When a company is publicly traded, it has a set number of outstanding shares. This limits the number of potential investors, as there is only so much stock to go around. Additionally, it can, at times, hinder a company’s ability to bring in money. However, businesses do have the ability to practically create more shares out of thin air. With a stock split, they can increase the total number of shares available. The move can be financially beneficial, but it also comes with risk. If you are wondering, “Do stock splits make sense in 2020?” here’s what you need to know.
The current dilemma I am having is whether to stash my savings for a down payment on a house or contribute to my Roth so I have cash available for buying opportunities.
I’m pinching pennies, and I’m saving money wherever I can so that cash is accessible when I need it. I just don’t know what to do with it.
Do I put it towards a down payment or set it aside for investment opportunities. Like most things in life, the answer will lie somewhere in the middle.
I’ve mentioned in prior reflections that I’m renting right now.
I’m renting because I got divorced and exhausted all of my savings on the down payment for my house. That house is currently being rented by another family, and my ex-wife and I still own it.
That’ll help build equity into the house so we receive more if/when we decide to sell, which is good.
I’m happy with my current living arrangements. I like the place. I like the neighborhood. My commute to work is 2 minutes, and I’m close to all of my family and friends. All good things.
The only bad part is I have no outdoor space to call my own. I have no yard.
I’m trying to frame it positively by saying that I’m not spending my time on yard work, and instead, have more time to spend with my son/work on myself when he’s not here. These are both very good things.
However, I want to give my son a space to play. A place to put a jungle gym and a sandbox. A place where he can just run around and have fun.
I want to give him that because he deserves it. I want to use my savings for a down payment on a house so we can have a place to call our own.
Here’s the second part of my dilemma. I see a lot of chances to put my money to work in the market.
I’m able to play the long game because of my investment philosophy and my training. The best investors I have long term time horizons.
What I mean to say is I can see past the present and I have an idea of what my investments can do over the long term, and the [possible] reward for investing now can’t be ignored.
That’s why I’m having a difficult time deciding what to do.
What will I do?
As a parent, you want to give your kids everything. I want to have a place we can call our own.
At the same time, I know how valuable it is to start saving and investing early so I can take advantage of compounding returns.
So here’s what I’m thinking. I’m going to develop a “savings plan”. I’ll take the dollar amount for an ideal down payment and how far in the future (in terms of years) when I’ll want to use it.
I’m thinking of $25,000 for a down payment and four years until I’ll use it. I’ll, then, divide $25k by 48 to get my monthly savings goal. Anything over that number I’ll put in my Roth.
That’ll take care of saving for a house and for retirement.
My Last Reflection:
In many finance websites, blogs, and articles, a lot has been said about how to prepare for retirement, but I believe there hasn’t been enough written about what to do when you get there. More specifically, there’s a lack of content about mistake, or mistakes, to avoid.
In this article, we’ll explore several mistakes to avoid when you reach this milestone.
Spend beyond your means
This seems obvious, but once the psychological barrier of spending versus savings is breached, people (not everyone) develop this mentality of “I saved for 40 years for this moment, why shouldn’t I enjoy it?”
You should enjoy it. You worked your butt off for it, right? There are strategic ways to do this, however. The mistake is going gangbusters right away.
- Create a budget/spending plan – Your budget in retirement will be different than your budget before retirement. Create line items for everything, and get real granular with your discretionary spending (i.e. sub line items to breakdown where the discretionary spending is actually going).
- Plan for healthcare – Healthcare costs, generally speaking, will be your largest expense in retirement. Plan accordingly.
- Income strategy – More than likely, you’ll have a few different income sources (social security, pension, retirement distributions, etc.). Create a line item for each source.
- Senior discounts – Take advantage of every single one. There might be a psychological hesitation with this, as it forces you to come to terms with your age/where you are in life
- Spoil grandkids – Every grandparent wants to spoil their grandkids to death, but it must be done within reason. Get creative and be strategic about when and how much.
Make Quick Decisions
Another mistake is making quick decisions. Don’t do it. Any decision you classify as BIG needs to be well thought out. This could be anything like moving, downsizing, vacations, or eliminating a vehicle.
I would argue that any decision about an expense that’s not in your budget/spending plan, should be thought about for several days. My rule of thumb is a week. By then, the euphoria of such a purchase has gone away, then you think more logically about it.
