Asset allocation and diversification are investment methods used to help manage risk. They do not ensure a profit or protect against a loss. All investing involves risks, including the possible loss of principal. There can be no assurance that any investment strategy will be successful. Investments fluctuate with changes in market and economic conditions and in different environments due to numerous factors, some of which may be unpredictable. Each asset class has its own risk and return characteristics. Some of the risks associated with the representative index asset classes shown in the charts include:
Alternative investments: Alternative investments, including hedge funds and private capital funds, are speculative and entail significant risks, including those associated with potential lack of diversification, restrictions on transferring interests, no available secondary market, complex tax structures, delays in tax reporting, valuation of securities, and pricing. They trade in diverse complex strategies that are affected in different ways and at different times by changing market conditions. Strategies may, at times, be out of market favor for considerable periods with adverse consequences for the fund and the investor. An investment in these funds involves the risks inherent in an investment in securities and can include losses associated with speculative investment practices, including hedging and leveraging through derivatives, such as futures, options, swaps, short selling, investments in non-U.S. securities, junk bonds, and illiquid investments.
Commodities: The commodities markets are considered speculative, carry substantial risks, and have experienced periods of extreme volatility. Commodities may be affected by changes in overall market movements, commodity index volatility, changes in interest rates, or other factors affecting a particular industry or commodity. Investing in physical commodities, such as gold and other precious metals, exposes a portfolio to other risk considerations, such as potentially severe price fluctuations over short periods of time and storage costs that exceed the custodial and/or brokerage costs associated with a portfolio’s other holdings. In addition to the risks of investing in commodities generally, investing in base metals carries additional risks. These metals are highly levered to the relative strength of the U.S. dollar, economic growth, and inflation. They cannot be held physically and are not easily converted to cash. Exposure to base metals is usually accessed through investments in stocks of mining companies, exchange-traded funds, mutual funds, or futures trading.
Currencies: Currency risk is the risk that foreign currencies will decline in value relative to that of the U.S. dollar. Exchange rate movement between the U.S. dollar and foreign currencies may cause the value of an investment to decline.
Equity securities: Stocks are subject to market risk, which means their value may fluctuate in response to general economic and market conditions, the prospects of individual companies, and industry sectors. The prices of small/mid-company stocks are generally more volatile than large-company stocks. They often involve higher risks because smaller and midsize companies may lack the management expertise, financial resources, product diversification, and competitive strengths to endure adverse economic conditions.
Fixed income: Investments in fixed-income securities are subject to interest rate, credit/default, liquidity, inflation, and other risks. Bond prices fluctuate inversely to changes in interest rates. Therefore, a general rise in interest rates can result in a decline in the bond’s price. Credit risk is the risk that an issuer will default on payments of interest and/or principal. This risk is heightened in lower-rated bonds. If sold prior to maturity, fixed-income securities are subject to market risk. All fixed-income investments may be worth less than their original cost upon redemption or maturity. High-yield fixed-income securities are considered speculative, involve greater risk of default, and tend to be more volatile than investment-grade fixed-income securities. Municipal bonds offer interest payments exempt from federal taxes, and potentially state and local income taxes. Municipal bonds are subject to credit risk and potentially the alternative minimum tax (AMT). Quality varies widely depending on the specific issuer. U.S. government securities are backed by the full faith and credit of the federal government as to payment of principal and interest if held to maturity. Although free from credit risk, they are subject to interest rate risk.
Foreign/emerging/frontier markets: Investing in foreign securities presents certain risks not associated with domestic investments, such as currency fluctuation, political and economic instability, and different accounting standards. This may result in greater share price volatility. These risks are heightened in emerging and frontier markets.
Real estate: Investing in real estate investment trusts (REITs) has special risks, including possible illiquidity of the underlying properties, credit risk, interest rate fluctuations, and the impact of varied economic conditions.
Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities (TIPS): TIPS are subject to interest rate risk, especially when real interest rates rise. This may cause the underlying value of the bond to fluctuate more than other fixed-income securities.