IPS: Return objective - no calculation

I never really know what to say for Return Objective, when you dont have sufficient information to perform a calculation. Apart from what feels like stating the very obvious… and even then I end up over-thinking my response. Sometimes, its just hard to believe you actually get credit for some of the ‘model’ answers. Anyone else find this annoying?

Well yes this can be very vague. Some things I always note in this section are - if the investor taxable (pre-tax vs. after-tax returns) - if expenses are expected to rise (inflation-adjusted or not) - if management fees are an issue - what kind of return is of interest (usually total return, but could be focused on current income or capital appreciation depending on circumstances)

Explain what you would compute would you have the numbers. E.g. we have to earn a return that will allow John to maintain his current spending level on an inflation adjusted basis.

Computationally, you would need to come up with a % return that the portfolio needs in order to meet the person’s goal(s). You may or may not have to factor in taxes and inflation into the return. The problem may explicitly state the type of return you should calculate (i.e. after-tax real return) or it may require you to know what to calculate. Either way, you should address the needs the portfolio is meeting when you formulate (write out in words) the return objective - living expenses, college tuition, medical expenses, etc. Use words like total return, after-tax or pre-tax, real or nominal so the graders give you points. E.g. - John Doe’s return objective is to earn a total rate of return that is sufficient to maintain the real value of the portfolio, while meeting his daughter’s educational expenses and his living expenses. You would then normally go on to calculate the actual required return, although it is possible they won’t ask you to. Usually, this involves taking annual expenses and dividing it by the portfolio’s investable value to come up with a percentage. This is what you need to earn in order to preserve the principal of the portfolio. You may or may not have to factor in taxes or inflation. This is a very simplified version of what you need to do on the exam. There may be some variations on how you calculate the return so I would advise you to go through the past year’s exams to see some of the different ways the present the information in the case.