Advisors dont usually teach diet and exercise tips as a way for clients to become better investors, but there are stark similarities between the two that new, existing, and future retirees can use to improve both their personal and financial well-being.
Over the past six months I have dropped fifty pounds, and I feel great. The most enlightening part of that process was realizing of how bad off I had been. Ive always been husky and knew I had some weight to lose but now that Ive shed those pounds, the look on the faces of those who knew the heftier me helps understand how necessary the change really was. Its not much different as to how I feel when I see some folks investment portfolio for the first time. Lets just say they dont realize how bad off they really are, and have some work to do. Once they start shaping it up, though, they see a major difference in the look and feel of their portfolio.
The first key to weight loss is: dont change everything at once. You cant force it and therefore dont need to start by working out twice a day, dramatically reducing your calorie count, eating vegan, and avoiding carbs and sweets all together. A multi-step process leads to accomplishing one goal while building momentum to succeed in others. As a result, new skills and habits are developed along with a determined sense of purpose. All crucial elements that apply to a good investment plan as well.
Carbs And Excessive FeesFor me, personally, carbohydrates are killer calories. A sandwich or two usually met most of my dietary needs and I never met a piece of bread I didnt like. However, once I reached 40, bread started acting like turkey on Thanksgiving Day, making me more comfortable on the couch than on the treadmill. I knew I had to make some changes but past attempts to completely eliminate carbs (known to be mood regulators) made me cranky. My solution? Cucumbers. I saw some foodies on Facebook making cucumber sandwiches. I didnt immediately run to the fridge and whip one up but, coincidentally, my wife had cut some up, and left it out along with some hummus and turkey. I found that hummus and turkey between slices of cucumber is not only tasty, the texture, crunch, and heft of the cucumber replaced my yearning for bread. This one subtle move shaved over 200 calories off my usual lunch and from a numbers perspective, my daily calorie intake dropped by 15% (assuming 1,500 calories diet). Combined it was perfect timing that helped me drop costly calories and didnt leave me dragging after lunch.
Whats true in starting a health program is true in the investment world: timing is everything. Many new and existing retirees have heard about the benefits of Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) but arent quite sure how theyll taste or fit in with their other investments. For years ETFs have been touted as cost-effective alternatives to mutual funds which typically carry sales charges, high annual fees, or commissions. Not to mention ETF trading benefits which allow you to buy and sell during the day instead of waiting until everything settles at the end of the day. But just as I cautiously opted for a cucumber sandwich, investors can do the same with ETFs. They dont have to run out and swap all of their current investments for ETFs. Instead, consider making the switch when a current holding is dragging your portfolio down and youre looking to reduce expenses as well. You may find that it fills you up, or it might leave you hungry for more. In any event, changing investments in order to save money and improve control extends well beyond mutual funds and ETFs. Investment categories including variable annuities, 401(k)s, 403(b)s and even using broker-assisted trades ($60-$100) are other areas investors can reduce some portfolio weight. . The recommended starting point for retirees is to put their portfolio on the scale, draw some blood, and find out its true cost.
Old Habits Drag You DownThe no pain, no gain exercise philosophy may be great when youre 18 or even 25 but, as you age, it can involve a lot of aspirin, a hot tub, a massage therapist, knee or back braces and more. For years, my old and outdated work-out ideas and routines did more harm than good. Running pained my knees and back; the strength training programs I learned as a football player now left me sore for days. What worked in the past was no longer viable. So I changed my approach. I embraced the concept of functional fitness which is aimed at keeping my heart rate up and strengthening my core by using my body weight instead of dumbbells and barbells. I also found that boxing classes provided essential cardio and appealed to me much more than the treadmill or stationary bike. With this fresh mindset, I now have a different outlook on going to the gym; and dont leave exhausted or in pain. I feel a sense of accomplishment because Im burning lots of calories and can see progress towards my conditioning goals.
Drawing a parallel to investing, sticking with old and outdated concepts and strategies can be equally painful. Specifically, the once universal idea of buy and hold is pretty much dead. That may sound like sacrilege and Im sure some old-school investors dont agree but market realities have changed. Investors need to stop assuming they can buy a few investments and just ride them into the sunset. They have to be actively managed, strengthen your core portfolio, and keep you engaged in the process.
Every investment made should include a buy, hold, and sell price. One thing every bear market teaches is that every investment, at some point, reaches it full valuation (it has done its job) and should be sold and the proceeds re-invested in another undervalued offering. What do most people agonize over when it comes to investing? Usually, its seeing investments go up 10%, 15% or even 20% and hoping theyll just keep going higher. They never sell and eventually the investment reverses course and goes south. They end up stuck in the routine of hoping the pain will go away or things will get better without doing anything about it.
- ^ Facebook (www.forbes.com)
- ^ ETFs (www.forbes.com)
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