Monthly Archives: December 2017

Fear Must Not Inhibit a Financial Strategy

Fear Must Not Inhibit a Financial Strategy

Too often, it persuades investors to make questionable moves.

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BY GREG OLIVER

Fear affects investors in two distinct ways. Every so often, a bulletin, headline, or sustained economic or market trend will scare them and make them question their investing approach. If they overreact to it, they may sell low now and buy high later – or in the worst-case scenario, they derail their whole investing and retirement planning strategy.

Besides the fear of potential market shocks, there is also another fear worth noting – the fear of being too involved in the market. People with this worry are often superb savers, but reluctant investors. They amass large bank accounts, yet their aversion to investing in equities may hurt them in the long run.

Impulsive investment decisions tend to carry a cost. People who jump in and out of investment sectors or classes tend to pay a price for it. A statistic hints at how much: across the 20 years ending on December 31, 2015, the S&P 500 returned an average of 8.91% per year, but the average equity investor’s portfolio returned just 4.67% annually. Fixed-income investors also failed to beat a key benchmark: in this same period, the Barclays Aggregate Bond Index advanced an average of 5.34% a year, but the average fixed-income investor realized an annual return of only 0.51%.1

This data was compiled by DALBAR, a highly respected investment research firm, which has studied the behavior of individual investors since the mid-1980s. The numbers partly reflect the behavior of the typical individual investor who loses patience and tries to time the market. A hypothetical “average” investor who merely bought and held, with an equity or fixed-income portfolio merely copying the components of the above benchmarks, would have been better off across those 20 years. In monetary terms, the sustained difference in performance could have meant a difference of hundreds of thousands of dollars in earnings for an investor across a lifetime, given compounding.1

Other people are held back by their anxiety about investing. They become great savers, steadily building six-figure cash positions in enormous savings or checking accounts – but they never sufficiently invest their money.

That confusion comes with a severe potential downside. Just how much interest are their deposit accounts earning? Right now, almost nothing. If they invested more of the money they were saving into equities – or some kind of investment vehicle with the potential to outrun inflation – those invested dollars could grow and compound over time to a degree that idle cash does not.

A large emergency fund is a great thing to have, but it can be argued that a tax-advantaged retirement fund of invested dollars is a better thing to have. After all, who retires on cash savings alone? Tomorrow’s retirees will live mainly on the earnings generated from the investment of the dollars they have saved over the decades. Seen one way, a focus on cash is financially nearsighted; it ignores the possibility that even greater abundance may be realized through its sustained investment.

Fear dissuades some people from sticking with a long-term financial strategy and discourages other people from developing one. Patience and knowledge can help investors contend with the fears that may risk hurting their retirement saving prospects.

Citations.
1 – zacksim.com/heres-investors-underperform-market/ [5/22/17]

Avoiding the Money Pitfalls of Past Generations
Take these financial lessons to heart.

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BY GREG OLIVER

You have a chance to manage your money better than previous generations have. Some crucial financial steps may help you do just that.

Live below your means and refrain from living on margin. How much do you save per month? Generations ago, Americans routinely saved 10% or more of what they made, either depositing those savings or investing them. This kind of thriftiness is still found elsewhere in the world. Today, the average euro area household saves more than 12% of its earnings, and the current personal savings rate in Mexico is 20.6%.1

In 1975, the U.S. personal savings rate hit an all-time peak of 17.0%; it has been below 4% since June. Easy credit is one culprit; the tendency to overspend in a strong economy is another. Remember to pay yourself first, not credit card companies. Collect experiences rather than possessions.1

Recognize that there is no “sure thing” investment. Investors found that out in 2000 and 2007 when things shifted in the financial and housing markets. What returns 15-20% a year from now may not next year or three years on. Diversification matters: you never know what asset class might soar or plummet in the future, and allocating your assets across different investment types gives you the potential to reduce overall portfolio risk.

Plan for a 30-year retirement. According to Social Security estimates, the average 65-year-old man is currently projected to live until age 84, and the average 65-year-old woman, to age 87. With advances in health care, living to 95 may become the norm for the average 35-year-old.2

Plan for your retirement first, your children’s college education second. Some baby boomers did the inverse, and some who did wonder if they made the right decision for their futures. College students can work and receive financial aid; for senior citizens, it is a different story.

Switch jobs for better pay. Generations ago, people tended to stay at the same job for several years or longer, whether their prospects were promising or not. If a better job lures you, do not be ashamed to leave your current employer for it – you may gain, financially. Payroll processing giant ADP found recently that a job change resulted in an average pay increase of 4.5% for a full-time worker.3

Congratulate yourself on the good moves you have made, and plan more. Make another good move and chat with a financial professional about the ways you can continue to plan for a prosperous future.

Citations.
1 – tradingeconomics.com/united-states/personal-savings [12/14/17]
2 – ssa.gov/planners/lifeexpectancy.html [12/14/17]
3 – theatlantic.com/business/archive/2016/02/job-switchers-raise/460044/ [2/8/16]