FREE NEWSLETTER

What percentage of a stock portfolio should be invested abroad?

Go to main Voices page »

Subscribe
Notify of
24 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Roboticus Aquarius
Roboticus Aquarius
1 month ago

The global market weight +/- adjustments (for US investors).

US retirees will earn and consume in US dollars, and their economic fate is tied significantly to that of the US. Overweighting US markets helps ensure that their accumulated savings act largely in concert with US trends (Consider the extreme case of a US retiree in 1990 with 100% in Japanese equities. Their fortunes diverged considerably for the worse compared to the US Market in the following decade.) This is a good reason to hold anywhere from 0 to 30% in International.

At the same time, valuations matter (usually!) On that basis, many people (including me) think this is a good time to overweight international and emerging markets stocks. Be aware, however, that this is a widespread market opinion, which should make one immediately skeptical. This is a good reason to hold 50-70% in International.

Considering both of these factors puts me right near market weight (which % varies by source, but seems to be between 42% & 52% which I’ll average to 46% and I don’t believe greater precision carries much value). I’m about 44% International.

Last edited 1 month ago by Roboticus Aquarius
Purple Rain
Purple Rain
1 month ago

At least 30%, preferably 50%.

Mike Zaccardi
Mike Zaccardi
3 months ago

My base case is the global equity market portfolio market cap weights, but I have more weighted to ex-US just based on valuations and my personal expected returns over the next 5-10yrs. I also have a tilt to value and small caps. Right now, the latest JPM Guide to the Markets shows 58% USA, 42% ex-US (13% of which is Emerging Markets).

Roboticus Aquarius
Roboticus Aquarius
1 month ago
Reply to  Mike Zaccardi

+1 I think your reasoning is sound. I’m not a value investor per se, so I have odd tilts to value and growth depending on a variety of considerations. The closer I get to retirement, the less I tilt to anything.

Richard Gore
Richard Gore
3 months ago

If your stock portfolio is held in a qualified plan is there a tax cost associated with the foreign withholding tax on dividends for most international stocks?

Carl Book
Carl Book
3 months ago

I may be the odd ball here, but I say stay domestic. I know more about our countries industries and stock market than any other country. If I’m investing for the long term, I believe my returns will be at least as good or better with this approach. I also note that many domestic companies are global so I am getting some international exposure.

Roboticus Aquarius
Roboticus Aquarius
1 month ago
Reply to  Carl Book

I think the odds are high that this approach will yield ‘very good’ results, even if it fails to meet your expections relative to International.

Dan Wick
Dan Wick
3 months ago

I have invested internationally for 30 years, but have found that I was constantly tax loss harvesting my international index fund for the last 6-7 years. I have enough capital losses logged thanks to the international funds so I have decided to stick with a 2 fund portfolio of US total market and US total bond. I have been retired for 4 years and feel that the diversity of International is better left to those with decades to reap the benefits. This will be my first full year without an International index fund.

Roboticus Aquarius
Roboticus Aquarius
1 month ago
Reply to  Dan Wick

I think there is wisdom in a simpler and more focused retirement portfolio.

That reasoning appears very sound to me, even though I follow a different approach.

Thomas
Thomas
3 months ago
Reply to  Dan Wick

According to Portfolio Visualizer, an international index fund (VXUS) experienced a CAGR of 5.45% with dividend reinvestment from Jan 2014 to March 2021. Those aren’t whopping returns, but they aren’t abysmal either. At the end of the day, though, what’s most important is that you feel comfortable with your investments.

Although your viewpoint is not popular among readers of this site, at least you have good company: famously, both Warren Buffet and John Bogle dismissed international diversification.

Last edited 3 months ago by Thomas
Nicholas Clements
Nicholas Clements
3 months ago

I agree that my current international allocation of 27% needs to be raised to a minimum of 30%.

Leonard Go
Leonard Go
3 months ago

Maybe not providing the full diversification benefits, but my international exposure is through companies with a global footprint, but US- or UK-based.

Adam Grossman
Adam Grossman
3 months ago

According to an analysis by Vanguard, investors reap the maximum diversification benefit when international stocks account for around 40-50%. You can find the study at https://personal.vanguard.com/pdf/ISGGEB.pdf.

Thomas
Thomas
3 months ago
Reply to  Adam Grossman

True, but a few caveats:

As Figure 3 in that paper suggests, the bulk of the volatility reduction benefit can be reached with as little as a 20% international allocation for US-based investors. And as shown in Figure 4, the correlation between US and international equities has increased over time, reducing the global diversification benefit.

My takeaway is that it’s beneficial to have a fairly sizable international allocation, but the cost of a home bias for US investors probably isn’t huge. That’s assuming there isn’t a black swan event that causes extended US underperformance. Because of that risk, a higher international allocation is probably warranted.

Thomas
Thomas
3 months ago

Ah, good point!

Andrew F.
Andrew F.
3 months ago

I’m at around 34% and have been at that percentage for some time. My foreign exposure is mainly via Vanguard Total International Stock, which isn’t currency-hedged, while their Total International Bond is. The explanation Vanguard gave me is that they want the benefit (and will accept the risks) of currency swings in their international stock offering, but they want more stability in the bond fund in keeping with its role as ballast in a portfolio.

Last edited 3 months ago by Andrew F.
William Ehart
William Ehart
3 months ago

I agree that the Japan example is an important lesson in diversifying away from your home country, especially when there may be a financial bubble. But in my amateur opinion, I’m not so sure that lower valuations compensate for weaker accounting standards and potential government interference in all overseas markets, particularly China. So I’m uncomfortable investing as much there as world market cap would indicate. I have about 37% of my stock portfolio overseas.

Roboticus Aquarius
Roboticus Aquarius
1 month ago
Reply to  William Ehart

I think this is a highly valid consideration as well. I don’t make an adjustment for it, but I have considered doing so. It may also make an extreme economic shock worse, as I think you imply. A counterpoint on China, for example, might be that the government interference amounts to propping up important companies, and so the weaker controls may yield a better result over the long term, and who cares if they cheated to get there? Shrug, these considerations can go down the rabbit hole, and I’m not going to say either case is true, but I like your thinking process.

Sanjib Saha
Sanjib Saha
3 months ago

I personally think that at least a third of the stock holdings should be in international. My own allocation is 60:40, though I don’t mind going even higher and resemble the Global stock allocation (through a single global fund like VT). I think some overweight to emerging market can be a good bet, especially compared to their valuation to the US counterpart. I have emerging market passive fund (IEMG) and Templeton Dragon CEF to bump my EM allocation.

Roboticus Aquarius
Roboticus Aquarius
1 month ago
Reply to  Sanjib Saha

I own some IEMG also, mostly a basic low expense ratio institutional fund, & some DFA EM Value… I am curious about the Templeton Dragon – looks like it’s done extremely well, which it would have to do to offset the expense ratio. May I ask what initially piqued your interest in that fund?

Roboticus Aquarius
Roboticus Aquarius
1 month ago

Well said! As I read everyone’s inputs I feel like Chris Stevens from Northern Exposure, cheering on everyone’s point of view. There are a lot of thoughtful posts here. I think this Voices page was a great idea.

Free Newsletter

SHARE