Boomers, Markets & Money

A Down-to-Earth Discussion of Financial and Lifestyle Information for Baby Boomers


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How to Handle Emotions When Making Investment Decisions

We all struggle with emotions regarding money. Making major investment decisions without safeguards during periods of extreme emotion can work against us both in down and up markets.

I saw a helpful interview on Bloomberg TV this week. Greg Davies, Barclay’s head of Behavioral Finance, offered some tips on how to make better decisions when you feel your anxiety spike.

  • Develop habits over the years that you use regularly. A well-thought-out routine will help you make sound decisions when events rattle the markets. So, at a time when the markets are calm and you feel coolheaded, write down what you should do. Read it when you feel anxious. He said it is critical not to wait until the last minute when you are in a very stressful situation. A checklist can be one way to organize your plan.

    Milo contemplating his next move...

    Sleep overnight on major investment decisions. (Click to Enlarge)

  • Have a cooling down mechanism planned. Davies suggested planning on sleeping overnight on a decision to make a major change in yourinvestment portfolio. Or you could have a plan to talk to a trusted friend or financial advisor before acting on a major revision.

We’re all familiar with those uncomfortable feelings that pop up during major market declines. But emotions can work to an investor’s detriment during stock market upswings, too.

I can’t help wondering if a little stock market euphoria is developing now. I saw four commentators make optimistic comments about the stock market during a segment on CNBC this week. Ralph Acompora exclaimed, “I’m so excited! We have years left!” When I heard that, I felt really uneasy.

I had visions of CNBC anchors putting on Dow 10,000 hats the first time that level was hit. (For your amusement, I have included a link below to a pictorial of the Dow 10,000 hat.) Investors can feel pressure that they are missing out on a rally and buy in at market peaks.

As Warren Buffet said, “You try to be greedy when others are fearful and you try to be very fearful when others are greedy.”

Sources

“Old Hat: Dow 10000, a History in Headwear” by Matt Phillips. The Wall Street Journal

“How to Overcome Emotional Responses in Investing”   Bloomberg Television Video.


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Review of PBS Frontline’s “The Retirement Gamble”

I recommend that you watch the eye-opening PBS Frontline Special “The Retirement Gamble.” Thank you to Claire for suggesting it.

Some key points from the program:

  • Many hidden layers of fees are eroding individual investor wealth.

Jack Bogle, founder of The Vanguard Group, gave an example of how much fees cost an individual over a 50-year investing lifetime. If this consumer receives a 7% annual return and pays 2% in annual fees, fees will erode two-thirds of the investor’s gains. Bogle said you can see these results on a compound interest table.

I decided to do just that and found an investment calculator at Buyupside.com. (Please click on the image below.)  Using the same figures show that the portfolio would be reduced by 63.58%. We should all be checking the fees on our retirement plans!

Annual Fees Greatly Reduce Portfolio Results

Investment Key Calculator (Click to Enlarge) http://www.buyupside.com

  • Robert Hiltonsmith, a policy analyst at Devos, examined his own retirement plan to see what fees were taken out of his account. He found that about 25 fees were extracted from his account by mutual funds, fund brokers, plan adminstrators, etc.

  • Teresa Ghilarducci, economist at The New School for Social Research said:

401(k) plans were originally designed for wealthy people. Now, the advisors middle class have access to are really just sales people.

American consumers don’t know the price, quality, or dangers of their 401k plans due to strong industry lobbying.

“So we know after 30 years of this 401(k) experiment that people do worse in 401(k)s than they would have if their money was in a traditional plan or if it was in a plain vanilla retirement account.”

  • Many of the options in plans are mediocre and many people are not prepared to invest their own money.

This became clear to me when I had someone from a cable company come to my home to repair the phone. When he saw that I had the TV set to a financial news channel, he began telling me that he had all of his retirement money in marijuana stocks. Although his portfolio had lost 50% of its value at this point, he was very optimistic about his future prospects. I was very shaken when he left as I wondered how many people were investing their retirement funds this recklessly.

  • According to the Department of Labor, there are no clear standards on who can give advice to consumers of retirement plans. Also, there is no clear way for a consumer to tell who has the expertise to advise them. There was intense industry lobbying when new standards were proposed, forcing them to be withdrawn.

Source:

PBS Frontline. Videos and transcripts.

Related Posts on This Blog

“Resources to Help You Decide  When to Take Social Security”

“A Critical Step for Preparing for Retirement”

“How the Heck Do I Invest My Money?”

“Book Review -‘The Bankers’ New Clothes: What’s Wrong With Banking and What to do About It”


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Article on New Rules for Hurricane Sandy Victims

I came across a U.S. News & World Report article, “Special Retirement Rules for Hurricane Sandy Victims”, that has helpful information for people affected by Hurricane Sandy. It covers 401k hardship distributions, 401k loans, an extended Medicare enrollment period, and more time to file tax returns.  U.S. News & World Report