Is It Time To Rethink The 60/40 Portfolio?

Investors who use a 60/40 portfolio had a rough year. In the past, putting 60% in stocks and 40% in bonds has often helped investors hedge against losses in either asset class. But 2022 had other ideas.

Below is a scatter plot of returns for the S&P 500 (the x-axis) and the Bloomberg U.S. Aggregate Bond Index (y-axis), which tracks a basket of government and corporate debt as well as mortgage-backed securities. In 45 years of data, 2022 ranks as one of the worst years for stocks and the absolute worst year for bonds. Treasuries had their losingest year ever.

What does this mean for the 60/40 portfolio? This new year, should investors continue to rebalance to reflect 60% stocks and 40% bonds, or is the model broken?

To answer that, it’s important to remember above all else that 60/40 is primarily for long-term investors. There may be hiccups—2002, 2008 and now 2022—but over the long run, these tend to be smoothed out by the better-performing years.

Between 1977 and 2021, the 60/40 mix resulted in an attractive annual equivalent rate (AER) of 11.86% for stocks and 6.92% for bonds, according to Bloomberg data. If we include 2022 in the mix, the AER falls slightly to 11.10% for stocks, 6.45% for bonds.

So going forward, I think 60/40 can still work for many investors who have a long enough timeline and can stomach occasional drops and unexpected swings.

The 10% Golden Rule

Of course, there are many more asset classes to invest in besides stocks and bonds. That includes gold, which I’ve always recommended investors have 10% of their portfolio in—5% in physical bullion, the other 5% in high-quality gold mining stocks, mutual funds and ETFs. I call this the 10% Golden Rule.

In 2022, gold was one of the best assets to have exposure to. The yellow metal was essentially flat for the year, down a negligible 0.28%. That’s despite the U.S. dollar strengthening to its highest level in 20 years.

That’s also despite rising bond yields, not just here in the U.S. but across the globe. Remember when the amount of negative-yielding government bonds around the world was $10 trillion, $15 trillion, $18 trillion? That was only two to three years ago.

Today, the amount of government debt that trades with a negative yield has officially dropped to $0.

You would think that in this environment, the gold price would suffer. After all, the precious metal generates no income. And yet, gold has remained incredibly resilient, as you can see below.

I believe gold will continue to perform comparatively well in 2023, especially if we see the Federal Reserve change course. That looks less and less likely, though, as the jobs market in the U.S. remains surprisingly strong. With today’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report, December marks the sixth straight month that the number of new jobs created exceeded 264,000.