Over the years, a big mistake clients make is the desire to invest more aggressively than they should. Oftentimes, this is to compensate for an inadequate savings rate during their working years or a significant market pullback that hurt their portfolio.
While capital appreciation is still an investment objective in retirement, it’s no longer the primary goal.
This primary goal should be capital preservation. Limiting losses on what you have. This has less to do with time and more to do with your decreasing ability to go out and make more money. Allocate your portfolios accordingly.
Ignoring Estate Planning
Estate planning is a key ingredient to your financial planning recipe. It mustn’t be ignored. Every debt and asset you have needs to be accounted for, listed, and given a task for when you pass.
Estate attorneys can be expensive, but I believe it’s 100% necessary to find one you trust, so your estate is well taken care of.
Your social life is more important than ever. Countless studies show that people with strong relationships outlive those that don’t. So the mistake here is not making your social life a priority.
Join a community, volunteer, retain, and nourish friendships. Whatever flavor of social life sounds desirable, make it a priority.
Letting Yourself Go
Taking care of your mind and body is always important, but especially now. It will keep you healthy, therefore, lowering your healthcare expenditures, but it’s also another way for you to meet people.
Go for walks with neighbors and/or friends. Join a gym. Many of which have reduced rates for seniors. Additionally, many health insurance companies have “silver sneaker” programs that offer inexpensive services and programs for seniors.
Expecting it to be easy
This is a BIG life change and the transition will not be easy.
Not only will you shift from saving to spending, but those social connections you developed over your working years can reduce in frequency and strength.
Go easy on yourself and be patient.
Taking Social Security too early
Unfortunately, there are situations and scenarios where taking Social Security Income (SSI) distributions early is necessary. However, for those of you where this does not apply, speak with a trusted advisor about optimizing your SSI strategy.
Scammers adapted. They’re smart and they know how to target susceptible people. Unfortunately, elderly individuals are inherently more at risk than the general population.
Any email, phone call, or text that you receive (unsolicited, of course) should be greeted with a fair amount of skepticism. Don’t willingly give out any pertinent information (name, DOB, social security number, etc.).
Doing it alone
A BIG mistake people make is thinking they can plan by themselves. It would behoove you tremendously to consult with several experts. Estate attorneys and financial advisors should be at the top of this list.
Do your research, check online reviews, and get testimonials from trusted contacts. Having capable professionals in your corner could set you up for success and put your mind at ease.
Over the past couple of months, we’ve seen increased volatility. Put simply, volatility is periodic market fluctuations.
In a month, from the end of February to the end of March, we saw the S&P 500 drop nearly 35%. Obviously, it wasn’t a straight drop. There were several up days and a few relief rallies.
Since then, we have seen the S&P come back to the tune of 22%.
In this article, I want to give a little information about how I deal with market fluctuations, where I look for opportunities, and how retirement savers navigate these difficult times.
What I Learned
At the beginning of my career, I always dreaded experiencing a bear market. What do I do? Do I sell out of everything to avoid the decline? What do I tell my clients? How will they react?
As I gained more experience and read more, I learned what to do.
Keep in mind that I started my career in 2014, still in the middle of a long bull market, and since then I’ve read everything I could get my hands on about finances, markets, and economics. I’ve listened to podcasts and watched YouTube videos.
A lot of the people that I learned from attributed their success to when they got started. Two gentlemen really stick out.
One began his career in 1987 and lost his shirt on Black Monday (20% decline in one day, October 1987). This taught him about diversification and the importance of a long-term strategy.
The other got started in the early 80s but had a much different experience. He did some research and analysis and found a lot of risk in the credit market. He stuck his neck out on this trade and what he predicted came to fruition.
However, the markets didn’t react how he thought. What he learned was that fundamentals are important, yes, but what [almost] matters more is investor behavior.
In periods of heightened market volatility, I pretty much hold my ground. I help my clients plan accordingly and coach them about what to do when stocks fall.
We put together the parachute before we jump out of the plane, not on the way down. That’s where people get into trouble. That’s why asset allocation is so important.
When building a portfolio, it’s vital to take your age (time horizon) and risk tolerance into account.
What may even be more important is the investor’s behavior. They might have a long time horizon and be fairly tolerant of risk, but if they’re going to lose sleep over a 10% correction, you need to position their portfolio accordingly.
