6 Common What-Ifs for Newbie Investors (and How to Handle ’em)
You want to be emotional? Be that way about your man, your children, yourself, your shoes—anything but your money. Here are some common fears when it comes to investing, and how to stare them down:
- What if I become obsessed?
When I first started investing with a brokerage account, I found myself checking it 24/7 (just like I did when I first started selling stuff on eBay). I made myself nuts. I lost sleep over it. I stayed in on Saturday nights just to monitor my portfolio (kidding . . . kinda). RELAX. Your portfolio will be there making or losing money for you always, whether you are staring at the screen or not.
- What if there is something really tempting to invest in?
You might hear about a hot new IPO or new investment guru or exotic investment that you just have to try, but stay true to your original strategy, especially if you don’t know enough yet to veer off course. That “hot” IPO could be a dud, the “guru” a fraud and the “new investment” a crock of you-know-what.
- What if I lose the money?
You will lose money. For sure. But it’s all paper money. Until it’s not. The only time you actually lose money is when you take it out (and that’s the only time you are taxed on it, too). If your 401(k) doubled and then you lost it, you didn’t actually lose any money; it just felt that way.
- What if I want to bail when the market goes into the pooper?
Winners of the investment race (i.e., you) always take a deep breath and don’t waver, no matter what. This will be you. So when the shit hits the fan, you’re going to stay calm and carry on with the asset allocation you came up with. While everyone else is freaking out, you’re going to know that this, too, shall pass, and start moving a little money from “loan” investments like bonds to “own” investments like stocks (because they are low, and that means you want to buy!). And when everyone is out partying like it’s 1999 (that’s a year that stocks were notoriously rockin’), you’re going to be moving some of your winnings from stocks to bonds (because they are high, you want to sell!). There aren’t a lot of certainties in finance but “buy low, sell high” is one of them (the other is “it’s better to beat low expectations,” if you’re wondering). Remember it, and be active.
- What if I become emotional?
There is probably no more significant hurdle that you or any other investor will face than emotion. We human beings are weak; we are prone to groupthink and irrationality. We panic together and become euphoric together, and the actions from these emotions make most of us crappy investors. Enough of that.
- What if I missed out on buying or selling at the right time?
It’s natural to be kicking yourself for selling too low or buying too high. It’s part of the investing game. You’ve got to take some risk to get the reward, but don’t take on more risk than you can handle. There’s a Wall Street-ism that says, “Pigs get fed. Hogs get slaughtered.” Think about it.