Hope for your financial life and beyond

Shock Treatment to Break Your Financial Procrastination

Shock coilsCollege breeds procrastinators.

At no time of my life did I put more things off until the last minute than my first few months in college. Every hour something new would entice me to put the books aside and enjoy the other, more exciting things college had to offer.

The pickup hoops game at the gym.

The late night pizza runs.

The cute girl one dorm over.

Time and time again this would happen, especially early on in my college life. As a result of my attention to anything unrelated to studies, I would often find myself starting papers at 11:00 pm that were due the next afternoon. Talk about putting your back up against a wall. It was an all night scramble of writing, filled with Mountain Dew and Ho-Hos.

“Fairly quickly” is the answer to the question “How long did it take you to develop a more disciplined attitude?” Had to…my freshman GPA (and ultimately my graduation) was depending on it. I realized there was no way I could maintain those negative patterns of time management and succeed at that level of education.

Procrastination creeps into all areas of our life. We put off dealing with relationship issues, work assignments, our spiritual health and even kid problems. Perhaps in no area does it rear its ugly head more so than in the world of personal finance. What is it about money that keeps us from confronting our difficulty with managing it?

Are you a personal finance procrastinator? Ever said any of these things:

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Investing Made Easy (Part V): Common Investing Mistakes

oops - MistakesIn this final edition of the Investing Made Easy series, I’d like to detail some common investing mistakes. Investing doesn’t have to be complicated but we make it so by doing some very silly things. In the end, our meddling brings nothing but frustration and lower returns.

I’ve already touched on a few of the most common mistakes in previous articles such as not having a plan, failing to evaluate one’s risk tolerance and ignoring investing fees.  And of course we want to understand every investment into which we place our money. If we don’t understand it, we shouldn’t be investing in it.

I’ve noticed through the years however, that other, less obvious issues inhibit me from having the success I desire. Each of them have hampered my investing at one point or another and it was only through losing money and honestly evaluating myself in the mirror that I was able to overcome them. (“Overcome” is a strong word, because they still creep back up from time to time and I have to fight them off again and again.)

Common Investment Mistakes

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Investing Made Easy (Part IV) – How to Choose a Mutual Fund

how to choose a mutual fund

Wall Street – the great creator of wealth

By nature, I hate risk. Sure, I know on occasion circumstances demand or persuade me to accept more than I desire. In those instances, I’m way out of my comfort zone. Yes, it can be exciting, but I would much prefer life grant me slow, boring, predictable moments that are within the scope of my abilities and emotions to handle. That’s my personality.

It’s also why many people hate investing, especially when it comes to learning how to choose a mutual fund.

“Mutual funds are boring investments,” they say. “I want the sexy action of the newest individual stock.”

“Mutual funds are slow,” they say. “I want investing performance measured in days or weeks, not years.”

“Mutual funds are predictable,” they say. “They mostly track the performance of the general market.”

To “they” I say, “OK.” If that is your risk tolerance, more power to you. But I won’t be recommending a seat on that roller-coaster ride for investors, especially beginners. Too much risk, too little diversity for someone just starting out.

In part three of this series, I introduced the investing term “diversification.” Diversification means to spread our money around. When we diversify, we don’t put all of our hard earned dollars into one specific stock. By placing money in different investments, we protect the whole, should one of our investments falter. It’s the #1 reason mutual funds are the best place for the investors – because even by only owning one fund, you get instant diversification. Here’s how.

What Is a Mutual Fund?

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Investing Made Easy (Part III) – Where Should I Put My Money?

where should i put my moneyIt is easy to get confused when you ask the question, “Where should I put my money?” I felt overwhelmed when I began to research my first investments. Over time however, I’ve learned this doesn’t have to be complex. In fact, the best principle is to keep it simple. Always invest in things you understand and could explain to someone else. The simplest strategies are often times the most rewarding and the most calming on the investing nerves.

In this third installment of my Investing Made Easy series, I’ll tackle the “Where should I put my money” question. Before that however, I need to ask you a question. How much risk are you willing to take? The answer to that question will determine the direction your investing dollars go.

Managing Risk When Investing

It’s risk and the thought of losing money that keeps people up at night. Tossing and turning. Sweating. Eyes wide open, mind processing what might happen the next day in the market. I’ve been there as an investor and it’s no fun.

