When it comes to your finances and investments, sometimes it makes sense to keep things relatively uninteresting. That’s not to say you can’t pursue some entertainment and growth with a portion of your holdings. Still, it’s wise to consider the potential risks – especially in your 60s and beyond, when you’ve almost (or already) reached the financial finish line.
We’re witnessing a time when financial products and investment vehicles are rapidly evolving. Meanwhile, some people are making fortunes virtually overnight, while others end up losing money trying to copy the strategies they hear about online.
Some of these new trends might change the world dramatically, and some will fade away. But fear of missing out (FOMO) and alluring headlines can make it tempting to dive in. Unfortunately, there’s no way to know in advance which technologies or concepts will emerge as winners.
If you’re interested in taking a traditional investment approach with most of your nest egg, that’s probably okay. It’s a strategy that has worked through other uncertain times, although it’s certainly possible that old techniques could stop working.
Fortunately, you can always reevaluate your strategy as more information becomes available. And if it makes sense to try new things at some point, it’s okay to change your mind.
It isn’t easy to keep a long-term perspective with so much information at our fingertips. For example, you might notice that when you look up a price chart for an investment, the time frame is one day! But that’s typically not a long enough time horizon to make meaningful decisions, and you probably have several decades of rewarding years ahead of you.
If you find yourself wrapped up in the minute-by-minute madness, try to zoom out. Think about what’s most important in your life. You might decide that your long-term financial security, mental health, and relationships are among your top priorities.
With that perspective, it may be easy to redirect your attention away from flashy investing ideas and take healthy steps toward goals like a sustainable retirement income.
Choosing an appropriate amount of risk is a fundamental step for investors.
Choose a risk profile that fits with your personality and your financial needs, and be wary of making changes unless there’s a compelling financial reason. Switching strategies based on news headlines or alluring investment products sometimes causes financial harm.
For example, you might make a change when it’s too late, or you might make changes so quickly that you don’t have time to think things through or gather sufficient information.
So, figure out what level of risk feels right for you, and be mindful about what tempts you to make changes. A well-designed risk questionnaire can often help you think through these things.
You’ve probably heard this a few times in your life. Diversification can help manage risk, so it can be smart to spread your assets out among various investments. Clearly, it would be ideal to put everything into whatever performs best, but predicting the future is hard.
As a result, you might come to peace with the fact that some holdings will lose money or lag behind while others (hopefully) produce earnings.
One of the easiest ways to diversify investments is to use broad-based mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs). Diversifying can’t eliminate losses, but you can often avoid having the majority of your savings tied to any single company.
With low-cost index funds, you can often build a portfolio with exposure to thousands of investments around the world using a handful of funds. For more details on that, see how Christine Benz, Director of Personal Finance at Morningstar, explains the benefits of low-cost investing.
One of the benefits of a boring investment strategy is that you don’t need to constantly pay attention to your investments.
After picking an appropriate risk level, you might be able to check in on things every month – or less frequently. It might even be fine to review your holdings once or twice per year, as long as nothing major changes in your life or in the world around you.
Plus, with a simplified approach, you have less to keep track of. You might own less than ten different investments, making it easy to monitor and evaluate your holdings.
Social media posts and headlines might suggest that a particular investment is a no-brainer. Based on anecdotes, you might reasonably believe that you are truly missing out if you don’t get on board, but you might not hear about the tradeoffs and risks involved with different strategies.
You’re smart enough to figure things out yourself and research investments, but there are only 24 hours in a day. If you’d rather put your time and energy into other things, consider working with a financial advisor. Doing so enables you to ask questions and get suggestions on which investing strategies might make sense for you.
You don’t necessarily need to hand over your life savings to work with an advisor. Some planners provide one-time financial advice for a flat fee, and plenty of advisors work on an hourly basis. That said, if you want to have somebody manage assets for you, it’s easy to find an investment manager.
If you enjoy investing and trading, it’s okay to engage in those activities. Innovation is exciting and inspiring, and you might find opportunities (and have some fun) as you follow new developments. However, it’s important to decide how much of your life savings you put at risk.
Once you arrive at a reasonable amount, keep those funds separate from your “real” money so you don’t draw more than is prudent. Personally, I’m not a fan of “play accounts” or similar strategies, but a lot of people enjoy trading with a small amount of money. They could certainly find worse things to do, and if it makes them happy, more power to them.
What do you think? What are some of the most interesting developments in technology and finance? Do you follow these things closely, or are you spending your time on other pursuits?