Individuals who make their living by trading stocks require instant access to figures that track performance, but most investors would be better served by taking a strategic approach and avoiding overreactions to market fluctuations.
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Published 9/1/2013
Brian Carlson, CFP®, CLU®, CLTC; Bill Adolph

Are You Monitoring Your Investment Accounts Daily?

Taking these 10 steps may be a better approach

Are you checking your investment accounts on a daily basis? If so, the only thing you will likely accomplish is to drive yourself crazy, especially in today’s whipsaw economy. Instead of taking a short-term, day-trader mentality, a better idea is to make solid, well-researched decisions for long-term growth and monitor the results regularly—such as each month or quarter—but not on a daily basis.

Unfortunately, instant access to investment accounts has fostered a beat-the-market, day-trader approach to investing. Checking accounts too frequently can prompt irrational decision-making when one asset takes a major dip. After all, the asset can easily be replaced with the next gotta-buy, guaranteed hot pick of the day touted by the media or a colleague. The result is a churning account that, too often, comes up a day late and lot of dollars short.

This kind of day-trader thinking rarely works in stable times, and these are not stable times. In today’s turbulent times, investors find themselves cheering on one day’s rally, only to go into a frustrated funk on the next day’s decline. The current environment reflects a tough market economy, marked by rapid spikes and steep declines.

Instead, plan, research, get good advice, and allocate assets for the long haul. In other words, design a sound strategy and then stick to it. Markets rise and markets fall. Fluctuations are normal. One effective course of action is to take a proactive position based on long-term goals, rather than overreacting to short-term market fluctuations.

The following 10 steps can help you approach investing in a way that won’t result in ulcers.

Invest for the long term
As an orthopaedic surgeon who is running a practice, responding to on-call duties, and spending time with your loved ones while trying to build solid, long-term wealth, you need to make reasonable decisions and stick with them. In other words, develop a long-term investment strategy, a blueprint that reflects your objectives.

Keep in mind that your objectives may change over time or you may need a series of different objectives. For example, you may need a 15-year plan to build up a college fund for your 3-year-old; a 30-year plan to create a comfortable retirement for yourself and your spouse; and possibly a 45-year estate plan to leave a lasting legacy to others through your estate plan.

Build your knowledge
Maybe you are more interested in the results than in the process and prefer to defer many decisions to the experts. If so, that is fine. Still, it is helpful to acquire some basic knowledge, if only to enable you to ask the right questions. Ask your financial advisors about some recommended reading.

Identify your risk tolerance
A 30-year old who thinks aggressively about the market may allocate assets quite differently than a 60-year old who is more interested in preservation than growth. Invest in a way that allows you to sleep at night.

Leave speculating to the speculators
Some investors spend hours each day poring over market information looking for that significant gem that will enable them to cash in on tomorrow’s next great investment or for the stock about to hit bottom before springing to new heights in value. Most investors are not in a position to do that. Besides, many of these speculators may experience significant losses. (Remember, check your risk tolerance.)

Slow but sure generally does win the race
Most wealth is built over time, over decades, not overnight. This goes back to long-term objectives. If you develop a solid, balanced investment strategy (one that weighs risks against rewards) when you are 25 or 30 years old you could possibly have a solid retirement fund when you are 60 or 65.

This is also why it is a good idea to check your accounts monthly or quarterly rather than each morning, noon, and evening. Think long term, and keep your eye on the big picture.

Spread your money around
Do not put all your eggs in one basket. Diversify for safety. Rarely will you find a serious advisor who advocates putting all your money into one asset. Besides, balance helps you achieve long-term objectives, especially during uncertain economic times. A well-diversified portfolio can remain fairly steady, even as market conditions fluctuate.

Practice dollar-cost averaging
Small amounts regularly invested may be just as good as big chunks put aside now and then. In other words, invest in a systematic, scheduled manner. Putting a specific amount aside on a regular basis, regardless of what the market is doing momentarily, is known as dollar-cost-averaging.

Pay attention to your investments
Paying attention to your investments is not the same as checking them daily. You do need to know how your strategy is working. So, review and adjust your holdings periodically in light of changing economic conditions—but not in knee-jerk response to one day’s market rise or fall.

Stay the course
Don’t flinch in the face of downturns without strong evidence that a change of course is advisable. A common mistake some investors make is to hang tough part way through a market correction, then panic and bail out ... often at the very time the market is starting to turn upward again.

Get good advice
Don’t be scared, embarrassed, or any other adjective that can deter you from seeking assistance. Definitely do not pretend to know more than you actually know.

You wouldn’t recommend that your patients go to a general medical website to diagnose themselves. The same holds true in the financial world. Use an expert to assist you with your planning.

© Custom Communications Insurance Publishing

Compliments of Brian Carlson, CFP®, CLU®, CLTC, vice president, insurance and investment services, and Bill Adolph, a financial advisor for GCG Financial in Bannockburn, Ill.

Disclosure: Securities and advisory services are offered through Securian Financial Services, Inc., member FINRA/SIPC.

Editor’s Note: This article is for general information purposes and should not be construed as providing financial advice. Individuals who need tax or legal advice should contact a duly licensed professional.