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Rocks, pebbles, and sand in a jar

Iftikhar Ahmed, CFP®

2 min read

Jan 5

If you've ever scrolled through your social media feed, you might have stumbled upon some business coach demonstrating a seemingly simple lesson on prioritization using a jar, rocks, pebbles, and sand. The message is clear: fill the jar with the biggest items first (the rocks), and then the smaller items (pebbles and sand) will find their way into the remaining spaces. The takeaway? Tackle your biggest priorities first and everything else will fall into place.

Applying the Lesson to Investment Management

At our firm, we adopt this very philosophy when designing client portfolios. Think of the investment landscape as a vast jar. Our strategy starts with the 'rocks'—these are broad index-based holdings, typically exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that provide a stable foundation by mirroring the broader market trends.

Next, we add the 'pebbles'. These are niche ETFs—sector-specific or specialty funds that aim to capture growth in specific areas. These selections are smaller compared to the broad-based ETFs but are crucial in providing the portfolio with the opportunity to outperform the general market indices.

Finally, we sprinkle in the 'sand'. These are the individual stocks, bonds, and even options strategies that fill inthe small gaps left in the portfolio. This layer is more about fine-tuning and customizing the portfolio to align with specific client goals and risk tolerances, providing that extra edge—what investors often refer to as 'alpha'.

Why This Strategy Works

This methodical approach of layering investments ensures that the portfolios we manage are robust and well-equipped to track general market movements while still allowing room for targeted growth strategies. By structuring investments this way, we aim to secure a solid base that safeguards against market volatility while employing more focused investments to potentially enhance returns.

The 'rocks, pebbles, and sand' strategy is not just about filling the jar; it's about maximizing every inch of space with a purpose. In the world of investment management, this means crafting portfolios that are not only comprehensive but also optimized for performance.

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