6 Steps to overcome Investing Paralysis by Analysis

unknown-5

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:

  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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?
  1. 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.

thelegendarybrucelee

 

 

 

 

 

10 Rules on Stock Picking

Unknown

Dear Mr. Market:

We’ve written countless letters to you on the ups and downs of the stock market. This time, however, we’d like to share some ‘rules of the road’ and a guideline on how to pick stocks regardless of the environment you’re presenting us.

Click here to read the latest white paper written by My Portfolio Guide, LLC.

Cheers!

PS- If you have questions or would like more information on this white paper or others…please send us a note below:

John Hussman says we are headed for a stock market crash!

UnknownDear Mr. Market:

If you’re smart…does it imply that you’re always right? In many instances that may often be the case, but when it comes to investing, some of the most brilliant people on the planet are reduced to buffoons by irrational and unpredictable markets. When you add in a 24/7 media cycle and the fact that human beings are emotionally driven creatures…your IQ (or stubbornness) can actually work against you.

As huge fans of behavioral finance we also want to once again remind you that your own brain (whether it be “smart” or pedestrian) is wired to connect certain dots even if the conclusion is wrong or completely random. One famous adage will serve as the theme for this entire article:

“Even a broken clock is right twice a day.”

Take a brief moment to read the following article that surfaced last week: Continue reading

WILL VS. TRUST – WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?

Catching

Dear Mr. Market:

The stock market has been rather nasty as of late so let us switch gears and touch on a topic that most investors avoid yet need to pay more attention to. After all, what exactly happens to your investments when you’re gone? Do you actually need a living trust or would a will suffice? We reached out to Mindy Baldwin, an estate planner in Rancho Santa Margarita for expertise on this topic:

The terms “will” and “trust” come up often when doing estate planning. Many people assume that these terms mean the same thing and use them interchangeably. However, wills and trusts are different documents that are used in different circumstances.   Continue reading

Don’t Neglect Bond Basics

 

Seesaw1Dear Mr. Market:

The equity markets typically dominate the headlines but recently there has been more and more talk about the Fed and where interest rates are going. Stocks are definitely a more intriguing topic as they can move very quickly in either direction and make a dramatic impact on investor’s portfolios. Future Fed activity will have an impact on what is often the most neglected portion of a portfolio – Fixed Income or Bonds.

Most investors spend a minimal amount of time with this portion of their asset allocation. It is often the textbook definition of a ‘buy and hold’ approach and why shouldn’t it be? For the last several years investors have accepted the fact that interest rates are essentially zero and this portion of their portfolio warrants little to no attention. While this approach has been adequate investors that subscribe to this approach could find themselves with losses in what they consider their ‘sleep at night’ portion of the portfolio. When and if the Fed makes any changes to their policy investors need to be prepared to make changes to this portion of their investment portfolio.

When rates do change the behavior of bonds can be explained using something that everyone has seen on a children’s playground…a seesaw or teeter-totter. It is based on a very basic concept – when one side goes up the other will go down. When using this analogy with Fixed Income, one side would have interest rates and the other would have the principal value of the bond or fund. As rates go down the principal would go up and if rates go up the principal would decline. Fairly straightforward…isn’t it? Additionally, the further away you are from the middle of the seesaw (fulcrum point) the harder your landing will be. This playground explanation paints a simplistic explanation of how the price of bonds is affected by interest rate changes but what should you focus on when it comes to your fixed income positions? Continue reading

March Madness: Final Four Investing Bracket 2015

basketball on cashWelcome to the fifth year of our March Madness Investing Bracket! This series of articles is always one of the most popular investing articles on the internet! We’re proud to admit that we were one of the first investing nerds to combine our love for the markets with the passion that college basketball brings!

It’s common knowledge that people love excitement and surprises. It’s also human nature to root for the underdog and many times those two themes can certainly play out on the basketball court as well as on the stock market floor. Much like two college basketball teams that never play each other our imaginations are swept up in wondering who will “win” between a relatively unknown investment or a popular stock that has the media in a frenzy.