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Investing Made Easy (Part II): When Should I Start?

Between the ages of 16-22, I was employed at three different summer jobs. First, I worked in the concession stand in our community swimming pool for several years. I then moved up in ranks and became a lifeguard for two summers. During the second season of being a lifeguard, I only worked in the evenings because during the day I had taken a second job as a construction worker. That summer’s dual-employment schedule was brutal, but I made more money than I had ever seen to that point.

Mom and Dad blocksOnce I graduated from college, I worked full-time in construction while I waited for my bride-to-be to finish her degree. As I recall those years, I really don’t remember having any focus on where my money was going. I was saving some, spending some and giving some, but I never took the time to understand how money, placed in the right type of instrument, could grow and enhance my lifestyle.

My wife brought into our marriage a small mutual fund, compliments of her grandmother’s generosity. Over the years since it’s inception, the fund had grown and paid for some college expenses and for her car in total. “Hmmm,” I thought. “Money invested in stock market funds grows over time and pays for things we want or need. Cool idea. Wonder how this works?” That’s when I started my investing journey.

You may be asking, “How do I know if I’m ready to start investing? When should I start?” They are great questions that I would like to shed light on today in Part II of this Investing Made Easy series. And I’m sure to hear it for this comment, but deciding whether or not to invest is sort of like deciding to become a parent – we are never quite sure we are ready.

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Investing Made Easy: The What and the Why

Target on moneyWelcome to the Luke1428 investing series. Over the next couple of weeks I will be unraveling the world of investing and setting you on a path towards long-term success. Success in our personal financial life is something we all shoot for and investing can help us hit the target. This series will be a primer for the beginning investor and a reminder for those of us who are more seasoned as to why we invested in the first place.

There are many reasons why people choose to ignore investing. I remember first delving into this topic in my early twenties and feeling extremely overwhelmed. I would glance through a brochure for a mutual fund I was considering and didn’t understand most of what I read. I felt uneducated and uneasy. And I didn’t know anyone who was knowledgeable enough about the topic to explain it to me. There also were no really cool personal finance blogs to educate the public then either.

Mostly though, I remember being afraid of losing money. I was old enough in 1987 to comprehend that something terrible happened to the U.S. stock market on October 19th. I didn’t exactly know how people made or lost money investing, but I knew that Black Monday sounded bad. The people screaming and sweating on the nightly news looked bad. And a $500 billion paper loss in one day seemed to make people feel real bad. So if that can potentially happen, why should I risk losing my money through an investment in the stock market?

This investing series will give the answer to that question and others like it that I had to figure out for myself when I began. The topics I will cover include:

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Should We Sell in May and Go Away?

Stock Market GraphNo sooner has the ink dried on the April 15 tax returns, than investors are bombarded with cries from Wall Street to “sell in May and go away.” It can be a rather confusing statement, especially for a new investor. I know the first time I heard it many years ago I thought, “Why would I sell? I did all this research to purchase the right investment and now I’m being told to give it up? What gives?”

I learned quickly that the adage “sell in May and go away” is an investment strategy designed to take advantage of the seasonality of trading that seems to exist within the markets. In essence, an investor should sell stocks in May and buy back  near the first of November. They would then hold these stock positions through the next April. Rinse. Spit. Repeat…year in and year out.

Why would an investor do this?

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Waiting Until Next Year Will Cost You Big Time (Part II)

Many of us are born procrastinators. We love to put things off until the last possible minute. When that moment arrives, we go into manic mode in a desperate, final scramble as our backs are up against the deadline. This usually involves locking ourselves in a room away from the rest of humanity and a steady supply of coffee (or other caffeinated beverage) so we can forego our normal sleep patterns as we pound out the final details of our project.

If you are like me, you don’t like it when you procrastinate and you vow each time to NEVER let this happen again. Or you may try to fake yourself into believing that it doesn’t matter – like it is positive character trait – by saying “I work really well under pressure.” If I am honest with myself, I hate the tension and frustration that comes when I put myself in that predicament. It highlights my lack of discipline. It reminds me of all the time I wasted. It makes me realize the truth of the saying, “Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.”

There is no hard and fast deadline when it comes to our personal finances. This project is very open ended as it lasts your entire lifetime. So procrastinators rejoice – you can delay dealing with your financial problems for years. But if you do, it will cost you greatly.

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