Dear Mr. Market:
It sure seems as though you’re stuck in a rut. Just a few weeks ago Wall Street traders were donning embroidered hats with “Dow 20,000” on them in anticipation of reaching this stock market milestone. As investors approach proverbial milestones, their thinking and decision making process often begins to falter. How was your mindset when the Dow Jones cracked 14,000 in October of 2007 versus not too long afterward when it was at 6,600 in March of 2009?
The number of investors that are still sitting in cash from way back then is mind boggling! Do you take a long time making decisions? Are you worried about making the wrong choice with your investments and therefore don’t take any action? Do you analyze all the options but later on kick yourself seeing that so many opportunities have passed you by?
If any of these questions resonate with you, it’s likely that you suffer from paralysis by analysis! Here are a few steps to consider and break free of this condition:
- Crystalize the objective – The first step in overcoming paralysis by analysis is to truly understand your goal and timeline. Not everything is accomplished in one day. Your end goal will come to you by taking action but you must avoid being overwhelmed with a multitude of choices or an instant desire for perfection.
- Rip the Band-Aid off! – This is obviously much easier said than done. Advising someone who overanalyzes and is prone to being indecisive, will not likely yield in a comfortable transition. There are occasions, however, where “going all in” makes sense. Practice taking small action steps that lead you to becoming confident and decisive. Once you realize that making small mistakes doesn’t always derail the end goal, you will be that much closer to breaking free of larger decisions that demand your action.
- No rearview mirror needed – Paralysis by analysis can creep into your portfolio if you continuously kick yourself for past mistakes. We can learn from history but hanging on to the past can have serious negative consequences. History doesn’t necessarily repeat itself and sometimes a fresh start is exactly what you need to break through. Be forward looking as opposed to focusing so much on what has or has not happened before.
- Tip-toe in the water – The typical investing approach to “tip toeing into the water” is basically dollar cost averaging. As opposed to going all in at once you may be more comfortable with more of a phased or stair-step strategy. Another way to implement a plan like this is to invest your idle cash in thirds towards your established target allocation. Ideally you should select trigger points when the market is showing weakness. Keep in mind that once you begin this course of action you must commit to completing it.
- Declutter! – Most people can’t park their car in their own garage due to all the junk that has piled up over the years. Your investment portfolio and the decisions (or lack thereof) can become very much like an unusable garage! Simply get rid of what you don’t need. If you have investments that aren’t in line with a solid plan…dump them now and don’t look back. If you’re interviewing financial advisors and there are clearly some poor choices, don’t even meet with them. Why spend time and not advance a decision due to energy being wasted on distractions?
- Delegate it to a pro! – Let’s put it this way…. If you had a financial advisor who got nervous at key stock market milestones and stayed in cash far too long while the market took off to set new record highs….you would fire them, right? If that financial advisor is YOU…it might be time to fire yourself! You may be very intelligent, perform tremendous due diligence (almost to a fault), and of course have your best interest in mind; but if you don’t have a clear and decisive investment strategy, you’re simply not capable of optimally managing your investments.