When it comes to investing, people fall into many categories.
There are risk-takers and there are overly cautious people. Some investors react to every up and down in the market, exulting in the gains they achieved at trading day’s end or fretting every time their stock prices drop. Conversely, some pay little attention to what their money is doing day to day, going about their lives without getting caught up in the stock market’s twists, turns, and endless drama.
But, regardless of your investing personality, one thing I’ve learned in more than 20 years of financial advising is this: Short-term greed never outweighs long-term benefits.
I find this adage to be true whether you are making business decisions, investment decisions, or life decisions. Whenever you pursue a goal that’s worth pursuing you will find that there are no shortcuts, unless you count lying or cheating, and let’s not count those.
To achieve your objectives, whatever they may be, you must put in the work and you also must accept that today’s effort may not provide immediate gratification. Instead, the fruits of your labor may not play out for months, years or even decades.
That’s certainly true of investing, especially when you aim to build a tidy retirement fund that can see you through a retirement that could last for decades.
And if that is your goal, a balanced portfolio – one with a nice mixture of stocks and bonds – will usually outperform day trading over a long period. Yes, those day traders may enjoy stunning results on any given day, which could cause you to gaze with an envious eye in their direction because your investments are just plodding along, experiencing good steady growth, but nothing attention-grabbing.
But those who become overly aggressive with their investments also can endure extraordinary losses, ones that you can largely avoid if your portfolio mix is right and you keep focused on the long-term benefits.
This is especially important as you draw close to retirement because time begins to work against you, and you don’t have time to recover from a major loss. Before the market can begin to right itself, you may need to start withdrawing money from your retirement accounts to live on and your portfolio balance will be shrinking right before your desperate eyes. This is one reason why staying focused on the long-term is so important. When the long-term (the future) finally arrives, you want to be well-positioned to enjoy a wonderful and fruitful retirement.
Unfortunately, short-term greed can raise its unpleasant head and undermine your efforts if you aren’t careful. It entices people into thinking that there are shortcuts, that they are not restrained by the rules that apply to others. Sure, it’s OK to consult experts, people with experience or background knowledge who can share their wisdom and give you an advantage that way, helping you to avoid the errors that others make.
But it’s certainly not OK to cut corners and cheat to attain your ultimate ends. Cheating can be uncovered, and even on the chance that it’s not, you would know you cheated and would have to live with that.
We all have a moral compass that we should put to use when we weigh decisions, whether those decisions be short-term or long-term – and once again, whether they are business, investment, or life decisions. As you ponder your options and make your choices, always be sure your decisions are aligned with your long-term goals.
Thinking of it that way may even help you see your way through tough decisions. Whenever you are faced with two options and struggling to decide, choose the option that is true to your long-term goals or growth.
Ignore the allure of short-term greed. Your future self will be happy you did.
About Peter Blatt
Peter Blatt, president of the Center for Asset Management (cf-am.com) has more than 20 years of experience in the financial industry. He received a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Boston University, a law degree and a post-doctorate degree in tax from the University of Miami School of Law.