Submitted by Steve Selengut
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Asset Allocation for Foundation and Endowment Investment Portfolios - Part 2 (February 2008)
One can only speculate about how much "Bubble Paper" finds its way into the these portfolios, but nearly all of them are managed by the major brokerage firms, and all such firms bonus their brokers on the basis of product sales. It is not uncommon for Wall Street to re-write the syllabus for Investments 101, redefining Quality, Diversification, and Income to suit its own dark purposes.
Continued from Part 1...
Inflation is a purchasing power issue, and purchasing power depends on income. Hoping, as many people do, for an upward only portfolio-market-value scenario is, at best, comical. A properly designed portfolio will constantly generate increasing levels of base income at varying market value levels, and that is the stuff from which disbursements are made. If the payout rate to beneficiaries is 4% (of Working Capital, perhaps) and we want to increase the dollar amount of the 4%, we need simply to increase the assets that are producing the cash flow… by reinvesting some of the income and contributions appropriately. Increasing the market value of the securities looks good but generates no additional regular spending money. In fact, higher yields are always more readily available when prices are down than when they are up… go figure. Really, go figure.
If we can (through proper asset allocation, and a portfolio management methodology that focuses on working capital) increase our investment in our income producing securities base, we can stay ahead of inflation and satisfy our commitment to whatever cause it is that concerns us. This can be done with much less risk than most not-for-profit board members have become used to in recent years while they blindly chase the gold ring of ever higher market values. Market value, though, will cycle to new highs periodically, as the stock market, interest rate, and business cycles move on down, and up, the road. Isn't the primary purpose, after all, to grow the distributed benefits?
As important as income is to the achievement of your disbursement goals, there is certainly a place for a diversified portfolio of Investment Grade Value Stocks within the asset allocation. You will have difficulty convincing your broker to stick with IGV stocks, and to trade them for short-term profits. Frankly, most are inexperienced at doing so. But your tax status, size, and mission are perfect for this kind of strategy. Your investment manager should take care of the income part of the asset allocation first, before venturing into the riskier realm of equities. Stop! No matter what you've been told lately, quality income investments are always less risky than even the best equity investments. What about the 2007 CDO mess? Junk is junk, no matter how pretty the package.
You have a fiduciary responsibility to understand what's inside your not-for-profit investment portfolio... even if you think that you are pleased with its recent performance. It just makes good sense to get another opinion. Similarly, if you donate money to a cause that interests you, the general structure and content of the investment portfolio should be of some interest. Complicated products with trunches, and multi-level ifs-ands-and-buts are for arbitrageurs and speculators. Any investment product that requires a Masters Degree in Quantum Mathematics to decipher is hiding something… and that something is excessive risk. What's in your not-for-profit portfolio?
Asset Allocation for Foundation and Endowment Investment Portfolios
The High Risk in Foundation/Endowment Investment Portfolios
If you were to look back at your foundation/endowment/not-for-profit portfolio of the late 90's, how much was invested in NASDAQ issues, either directly or in the form of mutual funds? Dot.coms? Don't be at all surprised if your more recent reports (2006 thru 2008) are replete with CMOs, CDOs, Index Funds, Foreign Investments, asterisks, footnotes, etc. This is the type of investing that is standard fare on Wall Street.
One can only speculate about how much "Bubble Paper" finds its way into the these portfolios, but nearly all of them are managed by the major brokerage firms, and all such firms bonus their brokers on the basis of product sales. It is not uncommon for Wall Street to re-write the syllabus for Investments 101, redefining Quality, Diversification, and Income to suit its own dark purposes…
Click for Details --> Asset Allocation - Part 1 <--