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TheStreet Open House

Apprenticed Investor: Time Won't Wait

I love deadlines. I love the whooshing sound they make as they go by...
-- Douglas Adams

How much time do you have?

If you are like most people, the answer is probably "very little to spare." You spend most of your day earning a living. You then spend what little time remains trying to enjoy it with friends and family.

Now let me ask you a slightly different question: How much time do you spend planning for, and managing, your investments?

For too many people I've encountered over the years, the answer is "not nearly enough." Too many investors do not put a commensurate amount of time into keeping what's taken them so much time and energy to earn. Some studies have found people spend more time planning a week's vacation than they do their retirement.

It's somewhat ironic: The average American works longer hours than anyone else in the industrialized world. Yet we are lackadaisical in the amount of time we are willing to commit to handling those same dollars when they become investments.

This leads to all sorts of problems.

The good news is, however, it's a relatively easy problem to fix.

Investment Style Determines Time Requirements

Taking on a project the demands of which are beyond your abilities to meet is a guaranteed set of headaches. It leads to compromises, short cuts and losses. Yet some investors undertake a trading regimen that requires far more time than they have available.

The obvious example is daytrading. If you have a demanding job, trying to trade intraday -- while trying to juggle clients, subordinates and the boss -- is sheer folly.

Less obvious, however, are the investors who have longer time horizons -- holding positions for weeks or months -- on a few minutes a month. These are the position or swing traders, and the right amount of time required to do this, or at least do it well, is much longer than what many people have available.

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