When thinking about investments, we often get lost in the details. We ponder which fund to choose or follow the latest market trends. But here’s the truth: the most critical investment decision you’ll ever make is determining the balance between stocks and bonds in your portfolio.

The Relationship Between Risk and Return:

“Risk and return are related.” We’ve heard it countless times, but it’s true. Historical returns can’t predict the future, but the level of risk you assume significantly affects your portfolio’s expected returns. Your stock-to-bond ratio is your primary risk lever, fine-tuning everything else.

How Risk Impacts Your Portfolio:

  1. Portfolio Composition Matters:
    Stocks and bonds behave differently. More stocks mean more risk and the potential for higher long-term returns. During the 2008 financial crisis, stocks tumbled, but bonds fared better. The choice between 80% stocks and 20% stocks significantly impacts your portfolio’s performance over time.
  2. Risk Tolerance and Discipline:
    Your risk tolerance, the level of risk you’re comfortable with, is crucial. Investing is a long-term game, and aligning your portfolio with your risk tolerance is vital for discipline. Avoid the mistakes of those who sold at the market’s bottom in 2009 due to mismatched risk levels.

Let’s look at the effects of different stock/bond splits over the last thirty years.

Stocks / BondsAnnualized ReturnStandard DeviationGrowth of $100,000
100% Stock10.37%15.22%$1,928,737
80% / 20%9.77%12.17%$1,640,004
60% / 40%9.06%9.23%$1,349,504
40% / 60%8.24%6.54%$1,075,423
20% / 80%7.31%4.59%$830,475
100% Bonds6.28%4.47$621,777
Data from 1/1986 to 12/2015. Stocks represented by the S&P 500 Index. Bonds represented by Five-Year US Treasury Notes. Data courtesy of Dimensional Fund Advisors. Past performance is not indicative of future returns. Indices are not available for direct investment.

The Stock-to-Bond Ratio:

Stocks drive growth but come with higher risk, while bonds stabilize and offer dependability. A balanced combination is key to staying disciplined and reaching your financial goals.


The financial industry often distracts with extraneous details that promote frequent trading. Don’t fall for it. Focus on getting your stock-to-bond ratio right. This ensures disciplined investing, earning the returns you deserve, and progressing towards your financial goals.

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