Because my clients and I plan ahead, generally, I don’t do anything and I advise them to sit tight. What you don’t want to do is sell out of fear. At that point, you have probably experienced enough of the decline that it doesn’t make sense.
That said, I did some broad selling during the month of March. There were two positions that I used specifically to serve as a shock absorber during declines, and those did not perform as I’d hoped. So I sold them.
I realized they weren’t doing what I wanted them to and I cut my losses. Good traders and investors have an incredibly short leash when it comes to limiting their losses.
Generally speaking, I’m not a stock picker. I’m an asset allocator. Stock picking is not an efficient use of my time. However, sometimes it’s necessary and market fluctuations often create opportunities.
There are two positions, in particular, that I’ve been buying over the last month or two. I found enough of a disconnect between the price and what I thought the value would be over the long term, that I slowly invested into these two positions.
By the way, this slow investing is called averaging in, or dollar-cost averaging. Ideally, you invest at lower and lower prices, reducing your overall cost basis. My method is to take advantage of that disconnect I mentioned, but also leave enough on the side in case it goes lower so I can buy more.
How to Plan
Planning for market fluctuations isn’t something you do when you think it’s coming, it should be part of your plan all along.
Age is a big factor when determining the time horizon. The other items to consider, as I mentioned, are goals, risk tolerance, and investor behavior.
As an advisor, you have to be acutely aware and familiar with your clients, their risk appetite, and their personality. Only then are you able to plan with them, then guide them during trying times.
That’s probably one of the biggest things I’ve taken away from these market fluctuations. I’ve received two phone calls. That tells me that I’ve trained them well. That I’ve done a good job planning with them and that they are comfortable with how their portfolios are positioned.
Establish an emergency fund, pay down debt, save for retirement, and grow your wealth! Much of your financial life is focused on the things you should do.
However, what I think to be more important are the things you shouldn’t do!
There’s been a lot of literature/news over the last few years about how much of a problem student loan debt is. As of 2018, total student loan debt was $1.47 trillion. With a T! (Source)
That said, here are some things you should avoid.
- Taking on too much – Some degrees/professions require a lot of schooling, which can lead to large amounts of student loan debt. And I don’t mean to speak ill of any degrees/professions, but if your desired career requires a “basic” 4-year degree, it’s probably best to find an in-state university to cut costs. Better yet, start at a local 2-year university or tech school until your Gen. Eds. are complete, then transfer.
- Not having a plan for after – I think this is a common fear for Millennials and Gen Z, but you have so much time to figure things out. Don’t just go to college to get a degree. If you need time, take time. Once you figure out what you want, determine what you need to do to get there.
- Not researching options – There are SO many student loan options. Depending on what type of loan you choose (private or public), you could have a wide range of payback methodologies. I wrote about student loan options and payback options in two previous posts. Check them out!
There are two BIG problems with credit cards. People who use them irresponsibly and people who don’t use them at all.
- Using irresponsibly – This one pretty much speaks for itself. This pertains to people who spend way more than they ought to. A good rule of thumb is to only buy something using a credit card if you have the funds readily available to pay the balance off. Don’t have the money, don’t put it on the card. Doing so will cost you in interest and can really set you back.
- Not using at all – Better than the first point, but still not great. Using a credit card can help your financial situation if you use it correctly. Most of them have rewards of some sort. It’s another credit account on your report. Charging and paying off right away establishes a good payment history. All good things for your credit score.
No emergency fund
Establishing an emergency fund is Step 1. If you don’t have money set aside for unexpected expenses, you’ll have to charge it. This leads to the point above about irresponsible use.
Save $1,000 for emergencies, turn your attention to high-interest debt (credit cards), and then shift your focus back to your emergency fund once that debt is paid off.
- Paying bills late – Not paying your bills on time, especially ones shown on your credit report is a big mistake. The #1 factor in calculating your credit score is payment history. Paying ONE bill late will knock your score down. Just one. Don’t do it.
- Spending too much – (See irresponsible credit card use) This is especially harmful if you frivolously spend BEFORE taking care of important “budget items”. Things like saving, debt payments, and bills.
