January 17th: “Quitters Day,” as coined by Strava, marks the average day that folks throw in the towel on their New Year’s resolution(s).1
However, I don’t believe in a “Quitter’s Day” for a couple of reasons. For starters, folks start over-ambitious—zero to one hundred overnight. Often, the reason a resolution doesn’t pan out is because it is unsustainable.
Also, just because you missed a workout, or snuck in some extra carbs, or exceeded your monthly budget doesn’t mean your resolution is kaput.
Thus, I would like to coin February 1st as “Resolution Reboot Day”—you heard it here first. Perhaps you didn’t quite achieve your lofty goals in January. Reboot Day (for short) gives you a clean start. [0:51]
I know, I know; this is only our first podcast of the year. Working remotely has thrown a bit of a kink in our podcasting process, but we are committed to creating much more educational content in 2021.
Reflecting on the past year, our podcast—geared initially toward personal finance fundamentals—transitioned in 2020 fashion. Rather than budgeting tips, we discussed the pandemic, the election, the extreme market volatility, etc.
[2:54] The, hopefully, once-in-a-lifetime events that took place in 2020 (I know they’ve carried into this year, but I would rather compartmentalize them with the previous 12 months and leave it all in the past), were beyond our control as investors.
We cannot control the outcome of the election.
We cannot control the nature of the stock market.
We cannot control a global pandemic.
It’s time to get back to the basics—back to the things that we can control. In the following paragraphs, I lay out three financial habits that may help you better address your long-term financial goals. Throughout the article, please keep Reboot Day in your mind. Creating new financial habits takes time and, often, failure. If you mess up along the way, just reboot.
ONE: DON’T TRY TO TIME THE MARKET
[4:16] I say don’t try to time the market intentionally. Anyone who says the can time the market is a liar, plain and simple. The truth is, as standard and trite as that advice may seem, many investors struggle to maintain this core financial principle.
It’s hard. Successfully timing the market not only requires a vast market knowledge, access to premier market data, and an abundance of time; it also requires you to be right more times than not. You must time when to exit the market and when to reenter.
One of the more popular market-timing studies was conducted by Merrill2. The study showed that a 1999 investment of $1,000 into an S&P 500 index, left untouched, would grow to $17,281 by 2019. If, however, an investor tried timing the market, he (I use a man in this example because studies show that men are more active in buying and selling stocks than women3) runs the significant risk of missing out on the market’s best-performing cycles.
If the same investors cashed out during the ten best-performing months (as market timers tend to do), his 1999 investment would be worth $7,000 in 2019—less than half of the untouched investment.
It gets worse: If the same investor jumped ship during the top 20 best-performing months, his investment would be worth a mere $3,363.
Losing out on $14,000 may not seem significant, but that’s based on a thousand-dollar investment. Imagine the cost of missing out on a $100,000 investment or a $1,000,000 investment. Ouch.
So, what can you do? Nothing.
That’s it—do nothing. Volatility in the stock market is normal. Rather than welcoming the effort, stress, and risk of market timing, stay along for the ride. Chances are, you don’t need that money until retirement anyhow.
TWO: STAY ACTIVE
[5:56] Yeah, I see this is a bit of a contradiction to the last point, but hear me out.
It’s a common myth that buy-and-hold investing means leaving your assets untouched for decades until you need them. Truthfully, it could be a big mistake to ignore your accounts altogether.
A healthy investment habit is to educate yourself and monitor your holdings. What are you invested in? What companies are held within your retirement plan or mutual fund? How do those companies look in the long-term?
Are they companies that will survive for years to come? Are they companies that can adapt to economic change?
A successful investor commits time to exploring the companies in which she is invested. If you aren’t committed, that’s where a financial professional can be beneficial—someone who will manage your funds on your behalf, investing in what’s appropriate for your long-term financial needs. We can help with that!
THREE: MAXIMIZE YOUR EFFICIENCY
[7:57] What does that mean? It means putting your dollars to work for you—max out your work-sponsored retirement programs if you can and limit cash on hand to a healthy emergency fund.
We recommend investing at least 15% of your paycheck toward your retirement if possible. If you can’t swing 15%, defer enough to receive the full employer match if offered. That’s free money.
Regarding your emergency fund, we recommend 3-6 month’s worth of expenses. Beyond that, put your assets to work. You can invest; you can pay down mortgage debt; you can buy some land. Invest your money into vehicles that will, at the very least, keep up with inflation.
The Fed has a target inflation rate of 2% annually. That means the cash tucked between your mattress and box spring will be, on average, 2% less valuable next year. Thus, investing in means beyond a low-yield savings account can be extremely important in addressing your long-term financial objectives.
[9:13] In 2021, let’s focus on the investing basics: Don’t try to time the market, pay attention to what you’re invested in, and maximize your financial efficiency.
And let’s be honest, you might fail. That happens, but it’s no reason to throw up the white flag. In honor of Resolution Reboot Day (you heard it here first), dust yourself off and try again.
Successful investors are resilient investors.
For help with your long-term financial plan, contact our team for a free consultation. Have friends or family who may benefit from our services? Let us know—we would be happy to help. Call our office at (303) 261-8015.
1Strava, January 2021. https://www.strava.com/challenges/2183#:~:text=January%2017th%20is%20Quitter's%20Day,average%20New%20Year's%20Resolution%20lasts (Accessed February 1, 2021)
2“Focus on Time in the Market, Not Timing the Market.” Merrill, n.d. https://www.merrilledge.com/article/focus-on-time-in-market-not-market-timing (Accessed February 1, 2021)
3“Examining Male vs. Female Investment Behavior.” Sofi Learn, November 4, 2018. https://www.sofi.com/learn/content/male-vs-female-investment-behavior/#:~:text=Women%20Earn%20Higher%20Returns&text=Several%20studies%20have%20shown%20that,better%20than%20men%20by%200.4%25%20. (Accessed February 1, 2021)
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.
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