Successful Investing – Helping Investors Avoid Common Investment Mistakes

The Top Mistakes made by Investors

In my dozen plus years of advising individuals and businesses I have found a number of common mistakes that have derailed even the best laid financial plans. I thought by sharing them I might be able to help others sidestep the pitfalls and the negative impact they can have on your portfolio and long-term financial plans.

1. Failing to establish a time horizon and investing accordingly -

If you have expenses that need to be funded in 3 years or less, you should not be investing the cash for them in the stock market or other risky investments. These monies should be carved out of your investment portfolio (the money earmarked for long-term investing) and invested appropriately in liquid assets such as money market funds or term-certain fixed income offerings. If the money is not going to be needed for 3 years or more, an investment plan should be established based upon specific a time horizon and risk tolerance for these funds.

2. Failing to thoroughly diversify your portfolio -

Many investors know about the concept of diversification and think that by owning different investments, they are diversified. Diversification of an investment portfolio makes good sense on an intuitive level. However, it wasn’t until Harry Markowitz published his model of portfolio selection that this concept became a formalized part of sound investment practice and formed the basis of today’s Modern Portfolio Theory. Beyond this basic concept of diversification, the key to Markowitz’s premise is the revelation that the risk of any investment can be reduced and/or performance increased by forming a portfolio of diverse and non-correlated assets. That is, it is important not just to seek a diversity of asset types, but also to seek assets that have low or near-zero correlations to one another. It’s not about owning different investments; it’s about owning different, non-correlated investments.

3. Letting potential tax implications rule your investment decisions –

Many investors delay selling an investment that has done well regardless of how good or bad the future looks for the holding. Their response is, “I will have to pay taxes if I sell.” By not selling, they set themselves up for not having to pay taxes at all – usually because the investment starts on a decline and their concern switches from “having to pay taxes” to one of “hoping for a turnaround.” Don’t be afraid to take some profits off the table. While taxes are an unpleasant result of investing, I prefer to look at them as a positive sign as it indicates you are making money and your investment plan is working.

4. Buying a stock based upon a “hot tip” -

Too many investors listen to a friend’s advice because he or she always seems to have the next “great” money making idea. They don’t take the time to assess the idea personally and jump in because it’s only a few thousand dollars they are investing. Unfortunately this is not investing – it’s gambling. If you want to gamble, go to Vegas and at least get free drinks, dinner, a show and a room for the risks you are taking. Any investment that is being considered for your portfolio should be thoroughly researched and have passed a comprehensive financial screening scrutiny.

5. Attempting to time the market -

Waiting an extra day, week, or month to try and buy in at the “right price” just doesn’t work. No one can predict the future. If they could they most likely wouldn’t be sharing this knowledge with you for free. Successful investors use time, patience and a disciplined approach to increase the likelihood of maximizing their investment returns – not trying to time the market. If you have done the research and the investment is sound and meets your criteria then buy it, regardless of timing.

6. Failing to regularly reevaluate your investments -

Over time all investment styles, strategies and types fall out of favor. So, like timing the market, it becomes virtually impossible to know what is going to be “hot” in the next bull market and what isn’t. For this reason it is always prudent to stay up-to-date on your investments to insure they are still the same investment that you originally purchased (segment drift and manager changes can be one reason they may have changed). If your investments consist solely of mutual funds then an annual review is a good place to start.

7. Basing investment decisions on emotion -

Maybe the stock market is going through a bad time because of a short-term geo-political or economic event. Stay calm and make an educated, well thought out decisions about what, if anything, to do. Assess whether the event will affect the economy long-term or if it’s just a short-term blip. The best move is often no move at all. If it is a short term incident, many times the smart, prudent investor will make additional investments because the current decline provides them with an excellent buying opportunity. The key to successful investing is to have a disciplined strategy and to stick with it.

8. Cashing out gains and dividends rather than reinvesting -

Once you’ve realized gains or had distributions and dividends paid out, insure they are reinvested back into your portfolio. If you pull out your capital gains, dividends and interest, your money won’t compound as quickly, thereby leaving you with a smaller chunk of change down the line. Letting your investments compound is one of the major tenets of successful investing.