- Being too frugal – Though frugality is helpful in building wealth, it can also hurt you. There comes a point when you are too frugal. A vital life skill is doing things in moderation. If you pinch pennies and forego rewarding yourself, you run the risk of breaking the bank on a “bender”.
- Waiting – I cannot stress enough the importance of investing early. What helps you make the most of your retirement savings is compound interest. The more time you have to invest, the more compound interest works in your favor.
- Panic selling – This is a timely point since the market dropped almost 5 percent in the last week. Selling out of fear is always bad. More often than not, when you “panic sell,” you’ve already experienced the majority of the drawdown. Now, this depends on your particular situation, but it behooves you to stay invested during that period.
- Using generalities when setting up an investment plan – Your investment plan needs to reflect your goals, risk tolerance, time horizon, and behavior. Using generalities is good for someone who writes about this stuff, but it’s not good for YOU. Your plan has to be tailored to YOU.
Life and Wealth
- Sticking with a job you hate – Sometimes money and comfort makes us do things we don’t want to do. Being unhappy at your job is not worth it. It’s important, however, to thoroughly think through this decision. Quitting is tough, but if your family counts on you for income, you need to have a plan in place before you jump ship.
- Comparing yourself to others – I’m going to encourage you to develop a new mindset because society taught us that wealth looks like fancy cars and big houses. I want you to think about stealth wealth. It’s probably my most favorite phrase/term. Someone with stealth wealth lives within their means. They live in a modest home, drive a car for transportation only, but saves more than the average person. They don’t “look” wealthy, but their retirement account says otherwise.
Most of us are familiar with the idea that there is no free lunch – but tech companies are very, very good at convincing us that this is not the case. If you’ve seen the news lately, you may have noticed that Facebook & Google have been in hot water because of the controversial use of their data. I don’t want to put Personal Capital in the same category, but don’t think for a second that they create and maintain all of their neat tools as a gesture of goodwill. Wondering how Personal Capital works and if it’s worth the cost? Here’s our review.
Personal Capital Review: How Does it Work?
Personal Capital’s crown jewel is an account aggregation system – a very unsexy term for something that actually does a bunch of really cool things. Essentially, you hook up all of your financial accounts – think credit cards, checking, investments, 401k from work, even your house! Personal Capital automatically crunches that data for you and lets you everything from what your total net worth is to your potential capital gains tax exposure. It’s like a financial Oracle – you after you’ve fed it your personal data, you can pretty much ask it any question you want to.
Here’s the thing – You aren’t the only one asking! Personal Capital anonymizes its data, so no one else is looking at your actual account numbers, but what they are looking at is how much you have, where you have it, and if Personal Capital can manage it. Personal Capital is actually a Registered Investment Advisor, which is a type of investment company that manages assets on a fiduciary basis (in your best interest).
This puts them ahead of traditional wealth management companies like Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley, but they like to sell themselves as being a FinTech company. In reality, their core business is much more similar to that of Fisher Investments, a traditional hard selling RIA firm. A lot of Personal Capital’s senior management team came from Fisher, so it should not shock you that their company culture is similar.
- .89% is a low price to pay for true fiduciary wealth management
- Personal Capital uses low-cost ETFs and efficient investment vehicles
- The amazing set of free tools is counterbalanced by the fact that all of that info is going to Personal Capital – you are a lead in their system
The Not So Good
- The advice given is highly dependant on who you talk to
- The financial advisors receive compensation primarily for getting new assets onto the books, not keeping existing clients happy
- If you don’t take advantage of or don’t want the financial planning aspect, you are paying .89% for no reason
- Vanguard has a similar experience for only .3% at higher account balances
What You Need to Know about Personal Capital
Personal Capital currently has about $8 Billion of assets under management, which is certainly more money than you or I have, but tiny compared the other giants in the investment space. What they do have, however, is over $674 billion of tracked assets via their app – assets that they’d like to get on their own platform and charge .89% to manage. Because of this, its shiny free to use tools come with a cost. Buried in the fine print which I’m sure you didn’t read is a clause that allows Personal Capital to solicit you for advisory services.
If you have more than $100,000 in financial assets linked to the platform, you’d better expect a call from Personal Capital. You can always block their number or give them a fake phone number when you sign up, but that’s not very nice, is it? Those financial advisors from Personal Capital will be calling to try and get you invested in one of the three options below, depending on how much you have.
