This article is original content written by Manchester, CT Financial Advisor Thomas Scanlon, CFP®, CPA
That’s what my doctor tells me after my annual physical exam – every single time. When I press her on this, she gives me a deeper insight like “portion control.” Wow…really? Who knew? It sounds so simple, but is this simple to implement? Well…that’s another story. I would very generously say I am inconsistent with my diet and exercise at best. There are far too many empty pizza boxes in my office during the first quarter of the year. Also, I am way better with my exercise in the summer when I can ride my bike…for sure!
No different that your annual physical, your financial planning should not be too complicated. “Pay yourself first” or “live beneath your means.” Have you heard these before? I suspect so. probably many times. Again, these are easy to understand, perhaps not so easy to implement. So what forces could be working against you with your financial planning?
Oh boy…do they make a big deal about EVERYTHING! The nightly news will say how the Dow Jones Industrial Average (“Dow”) dropped 150 points in one day. The next day they say how the market soared 115 points. And this just goes on and on. Many successful investors (mostly) ignore the media or take in very small, bit-sized chunks. Design your own system that filters out most of this “noise.” If you are getting too much media consumption, put it on a diet. Turn off the radio, don’t turn on CNBC and cancel that magazine subscription. Many long -term successful investors are generally looking at the macro trends not the day-to-day fluctuations. For example, what has worked in the bond market the past 30 years may not work over the next 30. Declining interest rates the past 30 years have had the wind at the back of bonds. If interest rates were to rise, this would cause the price of bonds to drop.
Ah yes, our two good old friends-fear and greed. As you may recall, the markets were falling off a cliff in 2008. Everyone though the world was coming to an end. It didn’t. Fast forward to 2020 and the Dow breaks 29,000 off a low of 6,547 in 2009. Now the sky is the limit! Well, maybe not. Warren Buffet, Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, said, “Be fearful when others are greedy and be greedy when others are fearful.” Well said. Mr. Buffet appears to have taken his own advice and has a net worth of approximately $64 billion. Many people get greedy when the Bull Market is in full swing. This is when investors just can’t own enough stocks. Then the Bear Market kicks in and many investors start running for the hills. Fear takes over and everyone is dashing towards the exit signs. This is the exact opposite of what you likely should be doing.
Your habits extend beyond “Diet and Exercise.” Your financial habits have determined where you are today financially. They will also determine where you will be financially in the future. Are you a saver? If so, good for you. If you are a saver, do you invest? If so, you should be well on your way. I won’t belabor the point about not getting your Grande coffee every morning at Starbucks (or some other daily purchase) . If you didn’t do this for the next 40 years and invested the $5 per day, you would likely be more financially independent. You’ve already heard this before. Just begin where you are now. You can’t turn the clock back.
The question is do you have the financial habits to support your financial goals? For a couple of good books on habits, try reading One Small Step Can Change Your Life by Robert Maurer or The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. These can give you some practical steps to address changing your habits.
The popular media (here they are again!) would suggest it takes 21 days to change a habit. My personal experience is it could take 30-60 days depending on the habit. I know…I’m a slow learner. Oh, and just pick one new habit at a time. Don’t try to quit smoking and drinking, go on a diet or try to start being nice to your mother-in-law all at the same time. You likely won’t be successful with any of them. For an example of a financial habit, if you are currently contributing 10% to your 401(k) plan, just bump it up to 11%. You may not even notice it. There will be obstacles and speed bumps along the way-no question. Expect them and be prepared for them. This will help you get back on track quickly.
Some things in life like “Diet and Exercise” are easy to understand. They possibly are more difficult to implement. Many facets of financial planning are also easy to understand. However it’s in the implementation where the rubber meets the road. We are suggesting a straight-forward, three-prong approach. First, most folks are better served to reduce their media consumption. Second, keep and eye on your and everyone else’s emotions. Actively fight following the herd. Find your own grass to graze on. Finally, carefully review your financial habits. If you don’t like your current financial habits, pick out one and work on changing it. Then go on to the next one. If you have any questions or need some help with your “Diet and Exercise”, please call me at (860) 645-1515 or email Thomas.firstname.lastname@example.org
The information contained in this report does not purport to be a complete description of the securities, markets or developments referred to in this material. The information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. Any opinions are those of Thomas F. Scanlon, CPA, CFP(r) and not necessarily those of RJFS or Raymond James. Expressions of opinion are as of this date and subject to change without notice. You should discuss your tax or legal matters with the appropriate professional. Any information is not a complete summary or statement of all available data necessary for making an investment decision and does not constitute a recommendation.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) commonly know as “The Dow”, is an index representing 30 stock of companies maintained and reviewed by the editors of the Wall Street Journal.
There is an inverse relationship between interest rate movements and fixed income prices. Generally, when interest rate rise, fixed income prices fall and when interest rates fall, fixed income prices generally rise.