1. Not clearly defining your goals. Define your objectives and think in terms of sub-portfolios
Define your short and long term goals. Allocate to asset classes based on your time horizon (e.g. short term goals need to be carefully managed with a defensive portfolio since the short term volatility of high risk assets like stocks can hurt you). Be sure to have a reserve fund of liquid short-term investments and cash so you can cover emergencies and upcoming large expenses without having to sell your investments during down markets, as illustrated below:
2. Not being patient and overreacting. Good things come to those who wait
Returns tend to smooth out over the long term. There is a myth about a Fidelity study that analysed all its performing accounts and realised that best performance came out of portfolios of people who either forgot about their accounts or were dead. You can understand why people believe these findings although the study never took place (look at the above chart’s 1 to 20 year rolling performance again!). Logging into your broker/pension plan account every day may not be helpful. You may tend to react – do not rush investment decisions.
3. Over/underestimating your risk tolerance
Take a risk tolerance assessment if necessary to understand your risk profile. Your risk tolerance is important to tweak the asset allocation of your goal sub-portfolio. It is determined by: the degree of flexibility you have with regard to your financial goal, and your personal comfort level with volatility in your portfolio.
4. Aiming at influencing things outside of your control. Focus of what’s in your control
This is the Stoic part of the 10 recommendations (if you also happen to adhere to this philosophy get the newsletter I never stopped reading for the past 5 years). One of the eye-openers that you learn while studying for the gruelling (Chartered Financial Analyst ‘CFA’) Charter is that research estimates that asset allocation (not stock selection!) drives up to c. 90% of overall portfolio performance. You control asset allocation and rebalancing. You do control your spending and savings that will grow over time – don’t waste most of your time on researching individual stocks (read: Are you more qualified than a professional analyst?)
5. Not acquiring enough education and taking excessive idiosyncratic risks
Some of the most trending Google searches during this COVID-19 pandemic include ‘best stocks to buy now’, ‘how to invest in oil stocks’, ‘best stock for 2020’ or ‘best investments for 2020’ etc. In fact the phrase ‘how to buy a stock’ surged to record highs. This also relates to FOMO which I have described here and chasing upward trends in a bear market. Acquiring Investment Knowledge is key as it is ultimately your decisions that will determine whether your hard-earned savings generate long term returns. Do your homework. Understand investment risks. Research fundamentals. Take a bit more time if needed – the market is efficient and is pricing in information relatively quickly – you have no edge in acting quickly.
6. Being overly conservative over the long run
Think of your goals as liabilities that you need to match with your investments. The power of compounding means that you need a much lower amount today to meet a higher amount expenditure in the future. Einstein said compound interest is the 8th wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it; he who doesn’t, pays it. If you have high needs with long time horizon you need to take calculated risks. Invest too defensively (e.g. low allocation to Equities) and it may not match your long term objective. Buffett’s exceptional investment returns are also due to his time horizon.
7. Holding excessive cash. Not taking risks involves high opportunity costs
Believe it or not but a lot of bankers tend to hold cash and under-invest. By holding cash you are not only missing out on compounding interest but also paying more taxes! Inflation is an indirect tax that works by destroying savings in exchange for gov’t financing. It gets worse – as central banks print an unprecedented amount of money – most standard measurements of inflation, such as the consumer price index (CPI), do not account for the disproportional effects of quantitative easing which is rising asset prices (monetary inflation). Even when you hear about deflation it’s often very misleading. This bear market may be a good opportunity to gradually deploy cash for long term returns if you haven’t already.
Let me give you an example – look below at the ‘headline’ inflation in the UK (2.9%) that over 10 years increased prices by 29.29% vs. London Property Prices that increased over twice as much. The same applies to other real assets, like company valuations (stocks) or gold.
8. Not considering diversification
Yes, bonds are not as sexy as stocks since your returns may not be as spectacular in the short term but these are excellent diversifiers that may be sometimes better suited depending on your investment objective and time horizon. Other currencies or hard metals/BTC may be good as well.
9. Letting your emotions rule
This is difficult to implement since we tend to have emotional biases. If you do decide to have a small part of your goal-oriented strategic asset allocation dedicated to tactical asset allocation, sector or stock selection emotions could drive investment decisions based on loss aversion or overconfidence (e.g. confusing brains with a bull market). If it’s e.g. the latter try to stay humble/rational and ask yourself if you really have an edge before making a decision.
10. Forgetting to rebalance
Some advisors recommend that investors rebalance their portfolios on a regular time interval while others recommend rebalancing only when the relative weight of an asset class deviates from the target allocation (glide path investments). Either way, this is something that needs to be observed on a regular basis. We will discuss glide path investments in future posts. Subscribe here to get notified.
Thank you for reading. This blog was created to educated and help you make better investment decisions. Please let me know your questions and suggestions for future materials in the section below.