Personal Capital operates on a 3 tiered investment plan system – but unless you’ve got over a million dollars or more to invest, there’s no guarantee you’ll talk to a Certified Financial Planner. In a world where there are over 80,000 CFPs, there’s no reason to settle for anything less. It’s important to note that Personal Capital is not a robo advisor. While the advisors will attempt to put you in a managed asset program that may trade on certain automatic triggers, there are humans involved in all investment decisions.
In fact, once you get over $200,000, they will stop investing you in an all ETF strategy and move you into a basket of individual stocks that will act like an index – which can have several advantages. The ability to tax loss harvest at the individual stock level can increase real returns and should not be discounted. In addition, they offer full financial planning for free (which in my opinion they should position much more strongly).
Is It Worth the Fee?
The truth is that these days you can get an efficient investment allocation for pennies. If you choose the three fund portfolio, the cost for that allocation is something like .05% (the average weighted expense ratio of the funds). If you wanted to dial up the sophistication a bit, you could go to a robo advisor like Wealthfront and pay .25% (plus the expense ratio of the underlying funds) for a portfolio that trades automatically and can also tax loss harvest at the stock level – so why pay .89% for any of Personal Capital’s offerings?
Here’s the key difference – at Personal Capital you are (horror stories notwithstanding) not paying just for the investment management. Personal Capital is not a robo advisor – they even made a whole video explaining they are not a robo:
Now I tend to agree with them that one of the worst deals in finance is investing with a robo advisor. They are charging you a lot for taking a quiz once – and unlike a human advisor, no one’s there to talk you out of buying a bitcoin at $20,000 or letting you know how many years retirement you’ll postpone by if you go ahead and buy the house with the chef’s kitchen. Humans cost more than any robo (though with Vanguard’s Personal Advisor Services, not much more) but the value you get back from them is measurably higher because they serve as a wall between you and your worst impulses.
In addition to the above, a good human advisor can provide counsel to make sure that assets are correctly titled, can advise on trusts and wills, help you open a Donor Advised Fund to give to charities, review your tax return and more. Robo-advisors can only invest the money you’ve given them.
At Personal Capital they claim to offer you a ‘team’ of financial advisors at $100k, two financial advisors at $200k, and access to a Certified Financial Planner once you’ve accumulated a more than a million dollars with them. Because Personal Capital pays its financial advisors mostly for converting assets from off platform to assets under management – every minute their advisors spend talking to current clients is a minute they can’t use to convince potential new clients to join Prospect Capital. Most of these advisors are really just looking to gather up any of your assets that aren’t yet managed – providing them with additional fees and charging you more.
What About Vanguard’s Personal Advisor Services?
Most people know Vanguard as a go-to asset manager of choice for inexpensive, passively managed index ETFs and Mutual Funds. They currently have over $5 Trillion of assets under management – over $1 Trillion of which their discount brokerage account now holds.
Vanguard has taken a similar approach as Personal Capital, using this $1 trillion as a base to source clients for its own managed services program, called Vanguard Personal Advisor Services. There are a couple of key differences. Vanguard’s PAS is closer to a true robo advisor until you get to $500,000 – where you can get a CFP to do one time planning for free. At $1 million under management, you get a dedicated CFP for free.
So What Should You Do?
If you’ve got a million dollars or more, Vanguard seems like the no-brainer option to get a Certified Financial Planner (if you are ok with a call center delivering advice). If you have less than that or want a more experienced CFP focused on building a long-term relationship, try one of the many independent RIA firms out there that will treat you as a client and not a number.
You may pay more, but having a long, lasting relationship with someone who intimately knows your situation easily pays for itself when you need to make big life-changing financial decisions. If you just want investment management from a robo-advisor and to keep the pesky humans away, Schwab and WiseBanyan both offer a 0% fee algorithmic solution (though you will pay a small fee from the ETF expense ratios) – so you might as well skip robo advisors charging any price at this point.
Personal Capital is an underwhelming choice in any of these slots, so unless you really value the tools they offer, it is generally best to take your money elsewhere.
Author Info: Michael V. Spelman is a Certified Financial Planner, and co-owner of Myrmidon Private Capital, an RIA specializing in retirement planning. He’s also president at The GUL Guy, a specialty life insurance comparison agency.
Sometimes I hear people tell me that the stock market is like magic. That’s not the case at all.
