Embracing the Future on Your Own

 

Jane Young, CFP, EA

Jane Young, CFP, EA

Losing a spouse completely changes your life, and it’s important to take the time you need to grieve and heal.  The sadness may never go away and you’ll always miss your husband, but after two or three years you may be ready to look toward the future.  Before the loss of your husband, the two of you made plans; these plans may no longer be the best course of action for you.  It is common to feel an obligation to follow the plans you developed together, that you would somehow betray your husband’s memory to follow a different course.   Nothing could be further from the truth.  Your situation has completely changed and you may have a whole new perspective on things.   Plans that worked for the two of you, together, may no longer be practical for you.  Without even realizing it, you may have been striving to fulfill your husband’s dream rather than your own.   It’s time to follow your own path and build a future that supports your new hopes and dreams.  This article makes reference to widows but it can also be helpful to widowers.

Start by reflecting on your personal values; think about what and who is important to you and what you enjoy doing.  What type of lifestyle do you want to lead and where do you want to live.   Take out a piece more info

of paper and fill it with goals and ideas on things you would like to accomplish.  Let your mind wander, don’t evaluate, just brainstorm ideas.  Now go back and contemplate this list and formulate about five to ten realistic goals to be achieved in the next year or so.  Prioritize these goals and identify some action steps to be taken.

Now it’s time to review your financial situation with respect to your goals.  Many of your goals may be financially oriented.  Start reviewing your current cash flow, identify and tabulate your expenses, and compare them to your income.  Are your expenses in line with your goals, or do you need to change the way you spend money.   At the very least, make sure your expenses don’t exceed your income and put aside an emergency fund equal to at least three months of expenses.  I also encourage you to save at least 10% of your annual gross income.

Once your current financial situation is secure, develop a financial plan for the future.  Are there any major changes needed to achieve your long term goals?  Do you want to live in a different city or do you want to sell your home and buy something with less maintenance?  Do you need to rearrange your spending habits or make some changes in your career?  As you plan for the future, make sure you are saving and investing enough to cover retirement expenses.  Be sure to incorporate some fun and adventure into your plans!

The Pitfalls of Market Timing

Jane Young, CFP, EA

Jane Young, CFP, EA

Market timing is one of the most detrimental ways an investor can negatively impact his stock market returns. History shows that investors do not effectively time the market. For the last nine years, DALBAR, Inc., a market research firm, has conducted an annual study on market returns called the Quantitative Analysis of Investor Behavior (QAIB). This study has consistently found that returns earned by the individual investor are significantly below that of the stock market indices. The 2013 QAIB report found that during the 20 year period between 1998 and 2012, the average mutual fund investor lagged the stock market indices by 3.96%. This is a significant improvement over the period between 1991 and 2010, in which the average investor lagged the mutual fund indices by 5.1%. According to Dalbar, “No matter what the state of the mutual fund industry, boom or bust: Investment results are more dependent on investor behavior than on fund performance. Mutual fund investors who hold on to their investments are more successful than those who time the market.”
The stock market is counterintuitive in that the best time to sell is usually when the market seems to be doing well, and the best time to buy is usually when the market is doing poorly. As investors, our decisions are frequently driven by emotion rather than cognitive reasoning. We frequently overreact to emotions of fear and greed which throws numberswiki.com

us onto an investment roller coaster. When the stock market goes up we start to feel more and more optimistic, and as the market rises higher we get caught up in a state of euphoria. Our sense of greed kicks in and we don’t want to miss the opportunity to make money, so we buy when the market is high. The market may stay up for a while but eventually the economic cycle changes and stock prices start to drop. Initially we rationalize that this is temporary, or just a minor correction. As the market continues to drop we become more and more concerned. Soon our sense of fear kicks in, we start to panic and we sell at the wrong time. If we don’t recognize the dangers of this emotion driven cycle we are deemed to repeat it.
In addition to our intrinsic emotional response, we are bombarded by sensationalized news and advertising campaigns to influence us to change the course of our investment strategy. Don’t get caught up in the hype about the next big investment craze. Your best course of action is to develop and follow an investment strategy that supports your tolerance for risk and investment timeframe. The stock market is volatile and is best suited for long term investing. Time is needed to absorb fluctuations in the market. Keep short term money in fixed income investments. You will be less tempted to time the market in a well-diversified portfolio specifically designed for your investment time horizon.