Personal Finance column: How to determine your perfect investment
Buy low, sell high. It sounds so easy. Is there an app for that? Financially speaking, whether you want to invest a large sum of money from an inheritance, business sale, rollover from qualified plan or you are dollar cost averaging into your portfolio on a monthly basis, how do you make a decision? In my ideal world, the perfect investment would be:
• Completely safe. You wouldn’t have to worry that your investment could ever be lost, or go down in value.
• Always liquid. You could redeem your holdings at any time, day or night, seven days a week without any penalty or loss of principal.
• Always get a high rate of return. Your real rate of return would always stay ahead of inflation and taxes.
• No taxation involved. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could avoid taxes due to either yield or gain on your investments? You would get to keep everything that is earned.
• No expertise needed. You could just invest, have it grow safely and take it out tax free whenever you needed it.
But alas, we don’t get to live in my ideal world. As much as some financial marketers tout products that appease our yearnings for the ultimate investment, it doesn’t exist. We must choose from a wide array of tools, each with different and increasingly complex characteristics and uses. To help you discern what may be a good fit, ask yourself:
Why am I investing? Is there a need for current income, or am I accumulating for future spending needs?
When will I need access to the investments? Next month? In five years? In 25 years?
What is my aversion to risk? What type of risks do I need to overcome? Inflation, interest rate, market and sequence risk are just a few. How will taking various risks potentially impact my quality of life?
What is my tax situation? If the investment is currently taxable, to what extent will additional taxes reduce my grow prospects or push me into a higher tax bracket? Are there tools to shelter funds from taxes? How will they be taxed upon redemption?
What is the current economic outlook? Investment opportunities and challenges vary depending on what season the economy is experiencing. Right now, we are in uncharted territory with stock valuations seen as high, bond yields at their lowest in decades, and continued volatility on the horizon. How do I asset allocate, rebalance, or take distributions from my portfolios? How do I manage my emotions and expectations?
Complex, yes. Unsurmountable, no. These are not one-time static questions. Like the rings of a tree, they should be concentric, based around your core values, periodically revisited as your financial life grows.
Take heart. While the perfect investment might not exist in the financial world, they are out there.
Invest in yourself. Take a class, or hire a coach. Take a risk to try something new. There is proof positive as to the benefits of prayer and mindfulness meditation. You can’t lose when you ameliorate your mind, body and spirit connections.
Invest in your relationships. Have dinner together as a family. Take time to go on a walk with a friend. It doesn’t need to break your wallet to reap great gains. Listening and being present are AAA rated, guaranteed high return ventures.
Invest in your community. What organizations or causes capture your heart? What concerns bring a tear to your eye or make your blood boil? Volunteer to teach a class, or clean up a trail. Become a mentor or attend a fundraiser. The investments of your time, talent and treasure into something outside of yourself will reap rewards far beyond the monetary.
Danielle Howard is a Certified Financial Planner practitioner. Her office, Wealth By Design LLC, is in Basalt. Visit her at http://www.wealthbydesign4u.com. Advisory Services offered through Cambridge Investment Research Advisors Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor. Securities offered through Cambridge Investment Research Inc., a broker/dealer, member FINRA/SIPC. Cambridge and WBD are not affiliated.