Making money in the stock market does not have to be an impossible or difficult feat. Perhaps the biggest obstacle when it comes to investing is making sure time is on your side. Time is maybe the most important factor in investing for two reasons:
– there is longer for your money to compound
– you can make mistakes and learn the basics through trial and error
By reading some of the tips below on how to succeed in the stock market, you should be well on your way to starting an investment portfolio in stocks.
History proves that with time on your side, you can count on the history of the market to know that your investments will pay off. It is a well-known fact that in the long term, stocks have historically outperformed all other types of investments. Over long periods of time, that stock market has averaged around 10 percent. If you’re wanting to try investing using stock trading, then looking at some investment apps uk or other countries have available can kickstart your investment portfolio.
What About Over Shorter Time Frames?
Quite to the contrary, stock performance over the short term is a much riskier. There are countless examples in history where stocks have plummeted in a single day. When it comes to stocks, timing the market or day-trading is a skill that takes a lot of time and knowledge, and still is a dangerous pursuit. All in all, stock investments should only be relied on as long term investments unless you want to risk your savings. If so, I’d still recommend a day at the casino over the stock market. You’ll probably lose all of your money there, too, but you’ll certainly have more fun!
It’s true that as you increase your risk, you have a greater chance for a nice reward at the end of the rainbow. This is certainly the case when it comes to stocks. To take more risk, focus on sectors that historically have seen more volatility, such as real estate. If you’re hoping to lower your risk while investing, do your due diligence and never invest in something that you have not researched completely. Most investors have problems when they “take a flyer” or “trust their gut.” These are horrible ways to invest.
How To Pick Long Term Winners
Nothing is a better predictor of stock price appreciation over the long term than earnings. Companies with solid earnings sometimes can outspend their profits, but usually if you focus on earnings, you’re headed toward winning companies. When it comes to valuing a stock or determining how risky it is, looking at the historical data on earnings to discover risky or potentially successful the investment will be to you. The company earns little money but shows a profit? That company is downsizing and showing profits through cutting. You can’t do that forever. One huge quarter for earnings? You should ask yourself how the company can duplicate that feat in the future. You can learn a ton from earnings.
While earnings is a great place to start as you’re getting your feet wet, it’s definitely not the only indicator. Remember the whole “Time on your side so you can learn” speech above? This is meant to point you in the right direction. People spend years perfecting their knowledge of more advanced concepts such as price to book and price to earnings ratios.
Stocks Vs. Bonds
When comparing a bad day for a stock to a bad day for a bond, the differences are significant. Bonds tend to bounce back from a bad day much more quickly than a stock would. Historical data shows that a small dip in a stock’s price versus a bond’s price can mean entirely different long term results. A bond may bounce back quickly while a stock may take more than five years to recover. While bonds will rebound (or the company will go bankrupt), you never know with a stock.
Another good indicator for both the performance of stocks and bonds comes with a look at what interest rates are doing. When interest rates go up, bond prices fall. On the other hand, when interest rates fall, bond prices go up. Similar trends occur with stocks. Knowing these patterns can help you determine when a good time to buy or sell would be. While it is never a good idea to time the market without significant experience in investing, it is wise to know what the economy is doing. In general, the success of your investments will follow the success of the economy.
My parents are in town! While I’m partying with my peeps, this guest article was written by our friend Julian over at Frugaal. Frugaal is a website that provides online stock and forex broker reviews, and it also contains a blog focusing on a broad range of financial and frugal-living topics. Enjoy!
You may think that investing is too complicated and difficult for you–especially if you have a very small amount that you’re able to invest. But over the past few years, the internet has made investing a possibility for anyone. Now, using online brokers, even if you only have a very small portfolio you can get all the benefits that the large investors do, just on a smaller scale. Of course, make sure you check out all the options available for you at the different brokerage companies but, in the meantime, take a look at these six simple investing tips for beginners.
Start small, and also don’t be deterred if you don’t have much cash to invest
In the past, it was impossible to start a portfolio with a very small investment. However, now you can get started with as little as $100. In fact, this it’s a good idea to start of small so you can learn the ropes before you start to take things seriously. So get your feet wet by buying a small portfolio containing mutual funds for example; this will give you an idea of how the stock market works and will mean you won’t risk more than you can afford to. However, by choosing wisely, you can find funds that are highly unlikely to ever lose major ground; they just may not have as high of a return as those that are more volatile. When purchasing stocks, beginners should also ideally go to discount online brokerages where, although the level of service will not stretch beyond deal-execution, you will avoid any expensive fees.
