04/11/13: Avoiding excess risk in a low-interest environment

Don't upset the fine balance...

The strong growth in the prices of many Australian shares over the past year is attributable, in part, to the buying of yield-hunting investors. A number of high-yielding financial stocks, for instance, are trading at or near to record highs.

Predictably, in the prevailing low-interest environment, many investors are now turning to more concentrated portfolios of high-yielding shares in an effort to maintain their investment yields and their lifestyles. But, unfortunately, this pursuit of yields comes at the cost of undertaking a higher level of risk for an investor's overall investment portfolio.

Rather than exposing portfolios to higher risk and upsetting carefully diversified portfolios in a hunt for income, investors should focus more on a portfolio's total return – that is the combination of its income and capital growth. With this approach, investors in need of more income than produced by a portfolio draw an amount taken from their portfolio's total return, taking into account cash-flow and capital appreciation.

In this way, investors can remain on track to achieving their long-time goals without upsetting their portfolio's diversification and without taking greater risks. Rick Maggi (Westmount. Financial Solutions.)