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Why Your Instincts Are Hurting Your Investment Returns?

Imagine you’re reading this post in a busy coffee shop.  All of a sudden you look up and see people running out of the shop.  What do you do first? Chances are, you get up and follow everyone else.  You might not even know what’s going on at first.  Are you getting away from a dangerous situation, such as a fire in the coffee shop?  Or is everyone running toward something or someone, such as a celebrity?

This is an instinctual reaction.  There is a perception of safety in numbers.  It goes back to some of our earliest known ancestors and can be seen in many animal species today.

If we dig into this a little deeper, it’s actually a mental short-cut (technically called a “heuristic”) .  In the coffee shop example, you didn’t have time to take stock of the situation to understand what’s occurring.  Instead, you relied on actions of others and assumed they were making the right decision.  It worked well for our ancestors and it continues to work well for us today.  Except….

Except for when it comes to investing.  Assume you’re watching the news and all everyone is talking about is how XVZ stock is doing great and how everyone is buying it.  Unfortunately, the average investor will want to get in on it, too.  They follow the hearding behavior of others and buy XYZ simply because everyone else is doing it.

That’s precisely the wrong time to be buying a stock, yet it’s so difficult to overcome this instinctual response.  This is even more difficult when stock prices are declining and investors hear about so many people selling out of their investments.  The instinctual response to follow the crowd kicks in.  The investor thinks they will feel better and maybe safer knowing they are doing what everyone else is doing.  But evidence clearly shows it to be a poor decision to follow the heard of other investors.

This is an example of our instincts working against us. Instead of reacting to the news, take a minute to take stock of the situation, assess what is going on, consult with your financial advisor, and understand how your decision to buy or sell an investment will affect your likelihood of reaching your financial goal.

The Secret to Growing Your Retirement Account

Stay the course. That’s the secret.

The pain we experience when we see the account balance drop is much greater than the joy we feel when we see the account balance increase by the same amount. Imagine you have a retirement account with $500,000 in it and it declines by 20% to the end the month at $400,000. That can be scary – you’ll most likely question your allocation and investments. Unfortunately and in too many cases that is exactly what investors do: The sell out of their losers and buy something inappropriate for themselves.

There are still many investors that are still sitting in cash after selling out of the stock market during the worst moments of the recession of 2008.

Fidelity has some data that backs up this statistic

How To Retire in 4 Years

The story about a couple’s desire to retire in 4 year is compelling.

They have applied many of the important financial planning concepts:

1) The plan to live a very modest lifestyle in retirement – They plan to need 30,000 a year in retirement.
2) They have cut and reduced many of their expenses. They realized how freeing it is to not have a large mortgage.
3) They plan to work part time. Retirement is being redefined. Working part-time, doing a fun job, is becoming common.
4) They have a plan. While I have not checked their math, it’s appears they have thought through many of the common issues retirees face.
5) They are diversified. Between side jobs, investments, and real estate they will have multiple sources of income available for them.

Making A Plan To Save For College

Recently we introduced The Money Management Tool to help clients better organize their financial lives. The tool has lots of features and we will occasional explain how some of the features are being used by our clients (or should be used) to help them reach their financial goals.

This post will deal with a client who is trying to save for college.

Situation: A client recently had a child and wanted to start saving for her college education. He is a hands-on client who likes to dig into the numbers himself and run multiple scenarios. His concern was: “If I fund my child’s education, how will it impact my retirement plans?”

Problem: He didn’t have a framework to think through the various scenarios.  All the calculators he found online were too simple and lacking the detail he needed.

Solution: The Money Management Tool provides a suite of workshops to help people just like my client. There is a specific workshop to help clients plan for college. He was able quickly enter his assumptions to see what the outcome would be for him.  From there, it offered some options to help him reach his goal.  Once he was satisfied with his plan, he was able to pull me into the process to make sure it made sense.


Tracking Your Asset Allocation Across Multiple Accounts

Recently we introduced The Money Management Tool to help clients better organize their financial lives. The tool has lots of features and we will occasional explain how some of the features are being used by our clients (or should be used) to help them reach their financial goals.

This post will deal with a prospective client who has many accounts and struggles to keep track of how they are invested.

Situation: A prospective client couple approached us looking for help managing his investments. They had multiple investment accounts held at different institutions. And in most cases, the accounts could not be moved or consolidated.

Problem: They struggled to understand what they really owned. They thought they were diversified by owning several different funds, but in reality they owned many passive index funds that tracked the same index. Even though the fund names were different, the underlying investments were all very similar.

Solution: The Money Management Tool could be used to connect all the accounts together. After establishing the connections between the tool and their accounts, they would be able to see a total asset allocation across all their account. We were then able to work with them to adjust their allocation.

asset allocation

Is a Creative Saving Strategy Right for Me?

Someone can reach an ambitious financial goal (such as saving for college education) despite having limited cash flow available to fund the goal.  The goal can be accomplished by using a creative saving strategy called a serial payment.

Many clients that I have worked with this year have expressed a strong desire to fund a majority of their children’s college education but currently have limited resources to commit to it today.  Instead, they have promising careers in which they expect decent raises in the future or expect their spouse to re-enter the workforce once the children are in school.  They have already tightened their belt and understand that a portion of future raises will be diverted to their future goals.  This strategy gives them a roadmap for the future.

For more details, read these other posts to learn about the process.