You may be asking what does a basketball tournament have to do with managing your portfolio or the investment world in general? At first glance there might not be much but we thought we would have a little fun and couple it with some asset allocation parallels. After all, there are many folks who have simply thrown their hands in the air at one time or simply succumbed to the notion that investing is like educated gambling. There could be some truth to that depending on your approach…

For those of you that are not familiar with the NCAA and its annual basketball tournament there are 68 teams selected and each is seeded according to their results throughout the regular season and their relative rankings. Every March the NCAA holds a single elimination tournament to crown an undisputed champion. Part of the appeal of such a tournament is that theoretically any team that makes the “big dance” has a shot at winning it all. Each and every year there is a proverbial “Cinderella” team that surprises everyone including all the ‘so-called’ experts. Prior to the tournament there is always plenty of banter and opinion on who wasn’t invited or further arguments around the seeding of the teams that did make it. That’s where we see a parallel of sorts to investing and having to make decisions among the multitudes of investment choices. With so many investment choices available, there are also as many differing opinions.

In the “real” March Madness tournament this year there appears to be a hands down favorite with the undefeated Kentucky Wildcats. Hardly any office pool or basketball analyst is betting against such a heavily favored team. If they win it all it will be the first time in over 30 years that a team stays unbeaten the whole season. Our own version of this (using investment themes and choices) shares the premise that we have four very decent #1 seeds but there is no slam-dunk pick that everyone agrees on. For this reason, our 2015 bracket is perhaps as important as ever to understand that a dark horse could win it all…

Before we begin digging into each “region” of our bracket, let’s revisit something everyone claims they know but so very few actually follow with consistent discipline. (Asset Allocation)

If you have ever looked at a chart of all the different asset classes and how they perform year to year…there is rarely a pattern or consistent way to determine next years “winner”.

For the purposes our annual investing bracket we have “seeded” or ranked four major asset classes (like the regions) and chosen several individual picks within each. There is some basic science applied to this process. We consider how the “pick” did over the past 12 months and also how it has trended over the past three months. In some cases we gave a lower performing investment a higher seed if it was trending well with recent strength or was more consistent over a longer period of time.

Each asset class (Large Cap, Small Cap & Mid Cap, Bonds/Alternatives, and International) was ranked and seeded, then corresponding seeds were assigned to “picks” that we are either adding to the portfolio or establishing new positions in. Note that we’re not highlighting 68 new investments and will only discuss some investments that we are either actively involved in or looking to add to most portfolios.

OK…Let’s dig into some of the key match-ups and explain why our Final Four going into Q2 2015 looks the way it does (CLICK HERE to view our 2015 Bracket):

Large Cap

This is typically viewed as the ‘efficient’ asset class. Continue reading

Avoid Holiday Stock Envy!

holiday5

Dear Mr. Market:

The holiday season is upon us!  We will soon be spending time with friends and family at gatherings as we celebrate this time of year. Let’s take a moment to look at a conversation that commonly takes place this time of year:

John – “How are you doing? I heard you moved on to a new job a couple of months ago, how is that going?”

Jane – “I am great! Yes I did start a new job and am really excited about it, the company is doing great and I am excited about the future.”

John I’ve heard it’s a great place to work – their stock has been doing really well! How about the stock market this year, crazy huh?” 

Jane – “Their stock is amazing! It’s helped my portfolio a ton, I’ve also got a couple of stocks that got me back on track and might make retirement come much faster than I thought!”

John – “Really? I haven’t invested much in individual stocks. Do you do this yourself or have somebody that helps you out?”

Jane – “I read a lot and buy some newsletters but basically I do it myself.  It really isn’t that hard.”

John – “I just don’t have the time for that. What has worked out so well for you?”

Jane – “Well here are a couple of names you should look at that have been doing really well for me this year…

And so the story goes… John writes a few stocks down on a cocktail napkin and puts it in his pocket with a smile as he thinks about the incredible growth his portfolio will soon experience. On Monday he signs into his online brokerage account and without doing any research or due diligence he buys large positions in 3 different stocks with the blind assumption that they will go nowhere but up…but do they?! Continue reading