Do your homework
This tip doesn’t mean to say it’s a good idea to shell out a ton of money on books and even online or offline tutorials and courses. Instead, it means harnessing the wide range of readily available, free educational tools that are out there. So follow blogs that specifically focus on stock investing; read the financial papers to get an idea of what stocks you might like to purchase; join online forums (often found on the websites of online brokerages) to pitch your questions and ideas to others who have been in the game for longer and are more knowledgeable than you; and, as the very first starting point, be sure to understand some of the basic principles and rules of economics, accounting, and corporate finance. Ultimately, remember that a few Google searches and a few hours spent reading will get you a long way to begin with all this.
Monitor your investments
After you buy your first stocks, check up on them regularly. While you don’t want to become obsessed with checking them several times a day, this is your money that you’ve invested, so you should keep an eye on how things are going. Only by carefully monitoring the investments will you start understanding what makes them go up or down in value over time. A great way of monitoring your investments is by harnessing the capabilities of Google Finance. You can then also get yourself a Google Docs stock portfolio monitoring spreadsheet. The best thing is, both of these services are completely free.
In some ways this should be on this list, but in other respects, it shouldn’t. If you have a diverse portfolio you’ll be mitigating against the risk of losses by spreading your investments across a diverse portfolio. Although in principle this is great, the reality is that it’s not possible to get your hands on a truly diverse portfolio with only a small amount of funds unless you buy into an index fund. So don’t be too hung about not being able to foster a diverse portfolio yourself if you don’t have the funds to do it.
Make investing a priority
If you want to add to your portfolio regularly, make investing a priority in your life. The old adage is that you should pay yourself first, meaning you should put aside money for savings before you pay your bills and buy things you need or want. This is excellent advice. Each paycheck, set aside a certain amount that you wish to invest, say 5% for example. It may not be much, but over time it will add up and your portfolio will grow. Investing is also a great thing to get into if you want to reel in your spending sprees and start to look towards the future, particularly if you’re a young adult. This is because unlike placing money into a savings account – a fairly passive and dull activity – investing can be exciting and it can become a new interest of yours, but one that will also allow you to build a healthy nest egg for later on in life too.
Investing is not about getting rich overnight. Have patience with your chosen investments. There’s a very good chance they’ll grow and over time will begin to provide you with the financial return you were after. So if you’re after a quick return, investing won’t be the right method of savings for you; remember, investing is for those with time to wait for the market to dictate the rewards. Also, at the very basic level, make sure you’re not duped by any advert or website suggesting ‘get rich quick’ schemes through stock investing either. Put simply, there’s no magic bullet when it comes to stock investing, so don’t try and look for one.
Thanks for filling in, Julian! With the 4th quarter here, it’s time to cha-ching! on your investments. Okay, crew, your turn. Any tips to pile on top of Julian’s for your internet friends (or as my buddy Kathleen says, “the friends in your computer?”
I love the sound of the cash register ringing, don’t you?
If you’re going to be successful in your financial life, treat it as if it’s a business and you’re trying to hear that awesome cash register sound. If you don’t, you’ll always prioritize yourself behind more “important” activities like your job (nevermind that the job is there to help your net worth…that’s probably the subject of another post).
Every business has a mandatory list of activities that can’t be ignored. So does your financial life.
Here are five items that MUST be on that list this quarter:
1) Mutual fund capital gains. Even if you don’t have mutual funds outside of an IRA now, you should learn how these rules work. When the manager (or system, for an index fund) trades stocks or bonds inside of the fund a capital gain is generated. Someone has to pay it, and there’s no real fair method, so the mutual fund company declares a date and divides the gain among shareholders of record. Even if you didn’t sell the fund, you’re responsible for your portion of the manager’s buying and selling.
With results so far in 2012 looking up, there’s a good chance you might get hit with a tax bill this year. Avoiding this tax is legal and easy. Find the dates the fund declares capital gains and transfer your money to a different fund in the same family. This avoids fees for switching and the manager’s capital gains tax.
