Make Your Portfolio More Defensive
Kiplinger's Personal Finance|December 2021
Risk is rising on Wall Street. Make sure you’re prepared.
Adam Shell

FOOTBALL TEAMS AREN’T the only ones that rely on defense to protect a lead. Investors can also boost their odds of success by listening to the voice in their head chanting Dee-fense! Going all-in-all the time isn’t always the best investing game plan—especially after a big rally such as the current bull market, which has propelled the S&P 500 index to a gain of more than 100%. “People need to remember that markets don’t always go up,” says Lisa Shalett, chief investment officer at Morgan Stanley Wealth Management.

That’s especially true now. With warnings about headwinds for the economy ranging from the Federal Reserve dialing back stimulus to slowing corporate profit growth in 2022 to crises in China, there’s no telling when the green light flashing on Wall Street will turn yellow or red.

If your gut is telling you that a big stock market drop is coming, or you’re guilty of letting your winners run too long, or big down days make it hard to sleep at night, it might be time to dial back risk in your portfolio.

Tweaking a portfolio to make it more defensive doesn’t mean exiting the stock market completely or stashing all of your cash in a bank account that pays zero interest. We’re talking about a tactical approach that lowers the risk and volatility in your portfolio, protects gains, and keeps your mix of assets in sync with your risk tolerance. “Sell down to your sleeping point,” is the way Barry Bannister, chief equity strategist at investment bank Stifel, puts it. Here are ways to bring a high-flying portfolio closer to earth.

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