Five investing New Year’s resolutions for 2013

Make text smaller Make text larger

Every year I spend some time attempting to create a list of New Year’s resolutions to clarify my personal goals. The concept of New Year’s resolutions has a long history and some were actually financial in nature.

The Babylonians, for example, made promises to their gods at the start of each year that they would return borrowed objects and pay their debts. In the spirit of resolving to become a better investor, I am going to offer up five financial New Year’s resolutions that, if adhered to, should increase your chances of investing successfully:

1. I will consider fees. Jack Bogle is famous for saying “Performance comes and goes but fees go on and on and on.” Fees matter. This is best illustrated with a simple example. Let’s assume you invest $10,000 over 30 years. Some offshore funds have 2.5 percent expense loads plus marketing costs. If the total expense ratio is three percent and the fund returns ten percent per annum, in 30 years your investment will be worth $76,122 but you would forgone $98,372 due to fees (more than your ending value!) Had the money been invested with a fee of one percent, your investment would be worth $132,676 and you would have only given up $41,818 in fees over this period.

2. I will stay in the game. I still haven’t met a rich market timer. I’m pretty sure there is one out there somewhere but they are about as prevalent as Sasquatch sightings. The big problem with market-timing is you have to get the timing correct twice, on the way in and on the way out. In general, market timing is simply too difficult and really doesn’t work. Charles D Ellis sums this up well when he says: “The evidence of investment managers’ success with market timing is impressive — and overwhelmingly negative.” One of the keys to investing success is time spent in the market. You simply can’t compound returns by sitting on the sidelines. I have met so many people who remain in cash until they feel comfortable and have clarity. Unfortunately when the news is dire, prices are cheap and this is often the best time to begin investing.

3. I will admit when I’m wrong. Behavioural biases can severally hamper investor returns. The status quo bias, in particular, can cause emotional anguish and make investing difficult. It is unlikely that every investment you make will be a success. The key is not to let these losses become so big that they overwhelm your winnings. The status quo bias refers to an emotional bias that predisposes people, when faced with a myriad of choices, to keep things the same. This results in investors holding securities they are familiar with, or fond of, despite poor performance. Sometimes this comfort level leads to inertia which eventually leads to losses that are very difficult to overcome. Don’t get lulled into a sense of complacency, admit you’re wrong and move on before it’s too late.

4. I will focus on asset allocation. Various studies say that asset allocation alone explains 90 percent of returns. The absolute number can be debated, but asset allocation does account for a significant portion of investing returns. Running balanced diversified portfolios of disparate assets with components that zig when others zag helps dampen volatility and lowers emotional stress. Diversification and offsetting assets will help you stay in the game and allow you to rebalance periodically, selling the winning asset to fund the underperforming asset. Rebalancing among various assets forces you to sell high and buy low.

5. I will know what something’s worth. Before you buy anything you should have a solid reason for why you want to own it, as well as what you feel it’s ultimately worth. If you don’t know what something is worth then it seems rather odd that you would buy it in the first place? The goal in investing is to purchase assets that are undervalued and sell assets that are overvalued. Without some form of valuation work you are flying blind. Take the time to develop methods and a strategy for purchasing and selling assets that involve some valuation work so you have a sense for their worth. If you don’t personally make valuation judgments, make sure your advisor does.

Using these resolutions will not guarantee returns but they should set you on the right track in developing an appropriate strategy and system for the year ahead.

I hope you have a healthy and prosperous New Year!

Thanks for reading.

Nathan Kowalski is the chief financial officer of Anchor Investment Management Ltd.

Disclaimer: This material is not intended to be relied upon as a forecast, research or investment advice, and is not a recommendation, offer or solicitation to buy or sell any securities or to adopt any investment strategy. The opinions expressed may change as subsequent conditions vary. The information and opinions contained in this material are derived from proprietary and non-proprietary sources deemed by Anchor Investment Management Ltd. to be reliable, are not necessarily all-inclusive and are not guaranteed as to accuracy. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. There is no guarantee that any forecasts made will come to pass. Reliance upon information in this material is at the sole discretion of the reader. Investment involves risks. Readers should consult their financial advisers prior to any investment decision.

  • Take Our Poll

    Today's Obituaries