Lesson type: Understanding investment philosophy

Understanding investment philosophy

Many of the world’s leading investors will tell you that nothing is more important to long-term investment success than a clear investment philosophy.

An investment philosophy is based on the intractable belief you have in the principles and practices that guide your decision-making. In times of market upheaval and through the dark of uncertainty, your investment philosophy enables you to control your emotions, shut out the noise and focus on the things that really matter over the long term. Your investment philosophy keeps you focused on the process, which is your investment strategy.

An investment philosophy can usually be derived from two mainstream approaches;

  1. Risk Profiling or Strategic Asset Allocation (SAA): which typically believes that:
  • Psychometric risk profiling is the most appropriate way to determine an investment strategy – i.e. an investors appetite for gain or tolerance for loss, and
  • Risk means volatility of capital, and
  • Modern Portfolio Theory can be used to build optimal portfolios based on historical data as markets are always efficient and repeatable, and
  • Investors are always adequately rewarded for risk so a long-term Strategic (or Static) Asset Allocation works best, and
  • Markets will always mean revert as if dragged by some force of financial gravity to return to historic rates and ratios, suggesting there is little value in managing asset allocation.
  1. Goals Based Investing or Dynamic Asset Allocation (DAA): which typically believes that:
  • Investors actual needs and goals are the most important starting point to determine an investment strategy, and
  • Risk is best defined as the probability of not meeting an investors goals, and
  • Investors will have numerous different goals - so no one strategy or profile will suit all needs, and
  • Markets are not always efficient - risk-reward opportunities arise from time-to-time, and
  • Forward looking estimates and projections are more relevant than historical data - as markets will not always perform as they have historically, and
  • The world is constantly changing - more flexible and broad ranging Dynamic Asset Allocation tolerances can help derive value or protect from capital losses, and
  • Protecting capital is of paramount importance.

Some examples of investment philosophies of well-known investors include:

  • Warren Buffett: “Buy wonderful businesses at a fair price with the intention of holding them forever.”
  • John Bogle:Buy-and-hold, long-term, all market-index strategies, implemented at rock bottom cost, are the surest of all routes to the accumulation of wealth.”

Other examples of brief but all-encompassing investment philosophy statements:

  • Diversify widely, rebalance regularly, minimize costs; rinse, repeat
  • Anything is possible, and the unexpected is inevitable. Proceed accordingly
  • Risk means more things can happen than will happen

A good financial adviser should be able to articulate the elements of their investment philosophy. It helps you understand and so entrust them with utmost confidence. Whatever your philosophy or belief’s, this will determine your strategy and how to implement it.

Having worked as a specialist financial planner since 1991, Matthew has extensive experience in providing advice to successful individuals such as senior corporate executives, professionals and self-employed business executives. His plain-English approach to complicated financial and regulatory subjects has won him a loyal client following.

Related lessons

Lesson type: Think like an investor

Five reasons why financial advice is about to get better

Simon Hoyle

Big changes are coming to the financial planning industry. Minimum education standards and a compulsory code of ethics will finally ensure the financi...

View Lesson >

Lesson type: Think like an investor

Why you need to talk about money

Marianne Perkovic

Research shows that only 4 per cent of Australians talk about money with their families, but it’s crucial that you do so to ensure you’re able to ...

View Lesson >

Lesson type:

Why Fixed Income is the New Black

Anne Anderson

As an asset class, fixed income is often overlooked in favour of newer and more dynamic investment strategies, however, at a time when we’re expecti...

View Lesson >

Lesson type: Think like an investor

Making the most of money psychology

Shayne Sommer

Ever thought that you’d be ‘better’ at things one day such as being savvier with your saving, leading a healthier lifestyle, getting more organi...

View Lesson >


Get the latest lessons

Enter your email address to subscribe to our Investment Series newsletter and we’ll let you know when new content goes live.

Please enter a valid email address.

Almost there!

Thank you for registering your interest in Lessons. . We’ll email you the latest content as it goes live. To complete the subscription process, click on the subscribe button below. An email will then be sent to you outlining steps to finalise your subscription.

We’re committed to helping you get the investment knowledge you want, so let us know what you’d love to see more of:

  • TV Show
  • Wealth Stories
  • Experts
  • All of the above

I have read and agree to the terms, privacy policy and financial services guide.