Taking a casual look at my investment performance over the last few months isn’t pretty. What’s that you say? Yours isn’t either? It seems like no one’s is. I was thinking about this the other day. Did I do everything right? I diversified. I have money in US stocks both big and small. I have money in foreign stocks. I have money in bonds (but only a little since I’m in my early 30s). I have money in REITs (again only a little). I even have a very small portion in peer-to-peer lending accounts like Lending Club. Looking back and everything only Lending Club made money. In fact it was the only thing that didn’t lose around 30%.
So if diversification didn’t help me, and I’m guessing it didn’t help you either, should we just conclude diversification is a myth? I’ve come close to believing this at times. Each time I do, I take a step back and look at things in historical context. In 2001 when tech stocks were crashing would diversification have helped? You betcha! The real estate market was booming. While other stocks weren’t performing greatly, you definitely didn’t want to be all tech stocks.
What about the Great Depression of the early 1930s? I’m not a historian of the time period and I’m not sure how much diversification there was then (how would an average person invest in all the companies in Europe back then?). Still it seems that like universally bad across the board. Perhaps the best move was just to put money in your mattress.
Here’s my conclusion: Diversification is like a seat belt. It’s going to help you in most accidents. However, if you are in a Smart car and get into an head on collision with a Badonkadonk at 120 miles per hour, that seat belt might not save you. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still have one on to protect you from the other more likely scenarios.