Ask an E*TRADE baby and he will tell you to “grab the reigns, man; do some analytics; do some research and take charge.” Of course you can manage your own investments. After all, shankopotamus, even a baby can do it. Approach a financial advisor with the same question and you will probably get a very different response.
Rather than looking to someone with something to sell for advice, investors should take time for introspection before deciding to manage their own investments. Here are four questions to ask yourself: Do I have (1) the desire, (2) the time, (3) the knowledge and (4) the temperament to do it? Answer “NO” to any of these questions, and you may as well shift your focus to finding the right professional advisor. Let’s survey each of these topics.
Having the time and ability to manage your own money effectively is of no use if you lack the desire. Motivation can come from many sources but is largely a function of interest in investing and incentive. There is no better incentive than the cost savings potential.
An investor with a $1 million dollar portfolio, often pays $10,000-$12,000 per year to an advisor, such as a fee-based broker or Registered Investment Adviser. At $3 million, the cost of professional management rises to about $25,000-$30,000 per year. These annual costs continue to rise as your portfolio grows. Over the course of your lifetime, the cost of professional management can amount to a small fortune.
Before you start spending this new found money, recognize that your desire to manage your own portfolio should be sustainable. Without the dedication to maintaining diligence over your investments, good intentions can go awry and the harm to your portfolio can exceed the fee savings.
Investing your own portfolio is not a full time job once you are up and running. It may, however, require a substantial time commitment at the outset. How much time, depends on your prior level of knowledge and experience, along with the complexity of your chosen investment approach. Whether or not you can find someone to help you develop a strategy may be another factor. Be prepared to invest a significant amount of time upfront and be patient through the process.
If you have the time for the initial research but anticipate having limited time for ongoing management, it is critical that you develop an investment approach that is simple to maintain. Recognize that even professional advisors have had great success with simple, well conceived investment processes that can be adopted by do-it-yourself investors.
Successful investing does not require a PhD degree in finance. What is most relevant about an investor’s knowledge level is aligning your investment approach with your knowledge level. Many day traders during the internet bubble quit their day jobs to invest full time through their discount broker. What got most of them in trouble was a lack of knowledge about their chosen strategy. To start, read some books or consider taking an investments course. The Candor Resources Library contains some recommended reading and videos to explore.
“Success in investing doesn’t correlate with I.Q.,” Warren Buffett once said. “What you need is the temperament to control the urges that get other people into trouble in investing.”
What gets people into trouble? Their brains. As Jason Zweig notes in his book “Your Money & Your Brain” investors are like dieters that jump from diet to diet and end up at least as heavy as they started. Investors are habitually their own worst enemies. Everyone knows they should buy low and sell high, yet very often, investors do the opposite. If you have a history of reacting emotionally to market volatility, then you may not have the temperament to manage your own portfolio.
As you consider these questions, remember these words of wisdom from Clint Eastwood as “Dirty” Harry Callahan in the movie Magnum Force as he surveys the flaming wreckage that engulfed his adversary. “A man has got to know his limitations.” The same goes for E*TRADE babies.