Using Tactical Allocation Tilts During Volatile Markets

November 10, 2023 Steven P. GreinerKathy Jones
How to implement tactical allocation tilts based on short-term market expectations.

Despite the Federal Reserve's efforts to pull off a "soft landing," the specter of an economic decline still looms large, with every small setback roiling markets. So, what's an investor to do?

Sticking to your target portfolio allocations is certainly one option; after all, holding a well-diversified mix of investments has proved to help reduce portfolio volatility over the long haul.

But for investors who feel like they need to do something, a tactical tilt—or reallocation of assets based on short-term market views—could be an attractive solution.

When to tilt

A tactical tilt is most useful when you anticipate significant over- or underperformance in the near term.

For example, if you're worried about . . .

  • . . . a recession, you might reduce your exposure to high-yield bonds—which often struggle to make steep interest payments as profits come under pressure—in favor of more recession-resistant options, such as U.S. Treasuries.
  • . . . ballooning valuations within certain sectors, you might prioritize those with strong fundamentals—such as energy and utilities—or even reduce your stock exposure in favor of highly rated corporate bonds.
  • . . . economic conditions abroad, you might tilt away from, say, a slowing China and toward an accelerating India.
  • . . . falling interest rates, which could happen in the next year, you might increase your exposure to longer-duration bonds, which are less susceptible to price declines as rates come down.

How to tilt

As a general guideline, tactical tilts are designed to be made at the margins and should account for no more than 5% to 10% of your total portfolio allocations.

For example, if your target portfolio allocation is 75% stocks and 25% bonds but you're worried the valuation bubble may soon burst, you might reduce your stock exposure to 70% and up your bond exposure to 30%.

Review your current and target portfolio allocations at schwab.com/portfoliocheckup.

Review your current and target portfolio allocations at schwab.com/portfoliocheckup.

Should you tilt?

Before you make any allocation adjustments, consider a few caveats:

  • Attention must be paid: Investors who actively manage their portfolios and regularly monitor the market can more easily take advantage of short-term opportunities—and recalibrate should markets move against them.
  • Beware hidden costs: Frequent buying and selling can result in taxes and higher trading fees, which can eat into returns.
  • Easy does it: Any tactical shifts should be temporary. Once economic or market conditions have stabilized, you should shift back to your long-term asset allocation.

Finally, be sure you're tactically tilting for the right reasons—that is, based on careful research and robust evidence rather than anxiety about current conditions or fear of what the future may hold.

Timing vs. tilting

At Schwab, we've long held that sticking to a considered investment strategy is preferable to trying to get in or out of the market at the perfect time, since even the most seasoned investment managers struggle to predict the market's next move.

So, how is market timing different from tilting? The distinction boils down to being reactive rather than proactive.

  • When investors try to time the market, they often do so out of fear of significant losses or the hope of huge rewards—provided they execute their sale or purchase at precisely the right moment.
  • Tilting, on the other hand, is an attempt to hedge against or capitalize on perceived macroeconomic trends by making marginal adjustments to your existing allocations.

In other words, tactical tilts aren't about anticipating tomorrow's market today; they're about positioning your portfolio to ride out changing conditions that may or may not materialize, but whose potential is there for all to see.

Keep on top of the markets with expert commentary and data-driven insights from Schwab Network™—streaming live and on demand every trading day at schwabnetwork.com.

At Schwab, we've long held that sticking to a considered investment strategy is preferable to trying to get in or out of the market at the perfect time, since even the most seasoned investment managers struggle to predict the market's next move.

So, how is market timing different from tilting? The distinction boils down to being reactive rather than proactive.

  • When investors try to time the market, they often do so out of fear of significant losses or the hope of huge rewards—provided they execute their sale or purchase at precisely the right moment.
  • Tilting, on the other hand, is an attempt to hedge against or capitalize on perceived macroeconomic trends by making marginal adjustments to your existing allocations.

In other words, tactical tilts aren't about anticipating tomorrow's market today; they're about positioning your portfolio to ride out changing conditions that may or may not materialize, but whose potential is there for all to see.

Keep on top of the markets with expert commentary and data-driven insights from Schwab Network™—streaming live and on demand every trading day at schwabnetwork.com.

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The information provided here is for general informational purposes only and should not be considered an individualized recommendation or personalized investment advice. The investment strategies mentioned here may not be suitable for everyone. Each investor needs to review an investment strategy for his or her own particular situation before making any investment decision.

All expressions of opinion are subject to change without notice in reaction to shifting market conditions. Data contained herein from third-party providers is obtained from what are considered reliable sources. However, its accuracy, completeness, or reliability cannot be guaranteed.

Examples provided are for illustrative purposes only and not intended to be reflective of results you can expect to achieve.

Investing involves risk, including loss of principal.

Performance may be affected by risks associated with non-diversification, including investments in specific countries or sectors. Additional risks may also include, but are not limited to, investments in foreign securities, especially emerging markets, real estate investment trusts (REITs), fixed income, small capitalization securities and commodities. Each individual investor should consider these risks carefully before investing in a particular security or strategy.

Diversification and asset allocation strategies do not ensure a profit and cannot protect against losses in a declining market.

This information provided here is for general informational purposes only, and is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax, legal, or investment planning advice. Where specific advice is necessary or appropriate, you should consult with a qualified tax advisor, CPA, Financial Planner, or Investment Manager.

Fixed income securities are subject to increased loss of principal during periods of rising interest rates. Fixed income investments are subject to various other risks including changes in credit quality, market valuations, liquidity, prepayments, early redemption, corporate events, tax ramifications, and other factors.

International investments involve additional risks, which include differences in financial accounting standards, currency fluctuations, geopolitical risk, foreign taxes and regulations, and the potential for illiquid markets. Investing in emerging markets may accentuate these risks.

Commodity-related products carry a high level of risk and are not suitable for all investors. Commodity-related products may be extremely volatile, may be illiquid, and can be significantly affected by underlying commodity prices, world events, import controls, worldwide competition, government regulations, and economic conditions.

Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Supporting documentation for any claims or statistical information is available upon request.

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