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When and How Often Should You Rebalance Your Portfolio?

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Portfolio rebalancing is an essential strategy in investment management that involves adjusting the weights of different assets in your portfolio back to their target allocations. As investments perform variably over time, the actual distribution of assets in your portfolio can drift from your planned allocation.

This rebalancing is crucial as it helps maintain the desired risk profile and asset allocation, aligning your investment strategy with your financial goals and risk tolerance. By periodically realigning your portfolio, you mitigate the risk of becoming overexposed to unwanted risks and ensure that your investment strategy remains on track to achieve your long-term objectives. This disciplined approach not only aids in managing risk but also enhances returns by systematically buying low and selling high.

Moreover, market movements and various other factors can significantly alter the composition of your investment portfolio. In a bull market, for instance, the value of stocks may rise significantly compared to bonds. Without rebalancing, what began as a balanced 60% stocks and 40% bonds portfolio could shift to a riskier 70% stocks and 30% bonds mix. This shift increases your exposure to volatility and potential losses if the market turns.

The consequences of not rebalancing are significant. A portfolio too heavily weighted in one asset class strays from its intended risk profile and strategy. This drift increases risk as well as diverts you from your financial goals. If unchecked, such misalignments can significantly compromise your portfolio's performance, especially if the overrepresented assets underperform. By maintaining a regular rebalancing schedule, you effectively manage your investment risk and align closer to your financial aspirations. A financial advisor can advise when and how often you should rebalance your portfolio to ensure it aligns with your needs and goals.

This article will detail how to rebalance your portfolio and enable you to determine when and how often you should rebalance.

Deciding how often to rebalance

Deciding when and how often to rebalance your portfolio depends on your overall investment strategy and current market conditions. Here's a closer look at what influences the timing of rebalancing and different strategies that you might consider:

1. Trigger-based rebalancing

A common approach to rebalancing involves responding to specific triggers. One such trigger is a significant deviation in asset allocation from your target. For instance, if you have decided that your portfolio should consist of 60% stocks and 40% bonds, you may rebalance your investment portfolio if the weight of either asset class shifts by 5% or more. Financial advisors often recommend this strategy because even a small percentage change can substantially affect your portfolio's risk and return profile. By realigning your investments back to the original targets, you can maintain the intended risk level and potentially capitalize on buying low and selling high.

2. Time-based rebalancing

Another popular method is time-based rebalancing, where you adjust your portfolio at predetermined intervals—such as quarterly or annually. This systematic approach helps minimize the impact of emotional decisions on your investments, promoting discipline in your investment strategy. It ensures that your portfolio adjustments are methodical, which can prevent costly mistakes associated with impulsive decisions. However, while this method provides a regular check-up, it may not be as agile in responding to sudden and significant market shifts, which might necessitate more frequent reviews and adjustments.

3. Event-driven rebalancing

Significant market events, like a major market downturn or rally, can also dictate the need for rebalancing. This strategy demands more vigilance, as it requires investors to monitor the market actively and make decisions quickly to adapt to new realities. Rebalancing in response to market events allows investors to potentially take advantage of market conditions to realign their portfolios favorably, which can be especially valuable in volatile or rapidly changing markets.

Choosing the right strategy

Each rebalancing strategy comes with its advantages and disadvantages, and the best approach depends on your unique investment goals, risk tolerance, and how hands-on you want to be with your investment management. A blend of these strategies might even be appropriate depending on your circumstances. For instance, you could primarily follow a time-based approach while remaining open to making additional adjustments in response to significant market movements.

Effectively balancing these factors is key to maintaining a robust investment strategy that not only aims to protect your portfolio from excessive risk but also positions you to capitalize on potential market opportunities as they arise. It's wise to regularly review your rebalancing strategy to ensure it continues to align with your financial goals and the economic landscape.

How to rebalance your portfolio

Rebalancing your investment portfolio can be accomplished through various strategies, each with its unique approach and benefits:

1. Direct adjustment of asset allocations

The most straightforward method of rebalancing involves selling assets that have exceeded their target allocation and buying those that are underrepresented. This direct trade ensures that your portfolio adheres to its original risk and return profile by realigning it with your strategic goals.

2. Using new contributions

An efficient way to rebalance an investment portfolio without incurring transaction costs is to use new contributions. As you add money to your investment accounts, direct these new funds towards purchasing underweighted assets. This method helps maintain the desired asset balance and avoid the costs associated with selling overrepresented assets.

3. Employing rebalancing services

Many investors opt for automated rebalancing through robo-advisors or financial platforms. These services routinely adjust your portfolio to maintain target allocations, often as part of their management offering. This automation ensures continuous alignment with investment goals and can be particularly beneficial for those who prefer a hands-off approach to their investment strategy.