Grab a calculator before you move any money. You’ll still be on the hook for capital gains taxes you generate by selling as well. The cost of switching might outweigh the savings you’ll realize from avoiding any taxes created by the fund manager.
2) The lemon drop. Hoping to skim off some of that skyrocketing Apple stock? Cover a portion of your capital gain by also selling your brother in law’s “can’t lose” loser. There’s no time like now to weed your portfolio of positions that aren’t going anywhere. Although you’re only allowed to show $3k in net capital losses each year, leftovers can be carried over to deduct in future years.
3) Charitable giving. Hopefully you’ve given to your favorite community non-profits throughout the year, but if not (and especially if you itemize), you’ll want to make cash and in-kind donations in before December 31. Keep receipts for your gifts. The IRS has tightened charitable giving laws in recent years.
4) Estimate your taxes and decide when to pay property taxes. If you own a home winter taxes are deductible either in December or January, your choice. Did you receive a big bonus this year? Take the extra deduction now to help lower your tax due. If you make too much, it might be a better idea to wait until next year. High income earners aren’t allowed to claim all of their itemized deductions (ask your accountant about whether you’re subject to phaseouts).
5) Goal evaluation and setting. The 4th quarter is the perfect time to begin thinking about your short and long term goals. Did you hit your benchmark in 2012? If not, what are you going to change in 2013?
While people generally talk a good game about benchmarking, most of my clients were surprised when I pulled the actual number out of their plan to see if they’d hit the mark during a year. By sticking with actual data and avoiding the “Yeah, it feels like I had a good year” you’ll be able to make the necessary course corrections to save the right amount of money in the upcoming year.
I’ll be addressing each of these areas in more detail during the course of the quarter, but do yourself a favor and schedule these tasks now. These are five activities that you don’t want to miss!
What other events are on your 4th quarter financial calendar?
Whose responsibility is it when your investment in Facebook or Morgan Stanley declines in value? The company? A broker?
Certainly you’re not to blame.
The current proliferation of lawsuits against these companies makes me ask a straightforward question. Should there be lawsuits against Facebook and Morgan Stanley? (See these articles for more information if you don’t know what I’m talking about: Forbes: Facebook Lawsuits Piling Up.)
I’m reminded of society’s lack of personal responsibility each and every time I drive up the highway to see my mom. I haven’t added all the advertisements up, but there is a certain personal injury lawyer in our town who advertises everywhere. I don’t know this lawyer intimately, but my wife works in the same office building and sees the people who come in and out of the front door. There are all sorts of people trying to sue for anything under the sun. Instead of trying to take over the world, they’ll just take it from someone else, because somehow, they’re “owed” something.
One of my favorite books is The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck, M.D. That book contains my favorite quote from any book:
We cannot solve life’s problems except by solving them. This statement may seem idiotically tautological or self-evident, yet it is seemingly beyond the comprehension of much of the human race. This is because we must accept responsibility for a problem before we can solve it. We cannot solve a problem by saying “It’s not my problem.” We cannot solve a problem by hoping that someone else will solve it for us. I can solve a problem only when I say “This is my problem and it’s up to me to solve it.” But many, so many, seek to avoid the pain of their problems by saying to themselves: “This problem was caused me by other people, or social circumstances beyond my control, and therefore it is up to other people or society to solve this problem for me. It is not really my personal problem.”
This is as true in the investment world as anywhere. As an investor, you must accept responsibility for your own investing decisions. You cannot blame others for your decisions (or indecisions). You won’t help your cause with a “I’m mad I made a bad decision in investing so I wanna sue everyone” mentality. Recent lawsuits against Facebook and Morgan Stanley make me crazy – I don’t believe for a second that if some magical prospectus would’ve fallen from the sky that all these people wouldn’t have bought Facebook stock. There’s all this talk about how Morgan Stanley screwed everyone and how Facebook lied — why didn’t these people do their own research? Take some personal responsibility! I’m pretty sure that had Facebook stock gone from $38 to $75 in one day, Morgan Stanley would not have called all the new shareholders and said “Oops, we priced this incorrectly so we need to sue you to find a more correct price.”
As an investor, you and you alone are responsible for the actions and outcomes of your investing decisions. Whether you have an advisor, a consultant, or are a DIY’er, remember one thing: it’s your money.
Be accountable for it.