘alternative’ could mean different things to different people. The asset class is known on a non-correlated basis by offering opportunities in such varied assets as infrastructure, liquid alternatives, structured notes, and hedge funds.  While I personally dislike the last option due to high fees, illiquidity, and opaque reporting, depending on client objectives and risk tolerance, I believe there’s often a strong case that can be made for adding alternatives to your portfolio.  As such, here’s a new term: TIARA. It stands for: There Is A Real Alternative.  You’re not stuck with having to only choose between some combination of stocks and bonds. [Editor’s Note: John De Goey coined this term.]

A third major Asset Class

In the past half decade or so, many more traditional asset allocation strategies have changed significantly as bond yields have declined.   The asset class that has been gaining the most traction is alternatives.

According to the Pension Investment Association of Canada, the average allocation is now split into thirds, allocating to Equities, Fixed Income and Alternatives.   While I think that’s suitable for pension funds, regulators have taken the position that investors ought to have a more measured position.  Most commentators think a 10% allocation would be beneficial and many are prepared to recommend an allocation of 20% or higher.

ETFs and mutual funds can capture the intended risk premia investors seek in alternative investments, providing a more robust data set to model risks and enhancing liquidity.  Examples include infrastructure and liquid alternatives.  As such, the democratization of investment vehicles continues unabated, and ordinary investors are gaining access to products and strategies that were within the exclusive purview of multi-billion-dollar entities just a few short years ago.

Low correlations with stocks and bonds

Since there are so many products available, it would be difficult to offer a more specific summary.  Alternatives involve multiple strategies and multiple risk appetites.  The one thing that seems to be consistent, however, is that alternative products and strategies are generally non-correlated to traditional financial assets (stocks and bonds).  The impact will depend on performance, but at a minimum, exposure to a well-designed alternative product or two should lower overall portfolio volatility.  That’s likely going to be important, because people have grown complacent with the strong and relatively stable returns they’ve grown accustomed to as a result of a prolonged stretch of accommodative monetary policy.

Remember this when you’re topping up your investments in the coming weeks: There Is A Real Alternative.

John De Goey, CIM, CFP, FP Canada™ Fellow, is a Portfolio Manager with Toronto-based Designed Wealth Management. He is the author of three books on the financial industry: The Professional Financial Advisor, Standup to the Financial Services Industry and most recently, Bullshift. This blog originally appeared in February 2022 and is republished on the Hub with permission. 

The information contained herein has been provided for information purposes only. The information has been drawn from sources believed to be reliable. Graphs, charts and other numbers are used for illustrative purposes only and do not reflect future values or future performance of any investment. The information does not provide financial, legal, tax or investment advice. Particular investment, tax, or trading strategies should be evaluated relative to each individual’s objectives and risk tolerance. This does not constitute a recommendation or solicitation to buy or sell securities of any kind. Market conditions may change which may impact the information contained in this document. Designed Securities Ltd. (DSL) does not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the information contained herein, nor does DSL assume any liability for any loss that may result from the reliance by any person upon any such information or opinions. 
Before acting on any of the above, please contact me for individual financial advice based on your personal circumstances. DSL is a member of the Canadian Investor Protection Fund and the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada.


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