As an investment advisor, I am often asked if a particular company or stock is worth investing in: Is it the next Amazon, or what will be the next Tesla? However, when it comes to investing, there is no ‘magic pill’ for investment success. Investing isn’t a short-term pick-a-stock, pick-a-market game that’s measured over days or weeks, or even months. Instead, the secret is to plan ahead, remain measured, and consider investments over the long-term, ideally over periods of at least a decade.
While investing is about the future, forecasting successfully is nigh on impossible; while most of us claim to consider the long-term – where most of the gains in investing are harvested – human nature constantly challenges us to be short-term in our thinking. The best way to overcome all of this is to focus on your future investment needs, reduce costs, stick to your plan and avoid trying to manage investments from day to day. In short, investing – looking into the future – by its very nature is uncertain.
Another key attribute of a successful portfolio is diversification. The past tells us that over the long-term equities rise in value, but still, they are likely to be only one component of your total savings and investments. Take advice, plan for your particular needs and set your goals over the long term, and invest accordingly. Recognise that this approach takes time.
Investing must start with a specific goal corresponding to a set time horizon
The goal itself could be anything: purchasing a new home in five years or retiring early. What’s most important is to have the goal be the focus of your approach, as this then gives you something to aim for, that you can use to anchor your decisions, as unfortunately there is no such thing as a perfect investment portfolio, strategy or plan, only one that is suitable for you. Once you’ve established your goals, your investment planning can take shape. How much savings or surplus cash can you devote to it? How much time do you have? How realistic is the investing goal given the first two questions and the amount of risk you feel comfortable taking?
Whether you are a business owner, employee, or self-employed, saving for retirement will likely be your principal long-term goal. What retirement looks like is different from one person to the next, but it tends to be the focal point around which other financial goals orbit. A plan for that goal could include a desired amount of spending needed to fund your lifestyle in retirement, an intended amount of savings each year that would be needed to achieve that goal and a personalised investment plan with an appropriate asset allocation.
Have an investment plan and take the time to understand it
What if I have a retirement plan but now it is off track? Unfortunately, this is a common situation for business owners and professionals to find themselves in. They tend to be time-poor and focus on investments intermittently, and sometimes not at all. A lack of investment planning and poor investment decisions can result in the need to push back retirement by a year or two or needing to work part-time in retirement.
When investing money, it is important to first develop an investment plan. When we work with our clients to develop their personalised plan, there are several important elements specific to them that we consider; their investment beliefs and principles, competing goals, their current circumstances, their existing pension and investment assets, their timeframes, their capacity to take on risk and their appetite to take risk. Each of these factors must be considered carefully and must fully reflect their personal situation. Each is important, particularly in today’s challenging and volatile investment climate.
Investing in times of Market Volatility
Regardless of whether we’d label a market downturn as “healthy” or not, selloffs are both unsettling and unpredictable events, but they do happen so you need to be prepared that they will. The most important thing to keep in mind if you are invested with a long-term time frame, is not to get spooked. If you have that long-term horizon, you should see a market that’s rising over the long haul and not get concerned about short-term volatility. If you get scared and leave the market during difficult times, you’ll likely miss out on gains as markets recover.
There is no ‘magic pill’ or formula that will simplify your investing ambitions. When you have a goal in mind, your time horizon and risk tolerance will inform these decisions. Setting up your asset allocation in the context of a realistic plan that can be adjusted for life and market uncertainties should put you well on your way to achieving your financial objectives. For many people, getting professional investment advice is the best way to get started.
Aengus Moran is an Investment Adviser and Certified Financial Planner (CFP®) with Acuvest. He has over ten years’ experience in the financial services industry, specialising in pensions and retirement planning as well as investment planning.