9. Owning too much employer stock -

Many people get over-weighted in employer stock because of options and stock purchase plans made available in today’s competitive compensation packages. While these are great supplements to their annual salary they can put an employee in a position of having too much money invested in their employer’s stock. Additionally, it is quite common for people to invest in “what they know” and what do you know better than the company you work for? To compound the problem many people will add more employer stock to their 401k holdings and individual brokerage accounts. Not only does this create a diversification problem in their portfolio but it also subjects them to excessive single stock risk. A good rule of thumb to follow is to insure that no more than 5-10% of your entire investment portfolio is in any one single stock. If you find yourself in this situation the importance of creating a well thought out reduction strategy cannot be overstated.

10. Following the herd -

The most successful of all investors are moving in the opposite direction of what everyone else is doing. They buy when most are selling and sell when everyone else is buying. By following this simple plan you can preserve your capital and potentially sidestep the next bubble (can anyone remember real estate, internet stocks, and technology growth funds?).

11. Not investing at all –

Somehow in today’s society that Mocha Cappuccino Latte seems to take precedence over saving for the long-term. We are a society who wishes to satisfy the “here and now” rather than the securing our future. The important fact here is that those two are not mutually exclusive. In fact, BALANCE is the key in any long-term endeavor, but by always keeping an eye on the end goal you can make sure it is not out of mind while satiating the here and now.

12. Investing without a plan -

Investing without a plan and lacking the discipline to follow it is a sure way to lower your chances of success. The chances of obtaining any long term goal can be greatly enhanced by creating a strategy, following it and regularly reviewing it frequently enough so it reflects any changes that have taken place since implementation. Many investors start off with a small amount of money and start putting it to work without a plan. As time progresses they find they have a mish-mash of investments in their portfolio with no clear strategy or direction. It’s never too early to invest but it’s even better to invest early with a plan.

13. Taking too little risk -

Some people don’t want to take any risk and cannot stand the volatility involved with risky investments. While it may seem like you are keeping your money safe and secure by not taking risk, it is more than likely you are not because of inflation. If your time horizon is greater than 5 years it is recommended that you have no less than 25-30% in growth investments (i.e. stocks) in your portfolio to ward off the effects of inflation. The actual percentage to own is dependent upon many factors including but not limited to age, time horizon before money is needed, current financial situation, etc. A good general rule of thumb to use as a starting point for the percentage of equity you may include in your portfolio is “120 – your age.”

Understanding the Boundary Between Education and Literacy

The Title is self-explanatory. Let’s clear our concepts first;

What is Literacy?

Literacy is the ability to read, write and express ourselves. The key to literacy is reading development, a progression of skills that begins with the ability to understand spoken words and decode written words, and culminates in the deep understanding of text.

What is Education?

I define Education as the capability to use the ability to express ourselves. This is one line definition of education. Education is the application of literacy, not just the literacy.

A person can’t say that “I am educated because I know how to read, write and express myself.”

Coming to my point, Are we really getting educated or just literate? People pursuing great degrees are still left unemployed. Students with great minds and talents are unemployed and maximum number of unemployment can be seen in engineering. Why is this? The answer to all these questions is THEY ARE JUST LITERATE, NOT EDUCATED.

They lack skills because they just know to express themselves but they don’t know how to express, why to express and what to express. Education involves whole methodology of applying skills, to foster development and exploring new ideas.

Now, coming to India’s education system, I believe that India is focussing on its academics but not in proper manner. Children here are characterized on the basis of their grades, marks and how much they know, not on their talent, skills and how much they discover the undiscovered. The children who have knowledge are intelligent but the children who discover and explore knowledge are called to be wise and genius.

Taking an example, Albert Einstein found no profit and interest in knowing history and learning those dates, left one of the best schools by giving fake medical certificate of nervous breakdown and started discovering the undiscovered, exploring the unexplored and fostering the science and technology not for anyone else but for himself, for getting inner satisfaction and peace. He is one of the best scientists who brought a new look to the era of science.

The people in India who are extremely talented and skillful, leave the country for getting better jobs and opportunities in foreign cities. Why this happens? What is the reason? What makes people and talents of India to leave such a wonderful country? Is this because of outer fantasies, glories or fame? No, the answer is, India lacks in its education system which makes Indian talents to settle outside.

India is a democratic developing country. India is developing constantly in its academics but in wrong way. We are just getting LITERATE, not EDUCATED.

Leaving a question for you;

Are you just literate or educated?

