Superannuation funds within the retail and industry super fund market usually offer ‘balanced’ or ‘growth’-based investment options. But what does this really mean; and aren’t these funds all the same?
On 31 May 2017, Vanguard’s Balanced Index Fund reported an allocation to growth-based assets of 49.9%.
Over the years, my interpretation of a balanced profile for an investor has been fairly similar to Vanguard’s 50/50 position; that is, one’s holdings are fairly equally split between growth-based assets and defensive assets. The question is, are industry super funds applying the same principle or, more importantly, are they headed towards an asset allocation disaster?
Recently I reviewed Catholic Super’s asset allocation, and I discovered something interesting. Delving into the target’s asset allocation for a ‘balanced’ fund I noticed a 70% growth-based assets allocation. This is a massive divergence from Vanguard’s recommendation, not to mention any number of portfolio theory textbooks. It made me wonder, has Catholic Super’s marketing department ‘mislabeled’ this investment option?
When reviewing Catholic Super’s strategic asset allocation, I also noticed that growth-based exposure was sitting at around 74%, if you included the ‘defensive alternatives’. If these alternatives are removed, it pushes the exposure up to 81%, as it is unclear exactly what these might entail.
Australian Super’s ‘balanced’ option appears to be in similar territory. When I looked at the mix of assets, if credit, fixed interest and cash are included as defensive assets, then growth-based exposure sits at 73%.
Neither Catholic Super nor Australian Super provide a date reference for these asset allocations on their respective website, so these percentages may have changed since they were originally published. It’s reasonable to assume, however, that both Australian Super and Catholic Super are taking a tactical asset allocation position – but have they reasonably exceeded these boundaries?
For years now, industry super funds have been reporting strong returns above those of their peers. The question must be raised, therefore, have these funds’ marketing divisions been pushing up returns by ‘mislabeling’ investment categories in order to attract new investors? Of greater concern, though, is whether these funds are potentially exposing investors to far more risk than the labels may imply?
So, let’s go back to the Vanguard Growth Index Fund reported on 31 May 2017. The index presently sits with a maximum range of exposure for growth-based assets at 72%.
You might ask, does having a larger exposure to growth-based assets matter? Doesn’t it mean higher returns for the members of the super fund and everybody is happy?
The short answer is: volatility and market downside. These factors make it very difficult for an investor whose risk profile is balanced to ensure they are matched carefully with the right exposure for their risk tolerance.
So, who has got it right? Vanguard, or the industry super funds? Which asset allocation really is ‘balanced’?
As Warren Buffett famously said, ‘Only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked.’
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AJ Radio – Special Edition on Insights from Singularity University Summit
In this special edition of AJ Radio, we bring you the latest insights from the Singularity University Summit held in San Fransisco last month. Attended by our own Shaun Gilbert, he reveals the latest thoughts and insights from some of the leading minds in exponential thinking and cutting edge technology on future trends for businesses.
Thinking of investing in renewables?
Does it make sense to invest in this sector, and what are the advantages?
Did you watch the sunrise this morning? Here’s some interesting facts:
Yet today, only around 1% of total global electricity comes from solar power.
In 1977, the cost per watt to use solar power energy was $76.67. Even in 2003, it was believed that the cost of solar power would never get below $1 per watt due to the cost of the raw materials required to manufacture solar panels.
Today, however, solar power sits at around 0.10 to 0.30 per watt – depending on the manufacture and location. In Chile a few weeks ago, they just set a new solar price record of $0.0291 pWh.
To put all these facts into perspective, consider other fuel sources such as natural gas, which sits at around 0.07 cents per watt, while coal sits at 0.13 per watt. So it would be fair to say that traditional resources are under threat –possibly even headed towards extinction.
When it comes to technological development, most people think of a linear model extrapolating this line into the future, or a rate of curve. For example, take 1, 2, 3, 4 … You would expect the next number to be 5. The reality is that in some aspects of technology and manufacturing, the development can be exponential. Consider the miscalculation of the projected cost of solar – out by 142%!
When you think about the renewable energy sector, solar has two powerful advantages that are not applicable to other sources:
What does this mean? Hopefully, solar has the potential to reduce the overall cost of energy and living costs in the long term.
So what are the opportunities for you, the investor? Where can you invest in solar or renewable energy listed companies within the Australian marketplace? At this stage the list is very small, but here are some you might consider:
In comparison to the global markets, these Australian companies are fairly small and their journey on the development curve is still early in the business lifecycle.
If you don’t feel confident to pick and choose your investment options, you might prefer to consider an ethical or sustainable managed fund that might also have exposure to the renewables sector with other investments also pull together.
Please also remember that before embarking on any investment or strategic financial planning decisions, you should always seek professional guidance from a licensed financial planner – and of course we would recommend our team at AJ Financial Planning.