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Tax considerations when rebalancing your investment portfolio

Tax implications are an important consideration when rebalancing your portfolio, particularly for taxable accounts. Some important points you can consider while rebalancing are:

1. Utilize tax loss harvesting

Tax loss harvesting entails selling investments at a loss to offset capital gains in other parts of your portfolio. This approach can lower your tax liability for the year while keeping your investment strategy on track.

2. Choose tax-efficient accounts for trades

Whenever possible, make rebalancing trades within tax-advantaged accounts such as IRAs or 401(k)s. In these accounts, transactions do not trigger tax events, allowing for more flexibility in managing your investments without immediate tax consequences.

3. Optimize the timing of trades

The timing of your trades can significantly affect your tax bill. For instance, selling assets that have appreciated in value after holding them for over a year can qualify for long-term capital gains tax rates, which are typically lower than short-term rates. Conversely, you might avoid selling assets in high-income years to defer tax liability.

By carefully planning when and how you rebalance, you can maintain your desired investment allocation and manage your tax liabilities more effectively. This strategic approach ensures that your rebalancing efforts contribute positively to your financial goals and overall tax situation.

Should you rebalance your portfolio when the market is down?

Rebalancing during market dips is a strategy that capitalizes on the fundamental investment principle of buying low and selling high. When the market is down, it often results in an overrepresentation of safer assets like bonds compared to equities, which may have fallen in value. By rebalancing, you buy more of the undervalued assets (stocks) while they are cheaper, and sell off some of the overvalued assets (bonds), thus adhering to the idea of buying low and selling high.

Below are the benefits and risks of such an approach:


  1. Opportunity for greater returns: Buying stocks when prices are low can lead to higher potential gains as markets rebound.
  2. Risk management: Rebalancing helps keep your portfolio aligned with your risk tolerance and investment goals, preventing overexposure to the volatility of equities during downturns.


  1. Market timing challenges: It's difficult to predict the bottom of the market; thus, purchasing too early during a downturn can lead to further losses if the market continues to fall.
  2. Emotional investing: The fear and pessimism that often accompany market dips can make it challenging to buy when everyone else is selling, potentially leading to missed opportunities.

Choosing the best time of year to rebalance your portfolio

The timing of when to rebalance your portfolio can significantly impact its effectiveness, especially regarding tax implications and administrative ease. By carefully choosing the timing of rebalancing, investors can maximize the benefits while minimizing the administrative burdens and potential tax implications. This strategic timing, particularly at year-end, helps maintain a disciplined approach to portfolio management.

Advantages of year-end rebalancing

  1. Tax planning alignment: Rebalancing at the end of the year allows investors to assess capital gains or losses incurred over the year and make informed decisions to optimize their tax situation. This might include selling assets at a loss to offset gains elsewhere, known as tax-loss harvesting.
  2. Simplification of record keeping: Conducting annual reviews and rebalancing at year's end aligns neatly with the tax year, making it easier to maintain consistent records and monitor performance over a fixed period.
  3. Taking stock of changes: Year-end provides a natural point to review any shifts in financial goals or personal circumstances that might affect your investment strategy, ensuring that your asset allocation remains in line with your evolving objectives.

To conclude

Maintaining a disciplined approach to rebalancing your investment portfolio is vital for several reasons. It ensures that your investments remain aligned with your intended asset allocation, managing risk and optimizing returns according to your financial goals. As markets fluctuate, regular rebalancing acts as a safeguard against the drift that can expose your portfolio to higher volatility or deviate from your risk tolerance.

It is ideal for investors to assess their financial situation carefully. You can tailor your rebalancing strategy to reflect your life stage, investment horizon, and risk tolerance. As these factors can change, so too should your approach to rebalancing. Consulting with a financial advisor can provide personalized insights and strategies that better align with your unique financial goals.

Consider setting up a regular review schedule—whether quarterly, annually, or tied to significant market events—to keep your investments on track. If you're unsure where to begin, or if you want to optimize your strategy for tax implications, reaching out to a professional financial advisor could be your next best step. They can offer tailored advice and rebalancing strategies that meet your individual needs and financial objectives.

Consider using our free advisor match tool to get matched with vetted financial advisors who can help advise you on when and how often you should rebalance your investment portfolio. Simply answer a few questions about your financial needs, and we will match you to  2 to 3 vetted financial advisors best suited to your requirements.

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The blog articles on this website are provided for general educational and informational purposes only, and no content included is intended to be used as financial or legal advice.
A professional financial advisor should be consulted prior to making any investment decisions. Each person's financial situation is unique, and your advisor would be able to provide you with the financial information and advice related to your financial situation.