Online Shopping For School Supplies

This season, when it comes time to back-to-school shopping, many parents have decided to switch to online shopping for the supplies and even Dell computers their children need. One could find anything and everything on a child's list for school through various online stores and Internet sites that are connected to real brick and mortar stores. Besides being convenient, getting supplies for school through online vendors, there is also a money saving incentive. Most of the online stores are significantly cheaper than the real world stores, even those connected to a real world store.

Canada online shopping is a big deal because they save even more money and taxes when they shop through the Internet rather than in the brick and mortar stores. Many of the online stores will offer free or very low cost shipping if a person's order total goes over a certain amount and with school supplies, this is easy to do. From notebooks to crayons and staples and pens, most of the online stores carry everything a student will need to outfit them for the new semester ahead.

Now is the time to begin hunting for bargains with all the back-to-school sales, even if one does not have a child going to school. These discounts are for everyone and anyone; They do not have to be a student in order to save money on things like laptop computers, folders, rulers and high tech calculators. Canadian online shopping consists of many different electronics, school supplies such as notebooks, pens, papers and books as well as discounts on clothing and shoes, everything a student would need to go back to school.

For students who are going off to college or universities that will be staying in a dorm or apartment, they need more items then the typical school supplies. These students will need home furnishing type supplies and most of the time; These types of items are also on sale at this time of year. These items consist of bed spread sets, desk and chairs, organizers for a desk, organizers for bathroom necessities for those who share a bathroom with others, small kitchen appliances and area rugs as well soft style floor seating.

There are many smaller office supplies or desk equipment that one may need during the course of a semester that they should purchase now to save themselves from running out and getting it later. Things such as a three hole puncher, ruler, protractor, paperclips, brads, rubber bands, masking and scotch tape, sticky notes, erasers, scissors, colored pencils, markers, glue and white-out. These things may not be used everyday but could be used at some point in the semester for a special project and it would be nice to have them on hand.

A lot of online shops will ship faster service for a small fee if someone needs a certain supply right away for a project. For example a poster board in a certain color or a type of scissors with a wavy edge. These are items that would cost less to purchase online then at the local supply store or book store and saving money is what college students need to do everywhere they can.

There are a couple of things to beware of when shopping online. One is the shipping and handling fees. Most companies are reducing their shipping fees in order to bring in more customers. However, they are raising their handling fees to make up for this lack of income. An individual would be wise to shop around for an online shop before filing their shopping cart they will no doubt save even more money.

There are also some stores online that will charge taxes and other that do not. There is no law that says an online store needs to collect taxes from a state where they are selling to. For example if a person lives in Missouri and they are shopping at a place in Texas, they may have to pay a Texas state tax online but they do not have to pay Missouri state taxes. This is something to watch out for.

Connotation and Denotation in Literature

As long as literary usage is concerned, the term "denotation" means primary significance or reference of a word; Whereas "connotation" of a word means a range of secondary or associated significations that the word implies. For instance; "Home" denotes the house in which one lives whereas it connotes intimacy and privacy.

In broader sense, the connotation of a word consist of a range of meanings or significations and which one the word really connotes that depends on the context in which the word is used. As far as poetry is concerned, the words share concepts with both denotative as well as connotative meanings. And it's up to the reader how to evaluate the words. In this respect, George Herbert's poem "Virtue" needs to be taken into consideration:

Sweet day, so cool, so calm, so bright,
The bridal of the earth and the sky …

The word "bridal" has both connotative as well as denotative meanings. The denotation of the word means that a union between human beings. The word stands for "ground" and functions as a metaphor to facilitate union of the earth and the sky. On the other hand, the connotation of the word "bridal" is sacred or ceremonial. Moreover, the meaning of the word is similar to "marriage".

The second example I wish to offer is a portion from John Keats's "Ode to a Nightingale" where the connotative meaning of the word gets changes according to the way it is spelled:

Charmed magic casements, opening on the foam
Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn,

You will notice that the use of "faery" instead of "fairy" evokes the connotation of antiquity and wonderful world of Spenser's "The Faerie Queene" .

These are some of the examples to see how connotation and denotation overlaps! You can only distinguish the meaningings according to the content in which words are used. As far as the language of literature is concerned, you'll see the presence of both and it is up to the reader to appreciate the work of art considering the proper connotative or denotative meaning.

In short, denotation refers to the literal meaning of a word, or the dictionary definition. Connotation, on the other hand, refers to the associations that are attached to a particular word or the emotional suggestions associated with that word. The connotative meanings of a particular word exist in conjunction with the denotative meanings. So, both share distinct features as long as meanings of a word is concerned.