Those who make bad money decisions can often rationalize them. In-fact, human beings have a mind-boggling aptitude for self-deception when it comes to our own money. In both our careers and our personal lives, we tend to rationalize our own fears.
So instead of just recognizing how we feel and reflecting on these thoughts, we cut out the middle man and construct a disguise with a logical-sounding argument over an unclear feeling we may have. These arguments are often elaborate, short-term excuses that we use to justify behavior that runs counter to our own long-term interests.
Here are ten of these common excuses:
1) "I just want to wait till things become clearer."
It's understandable to feel unnerved by volatile markets. But waiting for volatility to "clear" before investing often results in missing the return that can accompany the risk. Some are still waiting since the recovery began in March 2009.
2) "I just can't take the risk anymore."
By focusing exclusively on the risk of losing money and paying a premium for safety, we can end up with insufficient funds for retirement. Avoiding risk can also mean missing an upside. In addition, not employing proper risk management techniques can also jeopardize your nest egg.
3) "I want to live today. Tomorrow can look after itself."
Often used to justify a reckless purchase, it's not either-or. You can live today and mind your savings. You just need to keep to your budget. If you don’t have one or understand how to establish some basic financial fundamentals, you may want to consider seeking a qualified financial advisor for help.
4) "I don't care about capital gain. I just need the income."
Income is fine. But making income your sole focus can lead you down a dangerous road. Just ask anyone who invested in collateralized debt obligations in 2008 as well as leveraged preferred stocks in 2016 right before interest rates began to rise.
5) "I want to get some of those losses back."
It's human nature to be emotionally attached to past bets, even losing ones. But, if this is putting your financial plan or even worse, your ability to receive the proper amount of retirement income, its probably time. As the song says, you have to know when to fold 'em.
6) "But this stock/fund/strategy has been good to me."
We all have a tendency to hold on to winners too long. But without disciplined rebalancing, your portfolio can end up carrying much more risk than you bargained for. This discipline applies not only to when markets are down (similar to 2008), but also in 2017 as markets continue to reach new highs.
7) "But the newspaper said…"
Investing by the headlines is like dressing based on yesterday's weather report. The news might be accurate, but the market usually has reacted already and moved on to worrying about something else. This helps explain why we’ve seen a big market rally since the Presidential election, as it seems the market is already pricing in events to come.
8) "The guy at the bar/my uncle/my boss told me…"
The world is full of experts, many who recycle stuff they've heard elsewhere. But even if their tips are right, this kind of advice rarely takes your circumstances into account. Remember the dot.com bubble?
9) "I just want certainty."
Wanting confidence in your investments is fine. But certainty? You can spend a lot of money trying to insure yourself against every possible outcome. While it cannot guard against every risk or possible outcome, it's cheaper to diversify your investments. Its also very likely you have a long list of financial planning issues that need to be addressed and will better define your success beyond just your mutual fund portfolio.
10) "I'm too busy to think about this."
Greg McKeown (author of Essentialism) often lectures to those who are too busy because they are doing too much – “It is a systematic discipline for discerning what is absolutely essential, then eliminating everything that is not, so we can make the highest possible contribution toward the things that really matter….The life of an Essentialist is a life of meaning. It is a life that really matters.”
We often try to control things we can't change—like market and media noise—and neglect areas where our actions can make a difference—like creating a retirement income solution or managing the costs of investments. That's worth the effort.
Given how easy it is to pull the wool over our own eyes, it can pay to seek independent advice from someone who understands your needs and circumstances and who holds you to the promises you made to yourself in your most crystal clear moments.
Call it the "no more excuses" strategy.
As always we are here to help.