You don’t need to employ a lot of sophisticated techniques and strategies to become a successful investor. The most effective tools for investment success are simplicity, patience, and discipline. Below are some guidelines to help you get the most from your investments.
Invest for the long term. Evaluate your situation, set some goals, create a plan and stick with it. Keep money that you may need for emergencies and short term living expenses in less volatile investments such as money market accounts, CDs and bonds. Investments in the stock market should be limited to money that isn’t needed for at least 5 years. If you keep a long term perspective with the money invested in the stock market you will be less likely to react to short term fluctuations.
Maintain a diversified portfolio. Your portfolio should be comprised of a variety of different types of investments including stocks, bonds and cash. The stock portion of your portfolio should include stock mutual funds that invest in companies of different sizes, in different industries and in different geographies. Don’t chase the latest hot asset class and don’t act on the hot stock tip your buddy shared with you at happy hour. Create a diversified portfolio and rebalance on an annual basis. It’s also advisable to avoid investing more than 5% in a single security.
Don’t Time the Market. Many studies have found that market timing just does not work and can be detrimental to your portfolio. The so-called experts really have no idea what the market is going to do. Many analysts earn a living by projecting future market fluctuations when in reality they are no better at predicting the future than you or me. Peter Lynch sums it up perfectly with the following quote – “More money has been lost by investors preparing for corrections, or trying to anticipate corrections, than has been lost in corrections themselves.”
Keep Your Emotions in Check. The stock market is volatile and there will be years with negative returns. Limit investment in the stock market to money you won’t need for several years. Have patience and stay the course. As experienced after the 2008 correction, the market will eventually rebound. Don’t succumb to media hype and fear tactics claiming things are different this time. There have always been, and always will be, major events that trigger dramatic fluctuations in the stock market. Don’t panic this will pass. Sir John Templeton once said, “The four most dangerous words in investing are: “This Time is Different!”
Be tax smart but don’t let taxes drive your portfolio. Where possible maximize the use of tax advantaged retirement vehicles such as 401k plans and Roth IRAs. Place investments with the greatest opportunity for long term growth in tax deferred or tax free retirement accounts. Save taxes where it makes sense but don’t intentionally sacrifice return just to save a few dollars in taxes.